by Mike Ratliff
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 NASB)
Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21;18; Galatians 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers. This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “found it necessary” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers.
3 Ἀγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. 4 παρεισέδυσαν γάρ τινες ἄνθρωποι, οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρίμα, ἀσεβεῖς, τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν χάριτα μετατιθέντες εἰς ἀσέλγειαν καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι. (Jude 1:3-4 NA28)
3 Beloved, while being extremely eager to write to you concerning our common salvation I found it necessary to write to you encouraging you to contend for faith, which was delivered once for all to saints. 4 For certain men came in stealthily, the ones marked out long ago for judgment, ungodly ones who pervert the grace of our God into into licentiousness while denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The word translated as “contend” here is ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι the present tense, infinitive mood, middle voice form of ἐπαγωνίζομαι or epagōnizomai, which pictures a soldier entrusted with a sacred task of guarding a holy treasure. That is the dedication and “earnestness” we have the privilege by the grace of God to possess as believers that we my stand in the gap and not give way to apostates (cf 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). What is this precious treasure for which we are to earnestly contend, that we are to guard zealously? It is τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει or, literally, “the once having been delivered over to the holy ones faith.” This is the whole body of revealed salvation truth contained in Sacred Scripture (Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:5, 13; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:1). Here is v20, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.” This is a call to know sound doctrine (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 John 2:12-14). It is also a call to be discerning in sorting out truth from error (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22), and to be willing to confront and attack error. This is what it means to contend earnestly for this holy treasure, which is the faith delivered once for all to the saints.
The phrase we have looked at couple of times already here about how the faith for which we are to contend was “delivered once for all to the saints” speaks of God’s revelation delivered once as a unit, at the completion of the Scripture, and is not to be edited by either deletion or addition. Scripture is complete, sufficient, and finished; therefore, it is fixed for all time. Nothing is to be added to the body of the inspired Word because nothing else is needed. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of believers now to study the Word, preach the Word, and fight for its preservation.
Who are these apostates? They are false teachers pretending to be true. They attempt to sell themselves as legitimate Christian teachers and preachers and leaders, and they may appear to be so on the surface, but their intentions are to lead God’s people astray (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29; Galatians 2:4, 5; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1, 20; 1 John 2:18-23). These false teachers are Satan’s counterfeits and their stealth makes them very dangerous to the Body of Christ. This is why God has equipped some of us with the discernment it takes to hear and read them and “discern” that they are false. How do we do this? It is by comparing what they say and write with what the Word of God says. This means that to contend earnestly for the faith in this we must know the truth. When we are intimately familiar with the truth, the false stands out and is easy to spot. The hard part is getting those who have been deceived to listen to the warnings and hear the truth.
I listen to or read some false teacher’s sermon at least once a week and it is something that I detest, but it is amazing how God uses that process to show me all these layers of false teaching I have absorbed in all those years in the SBC as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher, et cetera. However, when I listen to these fellows now it is incredible how some of them use the Bible incorrectly. They may read the text, but they twist it. They take it out of context. They force their own meaning over it. They make it fit their sermon topic even though that part of the Bible isn’t even remotely about that. You see, these are all signs of a false teacher. Does your preacher do this? Do you listen to any well known preacher on TV or Radio or Podcast or whatever that does this? Well, you are being setup for deception. You are being fed poison and this keeps you from being able to contend earnestly for the faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!