We live in an age that is vehemently opposed to the truth of God’s Word. Indeed Christians in all generations have always found themselves in this situation. As long as there has been revelation to fallen people there has been heresy and idolatry. Man, in an effort to try and degrade the very glory for which he has been created, espouses false theology in homage to his false god. God is a God of specific truth and ideas are the hinge between eternal life and eternal death.
As Christians we are called to defend the faith. Jude says in his letter that he is writing to that church to “contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” in verse 3. This ancient body of divinity did not originate in the minds of men but from the eternal, Triune God of the universe. The truth does not change because God does not change. His gracious self-disclosure, namely the Bible, is our only guide to faith and practice. Without that light, we live in utter darkness and sit completely without hope. We are given the joyful task to stand for orthodoxy- for the glory of God and the good of the world.
But I’m worried that often times what begins as an earnest attempt to be obedient to Scripture ends up as a display of immaturity. It is far too common to see brothers, and I see it in myself most often, contend for the truth in a way that does not commend the truth that they have been commissioned to contend for. Note what I am not saying. Speaking plainly and boldly is not arrogance. God’s Word is clear and so we must be also. Dogmatism where God has been dogmatic should be humble, not proud. I am in no way saying we should not care about what doctrines people hold nor should be speak in stark words to vindicate the truths of the gospel.
What I am saying however is that we must not miss the emphasis of Jude. Look carefully at what he says just before the second half of verse 3. What was his original intent for that letter to this embassy of God’s kingdom? “Beloved,” he writes, “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation.” His original intent was not one of defense but offense. It thrilled Jude’s heart to wax eloquent concerning the glories of the gospel. God is infinitely glorious and created man so that they might find their everlasting joy in Him. Man has universally chosen to rebel against God, refusing to give glory due the name of the Lord and so His wrath rests upon every single person in the world. But God, in unspeakably wondrous grace, has punished His perfect Son in our place. This God-man’s perfect humanity and sacrificial death gained our acceptance before the Father when we respond in faith and repentance in the risen Lord of glory. All of this is in the context of the sovereign choice of the Father that took place in eternity past. All of this is by grace and by grace alone.
This was the emphasis of Jude’s heart. This is what he longed to write to this church about. His default was edification and the building of a positive theology from God’s inerrant Word. The situation, however, called for something different. False teaching had arisen among God’s people. These people, unsaved and unsavory, were claiming that one could “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” and so were denying the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. False teaching had to be met with contention. Jude, for the good of these people in the glorification of God by His Word being treasured correctly, had to fight back to forces of unsound doctrine.
But it seems he would have rather talked with them about their common salvation. There are times when training in righteousness and rebuke are both absolutely necessary. Both are not equally happy though. We can truly find joy in standing for truth against the entire world if need be. But it does not compare with the joy of rejoicing together as a church in what the finished work of Christ has accomplished – our eternal enjoyment of God. Do you live to contend? Brother, I fear you may find yourself ill prepared for heaven. Contention, while vital for the kingdom of God, is temporary. Heaven will be a continual conversation about our “common salvation,” no contention or complaint.
So how then shall we contend? We must contend like Jude. His letter is perhaps most famous for its opening and conclusion. Jude might have been writing hard words, but he wrote them from a tender heart. He addresses this church as those who are “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” in verse 1. The same brothers and sisters he is urging to contend for the gospel in their congregation are to be reminded that they were called and called effectually. It is not as though they know the truth on their own account. The sovereign Lord of glory appointed them for eternal life; they were those eternally “beloved” by God the Father. His Holy Spirit created life where there was only death. And even now their most significant identity is that of being those who are “kept for Jesus Christ.” Some translate it “kept for” and others “kept by.” Either way the emphasis is on the sovereign perseverance of God. This becomes the great theme of the letter.
Jude ends with one of the most beautiful, life-giving passages in the whole Bible. It is worth quoting in full: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” How sweet is the goodness of the Lord! How might we ever be said to be blameless? Only when our lives are hidden with Christ on high. How will we ever make it to Immanuel’s land? The Lamb’s glory must so transfix our hearts that we neither turn to the right or the left. God must keep us.
Brothers this is how we are to contend. We don’t contend for the joy of being contentious. We don’t contend all the time, to every person that we know personally or we pass by on the Internet. Check your heart in the mirror of God’s Word. We must adore writing concerning the common salvation we share more than we enjoy an argument. We should contend in a way that is firm for the truth, unapologetically and without worldly compromise. But we must also, by God’s grace, contend in a way that while lying prostrate in the dust wonders, “Lord why was I a guest?”