Defeatism . . . pessimism . . . negativity . . . such words characterize the attitude of many evangelicals in our current cultural moment here in America. Certainly, there are many battles to be fought, obstacles to be overcome, and horrific belief systems to be engaged. We see many tragic errors in our nation which are evident of a rejection of a biblical worldview. Yet, defeatist negativism is not the proper response of biblical Christianity. Conversely, a happy-go-lucky head-in-the-sand optimism is also detrimental. Instead, a sober realization of the moment grounded in the certain biblical hope for the future and absolute trust in the power of Christ is the correct approach. Did not the Apostles have issues to fight in their hour? What about the Old Testament prophets? They most certainly had powerful enemies facing them, however, they marched forward in faithfulness and Christ’s Kingdom has continued to advance. These biblical figures did not fail to understand the nature of the challenges facing them. However, they need not fail to comprehend the power of God either. Therefore, they marched forward with absolute confidence in God to work out His perfect plan.
We need to learn from their faithful example. What a striking moment it was last week when Roe and Casey were both overturned. It was a moment to give praise to God for His glorious providential work. Undoubtedly, I agree with my fellow abolitionist brothers when they say that the states should have passed laws banning abortion years ago regardless of Roe. However, that point is not my focus here in this article, my point is to say that we need to take a moment to realize this is a chance for us to build one particular aspect of our theology. Not because we are basing our theology in the experience of Roe being overturned, but because the overturning of Roe gives us the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves afresh of biblical truth. We need to understand that a healthy church demolishes that which is evil in the land. No stronghold of Satan can withstand the attack of Christ’s Gospel advanced by the sovereign hand of God. There is not a single demonic ideology that can overcome biblical truth. Indeed, the darkness shall not overcome the light (John 1:5).
Hopeful Trust in God’s Promises
There are a couple of aspects of biblical theology which have been neglected in our day. One of which is the comprehension of God’s power to bring about what He intends over the course of history. He does not advance His kingdom through earthly means, in the sense of weapons and physical warfare. Instead, He does it through the proclamation of the Gospel and the entire counsel of His Word by His people, the church. What were the weapons Paul would take up against the strongholds of the enemy?
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” -2 Corinthians 10:4-6
Notice here the Apostle explicitly says that he will pick up the weapons of divine power in order to destroy these strongholds raised up against the knowledge of God. He is not wishy-washy or halfway wondering whether these divine weapons will have the power to accomplish the task. No, he is absolutely certain. That fact accords with the theology he laid down in his first epistle to the church in Corinth:
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” -1 Corinthians 15:25-26
What is the period of Christ’s reign marked by? According to the Apostle Paul, it is the process of Him subduing all of his enemies and placing them under his feet. There is no doubt Christ has the authority as the sovereign King. He testified to that reality in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” -Matthew 28:18-20
Christ clearly testifies to His own power and authority in this text. He has authority in heaven and on earth. The age of the church is characterized by His conquering of His enemies. That reality means that we as His people must take up the weapons He has given to us (i.e. prayer, Scripture) and wield them in obedience to His commands. We are not given the promise that these weapons shall eradicate all the enemies of Christ in our lifetime, nor are we told that we will not have to go through difficult times of persecution and turmoil. What we do see is that Christ shall conquer all His enemies and He shall have the victory. Our job as believers is to be obedient and walk in hope that Christ shall accomplish what he has said He will!
Applying These Great Truths
Humanly speaking, the odds were stacked against the great politician William Wilberforce, who was a believer seeking to apply Scripture in his role. Public opinion, political positions, and institutional direction were all standing in opposition to his views. Based on Scripture, he wanted to abolish the abominable slave-trading practices of England, but almost everything stood in his way. John Wesley, a man with more than a few theological issues, wrote a letter to the young Wilberforce starting out on his journey. Part of that letter says this:
“Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as ‘Athanasius against the world,’ I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”1
Wesley, with all his theological complexities, rightly pointed Wilberforce to the power of God to accomplish the task if He had called the young politician to achieve it. As I said, this was at the start of Wilberforce’s political career. Around fifty years after Wilberforce’s death, thus long after the slave trade was abolished, we see another well-known figure commenting on Wilberforce. This time, it is the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. He stated:
“I have been amused with what Wilberforce said the day after they passed the Act of Emancipation. He merrily said to a friend when it was all done, ‘Is there not something else we can abolish?’ That was said playfully, but it shows the spirit of the Church of God! She lives in conflict and victory—her mission is to destroy everything that is bad in the land!”2
Spurgeon rightly points out that no evil can stand against the church of God. Friends, this has nothing to do with the power of the church, it has everything to do with the power of the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ! It is Christ who is conquering, it is He who is sovereign, and it is He who shall have dominion forever and ever. Let us not falter into negativity and pessimism. That is evidence of far too great a focus upon the enemies of the church. If all you do is look at Goliath, and how big he is, and how mighty, then you are going to be terrified just like the Israelites were. But, if you put your gaze upon the glory of God and His power, then Goliath is a puny gnat who is nothing and can be destroyed by a lad with a stone because of the mighty God. Let us have the reaction of the Old Testament prophets, of the early church, of faithful men like Wilberforce. Let us look the enemies right in the eye, and march forward with courage in our Lord. Evil is no match for a healthy church picking up the weapons of God and wielding them according to the commands of God for the eternal praise of God. Trust in these precious realities, not timidity and fear, is what we must exhibit. I pray we shall be confident in the risen Lord who reigns on high!