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
One of the main battles the early church waged was the battle against false doctrine. Certain men who were not authorized by the apostles crept into the Church and were teaching things that distorted the Gospel. Jude apparently wanted to write about other things but because of this false teaching, felt the need to appeal to his readers to “contend for the faith.” The word ‘contend’ in Greek means to strenuously fight in defense of something. The saints were to understand that the faith was under attack and they were to use every ounce of strength they had to vigorously defend it.
One of the doctrinal battles the Church had to wage was that of antinomianism. That is a word that is comprised of two words: nomos (law) and anti (against). Taken together, antinomianism is the belief that since we are under grace, it doesn’t matter how we live. According to this view, grace means that God will forgive us no matter what we do. Holiness is, therefore, optional since we are under grace. Apparently, this was quite widespread in the first century. Jude calls it for what it is—a perversion of the grace of God. For grace is not freedom to do as we please but the ability to live lives that please Him in every way.
The apostle Paul said the same thing when teaching the doctrine of election in the Ephesian letter (Ephesians 1:3-4). He knew that the possibility exists that people would distort this doctrine by reasoning, ‘God has chosen us in Christ so what difference does it make how we live?’ But Paul tells us that He “chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Far from excusing sin, this doctrine (election) tells us that God has called us to the highest standards of holiness.
We should beware of any doctrine that lessens the severity of sin. Grace is certainly free and given without merit, but it so changes our affections that we begin to hate sin and long for holiness. Paul tells us elsewhere that the grace of God trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12). These distortions of the true grace of God abound in the land. We must contend earnestly for a faith, which calls us to the highest standards of holiness. This is the test of whether or not we have received the true grace of God. Do you long for holiness of heart? Do you find in your doctrine of grace an increased understanding of what pleases God? Are you continually empowered to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to holiness?
Let us contend earnestly for the faith.