3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
When new believers come to Christ and start to become more aware of news concerning churches, it must come as somewhat of a shock to see how contentious and fragmented is the universal church. Worse yet, new believers undoubtedly start to wonder just what is going on when Christians are persecuted by governments and non-Christians in foreign countries, and yet here in the “civilized” West we Christians persecute each other. And then when new Christians start to hear odd “doctrines” that do not line up with the Bible they just started reading… Well, you can see where Jude was coming from when he wrote his little letter “To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.” (v.1)
It may seem like a lot to ask a new Christian to step to the front lines and “contend earnestly for the faith,” but Jude makes clear that this is a battle we must always fight, for it is a battle ordained by God. Why would God need us to contend for our faith with people who had been “marked out for this condemnation”? Why would the Lord test people whose faith was so new? Considering the worldwide historical impact of Christianity, I think we can see that the very persecution our forbearers faced produced in them a faith that was stronger and more resilient, a faith that they then took throughout the world and shared with everyone they met.
And here we are twenty centuries later, and we face similar challenges to our faith from within. Certainly there are those Christians worldwide who face imprisonment and death like Paul, Peter, Silas, Stephen, and other early apostles and disciples. But right here in America we face the “persecution” of false teachings and the temptation to live by the words of men rather than the Word of God. The twistings of some “doctrines” today are so insidious and subtle that many don’t realize they have departed from God’s plain teachings until their church group has fragmented. Like brothers on opposite sides in a civil war, new Christians are confronted with the unenviable task of discerning God’s will in a war not of their making. But the call to arms is clear:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction;
23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
We must build ourselves up in faith, continue in prayer, and save whomever we can with compassion and discernment. We are NOT to fall in with those who would teach false doctrines that convert the gospel of Christ into “carte blanche” for sin and idolatry. And as we pursue this battle let us remember, as Jude reminds us, that only God can keep us from stumbling, and it is upon God’s holy wisdom that we must rely – no other. We are all one body in Christ only when we all realize that we are subject to the Lord God and not to the whims of men or social norms. New or old, we must stand and fight for this faith if we are to live in His presence.
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
25 To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Heavenly Father, all praise and honor belong to You, for You alone are our guide and our Savior. Preserve us, O Lord, from those who would lead us astray, and teach us discernment so that we will not only recognize false teachings but also be able to snatch others back from the fire of their own condemnation. Strengthen our faith, Lord Jesus, to stand up for You. Amen.