January 2, 2000. See Salvian's quote at the end.
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Luke 12:47, 48

I have been reading a book written by a Roman Catholic around 400 AD. He was an eye witness of the fall of the city of Rome to the "pagans." He deals with the reason for the fall for well over 150 pages. I am sure I will have several messages motivated by various statements he makes. And you will see why.

His book is the first one I have read by a Roman Catholic. It is obvious from his words that he was nothing like the Roman Catholic religious leaders of our day. Moreover, he was nothing like the non Roman religious leader of our day. His message is far above what is preached today in terms of calling people to the word of God.

In no uncertain terms, he condemns the Roman games where live people were thrown to wild animals to be eaten. And the crowds loved it.

He condemns the theaters because of the fornication portrayed in them. He said that the pagans "made their theaters and circuses long ago because they believed that these were the delights of their gods." (p 158.) He asked, Who can watch these things and not commit mental fornication and adultery?

Among the great many things he points out, is that there are some who believe the Son is less than the Father. Yet these people love God, and serve the Lord the very best they can according to what they believe. And only the Lord knows how they will be dealt with in the final Judgment. (pp. 130, 131.)

He goes on to point out that they sin through ignorance because their teachers have improperly taught them. On the other hand, we who know that the Son and the Father are equal in every way, know the truth, yet we fail to do it.

What brings this message about is a conflict in southern Indiana over some property. The property is in the name of a church, and there is a fight among the church members over the ownership of that property. I do not know the details, nor do I want to know them. It is an internal matter of a local church, though several other pastors are meddling in that internal affaire.

It is interesting, however, that the church is unincorporated, and the one group incorporated a church of the same name, so that group could try to lay legal claim to the property. There are now two "churches" with the same name -- one unincorporated and the other incorporated.

Note the clear problem:

First, both sides claim to be Christians; both sides claim to love the Lord; both sides claim to desire to serve the Lord. I can only take them at their word.

Second, all involved have made the above professions very clear to the community over the past several years.

Third, someone is lying in the situation. One side is moving to fraud the other out of many thousands of dollars.

Fourth, it is going into the courts, and there will be name calling and every kind of imaginable evil thing said by folks in the fight.

Fifth, I do not know the hearts of either side. But I certainly can see the "smoke" from the fight, as can every one else.

I have heard about the situation for some time now, but, thankfully, have not been invited to be any kind of a mediator. The thing that strikes me is that I am reading Salvian's book while this fight is going on.

The striking point that Salvian makes is that the pagans can be expected to act like pagans, but when Christians act like pagans, we can expect God to deal very harshly with us.

And this is exactly what our text says. Our Lord himself presents a very serious warning. Christ's warning can be summed up thusly:

1) we as Christians have the word of God. God's word is given to us in a manner easily understood for anyone who reads it.

2) we have the simple truth of God's word, and we know what he expects of us. Therefore, when we fail to uphold his word, we deserve more punishment than those who know not his word.

In other words, I know some people that I believe are far off base concerning things such as the Trinity, tongues and faith healing. Yet these people, from all outward appearances, live far more holy than those who have been taught and understand the truth about these things.

Example: From what I understand, Paul's son-in-law has, according to the word of God a wrong view of the Trinity. However, I imagine that Paul will be the first to tell you that this young man has a holier life that exhibits a genuine love for the Lord according to what he has been taught than most Christians he knows.

Now, who is in more trouble with God -- a man who has an incomplete or even totally wrong view of the Trinity and eternal security yet lives holy before God and man, or the man who has a proper Biblical view of the Trinity and eternal security, yet cannot control his temper, his words, his thoughts nor his actions?

Look at our text:

The context may be speaking of eternal punishment -- those who have heard the gospel vs. those who have not, which is implied by v. 46. However, I will not use it that way. We will look at it more in the context of Deuteronomy chapter 29.

Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

First, And that servant which knew his Lord's will... Notice this does not say, Did not know his Lord's secrets. It says, knew his Lord's will... His revealed will as clearly given in his word. Basically, the Ten Commandments as they are clearly developed in God's word.

Second, the servant knew his Lord's will, but gave little thought to and he made little or no preparation to do that will.

He did not prepare his heart, nor did he prepare his body to do what he knew God wanted him to do.

Third, and of course, not considering the Lord's will, he did not do it.

Fourth, beaten with many stripes. This refers to the law of the Jews -- wicked men were to be punished with stripes not to exceed 40. Thus, they were punished according to their wickedness.

The Lord says here that Christians who know God's will and do not do it are in greater danger from the Lord here in this life than those who do not know the Lord's will and thus do not do it. Which is exactly what is promised in Deuteronomy 29.

Some may try to say that because they do not know the word of God very well, they will not be held as accountable as those who know it better. Note in the passages below that just being a Christian makes one far more accountable than are the pagans. We have the Law of God written in our hearts, and will be held accountable accordingly. The pagans do not have that Law written as we do.

Isaiah 51:11 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. 3 For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. 4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. 5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (See 2 Cor. 3:3, Heb. 8:10, 10:16)

Romans chapters 1 and 2 make it clear that even the heathen have a basic knowledge of God. But we are told many times over that upon conversion, the converted person has a much greater understanding of God's requirements upon him. That understanding is placed there by the Spirit of God.

V. 48.

He that knew not... According to Deuteronomy 29, this refers to the unsaved compared with the saved of v. 47. This verst tells us why the unsaved heathens at times seem to prosper more than the saved.

Christians know what their Lord requires, but refuse to do it, while Pagans continue to act according to their faith.

things worthy of stripes... note that the Christian and the non Christian act the same way, but the Christian is deserving of greater punishment than are the non Christians; the non Christian is then beaten with few stripes.

The man who did not know from the testimony of the Spirit what was his Lord's will (Christ is Lord of all), and did not do it is not as guilty before God as is the Christian who has the indwelling Spirit.

Quoting Jewish sources, Gill said:

"when they judge a sinner, how many (stripes) he can bear, they do not reckon, but by stripes that are fit to be trebled (increased three fold, ed.): if they judge he is able to bear "twenty", they do not order that he be beaten with twenty one, that so they may be trebled, but that he be beaten with "eighteen": if they condemn him to receive forty, and after he is begun to be beaten, they observe him to be weak, and they say he cannot bear any more than these "nine", or "twelve", with which he has been beaten, lo, he is free; if they condemn him to receive "twelve", and after that he is beaten, they see that he is strong and able to bear more, lo, he is free, and he is not to be beaten any more, upon that estimation: if they condemn him today that he is to be beaten with "twelve" (stripes), and they do not beat him till tomorrow, and lo, tomorrow he is able to bear eighteen, they do not beat him but with twelve."

Womsoever much is given..., probably refers to much knowledge of God's will, but we must also say that muchrefers to the Holy Spirit, who gives the desire and power to walk in the ways we know pleases the our Lord.

men have commited much... If an employer requires more "return" upon his investment in his employees -- requiring "production" according to the abilities and training of the individual -- then how much more must be required by the Lord of heaven of those who have received his good Spirit of Grace?


I have not been in a position, other than around the ministry, where I had men working for me. I have never had to invest in training someone and then looking for a return on my investment. But it only seems right that the more time and money that is invested in someone, the more that can be expected of them.

Accordingly, God the Father has invested the life of his Only Begotten Son and he has invested his Good Spirit of Grace in each one of us; therefore, what does he expect from his people?

There are many legitimate claims that America was founded as a Christian nation. However, that fact is now changed to where America is a now a pagan nation. Why? Deuteronomy 29, along with Luke 12, tells us that when God's people fail to act according to what they know in their heart is required of them by the Lord, the Lord will give their nation to the pagans.

The pagans operate consistently according to their faith, but Christians do not. They profess Christ, yet act worse than do the pagans.


Therefore, they are heretics, but not heretics knowingly. Indeed, with us they are heretics, but in their own opinion they are not. So much do they judge themselves Catholics that they defame us with the title of heresy. What they are to us, therefore, we are to them. We are certain that they do injury to the divine begetting because they say the Son is less than the Father. They think we injure the Father because we believe the Father and Son are equal. We possess the truth, but they think they have it. We honor the Godhead, but they think their belief is the honor of His divinity. They are unobservant of their obligations, but to them this is the highest duty of their religion. They are ungodly, but they think that is true godliness. Therefore, they are in error, but they err with a good heart, not in hatred but in love of God, believing that they honor and love God. Although they possess not the true faith, they think they possess the perfect love of God. In what manner, for this erroneous and false belief, they are to be punished on the day of judgment, nobody can know but the Judge. I think God bears patiently with them in the meantime because He sees that, although their belief is incorrect, they err through the acceptance of a seemingly correct opinion. He knows that they act in this manner because they are ignorant. However, He knows that our people neglect their own beliefs. Therefore, the barbarians sin through the wickedness of their teachers, but we through our own wickedness. They sin through ignorance; we, through knowledge. They do what they think is right; we, what we know is wrong. Therefore, with just judgment the patience of God sustains them, but reproachfully chastises us, because ignorance can be overlooked for a time, but contempt does not deserve pardon. For so is it written : (Luke 12.47-48) 'the servant who knows not the will of his Lord, and does not do it, shall be beaten with few stripes. But he who knows and does not do it, shall be beaten with many stripes.' (3) Accordingly, let us not wonder that we are beaten with many stripes. We sin not in ignorance, but in rebellion. We know good, but do not do good. We understand the difference between right and wrong, but pursue the wrong. We read the Law and trample on lawful things. For this only do we learn the decrees of the holy commandments that we may sin the more gravely after being forbidden. We say that we worship God, yet we obey the devil. And after these transgressions we want to receive good things from God, while we always add evil to evil. We desire our own will to be done by God, while we are unwilling to do God's will. We act, as it were, as God's superiors. We want God to obey our will, while we all struggle constantly against His will. But He is just, although we are unjust. He chastises those whom He thinks should be chastised. He has patience with those with whom He thinks He should be patient. He wishes His patience and chastisement to be use ful for one and the same end, so that His chastisement may curb among Catholics the lust for sin. He wishes that in time His patience may make the heretics know the full truth of faith, especially when He knows that, when their lives are compared, they whom He sees excelling the Catholics are, perhaps, not unworthy of the Catholic faith. But all those of whom I speak are either Vandals or Goths. 1 say nothing about the Roman heretics, of whom there is a huge multitude. Nor do I compare the latter either with the other Romans or the barbarians, because they are worse than the Romans through their lack of faith and more base than the barbarians in the foulness of their lives. This not only does not help us, but, even beyond that, it grieves us that we are hurt by our own people, because those whom I say are like this are Romans. Hence, we can understand what the whole Roman state deserves when one group of the Romans offend God by their way of living, another by their lack of faith as well as their way of living. Furthermore, even the very heresies of the barbarians at one time stemmed from the perverseness of a Roman teacher; hence, it is even our crime that the barbarian peoples began to be heretics. (Orosius, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans [trans. Irving Woodworth Raymond, Comumbia University Records of Civilization 26, New York 1936] 375) (4) Furthermore, insofar as it pertains to the way of life among the Vandals and Goths, in what way are we better than they, or can even be compared with them? First, let me speak of their love and charity which the Lord teaches is the chief of virtues and which He not only commends throughout Sacred Scriptures but even in His own words: 7 'by this shall it be known that you are my disciples, that you love one another.' Almost all barbarians, at least those who are of one tribe under one king, love one another; almost all Romans persecute each other.Who is there who does not envy his fellow citizen? Who gives complete love to his neighbor? Indeed, all are distant in affection from each other, although they are not distant in location; although they are proximate in living, they are remote in mind. Although this is really a great evil, would that it were true only of citizens and neighbors! More serious is the fact that relatives do not respect the bonds of relationship. Who behaves toward those nearest to him as he should? Who gives what he knows he owes to charity or to his name? Who, in his heart, lives up to his name? Who feels as closely related in his heart as he is by blood? Who is he in whom the yellow jealousy of ill-will does not burn? Who is he whose senses have not been invaded by spite, whom another's good fortune is not his own ill-fortune, who does not believe that the good of another is his own evil, to whom his own happiness so suffices that he also wishes another to be happy? There is now a new and immeasurable evil among most men: it is not enough for anyone to be happy himself, unless another is unhappy.What kind of situation is this; how cruel, how deep-rooted in wickedness, how foreign to barbarians but how familiar to Romans that they proscribe one another with exactions? Indeed, not each other, for this would be almost more tolerable if each would endure what he inflicts on others. It is a more serious situation that the many are proscribed by the few, to whom public requisitions are their private booty, who make the bills of the fiscal debt into private gain. (Codex Theodosianus (ed. Th. Mommsen, Berlin 1912) 11.7, 16, 20.) And not only the highest officials, but often the least officials do this; not only judges, but even the underlings of the judges. What towns, as well as what municipalities and villages are there in which there are not as many tyrants as cunales. (The curiales, were the provincial officials and the tax-gathers. When society was 'frozen' into its respective classes by Diocletian, the officials and their heirs became permanent officials. Imperial law forbade their entrance to the clerical status. They were personally liable to the State for tax-levies and, when the amount collected was insufficient, the deficit was necessarily made up from the resources of the curiales.) Perhaps they glory in this name of tyrant because it seems to be considered powerful and honored. For, almost all robbers rejoice and boast, if they are said to be more fierce than they really are. What place is there, as I have said, where the bowels of widows and orphans are not devoured by the leading men of the cities, and with them those of almost all holy men? For, they consider the latter as widows and orphans because they are either unwilling to protect themselves in their zeal for their profession, or they cannot protect themselves because of their simplicity and humility. Not one of them, therefore, is safe. In a manner, except for the very powerful, neither is anyone safe from the devastation of general brigandage, unless they are like the robbers themselves. To this state of affairs, indeed, to this crime has the world come that, unless one is bad, he cannot be safe. (Brigandage was particularly rife in Gaul from the third century onward. The large-landed estates of the wealthy fostered the unrest because they were places of refuge for the disturbed population.)(5) Since there are so many who despoil the good, perhaps there are some who bring aid in this despoliation, who, as it is written, (Ps. 81.4) snatch the needy and poor from the hand of the sinner. 'There is none who does good, there is almost not even one." (Ps. 13.3.) The prophet said 'almost not even one' because, such is the rarity of good men, there seems to be scarcely one of them. Who gives help to the distressed and those that labor, when even the Lord's priests do not resist the violence of wicked men? Either most of them are silent or, even though they speak, they are like those who are silent, and many do this not from lack of resolution, but, as they think, with considered discretion. They are unwilling to mention the manifest truth because the ears of wicked men cannot bear it. They not only flee from the truth, but they hate and curse it and in no way revere or fear it. When they hear it, they also condemn it in the hostility of their prideful stubbornness. Therefore, even they who can speak are silent while, in the meantime, they spare those very evil men. Nor do they wish to publish openly the force of truth to them, lest they make them worse by truth repeated more pointedly. All the while, the poor are despoiled, the widows groan, the orphans are tread underfoot, so much so that many of them, and they are not of obscure birth and have received a liberal education, flee to the enemy lest they die from the pain of public persecution. (Codex Theo. 11.17.) They seek among the barbarians the dignity of the Roman because they cannot bear barbarous indignity among the Romans. Although these Romans differ in religion and language from the barbarians to whom they flee, and differ from them in respect to filthiness of body and clothing, nevertheless, as I have said, they prefer to bear among the barbarians a worship unlike their own rather than rampant injustice among the Romans. Thus, far and wide, they migrate either to the Goths or to the Bagaudae,(The Bagandae were the organized peasants who were victims of the tax-gathers. They became a serious threat to the Empire, and Maxmian, co-emperor with Diocletian, led an army into Gaul to crush the peasant revolt. The peasants had elevated two usurping emperors, Allianus and Amandus, as claimants to supreme power in the State. In 458 Emperor Majorian utilized their strength to fight the Vandal king, Genseric.) or to other barbarians everywhere in power; yet they do not repent having migrated. They prefer to live as freemen under an outward form of captivity than as captives under an appearance of liberty. Therefore, the name of Roman citizens, at one time not only greatly valued but dearly bought, is now repudiated and fled from, and it is almost considered not only base but even deserving of abhorrence. And what can be a greater testimony of Roman wickedness than that many men, upright and noble and to whom the position of being a Roman citizen should be considered as of the highest splendor and dignity, have been driven by the cruelty of Roman wickedness to such a state of mind that they do not wish to be Romans? Hence, even those who do not flee to the barbarians are forced to be barbarians. Such is a great portion of the Spaniards and not the least portion of the Gauls, and, finally, all those throughout the whole Roman world whom Roman wickedness has compelled not to be Romans. (6) I am now about to speak of the Bagaudae who were despoiled, oppressed and murdered by evil and cruel judges. After they had lost the right of Roman citizenship, they also lost the honor of bearing the Roman name. We blame their misfortunes on themselves. We ascribe to them a name which signifies their downfall. We give to them a nameof which we ourselves are the cause. We call them rebels. We call those outlaws whom we compelled to be criminal. For, by what other ways did they become Bagaudae, except by our wickedness, except by the wicked ways of judges, except by the proscription and pillage of those who have turned the assessments of public taxes into the benefit of their own gain and have made the tax levies their own booty? Like wild beasts, they did not rule but devoured their subjects, and feasted not only on the spoils of men, as most robbers are wont to do, but even on their torn flesh and, as I may say, on their blood.Thus it happened that men, strangled and killed by the robberies of judges, began to live as barbarians because they were not permitted to be Romans. They became satisfied to be what they were not, because they were not permitted to be what they were. They were compelled to defend their lives at least, because they saw that they had already completely lost their liberty. What else is being done today than was done then, for example, those who are not up to now Bagaudae are now compelled to be? Insofar as force and injuries go, they are now driven so that they want to become Bagaudae, but they are prevented by weakness so that they are not. Thus, they are as captives oppressed by the yoke of the enemy. They bear torture out of necessity, not out of choice. In their hearts they desire liberty, but undergo the greatest of slavery. (7) In like manner, therefore, the same thing is happening to almost all the lower classes, for they are driven by one cause to two very different choices. The highest force demands that they wish to aspire to liberty, but the same force does not permit them to be able to do what it compels them to wish to do. Perhaps it can be charged against them that they wish to be men who desire nothing more than not to be forced to wish for liberty. Their greatest misfortune is what they wish for. For, it would be much better for them if they were not compelled to wish for it. But what else can these wretched people wish for, they who suffer the incessant and even continuous destruction of public tax levies. To them there is always imminent a heavy and relentless proscription. They desert their homes, lest they be tortured in their very homes. They seek exile, lest they suffer torture. The enemy is more lenient to them than the tax collectors. This is proved by this very fact, that they flee to the enemy in order to avoid the full force of the heavy tax levy. This very tax levying, although hard and inhuman, would nevertheless be less heavy and harsh if all would bear it equally and in common. Taxation is made more shameful and burdensome because all do not bear the burden of all. They extort tribute from the poor man for the taxes of the rich, and the weaker carry the load for the stronger. There is no other reason that they cannot bear all the taxation except that the burden imposed on the wretched is greater than their resources. They suffer from envy and want, which are misfortunes most diverse and unlike. Envy is bound up with payment of the tax; need, with the ability to pay. If you look at what they pay, you will think them abundant in riches, but if you look at what they actually possess, you will find them poverty stricken. Who can judge an affair of this wretchedness? They bear the payment of the rich and endure the poverty of beggars. Much more serious is the following: the rich themselves occasionally make tributary levies which the poor pay. how does it happen that they wish to increase their own debt? I do not say that they increase the taxes for themselves. They increase them because they do not increase them for themselves. I will tell you how this is done. Commonly, new envoys, new bearers of letters, come from the imperial offices and those men are recommended to a few well-known men for the mischief of many. (Cod. Theo. 8.11, 1.) For them new gifts are decreed, new taxes are decreed. The powerful levy what the poor are to pay, the courtesy of the rich decrees what the multitude of the wretched are to lose. They themselves in no way feel what they levy. You say they who were sent by our superiors cannot be honored and generously entertained otherwise. Therefore, you r ch men, you who are the first to levy, be the first to give. Be the first in generosity of goods, you who are the first in profusion of words. You who give of mine, give of shine. Most justly, whoever you are, you who alone wish to receive favor, you alone should bear the expense. But to your will, O rich men, we the poor accede. What you, the few, order, we all pay. What is so just, so humane? Your decrees burden us with new debts; at least make your debt common to us all. What is more wicked and more unworthy than that you alone are free from debt, you who make us all debtors? Indeed, the most wretched poor thus pay all that I have mentioned, but for what cause or for what reason they pay, they are completely ignorant. For, to whom is it lawful to discuss why they pay; to whom is permitted to find out what is owed? Then it is given out most publicly when the rich get angry with each other, when some of them get indignant because some levies are made without their advice and handling. (The Governance of God, by Salvian, the Presbyter. (Salvian, of Marseilles, ca. 400-ca. 480. pp. 130-139.)

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