The Book of Jude: Contend for the Faith (Without Being Contentious)

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. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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!

Recommended Resources:

Be Alert by Warren Wiersbe

The NIV Application Commentary 2 Peter, Jude by Douglas Moo

The Moody Bible Commentary

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Free Bible Study Guide for the Book of Jude

If you want to study the Book of Jude on your own, download my free study guide. This easy to use study guide contains simple instructions to follow for 15 days so you can discover the truths in Jude for yourself.

3 comments

  1. Good morning, Rachel! Years ago, my brother called me and told me that his pastor who had for many years been properly teaching/preaching the Word of God, all of a sudden told his church to forget everything that he’d taught them because he was wrong in all his teaching. He told the church that they could literally live their lives doing whatever and in whatever manner they desired because as long as they still believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, God’s grace would cover them. Joyfully, my brother told me that it was okay for us to sin because God would always forgive. I was stupefied, livid, and my heart broke knowing that this pastor was perverting and abusing the unmerited gift of God’s grace toward His chosen people. I immediately began reciting scripture to my brother reminding him of God’s truth, praying for the Holy Spirit to enlighten him and show him the grotesque error of teaching he was believing, and begged him to walk away from this pastor and church. However, he continued sitting under this pastors false teaching and went on to teach in the children’s ministry. My brother and I have lost touch over the years, so I’m clueless as to whether or not he’s come out from under that heresy, but I do continually pray for him and hope in Christ that he has.

    I’ve never been one to be contentious toward other believers, but I have been contentious toward non-believers and false teachers, and actually toward myself at one point. There was a time in my life where I was entrenched in the pit of major depressive disorder and PTSD, and the believer whom I always ended up fighting against was myself. It sounds odd, I know. I had been a believer for many years, had deep roots in the Word of God, and absolutely knew who I was in Christ. But during those years the battle between my flesh and spirit was extremely and painfully intense. I’d been in private cognitive behavioral therapy sessions and spent many months in in-patient psychiatric wards and outpatient day programs, and all the teaching I was sitting under was that of modern psychology and psychiatry where the messages were contrary to the Word of God and the faith I had in it and Him. These people mocked my faith and told me that I’d always have the diagnoses of major depressive disorder and PTSD, I’d never be healed or rid of them, and that I had to face the facts and accept it. I constantly argued and recited scripture that I knew to be Truth with them, and I also did this with other patients in group sessions. I fought with myself to not believe these false teachings, and sometimes I gave up the fight and accepted them because it was too difficult to contend for the faith anymore. But, somehow, even though I thought I had failed to contend, I really hadn’t. God knew my thoughts and my heart, and He was with me every step of the way fighting for me and with me. Praises be to God, He covered me with His grace and pulled me out from that pit, and completely healed and restored my mind and life unto Him. Looking back now, I believe I did everything that Jude told us to do to contend for the faith: I remembered the apostles teaching, prayed in the Holy Spirit, kept myself in God’s love, waited for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ to bring me to eternal life, and reached out to others with discernment.

    One way I need to concentrate on is reaching out to others with discernment. Currently, I’ve come to know a few people who are musicians in the genre of “slamming death metal” and followers of a local hate group. I believe the Lord has placed these people before me in order to speak His truth, show His love, and invite them to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I’m struggling with fear of the doctrine of hatred they ascribe to, as this is a completely new realm for me. I’m seeking the Lord’s help and guidance, and asking Him to give me strength and courage to do what He wants me to do and say to these people.

  2. I am saving this to come back to constantly, it is an amazing reference that I think everyone needs to read. I’ve known so many people who walk away from church because of all the fighting within the church. We need to stand together to contend the faith! Also, I think just as important is how we contend. Thank you for a wonderfully written piece.

    Jessie
    http://www.onelostcoin.com
    Your story matters.

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