Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude, the brother of James, and half-brother of Jesus, wrote these opening words, eager to write about “our common salvation;” to share about the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus with the church. Instead, compelled by the Holy Spirit, he wrote the New Testament epistle that bears his name—an urgent appeal warning believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered.”
About a year ago, I wrote a study for my small group on Jude’s epistle as we sought to build an understanding of the necessity of contending for the faith.
We began our study by looking at the common salvation Jude was so eager to write about. The following is adapted from this study.
The Gospel—Once for all Delivered
How would you articulate the gospel? Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, it’s described in a variety of ways, sometimes with subtlety, other times with great power.
[H]e was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . .
[W]hen his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The Apostle Paul describes it with powerful brevity in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 and in exceeding detail in Ephesians 2:1-10. The Apostle John provides us with a striking description in 1 John 4:9-10. And an angel gives us a breathtaking vision in Rev 5:9-10 as the twenty four elders sing,
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Died for Sin, Raised for Life
Christ died in our place, for our sins and rose again to give us new life. Every description I’ve seen in Scripture indicates that where this is not stated, the gospel is not proclaimed. Every gospel account illustrates that humanity has made itself the enemy of God because of our sin and that Jesus substituted Himself for us, dying so that we would live. Even the most memorized verse, John 3:16 contains this message as we continue on to v. 17-21:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
What we see in all of these descriptions is the desperate state of humanity—a hopelessness that is only overcome by the decisive and merciful act of God to send Christ into the world, to live the life we cannot live, to die in our place and to rise again and give those who believe new life. It is a hope, a new life delivered to us by God who initiates. It is God who acts. It is God the Son voluntarily laid His life down and picked it up again (John 10:18). It is a gift given to people who cannot earn it, who do not deserve it.
It is a gift delivered by God.
Contending for our Common Salvation
We contend for the integrity of this message because without it all hope is lost.
Without an understanding that we are recipients of God’s grace—ill deserving sinners who cannot save themselves—we can give people a false hope that merit salvation or can attain it through their own works.
Without a clear grasp of the gospel, we are open to deception and error, unable to discern what is true and what is false and those who would seek to distort, deny, pervert and corrupt the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection are allowed to run free within the church and devour God’s people.
That’s why Jude says that he “found it necessary to write appealing to [us] to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (v.3).
We are to fight for the integrity of the faith, not with weapons, but with the truth of Scripture. We must protect it, guarding it as we would a precious treasure.
Ultimately, if we are to contend, we must know the Truth. We must know what is right in order to distinguish what is wrong.
And we must celebrate it.
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