Summary: This message explores the command to contend, fight, persevere. It focuses on four areas of contention. Contend for the faith, purity, unity and effective ministry.
April 21, 2019
Pastor David Welch
“A Holy Fight”
I don’t know about you, but my parents frowned upon fighting. Turn the other cheek. Walk away.
This morning I am here to encourage fighting. Not because I like fighting but because the Bible instructs us to fight. In case you hadn’t noticed, it is actually the theme for your anniversary. Before you have someone throw me out, let me explain. The theme for your anniversary celebration is CONTEND.
I want to take a moment to explore the concept and then spend the bulk of our time together addressing its Biblical application.
I. What does it mean to contend?
If you were to do a search for the word “contend” in your English Bible, you would find it only in one verse in the New Testament where Jude urged his readers to contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.
All the Old Testament verses that use the word refer to some sort of battle.
Researching the Greek term translated “contend” in the Jude passage, unearths some significant insight into what is meant.
It comes from the root “agon” which sounds a lot like our English word agony or agonize.
In its noun form, it refers to a conflict, a fight, a race, a contest, a struggle.
Paul used it to describe his suffering for the cause of the gospel.
Luke described Jesus at Gethsemane in “agony” as He prayed.
Hebrews calls us to lay aside every sin and encumbrance in order to run the “race” set before us.
The verb form means to struggle, compete, contend, fight, labor, strive physically, emotionally, spiritually and even verbally debate an issue.
Jesus urged Jews to “strive” to enter the through the narrow door.
Paul referred to an athlete training diligently to “compete” in the games.
Paul “agonized” to reach his goal to present every man complete in Christ.
Paul described Epaphras “agonizing” in prayer for the Philippians.
Paul urged Timothy to “agonize” in training for godly living.
Jude used an intensified form urging us to contend for the faith.
Paul used both the noun and the verb together bearing testimony at the end of his life that he had “fought” the good “fight.” He also urged Timothy to “fight” the good “fight” of faithfulness.
These are just the places where this specific Greek term is used. The basic concept of struggle appears all through the Bible using other words like diligence, endurance, hard work, fervency, faithfulness and steadfastness, pursuit, seeking, zeal. This hardly describes the attitude of modern Christianity. In our world of affluence, many of us don’t know what it means to work hard for anything anymore let alone our faith and godliness.
II. For what should I contend?
Now that we have a general idea of what it means to contend, I want to spend the rest of our time exploring some areas the Bible calls to contend or strive or labor. There are numerous categories to explore. I will focus on just four.
A. Contend for the truth of the resurrection and the faith.
Today we celebrate a central tenant of our faith. I am sure it was a central component of Jude’s call to contend for the faith. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 1:3 The disciples all died contending for the truth of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul declared it essential to the gospel.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Cor 15:3-8
Peter boldly proclaimed the resurrection from the day of Pentecost on.
Stephen claimed to see the resurrected Christ standing at the right hand of God.
Paul declared that he was standing trial because of his belief in and proclamation of the resurrection.
Paul boldly asserted that without the resurrection we have no hope.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19