Jude calls the believers in his letter to “earnestly contend for the faith” (verse 3). This call is not to be taken lightly, as we see the attack on the Word of God throughout history. At no time in the history of the church was there ever a period where the truths of God’s Word was not under attack by the enemy – many of these coming from the within the church. So there is a definite call to take on the battle against the enemy and content for the purity of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”. The question that arises is why this is so necessary. And why I am asking this question is that I am concerned that we take up this war without knowing what the motives are behind contending for the faith. It is a truth that if you do not know what you’re aiming at, you will most definitely miss the target. You will hit something, but it will for sure not be the right target. Its like using buckshot against single shot. Using buckshot, you will hit – anything in your way that is. Aiming with a single shot rifle, is more specific, it is targeted, and with each bullet you only get one chance in hitting the target.
Allow met to first make a statement or two as to what I do not think should be our aim in contending for the faith. Some of these might get your fists in a knuckle, but before you start blogging against what I write here, please read and think it through.
We are not called to validate God’s Word
Often times I see believers arguing for all they are worth to validate the Scriptures as the Word of God as if this truth is dependant on them and there brilliant arguments. This approach denies the very fact that it is the Word of God.
The phrase “Word of God” presupposes the most important fact, which is that it is God who validates His own Word, and not men. After all, it is God who inspired the prophets and writers of the Scriptures to jot down His Word. We should not think that God is not capable of validating what He inspired. This would be to dethrone Him and take His place as the protector of His Word. He who inspired it, is more than capable of protecting it and preserving it.
While we are not to validate it, we are to honour it, teach it and uphold it as the inspired, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient Word of God. We are to live by its authority and teach that authority to the people of God. We are to warn when believers are disobedient to God’s Word and we are to point out when someone twists the Word of God. This is not validating, but honouring it for what it is, the Word of God.
You see, there is a shift in focus between validating and honouring. When you validate, you set yourself and your opinion above God’s Word and you are therefore no longer subject to its authority. When you honour it, you acknowledge God’s sovereign power and authority as taught in His Word and your life reflects that submission to His authority. Validating is becoming a god, honouring is bowing before the authority of God who inspired His eternal, regenerating Word.
We are not to validate God’s existence
And how we love to do this! We think contending for the faith means we have to prove God. Not even God’s Word proves that He exists. It is the basic starting point in Genesis that God is and that there is no need to prove His being.
This does not mean we are not to proclaim His character, His wonderful works, and His eternal power. In fact we are called to do that. But nowhere are we asked to prove that He is. In fact, we are taught in Hebrews 11:6 that it is by faith that we are able to acknowledge His existence.
God alone can change the heart of man to believe in Him as the One who is from eternity to eternity. In this He most definitely utilises His Word, His Holy Spirit, His revelation of Himself to bring man to faith that He is. When we try to convince people of His existence, we are in for a massive surprise. We are just not able to bring people to that conviction.
We are not to defend God’s decisions as revealed in His Word
I see this a lot in the way that believers battle each other on topics like election, predestination, and God’s eternal judgement on sin. Theological constructs like Calvinism and Arminianism is in constant battle with each other and proponents on both sides clash like you would think they are out to annihilate each other.
We should not forget that God is sovereign and that His decisions stand. The enemy is quick to boost our own dislikes of what is coined “unfair” decisions by God. It is not fair, because it does not fit into our frame of mind. And this is where we make the biggest mistake in this. We superimpose our frame of mind over the sovereign plan of God and wherever God’s plan does not fit to our frame of mind, we battle to uphold our opinions as God’s opinions and this we defend with all our might as if God is now fighting the battle for us. This is no less than sin. We are not God, our minds are not His and there are certain aspects of Him that we do not understand while on this side of the grave. So often I see children of God trying to defend what they think is God’s decisions using man-centred arguments.
Sure enough, topics like election, predestination, etc. are difficult. It would also be immature and irresponsible to just run away from it because it is difficult. Contending for the faith means being a diligent student of God’s Word, praying a heck of a lot more than we do, seeking the council of godly men, but also acknowledging the sovereignty of God and bowing before that. There is much more credibility in acknowledging that we do not know everything, than trying to convince people of our own opinions because God’s does not make sense to us at a given time.
We are not to save the church
The church is not ours to save, but how do we love to think that we are able to save the church by our efforts and our arguments. The truth of the matter is that there is only one Lord and Master appointed over the church, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. And quite frankly, we should trust Him more than we trust people to preserve His body over which He was appointed as the Head.
He promised that the church will prevail, no matter what the battles entail. He promised Peter that the church will be built on the testimony that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that the gates of hell shell not break it down (Matthew 16). He promised that He will be present in His church to the end of the ages (Matthew 28). The church is His bride and He will not let go of Her. It is His body and He dwells in it by His Holy Spirit.
Thinking that we can save the church, is to proclaim ourselves as the new masters of the church. It is to commit the sin of unbelief, which in this case consists of not trusting the promises of the Lord of the church.
Are we then to not be concerned about the church? For sure we are, and that is why we are called to contend. But the aim is not to save a dying church, it is to build the believers, the body of Christ, in their faith. We are to banish apostasy, we are to battle heresy, so that the believers are fed the truths of God’s Word.
This raises the question as to why we need to contend for the faith and I would like to propose a couple of positive reasons for this.
We are to care for the flock over which God has appointed us
The church is His dynamics in this world, and the spiritual feeding of the flock He has entrusted to those who are called to guard and protect them. Remember when Paul summoned the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20). Read this section again to get a feeling for the role that these people had to play in preserving the flock over whom they were appointed.
This entails feeding them the truths of God’s Word, exerting proper exegesis and hermeneutics. It also entails warning them when false teachings crop up. This is done by switching on the light of Scriptures to show the black spots.
We are to make sure that the next generation is well informed in doctrine
Feeding the flock takes care of the current generation. We need to make sure that the current generation transfers sound doctrine and godly lives to the next generations. Refer to Psalm 78 to see how important this aspect is in the life of God’s people.
Contending for the faith entails that the current generation knows the doctrines as taught in Scriptures to such an extent that they can teach it to the following generations.
We are to make sure that we obey the calling of the church
So often, because we do not know why we battle for the truth, we neglect to make sure that we obey the Lord’s command in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples, baptising and teaching them the Lord’s Word. More than often contending for the faith results in not caring about the lost any more, while it is in fact such an integral part of the battle.
Our calling is not to get involved in endless debates with people regarding all types of doctrinal issues. Our calling is to snatch people from the pit of hell, from the bondage to sin and death. It’s all about people and not about issues! Even Jude acknowledges this when he says we are to help the doubters with compassion and others we need to snatch out of the fire, being careful not be get stained by sin ourselves. You can always win the argument, but have you won the other person’s respect – and more importantly, his soul?
Why am I writing this? Because I see people using a buckshot in stead of single shot approach to fighting for the truth. This is a plea to all who take Jude’s call serious, to rethink your strategy and aim. Next time you battle the truth, first ask yourself what is your motive, why are you using the words you use, the approach that you’re taking.