Contend: So then, what does it mean to “contend”? The word translated “contend” has the idea of expending intense effort and energy. It comes from epagōnizomai, a relative of agōnizomai, from which we receive our English word agonize. Jude’s form of the word is used only here, but its relative refers elsewhere to fighting (John 18:36) or to participating in an athletic contest (Heb 12:1). Whether as a verb or noun, the New Testament repeatedly uses this word as a metaphor for aspects of the Christian life: salvation (Luke 13:24), perseverance (Heb 12:1), self-control (1 Cor 9:25), prayer (Col 4:12), suffering persecution (1 Thess 2:2), and the gospel ministry in general (Phil 1:30; Col 1:29; 2:1; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7).
Following Christ, controlling ourselves, praying, suffering, and ministering to others—all of these activities require intense effort on our parts, a struggle made possible by the power of Christ (cf. Col 1:29). Opposing false teachers and their teaching, contending, is one of these struggles, and Jude urges us to contend for the faith.
The Enemy Within: Jude’s reason for why his readers needed contend for the faith is clear: “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).
Jude gives a thorough picture of these enemies of the gospel: their sinister infiltration of the church (“certain people have crept in unnoticed”); God’s end for their sinful ways (“condemnation”); a general description of them as opposed to God (“ungodly people”); and two ways whereby they twist the truth—in their ungodly ways (“who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality”) and in their ungodly words (“and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”). Jude goes on to describe these enemies in detail and their judgment from God (Jude 5–16, 18–19).
Engaging the Enemy: Jude’s letter emphasizes on the activity, sinfulness, and judgment of the enemy. In one word, he tells us how to engage the enemy: “contend.” But even then, his focus not entirely on the enemy: “contend for the faith.” But how should we engage the enemy?
Scripture has no shortage for strategy against this kind of enemy, divisive people who are devoid of the Spirit of God (Jude 19). We should not quarrel with them but correct them gently, hoping for their salvation (2 Tim 2:24–26). We should correct them once and twice, but if they persist in ungodliness and unbelief, we should have nothing more to do with them (Titus 3:10–11). We must separate from these unbelievers and not be in their midst (2 Thes 6:14–7:1). We should mark who they are and consciously avoid them (Rom 16:17–18; 2 Tim 3:5). We should neither let them into our houses nor wish them well on their way (2 John 10–11). If they persist in their false teaching, we should even pray that God would righteously curse them forever (Gal 1:8–9).
For more articles by Pastor Huffstutler, go to davidhuffstutler.com.