Earnestly Contend for the Faith
Earnestly Contend for the Faith
Mythology records for us the tale of the fall of Troy at the hands of Achaeans (Greeks). Troy watched as the ships of Greece sail away and leave a gigantic wooden horse before the city gates. Believing that they have repelled the invaders, they surmise that this horse is a peace offering from the Achaeans. After pulling this structure within the city walls they enjoy a tipsy feast. (They had been deprived of celebratory beverages for the ten years of the war and attempt to make up for lost time!) Little do they know that they have admitted the enemy within their walls and that death and destruction are but hours away. As they lay in drunken slumber the belly of the horse opens and the enemy pour forth. All the Trojan men are slain, the women and most of the children are captured, and the city is burned.
The city withstood ten years of attacks from without, but fell within ten hours of an attack from within.
In the history of the Christian church, believers have faced major attacks from without. The apostle Peter writes his entire first epistle to believers who are facing the onset of a persecution that will intensify to the point that they will quite literally face a “fiery trial” as Nero will for his own sick pleasure use believers as human torches to light his garden and will stroll casually through its paths enjoying the tortured screams of these saints just as much as he enjoyed the beauty of the flowers. Believers have been robbed, starved, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped, and slain in the most horrific of ways. Yet almost without exception, every onslaught from without has served not to destroy, but rather strengthen the church.
But the church has not only faced attack from without. History records for us repeated onslaughts that the church has faced from within as enemies of the truth have arisen from within the midst of the professing church. Paul prophesied as much before the Ephesian elders— Act 20:29-30 KJV For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. While the church has met the challenges of attack from without and thrived in the face of such, it has not done so well with attacks from within. Beyond all the doubt, the attacks from within have been far more destructive.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, writes to believers. Jud 1:1-2 KJV 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. (2) Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
It was his intention to write to them a doctrinal treatise on the theology and enjoyment of salvation, but found a more necessary task before him. The enemy was within the gates! Thus he writes—
Jud 1:3 KJV 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.
As we wrestle with the gravity of this task (extremely pressing in the mind of the author), we must first ask ourselves some questions of the text in order to determine that we properly understand what is expected and even demanded of us.
What is the Faith?
Act 6:7 KJV And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Act 13:8 KJV But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
2Ti 4:7 KJV I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
We can say that the Faith is the body of essential, orthodox evangelical Christian doctrine, central to which is the Gospel (the truth of the Person and work of Jesus Christ) itself. That truth which is dismissed or modified causes Christianity to no longer be Christianity.
How is the faith described?
It is a delivered faith. That is, it is not derived from our own thoughts and impulses, but revealed by God. It is Divine in its origin. How has it been delivered? In Holy Scripture!
2Pe 1:20-21 KJV Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2Ti 3:15-17 KJV And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
* Discussing truth claims with people in post-modernity. When it feels right or impresses us. Or when we conjure up something we feel to be right. If truth is even knowable!!!
It is a definite faith. Observe how Jude describes this faith—“once for all delivered!”
“Once”— denotes a finality.
Heb 9:26-28 KJV For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
1Pe 3:18 KJV For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
The faith itself is not up for any addition or subtraction; no revision whatsoever!
It is unchanging!
It is unchangeable!
It is a demanding faith.
- This faith demands a knowledge of itself. If it is a delivered faith, then…! If it has been delivered by God and revealed in Holy Scripture then in humble dependence upon God we ought to seek its truth within these pages!
- This faith demands an adherence to itself. If it is a definite faith, then…! The book of Jude goes on to describe a group that has come into the midst and has apostacised from the faith. He give three key examples of people who held something at one point and turned from it. (Israel in the wilderness unable to enter because of unbelief, angels that left their first estate, and Sodom and Gomorrah who left their natural morality.) Adherence to the faith is not simply acknowledgment of a set of truths, but it is never less than this. We must understand and accept that this is an unchanging and unchangeable faith, and never waver from it!
- This faith demands obedience to its ethical implications. As the book unfolds, Jude has more to say about the false conduct of the apostates, than the false teaching. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (license). The truth is these individuals had defected from both the content and the conduct of the faith. In Scripture the two are very closely tied; we might say inseparably linked. 1Ti 5:8 KJV But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 1Ti 4:16 KJV Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
All of this brings us to the immediate demand of the faith in this passage—the imperative to “earnestly contend for the faith.”
I. There is a time when it is not only expedient but also imperative that we contend for the conduct of the faith.
Much of Christendom today sees itself loosed from all ethical moorings. We have a salvation that does not demand a taking up of the cross; that does not cry out “Be holy, for He is holy!”
I detest legalism. To command someone to do something or not do something when God Himself has not so commanded is not simply poor judgment, it is a sin against God!
But how often today is outright sin not only accepted or even condoned, but outright promoted in the name of “Christianity!” Let us stand upon the Word and contend against the sin first in our own lives (Hebrews 12:4—“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin!”), and then in cases when the faith is in danger of being compromised.
- Rick and his views on homosexuality. “How can you call yourself a Christian!”
II. There is a time when it is not only expedient but also imperative that we contend for the content of the faith.
When does that time come? When the foundational truths of the Christian faith are attacked. When a modification of Christianity is presented which if followed would leave Christianity as something less than Christianity.
The battle rages today! When men like T.D. Jakes are heralded as great men of God and one of 25 most influential evangelicals, there is something desperately wrong!
“I am convinced that one of the main reasons so many evangelicals now reject the notion that the Roman Catholic Church is utterly apostate is because evangelicalism itself is largely apostate.” John MacArthur
As modernism and liberalism spread and gained major footholds in churches and seminaries throughout the world in the late 1800’s – 1920’s, three groups emerged in the Christian scene.
- the liberals and modernists themselves. Those willing to adapt and adjust Christianity according to the prevailing theories of the age.
- the indifferentists. Those who ignored any controversy and plugged their ears to the noise of battle. Men of whom Spurgeon spoke when he said, “The house is being robbed, its very walls are being digged down, but the good people who are in bed are too fond of the warmth, and too much afraid of getting broken heads to go downstairs and meet the burglars; they are even half vexed that a certain noisy fellow will spring his rattle, or cry, “Thieves!”
- those who were willing to stand for truth. Spurgeon in England. The Downgrade Controversy. T.T. Shields and the McMaster controversy.
After a 1920 meeting addressing the modernist issue, an editor named Laws wrote these words into the July 1st issue of the Watchman-Examiner— “We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the great fundamentals shall be called “Fundamentalists.” And from that generation a group of Godly men arose to earnestly contend for the faith. Some made names for themselves. Some, unfortunately, became theological Ishmaels whose hand was against every man. Some built large ministries through their defense. But some lost everything. Approval, parish, penshion, friends. But they were willing to suffer this loss. Most understood and were motivated by the knowledge that to turn from the faith was to turn from Christ. They knew that to shrink from the battle was to deny the Saviour and so they stood.
And that is what contending for the faith is about—allegiance to Jesus! When the hour demands that we contend we do so not for glory, but for Christ. We who love the Saviour can do no less!