Contending for the Faith Once Delivered unto the Saints

A 17th-century Englishman, John May, said, “In a calm sea, every man is a pilot.” He was contrasting how when everything is perfect, everyone can succeed, but then what is left unspoken but implied is that when the sea turns stormy, the actual pilot emerges. That aphorism can be applied to the Christian life since when everything goes along without persecution or societal rejection, it is easy to say you are a Christian. It has been so in the U. S. for a very long time as we have been considered a Christian country since our inception. But now, everything the country has been is being challenged, and Christianity is under attack from almost every quarter. In this growing and increasingly unhospitable environment, as Jude put it, we see those willing to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” emerging as true Christians. They are the real pilots in the now tumultuous seas. They are the ones for whom Christ was crucified and resurrected, and is now sitting at the Father’s right hand, the chief cornerstone of their being, the only thing that matters in the end.

In this challenging environment, one must ask, what is the best way to contend for this “once delivered” Christian faith? Will the slide into secularism, paganism, and worse be brought to heel by scholarship and argument? If that were true, Jesus would have been able to convert the Pharisees and Sadducees since they could not counter his arguments. If this were true, he would not have been put to death by the Sanhedrin using the Roman Procurator Pilate as their vehicle of execution. The argument only lays bare the deceit rebellious hearts use to hide their sin; it does not cure their rebellion. As Blaze Pascal once said, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, not of philosophers or scholars.”

So, we do not win this struggle by wielding the weapons of the world: power, money, or force. Instead, those things corrupt the mission and witness of the Church rather than further it, as we see in the so-called prosperity movement and preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen. Even scholarship and argument fail to make any headway, as Paul found out at the Areopagus in Athens. Most of his audience thought him mad. No, it is what he did later in Corinth that succeeded. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:4,5: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” It is the power of God working in the lives of those proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, the message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all those who would receive Christ that affects a change.

Arguments can be countered or outright dismissed, but the power of God cuts through all of that. Even the religious leaders of Israel could not deny the power of God that Jesus demonstrated everywhere he went. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, tells Jesus in John 3:2: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” When Jesus sent out his disciples in Luke 9:1- 6 to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand, he gave them the power and authority to cast out all demons and heal all diseases.

No, we do not wield the weapons of this world. The weapons we fight with are the divine power of God to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God by wielding the power of God. Yes, like the Lord’s disciples, we cast out demons, heal the sick, and bring miracles into people’s everyday lives where the power of God cannot be denied. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom; the faith once delivered unto the saints, and the gates of hell cannot withstand it.

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