Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.
Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!
Are you a coward?
That’s the horrifying question I asked myself as a believer the first time I read the 21st chapter of Revelation, as recorded by the Apostle John at Patmos. It is a rich and riveting account filled with vivid promises of final victory that captures the imagination and bring the believer to his knees in contemplation of an eternity without suffering, sadness, or even death. And yet, abruptly, in the middle of that hope-filled chapter where God lovingly wipes away every tear, we are confronted with the devastating flip-side of a much different outcome.
Some people, in various states of spiritual malignancy, will be tossed into the lake of fire and sulfur. And first on the list, and perhaps foremost, are the cowards:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8
This verse should immediately snatch the breath from any sensitive Christian. The “cowardly”? Is there a believer in all the world who has never struggled with doubt nor shrunk back in fear from earthly trouble? Is anyone thus saved? Am I saved?
In the RCAMS Inventory of Roxburghshire of 1956, there is a detailed description of the Scottish ruin of Melrose Abbey that notes the presence of a carved stone scroll on the magnificent south transept gable bearing this text, in Latin: “When Jesus comes, the shadow will yield and depart.” Sadly, the scroll has since disappeared, but the profound truth upon it is still etched on the heart of every believer.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” — John 8:12
Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. He is truth essentially in himself, and he is the one who leads the church into all truth.
But what does Jesus mean by “all truth”? He does not mean “all truth” absolutely. The Holy Spirit’s work is not to lead us into all historical, geographical, astronomical and mathematical truth. The Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth concerning the mysteries of the kingdom of God, of the gospel, of the counsel of God about the salvation of the church by Christ (Acts 20:27). The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth necessary for faith and obedience (Acts 20:21).
Each believer is led into all the truth necessary to his own state and condition, to enable him to do his duty and work (Eph. 4:7). Christ gives to each according to his measure and needs.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” — Romans 12:18
In Ephesians 6:13-18, the Apostle Paul lays out the full armor of God with which the Church must fit herself as she struggles against the forces of darkness. We are to stand firm in the Spirit and the Gospel, says Paul, by putting on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, donning the helmet of salvation, wielding the sword of the Spirit, carrying the shield of faith, and utilizing prayer at all times.
Some Christians have assumed that these armaments are merely metaphors for the personal tools of faith that the individual believer uses to fight a private battle against the devil. Others see these implements as biblically-mandated weapons for the visible Church to wield political or military power against mortal enemies. But such viewpoints limit or distort the profound meaning that Paul is trying to convey to us in this teaching. The equipping of the prophetic full armor of God upon the Church is much more startling and humbling in its significance.