Brochures are now available and bookings are now open for the 2019 Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference, which will be held at Kings Park Conference Centre from 27th-29th August.
The Church of England is always in crisis and now is no exception, so at this year’s conference we will be considering historical and contemporary Anglicanism, as we seek to prepare ourselves to meet the challenges of the future. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is vital for evangelicals in the Church of England to work together to contend for the gospel of Christ.
At this year’s conference we will be exploring what it means to be Anglican and evangelical, with talks from Andrew Towner on “What is Anglicanism and why does it matter?” and “A Brief History of Evangelicals in the C of E” from me. Lee Gatiss will give us an exposition of Titus 1, “The Trustworthy Word”. On the middle day, we welcome John Dunnett of CPAS who will speak on “Preparing for 2020: same sex marriage and the CofE”. John will also be part of our panel discussion on “What is the future for Anglican evangelicals?” later that day, along with Fiona Gibson, Amanda Robbie, Lee Gatiss and Andrew Towner.
In our continuing series looking at what the New Testament says about false teaching, Lee Gatiss expounds Ephesians 5 on our eternal destiny. Watch the video podcast episode for today on our YouTube channel.
The link between the eternal destiny of false teachers and our present relationship to them is made abundantly clear in Ephesians. Having spoken of how immorality and covetousness is out of place amongst God’s people at the beginning of Ephesians 5, Paul explains why that is, by showing what happens to those who pursue this way of life. He writes:
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” (Ephesians 5:5-7).
Paul preached and explained the kingdom of God (e.g. Acts 14:22, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, 31), and the idea of inheriting God’s kingdom was a common apostolic way of referring to our eternal destination or reward as believers (James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 15:40; Galatians 5:21; cf. receiving a kingdom, Hebrews 12:25). To say that someone would not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God is therefore the most serious thing Paul could say about them.
As we continue to work through what the New Testament says about fighting heresy, Lee Gatiss looks today at Paul’s anathemas against false gospels. Watch the video podcast for today on our YouTube channel.
Paul uses a striking image of cutting people off from fellowship in Galatians 1:8-9. He says:
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
There is a givenness to the gospel message which means it cannot be revoked or supplemented or enhanced or transformed by additional teaching insights, even from angels. If anyone tries to do this, they are under a curse, says Paul.
This curse, or anathema, is a curse from God which puts someone outside of God’s sphere of blessing. Paul is invoking a curse from God, or asking God to curse someone, rather than telling the Galatians what to do with the person who is preaching contrary to the gospel. He is not directly saying they should be separated from the church, as such. However, the implication is that if they are outside God’s blessing, they are outside the church, since their gospel will not lead to glory but to perdition.
In our Lent series on contending for the faith, Lee Gatiss looks at the command to separate ourselves from the world. The whole series is also available as a video podcast on our YouTube channel.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, we have a passage that is often used to urge people to leave their churches or denominations. Paul writes,
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.’
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
This is strong, binary language. It speaks to what our partnerships and associations ought to be, so one can see why some think it is about pursuing doctrinal purity and leaving apostate churches. However, as Paul Barnett rightly says, “There is no call here, as is often claimed, for Christian to separate from Christian for doctrinal or ethical reasons.” It is about “separation from paganism” and not “withdrawal from Christians with whom doctrinal differences exist.”
Lee Gatiss continues our Lent series on contending for the faith with a look at Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church. Watch the video podcast of this episode on our YouTube channel.
The whole of 1 Corinthians is a long letter dealing with many big issues of heresy, apostasy, and schism in the church. They were clearly a confused and messed up bunch. That’s why this letter is so instructive for the church beyond Corinth too, and why it is in scripture — because we are all messed up and often confused as well! It might be best to focus on one particular issue in chapter 5, because this highlights the seriousness of the issues for Paul and the early church, and is a strong example of the apostolic approach to dealing with false teaching and living.
Paul writes to instruct the Corinthians how to deal with flagrant sexual immorality in their midst. This is just one of a number of sins in Corinth which he addresses, but we are especially interested here not in the issue itself per se but in Paul’s approach to contending against it. There are Christians in Corinth who “proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it” (as Isaiah 3:9 puts it). The apostle seems appalled that they haven’t realised how serious this is, so the problem is not simply the immorality itself but their toleration of it and their theological rationalisations for it. He condemns them for condoning this sin and commands them to sort it out:
“When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord…. I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5)
“Judge not!” (Matthew 7:1) has become such a popular slogan, that it comes as a surprise to many to learn that we are commanded to judge those inside the church. Verse 2 and verse 13 both say that they should get rid of the immoral person from the church.
Lee Gatiss explores the dangers and obstacles set in our way by false teachers. This Lent series is also available as a video podcast on our YouTube channel.
Paul concludes his letter to the Romans with a warning to “watch out!” He presents the Christian life as a steeplechase, with hurdles and ditches for us to avoid along the way:
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:17-20).
Notice how Paul describes the false teaching and its effects. It causes divisions and creates obstacles, perhaps on issues of “the Law” which are discussed earlier in the letter. The Roman Christians are to keep an eye on and “avoid” people who do that, because such behaviour indicates that they are not serving the same Lord. So their interests and motives will be different.
The word for “avoid” here means to turn aside or bend away from them, and this is what the Romans are commanded to do. Our Lord likes to bring people together; these people enjoy dividing them into parties. They serve their own appetites (literally, their stomachs, as in Philippians 3:19) and try to get others to do the same. Your response, says Paul, is to be obedient to our Master, the Lord Christ, rather than to base instincts, looking forward to the eventual defeat of such evil and its dark lord, Satan. His defeat is mentioned here as an encouragement not to compromise in panic with God’s enemies.
Our readings this week reassure us that we should stand firm because God’s saving promises will never fail, however much we may doubt or be opposed.
The readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C) are Genesis 15:1-12 and 17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, and Luke 3:31-35.
You can follow along with these video expositions on the Lee on the Lectionary Facebook page. We also tweet the video link every Sunday morning at 6am for those who like a morning exposition of the word to begin the week. Follow us @churchsociety.
Lee Gatiss wonders how far we can imitate Jesus in the way we contend for the faith within the church. This Lent series is also available as a video podcast on our YouTube channel.
Jesus alerted his disciples that false doctrine and false teachers would arise within the church. He spoke of thieves, robbers, strangers, hired hands, and wolves in John 10, for example. So it ought to come as no surprise to us when this happens. As the Anglican Reformers also warned, alluding to Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 13:24-30 and 37-43, “Satan, who is the chief enemy of the Christian name, infuses such pestilential heresy (like weeds and tares) into the saving seed of the divine Scriptures, which is scattered about in the church of God, that the total number of these fireballs by which the church is inflamed and continues to burn miserably can hardly be counted, as the devil daily piles up even more firewood in the shape of false opinions.” (Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum)
The New Testament therefore also addresses what our response should be in the face of such heretical guerrillas and their fiery grenades of gangrenous poison. This is part of what people usually mean when they talk about “contending.” Often what we refer to in this regard is controversy, not contending as such, though they can be related. Not every controversy is worth contending about, and many are simply empty quarrels about words, that we are explicitly told not to engage in.
Jesus had to face a great deal of opposition: from slanderous rumours (e.g. Matthew 11:18-19); from legalists (e.g. Matthew 12:1-14); from traditionalists (e.g. Matthew 15:1-9); from people demanding signs (e.g. Matthew 16:1-4); and from those who doubted even the idea of resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33). People tried to trick him and “entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15); and he faced Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, Herodians, and many other opponents, not to even mention the Romans.
He warned his disciples to beware of false teaching (Matthew 16:5-12) and pronounced multiple “Woes” on the behaviour of the hypocritical religious leaders of his day with their humanly devised standards of righteousness and their desire for greatness and honour (Matthew 23). He told his disciples that they too would be persecuted and opposed. In contending for the faith we are joining in something that Jesus himself endured. We walk in his footsteps.