By Irvin Himmel
“I do not subscribe to a religious periodical,” says one, “because there is so much fighting in all the papers.” “Why can’t preachers just preach the gospel and not be fighting all the time?” asks another. Then someone else adds, “I do not believe that different churches should fight each other. After all, no group is perfect, and every denomination is striving for the same goal.” Such expressions as these are quite common in this age of tolerance, passivism, and religious indifference. Anyone who comes out fighting strongly for what he believes is regarded as having a bad spirit. To attack the validity of another’s doctrine is seen as bigotry; to expose a practice which is unscriptural is viewed as biased judgment growing from an unkind feeling.
Jesus A Fighter
Before I say anything more on this subject, let me remind the reader that our Lord Jesus waged a relentless battle against Satan and all the forces of evil during His ministry. Jesus fought sin and error in whatever form it appeared. He called names, not to be ugly, but for clear identification. In fighting against hypocrisy and self-righteousness, Jesus named the Pharisees and scribes. He said plainly, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matt. 23:27-28).
In fighting against false doctrines, Jesus named two leading parties, the Pharisees and Sadducees. He warned, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).
In fighting against impenitence, Jesus named specific cities in which He had preached-Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He sternly declared, “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell” (Lk. 10:15).
The fight against unbelief prompted Christ to boldly say to some of the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44).
His constant war on wickedness found expression in our Lord’s saying to some of the religious leaders, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9).
Disciples Expected To Fight
The servant is not above his Lord. If Jesus who is our Lord and Master declared war on false teaching and lawlessness, it is expected that we who are His disciples fight on the side of our Commander.
Paul charged Timothy to be aggressive. He urged him to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18) and “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. . .” (1 Tim. 6:12). Timothy understood that he had to fight to be pleasing to God.
Paul was a fighter. Unlike some who go in circles and fight without purpose, Paul knew how to fight, what to fight, and why to fight. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air” (1 Cor. 9:26). He could say with confidence as he neared the end of- life, “I fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
Paul fought error in the church and out of it. He knew what it meant to be in “perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26). He named men who had made shipwreck concerning faith and said he had delivered them unto Satan (1 Tim. 1:19-20). He vigorously opposed Judaism in the churches of Galatia and elsewhere. He disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). He fought heathen philosophy at Athens. He fought idolatry in city after city. He fought indifference toward discipline in the church at Corinth. He taught brotherly love but declared all-out war on such as cause divisions “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” (Rom. 16:17). He insisted that such men be marked and avoided.
No one can be a true Christian and not be a fighter. We must stand up against all that is contrary to the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
Preparation For Fighting
A soldier who expects to become involved in active combat needs much training. Before being sent into battle, he is shown how to fight and how to defend himself from the enemy.
The Christian’s warfare is spiritual, not carnal. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). It is still necessary that we prepare for the fight.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. . .” (Eph. 6:11-17).
Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation-these things are our defense. God’s word, the Spirit’s sword, is our weapon to use on every foe. No one is prepared for the fight if any of these important parts of the armor are left off. And more than all else, we need to be skilled in the correct application of the word of God.
Onward! Forward! Let us press the battle against every enemy of truth and righteousness. The very nature of New Testament Christianity makes it militant!
Truth Magazine, XVIII:45, p. 13-14
September 19, 1974