What does it mean to contend for the faith? Jude encourages his audience to agonize for the faith that was entrusted to them. There will always be those who desire to bring down the name of Jesus or twist Jesus for their own twisted purposes. Contend for the faith…
2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Jude 1:2-4, 17-23
The first century was a time in which contending for the faith was about spreading it across the Middle East and Europe and even keeping the good news of Jesus from fizzling out. Those first disciples were it. Jesus promised that hell would not prevail against his message (Matthew 16:18), yet the sent ones of the first century held that in their hands from a human perspective. Contend for the faith.
In the 21st century, contending for the faith is the effort to sustain the identity of the faith with integrity to the 1st century good news which Jesus left for us to proclaim. Today, much like some of the twisting of the first century, people desire to conform Jesus to their purposes. There are 31 flavours of Christianity, and that’s probably only one region’s worth of flavours in North America. The Christian church isn’t in danger of extinction from persecution today. Although this is happening in places in our world, the danger today is more that the historic faith of Jesus will be lost in favour of DIY faith which drifts toward self-centred, self-idolatry. In other words, when we make faith about us, we are far from the teaching of Jesus.
So how do I contend for the faith today? I’ll take my instruction from vs. 20-23:
“Building yourselves up in your most holy faith” – every day, choose to seek God in his word and his will.
“Praying in the Holy Spirit” – take time to pray with guidance from the Holy Spirit.
“Keep yourselves in God’s love” – love is central to the faith – understanding God’s love for me and passing on God’s love to others.
“Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” – our hope is in the return of Jesus. If we stop hoping for Jesus’ return, we will elevate our own humanity and our daily lives above God’s plan.
“Be merciful to those who doubt” – our response to skeptics and doubters should follow the previous four items – don’t judge – show mercy.
“Save others by snatching them from the fire” – be active in the eternal reality of our neighbours and friends. God has chosen to save people through people. Be that people.
“To others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” – in our mercy toward others, watch the line of corruption. Be mindful and fearful of slipping into the sin of the people we are loving.
Contend for the faith which Jesus left us. Tall order. Timeless order.