“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3 ESV)
Urgency is an interesting phenomenon. It can greatly benefit us by pulling us out of the mire of procrastination and indifference. It can direct our focus to the prize when we might otherwise be distracted. There are cases, however, when urgency prevents or delays us from doing or saying what we would prefer in order to properly triage our responsibilities.
The opening verses of Jude’s epistle exhibit such a case. Jude is compelled, by the circumstances of his readers, to write a different type of letter than he had planned and desired. He was “eager” to write a letter expounding on the glories of a “common salvation,” which presumably would have been much more uplifting. As a shepherd of God’s people, Jude’s desire was to enjoy peaceful and joyful fellowship with his sheep, but the urgent danger of wolves called for him to come to their immediate defense.
Jude displays discerning leadership by “keeping watch” (Hebrews 13:17) over the souls of his readers and setting aside the letter he would prefer to write for the letter he needed to write.
The urgent matter he needed to confront was the entrance of false teachers into the church and the heresies they brought with them. As a result, Jude is issuing a call to arms to “contend for the faith” against the errors that have crept in. This contending is a proactive and often costly defense of the precious faith the church has received, and there is no time to waste when souls are at stake.
The heresies that Jude was confronting were primarily perversion of the gospel, sensuality, and rejection of authority (v. 4, 8). Though the church is always battling issues of the present age, these three errors are never absent from her host of assailants.
Chief among these errors is always the perversion of the gospel. The devil goes to great lengths to subvert the simplicity and profundity of the gospel because he knows that is the source of life for the church. If he is able to dam up the river of the gospel, any remaining streams of orthodoxy will quickly dry up. There is no greater jewel than the Christian faith and no treasure which the devil more ardently tries to conceal and pervert than the gospel. This is at the heart of Jude’s urgency. He is zealous to preserve the purity of the church by preserving the purity of the gospel.
As goers and senders in missions, this should always be at the forefront of our minds. We must never stake the flag of our identity on anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. No measure of proper methodology or missiology, and no measure of growth in the number of missionaries sent or churches planted, is of any consequence if we allow the gospel to fall by the wayside. It would be immeasurably better to preach the true gospel to a single person than to preach a perverted gospel to millions. The gospel that was “once for all delivered to the saints” must never be left to the wolves.
In our contemporary context, this perversion of the gospel often shows itself through calls for politeness. It seems that there is no greater evil in the 21st century than to cause offense. It does not matter what you say or what you believe as long as it does not offend anyone. The fundamental error in this way of thinking, however, is that humans under the depravity of original sin are always offended when confronted with their sin. If we cannot say anything offensive, we cannot talk about sin. If we cannot talk about sin, we cannot preach the gospel. The world’s command to “be nice” is in direct opposition to the Lord’s command to “preach Christ.”
There is no time to play the devil’s games. We should certainly not add offense to the gospel by the way we present it, but to not cause offense is to not preach Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). In an age when causing offense is viewed as the supreme evil, contending for the faith is of supreme importance.
Whether we go, send, or support the work of missions, may the Lord find us faithful to prize and protect the purity of the gospel above all else. Wolves will inevitably creep in and attack, so let us keep watch lest we fall prey to the heresies they bring.
You have entrusted us with the good news of Christ for which this dying world is sorely thirsting. May we be faithful stewards of your gospel as we take it to the ends of the earth, and may no gospel ever leave our lips except that true and pure gospel of your Son.
In his name, amen.
- Pray that gospel we preach would be pure and undefiled.
- Pray for the elders of your church by name, that they would be able to discern and refute any errors by which your church is confronted.
- Pray for the work of Open Initiative as missionaries and national partners seek to bring this gospel to the unreached.