Text: 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 1:10.
The faith of this text evidently refers to a system, or body of truth. It has a different meaning from the expression, "Abraham's faith." That refers to his personal trust in God. But The Faith here spoken of is something that was delivered to the saints. For example, in the 15th chapter of First Corinthians, Paul says, "I delivered unto you that which I have also received," and then goes on to tell what he delivers. Then in an earlier chapter of the same letter he says, "I delivered unto you that which I have also received concerning the Lordís Supper," and then proceeds to tell what he had received. These two examples out of many that might be selected make it very plain that the phrase, "The Faith," does not refer to the exercise of the heart in accepting Jesus Christ, but that it refers to the body of truth concerning Christ which was delivered to God's people.
The next thing to be explained is that this body of truth, whatever it is, that was once delivered to the saints must be contended for earnestly. It must never be lightly esteemed, and whenever it is necessary and any part of that body of truth is jeopardized, the true lover of Jesus Christ will earnestly contend for whatever our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to believe or to do. And he will evince a spirit of absolute disloyalty if he regards with even indifference any addition to, subtraction from, or diminution of, the body of truth once delivered to the saints.
This system of faith has two sides to it a doctrinal side and a practical side and both of them are discussed, illustrated and enforced in this letter that Jude wrote. There never was any system of truth coming from God that did not have a practical side, and that is no truth of God which is separate from its practical side.
It is impossible to discuss in one sermon both sides of this body of faith, that is, as to its dogma, and second, as to its practical exemplification in human life. It may be even impossible to set forth in this morningís sermon all that needs to be said about the first part. It may be even necessary to divide the first part of it into two sermons, closing up the first part tonight. Let the result be as it may in regard to that; what I want to say first of all is that it is a time that men speak disparagingly of creeds. You hear it on every side, "I believe in religion but I donít care anything about theology. I love flowers but I donít care anything for botany. Letís have a religion without any
dogma." Men take great credit to themselves in these utterances that they are free from the enslavement to dogmas. You must not take these people too seriously. They either donít know what they are talking about, or else know what they say is utterly unworthy of human respect.
There never was a man in the world without a creed. What is a creed? A creed is what you believe. What is a confession? It is a declaration of what you believe. That declaration may be oral or it may be committed to writing, but the creed is there either expressed or implied.
I want to speak to you, therefore, today upon the general theme of creeds and confessions of faith, entering not into the history of the several creeds and confessions of faith of the denominations, indeed having little to do with that historic side of the question, but to show you how creeds and confessions of faith start in the Bible; how absolutely essential they are. I will commence with this Scripture, found in the 16th chapter of Matthew, where our Lord says to His disciples, "Whom do ye say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter, speaking for all, says, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." That is a creed and that is a declaration of a creed. What think you of Christ, what do you believe about Jesus of Nazareth? Jesus called forth that creed.
Now here is a belief that the Son of Man as embodied in the person of Jesus Christ is Divine: "I believe that the Son of Man is the Son of the Living God." That is both the belief and the declaration of the belief of the Divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Then he says, "I believe that thou art the Christ." Christ means the Anointed One. The Anointed One of the Jews was bound to have a Divine signification. Their Old Testament Scriptures set forth that One would come who would be anointed and this anointing was for a special purpose. When He came, it would be because God sent Him, and as God sent Him, the Spirit would anoint Him to be the Prophet, Sacrifice, Priest and King. The word "Messiah," or "Christ," expressed all of that.
When I say that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, was sent of the Father and anointed by the Spirit to be the Prophet, Sacrifice, Priest and King of His people, that is a strong creed. It is a creed of such deep significance that our Lord in referring to this declaration of faith said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
While it is true that Christ is the Rock upon which the church is built, yet it is true that the apostles became the secondary foundation because they teach concerning Christ, and it is equally true that the acceptance of Christ is a foundation, and that confession
becomes a foundation. So that it is perfectly correct to say that on the creed, or the confession of faith, which is the declaration of the creed that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, is also the Son of the Living God and was sent of the Father and anointed of the Spirit to be the Prophet and Sacrifice and King and Priest of His people on that confession "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Just look for a moment now at the practical importance of that. The church is built upon that kind of a foundation. And you, at the close of the service, call for any to unite with the church who wish to do so, and here comes up a number of people, all proposing to unite with the church. On what grounds; what is the underlying thought or faith back of their action? If one man says, "I donít believe that Jesus of Nazareth was Divine," then why do you wish to unite with the church, for "on this Rock I will build my church." Suppose another man says, "I accept the Divinity of Jesus Christ but I don't accept His teachings as the ultimate authority in matters of religion." Why do you want to join a Christian church? Or suppose another man should say, "I accept Jesus Christ as ultimate authority in the teachings of what things constitute religion but I donít believe that He is the sacrifice for the sins of His people." Why should you join the church? "On this Rock I will build my church." Or if you should yet say, "I accept all that has before been stated but I donít believe that Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of the Father and has all authority in heaven and earth entrusted unto Him and is my King. I will not have Him to reign over me in that absolute fashion." Then why do you wish to unite with the church, since "on this Rock I will build my church." If you were to say, "I accept Him for everything except my Priest. I don't believe that He entered heaven to offer His own blood to make an atonement for sin, and that up there He makes intercession for us." And why should you wish to join the church? So that you see the creed and the confession of that creed stand right at the door of the church. The man without a creed cannot come in. The man who has a creed and will not declare it cannot come in. He must not only in his heart believe, but with his mouth he must make confession and that confession is a necessity as well as the inside faith which it declares. Well, suppose that in the crowd that should come to be received into the church there are a number of little children. The mother says, "I believe everything you have said. I accept Jesus of Nazareth as Divine, as my religious teacher, as my Sacrifice, as my King and as my Priest, and I want my children here to unite with the church." I say, "On the declaration of a personal faith the Lord Jesus Christ built His church. Does that child have faith? Does it make a declaration, or do you propose to enter it into the church on your own faith and a confession of that faith and you then act as proxy for your child?" That is foreign to the New Testament idea of a church.
Suppose, then, we take the second Scripture and one that brings out the whole subject of creeds and confessions of faith much more forcibly. From the 15th chapter of First Corinthians: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I have preached unto you." He had something to preach. That something he called the Gospel which also he had received. "And wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved." So that this is the means of salvation.
Now he is going to define that Gospel: "How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The object of Christ's death was to save us from our sins. Can a man be saved and not accept Christ? Paul says, "I preached this unto you and you received this and you are saved by this: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."
Well, one of these men that presents himself for church membership says, "I believe that Christ saves men by living, not by dying." He has denied a vital and fundamental element of the Gospel. Or suppose he should say, "I believe that Christ saves men by a good example and that His death had nothing to do with the remission of our sins." Here again the Gospel fixes the idea of Christ as the object of faith an Christ's death as the object of faith and the efficacy of that death in securing the remission of sins and that all this, according to the Scriptures.
Now that is a creed. You say you don't believe in creeds you want religion and not a dogma. You have no particular creed. Well, I am sure then that you have no particular religion. Whatever a man believes, that is his creed and bound to be his basis of life.
But, says a man, "I cannot accept your doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. I think Christ was a wonderful man and I am even willing to admit some element of Divinity, any I am a great advocate of the church's religion and morality but it is unscientific to believe that a body that was put in the ground dead should rise again the third day." "Why should it be a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" And whether it be incredible or not, this much is true that if your creed does not accept the resurrection of the dead, then you reject the foundation upon which the whole superstructure of Christianity rests.
Notice in this same chapter what Paul says about that: "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen and if Christ be not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain. We are found false witnesses of God because we have testified that God raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if the dead rise not. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."
Is there any importance in that creed? The Apostle Paul distinctly says that unless that creed, in its three items be accepted, that all preaching is vain and that all faith is vain and that men are yet in their sins, and that your trusting fathers and mothers that sleep in the cemetery are perished.
It really reflects upon the intelligence of a reasoning man to say that he has no creed or that he objects to creeds or that he objects to a confession of that creed. If he has it, it is right to state it. He has a right to state it orally, or to state it by the pen. It may be written, it may be printed, but surely that much creed is essential to the salvation of a soul. Who wants people to cut out any one of these three vital constituent elements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the reception of which men are saved and their sins forgiven?
Let us take another, from the 8th chapter of Romans and the 34th verse. I am showing you how creeds start and confessions of faith start and how absolutely impossible it is to make light of them. Thus says Paul, "Who will lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justified. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died," (now comes the statement of the creed): "yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Now there is a creed. That creed contains four elements:
(1) Christ died;
(2) Christ rose;
(3) Christ exalted to the right hand of the majesty on high;
(4) Up there Christ ever liveth to make intercession for us.
What is the value of that creed? By that creed, accepted in the heart and confessed with the lips, the man who so accepts and confesses is immune from any charge that angel or devil or man can make against him: "Who shall lay any charge to God's elect?"
Now you just might as well proclaim yourself a simpering idiot as to stand there opposing those four things and say, "Oh, let's not have any dogmas, creeds and confessions of faith; let's have religion." How can you have a creedless religion? You had just as well adopt as your god a jelly-fish floated up on the beach, that has no backbone, merely a pulpy mass, as to say, "I want a religion without a creed." A man cannot have a religion without a creed and the religion he does have is not worth anything unless it is avowed. The avowal of it is a confession of faith. Now Spurgeon in his great sermon on the text I have just read called these four doctrines the four pillars of salvation. On top of these four pillars the superstructure is erected. If you pull down the pillars you pull down that which rests upon the pillars. If you
take away the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the enthronement of Christ or the intercession of Christ, the house of salvation falls.
Notice again the practical effects of it. In this same 8th chapter of Romans:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all of these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If my creed was some inarticulate thing, if it was nebulous like a spray of star dust in the skies, or if it was shifting like the change of the shapes of floating clouds, or if it was traceless like the track of a serpent across a rock or the flight of an eagle through the air, I never could say, "I am persuaded." The persuasion takes possession of my heart and of my soul that no power above nor below, no distress, no famine, no peril, no nakedness, no spirit, no devil, no future, no past shall ever be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. A man without a creed cannot have that persuasion.
Now, if we turn to the First Letter to Timothy and the third chapter, we will get another Bible statement of a creed. Just as Jude thought it necessary to write to the people that they should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, now Paul says, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." There is a creed. What is the truth? The church must hold up something that must be something definite. We must not stand in the light of such a Scripture like a groping Pilate and say, "What is truth?"
Here is a confession of faith elaborately drawn by the Apostle to tell us what the truth is which the church must uphold. There are six items. Now we want to add these six items to those that we have already found. First, God was manifest in the flesh. There is the incarnation. No man in the world who accepts that miracle need blink at any other; that carries with it all. Now the church must hold up the fact that God was manifest in the flesh: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God; and the Word was manifested and became flesh." He took upon Himself our nature, yet without sin. Or as it is expressed in the letter to the Philippians: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal
with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."
Here is the most tremendous condescension that the world has ever known. Now says the Apostle John on the importance of this item of the creed: "Whosoever denieth that the Messiah is come in the flesh is anti-Christ and a liar."
The second item of that creed is, Justified in the Spirit. I know that some writers teach that this means that He was justified in His own spirit. But I cannot at all accept it. The thought is that when God veiled Himself in the flesh, veiling Himself for a special purpose, that that presentation of God was justified by the Holy Spirit; that while man might not justify it, that the Holy Spirit did justify it. Now when God manifest in the flesh came to be baptized, He prayed for this very vindication of the Spirit. Going up out of the water He prayed. Here is the incarnate God about to enter upon His public ministry and that public ministry means at least the vindication of heaven: "O Father, send Thy Spirit!" And the answer to that prayer is that the Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon Him. "Him hath God the Father sealed as a sacrifice." "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel." It was necessary that the One who was sent of the Father should be justified by the Spirit.
And again when He made the offering of His body, the record is, "Who through the eternal Spirit offered up Himself." And again when He was about to ascend into heaven, He offers to give them a substantial and eternal proof. There would come the vindication or justification of Jesus Christ by the Spirit and on the day of Pentecost it came, and that outpoured power of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was God's justification of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The next item of the creed was, "Recognized by the angels." That veil might hide the Divinity from human sight. That veil of humanity might cause the infidel to stand off and say, "I will never recognize that as God." But the angels recognized it. Those flaming spirits who had known Him in the glory that He had with the Father before He descended to the earth, their long companionship with Him as their Leader and King and Captain-general enabled them to penetrate the disguise of flesh, to look beyond the masking of the flesh and to recognize the internal radiation of Deity and say, "This is God."
Not only the good angels recognized Him but the bad angels also. The demons, when man saw in Him only the son of Joseph, when they were conquered, cried out, "We know Thee who Thou art, Thou Holy One. Art Thou come to torment us before our time?"
The next item of the creed was, "preached unto the nations." And what an item of a creed that is, that the object of the incarnation would be something so important that the Holy Spirit would justify it, the angels would recognize it, and then the great facts embodied in it should be a tide of life that could not be circumscribed. Not to the Jewish nation alone -- it must be a saving commodity for all nations.
That item of the creed would knock a Jew down just as soon as it was presented. There he stood upon the wall of partition that separated him from the Gentiles and he would say, "You Gentile dogs, you have no part in the commonwealth of Israel. You are aliens from God." Now this creed says that the God manifest in the flesh must be preached to all nations. The all nations are white, black, red, yellow, the whole wide world with all of its diversities of intelligences, whatever dialect they speak, whatever national customs they may have. All of them are lost, and all of them are to have presented to them God manifest in the flesh as their Savior.
A man says, "I want to join the church and I am willing, as a member of my church, to build up my town. You can call on me to support the pastor, for improvements on the building, for helping out the Sunday School, for anything that touches my own city. Talk about foreign missions, those almond-eyed Japs and woolly-headed sons of Cush, don't come to me about them." Then why do you want to join the church? You have no creed to join the church. The fundamental element of the faith delivered to the saints was that the Gospel should go to every nation under heaven.
The next item of the creed is, "believed on in the world." That is strange as an item of a creed. Part of my creed is that God manifest in the flesh was believed on in the world. A very intelligent gentleman of this city says, "I like you. I like to hear you talk, but the things you preach are incredible. A man cannot believe those things." I say to him, "It is an element of my creed that those things have been believed. Here is a question of fact. You deny; I affirm. That must be established by evidence." I begin to call for witnesses, and what an illustrious host of men rise up to answer the question: "As a matter of fact, did you believe that God was manifest in the flesh and that manifested in the flesh He died for your sins according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again and was enthroned at the right hand of the Father on high and ever maketh intercessions, and that so believing, your sins were forgiven?" What a host of witnesses! Earth's most intelligent men, earth's best men, wisest and most conservative statesmen, earth's greatest jurists, what a roll we could make out! Bismarck, Gladstone, Washington, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, Spurgeon, Calvin, Wesley, and so on indefinitely. And yet this man stands up before me and says he doesn't believe. It is a part of my creed that He has been believed on in the world and always will be believed on when preached that way.
When I get up before an audience and say: "I want you to believe on Jesus of Nazareth. He was not the Son of the living God, He was not God manifest in the flesh and His death does not secure the remission of your sins," you would say, "I donít believe it," and you would be right. There would be no intrinsic merit in His death except to secure the remission of my sins. Sacrifice would not have that intrinsic excellency which makes cleansing and remission possible. You may just as well affirm that the blood of bullocks and goats can take away sin as to affirm that the blood of a mere man can take away sin.
The sixth item of this creed is, "received up into glory." Now how many points have we made out toward a creed? God was manifest in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, and recognized by the angels, and in that manifestation He died for our sins, and that death is according to the Holy Scriptures, and He was buried and rose again and was enthroned with power on the right hand of the Majesty on high, King of kings and Lord of lords, and up there ever liveth to make intercession for us. That is a pretty big creed.
I give you only two more Scriptures. I am going to take up two ordinances and show you how an ordinance is a creed. In the 28th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 17th verse: "Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and earth." That is one item. "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." There is the Trinity and when you pronounce a benediction you bring it in again. Now after you have baptized them, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," that brings in everything on earth that Christ taught. And "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." There is the doctrine of the Presence of God, of Jesus Christ with His church in the person of the Holy Spirit. That is a creed.
Now take the other creed found in the 26th chapter of Matthew: "This cup is the New Testament in my blood. As often as ye drink it, ye do show forth the Lord's death till He comes." Now, what a creed that is! Here is the broken body of Jesus; here is the shed blood of Jesus. The object of the breaking and of the shedding is to secure the remission of our sins. How long shall the observance of this be? Until He comes again.
There you have the second coming of Christ. There stands out before you, then, in this creed the first coming of Christ when He was manifest in the flesh. In the other part of the creed, the second coming of Christ, when He comes, and intermediate between these two points are all the other vital doctrines. No wonder then that Jude
says, "I thought it needful to write unto you and to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints."
Are you prepared to give up any item of this creed? Is it not a comprehensive one? What one of these elements would you blot out? And why should you seek to become a member of the church unless you accept it in your heart, and if you do accept that in our heart, what is the objection to declaring it with your lips, and if you do declare it with your lips, why not put it down in writing?
If ever on this earth there has been an age which is very hurtful as well as very silly and meaningless it is the time that decries creeds and confessions of faith, and at the same time magnifies religion. You are authorized by the very fact that you have intelligence and reason, to hold in utter disrespect any statement from any man's lips that he is a creedless man, and if he comes up in the pulpit and says that, you donít need any other evidence in the world for rising in the next conference and saying, "I move that the credentials of this man be withdrawn and that the fellowship of this church be withdrawn." A man who believes nothing ought not to be a member of the church, and a preacher who has no creed has nothing to preach, and it will be a happy day when it is carried out just that way.
Now, tonight I am going to take up the other side of the question, just as Jude takes it up, and show that the faith has an intensely practical side as well as a doctrinal side. Let us unite in prayer. ============= _____________
[From B. H. Carroll, The Faith That Saves, pp. 92-101.]
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