DEFENDING THE FAITH
A CHRISTIAN IS REQUIRED TO MAKE AN ACTIVE AND FEARLESS DEFENSE OF TRUTHS FROM GOD'S WORD TO UNBELIEVERS AND BELIEVERS ALIKE. SO EVERY BELIEVER HAS HIS DUTY
Critics of faithful Christians giving testimony in public claim that one should neither be direct nor firm nor argumentative nor offensive in one's manner toward others especially fellow believers when speaking of truths from God's Word, especially if it causes an offense - even a perceived one such as my personal New York accent and my strong voice! Even ones tone or volume of voice or demeanor must not be perceived as offensive - even if imaginary. Heaven forbid if I am not dressed properly or have a suitable appearance to suit my audience or speak in an accent that is not acceptable to someone in the audience. One time a pastor's wife told me to stop sharing my faith with others, and just let people see the Jesus in me without speaking! Wonder how many people understand the gospel by being silent. My discussion with her was cordial, but she decided I was not acceptable as Christian to her.
On the other hand, it is often not possible to determine who is truly a believer and who is not, who is mature and who is not, who will be offended and who will not. Nor is it always possible to avoid being in an argumentative mode - one which is defending the doctrines of God's Word, i.e., in the face of those who counter what you are saying with their own point of view which does not follow God's Word. Albeit there is nothing wrong with arguing / speaking of an opposing point of view - especially if it is an accurate one which comes from God's Word. Jesus argued all the time. Just check out Mt 23 below . For there is hardly ever universal agreement by everyone, even when God's Word is being accurately communicated. So anything you say will most likely be in opposition to what someone else believes - even if accurate from Scripture; or they are offended by some inconsequential mannerisms that you have. On the other hand Scripture says differently:
A) [Compare Jude 1:3]:
"Dear friends, [fellow believers] although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."
CONTEND, I.E., ARGUE DEFINED:
[Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, G & C Merriam Co., Springfield, Ma, 1980 states]:
"vi 1: to strive or vie in contest or rivalry or against difficulties. 2: to strive in debate: argue
vt: 1: maintain, assert 2: struggle for
"vi 1: to give reasons for or against something: reason 2: to contend or disagree in words: dispute vt 1: to give evidence of: indicate 2: to consider the pros and cons of: discuss 3: to prove or try to prove by giving reasons: maintain 4: to persuade by giving reasons: induce."
Notice that in every proper and accurate communication where there is a presentation of truths from the Bible, there is necessarily an element of argumentation, i.e., contention; for one can hardly present truths from the Word of God without opposing someone's human viewpoint, whether expressed or not. Furthermore, not all believers agree on the doctrines of the faith. Some believers are so out of touch with God's Word that they are virtually unbelievers in what they think, say and do. Consequently they are to be contended with as if they were unbelievers. So there will often be disagreement about what the words of God's Word are saying which should not deter one from presenting truths from God's Word to the one who has opposed them. Otherwise, how would God's Word be accurately represented at all within the world if one must not present what the Bible says if there is the slightest possibility that what one is saying, or how one is saying it might be offensive to someone who hears you speaking? I've often been admonished even in my own congregation for not keeping my mouth shut about what the Bible says, "That's the pastor's job, not yours!!!, they say"
II) PASSAGES WHICH ARE MISUSED TO ADMONISH THE FAITHFUL BELIEVER FOR CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
The following passages are often incorrectly cited to compel the faithful Christian to believe that he is responsible for the negative reactions of others and so he should modify his behavior, especially the content of his message, so that there is no offense and no contending for the faith:
B) [Consider 1 Cor 9:19-22]:
(v. 19) "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.
(v. 20) And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law that I might win those who are under the Law.
["though not being myself under the Law" = Notice the issue is implied here that the believer must not accommodate himself to his audience to the extent of contradicting truths from God's Word]
(v. 21) to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ that I might win those who are without law...[etc.]"
Notice again that the law of Christ, i.e., grace and the gospel are not sacrificed for the sake of the audience here either at the 'risk' of being offensive.
So this passage actually refers to the approach that an individual must make short of compromising the truth. The passage emphasizes a non-compromising attitude toward accurately presenting truths from God's Word.
Choosing an effective way to present the truth to one particular type of individual or another is the issue. Using imprecise or incorrect terms is not.
And whether or not one should avoid offending another is also not addressed, especially in the light of the fact that there will always be someone in the audience who will take offence.
Robert N Wilkin states in an article entitled 'The Subtle Danger of an Imprecise Gospel', in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Vol. 10, Spring 1997, No. 18, Arthur Farstad, Editor, Irving, Tx, 1997):
"Paul articulated his message in various ways. He used a different approach when he preached to the Athenian philosophers at Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31) from when he preached to a Jewish audience in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16-41). However, he always shared the same message. His gospel was always by grace through faith, apart from works, lest anyone should boast....
Paul did not preach an imprecise gospel of salvation by commitment, surrender, following Christ, or making Christ Lord of one's life.
While Paul tried to avoid offending anyone needlessly, he offended a lot of people needfully. Paul may well have experienced more persecution as a result of his preaching than any other preacher ever (cf. 2 Cor 11:22-23)."
Scripture teaches that there is far more benefit than harm done in arguing about God's Word in public. Jesus did it constantly; Paul did so; the Apostles did it; and we are commanded to do likewise as study will show. For example, hearing the truth accurately presented in a debate, even a heated one, is far better than what is heard from many pulpits. And when in a debate one must take extra care to present God's viewpoint accurately and concisely, ruling out possible openings for misinterpretation.
So what is heard and overheard is more likely to be of great value. This also guards against allowing room for untruth to get a foothold in the debate. That's the way the Lord, the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Apostles taught, as will be shown. Should one do any less?
It is also not a requirement for one to have to predict or be responsible for people's reactions to truth from God's Word when it is clearly presented. It is just the believer's job to be ready with a clear and accurate answer from Scripture, (Ref., 2 Tim 2:15; 1 Pet 3:15).
Scripture teaches that the way to eternal life is narrow and few there are that find it, (Mt 7:14). Therefore, most will reject truth from God's Word when the faithful Christian presents it, often with a demonstration of negative behavior. But believers are to be ready in season and out of season, (2 Tim 4:2a), not knowing who will be receptive and who will not. As a matter of fact, Scripture teaches that most efforts to share truths from God's Word will indeed fail as they have in the past beginning with our Lord in the Garden of Eden, Noah, the Prophets, our Lord's 3 year ministry, the Apostle Paul and the record of the Church up to today. So to hold today's faithful believer responsible for negative reactions and 'poor numbers' is to hold others spoken of within Scripture equally responsible including the Son of God Himself.
God's Word in fact teaches that the gospel and other teachings from the Bible are offensive in their very nature to the unbeliever or carnal believer no matter how well presented:
1) [1 Cor 2:14]:
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
2) [Compare 1 Cor 1:18a, 23]:
(v. 18a) "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness.."
(v. 23) "But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Gentiles foolishness."
Yet in all of this 'dismal' failure is God glorified. For those who reject the gospel and teaching from God's Word authenticate God's sovereignty in a number of ways, not the least of which is that it validates that only His Sovereignty can prevail in the universe. For it becomes quickly evident that only those who are elect choose to obey truths from the Bible inspite of the opportunity of all to obey:
3) [Ro 8:28-30]:
(v. 28) "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
(v. 29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
(v. 30) and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."
And to the glory of God, only those whom God has chosen will freely choose to believe in the gospel unto eternal life. The others who are not chosen will not choose to believe.
And relative to believers who lead faithful lives:
All believers are invited to our Lord's wedding banquet but few believers will be 'properly clothed in faithful clothes', (i.e., faithful works). Only those who are chosen by God will have led faithful lives, the others will go their own way having been invited to be faithful but not chosen:
4) [Compare Mt 22:1-14]:
(v. 2) "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.
[Notice that the scene is a wedding feast within the kingdom of heaven to which only believers will be invited. But only faithful believers who have lived faithful lives as represented by proper clothing will be permitted to stay at the banquet. Unfaithful believers will stay in the kingdom, but sadly, not be permitted to enjoy the fellowship of the banquet - for that's a reward for their faithfulness]:
(v. 11) "But when the king came in to look over the dinner-guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he was speechless.
All guests are provided with something proper to wear, but like an unfaithful believer, the invited guest refuses to comply with the Host's request to wear proper clothing at his Son's wedding, thus dishonoring Him] (v. 12) and he said to him, 'Friend, [a term which must be limited to a believer] how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless.
(v. 13) Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness...
[outside of the banquet - but not outside of the kingdom, (since he is still a believer who trusted in the Christ as Savior)]
...in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [i.e., devastating sorrow at the loss for all of eternity of a closer intimate relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ Himself and the faithful saints. And at the end of this parable it is indicated that God is sovereign and has decreed all things to come to pass]:
(v. 14) For many are called, but few are chosen."
Continuing in the matter of the responsibility of a Christian to testify in public:
Most individuals within earshot listen in silence if they listen at all, and on occasion some will begin their own conversation later on about God's Word in an inquiry rather than in a debate mode. This result alone is worth the effort. Compare another oft misused passage which objectors use to denounce the faithful believer's witness:
II cont.) PASSAGES WHICH ARE MISUSED TO ADMONISH THE FAITHFUL BELIEVER FOR CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH, cont.
C) [Consider 1 Cor 1:10]:
"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
[This passage refers to the believers' universal allegiance to Christ and Christ alone as it says in the next few verses]:
(v. 11) For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Cloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.
[And these quarrels and divisions are relative to whom one is to give allegiance]:
(v. 12) Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas.' and 'I of Christ.'
[So the division is not as some objectors say, over an argument over some Biblical truth, but over to whom believers are to give allegiance - a false doctrine when it is other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself]:
(v. 13) Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
(v. 14) I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius,
(v. 15) that no man should say you were baptized in my name."
So the divisions were not over contending for the truths of God's Word but over whom these believers held allegiance to. And Paul's answer in this matter was that ones allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone, no exceptions - a divisive statement coming out of the mouth of the Apostle Paul - a necessary one and it is true.
D) [Consider 1 Tim 6:3-9]:
Consider another passage, this one located in 1 Timothy in which verse 4 is pulled out of context and falsely cited to condemn the active and faithful Christian who testifies in public:
"He [it is falsely maintained who testifies in public of the doctrine of eternal life] is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions"
But isolation of one verse apart from the context does not do God's Word justice. Consider the rest of the passage which speaks of an entirely different subject as it begins in verse 3:
D cont.) [1 Tim 6:3-9 cont.]:
(v. 3) "If any one advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,
[Notice that the subject of the passage is those who espouse false doctrine not those who argue for the truth of the gospel - the words of our Lord - and stand firm in doing so]
(v. 4) he [who teaches such false doctrine, (v. 3)] is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,
(v. 5) and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
["who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" - The passage is referring to those who teach that being prosperous is a reflection of one's godliness. It does not refer to believers who stand firm in the defense of the gospel. This passage goes on to teach that being content with what one has is the issue and not striving to get God to make them prosperous or condemning other faithful believers who are not materially successful for their supposed lack of godliness]:
D cont.) [1 Tim 6:3-9 cont.]:
(v. 6) But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.
[Paul goes on to say that it is not riches which reflect a believer's godliness but his contentment with whatever is his situation]
(v. 7) For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
(v. 8) And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
(v. 9) But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."
[So those who advocate the false doctrine of being guaranteed riches as a result of so called godly behavior will fall into eventual ruin and destruction - not those who truly argue for the actual truths of God's Word. Furthermore, contending for the faith is actually a Scriptural truth and a command to every believer, (Jude 3-4; Phil 1:27-28).
II cont.) PASSAGES WHICH ARE MISUSED TO ADMONISH THE FAITHFUL BELIEVER FOR CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH, cont.
E) [Titus 3:4-10]:
(v. 4) "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
(v. 5) He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
(v. 6) Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
(v. 7) so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
(v. 8) This is a trustworthy saying. And I want to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
(v. 9) But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the Law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
(v. 10) Warn a divisive person once, and them warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
(v. 11) You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."
Notice that there is a kind of argument which is based on unscriptural reasoning which is therefore divisive since they are over matters which are not or cannot be proved by Scripture and thus foolish and unprofitable. One is to depart from such a conversation. On the other hand, this does not exclude proper arguing with content and godly reasoning which is Scriptural, i.e., sound teaching, (ref. v. 8 and 2 Tim 1:13-14).
F) [Ro 16:17-18]:
(v. 17) "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
[Notice that the issue is not whether one is contending / arguing but whether one is teaching contrary to what they have learned from Paul]
(v. 18) For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."
[And notice that it is by smooth, deceptive, flattering talk which is self serving and not an argumentative mode that is in view here - better to argue the truth from God's Word than be a smooth talking 'politician' who speaks no truths at all]
G) [Pr 15:1]:
(Pr 15:1 NASB) "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger."
Critics of faithful Christians giving testimony in public claim that one should not be direct or firm or argumentative or harsh / cruel in one's words / manner toward others especially fellow believers when speaking of truths from God's Word, especially if it causes an offense - whatever that means. To them it is all about the presentation, tone of voice, avoidance of being perceived as one of being an offensive character. To them it is not about the content of what one says. So any wind of doctrine will do. Just say it acting out with a gentle demeanor - avoiding all kinds of harshness, terms and content they find provative regardless of whether or not it accurately represents God's Word - anything which stirs up their personal anger. By the way, more than once I have been admonished to throw out my New York accent because in someone else's point of view, it is by nature unacceptably harsh, especially in Texas where my distant relatives from the North helped win the civil war. No amount of apology for being connected with New York by birth and the Union side would suffice. Guess I am a poor example of a Christian witness beginning with where I came from.
On the other hand, contending for the doctrines of the faith according to Scripture is most often and simply a matter of an explanation of a passage(s) to another in a teaching / didactic mode in a tone of voice that seeks neither to offend or please. Ones tone of voice more often than not depends first upon ones physical vocal cords with which one was born and as one developed speech patterns where they were brought up; as well as time spent in sharing ones faith which often demands projecting ones voice clearly so that one can be properly heard, especially in front of a group of people. So a loud, clear voice need not be determined as a harsh / cruel voice; nor a quiet, "gentle" answer one which never causes anger. It is the context of the message - the actual words that count no matter how poorly presented. It is not the perceived tone of voice that almost always is objectionable; no matter how trustworthy that message is. That's why I try to quote the passage first. If there is an objection, I can retort "I quoted from God's Word, I didn't write it myself!"
On the other hand, it is often not possible to determine who is truly a believer and who is not. Nor is it always possible to avoid being in the argumentative mode when one is speaking of what the Word of God is saying, since there is not always universal agreement by everyone even when God's Word is being accurately communicated.
Notice that in every proper, i.e., godly communication where there is a presentation of truths from the Bible there is necessarily an element of argumentation, i.e., contention; for in today's lack of consistent study of the Bible and attachment to so many different opposing denominations that claim to align themselves with God's Word and do not, one can hardly accurately present truths from the Word of God without opposing someone's viewpoint. Furthermore, not all believers agree on the doctrines of the faith. Some believers are so out of touch with God's Word that they are virtually unbelievers in what they think, say and do. Consequently they are to be contended with as if they were unbelievers. So there will often be disagreement about what the words of God's Word are saying which should not deter one from presenting truths from God's Word to the one who has opposed them. Otherwise, how would God's Word be accurately represented at all within the world or any local body of believers for that matter?
III) PASSAGES WHICH COMMAND THE BELIEVER TO CONTEND FOR THE FAITH
A) [Consider 1 Pet 3:15]:
(v. 15) but [you believers are commanded to] sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
"sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" =
set apart from all things, in your mentality, in your mind - make it your absolute priority to live first and foremost under the Lordship, the commands, of Jesus Christ which are found in the Bible.
"being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" =
you" ="aitounti" = ask, call for, desire, require =
indicates that one communicates a need for an answer in some way. Notice
that a direct question is not necessarily required, only that there be a
real perception that there is a required answer for the hope that is in
the believer - a sure hope of eternal life
And this means not just being ready or living right, but actually speaking out the answer in defense of what God has said in His Word in response to a perceived need to have that answer - firmly but gently, with an awesome reverence for the truth that you are representing to everyone - believers and unbelievers alike.
Objectors to contending for the faith with believers must admit that even believers can at times lose sight of their sure hope of eternal life. That's the danger of living in this world and once more allowing oneself to become part of it, (Eph 5:1-17). So when the window of opportunity opens, the mature believer has his duty to "make a defense... to everyone [believers & unbelievers alike] who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." This often happens when the disoriented believer expresses doubt about his salvation, even denying the doctrine of eternal security. This opens up the window of opportunity to the prepared mature believer who has done his homework to respond with a defense from the words of God's Word.
Bible Knowledge Commentary, The New Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, editors, Victor Books, 1988, U.S.A., re: 1 Pet 3:15-17, p. 850]:
'''Christians should "always be prepared" ("hetoimoi" "ready"; v. 1:5) "to give...reason" ("apologian", the "defense" which a defendant makes before a judge; cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16) "for" their "hope" in Christ. Such an oral defense should be consistent with one's "set apart" conduct.'''
So it is not just conduct which a believer is to witness with, but he is to actively answer the inevitable questions which arise in his daily life - including at the workplace.
1 Peter 3:15 just quoted stresses the importance of being ready to have an answer - being ready to make a defense - to make a stand - for what God says in His Word. Peter implies here that truths from God's Word are not usually readily received such that they do require a defense yet with gentleness and reverence - but there is needed a defensive / argumentative strategy. And other passages support this conclusion:
1) [Ro 8:7]:
(v. 7) The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so."
"The sinful mind is hostile to God" = the mind of a carnal believer, (a believer who resists truth from God's Word), or the mind of an unbeliever is hostile to God - is hostile to hearing what God says in His Word. Both are hostile to the ambassador of Christ who relates divine viewpoint through his behavior and his testimony no matter how well it is presented.
III cont.) PASSAGES WHICH COMMAND THE BELIEVER TO CONTEND FOR THE FAITH, cont.
B) [Consider Titus 1:9]:
"He [the church elder, (v. 6)] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
In Titus 1:9, the Apostle Paul emphasizes that an elder of the church was to be fully prepared to teach sound Bible doctrine and to refute, i.e., prove wrong by argument, those who oppose such sound doctrine. The teaching by the elder of sound doctrine to fellow believers will prepare them to refute those who oppose truths from God's Word in the same way - by argument:
C) [Consider 2 Tim 4:2]:
"Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
Notice that the argumentative stance inherent in this verse, re: the words: "in season and out of season," "reprove," "rebuke". So we are indeed to proclaim the truths of God's Word at all times - even at those times which the world deems as inappropriate, argumentative and divisive.
D) [Consider Jude 3-4]:
(v. 3) "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."
[This passage commands all believers to refute false doctrine being taught by argument.
"contend for the faith" = "contend" = "epagonizesthai" = contend or argue strenuously in defence of the faith, i.e., the body of truths from God's Word.]
(v. 4) For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
[Notice that author Jude provides a good reason that a believer must argue for truths in God's Word: because there are those amongst the body of believers as well as unbelievers in the world who live by and espouse false doctrines that must be actively and accurately refuted.
Note that those who espouse false doctrines amongst the believers may be unbelievers as are in view in Jude 3-4 or they may be carnal believers as are in view in other passages. Both types of individuals - the differences between them being indistinguishable - are to be confronted with truths from God's Word as the appropriated opportunity arises]
E) [Consider Phil 1:27-30]:
(v. 27) "Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."
[Paul is commanding believers to join together in a unity in their active defense of the truths from God's Word]
(v. 27 cont.) Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel...."
"contending" - "sunathlountes" - striving, contending together as a unity for the cause of the gospel. Believers are to stand firm in one accord in their defense - their striving - to proclaim the truth of the gospel of salvation. They are to strive, to contend, to argue for the truth of the gospel of salvation supporting one another in this endeavor. Paul says in verses 27 & 28, (which follow), that they are to do this fearlessly & boldly in the face of those who oppose - who disagree - with the truths from God's Word. This bold opposition - this fearless argumentation which believers are to do is a sign to those who have never agreed with the truth of the gospel of salvation that they will perish, (cp Jn 3:18), i.e., unbelievers are in view. It is also a sign to these objectors that the ones who have believed in the truth will be saved, (cp Eph 1:13-14). It is inherent in Paul's command to the believers in Philippi, (and to all believers), that there surely will be opposition - opposition which will attempt to intimidate, which will take great exception to hearing the truth, and which will start an argument and be strenuously contentious to the point of personal attack on the believers - verbal or otherwise]:
(v. 27 cont.) "Whatever happens...
[Notice: "Whatever happens" - Paul is anticipating trouble for those that do contend for the truth of God's Word]
(v. 27 cont.) "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man [believers are to support one another - to be unified in their defence] for the faith of the gospel."
["the faith of the gospel" - the faith - the body of truths from God's Word upon which the gospel of salvation is based. Christians are to be unified in their defense of Bible doctrine]
E) [Phil 1:27-30 cont.]:
(v. 27 cont.) "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel
(v. 28) without being frightened in anyway by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by God."
[Notice that Paul is urging the believers at Philippi and believers everywhere to contend for the faith - strive together in one accord to witness for the truth of the gospel against those who oppose its true message. It truly is a striving - a contention - an arguing that Paul is urging believers to do. Paul then speaks of the faithful believer contending for the gospel of salvation with such assurance that he truly is saved that his efforts serve as a sign to unbelievers of the condition of the lost and the eternal destiny in heaven of the believer]:
E) [Phil 1:27-30 cont.]:
(v. 29) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him,
(v. 30) since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."
So a believer is to expect suffering for the cause of the gospel. Paul says that it will be a struggle, and there will be combatative opposition. But in the face of this, believers are to be of one accord - to support one another in their firm stand for the truth of the gospel. Today, fellow believers are more than likely to condemn the faithful Christian for 'causing' others to have a negative reaction to truths from God's Word.
In effect, they join the unbelieving opposition in fighting against their own Christian brothers. Scripture takes the opposite view: we believers are to join together in being ready to make a defense for truths in God's Word regardless of potential negative reaction. And we are to support one another in this endeavor.
F) [2 Cor 10:5a]:
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God."
T. A. McMahon states, (The Berean Call, Feb 1995, article entitled 'Jesus Who'):
''' "Brother, I'm not interested in any of your divisive doctrinal talk. All I care about is knowing that a person loves Jesus. If someone tells me that, no matter what church he goes to, he's my brother in Christ!" It didn't seem like the right time or place to get into an argument with this individual. Nevertheless, I felt compelled at least to get a question in before the conversation ended. "When you talk with someone who tells you he loves Jesus, do you ever ask that person, 'Jesus who?'''
After quick thought the elderly gentleman let me know that he would never ask such a question. "It wouldn't be loving."
Whenever I visit friends in Pennsylvania, there is a man whom I make it a point to see. He is a joy to be with, one of the friendliest men I know. Though a committed Muslim, he regards himself as an ecumenist. He's proud of the fact that he shares some of the beliefs of both Jews and Christians. Occasionally he attends a Presbyterian church with my friends and truly enjoys the experience and their fellowship. Once in a restaurant he was expressing to me and our Christian friends his love for Jesus. He ended his proclamation with these words: "If I could tear away my flesh so that all of you could see deep into my heart, you would know how much I love Jesus." The emotions that filled his every word were stunning; it's uncommon to hear such a devout declaration, even in Christian circles.
Getting back to my boysenberry pie, I felt good about my friend's expression of love when a nagging thought hit me: Jesus who? A brief mental skirmish took place over whether or not to ask such a question. My words, however, came out before my mind had settled the issue. "Tell me about the Jesus you love." My Muslim friend didn't hesitate: "He's the same one you love." Before I got "doctrinal" with my friend, I thought I should try to show him why it was important to make sure we were talking about the same Jesus.
I used his neighbor, who is a great friend to both of us, as an example. He and I really love the guy. After agreeing on our mutual feelings, I began to give a description of our common friend's physical attributes: "He's 5'6; He's completely bald; he weighs 320 pounds; he wears a ring in his left nostril." Actually, I didn't get quite that far before objections were made. "Wait a minute... He's easily over 6'4," I wish I had all his hair, and he's the thinnest man I know!" My friend added that it was obvious that we weren't talking about the same person. "Does it matter?" I asked. He gave me an incredulous look. "Of course it does! I don't have a neighbor fitting your description. You may know someone else like that, but it's not my good friend and neighbor." I pointed out that if I truly believed the description I'd just given, then we couldn't possibly be friends with the same person. He agreed.
What followed was my description of the Jesus I knew. "He was crucified and died on the cross for my sins. Did the Jesus you know do that?"
"No, Allah took him to heaven before the crucifixion. Judas died on the cross."
"The Jesus I know is God Himself, who became a man. Is that your Jesus?"
He shook his head. "No, Allah alone is God. Jesus was a great prophet, but just a man." The discussion went on to many other characteristics the Bible ascribes to Jesus. In almost every case, my Muslim friend had a different perspective. Though he remained convinced that he held the correct view, the fact that our contradictory convictions couldn't be reconciled seemed to dampen his zeal for proclaiming his love for Jesus.
Some may see my questioning as unloving - as proof of the divisiveness of arguing over doctrines. I see it as trying to clear the way for my friend to have a genuine relationship with the only true Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ - not someone he or other men have wittingly or unwittingly imagined or devised.
Quite simply, doctrines are teachings. They are either true or false. A true doctrine cannot be divisive in a harmful way; that characteristic applies only to false teachings. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom 16:17; also Rom 2:8-9), Jesus, who is the Truth, can only be known in truth and by those who seek the truth (Jn 14:6; 18:37; 2 Thes 2:13; Dt 4:29). Christ Himself caused division (Mt 10:35; Jn 7:35, 9:16, 10:19), division between truth and error (Lk 12:51).
"Jesus who?" is a pivotal question for every believer in Christ. We should first of all ask it of ourselves, testing our own beliefs about Jesus (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Thes 5:21). Misunderstandings about Him inevitably become obstructions in our relationship with Him. The question also may be vital in our fellowshipping with those who claim to be Christians. On a brief airline flight recently, a friend of mine was concerned enough to ask the person next to him some crucial questions about his relationship with Jesus. Although the young man professed to have been a Christian for four years or so and participated in a Christian fellowship for professional athletes, he didn't really know Jesus nor did he understand the gospel of salvation. My friend led him to the Lord before the plane landed.
All too often, phrases similar to "we stand together with anyone who names the name of Christ" are emotionally charged coverings for ecumenical agendas. The fear of destroying unity plagues those who take seriously such unbiblical propaganda, even to the point of discouraging any vestige of interest in contending for the faith. Astonishingly, "Christian unity" now includes collaborating for the moral good of society with cults "that name the name of Jesus."
The cults' teachings about Jesus include every unscriptural idea imaginable. The "Jesus Christ" of Latter-day Saints, for example, couldn't be further removed from the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus invented by Joseph Smith and after whom be named his church is the first spirit child of Elohim, just as all humans, angels, and demons are spirit children of Elohim. This Mormon Jesus became flesh through physical intercourse between Elohim (God the Father who has a physical body) and the Virgin Mary. Their Jesus is the half brother of Lucifer. He came to earth to become a god. His sacrificial death gives immortality to every creature (including animals) at the resurrection. However, whether an individual creature spends eternity in hell or in one of three heavens is totally up to his or her (or its) performance.
The Jesus Christ of the mind-science cults (Christian Science, Religious Science, Unity School of Christianity, etc.) is no different from any other human being. "Christ" is a spiritual idea of God and not a person. Jesus neither suffered nor died for mankind's sins because sin doesn't exist. Rather, he helped humanity to cease from believing that sin and death have any reality. That is "salvation" in so-called Christian Science.
Jehovah's Witnesses also love Jesus, but not the Jesus of the Bible. Before their Jesus was born on earth he was Michael the Archangel. He is a god, but not Jehovah God. When their Jesus became a man he ceased to be a god. There was no physical resurrection of the JW Jesus; Jehovah raised his spirit body, hid his physical remains, and now, once again, Jesus exists as an angel called Michael. The Bible promises that when a believer in our Lord and Savior dies, he or she immediately goes to be with Jesus (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21-23). With their Jesus, however, only 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses have that privilege - but not at death, for they are annihilated when they die. That is, they spend an indefinite period in an inactive and unconscious state, in effect, ceasing to exist. My fellowship of love with the Biblical Jesus, however, is unbroken and everlasting.
Roman Catholics love Jesus. I did for twenty-some years of my life, but he was very different from the Jesus I now know and love. Sometimes he was still a babe in arms or a young boy, overshadowed and protected by his mother. When I wanted his help I made sure I prayed to his mother first. The Jesus to Whom I pray now hasn't been a baby for almost 2,000 years. The Jesus I loved as a Catholic resided bodily in a small, box-like tabernacle on our church altar in the form of a white wafer, while simultaneously inhabiting millions of pieces of bread worldwide. My Jesus is the (physically) resurrected Son of God; He doesn't indwell inanimate objects.
The Roman Catholic Jesus I knew was the Christ of the crucifix, his body continually hanging on the cross, fittingly symbolic of the perpetual sacrifice of the mass and his unfinished work of salvation. Nearly two millennia ago, the Biblical Jesus fully paid the debt for my sins. He has no need of the seven sacraments, the liturgy, the priesthood, the papacy, His mother's intercession, indulgences, prayers to and for the dead, purgatory, etc., to help save anyone. Roman Catholics who say they love Jesus, though they may call themselves charismatic Catholics, evangelical Catholics, or born-again Catholics, actually love a Jesus who is not the Biblical Jesus. He's "another Jesus."
Even some who claim to be evangelicals promote a different Jesus. The so-called faith and prosperity teachers promote a Jesus who was materially prosperous. According to evangelist John Avanzini, whose expensive wardrobe reflects his teachings, Jesus wore designer clothes (a reference to his seamless robe) similar to what kings and wealthy merchants wore. In a convoluted argument success preacher Robert Tilton claims that being poor is a sin, and since Jesus was sinless, it follows that he must have been extremely rich. Positive-confession teacher Fred Price explains that he drives a Rolls Royce simply because he's following the way of Jesus. Oral Roberts says that because Jesus and the disciples had a treasurer (Judas), they must have had plenty of money.
In addition to preaching a Christ who was materially wealthy, many of the faith teachers, such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, proclaim a Jesus who descended into hell and had to be tortured by Satan in order to complete the atonement for the sins of mankind. That's not the Jesus I know and love.
Tony Campolo's Jesus indwells everyone. Television preacher Robert Schuller presents a Jesus who died on the cross to secure our self-esteem. In support of this Jesus, Christian psychologists and numerous evangelical preachers tell us that his death on the cross proves our infinite value to God and is the basis for our self-worth. Not only are a variety of ego-enhancing Jesuses being promoted today, but we're also being told by a psychologized "church" that the truth about Jesus may not be as important for our psychological well-being as our own perception of him. That's the basis for the current teaching by psychospiritual integrationist Neil Anderson and others who promote un-Biblical inner-healing techniques. We have to forgive Jesus for situations in the past where we feel He disappointed or wounded us emotionally. Jesus who?
Fellowship with Jesus is the heart of Christianity. It's not something merely imagined but is a reality. He literally indwells all who place their faith in Him as ... Savior (Col 1:27; Jn 14:20; 15:4). The relationship we have with Him is both subjective and objective. Our genuine personal experiences with Jesus are always in harmony with His objective Word (Is 8:20). His Spirit ministers His Word to us and that knowledge is the foundation for our fellowship with Him (Jn 8:31; Phil 3:8). Our love for Him is demonstrated by and increases through our obedience to what He commands; our trust in Him is strengthened through the knowledge of what He reveals about Himself (Jn 14:15; Phil 1:9). Jesus said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (Jn 18:37). To whatever degree we believers entertain false beliefs about Jesus and His teachings, we undermine our vital relationship with Him.
Nothing can be better on this earth than the joy of fellowship with Jesus and with those who know and are known by Him. On the other hand, nothing could be more tragic than the offering of one's affections to another Jesus, the invention of men and demons. Our Lord prophesied that many would fall prey to that great delusion just prior to His return (Mt 24:23-26). There will be many who, because of the alleged signs and wonders they perform in His name, will convince themselves that they know Jesus and are serving Him. To them He will speak these sobering words: "...I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt 7:23). Rather than being divisive, asking the question "Jesus who?" may be the most loving service one can perform these days. The answer has eternal consequences.'''
IV) PASSAGES WHICH PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE TO THE BELIEVER OF CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
Finally, Scripture indicates that our Lord was direct, firm and argumentative when speaking of truths from God's Word, even to the point of 'causing' others to be offended:
A) [Consider Mt 11:20-24]:
(v. 20) "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.
(v. 21) 'Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
(v. 22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
(v. 23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day of judgment than for you.' "
(v. 24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
B) [Compare Mt 12:38-39; 46-49]:
(v. 38) "Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from You.'"
(v. 39) He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."
(v. 46) "While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.
(v. 47) Someone told Him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you'
(v. 48) He replied to him, 'Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?'
(v. 49) Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are My mother and my brothers.
(v. 50) For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother;"
C) [Consider Mt 13:10-11]:
And our Lord often spoke to people in a cryptic form of speech called parables - purposely so that the many unbelievers would NOT understand what He was telling them, (cp 1 Cor 2:14).
(v. 10) "The disciples came to Him and asked, Why do You speak to the people in parables?'
(v. 11) He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."
D) [Consider Mt 15:1-9]:
And there were times when people approached our Lord NOT with an intent to learn something but with a hostile and condemning attitude. And our Lord's response was not in line with the human viewpoint of those who object to active Christian witness today. But His response was perfectly in line with the will of the Father:
(v. 1) "Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,
(v. 2) 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!'
[Notice that our Lord is approached by others who are confronting Him with a condemning and hostile question - they are not interested in learning anything from Jesus Christ. (The faithful disciple is often approached in a similar manner today). And the 'question' which was posed by the Pharisees was answered directly by the Son of God - a good example for the faithful disciple of today to follow]:
[Mt 15:1-9 cont.]:
(v. 3) Jesus replied, 'And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
(v. 4) For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'
(v. 5) But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,'
(v. 6) he is not to 'honor his father with it. Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.
[Objectors would say that these are pretty strong words for a man to say - were it not that our Lord was the Man Who spoke them. And the words get stronger - certainly too strong in the opinion of objectors]
(v. 7) You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
(v. 8) 'These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.
(v. 9) They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'
Recall that our Lord's behavior was not so 'acceptable' the times when He cleared the Temple of money changers, (Jn 2:14-16; Mt 21:12-13) ...
E) [Consider Acts 14:1-7]:
Nor was the Apostle Paul's persistence in line with what people define as acceptable Christian behavior when witnessing:
The following is typical of Paul's ministry:
(v. 1) "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.
(v. 2) But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
(v. 3) So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
(v. 4) The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, other with the apostles.
(v. 5) There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.
(v. 6) But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country,
(v. 7) where they continued to preach the good news."
Notice that there are divisions created amongst people wherever the Apostles preached the Word. This is to be expected. Even our Lord Himself spoke of this in a manner which many today would object to - even from God Himself:
F) [Consider Lk 12:51-56]:
(v. 51) ''' [Jesus said] "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
[Notice the word "division"]
(v. 52) From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three
(v. 53) They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
[And our Lord continues in what today one would consider is an unacceptable manner]:
(v. 54) He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does.
(v. 55) And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is.
(v. 56) Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?]
G) [Consider Acts 19:8-10]:
(v. 8) "Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.
[And only after much effort and continued resistance by many to whom he was speaking did Paul move on]:
(v. 9) But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
[Notice that Paul persisted in his arguments to the point when his detractors publicly spoke evil of the gospel itself. That was his signal - when they persisted in disbelief - then he moved on and persisted in Tyrannus and elsewhere]:
(v. 10) This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."
H) [Consider Acts 22:1-22]:
Acts 22:19-21 (NASB)
19 "And I said, 'Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You.
20 'And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.'
21 "And He said to me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
Then verse 22 indicates the results of Paul's persistence in defending the faith:
(v. 22) "The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted 'Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!'
I) [Consider Acts 23:11]:
But some might say that Paul was often out of line and out of the will of God when such a negative reaction resulted. Not so our Lord - He commended Paul personally:
"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"
J) [Consider Acts 18:27-28 which indicates that a fellow believer Apollos "was a great help" when he "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.", i.e., he argued bible doctrine in public:
(v. 27) "When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.
(v. 28) For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."
K) [Consider Mt 23]: Jesus' Arguments Against The Pharisees Are Severe And True And Needed To Be Made By The Son Of God Himself - Our Example:
(v. 1) '''Then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples:
(v. 2) "The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
(v. 3) So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
[Notice that the Pharisees sat 'in Moses' seat' and apparently relayed to others what the Law said. What is in view then is their lifestyle which apparently did not follow what they preached]
(v. 4) They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
(v. 5) Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
(v. 6) they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
(v. 7) they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi.
(v. 8) But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
(v. 9) And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.
(v. 10) Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
(v. 11) The greatest among you will be your servant.
(v. 12) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(v. 13) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
(v. 15) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
[Now what follows is the unbiblical teaching that the Pharisees promoted]:
(v. 16) Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'if anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.
(v. 17) You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
(v. 18) You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'
(v. 19) you blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
(v. 20) Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.
(v. 21) And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the One Who dwells in it.
(v. 22) And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the One Who sits on it.
(v. 23) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the Law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
(v. 24) You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
(v. 25) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
(v. 26) Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
(v. 27) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man's bones and everything unclean.
(v. 28) In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
(v. 29) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.
(v. 30) And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
(v. 31) So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
(v. 32) Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
(v. 33) You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
(v. 34) Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.
(v. 35) And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
(v. 36) I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation."
V) CONTENDING SPECIFICALLY WITH BELIEVERS
Just as the believer has his responsibility to defend the faith to unbelievers, so he has the responsibility to do likewise with his fellow believers:
B) PASSAGES WHICH DEFINE ONES CONDUCT WHEN IN DEBATE WITH BELIEVERS
1) [2 Tim 2:15-18]:
(v. 15) "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
[Notice that one is required to correctly handle the word of truth, i.e., it must be clearly and accurately presented and represented - one might say, even in the face of opposing viewpoints]
(v. 16) Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
(v. 17) Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
(v. 18) who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some."
Notice the emphasis on correctly handling the word of truth followed by Paul's argumentative statement about specific individual believers in a particular local church. Far from avoiding arguments, he confronts individuals relative to true bible doctrine.
2) [2 Tim 1:13-14]:
(v. 13) "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
(v. 14) Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit Who lives in us."
In order to guard the sound teaching, one must obviously defend it wherever and whenever there is opposition to it, i.e., contend for the faith - inside and outside the body of Christ.
3) [Pr 27:17]:
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
[Notice that what is pictured here is challenging, debating interaction so that one is sharpened in his understanding of truths from God's Word]
C) PASSAGES WHICH EXEMPLIFY BELIEVERS CONTENDING WITH OTHER BELIEVERS FOR THE DOCTRINES OF THE FAITH, I.E., THE WORD OF GOD
1) [Consider Acts 11:1-4, 18]:
(v. 1) "The Apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
(v. 2) So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him
(v. 3) and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'
(v. 4) Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened:....
(v. 18) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.' "
[Notice that there was an argument going on but each one had his say and there was a serious consideration for the content of what each contended for - respective discussion, albeit different views were respectively discussed and godly decisions were made]
2) [Consider 1 Cor 11:17-19]:
(v. 17) "In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
(v. 18) In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.
(v. 19) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval."
[Notice that Paul states that there were divisions within the local body of believers at Corinth. The differences here in view appear to be of a competitive nature in order to falsely prove who is the more spiritual. But of course, the road to spiritual maturity is one in which a believer must discard false concepts and replace them with what is doctrinally sound over a period of time as he studies and applies God's Word to his life. No one is born again spiritually mature. Therefore, the believer will have a number of unbiblical points of view which will be countered by what is presented by others from the bible, obviously in an argumentative mode.]
3) [Acts 15:1-27]:
The Council of Jerusalem indicates that there was a serious contending going on in order to work out the differences between Paul and his ministry and the local Jerusalem church's leadership:
(v. 1) '''Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."
(v. 2) This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
(v. 3) The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad.
(v. 4) When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
(v. 5) Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
[Notice that these are all believers, even apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem, (vv. 6, 22), who are participating in this sharp dispute and debate. There are direct statements made relative to the doctrines of the faith - made in such a way as to cause debate]
(v. 6) The apostles and elders met to consider this question.
(v. 7) After much discussion...
[Notice that the debate continued - both sides apparently presenting their viewpoints in opposition to one another without resolution up to this point]
...Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.
(v. 8) God, Who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us.
(v. 9) He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith.
(v. 10) Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?
(v. 11) No! [Strong word coming from Peter - a debating, contending word in this context]
We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.'
(v. 12) The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
(v. 13) When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me.
(v. 14) Simon has described to us how God at first showed His concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for Himself.
(v. 15) The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
(v. 16) 'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
(v. 17) that the remnant of men may seek the LORD,
and all the Gentiles who bear My name,' says the LORD, Who does these things'
(v. 18) that have been known for ages.'
(v. 19) It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
(v. 20) Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
(v. 21) For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
(v. 22) Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.
(v. 23) With them they sent the following letter:
'The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilcia:
(v. 24) We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.
(v. 25) So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-
(v. 26) men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(v. 27) Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.
(v. 28) It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
(v. 29) You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
4) [Compare Gal 2:11]:
"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong."
5) [Compare Jas 2:18-24]:
Author James evidently assumed that some of his readers might take opposition to his words. So he used a very effective, well known, ancient technique of presenting an opposing argument from an imaginary objector so that he could emphasize his point by refuting an opposing point of view that might occur in the reader's mind. This device is a point-counterpoint device which consists of the author announcing an imaginary objector such as, "But someone will say..." and then conveying an objection that might be on someone's mind. This is followed by a pointed retort by the author such as "You foolish man," followed by a stern rebuttal, (cp. Ro 9:19-20; 1 Cor 15:35-36):
(v. 18) "But someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you, by my works, my faith.
The Greek is best rendered: "Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you, by my works, my faith." . And by this 'Mr. Someone' meant, 'You say that faith and works are connected - that faith without works is a dead faith. But I say, 'Show me the kind of faith you have from what you do, which is impossible to determine - the two are not connected; and if you can, (and I know you cannot), then I will show you from what I do what I believe in, (which will not correlate with what you show)'
Then Mr. Objector continued in verse 19 with an example which in his mind proved out the statement which he made in James 2:18 above]:
(v. 19) "You believe there is one God, you do well. So do the demons believe and [they] shudder in fear"
Mr. Someone, the objector, uses a false analogy of demons vs. humans relative to their respective beliefs in one God to falsely maintain that works shed no light on the content of ones faith. Some attribute this verse to James and not to the objector, but James does not say this - the objector, 'Mr. Someone' does. The objector in verse 19 makes a misguided attempt to build a case for not doing works. James wouldn't say this because he is on the side of works being performed by the believer in addition to faith. Furthermore, demons cannot be compared to humans relative to this matter; nor is there enough information relative to the content of the faith of each to make a legitimate comparison.
So it is Mr. Someone who says, 'You do believe that there is one God - you believe in monotheism, don't you? You do well' with the implication that some humans who believe in one God do good works. But then he switches subjects and indicates that demons who believe that there is one God do not behave properly: "Even the demons believe that and shudder." Recall that most of James' readership is Jewish, which is intensely monotheistic. They tended to believe that good behavior must be the result of such a belief. Mr. Someone says, 'But the demons also believe in one God and look at their actions - totally the opposite from you, they shudder in fear like a bristling dog, evidencing a lack of any relationship with God.' So Mr. Someone is saying that what an individual does proves nothing about what he believes and vice versa. Mr. Someone maintains that works shed no light on the content of one's faith. Therefore, Mr. Someone maintains that there is no obligation for a believer to do good works to validate his faith.
But there is a vital element in the content of ones belief in one God which determines ones behavior relative to 'doing well' with God or 'shuddering in fear' before God, (v. 2:19). This element is not present in Mr. Someone's argument which thereby falsifies it; namely whether or not one believes in the sovereignty of the one God over ones personal life. Hence this leaves the belief in one God open to a number of possibilities of behavioral response from outright rebellion and 'shuddering before God' to 'doing well' and friendship and blessing with God. Hence Mr. Someone's argument is flawed. Just as one might believe in the fact that a certain man is ruler of ones country but may or may not accept that ruler's sovereignty over one, so it is with believing in one God. Furthermore, comparing demons with humans relative to this matter is arguably a false premise since demons and humans are different and God has dealt with each group differently. Furthermore, Scripture does not stipulate that angelic beings are held accountable to the doctrines of the faith or the gospel in order which it enumerates.
So, in verse 20, James countered Mr. Objector's arguments as presented in vv. 18-19:
(v. 20) "You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?"
Note that James began his answer to the objector's rebuttal by beginning with a standard opening for his response to the imaginary objector: "You foolish man..." and then sets up his points of rebuttal: "Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?"
It is evident that this begins James' rebuttal at verse 20 and not before; for it permits the objector to make a full point and then a standard rebuttal address came next. Whereupon James made his statement and provided the strongest example to prove his point: Abraham persevering under trials and proving out his faith as a second kind of justification of his maturing relationship with the LORD: justification of it before men.
And James's answer to Mr. Objector indicated that although faith and works were separate concepts, they were to work together in the Christian life such that the works validated ones faith:
(v. 21) "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
(v. 22) You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
(v. 23) And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend.
(v. 24) You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
The original Greek is best rendered: 'You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only justified by faith.'
James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God the latter type is before men to indicate that one is indeed God's friend. [cf. Ro 4:1-3]"
6) [Compare Pr 27:6]:
"Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses."
Note that it is presenting the truth which is what a true friend does which is stipulated as trustworthy as opposed to the insincere, i.e., untruthful expressions of affection that are attributed to an enemy - one who is not acting with your best interests at heart, (as opposed to acting to make you feel better temporarily without regard for the longterm, even your eternal destiny) which are not trustworthy.
To defend the faith so that an individual receives the truth is preferred to behavior which is insincere but nevertheless results in good feeling.
[Expositors, Vol 5, NIV, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1991, p. 1096]:
"The wounds of a friend 'can be trusted' because they are meant to correct.... But an enemy's kisses are deceptive... in spite of their profusion."
[The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord & Zuck, Victor Books, 1981, p. 963]:
"An enemy (lit. 'one who hates') may seem to be a friend by his many kisses, and a true friend (lit., 'one who loves') may seem to be an enemy by the wounds he inflicts (probably inner hurts that come from being rebuked or criticized..). Yet, ironically, the rebukes may actually be more genuine expressions of friendship."
VI) CONSEQUENCES OF NOT OBEYING THE COMMAND TO DEFEND THE FAITH
What inevitably happens when the false doctrine of anti-contending is prevalent in a local church is that false doctrines which are inevitably held by immature believers are permitted to prevail without challenge blocking the spiritual growth of individual believers and the local church body itself. The pastor/teacher and elders can only do so much and if they themselves hold to false doctrines and teach the false doctrine that believers are not permitted to argue in defense of the faith then the local body is susceptible to heresies of all kinds even from the pulpit. More mature believers will thus be silenced if they wish to remain in that local body or they will move out to another local church, devoiding it of its capacity by and large to grow. This leaves a local church with only an immature body of believers and even non-believers who profess heretical doctrines unchallenged.
For example, experiences which do not line up with biblical guidelines such as perfect experiential holiness of the believer, modern day tongues/prayer language, prophecy, word of knowledge and other kinds of miracles are proclaimed unchallenged as authentic and the main focus of the Christian life - ignoring the apparent violations of rules stipulated for these experiences in the bible and the unwarranted emphasis on these experiences which even if real should not be the top priority in the Christian life. Thus the immature believer and the local church body itself is side tracked from God's plan for his life often declining into heretical extremes.