Contender For The Faith
If the Lord takes the time to reveal in His word that something
is necessary then do you suppose it is? Of course it is! Bible says it was
needful for the following exhortation to be given and heeded by disciples of
Jesus Christ: "I felt it necessary to write to you appealing that you contend
earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude
3b). When Jude stresses the importance of this need, then we should understand
that because he is writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that this is
God's appraisal of the importance of this admonition.
What Is "The Faith"?
The Lord does not admonish us to contend for "a faith" or "the faith of your choice". The definite article "the" is used which means a specific faith is being discussed. What is it? Sometimes the word "faith" refers to our own attitude of trust, and sometimes it is used to refer to that truth into which we have placed our trust. It is in this second sense that Jude uses the term; "the faith" is God's truth; the gospel; His word. The book of Acts tells us that "the word of God kept spreading" and "a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). So "the faith" is something "obeyed" as well as contended for. It is identified here as "the word of God" (cf. Romans 1:5).
Also, one can be "turned away from the faith" as the false prophet Elamus tried to turn Sergius Paulus away as he heard Paul teaching "the word of God"(Acts 13:7,8). The "gospel" was preached in Derbe and the new disciples made there were encouraged to "continue in the faith" (Acts 14:21,22) which was preached to them (cf. Galatians 1:23). So, "the faith" (and there is just one; Ephesians 4:5) is the word of God.
The Faith Was "Delivered"
Jude also says "the faith" was delivered. Jesus delivered this faith to His apostles and disciples during His personal ministry upon the earth. He also promised His apostles that after His departure, He would send the Holy Spirit to allow them to remember "all" that He had taught them and to supplement His teaching with further instruction (John 14:25,26; 16:13; Acts 1:4,5). This promise was fulfilled on the first Pentecost following the Lord's ascension (Acts 2:1-4).
The apostles, and those that received the gifts of prophecy and tongues through the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:14-18; 2 Timothy 1:6) were God's delivery system for "the faith." This continued as the the first century advanced and the result has been preserved in the Bible for you and me today (1 Peter 1:22-25).
The Faith Was "Once for All" Delivered
We are also informed by Jude that this delivery was made "once for all" (NASB). The Greek word (hapax) is more definite than the KJV rendition of "once." It means "once for all" and shows that the work was completed once for all time and all people (cf. 2 Peter 2:3). This delivery of "the faith" was not to happen once; and then again; and then again. It was to happen "once for all," and then be completed.
This is important because many false prophets have claimed through the centuries of having additional faith revealed through them. Mohammed claimed such. So did Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Sun Yung Moon and others. And then there is the idea among even more "mainstream" religious leaders that they, somehow, have the authority to meet together in conclaves, synods and councils and vote on what the creeds and doctrines of their particular faith will consist. They have no such right because "the faith" has already been determined "once for all" by Jesus Himself (cf. Hebrews 1:1,2).
"Contend Earnestly" For The Faith
"Contending earnestly" for the faith simply means that we must defend it and fight for it. The battle is to win hearts and minds for the Lord. The contender for the faith is not contentious, but he does contend. He or she does not allow false teaching to go unanswered. When the mocker comes, the contender does not respond to foolishness with foolishness, allowing himself to be taken down to the mocker's level. Rather, the response is a scripturally sound one. It is both reasonable and faithful (2 Peter 3:3-5; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 17,18). By all means, feel free to "argue religion" but do it with love and concern, for God and for man (Ephesians 4:15). "The faith" has many enemies who will gladly speak against it. Will you speak for it?
The Reason To Contend For The Faith
There are good reasons to be a contender for the faith. Even today, many are seeking to turn the grace of God into licentiousness, as they were when Jude first wrote the words of this admonition (Jude 4). These ideas of moral relativism must be answered. Failure to defend the faith is a denial of the Lord and betrays His love for us (2 Corinthians 5:11;14-15). Does the love Jesus had for you control you so that you will respond when duty to His kingdom calls?
Jude reminds disciples that there are times when godliness will be ridiculed, but that the end result of this kind of disobedience is destruction. This is still so today. Can the Lord count on you to do this necessary thing? To "contend for the faith"?
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 9.10; October 2002