Debates

Debate Topics

Contending for the Faith

Keith Sharp

The editor of one popular subscription magazine among Christians proclaimed in the paper’s first issue that he intended to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." He seeks to eliminate all controversy from its pages. As the result dissenting views are by and large squelched.

We live in an "I’m ok, you’re ok" age. The only thing that is intolerable is intolerance. Of course we should be tolerant of racial, ethnic and political differences. We must never be so arrogant as to demand that our opinions alone are right. We should never try to enforce our views on others by physical might or political power. But does this mean we should accept all religions as equally valid?

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 (Jude verse 3).

What is our responsibility to the faith?

Definition

To answer this, we must first determine what "the faith" is. The faith is what Paul preached (Galatians 1:23). But Paul preached the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). Thus, the faith is the gospel. It is the word of God which produces faith in our hearts and is the object of our faith (Romans 10:8,17). This gospel is the "sound doctrine" which the apostles preached (1 Timothy 1:8-11). It is the doctrine of Christ (2 John verse 9), that which the Lord Jesus Christ teaches (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Characteristics

The faith has four characteristics stated in Jude verse three which are the bases of our responsibilities to it.It is "the faith," not a faith. Thus, it is unique. There is only one faith (Ephesians 4:5). It is not correct to say, You have your faith, and I have mine. We may each have our own opinion, but there is but one faith.

This view is narrow, but this is precisely the nature of truth and salvation in Christ. He is the only way to God (John 14:6). Salvation is through Him alone. Early Christians could have escaped persecution by acknowledging Caesar as god and viewing Christ as a lord among others. But there is one Lord (Ephesians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6), and it was precisely the narrowness of this stand that led unbelievers to persecute Christians.

It is "the faith once for all delivered" to the saints. The Greek word translated by the phrase "once for all" is also used to describe the uniqueness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins (Hebrews 9:27-28). He was offered once and only once. The faith was delivered once and only once. It is not continuously revealed through the ages, but was given once for all time through the apostles and prophets of the first century. Those who either bring or accept another supposed gospel or any additions to the faith are accursed of God (Galatians 1:6-9). The faith contains all God’s will for man (John 16:13) and is completely sufficient to meet all our spiritual needs (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It is "the faith which was once for all delivered." The faith is of divine rather than human origin (Galatians 1:11-12). It is the word of God not man (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It stands in stark contrast to the false revelations of such religions as Islam, Hinduism and Mormonism and to all the creeds of the denominations. They are all from man; only the faith is from God.

It is "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." All disciples of Christ are saints (cf. Acts 9:1,13), i.e., people who have been set apart to God. Thus, the faith was not delivered to a clergy which has a supposedly unique ability and authority to understand and explain it. Rather, it was delivered to all Christians. We all have the ability to comprehend its truth (Ephesians 5:17) and therefore have the responsibility to study and learn it for ourselves (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Our Responsibility

It is precisely because the faith possesses these unique qualities that we have a solemn obligation to it. We must "contend earnestly for the faith." These two words "contend earnestly" are from one Greek term which literally means to intensely agonize. It was the term the Greeks used for Olympic wrestling.

The Lord Himself engaged in public dispute with the Jewish leaders over truth (Matthew 22:15-46). He was so successful they were afraid to ask Him any more questions. Stephen, the first disciple to give his life for his faith, was eminently successful in public debate (Acts 6:9-11). The apostle Paul disputed with false teachers both within the church (Acts 15:1-2) and without (Acts 17:16-17). With such examples before us, how can we shrink from defense of the faith?

The apostle Paul summarized our obligations to the faith in the conclusion of his first letter to the Corinthians:

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

As the sentry on duty, we must watch for false teaching. When it appears, we must "stand fast in the faith." When the spiritual battle of truth against error is fought, we must be brave. When comrades around flee or fall to Satan, we must remain strong. But our battle must be fought with love - love of the truth, love of the souls we seek to save, and, yes, even love for the false teachers we fight.

In past times great debates caused many people to see the truth. The five debates of Alexander Campbell in the earlier part of the nineteenth century even made a national impact. The church grew from nonexistence in our country to become at one time the fourth largest religious body in America. Our preaching must be loving, but it must also be militant. We should answer error with a loving and gentle spirit, but we must answer error. And Christians who do not preach must love their friends and neighbors enough to show them their errors.

Conclusion

In 480 BC King Xerxes of Persia crossed the Hellespont and invaded Greece with an army estimated by modern historians to be about 360,000 soldiers. As the Greeks were forced to fall back to the south, they sent King Leonidas of Sparta with a token force of 5200 to defend the narrow pass of Thermopylae. After three days of heavy fighting the Greeks remained unconquered. During the night scouts for the Persians discovered a narrow mountain trail by which they could attack the Greeks from the rear and surround them. As the fatal attack began, most of the Greeks either surrendered or fled. But Leonidas, his band of 300 Spartans and a contingent of Thespians stood their ground. After their spears were broken, they fought with swords and then hands. They died to the man. But 20,000 Persians fell, and the time Leonidas purchased with his life enabled the Greeks to rally the forces to repel the Persian host. The stubborn, unyielding courage of Leonidas must be ours against all enemies of the faith.

The gospel is by its nature controversial. Paul and his company were accused of having "turned the world upside down." (Acts 17:6). The world hated the Master and will hate His disciples (John 15:18-20). But it was the courage to stand for truth while loving those who hated them that enabled the first century disciples to turn the world upside down. We dare not do less.


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WRITTEN DEBATES

Calvinism, Baptism & The Church

David Landon (Presbyterian) & Keith Sharp (Christian).

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE NATURE OF MAN

Are all men by inherent nature totally depraved?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on DIVINE ELECTION

Is salvation available to all mankind or to only an elect few?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE SCOPE OF CHRIST'S ATONEMENT

Did Christ die for all mankind or for only an elect few?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE CALL TO SALVATION

Are we called through the Gospel, or through direct operation?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

Is it possible or impossible for a child of God to be lost?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on FREE WILL

Does man have free will to obey God?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on JUSTIFICATION

Is justification before God by the obedience of faith or by faith alone?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS

Is the believer justified by the obedience of faith or by imputed righteousness?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE LAW OF GOD

Has the same divine moral law been in effect in every age, or are we today under on the law of Christ?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE PURPOSE OF WATER BAPTISM

Is baptism for [in order to] the remission of sins, or a sacrament administered to signify the one being baptized is in the covenant of grace.

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE PROPER SUBJECTS OF BAPTISM

Must one be a penitent believer to be baptized, or is baptism for any and all?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE MODE OF BAPTISM

Is baptism immersion only, or does it also include pouring and sprinkling?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on THE CHURCH

Is it sinful to be part of a sect or denomination, or are there justified believers found throughout the various sects and denominations?

Landon-Sharp Debate
on CREEDS

May a local church adopt an uninspired creed or must it recognize the Scriptures alone as its creed?

The Papacy

John Martignoni (Catholic) & Thomas N. Thrasher (Christian).

Martignoni-Thrasher Debate
on THE PAPACY

Was the apostle Peter the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church?

AUDIO DEBATES

Radio Debate on Catholicism

broadcast on KURM 790 AM in Northwest Arkansas in May 2001.

Debate Day 1....................Debate Day 2
Proposition: "The Scriptures and Apostolic tradition as put forth by the Roman Catholic Church are our authority for Christian faith and doctrine."
(Bill Rutland affirms; Wayne Greeson denies)

Debate Day 3....................Debate Day 4
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that the Scriptures are our only authority for Christian faith and doctrine."
(Wayne Greeson affirms; Bill Rutland denies)


Water Baptism Debate

held at Central Baptist College (Conway, AR) in April 2007.

Day 1, Part 1....................Day 1, Part 2
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that the alien sinner is forgiven of his past sins by faith only, before and without water baptism."
(Dr. Steve Raines affirms; Bruce Reeves denies)

Day 2, Part 1....................Day 2, Part 2
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that water baptism is necessary in order for the alien sinner to obtain the forgiveness of his past sins."
(Bruce Reeves affirms; Dr. Steve Raines denies)


Once Saved, Always Saved

held at Central Baptist College (Conway, AR) in April 2007.

Day 1, Part 1....................Day 1, Part 2
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that it is possible for a Christian, i.e., one who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, to so sin as to be eternally lost."
(Bruce Reeves affirms; Dr. Ron Mitchell denies)

Day 2, Part 1....................Day 2, Part 2
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that it is impossible for a Christian, that is, one cleansed by the blood of Christ, to so sin as to be eternally lost."
(Dr. Ron Mitchell affirms; Bruce Reeves denies)


LECTURESHIP BOOKLETS

2002 First Annual Lectureship
1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus

(Paul's Letters to Preachers)

2003 Second Annual Lectureship
Ephesians & Colossians

(The Divine Plan of the Ages)

2004 Third Annual Lectureship
Evidences for Faith

("That You May Believe")

Go toAUDIO PAGEfor audio files of the 2004 lectureship.

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