“I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people“ (Jude 3).
There are two things to think about in this boldface phrase:
(1) The declaration that the faith was entrusted to us, God’s people. This is a startling and sobbering reality, when you think about it. I mean, the message of the Gospel, the very truth of who God is and how he relates to us and the world, has been entrusted to us to preserve. If we look at the history of the Christian Church, we have seldom done a fantastic job at this. We have gotten it wrong or twisted more often than we have transmitted it to the next generation unblemished and with passion. Sure, it is written down and codified in the Bible, but we as his people then need to translate and interpret it. It really makes me wonder why God would entrust this to us. I suppose for the same reason that he has invited us into his project of redeeming the world and being Jesus-with-skin-on to our friends, families and neighbours: because he loves us and created us to serve and glorigfy him. And because we are loved by him, he has also made us holy, which goes a long way toward preparing us for the task given us.
Whenever I get up in front of the congregation to preach, I feel the weight of the responsibility I have: to the best of my ability, I am to transmit the truth of the message of God to those who are gathered to listen. This is an awesome responsibility that I pray will always put into me a little bit of holy fear to keep me one my toes and keep me honest. But this isn’t just for me. All of us should be conscious each day of the amazing privilege that we have of guarding and preserving the Gospel by living according to what we say we believe as well as making sure we dedicate some time to study so we can be clear and confident in what we do, in fact, hold to be the central message that Christ came to earth to communicate to us.
(2) Then there is Jude’s declaration that our faith was entrusted to us one time for all. In order words, we heard it once, and it is never going to change. The exact some truth that Jesus came to show us is still today the truth that will set us free. It cannot be changed or altered without losing its power. That is not to say that it cannot be communicated in a way that is understandable and relevant to the historical and social context in which we find ourselves, but by God’s design the content of the message will stand true for all people and throughout all ages. So dig in and decide what the core of the Gospel is and what some of the contextual apparatus is. Be prepared to keep the former (don’t get too clever with it) and discard and change the latter as need be. Admittedly it is not always 100% clear which is which (thus part of the reason why we have not done a great job of handing down the message intact — see point #1 above), but that should not deter us from conducting such a needed exercise. Examine what the Bible really says and be prepared to discover and admit your own biases that would otherwise unduly change our pure and priceless message.