2013: Contending for the Faith

What is your focus for 2013? I think God has revealed mine over the last few weeks and crystallized it through the study of the small, often-neglected letter of Jude. I taught Jude in my Sunday morning Bible study just before Christmas. (We finished a 13 week study of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude.) Here is the part that has stayed with me:

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. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4 NASB (emphasis mine)

I work with a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Mormon, a neo-pagan sympathizer, an agnostic, a young Christian, and some nominal Christians — coming from 5 different countries. That is just on my team! You should hear us discuss religion, philosophy, politics, or sports. There is a great diversity of opinions. How should a Christian approach such an opportunity? Sadly, I think many Christians are ill-equipped and frankly afraid to stand out.

But Jude was compelled to write and challenge Christians to “contend” for their faith against false teachers even in the church. What does it mean to contend? Type “contend” in the Google image search, and most of what you will see are pictures of athletic events (including lots of boxing gloves). Sometimes Google gets it right. The Greek word used in Jude 3 (epagonizesthai) was mostly used in reference to sporting contests in the stadium. It is the root of our word “agonize.” As Michael Green states, its use here emphasizes that defense of our faith will be “continuous, costly, and agonizing.” (172)

For what do we contend?

And for what do we contend? “The faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” There is objective truth. There is a historical basis for the facts of Christianity. The apostles (and others) were eyewitnesses of his death and Resurrection. We can’t water down the New Testament as some good ideas or interesting teachings or the life of a good man (Jesus). No! It is a testimony to the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus, the God-man. And it is His invitation to us to join Him in everlasting relationship.

Do we have false teachers today? Of course. There are all kinds of lists of false teachers on the internet. My goal isn’t really to create a list of them. However, there are some whose influence must be countered. As Jude says later, their presence in the church is like a “hidden reef” (v 12). They promise much but don’t deliver (“clouds without rain,” “autumn trees without fruit”).

What does contention look like?

For me, I think God is challenging me to use the blog as a platform for contending for the faith. The Bible is under attack. It doesn’t need my defense. It will stand as God’s Word forever, no matter what I say. However, we must contend for this faith revealed through the Scriptures in order to “have mercy on some, who are doubting;  save others, snatching them out of the fire;” (v 22-23) It is for people, whom God loves, that we must contend.

So, when New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman from UNC declares that most of the New Testament is a forgery and becomes an agnostic, it is time to step up and call him a false teacher, a wandering star, who reviles angelic majesties and rejects authority (v8, 13). Choosing the way of Balaam, his destiny is that of Korah if he will not repent (v 11). The New Testament documents are trustworthy and reliable. No matter what he says, scholars haven’t suddenly debunked the Bible. And there is reasonable evidence to back it up (much more on this later, I suspect).

But contention is not just a scholars’ battle with words. Just before Christmas, one of my coworkers asked to borrow a Bible. He is feeling the need to read it and seek greater understanding. I didn’t just let him borrow a Bible; I bought him one! And now we are set to discuss its truths and challenges as the days go on. I will argue for the truth, but I will also reach out to those who need to understand it. It will be costly and agonizing, but it is worth it!

How will you contend for the faith in 2013?

 

Source

Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude. vol 18 in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Intervarsity Press, 1987.

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6 thoughts on “2013: Contending for the Faith

  1. linneann says:

    Why would he call it a forgery? Seems to me it has stood the test of time, as well as aggressive attempts to prove it false.

    • Sean Durity says:

      His basic argument (from Forged) is that many of the New Testament books were not written by those who claimed to be the author (for example, Peter didn’t write Second Peter). That makes them forgeries. Some scholars, who accept that they weren’t written by their ascribed authors, said that these pseudepigrapha were understood as such and accepted in that culture. Ehrman rightly derails that argument. However, there is no documentary evidence that indicates that they were not written by the ascribed authors. A whole bunch of questionable assumptions lead to the false conclusions. There is not much new here; these are old arguments against the Bible. However, Ehrman has packaged them slickly for public consumption. He has written several bestsellers attacking the reliability of the Scriptures.

      • linneann says:

        I admit, this bothers me but not because it affects my faith. It bothers me because of the readers he may influence. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

  2. Appreciate your thoughts on taking a stand.

  3. I like your vision for 2013, Sean. I’m sure you understand what I mean when I speak of the final mile of a foot race. Everyone picks up the pace in that final mile. They don’t want to have anything left. In that final mile there is a “quickening”, and I have noticed people everywhere talking about a “quickening” going on in the sense of time, knowledge, politics, world events, and also the contending for our faith. We, as Christians, will either rise to this occassion, or not. The Church will either meet this need, or stand in shame before its Maker, one day. I think you have a great vision for 2013, and I hope all of us will join you in that vision. Every person should know what their assignments from God are, and be hard at work to fulfill them. As I have been embracing my sheephood, I see sheep doing 3 things. They eat, drink, and multiply. I see contending for the faith as part of the multiplying. You cannot multiply without being a witness, and you cannot witness without contending for the faith.

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