What, then, is the essential characteristic of the true believer, the genuine disciple of Jesus Christ? It is not loud profession, nor spectacular spiritual triumphs, nor protestations of great spiritual experience. Rather, his chief characteristic is obedience. True believers perform the will of their Father, consistent with their prayer, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” They cannot forget that at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:19f.). And so they practice obedience. The Father’s will is not simply admired, discussed, praised, debated; it is done. It is not theologically analyzed, nor congratulated for its high ethical tones; it is done. The test is rephrased by a famous second-century document, the Didache, which says, “But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, except he have the behavior of the Lord.”
Archives For Christian Living
This might seem like a strange subject to bring up at the (possible) end of a series, but it’s an important one.
A great deal of the discussion surrounding getting serious about our studies has been focused on different tools and learning aids—study Bibles, systematic theologies and technology. There’s so much I’ve not touched on (yet) including commentaries, original languages (although I’ve dealt with that elsewhere), Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias…
But there’s one thing I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t address this critical question:
How should you read your Bible?
What I’m talking about here is the science of hermeneutics, which is a big fancy word for “rules and principles for reading the Bible.” Whether we realize it or not, we do this every time we pick up our Bible—and the rules and principles we hold to drastically affect what we believe the Bible says. For example:
- Whether you believe pastoral ministry is for men only or is open to women as well stems from the interpretive decisions you make.
- How you approach the “God-hates-yet-loves-sinners” paradox is heavily influenced by your hermeneutical approach.1
- How you understand the world to have come into being and how this world will end is drastically affected by the principles you use for interpreting the text.
I could go on with numerous examples, but I trust you get the drift. Hermeneutics really, really matter—we all use rules and principles of interpretation so we are obliged to do our best to make sure the rules we use are sound. Continue Reading…
Bible study has never been easier. We live in an age where we have more and better translations, more books, and more technology to assist us than ever before. Honestly, we should thank God for the assistance the technology that exists today brings to studying the Scriptures. Nevertheless, we have to be careful.
Being mindful of technology
In his book The Next Story, Tim Challies wisely cautions us to be mindful about how we use technology. “Am I giving up control of my life,” he asks. “Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?”
Technology, in other words, is a wonderful servant but a cruel master. How this applies to our Bible study is simple: Technology should aid us in confirming our conclusions, not determine them for us. We use the tools that exist to dig deeper, rather than skim the surface of the Scriptures. But technology can easily make us lazy, if we’re not watchful.
- We can run a word search “wrath” or “love” and come up with a short or long list, but not come to a comprehensive knowledge of what the Bible teaches on either.
- We can look up the Greek behind a particular word or phrase and still not actually get what it says.
- We can pull together an explanation of a text from multiple sources, but not actually understand it ourselves.
And so we must be mindful. Technology is a wonderful tool, but one that always tempts us to become lazy in our studies.
What are the right tools for me?
But because we have so many really, really good options available to us, it can be a bit overwhelming. We can be paralyzed by choice. So I want to take a second to offer some recommendations on a few different tools that will help you in your study of God’s Word in three broad categories:
- Memorization and devotional
- Basic study
- Comprehensive study Continue Reading…
You’ve decided to get serious about your studies—wonderful! So where do you get started? We’ve already looked at a few basics surrounding study Bibles, but there are a few more tools that a student of the Word should have in his or her tool belt. One of the most helpful? A good systematic theology.
What is a systematic theology?
The term “systematic theology” is a scary one for a lot of people. It sounds cold and mechanical. But a good systematic theology can help inspire a greater love for the Bible and the God who inspired its writing.
Systematic theology, in broad strokes, seeks to compile everything that the Bible says about a particular doctrine (such as the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the attributes of God, creation, etc.) into an orderly and rational form. More simply, “systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given subject.”1
While some are uncomfortable with the idea of systematic theology, thinking of it as being a divergence from biblical theology (a critique usually made by folks who are opposed to doctrinal certainty of any sort), a good systematic theology seeks to avoid importing man-made ideas and go no further than Scripture itself. While it doesn’t ignore the historical development of doctrine or philosophical ideas surrounding them, these fields lack the authority of Scripture.
In other words, consistent systematic theology is biblical theology.
Why do I need one?
The primary reason to have a systematic theology in your reference library is so that you can gain a better understanding of and appreciation for Christian theology. We are commanded to love the Lord with all of our minds, as well as our hearts, souls and strength, and therefore the study of theology should lead us not simply to gain knowledge, but lead us to praise God for who He is.
How do I use it?
As with all things, systematic theologies should be studied prayerfully and carefully. Keep your Bible handy, check references and make sure that what is there aligns with what Scripture clearly says. Further to that, a systematic theology is not a weapon—unless you need something to defend your home (some of these things are pretty hefty!).
Studying and referencing a systematic theology is not to be an exercise in showing off intellectual prowess. If the knowledge lies merely in your head, but doesn’t move to your heart, then it’s time wasted. Continue Reading…
Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”
Through the Scriptures, we learn not how life works best, but how life really is. There is a God who created all things and is in authority over all things. That mankind, made in His image and likeness, rebelled against Him and plunged all of creation into its current state of futility and sin. And that God made a way for mankind’s sins to be forgiven through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
This is such good news, and we should want to know all we can about it, shouldn’t we?
Absolutely. A few years ago I wrote a series called “get serious about your studies,” offering readers a look at a few different resources intended to help them study the Scriptures. Today, I’m revisiting this series, beginning with the most critical area: you and your Bible. More specifically, your study Bible.
Do I need a study Bible?
Despite what many of us have been taught, the Bible isn’t an impenetrable book with a mysterious message requiring decoder rings and multiple PhDs to understand. The truth is, much of the Bible is fairly easy to understand. God wants His people to know Him, regardless of academic achievement. So whether you’re in grade school or grad school, you can understand the Bible.
Even so, we must also acknowledge there are many things that are confusing or unclear to the twenty-first century reader. Much of this is due to cultural proximity—we’re a long way away from the time Jesus and His apostles walked the earth. We live in a completely different context and speak a completely different language. Certain nuances get lost in translation. And let’s face it, the vast majority of us aren’t going to be learning the biblical languages anytime soon.
This is where study Bibles are a wonderful gift to us. A study Bible is a valuable resource to assist the reader in understanding Scripture by providing insight into words and phrases used that we might not understand, as well as historical interpretations of texts. Essentially, it provides a running commentary that you can turn to should you get stuck.
What’s the right study Bible for me?
Choosing a study Bible, like choosing any Bible, can be difficult. There are a number of terrific versions available, so to some degree it comes down to preference. Nevertheless, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering which study Bible to invest in: Continue Reading…
Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshipers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.1
For many of us in the West persecution is a foreign concept; but for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s daily reality. ”In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million.”2
They face persecution from both society and governments—sometimes as severe as detention and imprisonment, or as “minor” as culturally accepted harassment. They experience property damage, displacement from homes, physical assault, and death. All because they’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ.
So what can we do? We can pray. Tim Keesee writes:
When we pray for persecuted brothers, we don’t only seek their deliverance, though that’s legitimate. We pray for their boldness (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:19-20). We pray for the further glory of Christ, something accomplished both by life and by death, from the pulpit and from the prison cell (Philippians 1:12-21). God’s purposes are sometimes accomplished through suffering. A courageous Christian journalist in Turkey once told me that if human rights organizations had existed when Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt, they would have sought his immediate release. But God had a higher purpose than just delivering Joseph. God’s design was not only to deliver Joseph but also deliver nations (Genesis 50:20).3
Both Justin Martyr and Keesee give us an important reminder: We pray for that our brothers and sisters in Christ would be strengthened to endure their trials—and we pray that the Lord would continue to grow His church.
Two resources to help you pray:
1. Sign up for Persecution.org’s prayer list for regular updates on prayer needs.
2. Use the 31 day prayer calendar put together by Frontline Missions to guide your prayers:
You can download it here.
Sadly, too many leaders consciously or unconsciously link their own careers and reputations with the gospel they proclaim and the people they serve. Slowly, unnoticed by all but the most discerning, defense of the truth slips into self-defense, and the best interest of the congregation becomes identified with the best interest of the leaders. Personal triumphalism strikes again, sometimes with vicious intensity. It is found in the evangelical academic who invests all his opinions with the authority of Scripture, in the pastor whose every word is above contradiction, in the leader transparently more interested in self-promotion and the esteem of the crowd than in the benefit and progress of the Christians allegedly being served. It issues in political maneuvering, temper tantrums, a secular set of values (though never acknowledged as such), a smug and self-serving shepherd and hungry sheep.
We have much to learn from Paul. When in our hearts (and not merely in our verbal piety) our aim before God is to strengthen other believers, not to defend ourselves, we will not only succeed in revitalizing the church by our sacrificial ministry and example, but we shall also strike a powerful blow against the demonic heart of triumphalism, which is self in another guise. And if, with Paul, we sometimes face believers who completely misunderstand our motives, then at least we may be confident, with the apostle, that we have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ, and that the attacks may reveal more about the attackers than anything else. May God raise up many Christian leaders whose passion is to build up the body of Christ.
D.A. Carson, A Model of Christian Maturity
“Never has the need been greater for such a reformation,” writes Steven J. Lawson in The Heroic Boldness Of Martin Luther.
It seems like no matter where you turn, the call for reformation (or maybe resurgence?) is being issued. Some describe it as needing churches that are committed to seeing the presence of God at work among them; to God’s glory manifest among the people. Others say we need to get past the infighting within evangelicalism and get on mission.
What resonates with me most, though, is Spurgeon’s plea:
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land.…I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.1
Men cut from the same cloth as Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Whitefield, Spurgeon… These are the men the church needs. Men of prayer—and men of the Word. If you want revival, resurgence, reformation, whatever you want to call it, this is what you need.
“Our Word-starved pulpits beg for stalwarts of the faith to bring the Book to their congregations,” Lawson says. “Only God can give such men to the church.” Let’s thank God for the men He’s already brought forward and pray for more to rise up.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
Look at the language David uses here in the above verses. He rejoices in the Law. He loves it! “The commandment of the Law is pure, enlightening the eyes,” he sings. “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”
In four verses, he drives home this point:
The Law is good! The Law is good! The Law is good! The Law is GOOD!
Why? Because the Law reveals the absolutely perfect character and commands of God. The Law tells us in greater detail than creation can ever hope to who God is, what he has done, and what he requires of His people.
The Law of God should cause us to rejoice.
Remember, David is specifically singing of the Law in this Psalm—he’s singing of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
So you know that that means? He’s rejoicing over the stories of Noah and his family surviving the flood, Abraham and his family finding a home in the promised land, and the epic story of God’s rescuing Israel from slavery in the Exodus. But he’s also rejoicing over long genealogies, laws regulating the minutiae of life as God’s covenant people. What you can wear, what you can eat, how you are to worship…
What does he say about all of this?
They’re more to be desired than gold. They’re sweeter than honey…
But here’s the thing:
The Law that David’s rejoicing over? It condemns him. Every time David reads it, he can see how far short he’s falling. How far from the mark he is. “Moreover, by them is your servant warned,” David sings, “in keeping them there is great reward.”
David brings us to an important truth—one that, if we’re not careful, we too easily miss. The Law, he says, warns us: It tells us where we are falling short of God’s perfect requirements. It brings conviction.
It brings condemnation.
Just as nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun, nothing is hidden from the light of the Law.
There is absolutely nothing that his hidden from the Law’s gaze. When you consider the ten commandments—There is one God, have no others; make for yourselves no graven images; do not take the Lord’s name in vain; keep the Sabbath holy; honor your mother and father that it may go well for you; don’t murder; do not commit adultery; don’t steal; don’t lie; don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff…
Let’s be honest, we all wilt under the heat of those ten, don’t we? And then Jesus cranks up the heat when he says that it’s not about externals, but about the disposition of your heart. You may not be cheating on our spouse actively, but if you’re holding onto fantasies, you’re as bad as an adulterer. You may not be going around killing people, but if you even hate someone, it’s as bad as killing them…
This is bad news, isn’t it?
And so we’re caught in this tension–we know the Law is good. Why? Because it reveals God’s perfect character and commands. Yet, it warns us of our failure to keep the Law—David loves the Law even as it condemns him in his sin.
This is where we can get into trouble when we read the Psalms, if we’re not careful. We have to remember: the Law is good, but it cannot do more than it is intended to do. The Law is good, but it cannot save—it’s not intended to do such a thing. So whenever we try to use rule keeping as a measure of our standing before God, we’re in trouble. The law scours our souls, shining light on every dark corner. The Law reveals our sin, but has not the power to free us from bondage to it.
What does faith produce—what is its fruit?
More often than not, I see people point to some sort of quantitative measure as evidence of faithfulness. In churches, faithfulness is most commonly linked to attendance and giving. But I love the reminder R. Kent Hughes offers in his commentary on Genesis. He writes:
Here is the beautiful thing in Genesis: The two greatest persons of primeval and patriarchal times were Noah and Abram — and both were paragons of faith. Of Noah, Hebrews says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Of Abram, Hebrews follows by saying, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (11:8).
Both men’s faith produced amazing obedience. “Noah . . . did all that God commanded him,” the Genesis text emphasizes four times (cf. 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16). Abraham immediately “obeyed” and “went,” says the writer of Hebrews. Thus we see that both men were used to effect salvation for others by their faith. Noah’s faith wrought salvation for his family and preserved the promise of the seed of Eve. Abram’s faith created a people through whom the promise would be fulfilled.
And the way Abram’s faith began in Ur is the way it continued. Later it was the same faith by which he received his righteousness. Faith does not earn righteousness; it receives righteousness. Faith is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness that God gives. “He believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
“May we believe the bare word of God,” Hughes concludes. “May we believe so that the promises not present become as present by reason of the sure steadfastness of him who promised them.” Belief leads to obedience—always, always, always. Although we shy away from saying such things for fear of being legalists, it’s not legalistic to voice what the Bible illustrates time and again. So why are we so afraid of saying it?
One of the great Christian virtues is gratitude. Our first responsibility in this area is to be grateful to God, not only for life itself, with all the blessings of common grace, but above all for forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s voluntary self-sacrifice, and for all the benefits that have flowed to us on account of the Lord Jesus. It is generally true, however, that those who are grateful to God will also display a grateful attitude to others, not least to God’s choice servants from whom they have derived so much good. Conversely, if Christians are singularly ungrateful to the older believers who have led them in their first steps of faith and discipleship, the failure probably reflects the kind of egocentric immaturity that is thankless toward God himself.
Christians bent on maturity should work hard at gratitude. Thankfulness to friends, parents, senior believers who have helped us on our way, and above all to God himself, is not only common courtesy, it is something more, much more: it is simultaneously a powerful antidote to bitterness and malice, and potent acknowledgment that we stand by grace. What else could ever display gratitude as the appropriate response to grace, whether the special grace that brings us salvation or the grace mediated through fellow believers, friends, and events? Grace gives; what more can we do than give thanks? What response to grace could be more vile than ingratitude?
D.A. Carson, A Model of Christian Maturity
Early on in my faith—in fact, nearly from the moment I became a Christian—I’ve been intrigued by an encounter in between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 12:22-32, Jesus has just healed a demon oppressed man who had been brought to Him, and all the crowd marvelled. “Can this be the Son of David?” they asked.
But the Pharisees declared, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
Simply, the Pharisees just accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan to do this. Rather than accept what Jesus has done for what it is—a miraculous work of God—they declare it must be the devil’s work. He’s performing witchcraft!
Jesus’ response is telling. Knowing the Pharisees’ thoughts, he says,
Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Again, really basic here: Jesus calls their theory ludicrous—a divided kingdom can’t stand, it will be laid to waste. Defeat is inevitable. Satan’s desire isn’t to defeat himself, but to rule God’s creation for himself. You can say many things about the serpent, but he’s not an idiot. He’s the prince of this world, and he won’t give it up that easily.
But if Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it means the kingdom of God has come. It means Jesus, the “strong man” in his example, has come to plunder the goods of Satan’s house before crushing his head.
And then Jesus continues:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man l will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Emphasis mine.)
Here’s where so many people get confused—what is Jesus talking about here? What does He mean when He says “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven”? Is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin?
The answer is a lot simpler than some of us realize: Not even a little bit. Continue Reading…
It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack desire, and are actually reluctant, to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own. It was natural for Andrew, when he found the Messiah, to go off and tell his brother Simon, and for Philip to hurry to break the good news to his friend Nathanael (Jn 1:40ff.). They did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them.
There is something very wrong with us if we do not ourselves find it natural to act in this way: let us be quite clear about that. It is a great privilege to evangelize; it is a wonderful thing to be able to tell others of the love of Christ, knowing that there is nothing that they need more urgently to know, and no knowledge in the world that can do them so much good. We should not, therefore, be reluctant and backward to evangelize on the personal and individual level. We should be glad and happy to do it. We should not look for excuses for wriggling out of our obligation when occasion offers to talk to others about the Lord Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves shrinking from this responsibility and trying to evade it, we need to face ourselves with the fact that in this we are yielding to sin and Satan.
If (as is usual) it is the fear of being thought odd and ridiculous, or of losing popularity in certain circles, that holds us back, we need to ask ourselves in the presence of God: Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor? If it is a false shame, which is not shame at all but pride in disguise, that keeps our tongue from Christian witness when we are with other people. We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more-our reputation or their salvation? We cannot be complacent about this gangrene of conceit and cowardice when we weigh up our lives in the presence of God. What we need to do is to ask for grace to be truly ashamed of ourselves, and to pray that we may so overflow in love for God that we will overflow in love for our fellow men, and so find it an easy and natural and joyful thing to share with them the good news of Christ.
—adapted from Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
I love simple, black-and-white situations, the kind that you either answer with a firm “yes” or “no.” While thankfully there are a lot of situations that are black-and-white, there are a great many issues that aren’t as clear as I’d like. These aren’t just matters of what TV show you may or may not watch; those are easy enough. When it comes to theological issues, that’s where it gets really messy.
Strange Fire has come and gone. If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably read Tim Challies’ and the Cripplegate’s transcripts of the messages, so you have a good sense of what what said. And understandably, it’s an issue that’s got a lot of people worked up. There are roughly 500 million professing Christians who are part of the “charismatic movement,” so when you say things like these people blaspheme the Holy Spirit, that’s a BIG deal.
You can argue (and I think fairly) that MacArthur went too broad in his polemic. You can also argue (with some degree of accuracy) that many of these people who profess faith in Jesus do not possess faith in the biblical Jesus. But wherever you land on the issue, this is serious business.
But should it be divisive?
Yes and no.
When Paul wrote to the Romans, who were dealing with the issue of whether or not to be concerned about a particular day as holy or what foods to eat, he said that each should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14:5). Be fully convinced—have convictions!—and carry on in obedience to the Lord. For the one who doubts is condemned by what he eats (23), not because the food is evil, but because they’re going against their conscience.
So what does that have to do with continuationism vs. cessationism? Everything. Not because I’m trying to relegate this to a position of lesser importance, but because we need to start with the basics:
What are your convictions on this issue? Have you searched the Scriptures or gone along with your church’s culture and tradition?
On any subject Scripture teaches, we must avoid agnosticism; the Scriptures teach on the issue of spiritual gifts, and we are obligated to know what God says on this point.
But that doesn’t mean there’s a “thou shalt no longer have access to this gift” clearly laid out.
The subject is actually a fair bit messier than we’d like it to be. As a result, you will inevitably come to a different conclusion than someone else. And if you’re really ambitious, you’ll want to read some good books on the subject too, to see some of the perspectives and arguments. But the goal is simple: be fully convinced that what you believe is what Scripture teaches.
But it’s not just a matter of being convinced of what the Scriptures teach; we also have to learn how to engage well. Paul’s concern in writing this was about unity within the Church. He didn’t want one person’s freedom to become a stumbling block for another (he also didn’t want people running around flaunting their freedom in Christ as though they were somehow superior). Those who are “free” are called to sacrifice their freedom in love.
And this is the greatest issue here, and the part we get so wrong. Confidence in our position is not sinful; it is not arrogant to believe your position is correct. Were that the case, Jesus would have been the most arrogant man to ever walk the earth. But when we look to Jude’s epistle, we’re reminded that our confidence, our orthodoxy is meant to lead to a particular sort of posture.
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 22-23)
Notice the key word: Mercy. Jude, in his context, is speaking of the fundamentals of the faith—his readers were being drawn away by false teachers who knew neither God nor the Scriptures. They were in danger of abandoning the gospel. It’s no wonder Jude says to show mercy with fear!
The details are different in this fight, but Jude’s principles still apply: engage in a spirit of love and mercy. Engage like the other person matters to you.
Love is the chief concern—it’s the way we’re to be known in the world, according to Jesus. Not a schmaltzy, ethereal feeling, but the kind that goes to work for the good of others. We don’t sacrifice doctrinal fidelity for the sake of getting along. We are not called to be anodyne. But if we have not love we are nothing. Our convictions don’t matter one lick if we wield them as hammers.
This is why the way we frame our arguments is so important. We debate in such a way that the opposing side can’t say (even if they disagree) that we don’t care. Engage like the other person matters to you.