Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
That faith is once delivered.
Don’t look for changes. Changes to the faith are the works of men’s imaginations.
The truth abides. That is a comforting aspect of Jude 3.
That means, for one thing, that God’s promise shall not fail. The doctrine that He has committed to His church shall not be changed.
That means, in addition, that the doctrine of faith shall never cease in the world. It is a candle that all the winds of hell can never blow out, a flame that all the waters of trouble can never extinguish! The same faith we are called to contend for is called in Revelation 14:6 the everlasting gospel.
The errors that have pervaded the church world unto this day have not changed the faith one iota. How horrible is the departure from the faith once delivered unto the saints. For it is a departure which brings about the terrible judgment of Jesus Christ: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8,9).
The faith remains a solid rock, the foundation upon which we stand. But the attacks upon that faith once delivered are many. And we who are saints are exhorted to contend for the faith.
The Battle That Is Ours
To contend speaks of a vehement fighting and striving. The word was often used to describe the striving among wrestlers in the Olympic games, a battle of sweat, pain, and trouble.
It reminds me of some of the championship basketball games that many enjoy watching. Some of the men on those teams play with great pain, with injuries that would have some people in bed. So important do they view that battle for the championship. Through sweat and pain they contend for the victory, striving to obtain that which comes with being called “champion.”
But the word used by Jude is a compound word which denotes a greater contention than known among men’s games. The efforts put out by a basketball player in the deciding game of that championship series—even a player who is playing over his painful injury—is nothing in comparison to the effort required by you and me in contending for the faith.
When it comes to the faith, we are not in a game!
“We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” says the apostle, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). We are engaged in a deeply spiritual battle.
Doing Battle by Writing
What is the place, then, of writing, when it comes to this spiritual battle in which we find ourselves engaged?
Writing occupies an important place in this battle.
We recognize, of course, that the chief instruments in the battle are the faithful preaching of the Word—with which I include faithful instruction in the catechism classroom and privately—as well as the faithful exercise of Christian discipline.
But I speak tonight with more specific application. With respect to the labors of the RFPA and all of us who write, we must recognize the broad influence our writings can carry. We know not where our writings go. Especially in this age when information is transmitted over the Internet in the blink of an eye to all reaches of the world, we must write with purpose, knowing that God is pleased to use this means also in the battle against the devil’s lies.
That means that in our writing we must give both a sound defense of God’s truth, and careful instruction in that truth.
When I speak about giving a sound defense of God’s truth, I don’t mean to imply that God’s truth needs our defense in order to stand. God’s truth will endure forever. But that defense is necessary for our own sakes and the sakes of our children.
It is necessary for our sakes, that we might be able to say with the apostle Paul in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”
But we must also contend for that faith and stand with a sound defense of God’s truth for our children’s sake, that they might understand the importance of that truth, that it is a truth worth dying for, that it is truth which alone will give peace upon the Israel of God!
But in our writing we must also take the offensive, providing positive and sound instruction in the truth. That is, to contend for the faith means that in our writing we wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And let me emphasize, what is required in our day is clear and concise writing, with clear definitions and authoritative instruction. The authority of the Scriptures must be evident in our writing.
What then shall be the results of our publishing?
The answer to that question, I would have you understand, we do well to leave to God. In a sense, the question itself may even be improper. We don’t need even to concern ourselves with the results. We simply need to be faithful! Let us remind ourselves of that too.
In this day of vast departure from the authoritative standards of God’s Word, we live before the penetrating light of public opinion. That kind of thinking enters the church too, including our own churches. We may expect that, in our writing, whatever we say and however we say it is sure to be displeasing to someone.
But we have a duty, and God has laid it upon us, to take a stand on the basis of His authority. We are to do so regardless of human praise or criticism, as to the Lord and not to men. We are to do so in a spirit of meekness, beseeching God for wisdom. We are to combine firmness with kindness when at all possible. But we are to write the truth, and that precisely and without wavering.
Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 1:9 that the bishop, an overseer in the church, must always be “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Those gainsayers are ones who are contradicting the truth of God.
Notice, by sound doctrine, we are to exhort and convict—i.e., by the light of God’s truth expose and refute — the gainsayers. Our only weapon, our only ammunition, in the battle against heresy, no matter what the form, is the truth of God! And it is an effective weapon indeed! It is the only weapon the Spirit uses! And, oh, to be instruments of the Holy Spirit of truth!
The many publications of the RFPA, with the Standard Bearer leading the way, have played a vital role in bearing testimony of biblical truth, the light of the Reformed faith, in an amazingly broad circle, indeed, around the world.
From personal correspondence and various contacts that have arisen in my personal involvement with evangelism labors throughout my ministry, I have often been amazed at the influence our publications have played in spreading the truth for which we stand, as well as the cause of our Protestant Reformed Churches. There have been numerous contacts whom I have met through the years, whose initial introduction to our churches came through one of our books or through the Standard Bearer.
And while our own people, you and I included, ought to be widely read and ought to appreciate the publishing labors of the RFPA and show that appreciation by faithful reading, I think we ought not underestimate the place these publications occupy in our witness. Let the Word go forth! Let it go forth in truth!
But then let us also promote the reading of our materials.
The purpose of such reading is to strengthen our understanding of the truth of God’s Word, and to lead us, therefore, into a deeper study of the Scriptures themselves.
Our reading must begin with the Scriptures, and I would have nothing that I say tonight detract from that.
Martin Luther, in his treatise addressed To The Christian Nobility of the German Nation, warned that “the writings of all the holy fathers should be read only for a time so that through them we may be led to the Scriptures.”* He cautioned that those who read without turning to the Scriptures themselves are like those who read the sign posts and never travel the road they indicate.
But the publications of the RFPA serve the purpose of leading us into a clearer understanding of the Scriptures, whether those publications treat specific doctrines of Scripture, specific books or passages of Scripture, or the application of the Bible to specific aspects of our daily lives.
Even the biographical writings — I think of the titles Therefore Have I Spoken or Lori — show the lives of Christians, with all their struggles and sorrows and joys as they live under the embrace of the gospel, to be lives empowered by the Spirit through the Word.
That makes your labors and your support of the RFPA a matter of importance, also in the spiritual battle that is ours as citizens of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must stand strong as we contend for the faith. We must know what we believe. Our children and our youth must also know and must grow in that knowledge of the truth of God.
Let us, therefore, promote that growth by faithful support of this work of writing and publishing sound, substantive material, biblically grounded material, truthful material.
Let us promote it by our labors, by our gifts, by our attempts to spread the word.
But let us above all read it, and teach our children to read what they are capable of reading. Let us assign our children at least selected portions of the Standard Bearer for their Sunday afternoon reading — again, according to their capacity to understand.
Let us show that the written word, the word conveying God’s truth, is precious to us, as we live as God’s people in the midst of this present spiritual warfare.
* Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 44, p. 205.