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)
Jude addresses his audience as the “beloved,” both of God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit, and of Jude. Jude expresses his eagerness to write to the beloved regarding a “common salvation.” Jude’s letter is to the saved. And yet, Jude cannot bring himself to celebrate the benefits and glories of the common salvation of the beloved. Instead, the beloved are urged to “contend for the faith.” Contend! A letter initially intended to encourage believers regarding their common salvation with the author becomes an urgent plea to fight for the faith.
The faith in question is not an individual or corporate faith in any subjective sense. The sense in which Jude uses “faith” regards objective content of the Christian worldview. This objective content is not discovered, this objective content is “delivered to the saints.” These same saints are to defend what was delivered to them. The faith delivered to the saints was delivered “once for all.” The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints did not come with an expiration date, nor did the command to contend for the contents of that faith. Why?
People who are supposed to be ‘out’ have “crept in.” Jude is writing to the beloved. The beloved have failed to notice that certain people have crept in “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.” These people band together with the beloved, but they do not belong to the beloved. The saints are saved, but these people are condemned. The saints are godly, but these people are ungodly. The saints are graced, but these people are disgraced through their perversion and sensuality. They even deny Christ, the crucified and risen Savior.
Jude reminds us to flee the temptation of growing apathetic toward apologetics. Following his lead, I find it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, and not because of atheists outside, but because of certain people who have crept in unnoticed. Every believer possesses a prima facie case for the centrality of the crucified and risen Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) The call to Christ is a call to contend for this faith once and for all delivered to the saints.
The saints share a common salvation, but as of late, they share also an apparent lack of eagerness to write to one another about that common salvation. When the focus of our faith is more about ‘self-identities’ found outside Christ than our common salvation found within, be sure people have crept in unnoticed. Whereas Jude thought it urgent to set aside the topic of our common salvation to write about contending for the faith, we have thought it urgent to set aside writing about our common salvation to focus on ‘woke’ theology, ‘feminist’ theology, and ‘queer’ theology. In many instances these theologies are promoted as constituting new twists on conservative orthopraxy rather than the rejection of conservative orthodoxy. But the beloved are not to be about finding new angles on an ancient faith, they are called to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.