I have been thinking about it more, and have changed my mind about something. Martyn Lloyd Jones was right to call out those who claim persecution for righteousness when in actuality they have sown the wind, and are now reaping the whirlwind.
We must understand that sometimes God’s people do actually suffer for the sake of righteousness. Missing this was my concern before, and I dread the possibility that we in the household of faith would say those who actually are suffering for righteousness sake would be dismissed as having brought it all on themselves.
Moreover, when it is the case that Christians suffer for righteousness, we are called to not be afraid of those who would punish good behavior from corrupt motives or because they are envious. Instead, we are to prioritize, and to make preparation for, answering accusers with gentleness and respect, and with a good conscience, so that those who hate our good behavior in Christ will be ashamed of themselves.
But the esteemed Welshman was right to point out that not all who claim to be in Christ and behaving well can be so trusted. Some, for instance, may claim to be Christians and yet deceive themselves. Others may actually belong to the Church and yet behave badly because they are following bad examples which they were told are a form of godliness.
As Hosea says, I think it can be applied to them: “The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.”
Here lately I have been reading up on the Ecumenical movement in our day. And it somewhat amuses me that I find myself agreeing with certain points made by Dr. Peter Leithart about the carnality of embracing the sentiment inherent to “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos” where Protestant denominations are concerned.
The reason this amuses me is, I think, that I have absolutely no interest in larger efforts by him to let bygones be bygones where doctrine is concerned just so we can rejoin Rome. And this is what Leithart essentially argues for. But I am all the more disturbed the more I study by the move towards Globalism in the Post-War consensus which has fueled so many of the calls for unity among Christians as-late.
As much or more as I may agree with Dr. Leithart on some of his supporting points, it seems from what I’ve heard of his public debates from several years back – with Fred Sanders, Carl Trueman, and Doug Wilson – that he misses the equal application of this concern for unity when such would apply to the Roman Church.
And this kind of partiality is not good. Nor do I believe it is destined to succeed, however popular it may be for a time, and however persuasively designed lots of nudging towards it right now may feel.
But to be clear, I generally agree with Leithart’s concerns about Protestant sectarianism, particularly where it disguises itself as Christian orthodoxy, but occupies itself with objectively trivial distinctions and preferences. And I share Leithart’s concern about being unreasonably loyal to this or that particular servant of the Lord – especially if they might be no servant of the Lord at all – at the expense of Christian unity.
This I mean not least with Protestantism, since I myself am a Protestant, and Protestantism in America is what I know best from personal experience. And this I mean not least with conservative American evangelicals, since I myself am one, and that is what I know best. Yet I think we all must police our own, after a fashion, or else we will not get far in chiding other circles. And this is an extension of taking planks out of our own eyes so we can see clearly to remove specks from the eyes of our brothers.
In that spirit, take equal note of the Scripture and its ramifications for two temptations which seem opposite, yet are actually close cousins. Where “Bad company ruins good morals” is contrasted in God’s Word with “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” these two rebuke both those who shrug about doctrine in favor of fast agreement and superficial unity, and those who make mountains out of mole hills and strain out gnats while swallowing camels.
In both cases – where we accept bad company where either antinomianism or factional partiality reigns supreme, something of the full significance of Christ as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep is being dismissed as trivial. And in such cases of both varieties, those who sow the wind cannot merely rebuke the whirlwind. They must reap it if they won’t repent of it.
But these I oppose, who rebuke the byproducts of their antagonism – the anger, sadness, and anxiety they deliberately provoked – then question the salvation of those they provoked when still more anger, sadness, and anxiety result. This is nothing short of abusive and shameful, and the sort of thing liable to utterly destroy the weak-minded and vulnerable, and corrupt those who are taken in by its bad example.
But God will not be mocked, and a man reaps what he sows.
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