Are you a contender or a defender? I have seen some proclaim they are ‘contending for the truth’, or created entire ministries labeled ‘defend contend’. At least some of them get it right, by understanding they are contending ‘for the faith’.
You see, to contend is to strive, or struggle, and in a similar way, to maintain or assert. When used as a noun (contender) with the word ‘truth’, it implies one is arguing, striving, or struggling ‘for the truth’. To contend for the truth is to strive, or struggle to maintain or assert ‘the truth’. This does not sound like someone standing on solid ground, but striving, and struggling to maintain their assertions.
Matt 5:38 38 You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: 40 And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. 41 And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two. 42 Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.
Yeshua here says if a man contends with you, and succeeds, let (it) go. Do not engage in ‘eye for an eye’. But would this be the same for our faith, or His Truth. Or just for material things?
Matt 12:14 And the Pharisees going out made a consultation against him (contended with him), how they might destroy him. 15 But Jesus knowing it, retired from thence: and many followed him, and he healed them all. 16 And he charged them that they should not make him known. 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
18 Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul hath been well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not contend, nor cry out, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20 The bruised reed he shall not break: and smoking flax he shall not extinguish: till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in his name the Gentiles shall hope. (Isa. 42:1-3)
The prophets description of God our Servant (Yeshua) states “He shall not contend…”. While the enemy does contend with Him through physical means, He does not contend with them in like kind. i.e. eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. He sends forth judgement unto victory. He does not ‘contend’ with the enemy on his own (unstable) ground.
Romans 15:30 Now I exhort you, brothers, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to contend along with me in your prayers on my behalf to God, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and my ministry in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that, coming to you with joy by the will of God, I may rest with you. 33 Now [may] the God of peace [be] with all of you. Amen.
Here Paul exhorts the believers to contend with him ‘in your prayers on (his) behalf to God. I believe we all struggle in our prayer life to some degree. And to contend for your prayers or the prayers of others is acceptable to God.
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness– 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Paul here describes that he strenuously faces, meets, deals with, opposes, tackles, copes with, confronts, grapples with, all by the power of Messiah who lives in him, to proclaim Yeshua through admonition and teaching, so that everyone may be presented fully mature in Messiah.
He states he contends with all the energy Messiah so powerfully works in him, to proclaim Yeshua through admonition and teaching, with all wisdom. With the end goal being able to have believers presented fully mature in Messiah.
2 Tim 2:4No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of [this] life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier. 5 And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully.
I like this one. The soldier does not serve to please the one who enrolled him as a soldier, as it pertains to the affairs of this life. And when anyone contends, he does not win, except he have contended ‘lawfully’. Which fully implies there is a soldier who DOES believe they are to please those who enrolled them, as it pertains to the affairs of this life. And that there is an ‘unlawful’ way of contending that does not please God one bit. Nor displays his character.
2 Tim 2:11 A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall live also with him. 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. 13 If we believe not, he continueth faithful, he cannot deny himself. 14 Of these things put them in mind, charging them before the Lord. Contend not in words: for it is to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
So, it is o.k. to contend by the power of Messiah to proclaim Him, and to contend for our faith, and our prayers. But we are told ‘Contend NOT in words: for it is to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
2 Tim 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they gender contentions.
24 And the servant of the Lord must not contend; but be gentle to all [men], apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth: 26 And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
I think this stands with no explanation needed. “The servant of the Lord must not contend”
Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Again we find the exhortation to contend ‘for the faith’. Because faith in Messiah is constantly under attack. But God’s TRUTH stands firm no matter who is contending against it. And God’s Truth does not need to be contended by followers of Messiah. As God’s Truth stands by the power of God, and He does not need a man to take up a battle that does NOT need to be contended for. As His Truth does not come back void, nor does it weaken because of the enemies contending against it.
We do not need to contend against the enemy who is contending against the Truth of God. We need to stand clear of that person so as not to fall into his prison. Nor suffer judgement because of contending against that person. Why would we stand between a battle of the Living God and someone who is contending against him? Especially when Messiah tells us NOT to contend in words against them. If we go back to the first two verses mentioned in Matt, we will not contend eye for eye with certain people having crept in unnoticed. Nor will Messiah contend with them in such a manner, but deal with them in the end in judgement. And notice (again) that the exhortation in Jude is about contending ‘for the faith’. Not the Truth. Our faith can be destroyed, God’s Truth needs no contender as it is eternal, and all-powerful.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Jewish adventures in the diaspora.
Scripture, ethics and spiritual formation