Discerning Between Mountains and Molehills

Josh Buice

We are living in an era in history where Christians enjoy traveling to historic sites to learn about the martyrs, the Reformers, and the Puritans—but very few are willing to engage in a risky defense of the gospel today.

In 2017 I had the distinct honor of traveling through Germany and preaching in a Reformation tour. During our tour, we visited the birth house and the death house of Martin Luther. We were given the opportunity of visiting the Augustinian Monastery where Luther began his journey as a monk. We toured Wittenberg, Worms, and Eisleben. Perhaps one of the most moving sites we visited was a room in the Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the Bible into German at a relentless speed of 1,500 words per day.

Eventually, the time came when Luther was unable to remain hidden away from the public eye. Luther had to leave the castle and engage in the work of the Reformation. To leave the castle was a risk worth taking for Luther. The perversion of the gospel was no molehill for Luther. The leader of the Reformation could not lead from the castle, he had to walk the streets of Wittenberg, talk to the common man in the marketplace, teach students in the classroom, defend his writings openly, and preach sermons from the pulpit. It was a risky venture.

As we survey the landscape of our Christian circles today, it’s apparent that things are not well. The modern-day reformation that we celebrated yesterday stands in need of a new reformation today. A glowing appreciation for God’s sovereignty and a love for the doctrines of grace is a wonderful thing indeed—but how quickly it is that the evangelical church can fall into error. We are living in times where confusing doctrines and trendy ideas infiltrate the church on a daily basis. The information superhighway of the Internet runs at light speed. Such a modern reformation is not possible when men remain silent and hunker down in the safety of their own personal castles.

As Charles Spurgeon surveyed the doctrinal downgrade of his day, he made a couple of very prophetic statements:

A Reformation is as much needed now as in Luther’s day, and by God’s grace we shall have it, if we trust in Him and publish His truth. [1]

We want such an one as Martin Luther to rise from his tomb. If Martin Luther were now to visit our so-called reformed churches, he would say with all his holy boldness, “I was not half a reformer when I was alive before, now I will make a thorough work of it. [2]

When it comes to a defense of the gospel, two things are necessary—courage and discernment. If one is fueled with great zeal and little discernment, he can do great harm to himself and others in the path of his sword. When we make a stand for the gospel, we must determine if we are looking at a molehill worth avoiding or a hill worthy of death. We must make our evaluation by examining the issues through the lens of the the Scriptures. We must be committed to the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura and go forward with a high view of God. Nothing else will suffice.

If a new reformation is needed we must be clear that it will not come without confrontation of error (2 Timothy 4:1-5) and confrontation of error rarely passes without controversy. Seasons of controversy call for a defense of the faith. Consider Paul who wrote to the church at Galatia in a time when the gospel was being perverted by the Judaizers. He insisted that the gospel be defended and that error must be avoided—no matter who it was who preached and published it (Gal. 1:6-9).

Martin Luther stood courageously at Worms in 1521 and put his neck on the line for the sake of the gospel. Rather than bowing down to the powerful system of his day—he refused to recant. Not only was this a bold move by Luther—it was a tremendously dangerous decision and one that exposed him to difficulty and persecution. As Robert Murray McCheyne once remarked, “We do not know the value of Christ, if we will not cleave to Him unto death!” [3]

John Rogers was burned at the stake under the reign of Queen Mary I (known as “Bloody Mary”). While Rogers was the man who took up the work of his mentor and friend William Tyndale and completed the Old Testament translation that Tyndale was unable to complete—Rogers’ death was for a different cause. While Tyndale was burned for his translation work, Rogers’ death was centered upon the fact that he refused to embrace the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Jonathan Edwards was fired and dismissed from his pulpit on June 2, 1750. Edwards was forty-seven and had the responsibility of caring for his wife and eight children who were still at home. Yet, his dismissal was not based on a moral failure—it was centered on a controversy over biblical doctrine. Arguably the nation’s most brilliant and capable pastor-theologian was fired over his position on the Lord’s Supper. He rejected his grandfather’s teaching known as the Halfway Covenant which allowed unconverted people to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Edwards was faced with a decision—remain silent and protect his position as a pastor or speak up and become vulnerable. Edwards counted the cost and entered the controversy which cost him his pastorate.

When the gospel is being watered down and overshadowed by various issues that confuse the mission of the Church—men must leave their castles behind in order to engage in the defense of the gospel. Seasons of doctrinal controversy require men to put their reputations on the line for the sake of the gospel. Far too many men hide behind thick walls and peek through the window of their castle to see if it’s safe to enter the battlefields.

We’re living in a day when many people are willing to get a selfie in the streets in Oxford where the Oxford martyrs (Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer) died for their faith, but very few are willing to enter the fight and subject themselves to the harsh criticism of defending the faith. It’s never safe to defend the gospel (Matt. 10:22, 24:9; Luke 6:22). It may harm your reputation and complicate friendships in the process, but the gospel is worthy of such risks. It’s quite possible that preachers who stand firm on the gospel will lose speaking engagements, be rejected by publishing companies, and will be ridiculed publicly, but the question remains—is Christ worth it?

Anytime we survey doctrinal controversies in our day, we must evaluate them based on their degree of importance. Is it a hill worth dying on? Sometimes people divide over matters of eschatology or the style of music in worship services, but let’s be honest—these are not hills worthy of death. A great deal of discernment is necessary when evaluating the need to defend the faith. We should never be willing to die on a molehill, but when it comes to the purity of the gospel and the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ—this is certainly a hill worthy of death.

Do we serve the “utilitarian god” as A.W. Tozer once described the false god who labors to make a person happy and successful? Do we serve the sovereign God who is both the creator and ruler of heaven and earth? Our sovereign God has never promised us personal success and safety, but he has called us to defend the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). When you see the mission of God’s Church and the gospel of King Jesus being maligned, misrepresented, and marginalized—will you peek out the window and hide behind your comfortable walls or enter the battlefield of controversy in order to make a defense of the gospel? Far too often good men confuse mountains for molehills. I leave you with the convicting words of Charles Spurgeon who not only entered controversy, but did so with a great deal of discernment. As he took his stand he stood unashamedly upon the authoritative Word of God:

We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land.…I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches. [4]

  1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, ed., The Sword and the Trowel: A Record of Combat with Sin & Labour for the Lord (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 123.
  2. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol 5 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1981), 110–111.
  3. Robert Murray McCheyne, Comfort in Sorrow, (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2002), 67.
  4. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol 2: The Full Harvest, 1860–1892, comp. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald (London: Banner of Truth, 1962), v.
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Author Discerning Between Mountains and Molehills

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.