by Mike Ratliff
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NASB)
From the moment the Gospel was first preached, it has been under attack. Impostors have come along pretending to be genuine Christians or preachers or teachers and they have led many to destruction. Part of my planning for this post was research into The Down-Grade Controversy that Charles Spurgeon was engaged in for many years until his death. When I started this blog back in 2006 a group of bloggers resisted nearly everything I and the rest of the CRN team did. Many of them were part of the Christian Restoration Movement.
My grandfather was a Baptist evangelist. He was born in 1877 and died in 1963. He preached in churches and brush arbors and tents from late in the 19th Century until the 1950’s. I was very young when he retired due to illness. However, my mother told me that one of his greatest battles was against those who wanted peace within the Body of Christ at all costs. To him there could be no compromise. It was the Restoration Movement and what remained of it in my grandfather’s time that he stood against. This movement sought to unite all Christians on only minor issues while overlooking divisive doctrinal issues.
The Down-Grade Controversy is closely related to the Restoration Movement. How can this be so? It is so because both attacked the very same thing, doctrines and creeds. I have a Geneva Bible. It is a facsimile of the 1560 Edition. It is a product of the Protestant Reformation. Since my wife gave it to me as Christmas gift several years ago I have always been blessed tremendously in reading the adamant sureness with which those who produced this Bible held to the truth from God’s Word. They were in a war for the truth and knew that they could be captured and killed by the enemies of it. What is our role in this battle? We are to be stewards of God’s Grace.
On an interesting side note. In our Bible Study today at church we were working our way through Daniel 8. Three new young men attended today. Most of our group is made up of adults over the age of 50. However, these young men were probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They heard that we were digging into the Eschatological part of Daniel and they wanted to hear it. The oldest one stated that he believed that God was telling us that we were in some sort of war. When we got to Daniel 8:9-14, which describes the Little Horn which sprang up out of the Third Beast and is a forerunner of the Little Horn which will come from the Fourth Beast at the end of this age, that I saw the connection between what that young man said and what this passage is telling us. First, this passage describes a real person, Antiochus Epiphanies who was a Greek Seleucid ruler of Syria. He hated the Jews and tried to annihilate them and the Jewish religion. In Daniel 8:12 we read:
12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. Daniel 8:12 (NASB)
What is being done away with here? Isn’t the Little Horn being allowed by God to make war on the truth? After class I reached over the seats to that young man and shook his hand. I asked him if he made that connection? He looked at me and I quoted the verse and I said that the Church is right now in a war, the Truth War. He got it. God is allowing this, but that does not mean that we give in to it. We must cling to the truth and never allow the Gospel to become corrupted nor heresy to preached from our pulpits or false doctrines to be part of our doctrines. We may suffer for doing that, but we can do it by God’s grace.
1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-6 (NASB)
The Christian answer to the Great Down-Grade controversy and its many children such as the Restoration Movement is to be willing to suffer in the flesh for Christ’s sake and in light of His own suffering for us. What? How can that be the answer? Peter tells us in this passage that this willingness actually arms us in the battle against the flesh’s dominance of our lives. Those who deny that we need doctrine and creeds and such are those who are enslaved to the flesh and do not want to hear the condemnation against their sinful lifestyles coming from those doctrines and creeds. What they are overlooking though is that those doctrines and creeds are totally biblical. They are based entirely within the Bible and in no way take away from it or add to it.
God, through His Word, calls all of us to cease from sin and live in the flesh no longer. We must become free from human passions and learn to live for the will of God alone. To live according to the flesh is a mark of an unbeliever. Christians are New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That means they now have the ability to obey God, hear God, and know God’s truth. The unsaved are spiritually dead and have no ability to do those things.
How does living this way help us fight the good fight against false teaching and apostasy? The ability to stand in the gap and not fall away in the thick of the battle requires warriors who are wearing their armor and know how to use their weapons. If sin is working within a Christian then he or she is being undercut by it. The Conscience should be condemning them for holding onto their sin, but their hearts have become hard through their deliberate disobedience and now they can more easily ignore the Conscience. However, when they are called to stand and fight they are weak and ineffective because without a dynamic relationship with the Conscience they cannot stand the attacks that come through spiritual warfare because they will have a weak assurance.
Also, believers who are walking in victory with their hearts turned toward God will be in a constant state of repentance. This will be seen in their relationships with everyone around them. There will be no chinks in their armor because they are praying continually, loving the brethren, being patient in trouble, taking care of the poor, and counseling others to walk upright before the face of God. This is the Spirit-filled walk that is being moved and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot be solid Christian soldiers who obediently suffer for Righteousness sake unless we first become mature believers, Spirit-filled, and focused on eternity. If our treasure is of earthly substance then we will have divided hearts that are useless in the battle. However, if our treasure is in Heaven then what happens in the temporal is insignificant because eternity is the genuine reality.
Soli Deo Gloria!