Monday, April 26, 2010

What it means to hold fast

Revelation 2:24-25 “I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”

Undoubtedly we live in an evil day. What we have in these words from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ is valuable counsel for His Church in the midst of an evil day.“That which ye have already, hold fast”. To hold fast implies that when we make a sincere and open profession of the truth there will be significant opposition in our way and there will be great difficulties and even danger in fulfilling this duty.

John Owen writes concerning the original word translated hold fast that it includes:
(1.) A supposition of great difficulty, with danger and opposition, against this holding the profession of our faith. (2.) The putting forth of the utmost of our strength and endeavors in the defense of it. (3.) A constant perseverance in it.

Holding fast also implies that in an evil day our main responsibility and duty is to retain and maintain the heritage or deposit of truth with which we have been entrusted: “I will put none other burden upon you”. “Hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This is our basic duty. It may take all of our energy just to swim against the high waves of opposition and iniquity, even just to hold our ground. The man who slackens to attend to anything else while swimming against the tide will never succeed in either task by which his attention is divided.

Christ gives us “none other burden”, we are not to take additional burdens from anyone else. Men love to add burdens, the Pharisees piled duties upon the people which blinded them to the real necessities of their responsibility towards God. “I have spoken to them the great things of my law, but they were accounted as a strange thing”. The apostolic Church could say of their synodical decrees “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things’ (Acts 15:28).

In a day of small things men like to add new burdens in the Church of God. They bring in inventions of their own, innovations in the worship of God which are neither commanded nor necessary. These are the burdens of men and they hinder rather than help us in holding fast. It is gross disobedience to “teach for doctrines the commandments of men”. Others will remove from the testimony and water down the whole counsel of God in order to make the truth more palatable to a rebellious age. This too is forbidden. We are to maintain the whole truth and nothing but the truth: “that which ye have already, hold fast”. “Earnestly contend for the saints once delivered to the saints”.

Men also like to bind burdens on the people of God which will detract from a careful and holy profession of Christ. There were trends in the Church in Thyatira which encouraged walking closely with the world, conforming in certain areas to whatever was required in the trade guilds such as eating in the temples of idols. No doubt there were those who could justify it from the perspective of building bridges with the world but the truth is, as in our own day, that those who advocate running to the same places of sinful pleasure with the world are not extending the influence of the Church in the world but rather that of the world in the Church. Such are seeking to weaken the grip of the Christian and even wrestle out of their grasp the burden that Christ has given to them. In the natural world we often see a bird find a morsel of food, no sooner than he can make away with it in his beak he is pursued by another and then by several birds harrying and chasing to see if they can make him drop his prized meal. So it is with the Christian, no sooner does he take up a profession of the Saviour and the world, the flesh and the devil are all upon him to see if they can make him lose that which he must hold fast.