April 01, 2016
Jesus taught it. The apostles lived it. What are we doing with it?
Jude wrote to Early Church believers, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). What did Jude mean by “the faith”? Typically when we consider faith, we think of believing—of trust, assurance, and confidence in God. However, there is a difference between “believing faith” and “the faith,” and it is important to distinguish between the two.
In the Word of God we find numerous examples of believing faith. We think of the Roman centurion whose servant at home was grievously afflicted. The centurion came to the Lord, asking Him to heal his servant, and Jesus responded that He would go to the centurion’s home to do so. However, the centurion said that was not necessary—Jesus could just speak the word right where He was and the servant would be healed. When Jesus heard that, He marveled, and said “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8:10). The centurion believed and His servant was healed.
In Mark 2 we read of four men who came to Jesus bringing one who was sick of the palsy. When the crowd around the Lord prevented the four from reaching Him, they broke through the roof of the house where Jesus was, and let down before Jesus the bed on which the sick man lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He healed the man!
Mark 5 tells of a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. She pressed her way through the crowd around Jesus and touched His garment, believing that “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” Jesus turned and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” The woman was fearful, but Jesus told her, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:34). She believed, and she was made whole!
In Matthew 17:20 we read that Jesus told the disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” There is power in believing faith!
“The faith” includes the entire scope of Biblical doctrine—all the teachings and practices given to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
While “the faith” certainly includes believing faith, it is more encompassing. “The faith” includes the entire scope of Biblical doctrine—all the teachings and practices given to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Some assume that the word “doctrine” refers to salvation, sanctification, being filled with the Holy Ghost, restitution, marriage for life, the second coming of Jesus, tithing, and other similar teachings. These are Bible doctrines, but the faith includes much more. It encompasses every teaching and practice that the apostles and other writers of Scripture were inspired to write and teach.
The faith is the Christian way of life as distinguished from a non-Christian way of life. Those in the faith take God into account every moment of every day. Those who are not in the faith ignore God or merely give Him casual notice; they rarely take Him into account in any situation. Those in the faith have the goal of Heaven always in view. Those who are not in the faith are focused on things of this world. There is a difference.
We come to the faith when we get saved. In Acts 6:7 we read, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” After salvation, we are to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22). We can be established in the faith (Acts 16:5), and are instructed to stand fast in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). After Paul’s conversion, the churches in Judea marveled that he preached the faith he had once sought to destroy (see Galatians 1:23). However, the apostle persevered, and at the end of his life he declared, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Scripture indicates that some are weak in the faith (Romans 14:1), and warns that it is possible to depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). Some err or blunder concerning the faith (1 Timothy 6:21), and others deny the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). At times we observe those who are reprobate, or troublemakers, concerning the faith (2 Timothy 3:8). Jude was aware of these possibilities, and so he exhorted the brethren to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” stressing the need for the saints to defend continually and uphold vigorously the truth which had been given them.
Contending for the faith is necessary because of the natural tendency toward deterioration. If we neglect our cars, our gardens, our lawns, or our houses, their conditions will worsen. That downward tendency is like gravity—it is a natural law. If we do not “earnestly contend for the faith,” we will leave little for the next generation to stand for.
Further along in this epistle, Jude referred to the teachings and lifestyle of the apostles, who were the delegates or ambassadors of the Gospel, having been commissioned and sent forth by God. In verse 17 we read, “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The faith” that Jude admonished the saints to contend for was what had been expounded and practiced by the apostles.
The name of our church, The Apostolic Faith, refers to that same faith which was expounded and practiced by the apostles. Actually, the name “The Apostolic Faith” was used before Florence Crawford came to Portland to establish this work, and even before she arrived at the Azusa Street revival where she experienced entire sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It had been in use for a number of years by religious groups who were striving to experience and revive teachings that reflected the faith of the apostles. The phrase “apostolic faith” was not initially intended to be the name of a denomination; rather, it referred to the doctrines and practices taught in the Early Church.
In the early 1900s, groups of people around the country who were saved and sanctified wondered if God would pour out His Spirit in the same manner which they read about in the Acts of the Apostles. They gathered to tarry and pray for revival. God answered those prayers, and people began receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
One of the largest Pentecostal revivals in this country occurred in Los Angeles in a building on Azusa Street. When Florence Crawford went to investigate what was happening there, the name “Apostolic Faith” was being used. The verse, “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” had been taken as a motto because it had been the motto of the group in Houston, Texas, where William Seymour, one of revival leaders, had first come in contact with the Latter Rain Gospel. That group had used “Apostolic Faith” in their name. So William Seymour and Florence Crawford did not create the name.
Our church sprang from that Azusa Street revival. In time, Florence Crawford moved to Portland. When legal requirements necessitated that we organize and incorporate, “The Apostolic Faith Mission of Portland, Oregon” was adopted as the formal name of our organization. We grasp the importance of the phrase “apostolic faith” when we understand what it stands for.
None of us would boast of how well we measure up to the faith of the apostles, but we should not mind being challenged to strive for it.
We do not want to drift away from the faith of the apostles—the apostolic faith. That phrase challenges us! None of us would boast of how well we measure up to the faith of the apostles, but we should not mind being challenged to strive for it. May God help us to embrace the challenge and live up to the standard set forth by those teachings. We do not want just to come to the faith, but we want to live according to the faith.
This challenge applies to everyone. Contending for the faith is not just for the ministry or church workers who represent this organization; the Bible is written to all of us! Once God calls us and puts us in a place where we represent the faith, we bear a great deal of responsibility. People have every right to examine our lives and have certain expectations of us. If we claim to be of the faith, we can be expected to live according to the faith. The Spirit of God goes through a congregation searching hearts and prompting us to measure up to the faith we represent.
As we continue on in Jude’s epistle, we see references to the doctrinal teachings of the apostles; he wrote to those who had been called (saved) and sanctified (verse 1), and challenged them to pray in the Holy Ghost (verse 20). He mentioned the coming of the Lord, judgment upon the ungodly, and rewards to the faithful (verses 14-15). He also alluded to obedience, integrity, and contentment, and spoke of order and subordination. These are all part of the faith.
Jude also gave examples illustrating the consequences for wrongdoing. In Jude 1:5-7 he referred to the Children of Israel who were disobedient even though they had been delivered from bondage. We read, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” He mentioned the angels which “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” relating that they were “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (verse 6). He related that Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them who gave themselves over to evil practices, were “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (verse 7).
To be in the faith is not only being obedient in seeking to be saved, but also being obedient throughout life. Jude mentioned some who chose to disobey. In verses 11-12 we read that Cain chose an alternative to sacrificing in the way he knew God required. He became jealous of his brother Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted, and killed him. Jude referred to Balaam, who was covetous. He was willing to sell out his integrity for economic gain, and even threw stumbling blocks in the way of the Children of Israel whom he should have loved. Core (Korah), who challenged God’s order and refused to subordinate himself to Moses, is named. All of these individuals suffered the consequences for their decision to be disobedient.
Jude urged the saints of his day to contend for the faith because certain ungodly men had “crept in unawares” and were subverting the apostolic doctrine by “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 4). He instructed the saints regarding how to stay established in the faith, telling them in Jude 1:20, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” The Lord meets with us when we pray! Verse 21 continues, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” If we are determined to be kept, we will be kept. We cannot go through life in a spiritually lackadaisical manner and succeed. We must “earnestly contend for the faith.” We must fight to preserve it in our own hearts, and also to preserve it corporately as a body of believers.
When we do our part, God will help us. In verse 24 we read that God “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” The faith is a way of victory! Though it is a challenging way, it is a way of joy and contentment.
Have you embraced the faith that was once delivered to the saints? Are you contending for it? If you have never come to the faith, come today. Look Heaven’s way, and you will find that God will hear from Heaven and answer!