Earnestly Contending for the Faith: How and Why?
Jude in v.3 of his epistle exhorted saints (“beloved”) to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” unto them. Notice, in regard to “the faith,” that Jude identifies it as “once for all delivered.” Jude did not say “delivered to all,” but “once for all delivered.” Jude did not say “delivered to all,” but “once delivered for all.” Jude was saying that this delivering of the faith would suffice for all time. Based upon Jude’s statement, we have confidence that no other revelation is needed. Truth for those in the first century is truth for us today. We share a common faith, a common salvation, as a result of this.
That this understanding is correct is seen from support from other texts. For example, pastors were commanded to “hold fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers…whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1.9-11). Furthermore, pastors were to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1.13).
Saints also have a personal, yet grave, responsibility to “earnestly contend for the faith.” Their responsibility is not passive, but active, involvement. The following passages mention a few of these responsibilities:
- Continue in the faith (Acts 14.22).
- Be established in the faith (Acts 16.5; Colossians 2.7).
- Stand fast in the faith (1 Corinthians 16.13).
- Be sound in the faith (Titus 1.13).
- Keep the faith (2 Timothy 4.6-8).
- Live by the faith (Galatians 2.20).
- Hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience (1 Timothy 3.9).
- Resist the devil, steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5.9).
God has enabled saints to be responsible by his grace: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2.11-14).
Jude also mentioned a common salvation shared by saints, as opposed to a personal salvation experience that varies with the individual. This would suggest that in “calling upon the name of the Lord,” everyone would do so in the same manner. This is exactly what we find in the salvation experiences of those in the first century, as recorded in the book of Acts. Salvation is dependent upon the “faithful word” and “sound doctrine” (Titus 1.9) being proclaimed (Romans 6.17-18).