Throwback Friday (I know, not a thing, but that’s what today’s gonna be).
I’m hovering over the brief letter written by Jude and thinking about how I would just as soon chew on the good tasting stuff of verses 24 and 25–the glory of being presented blameless in His presence–and just breeze over the bitter taste of the rest of the letter. In fact, that’s what Jude wanted to do as well, as he was “eager to write to you about our common salvation.” Instead, his emphasis is on the need to contend for the faith. Why? “Well,” to quote another famous theologian, “ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City” (Professor Harold Hill, The Music Man).
And I’m thinking that, in the church’s battle to free grace from the bonds of legalism, we may have taken our eye off of grace’s other enemy, licentiousness. Don’t really even use that word much anymore. So I went back in my journal to see what thoughts I might have captured in previous years about this little letter. And something I wrote back in 2014 caused me to whisper, “Amen,” as it reflected many of the thoughts going through my head this morning. Re-running it for others to consider, as well. Happy Throwback Friday.
Although he was eager to talk to them of their common salvation, he instead appeals to them to contend for the faith. While he wanted to get lost in the grandeur of deliverance, he instead felt he needed to be real about the great danger of destruction. Though he initially intended to talk to them of the steadfast love of God, he instead warns them of the condemnation that awaits those who pervert grace.
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. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
(Jude 3-4 ESV)
They had entered the assembly of the saints in secret. Stealthily they had settled in alongside those who had been “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (v.1). Jude piles on the metaphors concerning these infiltrators. They were “hidden reefs at your love feasts” . . . shepherds who feed themselves . . . waterless clouds . . . fruitless trees . . . substance-less, foaming waves of the sea . . . wandering stars (vv.12-13). Driven by their flesh-invoked, and perhaps satanically inspired, dreams, they “defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme glorious ones” . . . blaspheming “all that they do not understand” (v. 8, 10). They were, and are, quite simply, bad news for the people of the good book.
And, they have “crept in unnoticed.” Therefore, writes Jude, contend for the faith.
In our day, I sometimes fear that we have reacted so strongly to the legalism of past generations that, as part of preaching “by grace alone,” we have failed to recognize the need to still contend for the faith among those calling themselves people of God. That while we are careful to not rely on the flesh at all, we fail to see the need to still bring the flesh under submission. That while our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, it is possible to pervert, or transpose grace such that, rather than make us free FROM SIN, it is used as an excuse TO SIN. That our liberty is swallowed up in license. And so, says Jude, we need to enter the fray and agonizingly struggle for the truth of the faith delivered to us.
We need to be people of the Book. We need to be people who are careful not to quench the illuminating work of the Spirit. We need to be people ready to call sin for what it is . . . sin! And, we need to be people who are ready to engage error and wrestle it to the mat . . . especially when it’s error from the inside.
But we are not people who do this on our own. For just as it was Jesus who delivered a people out of the land of Egypt (v.5a), it is Jesus who is able “to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (v. 24a). As we build ourselves up in our most holy faith . . . as we pray in the Holy Spirit . . . as we keep ourselves in the love of God . . . as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (vv. 20-21) . . . then will we be able, by grace, to contend for grace. Then will we, with power, be able to defend that which is true.
And then, with eagerness, we can bask in the wonder of our common salvation.
By His grace . . . for His glory.