Contending for the faith – Do we have to fight to get to heaven?

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Contending-for-the-faithContending for the faith – why the Christian should fight

Not only is the Christian life a race but it is also a fight.  The apostle Paul likened himself to a boxer, a prizefighter contending for the faith.  This not only speaks of training and discipline but also of strategy and force.  A race demands a toned body, quickness and endurance, but a fight requires quick reflexes, perception, strength and aggressiveness.  Running a race requires aggressiveness with one’s own body but fighting requires aggressiveness with one’s own body before the fight and aggressiveness with the opponent during the fight.  Paul speaking figuratively of the prizefight explained that he did not waste his energy throwing punches in the air.  His attitude was to throw a punch or a series of punches to knock out and eliminate the opponent.

Contending for the faith is like training for a boxing match

One of the most important attitudes of a prizefighter is aggressiveness.  Caution is important but caution alone, while necessary to avoid a defeating blow from the enemy, never won a single fight.  Paul was expressing his example of contending for the faith through his self-discipline and aggressiveness against resisting forces that could get in the way of his victory and his prize.  We know this because in the last part of verse 27 he stated that he willingly went through much sacrifice so that after having preached the gospel he would not disqualify himself.  It is so important to have a firm conviction that for him contending for the faith was not a matter of keeping his salvation.  Just think, if the apostle Paul had doubts about whether he would make it to heaven or not, where would the rest of us be?  The apostle’s fear was of the possibility of disqualifying himself from the race and the fight.  In contending for the faith, do we have to fight to get to heaven?  Absolutely not!  Heaven and salvation are not prizes they are gifts.  No one can disqualify himself from receiving a gift or else it would no longer be a gift.

In contending for the faith it isn’t enough to preach

Here we see that in contending for the faith, it is not enough to preach.  Paul preached the gospel, healed the sick, suffered persecution and many other things that most Christians would almost never deem necessary and yet he saw the need to force himself and buffet his body so that he could finish the race and the fight as a winner.  The correct attitude that we must learn from Paul’s words is that we must be faithful in doing the best we can while always striving for more.  For this, faith is an indispensable necessity.

Contending for the faith in the Christian life beyond being a race and a fight is also an all-out war.  Besides being athletes and spiritual heavyweight boxing champions, God also calls the Christian to be a good soldier.  In Matthew 11:12 Jesus taught that since the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.  Implicit in this statement is the application of resistance.  The truth is that the Church of Jesus Christ is an invading force in the world.

Contending for the faith implies overcoming the devil

In 1John 5:19 the apostle John wrote: We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”

That is because Satan is governing through his minions of demons over the world system, governments, the press, education, etc.  According to 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 47 Jesus became the last Adam and the second man: a new spiritual head, and under His “headship” the Church, which is Christ’s body, has been authorized and sent to take back the earth for God’s purposes.  When the Lord said to Peter “upon this rock” referring to Peter’s confession of the Lordship of Jesus, He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, He was revealing that His purpose for the church was conquest, a re-taking of the earth from the clutches of the evil one. This is what is meant by contending for the faith!  The meaning here is not that the gates of hell are moving in on the world and the Church is trying to fight them off.  The correct idea and imagery is that the church is the invading force and the church is taking the battle to Satan’s strongholds, the gates of his city.  The church is the invading force and the gates of Hell will not be able to withstand its strength and violence.  Nothing short of this aggressive attitude on the part of the Church will do!  Satan will not peaceably give up what he has previously usurped.

The Apostle Paul explained that the nature of our battle is not against men, kings, or nations but against an organized army of demonic spirits who occupy strategic strongholds in the world.  The truth is that Christ has defeated the enemy and has broken his hold on the world.  The job of the Church as the army of God is to take the world back, soul by soul, family by family, city by city, and nation by nation.  Our struggle is against real and dangerous enemies but the Lord has already won the war and secured the victory and has opened the path for our own victory.  Even so, we must fight courageously and violently against these enemies in order to take back that which rightfully and originally belongs to man.

Only by contending for the faith in active resistence against Satan will the Kingdom of God advance

Christians usually consider violence as a negative trait and that God’s people should be gentle and never violent in their dealing with others.  However, some types of violence are needful in the Christian life.  While God gives salvation by grace through faith to His children, the advance of the kingdom of heaven only occurs through battle.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and evil spirits operating on different levels of power and authority.  It is only in resisting, in applying force against these evil spirits that God’s kingdom advances.  Never think that if the church, which is the body of Christ and the army of God does nothing, that Christ’s rule will advance, it will not. The expansion of the Gospel is not automatic.  God is sovereign but He never works apart from His people.  That is the reason we are still on the earth; we have not yet finished our work.

Expanding the rule of Christ, edifying the body of Christ, obeying the great commission are all one in the same and none of this happens without violence in the spiritual realm.  When we as the people of God begin to recognize that, we are already in a battle and that God calls all of us to fight as soldiers, we will be able to understand and avoid many difficulties in the Christian life.

Salvation is by grace but only by contending for the faith will salvation reach others

There are Christians who are apathetic, paralyzed and passive in many situations where God calls upon them to be strong and courageous.  Unfortunately, many have been convinced that living in the age of grace means that they need not do anything through the body.  We need to be very clear: grace is for salvation but violence in the spirit is necessary to advance the work of God.  In reality, this violence is only a working out and maturing of the grace that we have received starting with our salvation.  Those who do not learn this lesson will never fully see the blessing of God upon their lives, because they imagine that conquests and victories come in the same way that salvation comes – by grace.

We as God people have been commanded to preach the gospel, baptize those who believe, make disciples and teach them to heal the sick, cast out demons and anything else necessary to destroy the works of the devil.  The gates of hell will not be able to withstand Christ’s heavenly kingdom that is invading the earth through the Church, which is the body of Christ and the army of God.  This understanding is foundational but beyond that, there is the need to maintain the proper attitude.

Contending for the faith requires strength, courage and action

The Lord told Joshua as he was preparing to enter into the Promised Land to “be strong and of a good courage” three times in the space of twelve verses.  Fear not!  Be strong!  Believe!  Go ye!  Stand firm!  Resist the devil!  God has given commands such as these to His people all throughout the centuries. Without this attitude and the proper knowledge of the nature of the battle that God has placed us in, we will not be able to effectively contend for the faith and advance the kingdom of God on the earth.  The only thing that slows God down is His people and their ignorance and lack of a proper attitude.  This attitude, which is so often lacking, is nothing more than a reasonable reaction of faith to God’s attributes and purposes.

Whenever we encounter the strongman, God expects us to bind him, enter his house and take the spoils that he has stolen.  The Lord taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Whenever we encounter a situation that God does not permit in heaven, we must resist it violently in the spirit, and overcome the demonic resistance until God’s forces reverse the situation and it conforms to His will as it is in heaven.

Jesus continued later in the same chapter speaking of the nature of demonic activity.  In chapter 12:43-45 we read:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

Either we understand that we must be contending for the faith by taking the kingdom of heaven by force and in this war we must use violent tactics where the best defense is an advancing attack through which we take the conflict to the enemy, or we will open ourselves to the humiliation of an enemy occupation.  We must either advance against Satan and his forces or he will find us, move into our house and drag us into a worse situation than he had us in previously.  Jesus called those who have been able to break free from Satan’s clutches but fail to advance and overcome him, a “wicked generation”.  This was because their passivity and cowardice permitted the enemy to return and take back that which God had originally forced him to give up.

Is contending for the faith necessary to get to heaven? The answer is no, because heaven is a gift, we don’t have to fight to receive a gift, it is enough to recieve it.  However, we do have to contend for the faith to experience God’s best for us and reserve a position in His kingdom.

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