Contend for the Faith
We’re going to have to come to terms with the fierceness of Jesus.
Jesus is, “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and our, “Advocate with the Father” (1st John 2:1). We all emphatically cry, “Amen!” when we hear these sentiments from the pulpit. However, Jesus also called morally upright people, “hypocrites” (see Matthew 6 & 23), “brood of vipers” (see Matthew 12:34) essentially accusing the religious leaders of being the Satan’s children, and, “you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). In fact, Jesus was so fiery at times people associated Him with some of the harshest of prophets…
Matthew 16:13-14 (NKJV)
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
These guys were so disliked they were thrown into wells, hunted by the authorities, and decapitated. Not for any crime or sin, but because they had the integrity and respect for God to address the truth of others’ crimes and sins against God. Jesus was being compared to these fire and brimstone preachers, so to speak, because He taught the truth just as boldly without compromise. The Bible calls Jesus the Lamb of God. However, lest we adopt a one-dimensional view of the Savior, we must recognize that the same book also sees Jesus as, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
So, the natural conclusion is that we can be mean and nasty to people as much as we want, right? Wrong! We can’t do that, and Jesus didn’t do that either. What is the point of noting Jesus’ fierce teaching then? In what way does Jesus’ bold preaching, even to the point of offending others, inform His followers and their interactions with others? Enter the book of Jude. Jude has some harsh words for people…
Jude 10-13 (NKJV)
10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;
13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Woah. Who does this bondservant of Jesus (Jude 1) have in mind? Christian posers.
Jude 4 (NKJV)
4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Crept into what? The faithful assembly. It is important to note that though these, “certain men”, have, “crept in unnoticed” they participate in the love feasts of the brethren, they probably assemble regularly, and despite all this Jude says they, “turn the grace of our God into lewdness”. Perhaps these are the types of men Jesus had in mind when He said…
Matthew 7:22-23 (NKJV)
22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Note that these people who are told to depart claim to have done many great things for Jesus. Jesus doesn’t deny that these things happened neither is He pleased with a pretense of Christianity that never appeals to Him on His terms.
Truth be told, there is coming a day when many moral, socially upright, people will take their assumption of self-righteousness before the judgement seat of Christ and be shook to the core when they discover He isn’t impressed. These were the types of people Jude saw among the brethren. It’s hard to say how sincere these men were since we only have the stinging rebuke of Jude and not their perspective. But is this letter a rebuke? Jude calls it an exhortation meaning a plea or a call to action (Jude 3). If you look carefully through Jude’s letter, you’ll see he never addresses the ungodly dreamers, as he refers to them in verse 8, only the, “beloved” brethren. What’s more, Jude places the urgency of this matter on the shoulders of the faithful brethren, not these pretenders…
Jude 3 (NKJV)
3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
As a portion of God’s word, Jude is a call to spiritual arms. There are enemies all around us, perhaps masked as fellow heirs. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they’ve crept in unnoticed. So, Jude says the brethren should beat them up, take their stuff, hit ‘em where it hurts, or even kill them, right? Absolutely not! This is war alright, spiritual war. Paul said…
2nd Corinthians 10:3-6 (NKJV)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Jesus never laid a finger on anyone, but He was given every opportunity and most people would’ve justified some good, old fashioned, self-defense on the part of Jesus by the time men started hammering nails into His hands and feet. He’s our example. We don’t win our battles with our fists, not anymore, not with Jesus’ blessing. However, there are battles to fight and wars to wage. Not against flesh and blood, not against men, but against ungodly arguments and everything that stands in open rebellion against God.
Bottom line, what did Jesus stand for? Under what circumstances was Jesus willing to offend people like He did in John 6? When the truth is at stake. What does Jude implore his beloved brethren to contend for? The faith once for all delivered. And how does Jude conclude this exhortation?
Jude 21-23 (NKJV)
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction;
23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
If these ungodly men are ever to be rescued it is not by friending them into self-reflection, overlooking serious faults. If these men will ever be safe spiritually it will not be by blinding myself to their guilty distance from God. If there is any chance of getting through to the lost who think they’re saved it will be by compassionate, consistent, and even fierce teaching of the truth. But first we must come to terms with it.