Jude 3

Screen Shot 2022-09-24 at 4.38.14 PM


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. 

A little episode occurred in 1962 that I think most theology nerds would really like to have witnessed live. It involved the great Baptist theologian Carl F. H. Henry (at that time the editor of a new magazine, Christianity Today) and the internationally-known and famous Swiss theologian Karl Barth, whose celebrity was at its peak. Owen Strachan recounts what happened in this fascinating exchange.

In the postwar era, Karl Barth was one of Carl F. H. Henry’s most frequently referenced sparring partners. The two men labored in the same task from different theological poles. Both wished to vindicate Christianity as a system of revelation in a century that viewed the Word as outmoded.

Barth, though a churchman, championed what is called the “neoorthodox” position, claiming that the Bible-in-itself was not the Word of God, but became the Word of God through the Spirit’s influence. Henry, though recognizing Barth’s prodigious gifts—he called his writings an “epochal contribution to theology”—sided with the evangelical tradition in identifying the Scripture as the revealed mind of God.

In 1962, the two men had an epochal encounter. Barth came to America from Switzerland for a lecture tour. Henry attended his lectures at the McCormick Divinity School in Chicago and engaged him in the question-and-answer session. The exchange that followed, recounted by Henry in his Confessions, captured the differences between the two theologians.

“The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.” I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading religion editors or reporters representing United Press, Religious News Service, Washington Post, Washington Star and other media. If these journalists had their present duties in the time of Jesus, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen into their area of responsibility? “Was it news,” I asked, “in the sense that the man in the street understands news?”

Barth became angry. Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked: “Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?” The audience—largely nonevangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When countered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, “Yesterday, today and forever.”[1]

It is a beautiful little story and one that makes an important point: Christianity, rightly understood, has a doctrinal core that is unchanging. The church’s music may change and some of the external forms and dynamics may change, but the heartbeat of the church and its message—the good news of Jesus Christ—is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Verse 3 of Jude makes this very point. This verse is profoundly and critically important. It will lay the foundation for the rest of the book.

“the faith”

We begin with Jude’s concept of “the faith.” We learn first, however, that the letter of Jude as it was written was not the letter Jude hoped to write initially. At first, Jude was wanting to write an apparently happy letter “about our common salvation.” Yet something had come to his attention so he shifted gears. We will learn more about this something, but, for now, consider how Jude speaks of the faith.

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.

He tells the church to contend for “the faith.” The presence of the definite article here is most telling: “the faith.” I think that at this point a little bit of historical theology can help us. Saint Augustine spoke of “faith” in two different ways, using two different categories that have proven helpful to Christians over the years. They are fides quae creditur and fides qua creditur. You will notice one little letter’s worth of difference between these two phrases: the presence of an “e” on the “qua” in the first phrase. We might understand this difference like this:

fides quae creditur: the faith that is believed / an objective reality (i.e., the deposit of faith)

fides qua creditur: the faith by which it is believed / a subjective experience (i.e., personal faith)[2]

There is a difference, then, in saying, “I have faith!” and in saying “I have faith in the faith!” The first refers to the work of God in your heart in terms of belief. The second refers to a body of beliefs and doctrines.

Faith, in and of itself, is only as good as its object. Our culture loves to speak of faith, but the great question is, “Faith in what?” When Jude speaks of contending for “the faith” he is using it to refer to the objective set of beliefs that constitute what we call Christianity. He is speaking of the theological and doctrinal core of our faith. He is speaking of the faith!

The New Testament has some beautiful summary statements of “the faith.” Probably the most famous is Paul’s definition of it in 1 Corinthians 15. Listen:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

That is a nice summary of “the faith.” The basic elements are there:

  • the crucifixion
  • the resurrection
  • Jesus being Messiah and Lord (i.e., “in accordance with the Scriptures”)

Those are the fundamental components of the gospel!

We might also think of Paul in Romans 10:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Here Paul refers to “the faith” as “the word of faith.” This is the faith. Christianity has a doctrinal bedrock in which our faith must be anchored. We do not simply have faith in faith. No, we have faith in Someone and in something: in Jesus and in His gospel!

We have faith and we have the faith.

“once for all delivered to the saints”

And there is something very important to understand about the faith. Listen to how Jude describes it:

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.

The faith has been “once for all delivered to the saints.”


For all.


Herbert Bateman writes of the word for “delivered” that, in earlier Jewish writings, it:

was used to speak of a father who hands over a young woman to a man for holy matrimony (Tob 7:13), of a golden scepter extended by a king to a subject (Esth 4:11), of a golden sword given to a warrior (2 Macc 15:15)…[3]

So too our God has given us “the faith.” It has been delivered to us and it has been delivered “once for all.”

There will be no edits. There will be no updates. There will be no 2.0. There will be no improvements. This gospel is the faith! We have it. It is to be offered to all. It is our one universal message!

Time and time again we encounter books hot off the process heralding a new Christianity, an improved Christianity, a progressive Christianity, an updated faith. But, no, the faith as it has been given to us is the faith that we need!

Where the church is wrong, we must repent! Where the church is in error we must correct course! Where the churchneeds to change to be more faithful to Christ and His gospel, let us change and return to faithfulness! But the faith—the gospel, the good news, the word of faith—it cannot err and will not change. What is more, the church need only change when it fails to live up to the calling of Christ the gift of the faith and its implications.

The faith has been once for all delivered to the saints!

Here is how Paul put it in Ephesians 4:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The faith is a gift and we are stewards of it! “The faith once for all delivered to the saints…” Do you believe that Jesus Christ has come from God? Do you believe that He is God with us? Do you believe that Christ proclaimed the Kingdom? Do you believe that He died on the cross for your sins? Do you believe that He rose from the dead? Do you believe He is coming again?

Do you believe in the faith that has been delivered once for all?

An early Greek Christian, Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in his 2nd century work, Against Heresies, (1.10.2), said:

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.[4]

How marvelous! The one church and her one faith!

“contend for”

And now I swing back around to the beginning of our verse. What is Jude saying we must do with this faith? Watch this:

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.

We must contend for the faith! Douglas Moo writes:

“Contend” is a strong word. It refers to the exertions of the athlete and is similar to the word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”[5]

The fact that Jude tells the church they are to contend for the faith indicates that the faith is under attack. In the rest of the letter we will learn more about those who were attempting to distort the faith, those against whom Jude was exhorting the church to contend. In short, there was danger afoot and both an offense and defense was needed against this threat.

But for our purposes at this point, let us acknowledge the following:

  • The faith is a defined body of beliefs.
  • The faith has been given once and for all and is therefore not to be altered.
  • The faith is to be contended for when threatened and stewarded at all times.
  • The church must never, ever, ever lose faith or the

If the church loses the faith, we lose our very reason for being! To lose the faith, to abandon the faith, to turn away from the faith, to sit silently by while others distort the faith: this is a tragedy and a scandal beyond description!

Paul, in Galatians 1, expressed it with shocking bluntness, but a bluntness that reveals just what is at stake. Paul writes:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

So Paul was dealing in Galatia with the same dynamics that Jude was dealing with: some had come into the church proposing an alternative faith, a different gospel. And Paul and Jude respond in the same way. Paul, like Jude, writes that there is not another gospel! The faith is the faith! We have nothing else to steward or to say! And Paul, like Judas, acknowledges danger in their midst: some have come in to distort the faith from within the church! And Paul, like Jude, expresses intense urgency! Paul writes:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Church! Church! We must safeguard the gospel! We must not abandon the faith! We must stay true to King Jesus and the revolutionary, world-altering, soul-saving, meaning-bringing, transformation-causing, hell-defeating faith that He has given us!

Contend for the faith! Do not let loose of the faith!


[1] https://cpt.mbts.edu/2016/06/06/christianity-yesterday-today-and-forever-when-henry-met-barth/

[2] Freeman, Curtis W. Pilgrim Letters. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2021), p.25.

[3] Bateman, Herbert W., IV. Jude. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Academic, 2017), p.137.

[4] https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/irenaeus-book1.html

[5] Moo, Douglas  J. 2 Peter, Jude (The NIV Application Commentary Book 18) . Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *