Jude writes that we should ‘contend’ for the faith. There were challenges to the faith being experienced by those to whom Jude was writing and they needed to embrace the challenge and respond to it. They could not just sit passively and let the challenges continue without being addressed by them.
What does ‘contend’ mean? Using a baseball idiom, it means to ‘step up to the plate.’ Stepping up the plate implies that the person is in the game, not just sitting on the stands. The batter has to engage the ball being thrown at him or her, and hopefully the batter will have a positive outcome—the ball will be hit and they can get on base. Contending can also mean to argue (as in the form of a debate) for the truth of the gospel with passionate reasoning that affirms the faith of the Christian who has experienced God’s saving grace and can explain to a reasonable degree what has been experienced to another who needs to hear and respond to this truth.
The outcome belongs to God. If we contend for the faith it does not mean that our contention will be accepted and responded to in a positive way. It may, in fact, be rejected and we suffer punishment. At the same time, our effort to justify our faith may be accepted and people will believe in our testimony and come to the faith. The word ‘contend’ then takes on a new form and meaning. In building up the faith of others who are already believers, contending may become more of an apologetic that helps believers better understand their faith so that they may also become articulate contenders.