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Fight Valiantly! Equipping the saints

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 10 Apr 2019

It is essential that ordinary Christians are equipped to fight the good fight, by knowing the Bible, says Lee Gatiss in today’s instalment of our Lent series. Watch today's video instalment on our YouTube channel.

Contending is not a worldly exercise but applying the gospel. So the first thing we must do is prayerfully work hard to promote the gospel, striving to make it known in preaching and teaching, in writing and speaking, and in all our public engagements and acts.

Reaching out to the lost with the unchanging gospel is the first duty of Christians who want to contend for the faith. We must also build up the church in its most holy faith, and help to send out workers into the harvest field, to prayerfully pioneer, establish, and secure healthy local churches. This is how we contend for the gospel together. Let it therefore be our aim, as the 1662 Ordinal puts it, “to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish [forewarn], to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.”

One thing we must certainly do is ensure that all our congregations are equipped to know the truth and refute error. That was the great reason behind the efforts of William Tyndale (1494-1536) in translating the scriptures into English during the Reformation. “I had perceived by experience,” he said, “that it was impossible to establish the lay-people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text.” He could read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, and had come to know the liberating truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He longed for his fellow-countrymen to see this themselves in God’s word. If only they could read it, and see the context! A supposedly learned theologian once told him that it would be better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s. So little did they esteem the Bible in those days. Tyndale, full of godly zeal, replied that if God spared him he would cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than that theologian.

Those “words of health and of eternal life” as he called them could alone bring us into true fellowship with God. “The Scripture is a light, to show us the true way,” he said. Yet the enemies of truth were quenching it, with smokey sophistry and tiresome traditions, “juggling with the text,” as he put it, and “expounding it in such sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if thou see the process, order, and meaning thereof.”  There’s a very contemporary ring to some of what he says on this subject.

This is what moved him to translate the New Testament. If people cannot read and check for themselves what they are being told about the way of salvation by false teachers, then they are wide open to deception and what is nowadays called “fake news.” Once they see the authentic word with their own eyes and hear it with their own ears, they can detect a fraud more quickly and easily.

So Tyndale was motivated in his dangerous ministry by a love for the lost sheep of England, and a desire to protect them from wolves. These “false prophets” were beguiling churchgoers with their dodgy interpretations of the Bible, contrary to the meaning of the text, he said. They were twisting the Scripture violently “unto their carnal and fleshly purpose”, Tyndale claimed. They were persecuting others in “defending of lewd imaginations and fantasies” in order “to satisfy their filthy lusts.” If only people could read the Bible for themselves, they would see how outrageous such “wolfish tyranny” was!

Nowadays, we have a plethora of different translations and access to the Bible in our own language in print, in audio formats, on our phones and tablets, and online. Yet are we using it and applying it for the purpose it was given, and equipping others to do so too?

Questions for Reflection
1. What examples of “twisting the scriptures” have you seen from false teachers?
2. How can ordinary churchgoers be better equipped to refute the major heresies of today?
3. Why do we tend not to equate the everyday application and promotion of the gospel with “contending”?

You can find the whole Lent series of blogposts and links to the video editions here.

Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society and the editor of Gospel Flourishing in a Time of Confusion, the latest book from Church Society.

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