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Jude 1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:Jude (2012)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 32 secs

Contending? Not Culturally Acceptable.  Jude 3


The idea of contending for the faith, the set body of doctrine that is unchangeable, as established objectively by God, is not culturally acceptable today. If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God you have set yourself over against all of pop culture, all of the opinions of the masses and the elites in our culture; and you are increasingly a minority. There is a statistic that approximately seven per cent of Americans are evangelicals, and the term evangelical itself is a fairly broad term. We at West Houston Bible Church are part of a sub-set of evangelicals. We are on the conservative end of the spectrum of evangelicals. We believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, in dispensational truth, and this makes us an even greater minority. When it comes to looking at various things related to the implications of Scripture for how we understand society, how we understand our culture, the various social assaults that we see today—assaults against the family, against personal responsibility, against the role of government versus the role of the individual—with each step, each one of these ideas, as we take our stand on the Scriptures, what we find is we become part of an increasingly small or narrow group. And if we spread it out to the culture we become and increasingly small group of people in contrast to forty or fifty years ago.


It is just amazing to see how within conservative, dispensational, fundamental, evangelical Christianity since the end of World War II there has been such a massive shift. And some of this has occurred in just the last twenty years. There have been assaults on the nature of the church, assaults on the role of the pastoral ministry, and these have their roots that go back into the 1970s. We have seen the very face of the church in America shift from small traditional churches that were biblically based to mega churches where often, even if it is correct theology it is superficial theology. Pastors are too afraid to teach more than just the surface of Christianity because they are afraid that it will challenge people too much, will rub them too much the wrong way, and so they just stay at a very surface level of Scripture. If all you ever do is feed your children baby food then they will be malnourished, ineffective and not ever grow to physical maturity, and they call that child abuse. What we have today is an enormous number of abusive pastors who are malnourishing their congregations. It is pastoral abuse of the worst kind, the kind that is malpractice because the pastor who is in charge of feeding his congregation refuses to do so. Therefore the congregation is malnourished, sick and unhealthy. 


This is part of what Jude is writing about. He is challenging this congregation that they need to contend for the faith. If they are not willing to contend for the faith then what will happen is these evildoers and evil teachers will take over the control of this congregation and it will be rendered not only spiritually ineffective but they will become spiritually inoperable and will be destroyed spiritually and judged by God.


But this whole idea of contending for the faith is not culturally acceptable today. If we are going to proclaim that we are going to defend the faith of Scripture then we are going to come under attack, even by many Christians, because they believe that contending is necessarily contentious. But that is not true. That is a total abuse of language. As we look around we ought to be asking the question: from whence did these changes come? How did the church go through this? We can give the broad answers: a certain amount of negative volition, trends toward emotionalism and subjectivity, but we need to understand some of these trends in a little more specificity in order to be able to correctly perceive and understand where we are, how we got here, and what you and I need to do in order to be a corrective for this. That doesn't mean that we are going to reverse the course of our culture but in terms of our own lives we need to understand what it means to contend for the faith.


2 Timothy 3:16 NASB "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." Reproof means that the Bible is going to say you are wrong about something; you have ideas and opinions that are wrong, dead wrong. That is reproof; it is a slap in the face. We live in a culture today where slapping someone in the face, reproving somebody, is wrong. That is one of their upper values, as we are going to see—that reproof is wrong. That implies superiority and that is arrogant, and that is by definition something that is wrong. But Scripture says that what the Word of God is supposed to do is to reprove us, straighten us out, tell us we are wrong. But it doesn't just stop by saying we are wrong, it is for doctrine, for reproof, for correction. The word for "correction" means to straighten out the thinking. It is from a Greek word the root of which is the same word we have that comes over into the English as orthodontist—someone who straightens out the teeth. So the Word of God is designed to straighten us out. Then we are given instruction in righteousness, so that we keep on the path of righteousness. Why?


2 Tim 3:17 NASB "so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." "Man of God" is another politically incorrect terms today because we have just excluded women! There are a lot of women in our culture, and in our churches today, who have been so indoctrinated by the post-modern culture that when they read something where they see that word "man" there is something inside of them that begins to tighten up and vibrate because they have been taught again and again and again that is just some sort of sexism, a gender exclusivism, and this in and of itself is wrong. They bring that mindset with them when they come to the Bible, and all of a sudden they read a Bible where God is referred to as He, where men are emphasised, and we refer to the founders of Israel as the patriarchs, and if they imbibed from the poisoned well of our culture then these are negative words, bad words, evil words.


These influences are all around us, and the younger that a person is the more they have been influenced by this kind of thinking, the more they have been brainwashed, re-educated, reprogrammed by the education system of our culture, by the media, television shows, songs. All of these things promote this value system. And this sets their mind a certain way so that when they walk in the doors of a church like this there is a huge hurdle for them to get past from the very beginning because they are hearing ideas and concepts that they have been taught were wrong. That even applies to Christian kids who have grown up in church because they were taught one thing but they caught something else. They caught a virus from their culture which the Bible calls worldliness, and this virus has infected them by they don't know that they are sick with it.


We have been talking about the authority of Scripture. We have to judge every area, every nook and cranny, of our thinking by the light of God's Word. Then we have to change it, and that is not always easy. We understand that God works behind the scenes in the process.


Jude 1:3 NASB "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."


The word "appealing" [or, exhorting] ends with an 'ing' indicating this is not a finite verb, it is a participle. A participle connected to the infinitive simply helps complete or fill out the idea. But participles are used as a modifier of verbs in order to give us some additional information about that. So how does the concept of exhorting relate to the concept of writing? What we will see is that this is a participle expressing purpose—'I am writing to you for the purpose of exhorting you.' This word that we find here is a Greek word that we find many times in the Scripture. It is a very common word to express the desire on the part of the writers of Scripture to move their audience from where they are to where they need to be, to challenge them, to urge them to a course of action, to push them and to motivate them, to be engaged spiritually and to apply the Word of God to every area of their life. It is the Greek word parakaleo [parakalew] and it is related to the noun parakletos [paraklhtoj] which is a title for God the Holy Spirit as our strengthener. It is often translated "comforter" but that is a weak idea. The word has the idea of urging or motivating someone to a course of action. So God the Holy Spirit is the one who is encouraging, pushing us forward in the Christian life.


This particular grammatical structure here is a present active participle, the present tense indicates that it is happening at the same time as the main verb, and the participle should be understood as a participle of purpose: "I write to you for the purpose of exhorting you to contend." This word "exhort" is one of those many biblical words like "holy, righteous, redemption" that we hear a lot, but when we hear certain words all the time it tends to become white noise and we don't really pay attention to it, and we are not really sure what it means. In terms of definitions it has a range of meanings. It means to exhort, which means to challenge somebody to a course of action, to urge someone to a course of action, to press them earnestly to do something, to appeal to them to take a course of action. It is sometimes translated to encourage, to urge, to incite, to persuade. When it comes over to expressing the purpose of literature it is a word that has the idea of a literary type; it is an exhortation; it could be a sermonic type. Jude is writing this as an exhortation, it is not going to be a doctrinal discourse but is written for the purpose of getting the people in this congregation motivated to engage in a problem that has already developed and is in their midst.


The course of action is that they are to contend earnestly for the faith. The Greek word is epagonizomai [e)pagwnizomai] and it has the idea of expressing a kind of struggle, a fight, of dealing with opposition. Having said that, we suddenly realise that we may have another problem. That is, that there are a lot of people today who don't want to fight. They just want to be left alone: just leave me alone, let me live my spiritual life, but I don't want to be involved in anything that may be considered contentious or some kind of battle. One of the reasons is that because unfortunately we are not mature enough as a lot of believers to contend in an uncontentious manner. Jesus was involved in a lot of contentiousness as the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and Herodians opposed Him, but He did not react in a contentious manner. He contended without being contentious. He challenged them.


And as those who are in Christ, we are to carry out that same kind of role; we are to challenge the culture around us. We are not supposed to just let it go by. If we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ Jude is saying we have to make waves sometimes. We have to pick our battles; we can't fight every battle. But we have to be careful not to run from the battles because we just don't have time or we are not prepared. If we feel we are not prepared then we need to be in Bible class three times each week and listening to Bible teaching on the other days. That is how we become prepared; that is how we become equipped for the battle. The role of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, and part of the ministry is to contend earnestly for the faith. 


This verb is a present passive, but it is only passive in form but active in meaning. It is a present passive infinitive, it expresses a purpose. We are to contend for the faith. Jude is writing to them for the purpose challenging them to the goal or to the end result of contending earnestly for the faith. The word epagonizomai means to strive for something, to work against opposition. It would describe the work of an athlete who wants to sin at the games. In order to win at the games he has to train. In order to train he has to manage his time well. That means that he has to not do some things that that may be good things to do in order that they may not limit his training. Spiritually, this means something different. We are to contend earnestly, we are to fight, strive, exert ourselves for the faith.


The word translated the faith here is simply the Greek word pistis [pistij]. It doesn't have an article, which means it is emphasising the quality, the essence of faith, i.e. the Christian belief system. It is accurately translated into English as the faith because that is the idea that is presented in the Greek. The idea is that it is the faith that was once for all given to the saints indicates that there is a specific, finite body of knowledge/truth that is revealed or given to Christians. It is that set body of truth that doesn't change over time that we are to fight for. We are to fight to preserve it, fight to proclaim it, fight to thoroughly investigate it and study it. It is to be a concentrated and dedicated struggle that we are to be involved in.


There is something else about this that we learn. That is, this represents a specific kind of literature that is found in the ancient world as well as today. This approach is called paraenesis, a literary or rhetorical style of exhorting someone to a specific course of action. Within the meaning of exhortation the style is composed of two things. The first is encouragement, something positive, and the second is dissuasion, something negative. Going back to the athlete illustration, the dissuasion is getting rid of the excess weight and the encouragement is the positive exercise that is going to build strength and stamina. So in paraenesis literature there are two things going on. One is something positive: this is what you should believe, this is what you should do; and something negative: you don't want to believe this, you don't want to believe that, you don't want to do this, you don't want to do that. So it has the positive side of stating what should be done and why you should do it, but also the negative side of showing and explaining why the alternative is wrong or does not work.


We live in a world today where this is being challenged in a lot of ways. It is not socially acceptable to focus on the negative, it is seen as critical. But the classic way of teaching or instructing anybody on anything was to not only teach it to them in a positive sense but also to contrast that with either that which was wrong or wasn't quite right in order that by analysing the truth in contrast to the error someone develops a clear understanding of what they believe, why they believer it, and how to implement that into their life. So we learn by contrasting the wrong or the not quite right with that which is right.


But there is something that is inherent in all of what has been said that runs counter to everything in our contemporary culture today: using the terms right and wrong. Using the terms right and wrong imply some sort of external standard. Where do we get that standard? Today most people believe that the standard just comes from our culture or sub-culture. So can we say anything negative about them? Any kind of evaluation like this is perceived as being wrong today. We have a lot of young people today (40 and under) where this type of teaching is inherently wrong. Before they ever hear it they know it is wrong because: 'Oh, you are saying that what somebody believes and how somebody teaches something is wrong. You're just being judgmental and critical.' That is how they are approaching it.


This has happened here in this church. Somebody comes in and hear the teaching where the truth of Christianity or Scripture is juxtaposed to false views that are taught within Christianity, or false views that are taught in the world, and they say, 'Well, you are emphasising apologetics too much,' or 'you are being too critical of other people. I just want to know the positive; I don't want to know the negative.' That shows right away they are operating on a pagan view of knowledge, a pagan view of truth, and they have so inculcated and imbibed this from the culture that they don't even realise how pagan their thinking is. The very form of their thinking has been shaped by the culture in which they have grown and developed, and in which they have been educated. This is one of the things where they need to let the Word of God correct them on, slap you in the face and say, you're wrong. They are thinking wrong because that is not how they learned, that is not how anybody in the Bible teaches. They all teach by virtue of polemics which are taught all through the Old Testament. Polemics are when something is stated in a certain way that is in direct contrast to the popular view that would be in the culture surrounding them.


This is one of the things that we are facing today. The term is a worldview. The English translation comes out of a technical term in the German which has to do with how someone perceives or understands the world around them. Whenever we think in terms of understanding a worldview or how people perceive the world around them there are certain elements that are always going to be present. There is going to be a belief in an ultimate reality. That ultimate reality is a personal infinite God as we have in Christianity, or is that ultimate reality an impersonal force in the universe? So we either have a personal God or an impersonal god, there is no in between.


Divine revelation is based upon dependent use of logic and reason. That is, it is not anti-logic, anti-reason, like mysticism; it is based upon understanding God's Word using logic and reason as God shows us it should be used within the framework of Scripture.


What has happened today is, we are in this category where rationalism and empiricism were rejected. That was dominant viewpoint of what was always known historically as modernism. Modernism came out of the historic Enlightenment. In the Enlightenment there was an emphasis on what man can achieve through the use of reason and empiricism. But man could never really find answers, and so modernism was deemed a complete and total failure philosophically, and the only hope was mysticism. But we have a new brand of mysticism today because if I can't find truth how do I know if there is any truth? But everybody acts as if there is something true. They say this is right or wrong. Africans say something else is right or wrong, Japanese say something else is right or wrong. Maybe we are all right! Everybody is right so let's all get together and if there is no external objective absolute then everybody is right and nobody is wrong. This plays out in a lot of different ways, the silliest of which is that we don't want to have winners and losers in children's soccer games so we are going to give everybody the world cup. Of course, in the real world that is totally fallacious and it produces a generation of losers, which is what we have today—people who don't understand competition and think everything should be given them on a silver platter. This is a reaction to modernism, so it has been called post modernism.


Postmodernism comes along with something called multiculturalism. It started off as something that really wasn't that bad. It was the idea that we ought to understand the diversity in the world: that different cultures do things in different ways, and there should be a measure of respect for different cultures in what they believe. That is true. But in the light on the rejection of modernism what happened is a realisation that all of these different cultures have different truth claims, they all think this is right. One culture has their faith, another culture has their faith, and another culture has their faith. We can't really, since there is no external vantage point—we've thrown out the Bible so we can't judge anybody by external absolutes—we have to say everybody is right. Anybody who comes along withy a claim of exclusivity is just "dangerous." Anybody who believes in Christianity is automatically deemed a bad person because Christianity is considered to be exclusive, and exclusivity is "evil."


People have been drinking this toxic waste dump of a philosophy for so long that anybody who comes along and say this is right and that is wrong is inherently an enemy of society. If you talk about something being biblical what people hear is that this is going to oppress them. Because they deem freedom as being able to believe whatever they want to whenever they want to because nobody has an absolute to say one thing is right and one thing is wrong. So part of the mental baggage of this contemporary generation is the idea that inclusiveness is good but exclusiveness is bad. They view Christians as separatists to reject the cultural mainstream. In multiculturalism the cultural mainstream sets the standard. So contemporary society embraces this kind of diversity for diversity's sake as the ultimate standard. If we don't embrace that diversity and validate everybody and whatever they believe then we are anti-cultural, anti-society; we are just the enemy.


All of this influences the church. We have to understand this fundamentally when we start to contend for the faith. It is a battle for the mind. It starts between your ears. If you are going to contend for the faith the first battlefield is between your ears. This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 10:4 NASB "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. [5] {We are} destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and {we are} taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."


We have to understand what these thoughts are. The world says, 'If you are going to try to cast down arguments you are the enemy.' This is becoming more and more evident today. So the foundational objective for every Christian is to contend for the faith. Therefore we have to know what the faith is, and then we have to contend for it. And that immediately marks us as being counter-cultural and the enemy.