APOSTASY AND CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH*
ARLEN L. CHITWOOD
[* These writings are from the author's book: "Jude/ Acts of the Apostates."]
The word "apostasy" is itself not used in the Epistle of Jude, but this word is taken from the Greek text of several corresponding Scriptures appearing elsewhere in the New Testament which refer to the latter-day departure from the faith as "the apostasy." Paul states in 2 Thess. 2: 3, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the Day of the Lord] shall not come except a falling away - ['the apostasy' (Greek)] - first ..." Paul, again in 1 Tim. 4: 1 states, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart - ['apostatise'] - from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons." The writer of Hebrews calls attention to the same thing in Heb. 3: 12: "Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing - ['apostatising'] - from the living God." In the preceding verses the words "falling away," "depart," and "departing" are translations of either the Greek noun apostasia or its verb aphistemi, referring to "apostasy."
English word "apostasy" is actually
a transliterated form of the Greek word apostasia,
a compound word formed from apo and
In the true sense of the word, no one can stand away from something with which he has never been associated. This can be illustrated by the use of the Greek word apostasion (neuter form of apostasia) in Matt. 5: 31; 19: 7; Mark 10: 4. In each instance the word is translated "divorcement." It is a person "standing away from" another person. There could be no "divorcement," "standing away from," unless there had previous been a marriage. In like manner, none could "stand away from" the faith (apostatise) unless he had previously been associated with the faith. [Regenerate] believers alone occupy a position of this nature from which they can "stand away." Unbelievers [i.e., the unregenerate] can never come into such a position, and, in the true sense of the word, are not associated with the latter-day apostasy in Scripture.
The "apostates" in Jude 4 are false teachers who are often erroneously thought of as unsaved individuals. The context in Jude (verse 5) and the corresponding section in 2 Peter (2: 1-3; cf. verses 19-21) both demonstrate conclusively that the unsaved are not in view at all.
context of Jude 4 has to do with individuals
who were saved out of the
After the Israelites repented at Kadesh-Barena, the nation failed to occupy the position it had previously held. The Lord was no longer among His people to lead them victoriously into the land; and when they tried to enter, the Amalekites and Canaanites "smote them" (Num. 14: 40-45). They cannot now move victoriously into the land and overcome the inhabitants. If they try, as in the type, they will be overcome. The only promise awaiting Christians who have apostatised in the antitype of Israel's Kadesh-Barnea experience* is the same promise which awaited Israel - an overthrow in the wilderness, on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of their calling.
[* That Kadesh-Barnea experience was a desire to return to Egypt, a rejection of divine truth concerning their inheritance in the Promised Land, and a determination to silence the two faithful witnesses by stoning them to death. Num. 14: 4-10.]
Christians are to earnestly strive with reference to the faith in view of attaining the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1: 9). The realisation of this salvation will follow the issues of the judgement seat of Christ and involves the placement of Christians in positions of power and authority as joint-heirs with Christ in His coming [millennial] Kingdom.* Thus, Christians earnestly striving with reference to the faith is with a view to occupying positions in the coming governmental administration following the time when "the kingdom of the world" has become "the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Rev. 11: 15, ASV).
[* Hence the apostle
Pauls determination to attain
(gain by effort) to
out from the dead, (Phil. 3: 11,
Lit. Greek); and his constant encouragement to all the redeemed to do
likewise: I endure
everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus,
with eternal (age-lasting) glory (2 Tim. 2: 10). See also Gal. 6: 8; 1 Tim. 6: 12; Titus 1: 2; 3: 7;
where the Greek word translated eternal,
should be age-lasting. All of these selected texts have to do with
running the present race of the faith in
view of one day realising an inheritance in the millennial
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
"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 3).
Following introductory remarks, Jude calls attention to the original intent of his epistle. Jude had originally set about to write on the "common salvation" - [i.e., eternal salvation by grace through faith, possessed commonly by all regenerate believers]; but the Holy Spirit prevented him from writing upon this subject and, instead, moved him to write something entirely different. The Holy Spirit moved Jude to write upon contending for the faith during a day of apostasy.
There are two indispensable keys which one must possess when studying the Epistle of Jude: (a) a correct understanding of "apostasy from the faith" as it relates to both individual Christians and to the Church as a whole, and (b) a correct understanding of exactly what is meant by the expression "earnestly contend for the faith." These things must be grasped at the very outset, else the main message of this epistle will be either distorted or lost to the reader.
Those who apostatise from the faith are Christians, not those of the world. It is not possible for an unsaved person to "stand away from" the faith, for he has never come into a position from which he can stand away. Only the saved have come into this position, and only the saved can enter into this latter-day apostasy.
The second indispensable key which one must possess to correctly understand the Epistle of Jude is the subject matter at hand in our present study - "earnestly contend for the faith," which in one sense of the word is the opposite of "apostasy from the faith." However, contrary to popular interpretation, this opposite meaning has nothing to do with being a protector or guardian of the great Christian doctrines. Something entirely different is in view, and this will constitute the subject matter of our present study.
STRIVING IN THE CONTEST
The words translated "earnestly contend" in Jude 3 are from the Greek word epagonizomai. This is an intensified form of the word agonizomai, from which we derive the English word "agonize." The word agonizomai is found in such passages as 1 Cor. 9: 25 ("striveth"), 1 Tim. 6: 12 ("fight"), and 2 Tim. 4: 7("fought"). This word refers particularly to a "struggle in a contest."
In 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 Paul pictured himself as a contestant in a race with a victor's crown to be won by successful completion of the race. He "agonised" as he ran the race. That is, he strained every muscle of his being as he sought to finish the race in a satisfactory manner and be awarded the proffered crown.
1 Tim. 6: 12 states, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called ..." This verse could be better translated, "Strive ['Agonize,' Agonizomai] in the good contest [agon] of the faith; lay hold on life for the age¹, whereunto thou art also called ..." Agon, translated "contest," is the noun form of the verb agonizomi, translated "strive." A contest/race is in view (same as 1 Cor. 9: 24-27), and it is a "contest of the faith." It is "striving" relative to the faith.
2 Tim. 4: 7 is a very similar verse. "I have fought a good fight ..." could be better translated, "I have strived ['agonized,' agonizomai] in the good contest [agon] ..." The "contest" here, as in 1 Tim. 6: 12, has to do with the faith. This verse, along with the following, goes on to state, "... I have finished my course [the contest/race], I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day ..." The contest or race here is the same race set forth in 1 Cor. ( 24-27), with one or more crowns in view at the end of the race. And successful completion of the race will result in the runner being crowned, anticipating the coming rule from the heavens over the earth as a joint-heir with Christ (called "life for the age" in 2 Tim. 6: 12).
With these things in mind concerning the use of the word agonizomai relative to "the faith," note the expression "earnestly contend for the faith" in Jude 3. In keeping with the other translations, the exact thought brought out by the word epagonizomai in Jude could perhaps be better understood by using the translation "earnestly strive." Once again a contest/race is in view, and the thought is really earnestly striving "with reference to the faith" rather than earnestly striving "for the faith." The wording of the Greek text will allow either translation, but related Scriptures are concerned with the basic thought from the former translation rather than the latter. Earnestly striving "with reference to the faith" in Jude carries the identical thought as striving "in the good contest of the faith" in Timothy. The intensified form of agonizomai (used only this one place in the New Testament) undoubtedly appears in Jude because of the immediate danger of the recipients of this message being caught up in the apostasy at hand.
JUDE AND 2 PETER
Understanding exactly what is involved in earnestly striving "with reference to the faith" in Jude is possibly best brought out in 2 Peter. 2 Peter is the companion epistle to Jude. Both epistles deal with the same subject matter throughout - "Faith," and "apostasy." "Faith" appears first in both epistles (Jude 3; 2 Peter ch. 1), followed by "apostasy" from the faith (Jude 4ff; 2 Peter chs. 2, 3).
2 Peter also occupies the same unique relationship to 1 Peter that Jude occupies relative to certain preceding epistles (Hebrews; James; 1 & 2 Peter; 1, 2, 3 John). 1 Peter deals specifically with the salvation of the soul, and 2 Peter deals with the "faith" (ch. 1) and "apostasy" (chs. 2, 3) in relation to this salvation. [i.e., 'the salvation of the soul.']. The same order is set forth in Jude and the seven preceding epistles. The seven epistles preceding Jude, as (and including) 1 Peter, also deal specifically with the salvation of the soul. Jude then forms the capstone for the entire subject, presenting, as 2 Peter, "faith" in relation to the salvation of the soul first (verse 3), and then "apostasy" in relation to the salvation of the soul (vv. 4ff).
Parallels in the sections on apostasy from the faith in both epistles (Jude 4ff; 2 Peter 2: 1ff) clearly illustrate the oneness of Peter's and Jude's messages. Numerous identical subjects, events, and places are recorded in the same order (cf. 2 Peter 2: 1-3 and Jude 4; 2 Peter 2: 4-9 and Jude 6, 7; 2 Peter 2: 10-14 and Jude 8-10; 2 Peter 2: 15, 16 and Jude 11; 2 Peter 2: 17, 18 and Jude 12, 13, 16; 2 Peter 3: 1-13 and Jude 17-19). "Apostasy" in both instances is from the same "faith"; and since Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of Scripture, a proper study on either "faith" or "apostasy" in one epistle would necessitate a study of the same subject matter in the other epistle. The best available commentary on Jude is 2 Peter, along with other related Scripture; and the best available commentary on 2 Peter is Jude, along with other related Scripture.
Our main interest at hand is the parallel sections on "faith" in the two epistles. Where Jude devotes one verse to earnestly striving with reference to the faith (verse 3), Peter devotes the greater part of an entire chapter to maturity in the faith (chapter 1). And this chapter, in the light of Jude and other related Scripture, is actually a dissertation on earnestly striving "with reference to the faith," which will result in one engaged in this "contest of the faith" (if he runs according to the rules) "receiving the end ['goal'] of your [his] faith, even the salvation of his souls" (1 Peter 1: 9). Thus, in order to properly understand Jude 3, the remainder of this study will be drawn from 2 Peter, chapter one.
MATURITY IN THE FAITH
Peter directs his second epistle to "them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour [lit.'our God and Saviour'] Jesus Christ"(verse 1). This is a "faith" possessed by all Christians. We are all accorded the same measure of "faith" at the time of the birth from above. Every Christian begins at the same point with the same "like precious faith." Then, in verses five through seven Christians are to "add to [lit.'abundantly supply in'] this faith "virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; And to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness charity." Peter then states that "if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge [epignosis, 'mature knowledge'] of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Greek word epignosis, referring to a "mature knowledge," occurs three times in 2 Peter, chapter one (vv. 2, 3, 8). In verse two "grace and peace" are multiplied through a mature knowledge "of God, and of Jesus our Lord [lit. 'of God, even Jesus our Lord' (cf. verse 1)]." In verse three Christians are given "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" through the mature knowledge "of him that hath called us to glory and virtue"; and in verses five through eight, abundantly supplying the things listed (with "faith" as the foundation), will result (if these things "abound" in the person) in "fruitbearing" within one's mature knowledge "of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Colossians 2: 2, 3, is a corresponding passage concerning a mature knowledge "of Jesus our Lord" which deals with the same basic truths as 2 Peter 1: 2, 3, 8. In the Colossian passage the "mystery of God" is revealed to be Christ, and in Him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The words appearing between "God" and "Christ" (v. 2) in the Authorized Version are not found in the best Greek manuscripts, and the latter part of this verse should literally read: "... .unto a mature knowledge [epignosis] of the mystery of God, Christ." The name "Christ" is placed in apposition to the word "mystery" in the Greek text, making Christ to be "the mystery of God." The things in this mystery were unrevealed in prior ages; but now, through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, the previously hidden truths concerning Christ are being made known to the saints. Man today has the complete revelation of God, and as this revelation is received into man's saved human spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals things (previously hidden) concerning the Son (cf. John 16: 13-15; 1Cor. 2: 6-13; Gen. 24: 4, 10, 36, 53).
Epignosis has to do with the "strong meat" of the Word, which is associated in Heb. 5: 6-14 with Christ and His Melchizedek priesthood. Those who have been enlightened in these truths - have been allowed by God to move from gnosis to epignosis - and then "fall away" are the ones who become entangled again in the affairs of the world (Heb. 6: 1-6). The fact that such persons cannot be renewed again unto repentance (verses 4, 6) will answer the question concerning why it would have been better for such individuals not to have known "the way of righteousness" (2 Peter 2: 21) through coming into possession of epignosis (verse 20).
CALLING AND ELECTION
Individuals are to give diligence to make their "calling and election sure." The word "election" could be better translated "called out." The words translated "calling" and "election" in this verse are from the same root forms as the words translated "called" and "chosen" in Matt. 22: 14, which should literally be translated, "For many are called, but few are called out." An individual's calling has to do with the [eternal] salvation which he presently possesses, and an individual's out-calling has to do with the salvation which he will possess in the future (the salvation of the soul).
The word "diligence" in this verse is from the same word also translated "diligence" in verse five. With the same intensity that a person is to abundantly supply in his faith virtue ... he is to make his calling and out-calling "sure." The word sure is the translation of a word which means "certain," "firm," "secure." A Christian is to know just as much about one calling as the other.
The entire concept widely promulgated in Christian circles today that the one really important thing is just to be saved (called), with all other things relegated to some type sub-importance, emanates from the apostates and those who follow their pernicious teachings (cf. 2 Peter 2: 1-3). Scripture places one's out-calling on the same level of importance as one's calling, or visa versa. One has to do with the work of an evangelist, and the other has to do with the work of a pastor-teacher.
ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM (v. 11)
The word "entrance" is the translation of a word which means a road into. The route has been properly marked in the preceding verses, and one can not only follow this route, but he is exhorted to do so. He is exhorted, following his calling, to make his out-calling "sure."
Peter did not follow "cunningly devised fables" when he made known "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." He was an "eyewitness of his majesty." He saw the Son's glory when he was with Christ "in the holy mount," and penned the epistles of 1, 2 Peter as he was "moved ['borne along'] by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1: 16-21). Peter not only saw the recorded things having to do with the coming [millennial] kingdom, but he also left detailed instructions concerning how Christians can have part in this kingdom.
When will Christians learn that they have been saved for a purpose? and when will they learn that this purpose has to do with the coming kingdom? Positions as joint-heirs with Christ in the governmental structure of the kingdom are presently being offered, and crowns must be won by conquest. The arch-enemy of our souls is at work in the closing days of this age as never before; but the route for an "abundant entrance" into the kingdom has been properly marked, and the promise of God stands sure: "To him that overcometh ..." (Rev. 2: 7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3: 5, 12, 21).
"Earnestly strive for [with reference to, in the good contest of] the faith ..."*
1. The Greek word "aionios," translated "eternal," can also be translated "age-lasting." It is used both ways in the New Testament, and textual considerations must always be taken into account when properly translating and understanding aionios. (See Gal. 6: 8; 1Tim. 6: 12; Heb. 5: 9). These Scriptures leave no room to question how aionios should be understood and translated: life during the coming age, occupying a position as co-heir with Christ in that coming day.
* The shepherds in Christendom, the ones who are supposed
to keep the great truths surrounding Christ's return ever before the people of
God, have become engaged in other activities; and they have led
their flocks into these other activities. The end result,
foretold thirty-five hundred years ago during the days of Moses, has been
apostasy. The mockers are present, and the great
Christians are to be engaged in the Lord's business, awaiting His return. However, Christians, as the Israelites, have taken their eyes off this command. They have grown weary, ceased to be engaged in the Lord's business, and ceased to await His return. They, as the Israelites, have become involved in other things, namely idolatry.
The "molten calf," formed by Aaron during Moses' stay in the Mount, was an
idol apparently derived from the Israelites' former association with
Those Christians who are wavering, doubting, or even being contentious concerning the responsibility truths and conditional promises of God in His word, are to receive mercy at the hands of Christians who understand and believe these truths, not a contentious, doubting, or wavering spirit in return. Such responses will only serve to further alienate them. Mercy is the quality which must be exhibited, when seeking to encourage them "to press on toward the goal to win the prize" (Phil. 3: 14).