The Faith Once Delivered...
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). My faith is my identity. It is who I am. My faith guides my daily life- where I go, what I do, how I act, how I talk, what kind of friends I make... My faith cannot be just a part of my life; it must become my life. My faith develops within me as a result of my exposure to, and acceptance of, “the faith.” The faith is not the same as my faith, though my faith depends upon the faith. That’s not double talk. The faith is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. From a broader perspective, it is all of God’s word. My faith is my response to the faith. It is because of that message that I have any faith at all.
Jude instructs in vs. 3 of his short letter that faithful Christians “should earnestly contend for the faith...” According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “contend” carries the idea of contending about something, “as a combatant.” It is obvious, then, that this is a word with strong meaning. It is interesting that Jude uses this strong word in reference to the faith, the gospel. He does not refer to one’s country, one’s life, or even that of a loved one. It is not some earthly fortune that is to be contended for. The faithful Christian should be ready to go to combat over the good news of Jesus Christ, the faith.
Such an admonition ought to impress upon us just how important and precious is that body of instruction, wisdom and hope that Jude calls “the faith.” Jesus left Heaven to bring that message to us. He went to the cross to fulfill that message. He established His church upon this earth to uphold and proclaim that message. Many of the apostles and early Christians died for their dedication to that message. It is a message worthy of our doing combat over. While Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he nonetheless remained “set for the defense of the gospel” (Phlp. 1:17).
Why the need for readiness to defend, confront or even do combat over the gospel? Certainly we ought to be ready to contend for the freedom to believe, follow and teach the message of the gospel. That freedom has been challenged a number of times in different parts of the world.
Another challenge to be met is that of false teaching. Paul warned the Galatian Christians to stand firm in the gospel, as Paul had initially communicated it to them, for “some...would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7). There are many who want to change the gospel, ever so slightly it might seem, in order to make it more pleasing to a larger number of people. They would water down some of the teachings of the gospel, making it less stringent and, in their mind, more attractive. The idea is to attract larger numbers of people.
There is nothing wrong with going after numbers, for numbers represent souls. However, in order for the gospel message to be effective, it must maintain its purity and power. When it is watered down to make it seemingly more palatable, it loses its potency and, thus, its saving effect. We are not smart enough, nor do we have the authority to try to improve God’s message. If we are truly dedicated to God, we will accept and obey His gospel as He has communicated it to us. If we truly care about the salvation of others, we will strive to see that they are taught that message in its purity. And if we love “the faith” which Jesus died to deliver to us, we will contend with anyone who would try and twist it out of shape. To twist the scriptures is no small matter. To do so is to risk one’s own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16)…
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Gary L. Hutchens