By Mike Willis
Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany was a seminal act in giving birth to the Protestant Reformation. A great period of conflict ensued. This eventually resulted in Luther being summoned to Worms to give answer for his action of opposing the Papacy. On April 17, 1521, Luther appeared before the Emperor and Reichstag (council). Williston Walker described the occasion as follows:
A row of his books was pointed out to him and he was asked whether he would recant them or not. Luther requested time for reflection. A day was given him, and on the next afternoon he was once more before the assembly. Here he acknowledged that, in the heat of controversy, he had expressed himself too strongly against persons, but the substance of what he had written he could not retract, unless convinced of its wrongfulness by Scripture or adequate argument. The Emperor, who could hardly believe that such temerity as to deny the infallibility of a general council was possible, cut the discussion short. That Luther cried out, “I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. God help me. Amen,” is not certain, but seems not improbable. The words at least expressed the substance of his unshaken determination. He had borne a great historic witness to the truth of his convictions before the highest tribunal of his nation. Of his daunt-less courage he had given the completest proof (A History of the Christian Church 310).
Luther’s statement, “Here I Stand,” became the title of his biography written by Roland Bainton. Luther’s unequivocal statement of what he believed and stood for inspired others to stand with him.
The church has always needed and had men with the courage of their convictions to state “Here I Stand.” Whereas error works under the cover of darkness, concealing its doctrinal beliefs until faith has been sufficiently undermined for its tenets to be accepted, truth boldly states what it believes, invites men to examine what is taught in the light of the Scripture, and marches openly under its own banner.
Remembering Luther’s bold stance and the teaching of Scripture itself, I thought it might be helpful to forthrightly list some of the things for which I stand in this troubled time.
1. I stand for the Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). While there are other Scriptures relevant to a discussion of divorce and remarriage (such as Matt. 5:32; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:1-5; 1 Con 7), Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:9 is a pretty good summary of what the Bible teaches on divorce and remarriage.
A person who divorces his mate for some cause other than fornication and subsequently remarries is guilty of adultery. The divorced mate (whether as a guilty fornicator or put away for some other reason) who remarries is guilty of adultery. That is what I believe and that is where I stand! Until someone can convince me from Scripture that this is not what the Scripture says, then I shall continue to stand here and stand opposed to every doctrine that undermines the clear teaching of that passage. Without regard to the person who teaches otherwise, I intend to stand for what Jesus taught in Matthew 19:9. Here I stand!
2. I stand for the proper application of Romans 14. Romans 14 is limited by the context to things that fit these categories: (a) Men who are “weak in faith,” not those guilty of sin (14:1); (b) Practices that should not be “despised” or “condemned” (14:3, 13); (c) Things that can be done in service “to the Lord” (14:6); (d) Things that can be de-scribed as “good” (14:16); (e) Things that can be described as “clean” (14:20); (f) Things which a strong brother could make a conscious decision not to do (14:13). (Note: If the practice was a divine commandment to be obeyed, the per-son who decided not to do what God commanded would be guilty of sin [James 4:17]. Hence, the application of this text must be limited to things authorized but not mandated, things we commonly call “indifferent.”)
Men who are searching for a way to broaden the fellow-ship of the saints to include fellowship with those who are teaching loose doctrines on divorce and remarriage (and perhaps others things as well) have applied Romans 14 to matters that are not included in the context of Romans 14. They include sinful practices and “damnable heresies” (teachings that, when followed, lead one into condemnation, 2 Pet. 2:1). As a result, a reasoned defense is offered for extending fellowship to those who admittedly are teaching false doctrines. Passages that forbid fellowship with those who are practicing sin or preaching doctrines that lead one to commit sin are re-interpreted or ignored (such as 2 John 9-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Cor. 15:33; Rom. 16:17-18; etc.).
The unity-in-diversity movement is a threat to the revealed faith. It was a threat to the revealed truth when it was preached under the ecumenical banner in Protestant denominationalism; it was a threat to the revealed faith when it was preached by the evangelicals under the banner of “we must be united in gospel but can differ in doctrine.” It was just as much a threat to the revealed faith when it was proclaimed by Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett, being defended by their arguments for a distinction between “gospel” and “doctrine,” re-interpreting passages such as 2 John 9-11 to limit the “doctrine of Christ” to the teaching about Jesus, and the application of Romans 14 to include things other than authorized expediencies. The broadened view of fellowship is just as much a threat to the revealed faith when it is preached by our own good brethren, despite their best intentions. Viewing it as a threat to the revealed faith, I intend to stand against unity-in-diversity wherever it is preached and by whomever it is preached. Here I stand!
3. I stand for brotherly love being shown toward one another. The Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). The Apostle John wrote,
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:14-18).
The fact that men have disagreements over the teaching of the Bible does not justify sinful conduct. I stand opposed to brethren slandering each other, spreading malicious gossip, and otherwise defaming another’s reputation. I stand opposed to that spirit that mistreats his brother by refusing to sit down together with an open Bible to see if the things taught are so (Acts 17:11; 1 Pet. 3:15). I stand opposed to that spirit which refuses to speak to those with whom one disagrees. Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). An evil spirit is never justified, whether it is shown by those who are teaching the truth or those who are preaching error. I intend to condemn that manifestation of spirit wherever I see it and by whomever it is practiced. Here I stand!
4.1 stand for giving an open defense of what I believe. My understanding of the Scriptures causes me to conclude that I am obligated to give book, chapter, and verse authority for what I believe, teach, and practice. I conclude this from the example of the noble Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). I learn this from the plain commandment of Scripture: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). I learn this from the example of my Lord Jesus who was ever ready to have what he taught examined and was willing to discuss what he taught with those who questioned him. He taught me to examine whether or not something was approved by God when he asked the Pharisees, “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or of men?” (Matt. 21:25).
I stand opposed to that spirit that refuses to sit down with his brother and examine whether or not the things that are taught are so. This is the seed bed for the germination of false doctrine. When a doctrine cannot be challenged be-cause of who preached it, the spirit of apostasy has already germinated. I believe that the only way to preserve ourselves from our own fallibility is to have an openness to have what-ever is taught openly examined to see whether or not it is so. Consequently, I intend to oppose any spirit that undermines the open examination of things that are taught. Here I stand!
5. I stand for the proclamation of the whole gospel. The Apostle Paul showed us a good example in how to preach. He said, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). There is a spirit brooding that declares that one should not preach those things that are going to drive away those who visit our services. Consequently, the pulpit should not be used to expose the false doctrines of the various de-nominations, popular social practices (such as immodest dress, social drinking, gambling, unscriptural divorce and remarriage, and such like things), or false doctrines preached by well known brethren. Preaching the whole counsel of God will not only cause us to preach about the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering…, Gal. 5:22-23), but also to condemn fornication, adultery, lasciviousness, and other works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Preaching the whole counsel of God will demand that we preach what God has spoken about the nature of the church. Remember that Jesus went everywhere preaching the good news of the kingdom and calling on men to repent (Matt. 4:17). In preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he distinguished between the “word of God” and the “traditions of men” (Matt. 15; Mark 7). We cannot improve on Jesus’ message.
I am not interested in attracting a crowd by “good words and fair speeches” (Rom. 16:18), drawing men to us by the “enticing words of men’s wisdom” with the “excellency of speech” (1 Con. 2:1, 4), charming people with “enticing words” (Col. 2:4) or “vain words” (Eph. 5:6), and enchanting people with “feigned words” (2 Pet. 2:3). Those who are not attracted by the plain preaching of the gospel are not worthy of the fellowship of God and his people. Consequently, I stand op-posed to any kind of preaching that dilutes the gospel in the interest of gaining a larger crowd. Here I stand!
6. I stand for preaching the gospel in easily under-stood terms. Isaiah foretold that the gospel would be so clearly revealed that “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (35:8). The teachers of God’s revelation are to say, “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isa. 30:8).
I am not interesting in preaching a message that is so veiled that men are “baptized” but do not understand to what body they were added. When the gospel message is preached so vaguely that men cannot distinguish the kingdom of God from the denominations of men or that men do not realize that their membership in such denominations is an offence to God, then the message has not been clearly preached. I am opposed to that kind of preaching that “converts” men and then tells them later what we believe the Bible teaches. Here I stand!
7. I stand for adherence to the moral teachings of Jesus. Jesus is the one who revealed the New Testament; he is the one Lawgiver (Jas. 4:12); he is the one through whom God speaks to men during the “last days” (Heb. 1:1). His revelation is what condemns such modem lascivious acts (Gal. 5:19) as dressing immodestly (1 Tim. 2:9-10), dancing, and lusting after the nakedness of the opposite sex (Matt. 5:28) as occurs when reading or watching pornography. Though our world may accept as normal behavior such immoral conduct and think us strange that we will not join in their sinful practices (1 Pet. 4:4), the teaching of Jesus Christ condemns immodest dress that incites lust, even if it is worn in places where the world has dictated such attire is acceptable (beaches, swimming pools, water parks). Sexually stimulating actions, such as dancing and sexual foreplay, may be acceptable to those who see nothing wrong with lust or fornication, but the moral teachings of Christ not only condemn fornication (1 Cor. 6:18), but also the lascivious conduct that leads to fornication.
There may be some who have concluded that such explicit preaching should not be done from the pulpit because it creates a feeling of guilt and drives away our visitors. Anyone who is driven away by the plain preaching of the Lord’s gospel, when it is preached in love, is unworthy of the fellowship of God’s Son. Here I stand!
I am not so vain as to think that the world will pay much attention to where and for what I stand. My own brethren may not even care. That is not of great concern to me be-cause I shall not be judged by them (1 Cor. 4:3-5). What makes a difference is that the preacher is a “minister of Christ” and “steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). When I stand before my God, I wish to be found faithful. Therefore, here I stand!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 2
September 4, 1997