building and contending
In describing the preparatory considerations needed for those who desire to follow him, the Lord Jesus Christ spake of the true principles of discipleship thus:
“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to build it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of any of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).
The comparison is that of building and contending. A man intending to build a tower must first consider the resources at his disposal, ensuring that he has the means to see the thing through to the desired end. Likewise, a king about to engage in war needs to ensure he has enough men to reasonably contend with his enemy – else midway through the conflict, he may find it needful to seek peace in order to survive. And these circumstances, according to our Lord, compare with those of the disciple seeking to serve him. Such a one needs to build – and also to contend in doing so. That which the obedient believer commits himself to building, is “the house of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth” (1Tim 3:15). The ecclesia then, is “a spiritual house”, made up of “lively stones” (1Pet 2:5), “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). And as such, it ought to be the Pillar and Ground of Truth – The Truth as revealed by God himself. This is that task that lies before every constituent member of the House therefore – to construct an ecclesial edifice of Truth; “building up themselves in their most holy faith” (Jude 20), that the Whole be an embodiment of the Spirit of Truth; a suitable residing place of the Most High, following a transformation to Immortality.
But important though the work of edification is; that alone is not enough. The Apostle warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2Tim 4:4), These teachers, elected by those who “love to have it so” are wolves seeking to consume the admiration and respect of the flock, promising “liberty” (2Pet 2:19) from the rigidity and straitness of the Way of Life. Yet, they are themselves but “the servants of corruption”, and being therefore blind leaders, their followers shall be led along the new broader way of man’s devising into the pit, from which there is no deliverance. Having turned their ears away from hearing the Truth, they lose the Hope the Truth gives, and shall perish in their own corruption.
This being the case, for the faithful servant of Christ, the work of building is not enough. There is also a need to contend against those who seek to hinder the building, who seek to transform the “Pillar” of Truth into a stronghold of Falsehood. As in the days of Nehemiah, those who labour in the Lord’s work, whilst building, must be ready for battle: “with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded” (Neh 4:18). Like these builders of old, we must build, yet being girded with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17) – and by reason of use – be ready to use it at an instant, to “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2Cor 10). So the Spirit exhorts the believer, as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” remaining unentangled by the affairs of this life, to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
So then, it is needful to both build and contend. There are those who seek to alter the course of this magazine, telling us that we must build only. The Truth will never be lost – we must occupy our time with edifying one another, rather than to oppose one another. So much is true – but the reason why the Truth is never lost, is because it has so pleased the Father to preserve the Way of Life through the labours of his Cherubic Servants, who steadfastly contend against the thorns of apostasy, being fearless of their barbs in the knowledge that the cause is a just one, sanctioned and required by their Lord. Conversely a minority appear to delight in controversy, and would have us become wholly devoted to contention, engaging in no other work, but to resist the Apostates. But such surely need reminding that the primary duty is to build; and as in Nehemiah’s day, the purpose of our earnest contention, is to prevent that work from being hindered. No good can come from those who merely oppose; the house needs to be strengthened, and built up in the Holy Faith also. Both activities are needful – and though one is most frowned upon by those imbibed with the spirit of liberality and toleration which prevails in our day, the rewards of the labours exerted will make it all worthwhile. In our day, those who “contend for the faith” are branded “unloving”, whereas the woolly thinkers who serve up dainty delights of smooth words, “desiring conditions of peace” with the enemy, are held in honour. But such does nothing to edify the body in the doctrines of Truth, as will be revealed at the last.
So then, as those who have taken upon themselves the cross of Christ, have we considered our own circumstance, to ensure that we have enough of what it takes to see the building through? And to win the warfare? What does it take? Faith. Faith is that which ensures the victory (1Jno 5:4), and is the motivating force of our building (Jude 20). Gideon had few men against many, yet through Faith he overcame. Nehemiah worked with labourers who were weak, by comparison to their adversaries. Yet through Faith, the walls were built, and the city made secure. Faith is that which give God pleasure (Heb 11:6), and where God is well pleased, He will give the desired end.
This then, is the course adopted by The Christadelphian Waymark – to build up those who need strengthening, and to contend earnestly for the faith. And as we attend to this task, we are determined not be distracted by those who dispute our work with human reasonings to no profit (cp Neh 6:3), but endeavouring to rightly divide the Word of Truth, we seek to be faithful workmen who need not be ashamed before our God (1Tim 2:15).