Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3)
Today in our scripture reading we turn to the epistle of Jude, a short letter that was written by the half-brother of Jesus. In the message today, Jude will be mentioned along with the other brothers and sisters of Jesus that were children of Mary and Joseph. Jesus was related to them through Mary but not Joseph since Mary became pregnant by the seed of the Holy Spirit while she was still a virgin. While Jesus and Jude grew up together in the same house, Jude did not believe Jesus was the Messiah until after His resurrection from the dead. As we see in the first verse of this letter, Jude became a Christian and was unwavering in his faith that Jesus was the Christ.
Although this letter is short, it is packed with encouragement for believers and with stern warnings for unbelievers. Believers are encouraged to remain steadfast in the faith because truth was being attacked from all sides. “Earnestly contend for the faith,” is not a command about personal faith even though it may apply, but rather a command to defend the entire body of Christian faith that was given by Jesus to the apostles. We often categorize biblical doctrines as essential and nonessential. I cannot find anything in scripture about nonessential doctrines. I know there are preferential positions that may not be concretely supported by biblical texts, but there are no doctrines of the Christian faith that are nonessential.
It is important to note that Jude believed the entire body of faith had been given. It had been given once, meaning given once for all time, which is tantamount to saying, the revelation of the faith was complete. Some of the New Testament was written after Jude wrote this letter, but no parts of it modified anything that was previously given. The faith was settled; Christian doctrine has no new parts that have been established since the completion of the New Testament canon. The scriptures are the pillar and ground of the truth and no church tradition can alter the written word of God.
Thomas Manton (1620-1677), perhaps the ablest commentator on the book of Jude, wrote the following observation about scripture: “The mercy of God appeareth in preserving it, that it may be delivered from one age to another. No doctrine so ancient as the doctrine of the scriptures; it describeth the whole history of the world from the very creation, and the original of all things. Where are there records so ancient? And yet they have been preserved even to our time. We have some ancient writings of the heathens, though nothing so ancient as scripture; but these are not contrary to men’s lusts, and have been cherished by them, and yet they have felt the tooth of time, and are in a great measure mangled; but the word of God hath been maligned and opposed, and yet it continueth; and holdeth up its head in the world: not only the main doctrine of the scriptures hath been continued, but no part of the word hath been falsified, corrupted, destroyed: the world wanted not malice nor opportunity; the powers of the world have been against it, and corrupt persons in the church have been always given to other-gospelling, Gal. 1:6,7; 1 Tim. 6:3; but still the scriptures have been wonderfully preserved, as the three children in the furnace, not a hair singed, not a jot and tittle of truth perished.” (A Commentary on Jude, Thomas Manton)
I believe part of the importance of verse 3 is that not only is God’s word preserved, but also the proper interpretations of it are kept intact by faithful “contenders.” The world will not fail to have a witness of the true gospel as long as it shall stand. God providentially protects a pure stream of gospel preaching even though at times it is very difficult to find. In times past, persecution drove the church underground, but the gospel was never lost. In our time and in our city, Christianity is mostly “Christ-less” with its emphasis on self help. A new faith has been delivered that will quickly change as soon as the church growth gurus figure a different and better method to fill the pews. And yet, Berean Baptist Church is here fighting the good fight of faith and contending for the entire body of faith that was once delivered unto the saints.
The “faith” was not popular in the time of the apostles and has never been popular since. The cross was an offense then and it still is today. We do not seek to be popular by giving people a watered down poisoned version of the gospel. We are not interested in “other-gospelling” as Manton called it. We have the “faith once delivered unto the saints” and we will preach it while hated by the world, and yet loved by God’s saints!
Pastor V. Mark Smith