On Legalism, Libertinism, and Love

I think it’s appropriate to pause for a moment and reflect on why I do what I do here, which is to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). While this passage may act as a sort of “mission statement” for Absolute Dominion, it’s nevertheless a command that is extended to each and every believer individually. Christians are to be “always ready with an answer for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). Obviously there’s more to the Christian walk – and more to Absolute Dominion – than a one-dimensional end-all, be-all command to become full time apologists. Christianity is a fully-orbed, extremely demanding, and rigorous faith, even though this truth isn’t outwardly apparent when one surveys the barren, desolate landscape of modern-day churchianity.

This is where ministries like Absolute Dominion come into play. We seek to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:20), and to expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), while remaining faithful to the whole counsel of God which thing encompasses the “conversation of our lives” and ought to be exemplified by the beautiful, multi-faceted, Christ-like virtues which are borne out by the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all true believers body, soul, mind, and spirit. I think I can safely speak for all Christians by stating that we frequently and regrettably fall woefully short in our walk, but thanks be to God for His amazing and unmerited grace!

Nevertheless, such stumblings, failings, and fallings are not to characterize the “conversation of our lives” – the overall day-to-day patterns of our thoughts and behavior – but rather they ought to be the sad exceptions which remind us of the depths of our fallenness, and which send us flying to the cross of Christ in repentance and confession for washing and restoration (1 John 2).

It also must be said that earnestly contending for the faith is not the same thing as being earnestly contentious for the faith. There’s a world of difference! Christians are not to be marked by pugnacious, contentious, quarrelsome attitudes. In fact such attitudes are repugnant to the One true and living God as demonstrated throughout the text of sacred Scripture. The Bible frequently warns against sinful pride, and a haughty spirit. As with Satan himself, the father of lies, pride is often the tap-root for the most passionate, vehement disagreements. As believers in Christ we are to remain humble and treat even our worst adversaries with dignity while prayerfully striving to “snatch them out of the fire” and “show[ing] mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).

In other words we must learn to communicate the truth in love, with the emphasis on LEARNING and LOVING. Because all humans are fallen, and even the redeemed saints remain enfleshed in fallen bodies prone to sin, believers must continually have our minds renewed by the Holy Spirit and flee from our former passions and lusts, always dying to sin and living to righteousness (Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2). These are the two parts of sanctification.

Below is a sampling of the myriad Scriptural exhortations against a quarrelsome attitude for the gentle reader to meditate upon:

2 Timothy 2:14
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

1 Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

Genesis 13:6-8
so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen”.

Proverbs 13:10
By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

James 4:1-3
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Isaiah 58:4
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

2 Corinthians 12:20
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Proverbs 21:9
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Proverbs 22:10
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.

Isaiah 45:9
Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

1 Timothy 6:3-5
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Proverbs 26:21
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

1 Corinthians 1:11
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

Proverbs 27:15
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;

1 Timothy 3:3
not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Proverbs 19:13
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:22-24
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,

Philippians 2:14-16
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

James 1:20
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

These Scriptural sentiments are perhaps best summed up by the prophet Micah when he said: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Yet this is not to say that all forms of debate, argument, and disagreement are inherently the result of pride, arrogance, insolence, or sin. In fact it’s indisputable that the Holy Bible is a very polemical book, and as noted at the beginning, believers are to contend earnestly for the faith. How then are believers to correlate the seemingly contradictory commands of humility, love, compassion, kindness, meekness, and tenacious boldness while earnestly contending?

It is crystal clear that disagreement in and of itself is not sinful or wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples were in nearly constant disagreement with the adversaries of truth, as the church has been since her inception. The fallen world system lies in the lap of the wicked one, and it is in slavery to sin. The darkness hates the true light, and the children of light. Believers are at war, and war is filled with conflict:

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:1-6)

Disagreement with error, and striving to remain faithful to the text of the Bible is commendable because it is demonstrative of a serious, sincere faith which flows from a deep concern about the One true and living God, and knowing Him as He has revealed Himself in sacred Scripture. Sadly because of our fallenness far too often disagreements can result in anger and vitriol which becomes sinfully excessive, especially in cases involving secondary issues, and personal hobby-horses (Col. 2:16-23). In such cases increasing grace among the brethren is warranted instead of launching into war. When it comes to answering questions on secondary matters the Biblical response is to let each man be convinced in his own mind by Scripture and conscience (Rom. 14-15).

A believer’s liberty in Christ is worth fighting for, because the Lord gave His life to set His people free, and whom the Son sets free is free indeed. “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” (Gal. 5:13).

Legalism is just as spiritually deadly as libertinism.

Which brings us full circle back to where we began – the reason Absolute Dominion exists, and why I do what I do. We are informed by Scripture that the enemy has sown many tares among the wheat, that he has many goats among the sheep, and that he has many wolves in sheep’s clothing masquerading as angels of light, when in fact they are wicked deceivers.

We are informed that many are being led astray by such deceivers, who are in bondage to the lies of the enemy, and therefore are in danger of hellfire. Therefore in cases where those who claim Christianity give evidence they are not Christians at all by their actions and/or expressed beliefs, then in the light of Scripture I see no reason not to confront them and their false ideas in order to expose such error, and to prayerfully serve as a warning to prevent others from believing their lies by the grace of, and to the glory of, God alone. Of course we tackle other topics as well, and engage non-Christian false religionists, anti-theists, and everything in between, but our foundation remains the eternal Gospel of grace: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17).

Thus in the light of Scripture I see every reason to confront error with the truth, and in fact I believe it would be nothing short of wanton disobedience not to do what I do. Yet if I do this without love, I remain disobedient. I’m persuaded that if believers truly reflected upon the immeasurable depths of God’s enduring patience and loving-kindness toward us, then we would collectively place our hands over our mouths in shame for how little we manage to muster for others, especially when they disagree with us.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:1-13)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:31-33)

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