Contending for the Faith: Jude 3–4

Contending for the Faith: Jude 3–4

Not only does Jude instruct our action toward the enemy (“contend”), but he also instructs us how to take care of ourselves and others in this fight. We cannot lose any of our soldiers. We ourselves must grow in the faith, pray, persevere, and look to the return of Jesus Christ (Jude 20–21). Concerning the victims of the enemy’s attack, we must show mercy to the doubters—those who vacillate between truth and the heresies of false teachers (Jude 22). For those more fixed in the flames of heresy and sin, we must be more forceful and snatch them from the fiery end of following these false teachers (Jude 23a).

Jude’s purpose for his letter his clear: “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

What is “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” what does it mean to “contend” for it, and why do we need to do so?

The Faith That Was Once for All Delivered to the Saints

“Delivered” (paradidōmi) is the same verb Paul employed to describe how he instructed the church about the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23), the gospel (1 Cor 15:2), and any essential doctrine that he had given to the church (1 Cor 11:2). Used as a noun, something “delivered” is a “tradition” (paradosis). The apostles commanded the churches to walk in these traditions, stand firm in them, and hold them fast in opposition (2 Thess 2:153:6). What is “delivered” here in Jude is “the faith.”

“Faith” (pistis) can refer to the act of believing or, as here, the body of God’s truth that we believe. Used in this sense in the NT, the faith is singular (Eph 4:5, “one faith”) and something we preach (Gal 1:23). At its least, it consists of the essential truths of the gospel, “the apostles’ teaching” when the church first began (Acts 2:42), and at its most, it includes “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The OT promised the sufferings and glories of Christ (Luke 24:44–47; cf. 1 Pet 1:10–12). The NT records the narratives of these matters (Gospels and Acts), teaches why Jesus came (Letters), and promises that He is coming again (Revelation). As Jesus promised, He gave the apostles “all the truth” through the Spirit (John 16:13), Himself being the apex of this revelation (John 16:14, “He will glorify me”; cf. Heb 1:1–21 Cor 3:1115:1–4). The apostles bore their definitive witness to Him, confirmed by signs, miracles, and wonders (Heb 2:3–4; cf. Eph 2:203:5).

All of this is included in “the faith,” and there is no more of this content to be given in this age. In fact, literally translated, it is “the once-for-all-delivered faith.” Though a handful of NT books could come after Jude, God had essentially revealed all of the truth necessary for salvation and godliness (cf. 2 Tim 3:14–17. The book of Revelation, last in time and order, closed the Scriptures and even said that no more revelation would be given (cf. Rev 22:18–19).

Coming back to Jude, the saints indeed find opposition to this faith from time to time, which is why Jude “found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith” (Jude 3). There are those who depart from the faith (1 Tim 4:10), wander from it (1 Tim 6:10), swerve from it (1 Tim 6:21), oppose it, and even seek to turn others away from it (e.g., Acts 13:8).

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