“…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”
Jude vs 3

As people and especially as Christians we know that there are things that are worth standing for, things worth fighting for, things, to use Jude’s word, worth contending for. We would all agree that it is worth fighting to protect the family, to oppose racism and injustice, to protect the weak and the marginalised, including the right to life for an unborn child. We know that it is right to stand for truth and justice, to defend basic human rights, to stand up and to speak up when integrity or freedom is at risk or under threat.


But how many of us have come to understand that it is also our duty and our privilege to fight for the Gospel, to contend for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” as our verse puts it. Yet that is exactly what Jude urges his readers and us to do and to keep on doing. Our aim in this article is to think a little more deeply about what this may mean for us in our daily walk with Christ.


Firstly, we need to think about the context in which this stand is to be made. And Jude leaves us in no doubt at all about this, for he warns his readers of a great and continual threat that the church of Jesus will face until the day that the Lord returns, the threat from false teachers. This is a common theme in the later New Testament letters such as 1 & 2 Timothy, 2 Peter and Jude. In Jude, the false teaching that is in view is described in verse 4 as an attempt to “turn the grace of God into a licence to sin”. In essence then these teachers taught and modelled the belief that since Christ had died for our sins and since salvation was by grace, Christians were under no obligation to seek to live holy lives. Indeed, such an attempt to live in a new way was to add our unworthy works to Christ’s death and to deny grace. Since we are under grace therefore we are free to sin without any compunction or twinge of conscience. And as we look at what Jude says about these false teachers in the letter, expressed in very graphic terms, it is clear that they practised what they preached to their own shame and spiritual harm. Jude’s point then is that the best way to avoid this path of error is to stand up for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, a Gospel of grace which teaches us to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to what is right (see also Titus 2:11).

Second, let us note what it is that Christians are called to contend for. And Jude’s answer is that we are to contend for “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. This is a reference not to our personal faith or the right to faith, important as these are, but to the Faith, that is the Gospel truth that came from Jesus and the apostles and that has been given as a sacred trust to the church, once and for all, to be protected and taught and passed on unchanged to the next generation. These words remind us that it is the Gospel that must rule the church and its teachers, not the church or the teachers who rule the Gospel. We have no right or freedom to change the Gospel or make it fit our particular opinions or tastes, be they theological or moral. For the Gospel belongs to God and it comes from God and it is our place and privilege to hear it, to understand it, to believe it and to teach it to others. That is in the very least how we contend for the faith once for all delivered.


Thirdly, let us note that Jude reminds us that it is every believers responsibility to contend for the Gospel and to stand against any perversion of the Gospel. Jude’s letter speaks about the false teachers in the churches but it is not addressed to the true teachers. His letter was sent to the congregation and was designed to remind each one of them of their responsibility to stand up for the truth.


Fourthly and finally, let us note that a key part of the way in which Christians are to contend for the Gospel is by standing firm in their own personal convictions and belief of the truth of the Gospel. This is what Jude means when he urges believers: “keep yourselves in the love of God” (verse 21). The preceding verse tells us how this is done, “build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit”, that is, in the power that the Holy Spirit gives to His people to pray faithfully and to stand firm. It is clear that Jude believes that it is indeed the Lord who keeps us and will keep us to the end (see verses 1 & 24). But it is also clear that the way in which the Lord by His Spirit works to keep us is by our standing firm, building ourselves up in and through the Gospel and thus keeping ourselves as we contend for the faith that has been once for all delivered to the saints. This is the good fight and it is well worth fighting!


Written by Mervyn Eloff. Original article can be found here.