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, all diligence making to write to you about the common of us deliverance necessity I had to write to you encouraging to contend for the faith that once having been delivered to the holy ones. 4 For some men have slipped in unnoticed whose judgment was written long ago, irreverent, turning the grace of our God into debauchery and deny 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 may stand in the gap and not give way to apostates (cf 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). What is this precious treasure that we are to contend earnestly for, that we are to guard zealously? It is τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει or, literally, “the faith that once having been delivered to the holy ones.” 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 a couple of times already here about how the faith we are to contend for 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 they 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.
Several years ago a “new” teaching was becoming popular with the Acts 29 guys and even John Piper. It was obviously heretical however. It was called A Celtic Way. Many of us in the discernment groups discussed this at that time. One of my friends made the following statement about this which I will never forget, “I’ll tell ya the remnant upon this earth is getting smaller as the days go on. The Lord is revealing this to His Own!” Well, God knows those who are His and He knows those who only pretend to be, but are not. Many of these will eventually fall away somehow and apostasize through very bad failures such as following teachings like these. The tragedy is in how many others they decieive through this.
What are we to do?
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. Matthew 10:16-23 (NASB)
Soli Deo Gloria!