Contending For The Faith – Chapter 1

This is a one chapter excerpt from my book, “Agonizing For The Faith: A Biblical Exposition of Jude”

 

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ; May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was making every opportunity to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1-3

The greatest threat to the church since its formation has always been false teaching. This epistle is a polemical letter to the church in every age. It is a gift from God that is meant to protect the flock from the corruption of sin propagated by false teachers. To begin with, false teaching was not prevalent in the church until around 68-70 A.D. Satan had attempted to destroy the early church by persecution initially, but his plan backfired and instead the church grew exponentially. In light of this failure, Satan took a more clandestine approach. Our great enemy devised a plan to come in under the radar of those who lacked discernment. He came into the church through unbelievers posing as Christians and began to teach false doctrine.

History

The book of 2 Peter was written around 67-68 A.D. before Peter’s death. This is important because it helps us to date the book of Jude. Many scholars believe that Jude was written after 2 Peter, but before Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D. The support for this lies in several areas, most notably in Jude 17-18 where Jude makes a direct quotation from 2 Peter 3:3 in verse 18. In verse 17, Jude tells us to remember what the apostles said beforehand (primarily Peter) as he quotes 2 Peter 3:3. This shows us that Jude indeed was written after Peter for him to make this citation. Keep in mind that Jude more than likely lived in Jerusalem at this time. The letter must have been written before the Roman Emperor Titus destroyed the city in 70 A.D. or Jude would most certainly have included it in the epistle. Lastly, there is commonality between Jude 6-7 and from 2 Peter 2:4-9 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels who did not keep their domain. The book of 2 Peter is more prophetic about the coming apostasy, whereas Jude reveals to us the fulfillment of those wolves that have entered the church.

Author

Who is Jude? There are two possibilities as to the identity of Jude (Judas): Jude the apostle who was the son of James and Jude the half-brother of Jesus. There are many liberal commentators that espouse that “we cannot know who this Jude really was.” The fact is that we can because there really isn’t a lot of ambiguity. The people who mislead Christians with statements like this are nothing more than wolves in service of Satan himself looking to discredit Scripture any way they can. With this said, We can immediately rule out the apostle Jude, son of James simply by looking at verse 1 which says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” The apostle Jude was the son of James (See Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13). This would give credence to the fact that the author was indeed Judas the half-brother of Jesus.

James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, the writer of the epistle of James, and the half-brother of Jesus. Mark 6:3 reveals, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” John 7:5 shows us that none of his brothers believed He was the Christ. “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” Then in Acts 1:14 after Jesus death the faithful all gathered in the upper room. “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” So at some point between John 7:5 and Acts 1:14 Jesus’ brother Judas, using his own words became a “bond servant of Christ.” This was certainly not the infamous Judas Iscariot, nor Judas son of James. Jude was Christ’s half-brother.

There is one more point to look at in regards to Jude’s salvation. The Greek word for bond servant is “doulos” (δοῦλος). It derives from “deo” which means “to bind”. Originally, it was the lowest form of servitude, but also came to mean, “One who gives themselves up to the will of another.” Jude was no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ, and as such, has given his will up for that of Christ’s. Jude’s identity no longer lies in this world because He has a new Master, one who is not cruel and whose yoke is light.

“To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” Jude 1b-2

“Those who are called” is “kletos” (κλητός) and means “invited”. Its root word is “kaleo” which means “to call” or “to summon”. Kletos is used in Scripture for God appointing someone to an office (i.e. apostle – Romans 1:1), a general call to salvation (Matthew 20:16), or to identify His elect (Jude 1:1). In the context, Jude is referring to those who have been elected to salvation. They are true believers in Christ. This shows us God’s irresistible grace which calls His elect to salvation. This is not the general call to salvation. Believers have been appointed to salvation by God’s grace and sovereignty, not by works lest any man should boast. This salvation cannot be taken away from the believer. “To those who are called beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” Notice that the believer is not only appointed by God the Father, but “kept” by God the Father for Christ. “Kept” is “tereo” (τηρέω), which derives from “teros”, meaning “a guard”. In context it means “to preserve” or “to attend to carefully”. A pastor friend provoked my thinking in regards to “kept” when he wrote, Jude also says that we are preserved, “kept safe” in Jesus Christ. Just as Noah and his family were kept safe and secure in the Ark, which was a foreshadowing or type of Jesus…”[1] The ark was a representation of refuge in God through Christ. It is Christ who protects the believer from the wrath of God just as the ark protected Noah and his family from God’s judgment on the world. Just as God preserved Noah, so too will He preserve all of those who are called to salvation (See John 10:29).

Mercy, peace, and love was a distinctly Christian greeting. “Mercy” (Eleos – ἔλεος) means “kindness to those that are afflicted”. Jude is asking God to multiply His mercy to the elect that read this letter. He knows that they are afflicted by sin and in need of constant mercy before an all holy God. Praise God that He indeed multiplies His mercies daily for us!

“Peace” (Eirene – εἰρήνη) means “wholeness”. It implies having been at war and then being reconciled. It is the reconciliation that we have to God through Christ that gives believers peace with our Creator. We are no longer at war with Christ. If we are at peace with our Maker, we can be at peace during the seemingly constant storms of our lives that seek to unsettle and sink us. He asks that God multiply His peace to them, which gives the believer assurance of their salvation.

Lastly, “love” (agape – ἀγάπη) derives from “agapao”. This word denotes being full of goodwill. It is the unconditional love out of the four Greek loves. It is showing benevolence and charity to someone who is in need, and might I add, someone who could never pay you back for the good you bestow to them. This is precisely the love that was demonstrated when Christ became a scapegoat on our behalf and bore the wrath of God for our sins. Christ saw our need and paid our ransom to any who believe on Him and repent of their sins. We could never pay Him back for this act of self-sacrificing love.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 3

What you must understand is that certain heresies began to creep into the church. When Jude started the letter with “beloved” he is wanting to convey his love for them, and inasmuch having this love for them, he must convey a very hard message where his words will not be so gentle. In other words, he does not want believers to take offense to what he is about to unveil. Jude’s original intent was to write about the salvation they share in Christ, however, something happened. The Greek words behind “while I was making every effort” make it hard to know for sure whether Jude had a strong desire to write about their “common salvation”, or was possibly in the act of writing about their “common salvation” when the Holy Spirit prompted him to change directions. Jude was in the act of trying to write the letter about salvation, but the Holy Spirit interrupted and prodded him to a more urgent matter. Have you ever been in the midst of doing something when the Holy Spirit stopped you? I remember many years ago I was on the faculty for a national leadership school up in Chicago for SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). We were teaching undergrads from colleges around the country about leadership. I remember specifically that I saw an undergrad (out of several hundred) at the beginning of the week and had a strong desire to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know him, but then I had a sense of regret in my heart for not going up to talk to him that first night. In fact, I didn’t see him the rest of the week and felt a strong desire that I needed to talk to him. I kept looking for him at all the meetings and gatherings, but could not seem to find this young man. Then on the last night I went out with some faculty to a sports bar. I ended up seeing this undergrad sitting at the bar with his friend. Like Jude stated, “I felt the necessity to write”, I felt the necessity to speak to this man for whatever reason. He had people with him on both sides of the bar, so I prayed to God that if it was His will for me to speak to this man that he would open up a seat beside him. Literally, the moment that I finished praying, the man to his left stood up and walked away. I left the other faculty members at our table and just pulled up a seat beside him and sat there. I wasn’t sure what to do from there because his back was turned, so I prayed that God would start the introduction. This young man turned around the second I finished my prayer and asked me from out of nowhere, “Would you ever commit suicide?” I was completely caught off guard. I replied, “No”. He then replied, “I would if my girlfriend broke up with me.” That was when I shared with him the hope believers have in Christ. I shared the Gospel with him and spent the night talking to him. I had intended to hang out with the faculty that night, but the Holy Spirit called an audible. He did not come to know Christ as his Savior that night, but seeds were planted. I found out the next year that he had been through some storms. His girlfriend had broken up with him, but he didn’t take his life. Are you ever so busy or in such a hurry that you cannot sense the Holy Spirit prodding you to minister to someone in need? Or perhaps scrap a lesson you were going to teach? I think there are far more opportunities each day where the Spirit prods us, but we ignore the still small voice inside us.

“I felt the necessity to write to you”. I want to elaborate on the word “necessity” so that you understand what Jude is saying, and the burden I felt in Chicago to talk to that young man. “Necessity” is “anagke” (ἀνάγκη). The preposition “ana” means “upward” and denotes a movement from lower to higher, while the other part of the word “agkali” derives from “agkos” and denotes the curving of the inner angle of the arm, or “a bent arm”. Properly, it means “an arm bent to receive a burden”. These two words together imply a serious compression or stress. It is a burdensome situation that necessitates immediate action. This was no small burden Jude was carrying. God had clearly put something so heavy on Jude that he could do nothing else until he wrote this letter addressing these false teachers. God does not speak to us in an audible voice, but he does take a prod and poke our spirits to make us go in the right direction so as to accomplish His will. In fact, in Psalm 119, “teach me” is a common saying by David. The Hebrew word “lamad” (לָמַד – teach, Psalm 119:12) actually means “to strike with a sharp rod”. It is used in context to an ox-goad which is a sharp stick that is used to prod oxen or cattle to go into the direction the farmer desired. This is exactly how God teaches us, directs us, and grows our faith because we are a stubborn people. Can you now see the pressure that God had truly put on Jude?

Jude exhorts the brethren to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Contend is “epagonizomai” (ἐπαγωνίζομαι). This is where we get our English word, “agonize”. “Epi” (focused on) is a preposition that intensifies the meaning of the word, and “agon” meaning “a contest”. This word is used in athletic competitions where athletes contend against others to win the game. It was also used in a figurative sense of soldiers in combat against an enemy. When your life is on the line and you are fighting vigorously against an enemy combatant, you will pour every ounce of your strength and wisdom into overcoming your foe. If you don’t, you will die. I believe this is the exact thought that Jude is conveying figuratively. It is a battle against enemies. I could imagine Jude saying to the church today, “Stand up against this enemy that has infiltrated Christ’s church and throw them out!” Epagonizomai is in the present tense denoting that believers should be constantly engaged and ready to fight those that malign the word of God. Jude is showing us that there are two options: Fight or retreat. The believer is commanded to fight, though I will say that the fighting is done with the sword of the Spirit in grace and truth, not in malice or hatred. The believer’s fighting must be different from the unbeliever, who will be angry, malicious, and seek to hurt you. If we are not gracious in our rebukes and reproofs then we will look no different from the world. Beloved, if you do not contend for the truth of God then error will abound and a Christianity that is not Christian will prevail.

[1] Quote from Pastor Stephen Bowen

 

My book is available worldwide on Amazon. If the link below does not work, please let me know. Here is the link to Amazon.com:

 

Advertisements

Author: thomascoutouzis

I was born in the United States as a second generation Greek. My family comes from the Island of Kalymnos which is the island next to Patmos (Where the apostle John wrote Revelation). My wife Kathy is of Korean descent and we have two wonderful children, Chloe and Micah. We live in a small town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina called Fuquay Varina. The Lord redeemed me as a young boy as my mother (who was a believer) shared the Gospel with me. If I had to categorize my denomination I would most likely fall into the Reformed Baptist realm with some differences over non-essential doctrine. I am an expositional bible teacher. For the last few years I have been taking God's word and teaching it on outlets like Twitter and Wordpress. I am also a fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' fantasy novels. As such I am writing a fantasy series full of adventure, while weaving deep theological truth into the story and characters. My first book, "Athanasia: The Great Insurrection" is available in both ebook and paperback currently. I am hoping to release the second book in the series, "Athanasia: The Unknown Lands" around September of 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s