Be Like Batman: Guard the Gospel
Batman is a model church member.
I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence in a 9Marks article, huh? But think about it for a moment. Batman’s just an ordinary person, a regular guy roaming the streets of Gotham in a batsuit bringing justice to criminals. He doesn’t have special Kryptonian DNA like Superman. He was never injected with a super soldier serum like Captain America. But when the Dark Knight sees the bat symbol light up the sky, he suits up and gets to work guarding the city of Gotham. He’s an ordinary man with an extraordinary task.
What does any of this have to do with your role as a church member? Well, quite a bit. Church members have been commissioned by God to guard the gospel. That task may seem like something that should be entrusted to spiritual superheroes. But God in his wisdom has put that responsibility on every Christian as a member of a local church.
Let’s see this in the Bible.
GUARDING GOD’S DWELLING
The story of redemption actually begins with God commissioning Adam to “guard” the Garden of Eden, the dwelling place of God (Gen 2:15). As creation’s priest-king, Adam had the responsibility to protect Eden from sin’s defiling influence. When the serpent slithered into the garden and began tempting his wife, Adam shirked his responsibility. The bat-symbol flashed in the sky, but Adam refused to suit up. Instead, he passively followed his wife into disobedience (Gen 3:6).
But thankfully, the story didn’t end there. A better priest-king, the Lord Jesus, came to earth to defeat the Serpent and succeed where Adam failed. In so doing, Jesus created a new kingdom of priests and commissioned them, like Adam, to guard God’s new dwelling place on earth, the local church (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 1 Pet. 2:9).
We see this point most clearly in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18. In Matthew 16, Jesus asks the apostles who they think he is. Peter pipes up first: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ reply is a stunning statement not just about Peter but about all those who imitate Peter’s faith:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17–19)
Jesus is going to build his church on Peter—the confessor and his confession. But more than that, Jesus is going to give Peter and the other apostles the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” such that they, like Jesus, declare confessions of faith as from heaven.
Perhaps even more remarkable, however, is that Jesus gives this same authority (“the keys of the kingdom of heaven”) not just to the apostles, but to local churches of ordinary men and women who believe in Jesus.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt. 18:15–20).
In Matthew 18, we see that local churches (the members, not just the leadership) must guard the gospel by overseeing one another’s membership in the kingdom of God. They do that by overseeing a person’s life and their confession to ensure that it’s consistent with the gospel. Each church member must guard the gospel both in their life and in the lives of fellow church members.
HOW EXACTLY DO WE DO THIS?
OK, so church members must guard the gospel. We’re priest-kings commissioned to carry out this task. But how exactly do we do this?
Well, the answer requires more than enumerating a to-do list. Instead, we need to recognize that every aspect of the Christian life should contribute to this overarching commission.
- We affirm others as fellow church members by baptism and the Lord’s Supper when we recognize the gospel in their life and in their confession.
- We disciple others as a way of guarding the purity of the gospel in their lives.
- We ask others to disciple us to ensure that we contribute to the church’s health and can faithfully carry out our responsibilities as priest-kings in the kingdom of God.
- We bar from communion those who live out of accord with the gospel or confess a gospel contrary to Scripture.
- We clearly articulate our gospel profession by affirming a biblical statement of faith.
- We expel false teachers from our midst, even firing them from the church if their message is inconsistent with the gospel (Gal 1:8).
- We submit to godly elders who lead the church in knowing how best to guard the gospel.
In all of these ways and more, we guard the gospel.
ORDINARY PEOPLE WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY TASK
Each Lord’s Day, God’s people gather to sit under the preaching of God’s Word. Faithful preaching is like igniting the bat-symbol. God’s Word shines a light in the sky and calls God’s people to action. They hear the message of the gospel and their responsibility to guard that gospel in their own lives and in the life of their local congregation.
Then they get to work.
One brother confesses his indulgence in pornography to another and asks for help and accountability. A sister asks another for forgiveness for gossiping about her. An older man in the congregation asks a new Christian to meet each week so they can read Romans together. A husband and wife extend hospitality to lonely, isolated members. Another brother confronts a man who’s refusing to turn from his gambling addiction.
Each act in its own way protects the gospel. Each member of the body plays a part. Each ordinary Christian carries out an extraordinary task.
Friend, if you’re a member of a church, do you realize that this is your job too? You don’t need a seminary education. You don’t have to be an ordained minister or a spiritual superstar. All you need is the Holy Spirit, and you have that! It’s time to suit up and start guarding the gospel.