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Last week we began our journey into Jude’s short 25 verse letter. We learned he was the brother of Jesus and he didn’t come to a saving knowledge of Christ until after the resurrection. He’s writing to the church at large – Christians all over and that would include us. He finishes his brief introduction and we now find out why we are following Peter’s letters with Jude’s.
Jude 3 says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
When he sat down to write, Jude began writing Plan A. He had one primary purpose. He had one goal in mind. He was eager, excited, motivated, and stoked to write about the common salvation he shared with his readers. It is this common bond that ties us in the church together. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name will cause us to bow our knees in humble adoration This bond provides us a huge family all around the world united by the blood of Christ. Paul reminded us in Gal. 3:28 that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Our common salvation is accomplished by the universal process of recognizing and accepting the truth of the Gospel. Let me clarify something I said last week. The idea that God created one person for salvation and someone else for damnation is heresy. Rather than label theology, I should have simply stated what the Bible says and you can draw your own conclusions. What is certain though, is the Gospel message never changes and every single conversion is an absolute miracle. We rejoice in each decision for Christ and then begin the challenging and incredibly important process of discipleship. This common bond of salvation is the reason you always have something to talk about with other believers. The common bond of salvation is the reason you can meet a believer for the first time and have a sense of intimacy. That’s what the early church shared and it’s what we should have in the church today. We need to remember our roots; our foundation in Christ. That is the commonality shared in the family of God.
That was Jude’s plan A, but he didn’t have an opportunity to see that plan come to fruition. So the Spirit moves him to Plan B. In an age when confrontation is often deemed judgmental or mean, Jude’s explanation for writing is a stark contrast to the, “can’t we all get along” philosophy. It wasn’t an isolated problem that Jude was concerned about. He wasn’t calling out any one person like Luke did in Acts 13:8 referring to Elymas the Magician, or a couple of guys like Paul did referring to Hymenaeus and Philetus in 2 Tim. 2:17. This was a plague, an epidemic of eternal proportion that threatened the church at large.
Jude wanted to write about our common salvation, but he, “Felt the necessity to write to you and appeal.” He wanted to write about salvation, but was compelled to write about something else. He makes a serious and heartfelt request. Don’t miss the urgency with which he writes. He now lays out the purpose of this letter. He wants his readers to, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once handed down to the saints.” There is so much in the one command of this verse so let’s break it down.
He writes, “contend earnestly.” Contend means to exert intense effort on behalf of something to a greater extent than ever before. It means physical exertion. It is not defensive; it is offensive. We’re to take the lead on this, we’re to be on the forefront, we know the truth and we must lead the attack. So if we’re to be on the offensive, on the front lines, what are we fighting for? We’re to fight for, “The faith.” It’s not a faith, or one faith, another faith, or universal faith . . . we are to, “contend earnestly for the faith.” Faith here comes from the Greek word pistis and refers specifically to the Christian faith. This faith, “Was once for all handed down to the saints.” Don’t misunderstand. We don’t pass down our salvation to our kids like hand me down clothes. It refers to the traditional teaching of the apostles that we find in the Word. Keep in mind that the Word was not very accessible in the early days of the church. Word of mouth was and remains a very effective tool for sharing the truths of Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:42 early Christians, “Were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking bread and prayer.” This is not something you do one time – it is a continual pursuit in the present tense. Peter told us to, “Remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” (2 Pet. 3:2)
This faith was handed down or entrusted to the saints. 2 Thes. 2:15 says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Tradition when lined up with Scripture is not bad. The problem we get into is when we take the traditions of man and place them equally or above the Bible. Paul was a champion for the faith. In his first letter to Timothy he said, “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Tim. 6:12a) In his second letter to Timothy he said, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:13) Regarding rebellious men, empty talkers, and deceivers Paul told Titus to, “Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” (Tit. 1:13-14) As saints of God, we too have been entrusted with this same faith Jude talks about.
At this point we know who Jude is, who he’s writing to and why. His instruction is simple, yet urgent. It is inclusive and it’s applicable for today.
Next week, we’ll find out why Jude has such a sense of urgency as we look at a group of very dangerous people. Let me leave you with one more exhortation from Paul: 2 Tim. 4:1-4: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Paul’s words sure are a testament to what is going on today.