1 Peter 3:15 declares “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
As I’ve been meditating and reflecting on this verse over the past few weeks, a few things have stood out to me that I think are often missed. Before I get to that it is important to note that 1 Peter was written to Christians who were scattered because of persecution (1 Peter 1:2-3). He writes to address their hope in Christ as well as how they are to be holy and reflect the holiness of God to people as they witness for the Gospel (1 Peter 1:3-25). He instructs them in how they are a particular people and priests unto God (1 Peter 2:1-12). He then explains how they are a people under authority and how to live under that authority and honor God (1 Peter 2:13-25). He exhorts wives and husbands on how to live with one another (1 Peter 3:1-7). In the context surrounding 1Peter 3:15, Peter is instructing believers how to suffer and speak for the gospel (1 Peter 3:8-22), with I Peter 3:14 stating “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…” Moreover, in the following chapter, Peter looks at how Christians are to be stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:1-11), suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:12-19), how pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-11), concluding the book with greetings to several people (1 Peter 5:12-14).
This quick overview of 1 Peter gives us a sense of what the overall thrust of the book is about. Understanding the context of 1 Peter 3:15 will help Christians understand that 1 Peter 3:15 is not the only verse in the book. I often get the feeling that we are so focused on the task of Apologetics from this specific verse, that we miss out on the rest of what the great epistle of 1 Peter has to say to us. Peter is talking in 1 Peter 3:15 not only about how Christians must make a defense and give a reason for the hope they have, he is noting how their entire life must testify to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember that Peter is writing to “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:2), a people who were in exile because of persecution. He was writing to encourage them in the hope they have in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-25). These were men and women were suffering for the sake of the Gospel in the fires of affliction. It was to these people that Peter spoke the words of 1Peter 3:15.
As I read books on Apologetics I get the sense that we are so focused on methodology that we have missed out on how Apologetics relates to the Christian life. The task of Apologetics can in no way be divorced from our Christian lives, but rather must testify of the fact we are Christians. By that I mean Peter emphasizes this by stating “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15), a statement that goes back to what he said in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let me try to explain why this is important so you can see some of the weight of what Peter is saying here so we can begin to see that Apologetics is more than just a task Christians perform. Conversely, it is essential to the daily Christian life and ministry of the people of God.
My experience growing up in the Church as a child and in Bible college and seminary has taught me that Apologetics often emphasizes more on “how” we are to reach certain people. It is often assumed those engaging in the task have a biblical worldview when researchers at Lifeway Research Group among others teach us that we cannot assume people in the Church have a biblical worldview or even read their Bibles. Yet what Peter does in 1 Peter is set forth the Christian worldview, that of the hope believers have in God because of the finished work of Jesus and how that is to impact our ongoing growth in sanctification (1 Peter 1:3-25). Since Peter has said that his readers are to “prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) that builds upon his premise in 1 Peter 3:15 that if we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy, we first must know the hope we have.
The biblical authors always build upon their thought in order to help their readers understand the topic. Peter is the same way as the rest of the Apostles in this regard. His argument then in 1 Peter 3:15 is that in order to defend and commend the Christian faith, we must understand that what is all important is Christians grounding their worldview in the Word of God and the Gospel of God. Only through that lens can our defense of the faith commend the faith, or in the words of Peter “honor Christ the Lord as holy”. The only reason any of us can do this is because the wrath of God no longer burns against our sin because we have been given a new heart, with new desires and affections for the person and work of Christ. This means the Christian life is a lifeview and our Apologetic efforts must spring from that lifeview. The formation of a biblical worldview begins with understanding the hope we have now in Christ by understanding how Christ has saved us and how He wants to grow His people in His grace. By understanding that foundational point, we will come to see that apologetics is more than just offering defenses and commending the Christian faith. Instead, we will understand that apologetics is a lifeview rooted in holding fast to the authority of the Word of God and declaring the excellencies of the Gospel.
As I’ve meditated on 1 Peter 3:15, what God is teaching me is a bigger vision than just giving an answer to why I believe what I believe. Apologetics is not only giving answers for the reason for my hope in Christ but also how my life testifies of Him. The New Testament has much to say about how we are to know, live, enjoy, and minister for God. When we take all that into account along with 1 Peter 3:15, I don’t know about you but I’m struck with wonder at the God who no longer calls me His enemy but rather calls me His friend. While I believe firmly in apologetics, I think we first need to be Christians, grounding our thinking and methodology in the Word of God. The outflow of that will be ministry to God and a defense of the Christian faith that is first and foremost concerned not with the latest apologetic approach, but rather with what God has said in His Word as the ultimate standard for life.
At the heart of Christian discipleship is the need to hear, heed, and obey what God has commanded. Apologetics is surely at the heart of that but first we must ground our hope in Christ and grow in Him. The outflow from that growth will be ministry that glories in the Gospel of grace and marvels that He calls His people to the task of commending and defending the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Lastly, understanding apologetics in this way will enable us to heed Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15 and hear them as he means then, namely, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
I don’t know about you but understanding apologetics through the lens I’ve described is less burdensome and more joyful. It is also more hope-filled because it isn’t grounded in our methodology, but rather in the unchanging and inspired Word of God. God calls His people to be a people of His Word and to testify of its Truth. Let the people of God know and declare the excellencies of Jesus in gentleness and respect to the glory of God.
One of the greatest concerns that I have about modern evangelicalism is a tendency to be theological without being explicitly grounded in sound biblical doctrine. The word “doctrine” comes from the Greek word “”didaskolos” and means “teaching.” Doctrine helps Christians know who God is, what He has done, what the Trinity is, the deity of Christ, His resurrection, salvation, justification, and much more. Doctrine defines the Who and the what of Christianity.
We are living in a time when many people would rather focus on felt needs or view their faith in private terms rather than making it known publicly. The truth is that everyone has doctrine. Even the person who believes that they are the center of the universe has doctrine as they view themselves to be the source of truth in a true post-modern perspective. Those who believe in evolution or other such ideas have doctrine. The key to having sound biblical doctrine is to be grounded in the Word of God. The outgrowth of our doctrinal understanding is theology, the study of God. The goal of Christian theology is to learn about God, His nature, His will, and how they apply to our lives. While doctrine is interested in what we believe from God’s Word, theology is concerned with the application of that truth to our lives and the construction of a biblically based worldview.
For example, it is a doctrinal statement that you are a sinner (Rom.3:23; 6:23). The Bible declares that Jesus bore our sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) so that we could be justified by faith (Rom.5:1) and escape the righteous wrath of God (John 3:36). Doctrine is vital to our relationship with God and our salvation. Biblical doctrine anchors Christians in truth to alleviate them from drifting into false teaching.
Sadly, many Christians today would rather not bother with doctrine. The attitude is often “Doctrine is for academics, not for me because it doesn’t meet my felt-needs”. When people take the “felt need approach”, they think that God’s Word is designed only to help them feel better. When everyone is concerned with what they “feel” rather than what God has said in His Word we encounter a problem, namely that Truth doesn’t always make us feel good. This is why people would rather ignore the Truth of God’s Word. The Bible warns us about this attitude in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” and to guard and examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
Some people focus on felt-needs. For such people, feeling their way through the Bible means asking such questions as, “What does this verse mean to you?” Yet, there is a fundamental flaw to this question because it focuses not on what the text says, but rather on what we feel. Rather than asking, “What does that verse mean to you?” we should ask, “What does this verse say?” Biblical examination is concerned with what the Bible teaches which once known, requires us to conform to its truth. The felt-needs approach to biblical interpretation is dangerous. To examine what the Bible teaches is to engage in sound principles, doctrinal clarity, and conforming to the Truth of God’s Word.
Doctrine is the lifeblood of the Christian life. When coming to the Bible, don’t treat it as a book that is only meant to make you feel good or to provide the path to riches. True Bible study is centered on both mastering and letting the Word of God master you. You learn doctrine in order to be anchored in the Truth of God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word. This is why you need to learn the basics of doctrine such as Jesus is God in flesh, salvation is by grace, the Trinity, and there will be a future resurrection. Also, in order to grow in the things of God and His Word, it is important to learn more advanced doctrine such as God’s covenant system throughout history, the priesthood of Christ, the difference between justification and sanctification, the righteousness of God, and so much more.
Rather than focusing on felt-needs and viewing the Christian faith as some privatized part of life, come to the Bible with an attitude of humility and view it as it is, God’s Word to you. Do not be deceived by man-centered expectations and wants but rather hear, heed, and obey the Word of God by accepting its doctrinal teaching as formative for all of life. Then conform yourself to the Word by the renewing of your mind. This is what the Lord tells us to do: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2). Finally, in a world that is tossed to and fro, biblical doctrine provides the Christian a solid foundation for their life in Christ and ministry for Christ to the glory of God.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s influence today is felt more than ever, as he is the most published Christian author in church history.1 He is often quoted in sermons, articles, books, tweets, and other quote-worthy mediums among Christians. Helmut Thielicke helpfully points out the impact and influence of Spurgeon’s ministry when he notes that, “The fire Spurgeon kindled turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths and was fed by the wells of the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a brush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed.”2
Albert Mohler explains that “the defining characteristic of Spurgeon’s ministry was an undiluted passion for the exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.”3 Spurgeon’s influence is felt today because he was a man of the people, a man whose infectious love for the Lord Jesus Christ spilled over into all he wrote, said and did. Spurgeon’s influence won him many friends and many critics but it is undeniable that his influence is felt on evangelicalism today because of his passionate pursuit of proclaiming the glory and majesty of Christ in everything he said and wrote.
Spurgeon’s influence is still felt today in evangelicalism, because he was a man of conviction. Spurgeon did not seek after controversy but rather picked which battles he entered into with great care only choosing to enter into those battles which compromised the Christian faith. Spurgeon’s example is instructive to Christian ministry leaders as many supposed evangelicals today claim to follow in the line of evangelicalism, but do not have a high view of the Bible. If the story of Church history has taught evangelicals anything it should be that when a high view of Scripture is upheld then Jesus will be brought glory. The example of Spurgeon is especially important in this regard as he had a high view of God’s Word and of His Son Jesus Christ. Spurgeon proclaimed the Word of God in a time when truth was under attack, much like today, but did not compromise.
Albert Mohler explains “Spurgeon was a man, possessed by deep passion for the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”4 Spurgeon’s passion for the Word of God and the person of Jesus consumed all of his waking hours. Spurgeon’s conviction to preach the Word of God without compromise is needed among evangelicals today more than ever. In recent days some voices are calling for a “big-tent” evangelicalism that is more inclusive than exclusive.
This is a big mistake.
The early church fathers to the 16th century Protestant Reformers across Europe, and up to the present day conservative evangelicals, have all affirmed verbal plenary inspiration, and biblical inerrancy.
Clement of Rome (A.D. 80-100 taught, “You have looked closely into the Holy Scriptures, which are given through the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing unrighteous or falsified has been written in them.” (1 Clement, XLV. 2.3.) Augustine wrote to Jerome (A.D. 394), “It seems to me that most disastrous consequence to follow upon our believing anything false is found in the sacred books, that is to say, that the men by whom the Scriptures have been given to us, and committed in writing, did not put down in these books anything false.” (Cited by James Olive Buswell, Outlines of Theology, 24.) Calvin thought of Scripture as “the sure and infallible record,” “the inerring standard,” “the pure Word of God,” “the infallible rule of His Holy Truth,” “free from every stain or defect,” “the inerring certainty,” “the certain and unerring rule,” “unerring light,” “infallible Word of God,” “has nothing belonging to man mixed with it,” “inviolable,” “infallible oracles.” Inerrancy was the view of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, as well as of the entire church; inerrancy is the ‘central church tradition.” (John D. Hannah, ed., Inerrancy and the Church (Chicago: Moody, Press, 1984), ix.). The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) was founded in 1949 and had a singular doctrinal statement at its founding that affirmed inerrancy: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. (“Evangelical Scholars Remove Robert Gundry for His Views on Matthew,” Christianity Today, February 3, 1984.)
At the end of the day those who want to redefine evangelicalism and reshape it in their own mold do so at their own peril. Evangelicals today would be wise to follow the example of Spurgeon who stood on the Word of God and called his readers to “read not so much man’s comments, or man’s books, but read the Scriptures, and keep your faith on this, — “God said it.”13
The ministry of Spurgeon is instructive to Christians today because Spurgeon was a man aflame with the glory of the grace of God. Spurgeon made an impact because of his passion for and stance on evangelical truth, which he contended for, defended, and proclaimed with all of his might to the glory of God. Men of passion and conviction are needed in evangelicalism today, men who will contend, defend and proclaim the truth of substitionary atonement, the authority and inspiration of Scripture, eternal punishment for unbelievers, original sin, and the absoluteness of Christianity.
Godly men of passion and conviction will be maligned and persecuted– as was Spurgeon, but they must follow the example of Jesus and men like Spurgeon who modeled for Pastors, ministry leaders, and believers how to stand firm in the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. While truth is under attack today on many fronts inside and outside the church, an even greater need and threat is arising from within its ranks, and that is found in the need of men to stand up and be counted.
Every generation of believers must determine if they are going to stand for biblical truth or lay down their swords and accept the lie of liberalism. While there is much to be commended in recent days in evangelicalism especially in the growing movement of Christians, ministries and churches that are discussing what is the Gospel and its implications; there is still much to be alarmed about as many are questioning and casting aside the authority of the Word of God either through how they use the Bible, what they think about Adam being a historical person, or their stance on gender roles. This generation of believers will have to decide– as did Spurgeon—if they will stand on the Truth of the Word of God and lift up the Son of God among the nations, or whether they will lay down their sword and succumb to the lie of liberalism.
At the end of the day, Spurgeon was right “believers must never adjust the Bible to the age, but the age to the Bible.”14 Believers have been given the Word of God not to speculate on, but to study, to mediate upon, contend for, defend and proclaim to the nations. The Word of God always stands in judgment of men never do men stand in judgment of it. This fact reveals the fundamental problem going on inside and outside the church by exposing as Spurgeon knew in his time that the issues of today are old issues rooted in who is authoritative, God or man. As with every generation before and everyone after it, the Truth of God’s Word will remain authoritative, unchanging and unrelenting as it seeks to lift high the name and glory of Jesus among the nations.
As the Word of God did its work in Spurgeon’s time so today evangelicals can be encouraged that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is the means God uses by His Spirit to pierce the heart of the convinced atheist, rejecters like Judas, and deniers like Peter. Evangelicals today need to stand firm in the grace of God and the Word by looking to the example of men like Spurgeon and be encouraged that God by His grace is still working to bring people to Himself and build His church for His glory and praise.
 Eric W. Hayden. “Did You Know: A Collection of True and unusual facts about Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Christian History, 10:1, #29, (February 1991).
 Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon, trans. John W. Doberstein (Cambridge, MA: James Clarke & Co., 1964) 1.
 Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern World, (Chicago, Moody, 2008), 163.
 Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern World, (Chicago, Moody, 2008), 163.
 Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 163. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 179. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Albert Mohler, “A Confessional Response to Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 196. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Mark. A. Noll, David W. Bebbington, George A. Rawlyk, eds. Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies in Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond, 1700-1990 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
 Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 182. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 91. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 78. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 91. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
 Charles Spurgeon, From “The Plea of Faith,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 2 (London: Passmor and Alabaster, 1856), 273-280.
 Charles Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1906), 230.
When we speak of God in the pulpit, we should speak of the Trinity. When we speak of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, we should speak of God. We have a responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God, and to leave out the Trinity from our pulpit ministries is to leave out the New Testament/New Covenant revelation of God’s identity. Whether we’re teaching children, youth or adults, when we speak of God, we should speak in Trinitarian language (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit). Here are four reasons why:
There is one God who exists in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; same substance, but distinct in subsistence. These three Persons are coequally and coeternally God. All things are from the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. The Father alone possesses fatherhood. The Son is begotten of the Father, but not of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. These Three Persons are One God.
Eliminate the Trinity, and you either eliminate monotheism (by embracing Tri-theism) or you worship a god who ontologically can become better or worse or has needs (Partialism). If there are more gods than one, then the distinct monotheism found in the Old Testament that distinguished Judaism from the surrounding nations is lost, and the god of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament. On the other hand, if you affirm a god who has parts, you affirm a god who has needs, and who might not be able to keep His promises, fulfill His prophecies, or even answer your prayers (or hear them for that matter).
If you commonly reference the Trinity in your pulpit ministry, your hearers will naturally pick up an orthodox view of the Trinity, which will provide them with a foundation on which to answer the various false gods, false religions and cults in their surrounding communities. The Trinity is one of the most essential distinguishing doctrines of orthodox Christianity. Neither Muslims, Mormons nor Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm the Trinity. Furthermore, I am unaware of any false religion that affirms the Trinity.
The Trinity should not be some obscure doctrine you dust off and bring out when you’re speaking against other religions. The Trinity should be the foundational example for all human relationships. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit perfectly love and fellowship with one another from eternity past; always have and always will.
The Son, although in submission to the Father, does not rebel, balk or scoff at His authority. The Holy Spirit, although in submission to the Father and the Son, does not rebel against, or scoff at the Father or Son. Christians — since we are created in God’s image and are being conformed to Christ’s image — must love one another in the likeness of God’s example. Furthermore, consider the coequal and coeternal reality of the Three Persons of the Trinity, yet the submission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Son submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit submits to the Son and the Father. Now, consider how Christian wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24), or Christian employees are to submit to their employers (Eph. 6:5-8), or Christian citizens are to submit to their governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), etc. Submission does not always mean “less valuable than,” for the Son submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son, and yet these three Persons are coequal.
The list of application can go on and on.
Mention the word “tolerance” and you are likely to get some interesting responses. Most of those responses will focus on how people have the “rights” to think, believe or act however they choose. In this view, tolerance is all about my rights and thinking on a given topic. At first, that may sound pleasant or even socially acceptable but in fact it is rotten to the core. When people who view tolerance this way apply what they think, the result is to exclude those who believe in absolute truth and absolute morals.
I was at a coffee shop I frequent often and the manager and I began to talk about Christianity. She knew I was a Christian and a ministry leader. When I go to a coffee shop I come with a backpack full of books along with my laptop. On this particular day, this manager and I were chatting when all of the sudden it became clear that she didn’t want to talk about Christianity any further. It became evident that she wanted to think how she wanted and wasn’t going to consider a thing I said, yet expected that I was supposed to consider everything she said. One time I was chatting with my neighbor who is a Mormon and I got the same sense that I was supposed to take everything he said as truth but when I made arguments for the exclusivity of Christ or highlighted to my atheist friend about the character of God, I was immediately discounted. These situations and many others like them lead me to think that people think it’s okay to think however you want, but if you make exclusive, absolute claims about matters of truth and faith then you will be viewed increasingly as a non-intellectual.
The argument goes, “Faith is private so keep it to yourself”. That sounds good at first glance. Let’s all keep quiet about what we believe as after all, isn’t faith a personal issue? The truth though is no one is quiet about what they believe. Is Oprah quiet about what she believes? Is Ellen DeGeneres quiet about what she believes? Is Piers Morgan quiet about what he believes when he interrogates Christian leaders on his television show? It seems like our liberal media can use its bully pulpit to proclaim that everyone has a right to think how they want, but when Christians make exclusive claims about God, the Bible, or Jesus according to the foundation of biblical Christianity, they are immediately discounted and treated as second class citizens. Yet the “enlightened” ones want us to believe everything they say without question and just soak in their magnificentness. The truth of the matter is not only does the liberal media not believe that faith is “private”, they are among the loudest in our culture in regards to proclaiming what they believe.
Look at Hollywood, look at the talking heads on TV, on talk show programs or any other media outlet. Are they not spewing what they believe all over the place and don’t people soak it up like its gospel? Yet, when a Christian who believes the Bible and stands firmly for the Gospel speaks out about matters about gay marriage from the Bible or other such issues, what happens? They are told to be quiet or else they will have their arguments drowned out by the talking heads, cultural philosophers, or other members of the cultural elite. Our secular culture says, “How can they believe such a thing as the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is a only Savior who saves people?” Here’s the thing — everyone believes something and no one is silent about what they believe either so the idea that “faith is private” and you are to be quiet is really a rather silly, not to mention a childish and untenable argument. Yet, Christians are treated this way in the public square all the time.
This is why the language of tolerance isn’t really tolerant, or as D.A. Carson said, “the intolerance of tolerance” in his book by the same title. Tolerance is intolerant because those who advocate for tolerance suggest they are the gatekeepers of truth. Whenever anyone says anything intolerant or if a Christian such as myself speaks or writes about gay marriage or other issues, they are shouted down, told they are wrong and immediately labeled a “bigot”, “misguided” or any number of unsavory labels. Should this surprise Christians? Imagine for a second your eyes are closed and you are taking a stroll somewhere. You try to walk but you keep bumping into things over and over again. This is exactly what the lost are like. They are fumbling around in the dark looking for anything and everything their heart desires. The Bible speaks to this idea in Ecclesiastes 3 when Solomon calls seeking after the world and its pleasure “vanity and grasping for the wind”. Is tolerance really tolerant? If you believe tolerance is tolerant then you are living in a world where truth must be abandoned because your truth is inconsistent. If we apply the standards of truth to the worldview of tolerance, it crumbles like shifting sand. The truth is that tolerance is another word for the spirit of this age which longs for teachers who will tickle people’s ears but never give them the truth from the Word of God.
Christians have a superior Word and message than that of the so-called tolerance of this age. Paul spoke about this in 2 Timothy 4. He told us to preach the Word (vs.2). Paul told us to stand in the grace of God (1 Cor. 15) because we are in a war (Ephesians 6:10-18). Yet, beyond the position of tolerance are people who need Jesus. By the standards of the new tolerance, the biblical Jesus was the epitimey of a bigot as He called people “brood of vipers” and “the blind leading the blind”. Jesus also spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible combined. Was Jesus tolerant? Would Jesus be considered tolerant according to the spirit of this age? The answer is a resounding no and yet people in our culture think of Jesus as some prophet or teacher but refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord in and over all.
This is telling to me and it shouldn’t be surprising to Christians either. Non-Christians are stumbling about in the darkness with their eyes closed, feeling their way around, and being led by their hearts desires. The world along with its value system and moral code is under the power of darkness. Yet even here Christians have a superior Word and message in the Gospel that pierces the hearts of men and women committed to the world system and its false gospel. The Gospel pierces the heart of man and when it does, it replaces the false gospel of tolerance and inclusivism with a message that is exclusive and restricted only to those who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and only by believing in Him can one be saved. Jesus, just as He did in the first century, is still lighting a fire under people because He is more than just a revolutionary, He is more than just some teacher and prophet. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Jesus is coming back to rule and reign over the throne of David but before that day, He will smite all His enemies from one end of the battlefield to the other with the sword which is His Word. Is that Jesus tolerant enough for the spirit of the age? Or does that Jesus offend you, prick your conscience, unsettle you, and even scare you? If so, are you ready to meet that Jesus or will you walk away from Him just as the religious people of Jesus’ day did? Jesus calls people to Himself and those who hear His voice will come but those who are not His will reject Him. The Good Shepherd knows those who are His and He saves them, but He also knows those who aren’t His and weeps for them and in love speaks the truth that hell is a place of unending and unrelenting conscious punishment.
You may think that Christianity is intolerant but the truth is that those who hold to the view that tolerance is a virtue are the ones who are intolerant. Tolerance is not a virtue, conversely, it is a lie designed to keep people enslaved to their sin. Jesus comes with a powerful Word that cuts through the fog that opens the eyes of those who are stumbling about living how they please. Jesus opens such people’s eyes as He did with the Apostle Paul by showing them the horror of their sin and the glory of Christ in the Cross.
Dear Christian, make no mistake. We are living in days that are challenging, but rest assured that we also live in a day of great harvest. Stand firm on the authority of the Word of God and declare the message of the Gospel. Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, and Jesus is ruling and reigning as His people’s High Priest. The Holy Spirit is still in the business of opening people’s eyes to the truth about Jesus, of convicting His people of their sin, and pointing them towards the truth of Jesus. The Gospel is still the power of God! Preach the Gospel all the more in a culture that says tolerance is a virtue and yet rejects its own conviction through its own inconsistency. Shout all the more from the rooftops and declare the sufficiency of Jesus to a culture that would rather celebrate its own pride and self-sufficiency.