In our reading today, Jude writes to a group of
people that had to stand up against false teachers
who were promoting heresy. To
help them, Jude gives them final exhortations
dealing with faith, prayer, love, hope, and service.
In regards to faith, notice again what Jude
writes in verse 20: “But you, beloved, build
yourselves up on your most holy faith.”
Here are three commentators’ insights on this
passage. The first says: “As in
verse 3, their most holy faith refers to the entire
body of beliefs taught by the apostles and held by
Christians. ... We should notice
that believers are to work together as they build
themselves up as a community, as Christ's temple.
[Their faith] was 'most holy' because it came
from the most holy God. This
faith alone transforms lives and gives eternal life”
(Bruce Barton, Life Application Commentary, Tyndale:
95, 258). The second says: “Here
in the face of the threat of heretical teaching, the
foundation which will sustain the building and keep
it safe is declared, appropriately enough, to be
your most holy faith. As in
[verse] 3, faith has the objective sense, connoting
the ensemble of apostolic teaching; it is your faith
as opposed to the innovators' [heresy]; and it is
most holy because it has been revealed by the holy
God and sanctifies those who hold it” (Kelly, Baker:
81, 285). The last says: “Their
most holy faith is the Christian revelation, handed
down by the apostles (as in v. 3).
In this way, they are to build themselves up.
From other New Testament references, it is
clear that this required study of the apostolic
teaching. The Christian must
study the scriptures if he is to grow in the faith
and be of any use to others (...).
The faith is most holy because it is 'utterly
different', entirely set apart from all others.
It is unique in the message it teaches and in
the moral transformation it produces” (Green,
Tyndale NTC, Eerdmans, 89, 199-200).
Did you notice that all three writers say
that the faith used here is the same faith for which
Christians must contend in verse 3?
This faith is not merely one's belief in
Jesus. No, it is much, much
broader than that. It is all the
teachings of Jesus and the apostles that had
been handed down to this group of believers.
Today, our equivalent to what Jude is saying
New Testament. Just as
they were to build themselves up through study of
the Scriptures, so we must do the same as we look to
the New Testament as our only guide in matters of
religion! Notice, that Jude calls
this “the most holy faith,” and, as was noted, it
came from a holy God, is utterly different than what
religions taught, and it sanctifies and
transforms those who believe it!
Brethren, do we realize what an awesome message we
have to share with others? Do we
realize the uniqueness of this most holy faith is
the dynamic for saving those who are lost?
Do we realize that the early church was not
just another “Mr. Roger's neighborhood” among other
religious groups? Someone made
the observation that men hate modern Christianity
and the church because they are too tame and too
nice? Do we not see “the most
holy faith” as dangerous anymore?
Do we not see the most holy faith as being exclusive
anymore? When you have something
this bold, this dynamic, and this divine, why do we
settle for lesser things? A
brother wrote this about our brotherhood: “Of all
the changes that churches of Christ are currently
facing, surely this fraternization with
denominational [groups] is the most sinister, the
most destructive, and the most tragic in its
implications for the future of the church and for
eternity” (Miller). Why have we
given up fellowship based upon a most holy faith for
a false fellowship? What does
fellowship based upon the most holy faith look like?
Today we want to focus on four aspects of
this fellowship based upon the most holy faith.
We want to see how some in our brotherhood
have feigned fellowship by their fraternization with
denominational groups. Then we
want to see how fellowship based upon the most holy
faith can be attained, maintained, and sustained.
Some of our brethren in the last two decades have
departed from the most holy faith. Here are some
examples to sustain this assertion.
There was a Gospel preacher in 1992 who
thought our lines of fellowship were too rigid, and
he liked what was going on in a big
denominational church located outside of
Chicago . So, he left the Lord's
church and started his own group modeled after that
church (Miller). Another preacher
was invited to preach at a Pentecostal conference in
1994 and after complimenting the pentecostal
preacher for his “pastoring” and “ministry,” he made
this statement: “We come from our different
backgrounds and traditions and sometimes those
backgrounds and traditions become so important to us
that we forget really that the kingdom of God is
wider, deeper, larger, greater than any of those
particular streams or traditions.
The streams and tributaries flow into the larger
kingdom of God ; we would do well not to build dams
in each others little rivulets” (Miller).
Didn't Jesus say something about there being
only one narrow way that few would find (Matthew
A third Gospel preacher who swapped pulpits with a
preacher from a denominational group in 1995 and
called the event “a statement of acceptance,” and
that same year he also spoke at one of our
lectureships and made this affirmation about who we
can fellowship: “For that reason, we must say with
utter confidence that when we see one who with pure
heart calls God father, and one who with pure heart
calls Jesus savior, we see a brother or a sister.
We don't have a vote” (Miller)!
His only criteria for calling another person
a brother or sister is that they sincerely believe
in God and Jesus, no more questions asked!
Didn't James say something about the demons
sincerely believing and trembling ( Jam. 2:19)?
In 2006, another preacher got his elders to
amend the charter of their congregation which was
founded in 1967 so that worship services could be
on Saturdays and musical instruments could be
used (Miller). This contemporary
service designed to reach unbelievers was offered
along with a more traditional service
on Sunday morning for believers.
So we sadly see from these four examples, and
they could be multiplied, that some of our brethren
in the last two decades have departed from the most
Perhaps this was because the 90s might be called
“the decade of embracing everybody.”
There are at least three “isms” in our
culture that lead to this. One is
the outlook in much of higher education called
postmodernism. Here are
definitions from two sources. The
first definition is: “One of the main
characteristics of postmodern thinking is that the
world is seen as a much more complex and uncertain
Reality is no longer fixed or determined.
All truth within a postmodern context is
relative to one’s viewpoint or stance” (Smith, 2002
truth is not fixed; it's all relative to each
person. Here is a second
“[There is] no grand narrative.
A narrative is a history – a story.
[Postmodernism leaves] the idea of a grand
narrative. In the Enlightenment [about 200 years
ago], one had certain ideas guiding the culture, a
unified project, where knowledge and information
were important. ... But in postmodernism, society is
more fragmented. Belief in the
One Truth, or universal criteria, has been
substituted by a number of 'small stories,'
and a diversity of criteria” (Saugstad,
see, the Bible presents a grand narrative, and Jesus
claims to be the truth; postmodernism would say none
of that has validity any more, and we must tolerate
everyone's personal truth. This perspective has had
an effect on the Lord's church so that now
everything is questioned. One of
the things questioned was our approach to the Bible.
We tell others that if the Bible presents a
command, an example, or a necessary inference on an
issue, we want to follow that pattern.
In the late 80s, several church leaders and
professors began questioning this approach and put
forth what has been called a new hermeneutic or a
new way to approach the Bible by asking: “What are
the fundamentals, the core elements, which need to
Listen to this statement written by a brother in
2004: “If we can ever claim that it is possible to
understand the Bible in today's world, we must be
able to reconcile different ways of interpreting the
Bible among the churches of Christ. ... Entire
schools of thought, with accompanying Bible
departments, lectureships, and printed materials,
have arisen to express the thoughts of each
respective [approach]” (Gilmore).
On this year's lectureship program at Harding, a
brother just made two presentations which argued for
the new approach. So
postmodernism has affected us.
A second “ism” also comes from education and
is called multiculturalism.
Educators began to realize in the 80s that
our country was becoming more ethnically diverse.
So classes were started to help students
realize that diversity in our culture was not a bad
situation. Numerous books on
multiculturalism were written in the 90s.1
You see, our educational system was pushing hard for
everybody to be accepted and embraced in our
democracy. It was interesting
that an article was written just this year entitled
“Researcher Gives 'F' to Multicultural Education” (www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/cu-rg092810.php).
Now, it seems that accepting diverse cultures
has caused some in our brotherhood to think that we
should be accepting of diverse denominations too.
So multiculturalism has affected us. The last
“ism' is the ecumenism. The word
“ecumenism” comes from a word meaning household, so
the goal of ecumenism is to create one unified
religious household. In 1948, the
World Council of Churches was formed and is
still going strong today with about 350 protestant
groups in it. In 1965, this group
Roman Catholic Church began having
discussions about unity. In 1988,
the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity could say
that it had talked with just about every Protestant
denominational group in the U.S. during the 80s.
In 1994, a book was written titled
Evangelicals & Catholics Together where areas of
unity among the two groups were highlighted.
All these ecumenical meetings had this
effect. In order to create some
kind of unity, these parties had to find some kind
of common ground that they could agree on, and those
similarities were usually called “the essentials”.
They didn't want get into the details that
divided, but they wanted to focus on the essentials
that united. Doesn't “the
essentials” sound much like those “core elements”
You see, if we'll just reduce the most holy faith to
the essentials, to Jesus alone and His greatest
commandments and if we'll be tolerant with everybody
else's truth and if we'll be accepting of all this
wonderful religious diversity, then we can swap our
pulpits, give our statements of acceptance, partake
in others' conferences, update our charters, broaden
our approach to Scripture, and embrace everybody in
different denominations and feel real politically
correct and in step with our postmodern culture--and
wow, doesn't that feel good? We
can forget distinction and embrace everybody!
But isn't that feigning fellowship for
diluted faiths? Where in all this
is the most holy faith that we spoke of earlier?
Now if we really want fellowship with other
religious groups, the first question that must
discussed is: "How do we attain it?"
We can't have fellowship among the
family of God until we know whose in that
family (Smith)! Did you ever
notice how God now calls all people through Jesus to
be a distinct and holy people in a new spiritual
society called the church? Did
the writers of the
Testament call Christians to refuse
fellowship with pagans and to shun those heretics
who were distorting the truth of the Gospel?
How was fellowship attained?
Jesus gave the criteria in John 3:5: “Most
assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of the
water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of
God .” Peter adds that the
impregnation for spiritual birth comes through the
God's Word 1 Peter 1:23 & 25: “Having been
born again, not of corruptible seed but
incorruptible, through the word of God which lives
and abides forever ... Now this is the word which by
the Gospel was preached to you.”
Don't let the doctrinal views of denominations
create fog for you on this issue.
The “new birth” which God effects includes the
immersion of one who believes; Jesus said "born of
the water". Even a casual survey
of Acts will demonstrate this truth.
It is through baptism that Peter says the
forgiveness of sins and the gift of God's Spirit is
given (2:38). Those immersed were
added by the Lord to the church or to the number of
those were already saved (2:47).
Doesn't this sound like they attained fellowship
when Jesus added them to His body?
All the conversions found in Acts include
baptism because these examples show how fellowship
is attained. Paul writes in 1
Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all
baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks,
whether slaves or free—and have all been made to
drink into one Spirit.”
Those passages and examples are not teaching
that the water has any magical power in it.
When Jesus healed a man who had been blind
from birth, He told him to go to the
of Siloam and wash. Now
did that water have any magical power to heal that
man? No, but for whatever reason,
Jesus chose that medium to bring about the man's
In the same manner, our Lord has ordered
believers to be baptized in order to have their sins
washed away. God has chosen the
medium of immersion in water to save the believer,
not because the water has the power to save, but
because it is His will to save in this manner, which
reproduces Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection
(Mitchell). Peter states it this
way in 1 Peter 3:21: “There is also an antitype
which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the
filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God) ...”
Entry into the
household of God is gained only through the
new birth by water and by the
According to the most holy faith, this was
the only means that God used, Jesus commanded, and
the apostles taught in the church that Jesus
established. We can only attain
fellowship with others when they have been immersed
into Christ's name for the forgiveness of their
Next, we must maintain that fellowship that we have
attained. The most holy faith in
the New Testament shows us that God has ordained
certain practices for the church, and we must
maintain or keep true to these practices if we would
church of Christ . This is
why Jude admonished those to contend earnestly for
the faith that had been revealed to them once and
for all. All the
teachings of Christ and His apostles that had
been given to them were to be respected and obeyed.
Likewise, we must continue to maintain what God has
ordained for the
church in the New Testament.
Only in this way can the bold, dynamic, and
divine most holy faith be kept alive!
This is why we must insist on at least three
areas in our talks with others about unity.
We must follow the organization of the
church, the leadership of the church, and the
worship of the church as revealed in the New
Testament. Remember all those unity talks between
the Protestants and Catholics we mentioned a few
moments ago? Well, in 1995, the
Pope decided to weigh in on the discussions.
He basically wrote that there were some areas
to keep discussing: how the Scriptures and tradition
Lord's Supper, what ordination means, the
church's governing body, and the worship of Mary.”
Then he made this remark: “The
Catholic Church ... sustains that the
communion of the particular churches with the
Church of Rome and of the bishops with the
bishop of Rome is an essential requisite—in
the design of God—to the full and visible communion”
Unum Sint, May 1995).
In other words, the bottom line of unity is that
when the other churches and their leaders recognize
and bow to the Church of Rome and the bishop of Rome
, then there will be unity. You
see, there are lots of types of church organizations
in our world, but which one does God approve?
God has approved the organization of the most
holy faith found in the New Testament where there is
no Pope, no governing hierarchy over all the
churches, and no one church over all, but where
there are a plurality of elders guiding local
congregations, with no orders coming from
headquarters or an earthly leader.
Secondly, the leadership in the most holy
faith was male-oriented, as the apostle Paul argues
in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, and this is not just a
cultural issue, but has its origin in God's
creation. One brother wrote this
in a book about gender roles in the church published
in 1994: “Too much fuzzy interpretation of clearly
stated biblical principles has surfaced for us to
think that the present climate of women's liberation
has not affected our thinking even in the church.
... The real question is whether we are prepared to
accept the principle of male spiritual leadership as
being of God, and, if so, how may we implement the
principle to the fullest extent in the life of the
church and in the daily outworking of relationships
between men and women of faith” (Smith).
Many denominations and even some brethren are
saying that this male spiritual leadership is no
longer a valid teaching or practice of the most holy
According to this author, it is our own culture's
emphasis on women's liberation that has changed our
Brothers, we need to stand up and be counted with
regard to spiritual leadership!
Here's a local aside for our own reflection.
A special project was announced recently to
help a brother who is terminally ill.
When it came to signing up to help, there were six
times as many women's names on the list as there
were men! Brothers, wouldn't you
want some other male to give you encouragement if
you knew your months of life were limited?
Brothers, please sign the list to encourage
this family! Lastly, the worship
of the most holy faith must be in spirit and in
truth (John 4:24). God is the
audience, and He must be approached with reverence
and praise through the means that He has approved.
When will our denominational friends give up
such man-made innovations, such as statues, candles,
incense, dances, choirs, and organs, to return to
the ancient and simple practices of the most holy
faith found in the New Testament?
The most holy faith has given us clear directives
with regards to the organization, leadership, and
worship of the church, which we must maintain.
We must also sustain fellowship.
“Building one another up” is a sustaining activity.
It involves nurture and edification.
In the 70s, the growth of churches began to
be turned into a science, and since that time, there
have been a stream of books written annual to
church growth. Some
writers say the church should be marketed to one for
the four specific generations that we have in
America (Warren, Hybels). So,
maybe that is why one of our churches decided in
2004 to have a
Saturday night praise service with a band—to
cater to the young adults. But
where in the New Testament is church growth ever
based on generational preference?
Some writers say that we live in a culture which
craves entertainment, so we must make all aspects of
our worship and our programs entertaining to others
because this will draw the masses (Jackson, Vassallo)!
But again, where in the New Testament is
church growth ever based on cultural preference?
Some writers say that growing churches will
be those that focus on the experiential and getting
caught up in the feeling and mood of the services
and classes (Sweet, Salughter).
Yet again, where in the New Testament is church
growth ever based on experiential preference?
Church growth in the New Testament was based
on what we might call inspired preference, on what
the apostles taught. It was not
science but an attitude or an outlook.
Each member shared the most holy faith with
others as the Holy Spirit brought believer and
unbeliever together. The assembly
focused on edification, just as Paul wrote in 1
Corinthians 14:26: “Let all things be done for
edification.” In these ways, the
fellowship of the most holy faith was sustained.
The most holy faith is bold, dynamic, divine, and
dangerous! It should not be
feigned, but attained, maintained, and sustained!
One brother puts it like this: “At the very
moment when mainline denominational people are
looking for a church that still respects the Bible,
standing firmly for its teachings in spite of what a
pagan culture demands, some of our own leaders and
their followers have chosen to imitate the
denominations' tired, bankrupt practices.
I fear that some of our leaders sell out to
culture because of an inordinate desire to
churches of Christ from embarrassments that
stem from being out of step with American society.
We all would do well to remember the adage:
'He who marries the culture of this generation will
be a widower in the next.'
When accommodation to culture sacrifices
biblical principles, it is sin” (Norton).
Will you become part of the most holy faith
today by letting God add you to His church through
immersion? Or if you've given up
on the most holy faith, won't you return to the Lord
and ask His forgiveness?
Make you decision to act now.
Research and Multiculturalism
(Grant, 1992), Beyond a Dream Deferred:
Multicultural Education and the Politics of
Excellence (Thompson & Tyagi, 1993),
Multiculturalism and Education (La Belle, 1994),
Democracy, Multiculturalism, and the Community
College (Rhoads & Valadez, 1996),
Multiculturalism in Academe: a Source Book
(Morris & Parker, 1996), Inner-city schools,
Multiculturalism, and Teacher Education (Yeo,
1997), Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism
(Hall, 1997), Democracy, Education, and
Multiculturalism (Torres, 1998).