‘Contending for the faith’, writes Lee Gatiss in Evangelicals Now, is a phrase often used by Christians, but not always with a clear sense of its meaning.
Gatiss offers a helpful, if hard-hitting, summary of ‘the biblical doctrine of contending’:-
1. Contending is not a worldly exercise
- We do not contend against flesh and blood, but against demonic powers.
- We do not merely contend against something but for the faith, for the gospel.
- We do not contend in a violent way for Jesus’s kingdom as if it were an earthly kingdom.
2. Contending is applying the gospel
- We contend by proclaiming the gospel. We contend by praying. We contend against sin in our own lives, which false teaching uses to get a grip on us.
- We contend side-by-side with other Christians in a way that is worthy of the gospel, united and unfazed by opposition.
- We contend by rejoicing in the Lord, focusing on the positive and prayerfully practicing what Paul preached and lived.
- We contend not by conforming to error, but continuing in the truth and remaining stable – that is, not changing our gospel or our moral and ethical applications of it, which certain people would like us to.
- We contend by building up the church in the faith, keeping ourselves in the love of God and growing in grace and knowledge.
- We contend by having mercy on those who doubt and saving those who wander.
3. Contending must include drawing lines
- We contend against ambitious worldliness and immoral paganism rising up from within the church, from which we must differentiate ourselves.
- We contend by avoiding those who persistently cause divisions by false doctrine and living.
- We contend by removing immoral professing Christians from the church and not associating or eating with them.
- We contend by refusing to be in partnership with idolatrous people who deny that their deceptive words bring God’s judgment.
- We contend by not listening to false gospels and by carefully avoiding gospels based on purely human philosophy and tradition.
- We contend by teaching people to distinguish truth from error clearly, testing the spirits and listening to apostolic teaching.
- We contend by steering clear of charlatans and the irreverent babble which leads people astray doctrinally and morally.
- We contend by not receiving or supporting deceivers and thereby taking part in their wicked works.
4. Contending means godly engagement
- We contend with humility, gentleness, and persuasion.
- We contend with sober-mindedness, enduring persecution, suffering and opposition.
- We contend by engaging with opponents carefully, gently, kindly and patiently.
- We contend by prayerfully hoping for and encouraging repentance, rather than by being unduly hasty or dismissively quarrelsome.
- We contend by showing integrity, dignity, gentleness and courtesy that puts our opponents to shame for its godliness.
- We contend by considering and imitating good examples from former leaders, so that we are not led astray by strange and novel teachings.
- We contend patiently as we look to God to rescue us and punish the wicked.
- We contend with meekness and courtesy, not contentiousness and ambitious quarrelling, which is unspiritual and demonic.
- We contend by imitating good rather than evil tactics.
(The summary above is in Gatiss’ own words although, as he says, each point is derived from Scripture.)
Gattis concludes: ‘Each of these aspects is vital for biblical contending. So, are you contending biblically?’