Stand Fast In The Faith
By Wilbur M. Smith
To an unbelieving world which grows increasingly atheistic, and more and more profoundly ignorant of the most elementary truths of Holy Scripture, it is utterly useless for Christian believers, or even the church as an organization to insist that mankind must “return to the Bible,” or “return to faith in God,” or to urge the vowing of a new allegiance to something called religion. The “world” is not going to listen to such admonitions, for the “world” has already made up its mind that the Bible is not a divine book, and that the foundations of religion have about crumbled away.
If the world is to be reached in its unbelief, it must be as individual men are dealt with, as the Church of Christ shows to the world its own implicit faith in the Word of God, and devotes itself to the work for which it was founded, the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What the believing church is to do, and what individual Christians should do, in the deepening darkness of skepticism which is falling upon the world, with an increasing antagonism, not to “religion,” but to the great fundamental truths of the New Testament, are difficult questions…
What All True Disciples of Christ Should Do for the Faith at This Time of Crisis
Nowhere in the New Testament are we told to assume an attitude of laissez faire (noninterference) in regard to attacks of infidelity, the efforts of false teachers to delude many, the denials of the faith within the Church, the enemies of Christianity without. To the contrary, the New Testament epistles in describing the Christian life, among other things, continually set it forth as a life of conflict, of deliberate engagement in “the good fight of faith.”
It is to the phrases which are especially used by the Apostle Paul that I would like to direct our attention. The apostle, writing at the close of his life, urges all faithful disciples, to “stand fast in the faith” (Eph. 6:11; 1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Tim. 6:20).
“The faith” is, of course, as everyone recognizes, that body of truth which is elsewhere called the Gospel, embracing belief in God, in Christ the Son of God, in Christ’s death for sin, and His resurrection for our justification, in our own resurrection at the last day, eternal life in glory, and fellowship with the triune God.
When this faith is being attacked, when enemies of every description, a vast host, with various and subtle devices, attempt to destroy confidence in this body of divine truth, or to deny the truthfulness of its precepts – what those must do who have been saved by this Gospel, and have put their trust in Christ as Savior, no matter what it costs, is to stand fast in the faith, that is, we must never retreat from those great truths, without which there can be no saving Gospel.
It is not that in such a time of attack we are to stand fast in the theories of democracy, or to stand fast for some indefinite concept of “religion”; but that we are to stand fast in the faith, the faith set forth in the New Testament, and are not to allow men to push us back across the line of that conviction that embraces a supernatural Christ, into an area of indifference or denial. We are to stand for the Church, in its great creeds, which are bulwarks for us carved out of the rocks of divine revelation.
If we leave these fortresses, we will find ourselves helplessly exposed to every device of the enemies of God, and will be driven step-by-step, and frequently league-by-league, back into the territory of agnosticism, if not absolute atheism, as many have experienced to their own sorrow....
Not only are we to stand fast in the faith but we are to throw ourselves vigorously into “the defense of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:16-17). The word which Paul here uses is apologia, which means, first of all, a verbal defense, a speech in defense of what one has done or of a truth which one believes, for example, Paul’s defense before Agrippa....
Not only does the greatest of all the apostles lay upon every believer the obligation to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 1:18), but when he himself comes to die, he could say without hesitation or fear of contradiction, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7). St. Jude, in his brief epistle, urges the same form of activity, when he admonishes believers that they should “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).
The verb here translated “earnestly contend” is epagonizomai (found only here in the New Testament), and derives, as one immediately discovers, from the verb from which we have our English word agonize. The Greek verb was used to express the idea of contest in gymnastic games, the actual fighting against enemies of the state, and the struggling with those antagonistic to the Gospel.
The Gospel, when these men were writing, was being threatened by teachers who denied its sufficiency, and would contaminate its purity, and it was necessary that men redouble their efforts to keep the deposit divinely given. In fact, it has been suggested that the word Jude uses here means “to fight standing upon a thing which is assaulted, and which the adversary desires to take away, and it is to fight so as to defend it, and to retain it” (J. I. Mombert).
This is what St. Paul means when, in writing to the Philippians, he says that we are all to unite “in one spirit with one soul striving for the faith of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
In St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the church at Corinth there is to be found an exhortation which seemingly has almost dropped out of sight, certainly out of consideration on the part of contemporary Christianity. Conybeare’s translation reads as follows:
“For though living in the flesh, my warfare is not waged according to the flesh. For the weapons which I wield are not of fleshly weakness, but mighty in the strength of God to the overthrow of the strongholds of the enemies. Thereby can I overthrow the reasonings of the disputer and pull down all lofty bulwarks that raise themselves against the knowledge of God, and bring every rebellious thought into captivity and subjection of God” (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Confess With Our Mouth the Lord Jesus Christ
Thayer defines the word here translated “strongholds” as “the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavors to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent”....
There is one word, quite often found in the New Testament, expressing a fundamental duty of true followers of our Lord, which is seldom dwelt upon these days, even in evangelical circles, either in its literature or its preaching, a word that has direct relation to what we are setting forth, and that is the word “confess.” Our Lord urges the necessity for boldly confessing Him before men, and the Apostle Paul actually links the reality of our salvation with confessing with our mouth the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9).
Antichristian spirits are characterized by the Apostle John as those who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). This matter of confessing Christ is something in which every believer, whatever his training, and wherever he may be situated, can participate, and at no time in this century has such confession been so important as now.
There is a vast conspiracy today in which the leaders of agnosticism and atheism unite to attempt to frighten Christians from confessing Christ, to persuade them that what they ought really to do is to remain silent, to let their “life” tell, to let the Christian religion “naturally” lay hold of the hearts of men, but not to talk about it publicly, nor intrude it into a conversation, nor to speak of it, for example, in a classroom.
Thus, for instance, Dr. Durant Drake, for some years the professor of philosophy at Vassar College, in his widely used book, Invitation to Philosophy, says at the conclusion of his volume that we should believe according to our emotions and our hopes and no man should condemn us “so long as we refrain from becoming dogmatic, and trying to impose our beliefs upon others, and as long as we are honest enough to realize that the question remains open and that no man really knows.”
To a subtle admonition like this, we Christians should most emphatically object. This is contrary to everything that the New Testament tells us we ought to do with our Gospel. Beginning with the end of the statement, Professor Drake is definitely wrong when he says, concerning the matter of religion and the problems it embraces, that “no man really knows.” The Apostles knew; their epistles are filled with the phrase “we know.” They knew because they were eyewitnesses of Christ, and His resurrection. They handled Him, they heard Him, they saw Him, they were convinced beyond all doubt of the great certainties of the faith; and so is every true Christian (1 John 1:1; 2:3; 2:13-14; 4:2, 6-8; Eph. 3:19; 2 Tim. 1:12, etc.)
It is not only our privilege, but also our responsibility to know; to know Christ, to know that we have become the children of God, to know we are in-dwelt by His Holy Spirit, to know that we have a home in heaven, to know that we are delivered from the power of sin, to know that prayer is answered, to know a hope that fadeth not away. The question does not remain open. A Christian’s life is not one filled with a continuous series of interrogations. Imagine St. Paul submitting to some threatening order that he was not to “impose his belief upon others”!…
It is a strange thing, but these men who insist we should not impose our beliefs upon others, never hesitate to impose their disbeliefs on others. They write books to spread their wretched denials. They stand up in the classroom to impose their skepticism upon the plastic minds of their immature students. They go up and down the land, giving lectures, and writing articles in outstanding periodicals, to impose their agnosticism upon youth looking for something to believe.
We need to be as dogmatic in our affirmations as they are dogmatic in their denials. If what we believe as the Christian faith is true, we ought to be terribly in earnest in telling people about it, and not be frightened away by irreligious intellectuals, who say that to talk about these things with any conviction is an act of impoliteness, or discourtesy, or childishness....
Let me put it frankly, in one brief sentence: what we need today is some downright, manly, courageous intolerance in the Christian Church, of all those tendencies and humanistically-derived theories which, while they may encourage the pride of man, are wholly destructive to anything bearing a resemblance to New Testament Christianity. As a soldier of Jesus Christ, equipped with the whole armor of God, we will THEREFORE STAND!
– From Therefore Stand by Wilbur M. Smith.