I love cowboy movies; they are just plain fun to watch. Westerns always have a few necessary components. Obviously there is always the climatic gunfight. There usually is a break-neck horse chase. There should always be a woman worth fighting for, and generally there is a bar room brawl in which the hero gets badly beaten. One of the best lines I ever heard in a movie occurred when a kid asked the hero “Hey, who gave you that black eye?” The hero stared at the boy with an unflinching gaze and forcefully said, “No one gave it to me, I earned it!” I guess one of the reasons to like western movies is that the line between right and wrong is clearly drawn in the sand, and when it’s crossed then the time has come to take a stand and let the chips fall where they may. Regrettably churches today are losing their capacity to not only draw lines in the sand on moral issues in society, but to even take stands for doctrinal issues within the church. Many seem to believe that “tolerance” and “peace” are the most important things for a church to hold to, and under no circumstances should anyone endanger them. Well, there are times when we should take public stands in our churches—even at the expense of unity and peace, and below is a list of some non-negotiables.
* The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul said that if Jesus has not risen from the dead then Christianity is a vain faith and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15.12-19). The doors of every church should be locked if Jesus has not bodily risen from the dead. But he has risen, and he now sits at the Father’s right hand mediating on our behalf. The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is a non-negotiable for anyone who would call themselves a Christian.
* The divinity and incarnation of Jesus Christ. The apostle John stated that anyone who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh was of the spirit of anti-Christ (1 Jn 4.1-3). The scriptures are clear; Jesus is literally the incarnation of God in the created realm (Jn 1.1-18; Col 1.15, 19; 2.9; Phil 2.5-11; Heb 1.1-3). The confession that Jesus is fully man and fully God is a non-negotiable for any claiming to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
* The Trinity. If you review the doctrines of any major historical Christian denomination you will notice that they all have a Trinitarian declaration. Christianity confesses and proclaims that there is one God who has revealed himself in 3 persons who are united essence, nature, and being. This unity and diversity within the Godhead is a mystery that is hard to fathom, but there are other complex truths that are also hard to fathom but they exist nonetheless. For example, take “love” and “justice”; we know that they exist, but can you explain how they exist? You cannot, and so it is with the Trinity. Christians do not profess that God is one person who reveals himself in 3 different ways at different times, but that God is one who co-exists in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—all are equally divine and perfectly one while sharing the same essence and purpose (Matt 28.19). Although each member in the Godhead simultaneously functions differently in the created order, they all are nonetheless equally divine. True believers can accept no less; consequently, neither should they tolerate any fellowship that would promote anything contrary to this essential truth.
* That Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. Salvation is not received or earned by humanly participating in the ordinance of a church (i.e., baptism or communion); neither is it the reward of human effort or endurance. It is only received after one repents from his or her sin and personally entrusts themselves and their sin debt to the Lord Jesus Christ through his substitutionary death on the cross. This redemption is a gift that God freely offers to all who would receive it, and his offer is completely a gift of his grace. In other words, it is a gift that is completely undeserved, and its reception by the desperate sinner can in no way be perceived as a meritorious act (Eph 2.8-10).
The above 4 doctrines are non-negotiable for anyone who would call themselves Christian. There are others, such as that God exists, that there is an afterlife, a final judgment, etc., etc. But these confessions are so fundamentally self-evident that to mention them would be elementary. Indeed, even the ones listed above are elementary, but the fact is that some churches and denominations are beginning losing sight of their significance. Nevertheless, Evangelical churches in America are beginning to function more like community centers instead of a communities of believers who adore and worship the risen Savoir of the world. Consequently, below are 3 more items that I argue are doctrines worth fighting for as well; regrettably however, there are many that are not sure that these are also worth defending publically.
* The exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be the only person through which anyone could be reconciled to God (John 14.6). Paul wrote that if there was another way to God then Jesus died needlessly (Gal 2.21). And John wrote that if anyone does not confess personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ then they do not know the Father (1 Jn 4.1-6). If someone professes that there are “many” ways to be saved other than placing one’s personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ then he or she is misguided and needs to be discipled into the truth, or they are false believers and should be rebuked and avoided.
* The inspiration and authority of the Gods word, which is the Bible. The division of the Christian church between Protestantism and Catholicism largely rests on this one issue. It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Sir Thomas Moore once said “I never intend, God being my good Lord, to pin my soul to another man’s back, not even the best man that I know this day living: for I know not where he may happen to carry it.” Believers must not abdicate their consciences to the decisions of others no matter what positions they may hold in a church. Our sole authority for the rightful belief and practice of the Christian faith is the Bible and not submission to the offices of man-made religious institutions, whether they are local churches or worldwide denominations. The freedom of conscience to follow God’s word is a doctrine referred to as “the priesthood of the believer.” It simply means that each believer has the capacity through the indwelling Holy Spirit to rightly discern God’s will for himself or herself, so long as their decisions do not contravene God’s revealed written word. Consequently, if someone demands that you submit to any doctrine, profession, or behavior contrary to God’s word then it is your duty to respectfully resist and/or rebuke them irrespective of what office they may hold.
* The security of the believer. I hold this doctrine as something worth fighting and possibly “loosing” for because to proclaim otherwise is to rob the gospel of its glory and to suggest that human will is greater than the capacity and power of God. Jesus himself said that anyone who has received eternal life through faith in him will never again suffer the threat of eternal damnation (John 5.24). Paul clearly promised that there is no longer any condemnation for those who have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 5.1, 8.1). And Peter wrote that through Christ’s finished work we have been “born again” into an imperishable eternal condition, and that we are keep in that state by God’s own power (1 Pet 1.3-5). If salvation can be lost by an act of human volition then it cannot under any pretense be described as “imperishable,” “eternal,” or under the control of the “power of God.” Consequently, this is a doctrine worth taking a public stand for against those who would declare otherwise.
Well, that’s my list. I’m sure there are others, however, that I have failed to consider. Nevertheless, it is time to take a public stand for these fundamental truths when confronted in our churches by others advocating contrary doctrines. Some may ask is this really necessary? Yes it is! One of the least known scriptures in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 11.19, in which Paul wrote that “there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” Thus Paul explained that there will always be conflicts within congregations, and that they are a necessary part of protecting the flock and identifying those who are truly in the faith. Did Paul want Christian fellowships to experience harmony and unity? Of course he did—but never at the expense of the truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and his promises. Just a word of warning, don’t be surprised when after taking a public stand for the correct doctrine there will be times that you “lose.” It will happen and it will bother you, but don’t let it do so for long. Jesus took your lashes and your nails in order to hang on your cross and save you from your sins; consequently, the very least you can do is to earn a black eye for him.
Monte Shanks, Copyright © November 17, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.