Reading Classics Together - Holiness (The Fight)
“Fight the good fight of faith.”
Today those of us who are engaged in this project to read some great Christian classics together are going to be looking at the fourth chapter of J.C. Ryle's Holiness. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Even if you are not participating, please keep reading. I'm sure there will be something here to benefit you. We are at the half-way point of this study. If you’d like to participate, please do. Otherwise you may wish to wait until we have completed this study and begin our next one (did someone say, “John Owen?”).
To this point Ryle has covered Sin, Sanctification and Holiness. This week he progresses to “The Fight.” In this chapter he examines the biblical metaphor of the Christian life being a faith of faith. “There is [a] warfare of far greater importance than any way that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two or three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul.”
The chapter follows this general outline:
- True Christianity is a fight
- It is a fight against
- The Flesh
- The World
- The Devil
- It is a necessary fight
- A fight of absolute necessity
- A fight of universal necessity
- A fight of perpetual necessity
- It is a fight against
- True Christianity is the fight of faith
- True Christianity is a good fight
- It has the best of generals
- It has the best of helps
- It has the best of promises
- It has the best of issues and results
- It does good to the soul
- It does good to the world
- It ends in a glorious reward
- To those who struggle for the fight of the word: Join Christ’s army
- To those who are tried soldiers of Christ, remember:
- to put on the whole armor of God
- to keep from civilian affairs
- to beware of insincere soldiers
- Balaam, Judas, Demas, and Lot’s wife
- the eye of Christ is upon us
- the countless soldiers who have fought before us
- time is short
“The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.” How true these words are! And how they clash with the prevailing opinion of our day. We are accustomed to hearing preachers speak of the abundant life and the life of constant blessing and ease. We are accustomed to thinking that ease is the right of the Christian while difficulty is the result of a dead faith. But Ryle, looking to the Bible, tells us otherwise. The Christian life is a battle, from beginning to end, from conversion to consummation.
Many teachers today tell us that Christians must abandon the warfare imagery common in days past. If Jesus were to give us His Word today, they say, He would not use this imagery. It is contextual and a product of a violent Roman society. But I disagree. What better image is there of the Christian life than the constant battle against the flesh, the world and the devil. We cannot dialog and cannot rely on peacekeepers or negotiators. Rather, we must fight. We must battle continually as we seek to live in a way that is consistent with our position as children of God.
This is more than imagery. The fight is a principle, a worldview, a way of understanding life. If we do not understand that life is a battle, we will easily be lulled into complacency. “He who would understand the nature of true holiness must know that the Christian is ‘a man of war.’ If we would be holy we must fight.”
So this is the main point I take away from this week’s chapter. The battle is raging whether I choose to acknowledge it or not. If I see life in this way—in the way the Bible describes—I will be equipped to properly understand the difficulties that attend day-to-day life as a Christian. I will know that my flesh, the world and the devil are fighting against me and I will know that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can and must fight back.
We'll continue the book next Thursday (October 4) with the fifth chapter (“The Cost”). If you’ve committed to join in this reading project, please keep reading and be prepared to discuss it!
I am interested in hearing what you took away from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Don't feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or gave you pause or confused you.