Dear Church Family,
The eighth section of our newly adopted church covenant reads: “We will uphold and defend the doctrines of the faith against all who would come against them and, consequently, against the Word of God.”
Before we can really unpack this statement we need to define a few terms. In this context, to uphold means to confirm or support the doctrines of the faith when they are called into question. The doctrines of the faith are those beliefs our church holds as essential for proper fellowship between church members. For our church specifically, these doctrines are summarized in our statement of faith, which is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Historically, we as Southern Baptists have identified ourselves as people of the Book. There have been some over the years who have objected to the use of confessions and statements of faith alongside the Bible, saying things like, “No creed but the Bible!” While no doubt these Christians are well intentioned, confessions, creeds, statements of faith, etc. are meant only to make plain what we believe the Bible teaches. In other words, we shouldn’t include in these anything contrary to the Word of God. This explains why coming against our doctrines of the faith is coming against the Word of God itself.
This past Sunday morning as we looked at Amos 7:10-17 and this past Wednesday night as we looked at Galatians 1:6-10, we have been given two examples of the seriousness of coming against the Word of God. The judgment the Lord pronounced on Amaziah for doing so was horrendous and the judgment Paul pronounces for the same is even worse. The reason being, to come against the Word of God is to come against God Himself.
However, what’s interesting about the way both Amos and Paul defended the Word of God is that they did it with words—not swords. When someone opposes our beliefs, the answer is not to get bent out of shape. It’s not to yell at them or talk down to them. It’s not to go on a crusade or tirade. As I’ve quoted to you before from C.H. Spurgeon, we don’t need to defend a lion—we need to turn it loose. We turn it loose as it were through speaking the truth about what the Bible says in a way that communicates our love for the person who has come against it.
This implies we will have a level of understanding about what we believe and why we believe it. It also assumes we will seek to explain it to them within our own ability. Peter is writing to the whole church and not just pastors when he writes, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:13-17). Paul says in Colossians 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” He also writes, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Do you hear the common thread woven throughout all three of these passages? We mustn’t view opposition to our faith primarily as an obstacle, but as an opportunity. Though it is deathly serious to come against the Word of God, our patiently merciful God so often uses the opportunities created by that opposition to open the eyes that were once blind to the truth. In light of this reality, how wrong it would be for us to write them off. How foolish it would be for us to get snarky and befuddled. As we support and defend what we believe based on what the Bible teaches with gentleness, respect, graciousness, and kindness, God will be glorified and His Word will go to work.