Contenders for the Faith

Have you ever been in a situation where someone made a derogatory statement about Christianity, making you feel as if your faith was under attack? The Letter of Jude was written expressly to encourage the first century Christians to contend for their faith. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3, emphasis mine). Jude appears alarmed about the threat that false teachers were posing to the Christian community. According to Jude, these false teachers were “sensual, brute beasts” (vv. 4, 16, 18) who had “perverted the truth” (v. 4).

I believe this warning issued by Jude had a dual application for his fellow Christians. 1) This letter was intended as a stern warning for the believers to confront the threats of false teachings and gnostic heresy that were trying to creep into the church. 2) Jude issues a direct challenge to those same believers to become proactive and take their faith to the rest of the world.

I am convinced that Jude had more in mind for his fellow believers than just enduring some bad theology and internal conflict. The challenge at hand was to repel the doctrinal threat and better engage the culture, accepting the task of preaching the gospel and exhorting people everywhere to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Jude uses the Greek word epagonizomai in this verse, which translates into English as the compound verb “earnestly contend.” The Greek word here literally means to compete in an athletic contest, to fight, struggle and strive. It is clear from Jude’s exhortation that Christians are meant to proactively defend the faith at all costs. In other words, believers had better get ready. This battle is real, and the fight is so serious that it demands our full engagement.

Just like in Jude’s time, believers today must realize that contending for the faith may not always be a passive, defensive measure. Instead of contending earnestly, too many times Christians adopt a “siege mentality.” Whenever spiritual storms come their way, they batten down the hatches to weather the storm and secure their own preservation.

Although we are called to defend the faith in the form of Christian doctrine and to offer a solid reason for the hope that is in us to anyone who asks, contending for the faith is often a proactive and deliberate act to confront the world. We are meant to be intentional, not hesitant but fearless with our evangelistic efforts. Contending for the faith means that believers must preach the message with passion, fervor and endurance.

For some reason God always chooses human beings as instruments for spreading the gospel throughout the earth. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines preaching as the communication of divine truth through human personality. I am reminded of Cornelius’ vision in the Book of Acts. Scripture states that Cornelius was a devout man who feared the Lord. While he was praying, Cornelius saw a vision of an angel of God. The angel told Cornelius to dispatch his servants to the city of Joppa and to bring back a man called Peter. Peter came and preached the gospel to Cornelius’  entire household (Act 10:1-42). Why did God need Peter to deliver His message to Cornelius’ household? Why didn’t the angel just preach the gospel to Cornelius himself? It seems to me that supernatural messengers like angelic beings would do a much better job of spreading the good news than ordinary people. But Romans 10:14 is quite clear: “How will they hear without a preacher?”

We have been given a divine mission. This is why evangelical Christians call the territory assigned to them the mission field. Missionaries have an assignment that they must carry out and contend for if they want to accomplish their specific mission.

Paul the Apostle wrote that people, through observing the created order, can surmise that there is a God, and still refuse to acknowledge Him as God (Romans 1:19-20). The knowledge of God (general revelation) can be inferred through the observation of God’s creation, but this is not sufficient for salvation without a gospel presentation (special revelation).

In His sovereignty, God has ordained the gospel transmission to be communicated person-to-person. D.L. Moody once said, “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”  God’s divine plan includes imperfect people to communicate His gospel to the ends of the earth. It’s time for believers everywhere to step up and contend for the faith.