Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: June 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Is Your Christianity Militant?

Is Your Christianity Militant?

          When we think of a militant Christianity, we must think of it in terms of self-sacrifice.  That is what defines a believer’s love for God.  What are we willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ?  Early Christianity was willing to sacrifice their lives rather than compromise the truth of the Gospel of grace or the purity of their worship of God alone.

  Even from the very beginnings of Christianity there has been an endless battle to maintain the purity of the Gospel of grace and the purity of worship that is distinct from the influences of worldliness.  The real test of a militant Christianity is simple.  What are you willing to stick your neck out for?  What are you willing to put your life on the line for?  What are you willing to lose friends over in being loyal to the Word of God and to the God of the Word?  In Acts chapter fifteen, this is essentially the point of the text.  These men, who stood out for the purity of a Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, were putting their lives at risk to be loyal to the purity of the message Christ had given them.

1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:1-18).

          Acts chapter fifteen is the record of the first church split in history.  This was a very difficult time for the church at Jerusalem.  An issue of truth was challenged that would split this church and all of Christianity from this day forward.  Christianity would be divided into two factions. 

1. A religion of salvation by participation in religious rituals and ceremonialism (human accomplishment)
2. A religion of salvation by grace through faith in the finished, substitutionary work of Christ (Divine accomplishment).

Truths for which we are willing to die (Acts 15:1 and 5)

Militant Christianity is not measured by killing those with which we disagree.  Militant Christianity is the willingness to die for the purity of the Gospel so as to maintain “the power of God unto salvation” so as to win those with which we disagree to Christ.  The issue of the purity of the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is a truth that militant Christianity must be willing to die for.  This is a necessity, in that only the true Gospel of Jesus “is the power of God unto salvation.”  Historically many Baptists were imprisoned, unmercilessly tortured, drowned in rivers, burned at the stake, and murdered because they refused to baptize their babies.  They understood that allowing such practices to go on without challenging them would corrupt Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the foundational level of truth.  They were willing to pay the ultimate price to preserve the purity of the Gospel.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

Ecumenicism and New Evangelicalism have created a broad and sweeping tolerance of many false and unscriptural gospels.  The Apostle Paul clearly addressed this tendency towards tolerance in his epistle to the Galatians.  Paul condemns the compromise while understanding that the motivation for tolerance was to “please men.”  Compromise seeks to maintain peace and unity at the sacrifice of doctrinal purity. 

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).

Historically, Christians (especially Baptists) have been willing to die very gruesome and horrible deaths rather than deny the true faith in the true gospel by refusing to accept infant baptism (Paedo-baptism), baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation or consubstantiation, and other such nonsense.  Many pages of Baptist history have been written with the blood of faithful martyrs who were tortured and murdered simply because they refused to believe in anything else but salvation as a gift of God’s grace received through faith in the finished work of Christ and totally apart from any good works by the individual and totally apart from any religious ceremony or ritual.  Apart from the preservation of the Word of God, it has been God’s grace manifested through the lives and testimonies of the faith of such remarkable individuals that the truth of the purity of the Gospel has been preserved for all these centuries.  

There is not one recorded historical incidence where a Baptist ever persecuted or killed anyone because someone did not believe the way he believed.  Yet throughout the centuries, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinist, Anglicans, Congregationalist and even the Puritans sought the annihilation of individual Baptists and Baptist congregations over the issue of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  The Baptists chose imprisonment, and often death, over compromise.

The questions we must ask ourselves are simple.  Do we have the kind of militancy that is willing to die rather than compromise God’s message of salvation (the gospel)?  Would we be willing to be tortured and murdered rather than accept a man-made way of salvation?  The test of our militancy is the price we are willing to pay to maintain a pure testimony of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. If we are not willing to die to maintain that testimony, we have abandoned the apostolic faith.

The fact that people believe Jesus is the Messiah is not sufficient evidence to the reality of their salvation.  Here is the central dividing line of truth between true Christianity and apostate Christianity.  This dividing line is that apostate Christianity believes that Jesus was the Messiah of God; they believe He died on the Cross, but they do not understand what He accomplished on the Cross for them.  They believe in Jesus, but reject the Gospel of grace.

Acts 15:5 says this “sect of the Pharisees. . . believed.”  That means they believed Jesus was their historical and promised Messiah, but the facts of the rest of Acts 15:5 reveal to us they did not understand the Gospel and therefore continued to rely upon their religious ceremonies and rituals to be saved.  They continued to believe that religious rituals (such as circumcision) were necessary to salvation.  This is clear evidence they did not understand the Gospel and therefore could not rest by faith in the truths of the Gospel.  If we allow ANYTHING to be added to what Christ has done to save us, we have allowed the corruption of the Gospel.

“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).

This false gospel of surgical salvation was soon replaced by salvation by ritual purgation (purging).  Ritual purgation initially made ritual baptism the means of the purging of sin, but would degenerate into other false doctrines to aid in the purging of sin over the centuries.  The Cross of Christ is the only acceptable purging place of sin and the only place of purging (Purgatory) mentioned in the Bible.  That purging is a finished spiritual reality.

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The whole premise of salvation by ritual purgation is a denial of the finished work of Christ, a blasphemy against God, and an insult against the grace of God that reaches out in love to save us.  The person who rejects the once for all sacrifice of Christ at Calvary by looking to religious rituals for purging of sins that were committed before or after they profess to trust in Christ must understand “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” 

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Secondly (Acts 15:1 and 5), these propagators of the “another gospel which is not another” not only wanted tolerance for their false gospel, they wanted their false means of salvation to be required before any could be saved.

It always amazes me that those who seek tolerance of their false doctrines are the most intolerant of those who are unwilling to compromise truth for false unity.  It was these “false brethren” who were intolerant.  They were willing to accept anyone into their circle of compromise, but they have historically sought to annihilate anyone who was not willing to compromise in order to accept them.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:3-5).

Before God can revive His Church and bless the way He wants to bless, the members of a local church must determine they will die rather than compromise the Gospel, die rather than become tolerant of false doctrine, and die rather than join hands in partnership (“fellowship”) with those preaching salvation by ritual purgation.  That is the challenge of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:1-9.

1 Stand fast {hold your ground} therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised {for salvation}, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised {for salvation}, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:1-9).

“Stand fast” in Galatians 5:1 is from the Greek word steko (stay'-ko) meaning to persist.  The idea is to be uncompromising.  “Persuasion” in Galatians 5:8 is from the Greek word peismone (pice-mon-ay'), which can mean a treacherous or deceptive persuasion. 
The “little leaven” of Galatians 5:9 refers to allowing any ritual purgation to compromise the purity of the Gospel of grace regardless of how insignificant it may seem.  Allow any amount to be part of your faith, you leaven the whole of your faith with false doctrine making your profession of faith false and unprofitable (v. 2).  

          The introduction of surgical salvation or salvation by ritual purgation into Christianity is tragic heresy that continues to deceive people into a false hope of eternal life.  Salvation by the works of the Law is (regardless of how insignificant it seems) is an insult against the grace of God.  Whatever it is a person trusts in other than the finished work of Calvary is what keeps him from trusting wholly in Christ.  If he is ever going to be saved, he must turn away (repent) of that dead work (Hebrews 6:1) and trust solely and wholly in the Person of Jesus Christ and His finished work of the Cross (Acts 4:12 and John 14:6).. 

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.