Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3).
In A.D. 67, Jude penned a letter to “Dear friends”. He wanted to write about the salvation they shared but an urgent matter changed the theme of his letter. Corruption had infiltrated the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Less than forty years after Jesus’ resurrection, the church found itself in a struggle to maintain God pleasing faith. Jude revealed the reason for the never-ending battle in the next verse.
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord (Jude 4).
Faith is easily corrupted by godless men fallen prey to the seduction in power. They love religious practices and believe God exist but do not know him. In a quest to retain their authority in the church, they add their own biases and self-serving purposes to God’s pure life giving water. When the pure water of unselfish truth is poured through selfish people, it is easy to end up with toxic water.
These “certain men” Jude warned us about look, walk, and talk just like Christians because many of them are false shepherds. Jude called them “blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm – shepherds who feed only themselves” (Jude 12). Jude had many uncomplimentary things to say about these shepherds. In summary, they view God’s people as a means to satisfy their own ambitions and career goals. Most of them have been led astray by their personal desires as Pharisee Saul was before he became the Apostle Paul. They can eat with us without the “slightest qualm”, because they don’t even know their deeds are immoral.
Immoral encompasses more than sexual misconduct. The Greek word translated as immorality means any shameless conduct. When ministers manipulate us in God’s name for their own advantage, they are engaging in shameless conduct. The seduction of power is so great the Bible has a stern warning for teachers.
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
Despite this warning, many shepherds arise, especially in times of revival when the church is prosperous, who are oblivious to their own ignorance of God’s ways. Therefore, we must carefully consider the things we embrace about God and faith. Rivers of contaminated water unfit for human consumption flows through the church. Do not let any teacher – myself included – tell you what to think. Let the teacher, whose words you consider, provoke your thinking until you yourself are able to discern what is good in the teaching. (Romans 12:2; 1 Timothy 1:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29)
The Bible exhorts us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Trusting a Bible teacher to do it for you is dangerous. Don’t trust a human teacher that you barely know with your life. Don’t follow men or women who claim to follow God. Follow God himself! His words are recorded in the Bible. Listen carefully to all that he had to say, and then balance what he says with all he does. Since we are responsible for the way we choose to live, we can’t lay all the blame for our sins and mistakes at the feet of misguided teachers.
Paul warned Timothy that in the Last Days difficult times would come. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
Ungrateful lovers of money have always existed. Treacherous, rash slanderers existed in Paul’s generation. Pride is a disease shared by all humanity. Paul simply described the tendencies in fallen human nature, so whom in particular was Paul talking about? The key is in the last phrase of 2 Timothy 3:5 “having a form of godliness but denying its power”.
Paul warned Pastor Timothy about a time God’s people will abandon the faith that pleases God making them selfish lovers of money, brutal, treacherous, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. These godless people discard sound doctrine believing that practicing a form of godliness is a means to financial gain. They have abandoned God’s desires to pursue their own desires and flock to teachers who say what their itching ears what to hear.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-5, niv
A myth is sweet. Sound doctrine is bittersweet. If someone taught you that God gave us faith to obtain whatever we desire in this life, you have been taught a myth. One day, God pleasing faith will give us everything, but faith gives us nothing first. If we possessed everything God desires to give us, we would no longer need faith in God that he will fulfill his promises. While it is sweet that one day everything will be mine, it is also bitter that it may not be mine within my lifetime. It is much more likely that, like Abraham and many believers after him; we will live in faith and die in the hope of resurrection without receiving the fulfillment of God’s promises.
What good is faith if it won’t give me what I desire? Faith will give us something better. The fulfillment of human desire has a tendency to destroy us. Eve desired to be wise like God. Through disobedience to God’s desire, she obtained the knowledge she sought. Her quest led to Adam’s sin that allowed death to enter the world, the removal from the Garden of Eden and a life of misery for them and all of their descendants. True God pleasing faith will lead us to a love that will never destroy us.
The Apostle Peter admonished those who shared his precious faith to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Peter gave several good reasons for adding to our faith in the opening verses of 2 Peter. First, grace and peace are ours “in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Second, God’s divine power gives us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of God who called us. Grace, peace, life, and godliness come through specific knowledge, the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Faith contains partial knowledge about God and his desires. Without this specific knowledge, your blind faith will lead you into foolishness.
Peter’s admonition “to add to our faith” frustrated me because it told me what to do, but I didn’t understand how to do it. That is what I call useless information. How do we add goodness to our faith, and knowledge to our goodness, and self-control to our knowledge, etc.? Sometimes, reading the Bible in more than one version helps. When I read Peter’s admonition in the Interlinear translation of the Bible one little word opened my understanding – “in”.
“Also for this very thing but diligence all bringing in supply in the faith of you virtue, and in virtue knowledge and in knowledge self-control and in self-control endurance and in endurance piety and in piety brotherly friendship and in brotherly friendship love. (Marshall, NASB-NIV Parrallel New Testament In Greek and English)
We must earnestly contend for the faith “once for all entrusted to the saints” because in this faith we will find or comprehend goodness. When we understand goodness, will we understand knowledge about God, and when we understand knowledge about God, we will understand why self-control is important. Only then will we understand why God restrains himself when we do so much evil. When we understand why self-control is important, we will have a reason to persevere. In our perseverance, we will develop more than a form of godliness. When we possess more than a shallow form of godliness, we will be kind to others, and in showing kindness to others, we will understand what it means to love.
The journey to understanding love begins with understanding God pleasing faith. Until we get faith right, nothing else in our life will be right. Our actions cannot be motivated by love until we understand what it means to love. The problem is not God’s lack of love for us. The problem is our lack of love for God and his people. Therefore, God gave us the gift of faith when he taught Abraham how to have faith and then recorded Abraham’s journey in a book.
In Romans Chapter 4, Paul argued that the act of circumcision Jews relied on as proof they were right with God had no bearing on salvation. Faith alone makes us right with God. Therefore, anyone, Jew or Gentile, can be saved by faith. Speaking of Abraham, Paul said, “And he [Abraham] is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 4:12). In summary, Abraham is the “father” of everyone who walks in the footsteps of his faith.
It’s important to note that Paul said, “footsteps.” Not step, but steps, meaning more than one-step. It took Abraham a lifetime to learn how to have faith. It will take us no less. Although Abraham’s faith gave him everything, his faith gave him nothing permanent in his lifetime. That was okay with Abraham. When he learned how to love God and his fellow man, he acquired the strength to wait for all God promised us. If we will earnestly contend for “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” we will learn how to love, too.