April 1, 2015

Contend for the Faith

The Book of Jude is a short epistle packed with a good deal of instruction, primarily warning Christians to be on guard against false teachers and those who would corrupt the faith. Jude noted that some people of his day had already been led away into error, and he was not delicate when describing those who had deceived them.

Jude began his epistle with these words: “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Jude was not writing to sinners but to saints. These were individuals who, in his words, were “sanctified,” “preserved,” and “called.” One meaning of the word sanctify is “to separate from ungodliness and dedicate to God,” so these were people who by the prompting of the Spirit had previously separated themselves from the world with a purpose to serve the Lord. They had done what we did when we determined to follow the Lord. The world of sin lost its allure, so we changed direction. From then on, we wanted nothing more to do with that old life.

In the Old Testament, an offering brought to God was ceremonially sanctified; it was separated from the flock and devoted unto God. The offering was to be the best the person bringing it had. That is a picture of how we come before God—we initially give God our best and continue to do so afterward. We set ourselves apart for Him and are “sanctified” for His purposes.

If we separate ourselves and dedicate ourselves to serve God, we will be kept! It cannot be otherwise.

Those who are “preserved” are those who are kept by the power of God. If we separate ourselves and dedicate ourselves to serve God, we will be kept! It cannot be otherwise. The Gospel will not only keep us saved, but it will keep us steady. The world and those around us in the world are often in upheaval. Circumstances in our lives can be in upheaval, but when we are preserved by the Lord, we will be kept by Him no matter what comes our way.

Not only were these saints addressed by Jude sanctified and preserved, but they were also “called.” God has a calling for each one of us as well: to love and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It may not be necessary to spend too much time trying to figure out our specific calling in life. Our call is simply to serve God—to be devoted to Him. The Lord has a wonderful way of unfolding His plan for our individual lives one step at a time as we continue through life serving Him.

Jude knew that those who would read his epistle were sanctified, preserved, and called. They had gotten off to a good start! However, as he began this letter, he seemed to feel a compelling urgency to remind them that, going forward, they would need to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

The faith Jude alluded to here was not the believing faith by which we reach out to God and receive salvation. Jude was speaking of the living faith which springs out of what has transpired in the heart—the manner of living we felt called to when we left the old world of sin behind. It is what we have felt called to as we have progressed in our Christian walk. We have seen God’s ways unfold before us; there has been no confusion in our minds regarding the fact that God has called us to live separate from the world. It has become a way of life. This manner of living is “the faith” Jude was referring to.

According to verse 1, Jude was the brother of James. It is believed this is the James who was “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19), so both of them were the brothers of the Lord. Possibly they both had been born by the time Jesus was twelve years old and the family went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. If so, they no doubt were part of the flurry of activity which occurred when Jesus’ parents went about asking, “Where is Jesus? Have you seen Jesus?” Perhaps they were with Mary and Joseph when they returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the Temple talking with the religious leaders of the day, who were astonished at His understanding and answers. Whatever the case, James’ and Jude’s entire lives had revolved around what they were taught from Deuteronomy—unchanging principles which centered on the importance of serving God, reverencing God, and keeping God ever before them.

Notice that Jude said this faith or godly manner of living had been “once delivered unto the saints.” The word translated “once” implies something of perpetual validity, and could be translated “once for all.” The faith does not need to be modified or improved upon. It had been delivered and it was delivered intact, in its entirety.

The faith which many in our congregation grew up knowing is still available. Some had grandparents and great-grandparents whose lives revolved around the house of God, so their parents grew up not knowing anything different. Subsequently, they grew up not knowing anything different. That manner of life is living in “the faith,” and it is a good way!

I am glad for those who have stayed in the faith, among them the little group of believers who were worshipping together in Roseburg, Oregon, back in 1974 when I attended my first Apostolic Faith Church service. I was stepping out of what I was accustomed to—our family did not “do” church. However, I went, and I observed a group of beautiful people who were doing what they always did: they were simply serving God. That is living in “the faith.”

Once we are saved, remaining a part of the faith will not happen automatically. It will take effort. Jude was concerned about that. He felt an urgent need to warn believers of his day that they must earnestly contend for the faith. They would need to fight to protect and retain it because there were insidious forces that would contest that manner of living and try to influence them in a different direction.

When you embraced the faith, no one told you that it would be an easy way with no opposition. Everyone will not commend the choice you have made. My boss did not commend me when we had tax returns to file by a certain deadline, and I was asked a day after the deadline to change the postage meter to reflect the earlier date. My response was spontaneous: “I cannot do that.” My boss did not say, “Oh, I am so happy you are in the faith! Congratulations on having godly principles and sticking to them!” No, there will be those who condemn us; they will try to justify their own errors by devaluing our choice to serve God. That is why Jesus said His followers would need to take up the cross. We will not always be commended or appreciated!

Jude was very descriptive in identifying those who opposed the faith in his day, though now perhaps he would be considered a bit short on diplomacy. In Jude 1:4 we read, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word translated “crept in unawares” indicates a stealthy, subtle incursion. The true nature of these imposters was not apparent until time revealed it. These men turned the grace of God into lasciviousness—a sensual attitude marked by wrong desires and excesses. It is the lifestyle of individuals who are self-centered, self-serving, and self-promoting, who are willing to sacrifice anything on the altar of their own ego.

In our day too, there will be those who come in a stealth-like manner. We may not immediately recognize that they are trying to distract us from the faith. That is why we must “earnestly contend.” We must guard our spiritual walk and make sure we are in tune with the Lord.

Jude warned the believers of his day by pointing out the judgment that befell the ungodly in times past. He mentioned the disobedient Children of Israel who bleached their bones in the wilderness. He cited the defection of fallen angels, who refused subordination and are to this day bound in Hell. He referenced the deviant people of Sodom and Gomorrah who gave themselves over to evil desires and ultimately were burned with fire.

In verse 11, Jude spoke of Cain who offered too little, Balaam who talked too often, and Core (Korah in the Old Testament) who presumed too much. Cain offered too little in that he did not bring a blood sacrifice. He resisted making the type of offering that pointed to the atonement and the power in the Blood of Jesus to change the human heart. Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness, and incited the Children of Israel to stumble.

Presumptuous Korah defied God’s order by claiming equal holiness and authority with Moses and Aaron. He did not appreciate the fact that God honors those who honor Him and follow His order. Jude went on to describe those who were “murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts” (verse 16) and those who “separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (verse 19).

Jude also cited some good examples. He spoke of Michael the archangel, who rebuked Satan. He mentioned Enoch, who foresaw Christ’s return with His saints to execute judgment. We can look around and see good examples as well. We observe those who have steadfastly and contentedly served God in the faith for many years. Ask them, “Does it pay to stick with it? Does it pay to continue in this life of serving God, even when there are challenges?” Every one of them would answer, “Yes, it does!”

In verse 12, Jude says of those who had crept in unawares, “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you.” These ungodly individuals showed up at the meals eaten together by members of the Early Church as an expression of brotherly love. They ate at their tables and fed on their blessings, but they did not appreciate the goodness they were beneficiaries of. Jude comments, “Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds.” They offered lots of advice, but they produced nothing but vain words. Continuing on in verses 12-13, Jude compared them to “trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” They take up space and create a commotion but only stir up debris. They circle about in their own orbit until they fade away.

This faith for which we are to contend is not for the lazy or the careless but for the determined—for those who have a focus beyond this world.

This faith for which we are to contend is not for the lazy or the careless but for the determined—for those who have a focus beyond this world. From the time of Cain to the days of Jude and to our time, there have been those who have rebelled against God and attempted to dissuade the godly. Jude admonished the saints of his day: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (verses 21-22). Notice the instruction to build, pray, and keep themselves in the love of God. Those in the Early Church had a responsibility, and we do too. As we build our spiritual lives, pray often, and make every effort to stay in the will of God, He will honor us.

When we do our part, God will do His part. In verses 24 and 25 we read, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.” There is One who will preserve us and keep us if we determine to be kept. There is One who will guide us through life if we are willing to be led. Let us do our part. As we do, we will look back over any period of time and have a grateful assurance that God has done His part; He has blessed us. We will never regret having determined to launch out and then stay in this way.

Are you ready to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”? It is a good way! God will put you in the faith if you are not yet in it. He will keep you in the faith if you are already in it. Look God’s way and He will hear your prayer and answer!

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