Paul encouraged the Ephesian pastors to defend the Christian faith. He said in verse twenty-eight, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Note especially the beginning of the verse: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock.” We meet as a fellowship of pastors and ministers of the Gospel so that we may be on guard. Against what do we guard?
We obviously guard against false doctrine. False doctrine is a vague term, so let us consider a few false doctrines that are current battlegrounds (in no particular order). Perhaps the most recent area of battle is the Christian understanding of the Trinity. T. D. Jakes has been promoting a modalistic theology. The novel The Shack has also done little to help the Christian understanding of the Trinity. In short, the theology of The Shack is that God can be whomever we imagine Him to be (you cannot get much more modalistic than that!). There is open theology in which God has multiple wills or plans. There is progressive dispensationalism, which is an attempt to reconcile Dispensationalism with Covenant Theology (this is like attempting to reconcile yes and no). There is also the new perspective of Paul, which basically declares that a person becomes part of God’s covenant through participation in the covenant (ie. the church). Effectively, the atonement occurs when a person becomes active in a local church, membership notwithstanding. While this controversial doctrine has died down a little, it has been an affront to the penal, substitutionary death of the atonement. It has also called into question the pre-eminence, essence and purpose of the church. While I’m on that trail, we are also faced with the trend of churches which seek to be more missional. Let us not be mistaken. This does not mean that churches are more concerned about global evangelism. Missional churches are concerned with its members being the church. It is nothing more than a rewarming and repackaging of the social gospel. It was basically this very issue which caused many pastors to lead their churches out of mainline denominations into fundamentalism over a century ago.
We are also on guard against cultural issues as they impact our churches. I will delve into this in more detail in the next article. Suffice it to say that we must not ignore the trends that are impacting the people in our churches.
We guard our churches so that we may present our churches as a chaste bride. We seek purity in our churches. This means not just doctrinal purity but also behavioral purity. I don’t mean a Pharisaical legalism. I mean that we teach our congregations to love the Lord with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. When we teach them this, the lifestyles and behaviors will take care of themselves. True holiness always inspires a lifestyle which cannot be replicated or faked.
Let us be careful that we present clearly and passionately what we are for. Fundamentalism has gained a reputation for being against everything. There are things that we must oppose, but we are “for” much more that we are “against”. We are for the Gospel. We are for the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as verse twenty-eight ends. We are for Christ, and Christ has already inherited everything. How can you get much more “for” about anything? The Christian faith is worth defending! So, let us contend for the faith, but not be contentious for the faith.
Note again the end of verse twenty-eight. We gather as a fellowship to defend the faith for one reason, which Paul identified. Christ paid an immense and eternal cost; He purchased our churches — you and me — with His own blood. Let us gather to encourage each other as we defend the faith and the attacks on the precious blood of Christ.
The links for the first six articles are below:
Purpose #1 — The Encouragement of Unity
Purpose #2 — The Support of Connection
Purpose #3 — The Prevention of Isolation
Purpose #4 — The Cooperation of Ministry
Purpose #5 — The Preparation for Persecution
Purpose #6 — The Proclamation of the Gospel