1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
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 I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.—The words of the Apostle Jude from Jude 1:1-5
And so, Jude begins his letter to Christians gathered in the portion of the world that today we call Turkey, but in those days was known as Asia Minor. Most evangelical scholars believe that Jude, a brother of James, was also a half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ—namely, a natural child of the union of Mary and Joseph. Scholars note a similarity between the content of the Book of Jude and 2 Peter 2.
Based on his own admission in Jude 1:3, the Apostle originally intended to write a scholarly treatise on the doctrine of salvation. However, word had reached him of errant individuals who had infiltrated the fledgling church and who were causing chaos and division.
This prompted the Apostle to write a letter of warning and instruction. He intended for his letter to circulate throughout the churches in various parts of the then known world, but most certainly in the place with the heaviest concentration of believers—Asia Minor (Turkey).
Notice his strong admonition in Jude 1:3:
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
The use of the words “to contend for” has significant meaning. In New Testament Greek the word “epagonizesthai” derives from the root word “epagonizomai” and indicates a determined forward push that strongly nudges aside anything that gets in the way.
In certain extra-biblical literature of the first century, the word described the movement Roman soldiers used to disperse a rebellious crowd. The soldiers would gather in a wedge formation and slowly and carefully step into the crowd, nudging the members of the crowd aside. This action pushed the unwanted crowd back, narrowed the amount of space they could occupy and, eventually, forced them to move elsewhere.
Jude indicates that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is worth earnestly contending for. Those who wish to come in and crowd out the truth of the Gospel need dedicated soldiers of Christ to gently, yet firmly, push back until those who would crowd out the truth are themselves crowded out.
Such a concept will offend many. Especially those who wish to open wide their arms to embrace anyone who might come in to the church. In truth, as followers of Christ we have to remain open to those God may lead into our midst to explore the faith. But, at the same time, we have to stay alert—that is, on our guard or on the lookout—for those who may try to take over leadership roles and dilute, or disparage, or fundamentally bend the truth of God’s Word.
Becoming a contending soldier represents an enormous challenge for most of us. We will either become so zealous that our zeal will overcome the leading of the Holy Spirit to remain gentle and loving. Or, we will become gun-shy about actually going toe-to-toe with those who intend to pollute the truth of the Gospel.
In my first blog post on this topic I wrote the following:
...As distasteful as the message the Apostle Jude intends to communicate to the fledgling church, it remains a powerful and timely warning for us today.
We often talk about corrupt politics, corrupt government, corrupt businesses, and sometimes even a corrupt church. The etymology of the word “corrupt” greatly informs the use of the word in our society today. The word “corrupt” comes from the idea that the “core” of someone or something has become “ruptured” or “burst apart from within.”
So, you see, contending earnestly for the faith intends to repel corruption in the church. As we examine the other parts of this powerfully packed epistle in future blog posts, you will likely come to see that our role as soldiers of Christ remains quite complex. On the one hand, we must strive to push back against those who desire to rupture the core of the church. On the other hand, we must do so with hearts full of God’s love, with an awareness of our own inherent sinfulness, and with total reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit. And that, my dear one, represents quite a challenge.
Will you pray with me?
Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
As we continue to examine this powerful epistle, we also continue to feel gratitude for the message You sent to the church through the pen of the Apostle Jude. We want to explore these words of warning and examine our own churches to see whether Jude’s warning applies to our situations today.
Thank You, Precious Father, that we can count on You to guard us and guide us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.