“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, 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, ESV)
Just recently my family completed a Quarantine Movie Marathon of the Marvel Avengers movies. It was fun to watch the stories from beginning to end (at least the end for now) and to see how everything came together over 20+ movies. I love the “Avengers assemble,” line at the end, when all the heroes come together for the last great battle.
That got me to thinking about other great “battle-cry” scenes from the movies, like the great speech from William Wallace in Braveheart:
Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
There’s always the classic, “win one for the Gipper” speech in the Knute Rockne movie, or even the timeless Shakespearean St. Cripsen Day rally,
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Here in Jude’s letter is a rally-cry of sorts, for in our reading today, Jude is calling the Beloved in Christ to contend for the faith. This wasn’t the original intent of his letter; he set out to write about “our common salvation.” By “common” Jude doesn’t mean ordinary, rather, the salvation that we share in Jesus Christ. Perhaps his letter would have echoed Paul’s messages in 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 2:11-22.
Instead, Jude finds it necessary to appeal to the Church to contend for the faith. We’ll read later why this call is necessary (“certain people have crept in… who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality…), but for now it is important to establish what it means to “contend for the faith.”
The Greek word that Jude uses here is the root of our English “agonize.” It is the same word used of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, where we read of Jesus sweating blood as He wrestled with God’s will (Luke 22:44). “The Gospel is under attack,” Jude is saying, therefore we must defend its purity, strive for the practice of faith, and stand firm in it. This is a call to action, the rally cry, summoning all who are in Christ to contend for the faith.
But how do we do that?
I think the key is found in how Jude describes the faith for which we are to contend. It is the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
The Christian faith is a delivered faith. Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Contending for the faith begins by knowing the faith by studying the scriptures. We study God’s Word in order that we may know the truth of God and live according to that truth. We are to surround ourselves with good teachers who will help us to grow in our knowledge of the faith. We are to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). The first way we contend for the faith is by being firmly fixed, deeply rooted, in it.
The Christian faith is also an established faith. The faith is given to us from God “once and for all.” The doctrines of the Christian faith are essential and unchanging. They are fixed before all time, and have been entrusted to us, the saints. Our understanding may change, but the eternal truths of God do not change, nor should we try to change them. You either believe in the Faith or you don’t. In Rich Mullins’ song “Creed,” he sings of the faith,
I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man
We come to the faith to be shaped by it, reformed by it, to find life in it. We do not defend the faith by changing it, but by being changed by it.
Finally, the Christian faith is a contended faith. We’ll see later the kind of challenges the Saints were facing, but for now it is enough to know that when you stand for faith in Jesus Christ, you must, by necessity, stand against that which opposes the Christ. I had a college professor say, “If you won’t stand against something, you probably don’t stand for anything.” You cannot be for Christ and also be for that which is against him. You cannot be for Christ and have everyone be for you. We are to contend for the faith, therefore by necessity we must stand against that which would destroy the faith.
Beloved, let us hear the rally cry as well, and take up the cause of contending for the faith. May we hear and receive it, be established in it, and stand for the faith entrusted to us.