And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16).

To Speak The Truth Boldly And Plainly Is To Speak The Truth In Love

We hear much about verse 15 of our text today – Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. If we are to fully understand this verse we need to look back at the whole of our opening text.

As we do we see that this oft-quoted verse is primarily talking to those of us who have been called into leadership positions within the Body of Christ. For those who may not know, in my case I am pastor-teacher of a very small church that currently meets in the home of one of our members. In addition the Lord has been kind enough to also give me this forum to teach, and I do not take it lightly (cf. James 3:1). Now for sure we will need to keep in mind that, in a secondary sense, these verses do indeed apply to all Christians as well. The most important thing to remember here is that in every case the true disciple of Christ must comport himself just as his Master Jesus of Nazareth did while He was here on His earth.

Your key to really getting behind what God the Holy Sprit is saying here is the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith. And I can tell you from first hand experience we are certainly far from that in the church visible right now. As unfortunately speaking the truth in love today will require us to tell the professing Christians that many claiming to be His people are currently struggling with spiritual pride. If more of my ministering brethren were willing to “take the heat” for it, they would also be telling you that the evangelical community is not an easy one to preach/teach in. The reason being, there are so many who will just simply disregard what is taught if they personally don’t happen to like it. Since I’m not a machine even I would love to be liked; so I sincerely do wish I could tell you differently, but truly I can’t.

Please understand, I most certainly do not advocate placing yourself under just anyone’s teaching, nor would I tell you to just take any teacher’s word for anything — but test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). However, speaking the truth in love to you, the fact is that not enough people in the Christian camp are actually doing this. Rather, too many who would call themselves Christians just go by “what I’ve always been taught”; or they tend to revert to the infamous: “I don’t need to study, I have the Holy Ghost.” Yes, and so did the Apostle Paul who wrote our text about the critical role the pastor-teacher must be allowed to play in the Church for the edifying of the Body of Christ.

I have said all that, to say this. We now live in an era where people are sensing the Lord may even return “in our lifetime.” Whether He will or not is in His providence alone; but did you ever think that just maybe it is His Spirit Who is stirring us to this feeling? My point being, perhaps we need to better interpret the signs of the times (cf. Matthew 16:1-4), and come to recognize what that reddening sky above us this morning means. When you see someone like me using vitriolic language in this public witness for Christ, please know there is good reason  for it. We go the woodshed long before you do. My position in this forum is to speak the Truth boldly and to mince no words in doing so. The intent in the Lord is to make the message more difficult to ignore, as well as to provoke thought and discussion.

Why you know, this is actually what the Bells and the McLarens of the Emergent Church will tell you they are doing. The main difference perhaps, is that oftentimes people aren’t really sure what is actually being said by these leaders within the emerging convoluted “conversation.” Say what you will about me, but at least it’s fairly obvious where I stand—and this too is by careful design. Still I must tell you that, even though it is often not perceived this way today, to speak boldly and plainly is to speak the truth in love. As apologist James Spencer often says: “Truth without love is too harsh, love without truth is too soft.”

Men and women, today I tell you again that you’ve been sold a batch of ill-gotten goods about the proper way we are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NKJV). Let show you one quick example of what I’m talking about. When the Christian teacher speaks publicly—and especially in a time of apostasy—he is to be clear and direct. I know the increasingly ecumenical seeker sensitive crowd numbed by Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism won’t like this, but I’m not here for them to like me—quite the opposite. If we look at Matthew 23, for instance, there we will see Jesus speaking in a public setting. Do you think that an exchange like that happened just the one time?

But notice, during the Apostle Peter’s recollections of some of our Lord’s public discussions with religious leaders who opposed the Truth, there is a similar instance described in Mark 12. Look at verse 28 — And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another—the KJV uses reasoning together—in other words, in public debate. Now we move to the next part of the verse; let’s watch the result of the Master’s strong stance for Truth — seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” The Master’s good public exchange leads to this man later approaching Christ privately to learn more. And if you read the rest of this conversation it is likely that it eventually lead to this man getting into the Kingdom of God. Those under the spell of Rob Bell should note that this inspired text makes it very clear that this man wasn’t already in the Kingdom through his adherance to his religion.

It’s my prayer this will help clear up possible misconceptions in this area about what the function of a preaching-teaching ministry for Jesus Christ is, and more specifically, what I’m often doing publicly here at AM. However, my larger intent is to speak to my fellow workers in online apologetics and discernment—whether you be formally in ministry or not—and to exhort you that we must speak the Truth boldly when we preach in public; for this is to speak the truth in love. And then as people may come to us privately we will be afforded the opportunity to approach the same subject in a more gentler manner. For instance, anyone who has taken the time to write me concerning their differences with something I have taught will attest (if they be honest) that I have answered them according to 2 Timothy 2:24-25:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.

With this understood however, because of these times in which we live—and due to the unbridled arrogance of this pagan postmodernism into which Christ has sent us—it will require our Lord’s true ministers to approach the more public stance much like John the Baptist did. As you recall he wasn’t exactly the proto-typical ecumenical seeker sensitive purpose driven emergent sort now, was he? In fact, the man of whom Jesus said “among those born of women none is greater than John,” had but a six month public ministry and then “off with his head.” For you see, Joseph Parker put it quite well when he said:

The man whose little sermon is ‘repent’ sets himself against his age, and will for the time being be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man — ‘off with his head!’ You had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to heaven.

Friend, how about you; have you pledged your head to Heaven? A look at the Biblical record reveals that our Lord’s prophets have most often been drawn from unexpected people, and were somewhat difficult to listen to; and especially so to those who are apostatizing. And brother pastor-teacher, if you would presume to stand behind a pulpit, then this is exactly the role you have been called to. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Can you hear Him…

When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. (Hosea 7:1-2)

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this. Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. (vv. 8-11)

Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. (vv. 13-14)

Beloved, it’s time for us to try and awaken those who claim to be Christian from this dream they’ve had foisted upon them that we can just live a life of ease and compromise with the world because somehow the LORD God Almighty “understands” now how difficult it is to strive to live a perfect and holy life in our sin-sick society today:

 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:5-7)

C’mon…we’re almost home…

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