Rev. Koole is pastor of Grandvilel Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
The first point of Rev. Koole’s 2009 pre-synodical sermon was “What the Apostle Means by Quit You Like Men.” That was the focus of the July Meditation (p. 410). Rev. Koole goes on, now, to address “Why This Is the Need of the Hour” and “The Great Incentive.”
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Let all your things be done with charity.”
Why This is the Need of the Hour
And why does the church need such men, men who acquit themselves like men?
As the apostle makes plain in the whole epistle, it is because of all the enemies the church must deal with. As he stated in verses 8 and 9, “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me and there are manyadversaries.”
On this earth we serve the church militant. Many are the adversaries of the church and of the apostolic gospel. The enemy without would prevent the spread of the gospel. The enemy within would corrupt it so that what goes forth is not the gospel.
It is significant that the language of our text is basically militaristic.
“Watch!” That is, be on the alert for danger and the subtle infiltration of the enemy.
“Stand fast in the faith!” That is, when it comes to the faith, hold your ground. Here the emphasis is not on the inner activity of faith, but on the content of the faith, the faith once delivered to the saints. When it comes to that faith and the doctrines of the gospel of sovereign, free grace, yield not one inch.
“Quit you like men!” Behave and give a good account of yourselves as “a man” should.
“Be strong!” Defend those entrusted to your care, doing so with energy, with resolution, and without fear.
As well, what we find in verse 14, namely, making sure that everything we do is done in charity, is not contrary to a military theme.
To be sure, the call of verse 14 to do all things with love is to provide a balance to the idea of battle and warfare. It is a reminder that being a man with its emphasis on strength and not flinching in the face of combat does not exclude tenderness and care. As Paul writes elsewhere, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ does the church.” The apostle is not interested in the rule of authority that seeks to be domineering and harsh, but in the rule that takes the lead in love. That’s true in marriage, and that’s true in the church. Consideration of each other and of those affected by our decisions is how we must go about our business.
But love is also part and parcel of being a good soldier. Stalwart, faithful Uriah of old comes to mind. He willingly died on a battlefield, on the forefront, because he so loved his land, his wife, his true Lord, and even David, that unworthy king of his who sent him to his death.
That said, how thankful, good brethren, we can be that the one on whose behalf we labor is not merely David himself, but the true and faithful Son of David. It is that faithful Shepherd King who is worthy of a loyalty and love that inspires.
How many have died with great courage on battlefields, in the name of love! They put their lives on the line, standing in the forefront of the battle out of loyalty to their motherland and for the sake of their families and loved ones back home.
Ultimately the urgent need of the church for sons who will behave as men is because of the enemy’s relentless assault on the gospel truth. And if that was true in the apostle’s own day (just read the Epistle to the Corinthians if you need convincing), how much more so today.
For our purposes we need make reference only to one evil loose in Protestantism today, namely, the deadly evil of the Federal Vision heresy. The ancient error of the Judaizers against the great apostolic gospel of justification by faith alone has been resurrected and, in its mutated form, is infecting the very life-blood of the whole of the Presbyterian and Reformed church world, it seems.
God grant that against it we continue to stand fast and with boldness dare label it for what it is—a deadly cross-destroying, grace-defaming, faith-denying, apostle-despising, man-glorifying heresy.
With respect to this heresy I have a great grief. My grief being not simply on account of how many are willing to buy into this heresy, but also on account of how few of those who do oppose it do so with a true courage and decisiveness. We do not deny that there are men out there opposing this heresy within their own denominations. Any number of good books and articles have been written that take issue with the error. There are even those who within their church assemblies and courts are in the process of opposing the error, though sadly without much success.
But the great grief is what those who oppose the error will not say about the Federal Vision teachers themselves. They will not label them for what they are —wolves in sheep’s clothing, heretics! I could give you the names of writers of books and articles that do good work in exposing the error, and yet they cannot bring themselves to say one cross word about the men who are injecting this deadly poison into the life-blood of the church. I refrain at this time from naming names. But these men refer to the promoters of the Federal Vision as “Brothers in Christ,” as “men for whom I have the highest regard,” and again, as “those to whom I am indebted for their deep insights into the Scriptures,” and so forth. They are so worried about being ever so nice in the name of emasculated love that they cannot bring themselves to say one stern word against these deceivers for all the deadly damage they are doing to the church by their staggering dishonesty and their corruption of the apostolic gospel.
Brethren, I don’t care how moral and genteel and ‘gracious’ these false teachers may be (or others like them who may come along later), we must have the fortitude to apply to them the language of the apostle. You know his words, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed [anathema!]” (Gal. 1:8). Mind you, even an angel from heaven! How much more upright and gracious could Beings be, blameless as far as their lives are concerned. And yet, should even such a Being dare tamper with the gospel delivered by the Holy Spirit to the apostles, Paul says “Let him be ANATHEMA.” That means under the interdict and wrath of the Lamb Himself!
So much for allowing these deceivers to remain in the church with honor in order to prove how ‘brotherly’ we are.
Brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus we ourselves must not be afraid publicly to label those who teach this deadly error for what they are—enemies of the gospel, ministers of darkness. We must acquit ourselves like men. We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who would accuse us of harsh speech and of being unbrotherly and judgmental.
The apostle Paul would not have been. Neither must we.
We must insist on the purity of the gospel and be set for its defense.
For the sake of missions, first of all, of course. What better way to prevent the spread of the gospel than by corrupting it, so that what goes forth is not really Christ’s gospel at all, but another? The great Adversary’s goal would be accomplished. All of our decisions with regards to missions and its generous support would be to no purpose if what those sent forth to preach is not the apostolic gospel after all.
And the same goes for our seminary. What good would it be to approve so much financial support for that valuable institution if what the young men are given to wield is not the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, but rather something brittle and dull, not genuine and sharp, something filled with impurities, sure to betray one in the battle?
We must continue to tolerate nothing other than the pure alloy of the gospel of grace. Everything about our usefulness for our churches and Christ’s greater cause depends on it. In that pure gospel of grace is our safety, security, and strength.
Brethren, let us watch, stand steadfast, and acquit ourselves like men.
The Great Incentive Given
What is the incentive? Love, you say. Love for the church and its members. Love for our families and little ones. Love for our Lord.
To be sure, there is motivation enough right there.
But the question is, why do we so love the Lord and His church?
Why else but because He first loved us!
It is significant that before the apostle mentions doing all things in love, he refers to faith, being steadfast in the faith! Faith, true faith, always comes before Christian love. Self-denying love is the fruit of faith and is produced by the knowledge of faith, the knowledge of what Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, has done for me, for you, for us.
Wasn’t that Paul? “… and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Out of that faith that grasped the greatness of the gospel of a sovereign, free grace and its redeeming love came a life of service—a young ex-Pharisee living no longer for himself but for Another, and for others, so that others might know this same Lord, who so loved him, the chief of sinners.
It was another great servant of God who, fifteen centuries later (born in 1509), in the knowledge of that surpassing love would say, Promptly and Sincerely, Lord, I Offer My Service to Thee! He too spent himself for the service of Christ’s church and gospel truth. There was one who acquitted himself as a man!
It is that love divine and its power that has restored to us the reality of true and redeemed manhood—not the manhood of self-centeredness, which feeds pride, “Oh, I hope everyone recognizes me and I have the last word,” but the manhood of a heartfelt concern for others entrusted to our care and a consideration of others affected by our deliberations, and above all, a love for Christ our Lord and for His body, the church.
Let it be a love that evidences itself by the words we speak, words that breathe the apostolic Spirit in all that we say and do, yes, speaking the truth in love.
Brethren, manly courage is required, which is to say, faith and zeal mixed with love.
Let all that we do be in the name of the great Son of David, the epitome of true manhood, yea, striving to represent properly that great Son of Man.