July 18, 1999, posted, July 18, 1999
[See an extensive quote at the end from The Governance of God, by Salvian. His condemning assessment of "spectator sports" is at the end.]
Ephesians 4:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
This is probably one of the greatest passages in Scripture concerning our Salvation:
The word salvation (soteria) means deliverance, preservation, victory, and health, and it refers to material and temporal deliverance, as well as personal, national, temporal and eternal triumph. (R.J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule, p 1.)
We think of our salvation as a free gift to us, which it is. However, when we think of a gift, we think of a Birthday gift--we accept that gift, and feel no responsibility along with it--IT WAS A GIFT, with no strings attached. A gift has a clear implication of no responsibility, and it is ours to use as we please. Once it has been given to us, the giver loses all claim to it, and all claim to the one he gave it to.
However, the free gift of salvation to us was not free.
I have mentioned this before, but I read a book by Salvian, who was a Presbyter in the Roman Church. In about 450AD, he wrote a tremendous book on the fall of Rome, The Governance of God. After reading it one time, I had to scan it all into a computer file, and would like to post it on the web. I cannot read it without being overwhelmed with all the material it contains that needs to be developed. His description of Rome and the cities of Gall as they fell to the barbarians fits identical with the US, including rampant gambling, sports in place of serving Christ, immorality, corruption in high offices, oppressive taxes--particularly on property, prosperity that led to gross immorality, sodomy, and more things than one could mention.
Finally, besides other instances which prove it, one particular illustration establishes the point I am making. If, when it should happen---because it often does happen that on the same day on which an ecclesiastical feast occurs the public games are performed---I ask of everybody's conscience what place has greater crowds of Christian men: the spectators' benches at the public games or the entrance to the house of God? Do the crowds prefer the temple or the theater? Do they love more the teachings of the Gospel or the theatrical musicians; the words of life or the words of death; the words of Christ or the words of the mime? (Actor, ed.)
There is no doubt that we love more that which we prefer. (We show our love by our actions, ed.) For, on every day of the fatal games, whatever feast of the Church it may be, not only do those who say they are Christians not come to the church, but, if any come perhaps unwittingly, if they hear the games being performed, while they are already in the church, they leave the church. They spurn the temple of God in order that they may run to the theater. They leave the church in order to fill the circus. We leave Christ at the altar and feed our adulterous eyes with the most impure visions and with the fornication of the vilest games. Very rightly, therefore, the Lord has said to us: 'on account of your dirt you have been expelled into banishment.' And again He says:20 'the altars of this laughter shall be banished.'
20 I have been unable to locate these texts. (P. 164.) (Where is the largest crowd of professed Christians on race day when that day falls on Sunday?)
The striking thing about his account is that Rome and the cities of Gall is that they had been converted to Christianity. He then lays the blame for their fall upon the Christians who acted worse than the pagans.
At the close of Book Six, he makes this statement:
(18) Since these things I have enumerated should be done in return for God's recent favors, let us see what we actually do. We run directly to the games and take wings to their madness. The people flood the theaters and everybody revels in the circuses. God gives us good things that we be good. We, on the contrary, as often as we accept good, heap up our evils. God calls us by His favors to righteousness; we rush to unrighteousness. God by His favors calls us to repentance; we rush to destruction. God calls us to chastity; we rush to impurity. (The insert contains his comments concerning the theater, or in our day, the movies and the TV, particularly the wicked "sitcoms" and "soaps.")
Despite God's favors to us and his call to repentance and right living, we continue on in our own ways with the things of this world that cause us to lust.
Nobly do we respond to His sacred gifts. Nobly do we either acknowledge or honor His gifts, we who accept so many benefits from Him and compensate Him with so much injury. This very thing, is it not an injury to God, or can any injury be more unbecoming when there is much and great need for thanks?45 Through the inveterate taint of all evils in us we can no longer be otherwise than evil, unless we completely cease to exist. I ask: What hope of good fruit is there in us?
45 Lacuna in text. Reading according to Pauly.
NOBLY, or like a cur (an old word loosely meaning "ungrateful dog), we accept God's gifts and many benefits with little or no thought of any kind of responsibility to the Lord.
They who sin in ignorance are corrected when they learn their error. They who are devoid of religion begin to change their way of life when they change their faith. Lastly, as I have said, they who are made evil by too great abundance or security cease to be bad when they cease to be secure. We do not fall through ignorance, nor are we ignorant of religion, nor are we corrupted by material prosperity and security. Everythings [sic.] is just the opposite.
We know the true religion and are not excused by ignorance. We do not have the peace and wealth of former times. All things which were are either gone or changed. Only our vices alone have increased. Nothing is left of our peace and former prosperity except our crimes alone and in full. Our crimes which have ended our prosperity are left. Where are the old resources and dignities of the Romans? Formerly, the Romans were most strong; now they are without strength. The old Romans were feared; we are afraid. The barbarian people paid them tribute; we are tributary to the barbarians. The enemy sells us the enjoyment of daylight. In a way, our entire welfare is at a price.
If we did not know better, our sin would be a different story, but we do. Therefore, our sin is greater. Notice here that he said Rome's prosperity led to its wickedness, though it professed to be Christian. Its wickedness led to its final destruction.
O our misfortunes! To what have we come! And we are thankful to the barbarians from whom we buy ourselves for a price. What can be more abject or wretched for us? And we think we are still living, despite the conditions under which we actually live. We even make ourselves a laughing-stock; we call the gold which we pay, a benefit. We call what is really a ransom, a gift. But it is a price paid on the hardest and most miserable terms. All captives enjoy their freedom once they are redeemed. We are constantly being redeemed, but we are never free. The barbarians deal with us in the manner of those masters who hire out for a daily wage their slaves who are not necessary for their own service. Likewise, we are never free from this tax which we pay. We continually pay wages for the purpose of paying them forever. (Pp. 183, 184.)
His last paragraph in this section caught my attention, and I want to call yours to it also. Whether or not he is speaking of the ransom paid for our sin is not my point, though that is what got my attention.
First, "We call what is really a ransom, a gift."
Second, " But it is a price paid on the hardest and most miserable terms."
Third, " But it is a price paid on the hardest and most miserable terms. All captives enjoy their freedom once they are redeemed. We are constantly being redeemed, but we are never free."
First, look at what he said. What was a ransom, we call a gift.
I am what might be called a "Sovereign Grace" preacher. I am called, saved and empowered to do what I do by the Sovereign Grace of God. I did nothing to deserve his workings in me, nor did you--it was freely given to us. However, the typical idea of God's Grace seems to be that because it is freely given to us, it is without cost. The general thought among many Christians seems to be that because it is a gift, it has no responsibilities with it, e.g., a Birthday Gift.
However, though the gift did not cost us, the cost of the gift was high. What we call a gift was really a ransom payment. Just as sure as Israel of old was ransomed from its bondage in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb, and by the death of the first born, God's people today had to be ransomed from bondage.
Isaiah 51:10 Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
The gift of salvation was given to me by grace through faith, but that gift was a ransom payment for my sins.
Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (Quoted by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:55.)
Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
1 Timothy 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Second, " But it is a price paid on the hardest and most miserable terms."
That free gift cost Christ more than you or I can imagine.
The ransom was paid for you and I. We were ransomed from the curse of sin and death. We were ransomed, and the price is paid.
Third, "All captives enjoy their freedom once they are redeemed. We are constantly being redeemed, but we are never free."
Clearly, the ransom has been paid, but we were not ransomed to be free to do our own thing. We were redeemed from the curse of sin so we could live unto righteousness:
1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. 7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. 23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Our Salvation is a free gift, but there was a price paid for it--Christ paid a ransom for our souls. V. 22 says we are ransomed from bondage to sin and the devil so we can be the Lord's freeman. Yes, his gift set us free, but with it came servitude to Christ. We are no longer servants to sin and death, but we are now servants to Christ and to righteousness and life.
Paul is the one who told us that salvation is a free gift of God. And he is the same man who wrote that salvation is not without cost and responsibility. Certainly, salvation is free, but that gift cost--it cost Christ his life-blood, and it cost us. Though the gift is free to us, it was not free. We were bought with a price, and we are not without obligation.
Romans 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. (Note here that the fallen man wants to be free from righteousness.) 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Freedom from sin does not mean freedom from responsibility--it means servitude to God through Christ.
1 Peter 2:16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
The ransom Christ paid set us free from the power and penalty of sin, yet it bound us to a tremendous responsibility:
Luke 14:25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Throughout Scripture, you will find the warning that though salvation is free, it is not free of responsibility. I will not take the time to look up the passages at this time, but salvation has responsibilities, a few of which are:
1) doing what we can to reach others with the gospel. (Mat. 28:18, 19.)
2) faithfulness in public assemblies. (Heb. 10:25.)
3) keep up the house of God. (Haggai 1.)
4) finance the Lord's work with 10% of what the Lord has increased you with, the tithe. (Mal. 3.)
5) live a godly life in EVERYTHING we do, particularly in our family responsibilities. (1 Cor. 10:31.) (Geri's story abt Meth?)
6) social involvement, which means being salt and light in the surrounding darkness and corruption. (Mat. 5.)
I cannot emphasize enough that though salivation is a free gift according to the Grace of God, it is not free from cost and responsibility. Many seem to view Salvation as a freedom from responsibility, forgetting that it cost; it was a ransom, but it was a ransom for service, service to God through our Lord Christ.
Note that Christians faithfully serve human masters because of the immediate results. But they fail to serve Christ because there are no immediate results.
"We know the true religion and are not excused by ignorance." We know that our free salivation was made possible because the ransom was paid, yet we accept it as a gift with no responsibility.
The free gift given to us was without cost to us, but it did not free us from responsibility It freed us from the power of sin that keeps us from serving God with righteous motives according to his commandments.
Luke 1:74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
Yes, it was a gift, but it was a ransom, and we are now the Lord's freemen, rather than servants of sin.
Extensive quote from Salvian:
The Governance of God, by Salvian, the Presbyter. (Salvian, of Marseilles, ca. 400-ca. 480. He lived close to 100 years, "Introduction." ) He was probably a Roman Catholic priest, and he witnessed the fall of Rome. "The Writings of Salvian, the Presbyter, (c. 450 AD) [The Governance of God] Translated by Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan, Ph.D. New York, CIMA Publishing Co., Inc. © 1947. Fathers of the Church, III." The Church of Rome, that is.
WHO CAN DENY the charge he levels at those of us who watch most of the modern movies and TV programing, especially the wicked "soaps" and "sitcoms." Nor does Salvian let the spectator sports go free. Though written 1500 years ago, one would think he lived today.
In the same way, the demons have prepared so many alluring ambushes for the human race in this life that, even though one avoids most of them, he is, however, caught by one or another.
Indeed, because it would take long to speak about all these snares now, namely the ampitheaters, music halls, public processions, jesters, athletes, tumblers, pantomimes and other monstrosities, which disgust me to talk about, and because it is disgusting to have knowledge of such evil, I will speak only about the impurities of the circuses and theaters. Such things are done there that nobody can speak about them, let alone think of them, without being tainted.
For the most part, other vices claim for themselves particular portions of us: filthy thoughts affect our minds; immodest glances, our eyes; evil language, our ears. When one of these functions has gone astray, the rest can be without sin. But in the theaters none of our senses is free from guilt, because our minds are tainted by evil desires, our ears by hearing, our eyes by seeing. Indeed, all these scenes are so disgraceful that a person cannot even describe them and talk about them without shame. Who can talk about these imitations of evil things, these obscene voices and words, these base motions and foul gestures, and retain his sense of modesty intact? Thus we can understand how criminal are these sights when they forbid description. Indeed, some of the greatest crimes, such as murder, robbery, adultery, sacrilege, and others in the same vein, can be mentioned and argued about and the character of the speaker remains unimpaired. The impurities of the theaters are singular in that they cannot be honestly denounced in public.
Thus, there comes something new for the prosecutor when he discusses the baseness of these crimes, so that, although without doubt he who wishes to bring the charge is upright, he cannot speak- and denounce these obscenities and his character remain whole. All other evils taint those who perform them, not those who see or hear them. Though you hear someone blaspheme, you are not tainted by the sacrilege because you mentally disagree. And if you come upon a robbery, you are not made evil by the act, because you abhor it in your mind.
The impurities of the game are unique, because, in a way, they make the crime one, both for those who perform them and those who watch them, For, while the spectators approve and gladly watch them, all perform them through sight and consent. Truly, that saying of the Apostle particularly falls not only on those who perform them, but even on those who consent to the performances, that they are worthy of death.! 12 Therefore, in these representations of fornication the whole audience mentally commits fornication, and those who, perhaps, came in purity to the games, return from the theaters in adultery. For, not only do they commit fornication when they return home, but also when they come to the theater, for, by the very fact that anyone desires an obscene thing he is unclean while he hastens to uncleanliness.
(4) Since this is the case, behold what kind of acts either all, or almost all, Romans do. Yet we who do these things claim we are neglected by God. We say we are forsaken by our Lord, when we ourselves forsake the Lord. Let us suppose that our Lord is willing to watch over us, even though we do not deserve it. Let us see if He can See the countless thousands of Christians daily tarrying at the games where base performances are enacted. Can God watch over people like this? Can He watch over those who revel in the circuses and who commit adultery in the theaters?
Or, perhaps, do we wish and think it becoming that, when God sees us in the circuses and theaters, He also looks at those performances at which we look and at that wickedness on which we gaze? That He gazes at them with us, one or the other of the following must happen. If He deigns to see us, it follows that He must see those things where we are, or, if He averts His eyes from them, which is doubtless what happens, so He must likewise avert them even from us who are there. Nevertheless, we unceasingly do these things about which I have spoken.
Or do we think, perhaps, according to the custom of the old pagans, that we have a God of theaters and circuses? They made their theaters and circuses long ago because they believed that these were the delights of their idols. Why do we do these things, we who are certain that our God hates them? Certainly, if we knew that this wickedness pleases God, I would not forbid that we do them unceasingly.
If, indeed, we firmly belive [sic] that God abhors and hates these places, because in them there is just as much food for the devil as there is offense to God, how do we say that we worship God in church? We ever serve the devil in the obscenity of the games, and do this knowingly, understandingly and with well considered deliberation. I ask, what hope shall there be for us before God' we who injure Him, not by chance or ignorance, but after the manner of those former giants whom we read to have attempted in their insane endeavors the heights of heaven and to have, as it were, climbed into the clouds?
In like manner, we, by the injuries which we constantly inflict on God throughout the whole world, fight heaven as if by common agreement. To Christ? therefore (O monstrous madness), to Christ we offer circuses and mimes, and this in our day especially when we receive something good from Him, when some prosperity is granted by Him, or a victory is given by the Divinity over our enemies. And how do we seem to act otherwise in this affair than as one who injures a man bestowing a favor, or knocks down with violent reproaches the man who is kind to us, or pierces with a dagger the face of him who kisses us?
I ask all the powerful and rich of this world what punishment should be meted out to that slave who thinks up evil against a good and loving master, who hurls abuse at a well-deserving master, and returns insults for the freedom which he accepts. Doubtless, he who should not be allowed to return evil for evil and yet returns evil for good is considered guilty of the greatest of crimes. This, therefore, is what we do, we who are called Christians. We irritate God when He is merciful to us. We provoke Him by filthy impurities when He is favorably disposed, and we scourge Him with insults when He is kind to us. (Salvian goes on to ask if Christ suffered and died on the cross so his people could enjoy the theaters, &c.?, Ed.) ...
... We pay back a glorious substitute for His suffering, we who, when we receive redemption by His death, recompense Him with the most disgraceful lives. The most blessed Paul says: 15 'For the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ has appeared, teaching us that denying ungodly lives and wordly [sic] desires, we should live soberly, justly and holy in this world; looking for that blessed hope and the coming of the glory of our Great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us in order that He might redeem us from all iniquity and cleanse a people acceptable to Himself, and followers of good works.'
Where are these men who do those things on account of which the Apostle says Christ came? Where are those men who flee the desires of the world and lead a life, just and holy? Where are they who in their good works show that they hope for the blessed hope, and, leading clean lives, prove thereby that they await the kingdom of God because they deserve to receive it? ...
Where is that cleansed people, where is that acceptable people, where are those followers of good works, where is that people of sanctity? Holy Scripture says: 17 'Christ suffered death for us, bequeathing us an example that we may follow in His footsteps.' We follow the footsteps of the Saviour in circuses, we follow the footsteps of the Saviour in theaters. ...
In the games there is a certain apostasy from the faith and a deadly deviation from the Creed and from the heavenly pledges. For, what is the first confession of faith of Christians in the saving baptism? What is it except that they profess they are renouncing the devil, his pomps and games and works. Therefore, according to our profession of faith, the games and pomps are the work of the devil. ...
Therefore, O Christian, tell me how do you think you are observing the commitments of the Creed, you who have lost the principles? ... Therefore, if to any man it seems a light crime to see the games let him look at all those things I have said, and he will see that in the games there is not pleasure, but death. What else is it than to incur death, to have lost the source of life? For, where the foundation of our faith is overthrown, life itself is strangled. ...
... Where, therefore, is our Christianity, we who receive the sacrament of salvation only for the purpose that we may sin afterwards with the greater crime of deviation from righteousness? We prefer stage plays to the churches of God. We spurn the altars and honor the theaters. We love things and worship things. God alone, in comparison with all other things, is vile to us.
12 Rom. 1.32. 13 2 Cor. 8.9. 14 Phil. 2.8. 15 Titus 2.11-14. 17 1 Peter 2.21. (Pp 156-163.)
(SPECTATOR SPORTS--the following are hard sayings for those who love the spectator sports, including the theaters. Ed.)
Finally, besides other instances which prove it, one particular illustration establishes the point I am making. If, when it should happen---because it often does happen that on the same day on which an ecclesiastical feast occurs the public games are performed---I ask of everybody's conscience what place has greater crowds of Christian men: the spectators' benches at the public games or the entrance to the house of God? Do the crowds prefer the temple or the theater? Do they love more the teachings of the Gospel or the theatrical musicians; the words of life or the words of death; the words of Christ or the words of the mime?
There is no doubt that we love more that which we prefer. For, on every day of the fatal games, whatever feast of the Church it may be, not only do those who say they are Christians not come to the church, but, if any come perhaps unwittingly, if they hear the games being performed, while they are already in the church, they leave the church. They spurn the temple of God in order that they may run to the theater. They leave the church in order to fill the circus. We leave Christ at the altar and feed our adulterous eyes with the most impure visions and with the fornication of the vilest games. Very rightly, therefore, the Lord has said to us: 'on account of your dirt you have been expelled into banishment.' And again He says:20 'the altars of this laughter shall be banished.' 20 I have been unable to locate these texts. (P. 164.)
Minerva is worshipped [sic] and honored in the gymnasia, Venus in the theaters, Neptune in the circuses, Mars in the arena, Mercury in the wrestling schools, and therefore the worship of superstitions is according to the inclination of those who worship. Whatever is of an impure nature is done in the theaters. Whatever is luxurious. in the wrestling schools. What ever is immoderate, in the circuses. Whatever is mad, in the arena pits.
Here there is wantoness, there lasciviousness. Here there is intemperance, there insanity. And everywhere, the devil. Moreover, in the particular sites of the games all kinds of devils are to be found, because they preside over the abodes dedicated to their worship. Therefore, in spectacles of this kind there is not allurement alone or vice alone. It is a kind of sacrilege for a Christian man to be associated with this superstition, because he shares in the worship of those devils in whose festivities he takes delight. (Pp. 170, 171. Venus is obvious in the entertainment industry where beauty is worshiped.)
End of Quote