Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 3-4 NIV)
Jude urges his readers to “contend for the faith,” and the issue that raises his concern is so important that he has set aside what he initially intended to write to them about. He has learned that there are ungodly people who have slipped in among them, who “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
This is not merely a theological issue. It is a moral one, with theological implications. J. B. Phillip’s translation puts it this way: “They have no real reverence for God, and they abuse his grace as an opportunity for immorality. They will not recognize the only master, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
They are “ungodly,” which means that they have no regard and no respect for God, and it shows in how they live. It is not so much that they have denied the sovereign Lordship of Jesus as a matter of doctrine, but they have denied it by their practice. The life they live gives the lie to the faith they profess. They have taken the grace of God, by which we are saved, and have used it as a license to sin.
There is a connection between what a person believes and how he lives. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ leads to a life of obedience to Him. Those who trust in Him, follow Him. But a faith that does not connect to how one lives is not a faith worth having.
Contending for “the faith,” for Jude, was not merely a matter of embracing the correct doctrines but had just as much to do with how “the faith” gets lived out. These ungodly ones were false not only because of their doctrine but also because of their immorality. The two go together, because what a person actually believes affects how he lives, and how he lives reflects what he actually believes — regardless of what he might profess to believe.
These were false teachers Jude was warning about, dreamers spouting theological nonsense, who not only indulged in sexual immorality but scoffed at divine authority and the reality of evil entities (v. 8). They were as faithless as Cain, as greedy as Balaam and as rebellious as Korah (v. 11). They were completely selfish and lacking in love. Jude says of them:
These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (v.12 NIV)It is against these, then, that Jude urges his readers to contend for the faith. For the faith is not simply a body of doctrine, it is a way of life that affirms the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things.