Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!
by Dennis Michelson
II Thessalonians 2:13-15
Introduction: This sermon title was borrowed from Al Mohler who used it for his address to the Southern Seminary in 1993. He had just assumed the position as president of the institution and was seeking to call the school back to its founding doctrinal principles.
Fundamentalists appear to be in a similar position today. We are famous for increasing our speed after we have lost our sense of direction. The text states that we should "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
This Sunday will be what many have identified as "Reformation Sunday." One of the principles of the Reformation was that that church would always need to be reforming in order to rid itself of the tendency to drift with the culture rather than hold fast to its doctrinal moorings.
There are five basic principles upon which the Reformation was founded and we would do well to be reminded of these today. Although there is much involved in the Reformation with which Baptists may differ, these five principles remain biblical benchmarks for those who seek to hold fast to the scriptural traditions passed down by their forefathers.
1. Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority
The Bible alone is our authoritative standard for faith and practice. Sadly, the Church has drifted away from a biblical stance to a mainly pragmatic approach to the Christian life and life in the Church. In many respects the culture holds more sway in the Church than the Scripture.
The Church has become more concerned with adapting the faith to the felt needs of consumers than proclaiming the Truth and challenging the "consumer" to be conformed to it.
Also, we might identify the motto of our day as Sola Paraphrasa rather than Sola Scriptura. Take a trip to your local Christian bookstore and ask for a copy of the Scriptures. The person assisting you will inevitably ask "which one?" So you say, "I want the one God wrote." Of course they will say "He wrote all of them."
Then you ask (innocently) "Do they all say the same thing?" If they give an honest reply then they will say "well, there are variations in all of them." So you then say, "well just give me the Holy Bible." And so it goes . . .ad infinitum.
Our belief in the Scriptures is being eroded by culture and consumerism. We have become more concerned with readability than reliability. If we are not careful - and a bit more precise - then we will become enmeshed in the Slough of Translation rather than the historic view of Revelation.
2. Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith
We have traded in the Cross for the Couch! The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for long-term hope.
Christ and His cross have become secondary to Christian counseling techniques and modern placebos for ancient problems.
3. Sola Gratia: The Erosion of the Gospel
Our unwarranted confidence in human ability is a direct byproduct of the fallen nature we seek to modify. We talk out of both sides of our mouth. One the one hand we say "take the first step and God will bring you the rest of the way." On the other, we say "man is dead and incapable of coming to God without Divine assistance."
This false confidence in man's ability not only fills the evangelical Church but also many formerly fundamental churches as well. We have moved to the gospel of self-esteem, the gospel of health and wealth, and ultimately to a gospel which needs to be marketed to consumers who will buy our product if we can be ingenious enough in our sales approach.
We flatly deny the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16 ). If the gospel is really dynamite then give it to the sinner and it will blow up because it is true - not simply because it works! The historical Baptist position has been that salvation is not in any sense a human work.
Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish what only the gospel can. Faith is not produced by our fallen nature - it is a gift from God.
4. Sola Fide: The Erosion of the Chief Article
The cry of the Reformation was "salvation by faith alone." We have changed it to "salvation by profession of faith alone." Even though the theology of the Cross is still believed, many current movements are emptying it of any real meaning.
We say we believe that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone but in practice we sometimes deny this.
Adrian Rodgers was asked one time what his greatest challenge was and he replied "getting my church members saved." Many of our folk are trusting in their profession of faith rather then living out a vibrant saving faith which originates with God and not man.
Either a man is born again and subsequently exercises faith or he exercises faith and is born again. We cannot have it both ways. By the way, when I preach these doctrines people look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Just think of how Spurgeon would feel if he had to endure a typical Armenian sermon today.
5. Soli Deo Gloria: Erosion of God-Centered Worship
When you lose biblical authority, displace Christ, distort the gospel and pervert faith, then worship must suffer. Simply stated, our interests have replaced God's interests. The governing question has become "what do the people like" rather than, "what does God like?"
This allows us to transform worship into entertainment, preaching into marketing, trusting technique and not the Word and feeling good about ourselves rather than being good.
Conclusion: There was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were very different from those in culture. Today they are not. Even professing fundamental churches have been sorely influenced by the false gospels of secular culture, which are no gospels at all.
The five "solas" were five Latin phrases that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarized the Reformer's basic theological beliefs in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. The Latin word "sola" means "alone" or "only" in English.
These five "solas" articulated the five fundamental beliefs of the Reformation. These were the pillars which the Reformers believed to be essentials to the Christian life and practice. We would do well to remember these things and "stand fast" upon them lest we become like what they so vehemently opposed.