Putting Up a Hard Fight for the Faith
“I found it necessary to write you to exhort you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.”—Jude 3.
1, 2. (a) Wherein lies the danger in the belief “Once saved, always saved”? (b) Where do we find warning against this belief?
FEW popular expressions are more deceptive and dangerous than the one widely heard throughout Christendom: “Once saved, always saved.” Believing such a saying can lead to disaster, the loss of the Bible-taught hope of everlasting life in a righteous new order under the kingdom of Almighty God.
2 To warn us against such dangerous beliefs as “once saved, always saved,” and to encourage us to put up a hard fight for the true faith, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ wrote a short letter of urgent importance today. It is the sixty-fifth book of the Holy Bible, written about the sixty-fifth year of the first century C.E. It is called The Letter of Jude, and though there are only twenty-five verses in the letter, our heeding its inspired counsel may well make the difference between gaining or losing the salvation held forth to all true followers of the Son of God.
3. Who was Jude, and why does he call himself “a slave of Jesus Christ”?
3 Whom did Jehovah God use to give us this timely warning? The letter answers: “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to the called ones who are loved in relationship with God the Father and preserved for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be increased to you.” (Jude 1, 2) The inspired writer Jude was, in fact, a half brother of Jesus Christ. (Matt. 13:55) However, Jude does not seek to glorify himself by reason of being related to the Son of God in a fleshly way; he realized that Jesus’ true followers would henceforth not know him according to the flesh. (2 Cor. 5:16, 17) So he humbly calls himself “a slave of Jesus Christ.” Thus he put the proper emphasis on his spiritual relationship to Jesus Christ first. Since Jude was not an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he simply calls himself “a slave”; in fact, he did not believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God until after Jesus’ resurrection. (John 7:5; Acts 1:14) Then he put faith in Jesus and, after putting faith in him, Jude realized that, like a slave, he had been bought with a price—the precious blood of the Son of God. From then on Jude, as well as any other person bought with the ransoming blood of Jesus Christ, could not become a slave to men.—1 Cor. 7:22, 23.
4. (a) To whom is The Letter of Jude specifically directed, but why is it timely for all life seekers? (b) What does God require of those who hope in his salvation?
4 As a slave of Christ, Jude wanted to write on what was most advantageous for his fellow slaves to help them to be obedient to their Master. Hence he wrote a general letter, one directed not to any specific Christian congregation. Yet it is emphatically clear as to whom it is directed: “To the called ones,” that is, to those called to God’s heavenly kingdom to rule with Jesus Christ as kings and priests. (1 Thess. 2:12) These spirit-anointed Christians are “loved in relationship with God the Father and preserved for Jesus Christ”; hence it is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom of the heavens if they keep themselves in a saved condition. Though this inspired letter is directed to the “congregation of God” or those whose number is limited according to the Scriptures to 144,000 from among mankind, yet it is timely in its warning for all persons who hope for salvation under God’s kingdom, those who hope to live eternally on a paradise earth. They, too, must remain in a saved condition, having the same degree of devotion, the same degree of faithfulness and producing the same Kingdom fruitage as the anointed Christians. Yes, all those who would enjoy God’s salvation must put up a hard fight for the true faith.
5. What is Jude’s prayer, and how has it been answered upon Jehovah’s witnesses today?
5 The prayer of Jude is that God’s “mercy and peace and love” would be multiplied toward Christ’s true followers, of whom a remnant are yet on earth today. Certainly this has been the case with this spiritual remnant of Christ’s followers who have been granted God’s mercy, by his liberating them from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, in 1919, then filling these liberated Christians with peace so all can work unitedly in advancing the interests of God’s kingdom. Out of God’s love they have been cleansed from Babylonish paganism and set forth as his clean witnesses. It is because Jehovah God has increased his mercy, peace and love upon his liberated Christian witnesses that a “great crowd” of “other sheep” have flocked to their side. (Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:16) These persons have seen the divine blessings showered upon the remnant of these “called ones,” the remnant of spiritual Israel, so they have become part of the “one flock” of Kingdom witnesses. Since the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses is one peaceful flock, guided by the Fine Shepherd, they rejoice in God’s love and mercy, as Jude’s prayer has been abundantly answered upon them. Jude’s prayer is that God’s mercy, peace and love would be increased toward us, not be decreased and finally cease. Could such a terrible thing happen? It could happen to individuals; and to put us on guard against that possibility, Jude sounds a warning to show that it could happen if we fail to keep ourselves in God’s love:
SPECIAL REASON FOR PUTTING UP A HARD FIGHT
6. What exhortation is given individual Christians, and why?
6 “Beloved ones, though I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we hold in common, I found it necessary to write you to exhort you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.”—Jude 3, 4.
7. From writing on what subject did Jude change, and why?
7 Jude obviously had not intended to write about putting up a hard fight for the true faith. He had hoped to write in a general way about “the salvation we hold in common”; however, by means of God’s holy spirit, he discerned that there was something of pressing importance, of greater urgency than a doctrinal discussion on the salvation held in common by the 144,000 called to the heavenly kingdom. In Jude’s day, nineteen centuries ago, the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, was not gathering the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-17, and so Jude was not writing about the salvation shared equally today by all those of the “great crowd.” Even though they are not included directly in Jude’s intended discussion, they do hold in common the precious hope of salvation under the Kingdom; they hope for life everlasting in the new order as much as the remnant of the “little flock” look forward to heavenly glory. This hope, to live on a paradise earth, will be brought about by the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, who reigns with his “called ones.” Hence Jesus Christ died, not only for the “called ones,” but for the whole world of mankind, including this “great crowd” of sheeplike persons of today. (1 John 2:1, 2) Those “sheep” with an earthly hope must also “put up a hard fight for the faith” until the prize is won, for Satan the Devil would like to cheat them of such a precious prize.
8. So what belief does Jude clearly expose, and what had Jesus Christ earlier said about individual salvation?
8 By writing on the subject of putting up a hard fight for the faith Jude spotlighted the falsehood of the belief “once saved, always saved.” Our being now in a saved condition is no reason for any Christian to think that he cannot be moved from or drawn out of God’s love and thereby lose out on the salvation God extends to obedient mankind. Jesus Christ had made it clear, and Jude knew it, too, that “he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) Jesus was speaking of personal salvation here, not a class salvation. No uncertainty exists about the salvation of the class called to the heavenly kingdom, but the question is: Individually, whether we are of the “little flock” or of the “great crowd,” will we endure to the end? The “end” Jesus mentioned is not necessarily a specific year, or even the battle of Armageddon, but the idea is to endure to the finish of one’s earthly course or of the long test. Not to endure means to prove disloyal. So either until one dies in faithfulness or to the end of this wicked system of things, one must continue to put up a hard fight for the faith. How?
9. What does it mean to put up a hard fight for the faith?
9 Putting up a hard fight for the faith means not only to endure to the end in holding fast with our minds the things God teaches us; it also means to resist temptations toward corruption by any who would turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct. We must realize that the Devil’s tactic throughout the history of God’s people has been to try to introduce among them persons who would serve his cunning design and who would try to corrupt others. Hence a fight is forced upon all who have declared themselves for the true faith. This fight tests our integrity and our love for God.
10. What does Jude say ungodly men would do, and how had this been foretold?
10 Explaining why we must put up a hard fight for the faith, Jude said that certain ones have slipped into God’s organization, pretending to be Christians. They are actually “ungodly men,” who turn God’s mercy into an excuse for loose conduct About ten years before Jude wrote this warning, the apostle Paul had foretold that persons with wicked motives would worm their way in among God’s people. (Acts 20:29, 30) Jesus, too, had foretold this enemy movement to try to corrupt Jehovah’s name people. (Matt. 13:24-43) The Devil draws his agents from the world of mankind that have “come to be past all moral sense.”—Eph. 4:17-19.
11. In view of Jude’s warning, what must be our attitude, and why?
11 Since the Devil would like to introduce morally bankrupt persons with evil designs in among the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, all need to watch, especially the overseers of congregations. “Because the days are wicked” and because many love wickedness, never can we relax our guard. The Christian congregation must be alert to strain out and debar enemy agents from gaining any foothold. Though we know wicked men cannot corrupt the organization as a whole, they may do injury to a congregation, causing God’s spirit to be retarded in that congregation, until the wicked ones are rooted out. Not only may the congregation fail to prosper but individuals in it may be drawn aside and corrupted into immoral relations with those of the opposite sex. This must be guarded against so that God’s organization may remain clean and pure, undefiled.
“EYES FULL OF ADULTERY”
12. What warning does Jude give regarding ungodly men who would try to sneak into God’s organization, and what is the Devil’s motive in trying to introduce such men?
12 Hence Jude warns those who would try to corrupt God’s people that they “have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment” of everlasting destruction. What is wrong with these persons? Their motive. They think that, since God is merciful, they can use his mercy as an excuse for immoral conduct to gratify sexual desires. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) They try to persuade unstable believers to indulge in loose relations, causing others to believe that it will not hurt to indulge one’s passions just once in a while, since God readily forgives us if we confess this sin. So these persons have the motive of sexual gratification, and, as in the case of Cain, sin is crouching at their doorstep; they do not have pure eyes. Peter describes them: “They have eyes full of adultery and unable to desist from sin, and they entice unsteady souls. They have a heart trained in covetousness.” (2 Pet. 2:14) The Devil uses these persons with “eyes full of adultery” to try to corrupt the pure-eyed, purehearted people of God and to try to tempt them into pleasurable sin.
13. In what way are these ungodly men unlike Moses, and so what is the Christian’s obligation?
13 Unlike Moses, these persons of evil design think they can go in for “the temporary enjoyment of sin,” and still gain salvation. (Heb. 11:25) They think they can indulge their passions and then go through a form of repentance and stay among God’s people till the next time they lust for indulgence in sin, until they can again persuade others by impure advances into immorality. Thus they are guilty of turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct. It is against such immoral persons that Christians must put up a hard fight, resisting them, not only for harm done to individuals, but for the harm that comes to any congregation that would allow them a free hand in trying to corrupt and degrade those of the opposite sex.
14. Why is Christendom’s moral condition no excuse for yielding to immoral persons?
14 The fact that Christendom has gone the way of loose morals and that its schools and church systems teem with people practicing immoral conduct is no excuse for a true Christian to indulge his passions. Jude makes it clear that, if any yield to sin, they would be “proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Since we must be true to the faith once delivered to the holy ones, we should steadfastly refuse to yield to ungodly persons, resisting any form of corruption in these wicked days.
SOMETHING OF WHICH TO BE REMINDED
15. How does Jude illustrate that one can lose out despite being in a saved condition, and what deliverance had the Israelites shared in common?
15 To stress the point that our salvation is not yet sealed up and delivered to us beyond loss or failure after believing, Jude shows that, despite one’s being in a saved condition, an individual can lose out. How? By not putting up a hard fight, by giving in to the temptations of ungodly persons. The doom of these persons, he warns, has been foretold. How? By the historical record of the Bible! Many are the examples in God’s Holy Word showing how Jehovah dealt with ungodly persons in the past; these examples show what God will do in like cases today. Hence, before they sneak in and try to entice others into immorality, they are warned what their doom will be! Jude writes: “I desire to remind you, despite your knowing all things once for all time, that Jehovah, although he saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those not showing faith.” (Jude 5) Yes, what a marvelous deliverance the Israelites had in 1513 B.C.E.! With a strong hand Jehovah delivered them, saving their firstborn from death when the tenth plague came upon Egypt. Not only were the Israelites delivered at the time of this blow upon the firstborn, but later also, at the Red Sea. In this deliverance a “mixed company” of non-Israelites also shared.—Ex. 12:38.
16, 17. (a) What lesson do Christians learn from the example of the Israelites and the “mixed company”? (b) How did the apostle Paul sound the same warning, and what should be our response?
16 What is prefigured here? Since Egypt is a symbol of this system of things (Rev. 11:8; 2 Cor. 4:4), it pictures that today those whom Jehovah saves from this system of things are not to run to Egypt and sinful bondage. Their initial deliverance from this wicked system of things does not mean that they are unalterably saved to everlasting life in God’s new order, beyond all possibility of failure. Not if the Israelites with the “mixed company” are a true illustration! Jehovah, who was their Savior, destroyed a million or more Israelites in the wilderness. (Ex. 12:37; Num. 14:26-38) Why? They yielded to the deceptive power of sin. Sin is deceptive; it creeps up and pounces on its victims without mercy, as it did with the Israelites. Warning us that an initial deliverance from antitypical Egypt and its Babylonish paganism is no final proof of salvation, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, declared: “On most of them [Israelites in the wilderness] God did not express his approval, for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, for us not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them. Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink [sacrifices offered to Baal of Peor], and they got up to have a good time [with the Canaanite women who invited them to such sacrifices].’ Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day. Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents. Neither be murmurers, just as some of them murmured, only to perish by the destroyer. Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:5-11.
17 Paul here was writing to Christians, and he draws his illustration from typical natural Israel. With the Israelites was a “mixed company” of people friendly to Israel; so in the antitype today the warning refers to both the remnant of anointed Christians and the “great crowd” of “other sheep.” Hence all must be on guard against those who would entice anyone bought with the blood of Jesus Christ into immoral conduct, with resultant bondage to sin. Anyone can be affected no matter how long he has been in the way of salvation. Never become careless, proud, self-reliant, but always examine yourself in the light of his Word so as not to be overreached by the deceptive power of sin.
ANGELS NOT EXEMPT FROM FALLING TO DESTRUCTION
18. In what other way does Jude illustrate the need to put up a hard fight for the Christian faith?
18 Jude then goes on to another illustration showing the need to put up a hard fight for the Christian faith: “And the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day. So too Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.”—Jude 6, 7.
19, 20. (a) What was the sin of the angels to which Jude referred, and in what punishment did this result? (b) What lesson is there for us in the example of the angels who sinned?
19 The disciple Jude now compares these ungodly persons who would try to corrupt others in God’s organization to the fallen angels in Noah’s day. These materialized as perfect-looking humans, no doubt; thus their appearance must have been strikingly attractive. But had they come to earth to bring men back to God? No, their motive was wrong! They had eyes full of passionate desires. They had their eyes on the beautiful-looking daughters of men. Impressive in appearance, these materialized angels made enticing advances to good-looking girls. Regardless of whether they considered that they had a right to these women or not, they apparently took whomever they wished and as many women as they wanted as wives, perhaps more wives than Lamech, who had earlier taken two to himself. (Gen. 4:19) Their beautiful appearance helped them sneak in and infiltrate the human race to corrupt it. So today Jude shows that some whose outward appearance may even be handsome would slip in. They want to get familiar especially with those of the opposite sex, so they can corrupt and degrade them by impure sex relations. At the time of the Flood those angels dematerialized, but they could not return to God’s holy organization. God caused them to be “reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” They now are in a state of spiritual darkness, having no light from God. By their wrong motive they turned themselves into demons. (Gen. 6:1-5) What a lesson there is here for us!
20 We learn here that even angels that behold God’s face can fall into sin and come under judgment to destruction. God never intended angels to be amphibious, that is, to live partly in heaven as spirits and partly on earth as humans, to cohabit with women. But those angels left their assigned dwelling place. Well, now, if angels are not exempt from falling to destruction, imperfect humans should not think their salvation is yet secured with no possibility of losing it. Only by putting up a hard fight for the faith can we remain in that saved condition. We do not want to be like those angels that fell from such a high estate. So resist those humans who would go beyond their God-given boundary and seek to defile flesh.
21. (a) Especially for what sin were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? (b) How does the destruction of those cities stand as a warning and at the same time an encouragement to godly persons?
21 In addition to the sinner angels, Jude mentions as a warning a destruction God brought about more than 450 years after the Flood, when God punished the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah with fiery destruction. The town’s inhabitants “committed fornication excessively” and went after flesh for unnatural use. They not only committed fornication with women, but they lusted for the flesh of men, possibly also the flesh of brute beasts. (Lev. 18:22-25) The Bible tells us how Jehovah sent two angels to Sodom to inspect its moral condition and to rescue Lot from the destruction overhanging the city. Lot hospitably took the angels into his home, but the ungodly inhabitants of Sodom, a mob made up of youths as well as older men, demanded the two angels for improper sex relations. Even after the angels smote the mob with blindness, the passion-obsessed Sodomites tried to get their hands on the angels. The next morning Jehovah God drenched Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and sulphur. Lot and his daughters escaped the destruction that came upon the Sodomites. That destruction is placed “before us as a warning example.” For whom? Peter answers: “By reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he [God] condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come; and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct— . . . Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off, especially, however, those who go on after flesh with the desire to defile it.”—2 Pet. 2:6-10.
22. (a) So what warning should we take to heart? (b) How does God deliver the righteous out of trial?
22 So let all who would defile flesh in God’s organization beware! They are under doom of everlasting destruction. Let all true worshipers take to heart the warning, not considering even momentarily the enticement from such doomed persons. Resist them. “Put up a hard fight for the faith.” We can be certain that God knows how to deliver persons of godly devotion out of trial. God does not necessarily take us out of trialsome circumstances, for he lets them furnish a test upon us. The way God delivers the righteous out of trial is by cutting off the ungodly persons in his own due time. He takes those who provoke trial off the scene of action.
23. In what must we never tire, with the hope of what reward?
23 We do not know how much longer the wicked will keep bringing trials upon us, but we must never grow weary in preaching “this good news of the kingdom,” all the while resisting ungodly persons. Then we will attain to blessed deliverance when God cuts off the ungodly, and we will be left in a cleansed new order. Until then we must never relax our guard, always putting up a hard fight for the faith.
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Sodom and Gomorrah, a Warning Example