Friday, November 28, 2014


Jude 3, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

The title for this epistle is taken from the name of the author.  Jude was brother of James and Jesus (Cf. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).  Jude wrote to warn of those who had “crept in unnoticed” into the church to promulgate their false teachings (Cf. Jude 4).  These false teachers were “perverting the grace of our God into sensuality” and denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  For this reason it was especially important for those who shared in a “common salvation” to contend for the faith.

The word “contend” translates a Greek term meaning to struggle.  It speaks of the intense effort that would be extended in a wrestling match (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25).  The verb is in the present tense implying a continuous action.  The need to contend arises because a battle for truth exists.  It has existed in this world since the fall and it continues to this day.  Believers are as Christian soldiers enlisted to contend for truth against an onslaught of falsehood.  None can opt-out of this battle because to not contend is to yield ground to the enemy is who ever-working to deceive and destroy. 

“The faith” refers not to faith in the subjective sense, but rather the body of truth on which the church is founded (Cf. Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:4-6).  Though there is sometimes disagreement on periphery matters, there exists to this day a body of core doctrinal truths to which the true church of God adheres.  These truths are essential both to the salvation of souls and the spiritual growth and well-being of the church.  The “church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” forsakes its privileged role and effectiveness in the world if it fails to content for truth (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

Jude stressed that this faith has been delivered to the church “once for all” (Jude 3).  It is not subject to revision or change.  False teachers may tout their supposed revelations, but if what they say doesn’t measure up to Scripture then it should be quickly and fully rejected as false (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21).  God has closed the book on His revelation to man (Cf. Revelation 22:18-19).  In contending for the faith, the believer in Christ needs to be ever vigilant to sift what he hears through a “what-does-the-Bible-say” filter.

From its beginning and to this day the church has had those who have contended for the faith.  Jude himself would have witnessed many such examples.  Peter suffered much in contending for the faith.  Paul did too.  Foxes Book of Martyrs is replete with such stories.  I much appreciate the story of John Frith.  He died contending for the truth that a man is justified by faith alone when he refused to recant of his opposition to the false doctrine of transubstantiationism (the false doctrine that bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the very body and blood of Christ).  Here’s his story: “England in the 1530s was a dangerous place for Protestants.  God has raised up men to translate the Bible and preach it to the people, but there were many, including King Henry VIII, who stood in vicious opposition to their efforts.  Henry did not hesitate to punish with death those who could no longer be regarded to be loyal Catholics.  John Frith had studied at Oxford.  He was saved and became one of England’s greatest evangelical scholars.  He fled to Europe where he struggled to survive in a hostile situation.  In August 1532 he made the decision to return to England to continue his work in the reformation, knowing full well that his capture would mean certain death.  The fire in his heart to contend for the faith in sharing the gospel compelled him to go.  King Henry’s servant, Sir Thomas More, hunted for Frith, hoping both to destroy him and reach his greatest enemy, William Tyndale.  Frith was aware of the dangers that he faced and attempted to keep a low profile.  But in October 1532, just as Frith was about to board a ship to be with Tyndale, he was betrayed and taken by agents of Thomas More.  Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was subjected to intense pressure from Catholic theologians and bishops to abandon his gospel faith.  While imprisoned, for approximately eight months, Frith penned his views on Communion, fully knowing that they would, in his own words, be used "to purchase me most cruel death."  Frith was tried before many examiners and bishops who produced Frith’s own writings as evidence for his supposed heretical views. He was sentenced to death by fire and offered a pardon if he answered positively to two questions: Do you believe in purgatory, and do you believe in transubstantiation? He replied that neither purgatory nor transubstantiation could be proven by Holy Scriptures, and thus was condemned as a heretic and was burned at the stake on 4 July 1533 at Smithfield, London.  He died, but in contending for the faith he ignited and bolstered the faith of others (Cf. Philippians 1:12-14).  God would have us, His children, to contend for His truth.  People contend for all sorts of lesser causes, but to contend for the faith is to fight the good fight (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:7).

No comments: