The popular image of the Christian church is of an organisation that is pliant and accommodating to the spirit of the age and to every whim of man. The church itself has been responsible for creating this image by an almost total lack of conviction in its biblical message.
But the picture of the church in the New Testament is of a spiritual community of men and women contending for the Word of God in the midst of a hostile world. The Bible represents the Christian life as a warfare (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Corinthians 10:4). The Christian is a soldier (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
No easy matter
To retain the Christian gospel and maintain a faithful witness to its truth is no easy matter. The enemy is always seeking opportunity to overthrow the faith of believers and to subvert the testimony of the churches.
The last twenty years has seen a growing apostasy within churches which were once faithful to the truth of the gospel. The common people are being robbed of the light of salvation.
The trumpet that once gave a clear sound is now giving an uncertain sound. Truth is being disparaged and churches where the evangelical message of the gospel was once the people’s chief delight are on the downward path of ecumenical compromise.
We are seeing strange things today. Processions of ‘witness’ have taken place in UK cities. And those who say they believe the gospel truths for which our Protestant forefathers died have marched with those who deny those truths. When ‘light’ walks hand in hand with ‘darkness’ how great is the darkness (Matthew 6:23)!
How should we respond to such a situation? First, by reminding ourselves that the weapons of this warfare are not carnal. We cannot overcome the enemies of the faith by earthly means.
Money, patronage, Acts of Parliament, protest movements and human scholarship are all poor weapons against the powers of darkness. Vitriolic attacks upon those who are ignorant or confused will not increase our strength. Many have been overthrown in this warfare by bitterness engendered in the very act of contending for the faith.
Secondly, we need to remind ourselves of the true nature of those weapons, which are ‘mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). One such weapon is the truth of the gospel itself. The best sword to set against error is the Word of God.
Truth answers and exposes error. Light dispels darkness. So we must see the importance of understanding and proclaiming the faith and holding fast the great doctrines. And our commitment to the truth must not merely be a formal assent; we must live under the power of the truth.
We must walk in its light, and be controlled by its heavenly wisdom. One weakness of twentieth century evangelicalism has been a tendency to rely upon clichés and slogans. Where this has happened, a bankruptcy of spiritual life is now being revealed and the truth is being betrayed.
Another mighty weapon in this warfare is faith in the God of the Bible, the living God. We must not despair, even though the battle appears to go against us. We must reckon with God.
This is something the unbeliever never does. That is why his unbelieving life will end in ruin. No man can prevail against God or frustrate his purposes. This thought should greatly encourage us. God is sovereign over all the earth. He will not allow his kingdom to fail. If we can find encouragement nowhere else, we can encourage ourselves in the Lord.
Zeal for the truth
Finally, our weapons are ‘mighty through God’. Without God we can do nothing, but with God, as Gideon discovered, a troop can overcome a host. It would be folly to think that we can prevail against our enemies without God’s power.
We need a constant supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19). The heavenly dew must be upon our brow. We must stand before men upheld by the strong Son of God. ‘The angel of the Lord’ must be within our camp.
So we will need to spend time in the secret place calling upon the Lord to arise and scatter his enemies. His Name and reputation are at stake when men make light of the truth of his Word. Our love of biblical truth will be an expression of our love of God.
Those who profess to love God and have no zeal for the truth of his Word are false sentimentalists. ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words’, said Jesus. And when we love God truly in this way, Jesus promised that his Father will love us and that he and his Father will come to us (John 14:23). That is our hope and consolation in these confusing times.