Contend Earnestly for the Faith–Greg Koukl, Stand To Reason

Years ago, I sat on a short bench in a small stone church on the outskirts of Oxford. In a tiny graveyard outside was a flat tombstone with the name “Clive Staples Lewis” etched into the granite.

The pew my wife and I were sitting in was the same place C.S. Lewis occupied with his brother Warnie every Sunday morning for decades as they worshiped together at Trinity Church.

This man, C.S. Lewis, probably more than anyone else in the 20th century, lived out the admonition of a passage I want you to think about. Here it is:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 3)

Never before in my lifetime has this verse been more important for Christians to hear, consider, and heed.

Note three elements in this verse that are essential to Jude’s entreaty.

First, Jude refers to a specific message with specific content, the “faith once for all handed down”—the foundation of “our common salvation.” Second is the admonition to “contend earnestly” for that faith—to proclaim it, guard it, and defend it. Finally, Jude reminds us that it has been “handed down” to the saints—passed on from the disciples to the next generation in the church.

Here is why those three elements of Jude’s admonition are critical for you and me right now. We are engaged in the cultural and theological fight of our lives. The attack is coming from many directions, but we are facing serious challenges on two broad fronts. Simply put, we have trouble in the world and trouble in the church.

Trouble in the World

Currently, the Christian worldview is facing assault on multiple fronts.

Our story starts, “In the beginning, God,” yet a host of dedicated atheists have been doing their best to ensure our story never gets off the ground[1]—and they are having a massive impact on our young people. There are also attacks on the integrity of our authority base, the Bible,[2] and a myriad of assaults on the historicity of the central player in our drama—Jesus of Nazareth.

In the midst of this academic attack, there is an increasingly pervasive godlessness and a militant relativism in the culture. The 21st century began as an era of radical skepticism, especially in the area of morality and religion. As a result, the moral rulebook is being rewritten. Right has become wrong and wrong right.

In addition, there is an increasing hostility towards those who take Jesus seriously regarding the Great Commission. Jesus said he came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10), “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28), and “to call sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:32). That was the way he described his own mission.

Yet, when we proclaim this message—Jesus’ central message—we court conflict. Indeed, to be faithful to Jesus’ claim that he is the only Savior is increasingly considered an example of “spreading hate.”

For example, a number of years ago the Southern Baptists planned to evangelize Jews during a summer outreach in Chicago. A consortium of religious groups in that city—including Christian denominations, amazingly—demanded that the Baptists stay home. They warned that evangelism in their city would encourage hate crimes. In fact, a Jewish group claimed it invited “theological hatred.”[3]

This tendency to see the gospel as a message of hate gained momentum after 9/11. As the smoke still billowed from the wreckage of World Trade I and II, Thomas Friedman wrote a column in the New York Times titled “The Real War” warning of what he termed “religious totalitarianism”:

If 9/11 was indeed the onset of World War III, we have to understand what this war is about. We’re not fighting to eradicate “terrorism.” Terrorism is just a tool. We’re fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism….a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated. That’s bin Ladenism. But unlike Nazism, religious totalitarianism can’t be fought by armies alone. It has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help of imams, rabbis and priests.[4] [Emphasis added.]

Friedman then applauded a rabbi who “set up his own schools in Israel to compete with fundamentalist Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who used their schools to preach exclusivist religious visions.”[5]

This same theme keeps popping up everywhere I go. Christians are dangerous. Christians are the enemy. This puts any church committed to fulfilling the Great Commission directly in the crosshairs of an increasingly anti-Christian culture.

Trouble in the Church

There’s not only trouble in the world—trouble from the outside—but there is serious trouble on the inside. Sadly, in spite of the plethora of materials available to believers, there is still profound spiritual confusion in Christian circles.

In 2005, researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Denton conducted a “National Study of Youth and Religion” and recorded their findings in their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Here’s what they discovered.

First, they learned there is no generation gap with young people when it comes to religion. Teens were not “spiritual seekers,” but rather were at home in church circles, with 75% identifying with some form of Christianity.

The second thing they discovered, however, was not comforting. When these same committed Christian teenagers were interviewed one-on-one about the specifics of their convictions, almost none from any denominational background could articulate the most basic beliefs of the faith.

Smith and Denton summed up their theology as “moralistic, therapeutic deism” (MTD). To these teens, religion was about being nice and enjoying a relationship with a God who mostly wanted them to be happy and feel good about themselves—which was, as it turned out, the very same religious view of their parents.

Now, nearly 20 years later, things have gotten worse for the church, according to George Barna’s American Worldview Inventory 2021. Barna’s summary:

It is rare to find MTD proponents who consistently accept biblical principles related to truth, morality, lifestyle, and personal relationships. Less than 1% of adults in the MTD segment typically endorse biblical teaching and follow through on those matters.[6]

Several years ago, I was a guest of Dennis Prager at an interfaith dialogue in Los Angeles with Roman Catholic priest Gregory Coiro before a large Jewish audience on Rosh Hashanah.

When Dennis asked why I believed Jesus was the only way of salvation, I offered a carefully worded account of the gospel. When I was finished, Father Coiro affirmed the importance of Jesus but assured the audience that their honest and sincere pursuit of Judaism counted as saving faith in God’s eyes. These Jews were safe, beneficiaries of the cross even though they rejected Jesus.

Surprisingly, large numbers of Protestants agree. God doesn’t really care what faith you follow since they all teach basically the same life lessons. In the midst of this theological confusion, Christians of all stripes are falling away from the truth en masse, becoming casualties of a culture that celebrates pluralism, relativism, and sex without boundaries or restraint.

Everywhere I look, I see the results of spiritual deception—twisted views of human sexuality, radically narcissistic individualism, denial of intrinsic human value, theological illiteracy, deconversions, the relentless spread of totalitarianism—banging away at our Christian foundations. Meanwhile, the number of “Don’ts” regarding God—don’t believe, don’t know, or don’t care—has skyrocketed (43% of all millennials).[7]

With trouble in the world and trouble in the church, what do we do to fulfill Jude’s exhortation? Paul’s last letter gives the answer.

Paul’s Swan Song

If you visit Rome and take the right tour, you will be shown an ancient cistern northwest of the city. Originally meant to hold water, it later served as a dungeon. Mamertine Prison is a circular, low-ceilinged, underground room of rock where prisoners were lowered in on a rope.

I’ve seen pictures of the dank, dismal interior. Against one wall there is a low, protruding rock shelf of sorts. It’s the only elevated flat place in the cell, the only surface someone could write on. This is likely the very spot—this small ledge of rock—where the apostle Paul wrote his spiritual last will and testament. We know it as 2 Timothy.

Among New Testament books, 2 Timothy is one of my favorites. It was Paul’s final message, his swan song, the last thing he ever wrote. It is clear, uncomplicated, and to the point, speaking forcefully and practically to the challenges we all face today.

Second Timothy gives the answer to our question about guarding the gospel, because that is the book’s theme, found explicitly in 1:14: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” Paul’s message is absolutely vital to each one of us today because he tells us exactly what it looks like in any century to contend earnestly for the faith.

You see, the early church was also facing trouble on two fronts.

There was trouble for Christians in the world. They were under tremendous attack in that culture. In A.D. 64, a fire broke out in Rome that raged for six days and seven nights, destroying a great part of the city. Emperor Nero falsely charged the Christians and punished them with “the most exquisite tortures,” as the historian Tacitus records in his Annals:

Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle.[8]

In the midst of this extreme physical persecution of the church, Paul warned of a pervasive godlessness coming in the culture:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Tim. 3:1–4)

Timothy would also be facing trouble in the church:

The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3–4)

Paul’s Simple Solution

What is Paul’s answer to Timothy’s challenge, which is the same challenge we face? It’s refreshingly simple, and the heart of it can be captured in three words: “You, however, continue…” (3:14).

Paul does not tell Timothy to look forward to any new movements of the Spirit, any fresh word from God, or any insider’s spiritual fad. He points not to the future, but rather to the past. “Timothy, don’t look forward,” he says. “Look backward.” Here is the full citation, part of which I’m sure is familiar to you:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:14–17)

Then Paul amps it up another notch. At the beginning of chapter four, he challenges Timothy with the most sober language he can muster:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction…. Be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:1–2, 5).

Simply put, Paul tells Timothy to guard the gospel by continuing in the truth already revealed. In other words, when all else fails, read—and follow—the directions.

But that is not enough.

Passing the Baton

I want you  to notice something about 2 Timothy. Paul wrote his final letter to a person, not a group. He passed the baton of the gospel to a faithful individual, a young man named Timothy, and then told him to do the same: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Note the four generations in this passage: Paul, Timothy, faithful disciples, and “others”—the baton being handed down from one individual to the next. Paul knew it would not be enough for any Christian to continue in the truth. It also needed to be handed down. Indeed, guarding the gospel is not complete until it has been passed on effectively.

When I became a follower of Christ at UCLA in 1973, I was a loud, opinionated, obnoxious, long-haired hippie. Now, almost 49 years later, I am no longer a long-haired hippie. I’m also not nearly as obnoxious as I used to be. I owe that transformation largely to one man: Craig Englert.

For two years, Craig took me under his wing. I’ve had other mentors since then, but I know with certainty that without Craig I would not be in the position I’m in today.

Craig Englert and others who followed him in my life were not content to guard the truth. They needed to entrust it to others—even me, as unlikely as it seemed at the time—in order for the gospel to go forward. They passed the baton to me, as Paul had done with Timothy. Indeed, they were passing the same baton Paul passed to Timothy that was then passed down for two thousand years—from one, to another, to another until it was mine to carry.

In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, American runners suffered a humiliating defeat in the 4 X 100 relay. In the anchor leg, Darvis Patton handed the baton to Tyson Gay, but Gay never got it. In the middle of the handoff, they dropped the baton.

Tyson Gay was our best sprinter. We had the fastest team. It didn’t matter. They dropped the baton, so we lost the race. In fact, we never even finished that race.

Paul told Timothy, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2:5). In other words, Paul said, “Timothy, you cannot drop the baton.”

And we cannot drop the baton, either. If we do, we lose.

No Surprises

So how do we guard the gospel? Two ways. First, we continue in the things already handed down to us. Second, we pass the baton. Those are the rules.

If we disregard Paul’s solution, we should not be surprised when we remain children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Eph. 4:14).

If we don’t guard the gospel, we should not be surprised when we are taken captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Col. 2:8).

If we don’t pass the baton, we should not be surprised when we will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have our ears tickled, we accumulate for ourselves teachers in accordance with our own desires, and turn away our ears from the truth, and turn aside to myths (2 Tim. 4:3–4).

I asked Father Coiro at that meeting on Rosh Hashanah if there was any New Testament evidence for the assurances he offered our Jewish audience. He cited Jesus’ comment, “For he who is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9:40). The Jews in our company, he pointed out, were not against Jesus. They must then, by default, be for him, the priest reasoned.

Yet Jesus also said, “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). So what do we make of this apparent contradiction in Jesus’ teaching? Check the context. When we do, we discover that Jesus was referring to entirely different groups.

In the first case, Jesus was speaking of those who had been performing miracles in his name but were not part of his core group of disciples—Christians, in other words, not unbelieving Jews. In the second instance, though, Jesus was speaking to Jews who had rejected his messianic claim.

The question for us, then, is, What kind of group were Father Coiro and I talking to at our event? People who were working miracles in the name of Jesus, or people who were rejecting Jesus’ messianic claim? The latter, certainly. Father Coiro had applied the wrong passage to our Jewish listeners.

When Jesus was speaking to a group like we had been that day, he said, “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). When Peter was speaking to a group like we had been that day, he said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When Paul was writing about a group like we had been speaking to that day, he wrote:

I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:2–4)

Finishing the Race

The key to contending for the faith—to surviving the spiritual onslaught of the 21st century—is to guard the gospel. The key to that is found in two simple phrases. One, “Continue in the things you have learned.” Back to the basics. Back to the Word as it has been entrusted to us. And two, entrust it to faithful disciples who will be able to teach others also.

That’s it. Guard the gospel by continuing in the truth already revealed then passing the baton. Proclaim the truth faithfully, guard it diligently, and pass it on carefully. That is how we contend earnestly for the faith once for all handed down to the saints. That is how we guard the gospel Paul entrusted to Timothy, now entrusted to us.

And not until we do that can we say what Paul said at the end of his magnificent letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”[9]


[1] E.g., Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great—How Religion Poisons Everything; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion; Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell; and Sam Harris, The End of Faith, etc., etc.

[2] E.g., authors like Bart Ehrman with his best seller, Misquoting Jesus.

[3] Jeffery L. Sheler, “Unwelcome Prayers,” U.S. News & World Report, 9/20/99.

[4] Thomas Friedman, “The Real War,” New York Times, 11/27/01.

[5] Ibid.

[6] American Worldview Inventory 2021, Release #2, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/CRC_AWVI2021_Release02_Digital_01_20210427.pdf.

[7] American Worldview Inventory 2021, Release #3, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/CRC_AWVI2021_Release03_Digital_01_20210512.pdf.

[8] Tacitus, Annals, xv. 44.

[9] 2 Timothy 4:7.

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Did Christ Actually save anyone or just make salvation possible?

A recently published Facebook post published the following:

“On a ship bound for Rome, Paul advised the captain to winter in a port due to bad weather. Ignoring Paul’s advice, they sailed on, right into a storm that grew so fierce that the sailors feared for their lives. “Be of good cheer,” Paul said. “There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee”.

When the storm continued, some of the sailors decided to bail out. But just as they were about to leave, Paul said, “Except these abide in the ship, you cannot be saved”. In other words, “If you choose to go overboard, you’ll be wiped out. You are secure, safe, and sealed only as long as you stay on board.”

No one can pluck us out of God’s hand – but that doesn’t mean we can’t leave on our own. I’m shut in the good ship salvation because I have no intention of going overboard, of sailing off in another direction. Yes, I sin. But I am determined, and have decided that I will love the Lord all the days of my life.” – Jon Courson.

An obvious comparison was made between a frightened sailor aboard the Roman ship wanting to jump overboard and a Christian wanting to leave the protection of God’s (and Christ’s) hands.. While the comparison is clearly stated, do you think it’s a fair analogy? That’s my question.

To helpI offer for your consideration commentary from Albert Barnes (1798-1870) for John 10:28:

“I give unto them eternal life – See Joh_5:24.

Shall never perish – To perish here means to be destroyed, or to be punished in hell. Mat_10:28; “which is able to destroy (the same word) both soul and body in hell.” Mat_18:14; “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Joh_3:15; “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish” Rom_2:12; They who have sinned without law shall also perish without law” Joh_17:12; 1Co_1:18. In all these places the word refers to future punishment, and the declaration of the Saviour is that his followers, his true disciples, shall never be cast away. The original is expressed with remarkable strength: “They shall not be destroyed forever.” Syriac: “They shall not perish to eternity.” This is spoken of all Christians – that is, of all who ever possess the character of true followers of Christ, and who can be called his flock.

Shall any – The word “any” refers to any power that might attempt it. It will apply either to men or to devils. It is an affirmation that no man, however eloquent in error, or persuasive in infidelity, or cunning: in argument, or mighty in rank; and that no devil with all his malice, power, cunning, or allurements, shall be able to pluck them from his hand,

Pluck them – In the original to rob; to seize and bear away as a robber does his prey. Jesus holds them so secure and so certainly that no foe can surprise him as a robber does, or overcome him by force.

My hand – The hand is that by which we hold or secure an object. It means that Jesus has them safely in his own care and keeping.

The story about Paul’s trip to Rome and the great storm had everything to do with Paul, by God’s sovereign design, arriving safely in Rome. Our passage from John 10:28 has everything to do with the eternal salvation of believers and the security (God’s sovereign design) of the double fisted hand of God. On one hand, a frightened sailor with free choice saw jumping overboard as a better alternative than going down with the ship. In like manner, a Christian believer could get to a point that he/she wanted to walk away from God.

Questions for us:

1. Can/will God ‘keep’ those whom he saves.

2. Does Jesus gives his ‘sheep’ eternal life, or ‘conditional’ eternal life., with our free will decision the determining factor in keeping the ‘eternal life’ once given. What does scripture say?

3. Did Jesus death on the cross actually save anyone, or did it just make salvation possible?

4. What did the Apostle John mean when he said of those who left following Jesus:

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19

Tell us what you think and why. Smile

“Calvinists Who Love Wesley”

by Fred Sanders on June 21, 2011

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Calvinists sometimes behave as if their Reformed credentials give them a free pass to forget there ever was a John Wesley, or that he is to be reckoned one of the good guys, or that he, being dead, yet speaks. They keep their distance as if Wesley were the carrier of a theological disease, to be given a wide berth. It’s one thing to say (as any good Calvinist must) that Wesley was wrong about a few important doctrines. But it’s another thing, a little tragic, to consign him to oblivion and imagine there is nothing to learn from him. Here are some Calvinists who know better. Their essentially pro-Wesley tone is striking, possibly because it’s becoming rarer than it once was.

John Newton (1725-1807) was as young, restless, and Reformed as anybody, but he could testify of John Wesley, “I know of no one to whom I owe more as an instrument of divine grace.” This line is quoted in Iain H. Murray’s book, Wesley and Men Who Followed (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p. 71. Murray himself (b. 1931) is a great example of a Calvinist who unflinchingly opposes Arminianism, but is fully aware of how much spiritual blessing he has received through Wesley and the Methodists. Murray knows what the main things are, and knows that Wesley was sound on them, even though he was off the ranch on the beloved “doctrines of grace” as the Reformed see them: “the foundation of Wesley’s theology was sound. On the objective facts of the salvation revealed in Scripture –Paul’s ‘first of all’ of 1 Corinthians 15:3—Wesley was clear.”

Never to be outdone by anybody, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) ventured that “if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.” (C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. 1, p. 173.) Spurgeon may have been indulging in a characteristic dramatic flourish, but I don’t recall hearing that he surrendered his Calvinist card either before or after thus lumping together Whitefield and Wesley, respectively the great Calvinist and the great Arminian promoters of the eighteenth-century awakening. Witnesses like Newton and Spurgeon seem to prove that even Calvinists can learn from Wesley; in fact some of these Reformed witnesses seem to think that it is especially Calvinists who, while remaining as Reformed as they want to be, should labor to hear what this evangelical brother has to say to them.

Reformed people who read widely in Wesley (as opposed to reading a selected string of his anti-Calvinist zingers –like the time in 1765 when he said the revival was going great until “Satan threw Calvinism in our way.” Zing!) are always surprised, and usually delighted, to find that they find in him the same things they love in their favorite Reformed authors: A Scripture-saturated defense of original sin, justification by faith alone, a clear presentation of the gospel, a humble submission to God’s sovereignty, and a radical dependence on God’s grace.

Scottish pastor John Duncan (1796-1870), a decided Calvinist, read the Methodist hymnal and remarked, “I wonder how Charles Wesley could write that, and be an Arminian.” (Cited in John Brown, Life of the Late John Duncan (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1872), p. 428) Somewhat more snarkily, Duncan remarked (p. 401), “I have a great liking for many of Wesley’s Hymns; but when I read some of them, I ask, ‘What’s become of your Free-will now, friend?”

Any Reformed readers who take up and reads John Wesley will find themselves asking on most pages, “How could John Wesley write that, and be an Arminian?” There are many reasons for how satisfying Wesley is doctrinally, but one of them is that he was trying hard to be a good Protestant. Whatever the word “Arminian” meant to most people before Wesley, there is at least the chance after John Wesley that it could refer to a Christian who is doctrinally conservative and committed to the gospel.

Another reason is that Wesley did a great deal of good. “Mr. Wesley, and others, with whom we do not agree in all things, will shine bright in glory,” said George Whitefield (Murray, p. 71). More on what Whitefield thought about Wesley and glory in a moment.

The great (but mostly forgotten) Henry Venn wrote to Wesley for encouragement in 1754 in this touching letter:

Dear Sir,

As I have often experienced your words to be as thunder to my drowsy soul, I presume, though a stranger, to become a petitioner, begging you would send me a personal charge to take heed to feed the flock committed unto me. If you consider the various snares to which a curate is exposed, either to palliate the doctrines of the gospel or to make treacherous allowances to the rich and great, or at least to sit down, satisfied with doing the least more than the best, among the idle shepherds, you will not, I hope, condemn this letter as impertinently interrupting you in your noble employment, or think one hour lost in complying with its request.

It is the request of one who, though he differs from you, and possibly ever may, in some points, yet must ever acknowledge the benefit and light he has received from your works and preaching, and therefore is bound to thank the Lord of the harvest for sending a labourer among us so much endued with the spirit and power of Elias, and to pray for your long continuance among us, to encourage me and my brethren by your example, while you edify us by your writings.

I am sir your feeble brother in Christ. Henry Venn.

C. H. Spurgeon turned his pro-Wesley reflections into a warning to Calvinists, or to ultra-Calvinists, not to be such bigots:

To ultra-Calvinists his name is as abhorrent as the name of the Pope to a Protestant: you have only to speak of Wesley, and every imaginable evil is conjured up before their eyes, and no doom is thought to be sufficiently horrible for such an arch-heretic as he was. I verily believe that there are some who would be glad to rake up his bones from the tomb and burn them, as they did the bones of Wycliffe of old—men who go so high in doctrine, and withal add so much bitterness and uncharitableness to it, that they cannot imagine that a man can fear God at all unless he believes precisely as they do.

This is from a lecture entitled ‘The Two Wesleys,’ delivered on Spurgeon’s home turf, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Dec 6, 1861. Spurgeon went on to say that on the other hand, Wesley fans can get pretty annnoying: “Unless you can give him constant adulation, unless you are prepared to affirm that he had no faults, and that he had every virtue, even impossible virtues, you cannot possibly satisfy his admirers.”

Bishop J.C. Ryle, in his book on Evangelical leaders of the eighteenth century, gets the warnings out of the way right up front: “He was an Arminian in doctrine. I fully admit the seriousness of the objection. I do not pretend either to explain the charge away, or to defend his objectionable opinions.” But he goes on to his main point, saying, “we must beware that we do not condemn men too strongly for not seeing all things in our point of view, or excommunicate and anathematize them because they do not pronounce our shibboleth.”

What is to be found in Wesley, according to Ryle? For all Wesley’s deviations from the Calvinist line, Ryle says

But if the same man strongly and boldly exposes and denounces sin, clearly and fully lifts up Christ, distinctly and openly invites men to believe and repent, shall we dare to say that the man does not preach the gospel at all? Shall we dare to say that he will do no good? I, for one, cannot say so, at any rate. If I am asked whether I prefer Whitefield’s gospel or Wesley’s, I answer at once that I prefer Whitefield’s: I am a Calvinist, and not an Arminian. That Wesley would have done better if he could have thrown off his Arminianism, I have not the least doubt; but that he preached the gospel, honored Christ, and did extensive good, I no more doubt than I doubt my own existence.

And like so many other Calvinistic Wesley-fans, Ryle goes on to caution against bigotry:

Finally, has any one been accustomed to regard Wesley with dislike on account of his Arminian opinions? Is any one in the habit of turning away from his name with prejudice, and refusing to believe that such an imperfect preacher of the gospel could do any good? I ask such a one to remould his opinion, to take a more kindly view of the old soldier of the cross, and to give him the honour he deserves. …Whether we like it or not, John Wesley was a mighty instrument in God’s hand for good; and, next to George Whitefield, was the first and foremost evangelist of England a hundred years ago.

There is a famous story about one of Whitefield’s followers, after a discussion about just how not Calvinist Wesley was, asking Whitefield what he took to be a hard question: Will we see John Wesley in heaven? Whitefield’s answer was that the Calvinists of his generation were unlikely to see John Wesley in heaven.

“I fear not;” said Whitefield. And then the punchline: “He will be so near the throne, and we shall be at such a distance, that we shall hardly get a sight of him.”

Spurgeon tells this Whitefield story, and comments, “In studying the life of Wesley, I believe Whitefield’s opinion is abundantly confirmed –that Wesley is near the eternal throne, having served his Master, albeit with many mistakes and errors, yet from a pure heart, fervently desiring to glorify God upon the earth.”

An earlier generation of Reformed thinkers and ministers were revived and awakened by Wesley’s teaching. Spurgeon knew that an awakener was not something to take lightly, that God didn’t often send people with that ability to revive and stir up the church. We always have to keep an eye on the main danger, and Spurgeon was quite sure that Wesleyanism wasn’t the main danger of his, or any, age. The main danger is Christians failing to be wide awake, failing to be fully Christian. Wesley was a strong stimulant, and Spurgeon wanted more, not less, of that from Wesley:

I am afraid that most of us are half asleep, and those that are a little awake have not begun to feel. It will be time for us to find fault with John and Charles Wesley, not when we discover their mistakes, but when we have cured our own. When we shall have more piety than they, more fire, more grace, more burning love, more intense unselfishness, then, and not till then, may we begin to find fault and criticize.

Taking a moment to compare his own ministry to that of Wesley’s, he thought the comparison was like a little candle held up in the sun: “For my part, I am as one who can see the spots in the sun, but know it to be the sun still, and only weep for my farthing candle by the side of such a luminary.” If you think your own ministry is like a little candle held up against the light of Spurgeon’s accomplishment, take a moment to imagine an even greater light of conservative, evangelical, Protestant witness in the English language. And then go read something, anything, by or about Wesley.

Boys Made Girls (and the Christians Who Go Along With It) • Pastor Gabe

We are told in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “Know this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, but having denied its power. Keep away from such men as these.” On Wednesday, Pre …
— Read on themajestysmen.com/pastorgabe/boys-made-girls-and-the-christians-who-go-along-with-it/

What ABOUT The Book of Revelation?

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It was only a few months ago that a small Sunday morning adult Bible study at Provider Chapel, Ft. Carson, Colorado began a study of the book of Revelation. Little did we know, or even suspect, that we could soon be on the brink of another major global conflict. We had been studying books of the New Testament for several years and it seemed to be an appropriate time to leave the writings of the Apostle Paul and explore an overview of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John.

To date (March 2022) we have learned quite a lot, although we have just begun to study the lesson discussing chapters 14—16, with much more yet to explore.

Did you know that the book of Revelation might be the only book of the Bible that actually provides its own outline? Speaking to John in the first chapter, Jesus told him:

“Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” (Rev 1:19)

What follows is John’s vision of the risen Christ, letters to seven churches that existed during John’s lifetime (2:1—3:22), followed by a series of events that were yet to take place (4:1—22:21).

Did you know that there are several approaches to studying the “things yet to take place?”

The Futurist Approach

The futurist approach to the book of Revelation regards the visions of chapters 4–22 as referring to events that lie in the future, events that will occur immediately prior to Christ’s second coming and the end of history. This is the most popular approach, yet there are differing opinions of certain future events.

A strength of futurism is its recognition that the book of Revelation teaches continued, and even increased, suffering for the people of God before the end of history. Futurism also properly emphasizes that the ultimate triumph of Christ and His people will occur only at the second coming of Christ.

The Preterist Approach

Preterism, as its name implies (deriving from a Latin root for “past”), takes the opposite tack of futurism. In this approach, the book of Revelation primarily refers to events that occurred in the past, either in the period prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD or in the early Christian centuries leading up to the destruction of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD.

The Historicist Approach

The historicist approach reads the book of Revelation as a visionary symbolization of the sequence of events that will occur throughout the course of the history of the church, from Christ’s first coming until His second coming. Historicist interpreters of the book typically read its visions as a presentation in chronological order of the most significant developments in the history of redemption.

The Idealist Approach

The idealist approach differs from the first three approaches in its reluctance to identify any particular historical events, institutions, or people with the visions of the book of Revelation. This approach views the visions of Revelation as a portrayal of the church’s struggle throughout the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ.

We’ve also learned that there seem to be quite a few Bible scholars, from beginners to renowned theologians, who seem to have figured out all of the details of most of the events recorded in Revelation. As for our small Sunday morning class, we’ve decided to remain thoughtful concerning the details, but to focus on the major themes of Revelation, with which most commentators seem be in complete agreement!

God’s sovereignty— God is sovereign. He is greater than any power in the universe. God is not to be compared with any leader, government, or religion. He controls history for the purpose of uniting true believers in loving fellowship with Him. Though Satan’s power may temporarily increase, we are not to be led astray. God is all-powerful. He is in control. He will bring His true family safely into eternal life. Because He cares for us, we can trust Him with our very lives.

Christ’s return— Christ came to earth as a “Lamb,” the symbol of His perfect sacrifice for our sin. He will return as the triumphant “Lion,” the rightful ruler and conqueror. He will defeat Satan, settle accounts with all those who reject Him, and bring His faithful people into eternity. Assurance of Christ’s return gives suffering Christians the strength to endure. We can look forward to His return as King and Judge.

God’s faithful people— John wrote to encourage the church to resist the demands to worship the Roman emperor. He warns all God’s faithful people to be devoted only to Christ. Revelation identifies who the faithful people are and what they should be doing until Christ returns. You can take your place in the ranks of God’s faithful people by believing in Christ. Victory is sure for those who resist temptation and make loyalty to Christ their top priority.

Judgment— One day God’s anger toward sin will be fully and completely unleashed. Satan will be defeated with all of his agents. False religion will be destroyed. God will reward the faithful with eternal life, but all who refuse to believe in Him will face eternal punishment. Evil and injustice will not prevail forever. God’s final judgment will put an end to these. We need to be certain of our commitment to Jesus if we want to escape this great final judgment. No one who rejects Christ will escape God’s punishment.

Hope— One day God will create a new heaven and a new earth. All believers will live with Him forever in perfect peace and security. Those who have already died will be raised to life. These promises for the future bring hope. Our great hope is that what Christ promises will come true. When we have confidence in our final destination, we can follow Christ with unwavering dedication no matter what we must face. We can be encouraged by hoping in Christ’s return.

Online Source: Theopedia.com

How Should We Then Live?

In 1976 Francis Schaeffer, an American evangelical theologian, released his book How Should We Then Live. The book focused on what our lives as followers of Christ should look like given the intellectual and moral decline of Western culture throughout the preceding centuries.

That question is as relevant today as it was in 1976. One contemporary pastor and teacher, John MacArthur, addressed the question in a sermon called, “How to Live in a Crooked and Perverse Generation” offering some keen insight into today’s moral and cultural decline, as well as sound biblical advice for how we, as Christians, ought live in the midst of the turmoil.

The remainder of this article summarizes the highlights of Dr. MacArthur’s sermon, with portions of Philippians, Chapter 2 as the main source.

Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi presents three basic realities to navigate the times in which we live; 1) Where we are; 2) Who we are; and 3) How we are to live.

Where are we?

In verse 15, the Apostle Paul said to the small church in Philippi: “…we are in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Dr. MacArthur descried Philippi as “The only church in Europe in the midst of paganism – poor, persecuted, attacked by false teachers, marked by internal discord and disunity.”

Jesus himself used the phrase “crooked and perverse generation”. In Matthew 17, and again in Luke 9 Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “You are an unbelieving and perverted generation.” There are also other biblical references to consider.

Proverbs 2 tells us:

“Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.” (Prov 2:11)

The prophet Isaiah described rebellious and disobedient people pf his day:

“Their feet run to evil, they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, there’s no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Isa 59:7-8)

We also have examples in Apostolic preaching. When he preached at Pentecost, Peter told his audience “Be saved from this crooked and perverse generation!” (Acts 2:4)

Fast forward to now. Our own country, our nation, and today’s world seems to be bent on systematically eliminating morality and religion while promoting and even celebrating that which God calls “abomination”. Evil is called good and good evil.

Where are we? We are right where God wants us to be; living in a world that’s exactly what it has always been.

Who are we?

Our Philippians text answers that, as well, in verse 15:

”. . .you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear lights in the world”,

First, we are children of God.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. “ (John 1:12-13)

We are not only His children, we are also “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17).

The world has no idea what that means, but we have an inner certainty that our status as God’s children is true, The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Rom 8:16).

So here we are, children of God living in a corrupt and perverse generation, exactly where we are supposed to be!

Secondly, we are lights in the world. The Greek word for ‘lights’ in the text is used to describe the sun, moon and stars. Just as the sun, moon, and stars the luminaries that light the darkness in creation, we shine as luminaries in the darkness of Satan’s kingdom.

How are we to live?

Consider the fact that, as children of God and citizens of His kingdom, we live in a parallel universe. John 18 explains it. When before Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate asked him “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

The kingdom is God; the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual reality separate from every earthly kingdom. So how do we live in this parallel universe? Let’s turn back to our passage in Philippian’s, Chapter 2 and look at the imperatives we are given.

The first imperative for our lives is given in verses 5 and 8 . ”Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”. . . “Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.” Our lives should be marked by an attitude of humility in every aspect.

A humble attitude enables us to fulfill our calling to:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4)

So, the first imperative is to have the same attitude of humility that Christ had. The second imperative is found in verses 12 & 13:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence ,work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.”

We are to “work out” our salvation, not work “for” our salvation, but we are to get out of God’s way and let HIM work, with an attitude of worship, an attitude of “fear and trembling”. How do we do that – work out our salvation? We are called to live lives of obedience to God and pursue blameless, innocent, and virtuous lives.

God Bless Your Journey!

With a Soul Blood Bought

With a soul blood-bought and a heart aglow,
Redeemed of the Lord and free;
I ask as I pass down the busy street,
“Is it only a crowd I see?
Do I lift my eyes with a careless gaze
That perceives no deep-down woe?
Have I naught to give to the teeming throng
Of the wealth of the love I know?”

Chorus
Let me look at the crowd as my Saviour did,
Till my eyes with tears grow dim;
Let me look till I pity the wandering sheep
And love them for love of Him.

As I read in the gospel story oft
Of the Christ who this earth once trod,
I fancy I see His look on the crowd,
That look of the Son of God.
He saw not a number in might and strength,
But a shepherdless flock distressed;
And the sight of those weary fainting sheep,
Brought grief to His loving breast.

Dear Lord, I ask for the eyes that see
Deep down to the world’s sore need;
I ask for the love that holds not back,
But pours out itself indeed.
I want that passionate power of prayer,
That yearns for the great crowd’s soul;
I want to go ‘mong the fainting sheep,
And tell them my Lord makes whole.
-Mrs. R.A. Jarvie-
Online Source:  Today’s Hymn: With a Soul Blood-bought and a Heart Aglow | Salem Chapel, Martin Top