CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
By. A. L. CHITWOOD.
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 in verses one and two, Jude calls attention to the original intent of his epistle. Jude had originally set about to write an epistle dealing with the common salvation [i.e., 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 upon 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 in this epistle will be either distorted or lost to the reader.
Apostasy from the faith, the first indispensable key, was the main subject under discussion throughout the introduction to this book; and this introductory material should prove sufficient to provide a base upon which one can build as he moves on into the Epistle of Jude and views the various forms which apostasy can take. Those who apostatize 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 relative to the faith from which he can stand away. Only individuals from among the saved can possibly come into this position, and only these same individuals can enter into this latter-day apostasy in the true sense of the word.
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 (e.g., divinity and virgin birth of Christ, salvation through a vicarious death and the shedding of blood, etc.). Rather, something entirely different is in view, and this will constitute the subject matter of this chapter.
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 I Cor. 9:25 (striveth), I Tim. 6:12 (fight), and II Tim. 4:7 (fought). This word refers particularly to a struggle in a contest.
In I Cor. 9:24-27, Paul pictured himself as a contestant in a race, with a victors crown to be won through a successful completion of the race. And he pictured himself running the race in the most intense manner possible, using the word agonizomai to describe his actions as he ran. Paul strained every muscle of his being as he sought to finish the race in a satisfactory manner and be awarded the proffered crown.
And Paul sought to encourage others to run after the same fashion, keeping the same goal in view. I 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 [ Gk. Agonizomai, the word from which the English word 'agonize ' is derived] in the good contest [agon] of the faith; lay hold on life for the age, whereunto thou art also called..." Agon, translated contest, is the noun form of the verb agonizomai, translated strive. A contest/race is in view (same as I Cor. 9:24-27), and it is a contest [race] of the faith. It is striving relative to the faith.
II Tim. 4:7 is a very similar verse. I have fought a good fight... could be better translated, I have strived [agonizomai] in the good contest [agon]... The contest here, as in I Tim. 6:12, has to do with the faith. And the goal set forth in both sections of Scripture is the same: ...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... (II Tim. 4:7b, 8; cf. I Tim. 6:12, 15, 18).
The contest or race here is the same race set forth in I Cor. 9:24-27, 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 I Tim. 6:12).
With these things in mind concerning the use of the word agonizomai in connection with 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 (an intensified form of agonizomai, as seen in I Tim. 6:12; II Tim. 4:7), 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 in 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 I Timothy. The intensified form of agonizomai (used only this one place in the New Testament) undoubtedly appears in Jude because of the subject of the epistle (apostasy) and the immediate danger of the recipients of this message being caught up in the apostasy at hand.
Jude and II Peter
Understanding exactly what is involved in earnestly striving with reference to the faith in Jude is possibly best brought out in II Peter. II 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; II Peter ch. 1), followed by apostasy from the faith (Jude 4ff; II Peter chs. 2, 3).
II Peter also occupies the same unique relationship to I Peter that Jude occupies relative to all the preceding epistles -- Pauline and General. I Peter deals specifically with the salvation of the soul, and II Peter deals with faith (ch. 1) and apostasy (chs. 2, 3) in relation to this [future] salvation. The same order is set forth in Jude and the epistles which precede. The epistles preceding Jude, as (and including) I Peter, also deal specifically with the salvation of the soul. Jude then forms the capstone for the entire subject, presenting, as II Peter, faith in relation to the salvation of the soul first (v. 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 (II Peter 2:1ff; Jude 4ff) clearly illustrate the oneness of Peters and Judes messages. Numerous identical subjects, events, and places are recorded in the same order (cf. II Peter 2:1-3 and Jude 4; II Peter 2:4-9 and Jude 6, 7; II Peter 2:10-14 and Jude 8-10; II Peter 2:15, 16 and Jude 11; II Peter 2:17, 18 and Jude 12, 13, 16; II 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 II Peter, along with other related Scripture; and the best available commentary on II 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 (v. 3), Peter devotes the greater part of an entire chapter to maturity in the faith (ch. 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 the one engaged in this contest of the faith (if he runs according to the rules) receiving the end [goal] of his faith, even the salvation of his soul (I Peter 1:9). Thus, in order to properly understand Jude 3, the remainder of this chapter will be drawn from II Peter, chapter one.
(Note that II Peter chapter one is Scriptures own commentary on Jude 3. And this commentary is perfectly in line with that which is stated about the faith at any other point in Scripture.)
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 (v. 1). This is a faith possessed by all Christians. We were 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 told:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to [lit. abundantly supply in] your faith virtue; and to [in] virtue knowledge;
And to [in] knowledge temperance; and to [in] temperance patience; and to [in] patience godliness;
And to [in] godliness brotherly kindness; and to [in] brotherly kindness charity.
Peter then states in verse eight,
For 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 II 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. v. 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 in fruit-bearing (if these things abound in the person) within ones 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 II 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 un-revealed 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 mans saved human spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals things (previously hidden) concerning the Son (John 16:13-15; I Cor. 2:6-13; cf. Gen. 24:4, 10, 36, 53).
In Col. 2: 2, 3, it is only the person coming into a mature knowledge of the mystery of God who will see the great storehouse of treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. In like manner, only the person coming into a mature knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord in II Peter 1:2, 3, 8, contained in the mystery of God in Col. 2: 2, will realize an increase of grace and peace (cf. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied [Jude 2]), or come into possession of the numerous other things mentioned in this chapter.
In II Peter 1:3, 4, a mature knowledge of Gods Son will result in the realization of two things:
a) Possessing all things that pertain unto life and godliness: Life (Gk. Zoe) is used referring to life in its absolute fullness, which a Christian is to exhibit during his present pilgrim walk; and godliness refers to piety or reverence, which is to be exhibited at the same time. A godly walk in the fullness of life is appropriating that which God has for man (revealed in His Word) and, at the same time, walking in a Godlike manner.
b) Possessing great and precious promises: Through these great and precious promises (revealed in Gods Word) individuals become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world [by means of epignosis; cf. II Peter 1:2, 3; 2:20]. The divine nature has been planted within the inner being of every Christian; but it, as faith, can be either dormant or very active. To assure that the divine nature, along with faith, does not lie dormant, a Christian must lay aside the things having to do with corruption in the world and receive the Word of God into his saved human spirit (James 1:21; I Peter 2:1, 2). It is the reception of this Word and the corresponding work of the Holy Spirit alone which bring individuals into that position where spiritual growth is wrought, partaking of the divine nature is effected, and victory over the things of the world, the flesh, and the Devil come to pass.
The great problem among Christians today is spiritual immaturity, which often results in fleshly or worldly living and resultant defeat in ones spiritual life. There is no increase of grace, mercy, peace, and love. Such Christians, not in possession of a mature knowledge (epignosis), cannot be in possession of the things pertaining to life and godliness; and they can know very little to nothing of the great and precious promises, or being partakers of the divine nature. They, thus, can be easily carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:14).
Fruit-Bearing for the Kingdom
In II Peter 1:5-11, fruit-bearing is in view; and fruit-bearing is associated with things abundantly supplied in faith (vv. 5-7), a mature knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 8, 9), ones calling and election (v. 10), and entrance into the coming kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (v. 11).
1) Things Abundantly Supplied in Faith (vv. 5-7)
Every Christian is in possession of faith, obtained through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. This faith can be very active, or it can be weak, anaemic, or even dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). But faith, even though looked upon as anaemic or dead, is still present with the believer; and it can never pass away (I Cor. 13:13).
The word dead appearing in James 2:17, 20, 26 (KJV), in connection with faith, can only refer to a barren or fruitless faith. This type faith is void of works, and works are necessary to bring forth fruit and bring faith to its goal.
In a number of the older Greek manuscripts the word for barren appears in the text of verse twenty rather than the word for dead, equating barren in this verse with dead in verses seventeen and twenty-six. However, one need not belabor whether or not the word for barren in these older manuscripts is the correct rendering of the text, for II Peter 1:5-8 teaches the same thing concerning a barren faith.
II Peter 1:5 should literally read: But also for this cause, giving all diligence, abundantly supply in your faith... Because of that which has preceded (outlined in verses one through four) -- things resulting from a mature knowledge (epignosis) of God, even Jesus our Lord -- the Christian is commanded to follow a certain stepped course of action. And this course of action will result in fruit-bearing, within ones mature knowledge (epignosis) of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8). And this will, in turn, ultimately result in an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (v. 11).
a) Add to [Abundantly supply in] your faith virtue (v. 5): The words Add to should literally be understood as Abundantly supply in throughout verses five through seven. The Greek word translated virtue is arete (same as v. 3), which could be understood as either virtue or moral excellence. And when used relative to God, the word has to do with His power. The thought contextually would have to do with Christians exercising moral excellence under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Thus, with Christians conducting their lives in this manner, Divine power through the Spirits leadership would be in view through the use of the word.
b) And to [in] virtue knowledge (v. 5): Knowledge is the translation of gnosis (the regular Greek word for knowledge) rather than epignosis (mature knowledge) as used in verses two, three, and eight. Gnosis refers to the accumulation of facts, which may result in epignosis, but not necessarily. Epignosis is more restricted in its usage, having to do with knowledge pertaining more particularly to things relating to the coming kingdom (ref. Part 2 following this section, A Mature Knowledge).
c) And to [in] knowledge temperance (v. 6): The Greek word translated temperance is egkrateia, which means self-control, mastery over oneself. This is a compound word from en and kratos (en means in, and kratos means power). The reference is to passions and desires emanating from the man of flesh being held in check. And this is accomplished through allowing the [Holy] Spirit to govern and control ones life, which goes back to the Divine power previously seen through the word arete in verse five.
d) And to [in] temperance patience (v. 6): The Greek word translated patience is hupomone, which has to do with patient endurance under trials and testings during the pilgrim walk. This is a compound word from hupo and mone (hupo means under, and mone means stay, or remain). Thus, the word literally means, remain under; and the compound word is possibly best understood by the translation, patient endurance.
Note how the verb form of this word (hupomeno) is used in James 1:12: Blessed is the man that endureth [patiently endureth] temptation: for when he is tried [approved], he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Note also the use of hupomeno in II Tim. 2:10, 12 (translated endure and suffer respectively). Both should properly be translated patiently endure.
e) And to [in] patience godliness (v. 6): The Greek word translated godliness is eusebeia. The word is derived from eu and sebomai (eu means good, and sebomai means to worship or to reverence). Thus, eusebeia has to do with Christians exercising piety, or godliness as they patiently endure the trials and testings of life during their pilgrim walk. The thought is simply a continued building upon that which had been previously stated in the book.
f) And to [in] godliness brotherly kindness (v. 7): The words brotherly kindness are a translation of the compound Greek word philadelphia, comprised of phileo (love, affection) and adelphos (brother). The word should be translated brotherly love or brotherly affection.
g) And to [in] brotherly kindness charity (v. 7): The Greek word translated charity is agape, which, as phileo, means love. However, agape moves beyond mere affection, or the type love between Christians set forth by the word phileo. Agape has to do with Divine love, which God is in His character and nature. God is love, i.e., God is agape (I John 4:8). This is also the same word used relative to man in the context of this verse in I John. Love set forth by the word agape is the highest type love attainable. This is love produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of a faithful believer. Agape appears after all the other things mentioned in II Peter 1:5-7. It must be supplied last, for it is placed at the height of Christian experience, and nothing can be added therein (cf. I Cor. 13:1ff; agape is used throughout this chapter).
2) A Mature Knowledge (vv. 8, 9)
Epignosis in Scripture has a peculiar relationship to the salvation to be revealed, the salvation of the soul. This word appears in passages which have to do with the saints possessing a mature knowledge in things related to the coming kingdom. The list is by no means complete, but throughout the New Testament epignosis is associated with a mature knowledge of God, of Gods Son [the mystery of God, Christ], Gods will, truths pertaining to faith, life, and godliness, the coming judgment of the saints, the blessed hope, and the coming inheritance of the saints (Rom. 1:28; Eph. 1:17, 18; 4:13; Col. 1:9-12; 2:2; 3:10; I Tim. 2:4; II Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1, 2; 2:13; 3:7; Heb. 10:25-31; II Peter 1:1-8; 2:20, 21).
Epignosis, having to do with an impartation of things pertaining to life and godliness, allows Christians to escape the pollutions of the world (II Peter 1:3, 4; 2:20). Rejection of epignosis, on the other hand, places Christians in the dangerous position of being easily entangled in the things which epignosis allows them to escape (Rom. 1:28; II Peter 2:20-22).
All filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness must be set aside prior to receiving the engrafted [implanted] word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21); and the reception of this Word progressively produces the renewing of your mind in knowledge [epignosis] after the image of him that created him, working the metamorphosis in ones life (Rom. 12:1, 2; Col. 3:10), allowing that person to escape the entanglements of the world.
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 (vv. 4, 6) will answer the question concerning why it would have been better for such individuals not to have known the way of righteousness (II Peter 2:21) through coming into possession of epignosis (v. 20).
Hebrews chapters five and six must
be understood in the light of chapters three
and four, which contain the record of the
Israelites being allowed to go on into things beyond the death of the firstborn
A mount in Scripture signifies a kingdom. This is where the Israelites received the Law (the rules and regulations governing the people within the theocracy which lay ahead), and this is where they both received the instructions for and built the tabernacle (the dwelling place of God among His people within the theocracy). They were then allowed to go up to the very border of the Promised Land itself, hear the report about the land from the twelve spies, and taste the actual fruits of the land which the spies had carried back with them.
In this respect, the Israelites were allowed to move from gnosis to epignosis; but they turned away (fell away), and it was then impossible to renew them again unto repentance (Num. 13, 14). They were overthrown in the wilderness. It would have been better for the ones who were overthrown (the entire accountable generation, twenty years old and above, save Caleb and Joshua) not to have known these things about the land (equivalent in the antitype to, it had been better ... not to have known the way of righteousness for Christians in II Peter 2:21), than after they knew these things, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them (Num. 13:30; Deut. 1:21ff; cf. Joshua 1:1, 2). It was so with the Israelites in the type, and thus will it be for Christians in the antitype.
3) Calling and Election (v. 10)
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 individuals calling and
out-calling have to do with
the same thing. His calling
cant have to do with the Christians presently possessed [eternal] salvation,
for he cant make that anymore sure than it
already exists. Salvation by grace through faith has already been made sure, based on Christs finished work at
An individual has been saved for a purpose; and that purpose would equate to his calling, as realizing that purpose would equate to his out-calling. Both have to do with a salvation set in the future, the salvation of the soul; and both have to do with Christians one day being called out of the called and realizing positions as co-heirs with Christ in His [millennial] kingdom.)
The word diligence in verse ten 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. And to make his calling and out-calling sure, a Christian would have to be knowledgeable concerning that which is in view (note epignosis, mature knowledge, in v. 8).
There can be no such thing as following Biblical guidelines surrounding the purpose for ones salvation and, at the same time, ignoring ones calling and out-calling. The entire concept widely promulgated in Christian circles today that the one really important thing is just to be saved has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. Scripture places the emphasis on the purpose for ones [initial] salvation. It is man who has turned this around and placed the emphasis back on salvation itself.
The entire purpose for the present dispensation is to procure a bride for God's Son, with a view to the coming age when the Son will reign over the earth with His consort queen (procured during the present dispensation). God has set aside an entire dispensation lasting 2,000 years for this purpose. He sent His Spirit into the world at the beginning of the dispensation with specific instructions (seen in the type in Gen. 24:3-9). And the work of the [Holy] Spirit throughout the dispensation, though it includes breathing life into the one who has no life (salvation of the unsaved), is primarily concerned with procuring a bride for Gods Son. And the bride is to be taken [out] from the saved, not from the unsaved (seen in the type in Gen. 24 through the specific instructions which Abraham gave his servant and that which the servant did once he was in Mesopotamia -- went to the city where Abrahams kindred resided, and went to Abrahams kindred in that city [vv. 3-27]).
The whole of the matter surrounding the reason for the Spirit being sent into the world at the beginning of this dispensation has to do with ones calling and out-calling. And Christians are to be knowledgeable concerning Gods plans and purposes for the present dispensation, making their calling and out-calling sure.
4) 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 so do. The Christian, through this means, can make his calling and 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 Sons glory when he was with Christ in the holy mount, and he penned the Epistles of I, II Peter as he was moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:16-21). Peter not only saw and recorded things having to do with the coming kingdom, but he also left detailed instructions concerning that which Christians must do to have a 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 dispensation 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).
And the command given through Jude, in order that one might one day realize this promise, is clear:
Earnestly strive for [with reference to, in the good contest of] the faith...