The Book of Jude may be the most overlooked book of the New Testament. With only one chapter it falls into the group with Philemon, 2 and 3 John. But all three of the others are quite personal, written to an individual Christian. But Jude was written either to a local church or to a small group of local churches with whom he was familiar. Most likely Jude is the half brother of Jesus but he didn’t call attention to that fact. Instead he identified himself as “A bondslave of Jesus” and “A brother of James.” He made no effort to claim a privilege since he was brought up in the same family with Jesus. Perhaps part of the reason Jude made no mention of such was that during those early days in the home, he didn’t believe in Jesus as the messiah, but saw him as an impostor (John 7:1-7). It was probably after the resurrection of Jesus that Jude saw the Lord in His new body and became, not just a follower, but a slave to Jesus.
Jude was never a well known servant of God. But James his brother was well known as an elder of the church in Jerusalem. Even though this church was huge and had some of the apostles as members, James seems to have been the face of the church and its chief leader. Besides that James had already written a New Testament book bearing his name. So, Jude can’t bring himself to claim human ties with Jesus, but can only see himself as a slave, but he can claim family ties with James. Jude likely served as the evangelist for a local church and it is most likely that his short letter was written to the very group with whom he had spent some years working as their preacher. I would guess that either he has gotten older and isn’t able to continue the work or he has moved on to another place to work for God. Either way he loves the church wherever it was and longs for what is best for them.
Jude desired to write a letter to these Christians who were kept by God, loved by Him and called by Him to serve in His kingdom. His plan was to write about the salvation they all shared. I wonder if he hadn’t already started this letter and may have been some ways along the road to completing it when the news reached him of what was happening in the church. False teachers had come into the church, secretly pushing strange notions about Jesus and the gospel. They had seemed like such good members, ready workers and capable teachers. But it was becoming obvious, at least to Jude that their motives weren’t pure and the mission wasn’t holy. Jude felt an urgency to write a different kind of letter than he had always planned to write. He needed to plead with the church to “Agonize, argue and plead for the faith once for all time delivered to the saints.
In every period people are ready to argue for their faith. When we see people changing things from what we have strongly believed to be right, we are ready to fight to the death for our faith. But that isn’t Jude’s plea. Our faith has to do with personal beliefs and ideas that may or may not be right. Our faith has to do with what seems comfortable and right to us. “The faith” is the standard message of God that produces faith in those who hear. Paul said he now preached the faith he once tried to destroy to the Galatians. He told the Romans that “Whoever called on the name of the Lord would be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed and how can they believe on him in whom they have not heard and how can they hear without a preacher. And how can they preach unless they are sent. As it is written how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of great joy.” Then in verse 17 of Romans 10 he said, “For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
The faith is the message of God that produces faith in a person’s life. Our faith may change but the faith remains unchangeable. Our faith often has to do with expedient ways of doing what God tells us to do. Our faith fits the time and situation we are in. But the faith is the core message of God’s word. This message has been once for all time delivered to the saints or God’s people. The faith has in it those things that are bound by God and those things that are loosed by Him and left to our digression.
Two major dangers are always there with regard to the church and the faith. One is that we will do like the false teachers of whom Jude wrote and turn the grace of God into a licence to do as we please. The other is that we will follow the false teachers referred to in Galatians who turned from the grace of God to law, making regulations about all kinds of things that God meant to be matters of liberty. When we fall into either one of these traps it leads us away from God’s word and from His will for our lives.
The plea for us to “Contend earnestly for the faith” is a powerful plea. Standing for the word of God in every generation has been a challenge. All too often people think they are contending for the faith when they are simply arguing for the way they have always seen a thing done. Every command of God authorizes those things that are expedient in carrying out the command. But it is only the command that is part of the faith and the expedient way to obey it may be extremely different in one generation from another.
It would be worth our time for each of us to make a list of things we recognize as “The faith” and another list of things that we realize are part of our faith or things that are expedient ways of carrying out God’s commands in our generation. If different ones made such a list and compared them with others it would likely amaze us to find that many things on our “The faith” list are on other’s “Our faith” list. It is a good place to begin “Putting all things to the test and hold on to what is good.”