Fighting for Truth

  • Steve Hatter
Old sword on a chair

As we continue to watch in amazement at our descending American culture and its unhappy byproducts—ever-widening divisions, and ever-deepening acrimony in the public square—we Christians sense coming persecution. We hear and read of crazy assaults on basic freedoms to speak, or to parent our children, or to receive health care, and these shocking scenarios on American soil seemed utterly unthinkable even two years ago. However, a consideration of church history will prove persecution to be the norm rather than the exception, and periods of religious freedom to be a rare anomaly. This is because Satan and unredeemed men have always, and will always, desire to war with God and His transcendent truth.

Error is the opposite of truth and is therefore evil, and error will always come aggressively attacking the one true faith. Church history shows the avenues of attack always be within three doctrinal categories: The person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Gospel, and the validity and authority of Scripture. Every heresy—past, present, and future—will involve an assault on one or more of these three categories. You can bank on that. 

Church history will also prove that heroic believers always respond in God-inspired ways. Our Lord raises up apologists (defenders of the faith seeking to influence threats from outside the church) and polemicists (defenders of sound doctrine against false teaching from within the body of Christ) to fight with courage and nobility. In response to the errors of false teaching, the church

carefully articulated its own doctrinal convictions. Those theological convictions were grounded in the authority of Scripture, yet the articulation of those convictions was often clarified in the face of heretical attack.

First Timothy is an example of the Apostle Paul fighting on the internal front and within the three assault categories. First Timothy is a practical letter containing pastoral instruction from Paul to Timothy exhorting him to stop the influence of false teachers rising up from within the body and restore order in the church at Ephesus. Let’s take a look at Paul’s instructions.

Countering False Teachers 

In the opening text of the letter, Paul aggressively addressed false teachers negatively influencing the believers at Ephesus. The specific threat identified by Paul was church leaders who had previously professed faith in Christ and taught the truth but had “wandered away into vain discussions desiring to be teachers of the law without understanding” (1:6, 7). As such, Paul not only called out their false doctrines, he also identified them by name! He entrusted Timothy to thwart these apostates through waging “the good warfare” (1:18) of true faith against those who “have made a shipwreck of their faith” (1:19), and were therefore “handed over to Satan” (1:20) by Paul. 

Later in the body of the letter, Paul warned concerning the Spirit’s testifying that “in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (4:1). These demonically influenced opponents of the true Gospel would “forbid marriage”(4:3) and other legalistic restrictions, all to distract the believers in Ephesus from their security in Christ made possible by “God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (2:4). 

Paul exhorted Timothy to counter the false teachers by preserving the purity of the Gospel (1:3–11): “the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5). “The law is good” Paul argued, “if one uses it lawfully” (1:8). Further, “it was not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient” (1:9) “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1:11). Moreover, Paul offered his conversion and commission as an example of the eternally freeing truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1:12–17): “though formerly I was a blasphemer,” “I received mercy” (1:13). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1:15). 

I urge you to pick up your Bible and read through this marvelous epistle and to see for yourself that there really are no new battles to be fought as we walk in this world, just age-old ones coming again with new terminology. And we need not fear the fight, because God will protect and defend His church, and He will provide for, an honor, His called defenders of the faith—which is you and me! As you read and pray, and consider the cost of your faith now and in the future, hold on to these verses as well: 

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14