There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
– Ecc 3.1
This regularly quoted verse offers us comfort and peace as we wade through different life stages and circumstances. Solomon opens his list of dichotomies with “a time to give birth and a time to die” (V 2), and lists events as extreme as killing, loving and hating, embracing and shunning.
But is there ever a place to fight? To contend? One of the cornerstones or pillars on which the contemporary church likes to stand is unity. We are criticized for having denominations, we are counted weak for having different interpretations of the Scriptures, and we cling to verses like,
“…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
– Eph 4.3
Yes. Jesus Himself desired to see the disciples and believers unified with Himself in love, knowledge and Spirit. Part of being saved is receiving the Holy Spirit to indwell and direct us and we become one with Christ as Christ is one with God the Father. That is one of the most difficult mysteries for me to understand!
We are quick, however, to sacrifice depth and the intricacies of the faith in order to appease people. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we avoid topics that cause division we will have unity. I have met leaders in many churches who set out with the agenda, “We avoid everything that causes people to divide”, and “We only preach Jesus”. While this sounds great at the onset, the result is shallow teaching, and that only which brings about warm fuzzy feelings. Church is now entertainment and self-help.
Do you realize that the first time the church split was over the dilemma of how to deal with those who had converted to the Roman ancient religion in order to avoid death? Another major split in the early church was over the nature of Jesus. Some people thought He was just a man and others thought He was only God, while the last group believe Him to be mysteriously both. Other divisions arose about the nature of Scripture, with some teaching as early as two generations after Jesus that they whole of Scripture is allegorical: a story or myth with good morals.
It was because of these splits and heresies that counsels were held, and doctrine was defined systematically. The term trinity was developed to explain the nature of God, and now most protestants learn about the trinity as soon as they learn about Jesus. We take it for granted. But nowadays we shy away from the defense of doctrine for fear that it will turn people away. We are more concerned that people come in our doors than that the people inside of our doors understand Truth and live a life honoring to God.
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. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
– Jude 3-4
Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote a very short letter exhorting believers to contend for the faith. We do not want to be a contentious people, but we need to uphold God’s values and Truth above all else. We cannot compromise Truth for the sake of numbers or acceptance. And what is scary, as Jude shows, is that the greatest threat is not from the outside, but from within. Ungoldly people have already crept in to the church and are believing and teaching false doctrine.
If you were the devil, would not your greatest scheme be to send someone in -undercover – who looks good, sounds good, and leads people astray little by little? Just put the frog in the warm water and slowly boil him to death?
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
– Jude 12-13
The early church required a three year probationary period for new believers before they were given the privilege of joining the church. Three years of watching, learning, listening and maturing were required before they could be a member. This was practiced to maintain the purity of the church in both doctrine and lifestyle. Three years is perhaps a bit extreme, but Jude sternly warns us that people can creep in, people who are hidden reefs that will sink our ships, people who are clouds without water – they promise refreshment but remain arid, they appear to be healthy trees but produce no fruit. And such a one is “doubly dead”. He is spiritually dead, pretending to be of Jesus, and leading others astray.
We must know the Truth and the Scripture well enough to be on guard for these teachers. We must stand guard lest we be led astray and made ineffective for the kingdom. We must hold one another accountable so that we do not fall victim to, or worse yet, become one of these false prophets. Contend. It is rare that we are commanded to stand up and fight, but we must fight with persistence and wisdom for the integrity of our teaching and instruction.
For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
– 1 Cor 11.19
Do you know what your church believes on the major doctrines? Do you know what the Bible teaches on them? Are you alert to the minor teachings that can neutralize our effectiveness and lead to great demise? Do you fight for the integrity of your faith, the faith of your family, the faith of your small group, and the faith of your church? This is worth fighting for. Let’s suit up.