Jude urged the Christian brethren to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3). What did he mean? Faith in this context is not referring to the trust and confidence we must all have to be pleasing to God, but to the embodiment of doctrine which was given to the church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. While it includes the doctrine of faith in Christ, it embraces the totality of Bible truths. Nothing is wanting. Jude exhorted the brethren of his day to contend for the faith once delivered. But was this admonition for his time only? Not according to what we read in verse 18. In this letter, Jude includes doctrinal departure as a serious consideration of the last days.
There are some who tell us that doctrine is not important, that Christians are not converted by a set of doctrines, that we are saved through the faith of Christ, not by a belief in this or that teaching, and that each generation of Christians is led into new avenues of spiritual insight and understanding. See The Good News, May 1976, “What Is the Spirit of Real Christianity?”
Yet, in contradiction to the above statement, ministers have been disfellowshiped from the organization that publishes The Good News-The Worldwide Church of God-for refusing to accept and teach the doctrinal changes that were made beginning in 1974-75.
The people of God have always had to be on guard for religious teachers who come along with “new truth.” Today spiritual confusion is rampant in the Church of God. There are now over two hundred groups who oppose and disagree with one another in one manner or another. Many are completely bewildered by the doctrinal changes that have continued to take place since they began in 1974-75. Paul wrote to the Galatians in his day, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). Peter warned, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:1-2). John cautioned, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11).
This is why Jude made the problem so plain. He said, “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. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).
There are Bible warnings, apart from Jude, which clearly define this problem of the last days. Notice for example, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. The setting for these verses is at the time of Christ’s return. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come an [apostasy, Greek-apostasia] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:1-3). One cannot fall away from the truth unless he first had the truth, so what is plain from these texts is that there would be an apostasy from the faith once delivered, and this apostasy would occur shortly before the return of Jesus Christ!
Not For That Time Only
What is clear from the above texts is that those who lead others astray once knew the truth. One cannot understand the truth unless one is called of God. When called of God, he is given the truth. Paul said so. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). The Holy Spirit does not lead Christians into error. It is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13). Those who turn to doctrinal perversion turn from that which was initially given them. They turn from what God taught them (John 6:45). This record is clearly demonstrated in Romans 1:18-21.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
These warnings of apostasy in the New Testament apply to the end-time just as much as they applied during the first century. We must not delude ourselves into thinking the Bible was written for early Christians only.
Old and New Testament Revelation
Paul tells us the Old Testament Scriptures were written for our admonition and learning (Rom. 15:5, 1 Cor. 10:11). One third of the New Testament is Old Testament quotes. The prophets in the Old Testament were moved to speak by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21), just as the New Testament ministers were inspired to speak the truth of God (1 Thess. 2:13). Both the Old and New Testament writings are the utterances of God. To reject the Holy Spirit in favor of “scholars,” which was what was done when the doctrinal changes were made beginning in 1974, is pure folly. The church leadership rejected revelation as the source of Bible knowledge and went after the “wisdom of men.” What did Paul say about the wisdom of men? “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:19-21). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His disciples into all truth (John 14:26). While they may not like to admit it, those who were responsible for the doctrinal changes that have occurred in the church have rejected the words of Jesus Christ!
Is Revelation a Non-Essential for the New Testament?
Some would have us believe that being led by the Holy Spirit is not essential for New Testament Christians, that in modern times God has given us more information by scholars and writers than what was available in times past. We are now told “scholarship” is the means by which we understand the truth.
Is this true?
Can we really come to understand the Bible by consulting scholars? Does Bible truth come by our own efforts and study? If it is true we can understand the Bible by our own intellect or the intellect of others, why is it that there is so much disagreement among scholars and theologians? If we can study out the truth on our own, why do we see hundreds of sects in nominal Christianity and hundreds of splits from the Worldwide Church of God-all having different opinions of what constitutes truth? What should be clear for all to see is that truth comes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and while study and research can help, they are not the basis for Bible understanding.
How Does Bible Truth Come to God’s Church?
We were told in 1974-75 that Bible truth comes gradually and that doctrines can change in the light of “new study” (The Good News, May 1976, “What Is the Spirit of Real Christianity”). What needs to be addressed is this: If Christ kept His promise to lead His church into all truth, how then can we justify doctrinal changes? The fact is: We cannot. To accept the changes that took place beginning in 1974-75 means the church must have been heretical for many years, since Pentecost was kept on Monday for over forty years. If Christ kept His promise (John 14:26), then what has taken place since 1974-75 is the introduction of heretical doctrines! Which do you choose to believe? If the church was heretical for over forty years, then it was either not the true church, or Jesus Christ is a liar, or at the very least He is incapable of making His Word good! Which do you choose to believe? What must be recognized is that certain men did creep in “unawares” and Jude’s admonition, as well as that of the Apostle Paul, was meant for our time today!
The entire matter of faith has to do with confidence in the promises of God (Heb. 11:6). Do we believe what Christ said, or are we going to rely on “scholars?” Faith means relying on the fact that God’s church was given doctrinal truth by means of the Holy Spirit. To deny this fact is to deny God! What did Christ say about those who deny Him? “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). If we deny the promise Jesus gave, the fact is we have no Savior. Why? Because we make Christ out to be a liar!
The Scope of the Faith Once Delivered
One argument now current is that since some churches have a knowledge of baptism or the Sabbath, we cannot say they received this knowledge by means of God’s Spirit and were divinely led into truth. The fact is: God revealed these truths generations ago and some men have chosen to accept them. They do not accept many other doctrinal truths. They accept, for whatever reasons, those things that appeal to them. To accept the faith once delivered means we must accept everything that God has revealed by His Spirit. Many churches have points of truth here and there, but they refuse to accept those things they do not agree with. Human nature is hostile to the Law of God (Rom. 8:7), and by and large the vast majority of those who profess Christianity refuse to accept much of the Law of God. One who accepts the truth of God and refuses to keep even one point has, from God’s viewpoint, rejected all. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10).
The faith once delivered includes many things. The fundamentals of belief of the Worldwide Church of God held before 1974-75 list much of the faith once delivered. See the Fundamentals of Belief listed in the literature list below. Those who argue that anyone can come to an understanding of these beliefs by means of “scholarship” do not understand how truth is given. Jesus told His disciples, “. . . verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Matt. 13:17). They had to be inspired by the Holy Spirit in order to understand, just as Jesus made plain in Luke 24:45 when He gave His disciples understanding. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”
Years later, Peter added:
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy [Spirit] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into (1 Pet. 1:10-12).
As a result of the doctrinal changes that took place in the Church of God beginning in 1974-75, chaos and confusion have set in. What are the fruits of this aberration? Never before in our lifetimes have we seen such bewilderment. Thousands of former members of the Worldwide Church of God have thrown in the towel. They lost all confidence in the church leadership and in men. Thousands have fallen away from the truth. They lost all confidence in the truth of God and in their calling. They did not have faith in God and His promises. Instead, they trusted men and lost all conviction. Could you be one of these?
Can Revealed Truth Be Changed?
There is not one Bible example to support the notion that truth given by God can be changed. We know clearly from the New Testament, as well as the Old, that the sacrificial system was to end with the sacrifice of Christ. The Bible explains this. Even though God changes His mind on occasion in such things as disciplining His people, or how He may administer a matter, He has never changed His truth-His true doctrine. God proclaims, “For I am the LORD, I change not. . .” (Mal. 3:6). God has never changed His doctrine or way of life, nor has He ever given men the authority to change any of His truths.
The Bible does point out, however, that there would be those who would change God’s truth (Dan. 7:25). We are warned, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change” (Prov. 24:21). Those who make changes that take us away from the truth of God are individuals who should be avoided. To say that doctrine should change to adjust to the times in which we live is a candid admission that it is permissible to lower the high standard of God in order to conform to the world. This is exactly what happened in the Worldwide Church of God beginning in 1974-75.
God’s church is now apostate! The belief that truth can be made known through study and scholarship is accusing God of abandoning His people and His method of making the truth known. Truth is revealed by means of the Holy Spirit. As noted earlier, study and scholarship can help in understanding but must be properly viewed as adjuncts to the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul warned about scholars. He said there would be those who are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Why? Because they have rejected the only means by which one can come to a knowledge of the truth-divine revelation! There are many Scriptures that tell us that the truth must be revealed (Isa. 28:9-13, Jer. 6:9-10). Since God does not change, why should we find this difficult to accept today?
If the truth given to the Worldwide Church of God was genuine, then it is permanent truth. It cannot be changed! To accept the changes that were made beginning in 1974-75 is to admit that either Christ was a liar and did not keep His promise, or that the Worldwide Church of God was never the true church. And those who have accepted the doctrinal changes that were made beginning in 1974-75 have denied Christ and have no true basis for continuing in their religious profession!