Faith in the Epistle of Jude
While the author of this short but strong worded epistle was more disposed to writing to unnamed brethren concerning their “common salvation” (i.e. salvation for all mankind), Jude saw the urgency to write about a more timely need. It was the urgency of exhorting the brethren “to contend earnestly for the faith.” From reading the epistle it is obvious that the author knows and feels the urgency to wake-up his readers to this most prevalent need of the moment. In so doing he speaks of the “faith” in verse 3 as the object for which they were to contend earnestly and in verse 20 as that on which they were to build themselves up. These Christians were called upon to respond to this “faith.” In Jude, the term “faith” is used only in the objective sense. Keep in mind that the word “faith” is used either in the objective or subjective sense in the N.T. In some of the other articles in this special issue you will note that mention will be made of “faith” in both senses. Let us consider “faith” as it is used in Jude:
IT IS THAT WHICH ONE BELIEVES
Notice that “the faith,” the objective source of the Christian’s faith, is under consideration in verses 3 and 20. Consider a few parallel passages where the word “faith” is used in this same manner: Acts 6:7; Galatians 1:23; 3:23-25; Philippians 1:27; Revelation 14:12. Jude is instructing his readers that they were to respond to that which they had believed and accepted, the whole system that God had prepared in Christ. This was God’s scheme, i.e. a carefully arranged and systematic program of divine origin to save mankind (Jude 1,20-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).
Furthermore, lets look briefly at the epistle of Jude. The problem stated was a complete effort on the part of “certain men” to “turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 4). The whole system of God was under attack. Special mention is made of those who “did not believe,” “defile the flesh,” “rejected authority,” “corrupt themselves,” “mouth great swelling words” and “cause divisions.” This was no minute effort on their part, but a total effort of opposing, questioning, ridiculing and counterfeiting God’s scheme of redemption! This was the object of attack, the “faith” upon which rested the belief of Christians.
IT IS THAT WHICH WAS “ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS”
The whole system of “faith” is unique in that it had but one source, God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). There was no other like it (Ephesians 4:5). It came once for all seasons. It came for all men regardless. It lacked no modifications or revisions. This whole system knows no failures and cannot succumb to man’s efforts to altar or destroy it because it is God’s plan (Jude 24-25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5). It would endure any effort of counterfeiting then and now, would stand to prove wrong those efforts then and now, and would remain till the end of time to prove such efforts as false and worthy of condemnation.
IT IS THAT “MOST HOLY FAITH”
The term “faith” comes up again as that which one believes, that whole system of “faith,” the teachings of the apostles. It is that body of doctrine, “the word of faith that we preach” (Romans 10:8). What an effort on the part of Jude to show once again this whole system of “faith” separate and apart from the lewd, sensual and lustful manner of life (i.e. faith) propagated by those cowardly “certain men.” The gospel of Christ is a “pure and undefiled religion before God” (James 1:27). It is “the Way” that leads us from the way of lasciviousness to the “Way of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8; Ephesians 4:20-24). Since it is of and from God, it can be nothing but holy.
IT IS THAT IN WHICH ONE SHOULD BUILD UP HIMSELF
Jude says in verse 20: “But you...building yourselves up on your most holy faith,” that body of doctrine, that whole system of “faith.” Here it is: Christians were “called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (v. 1). The “word of faith” that was received has the power to build up the Christian. But, it is the Christian’s responsibility to work at it; the duty to keep responding to the gospel. The very next verse continues the point, “keep yourselves in the love of God” and the same word appears in verse 2, “preserved in Christ Jesus”. To be built up in the “faith” and to “keep” or to be “preserved” in the “faith” is an individual responsibility. Cf. Philippians 2:12; 1 Timothy 4:16. It is forever necessary that each one of us grow in the “faith.”
IT IS THAT WHICH IS WORTHY “TO CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR”
In view of all the attacks made on the whole system by “certain men” it was urgent that the “beloved...contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This body of doctrine, this “word of faith” was worthy to be defended, because of what it is, with pure arguments and reasoning. Men with evil intentions seek carnal and unfair means and ways to ridicule and counterfeit the “faith.” Christians must totally avoid the carnal weapons used by false teachers and false brethren. Every Christian would do right to consider the manner and means used by Paul in his defense of the “faith” (Philippians 1:17,27-2:4).
Finally, it was no accident that Jude called upon the saints to be built up in the “faith” and to “contend earnestly for the faith.” That exhortation is just as urgent today due to the very same efforts of modern man to oppose the “faith.” Each Christian, fully equipped and in the right frame of mind, i.e. built up, would have no problem in contending for the “faith.” The “faith” must be learned and received for one’s own salvation and it must be contended for to the end that others may also learn and receive it for the salvation of their souls.
Rubén C. Amador
From Expository Files 22.9; September 2015