On Controversy by John Newton

I humbly post this for the prayerful reflection of my brothers and sisters who in obedience to Christ faithfully seek to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3), while striving to be always ready with an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15), but who (like me) may regrettably all to often neglect the remainder of the verse; with gentleness and respect”.

The following letter was written by John Newton, perhaps best known as the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” to a minister with whom he was acquainted on the occasion of the latter pastor’s penning of an open letter to be published which was critical of another minister’s theological orthodoxy. May we heed godly brother Newton’s admonitions to his fellow minister of the eternal Gospel of grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Eph. 2:1-7

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, nay friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle. But I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a coat of armor; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great armory provided for the Christian soldier, the word of God. I take it for granted, that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

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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).

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Expository Moments (1) – Matthew 26:39

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Matt. 26:39

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

And he went a little further – That is, at the distance that a man could conveniently cast a stone (Luke).

Fell on his face – Luke says “he kneeled down.” He did both.

He first kneeled, and then, in the fervency of his prayer and the depth of his sorrow, he fell with his face on the ground, denoting the deepest anguish and the most earnest entreaty. This was the usual posture of prayer in times of great earnestness. See Numbers 16:22; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Nehemiah 8:6.

If it be possible – That is, if the world can be redeemed – if it be consistent with justice, and with maintaining the government of the universe, that people should be saved without this extremity of sorrow, let it be done. There is no doubt that if it had been possible it would have been done; and the fact that these sufferings were “not” removed, and that the Saviour went forward and bore them without mitigation, shows that it was not consistent with the justice of God and with the welfare of the universe that people should be saved without the awful sufferings of “such an atonement.”

Let this cup – These bitter sufferings. These approaching trials. The word cup is often used in this sense, denoting sufferings. See the notes at Matthew 20:22.

Not as I will, but as thou wilt – As Jesus was man as well as God, there is nothing inconsistent in supposing that, as man, he was deeply affected in view of these sorrows. When he speaks of His will, he expresses what “human nature,” in view of such great sufferings, would desire. It naturally shrunk from them and sought deliverance. Yet he sought to do the will of God. He chose rather that the high purpose of God should be done, than that that purpose should be abandoned from regard to the fears of his human nature. In this he has left a model of prayer in all times of affliction. It is right, in times of calamity, to seek deliverance. Like the Saviour, also, in such seasons we should, we must submit cheerfully to the will of God, confident that in all these trials he is wise, and merciful, and good.

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Destroying Strongholds

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“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 Christ…” – 2 Cor. 10:4-6 (ESV)

The recent promulgation on SSM by the SCOTUS is quite simply yet another stronghold, or fortress, that’s been erected against the knowledge of God.

This should come as no surprise to Christians, because fallen man in his vain imaginings is ever industrious building philosophical strongholds in which he tries to hide himself from his Creator and Judge.

There are all manner of these spiritual fortresses, and they take many forms, but they’re all alike in that:

i.) they are the works of men
ii.) they stand over against the knowledge of God, and
iii.) they are in opposition to Christ

They are also alike in another important way – they can be destroyed by the weapons of our warfare, with which God has equipped His people.

It’s very important for God’s people to think deeply and Biblically so that we may be equipped to destroy the strongholds (and arguments) of the fallen world system which are not in submission to Christ.

For many this may mean spending more time in prayer, in God’s Word, and with God’s people in order to be better equipped to “Go therefore…”