â€œIt 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.â€ (Jude 1:3)
After Jude had responded to the Holy Spiritâ€™s prompting to direct his thoughts away from writing a gospel account, the intensity of the growing battle for â€œthe faithâ€ came into focus. Perhaps Jude was aware of Paulâ€™s observation that we do not â€œwrestleâ€ against ordinary forces, but our battle deals with the â€œspiritual wickedness in high placesâ€ (Ephesians 6:12).
The special word that was chosen by the Holy Spirit to speak to this struggle in Judeâ€™s letter was epagonizomai. The core word (agonizomai) is used in the famous passage â€œI have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faithâ€ (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul also notes what â€œgreat conflictâ€ he felt for the church at Colosse (Colossians 2:1) and that Epaphras was â€œalways labouring ferventlyâ€ for them in his prayers (Colossians 4:12).
The object of this spiritual struggle was â€œthe faith which was once delivered unto the saints.â€ Two matters are of importance in that little phrase. First, â€œthe faithâ€ is a specific designation used in the New Testament to incorporate the basic doctrines of the New Covenant. It does include, but does not limit itself to, the belief that results in salvation. The early churches were â€œestablished in the faithâ€ (Acts 16:5). We are to â€œstand fast in the faithâ€ (1 Corinthians 16:13) and to come to a â€œunity of the faithâ€ (Ephesians 4:13).
Second, that body of doctrine was â€œonce delivered to the saints.â€ Implicit in that comment is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to â€œguide [the apostles] into all truthâ€ (John 16:13). Both Old and New Testaments insist that we are not to add or subtract from the words of Godâ€™s Word. Judeâ€™s epistle emphasizes the awful judgment that comes upon those who would distort or disdain what is â€œthe faith.â€ HMM III