Bible Studies for Life
Jude 1-4, 20-25
John Hull, lead pastor
Eastside Baptist Church, Marietta
In the 1954 Academy Award winning motion picture “On the Waterfront,” iconic actor Marlon Brando portrayed a frustrated, washed-up boxer-turned-longshoreman. Within the film, Brando says what has become one of the most quotable lines in screen history: “I coulda been a contender.” Brando’s character was frustrated about how his life could have gone in a better direction had he made better choices and better friends.
With the college and professional football seasons reaching their peak games this time of year, analysts are again trying to predict who will contend for the playoffs and what players will be in contention for trophies and honors.
In the business community, there are motivated salespeople vying to become the one who produces the most in contract sales and get the best and highest commissions.
At this Christmas season, once again, companies will spend millions of dollars on ads contending for your attention to purchase cars, jewelry, furniture, clothing – you name it!
Ours is a culture of contenders.
As the late British preacher John Stott wrote of Christ-followers: “We are between two worlds.” Stott knew that every day the “redeemed of God” stand between contemporary questions and their answers from a biblical worldview.
So, what does the Bible say about how to live out our faith in a modern culture that contends for profits, awards, and recognition?
Be a contender
When it comes to our faith in an increasingly secular culture, the biblical instruction is to “contend.”
Tucked away in the shadows before the Book of Revelation is the tiny, 25-verses-long, Book of Jude. Written with the expressed purpose of warning churches of the dangers of false teachers and teaching, the writer is challenging the reader to stand firm against the slippery slope of “fake doctrine” and the consequences to follow.
To give us a sense of the deliberateness of the Jude’s instruction, take a good look at Jude 3b: “… I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
The word, “contend” means (in the original language of the New Testament) “to be in a contest.” The grammar carries with it an intensive form that enhances a contest which is earnestly fought. Our English word “agony” can be seen in the original word, which further explains the idea that contending is a difficult, agonizing effort in a competitive environment.
The ancient Greek world had an avid sports base as we do today. They knew competition. They knew effort. They knew agony in the arena of competition.
So, we see the word picture before us is a contender, a fighter, and a competitor!
But where is all the effort to contend focused? Jude tell us: Contend for the faith!
A culture of contention
The “faith” is the content of Christian belief that was handed down from the Lord Jesus Christ to his apostles. The “faith” includes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The “faith” includes that salvation comes by grace through faith in Him. The “faith” includes Jesus’ second coming. And, the “faith” includes what Jude’s pressing point was in the book bearing his name: teach sound doctrine and live a holy life for His glory!
Every day on the platforms of cable news, social media and other outlets, we hear loud voices that aggressively attach the “faith.” Whether it is gender, marriage, traditional views of family, you name it, there is an organized, well-financed effort to silent those who embrace the “faith.” And if we state with conviction that we believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the only way to heaven … then oh my, prepare for massive blowback!
The human response when facing intense opposition is to either shut down and be quiet; or in contrast, become angry and engage in the same vitriol that has been directed our way. But there is a better way! That way is simply and graciously found in the actions of earnestly contending for the faith.
Jude tell us later in this little book of the Bible to defend the faith in the context of praying, abiding in God’s love and demonstrating Christ’s mercy toward all, even to our critics and opponents (Jude 20-25). In short, we should contend for the faith without become contentious ourselves! That’s the way to do it. And in a culture where there seems to be so much friction and bickering, Jude offers a reset for us all in an increasingly fractious world.
In short, we can contend of for the faith – and still live a quiet and peaceable life.
Marlon Brando’s character looked back on his life and lamented, “I coulda been a contender.”
In distinct contrast, as a follower of Jesus Christ, in this culture, you have all the instructions and resources you need to say, “I can contend!”