We know what Jude so passionately urged those of his day to do: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3).
Paul wrote to Timothy, a younger minister under his guidance, and he, too, warned of destructive variances in beliefs that would arise within the Church of God:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Those who contend for the faith must “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; compare, also, 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:13). This kind of verification is exemplified by the Bereans, who “…were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
So far, so good.
However, there is another approach that arises, and that is one of being contentious. We are told to not engage in these kinds of controversies:
“But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).
Furthermore, we are instructed: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Timothy 2:23). Paul identifies people who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
Why–what is the basis for such a contentious approach to the Truth of God?
Very simply, it is the approach of an unconverted, ungovernable mind. It is the attitude and practice that caused the children of Israel to stumble time and again during the period of the judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; compare, also, Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6; Proverbs 14:12).
We each must examine ourselves in these matters. Are we zealously striving to not only keep but to grow in the faith? Or have we become far too self-satisfied thinking that we know best and that we don’t need personal guidance in our calling? The answer will reveal whether we are contending or whether we are contentious!