“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 1:3)
Note the word “beloved.” Contending for truth and warning of error is a work of genuine Christian love. Jude exhorted the brethren to contend for the faith and to deal with heretics because he loved them and wanted to protect them and because he loved the truth and wanted to see it continue and prosper. He is not a severe, Pharisaical man. He is a compassionate preacher, a lover of God, a lover of God’s people, a lover of truth and righteousness.
Defending the faith is a work of all the saints (“to them that are sanctified”). This exhortation is addressed to all the brethren in Christ. It is the not the work of a select few only. The saints are no longer of this world. They have been made citizens of heaven and soldiers on the side of God and truth in the great spiritual warfare that is raging. To be the friend of heretics is to partake of their evil deeds (2 Jo. 1:8-11).
Defending the faith is to be done with “all diligence.” Jude was giving all diligence to instruct the brethren. “Diligence” is the Greek spoude, which is translated “haste” (Mr. 6:25), “carefulness” (2 Co. 7:11), and “earnest” (2 Co. 8:16). “All diligence” is a full-out effort that should characterize every aspect of Bible preaching/teaching, including defense and warning.
Defending the faith is a necessary part of teaching about “the common salvation.” Jude was not limited to teaching positive truth. He shows us that defense of the faith and exposure of error is an essential aspect of teaching sound doctrine. It is “needful.” The common salvation refers to the one doctrine of salvation that is revealed in Scripture and that is held in common by those who know and love the truth. Paul called it “the common faith” (Tit. 1:4).
Defending the faith must be “exhorted.” The work of contending for the faith is to be taught and encouraged to the brethren. It is a duty that must be stirred up.
Defending the faith must be done “earnestly.” The Greek translated “earnestly contend” is epagonizomai, which means “to contend about a thing, as a combatant” (Vine). It is from epi (for, with an intensive force) and agonizomai (to strive, to contend, to fight). It was used to describe the contenders in the Greek games (agon). “The word ‘earnestly’ is added to convey the intensive force of the preposition” (Vine). The defense of the faith is not to be a half-hearted thing. It is to be done with all diligence and with earnestness. Every preacher, and every child of God, should be set for the defense of the faith, a soldier in the battle of truth, a fighter of the good fight. This requires study and preparation and a willingness to engage error. The earnest contention of the faith should be a major emphasis of every preachers’ training institute.
That which is to be defended is “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” This is what we are to defend. “The faith” here is not the believer’s faith (e.g., “by grace are ye saved through faith”); it is the body of truth revealed to the apostles and prophets and inscribed in the New Testament Scripture. It is so used in Ac. 6:7; 14:22; 16:5; Ro. 1:5; 2 Co. 13:5; Ga. 1:23; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:23; 2:7; 1 Ti. 3:9; 4:1; 5:8; 6:10, 21; 2 Ti. 3:8; 4:7; Tit. 1:13; 3:15. False teachers depart from the faith and err from the faith (1 Ti. 4:1; 6:10). Observe that the faith was “once delivered.” This emphasizes that the faith was completed in the days of the apostles. It was delivered by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets who penned the New Testament Scripture. “Delivered” is the Greek paradidomi, “from para (to the side of, over to) and didomi (to give), to deliver over or up to the power of someone” (Complete Word Study Bible). This was done “once,” one time. “Delivered” is an aorist participle, which is action completed rather than continuous. The New Testament faith was sealed with a solemn warning that it is not to be added to or subtracted from (Re. 20:18-19). In every canon of the New Testament, both Greek and Latin, the book of Revelation comes at the end and thus concludes the Book with that warning. Note that all of the faith is to be defended. Jude doesn’t indicate that only some truths are to be defended. It is “the faith” as a body of truth that is to be defended. Some teachings of Scripture are more “fundamental” or essential than others, but all teachings of the faith are to be defended. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and all is profitable to make the man of God perfect (2 Ti. 3:16-17). Not all Scripture is of equal importance, but all is divinely inspired and all must be kept and preached and obeyed and defended. The Bible stands or falls as a whole. Jesus taught His people to respect the very jots and tittles (Mt. 5:18). He taught that while not every teaching has the same weight, all has some weight and nothing is to be despised (Mt. 23:23).
Defending the faith must be done with zeal and forthrightness. Jude shows the way of right contending for the faith, and it is the way of plainness of speech and sharpness of warning (“ungodly men ... filthy dreamers ... brute beasts ... Woe unto them! ... clouds without water ... trees whose fruit withereth ... raging waves of the sea ... wandering stars”). Jude doesn’t discuss damnable heresy in gentle, scholarly terms. Jude wouldn’t be welcome in a modern dialogue. Truth is a matter of black and white to this servant of Jesus Christ, and those who turn from the faith are under the most severe condemnation.
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