How to contend for the Faith

Jude - Sixth in a series

The reason Jude gives for writing his letter is to encourage his readers to contend for the true faith, however, nearly the entire text of Jude describes the "certain men crept in unawares." (Jude 1:4)

Verse 4 reads in full: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are no pointers given in Jude on how to contend for the true faith, as we have come to expect from Christian seminars on evangelism or apologetics. Instead, Jude will advise simple steps to maintain ones personal faith and ones standing in the church: build up your faith by praying in the Spirit, keep yourself in God's love, and maintain a serious focus on the eternal life to come in the one who is all mercy. That is all.

It is possible to contend for the faith once delivered by setting a good example in loving God and man, enabled by prayer assisted by the third person of the Trinity, while cherishing eternal life. Yet, in your simplicity and peaceful hope, know you will be challenged. Perhaps you will be undermined by certain people in your own church!

Since the earliest days, unbelievers have filtered in among the ranks of God's soldiers. Christ warned about the ones who did not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbed in by some other way. (John 10:1) The Lord alone is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), and those who enter by a side door to preach a different gospel (Gal 1:8) are thieves. A broad range of such people come to mind, but for our study, we will consider the "ungodly" ones that Jude warned about (vs 4, above).

Three initial points are made about these:

  1. They were before of old ordained to this condemnation.
  2. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.
  3. They deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

By God's superintendence of Scripture, Jude's very first point predicts the ultimate destination of those who design to ruin God's faithful ones. They are under a sentence of condemnation.

These men have warred on God in two ways, as Enoch described, (Jude 1:15) 1. by their deeds, and 2. by their words or "hard speeches" (rough, offensive).

There is assurance in knowing that rebels are under severe judgment. If they were not, if there is no difference between right and wrong, then there is no meaning in life, but there is.

Question: Are these men reprobate in the theological sense of the word? That is, have they crossed the line beyond which there is no turning back? Is there such a line? Though this question leads on a rabbit trail relative to our focus for this post, it is important to answer.

Is Jude saying that these men were predestined to condemnation? Or, have they simply incurred God's condemnation by their deeds and words? The concept of foreordination to condemnation is a difficult one. If God elects some, does he also choose to pass over others? The Westminster Confession says Yes, based on Scripture (John 6:64, 10:26, 8:47; 1 John 2:19; Mat 11:25; Rom 9:17-22; 2 Tim 2:19, 20; Jude 1:4; 1 Pet 2:8). Recall though, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart when God did not harden it for him (Ex 8:32, et al).

All people have choices, and we can cry out for help to stop behaving rebelliously, or we can choose reprobation, a state from which few ever emerge. We do not know the lines God draws and why. We do know he shows lenience for some and takes into consideration many circumstances. We do know it's impossible to stop rebelling without the help of God, so the best thing to do if you find yourself in a contrary lifestyle is to cry out for God's help. He hears the cries of the lost and has great mercy on weak sinners.

Thus, when Jude points out the need to snatch some from the fire (Jude 1:23), he could be referring to the rebels, not just those affected by their influence.

In two ways, these rebels qualified for judgment: 1. they convoluted the concept of grace by lascivious permissions, and 2. denied the lordship of Christ.

True freedom and abundant life in Christ grant power to overcome sexual lust, gluttony, addictions and consequent falling into worse sin. When we are saved, we are released from bondage to sin and thus from the law because we are enabled to obey God's laws by his Holy Spirit. To say this new inner reserve gives us license to practice the sin we were delivered from is to confuse the cure with the illness or to seize upon deliverance as a sign of privilege rather than mercy. But God is not a God of confusion; sin is bondage and deliverance is amazing grace that right-minded people cherish rather than test or despise.

Anyone who equivocates and engenders such confusion is denying that Jesus has the right to require his followers to be like him, righteous. They co-mingle his mercy with the deadly toxin of self gratification. They deny Jesus Christ is Lord, the only God.

A coveted stature

Jude - Third in a series

Jude warns his brothers and sisters about so-called Christians who have infiltrated their church to pollute and overthrow it, and urges them to contend for the faith.

To ready them for this alarm, he begins by reminding them of their stature as members of the body. It is this stature that the Evil One wildly despises. Believers are:

  • sanctified, loved of God,
  • preserved in Jesus Christ, and
  • called. (Jude 1:1)

As we saw in the previous post, the love of God that sanctifies is welcoming and faithful though all others forsake us, not permissive or short-sighted, but forgiving, upbuilding, and it is unending.

The second concept, that of being preserved in Christ, is, like the first, expressed in the Greek "perfect tense" which as in English, "describes an action… having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated." (ref, studylight.org Interlinear Bible)

Some Bible translations read kept for Christ and others, preserved in Jesus Christ. If I am kept for Christ, it is the Father who works, but if by him, then it is Christ working— so which is it?

Here is a reply from the "Divines" who joined together in the 17th century to ruminate all of Scripture and distill the essential doctrines of the Christian faith in what we now call The Westminster Confession. Our preservation is assured because it is based on:

  • The unchangeable mind of our loving God: Those whom he predestined he also called, and those who are called he has justified, and those who are justified are glorified. (Rom 8:30)
  • The merit and intercession of Christ. (John 3:16; Heb 7:25)
  • The abiding of God's Holy Spirit in our hearts. (John 14:26) (See Westminster Confession, Chapter XVII, www.reformed.org)

The summary statements in a good Confession and their attendant scriptures are helpful as a defense against those who would overturn the church in any century whether they be humans or rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12).

A good illustration in Scripture of a believer who was preserved by and for Christ is Peter. Though he denied Christ at the critical moment, he was forgiven and became a church leader. Preservation does not equal continually abiding but God is faithful.

Jude's third word for believers in the KJV is Called, however it precedes the other two in practice as well as in many Bible translations. The Christian's heart is awakened by God's Spirit calling him or her to come near and to follow closely. This call must provoke a certain fear and result in a thirst for finding out what is in God's Word. It will engender a desire to pray and to hear more from God. Eventually, it will lead to a hunger for friendship and community with other believers.

Of course, this last phase is often disturbed by the situation Jude describes, where certain people creep in to spoil the fellowship as we will see. This is why studying Jude’s letter is as relevant now as it was in the first century, for our security in Christ will be menaced and can be eroded when we are off guard.

War! Why?

The Amalekites — Third in a series

At the Exodus Moses and Israel sang, The LORD [is] my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he [is] my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. (Ex 15:2) Yes, into the desert they went to build a habitation, a tabernacle, where they would worship the Lord according to his revealed pattern.

Moses also prophesied,

The people shall hear, [and] be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be [as] still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, [which] thou hast purchased. (Ex 15:14-16)

Indeed, the inhabitants of the land feared the approach of the Israelites, and one duke-dom of Edom would challenge the exodus, as we shall see.

After crossing the Red Sea, the Lord sent the Hebrews south into the desert wilderness to make Pharaoh think they were confused, and so that they would not become disheartened in a confrontation with the Philistine. (Ex 14:3; 13:17)

Picture the Red Sea with its two fingers that extend upward, the Gulf of Suez on the left and the Gulf of Aqaba on the right. To the west of the left finger is Egypt, to the east of the right was Midian (today, Saudi Arabia), and in between is the Sinai Peninsula.

After about three months the Hebrews were two-thirds of the way down to the bottom of the Peninsula, at Rephidim, a resting place, not a city of Amalek. Yet Amalek attacked. Why? His territory was further north (Gen 14:7). Did anything provoke his attack? Let's look at the events that preceded it.

Only three days after God drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, the Israelites murmured and complained against Moses because of their thirst at Marah where the waters were bitter. (Ex 15:22, 23) He cried out to the Lord and was shown a tree which, when cast into the waters, made them sweet. There, Moses told the people that if they would listen to God and obey his commandments, he would not visit them with illnesses: I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee. (Ex 15:25, 26)

Next, they came to Elim (Ex 15:27) where plenty of water was available. Then, from Elim they entered the wilderness of Sin. It had now been two and a half months since their Exodus (Ex 16:1) Again, the whole congregation murmured and complained against Moses and Aaron, this time because they were hungry. The Lord provided quail and rained down manna from heaven. (Ex 16:4) They were to gather enough manna for the Sabbath on the sixth day, but some disobeyed so the Lord corrected their behavior. (Ex 16:28)

They continued on their journey and left Sin to pitch tents in Rephidim but there was no water, so again, they complained to Moses and railed against him. This was mere squealing because the manna was to serve as both food and water. (Reference: John Calvin).

Moses cried to the Lord, What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me. (Ex 17:4) It seems the Lord understood that His people were spiritual infants, so He performed an even greater miracle, commanding Moses to take the rod that had done wonders in Egypt and to strike a rock in Horeb. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Ex 17:6)

Nevertheless the place was called "Massah and Meribah" — temptation and strife, because of the grumbling of the people and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not? (Ex 17:7) THEN CAME AMALEK and fought with Israel in Rephidim. A surprise attack!

Moses instructed Joshua to choose men and fight against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur watched from the top of a hill. When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but when he let it down, Amalek did. (Ex 17:11) The battle was won by the Israelites, but only because Aaron and Hur kept Moses' hands upraised. God clearly demonstrated that Moses was not to be abused. He was their leader and their lives were in his hands.

The Lord instructs us by His Word, by fellow Christians and our pastors, by merciful revelations and daily events, but there comes a time when he must discipline. Then, like a father who anguishes over the spanking more than the child who received it, he shows sorrow: And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this [for] a memorial in a book, and rehearse [it] in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. (Ex 17:14) Note, however, the words were for Joshua's ears only.

Moses then built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn [that] the LORD [will have] war with Amalek from generation to generation. (Ex 17:15, 16) Jehovahnissi means "The Lord is my banner." Moses knew it was not his hand but the rod of God that he held up, that is, God alone, who gave the victory in battle. Further, he understood that God counted his people's enemies as his own enemies. How wonderful!

But why were the Amalekites singled out for a destiny of annihilation? We will look at that in the next post.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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