My hope is that “Wisdom of Dead Guys” will be a reoccurring feature on this blog. This article represents the launch of this blog feature.
The Theology of Dead Guys Doesn’t Change
Jeff Pollard is the pastor of Mount Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, FL. In addition to overseeing the various ministries of the church, Pastor Jeff also oversees Chapel Library.
I was introduced to Chapel Library when I was a new Christian, more than 30 years ago. At the time, I was serving as a young deputy sheriff, assigned to Custody Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I had learned that inmates in the jail were taking correspondence courses from Chapel Library. I decided to take a course, too. Over the years, I have received Chapel Library’s Free Grace Broadcaster, as well as some of their gospel tracts.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet Pastor Jeff. We served together as speakers at a conference.
A few years ago I asked Pastor Jeff if Chapel Library might publish a short story/parable I wrote. Pastor Jeff was very gracious, going so far as to review the text and make some helpful editorial suggestions. However, he declined to publish the booklet. I thought his reason was wonderful. He said, “Tony, we only publish the works of dead guys. Their theology never changes.”
I would publish “The Burglar” through One Million Tracts. Although there haven’t been any significant changes to my theology since publishing “The Burglar,” I understand and appreciate Pastor Jeff’s rationale for only publishing the works of dead guys.
It’s with this story in mind that I came up with the name of this new blog feature.
Wisdom of Dead Guys
From time to time, I will post articles under the title “Wisdom of Dead Guys.” Each article will address a different theological issue, passage of Scripture, and/or an issue within or effecting Christendom. The articles will begin with a passage of Scripture or a thesis statement. This introduction will establish the subject matter for the article. The introduction will be followed by a series of quotes from “dead guys”– respected theologians from years and generations past.
The articles may include some of my own thoughts, particularly in the introduction of each article. However, by and large, I will rely on the wisdom of theologians now in glory–men much smarter than me.
Biting and Devouring One Another
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15).
Since the inception of the Church some 2,000 years ago, Christians have experienced conflict, one with another. As I’ve often quipped, “Ministry is always easier when people aren’t involved.” The advent of social media platforms has not only given Christians more opportunity to sin against each other but now we can do so in the most public ways.
In his letter to the Church in Galatia, Paul warned his Christian brethren against biting and devouring one another. He reminded them of the Lord’s teaching, that they were to love each other. Refusing to do so could result in individual Christians destroying each other, disrupting the health of the local church, and bringing a reproach upon Christ.
It’s so much easier to cannibalize our Christian brethren than to love each other. It’s much easier than giving a brother or sister the benefit of the doubt. It’s easier to believe whatever is written about someone than to pick up the phone and ask questions or to see if a brother or sister is okay. It’s easier to reach for torches and pitchforks than to pick up our phones.
It’s easy because sin is easier than righteousness; hate is easier than love; standing against a brother is easier than standing up for a brother.
Heaven will be wonderful, in part, because all of this sin will be behind us. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
I have been on both the giving and receiving end of the kind of “biting and devouring” Paul addressed with the Galatians. The wisdom that follows comes by way of commentary on Galatians 5:15. I hope it will serve as both a reminder and encouragement to me and my Christian brethren that our default position, our default response in times of conflict, should be love for one another.
Dead Guys and Galatians 5:15
“The readiest way to destroy the spirituality of a church, and to annihilate the influence of religion, is to excite a spirit of contention.” ~ Albert Barnes
“If Christians, who should help one another, and rejoice with one another, quarrel, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace, that the Spirit of love should depart, and the evil spirit, who seeks their destruction, should prevail?” ~ Matthew Henry
“If the spirit of mutual love does not prevent Christian brethren from preying on one another, they are in danger of utter destruction.” ~ Sir William Robertson Nicoll
“I wish we could always remember, when the devil tempts us to disputes, that the disagreement of members within the church can lead to nothing else than the ruin and consumption of the whole body. How distressing, how mad is it, that we, who are members of the same body, should be leagued together, of our own accord, for mutual destruction!’ ~ John Calvin
“If you would tear one another’s reputations to pieces, find fault with one another, quarrel with one another, be careful, for the natural result will be that you will be “consumed one of another.” Do you know why many a testimony that was once bright for God today is in ruins? It is because of a spirit of quarrelsomeness, fault-finding, and murmuring comes in among the people of God, and God cannot bless that. If you and I are guilty of that, we ought to get into God’s presence and examine our ways before Him; yea, plead with Him to search our hearts, and confess and judge every such thing as sin in His sight in order that we may be helpers and not hinderers in His service.” ~ H.A. Ironside
“You all profess to have been baptized into the spirit of the gospel; but you do not show it when you bite and snarl at one another. The gospel, which makes wolves and lambs agree, does not teach the lambs to turn wolves and devour each the other. The gospel will not allow us to pay our enemies in their own coin, and give them wrath for wrath; much less will it suffer brethren to spit fire at one another’s face. No, when any such embers of contention begin to smoke among Christians, we may know who left the spark; no other but Satan, he is the great kindle-coal of all their contentions. If there be tempest (not in the air) in the spirits of Christians, and the wind of their passions be high and loud, it is easy to tell who is the conjuror; it is the devil that is practising his black art upon their lusts, which yet are so much unmortified, as gives him too great an advantage of raising many times sad storms of division and strife amongst them. There is nothing (next Christ and heaven) that the devil grudges believers more than their peace and mutual love; if he cannot rend them from Christ, or stop them from getting heaven, yet he takes some pleasure to see them go thither in a storm; like a shattered fleet severed one from another, that they may have no assistance from, nor comfort of, each other’s company all the way; though, where he can divide, he hopes to ruin also, well knowing this to be the most probable means to effect it; one ship is easier taken than a squadron. A town, if it can be but set on fire, the enemy may hope to take it with more ease. Let it, therefore, be your great care to keep the devil’s spark from your powder.” ~ William Gurnall
“When faith in Christ is overthrown peace and unity come to an end in the church. Diverse opinions and dissensions about doctrine and life spring up, and one member bites and devours the other, i.e., they condemn each other until they are consumed. To this the Scriptures and the experience of all times bear witness. The many sects at present have come into being because one sect condemns the other. When the unity of the spirit has been lost there can be no agreement in doctrine or life. New errors must appear without measure and without end.
“For the avoidance of discord Paul lays down the principle: ‘Let every person do his duty in the station of life into which God has called him. No person is to vaunt himself above others or find fault with the efforts of others while lauding his own. Let everybody serve in love.'” ~ Martin Luther