We don’t use the word “contend” often. When we do hear it, it’s in the context of sports, mostly boxing. Boxers contend for the title. Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront says, “I coulda been a contenda.”
It’s no wonder that when believers hear Jude say “contend for the faith” the boxing gloves come out and Christians are looking for a fight. Christians think they are obeying the Lord by knocking flat anyone who doesn’t follow God’s way. Is that what “contend for the faith” really means?
What does the word contend mean?
The word for contend is like the word compete. It means to expend an enormous amount of energy on something. It’s a fighting word. Warren Wiersbe in his book Be Alert pictures a military context for contending for the faith since the word for urge is the same word that a military general uses to give commands.
Jude 3-4 says:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
So contend for the faith is in a fighting context. But who are believers supposed to fight against?
Who are believers to fight against?
The believers are to contend for the faith against false teachers who twist the grace of God into a license to sin. It’s all good, they say. Do whatever you want since God is gracious and forgives.
We hear this false teaching all the time. It doesn’t matter. God will forgive you. Contending for the faith means telling the truth. When my husband bought his first car, he was encouraged to just lie about the purchase price to avoid taxes. Tim contended for the faith by saying no and telling the honest price.
False teachers also deny Jesus Christ. This is key. When you come across a new teacher or church find out what they say about Jesus. True believers recognize Jesus is Christ, the only Sovereign and Lord.
Note that contending for the faith is aimed at false teachers, not fellow believers. Contending for the faith does not mean to be contentious within the body of Christ. It does not mean to scroll through Twitter looking for a doctrinal fight. It does not mean we call fellow believers heretics when we disagree with their hermeneutic. Contending for the faith is not a call for Calvinists to punch the lights out of Arminians or vice-versa. If you find yourself being contentious in church, step out of the ring. Where should your fight be? Against false teachers; not against fellow believers.
How do we contend for the faith?
After Jude tells believers to contend for the faith because of false teachers, he reassures us that rebuking and damnation are not our jobs. Those are God’s jobs (v.3-16). Then he explains what our role is in contending for the faith.
Jude tells believers to contend for the faith by:
- Remembering the apostles teaching (v17). Spending time reading and memorizing Scripture is contending for the faith. If you know the truth, you will be able to recognize false teaching when you hear it.
- Praying in the Holy Spirit (v.20). Be aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance before you enter your prayer time. Then you will be able to obey Him in prayer and listen to what he may be telling you to pray for.
- Keep yourself in God’s love (v.20). You are not in danger of losing God’s love. Remember, you are kept. This is a call to be obedient to the Lord as a way of expressing your love for Him.
- Wait for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (v.21). This world is not forever. Be patient through the times when you feel the world is being defeated by false teachers. The truth is that God wins. Glorious eternity with Christ is coming!
- Reach out to others with discernment (v.22-23). One style of evangelism does not reach everyone. Some are so close but are doubting. Be gentle and patient with them. Some need a strong wake-up call. Others can be dangerous to your own faith so you need to be careful. Hang out with them to share the gospel, but don’t get caught up in their sins.
What about you? Do you have a tendency to be contentious towards other believers? Which one of the ways to contend for the faith do you need to concentrate on? Comment below!
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