When To Contend, Part 1of2, Pastor Phil Sessa

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Genesis 26;19-22, “19 Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. 20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek [meaning quarrel], because they quarreled with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land”

After Isaac’s servants uncovered the wells, they also dug new wells. The servant’s continued to dig new wells, but for each new well, there were arguments concerning the new well that had been dug. The herdsmen of Gerar and Isaac’s herdsman argued with each other both laying claim to the water in the well. After this they dug another well, but argued over that one too, and they named that well Sitnah, meaning opposition. “And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth [meaning spacious], because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

In this day and age, there are many that are arguing about different areas of the Gospel, about people in ministry, about areas of ministry, and about styles or methods of ministry. There are certainly times that the argument is productive and other times it is destructive. Each of us needs to learn how to choose our battles, carefully and wisely, so that God is glorified. There are times to engage, and times to disengage in arguments. In Acts 15, there are two conflicts that arose, one concerning over the question of having to be circumcised to be saved, and Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputed with the men from Judea. These men were Judaizers—false teachers who were self-appointed guardians of legalism, teaching a doctrine of salvation by works. Should Paul and Barnabas have argued about this issue, or just walk away and let it go? Well, many would have walked away and would have perhaps “agreed to disagree.” However, this is an issue to go to the mat on (to use a wrestling term), because it is a Gospel issue. As Christians we must determine which issues we are going to go to the mat over and which ones are not worth battling over. The issue here was clearly salvation by works, and therefore would make null and void Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Look at the word of Jude who wrote, Jude 1:3-4,“1 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude actually encouraged contending! I think it is clear that we must contend for the faith and contend on Gospel issues. Apologetics is the study of actually defending the faith, which is still a crucial issue in this day and age. We defend the faith, because it is worth defending, and God is glorified as we stand for His word! Do you stand for God’s word? The issue of faith alone being essential for salvation is still an issue today, are we willing to stand for a Gospel issue and make it clear that we cannot agree with those that hold to a salvation by works?. In the Genesis 26 it reads, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” God will make room for you as you are faithful to the Gospel and cause you to be faithful in the Gospel even as you contend for the Gospel when necessary. To close one of my favorite scriptural accounts is from Acts 7, when Stephen is put on trial for Christ. Stephen stands and contends for the Gospel, using harsh but true language toward his Jewish accusers. As he is about to be stoned he says, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Jesus stood for Stephen as Stephen stood for Christ! What a blessing! Yet he was willing to contend, and then the blessing followed, and I am sure that God made room for Stephen (his life is recorded in Scripture!) and fruitful, we are still encouraged by the stand that he took, and his story is a model for us to learn how to stand and contend. What a great example, and a great God! Now go and be faithful to the Gospel.
Until the nets are filled…blessing Pastor Phil

One thought on “When To Contend, Part 1of2, Pastor Phil Sessa

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