Purge the Conscience of Dead Works

Our conscience must of necessity be first purged from dead works, that we may serve the living God. And this is done by actual remission of sin, procured by the blood of Christ, and manifested to our consciences, as appeared by Christ’s dying for this end (Heb. 9:14, 15; 10:1, 2, 4, 14, 17, 22). That conscience, by which we judge ourselves to be under the guilt of sin and the wrath of God, is accounted an evil conscience in Scripture, though it perform its office truly, because it is caused by the evil of sin, and will itself be a cause of our committing more sin, until it can judge us to be justified from all sin, and received in the favor of God. Love which is the end of the law must proceed from a good conscience, as well as from any other cleanness of heart (1 Tim. 1:5). David’s mouth could not be opened to show forth the praise of God until he was delivered from bloodguiltiness (Ps. 51:14, 15). This evil guilty conscience, by which we judge that God is our enemy and that His justice is against us to our everlasting condemnation by reason of our sins, strongly maintains and increases the dominion of sin and Satan in us, and works most mischievous effects in the soul against godliness, even to bring the soul to hate God and to wish there were no God, no heaven, no hell, so we might escape the punishment due to us. It so disaffects people towards God, that they cannot endure to think, or speak, or hear of Him and His law, but strive rather to put Him out of their minds by fleshly pleasures and worldly employments. And thus they are alienated from all true religion, only binding it and stopping the mouth of it. It produces zeal in many outside religious performances, and also false religion, idolatry and the most inhuman superstitions in the world.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like (Weekend Edition)

Beware the Single Story

Amber Van Schooneveld:

There are many reasons we tell and retell single stories. Black and white is simply easier to write than grey – and it’s snappier too. Complexities muddle writing, whereas simplicity is vivid. The single story is dramatic, it is emotional, and it gets us hopping. It motivates us to just do something! The single story sells.

But the single story is also misleading. It is over-simplified. And ultimately it is an insult and a disrespect to those you’re trying to help.

Mad Men Returns

Mike Cosper:

Mad Men sometimes feels like the book of Ecclesiastes. It appears that these people have everything they could ever want, but social status, power, wealth, and glamorous sex lives don’t make any of them happy. Instead, their worlds unravel before our eyes. Each of Don’s conquests with work or women leave him more restless and lonesome. Peggy’s great sin in season one hangs over all of her achievements like a storm cloud. Pete Campbell’s insecurity drives him to attempt to live like Don or Roger Sterling, and each time he lives out those impulses, they break him. Men nearly worship Joan Harris, the redheaded bombshell, but she lives a miserable and isolated life.

Temptation Is Not Sin

Bill Mounce:

“Temptation” is being enticed to sin. You are walking along the path and someone bumps into you, they hurt you; and the thought flits through your head to respond in anger. That’s temptation. A person of the opposite gender walks by, and something inside you tells you to look him up and down; that’s temptation. Someone walking with you says something that hurts, and that same voice whispers that you should slander her reputation. That’s temptation. Let me cover three things about temptation.

A Hope That’s Greater Than ‘Getting Kony’

New Hope Uganda:

This video cost $0 to make. There is no kit for sale. No bracelet to wear. No poster to put up. There is no one to make famous. Charles is a former abducted child soldier who through the grace of God has chosen to forgive his captors rather than seek revenge. We believe that the weapon that will change the issue of Kony and the many children affected by his atrocities is the releasing power of forgiveness.

[tentblogger-youtube -pdNgQr-I6w]

HT: Julian

Should Christians “Name Names”?

Maybe it’s me, but the idea of “naming names”—calling out a specific pastor, teacher or author as promoting false doctrine and heresy—has increasingly felt awkward to me. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that I’ve seen very few examples of it done well. Generally, those naming names seem to be folks that Paul warns about in the pastoral epistles—men who love to stir up controversy and division who we should have nothing to do with (1 Tim. 6:4; Titus 3:10). They appear to jump on a video clip, a poor choice of words, or a seven year old blog post and go to town. This is why on any given day, you can find everyone from James MacDonald to John MacArthur declared heretics on the Internets. Frankly, it gets so ridiculous at times that I can completely understand why people would never want to say anything that would even suggest that someone might be a false teacher.

Yet, as I study the Scriptures, I find that I cannot go there. The authors of Scripture take false teaching very seriously and so must we. Indeed, throughout the New Testament, we see numerous examples of specific men named as false teachers—as traitors to the gospel.

Paul tells Timothy that Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus are among those who have made a shipwreck of their faith and swerved from the truth (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). Their “irreverent babble,” he says, will spread like gangrene among God’s people. Their false teaching is like an infection that must be treated with the utmost seriousness and efficiency. Failure to do so will result in the infection spreading. The apostle John warned his readers of Diotrephes, “who likes to put himself first, [and] does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). This man, who was apparently influential among John’s audience, refused to acknowledge the authority of apostolic teaching, becoming an authority unto himself (sounds familiar, doesn’t it). And Jesus himself warned of the Nicolaitans and their presence in Ephesus and Pergamum. He hated their works and commands those who hold to their teachings to repent or be caught on the wrong side when he would come to make war against them (Rev. 2:6; 15-16).

So if we look at these New Testament examples, we can say with reasonable confidence that the answer is yes—it is right and biblical for a pastor to warn against a specific teacher. But also notice that the answer isn’t quite as simple as we’d like it to be.

First, we must be careful to not declare a particular individual a false teacher unless the body of evidence warrants such a charge. Paul commanded Timothy that he should not “admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19). This is good advice. In our context, that means that an out-of-context quote from six years ago cannot qualify as confirmation of a teacher being a heretic. However, if the body of evidence strongly points in a particular direction, then it may be prudent to openly condemn that teacher’s doctrine.

Second, while the biblical authors clearly treat false teaching and teachers with dreadful earnestness, it is always addressed within the context of a specific local church. When Paul warned Timothy of Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus, he was giving him warning of men who would impact Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus. He didn’t warn Titus of these men. John, likewise, wrote specifically to Gaius. And Jesus said nothing of the Nicolaitans in his messages to the church in Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia or Laodicea. Their error didn’t directly affect these churches in the way that it did Ephesus (with their positive rejection) and Pergamum (with their foolish acceptance).

This is instructive for our own day. While there might be a very real threat to the gospel, it may not actually be relevant to our particular local church. If we know that a particular author is widely read among our congregations and we know that he or she holds views that are opposed to the gospel, then it is right to warn the congregation of their teaching. But to name a particular individual who has no influence within our churches may have more in common with gossip than contending for the faith.

Finally, we should always remember the goal of “naming names”. You’ll notice that I repeatedly advise condemning a person’s teaching, rather than the person. This is intentional and, I hope, biblical. While Paul names names, even saying he has handed them over to Satan, it is to that “they may learn not to blaspheme.” Jude likewise commands us to show “mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 23). Simply, the goal is to bring those who promote false doctrine to repentance, and not simply say “They’re traitors and blasphemers, may they burn in hell.”

While we must always be willing to call false teaching what it is—heresy—we ought to be thoughtful about how we express it in relation to the person propagating that teaching. Hate their teaching, hate the lies they spread, hate the mockery they make of the gospel—but do not transfer that hatred to the person. Rather, pray for them to come to repentance and if you have the means, plead with them personally to return to sound teaching.

So, is it appropriate for Christians to name names? Yes, if it is to the benefit of our congregations and that our desire is to see those false teachers return the fold as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Links I Like

The Pastor’s Wife Is a Pastor’s Wife

Gloria Furman begins a new series at the TGC blog:

I had heard all the rumors about pastor’s wives. They’re supposed to play the piano, lead prayer meetings, organize the Christmas play, supply a baby to be Baby Jesus for the Christmas play, and perhaps have several more kids to be shepherds and wisemen for the play, too. . . . I felt that my husband was very well suited to be a pastor for a congregation of people from more than 50 different nationalities. But me, be an international church pastor’s wife? I wasn’t so sure I fit the fabled job description.

Christianity in the Shadow of the Mosque

[tentblogger-vimeo 38875726]

HT: Dan Darling

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s $5 Friday offerings at Ligonier.org include the Truth and Psalm 51 teaching series by R.C. Sproul and The Valley of Vision CD audiobook.

The Simple Message

Tim Challies:

Sometimes I need to be reminded of the power of the Bible, the simple power of the Bible. I need to be reminded that there have been so many people who have come to faith simply by reading God’s Word. There has been no preacher but the Author, no sermon but the pages of the Bible, and yet many a person has read and seen and understood and trusted and been transformed. No wonder that organizations labor to translate the Bible—or at least parts of the Bible—into every known language and to send these pages into all the world. Every Bible or piece of the Bible goes into the world as a missionary, taking hope, taking life, taking that oh-so-simple message.

Cheap eBook Alert

For the fiction lovers:

As part of my ongoing desire to read more broadly, I might even pick this up.

Book Review: Who Am I by Jerry Bridges

“Who am I?” It’s a question that every single one of us has likely asked at one time or another. And with good reason; understanding who we are—defining our identity—completely transforms how we act, think and speak. It is no wonder then, that we so many appeals within Scripture to our identity as being “in Christ.” We are to remember that we are new creations in Christ, made free in Christ, made alive in Christ, made wise in Christ… the list is (seemingly) endless.

Yet, many of us struggle to grasp the impact of what it means to be in Christ and, as a result, burden ourselves under condemnation and guilt, failing to live in the freedom that Christ offers. That’s the heart of Who Am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges. Over its eight chapters, Bridges offers a concise look at the meaning and implications of being “in Christ.”

While our identity in Christ is the focus, it’s not the starting point of this book. Bridges wisely starts by reminding readers that, before we are in Christ, we are created beings. We are creatures, utterly dependent and accountable to God in every way. This truth is one that we desperately need to remember, particularly we who live in cultures that prize self-sufficiency above all things. On this point, Bridges writes:

Every so often I encounter one of those “self-made men,” the kind who might claim to have “pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.” He likes to tell you how he started from nothing and became successful. Some of you reading this book may have experienced that. But why did God bless your plans, why did God bless your efforts? What do you have that you did not receive? Every ability—mental ability or business ability, whether it’s in the fine arts or athletics or whatever it might be—it’s all a gift from God. We are utterly dependent upon him.

Reminders like this help us gain perspective—if we are indeed utterly dependent upon God, then we have no choice but to acknowledge that dependence. Anything less less would be blasphemy. The notion of being a “self-made man” (or woman) is ludicrous, given this perspective. [Read more...]

Links I Like

Missional Giving: A Conversation with Marty Duren (and free book)

Possibly the most important thing to come out of the missional conversation is the truth that all believers are missionaries in their country, culture, and context. This has contributed mightily to our exploration of cross-cultural mission work within our own cities and communities, leading us to embrace cultural distinctives rather than judging them. More and more, Christ’s followers see themselves, accurately, as missionaries.

This leads to a question: How should being a missionary affect our use of money?

When missionaries are sent into international contexts, there are expectations, both spoken and unspoken, that their lives will be sacrificial: lesser goods, lesser money, one car, less emphasis on possessions, and smaller houses. One well-known mission agency allows their missionaries to live only in homes up to 1,600 square feet in size. In virtually every instance, if a missionary demanded a U.S. sized home, multiple cars, a large yard, i.e., almost everything we as Americans expect, we would demand they either repent or come back home.

Why do we place expectations on missionaries we send to other countries but do not live according to the same expectations even though we are missionaries sent by God as well? How does the fact that we are in our home culture change the fact that we have the same gospel responsibility to our host culture as someone who travels to a new culture? It does not.

Marty’s book, The Generous Soul: An Introduction to Missional Giving, is available for $1.99 at Amazon (Kindle)—I just bought a copy and am really looking forward to digging in.

What Did You Expect DVD for $15

Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect DVD is still on sale at WTS Books for $15 (75% savings). Stock up while you can!

Do People Who Commit Suicide Automatically Go to Hell

C. Michael Patton on a very controversial subject:

While I do not believe that all sin is equal in God’s sight, there is no biblical reason to say that there are some sins that destroy the grace of God and need special penance and others that don’t. To say that we cannot have unconfessed sin when we die is problematic in many ways. Biblically, Paul is clear that once we have faith in Christ we have been saved. This salvation is primarily from the ultimate penalty of our sin—eternal death. If we cannot truly be saved until we die with all sins confessed, then we cannot ever say that we are saved as Paul does. The best we can do is say we might be saved (i.e. if I die without any unconfessed sin). Salvation would always have to be spoken of as a contingent possibility, not a present reality. Yet Paul says to the Ephesians “By grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). Christ says in John 6:24 “Whoever believes in mehas eternal life.” There is no contingency here. The question becomes, Do you really believe and will that belief persevere (another question, another time)?

On Constantly Taking Your Church’s Temperature

Jared C. Wilson:

That voice in your head that keeps rehearsing the disappointments and flaws of your church is not from the Lord. It is the accuser, helping you get to the “I have no need of you” forbidden in 1 Corinthians 12:21. We may have legitimate concerns about our church’s maturity, its repentance, its effectiveness, or its “personality,” and there is certainly a place for sharing concerns and criticisms, a biblical call to honest appraisal, and plenty of space for exhortation and rebuke, but many claiming to do these things have shifted to a legal measuring none of us really has the authority for.

The Difference Between Trust and Faith

The Christian message contains more than the fact of the resurrection. It is not enough to know that Jesus is alive; it is not enough to know that a wonderful Person lived in the first century of the Christian era and that Person still lives, somewhere and somehow, today. Jesus lives, and that is well; but what good is it to us ? We are like the inhabitants of far-off Syria or Phoenicia in the days of His flesh. There is a wonderful Person who can heal every ill of body and mind. But, alas, we are not with Him, and the way is far. How shall we come into His presence? How shall contact be established between us and Him? For the people of ancient Galilee contact was established by a touch of Jesus’ hand or a word from His lips. But for us the problem is not so easy. We cannot find Him by the lake shore or in crowded houses; we cannot be lowered into any room where He sits amid scribes and Pharisees. If we employ only our own methods of search, we shall find ourselves on a fruitless pilgrimage. Surely we need guidance, if we are to find our Savior.

And in the New Testament we find guidance full and free. Contact with Jesus according to the New Testament is established by what Jesus does, not for others, but for us. By reading how He went about doing good, how He healed the sick and raised the dead and forgave sins, we learn that He is a Person who is worthy of trust. But such knowledge is to the Christian man not an end in itself, but a means to an end. It is not enough to know that Jesus is a Person worthy of trust; it is also necessary to know that He is willing to have us trust Him. It is not enough that He saved others; we need to know also that He has saved us. That knowledge is given in the story of the Cross. For us Jesus does not merely place His fingers in the ears and say, “Be opened”; for us He does not merely say “Arise and walk.” For us He has done a greater thing–for us He died. Our dreadful guilt, the condemnation of God’s law–it was wiped out by an act of grace. That is the message which brings Jesus near to us, and makes Him not merely the Savior of the men of Galilee long ago, but the Savior of you and me.

When men speak of trust in Jesus’ Person, as being possible without acceptance of the message of His death and resurrection, they do not really mean trust at all. What they designate as trust is really admiration or reverence. They reverence Jesus as the supreme Person of all history and the supreme revealer of God. But trust can come only when the supreme Person extends His saving power to us. “He went about doing good,” “He spake words such as never man spake,” “He is the express image of God”–that is reverence; “He loved me and gave Himself for me”–that is faith.

Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like

Homosexuality and Christian Bigotry

Jason Helopoulos:

As Christians we must understand the secularist mindset and its desire to place religion, morality, and values in a distant upper chamber separated from facts and truth. And armed with such understanding and knowledge, we must stand against this agenda. One must understand that the debate about homosexuality is not tangential. It is not a “mere” moral issue as if it did not bear upon truth. If we give in to the argument that homosexuality is private, personal, and not the business of the church, we have given in to this two-story view where religion, values, and morality are separated from truth. When we lose this argument in the church, we eventually lose the Church.

Easter Sunday Is A Lie

Chris Vacher:

Easter Sunday is a lie. Yep, I said it. Easter Sunday is a lie. The crucifixion? True. The stone rolled away? True. The resurrection? True. Jesus is alive? True. Easter Sunday? False.

Old Princeton for New Calvinists: 9 Lessons from the Life of Charles Hodge

Andy Jones:

Though Hodge is known by most for this three-volume systematic theology, his first love was biblical studies. He was trained in Hebrew by a rabbi and traveled to study under the leading experts in the Greek language. His career at Princeton started with teaching biblical languages to new seminary students. As B. B. Warfield recalled of his beloved professor, Hodge could easily translate the Greek New Testament without assistance in class while being brought to tears when describing the love of God. Hodge’s theology was born from deep and detailed interaction with the Scriptures. Theological precision results from being continually sharpened by the Bible.

What Can I Do About Poverty?

When we look at the needs of the poor and the vast number of organizations seeking to meet those needs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In order to help you as you evaluate how you can best serve the poor, I want to offer you the following practical reminders.

Not all Christians are called to serve the poor in the same way or to the same extent.

While every believer is called to show concern for the poor, the practical expressions of that concern will differ from one person to another. Some of us are called to immerse ourselves fully in ministries of mercy; others, less so. Our investment in mercy ministry neither establishes nor reflects our holiness, dedication to the Lord, or sensitivity to God’s Spirit. Be faithful in serving where God has called you.

You are not called to meet every need.

You can only meet the needs God has given you an ability to address. Remember, it’s not a question of doing “enough.” We are called to live open-handed lives, willing to give of our time and treasure as the Lord directs.

Don’t allow selfishness to masquerade as humility.

If God makes you aware of a need that seems to be a little outside your skill set or your comfort zone, it may still be that he wants you to stretch, in his grace, and try to meet that need. When we are weak, God is strong, and those whom we serve can often sense if we are serving in our own strength, or in the grace that God provides.

Look for simple, practical ways to serve.

Regardless of where you live, there are more needs around you than you realize. Some needs are best met through your participation in an existing organization, but many others can be met by your own simple acts of mercy. Ask God to give you eyes to see and a heart to serve.

Work with experts you can trust.

There are many individuals and organizations working to alleviate the suffering of the poor, whether locally or globally. Their expertise is rare and invaluable. Do your homework—read whatever material is available on their work and carefully review their finances to ensure they are good stewards of the money entrusted to them. CharityNavigator.org is an extremely helpful resource for identifying trustworthy charitable organizations.

Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions.

If the root of poverty is sin, man-made solutions won’t bring end it. Christ will be the one to end poverty, first spiritually and finally materially in the new creation. Therefore, look to organizations that are committed to the Church and are faithfully proclaiming the gospel in word, even as they minister to the physical and relational needs of the poor.

Trust God for the results.

Remember, your job is not to end poverty, but to minister to those who are suffering. Do what you can and prayerfully trust God for the results.

—from Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty, pp. 100-101

Links I Like

Why Christians Need the Church

Joel Miller:

We live and worship God in community because we can’t see enough of him on our own. Christians who isolate themselves from the body are consigning themselves to a peculiarly distorted and limited view of God.

Bearded Gospel Men: Wycliffe

Joe Thorn:

Wycliffe is best known for overseeing the the translation of the Latin Bible into English. Completed in the 1380′s this was the first full Bible available in the English language. As huge of an undertaking it was, our man wasn’t content to only see the word of God exist in the language of the people. He also trained and sent men into the world to preach the word of God to all who would listen.

The Power of Introverts

Fascinating TED Talk from Susan Cain, explaining the concepts behind her her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (obviously, take in with discernment, but there’s a lot of helpful information to chew on):

[tentblogger-youtube c0KYU2j0TM4]

Defining the “Mission of the Church”

Trevin Wax:

In thinking through these and other issues, I’m inclined to see the identity of the church – God’s called-out, “sent,” kingdom people – as an illuminating framework for wrestling with the other related issues of evangelism, mentoring, disciple-making, mercy ministry, etc. In the end, the “mission of the church” is part of an ongoing discussion that I hope will encourage us as the people of God to embrace our missionary identity.

Meet Hudson

As regular readers may recall, we’ve had a lot of baby drama going on lately. A number of false starts with labor, a threatened pre-term birth and a lot of general discomfort for Emily (my wife). Well, last night, after we’d finished celebrating our oldest daughter’s fifth birthday, labor began in earnest. We headed to the hospital at 6:30 pm and 5 hours later, at 11:36 pm, we got to meet our son, Hudson James Armstrong:

[instagram url='http://instagr.am/p/IWwp4hDB0L/' size='middle' addlink='yes']

Hudson clocked in at 7 lbs, 12 oz and 21 inches long. The doctor also made a point of mentioning that he’s got pretty big feet. :)

As you can see, Emily and the baby are doing well:

[instagram url='http://instagr.am/p/IWxAZlDB0O/' size='middle' addlink='yes']

Okay, we took a legit one, too:

[instagram url='http://instagr.am/p/IWw21SjB0N/' size='middle' addlink='yes']

 Why Hudson? One of the things we’ve tried to do with our children is give them names with some historical or spiritual significance. With Hudson, we chose to name him after a man that we greatly respect, James Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission (now OMF International). Mr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, authors of Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, describe him as follows:

He was a man of affairs, the father of a family, and one who bore large responsibilities. In tensely practical, he lived a life of constant change among all sorts and conditions of men. He was no giant in strength, no Atlas to bear the world upon his shoulders. . . . He [was] a hard worker and an efficient medical man; he was able to care for a baby, cook a dinner, keep accounts, and comfort the sick and sorrowing…

Above all, he put to the test the promises of God, and proved it possible to live a consistent spiritual life on the highest plane. He overcame difficulties such as few men have ever had to encounter, and left a work which long after his death is still growing in extent and usefulness. Inland China opened to the Gospel largely as an outcome of this life, tens of thousands of souls won to Christ in previously un reached provinces, twelve hundred missionaries depending upon God for the supply of all their needs without promise of salary, a mission which has never made an appeal for financial help, yet has never been in debt, that never asks man or woman to join its ranks, yet has sent to China recently two hundred new workers given in answer to prayer—such is the challenge that calls us to emulate Hudson Taylor’s faith and devotion.

That’s our hope for our little man—that he would grow up to be a man who, like Taylor, would “put to the test the promises of God” and be a man whose faith in Christ would worth of emulation. I can’t think of a better way to live.

Links I Like

My Response to Kony

Matt Papa:

[tentblogger-youtube VlkUL73ocDQ]

Orthodoxy of Community

Gospel community is powerful, beautiful, authoritative.  Schaeffer used the phrase “orthodoxy of community” to say that.  Beautiful community is not an optional add-on for an otherwise complete, biblical church.  It is as essential as its orthodoxy of doctrine.

Spiritual Depression Study Guide

Granted Ministries has produced a free study guide to accompany Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure.

Having Natural Community without Losing the Bible

Brad House:

The natural rhythms included fellowship, the study of Scripture, meals, worship, prayer, and mission. When we are a community that is smitten with the love of Jesus, these become second nature in our life together. As leaders, we want to cultivate the love of Scripture in our community in ways that draw out our dependence on the Bible and prayer. The key to such cultivation is to nurture that dependence in your own heart.

Cheap eBooks

A few finds I’ve shared on Twitter:

In Case You Missed It (March 12-18)

This week, I started running a series of daily posts called “Links I Like.” How do you all like those? Are they helpful? Not so much? Give me your thoughts in the comments of this post.  And while you’re here, here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Notes from The Gospel Project Webcast

Book Review: From the Resurrection to His Return by D.A. Carson

The Temporariness of Modern Books

3 Things I’m Looking Forward to about The Gospel Project Webcast

Sam Storms: A Strange and Unacceptable Paradox

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Primacy of Preaching

J.C. Ryle: Is the Bible the Word of God?

R.C. Sproul: Don’t Leave Your Mind in the Parking Lot

Walter Marshall: Our Great Duty

A Strange and Unacceptable Paradox

There was in the church at Pergamum a strange and unacceptable paradox, an inconsistency that Jesus simply will not tolerate, then or now. . . . Whereas they had maintained their own theological convictions, they were, at the same time, tolerating in their fellowship certain false prophets who advocated licentious behavior, ostensibly in the name of Christian freedom (see Rev. 2:14–15). This simply will not do. Although they had not themselves denied the faith, they had become inexplicably lax toward falsehood in the assembly and had endured the presence and teaching of ethical error.

This is a truly remarkable, indeed puzzling, situation. They were devoted to the truth of who Christ is and the essentials of the gospel message. They were even willing to die for it! But they fudged when it came to dealing with those in the church who compromised the ethical implications of that very gospel. It’s almost as if they said, “I personally will never back down, even if it means my death. On the other hand, perhaps we need to be less rigid and a bit more tolerant when it comes to those who draw different conclusions about the practical implications of the saving grace of our Lord.”

There’s nothing to indicate why they had adopted this posture. It certainly wasn’t out of fear. Perhaps they reckoned that such ethical and theological deviations were of little consequence or that they could more easily win over the dissidents by declining to rock the ecclesiological boat. Whatever the case, they were misguided in granting them such a wide berth and must act swiftly to put things right. The bottom line is this: sometimes peace and love come at too high a price.

Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition