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: Contending for The Faith

Monday, September 11, 2017

Contending for The Faith

Contending for The Faith
Perhaps the first thing we learn as Christians desiring to lead people to following Christ is that most have little interest in such things.  Their unbelief binds them to a prison of their own ignorance leading them into ever increasing destructive life-patterns.  In their ignorance, they deem the preaching of the Cross a foolish waste of time (I Corinthians 1:18).  This ignorance of unbelief keeps them on worldly pathways pursuing some ambiguous thing called happiness.  For them, happiness is another word for pleasure and love is another word for sex

II Timothy 2:22-3:5 defines both the problem and the solution.  God expects faithful believers to be proactive as these sinners are being taken away by the mudslide of sin accelerating them towards the pending judgment of God on this world. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow {chase after or steadily pursue} righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 2:22-3:5).

Contending for “the faith” is doing what is necessary to ensure that orthodoxy is transposed from one generation to the next.  This transposition of “the faith” from one generation to the next focuses on reaching the next generation through Evangelism, which is primarily discipleship focused.  The faithful disciples of one generation must lead the next generation to receive Christ as Lord and be perfected to do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  Any local church that does not have this missional vision has been corrupted.  The local church is the emphasis of II Timothy 2:22 in the words “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  Any Christian that is not fully invested in a local church that has this missional vision has also been corrupted. 

II Timothy 2:23 tells the faithful believer with a Biblical missional vision to “avoid. . . foolish and unlearned questions.”  The reason given to avoid these types of questions is “knowing that they do gender strifes.”  There are always those types of people who ask pointless questions intent more upon arguing than upon edifying.  The word “foolish” is from the Greek word moros (mo-ros’). 

This admonition about avoiding “foolish . . . questions” is most probably addressing the questions that came from those that were, or had been, involved in the mystery religions such as Gnosticism.  Gnosticism was the original religion of Syncretism – blending, merging, and integrating all kinds of religious beliefs together through endless Dialogue.  The wise disciple-maker avoids these foolish discussions because his source of Truth (Epistemology) and faith is founded solely in the clear instruction of the inspired Words of God.  Since the Bible is the ONLY authority for life and practice, what the Bible says is final.  Therefore, to such a person, endless debates and arguments about extra-biblical views and the philosophies of men are pointless wastes of time (“strifes”). 

The word “unlearned” simply means uninstructed.  This refers to those who have never been discipled in the Word of God.  They may have numerous educational degrees and even be very well read.  However, they are “unlearned” in the Scriptures.  The danger is that they come into local churches with an appearance of knowledge or have much knowledge about religious ideas.  They will be respected by many because of their education and status in life.  They will often be promoted to leadership positions in the church for which they are not qualified.
The admonition regarding getting involved in these foolish discussions and debates is that “the servant of the Lord must not strive” (II Timothy 2:24).  The “servant of the Lord” must be able to distinguish between the person genuinely wanting the Truth and the person who simply wants to debate.  Once the disciple maker gives a person a clear Bible answer to a question and that person disagrees with that Bible answer – WALK AWAY!

There is an old saying, “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”  A person wanting to be right even when proven wrong is a fool.  However, he will not have a good opinion of the person that shows him to be a fool.  Therefore, Paul tells Timothy, “be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (II Timothy 2:24b-25).  There is often a thin line between being pertinent and impertinent.  Once a person crosses that line, the damage is already done.  Possessing dogmatic knowledge does not mean that such a person has a right to be obnoxious.  There are five words in I Timothy 2:24b-25 that give us directions for reaching people who think they have the answers, but are really without a glue.  If we want to be effective in reaching another generation in helping them become followers of Jesus, we must understand these five words and how they are applied within the spiritual dynamic of soul winning and disciple making. 

1. Gentle - from the Greek word epios (ay’-pee-os) meaning friendly, pleasant, and a person with which it is easy to talk.  The gentle person can disagree without being disagreeable.  He can contend for the faith without being contentious.  Being kind to the people we are trying to reach must be apparent.  Attacking lost people for the sins they commit and the sinful practices of their lives is not the same as patiently trying to persuade someone that God has absolute boundaries for righteousness.  This opposite of gentleness is often manifested by those claiming to be street preachers where they stand on a corner or in a park shouting condemnations at lost people for how they dress or how they live. 
2. Apt to teach – is from one Greek word, didaktikos (did-ak-tik-os’).  The meaning is descriptive of a person whose demeanor is instructive.  A person can be instructive without being condemning.  Instruction from the Word of God has the power to convict and condemn.  Again, this instruction is intended to be directed to the person asking questions with an interest in finding absolute answers.  This person “apt to teach” is willing to take the time to carefully explain spiritual things to the person making inquiries. 
3. Patient is from the Greek word anexikakos (an-ex-ik’-ak-os).  This describes the person willing to endure the arrogant, obtrusive ignorance that often accompanies people antagonistic towards spiritual absolutes.  Another good synonym is forbear.  To be forbearing means to hold yourself back.  Not everything that can be said should be said.  To be forbearing understands the concept of the right time, place, and circumstances while being self-disciplined enough to wait for that right time, place, and circumstances.
4. Meekness is from the Greek word praotes (prah-ot’-ace).  The practical meaning is a gentle humility.  This is directed towards the way we instruct those that “oppose themselves.”  The opposite of gentle humility is rude haughtiness.  If there is an underlaying attitude of arrogance towards the ignorant, that attitude will manifest itself to some degree in negative ways.  When arrogance is perceived by the hearer, most of what is said will be rejected regardless of the fact it is Bible Truth. 
5. Instructing is from the Greek word paideuo (pahee-dyoo’-o), which literally means to train up a child.  It is critical to understand that people learn through levels of comprehension.  Understanding the level of comprehension of the person with whom you speak is critical to instructing him so he can understand what you are saying.  Secondly, since the person thinks he has a level of comprehension far above what he actually possesses, care must be taken so as not to be condescending in instructing him.  To help a person grow in understanding is often done in baby-steps.  Be careful not to overload a person with too much information or you will overwhelm him.  Be patient and carefully explain small portions of Scripture each time you meet. 

Most importantly, remember the last part of II Timothy 2:25b - “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”  Although considerable doubt is expressed in the text about such a person ever changing his beliefs or unbelief, there is hope when we understand that God’s involvement is the major part of any hopeful possibility.  Long after the words we say and the moment of instruction passes, God remains with the person.  There are no doors to shut Him out or time restraints upon His access to the human spirit. 

II Timothy chapter two explains how we are to deal with people that are seeking truth, but are ignorant and confused.  These people are Agnostics.  The word agnostic simply means - I don’t knowJude 1:3-8 explains how to deal with the heretic who seeks to divide a local church with false teaching.  These types of people infiltrate local churches and must be dealt with more swiftly and even harshly.  These are wolves intent upon carrying away innocent sheep.  How many sheep should be sacrificed to the wolf before the wolf is removed?

3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once {for all} delivered {stewardship} unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities(Jude 1:3-8).

          Jude 1:3-8 clearly details harsh and swift retribution to the types of deceivers mentioned in this text.  Such people are extremely dangerous.  They can destroy work that has taken years to accomplish.  Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that the corruption of society and the perversion of truth has no limitations.  Just as in the days of Noah, God must intervene and bring His judgment on the world to halt the advancement of Satan’s agenda of corruption.  Each year the world has proven itself capable of going ever deeper into the miry pits of the filth and degradation of sin.  Professing believers no longer are amazed at the world’s propensity for perversion.  These professors of faith march just a few steps behind the worldly bringing the world into local churches.

          However, it is continually amazing to watch the willingness of professing Christians in their progressiveness in this perversion by staying one step behind the world like a child following a trail of bread crumbs.  These deceived never seem to give any considerations to where they are in their own digression of corruption and defilement.  “Lukewarm” churches, meaning compromising people, have become so complacent to doctrinal error and worldliness that they have become completely silent, accepting almost anything without question or consideration.  God’s will in these matters never seems to be addressed, nor His Word consulted.

          Instead, the matters of “the faith” are relegated to humanistic rationalism while the definitive truths of God’s Word are mitigated into obscurity and irrelevancy.  For much of today’s professing Christians, “the faith” is nothing more than a hodge-podge of human philosophies amalgamated together to appear non-judgmental and to give everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling with little or no consideration to whether those beliefs have any foundation in Divine origin or authority.

          This humanistic perversion of Christianity has little connection to the idea of “the faith” as detailed in God’s inspired Word.  In fact, for this type of Christianity, God’s Word is only referenced to maintain a semblance of connection to the real thing.  The only reason this fiasco continues is that the clear majority of real, Bible believing Christians have become theological pacifists and given up on contending for “the faith.”

          “The faith” defined by Scripture is the body of divinely revealed truth inscripturalized in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.  Most of God’s communication with mankind has not come in a booming voice from Heaven (although He has done so on a few occasions).  God has chosen a few men with which to speak and through which He spoke down through the ages.  These men were called Prophets of God.  They were Mediators (middle-men) between God and men.  The last Mediator (and only remaining One) is Jesus Christ.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:19-21).

          The words “more sure” in II Peter 1:19 are from the Greek word bebaios (beb’-ah-yos), which refers to something that is stable, firm, or trustworthy.  This is followed by the admonition “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.”  The words “take heed” are from the Greek word prosecho (pros-ekh’-o), meaning to apply one’s self to, attach one’s self to, hold or cleave to a person or a thing.  It can also mean to be given or addicted to something or to be devoted to a thought or effort.

          This statement is immediately followed with a warning regarding “false prophets.”  These were men that distorted and perverted God’s Words for selfish purposes to gather a following so as to “make merchandise” of those followers.  Of course, in doing so, they must lead those followers away from following Christ.

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:1-3).

          It is amazing how little concern people give to these warnings regarding “false prophets” and their destructive “heresies.”  Contending for “the faith” involves every believer in the battle-arena for the preservation of God’s Word by “contending” with these “false prophets” and their manipulation of people through the distortion and perversion of the Word of God.  The grave danger of theological inclusivism is the willingness to accept or tolerate obvious distortions and perversions of the Word of God.  Theological inclusivism ceases to contend for “the faith” and, in doing so, allows for the distortion and perversion of that “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

          The word “once” in Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word hapax (hap’-ax), which means once for all.  The word “delivered” is from the Greek word paradidomi (par-ad-id’-o-mee) and refers to something being given into the hands of another to keep, use, take care of, and manage.  In other words, the Word of God was deposited into the hands of the Sanctified Ones (Saints).  God will hold us responsible for its preservation both in the written documents (Apographs) and in the maintenance of doctrinal purity.

          The written composite of these ancient Mediators is called the Holy Bible.  The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s historic dealings with mankind from the beginning of time.  They reveal His will in minute detail.  The revealed will of God detailed in these sixty-six books is what God’s refers to as “the faith.”  Believers are commanded to “keep the faith” and “contend for the faith.”  The former is about living “the faith” and the latter is about ensuring that God’s revealed will is not changed, distorted, or perverted by mankind.  This is about what Jude warns in Jude 1:3-8.

          Believers preoccupied with these two commands are called “the faithful.”  The “faithful” are concerned about any perversion of God’s revealed will due to the propagation of false doctrine and lifestyles, including their own, that lead people astray from the paths of righteousness (right living).  The “faithful” are unwilling to consent to any form of perversion of truth to any degree.  The moment they do, they cease to be “the faithful.”

          The word “contend” of Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word epagonizomai (ep-ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee).  It is a derivative of the Greek word agonizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) with the epi (ep-ee’) prefix added to it.  Agonizomai is the word from which we get the English word agonize.  The epi (ep-ee’) prefix heightens its meaning to the highest level.  When it comes to “the faith,” the believer is commanded to endeavor with the highest level of strenuous zeal to insure the purity of theological content and the clarity of meaning.  This is the subject matter of all twenty-five verses of the book of Jude, warning about those who turn “grace” into “lasciviousness” (liberty into license). 

          If there ever was a day in history that this admonition is relevant, it is the twenty-first century.  Today’s Christian seems to argue that being out from under the Law and under grace means we can live any way we want because then we let God do want He does best, i.e., show mercy and forgive sin.  This only goes to prove that “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  The same old nonsense just keeps re-arising out of the slime-pits of human corruption with new names on it, but it is still nonsense.

          This rationalistic scum on the pond of human depravity has been a historical problem from the days of Apostolic Christianity.  Paul had to deal with it in his epistle to Rome in 50 A.D., less than twenty-seven years after the resurrection of Christ.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:1-2)?

          This is what is known as Antinomianism.  This is what any deviation from “the faith” does.  It perverts God’s will and gives man permission to do what God forbids.  It is not only a perversion of the doctrine of grace (Divine enablement); it is a mockery of the Lordship of Christ and denies the practical application of that Lordship in the believer’s life.

          This is one of the things that the Apostle Peter refers to in his second epistle as “damnable heresies.”  “Heresies” is from the Greek word hairesis (hah’-ee-res-is), referring to false teachings that lure men away from right practice and capture the deceived to form their own following.  The person thus deceived ceases to be a disciple of Christ and, in fact, ends up becoming a disciple of the person that deceives him; forming his own sect, yet still calling this perversion of truth Christianity.  In doing so, the person deceived denies both the Lordship of Christ and “the faith.”  The two are equal in scope.

          Satanic attacks on “the faith” come on two fronts: questioning God’s Word (distorting what God has said) and denying God’s Word (has God said?).  This is particularly evident in Satan’s deception of Eve.  Be aware of such nonsense and guard against it with every fiber of your being!

          Although a believer should contend for “the faith,” he is not to be contentious (argumentative) or involve himself in raising questions regarding theological issues to which the Word of God does not clearly speak.

9 But avoid {shun; i.e., do not answer} foolish questions, and genealogies {Jewish pride of ancestry}, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition {calling attention to an error} reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted {turned around and hardened in his thinking}, and sinneth {false doctrine perverts practice}, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:9-11).

          When dealing with someone holding to obvious theological heresy, we are not to keep trying to change his mind.  In fact, we are commanded not to admonish him to change his beliefs more than two times, after which we are commanded to “reject” the heretic.     The word “reject” is from the Greek word paraiteomai (par-ahee-teh’-om-ahee).  It does not refer to excommunication from the church, although that should be required if the person’s doctrine disagrees with the church’s doctrinal position.  It means to shun or avoid.  It literally means to have nothing more to do with him.  The reason behind this is stated in Titus 3:11. The word “subverted” is from the Greek word ekstrepho (ek-stref’-o).  It refers to something that is twisted or turned inside out, or someone that is corrupt and perverted in his thinking.  Changing this type of person’s mind must be done by God.  We should pray to that end.  Only God can open the eyes of the blind and cause the deaf to hear, while the devil provides every opportunity for the dumb to speak. 

16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods” (Isaiah 42:16-17).

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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.

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