Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
With this message we begin the life-study of the book of Jude. The subject of Jude is contending for the faith. In verse 3 Jude entreats us to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” In this message we shall cover the first seven verses of this Epistle.
Verses 1 and 2 are the introduction to the book of Jude. In these verses Jude says, “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied.” Both Jude and James were brothers of the Lord Jesus in the flesh (Matt. 13:55). James was one of the apostles (Gal. 1:19) and one of the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2, 13; 21:18), reputed with Peter and John to be a pillar of the church (Gal. 2:9). He also wrote the Epistle of James (James 1:1). Jude was not listed among the twelve, nor are we told that he was an elder in a church. Nevertheless, he wrote this Epistle, a short yet excellent book.
According to verse 1, this book is addressed to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.” The Greek word rendered “by” may also be translated “for.” “By” denotes the strength and means of keeping; “for” denotes the purpose and object of keeping. All the believers have been given to the Lord by the Father (John 17:6), and they are being kept for Him and by Him.
Many Bible teachers believe that this Epistle, like 1 and 2 Peter, was written to Jewish believers in Christ. In Jude’s words, these believers were called, beloved in God the Father, and kept by Jesus Christ.
In verse 2 Jude says, “Mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied.” The fact that mercy is mentioned instead of grace in this greeting may be due to the church’s degradation and apostasy (see vv. 21-22). In 1 and 2 Timothy Paul includes God’s mercy in his opening greeting. God’s mercy reaches farther than His grace. In the degraded situation of the churches, God’s mercy is needed.
As sinners, we were in a pitiful situation. But God’s mercy reached us and brought us out of that situation and qualified us to receive His grace. In principle, grace requires that we be in a somewhat good condition. However, because mercy reaches farther than grace, it is able to reach those who are in a most pitiful condition.
Verse 3 says, “Beloved, using all diligence to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, entreating you to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Here Jude speaks of our common salvation. This is general salvation, which is common to and held by all believers, like the common faith (Titus 1:4).
Some Christians misapply Jude’s word about contending for the faith. They think that to contend for the faith means to contend for matters such as baptism and foot washing. Some argue concerning head covering or about the kind of bread used in the Lord’s table. However, the faith in verse 3 does not refer to such matters.
The faith in this verse is not subjective; it is objective. It does not refer to our believing, but refers to our belief, to what we believe. The faith denotes the contents of the New Testament as our faith (Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9; 4:1; 5:8; 6:10, 21; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:8; 4:7; Titus 1:13), in which we believe for our common salvation. This faith, not any doctrine, has been delivered once for all to the saints. For this faith we should contend (1 Tim. 6:12).
In the Old Testament God gave Abraham a promise. Later, through Moses God gave the law to the children of Israel. In the Gospel of John we are told that when the Lord Jesus came, grace came (1:17). Here we have three important matters: promise, law, and grace. Some Bible teachers speak of the dispensation of promise, the dispensation of law, and the dispensation of grace.
In order to understand the truth in the New Testament, we need to see that God first gave a promise to Abraham. We may say that this promise was on the “main track” of God’s dealing with man. But because of the ignorance and unbelief of God’s chosen people, it was necessary for God to give the law to the children of Israel. In the book of Galatians Paul likens the law to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, not to Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Gal. 4:21-25). This means that Hagar was a type, or prefigure, of the law. Hence, the position of the law is not that of the wife, but that of a concubine. Now in the New Testament God gives faith instead of the law.
With the faith given by God there is both a subjective side and an objective side. The subjective side concerns our believing, and the objective side concerns the things we believe. In verse 3 the faith does not denote our ability to believe; rather, it refers to what we believe. Hence, the faith refers to the contents of the New Testament.
Peter tells us in his second Epistle that like precious faith has been allotted to us (2 Pet. 1:1). This faith is subjective and refers to the faith that is within us. This differs from the faith in Jude 3, for the faith here is objective.
The faith in the objective sense is equal to the contents of God’s will given to us in the New Testament. The law includes the contents of the Ten Commandments and all the subordinate ordinances. The law was given in the Old Testament, but what God gives in the New Testament is the faith that includes all the items of God’s new will. This will even includes the Triune God. However, it does not include such matters as head covering, foot washing, or methods of baptism. Nevertheless, some believers contend for such things, thinking that they are contending for the faith. But that is not the correct understanding of what Jude means by contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
To contend for the faith is to contend for the basic and crucial matters of God’s new will. One of these basic matters is Christ’s death for our redemption.
Suppose a modernist tells you that Jesus died on the cross not for redemption, but because He was a martyr and sacrificed Himself for His teachings. This understanding of the death of Christ is heretical. It is contrary to one of the main items of God’s new will. We need to contend for the truth concerning Christ’s redemption.
Many years ago in China we contended for the truth of redemption when we fought against the book For Sinners Only, a book which claims that a sinner can be favored by God or saved apart from the blood of Jesus. The Bible clearly says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22). We fought against that heretical book and inoculated the believers against its modernistic teachings.
We thank the Lord that in this country today many fundamental Bible teachers are also fighting against heretical, modernistic teachings. This is to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. This faith has been delivered to the saints once for all, and what we need to do now is to contend for it.
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