Summary: Jude longed to share the joys of salvation, which was the dominant theme uniting all of the Christian community, but an insidious cancer developing within the body of the believers threatened to destroy their peace and unity.
Peace is the serenity and confidence that come from reliance on God’s word and from looking above circumstances to the One who overrules all circumstances for the accomplishment of His own purposes. This is that same peace “beyond anything we can imagine” (Philippians 4:7). We can have no true and lasting peace except for what flows from our reconciliation with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. The same mercy springs from peace, so from peace springs love, his love for us, our love for him, and our brotherly love for one another. Love is the undeserved embrace of God for His dear people—a super-affection that should then be shared with others. The word used for love here is a?ap? (agape), of which the Lord God is the only source. This love is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that God gave His only Son to be the only acceptable sacrifice for mankind’s sin *(John 3:16). Such love is totally self-giving **(1 John 3:16).
*(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The gospel in a nutshell. The love of God shown in action. (1) The source of love—God. (2) The extent of love—the world. (3) The sacrifice of love—He gave his only begotten Son. (4) The results of love—whosoever believeth in him should not perish.
**(1 John 3:16) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
He wishes for these three blessings to be multiplied. Not measured out in meager amounts, but by multiplication! These things are mentioned as the choicest blessings which could be conferred on them: mercy—in the pardon of all their sins and acceptance with God; peace—with God, with their fellow-men, in their own consciences, and in the prospect of death; and love-to God, to the brethren, to the entire world.
These godly attributes are manifested in the believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit of the living God. By that same Spirit, these blessings continue to grow and bear fruit in the lives of believers.
II. Occasion of the Epistle. 3–4.
A. Change of the Purpose. 3.
3 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 had originally intended to write about the glorious salvation that is the common possession of all believers. But God’s Spirit so influenced this yielded scribe that he sensed a change of direction. A simple doctrinal essay would no longer do; it must be a fervent appeal that would strengthen the readers. They must be stirred up to contend earnestly for the faith. Attacks were being made on the sacred deposit of Christian truth, and efforts were already launched to whittle away the great fundamental doctrines. In order to combat this, God’s people must stand uncompromisingly for the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of God’s Holy Word.
Yet, in contending for the faith, the believer must speak and act as a Christian. As Paul wrote: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24). He must contend without being argumentative, and testify without ruining his testimony.
What we contend earnestly for is the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints. Notice that! Not “once upon a time” but once and for all. The body of doctrine is complete. The canon is finished. Nothing more can be added. “If it’s new it’s not true, and if it’s true it’s not new.” When some teacher claims to have a revelation which is above and beyond what is found in the Bible, we reject it out of hand. The last word has been delivered and we neither need nor heed anything else. This is our answer to the leaders of false cults with their books that claim equal authority with the Scriptures.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you. This diligence is really “eagerness” to reveal the real purpose for him writing this Epistle. It is like saying, “Although I’ve wanted to write to you for a long time about our common salvation, I now find that there is a compelling necessity, I must write.” Common salvation is an abstract (theoretical) term like Christianity. Peter begins the first General Epistle with a discussion of salvation, as he does in his second epistle; so does Paul in all of his epistles, and Hebrews and James assume that their readers are saved. None of the epistles are primarily evangelistic; they are not like “gospel tracts,” but are written to Christians who have some specific need for correction, reproof, encouragement, or instruction. Here Jude sees that it was needful for me to write unto you. The word needful (Gr anangke¯) implies a compelling, pressing need; a serious problem has come up among the believers, and it must be dealt with. He had to write to encourage them to earnestly contend (Gr epago¯nizoman) for the faith. This word means “fight for” someone; here Jude is writing to encourage whatever “agonizing struggle” might be necessary to defend the good name of the faith. The faith is synonymous with “common salvation” or Christianity; they are to “fight for” the honor of the faith. Note that the emphasis is not on contention, but on the faith which is now described further as once delivered unto the saints. What is being promoted here is the apostolic preaching, that is, the Word of God, not an attitude of constant fighting with other believers. This is reinforced by the use of once, which is not the word for “once upon a time” assuming a considerable passage of time, but rather means “once for all,” and refers to the fact that the apostles preached this Word as a final and authoritative message which cannot now be changed by the false teachers.