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Replay: Contending for the faith with Jude

Posted by on Feb 25, 2012 in discipleship, scripture | 11 comments

Replay: Contending for the faith with Jude

Three years ago, I wrote a post called “Are you contending for the faith?” I was preparing to guest lecture on the Book of Jude for a friend who teaches in a local community college. As I read through the book and studied what Jude was saying to his readers, I was surprised. I was not surprised at Jude’s concern about false teachers. I was surprised at how Jude told his readers to RESPOND to the false teachers.

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Are you contending for the faith?

In his short letter, Jude tells his readers that he was planning to write about their common salvation. Instead, he says that he decided to appeal to them “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. (Jude 3)

But, what did Jude intend for his readers to do? How were they supposed to “contend for the faith”?

In the next sentence, Jude warns his readers that some divisive and disruptive and ungodly people had sneaked in among them. For the next twelve verses (Jude 5-16), Jude tells his readers that ungodly people will be punished by God. He gives them several examples of how God judges and punishes the ungodly.

But, this still doesn’t answer the question. How are Jude’s readers supposed to “contend for the faith”? Read the next 7 verses:

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 17-23 ESV)

Did you see the commands? There are only five commands (instructions) in the Jude’s short letter, and they’re all contained in these verses. How would Jude’s readers (and us by extension) “contend for the faith”?

  1. Remember the predictions of the apostles. The apostles told them that people with ungodly passions would come in. They should not be surprised nor fearful of them.
  2. Remain in the love of God, by a) building each other up in faith (that is, helping one another trust God), b) praying in the Holy Spirit, and c) waiting for the mercy that comes from Jesus Christ.
  3. Have mercy on those who doubt.
  4. Rescue (save) those who are trapped in sinful behavior.
  5. Have mercy (cautiously – with fear) on those whose lives are covered with sin.

(By the way, the last few verses have quite different attestations in different manuscripts. But, most agree Jude instructs his readers to have mercy on others.)

I think it is very interesting that Jude tells his readers to “contend for the faith” (and thereby thwart the work of divisive, deceptive, and ungodly people) by encouraging one another to remain in God’s love and by having mercy on those who are doubting or sinning.

I’m not sure that this is the way the church is attempting to “contend for the faith” today. It seems that we tend to tear down those who disagree with us and ridicule or label or dismiss those who are doubting or sinning. Could it be that its not “the faith” we are contending for?

What if showing love and mercy contends for the faith more than apologetic arguments? What if helping and strengthening one another (other believers) preserves the faith more than creeds and confessions? What if “the faith” is more about living in God’s love and trusting him than it is about a set of systematic doctrines?

What if the church focused on love and mercy and allowed God to continue to deal with the divisive, the deceptive, and the ungodly as Jude shows that he always has in the past?


11 Comments

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  1. 2-25-2012

    While it may be necessary for some to contend with the argument of the scoffers. It is certainly necessary that we all build up, encourage and cover one another in the love and mercy that is the faith delivered to us. Thanks Alan, for this encouraging bit of exposition.

  2. 2-25-2012

    To contend for the faith once delivered, seems to indicate a lost love. When we are enraptured, encompassed, and enveloped in this life changing love of Christ we see and move within His life.

    It would seem that our job is to rekindle the flame, to encourage, to inspire those who are “low on oil for their lamps”.

    The Christ life is best walked with an ear for reproof, refinement, or redirection.

    Thanks again Alan for your post.

  3. 2-25-2012

    Alan,
    Thank you for this insightful post. The beautiful contrast between the beautiful Kingdom of God, and the Law. It reminds men of Jesus words in Matthew 5,“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven…”

    Then later in Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
    “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

    “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

  4. 2-25-2012

    Tom,

    Yes, love and mercy and edification are non-negotiables. If we are doing anything else but not those, then we are not contending for the gospel.

    Jim,

    I think if someone has a problem with faith, that person definitely has a “love” problem. It may be a “lost love” problem, in the case of those who are following Jesus but have wandered away from him temporarily. Or, it could be a case of never having found love in the first place.

    Tony,

    Yes, that’s an awesome parable, isn’t it? Of course, Jesus tells us that the field refers to the whole world, which would include the church (ekklesia) but is not only the church (ekklesia).

    -Alan

  5. 2-25-2012

    Alan,
    Maybe so, it appears to me that Jesus was referring to the kingdom, and to His field.

  6. 2-25-2012

    Tony,

    Jesus explains this parable for us in Matthew 13:36-43. He says the field represents the world, and only the “good seed” represent the sons of the kingdom.

    -Alan

  7. 2-26-2012

    “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

    40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

    OK, I see that in verse 38, but it looks like the focus is His kingdom in verse 40. Food for thought, thank you.

  8. 2-26-2012

    Tony,

    Yes, that parable is definitely about the kingdom…

    -Alan

  9. 2-26-2012

    Well said, bro! I came to many of the same conclusions as I read Jude last night.

  10. 2-28-2012

    Nothing bothers me more than the reality that some “Christians” have no ability to discuss a “revelation” without descending into blame and accusation. This begins to extend to those tender people who happen to wander like mice into traps laid on certain Christian websites, wherein the website owner lies in wait, ready to snap closed on anyone perceived as weak. Doubters are especially singled out for punishment.

    How much more healing are the words of God through Jude. The key word is mercy. I keep longing to see it because it is so rare among the “righteous.”

  11. 2-28-2012

    Dan,

    That’s a great point! I think our first response should always be grace and mercy. Like you, I keep longing to see that also.

    -Alan