Faith: the real thing

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” — Jude 3

Isn’t it amazing how many people hold the truth in utter contempt? Plenty of people try to make the case that the Holocaust never happened, even though survivors live to this day, the sites of concentration camps still stand, and many eyewitnesses have left both written and photographic accounts of what they experienced or saw.

It’s nothing new. Other examples have occurred throughout history. In New Testament times, while people who had personal memories of Jesus and his teachings still lived, false teachers dared to offer their version of his life and ministry as an alternative.

John named one of them, Diotrephes, in his third epistle. Jude wrote a more general warning. Paul had successfully contended against those who wanted to make following the ancient law a prerequisite for following Jesus.

Now, a generation later, teachers claimed that by grace, Jesus had eliminated any need to heed the law at all. As Jude wrote in the next verse, they preached grace as a license to sin and denied the lordship of Jesus.

Does that sound familiar? Plenty of modern writers and preachers proclaim that the law came with judgment, but that Jesus came with grace and forgiveness. They teach as if Jesus had done away with all moral requirements, as if people can express faith in Jesus and do whatever they want.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer properly named that attitude “cheap grace.” It is absolutely false that grace is absent from the Old Testament; prophets invariably proclaimed that after God punished sins he would restore his  people. It is also absolutely false that Jesus offered forgiveness without repentance. All of Scripture’s most vivid descriptions of hell come from his lips.

Grace is free in the sense we can’t earn it by being good enough. It is costly in the sense that we must be good and keep becoming better in response to it. Continuing in sin is not an  option.

In our time, as in Jude’s, false teaching attacks the truth as revealed in the preaching of the apostles and in Scripture. In our time, as in Jude’s, Christians must learn the truth, be able to discern between truth and falsehood, and contend for the faith.

After all, it was delivered once, for all. God will never issue a second, revised edition. What he has revealed belongs to all–even those who preach condemnation on themselves by denying it.

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