Source of Contention
“Source of Contention”
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but our culture strongly advocates tolerance between differing worldviews. For many, this is not earth-shattering information. We’ve discussed this before and many of you have seen the “Coexist” bumper sticker that depicts all “religions” dwelling together in perfect harmony. And this suggests that all are equally valid and to say otherwise is to adopt the label of “intolerant.”
Maybe you’ve seen the movie Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t advocate the movie based on a few things. Aside from the cool battle scenes with swords and axes and spears, I felt that there was an agenda behind the story. It was a story involving the historical battle between “Christians” and Muslims. At the end of it all, the message that I pulled from it was a “why can’t we all get along. We’re all the same. We’re all human beings.” Maybe I missed the boat, but…
The reason I introduce this issue at the outset is that I feel that we have been inundated with human sensitivities. We cower to the fear of man and have lost the will to fight for our convictions. I am not saying that we are called to engage in a fight the way the Crusaders did. This is one of the major failures in Christian history. I am not even saying that we need to be rude or offensive, overbearing with our beliefs.
What I am saying is that, as Christians, we need to be willing to assess Scripture and to implement the language of “standing firm in the faith,” “fight the good fight of faith,” and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” We cannot cower when we know the truth, when we belong to the God of the universe, and when we are called and loved by him.
Men, you need to lead the charge in this. In your families and in your church, you must not waver or allow your families to waver. Have you ever wondered why it is primarily men who are attracted to the Braveheart and Gladiator movies? Why is it that your boys will convert any household items into weapons? Why is it that they are consumed with adventure? Without getting overly psychological, I believe God has hard-wired men to be courageous leaders who fight for truth and lead with conviction.
I digress in this momentarily. But I was reminded of this as I investigated our passage for this morning. We begin a short series in the Book of Jude. And in the first section, verses 1-4, there is an exhortation to “contend.” And as I looked around cross references in Paul’s writings, I began to see an abundance of “fight for the faith” language. And the question I wanted to introduce at the outset is “have we lost all of our backbone because of the influence of our culture?” Have we become consumed with pleasing people rather than boldly declaring Jesus as the only hope for mankind? Have we as men been faithful to lead our families and churches to spiritual maturity?
Please turn in your Bibles to the Book of Jude. It immediately precedes the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Jude is but one chapter long and we will look at it in 4 weeks. We will cover Jude 1-4 today, Lord willing. Let’s read it in its entirety in order to gain the context for the opening four verses. READ.
Our first point will include the questions that we ask at the beginning of any Bible Study: Who? And to Whom? As you know, in order to properly interpret Scripture, we must begin with who wrote what we are studying? To whom? Why? Etc. Conveniently, these questions are answered at the outset for us.
It is always helpful when the first word indicates authorship. Jude is identified as the writer of this letter. This is actually a shortened form of the name “Judas.” And if you have spent any time at all in the New Testament, you would observe that this is a rather common name for the time. It would probably be something like a John or Michael or something like this. In fact, two of Jesus’ disciples bear this name. One we know as Judas Iscariot. And so we need to do a bit more research to nail this one down.
Jude here includes a family relationship – that of a brother to James. This James is believed to be the author of the book of James who was the leader of the New Testament church in Jerusalem. This same James is one of Jesus’ brothers. Technically, he would be a half-brother because, unlike Jesus, he was not conceived by the Holy Spirit. And so, Jude would also be the brother of this James and half-brother to Jesus. Regarding Jesus’, the people of his hometown refer to his family by questioning in Matthew 13.55, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
Interestingly, what we know of these two was that neither of them believed in Jesus as Messiah or Lord until after he was raised from the dead. John 7:5 states that “5 For not even his brothers believed in him.” In the Book of Acts, after Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples had gathered to the upper room in order to select a replacement disciple for Judas Iscariot. And Luke records in Acts 1.14, “14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” And then we witness the result of their believing in Jesus. They were both used by God to lead his church and write letters that would exhort fellow believers.
Notice that Jude does not include what we might consider a noteworthy relationship. He doesn’t come right out and say that he is the brother of Jesus. Why not? I think it was an act of humility. That’s not where he found his identity. More importantly, notice how he viewed his relationship to Jesus. The ESV says, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ.” Other translations say “bondservant.” The Greek word here is “doulos.” And the more accurate translation of the word is “slave.” The leading Greek lexicon defines a “doulos” as one who is solely committed to another. And in our context, one is owned body and soul by God.
One of the difficulties we have with this word in contemporary times is the negative connotations that it carries with it. In North America and abroad, we have seen wicked misuses of slavery. But this isn’t the biblical understanding. In fact, in the Book of Exodus, slaves would serve their masters for six years and then would have the opportunity for their freedom. But often these slaves were so well taken care of, they would choose to stay and serve their masters forever. Exodus 21:1–6 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”
I think that this is the Christian view of slavery to Christ. John MacArthur adds that it “denotes being owned and rendering absolute, selfless submission to someone, in this case to Jesus as Lord.” And this calls to mind the words of Paul to the saints in Corinth when he tells them they were bought with a price. They belong to the King.
I thought about the way Jude identifies himself, looking for what this looks like for us. When we are introduced to someone new, we often go through a couple of common questions. What’s your name? What’s the next question usually? What do you “do?” Well, I’m a carpenter, or an accountant, small business owner… How quickly do we refer to Jesus? I’m a Christian who owns a small business. I’m a Christian who… likes to… I’m a slave of Jesus Christ. Try that one next time and see where the conversation goes.
How about if we acted out our identity? This one’s just as tricky, I think. We don’t think this way, do we? We often think Christianity is living a good life and sprinkle a little Jesus into our lives. Now I overstate this a bit. But when we wake up in the morning, is our first thought serving our Master or ourselves as master? Think about this tomorrow morning. In fact, try looking back at the end of the day and see if your day was characterized by serving Jesus or self. It’s quite convicting actually!
Jude writes as a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James. But who is he writing to? It’s not written to a specific church as many of Paul’s letters were. Jude writes to those who are “called?” Throughout the Bible “called” is equated with being a believer in Jesus Christ based on his saving grace. For instance, Paul refers to the Corinthians as those sanctified in Christ Jesus, “called” to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans it is those “called” to belong to Jesus Christ. And in the familiar passage in Romans 8, for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. So it is clear that he is referring to those who have trusted in Jesus for their salvation.
And then he further explains what this entails. Those who are called are beloved in God the Father. There is a unique love that is demonstrated to believers. There is a close connection between God’s calling and his love here. 1 Thessalonians 1:4 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. James speaks of those who are God’s beloved and chosen by him (2.5).
And they are kept for Jesus Christ. Or they are kept by Jesus Christ. It isn’t quite clear which way the dative case should be translated here. It could be either. And I don’t think that it is all that important which it is. There are passages that refer to believers being given to Jesus from God and some that refer to not being snatched from Jesus’ hand. So both concepts are true.
The next question we need to ask is why did Jude write the letter? What is the “occasion” for his writing here? Having read the brief letter in its entirety, we see that the church is infiltrated with false teachers. And Jude writes a forceful condemnation of these teachers. He points out their ungodly lifestyles as evidence against them in verses 4, 15, and 18. They had rejected authority in verse 8. They were devoid of the Spirit in verse 19 and thus not truly a part of the church. Finally, Jude wants them to grow spiritually in verse 20, to be assured of their salvation in verses 21, 24-25 and to help those who have fallen in verses 22-23.
And so as he moves forward in these indictments and encouragements, he wants to throw an anchor for his readers in this verse 1. Despite harsh judgments and potential destruction brought on by false teachers, he wants his readers to be assured of their calling and who they are in Jesus Christ. And then he concludes the letter reminding the readers that God will keep them from stumbling and present them blameless.
But it doesn’t appear as though this was the original intent of his writing. It looks as though Jude wanted to write a very different letter. He wanted to rejoice in salvation and God’s working in their lives. He probably wanted to discuss the miracle of grace and mercy and the advance of the gospel. In verse 3, Jude says “although.” “Although I was very eager to write about our common salvation, trouble… I found that I had to write a different letter.” This letter would serve as a rallying cry. The second point is Contend for the Faith.
We will see in this brief letter many similarities to the second book written by Peter. And I think the relationship between the two books is that Peter writes in the future tense speaking of warnings of future false teachers. And I think that Jude serves as the present reality of what Peter speaks about.
I was particularly struck with the first word in verse 3. Jude begins with “beloved.” Those he writes to he genuinely loves and demonstrates concern for their plight. He began reminded them of God’s love for them, prayed for mercy, peace, and love for them, and reminds his readers of his own love for them.
I think that this is important to note and not just a passing thought. A rallying cry for people to “contend” often sounds harsh and unloving. Remember that our culture screams for tolerance. And I have found personally that to remain true to conviction will result in the labels of “intolerant” and “unloving.” But I believe that it is precisely that Jude loves them that he doesn’t want them to fall into the error of the false teachers. Do you know what this is like? Let me ask it this way to drive this home. How many people do you know that have been led away by false teachers? How many from this very congregation are now involved in cults? Can you now see love as a motivator to contend? It’s not about merely winning arguments but saving people from being led astray.
So, with urgency, Jude must reconsider the words he will write. Instead of a joyful consideration of salvation, he writes an appeal to contend. The word “contend” is the same word that we get the English word “agonize” from. To contend for the faith requires strenuous effort. We don’t think like this anymore. Many think that to be a Christian is to believe in Jesus and coast into heaven. D. L. Moody puts it like this: “When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought the old things had passed away, that all things had become new, and that my old corrupt nature, the old life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army--that there was a battle on hand.”
And yet we contend with a purpose – and with a message. Jude appeals for his readers to contend for the faith. This doesn’t refer to belief, but to a recognized body of teaching. So it is not an admonition to ensure that you keep believing, but it is for the gospel itself. It doesn’t refer to just any old spirituality. Jude indicates that it is THE faith. The definite article rules out any other system of beliefs.
Jude describes it even more specifically. If you were to look at it in the original language, you would see that Jude describes it as “the-once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints-faith.” Wow! I wish I had spent some more time in this passage a couple of weeks ago. I recently encountered a couple of young Mormons that came knocking at the door. They were nice guys. They described themselves as missionaries and went by the title “elder.” They refer to additional revelation that was given through an angel. I’m not sure what they would do with this verse. It clearly indicates that there is a definitive body of teachings. [Hebrews 1 speaks of the process of God’s revelation. The author says that “long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”] There is now no need for any further revelation. Jude’s readers have embraced the message of the gospel and have likely received much of Paul’s and the other apostle’s teachings. And I think they are the subject of delivered.
Some things I have noticed and imagine you have as well. When I was speaking with the Mormons, they used very Christian language. They used words like “atonement” and “salvation.” I found it a bit helpful as I was able to interject using their language and referring to the Bible. However, I found it mostly disturbing. Here’s why. Because they used the same language. If you aren’t grounded in your faith, you can be easily be swayed. They can be very persuasive using the same language. But remember Galatians 1:6–9 “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Perhaps you’ve noticed this as well when you interact with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is very predictable that every conversation I have with them, they try to get me to agree that we believe the same thing and value the same thing. Have you noticed? It usually is the moral or family values and even the importance of the Bible. Don’t be deceived. They all get Jesus wrong.
Many of you are “contending” even now. How? You ask. By reading. If you’re reading Dug Down Deep, this is an effective way to ground yourself in the once for all delivered to the saints faith. As you’ve read, you’ve been presented with a proper view of God, his Word, Jesus and what he’s done, how one is saved and sanctified, the role of the Holy Spirit and the church in God’s plan. This is important!! Get the book. Read it. It’s not a dry read either. It is filled with his testimony and illustrations. Yes, it even has pictures. I hope we have some left…
Another way you contend for the faith is by gathering week by week for worship service. Here we come to sit under the Word of God – preaching and singing and praying. Being involved in a Growth Group helps you contend for the faith. In your Growth Groups, you dig deeper into the Bible, you are able to pray with and for each other and hold each other accountable in the faith. Acts 2:42 “42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Spiritual maturity does not come naturally. We need to be intentional. It is so much easier to stray. We need to contend, contend, contend! Don’t waver, contend! Contend with love, but contend.
Listen to just a bit of what Paul has to say about its importance. 1 Timothy 6:12 “12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 2 Timothy 4:7 “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 2:15 “15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Or how about Luke? Luke 13:22–24 “22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
What is it we are to contend for? Paul refers to the gospel, which he considered first importance. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says it is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised for our sins.
We’ve already addressed those who are outsiders trying to persuade us away from sound doctrine. But notice the distinction that Jude introduces in verse 4. The third point this morning is Opponents. These aren’t people that come by knocking on doors. These are people who sit in the pews next to them. (Don’t think they had pews or even nice padded seats like we do). They came in deceptively, unnoticed. Don’t you find this disturbing? These “certain people” hid their true character and entered into their midst with evil intention. Can you see how this is even more dangerous than those that come from the outside? I imagine these would be the same people that said “amen” during the preaching, raised their hands during the singing (nothing wrong with either of these).
In their day, they could have been traveling preachers and teachers. We don’t have this as much today. But as John MacArthur points out regarding what this might look like for us, “false teachers write books and edit publications, speak on radio and television, teach in colleges and seminaries, preach from pulpits, and have web sites.” End quote. We’ve already had to point out some of these as you know. And we take heat from that. Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse. There are way too many books being written with little or no discernment from publishers. There are too many media outlets to promote false ideas of Jesus and his gospel. As a pastor, I would much prefer to talk about what the gospel is than what it is not. I am much more inclined to talk about our common salvation than point out “certain people.”
This situation Jude speaks of sounds awfully familiar to what Peter wrote, 2 Peter 2:1 “1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
This is a bit of uncertainty in the language of “long ago” destined for condemnation. The bottom line is whether it refers to their lifetime or the day of judgment, their outcome is certain. I love the way that God always provides information beforehand. How many times have we witnessed this? Nothing takes God by surprise. He is always in control, knows what’s going to happen, and confirms the end is in his hands. We saw this a number of times in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus often lays out “this is what will happen, they will take me away and crucify me, and in three days…” At the end of the age, see that no one leads you astray, many will come saying that I am he! You will hear of wars… Be on guard! Stay alert!
Interestingly, Jude does not point out the content of their doctrines here. What does he refer to? Their character. Jude identifies them as ungodly people. They were presupposing on the grace of God. They were living in sexual immorality and yet declaring themselves belonging to Jesus. To bring this up in our day today is also unpopular. We minimize and dismiss such attitudes as old-fashioned. And yet we forget what God said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. 1 Corinthians 6:15–20 “15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Perhaps in this case to pervert the grace of God is to willingly and constantly engage in such behavior thinking one could merely rest on his forgiveness afterward.
Lastly, Jude says that these false teachers deny the only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t think that this alludes to a flat out denial otherwise they would not have crept in unnoticed. I think that this refers to the fact that they deny him by their actions. Titus 1:15–16 (ESV)
15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
I find a contrast between verse 1 and verse 4. Jude begins identifying himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. The section ends by false teachers denying the Master and Lord. One is submissive to Jesus, and the others serve themselves.
The question needs to be asked, would Jude be considered a legalist by pointing out the inconsistencies in the lifestyle of the false teachers? What right does he have to address these issues? Jude had such love for his people that he had to protect them from the errors of the false teachers. He couldn’t bear to see any led astray.
As a church, it is our desire to glorify God through our message and our lifestyle. We have both the responsibility and privilege to live lives set apart for him so that we can be a “light to the nations.” If our lives don’t match our message, we cloud the gospel and defame our Lord. We need to strive together, not to be perfect, but humble enough to seek God’s forgiveness, and dependent on his grace to be steadily transformed for his glory. Let’s pray.