Contending Earnestly for the Faith
There is a very short letter in the New Testament written by a mysterious saint named Jude. The opening verse identifies this man as a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and the brother of James. For a variety of reasons that we will not elaborate on here, Jude is neither the brother of James and John, the Sons of Zebedee whom the Lord nicknamed the Sons of Thunder, nor is he the brother of James, the half brother of Jesus. Like all who have come to the place of faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Jude is a bondservant of the Lord, a royal ambassador, a minister of the gospel of reconciliation, and the righteousness of God in Christ, II Cor. 5:17-21.
This high and holy calling belongs to every blood-bought child of God, and with it comes a solemn responsibility. We are called to earnestly (seriously) contend (battle on and keep affirming) for the faith:
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. 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, Jude 1-4. NKJV
God inspired Jude to encourage believers to contend for the faith, but what does that really mean? What exactly is the faith, once delivered to God’s holy ones? First and foremost, this refers to the gift of faith that comes to God’s children by His grace (unmerited favor), Eph. 2:8. It is the faith to believe the good news that the Messiah has come, according to the prophecies in the Old Testament, died for our sins and was raised from the dead three days later, according to those same prophecies, I Cor. 15:3-4. Unlike the world who exhibit blind faith in the billions of years of evolutionary time, we have faith that sees, faith that is confirmed by the proof of prophecy fulfilled, i.e. Deut. 18:18-19; Is. 7:14, 9:6, 53; Ps. 22; Micah 5:2, etc.
This same passage of Scripture identifies “ungodly” men. Those who are false teachers, sneaking into bodies of believers and trying to tell God’s people that God’s grace was really a “get out of hell free card,” or even worse, “a license to sin.” That is the way the carnal man sees the message of God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense, (GRACE). With believers, it is our carnal mind, left over from the person we used to be, that sees God’s amazing grace as an “I can do whatever I want to do” football to be drop-kicked through the goalposts of life.
Do I really need a license to sin?
The stark reality concerning this question is you do not need permission to medicate yourself with deeds of the flesh. In fact, I already know that God’s children can be willfully disobedient. I have my own personal track record that establishes the reality that, my behavior does not always reflect my true nature. I may be holy and blameless before God because of God’s justification, Eph. 1:4, but my carnal mind will not receive God’s grace as God’s power to trust and obey the Lord. Satan is a master of deception. Because of this, many believers are confused about who they are in Christ. They have not yet solved the “identify crisis of Christianity.” Our carnal mind is legalistic, self-centered, and godless. Our carnal mind will not acknowledge God’s grace, it can only twist God’s grace and distort its true meaning.
The carnal mind (left over from the person we used to be) wants to get involved in our Christian life, because the person it used to be died with Christ when we were redeemed, Rom. 6:1-10. Our carnal mind has no other “life” of its own, so it attaches itself to the new person we are in Christ, raps itself up in the self-righteous robe of a Pharisee, and gets involved with our spiritual growth process. When we fail to identify this deceptive activity of our carnal mind, we become legalistic and self-righteous, e.g. emotionally invested in our carnal efforts far more than what God has done for us in Christ. We fail to recognize that even our ability to trust and obey the Lord Jesus is a result of His amazing grace. Grace is not only unmerited favor; it is the power of God to live a life of faith that pleases the Lord. Our carnal minds will have nothing to do with this truth.
The really good news is that God’s Word is always true! The truth of His Word gives all God’s born-again children, John 3:3, a better understanding of sin. Once we truly understand that sin for a believer is really unbelief, it will revolutionize our walk with the Lord. We overcome our carnal nature, when we believe what God says about us in His Word is true! If I believe I am holy and blameless before Him in love, Eph. 1:4, (apart from my performance, because of what He did for me at Calvary) my behavior will more consistently (not perfectly, because the treasure is still in an earthen vessel) reflect my true nature. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” Prov. 23:7 KJV.
This requires us to take on an expanded definition for sin. We are so performance oriented that we focus a great deal on the deeds of the flesh and very little on the mindset that produces those very same deeds of the flesh. God has given us a better understanding of sin:
SIN (in the singular) = Unbelief (That which is not of faith is sin, Ro, 14:23)
SINS (plural) = Deeds of the flesh (sinful behaviors produced by our carnal minds).
This is the biblical reality; the real person we are in Christ is made in the image and likeness of Christ. We are partakers of the divine nature, II Peter 1:4, who have the mind of Messiah, I Cor. 2:16. The born again person never wants to do anything that God doesn’t want us to do. The new creature we are in Christ always wants to trust and obey the Lord Jesus. The struggle comes because we have the treasure of this new creation living inside a carnal fleshly body that also contains old tapes, e.g. lies we learned before we were redeemed that remain on tape in our heads. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us, II Cor. 4:7.
The real battle field is between our ears and behind our eyes. Therefore, we are told to take every thought captive, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, II Cor. 10:4-5.
Now that we understand the danger Jude was warning us about, e.g. misrepresenting God’s grace, we can also make this application of defending the faith in other areas. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are telling lies everyday. They are big, godless, and dark lies that they promote in the form of worldly wisdom that is disguised as truth and light.
This is the reason we are called to defend the faith. How do we do prepare ourselves for such a task?
Defending the faith means being able to answer some (not all) important questions!
It is true that when we witness on behalf of the Lord, people begin to ask questions. We are all familiar with some of them, i.e. “why does God allow children to suffer or die?” or “Why does God allow war or famine or any number of natural disasters?” or “Did man really live with the dinosaurs?” or “Is the earth really only 6,000 years old?” etc. We should be studying God’s Word for a variety of reasons, many of them outlined in II Tim.
3:16. However, this does not mean that we are always going to have all the answers. Nevertheless, we are instructed concerning what we should be able to do:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; I Peter 3:15.
People need answers, but more than answers, people need Jesus! Our personal testimony is a good place to start and every child of God can share how they came to know the Lord. When our personal testimony is backed up by a transformed life that manifests God’s faith, hope, and love, we have a truly powerful witness. But God’s instruction does not stop there; we are also encouraged to personally study the Word of God:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, II Tim. 2:15
God’s divinely inspired Word has all of the answers that pertain to life and godliness. It tells us how the world began, how life began, how men and women became sinners in need of the Savior, and it tells us God’s solution concerning the sinful condition of man.
Steve Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D. (c)
Chief Technical Advisor
Creation Studies Institute