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 for all handed down to the saints.
I am currently studying in the book of Jude with my friend Brenda. As I was reading through this small letter preserved in the Word of God, the Lord pulled out verse three for me. I missed it the first time I read through the letter. I missed it the second time I read through the letter. However, on my third read through, it was as if the Lord said, “Nicole, did you notice this?” At which point I stopped and double underlined the phrase, “once for all handed down to the saints.”
The phrase once for all speaks volumes. According to thefreedictionary.com it means: finally, permanently, completely and finally. Freedictionary goes on to describe the phrase to mean that if you do something once and for all, you finish doing it so that it does not have to be dealt with again. It is a settled matter, finally, permanently. In the original Greek the phrase is the word, hapax, and it means: what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition.
The work of Christ is finished. Salvation in, by, and through Him alone is settled. The faith that saved the thief on the cross is the same once for all faith that saved me and will save my children’s children. It has not changed. It cannot change. To change it, to add to it or take away from it, makes it not the once for all faith that was handed down, but makes it a strange gospel; a gospel that we are repeatedly warned about throughout the Word of God.
If we contend for anything outside or beyond this once for all handed down faith we become fools. When we use our once for all handed down faith to pronounce judgment instead of extend mercy then we look like the enemy of the cross, not the friend of God. In Jude 1:9 we read that,
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
The archangel Michael stood before Satan himself and did not dare pronounce a judgment against him. He did not dare prove himself to be so bold as to stand in the face of another and declare what only God Himself can declare for fear that he would blaspheme his God. If this was a faithful warrior angel’s response to the father of lies, the beginning murderer, the one who deceived and deceives the world then who are we to try and stand in the place of God and pronounce eternal condemnation on those who are held in his chains?
Yes, we are to contend for the once for all faith, but we are not to contend through railing judgments. We are to remember who we were when we too were blind and dead. We are to remember who we were before we received the sight and life of the gospel of Christ. We are to remember what Jude reminds us in verse ten,
But these men revile the things which they do not understand;
In verses ten through nineteen Jude goes on to describe all the actions of these he declares as the ungodly of the earth. I can just hear the questions of those he addresses. I imagine they are the same as we hear today; But do you know what they are saying? Do you know what they are doing? How can we not stand over them and pronounce their judgment?
Jude answers them (and us) by reminding them that this should not be a surprise to them (or us). God has been warning us from the beginning. Jesus warned us when He walked among us and He sent His apostles to warn us after His ascension. He has protected His words of warning and encouragement in the Scriptures for thousands of years. We should not be shocked, but prepared.
The Greek word used for “contend earnestly” is epagónizomai and it means, properly, to contend (literally, “struggle upon, appropriately“), i.e. with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith (God’s persuasion). There is a right way to contend for the faith and there is a VERY wrong way. Sadly, here lately, because the church is so very ignorant of the Word of God, our world sees a lot of the wrong way– and well, the wrong way gets a whole lot more attention because that is what the ruler of this world (1 John 5:19) chooses to promote.
So what are we to do?
Jude answers that question as well…
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Jude 1:20-23 (underline is mine)
What are we to do?
- Build yourself up on your most holy faith. (your responsibility)
- Pray in the Holy Spirit. (this means His will, not yours)
- Keep yourself in the love of God (if you love Me you will obey Me)
- Wait anxiously for Jesus (He’s coming again, be ready)
- Have mercy (you know how bad judgment will be)
Three times the word mercy is used in that one passage of Scripture. Jude begins his letter by saying, “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” He knew they were going to need multiplied mercies, peace, and love to appropriately deal with what they were facing from these ungodly ones. This is what we in the faith need multiplied to us today as well.
People revile what they do not understand. They do not understand that they are deceived, for that is the nature of deception.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Always choose mercy. It is not for us to pronounce judgment… it is for us to proclaim the gospel of Christ. No, don’t be silent. Instead boldly declare the love of God with the kindness of God. Jesus showed us how to do it. So did Paul and Jude… and so did the one (or ones) who led you to Christ.