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Correcting Ephesian Fundamentalism

March 20, 2012

Much of my concern with the recent expressions of Biblical fundamentalism can be expressed in the same terms as Christ’s complaint with the Ephesian church. She has left her first love. In Revelation 2, Christ gives His church the solution to her love problems. It is three fold. Remember that which you have lost. Repent, turning from the wrong loves that you have pursued. Return, going back and beginning again those things which were done at first.

To understand the injunction, it is necessary to fully understand the complaint. The church left its first love. Leaving the first love is the departure from the early commitment to the Word and obedience to Christ for something, anything, else. This leaving the first love is not an emotional problem, it is a lack of commitment and obedience. In Matthew 24:12, Christ tells His disciples that in the last days (which we are in) the love of many will grow cold as a result of the increase of sin. In short, we have left our first love because we turned aside after sin. The only solution for us is a return to a Word filled, God exalting, doctrinally robust ministry.

Nothing in the letter to the Ephesians suggests they needed more emotional involvement or a greater feeling of something. The command given to them is to return to their original deeds. The solution to a departure from the original love is not an increase of “praise and worship” music. The correction to having left the first love is not found in a series of emotional personal testimonies. The only Biblical and profitable response is to return to those works which were done at first. The Word of God does not leave us guessing to what deeds Christ is referring. Acts 19 gives to us glimpses into the early events surrounding the starting of the Ephesian church. In that chapter, three things stand out. In verse 9, the church was daily gathering together for Biblical instruction. In verse 20, the Ephesians were ruled by the Word of God. In verse 17, they lived lives that glorified God.

The solution for fundamentalism found in Acts 19 begins with a rock solid commitment to ongoing instruction of the Word of God. This is a major problem within fundamentalism. The clear instruction of the Word has been replaced by catchy outlines, pet peeves and oratorical chicanery. To put this very bluntly, we must stop ordaining and calling men who treat the text as the diving board for their opinions, who preach their personal opinions as if they are Divine revelation or who act as if the Biblical text was given as an idea farm for their creative sermonizing. We need to be teaching, promoting and seeking sound, exegetical preaching that diligently explains the authorial intent of a given passage and that carefully applies the original intent to our current circumstances. We need to do away with gamesmen, showmen, comedians, con artists, bullies, braggarts and performers. We need faithful men who will strive for nothing less than the faithful exposition of God’s Holy Word.

We need listeners who desire something more than entertainment. We need church members who yearn to have the Word of God opened up before them. We need church members who diligently and daily study the Word on their own. We need church members with the gumption and gravity to examine every message to ascertain if what was presented as coming from God’s Word actually is in God’s Word, in the place it was said to be found. We need church members with the discernment to know that large crowds or great numbers of decisions are not clear markers of Divine truth and blessing. We need church members who know that faithful obedience to the Word is far more important than gripping sermons and moving illustrations. We need church members who are so hungry for the Word that they will listen attentively, study diligently and obey faithfully. We need a fundamentalism filled with believers who are committed to constant instruction in the Word. The solution to our departed love starts with saturating ourselves in the Word.

In the weeks ahead we’ll consider the other aspects of Christ’s solution to His church.


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