“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. “
Moved, the apostle was, to write on the theme which constitutes the heading of this Meditation. He has given all diligence to write under another theme, namely, Of The Common Salvation; but necessity was brought upon him to change the subject. Jude, who is the secondary author of the epistle he wrote, was subject to the Primary Author of all the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit of God. He therefore could not write as he had planned, but he writes as he is enlightened and infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. No doubt, also here there is evidence, as the Scriptures do so abundantly make clear, that the Word of God is given by inspiration of God.
Other of the apostles also had been directed to write on this sublime subject. Jude makes mention of this fact in verse 17 of his epistle. And you need not search long to discover that he refers especially to the writings of Paul and Peter. The latter, no doubt, at this time were already deceased; and their writings had become available to the church and therefore to Jude. Fact of the matter is that some have accused Jude of copying from the letter of Peter, (II Peter 3). Though there can be no question that there is great similarity, you discover there is also a great difference. When Peter wrote concerning the mockers who would be coming into the church, walking after their own ungodly lusts, he wrote prophetically. Jude, on the other hand, informs his readers that this prophecy was already being fulfilled. Ungodly men were already creeping into the church, whose purpose was to turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and to deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Striking it is how soon the church was invaded by these inroaders. The bodies of the above mentioned apostles, who had so earnestly set forth the truth in its clearest manifestation and forewarned of their coming, had hardly become cold in death, when the very wicked against whom they had so strenuously written were already making their appearance.
Jude, who was still alive and appearing as the watchmen on Zion’s walls, sounds forth the alarm.
Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints!
But what does this mean? What is that faith for which there must be contention? And what is implied when the church of Christ contends for that faith?
It must be clearly understood that the faith of which the text speaks is the objective truth of the Word of God. Jude is not urging the believers to believe. He is not thinking of the act of faith, of the act of believing. He is not speaking of faith in the subjective sense. He certainly presumes that his readers are believers who act according to their faith. Does he not set them on one line with the believing saints of the past? Indeed, he reckons them on a par with all those who in their hearts embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. And though it is true that believers often are weak in their faith and need often to be encouraged to exercise their faith; this is not what Jude is urging them to do in our text.
By “faith” the apostle refers to the substance of what believers believe. This embraces and includes all the doctrine of Scripture as the church has elaborately and concisely expressed it in her Confessions. Faith, then, is what the church believes to be the truth of God’s Word.
That faith was once delivered unto the saints.
The saints are those who partake of the common salvation, concerning which Jude had first planned to write. And, lest there be a misunderstanding about that expression, it must be observed that it is quite different from the hue and cry of modern evangelism which is always prating about a universal salvation. Of the latter there is no mention in Scripture. It is a philosophy concocted in the evil mind of corrupt hawkers of the gospel, who are bent on destroying the truth and at the same time the church of Christ. Though God realizes salvation in all nations, tribes, and tongues, and though the gospel must be preached universally, salvation is never common. It is always particular.
When Jude speaks nevertheless of the common salvation, he refers to the fact that those who are saved possess that salvation in common. They receive that salvation by grace along with others who also possess it. No one among them that are saved has an edge on that salvation. The grace of salvation is common only to the saints. And the saints are the beloved of God, the “beloved” addressed in the text.
Loved they were by God eternally, when He chose them to be saints in Christ Jesus our Lord. Loved they were in time, when God so loved them that He gave His only begotten Son for the redemption. Loved they were by Christ, when the .Son of God in the flesh gave Himself a ransom on the cross of Calvary to redeem them from the wrath of God which rested upon them because of their sin and guilt, when He redeemed them from the world of sin and darkness, from the power of the devil. They were beloved when the Spirit of Christ called them efficaciously out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and shed abroad in their hearts His everlasting love. And make no mistake about it, Jude is not writing only to the saints to whom the epistle is immediately directed. As all the gospel writers, he writes for the ages, to the saints as they are gathered in all the ages of time.
These are they to whom the faith is once delivered. And that means not by man, but by God. Not only does He give them the grace to believe on the God of their salvation, but He entrusts the faith to them as a precious heritage, to be kept by them with extreme carefulness. The doctrines of Scripture as expressed in the church’s Confession are indeed most precious. That faith is the only light the saints have in this world of darkness. As the psalmist also expressed it: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light upon my pathway.”
That we are exhorted to contend for that faith presupposes that that faith is challenged, or rather that the church is challenged for her faith. One does not contend for something unless that something is seriously threatened. The same is true also with respect to the faith of the church and our contending for it. What that is, which challenges and threatens those who possess that faith, we shall see in a moment. But first, we should clearly understand what is implied in our contending. Our contention must always assume a two-fold form. On the one hand, it implies a defensive battle. When the faith is threatened, or the saints are threatened for their faith, they rise up to defend it. No guard must be let down so that the enemy of the faith may sneak in to destroy it. This cannot mean that the faith itself is defenseless, and that the only way that it can continue is for the saints to come to its rescue. God forbid! God’s Word stands as an impregnable fortress which none, the devil included, can destroy. The fact of the matter is, God’s Word is the saint’s defense. Let it be clearly understood, Jude is not saying here that the faith is something so frail and helpless that unless the saints fight the enemy it may be destroyed. No, the faith, like the immovable rock in the ocean, will be still standing after all the storms of the sea have passed over it. But the apostle is reflecting on the calling of the saints. They must contend. They must contend. They must take their stand over against the enemy that threatens them who stand by their faith.
Contending for the faith also implies an offensive warfare. Wars are not won simply by hiding behind our defenses. Wars are won when the battle is taken to the enemy in a great offensive. O, indeed, it is true, when the enemy attacks, you rise up immediately to defend; but shall the enemy be vanquished, he must be attacked. And all the arts of warfare must be employed and deployed until there is no more enemy to conquer.
The contention of the enemies of the truth is very real. It may never be taken lightly or for granted. The weakness of the saints and the spiritual lethargy they often evince are also very real. That is why they must be stirred up, exhorted in no uncertain terms, to contend earnestly for the faith.
For there are certain men crept in, (not: will be creeping in)! Ungodly, impious men! Men who are bent on perverting the grace of God into lasciviousness. Men who are denying the only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. Wicked men, who were of old written down, assigned to judgment. First of all, by God, who not only in sovereign grace created saints, destined to eternal glory, but also created the antithesis of the saints, the wicked, whom God purposes to destroy in the way of their ungodliness. But also were they written. down in the epistles of the apostles, who prophesied not only of their making inroads into the church, but also of their final destruction, (II Peter 3). Scoffers, walking after their own lusts, denying the Lord and all that is holy.
Evidently these wicked were libertines who, with their antinominian doctrine, insist that our salvation does not require holy living, encouraging self-indulgence, and saying: “Let us sin that grace may abound.” O, they may appear to be pious, speaking of grace that is sovereign as freely as the saints, but turning that grace, that spiritual virtue of beauty, into a most hideous monstrosity. Their doctrine is: “Let us sin that grace may abound.” An insidious, evil doctrine that will destroy the church if it is allowed to continue. It was the error of Balaam, who, when he failed to curse the people of God whom God blesses, nevertheless advised the king of Moab to send his young men and women into the camp of Israel to entice them to fornication, by which many of the Israelites were destroyed.
That these wicked crept in, does not necessarily mean that they were total strangers who crawl under the walls of Zion unawares, but it most probably means that they were within the gates all the time, but now suddenly revealed themselves. These wicked are found in the carnal seed born to believers. We know from the pages of sacred history the reality of this. The church’s great opposition is generally not from the wicked world, but from the carnal seed that never desires to walk in the grace of salvation, but to turn that grace into an ungodly walk.
Over against them the saints are exhorted to rise up as one man and contend for the faith.
Would you like a good illustration of this contention, then you must look at Jesus when He was confronted by the devil in the wilderness. When He was tempted of the devil three times, how did He answer? “It is written!” The devil had no weapons that could pierce that armor. Nor can evil men succeed to destroy the saints when they contend earnestly for the faith.
But contention is of paramount importance. God gives us the faith which describes in detail how we are saved by grace and how we are to live out of that grace of salvation. He also gives it that the saints may withstand all the evil onslaughts of the wicked.
What must the saints hear today?
O, if there ever was a time when conditions in the church described by Jude were in evidence, it is today. O, it is true, that the world in which the saints reside develops in sin and corruption; but, as we suggested above, our first battle is not against the world. Worldly wickedness has crept into the church. And that wickedness reveals itself in a concerted effort to deny all the cardinal doctrines of our faith. And still more insidiously that wickedness reveals itself in all manner of loose living, carnality, sensualness, which has developed so fast that the discipline of God’s Word hardly takes effect. Many churches have already thrown up their hands in hopeless despair. Many saints in these churches also are in despair, even wondering how all-this wicked situation came about, and with very weak voices complain that there ought to be another Reformation.
Our calling as churches and as saints of God is to rise up, and earnestly contend for the faith. Fearlessly we must say with Jesus: “It is written!”
If we fail to do this we must not ask: What will become of the church? We know the answer. By the grace of God, therefore, ye saints, stand fast! And fight the battle of faith! Do it by your word, and by your walk!
Only so will God preserve unto Himself a people that is ready for the coming of the Lord!