Jude, our Lord’s brother, commanded us long ago to epagonizomai for the faith once for all delivered to us. Epagonizomai means to “over agonize.” In Colossians 1:29, Paul said he was agonizomai, agonizing, with God’s energeo, God’s energy, to present every man perfect in Christ. Jude puts epi, over, in front of that agonizomai. We are to “over agonize” for the faith.
What is the faith? To borrow a phrase from Tertullian, a writer from Carthage around the year 200, everything turns to its original for classification. The “original,” the very first faith that we know, is recorded in Acts 2:38-48:
- Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
Peter said, so long ago, that this promise of the Holy Spirit was for those who heard him and …
for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God might call.
We are far off, but the Holy Spirit is a promise to us who have believed in Jesus and been baptized.
- “He solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!'”
- Those who “received the word” were baptized and “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer.”
Look at those phrases! “Solemnly testified”; “kept on exhorting them.”
The apostles spoke and the hearers “received” and “continually devoted themselves.”
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe, and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. All those who were together and had all things in common, and they began selling their possessions and property and were sharing them with everyone, as anyone might have need. Day by day, continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with the people.
And the result of this Holy-Spirit-inspired behavior?
The Lord was adding those who were being saved to their number every day.
No wonder Paul “agonized with God’s energy” to present us complete in Christ! No wonder Jude exhorted us to “overagonize” for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
This was not revival. This was not “re-“; it was the original. This was vivification, life coming to earth from the Holy Spirit. “Re-” vival is the restoration of that life.
“Agonize” is not the best translation of _agonizomai_. I am not trying to correct our Bible translations. “Fight” or “strive” in the sense of trying to win is the correct translation, but “agonize” is the right picture. We are supposed to picture a wrestler agonizing to throw his opponent to the ground, or a sprinter trying to nip his opponent as he crosses the line (reference). It is that effort Paul was giving to make us complete in Christ. It is MORE than that effort that Jude wants us to give in fighting for the original faith.
The original shines through in Acts 2:42-48. It was not forced. It was not communism nor mandatory daily banquets. It is the “of course” result—the fruit—of a fervent people (Rom. 12:11), set on fire by the Holy Spirit to love one another (Rom. 5:8), and zealous to do the deeds (Tit. 2:13-14) they were created in King Jesus to do (Eph. 2:10).