This survey is necessarily brief, but its purpose is to establish several points.
God has spoken to the human race and given us His Word. Biblical Christianity is a revealed religion.
False prophets, teachers, and apostles have been present at every turn, denying the truth of that Word and attempting to counterfeit it.
God’s people are called upon to discern between the true and false prophets and teachers and then to reject the false. God’s revealed word is the standard by which we are to affirm truth and reject error.
We must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Biblical history teaches us that we are called upon to live, proclaim, and minister God’s truth against the backdrop of false teaching. False teachers and their doctrine must be exposed.
We affirm our belief that the Bible is the Word of God, God’s revelation to mankind. We accept it as our only rule for faith and practice. We believe and embrace the doctrines revealed in Scripture.
We judge all doctrines and teachings by the standard of the Word.
A Completed Revelation
Jude added one more important truth to his statement about “the faith.” He wrote that it “was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) [emphasis mine]. That statement tells us that God’s revelation is complete and we need expect no more. The word “once” and its place in the verse bear out our contention.
The little word “once” in verse three is the Greek word hapax, which conveys the meaning of “once for all.” The Holy Spirit tells us through Jude that God revealed Himself to us in Scripture (“the faith”), and He completed His revelation. Lenski explains,
“Once delivered” (effective aorist) means “once for all” (the classical meaning) and not merely “on one occasion.” … To offer doctrines that are other than this faith is to offer falsehood, poison. To subtract from or add to this faith is to take away what Christ gave, or to supply what he did not give.39
By using this forceful word, Jude surely is telling us that no other revelation will be given.
Jude further emphasizes the fact of a completed revelation by the order in which he uses his words in the sentence. In the Greek text this phrase reads “the once-for-all delivered to the saints faith.”40 This places the primary emphasis in the sentence on the word “once” more than on “the faith.”
Jude is certainly not de-emphasizing “the faith.” It is the substance of God’s revelation, believed by Christians and recorded in Scripture. Jude’s main emphasis is that “the faith” is a “once for all” revelation. God gave it to us over a period of sixteen hundred years through forty human authors. New Testament Christians received the Old Testament as God’s revelation. They also recognized the writings of the apostles as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). When John the Apostle wrote “Amen” (Rev. 22:21), God’s revelation was completed. God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), and He has not changed His mind. He curses those who would add to or subtract from His revelation (Rev. 22:18, 19). Many have attempted to deny, modify, or add to God’s Word by one means or another. Jude declares that New Testament Christianity rests on the foundation of a completed revelation from God. Biblical Fundamentalism in the present day stands on the same foundation of a complete revelation from God.
Opposition to God’s Revelation
Through the centuries, God’s Word has endured countless attacks. Satan’s temptation of Eve began with the subtle attack on God’s revelation. He asked: “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1). B. B. Warfield provides a keen analysis of these attacks on God’s Word.
In the whole history of the church there have been but two movements of thought, tending to a lower conception of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, which have attained sufficient proportions to bring them into view in an historical sketch. (1) The first of these may be called the Rationalistic view.41
This rationalistic approach to Scripture has caused great theological battles in the last 150 years. Its roots really grew out of Enlightenment thinking, popularized by Friedrich Schleiermacher at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It emerged as a formalized concept in the 1860s with the Graf-Wellhausen theory, which came out of Heidelberg, Germany. As it developed, this “modernism,” as it became known, taught that Moses did not really write the Pentateuch. Rather, some later editor, using four separate sources, “cut and pasted” the Pentateuch together as a reflection of human tradition. Likewise, according to the “higher critics,” two or possibly four separate authors wrote the Book of Isaiah rather than the prophet of whom the Scriptures speak. The Book of Daniel looks like it was written as prophecy, but, according to this “higher criticism,” it was really written after the fact. These allegations have been disproved by historical and archeological evidence. These false premises have been through many revisions and finally now have been almost completely abandoned. A modern form of this folly is the so-called “Jesus Seminar,” which has decided that Jesus actually spoke about twenty percent of what the Gospels attribute to Him!
This rationalistic system intended to prove that the Bible is not a supernatural revelation from God, but merely a human book containing moral and ethical principles. Based on evolution, it denied the supernatural character of the Bible and the miraculous claims the Bible makes. This system of unbelief spread from the European universities to the denominational universities, colleges, and seminaries in the United States.
Bible believers in Europe and the United States rose up in opposition to the attacks of modernism. Spurgeon fought the famous Down-Grade controversy and eventually withdrew from the Baptist Union in England over it. Frederick Godet, the famous Swiss exegete, was a thorough-going Bible believer. In Germany, E. W. Hengstenberg withstood the arguments of Schleiermacher.42 In the United States those who believed the Bible vigorously fought against the invading modernism. Early in this century godly men published a series of writings in defense of the faith called The Fundamentals. Pettegrew documented that Curtis Lee Laws adopted the term “Fundamentalist” for those who believe God’s Word and intend to defend it.43 This is a brief summary of the rationalistic attack on the Scriptures in modern times. Fundamentalism as a movement emerged as a defense against the attacks of modernism.44
Please note Warfield’s previous statement that opposition to Scripture has followed “two movements of thought.” While modernism was a rationalistic attack on the Scriptures, the second type of attack on God’s Word is really more prominent today. Warfield continued his observation:
(2) The second of the lowered views of inspiration may be called the Mystical view. Its characteristic conception is that the Christian man has something within himself,—call it enlightened reason, spiritual insight, the Christian consciousness, the witness of the Spirit, or call it what you will,—to the test of which every “external revelation” is to be subjected, and according to the decision of which are the contents of the Bible to be valued.45
This “mystical” approach to Scripture opens the door for the error of continuing revelation.
(Next: Continuing Revelation—A Crucial Issue)
39 R.C.H. Lenski, I and II Epistles of Peter, the Three Epistles of john, and the Epistle of Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), 611.
40 New Testament scholars call this the “first attributive position” where the adjective follows the article and precedes the noun. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 306.
41 B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), 112.
42 Stephan Holthaus, Fundamentalismus in Deutschland, Der Kampf um die Bibel im Protestantismus des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, 1993), 156–60.
43 Larry D. Pettegrew, “Will The Real Fundamentalist Please Stand Up?” Central Testimony (Fall 1982), 1–2.
44 Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1998), 91–102, has a comprehensive, clear description of liberalism. Sidwell has done an outstanding job of describing liberalism in historically precise, theologically correct, and yet understandable language.
45 Ibid., 113. A. T. Pierson, Seed Thoughts for Public Speakers (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1900), 178, made a four-way analysis of religion and authority. He said, “There are four types of religious life: 1. The rationalistic, in which all truth and doctrine are submitted to the reason as the supreme arbiter. 2. The ecclesiastic, in which the Church is practically the final authority. 3. The mystic, in which the “inner light” interprets even Christian doctrine. 4. The evangelic, in which the soul bows to the authority of the inspired Word, and makes the reason, the voice of the Church, and the inner instincts and impulses subordinate, as fallible sources of authority, to the one supreme tribunal of Scripture” [emphasis Pierson’s].
Fred Moritz serves on the missions faculty at Maranatha Baptist University. He earned his MDiv at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) and DMin at Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). He became assistant to Dr. Monroe Parker at Baptist World Mission in 1981 then Executive Director in 1985, where he oversaw 350 missionaries. He is also the author of Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation and Contending for the Faith.