Text: Jude 3, 1 Peter 3:15-18
Provide for the Common Defense
Jude 3-4, 1 Peter 3:13-16
Introduce Buddy and have him pray during the offetory
Good morning! Please open your Bibles to the book of Jude. Jude is a tiny little book—only one chapter—and it’s the book right before Revelation. It may be a little hard to find. So when you find it, just say, “Hey—Jude!”
Today, we are going to talk about some of the passages in this week’s reading, but the sermon isn’t really going to deal with the content of the passages. Hopefully that will make sense to you in a few minutes.
Let me also say that I hope you’ve made some room in your Memorial Day plans for some reflection time. I know Memorial Day can mean the kickoff to the summer season, the time when summer blockbusters start rolling into theatres one after another, and (inexplicably) the time when you can find the best deals on mattresses. But more than that, and before all that, Memorial Day is a time to remember those that fought and died in the service of our country. If you haven’t gone downtown recently, I would encourage you to go down and see the Alabama Poppy Project. One of our local artists, Juliette Hansen, started making these beautiful ceramic poppies a few years ago, and asking Alabamians to sponsor a poppy in memory of a family member or friend who died in battle. It’s a very moving display, and a great way to remember the price that was paid for the freedoms we enjoy.
This past Tuesday I was having breakfast with one of the guys in our church. We’ve been meeting for a couple of weeks now, just praying together, talking about our families, our work week, and what we are learning from the Bible. And toward the end of the breakfast, we talk about how we can be praying for each other. And this week, my friend said, “I’d like you to pray that I’ll have the knowledge and the confidence to defend my faith in my workplace. This man has a Hindu coworker who is open to spiritual conversations, and he just wants some guidance in what Christians call apologetics. Now, apologetics has nothing to do with being sorry about something. It’s a Greek word that means “speaking in defense.”
And just as the US Constitution was established in 1787 to “provide for the common defense,” God’s word provides for the common defense of our faith. And it’s our job as a church to make sure we know how to defend it!
And so with that, let’s look at the first few verses of Jude. Verse 1 says the author is Jude, the brother of James. We know from Galatians 1 that this James was the half brother of Jesus, then we know that Jude was another half brother of Jesus. He’s mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, only he’s called Judas there. By the time he wrote this letter, most likely around 60-70 AD, he was going by Jude and not Judas (for obvious reasons!).
We also know that during Jesus’ lifetime, he was not a believer. John 7:5 says that even his own brothers didn’t believe in him. And that single fact is, in itself, a defense of the gospel. If you have a brother, think about it this way: What would it take for you to be convinced that your brother was the Messiah, the Son of God? For me to believe that about my brother, he would have to be raised from the dead!
Tim Keller, who passed away this week, said this about the resurrection:
If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.
Look at verses 3-4.
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. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
These verses tell us two things. Verse 3 tells us what we are fighting for and and verse 4 tells us why we have to fight for it. Jude apparently wanted to write a letter about the salvation the believers shared—verse 3 says he was eager to write about their “common salvation” circumstances demanded that he write to them about contending for the faith.
“Contend” is a word that means “to exert intense effort.” It’s the same word Paul used in 1 corinthians 9 when he talked about athletes who go into strict training to “compete” in the games.
So what are we competing, or contending, or fighting for? Look at the second part: we are contending for the faith that was “once for all” delivered to the saints.
Who are the saints? That’s us. The blood-bought, baptized body of believers are called saints in the New Testament. You are a saint. Turn to your spouse and tell them that. They may need to be reminded!
What is the faith that was delivered once and for all to us? And you can’t just say the gospel. You can’t just say Christianity. If you are going to contend for the faith, you have to be more specific than that. What has been delivered to us is summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, one of the earliest statements of faith [quote it]
Believe it or not, the most important phrase in this entire verse is “once for all.” That means that the faith that has been delivered to us is final. It can’t be modified, amended, adapted, edited, added to, or condensed. It was delivered, in its full and final form, once for all.
A few years ago, I got to be friends with a Mormon missionary who had been assigned to Prattville as part of her two year mission. She had read some of my blog posts and messaged me asking about Glynwood. I invited her to church, and eventually found out she was LDS. As we got to know each other, we began talking about the differences between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism. I told her my biggest problem with Mormonism was that they put the writings of Joseph Smith on the same level of Scripture, along with anything whoever the current president and chief apostle of the Mormon church said.
She said, “Why do you have a problem with that? Don’t you think God still speaks to people today?”
I said, yes, God still speaks to people, but that doesn’t mean he is giving new revelation.” Then I quoted Jude 3—that the faith was given to the saints once and for all.”
And do you know what she said? She said, “In the King James Bible, it doesn’t say “once for all.” It just says “once.” So there’s nothing that prevents there from being new revelation. It was delivered once, and it is still being delivered through men like Joseph Smith.”
And then, she said, “And I think it’s really said that you, as a Christian pastor would think God doesn’t still speak to men like you.”
Ok. I was gobsmacked. I tend to think I know my Bible pretty well. Maybe even better than most people. But this college aged kid, fresh out of high school, right off the top of her head, without even having to look it up, went toe to toe with me on Scripture. Not only that, but she was right, at least as far as what Jude 3 in the King James Version said. She wasn’t right about what it meant, but she was right about what it said.
Now, let me ask you—how would you have done in that situation? Would you have even engaged her in the first place? Or would you just have shut the door and said, “I’m sorry, we’re not interested. We’re Baptists.”
Friends, that is not contending for the faith! That is running from an argument. And I’m sorry, but that is giving ground to a cult that at this point is growing faster than the Southern Baptist Convention.
Would you know what to say to a Mormon?
Or how about this: In this week’s reading in the 66in52 plan, we were confronted with what seems to be contradictions in God’s word between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21-22. Both passages tell the same story. One was written near the time when the events occurred, and the other was written hundreds of years later, when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity.
The story is about how David sinned by taking a census of the Jewish people. God was angry with David because David was putting his faith in how big an army he had instead of how big God was. When David realized his sin, he repented. The angel of the Lord gave David a choice of punishment: Three years of famine, three months of attacks from Israel’s enemies, or three days of plague. He chose three days, and 70,000 of the men David had been counting on died. But God relented when the angel of the Lord was about to destroy Jerusalem. David bought the property where the angel of the Lord was stopped, and he built an altar there. And that became the site of Solomon’s temple.
Now if you’ve never read the Bible chronologically, this may have been the first time that you read these two accounts back to back. And if you read them back to back, you might have noticed that the accounts are slightly different:
- Who incited David? (2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chron. 21:1)
- How many men were counted? (2 Sam. 24:9, 1 Chron. 21:5-6)
- Whose threshing floor was it? (2 Sam. 24:18; 1 Chr. 21:18
- How much did David pay for it? (2 Sam. 24:24; 1 Chr. 21:25)
Now, none of these details make a difference to the point of the story. The point is that God was merciful and did not destroy Jerusalem, and the Temple was built at the spot where God showed Himself merciful. That’s what its all about.
But this passage is red meat for someone that wants to prove that the Bible is full of contradictions. Do you know what you would say to someone? And if your answer is something lame like “Well, God moves in mysterious ways,” or “I’ll ask our pastor about that next Sunday,” or “I never noticed that before” then you’ve lost, and the skeptic walks away saying, “Why should I take the Bible seriously, when I am more familiar with it than this so-called Christian?
Church, we’ve got one weapon to fight with. In Ephesians 6, there are lots of pieces of armor—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes fit for the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. You learned this in RA’s. So what is our one offensive weapon? That’s right. God’s word. And if you only have one weapon, it is your duty to know it. Backwards and forwards. Cover to cover. Hidden in your heart, always by your side, on the walls of your house and on the tablet of your heart.
Because I guarantee you: skeptics and atheists and Mormons and Muslims are all watching and listening to you to see if you know God’s Word better than they do.
How many of you are Marines? Hoo-rah. I learned something about you this week. Every single one of you had to memorize the Rifleman’s Creed in boot camp. The USMC considers every Marine, first and foremost, to be a rifleman. And so this is what you learned:
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me.
My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count.
And if you are a Marine, you might be wiping away tears right now, and that is ok. But let me ask you this. And this is not just for Marines. This is for every Christian who has ever read Ephesians 6:
If you replaced the word “rifle” with the word “Bible,” would this represent how you feel about God’s word?
The Rifleman’s Creed goes on to say, “Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other.”
You would have to modify it a little. The Bible has no weaknesses. And you would probably have to replace “its sights and its barrel” with “its maps and concordances.”
Beloved church, knowing how to defend your faith has to begin by knowing everything you can about the one weapon God has given you!
So we’ve learned what we are fighting for—the faith that was once for all delivered to us. We’ve learned why we are fighting. So let me wrap up by talking about how we fight for the faith. For that, turn to 1 Peter 3:15.
If you are in Jude, turn right. Keep going past all three Johns, past 2 Peter, and then, right before 2 Peter is 1 Peter. If you get to James, you’ve gone too far. Make a U-Turn.
Now that you’ve taken the time to look it up, I’ll put it on the screen. 1 Peter 3:15 says,
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
How we Fight for The Faith (1 Peter 3:15)
- Be settled: In your hearts, honor Christ as Lord. This isn’t about winning Bible jeopardy. It isn’t about puffing yourself up with knowledge. It’s about honoring Christ as Lord. To be settled means that you have already decided that God’s word is true, whether you understand it or not.
BH Carroll was the first president of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. After his death in 1914, his writing and lectures about the Bible were compiled into a book called “The Inspiration of Scripture.” Here’s what BH Carroll said about the Bible and its supposed contradictions:
When I was a boy I thought I had found a thousand contradictions in the Bible… I do not see them now; they are not there. There are perhaps a half dozen in the Bible that I cannot explain satisfactorily to myself. … Since I have seen nine hundred and ninety-four out of the thousand coalesce and harmonize like two streams mingling, I am disposed to think that if I had more sense I could harmonize the other six.
This is what it looks like to be settled in your mind that the Bible is true. But it also means that you are going to be settled in your heart to honor Christ as Lord. Your life is the greatest apologetic. Do you know how someone can tell if you believe the Bible is true? If you act like you believe the Bible is true.
- Be prepared. That’s what most of this sermon is about, so the only thing I’ll add here is the emphasis on “always” in 1 Peter. It doesn’t say “Be prepared when you go on a mission trip.” It says always.
- Be respectful. Listen, God didn’t put you on the earth to win arguments, but to win people. And if you are obnoxious and arrogant in the way you talk about your faith, you aren’t going to win anybody. When I was in fourth grade, I got punched in the nose by an atheist. (Neal Williams story).
The End of the Argument
Tim Keller’s quote—reprise. It all hinges on whether Jesus rose from the dead, and why.