Summary: Jude’s letter is a call to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. In today’s lesson we observe the call to contend for truth against heresy.
Two weeks ago I began a new series of studies on the Letter of Jude, which I have titled, “Contend for the Faith.”
The first week I introduced you to the Letter of Jude. I briefly touched on questions that arise whenever we begin a new study of God’s Word, such as: Who wrote the letter? To whom was the letter written? When was the letter written? Why was the letter written? And, what is the letter’s message?
Then, last week we looked at the opening greeting, and we examined Jude’s background, Jude’s audience, and Jude’s prayer.
Today, we begin to study the reason for this amazing letter. Jude was going to write a letter about the wonderful truths of our common salvation. However, word reached him that error and heresy was creeping in to the church, and so he found it necessary to write appealing to God’s people to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
3 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. 4 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)
In 2007 pastor and author John MacArthur wrote a book titled, The Truth War. In the introduction to his book MacArthur asks, “Who would have thought that people claiming to be Christians—even pastors—would attack the very notion of truth?” Unbelievably, they are.
You may be familiar with a movement in our day known as the “Emerging Church.” This is the name for a worldwide group that is seeking to reform the Church, revamp the way that Christians interact with their culture, and remodel the way we think about truth itself. It is a very postmodern way of thinking.
An article in Christianity Today a few years ago featured a story about Rob and Kristen Bell who founded a large and growing Emergent community in Grand Rapids, MI. According to the article, the Bells fouund themselves increasingly uncomfortable with the church. “Life in the church had become so small,” Kristen says. “It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working.” The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—“discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.” “I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the Bible,” Kristen says, “that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again—like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.”
As John MacArthur notes, “One dominant theme pervades the whole article: in the Emerging Church movement, truth (to whatever degree such a concept is even recognized) is assumed to be inherently hazy, indistinct, and uncertain—perhaps even ultimately unknowable.”
The Christianity Today article profiled several of the leaders in the Emerging Church movement. One of the stunning points is that each leader expressed a high level of discomfort with any hint of certainty about what the Bible means, even on something as basic as the gospel itself.
For example, Brian MacLaren, who is regarded as one of the leading figures in the Emerging Church movement, is quoted in the article as saying, “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. . . . I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.”
In his book titled A Generous Orthodoxy MacLaren likens the conventional notion of orthodoxy to a claim that we “have the truth captured, stuffed, and mounted on the wall.” In a similar way he disparages systematic theology as an unconscious attempt to “have final orthodoxy nailed down, freeze-dried, and shrink-wrapped forever.”
This kind of thinking is a very popular and postmodern approach to certainty and truth.
And although those in the Emerging Church movement are seeking authenticity, we have to say with clarity and conviction that what they are proposing is not authentic Christianity. Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as crucial as the gospel itself) is by definition a kind of unbelief. As John MacArthur puts it: