Jude wrote in verse 3 of his epistle, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude changed the subject of the epistle. False teachers, who are described beginning in verse 4, were creeping into the church and trying to persuade Christians to believe a false, compromising message rather than the true message of Christ. What initially was to be a treatise on the common salvation was changed to an encouragement to strive for the faith because of the threat of this false teaching. Preachers and teachers may have plans for what they will address, but because of more pressing needs may need to change their subject in order to protect the body of Christ.
Jude encouraged Christians to contend earnestly for the faith. We may strive about politics, how our business is conducted, how we spend our money, or any number of subjects, but one subject that ought to be at the forefront of our efforts is the faith. In Jude 3, “the faith” refers not to one’s personal conviction, but rather to the system of faith, the body of truth that is revealed in the New Testament: the Gospel. It is used this way in other verses such as, Acts 6:7, where “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith,” and Galatians 1:23, where Paul describes how some heard that he preached “the faith which once he destroyed.”
It is the Gospel that God uses to save people; the devil makes all sorts of attacks against the faith because of its saving power (Rom. 1:16). Many people seem to think Christianity is exclusively enjoying the blessings of being in Christ without having to struggle or strive for anything. While we ought to rejoice in our blessings as Christians (Phil. 4:4), we must also fervently fight for the faith because many would change the Gospel into a different message that cannot save (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 John 4:1). Jude 3 is a call to arms, not just to preachers or elders, but to every single Christian. While contending earnestly for the faith can be done in a public forum such as a debate, it certainly is not limited to such. Contending for the faith occurs when a Christian goes to the workplace and stands for God’s word amidst co-workers who are in misbelief or unbelief. It occurs when a Christian wife has an unbelieving husband but stands for biblical principles when he tries to go against them. When parents explain the scriptural reasons why they will not allow their children to act, dress, or attend an event that would identify them with the world rather than with Christ, that is contending for the faith.
The faith was “once delivered” to the saints. “Once” is not used in the sense of “once, twice, etc.,” but rather conclusively as some versions translate it “once for all” (NKJV). The word in the original translated “once” is the same word found in 1 Peter 3:18, where Christ “once suffered for sins,” indicating once for all time. Jesus will not and does not need to suffer the agony of the cross many times over; His death on the cross is a sufficient payment once for all time for all who will be saved (Heb. 5:9; 9:26). The Gospel was given once and for all to the first-century prophets and apostles (Eph. 3:5). It is the only saving message until the end (2 Thess. 1:8). Will you defend it?