Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write to you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write to you…
I. WHAT WE MUST CONTEND FOR. For every truth of God, according to its moment and weight. The dust of gold is precious, and it is dangerous to be careless in the lesser truths (Matthew 5:19). There is nothing superfluous in the canon. Better heaven and earth should be blended together in confusion, saith Luther, than one dust of God's truth should perish. If the Lord call us out to the defence of them, whatever cometh of it we must be faithful. A man may make shipwreck of a good conscience in small matters. Hearken to Satan, and this will be a little one, and that shall be a little one, till we have littled away all the principles of faith. All this is not spoken to justify undue rigours, such as are without any temper of Christian moderation, or those frivolous controversies about trifles, such as have no foundation in the Word. Nor to justify the breaking of Church fellowship and communion, and making rents in the body of Christ, because of difference of opinion in smaller matters, when we agree in the more weighty things. We are to "walk together as far as we are agreed" (Philippians 3:16); and externals wherein we differ, lying far from the heart of religion, are nothing to faith and the new creature wherein we agree (Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15). The most weight should be pitched upon the fundamentals and essentials of religion, and when there is an agreement there private differences in smaller matters should not make us break off from one another.
II. WHO MUST STRIVE, AND IN WHAT MANNER? I answer, All in their place, and in that way that is proper to them.
1. Private Christians must have a share in this holy contention; their duty is partly —
(1) To search out the truth that they may not fight blindfold, or by an unhappy mistake lavish out their zeal upon fancies which they affect, or ordinances and doctrines of men.
(2) To own the profession of the truth, whatever it cost them.
(3) To honour the truth by their conversations. There are heretical manners as well as heretical doctrines; and there are many that are otherwise of an orthodox belief, yet make others sectaries and disciples of their vices. Therefore Christians are called to "hold forth the word of life "in their conversations (Philippians 2:16), and to "make the doctrine of God the Saviour comely" (Titus 2:10), by glorifying God in that course of life to which they are disposed.
(4) To comprise all in a few words, whatever maketh for the truth, either with God or men, all that must the people do.
2. There is something that the magistrate may do: "He is the minister of God for good" (Romans 13:4). I cannot see how they can be true to civil interest unless they be careful for the suppression of error. Besides that error is masterly and loveth to give law, therefore, ere it be too late, they should look to the civil peace, for if men be quiet God will not when His honour and truth and worship is neglected.
3. Ministers are to contend for the truth, for by their office and station in the Church they are captains of the people in this war against Satan and his adherents (Titus 1:9). Ministers must contend, partly by preaching, warning the people of the wolves that are abroad (Acts 20:29); partly by disputing (Acts 15:2; Acts 18:28), that by the knocking of flints light may fly out.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.