By Dr Paul M Elliott
Part four of a series. Read part three.
The only Biblical motivation for confronting apostasy is love for Christ and His church, and the only standard for judging apostasy is the truth of God’s Word.
In this series our theme is an examination of five keys to a Biblically loving response to apostasy. In this article we shall focus on key number two: You need to be absolutely clear about the Biblical motivation for the proper response to apostasy. The proper response, the Biblical response, is based upon genuine Christian love – agape love.
No Motivation But Christ
We have already discussed this, but I believe some additional points are important. The Biblical basis for the proper response to apostasy must be the fact that you love Jesus Christ, and that you love Christ’s people. If Jesus Christ is not precious to you, if His Word is not precious to you, if the faith is not precious to you, if the true faith is not something that you believe must be defended because of your love for Christ and for the body of Christ, then you are setting off on the wrong foot in sounding the alarm about apostasy, and you will stumble and fall.
If you have any other motivation – self-promotion, pride, vengeance, indeed anything of the self, anything of the flesh – then you are acting on the basis of the wrong motivation. You must expose apostasy, you must sound the alarm, by putting your reputation on the line. You must be willing to leave the outcome in God’s hands. You must be willing for other people to think evil of you, for the sake of Christ. What did Jesus say, in Matthew 5:11-12? He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Notice two things in particular in Jesus’ statement. He said, “Blessed are you when they shall revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you” – and say it falsely.. You must not give those who promote apostasy a legitimate reason to revile you. Acting based on the wrong motive, on a prideful motive, on a fleshly motive, will give them a reason to speak evil of you. Don’t give them that reason. Confront apostasy with the right motivation, with agape love. Love for Christ and His truth. Love for Christ and His church.
Notice also that Jesus said that suffering the ridicule of others because you acted on the basis of the right motivation is suffering for His sake. Christ is the issue. His truth is the issue. That is a vital element in making the right response, the Biblically loving response, to apostasy.
No Standard But His Word
Just as there is only one right motivation for responding to apostasy, there is also only one proper standard for responding to apostasy, and that is the standard of Truth. The only standard for identifying apostasy, and the only standard for confronting apostasy, is God’s Word. What God’s Word actually says, not necessarily what some person or group may say that it says.
In Isaiah chapter 8, the Lord challenged the apostate house of Judah with these words. He said, “Go ‘to the law and to the testimony! If anyone does not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in him.’ ” In other words, “Go to the Word of God alone as your authority – nothing else. If anyone does not want to be subject to the authority of the Word of God alone, it is because there is no light in him.”
The idea in the original language is quite graphic. It means that in the mind of such a person, who does not want to be subject to God’s Word, dawn hasn’t come yet. Light hasn’t come yet. In other words, if someone consistently does not want to be subject to the authority of the Word of God alone, you have every reason to think that such a person is not truly a believer. Being willing to be subject to God’s Word is essential evidence of saving faith in Christ. Lack of that willingness is evidence that someone does not have saving faith in Christ. Now those are strong words. But this is God’s Word.
In First Thessalonians chapter two, the Apostle Paul commended the church at Thessalonica with these words, beginning at verse 13: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” They welcomed the Word of God. Light had come to their souls.
Scripture-driven Christians are committed to the authority of the Word of God. It is a commitment that comes only because there is light in the soul. Commitment to the authority of the Word is the church’s starting point for everything. The people and leaders of a Scripture-driven church are committed to Scripture alone as their authority. It is their sole and final authority. They are truly “People of the Book.”
Truth, Not People or Personalities, Is the Issue
If you are going to respond in a proper, loving way to apostasy within the church, then Truth must be the issue. Truth – what the Word of God says – must be the focus, not persons or personalities. Don’t let pride get in the way. The Lord condemns pride. “When pride comes, then comes shame. But with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). Don’t let any desire that you might have for vengeance get in the way. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19). He is the One who decides how and when an apostate’s sins will be dealt with, if a person persists in apostasy. In other words, don’t let “you” become the issue. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Don’t let persons or personalities become the issue. Truth must be the issue. God’s Word must be the issue.
So to sum up what we have seen thus far: The first of the five keys to a Biblically loving response to apostasy is to properly identify apostasy, and the second of the five keys is to have the right basis for your response. That basis is the motivation of love for Christ and His church, and the infallible standard of the truth of God’s Word.
Next: Why All Other Responses to Apostasy are Wrong
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