Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Scott Oliphint on “Contending for the Faith”

Jude 1:3 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 book of Jude is a tragedy of sorts. It reminds us that there will be times when those who appear closest to us will seek our demise. It reminds us that often in our own households, even in the church of Jesus Christ, we should "beware the Ides of March" because the day is not yet over. It reminds us to encourage one another, as we see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:25). It reminds us that the faith is to be defended and commended even to and among the Lord's people, in the church.

The church father Origen said of the book of Jude that it "was small, but filled with a vigorous vocabulary." That vigorous vocabulary is written by Jude to motivate his readers, and us, to contend for the faith. Though small in size, Jude packs a powerful apologetic punch.

Jude had a purpose in writing his epistle. Originally, he had wanted to write a letter of encouragement. He had wanted to emphasize the unity that he and his original readers all shared together in Jesus Christ. But because of the present situation among these Christians, he decided he must write to them, not about their unity in the faith, but rather about defending that faith that unifies them. This short epistle turns out to be an encouragement to do apologetics….

In the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus told us exactly what would happen in our own experiences in the church. He told us that "while everyone was sleeping" the enemy would come in and sow weeds among the wheat (Matt. 13:25). When the wheat seeds take root and begin to grow, so do the weeds.

Of course, our natural reaction to this, as servants of Christ, would be to rid the field of all the weeds. But Jesus said this was not the responsibility of the servants. In attempting to rid the field of all weeds, some wheat might get destroyed as well. We are to "let both grow together until the harvest" (Matt. 13:30). In other words, the 'weeding out' process is to be left to the Lord of the harvest, in his own perfect time.

Though we cannot completely rid the church of its 'weeds,' it is not the case that the weeds will always be unrecognizable. Neither is it the case that we should not seek to keep gospel purity within the church. How then are we to approach those 'weeds' that infiltrate the church? Jude helps us to answer to that question….

It is not only that they had slipped in secretly, but they had somehow begun to influence some believers in the church as well….

At this point, I want to reiterate why it’s wrong to “compare IPs”. Instead, we must look at each “interpretive paradigm” on its own merits.

There is no way to know how Eve might have responded if the serpent had simply come to her and said, "Choose whom you will serve - Satan or the Lord God!" The point, however, is that he did not come to her in that way. Rather, he came with a question, a question that, perhaps on the surface, looked like a simple request for information. "He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"

No doubt Satan knew exactly what God had said. His question is not one of simple curiosity. He is not merely inquiring after information. He was after much more than information. The way in which he gets that information is worth our attention. It is worth our attention because it is so subtle.

The serpent was able, in asking the question, to manipulate Eve's own concerns. In asking the question the way that he did, he was able to focus Eve's concern on his deception. He was able to get Eve to question God's command to her. First came the question, then the blatant opposition. Only after getting Eve, so to speak, 'on his wave length' was he able to present to her the 'other' option …

This is where Michael Liccione’s “comparisons” of “which IP is preferable” shows itself: The Catholic IP plays on the insecurity of people – “OHMYGODIDON’TKNOWINFALLIBLY” – and thus presents its own case for heresy with the security of an infallible pronouncement or "interpretation".

This is how attacks and assaults operate within the Christian church, within Christian teaching and Christian institutions. They tend to work, subtly and almost undetectably, to bring us into their context of concern. They begin with subtle questions or 'concerns.' Underneath such questions lies a denial of biblical truth….

As with Jude, there are times when the church must be reminded to contend earnestly for the faith. That "contention" is a fight; by God's grace it is a "good fight," but a good fight is a fight nevertheless. And no matter the eventual outcome, the Lord is honored by the fight itself, because in such apologetic conflicts the steadfast principles of the gospel itself are set in bold relief for all to see.


  1. john cant access steve's topical index what happened

    1. Generally speaking, it moved; look right under the header for "Triablogue Master Index" and "Triablogue Topical Index" tabs.

  2. "This is where Michael Liccione’s “comparisons” of “which IP is preferable” shows itself: The Catholic IP plays on the insecurity of people – “OHMYGODIDON’TKNOWINFALLIBLY” – and thus presents its own case for heresy with the security of an infallible pronouncement or "interpretation"."

    Yow! That's a zinger of an analogy!