Every Bible student knows that there is no Acts 29. Acts end at chapter 28. The book is said to be written by St Luke and gives an account of the works of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of Jesus’ disciples and apostles during the early church development. If we are to ascribe to the purpose and intent of the book the Holy Spirit has continued to move and direct the Christian church for over 2000 years. We are called to continue the work handed down by the Apostles and Apostolic Fathers.
Jude 1:3 KJV “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.”
St Jude identifies himself as the brother of Jesus by his relationship to James his older brother (Matthew 13:25). He along with his brother didn’t follow Jesus until the scales dissipated from their eyes after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Like many of our family members today, we may encounter family skepticism due to their shared knowledge of our growing up, their preconceived ideas of who we are according to our family enculturation during our childhood development.
Jude is not skirting around the problem as we do in the 21st Century political correctness but addresses his passion for writing his epistle. He initially wanted to convey the reinforcement and encourage the saints concerning the common salvation but realized the urgency in dealing with the false teaching that had infiltrated the church and its potential danger to the concept of the good news of Jesus and the apostolic succession left by the apostles and their disciples.
Let us first address what Jude might have meant by the common salvation. The core definition of the word common is the Greek Koinos meaning shared by all or several. He may have borrowed from the school of thought of his contemporary and early apostolic father, Ignatius of Antioch.
The word Catholic was coined by St Ignatius (34-104) Bishop of Antioch (Christianity Today, 2016). Ignatius is considered to be a church father and wrote correspondence to the Asia Minor churches regarding a three tier church organizational structure. He was a contemporary of Peter, John, and Paul and their words were deeply rooted in his mind. Ignatius considered the bishops as the single highest office. His perspective was that the bishop’s labor would be synonymous to that of the apostles who were according to scripture ruling and governing stewards of the church (Alvarado, 2015).
His seven letters to the churches and persons he committed to having oversight of was the thrust of his apologetic’s regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ with passionate confutation against false doctrine. The core of his dissertation was to codify and solidify the unity of the church. He identified the church as one, unified, and whole deeming it Catholic. It is his thoughts that are at the core of the episcopacy’s fundamental of the Christian faith and set the church on a trajectory toward orthodoxy (Alvarado, 2015).
Jude moves away from his initial purpose for writing to the urgent issues at hand which was the false teaching (the various mystical Gnostics schools of thought and Judaism). Those men whose conveyance supports false doctrine which had crept in the faith community unaware. Their message gives license ascertaining that the grace of God is open for lasciviousness (sin as you please) as well as the denial of the only Lord God and Lordship of Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4 emphasis mine).
Contending for the faith (trust in atoning work of Christ) that was once (and for all) delivered to the Saints (apostle, disciples, bishops, deacons) came with the emphasis to “fight” for. To deny that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God and the personification of all the Godhead bodily is to deny his divinity and Lordship (Gen 1:1; John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:13-17; Philippians 2:6; John 17:5; I John 5:7). The false teacher’s school of thought demises the divinely and the atoning work of Christ but reinforces the historical fact regarding the life of Jesus but conclude that he was a good person and prophet. At this pivotal supposition, the landscape of false teaching is proffer by the rudiments of man’s philosophy, spiritual scientific theories, and humanistic tenets.
The 21st Century faith community has experienced the residue of the protestant movements from the Roman Catholic Church (not to be confused with the original intent of the term Catholic excluding hierarchy cast). There has been protesting amongst the Protestant! Pericope of doctrines, a myriad of administrations, creeds, organizations, and reformations that have made Christianity a mosaic piece of art to some, an enigmatic piece of Picasso’s art to others leaving for other’s a conundrum for the atheistic community to evangelize.
Spiritual pluralism is not a new reality. The Christian community grew enormously during the Greco-Roman pagan community that the apostles, bishops and early Christians endured. The Christian were said to a have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). We are familiar with Jehovah’s Witness, Islam, Hindu, Buda, Taoism, and Witchcraft, the worship of science, Darwinist and humanistic thought. We are now faced with new atheism apostles’ scholars such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris (four Horsemen of Atheism). The new atheism or evangelical atheism comes with a tenacity to not only deny that there is a God but altogether dismiss the God factor as needed to be mentioned (they arrogantly reject the thought), as they evangelize the atheistic perspective. Christian apologist Dr. Norman Geisler has amply shared in several of his videos the agenda of the new age atheist.
Contending for the faith is our alternative to becoming more apologetic rather than passive believers. Apostle Paul encourages us in his letter to his son in 2 Timothy 3:15 to study to show ourselves approve unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth and Peter admonishes in I Peter 3:15 “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” Passivity to the study of the word has opened our faith community into fanatical crowd seeking theatrics, divisions, and friendly seeking sermons.
The enemies of our faith are the world system, our flesh, and Satan. We must not dismiss the power of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). While we bicker about cleric hierarchy, positions in ministry, supporting our favorite clan member, denominational differences, and throwing off restraints and disciplines to accommodate our prejudices, biases, and theological perspectives the enemy had crept in our faith community and annihilated the infrastructure left to us by our apostolic fathers. Apostolic succession is valid and a quintessential foundation to our faith.
Upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, he has built his Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail. There is a core, a remnant, people that are yet crying out for justice. That would be you, the reader of this short blog! The Holy Spirit is addressing you in this letter from Jude. We must fight with the precision of thought and direction from the Holy Spirit as we earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to us. Jesus stated that the Kingdom is in you. Now, walk in your purpose. You are it!
Alvarado, J. (2015). Ignatius of Antioch. In Theological Perspectives on Apostles and Bishops (pp. 62-63). GATS Press.
Christianity Today. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/martyrs/ignatius-of-antioch.html
Wikipedia.org. (2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism