Monday, April 2, 2012

A wrestling church is a living church

Almost from its inception, the church faced the challenge of false teachings and "different" gospels. We see this in Galatia, where Paul chastises the congregation for "so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6). There is no other true gospel, as Paul makes clear, but some, perhaps all, of the Galatians, have fallen prey to the nefarious deception of false teachers who have beguiled them into believing something other than the truth. Paul is determined that his beloved fellow believers in Galatia not be led astray so quickly. Hence, the necessity of his letter and his exposition on the truth of the only gospel, that of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Herman Sasse (1895 - 1976) saw the church wrestling for truth and constantly praying for the Lord's protection against falsehood as a sign, not of a dying, but of a living church. A church not wrestling with questions of truth and falsehood is, in his view, "always in danger of dying."

The Apostle of Love warns Christians: "Believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Although John's Gospel and Epistles constantly set forth the love of one's fellow believers as the criterion for true faith and genuine Christianity, his criterion for erroneous faith and heresy is a dogmatic statement: "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus is come in the flesh, is not of God and this is the spirit of the Antichrist." In other words, contrary to all expectation, the correct teaching of the Incarnation appears as the touchstone according to which true doctrine is distinguished from false, the church from heresy. It was so at the beginning of the church's history; it shall continue so until the light of eternal truth shall enlighten us all. Of those times in which the life of the church was not very much disturbed by concern for pure teaching and by alarm concerning false teaching, it may be said that they do not belong to the great ages of the church. On the contrary, the church is always in danger of dying when it ceases to wrestle for truth and to pray that the Lord may guard it against the devil's wiles and false teaching.

A wrestling church, then, is a living church. The enemy is always eager to engage in battle. In guarding the great deposit of faith, the church must be ever vigilant.