Freedom # 9: Knowing When to Sit and When to Stand
About five hundred years ago, Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses against the error of the Roman Catholic Church and nailed them to the door of the WittenbergChurch. When Luther was called before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms (pronounced Vorms) he hoped to defend his position. Charles insisted that he recant. Instead, the story goes that Luther spoke his famous words, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” Luther asserted that his conscience was captive to the Word of God and that he could not go against conscience. Already excommunicated by Rome, Luther stood for the Word of God. He continued, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason, for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves; I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Since the beginning of the Fundamentalist Movement over a century ago, the phrase,”Taking a stand” has been used to describe one who courageously stands on a Biblical doctrine which is under attack by the Liberals. It is a Biblical term. In Ephesians 6:11-13 twice Paul urges Christians to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Again in II Thessalonians 2:15 Christians are urged to stand fast by the traditions Paul had taught or written to them. This is not a command to follow church traditions. Rather, Paul, an Apostle personally taught by Christ, wrote and spoke by inspiration of God. We are to follow the infallible Word of God as taught by the Apostle Paul as well as the other Apostles.
The doctrines designated as the Fundamentals of the Faith include:
The verbal, plenary (meaning entire and complete) inspiration of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation
By that we mean that God breathed His very words into the minds of the human authors of the biblical manuscripts so that, using their own vocabularies and styles of writing, they wrote without error: including doctrine, history, science or wisdom for life. The Bible is absolutely pure and trustworthy as the very Word of God.
The deity and trinity of God. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The accuracy and veracity of all the miracles listed in the Bible including:
the creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days,
the world wide flood in Noah’s day that covered the entire earth and drowned every air breathing person and animal, except for the survivors on Noah’s ark and
the resurrection of Christ’s body from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb. For a solution to that supposed “three day, three night” problem, go to the article on “Jesus, Our Passover”, under the RESURRECTION category.
the virgin birth of Christ, which made possible Jesus’ deity as well as His full humanity.
Christ’s blood atonement There is no salvation from sin apart from faith in His shed blood.
Christ bodily resurrection from the dead and His ascension back to Heaven.
Salvation by the grace of God, apart from our works, through faith in Jesus shed blood alone
His bodily return to this earth in power and great glory to set up His kingdom and judge the world
Heaven and Hell, the eternal abode of the saved and the lost
There is no salvation except in the God of the Bible. The one who claims to be saved, but denies the truth of God’s Word is not saved. If he denies these truths as a Bible teacher, he is a false teacher under the condemnation of God. On the Fundamentals of the Faith there is no room for compromise. We must take a stand for these.
On everything in the Bible, but the fundamentals of the faith, there is room for differences of interpretation and opinion. On such issues we may remain seated. We may discuss and debate them; but we must not divide the church over them.
Those who hold to the Fundamentals of the Faith are commanded to have no fellowship nor attempt to serve God in cooperation with those who deny these Fundamentals. See my series on SEPARATION for more on this topic.
However, we are encouraged to have fellowship with those with whom we differ with doctrinally, as long as those differences do not extend to the Fundamentals of the Faith.
Years ago, our oldest son, who had graduated from BobJonesUniversity, wrote his younger brother who was still a student there. In his letter he counseled him to “know when to stand up and when to sit down” on issues. That is, know what is worth fighting for and know the areas that are not worth a fight.
This brings us to Galatians 2:11-21 and a doctrinal conflict where the Apostle Paul had to stand up to the Apostle Peter over a major Fundamental of the Faith. Peter, one of the leading apostles, went to Troas where he met Paul and some of his gentile converts. There he enjoyed fellowship with these converts by sharing a meal with them.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and who should appear but some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem. Peter was embarrassed and chagrined to be caught eating and enjoying fellowship with these gentile Christians.
He did a shameful, cowardly thing. He withdrew himself from the gentiles, not wanting the Jewish leaders to see him enjoying fellowship with gentiles. He feared what those Jewish leaders would think of him. Peter’s example caused other Jews: including Paul’s missionary friend Barnabas, as well as some others to join with Peter in this shameful, cowardly act.
Paul, in righteous indignation, immediately confronted Peter publicly and said in my paraphrased words of Galatians 2:14 “Peter, if you being a Jew are now living as a Christian Gentile in freedom from the Jewish ceremonial laws, why are you compelling the Gentiles by your example to live their lives as Jews under the ceremonial laws?
How did the Apostle Peter take this rebuke from the Apostle Paul? Evidently he was humbled and repented of his duplicity. Evidently there was no broken fellowship with Paul. Later on Peter referred to the Apostle Paul in II Peter 3:15 as “our beloved brother Paul” and referred to the wisdom God had given him in the writing of his epistles.
May God help us to know when to stand for a doctrinal issue and when to sit and avoid conflict over lesser issues that are not worth a fight.
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