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, ESV)
When exercising, it’s not simply about the type of exercise you get, but also about your diet. Running, cycling, and weightlifting websites provide a list of good and bad foods and drinks for whatever you are trying to accomplish. For runners, they speak of times when, due to their diet and lack of reloading with the proper nutrition, will hit the wall—even if they are in physically good shape. That’s no fun at all!
And it’s not just before the run. You can have a great workout, burn some serious calories—then go and eat some chicken fingers or an entire large pizza with the works because, as I used to think, I’ve burned enough calories to allow for some room. But in reality, you’re putting some pretty bad fuel in you if you want to have another workout anytime soon. You’ll feel a sluggishness and not want to contend anymore.
What is the fuel for believers? Before we answer that question, look at why Jude sought to write. He addresses them as “beloved.” Not only beloved by God the Father, as mentioned last week as we looked at the beginning, but beloved by Him. Christians are beloved by God, and that bond brings them to love one another in Christ. This is our connection!
He expressed an eagerness to “write to you about our common salvation.” All Christians have a position in Christ and fuels their passion for Christ. Remember the common salvation, and the position therein: called by the Spirit of God, beloved by the Father, kept for Christ! This is the position common to all who are saved. I sense that Jude wanted to elaborate more on that, but issues arose.
What were the issues? Jude is a pastor. He is not after controversy. There are so many today who love controversy—they love to nitpick. In fact, many bloggers realize that the more controversial they are, the more traffic will come to their website. It’s easy to be a busybody, to gossip.
He is concerned about their fuel. What is driving them? What is their diet? While some people focus on the peripherals and leave the main thing alone or assumed, Jude is telling them to have the right fuel to help them focus on the main thing—and the peripherals will take care of themselves. Subtle shifts lead to gospel drifts, so let’s understand the gospel and the main thing to keep from drifting.
1. The faith is the fuel (v. 3)
Jude now is telling them to ‘contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). What does this mean? When we use the word ‘faith,’ we tend to mean a personal, subjective belief: “I have faith in Jesus Christ.” But that’s not what Jude refers to here. He says, ‘the faith.’ There is that article ‘the’ in front of that word. ‘The faith’ refers to the sum total of Christian doctrine and teaching. He is reminding them to keep to that which Christ’s apostle taught.
But in order to contend for it, we must work to know it. We must have a decided desire to learn it. Do we have that desire? For too many of us, what happens is we come to Christ, believe our souls are sealed and are heaven-bound, then we cruise. We are not called to cruise, but to contend. We have the right trainer, but the faith is the fuel.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (ol’ alma mater!), wrote an incredible article on Theological Triage. In triage, you go into a hospital and the personnel there understand the discipline of triage—“a process that allows trained personnel to make a quick evaluation of relative medical urgency.” For us in the church, we need to know that which is priority, that which is of theological urgency.
With this, we note that the doctrines of the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. These are of the first-order. (The second and third order are for another discussion—or you can come to our next 101 class!) Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries has identified three beliefs that Christian cults have that make them not-Christian.
1. They deny the deity of Christ.
2. They deny the resurrection of Christ.
3. They believe you are saved not solely by God’s grace, but by your works or by cooperating with his work.
You may say, “I just love Jesus—why should I worry about all that doctrinal business?” Because God sent His beloved Son for a reason and purpose—and revealed to His church in His Word who He is and what He has done. If God has revealed something about His beloved, it’s important and it’s for a purpose.
So we contend! For the glory of God, for the good of our souls, and for the good of His bride. We must contend for it—without being contentious. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle Peter reminds us:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
We fearlessly and boldly live our lives, ready to make a defense for the Christ and the faith—but we do this with gentleness and respect. When I was a student at a secular university, the first couple of weeks I was a school, I noticed this man dressed in “Jesus clothes” walking around with a big marquee sign, “God laughs at the wicked every day,” and “Repent, you sinner, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” As a naïve guy, I walked up to him and talked to him about this and how good it was for him to do this for the faith. He responded, “If you would use your imagination, you could do this, too!” in a very condescending tone. Later that week, I found this same man talking to others as well. He led with, basically, you all are a bunch of sex-driven potheads—so of course you won’t listen to me. It was clear he didn’t know them, and they let him know that this is not something that Jesus would have said—and it became, well, contentious.
Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth with love. It’s been said truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.
2. The saints have a perpetual tank from which to fill up—the Holy Spirit (v. 3).
It is here I would like to look at one particular prepositional phrase to which this faith was delivered by God. To whom was it delivered? “To the saints.” What is a saint?
I remember when I was young, sitting in the backseat with my mom and dad in the front seat. I remember hearing a phrase used on a show in a particular context, and the situation seemed to fit with something my dad did. So I said, “Dad, you’re a real saint!” Dad said, “Son, please don’t call me that.” I don’t remember if this was pre- or post-conversion, but I do understand the context now. Some people believe a saint is simply a good person.
In Roman Catholic dogma, a saint is one who is recognized by their holiness. “The story of his or her life is told, perhaps in a book. People pray to the person, asking intercession for some favor and their prayers may be answered.” Then a bishop of their diocese sets up a board to investigate that person’s life, faith, and holiness. If miracles are attributed, a medical expert must confirm. If passed, the bishop may petition Rome for the process of beatification. An examination of life, faith, holiness, spirituality, and even miracles are sought—although if one has died as a martyr, then no miracle need be attested. If this process is finished, the final step is canonization. Once canonized, that person is declared by Rome to be a saint.
This sounds like a significant process. Saints, in Roman Catholic dogma, not only escape hell but also escape purgatory—for there are no sins to purge. But, with all respect, is this biblical? The Scriptures use the term Christians and the term saints as synonymous (along with other names like disciples, followers of Christ, etc.). When Paul writes the churches, he usually refers to them as the saints. This does not apply to a hierarchy of elite Christians, but to all who are in Christ.
The word saint (hagios) means to be ‘holy or set apart.’ It’s the same root where we get the word ‘sanctify.’ To what are saints set apart? For God’s use and purpose! So ‘the faith’ is not simply for everyone—this faith is for ‘the set-apart-for-God’ ones. The church! The elect! The people of God!
How does this happen? How are we made ‘holy’ and set apart? Look with me at Ephesians 1:13-14:
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal, as a promise, guaranteeing our inheritance. This is another way of see how no one can ever pluck us out of Christ’s hand… God has sent His Spirit to seal us!
3. Beware of those who would water down the fuel (v. 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’ (v. 4).
Given what Jude just spoke on in verse three (“contend for the faith”), contenders contend against an opponent. Here we see the “certain people.” What do we know about these certain people.
For one, they crept in unnoticed. Crept in where? Crept in the flock, the assembly, the church! The majority of false teachers come from inside the church. Unnoticed! It takes us back to Genesis 4, when God warned Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
The apostle Peter, a man who clearly understood how Satan and temptation were crouching at the door, told the leaders of the church,
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experience by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Part of contending is being gospel-alert! Being gospel-alert among the members, and gospel-alert among those who come into the church wishing to be members! The trend now is to have folks come into the church with no questioning about their beliefs, their testimony, their view of Christ and the church. So many churches are struggling and are glad when anyone wants to join. But unless we are careful, we may be opening the door for a wolf to creep in to the flock of God.
What else do we know about these folks? “Long ago were designated for this condemnation.”
John Calvin in his commentary rightly wrote:
But the metaphor is taken from this circumstance, because the eternal counsel of God, by which the faithful are ordained until salvation, is called a book; and when the faithful heard that these were given up to eternal death, it behoved them to take heed lest they should involve themselves in the same destruction. 
It looked new, it looked fresh, it sounded good. But these who creep in are “designated for this condemnation.”
They pervert the grace of our God into sensuality. Back in November 2001, I received a call that I never, ever want to hear again. It was the administrative assistant to the pastor who called from a church where I served for three wonderful years. She called to tell me that the pastor there of 13 years had a moral failure with another member of our church. He got on cruise control, relying on his many communication and administrative gifts to get him through. He had just written a book about staying safe online. But he had lost his sight of God.
What disturbed me was the conversation I had with the member, with whom we had had a great ministry fellowship and friendship. When I asked her what happened and how it reconciled with her faith. She responded, “God says, ‘Once saved, always saved’—so he has to forgive me, right?” This mindset perverts the grace of God.
I just ordered a book entitled “The Most Misused Verses in the Bible” (can you say an awesome sermon series?). While I haven’t memorized the entire table of contents, I do know that one is from 2 Corinthians 3:18: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” These, and what the woman mentioned earlier, are often used as a way to leverage God’s grace in order to live however they want.
But freedom in Christ and liberty in Christ is not freedom to do what we want—it’s freedom to obey God as we wish to do as Christians. To miss this is, again, to pervert the grace of God into pleasure. If we are ones who live in our flesh because of this misunderstanding of the grace of God, thinking he has given us a blank check to live however we want, we need to repent of this.
You see, friends, subtle shifts lead to gospel drifts. It doesn’t take much to shift away from the gospel. Take for instance when you sit at a piano and you play a major triad (C-E-G, for instance). The middle note is key (pardon the pun). As is, it’s a major key, which gives a sense of happiness and contentedness. Move the middle note just one-half step down, and you have a minor key—often seen as a sad chord. Move the lower note up or down, different feel. Same with the upper note.
Hear the words of Spurgeon:
I have tried, and I am trying, to preach a wide gospel. I do not like to have a net with such big meshes that the fish get through. I think I may catch you all if the Lord wills. If the vilest are not shut out, then you are not shut out, friends. And if you believe in Christ with all your heart, you shall be saved! But oh, what if you should say, “I care not for forgiveness. I do not want pardon, I will not seek it! I will not have it – I love my sins – I love myself”? O sinner, then, by that deathbed of yours where you shall see your dreadful sins in another light, by that resurrection of yours where you shall see eternity to be no trifle, by that doom of yours, by the last dread thunders, by the awful sentence, “Depart, you cursed,” of the Judge, I beseech you, do me but this one favour! Acknowledge that you had an invitation tonight and that it was affectionately pressed upon you. I have told you, in God’s name, that your sin is not a trifle with God – that it is not a matter to be laughed at or to be whistled over. I have told you that the greatness of your sin need not shut you out. What is needed is that the Spirit of God should teach you these things in your heart. But do remember, if your ears refuse these truths of God, and if you reject them, we are a sweet savour unto Christ as well in them that perish as in them that are saved! But woe unto you – woe unto you, who, with the Gospel ringing in your ears, go down to Hell! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for you!” May God save you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen!
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Theological Triage.
Making saints, Ask a Catholic. http://www.cptryon.org/ask/ask/beat.html
 John Calvin, Jude, Commentaries, Vol. xxii, p. 432.
Go to the http://www.arbc.net/sermons.htm to listen to the audio sermon.