|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
By What Authority
Is It Lawful
Reverence my Sanctuary
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Christ's last working day in his Mission to Israel was very active. (Mt. 21:23ff., Mk. 11:27ff., Lk. 20:1ff.) On his last day, he issued his final call for Israel's national repentance, and issued his final warning to the religious leaders. Among the multiplicity of occurrences, there are two events that stand out --- two questions put forth by the enemies of Christ:
By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave you this authority? (Mt. 21:23, Mk. 11:28, Lk. 20:1.)
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? (Mt. 22:17, Mk. 12:14, Lk. 20:22.)
It was not the civil authority but the religious authority who was upset that Christ was preaching (the gospel message) apart from their authority:
(Gospel) To proclaim glad tidings; spec. Christian salvation; spec. to instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation: simply, Lk. ix. 6; xx. 1; Acts xiv; Ro. xv.20; 1 Co. I.17; ix. 16, 18.1
Among other things, the gospel Christ preached on this final day included the glad tidings of salvation (1 Cor. 15:2 [see also Isa 61:1]), the good tidings concerning Jesus as the Messiah, the good tidings of the faith and of the Messiah, the necessity of faith in Christ, and the preaching of Christ among the Gentiles. (Ibid.) Obviously, the gospel had nothing to do with Christ offering himself as Israel's literal king, here to replace Rome's rule--he was here to offer himself as the only approach to the Heavenly Father. (Jn. chap. 4.)
The problem the religious leaders had with Christ was that he was presenting apart from their authority, or without their training:
For, there was no principle more firmly established by universal consent than that authoritative teaching required previous authorisation. Indeed, this logically followed from the principle of Rabbinism. All teaching must be authoritative, since it was traditional--approved by authority, and handed down from teacher to disciple. The highest honour of a scholar was, that he was like a well-plastered cistern, from which not a drop had leaked of what had been poured into it. The ultimate appeal in cases of discussion was always to some great authority, whether an individual Teacher or a Decree by the Sanhedrin... And, to decide differently from authority, was either the mark of ignorant assumption or the outcome of daring rebellion, in either case to be visited with 'the ban.'2
The people loved the message, so
They dared not directly oppose Him, but endeavoured, by attacking Him on the one point where he [sic] seemed to lay Himself open to it, to arrogate to themselves the appearance of strict legality, and so turn popular feeling against Him.3
The leaders took steps to undermining Christ by questioning Christ's right to teach: By what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? (Luke 20:2) The question,
[W]as cunningly framed. For, it did not merely challenge Him for teaching, but also asked for His authority in what He did; referring not only to His Work generally, but, perhaps, especially to what had happened on the previous day. They were not there to oppose Him; but, when a man did as He had done in the Temple, it was their duty to verify his credentials. Finally, the alternative question reported by St. Mark: 'or'--if Thou hast not proper Rabinic commission--'who gave Thee this authority to do these things?' seems clearly to point to their contention, that the power which Jesus wielded was delegated to Him by none other than Beelzebul... To the challenge for His authority, and the dark hint about Satanic agency, He replied by an appeal to the Baptist...4
Unbelief and Satan
Thus was the hint of Satanic source for any teaching that was not according to the tradition of the elders and presented under the authority of those elders. This hint of Satanic source of non-traditional teaching did not die out with these religious leaders. There are veiled hints of departure from the Christian faith if one does hold to the dispensational truths taught in the average Bible college--that is, failure to follow the millennial system of faith at time brings hints of Satanic influence. In fact, that modern system was founded in the charge that Satan causes people to reject it. (We should say, "to a particular dispensational system," for both sides are times guilty.)
Irving, in his 1827 Preliminary Discourse to his English translation of "Ben-Ezra," often exhibited anger and mockery against those who disagreed with his newly developing dispensational millennial views, calling those who opposed his system, fools and possessed by Satan:
The two views of the second advent which our author (the Roman jesuit, Lacunza, ed.) bringeth to the touchstone of the scripture, to discern thereby the truth from the counterfeit (unbelief in Lacunza's system is thus captivity to lies, ed.) of truth, agree in this, that there will be a personal re-appearance of the Lord at some future time, to judge all who have ever lived upon earth, and to determine their everlasting condition of blessedness and misery... And the points in which we differ (Irving's newly developed millennial system and the then common view, ed.) are, whether that advent is to conclude the existence of the habitable earth, or to begin the period of its peace, and righteousness, and blessedness; whether he is to come to destroy, or to reign over the earth; whether his presence is to be brief, and as it were momentary, or abiding and everlasting. This draws with it another point or difference touching his people, who, it is agreed, will be raised or changed at that moment of his coming, or rather the instant before, in order to come along with him: for if he is not to come till the consummation of this world's existence, and the general judgment of all both good and bad, it is manifest that there can be no first resurrection, but one common and general resurrection to judgment...5
Saying that both sides agreed to a literal return of the Lord, Irving--justifying his stand from Lacunza--complained that there was extremely little millennial faith, for the common faith of his day was in one general resurrection at the end of all things:
In proof of the fact that it hath been so abstracted away from the personal act and bodily presence of the Lord, I need only to state, that I have hardly conversed with one minister or preacher of the gospel, who had thought at all upon the subject of the second advent, excepting that small number who have adopted these views of his kingdom; and I have hardly met with one private Christian of the thousands to whom I have preached it, who had ever heard it treated of as a great head of doctrine, or even had a conception that it was such.6
His 1827 complaint was that the orthodox belief of his day was not Dispensationalism:
There is a universal belief in the church, that an age, a very long age of blessedness, of at least a thousand years duration, is to run, before the end of the world, and consequently before the coming of Christ. And who will speak of the uncertainty or the nearness of the Lord's coming, to men, who thus believe. It were to ask them to believe a contradiction; first, to believe that a thousand years at the least is certainly to intervene, and in direct contradiction thereto, to understand, and have it ever present to their minds, that we ought to feel it as an uncertainty whether any time shall intervene at all. You must either give up the certainty of the millennium, or you must give up the uncertainty of the Lord's coming...7
The early 1800s orthodox Christian view of only one resurrection at the end of all things was major point of attack by Irving:
But I do not tempt myself and my reader into minor discussions, but rest firmly upon this, that the common system having cast out the expectation of Christ's coming, has cast out the special and peculiar reward of the resurrection.8
His insistence in the immanent return of Christ and millennial faith was ignored by the "pious people of this generation of the church." Preaching the new message of an immanent return and a millennial faith, "you are met with this most faithless and unprofitable answer; that it is enough for them to look to the day of their death, which will set their condition, and either unite them to the Lord, or separate them from the Lord forever."9
In other words, rather than people being prepared for the immanent return of Christ according to the millennial faith, they were being prepared for meeting the Lord in death. This "faithlessness," or unbelief in the millennial system, said Irving, was the result of being blinded by Satan:
The frequency with which I have had this answer thrown in the teeth of all discourse concerning the glorious coming of my Lord, hath moved me with great anger against the artifice of Satan to blind so many souls...10
In other words, Irving said that those who rejected his millennial gospel, faith, were "faithless," and deluded by Satan.
Some years later, in an 1846 letter, John Nelson Darby compared himself with some great men of the past--"such as Paul, Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitfield, and myself now." Darby, presenting Irving's millennial faith as his own with the rapture thrown in, said that those who did not accept his teaching were under the "direct power and delusion of the enemy." Freedom and liberty of the Spirit of God, said Darby, were freedom and liberty from the power of Satan, which enabled one to accept the millennial faith. Satan, he said, was the cause of unfaithfulness--that is, not accepting the dispensational millennial faith he was propagating.11 However, he bragged that despite the faithlessness of that generation, his truth was spreading.12 Thus modern dispensational millennialism was established by key men who considering all opposition to that faith, Satanic.
The same charge is many times leveled by both sides of the dispensational issue: If the teaching is not according to the tradition of the elders and then presented under the authority of those elders, the teacher must surely be influenced by the devil.
Rather than again announce his authority, he asks them a question, which they, fearing the crowd, refused to answer--The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? (Lk. 20:4.)
Having failed in questioning Christ's authority, they took
counsel together as to how to trap him with his words.
I was sitting in a hospital waiting room with the wife of a man who, at 76, had just been diagnosed with cancer -- the doctor was doing a simple procedure on the man. It was a Roman Catholic hospital, and a nun was speaking with us in the waiting room. She was lamenting the fact that the general population has forgotten about the Lord. She made a statement that caught the attention of both the wife and I. She said, "The problem is that we have given to Caesar the things that are God's." After the nun left, the lady and I both agreed that the nun had a good grasp of society's problem. The statement was a stronger statement than she realized.
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Christ replied, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Christ's Render statement is one of the more misused statements made by our Lord. It is a much discussed and abused statement by two groups--those teaching almost unlimited submission to civil authority and those teaching almost total anarchy.
The Lord's Render statement is at the conclusion of an exchange between the extremely hostile leaders of the Jewish nation and Christ:
2. Foiled in their endeavour to involve Him with the ecclesiastical, they next attempted the much more dangerous device of bringing Him into collision with the civil authorities. Remembering the ever watchful jealousy of Rome, the reckless tyranny of Pilate, and the low artifices of Herod, who was at that time in Jerusalem, we instinctively feel, how even the slightest compromise on the part of Jesus in regard to the authority of Caesar would have been absolutely fatal. If it could have been proved, on undeniable testimony, that Jesus had declared Himself on the side of, or even encouraged, the so-called 'Nationalist' party, He would have quickly perished, like Judas of Galilee. The Jewish leaders would thus have readily accomplished their object, and its unpopularity have recoiled only on the hated Roman power. How great the danger was which threatened Jesus, may be gathered from this, that, despite His clear answer, the charge that He preverted the nation, forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, was actually among those brought against Him before Pilate.13
Render unto Caesar
Like all passages, the context must be kept in mind when trying to understand what is being taught. Our Lord is still involved in the confrontation with the builders that started in Matthew 21:23. (21:42, Ac. 4:11.) The builders understood what he said about them in the presences of the multitudes. In their grand design for themselves and for national Israel, the builders absolutely rejected the true Stone. When told that Christ was the Stone, they tried to crush the Stone. The more they were confronted with the truth, the more hostile they became. In Matthew 22, our Lord continues his parables against them, causing even more hostility. In their anger, the builders sought to lay hands on him, but fearing the multitude, they were unable to do so. (21:46.) Unable to physically take Christ because of the people, they counseled together to overthrow the Lord with words. (22:15.) They attempted to turn public opinion against him in order to re-establish their position over the people.
Observe: Rather than the word of God bringing repentance (as he told them they were to be destroyed for their hardness and rebellion against the king), they take further steps to entangle him with his words. Sinful men will only abandon their vain attempts to overthrow God as God intervenes in their hearts. (Rom. 3:10ff.)
In Matthew 21:43, our Lord spoke very strongly against the builders who exalted themselves--Christ exposed their inner most beings; he exposed them as false teachers who were bringing judgment and wrath from God upon themselves and upon their nation. That judgment was according to our Lord's words in Matthew 24, taking place in 70 A.D.
Three times--vv. 15-22 (the Pharisees and Herodians), 23-33 (the Saducees), and 34-40 (a scribe/lawyer)--the men he had previously spoken against sought to discredit him before the same multitude before whom he has discredited them. Their very best efforts fail.
The first group is Matthew 22:15-22--the vain efforts of the Pharisees, who unite with the Herodians. (Note the clear fulfillment in v. 15 of Ps. 2: they took counsel against the Lord and his anointed.)
The chief priests, scribes and the Pharisees--the builders--with the Herodians, pool all of their wisdom for a common goal, viz, discredit the Son of God. They would have had a better chance emptying the ocean with a gallon bucket than to trap the Wisdom of the God with the wisdom of men:
"sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians" What an alliance! The Pharisees (partisans of strict Judaism and the law) and the Herodians (the political time-servers of the day, whom the former hated cordially), join in flattering Jesus to ensnare Him by the question of Jewish title against the Gentile. Would He, the Messiah, gainsay the hopes and exalted privileges of Israel as a nation? If not, how escape the charge of treason against Caesar. Diabolical craft was there, but divine wisdom brings in the just balance of truth as to God and human authority and the difficulty vanishes. It was the rebellion of the Jews against Jehovah which gave occasion to His subjecting them to their heathen lords. Were they humbled because of it, and seeking the resources of God's grace? Nay, but proud and boastful...14
Master, we know... were slick words used by the best minds they had to offer in their vain attempt to cause the Lord to stumble. Oh, how foolish men are to think they can get around the wisdom of God. But men will make many plans just to avoid the fact of their rebellion against the word of God. This was probably said in a mocking way. Regardless, it was said to cover the true thoughts and intents of the hearts of the heathen.
The context of the question:
First, Christ is involved in a very heated discussion with the religious leaders, the builders of the old nation of Israel, the nation that was to represent God's kingdom on earth. Though not independent, this nation prided itself in its independence. Actually, it had spend more time in bondage than it had in independence.
Second, this is the final confrontation with the builders before his quickly approaching arrest and death. It is leading to the Lord's words in Matthew 24, warning of the total destruction of the Jewish world as was known by all involved in this exchange--the multitude, the disciples and the builders. The confrontation will leave all concerned with absolutely no excuse for their own terrible destruction within their present generation.
Third, Christ cleansed the temple, and taught and healed the people. In cleansing the temple, he claimed the Father's authority over the temple, which represented God's kingdom on earth--he claimed to be the God of the temple and of the kingdom of God. When he taught the word of God in the temple, he claimed to be the only proper instructor of God's word as it must be taught on this earth. The healing of the multitudes proved his claim of total authority from the heavenly Father over every activity of man. (Jn. 14:11.) Christ claimed the authority that the builders had claimed for the many years since Moses. What he had been doing during his public ministry was clearly a challenge to their authority. His actions in the temple during his final week here on earth were the most blatant challenge yet to the builders' perceived authority over the Father's works on earth.
Fourth, after cleansing the temple, he left for the night. Coming back the next day, the builders did not forget what he had done--they confront him with, "Who gave you the authority to do these things? We didn't." Their challenge started this very heated confrontation and very pointed parables. The whole issue was over who gave Christ the authority to do what he did in the temple. His actions and teaching in the temple did not make friends with the builders of the Jewish nation.
Fifth, Christ gives three parables:
a) the two sons--sinners, publicans and harlots, will go into the kingdom of God before the builders because of their hardness.
b) the vineyard--the husbandmen (they perceived that he spake of them) usurped the vineyard, killed the servants, and then killed the son. Attempting to keep the usurped vineyard for themselves, they did all these things in their rebellion and hardness against the owner. The justly deserved result was terrible judgment against them. They considered themselves the elite builders, yet they were in open rebellion against the authority of the owner.
c) the wedding--the king bids them many times to the marriage of his son, yet they refuse the king's pleading offer to come to the marriage. This parable has the same ending as the previous parable--the destruction of the builders and their nation. Their refusal to come to the marriage was actually rebellion against their rightful king. They rejected his authority over them. Moreover, there were those who accepted the invitation, yet they were not properly attired in the garment provided by the king.
Sixth, the attempted entanglement. The builders are now exceedingly hostile. They know he is talking about them, and the multitude knows he is talking about them. The Word of God exposed their rebellious, evil hearts, hearts hardened against the householder, against the king and against the son. They have absolutely refused to give the fruit to the householder, and the proper respect to the king. At this point, they will stop at nothing to stop Christ from striping them of their power, except public opinion. They are covering their wicked devices with smooth, deceitful words.
Tempting Christ, the hypocrites ask the question:
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Our Lord again strips away every false cover, exposing the very thoughts and intents of their hearts before the on-looking world--he has exposed their hardness and rebellion against the heavenly Father, the God of the temple. Their goal is thus to entangle him in his talk. Their desire is to discredit him enough before the people that they can kill him. They will do anything to get him out of their midst, for he is destroying their usurped power and authority over the people.
Christ and the Roman Coin
Our Lord answers all of their craftiness with just a few words, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. With this, he not only answered them, but caused them to marvel, leave him alone for now, and go their way (not his way).
Christ had been confronting the builders with their rebellion against the king (Jehovah God), and warning them of the terrible consequences, destruction, soon to come upon them. The builders sought to avoid facing their rebellion with this trick question. Actually, they sought to get him to join with them in their rebellion against authority. They were protesting the yearly tax levied against the Jewish nation by the Roman conquerors. Needless to say, it was a very unpopular tax, for it reminded the people that they were not free; rather, they were clearly servants to the Romans. They knew that if they could get Christ to say, "Pay the tax," he would also become unpopular with the multitudes. They knew that if they could get him to say, "Don't pay the tax," Rome would be down on him for insurrection. (Cf. Ac. 5:37.)
Christ called for a piece of money, a days wages for a laboring man. As he had already done (21:40), he got these wicked men to answer their own question. They had to admit that the money belonged to Rome: "The Jewish Rabbies taught that 'If a king's coin is current in a country, then the men of the country do thereby evidence that they acknowledge him for their Lord.'":15
Was it lawful for them to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Were they to pay the capitation-tax of one drachum, or to refuse it? We know how later Judaism would have answered such a question. It lays down the principle, that the right of coinage implies the authority of levying taxes, and indeed constitutes such evidence of de facto government as to make it duty absolutely to submit to it. So much was this felt, that the Maccabees, and, in the last Jewish war, Bar Kokhabh, the false Messiah, issued a coinage dating from the liberation of Jerusalem. We cannot therefore doubt, that this principle about coinage, taxation, and government was generally accepted in Judea. On the other hand, there was a strong party in the land; with which, not only politically but religiously, many of the noblest spirits would sympathise, which maintained, that to pay the tribute-money to Caesar was virtually to own his royal authority, and so to disown that of Jehovah, Who alone was Israel's King. They would argue, that all the miseries of the land and people were due to this national unfaithfulness. Indeed, this was the fundamental principle of the Nationalist movement. History has recorded many similar movements, in which strong political feelings have been strangely blended with religious fanaticism, and which have numbered in their ranks, together with unscrupulous partisans, not a few who were sincere patriots or earnest religionists. It has been suggested in a former part of this book, that the Nationalist movement may have had an important preparatory bearing on some of the earlier followers of Jesus, perhaps at the beginning of their inquiries, just as, in the West, Alexandrian philosophy proved to many a preparation for Christianity. At any rate, the scruple expressed by these men would, if genuine, have called forth sympathy. But what was the alternative here presented to Christ? To have said No, would have been to command rebellion; to have said simply Yes, would have been to give a painful shock to deep feeling, and, in a sense, in the eyes of the people, the lie to His own claim of being Israel's Messiah-King!16
Whether they liked it or not, the coin was proof that they were Roman subjects, and Caesar was their lord. The logical conclusion, accordingly, was that they had to pay to Caesar what he demanded.
The Lord, however, is not dealing with the nation's subjection to Rome. Rather, he is dealing with the root of the problem--he confronts the builders with their hardness of heart and rebellion against the king, Jehovah God. They are doing their best to escape the public pressure Christ is placing on them over their rebellion. In fact, he is telling them of the destruction soon to come upon them and their nation for that rebellion, so they are trying to publicly discredit him.
So why does Christ confront them with a piece of Roman money with Caesar's image and superscription on it?
That Roman coin was unavoidable evidence possessed by everyone as proof of their nation's rebellion against its rightful king, Jehovah God.
These men were experts in the Old Testament law. Christ's calling their attention to the Roman coin immediately reminded them of the law and the prophets. (Dt. 28, 1 Sam. 8, etc.) The God of the temple, from whom Christ claimed authority, had been very precise: He had told Israel, the builders, that if they rejected him as their king, they would have a very oppressive human king over them. Christ's answer destroyed absolutely every objection they had against the oppressive civil authority of Rome, for Rome simply fulfilled God's promise to them. God had promised what the oppressive king would do. He would take: their sons and daughters for himself; their land as well as their harvest; their money in oppressive taxation, and, worse of all, God promised that they would be no better than servants to the oppressive civil authority. God even pointed out to them that the oppressed people would cry out to him from under their oppressors, and he would not hear them. Though the builders knew all of this, they still rejected Jehovah God as their king. In doing so, they chose servitude to oppressive men over freedom in service to Jehovah God. There is no neutral ground: Men either activity serve the King of kings, or they serve evil men.
With the Lord's simple act with the coin and his question about the coin, he preached a very powerful message from the law and the prophets. He tells the builders that because of their rebellion against their rightful king, they had Roman oppression. He tells them that they had no right to complain about Rome's oppression because they had been clearly warned in the law and the prophets. (V. 21 clearly refers back to Mt. 21:34, 41.) With this short statement, the Lord told them: "Give to God his fruits, and God will free you from the oppression. In the meantime, he will not hear your cry from under that oppression."
Christ's answer caught them completely off guard, amazing them and causing them to marvel. But rather than yield to the king and deal with their rebellion, they went their way. Though knowing the answer for the civil oppression and high taxation, they continued in their own way. No doubt, they continued in their complaints against the oppressive civil authority. Is so much easier to get a group together against oppression than it is to get a group together to return the fruit to the landowner.
We must be very careful about trying to make Matthew 22:15-22 stand alone, apart from its context. Christ is dealing with rebellion against the King of kings.
The fact cannot be avoided that God's people today are choosing servitude to an oppressive tyrant over servitude to the King of kings. As in Christ's day, men will complain against evil leaders in high places and over taxes, but will totally avoid the fact that they are in rebellion against God.
When the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ over every area of life is ignored, then God will raise up oppressive men. The law-word of God cannot be laid aside, ignored nor avoided without oppressive men being exalted. It is impossible to press back the darkness of evil and oppressive men without re-lighting the candle of submission to the authority of the King of kings according to his word.
All offers of freedom from oppression apart from the return to the total law-word of God and his authority over everything (church, law, civil government, the arts, science, education, social programs, etc.) is doomed--they must result in only more servitude as demanded by God's laws of cause and effect, sowing and reaping.
As people turn to God in obedience to the command-word of his law and submit to his total authority over everything, then he will give back the freedom he removed as men departed from him. Christ gave the answer to oppression. (Mt. 22:21.) All Christ did was remind them of what they already knew. Yet these men, even knowing the cause of their oppression, went their own way. They chose the oppression of and servitude to an oppressive civil authority, rather than admit that returning to the king and his son was the answer. Fallen men would rather die in their sins than admit they cannot handle life on their own.
The primaries are over. As they heated up, I heard a statement over a "Public Radio" station out of Purdue University in West Lafayette. Just before the elections, the announcer said, "The primary elections are coming up. Dianna Vice will have her group out, so be sure and vote." The announcer was referring to a Christian political action group, and all his listeners knew they had to get out and vote, or the Christians would get their candidates in the offices. One of our men works for a company that willingly finances candidates who will keep Christians out of public offices. To the fallen nature, the worse thing in the world is to have Christians in places of authority--they would much rather have oppression to wickedness in high places than to have Godly authority. (If Christians would just vote their profession, there would be more than enough votes to get any Godly person into public office.)
Accordingly, any message against oppression must be balanced with responsibility to God's total word. We cannot have one without the other--we cannot have freedom from oppression without submission to his authority and responsibility toward his total word. Actually, as men fulfill their responsibilities and submit to his authority, God will provide the freedom to serve him.
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
The issue is submission to the rightful king. The issue is over authority. Sinful men had rejected the total crown rights of King Jesus, resulting in their servitude to Rome. Therefore, the only answer to servitude and freedom is submitting to the rightful king, King Jesus, and rendering to him the fruits in their seasons. The reason for servitude must be dealt with, or there can be no freedom--a message hated by fallen man.
Making Matthew 22:15-22 say more than what it is--a call to repentance over the rebellion against God's law-word--can lead to very serious false conclusions as well as false hopes. The overall message of God's word is that true freedom is freedom to serve God and to obey him in every area. (Mt. 4:4.) This freedom is the only freedom that is provided and supported by the Christen God. When this freedom is misused in order to serve the world, flesh and/or the devil, this freedom will be replaced with oppressive men and laws.
1 Thayer's, #2095.
2 Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II.381. Eerdmans.
4 Ibid, 383.
5 Ben-Ezra, I.xlix, l. The Coming of Messiah in glory and Majesty, two volumes, by Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, A Converted Jew. Translated from the Spanish, with a preliminary Discourse, by the Rev. Edward Irving, A.M. Published by L.B. Seeley and Son, Fleet Street, London. MDCCCXXVII  Lacunza wrote under the pseudonym, Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra; thus his 1790 document became known as Ben-Ezra. See The Death of Victory, by Ovid Need (soon to be published by Ross House Books, Lord willing) for a complete treatment of the views reintroduced by Irving, their growth and their results.
7 Ibid, li.
8 Ibid, lv.
9 Ibid., lvi, lvii.
10 Ibid, lvii.
11 Letters, I.90, 366  Letters of J.N. Darby, in three volumes, Bible Truth Publishers. (ND).
12 Ibid., 367.
13 Life, 383, 384.
14 WK Mt.418, Online Bible.
15 C.H. Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom, A Commentary on the Book of Matthew. Pilgrim Publishers, Pasadena, TX. 1978. 197.
16 Life, 385.
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. (Lev. 26:1, 2.)
The statement in v. 2 restates Leviticus 19:30, Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. Accordingly, though ignored by the natural man, reverence my sanctuary is an important point, or the Lord would not have given it so plainly again. This chapter's first section opens with the second and fifth commandments:
1) no idols nor graven image... We should add to this, Neither shall ye set up any images in your heart. It is worthy of note that this second commandment is given twice in Exodus twenty: v. 4 and v. 23. Absolutely forbidden is the use of any physical representation in worshiping the Lord God, e.g., the Church of Rome.
2) my sabbaths, and my sanctuary... Here is placed in the same verse, sabbaths and sanctuary, and thus in the same command. The two are also found together in Leviticus 19:30, where they are followed by v. 31, the command forbidding witchcraft -- familiar spirits, wizards.
Christ reinforced the sanctuary law in Mark 11:16 where He would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. We know that Israel went into Babylonian captivity while the land kept her violation of the Lord's sabbaths (i.e., the missed sabbath of the land time was made up), but what happened over Israel's violation of the Lord's sanctuary? We do know what the Lord said in Haggai 1:1-11 about the house of the Lord -- His complaint, delivered through Haggai, was that the people sought personal comfort while neglecting the Lord's house:
 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?  Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Commenting on Haggai 1:4, Gill points out that,
David was of another mind, 2 Sa 7:2 and truly religious persons will be more concerned for the house of God than for their own houses.17
Leviticus 26:2 restates Leviticus 19:30 (Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.) which follows v. 19, Ye shall keep my statutes. (See my comments from that section for the importance and applications of the statutes given between v. 19 & v. 30.)
(Lev. 19) Vers. 19-32. The words, "Ye shall keep My statutes,"
open the second series of commandments, which make it a duty
on the part of the people of God to keep the physical and moral
order of the world sacred...18
Ver. 30. The exhortation now returns to the chief point, the observance of the Lord's Sabbaths and the reverence for His sanctuary, which embraces the true method of divine worship as laid down in the ritual commandments. When the Lord's day is kept holy, and a holy reverence for the Lord's sanctuary lives in the heart, not only are many sins avoided, but social and domestic life is pervaded by the fear of God and characterized by chasteness and propriety...19
In the command and its location in the law, Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD, we see some things: First, the Lord's insistence upon purity in the worshiping of Himself, and, second, man's attitude toward the Lord God will be reflected in man's attitude toward those things representing the Lord God upon earth, whether God's men or God's "house," i.e., sanctuary. Proper honor of the Lord God in the proper way, the sabbahts and His sanctuary, will keep one from idolatry.
Vers. 1 and 2 form the introduction; and the essence
of the whole law, the observance of which will bring a rich blessing,
and the transgression of it severe judgments, is summed up in
two leading commandments, and placed at the head of the blessing
and curses which were to be proclaimed...20
Very frequently, in this book of the law, the Sabbath and the sanctuary are mentioned as antidotes to idolatry.21
As the fulfilment of the promises and threats connected with the law (Ex. xxiii. 20-33, Lev. xxvi., Deut. viii. sq.) depends upon the attitude of the people with respect to the law, while still the final realization of the theocratic destination of Israel is beyond all question (Lev. xxvi. 44 sqq., Deut. xxx. 1-6, compare § 90, p. 197), so is it also with the teachings of prophecy. These, like the law, subserves, in the first place, an educational purpose, by making disclosures concerning the future to man for his good.22
The attitude of the people with respect to images, the Lord's sabbaths and the Lord's sanctuary determines to a very large extent whether they will receive the Lord's promised blessings or threats. We should note that the Lord's covenant concerning the sabbath, blessings or threats, is closely united with the attitude of His people toward the sanctuary.
As nothing tends more to corrupt religion than the use of images in devotion, so nothing contributes more to the support of it than keeping the sabbaths and reverencing the sanctuary. These make up very much of the instrumental part of religion, by which the essentials of it are kept up. Therefore we find in the prophets that, next to the sin of idolatry, there is no sin for which the Jews are more frequently reproved and threatened than the profanation of the sabbath day.23
There are three conditions given here for receiving the blessings outlined in the following verses: 1) no idols nor graven images used in worshiping the Lord God (He, even in the OT, must be worshiped in spirit and in truth); 2) keeping the sabbaths, and 3) reverencing His sanctuary.
(Reverence) In this discussion, biblical usages
of yare are divided into five general categories: 1) the
emotion of fear, 2) the intellectual anticipation of evil without
emphasis upon emotional reaction, 3) reverence or awe, 4) righteous
behaviour or piety, and 5) formal religious worship...
There are many examples of the third usage listed above. Such reverence is due to one's parents (Lev 19:3), holy places (Lev 26:2), God (Ps 112:1), and God's name (Ps 86:11). Habakkuk's "fearing" of God's work (Hab 3:2) and the fear of Job's friends at seeing his misery are best considered as this kind of fear (Job 6:21)...24
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy. Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and ye shall keep My sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Turn ye not unto the idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:2-4.) Hallelujah. Happy is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. (Ps. 112:1.) Teach me, O LORD, Thy way, that I may walk in Thy truth; make one my heart to fear Thy name. (Ps. 86:11.) O LORD, I have heard the report of Thee, and am afraid; O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember compassion. (Hab. 3:2.) For now ye are become His; ye see a terror, and are afraid. (Job 6:21.)
Vv. 2 & 4 are added to Leviticus 19:3 to point out the context of the command to fear every man his parents:
First, holiness for God's people is identified in this passage with fearing every man his parents. This definition of holiness is clearly carried over into the New Testament in places such as 2 Corinthians 7:1 and 1 Peter 1:15, 16:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mat. 5:48.) Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1.) But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Pet. 1:15, 16.)
Thus one's attitude toward the "house of God" reflects his attitude toward his parents.
Second, holiness for God's people is also identified equally with avoiding idols, i.e., images used in worshiping the Lord God.
Three things are given at the opening of Leviticus: 1) no images of any kind permitted to aid in worshiping God; 2) keeping the sabbaths, and 3) reverencing His sanctuary. In Leviticus 19:27, the next command is to ignore and avoid those who have familiar spirits.
Leviticus 26:2, my sanctuary: miqdash. Holy place, sanctuary, chapel, hollowed part....
The noun miqdash is used most frequently in the OT
as the designation of the tabernacle and the temple. It is frequently
translated ''sanctuary," in these cases. In keeping with
the basic meaning of the word group that it represents (qdsh),
miqdash denotes that which has been devoted to the sphere
of the sacred. When it refers to the sanctuary, it connotes the
physical area devoted to the worship of God. This area was sacred
because it was the place where God dwelled among the people (Ex
25:8) and its sanctity was not to be profaned (Lev 12:4; 19:30;
20:3; 21:12, 23).
The word also designated sanctuaries that were devoted to false worship (Lev 26:31; Isa 16:12; Ezk 21:7; Amos 7:9).
The word is used for the articles of the tabernacle that were devoted to the Levitical worship (Num 10:21). The portions of the sacrifices that were particularly holy were called miqdash (Num 18:29). The word miqdash may refer to the abode of God in Ps 68:35 [H 36], but some commentators see this [sic] as the temple in Jerusalem. Metaphorically the word is used to refer to a place of refuge (Isa 8:14: Ezk 11:16).25
Accordingly, Leviticus 26:1, 2, is a strong passage:
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Straightly connected with the promises starting in v. 3 is the command to avoid any physical representation of God used in worshiping Him, keeping His sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary. Those "physical areas devoted to the worship of God" are to be respected: the command is just as straight forward as is the command for every person to honour their parents. In the context of Leviticus 26, respecting those areas is closely connected with inheriting the blessings promised in this section. (See Hag. 1:1-11.)
More than a few people have professed their love for the Lord while telling men they can "worship God anywhere," even on the golf course. However, Bonar makes a very good point: "Would you, who will not reverence the sanctuary, have refrained from taking the fruit of the forbidden tree as a test of obedience? Where is your childlike submission of will? Nay, where is your love to your Father, if you go not to the spot where He meets with His own so specially ?" In other words, we say we love God -- prove it by our attention to the place set apart for His "worship."
The "sanctuary" law is clearly restated for the Gospel Church in the New Testament, unless, of course, one follows Scofield's dispensationalizing of the book of Hebrews out of the Christian Bible:
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. (Lev. 26:2.)
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:23-31.)
The Spirit (Who is the Author of Hebrews) tells us that part of the profession of our faith is exhorting one another through the Christian assembly, the assembling of ourselves together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian assembly is identified by the Lord as two or three ... gathered together in my name, there am I also in the midst of them. (Mt. 18:20.) For if we sin wilfully is given in the context of Not forsaking the assembling of our selves together...
This pastor must admit that as the church, generally, rejects more and more of the knowledge of the truth as defined by the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, it is becoming more difficult to find Christian assemblies. And thus we have a call for home churches. One family needs to find another family with like mindedness in the truth of Jesus Christ, and assemble themselves together. (However, there are groups that teach it is wrong to have Christian assemblies in the sense of organized church meetings under the leadership of a pastor. Thus they support only home churches where there is no authority.)
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth. (Ps. 119:142. See also, Ps. 15:2.)
Hence, assemblies that reject the Law-Word of God, the Ten Commandments, as their standard for every though and action cannot be Christian assemblies. (2 Tim. 3:16.)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6.)
Accordingly, those assemblies that fail to clearly teach the necessity of the understanding of and faith in Jesus Christ's atoning work for the sinner cannot be Christian assemblies -- there is NO OTHER WAY TO THE HEAVENLY FATHER than through the atoning work of Christ:
18 Keil, 1. 421.
19 Keil, 1. 425.
20 Keil, 1. 469.
21 JFB, 1. 505.
22 Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, 492.
23 Matthew Henry.
24 TWOT, #907.
25 TWOT, #1990f.