“Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”
-Hugh Latimer to Nicholas Ridley on October 16, 1555, as Latimer and Ridley were tied back to back to be burned at the stake.
How willing would you and I be to “play the man” for our faith? Standing firm not only for the gospel but also for the truth of Scripture? How about dying for propositional truths such as sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) or sola fide (“by faith alone”), or solo Christus (“Christ alone”)? (For more on the “5 Solas” check out Monergism.) There are some who strongly “play the man”, but unfortunately there are some popular authors who have chosen to avoid “the stake” by implying or explicitly writing off the authority of the Bible all together or on topics such as Hell, judgment, biblical morality, the atonement, salvation through Christ alone, and salvation by faith alone, or Jesus’ title as the Son of God.
There are all kinds of excuses and reasons given for not standing solidly for some of these doctrinal beliefs. Some even sound “gospel oriented” such as making it easier to hear or less offensive. I am all for showing the relevance of the eternal truth of God within a given context, sometimes know as contextualization. But to change the truth to fit a cultural context is a very different story. People who “play the man” may not be the most politically correct, but they shine brightly for Jesus Christ in a world that would like to dim or turn off the light of the gospel.
In Play the Man: Would You Be Willing to Die for Doctrine (by Matthew Barrett on the Gospel Coalition blog) a great application is given:
Men like Tyndale, Rogers, Latimer, Ridley, and many others, were willing to be burned at the stake for doctrines like sola Scriptura and sola fide. While we are under no threat in our own day for being burned at the stake for translating the Scriptures into English or for believing in the solas of the Reformation, there are several lessons we can learn from these testimonies.
First, since these are truths so many Christians have died for, we should seek to value them and not take them for granted. When you routinely open your Bible each morning for devotions, take a minute to be reminded that men like Tyndale died so that you can read your Bible in the English language. I recall the example of Steve Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. In the opening page of Lawson’s Bible he has pasted a picture of John Rogers and on the closing page a picture of his martyrdom when he was burned at the stake. For Lawson, these pictures remind him every time he opens God’s Word that Christians like Rogers have laid down their life for the great truths we so freely proclaim today.
Second, “play the man” today by standing by the doctrines so many have died for. Be unwavering in your commitment to doctrine, even at the expense of your own popularity, career, reputation, or success. Today, we are not faced with dying for doctrines like justification by faith alone or the priesthood of every believer. Nevertheless, by witnessing the cost by which these doctrines were won for us we should become all the more bold to stand for these truths.
In other words, if these men were willing to die for such truths how much more should I be willing to stand for them today? Many examples come to mind. If you are a pastor, ministering in a difficult church, do not waver in your commitment to the truth even when those in your congregation criticize the doctrines you are proclaiming. Or perhaps you are a teacher at a school where you are surrounded by more liberal colleagues. Be resolved and steadfast in affirming sound doctrine, even if it be at the expense of your own career. Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word. You might be a Christian who is tempted to reject the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment or the exclusivity of the gospel. Be on guard, less you also fall prey to false doctrine and fail to heed Paul’s admonishment and warning to only agree with sound words (1 Tim 6:3-4; cf. 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).
Are we willing to not only stand up for the fact that we are Christians but also for the important doctrines of the Christian faith? May we be among those who, as Latimer said, “play the man.”