A Pressing Concern
Text: Jude 3-4
"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."
We have seen that Jude addressed his letter to people who were Christians and although they remain anonymous to us they were highly privileged as indeed are all true disciples of Jesus Christ.
They were called by God
They were beloved of God
They were kept by God for Jesus Christ
If that were not enough already we have seen that Jude earnestly desired yet more for them. Now conversion is very important indeed involving as it does the coming out of darkness into light to begin to live the new life of a new creation and we must never minimise the significance of it yet Jude knew to that the Christian must continue to grow spiritually.
Jude did not think for one moment that the Christian experienced everything that God had in store for him all at once and he expressed his expectation of an ever greater and deepening experience of the blessings they had already begun to enjoy:
v.2b "May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you."
With such an opening we could easily expect Jude to expand upon this in what followed so let’s turn and see just how he did continue.
What Jude had wanted to do
v.3a "I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation."
This highlights the fact that the salvation message is rich and that there is much more that can be said about it.
It also highlights that there is just one salvation shared by all true believers.
Jude was eager to talk about "our common salvation" – what about us? Are we eager to know more, to experience more, to share more? Or have we perhaps grown somehow tired of the gospel message of salvation and allowed it to become a bit like yesterday’s newspaper, old news.
The gospel itself never changes and growing as a Christian cannot therefore mean moving on beyond the simple truths that are foundational to our faith. But these simple truths are nevertheless profound and Christian growth means going deeper into them all.
So we know what Jude wanted to do but he was about to do something rather different and he will explain why. Jude was convinced that something else was more pressing at that particular moment in time and because of that he was prepared to lay aside his personal plans and his personal preferences to do what he saw to be necessary.
There may well be times when we too will need to sacrifice our own plans to pursue a more important goal. We may need to stop doing what we like, even something that is in itself very good (after all for Jude to write about "our common salvation" was surely something that would have been good), in order to do what is necessary. Our willingness or otherwise to do so may well may reveal whether we are more concerned with Christ’s interests and those of his people or our own.
What Jude saw as necessary
v.3b "I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."
We’ll begin with the faith itself that Jude refers to here.
A whole, complete package – once for all – permitting no change, requiring no change
Delivered to the saints – it was not the product of the church but the church (made up of each and every believer) simply received it. The Christian faith comes to us from God and the whole church is involved – it is not a matter that affects only the leaders. The fact that it comes from God explains why it can be described as a complete unchanging package. The task of the church with regard to the truthfulness of the message of salvation is important but limited. The church’s task is to make its truth known and to demonstrate how its unchanging truth applies to the ever changing circumstances of contemporary life while not compromising the truth as given.
Importance of the truth – truth to prevail over feeling and sentiment
Need to know this truth if we are to contend for it – to recognise when there are serious deviations from it.
Some will have a misguided understanding of the truth – eg. Apollos see Acts 18:24ff.
Some will wander unconsciously from the truth – eg. Peter and Barnabas see Gal.2:11-13
Some will deliberately turn from it eg. Hymenaeus and Alexander who had made shipwreck of their faith and their case called for strong action 1Tim.1:19-20
But we should not imagine that to contend for the faith is only a matter of intellectual combat or argument – one’s life commitment and personal behaviour are also to be involved. In the Bible’s perspective, truth that only affects the mind and does not touch and transform the life is not truth that is properly known.
Why it was necessary
There were problems in the church because some folk had slipped in and who were exerting an influence though exhibiting no genuine sign of being themselves converted.
It is of note that as Jude continues his letter and describes those who had slipped into the church and whose influence needed to be resisted and contradicted he does so in referring to their moral character and behaviour. Failing to hold on to the truth they were perverting the grace of God and effectively denying Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour (v.4b). Later in the letter Jude will have a good deal to say about their conduct vv.8-15.
No Need for anxiety
Given Jude’s analysis that the church had been infiltrated by very negative forces it would be an easy and understandable reaction for the church to become hesitant and perhaps even anxious about how things would pan out. In our own day with a noticeable decline in church attendance in the UK coupled with wholesale departures from orthodox Christian doctrine and practice it would similarly be easy for us to react and respond as though the future of the church was in jeopardy.
Jude seems to have anticipated such a reaction and wrote to pre-empt it.
Yes, these interlopers were at the time perverting the grace of God and turning it into sensuality and yes they did deny the Lord of Glory none of this took God by surprise and nor did it suggest any possible ultimate success would be achieved by them. Quite the reverse is true!
v.4a "For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people,"
But do notice these people although described as being ungodly certainly didn’t appear like that or they would never have succeeded in slipping in unnoticed as they had done. Heretics and the like can be some of the nicest people you may ever meet – you must not however be swayed but your feelings for these people and lulled into thinking that they are fine if the Word of God describes them so clearly as ungodly.
They won’t be ultimately successful for ultimately they are destined for condemnation – unless that is that they repent of their sin and humble themselves before the Lord they have actively resisted and denied for so long.
As we leave the subject this evening let us conclude by noting what it is that marks out the ungodly trouble-maker of the church:
A failure to teach according to the faith once for all delivered to the saints
A failure to live a holy life in harmony with that once for all delivered faith
A failure to honour and own Jesus Christ as Master and Lord
May the Lord enable us to contend for the faith when it is necessary for us to do so and may we always do so with lives of Christ-honouring godliness.
And to God be the glory.