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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Column: First Truths from the First Gospel by David Hall

Update on the Insider Movement

May 29, 2014 •

...From Matthew’s Gospel

Read Matt. 10:32-33

This just in: the Bible answers the question about how converts in hostile countries are to bear witness to Christ: Publicly. That, at least, is what Jesus said in the first Gospel.

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumbo and artful dodges—often asserted by Western theoreticians ensconced by comfortable tenure, grants, and libraries—we ought not forget that our Lord answers this question in red letters. To acknowledge Christ means to be unashamed of him. Jesus thought that would be good for us in every generation and in every culture, even if persecution occurred. Calvin said that, “there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness.”[1]

But perhaps, modern movements are tempted to elevate some sources or pressures over the clear gospel message. Westerners may even think they know better than some on-the-ground who have taken Jesus’ words to heart.

Start with a baby issue, compared to martyrdom. Have you ever, for example, been in a public place and been embarrassed to associate with someone or an institution? What is that like?

Suppose you are attending a reunion of some sort, and most of the classmates are very successful. And all you do is work from the home or have a job that is not too prestigious. You are tempted, aren’t you, to be vague (“I’m a free-lancer or self-employed”), or to overstate and blur what you do. Why? Because you don’t want to acknowledge that everyone else is better or more successful. Or if everyone else attended an elite school, and you didn’t, or if most people drive great cars and you drive a clunker . . . we seldom like to advertise anything except prize-winning success.

A person can be embarrassed to stand with Christ. You may feel sheepish to admit that he is Lord and that you depend on him. 

Have you ever stopped to ask why it is that we are often kowtowed and afraid to be public about our faith? Here are some possible reasons:

  • It could affect your pay or advancement, if you are in an organization that does not value Christ and his kingdom. You might be tempted to low-key it.
  • Perhaps you’re not that sure yourself if Christ rules your heart, mind, and affections.
  • It may be that the strong secular tide makes it very unpopular to be a public Christian.
  • Christianity may be associated with undesirable things, such as ignorance or bigotry, and be associated with being shallow or uncool.
  • Christians are invariably accused of hypocrisy.
  • Or if you are a convert, especially in a hostile region, you fear the repercussions of taking a public stand with Christ.

There are many reasons, but Jesus distilled his answer succinctly in one passage when he said that some people fear man more than God.

The genuine work of Christ, however, in our hearts is so strong that it leads us to confess him and also to wear his name in any ways we can. Christ living in a timid person can make that timid witness bold. See the early disciples and many other converts.

If you have not publicly confessed Christ, does the reason have anything to do with the power and provision of Christ? Or is it due to your doubts and hesitancies?

There is also a rich promise in Matthew 10:32b. If we own Christ as our Savior—this is employing a good Scottish term, “own,” to identify this as your possession—then he will endorse us to the ultimate audience: “I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” That is as high as it gets. Conversely, you don’t want Jesus to deny knowing you!

Jesus will be our advocate with the Father. How great is that, especially when you need strong help? For Christ to acknowledge us to the Father means that he is not embarrassed to associate with us. Wow; talk about inequity—that Jesus would associate with us . . . and that we would be embarrassed to associate with him?

Not only does Christ call us to this but he also warns what will happen if we do not identify with him. In Matthew 10:33, the Lord flips the equation. To underscore how important this is, Jesus states that if you disown him—note that there is no middle ground, no true agnosticism—then he will disown you before his father’s throne.

Some of the scariest words in the NT are: “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” (Mt. 7:23). For Christ not to recognize us, not to know us, not to have us in his family or to disown us before the Father is the worst and most final of judgments. You cannot recover from that, to be sure.

So do you fly your flag and acknowledge Christ before men? We should—in every way possible—if we hope to be acknowledged before God the Father. And we want our Lord Jesus to fly that flag, saying that he knows us as well!

Of course, our Master knew that publicly identifying with Christ could sever some of the most cherished bonds, even close family ties.

Several are used for illustrations at the end of Matthew 10, but the list could go on and on. As a strong corrective, in the next verse the Lord corrects an idea. He says not to suppose that he had come to bring peace to the earth or to all relationships. That would be a mistake. He repeats a second, more vivid way: “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The sword was the symbol for warfare and battle.

The Lord does not encourage his followers to miss this point. Following him may lead to conflict and strife, not all ease. That’s why it is good, sometimes, to be clear when we present the gospel that all will not be easy.

As the Lord himself warns:

  • a son may turn against his father—both may not share the faith, especially in the first century when many converts were coming out of Judaism, but even in other circumstances, some fathers and sons do not share the same faith.
  • The same is true for daughters and mothers—even in this precious bond, there may be division among close relatives like mothers and daughters;
  • Daughters in law may be divided from their husband’s family—all over the faith, not over family customs and roles.
  • A man’s enemies, normally outside the home, may, Jesus says, be among the members of his own family. What a tragedy.

And this is primarily because of conversion. Does the Insider Movement contradict Jesus at this point, if it advises converts to sublimate their public profession or to remain as hidden believers or to hide their light under a bushel?

To make things crystal clear, Jesus then gives a summary comparison: “Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Sure we love our parents, and some of us have had exemplary ones. But few will love their parents more than the world.

Calvin’s commentary on these verses is as modern as it could be. And it confronts the thinking that tells us to sublimate our testimony out of fear of reprisals. Sure, maybe no one in the Insider Movement means that, but it sure sounds like that in some debates. So, for those who consider these issues, here’s a nice review by Calvin on Matthew 10:32.

He now applies to his present subject what he formerly said in a general manner about contempt of death: for we must struggle against the dread of death, that it may not keep us back from an open confession of faith, which God strictly demands, and which the world cannot endure. For this purpose the disciples of Christ, though it is regarded by the greater part of men as a trifling matter, is here represented to be a main part of divine worship, and a distinguished exercise of godliness. And justly is it so represented: for if earthly princes, in order to enlarge and protect their glory, and to increase their wealth, call their subjects to arms, why should not believers maintain, at least in language, the glory of their heavenly King?

It is therefore certain that those persons extinguish faith, (as far as lies in their power,) who inwardly suppress it, as if the outward profession of it were unnecessary. With good reason does Christ here call us his witnesses, by whose mouth his name shall be celebrated in the world. In other words, he intends that the profession of his name shall be set in opposition to false religions: and as it is a revolting matter, he enjoys the testimony which we must bear, that the faith of each person may not remain concealed in the heart, but may be openly professed before men. And does not he who refuses or is silent deny the Son of God, and thus banish himself from the heavenly family?

Calvin dealt with this issue centuries ago. More importantly, Jesus did. And not only was our Lord transcultural in his knowledge, but he was not exactly a late modern Western imperialist.

Isn’t it a matter of gospel integrity to confess as Christ calls us to in the tenth chapter of the first Gospel?

[1] John Calvin, Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), vol. 1, 407.


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