by Mike Ratliff
3 Ἀγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. Jude 1:3 (NA28)
3 Beloved, being extremely eager to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you encouraging you to contend for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. Jude 1:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Currently there is a very large scandal concerning the new SBC President, Ed Litton. It appears that he has plagiarized many sermons from J.D. Greear whom he replaced as President. However, as investigators dug into this the “muck” became even uglier. Not only had Litton, been plagiarizing J.D. Greear’s sermons, he had not developed any of his own sermons for quite some time, but had a team of 8 other men at his church do it for him. Then it goes even deeper. The sermon that Litton was preaching on the video I saw then was compared to the one that J.D. Greear was preaching was compared to a Q & A that Tim Keller gave. Greear obviously stole Keller’s comment, made it look like his own, then Litton or his 8 man team put it in his sermon. What made all that “muck” even more terrible was that the original comment from Keller was in response to a question. The question was, “Does homosexuality cause a person to go to Hell?” Keller’s response was horrible. He replied, “I know that homosexulality does not cause a person to go to Hell because I also know that heterosexuality does not cause a person to go to Heaven.” Yes, he said that. J.D. Greear took that stupid, statement that he obviously liked and preached it as if it was his own then Litton copied him. Many of us are bringing these things out and the backlash is that as we do this we are being too harsh and judgmental as we use the Word of God as the basis for what is truth and upright and the standard for pastors as they handle God’s Word to preach it to their congregations . What these men are doing is not up to Biblical standards. If we do that are we contending for the faith delivered once for all to the saints?
We have looked at the Epistle of Jude before, but it is imperative to answer these charges for I can think of no better way to counter these false charges meant to divide and disarm us through these sideways attacks that are truly divisive. At their heart is a form of Christian liberalism that stands for nothing definitive. That is, it will fight to the death against those who are totally non-relativistic. Therefore, let us look at vv3-4 and vv17-23.
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, being extremely eager to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you encouraging you to contend for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. 4 For certain men came in stealthily who long ago were written about for judgment, ungodly ones perverting the grace of our God and into licentiousness and denying our only master and Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The verb “contend” in v3 translates ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι (epagōnizesthai), which is the Present, Infinitive of ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnizomai), “contend.” To understand why this is often translated in some English Bibles as “earnestly contend” or “contend earnestly” it is necessary to learn that ἐπαγωνίζομαι is a compound word. The root is ἀγών (agōn), “strife, contention, [a] contest for victory.” By adding the prefix ἐπί (epi), “”for,” Jude is telling us that we must fight for the faith. This is a spiritual war in which we are engaged, an all-out war that gives no quarter to error or to those who propagate it.
So we must be sure we are contending as the Spirit leads and not against him. That is not as hard as it would seem to be. Notice that we are to contend against those who are attacking the faith by propagating error. That error can be very subtle as in leading people to believe it is perfectly okay to profess to be a Christian, claim to be living by grace, while all they are doing is being licentious. That is very dangerous for us to not call out those people because of those whose faith is not as mature as ours. These are the ones denying our only master and Lord Jesus Christ through their licentiousness, perverting the grace of our God.
17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Jude 1:17-23 (NASB)
Yes, we are to be merciful and do all we can to counsel those in doubt and be quick to lead professing Christians who have sinned into repentance as they respond to the rebuke and conviction of the Holy Spirit. However, we are also to not allow the scoffers to divide us. Let us share our faith with all who will hear the truth and disciple all who obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into his teachings and those of his apostles. Let us stay in the Word of God, remain faithful, contend earnestly for the faith, and await our Lord’s return.
Soli Deo Gloria!