You’ve probably heard the expression—particularly in the face of some desperate situation.
“The doctor fought to keep the patient alive.”
“The first responders fought to get to the people trapped in the rubble.”
“The pilot fought to bring the damaged plane to a safe landing.”
We use the idea of fighting not only to refer to actual combat, but also to speak about attentive, passionate, necessary, and hard labor. Labor to achieve some critical—some essential—end.
That’s Jude’s language. In his short epistle, he explained:
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. (3)
The expression “contend earnestly” could perhaps be more plainly rendered “fight as a combatant.” Jude is calling his readers to engage in an attentive, passionate, necessary and hard fight. The call is to “fight for the faith.”
What does Jude mean in referring to “the faith”? Although he knows his readers’ have come to place personal faith in Jesus, when writing about the faith, that is not what he has in view.
The faith is a way of referring to the body of truth that forms the foundation of the Gospel. It’s the doctrinal ground on which personal faith rests. The faith is the theology that frames the Christian life.
Jude is calling his readers to fight for good theology.
Why the need for a fight to preserve good theology? Because “certain persons have crept in unnoticed” (4). These are people who have—relatively unnoticed—slipped into the fellowship of the believing, bringing a distorted Gospel. Jude is not referring to theological challenges from heresy from without, but doctrinal distortion found within the community. It is in that arena that Jude intends the call to fight for good theology to take place.
And that raises questions. Am I appropriately concerned with fighting for good theology? Am I well enough acquainted with basic Gospel truth that I would recognize distortions and be able to fight against such problems?
Although the leaders of a local church have responsibility for preserving the truth of the Gospel, individual believers are not to abandon their own duty to know, defend, and fight for sound doctrine. Although every Christian is not called to be a theologian (in a formal sense), every believer must be a theologian, knowing what he or she believes and why.
If you, as a Christian, do not have a firm and growing grasp on good theology, you may well be at risk of being carried away by a “wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14-15). If you are not personally growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), you might unintentionally succumb to those who have “crept in unnoticed.”