Contend for the Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 
(Jude 3–4, NIV)

Contend for the faith… that sounds like a challenge to eternal security. After all, if we born-again types are saved once-and-for-all through faith, what is the need of contention?... I mean, haven’t we already won the big battle… the battle for our souls?

This is true; through Christ, we have already won the battle for our eternal destinies… but the war continues. So what’s still in play? What did Jude see as still in contention?

Since we Christians are (by definition) a people who have already secured a place in heaven, we should resist the temptation to sit back as if nothing important were still at stake. Jude knew that his audience was heaven-bound, yet he urged them to contend for the faith — to strive. Now, striving is not foreign to people-at-large — just look at our sports-celebrity culture! But striving should be more than a mere skill-building exercise for us. It should be a way of life for the believer.

Jude was not alone in this thinking. Paul, too, encouraged people to fight and to labor — and to prove his point, he compared himself to an athlete contending for the prize:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV)

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:14, NIV)

Paul knew that having a place in heaven irrevocably secured did not give him permission to sit-out the rest of the ride. Eternal security should be a daily comfort to the Christian, but striving for mastery of the spiritual life should be his daily bread. After all, this world is a place of war, not a place of rest. But did Jude have a particular enemy in view? He did indeed: the one who distorts the revealed Jesus Christ.

Here’s the problem: Since Jesus has cultural gravitas, people are always wanting a part of him — but they want the talisman-Jesus, the lucky-Jesus, the parachute-Jesus… they want the kindly-healing-touching-feeding Jesus. What they do not want is the man-of-sorrows-Jesus — the one who bled and died… the one who calls us to lay down our lives.

The Bible teaches plainly that Jesus Christ, who was himself God, came in the flesh and died the substitutionary death on the cross. He rose from the dead, lives now making intercession for us with the Father and is coming again to rule and reign… and anything short (or long!) of this is heresy.

But Christian assemblies throughout the ages have been continually assaulted by false teachers; these people creep-in and pitch a distorted picture of Christ — and this is why we must contend. Satan is still the ruler of the world… and he’s not going to leave the true picture of Christ alone. So pray, study, fellowship, serve… that’s how we contend.

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