May 26, 2002
Rev. Bryn MacPhail's final service for St. Andrew's (Beeton) & Fraser (Tottenham)

Fiona Allan singing
"Give Me Jesus"

"Thank-you" /
"Contend Earnestly For The Faith"

Scripture Reading: Jude 3

     For a time such as this, I confess to you that I am not entirely sure what is appropriate for me to say to you. But before I bring you a brief exposition from Jude, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my two congregations. After today, I can no longer call you “my congregations”, but I can assure you that I will always regard you as my beloved in Christ.

    I am certain that the words I am about to speak will be insufficient in conveying to you how grateful I am to have served as your minister for the last four and a half years. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

    I want to thank-you for so much, yet by doing so in this context, I am forced to omit a great deal in my thanking you. First of all, thank-you for taking a chance on a 25 year old minister fresh out of seminary. Rather than discriminating against me because of my age, I fondly recall the respectful way many of you introduced me to others by saying, “This is my minister.”

    To those of you who welcomed Allie and I into your homes, I thank you for your kindness.

   To those who supported me by carving time out of your busy schedule to serve Christ, thank-you for making this a better church.

    To those who attended my small group Bible studies, thank-you for all that you taught me about what it means to be a Christian.

    At recent gatherings of our congregations, Allie and I have been overwhelmed by your expressions of love. Your most recent gifts to us were both immensely meaningful, and extremely generous. We will not soon forget the kindness which you have shown to us.

    The challenges a minister faces—day by day, week by week, year by year, are not seen by most people. Beginning early in 1998, and continuing through May 2002, the obstacles I faced, and the tears I shed, have been many. I could not have endured without the prayers of many of you here today. And surely, as an answer to prayer, I thank God for providing me with 2 men to strengthen me and to keep me from despair.

    Bill Siddall, Jim Allan, I will never, ever, forget what you have done for me. In difficult times, you stood by me and encouraged me—both in private and in the presence of others. When I think of those who live out the command, “Contend earnestly for the faith”, I think of you.

    Friends, this is the exhortation that I want to leave you with, Jude 1, verse 3: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints.

    As I reflect on my ministry in these congregations, I regret that I have made many mistakes. One area where I have no regrets, however, is with the doctrines I have expounded from this pulpit. For four and a half years, I have delivered to you, not my own ideas or musings, but I have delivered to you “the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints.

    Jude, the half brother of Jesus, a son of Mary and Joseph, teaches us a great deal with this statement. By telling his readers to “ contend earnestly for the faith” instead of telling them “contend earnestly for your faith”, Jude manifests that there is an objective content to the gospel that must be retained .

    And by stating that this set of objective truths was “ once and for all delivered”, Jude means to tell us that “the faith ”, the doctrinal content of Christianity, has been irrevocably fixed for us.

    Jude’s message is that the content of the Gospel must neither be added to, nor subtracted from. We have all the more reason to pay attention to Jude, since the relativism which is at the heart of his opponents, is now at the heart of our own culture.

    For this reason, we should not be surprised by Jude’s exhortation to “contend earnestly for the faith”. Sound Biblical doctrines have been “delivered to the saints”, they have been entrusted to us to defend in the face of opposition.

    We also learn a great deal by looking at what Jude does not say. Jude does not say, believe the faith, spread the faith, or live the faith, although all those exhortations would be appropriate. Instead, Jude implores us to “contend earnestly for the faith”. The meaning of the Greek implies an intense, ongoing, wrestling match (Stott, 2Peter & Jude, 176).

    Why, you ask, do we need to contend for the faith? There are two obvious reasons. The first reason we must contend for the faith is because the content of the Christian faith is an extremely valuable thing. The second reason we must contend for the faith is because it is in danger of being attacked and dismantled.

    Let me ask you, if you were on a family trip, in a strange country, and a member of your family—your spouse, or your child—was being kidnapped, what would you do? Well, you would fight, of course! You would instinctively put yourself in harm’s way, you would use all of your might, you would do whatever you could to protect and rescue your child. Why? Because your child is of great value to you.

    I think we would all agree that the things that are most valuable to us are worth fighting to protect. I ask you then, how much do you value the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it worth contending for? Is the content of the Gospel worth protecting against those who would rail against it?

    I understand that the exhortation to contend for the faith may not be a popular one, because it is often assumed that since Christianity is a religion based on love, we should respond in a kind manner to even the most ludicrous of assertions. Jude, however, sets us straight. God has entrusted us with this sacred deposit. And so, if we are to glorify God, we must contend for the faith.

    How do we do this? If you agree, that contending earnestly for the faith is essential, let me give you three ways to do this.

    The first way to contend for the faith is by rightly applying the Bible to every situation. Remember, “the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword . . . and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Heb. 4:12). What this means is that we do not contend for the faith by our own power, but we utilize the power of God’s Word.

    Charles Spurgeon was once asked how he defended the Bible. Spurgeon’s response was that he likened the Bible to a lion, “Who ever thought of defending a lion? Just set the lion loose and it will defend itself.” Contending for the faith then, means letting the Bible loose and allowing it to transform the community we call “the church”.

    The second way to contend for the faith is by prayer. Once again, we are not contending for the faith by our own power, but through prayer we enlist God’s help to defeat the enemy. For “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh”(2Cor. 10:4), but by “ praying in the Spirit” we put on the full armour of God (Eph. 6:10-20). When you pray for the spread of the gospel, when you pray for growth of your church, be sure to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”(Mt. 6:10).

    The third way to contend for the faith is by practicing holy conduct. It is possible that if your words do not convince those who oppose you, your behaviour will. This is why the apostle Peter writes, “Keep your behaviour excellent among (unbelievers), so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation ”(1Pet. 2:12).

    Jude’s exhortation to “contend earnestly for the faith ” is an exhortation for the church to be applied in the church . The Church faces battles without, yes, but it also faces battles within. For Jude writes in verse 4, “certain persons have crept in unnoticed ”.

    So what shall we do? Apply Scripture to every situation. Pray. And practice holy living. Do these three things as you contend for the faith.

    Guard those biblical truths that are most fundamental. “For the leading truths are like captains of armies, if they be routed, the rout of the whole follows”(John Collins).

    In a few short hours, I will no longer be regarded as your minister. Even still, be assured of this:

    I will pray for you, I will pray for you, as you earnestly contend for the faith. Amen.