Author: Ron Graham
A study of the letter from Jude looking at his exhortation in verses 3-4. Jude is concerned that God’s holy people should contend earnestly for the faith that had already been delivered to them.
¶“3Beloved, using all diligence to write to you about our common salvation, of necessity I had to write to you urging you to contend with zeal for the faith that was once for all delivered to the holy people. 4For certain men came in by stealth, those who long ago were written down for this condemnation: ungodly men who change the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:3-4).
This passage is Jude’s concise preface that describes why he wrote the letter, and what it is about.
“Beloved, using all diligence to write to you about our common salvation, of necessity I had to write to you urging you to contend with zeal for faith that was once for all delivered to the holy people” (Jude 1:3a).
Jude could have written a lot of things on the subject of salvation, but what could he say that was not already delivered by other apostles? However, he does see the need to repeat and emphasise an exhortation to fight for the first faith —the faith once for all delivered by Christ and his apostles.
So although his letter is short, less than an average Bible chapter, Jude is serving a very important service in writing it. We cannot have too many warnings urging us to defend the beliefs handed down by the apostles. Departures from the faith will happen (1Timothy 4:1).
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1Timothy 4:1, ESV)
“...urging you to contend with zeal for faith...” (Jude 1:3b).
Jude is urging a deeply committed and earnest struggle. The defense of the faith is not a polite fight. It's a battle. If we Christians don't take up the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) who else will?
We must defend the belief system of the New Testament against those who want to corrupt or modernize or destroy it. To be defenders and contenders, we ourselves must be strong in that delivered faith.
So Jude says, later in his letter, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God...” (Jude 1:20-21 NKJV).
But where do you get your most Holy Faith from? You might say, “From the Holy Spirit”. True, but how does the Holy Spirit deliver that faith? That's what we look at next...
“...faith that was once for all delivered to the holy people...” (Jude 1:3c).
When Jude says that faith was once for all delivered to the people of God, we can dispense with the idea that the Holy Spirit goes on delivering it. It is already delivered in “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (2Peter 3:2)
You and I are blessed to have many letters from the apostles and their associates. These were inspired by the Holy Spirit. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2Timothy 3:16-17).
As these letters were delivered, the faith was delivered, and by Jude’s time of writing the task was complete once for all.
Just as Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). and does not need to repeat that sacrifice. Likewise the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, delivered the faith “once for all” (Jude 1:3). His work does not need to be repeated.
The apostles did a good work. We have them to thank for the word of faith. We show our gratitude by contending for that word, believing and obeying that word —not some other.
“For certain men came in by stealth, those who long ago were written down for this condemnation: ungodly men who change the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4).
We can recognize such false persons, because they were “written down” from of old. Jude doesn't mean that their names were written down, or that they were predestined to be deniers of Christ.
Jude means that from antiquity there have been such persons whose deeds are written. By reading about them we can get a clear profile of what a corrupter is like. That way, they cannot come in by stealth. We will see the wolf beneath the sheep’s clothing. As Jesus says...
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits... A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20 NASB).