15 March 2010

The church militant?

by Phil Johnson

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"

ost evangelicals don't really think they are at war against false religion and spiritual lies. Just read the books and blogs of the people who talk most about being "missional" and "culturally relevant"—and you might get the impression that friendship with the world is the number one goal of the church. It's not. It is a grievous sin to be avoided. "Friendship with the world is enmity with God." The church is supposed to be an army waging war against worldly values—not Hollywood's Welcome Wagon.

Churchmen in these postmodern times seem absolutely terrified by the militant language in Scripture, frightened about the prospect of contending earnestly for the faith. After all, you can't earnestly contend for the faith in rationalistic and postmodern universities and keep any kind of academic respectability.

Christians today think they have a better idea: Why not serve high tea and buttered scones to our ideological adversaries and have a polite dialogue while we look for common ground so that we can affirm one another?

That seems so much more "civilized" and "charitable" doesn't it?

Why does the warfare metaphor have to be given so much emphasis?

The answer, of course, is that Scripture itself gives prominence to this truth. We really are in a war. It's not a literal struggle against flesh and blood. It's actually something much greater, far more dangerous, and infinitely more serious than that, because what's at stake in this war is eternal. Ephesians 6:12: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Souls are perishing in this conflict—passing into eternal judgment where there is no hope of redemption. It's a somber, profound reality. That truth is not at all consistent with the amusement-park atmosphere so many sc-century evangelical churches have tried to cultivate. It's not in any sense harmonious with the spirit of our age. But every faithful Christian must be a warrior.

Phil's signature


Jeff said...

So many compromise the Word of God. Makes me wonder if they are truly a child of God or themselves just cheap imitation.

Joab said...

I'm all for tea, scones and polite dialogue, but within the framework of adhering to the Lord's commands and the resulting doctrines that emanate from them.

Good post Phil, especially the reminder that souls are perishing while we dither over worldly decorum.

Anonymous said...

I DO NOT compromise the word ,but rather I stand UPON the world and I am not relative completely to the world only to the point to where I am not culturally offensive.

Today I had arguments like words in themselves are ambiguous, arbitrary ,and abstract. I don't know how to deal with that argument except to say that What Christians were saying about the text 2000 years ago we still say about it today.


Another argument that was spouted was religion was created by man. So I said then if religion was created by man why is there similarity between NOAH and every single tribe that sacrificed in this post flood era. If it is created they why are there not MAJOR creative variations like there are in different genre's of music? Why did the HEBREW faith preach saved by grace through faith not by works and every other religion preached saved by works through continuing to work?

I didn't say it like that ,and I articulated it so much better here but that is what I was trying to say. The bible was my basis on these arguments I went to the text that proclaims it self to be true which other text might ,but other texts have inconsistency. There is no way that all of the miracles in the bible could come true like they have. It is mathmatically impossible but it happened because of the truth of the word of God.

WE MUST PREACH the word. How are they to be saved if they do not hear? Salvation comes by the hearing of God's word God uses the word to convict man to repent . It is by God we are saved not by our works.

This whole idea that we are in a battle is forgone from the Catholic church. The Catholic church thinks we should get a long with the world. I am not afraid to tell someone their theology is off. It is just the way that I do it which gets me in trouble. I believe we should have tact when approaching people,but we do not distort the truth. If that makes us militant then we are militant.

Unknown said...

I find myself engaged in spiritual warfare from time to time and am often quite damaged from it. Sadly, lots of the damaged comes from rusted-on Christians in the church who use the 'compromise with the world' argument as their warcry.

olan strickland said...

Most evangelicals don't really think they are at war against false religion and spiritual lies.

That's because most evangelicals aren't! Most are at peace with false religion and spiritual lies. They are tired of the church being known for what it stands against (which means they haven't read and understood Ephesians 6:10-17) and are more than ready to sign a peace treaty with all ideological adversaries of the truth.

David Rudd said...

1 peter 2:11 teaches us that while we are in the world, we are different from it and we are to abstain from worldliness.

phil does well to point out one of the great errors of the church, those who are living in the world also live in worldliness.

just as dangerous is the opposite error, the assumption that abstaining from worldliness means abstaining from the world.

David said...

Why fight. I have my iPhone, HDTV, laptop, job and 401K, and happy family with kids in school and wife.

As you can see, I'm happy to sit in the city gate and be internally vexed like Lot, while not feeling it strong enough to get up out of my seat. Unless I see two angelic strangers approaching, I'll likely stay seated.

donsands said...

"Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity."

The true Church needs to one. And the Lord prayed for that very thing:

"“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

The Holy Spirit makes us one in the truth, His Word is truth, and one in love, for Christ more than any other, and for our neighbors, and even our enemies.

Wamalo said...


In a previous church I attended they were involved in and promoted a few inter-faith social justice initiatives. When I questioned this the argument used was that it was another avenue for sharing the gospel. When I asked for the rough percentage of compassion vs. proclamation I was told that was a good question that the leadership was wrestling with. When I asked how many people had been saved through these initiatives an example could not be provided. I have a strong aversion to these initiatives for certain reasons. Although I am pretty sure how you'd respond I am interested in how you view these types of initiatives.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Phil, you're right of course. But here's the way I see the lie packaged a lot of times: "The world" is defined as the establishment, anything that is associated with a traditional or (worse yet) conservative political mindset. The cause of the church is to war against these things, which just happens to always (conveniently) put the liberal church movement in step with whatever the liberal establishment happens to be championing these days.
Jim Wallis and his ilk would be a great example of this.
So, how one defines "the world" defines whether one is at enmity with it.

By the way, personally I do not agree with the definition of "the world" that people like Wallis buy into. I am just illustrating why they could read this blog post and not be affected by it.

Zack Skrip said...

Olan, I agree! Most evangelical Christians aren't at war. This was actually something I just wrote about. I found that my joy (as in my Christian only-joy-that-matters kinda joy) is directly dependent on living like I am in battle. You can read it here. Thanks for posting this Phil.

Kurt said...

For me it is sometimes a challenge to be at war without being warlike in my behavior towards others.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Zack,

Read your post. And I definitely hear what you're saying.

I also know some/many Christians who would recoil at your recent epiphany.

They're all about the "positive" aspects of following Jesus.

Anyways, soldier on.

Nash Equilibrium said...

K-love: "positive and encouraging!"

Warring isn't positive; sorry, can't have any of that!

Death or Glory Toad said...

My biggest challenge is keeping myself from perpetuating the opposition in this war.

I overlook or avoid compromises in my desire to avoid conflict or offense. Whish, of course, is compromise.

I need to sharpen up my Sword and polish up my armor, methinks.

(word verification: warric)

Anonymous said...

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34).

Does not fit the "Passive Meek and Mild Jesus" fosted upon us by the wordly...neither does this:

"Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:15-16).

Dawn & Conway said...

Phil, let me first of all say i am not in anyway in favor of compromising the core doctrines of the faith. But, having just read this and viewing one of your videos i think you may be confusing beliefs with practice. For instance, your comments about us being dead to the fact that souls are perishing and so forth, when that is the reason many evangelicals are practicing some of these things you critisize. For instance, your problem with "cultural relevance". To me an example of cultural relevance would be using the internet and blogs as a tool for the church. Another example of cultural relevance: many Christians in Africa don't sit in there pew while the plate is being passed around. They dance their way to the front of the church with their offering because that is their way of celebrating God's goodness. It is a practice that is culturally relevant to them and as far as i know doesn't violate any truly Biblical doctrines. As for sitting down with our enemies over tea and scones, I'd like to know how many Hindus and Muslims you've been able to get to sit through one of your sermons. For the most part you can't just preach church jargon to them (even if it is the most scripturally sound and authoritative jargon you can muster)and expect them to consider the claims of Christ. Generally speaking Hindus and muslims have to get to know you and be able to trust you before they will allow you to speak to them about such things. And isn't it worth the effort? After all, they are perishing! Actually, I think you may be guilty of setting up straw men. You use sweeping generalizations about evangelicals an misrepresent their positions or practices. I know there are some out there who have gone soft and do things they shouldn't, but i dare say that you don't know the hearts and minds of "most" evangelicals. As for your comments i've seen/ heard elsewhere regarding the feminization of the church, among your complaints was something against being sensitive to people's pain. That does have place. Jesus thought so many times - it's called compassion. There are a lot of hurting people out there and merely correct doctrine won't heal them. It also take loving them as Jesus would. And as for your problem with "seeker sensitive" i don't know what to tell you there. I meet someone who's seeking - who's interested in the claims of Christ - yeah, sorry, but because they are perishing and i am commanded to do so i will be sensitive to that and do what i can to answer their questions and introduce them to Jesus Christ, and pray that the Holy Spirit will convince them of sin righteousness and judgment. I will plant and water and ask God to give the increase.

Sir Brass said...

Most 'evangelicals' have no true evangel that is truly evangelical spiritually, and most 'protestants' stand in protest against nothing.

Zack Skrip said...

Uh, Dawn and Conway, I think you miss the point. Cultural Relevance at the expense of the clear preaching of the Gospel is not "relevant" at all. The only "relevant" thing out there is that without Christ you die lost. As to seeker-sensitive... well of course you would be "sensitive" to a seeker and explain the gospel to them, but when Phil speaks against seeker-sensitive he means taking the market-driven pragmatism of the world over a clear preaching of sin and repentance. I think you would find much to agree with if we all meant the same things with the words we used.

Dawn & Conway said...

That's why i eschew broad sweeping generalizations and hyperbole. Again, i won't argue with clear uncompromised preaching, but to assert that "most" evangelicals are in gross error serves no good purpose, especially when we know that believers define these buzz words in different ways.

Michael Campbell said...

When we water down the message, the message gets lost. That "gospel" does not work, it does not lead to salvation. I was in a small group study and our old church and most in the group thought they were ok with God because the followed what the pastor told them, but they had no change of heart, they were not really believers and it was hard to convice them otherwise since the were just following the message given to them.

Lisa said...

Wow. Thank you.