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Picture of a shield with the words 'Fight Valiantly'

Fight Valiantly! Thirty Theses on Contending

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 4 Apr 2019

In our Lent series on fighting valiantly for the faith, Lee Gatiss summarises the biblical doctrine of contending for the gospel, in thirty short propositions. Watch the video instalment for today on our YouTube channel.

Having surveyed the key passages in the last few chapters, we are now in a position to bring everything together. I think we can sum up the biblical doctrine by saying that contending is the vital spiritual discipline of applying and promoting the gospel lovingly in a context of opposition. Contending for the faith is the vital spiritual discipline of lovingly applying and promoting the gospel in a context of opposition.

Given the lessons we have seen so far, the Bible’s teaching in this area seems to be encapsulated by suggesting that contending is not a mere worldly exercise, but an application of the gospel itself both personally and corporately. It must involve boundaries and saying no to various things, as true love always does; but this ought to be done in a way that is courteous and godly, consistent with what the gospel tells us about ourselves. All four of these pillars are vital for biblical contending, and to forget any of these aspects of the task would hamstring our efforts.

We could further expand this definition with thirty theses or propositions which unpack the indicatives and imperatives of this spiritual discipline. Why not ponder these slowly, and pray each one into your own heart and situation, before we move on to think further about specific applications in the following days? You may also like to ponder how your church can be better equipped to understand and contend in each of these areas.

Contending is not a worldly exercise

1. We do not contend against flesh and blood, but against demonic powers (Ephesians 6:12).
2. We do not merely contend against something but for the faith, for the gospel (Jude 3; Philippians 4:3).
3. We do not contend in a violent way for Jesus’s kingdom as if it were an earthly kingdom (John 18:36).

Contending is applying the gospel
4. We contend by proclaiming the gospel (Colossians 1:28-29).
5. We contend by praying (Romans 15:30).
6. We contend against sin in our own lives, which false teaching uses to get a grip on us (Hebrews 12:4; Romans 16:18; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:6, 4:3-4).
7. We contend side-by-side with other Christians in a way that is worthy of the gospel, united and unfazed by opposition (Philippians 1:27-30).
8. We contend by rejoicing in the Lord, focusing on the positive, and prayerfully practicing what Paul preached and lived (Philippians 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:15), with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7).
9. We contend by not conforming to error but continuing in the truth and remaining stable (2 Timothy 3:10, 14, 4:5; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Peter 3:17), that is, not changing our gospel or our moral and ethical applications of it, which certain people would like us to (Galatians 1:8-9; Jude 3).
10. We contend by building up the church in the faith, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and growing in grace and knowledge (Jude 20; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 Timothy 4:16).
11. We contend by having mercy on those who doubt and saving those who wander (Jude 22-23; James 5:19-20).

Contending must include drawing lines
12. We contend against ambitious worldliness, and immoral paganism rising up from within the church, from which we must differentiate ourselves (Acts 20:29-30; 1-2 Corinthians; James 3-4)
13. We contend by avoiding those who persistently cause divisions by false doctrine and living (Romans 16:17-20; Titus 3:10-11).
14. We contend by removing immoral professing Christians from the church and not associating or eating with them (1 Corinthians 5).
15. We contend by refusing to be in partnership with idolatrous or immoral people who deny that their deceptive words bring God’s judgment (Ephesians 5:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 John 2:26-27).
16. We contend by not listening to false gospels (Galatians 1:8-9) and carefully avoiding gospels based on purely human philosophy and tradition (Colossians 2).
17. We contend by preventing false teachers from having positions of responsibility and teaching, where we have the authority (1 Timothy 1:3; Titus 1:11).
18. We contend by teaching people to distinguish truth from error clearly (1 Timothy 4; Titus 1:9, 13; Jude), testing the spirits and listening to apostolic teaching (1 John 4).
19. We contend by steering clear of charlatans and the irreverent babble which leads people astray doctrinally and morally (Numbers 16; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:1-9).
20. We contend by not receiving or supporting deceivers and thereby taking part in their wicked works (2 John).
21. We contend by not tolerating heresy and immorality within the church (Revelation 2).

Contending means godly engagement
22. We contend with humility, gentleness, and persuasion (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
23. We contend with sober-mindedness, enduring persecution, suffering, and opposition (2 Timothy 3:12; 4:5).
24. We contend by engaging with opponents carefully, gently, kindly, and patiently (2 Timothy 2:22-25).
25. We contend by prayerfully hoping for and encouraging repentance rather than by being unduly hasty or dismissively quarrelsome (2 Thessalonians 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 3:10).
26. We contend by showing integrity, dignity, gentleness and courtesy that puts our opponents to shame for its godliness (Titus 2:7-8, 3:2; Philippians 1:28).
27. We contend by considering and imitating good examples from former leaders so that we are not led astray by strange and novel teachings (Hebrews 13:7-9).
28. We contend patiently as we look to God to rescue us and punish the wicked (2 Peter 2:9-10; Philippians 1:28; Revelation 2).
29. We contend with meekness and courtesy not contentiousness and ambitious quarrelling, which is unspiritual and demonic (James 3-4).
30. We contend by imitating good rather than evil tactics (3 John).

Catch up with the whole series 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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