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. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3-4
Reading once again through the short letter penned by Jude, it strikes me that’s its placement in the canon of scripture is no coincidence. It is the last book of the Bible just before John’s sobering revelation of what is coming in the last few days before Jesus’ return, both His gathering of true Christ-followers out of this world, and His second coming to this earth to judge those who have rejected Him.
Apparently, Jude sat down to write an encouraging, uplifting letter to the believers, a letter that would be circulated to the churches scattered across the Roman empire. God’s Spirit impressed upon him a different kind of letter – a letter of strong warning about the deception and heresy that was invading their local church bodies, right under their very noses!
Jude immediately reveals two important facts about those in our midst (professing Christians) who would undermine, change, and distort the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Number one, they turn God’s grace into a permissiveness that overlooks sin. They preach, whether by word or deed, that one can still go on knowingly and intentionally sinning as a believer. Jude uses a Greek word translated as “licentiousness” or “lasciviousness” to describe their attitude toward grace; it means moral impurity, a disregard for decency, foul, filthy or abusive speech, lack of restraint, wantonness, and shameless conduct. All of these actions, thoughts, and attitudes are indicative of a person who lives by his/her flesh and indicates that either the Holy Spirit does not indwell them at all (they claim to be Christ-followers, but are not), or that they have so grieved and ignored the conviction of the Spirit that their hearts have hardened, and their consciences are seared, and they no longer hear God speaking to them.
Number two, these individuals deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. They do not live by or believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and they deny His Lordship and Mastery over their lives.
Can you see how these two characteristics work together in a person’s heart and life? If we deny Jesus’ authority and commands over us, we listen to our flesh and proceed farther and farther into sinful actions, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs. If we let our flesh lead us, hoping to be “Christian” but also enjoy the cultural attraction of a sinful world at the same time, we end up denying Jesus.
Jude admonishes his readers to contend earnestly for the faith. He uses the intensive form of the word, epagōnizomai to add importance and emphasis. This word means “to contend as a combatant, to fight, to engage in conflict, to strive as an in a contest for a prize, to put forth every effort, to wrestle earnestly.” Jude is warning us that if we are to live pleasing to God in the last days, it is going to be a battle – a fight against our flesh and a fight against the culture that will consume us. Jude is telling us that if we are to continue to preach the pure, unadulterated, life-giving, salvation-achieving gospel, we must be completely committed to Jesus as Master and Lord over every single detail of our lives, and fully convinced that He truly is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth, and the ONLY life (John 14:6).
How do you know if you are “contending earnestly” for the faith or simply floating along in unbelief? Here are just two questions to ponder.
Are you denying your flesh in obedience to the commands of Jesus, even when your sin is fully acceptable to the world (and even professing believers) around you?
Are you standing firm in your faith in Jesus, despite the growing hostility toward anyone who dares to speak about sin, or righteousness, or judgment?
In the last days, many will fall away from the faith. Let it not be me, or you.
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. … I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7-8)