Posted, December 14, 1999
|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
Cancer, Root Canals, Mercury fillings,
Blood Pressure, &c.
Oh, No, Not Again! (GMI)
ANGER AND HOSTILITY
Divine Sovereignty & Man's Free Will
UNITY IN CHRIST
Pokemon and the dangers of role-playing games
Editor's note, Parents Beware
The following is what appears in the hard copy of The Biblical Examiner.
I had a heart attack last October 25. It had been coming on for some time, and I was suspicious of what was going on. I took a shower, and went to bed Monday evening, about 9:00. The "pressure" went down my left arm, and I told my wife to take me right then to the hospital.
I got there at about 9:30, and they gave me nitroglycerin and a lot of blood thinner. The doctor on duty wanted to give me a "clot buster," but I asked them to wait until some of my men got there to pray with me. While waiting, the heart doctor on duty came in. I told him of my eye surgery (laser for a seeping capillary behind the left retina, 1992). So he decided to thin the blood, keep the nitroglycerin and see if we could wait until the next morning to do the balloon, rather than take a chance on making the capillary bleed again. They kept me flat on my back, even moving me on the sheet, and moved me to another hospital. The next morning they scheduled me first for the angioplasty, 8:00. They placed a "stent" in where the blockage was, made me lay still for another 9 hours, and sent me home with the only instruction being not to lift over 5 lbs. for a week. I'm sure there will be more as I go along. The Lord has provided the funds for "chelation," which I started a short time ago.
My wife (a perfect pastor's wife, and this also, no doubt, can be attributed to the "stress") has been diagnosed with cancer. The tumor is so large that they said they had to do chemotherapy before they could do surgery. She is dead set against any "slash and burn" treatment, and we are looking into many other options (she has already started on some things see http://am2treatment.com). All of these things happened within a week or so, and they will leave us with two maximum insurance co-pay deductibles, several thousands of dollars. I believe I must spend as much time with her as she needs. She is seeking healing through the Lord using natural means. I had a set back the evening we were told the seriousness of her situation, 11/15. They did another angioplasty that evening, but everything appeared OK.
So here I am. I will need to cut back on the stress, obviously. This being a "one-man" operation of a very small church (from typing to printing), this one man must cut back. After some investigation, I found we can place the Examiner on news print for very few dollars more than what it now costs for paper alone to run it on the offset press. Whereas it takes me about 5 days to print the Examiner plus another long day to put it together for mailing, I can e mail the Examiner file to the printer, and he will deliver it back to me just a few miles South of us. (The press is several miles away, but the owner commutes from Crawfordsville.) It will still take a day to get it in the mail, but on this news print, it will not be near as time consuming. With the ease of news print, we may be able to get back to mailing once a month, depending on the funds than may come in, and the time I have to lay the material out for the printer. (I e mail a "PDF" file to him.) I realize the quality is not nearly as good, but it is a way we can continue with this ministry. LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. I was going to say, NO MORE HARD COPIES OF THE EXAMINER, but I believe this will work.
Thanks to you who have supported this ministry. I pray that the Lord will confirm in your heart that his funds were well spent.
Daniel 4:26 ... the heavens do rule. 34... and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
And I praise the Lord that he sees fit to do it a little longer with my wife and I. (See update)
One Mord Point
I returned the manuscript for The Death of Victory to the publisher with all the corrections in it. It is now in their hands, so keep an eye on the web site for when it is released.
I would urge you to check www.icanbehealthy.com
Dr. Darbro has been working with us, and my blood pressure is down to 104/60, without medication. Also, for the first time in 15 years, my wife has her blood pressure under control without medication.
It also seems that my wife's problem (cancer) was brought on by root canals and mercury fillings in her teeth. We will get more information on this wed site as we get the documentation.
(A writer's total world-view cannot be assumed from one article,
so please check these past TBE articles: "God Appoints Wicked
Rulers" [5/98], "What is Government" [8/98], "To
Obey or Not to Obey" [12/96], "Justice Corrupted"
[10/93], "Separation of Church and State" [4/91], "War
Against the Family, The Strengthened State" [3/96]. Hard
copies available, but all of these are posted on our web site:
see "Topics" under "Government." Also see
our booklet, "Church, Inc.")
I assumed that the last article I did on Greater Ministries International (which is now in bankruptcy) would be the last word I would need to say on the subject. And I am sure some readers had hoped for the same thing, particularly those who supported and invested in GMI. However, though it was planed to be my last mention, I feel the following is needed. I realize that those who have experienced the legal system will, no doubt, find the following hard to believe, but I offer it for what it is worth.
A short time ago, I received a phone call Tom Krebs. He is involved in litigation against Greater Ministries International, trying to hold GMI financial accountable to some of the investors. He has been in private practice since the 80s, after having worked with various civil agencies dealing with diverse scams. He contacted me because of the Scriptural material posted on the web site. He said he could not speak with his parish priest, for the priest would not at all understand the situation.
Of the great many scam cases he has been involved in over the past 30 or so years, he said this particular case has been the most distressing. He has had access to materials removed from GMI's offices, and he said the letters from "investors" to GMI pleading for help are heart wrenching, and have affected him more than any case in which he has ever been involved. (Again, I realize that most who have dealt with lawyers find it hard to believe they have a "heart.") He spoke of several letters that had been in GMI's files, and of other individual situations with GMI not recorded on paper.
One of many letters found in GMI's file was from an "investor" who told of mortgaging his house, maxing out his credit cards and all his credit limits, and was now facing serious problems when GMI failed to make the "promised" returned "gifts" (which obviously the man had planned to use to pay his debts). The letter was pleading with GMI to help him with the overwhelming debt, for he was about to lose everything. What was so distressing to Mr. Krebs was GMI's notation at the bottom of the letter: "Mark this man out of the program!!! " And YES, the "smiley face" was at the end of the notation on the letter. Mr. Krebs said that after having read the many letters found in GMI's files and having viewed many videos of GMI's "board" meetings (they taped everything), the notation at the bottom of that letter was typical of GMI's attitude toward those who "invested" in the program. Mr. Krebs said that he just needed someone to talk with because this case was having quite distressing and depressing affects upon him.
The gist of the call was this: After reviewing letters, videos and assorted evidence and identities of both GMI's promoters and the gifters, there were two points that stood out to him. First, the officers of GMI had a veryblack history -- their past involvements in scams were public record, readily available to anyone who wanted to check it out. Second, the vast majority of GMI's "investors" were Bible-believing Christians with the best of motives, e.g., support the Lord's work in various ways - the local church, missions (both home and foreign), Christian Schools, &c. The "investors" were primarily people who should have seen past the glitter of the public statements, and stayed away from men and offers that were so clearly beyond reality.
The question he posed to me was the same question I posed to my pastor when the Lord stared dealing with me about salvation: "How could so many good professed Christian people with the right motives be so wrong when the facts are so obvious?" (I offered some answers in an article earlier this year, "Lessons from Greater Ministries," so I will not replow that ground. The three GMI articles are posted on our web site.)
He followed up his phone call with the following e-mail (those interested in trying to recover funds they lost to GMI can contact him, firstname.lastname@example.org):
Dear Pastor Need:
I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday. Having spent so much time talking to investors in Greater Ministries' "Faithless Promise Plan" , it was a relief to speak with you and I do appreciate your having done so. I will forward to you the materials I promised to send to you, its just that I am being inundated with telephone calls about Greater and hardly have time to visit with my family.
As I told you yesterday, I admit to some surprise over some of the open hostility evidenced by the Greater victims towards our government. I just don't understand how good Christian people have come to regard their country with fear and, in some cases, loathing. I've got to tell you, that attitude offends me. Where will they go if they hate the United States so much? China? Cuba? Maybe New Zealand. I am a United States Marine, privileged to serve my country, which I happen to think is the best in the world. Can I be so wrong - I think not! The problem I have with some of the fear and loathing I have observed manifested by some of Greaters' investors is that I thought them to be Christians, one of whose fundamental beliefs is to love your neighbor as your self. Don't these people realize that the government is composed of people. People who are their neighbors. To be sure some are bad, not good, but that is true of any group of people. If I am convinced that something is wrong, I'll do all that I can to correct it. Isn't that what we are supposed to do?
Virtually every person involved in our effort to protect the interests of the investors in Greater Ministries Faith Promise Plan has read your materials about Greater. Joe Borg (Director of the Alabama Securities Commission), Mike Quinn (lead lawyer for the Ohio Division of Securities on the GM matter), Mike Byrne (lead lawyer for the Pa. Securities Commission handling the GM matter) Bill Smith (the first investor to complain to the Alabama Securities Commission) and myself all read and passed around your tome on Greater. All of us also know that as a result of the publication of those materials, you were vilified and subjected to much criticism, most of which was sponsored, if not conducted by Greater Ministries and its affiliates. We know too that some of the readers of your work decided not to invest in Greater after reading your work. You may never come to know all those who benefitted from your writings. So, because they might not say it; I will: THANK YOU FOR YOUR COURAGE! Tom Krebs. (a member of the firm of Ritchie & Rediker, LLC in Birmingham, AL. He was formerly the Director of the Alabama Securities Commission and a past president of the North American Securities Administrators Association.)
I will not go into the "gas money" GMI paid to its
deacons, or elders, other than to say that it represented many
hundreds of millions of dollars of income for GMI. (This information
can be found at the Tampa Tribune site, linked through our site.)
I will, however, address some things presented by Mr. Krebs.
I will readily admit that civil government's actions at Ruby Ridge, Waco and maybe even Oklahoma City (and other actions that continually come to light, e.g., "The O'Reilly Factor," &c.) have done a great deal to cast legitimate suspicions upon the motives of many in civil authority -- civil government has seemingly speared little expense to bring "fear and, in some cases, loathing" upon itself. It seems to this pastor that there are those in civil government who want to ferment a "revolt," so they can increase their power over those under their authority, an idea covered in previous mailings.
Furthermore, it seems that "justice" is available to those with enough money to purchase it, or with the right connections in high places. There is more than sufficient evidence to show that there are those in CIVIL authority who lie, cheat, steal and murder the innocent with no conscience. However, from my limited experience, there are those in CHURCH government with the same lack of conscience. Civil government, as are all governments, e.g., family, occupation, religious, is made up of fallen people, decedents of Adam. That human nature can be described as "self-esteem," esteeming self above all things and people. Human nature, if not controlled by the Spirit, will not seek to glorify God. The purpose of civil government is to prevent the fallen human nature from getting out of hand - that is, protect fallen people from fallen people. (Gen. 8:21-9:6. However, the theme of this present examination is not Romans 13. For a thorough treatment of Romans 13, I have a serious study in this area, "Where is the Line Drawn?")
"Christian" society is in sad condition when professed Christians blame civil government for them not being able to get the promised return. The "investors" should be blaming those who formulated the plan, those who promoted it and persuaded others to get involved, and even themselves for allowing themselves to be snared by the clearly unscriptural promise of something for nothing (especially when there was no documentation for the fantastic claims). Admittedly, GMI would, in my opinion, have soon fallen of its own weight even if the civil government had not stepped in, so there may have been no need for government interference. But how long should I allow my neighbors to be robbed before I step in? Should I step in as soon as possible to put a stop to it, or just let it continue until the thieves get all they can get, and quit? How long should fraud be permitted before it must be stopped? In GMI's case, let it continue long enough until I get my share of the loot.
Following are two efforts to address points raised by Mr. Krebs. The first - Anger and Hostility - will address the anger and hostility expressed by people toward civil government, and the second - Judicial Blindness - will address "How could so many good professed Christian people with the right motives be so wrong when the facts are so obvious?"
ANGER AND HOSTILITY
As I told you yesterday, I admit to some surprise over some of the open hostility evidenced by the Greater victims towards our government. I just don't understand how good Christian people have come to regard their country with fear and, in some cases, loathing.
The following seems to describe the mentality described by Mr. Krebs. It is "King Agrippa's Speech To the Nationalists" as recorded by Josephus. I encountered this speech while researching for, editing and completing my book on Romans 13 (I added vv. 6, 7 to it). This speech was given to the Jews of Agrippa's day, which was before the Jewish revolt and the resulting war of 66-70 AD. I found this speech extremely interesting and applicable, so I reproduce it here for your edification.1
[BTW, "Romans 13, Where is the Line Drawn" is now ready if you would like a copy. Not counting the index, it contains over 70, 8½ x 11 spiral bound pages. "Who is Israel/The Conversion of Israel" is also ready. It contains over 90, 8½ x 11 spiral bound pages, plus 6 double column pages of index. The "Who is Israel" section was motivated by the "Identity" movement's claim that the Anglo-Saxon race makes up the "lost tribes" of Israel. "The Conversion of Israel" portion deals with Ez. 39:22-29, Zech. 12:9-14 and Rom. 11:11-31. The book deals throughly, from the word of God, with the modern idea that there is still a literal race of fleshly "Israelites" to be regathered and converted. Both books, "Romans 13..." and "Who is Israel...," are in a continual state of editing for correct gamer and punctuation. Neither have yet had the hours invested for serious proofing. They are laser copies at this point.]
King Agrippa's speech was an effort to dissuade the Jews from revolting against Rome, the nation to whom they were captive. The speech sounds like one that might be given today to dissuade Nationalists who are intent on revolting against any oppressive civil power. Though a pagan, Agrippa's charge against the Nationalists was in accord with God's word. In fact, reading his speech, one would almost think he was a Bible believing, hell-fire and damnation preacher--his speech to the Nationalists was more Scriptural than 95% of all messages going out from "God's men" today. The vast majority of today's "Christian pastors" refuse to admit what King Agrippa told the Nationalists--that is, their problem was not with Rome, but their problem was with their God.
(The Nationalists of Agrippa's day easily parallel with those who blame corruption in civil government for all of our current ills in society.)
Accordingly, man's problem, as typifies by Mr. Kreb's comments above, is not with oppressors and corruption in high places; man's problem is his war against God and his law. Thus man's problem with what is at times justly charged as being an oppressive civil government will not be solved until his problem with God and his word is solved through genuine repentance and conversion through faith in Christ our Lord.
Agrippa was no "dummy." He had his finger on the pulse of the Jewish nation, and was very familiar with Israelite history. Wasting no words, he clearly identified the problem--he told the Nationalists Jews that their present problems resulted from their failure to stand against the small things when they had the freedom and power to do so. (The NRA is running a short commercial, documenting the removal and destruction of all firearms from the English and Australian civilians. They interviewed several people who said that because they did not stand against their disarming when they had the chance, they are unable to do so now. They warned Americans to stand now, for they will not be able to after the guns are gone.)
The result of their failure was their present bondage to Rome. Now, Agrippa argued, it is foolish to try to do what they refused to do when they had the chance. But the Nationalist's mind was made up, and they rejected Agrippa's warning. They chose instead to continue their war against God's law-word, and were total inhalated at the hands God's army, pagan Rome.
For those who have a copy of Josephus, you can find this speech in Wars, Book 2, Chap. 16, Sect. 4, 5. For those who do not have a copy, you need to get one. (It is also on Ages Software, "The Master Christian Library" and the "Reformation History Library." See www.ageslibrary.com, or call 1 800 297 4307.)
We will introduce Agrippa's speech with the translator's footnote for Sect. 4, concerning the authenticity of Josephus' account of the speech:
* In this speech of king Agrippa we have an authentic account of the extent and strength of the Roman empire when the Jewish war began. And this speech, with other circumstances in Josephus, demonstrates how wise and how great a person Agrippa was, and why Josephus elsewhere calls him ..., a most wonderful, or admirable man, Centr. Ap. I, 9. He is the same Agrippa who said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian," Acts xxvi, 28; and of whom St. Paul said, "He was expert in all the customs and questions of the Jews," v 3. See another imitation of the limits of the same Roman empire, Of the War, b. iii, ch. v, sect. 7. But what seems to me very remarkable here is this, that when Josephus, in imitation of the Greeks and Romans, for whose use he wrote his Antiquities, did himself frequently compose the speeches which he put into their mouths, they appear, by the politeness of their composition, and their flights of oratory, to be not the real speeches of the persons concerned, who usually were no orators, but of his own elegant composition. The speech before us is of another nature, full of undeniable facts, and composed in a plain and unartful, but moving way, so it appears to be king Agrippa's own speech, and to have been given Josephus by Agrippa himself, with whom Josephus had the greatest friendship. Nor may we omit Agrippa's constant doctrine here that this Roman empire was raised and supported by Divine Providence; and that therefore it was in vain for the Jews, or any others, to think of destroying it. Nor may we neglect to take notice of Agrippa's solemn appeal to the angels, here used; the like appeals to which we have in St. Paul, I Tim. v, 22, and by the apostles in general, in the form of the ordination of bishops, Constitut. Apost. viii, 4.
First, this was the Agrippa before whom Paul stood and witnessed the Christian faith.
Second, Agrippa was an expert in all the customs and questions of the Jews, which Paul readily confessed.
Third, Agrippa contended that Rome, who oppressed the Jews, was raised up by God because the Jews rebelled against God. Therefore, said Agrippa, to resist Rome, who was God's minister of justice against Israel's rebellion against himself, was futile--in fact, it was resistance against God himself.
The following speech by Agrippa shows that he was a very wise man, and certainly had his finger on the situation. Josephus has it as one long paragraph. We have broken it up with comments about the more obvious points. The "thinking person" will easily find many more points, and will wonder why I did not mention them; he will also easily place the proper Scripture references with many points.
4. * "Had I perceived that you were all zealously disposed to go to war with the Romans, and that the purer and more sincere part of the people did not propose to live in peace, I had not come out to you, nor been so bold as to give you counsel; for all discourses that tend to persuade men to do what they ought to do is superfluous, when the hearers are agreed to do the contrary. But because some are earnest to go to war because they are young, and without experience of the miseries it brings; and because some are for it, out of an unreasonable expectation of regaining their liberty, and because others hope to get by it, and are therefore earnestly bent upon it; that in the confusion of your affairs they may gain what belongs to those that are too weak to resist them, I have thought proper to get you all together, and to say to you what I think to be for your advantage; that so the former may grow wiser, and change their minds, and that the best men may come to no harm by the ill conduct of some others. And let not any one be tumultuous against me, in case what they hear me say do not please them; for as to those that admit of no cure, but are resolved upon a revolt, it will still be in their power to retain the same sentiments after my exhortation is over; but still my discourse will fall to the ground, even with relation to those that have a mind to hear me, unless you will all keep silence. I am well aware that many make a tragical exclamation concerning the injuries that have been offered you by your procurators ("an official of ancient Rome who managed the financial affairs of a province or acted as governor of a lessor province," e.g., tax collector,ed.), and concerning the glorious advantages of liberty; but before I begin the inquiry, who you are that must go to war, and who they are against whom you must fight,--I shall first separate those presences that are by some connected together; for if you aim at avenging yourselves on those that have done you injury, why do you pretend this to be a war for recovering your liberty? but if you think all servitude intolerable, to what purpose serve your complaints against your particular governors? for if they treated you with moderation, it would still be equally an unworthy thing to be in servitude. Consider now the several cases that may be supposed, how little occasion there is for your going to war. Your first occasion is, the accusations you have to make against your procurators: now here you ought to be submissive to those in authority, and not give them any provocation: but when you reproach men greatly for small offences, you excite those whom you reproach to be your adversaries, for this will only make them leave off hurting you privately, and with some degree of modesty, and to lay what you have waste openly. Now nothing so much damps the force of strokes as bearing them with patience; and the quietness of those who are injured, diverts the injurious persons from afflicting.
First, he cuts through the smoke and mirrors, pointing out that men whose minds are made up cannot be persuaded otherwise.
Second, only the young and foolish want to go to war. Notice he said, "unreasonable expectation of regaining their liberty." He will proceed to show how "unreasonable" it was for the Jews to think they could regain "their liberty" through war against their oppressor, Rome.
Third, the reason for going to war was against the "injuries" perpetrated by Roman representatives, saying that all "servitude" was "intolerable." However, their stand against Roman oppression was inconsistent, for they had no problem with "servitude" when a particular governor treated then with "moderation." Thus Agrippa told them they were, evidently, going to war out of vengeance, so why were they claiming it was to regain liberty?
This pastor despises "servitude" to oppressive, wicked civil authorities (and foreign troops) as much as any other "red-blooded" American. (I was in the military 1960-1965.) This writer also despises "servitude" to the money lenders, so he keeps a low standard of living to avoid that "servitude." (Pr. 22:7.) How right Agrippa was: How can people claim to love freedom and liberty when they willingly submit to moderate "servitude," e.g., money lenders? Men have no problem with "servitude" to the sins of drunkenness, gluttony, unlawful sex, the god of mammon, &c., so why do they have problems with servitude to civil oppressors? Willing servitude in one area must lead to servitude in other areas.
Fourth, he pointed out that, yes, the "procurators" were making things difficult for those under their authority, but many times the people brought the "strokes" upon themselves by stirring up trouble over small things. One would think King Agrippa had read 1 Peter 1, for even Agrippa understood that patient endurance of unjust buffeting brings the adversary to shame.
But let us take it for granted that the Roman ministers are injurious to you, and are incurably severe; yet are they not all the Romans who thus injure you; nor hath Caesar, against whom you are going to make war, injured you: it is not by their command that any wicked governor is sent to you; for they who are in the west cannot see those that are in the east; nor indeed is it easy for them there, even to hear what is done in these parts. Now it is absurd to make war with a great many for the sake of one: to do so with such mighty people, for a small cause; and this when these people are not able to know of what you complain: nay, such crimes as we complain of may soon be corrected, for the same procurator will not continue forever; and probable it is that the successors will come with more moderate inclinations. But as for war, if it be once begun, it is not easily laid down again, nor borne without calamities coming therewith. However, as to the desire of recovering your liberty, it is unseasonable to indulge it so late; whereas you ought to have labored earnestly in old time that you might never have lost it; for the first experience of slavery was hard to be endured, and the struggle that you might never have been subject to it would have been just; but that slave who hath been once brought into subjection, and then runs away, is rather a refractory slave than a lover of liberty; for it was then the proper time for doing all that was possible, that you might never have admitted the Romans [into your city] when Pompey came first into the country. But so it was, that our ancestors and their kings, who were in much better circumstances than we are, both as to money and [strong] bodies, and [valiant] souls, did not bear the onset of a small body of the Roman army. And yet you who have not accustomed yourselves to obedience from one generation to another, and who are so much inferior to those who first submitted in your circumstances, will venture to oppose the entire empire of the Romans; while those Athenians, who, in order to preserve the liberty of Greece, did once set fire to their own city, who pursued Xerxes, that proud prince, when he sailed upon the sea; and could not be contained by the seas, but conducted such an army as was too broad for Europe; and made him run away like a fugitive in a single ship, and brake so great a part of Asia as the Lesser Salamis are yet at this time servants to the Romans; and those injunctions which are sent from Italy, become laws to the principal governing city of Greece.-- Those Lacedemonians also, who got the great victories at Thermopylae and Platea, and had Agesilaus [for their king], and searched every corner of Asia, are contented to admit the same lords. These Macedonians, also, who still fancy what great men their Philip and Alexander were, and see that the latter had promised them the empire over the world, these bear so great a change, and pay their obedience to those whom fortune hath advanced in their stead.--Moreover, ten thousand other nations there are, who had greater reason than we to claim their entire liberty, and yet do submit.
First, once arms are taken up, they are not easily laid down.
Second, why did those concerned about liberty wait so long to express their concern? Why did they only express concern in certain areas and not deal with every area of servitude? Why did they not express their concern in the small things of servitude when they could do something about it? When a slave who willingly let himself be taken into slavery by small things runs away from the big things, is he really a lover of liberty? The true lovers of liberty will, though it may be useless, "set fire to their own city" rather than let it come into bondage. The true lovers of liberty will stand for freedom in even the small areas. (Of course, freedom is freedom from the control of sinful lusts, and it only comes through Christ. For our day, why has there not been a revolt over the social slavery - the "Welfare State?")
You are the only people who think it a disgrace to be servants to those to whom all the world hath submitted. What sort of an army do you rely on? What are the arms you depend on? Where is your fleet that may seize upon the Roman seas? and where are those treasures which may be sufficient for your undertakings? Do you suppose, I pray you, that you are to make war with the Egyptians, and with the Arabians? Will you not carefully reflect upon the Roman empire? Will you not estimate your own weakness? Hath not your army been often beaten even by your neighboring nations, while the power of the Romans is invincible in all parts of the habitable earth? nay, rather they seek for somewhat still beyond that; for all Euphrates is not a sufficient boundary for them on the east side, nor the Danube on the north, and for their southern limit, Libya hath been searched over by them, as far as countries uninhabited, as is Cadiz their limit on the west, nay, indeed they have sought for another habitable earth beyond the ocean, and have carried their arms as far as such British islands as were never known before. What therefore do you pretend to? Are you richer than the Gauls, stronger than the Germans, wiser than the Greeks, more numerous than all men upon the habitable earth?--What confidence is it that elevates you to oppose the Romans? Perhaps it will be said, It is hard to endure slavery. Yes, but how much harder is it to the Greeks who were esteemed the noblest of all people under the sun! These, though they inhabit in a large country, are in subjection to six bundles of Roman rods. It is the same case with the Macedonians, who have juster reason to claim their liberty than you have. What is the case of five hundred cities of Asia? Do they not submit to a single governor, and to the consular bundle of rods? What need I speak of the Heniochi, and Colchi, and the nation of Tauri, those that inhabit the Bosphorus, and the nations about Pontus, and Meotis, who formerly knew not so much as a Lord of their own, but are now subject to three thousand armed men, and where forty long ships keep the sea in peace, which before was not navigable, and very tempestuous? How strong a plea may Bithynia, and Cappadocia, and the people of Pamphylia, the Lycians, and Cilicians, put in for liberty! but they are made tributary without an army. What are the circumstances of the Thracians, whose country extends in breadth five days' journey, and in length seven, and is of a much more harsh constitution, and much more defensible than yours, and by the rigor of its cold, sufficient to keep off armies from attacking them? do not they submit to two thousand men of the Roman garrisons? Are not the Illyrians, who inhabit the country adjoining, as far as Dalmatia and the Danube, governed by barely two legions? by which also they put a stop to the incursions of the Dacians; and for the Dalmatians, who have made such frequent insurrections, in order to regain their liberty, and who could never before be so thoroughly subdued, but that they always gathered their forces together again, and revolted, yet are they now very quiet under one Roman legion. Moreover, if great advantages might provoke any people to revolt, the Gauls might do it best of all, as being so thoroughly walled round by nature; on the east side by the Alps, on the north by the river Rhine, on the south by the Pyrenean mountains, and on the west by the ocean.--Now, although these Gauls have such obstacles before them to prevent any attack upon them, and have no fewer than three hundred and five nations among them, nay have, as one may say, the fountains of domestic happiness within themselves, and send out plentiful streams of happiness over almost the whole world, these bear to be tributary to the Romans, and derive their prosperous condition from them; and they undergo this, not because they are of effeminate minds, or because they are of an ignoble stock, as having borne a war of eighty years, in order to preserve their liberty, but by reason of the great regard they have to the power of the Romans, and their good fortune, which is of greater efficacy than their arms.
The Gauls were the ones to whom Galatians was written. Bishop Lightfoot comments:
Thus when the writers of the Roman period, St Paul and St Luke for instance, speak of Galatia, the question arises whether they refer to the comparatively limited area of Galatia proper, or to the more extensive Roman provinces. The former is the popular usage of the term, while the latter is the more formal and official character... The Galatians, whom Manlius subdued by the arms of Rome, and St Paul by the sword of the Spirit, were a very mixed race...2
One should also note that Rome's incursion into every habitable area of its day meant that there were paved roads into those areas. Rome was known for the roads she built to keep her vast empire under control. From the start (c. 509 BC), the Roman Empire specialized in organization. (Tradition says the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC. However, a more accurate date would be 509 BC, when the patrician families of Rome set up a quasi-representative form of government.) As Rome expanded, a very key factor in keeping control of its subjected peoples was the paved roads it build to every corner of the empire--53,000 miles worth into parts of more than 40 different nations. Thus though the Romans meant the roads for a means of controlling the empire, the roads actually paved the way for the very rapid spread of Christianity all over Europe. Rome normally showed enormous tolerance toward religion; however, Christianity was excepted. The problem with Christianity was that it would not recognize that Cæsar was over the Lord Jesus Christ.
These Gauls, therefore are kept in servitude by twelve hundred soldiers, who are hardly so many as are their cities, nor hath the gold dug out of the mines of Spain been sufficient for the support of a war to preserve their liberty, nor could their vast distance from the Romans by land and by sea do it, nor could the martial tribes of the Lusitanians and Spaniards escape, no more could the ocean, with its tide, which yet was terrible to the ancient inhabitants. Nay, the Romans have extended their arms beyond the pillars of Hercules, and have walked among the clouds, upon the Pyrenean mountains, and have subdued these nations; and one legion is a sufficient guard for these people, although they were so hard to be conquered, and at a distance so remote from Rome. Who is there among you that hath not heard of the great number of the Germans? You have, to be sure, yourselves seen them to be strong and tall, and that frequently, since the Romans have them among their captives everywhere; yet these Germans, who dwell in an immense country, who have minds greater than their bodies, and a soul that despises death, and who are in rage more fierce than wild beasts, have the Rhine for the boundary of their enterprises, and are tamed by eight Roman legions. Such of them as were taken captives became their servants; and the rest of the entire nation were obliged to save themselves by flight. Do you also, who depend on the walls of Jerusalem, consider what a wall the Britons had: for the Romans sailed away to them, and subdued them while they were encompassed by the ocean, and inhabited an island that is not less than [the continent of] this habitable earth, and four legions are a sufficient guard to so large an island: and why should I speak much more about this matter, while the Parthians, that most warlike body of men, and lords of so many nations, and encompassed with such mighty forces, send hostages to the Romans; whereby you may see, if you please, even in Italy, the noblest nation of the east, under the notion of peace, submitting to serve them. Now, when almost all people under the sun submit to the Roman arms, will you be the only people that make war against them? and this without regarding the fate of the Carthaginians, who, in the midst of their brags of the great Hannibal, and the nobility of their Phenician original, fell by the hand of Scipio. Nor indeed have the Cyrenians, derived from the Lacedemonians, nor the Marmaridae a nation extended as far as the regions uninhabitable for want of water, nor have the Syrtes, a place terrible to such as barely hear it described, the Nasamons and Moors, and the immense multitude of the Numidians, been able to put a stop to the Roman valor; and as for the third part of the habitable earth [Africa], whose nations are so many, that it is not easy to number them, and which is bounded by the Atlantic sea, and the Pillars of Hercules, and feeds an innumerable multitude of Ethiopians, as far as the Red sea, these have the Romans subdued entirely. And besides the annual fruits of the earth, which maintain the multitude of the Romans for eight months in the year, this, over and above pays all sorts of tribute, and affords revenues suitable to the necessities of the government.
The tribute paid by captive nations, including Judea, went to maintain the one-world Roman government, which even King Agrippa admitted was at times oppressive, injurious and unjust. In fact, many Christians, with very good Scriptural documentation, considered Nero Cæsar (AD 54-68), under whom much of the New Testament was written, the Antichrist of Scripture. Paul's message was as upsetting to the Jews as was Christ's. (Lk. 23:2/Acts 24:5.) The Jews, whose power and authority were threatened by the gospel preached by both Christ and Paul, brought the same charges against Paul as were brought against Christ: "He is a mover of sedition among all the Jews." Their motive was the same as it was against Christ: to get Rome to see Paul as a threat to Roman rule over Judea, and thus support the Jews' efforts to put Paul to death. (Acts 21:31.) After Festus and King Agrippa both throughly examined Paul concerning the charges brought against him, i.e., inciting the Jews to rebel against Rome, they could find no fault in him. (Acts 25:24--26:32.) In other words, nothing in Paul's words could be twisted by those seeking his death to convince Rome that he was a threat to Rome's authority over any of their captive nations. (Everywhere Paul went, that nation was subject to Roman authority.) The same situation existed with Christ in Luke 23--the charges of perverting the nation against Rome were totally unsupportable in both Christ's and Paul's situations.3
Nor do they, like you, esteem such injunctions a disgrace to them, although they have but one Roman legion that abides among them; and indeed what occasion is there for showing you the power of the Romans over remote countries, when it is so easy to learn it from Egypt, in your neighborhood? This country is extended as far as the Ethiopians, and Arabia the Happy, and borders upon India; it hath seven millions five hundred thousand men, besides the inhabitants of Alexandria, as may be learned from the revenue of the poll-tax; yet it is not ashamed to submit to the Roman government, although it hath Alexandria as a grand temptation to a revolt, by reason it is so full of people and of riches, and is besides exceeding large, its length being thirty furlongs, and its breadth no less than ten; and it pays more tribute to the Romans in one month than you do in a year: nay, besides what it pays in money, it sends corn to Rome that supports it for four months [in the year]: it is also walled round on all sides, either by almost impassable deserts, or seas that have no havens, or by rivers, or by lakes; yet have none of these things been found too strong for the Roman good fortune; however, two legions that lie in that city are a bridle both for the remoter parts of Egypt, and for the parts inhabited by the more noble Macedonians.
Where then are those people whom you are to have for your auxiliaries? Must they come from the parts of the world that are uninhabited; for all that are in the habitable earth are [under the] Romans. - -Unless any of you extend his hopes as far as beyond the Euphrates, and suppose that those of your own nation that dwell in Adiabene will come to your assistance (but certainly these will not embarrass themselves with an unjustifiable war, nor, if they should follow such ill advice, will the Parthians permit them so to do); for it is their concern to maintain the truce that is between them and the Romans, and they will be supposed to break the covenants between them, if any under their government march against the Romans. What remains, therefore, is this, that you have recourse to divine assistance; but this is already on the side of the Romans; for it is impossible that so vast an empire should be settled without God's providence. Reflect upon it, how impossible it is your zealous observation of your religious customs to be here preserved, which are hard to be observed, even when you fight with those whom you are able to conquer; and how can you then most of all hope for God's assistance, when, by being forced to transgress his law, you will make him turn his face from you? and if you do observe the custom of the Sabbath-days, and will not be prevailed on to do anything thereon, you will easily be taken, as were your forefathers by Pompey, who was the busiest in his siege on those days on which the besieged rested; but if in time of war you transgress the law of your country, I cannot tell on whose account you will afterward go to war; for your concern is but one, that you do nothing against any of your forefathers; and how will you call upon God to assist you, when you are voluntarily transgressing against his religion? Now, all men that go to war, do it either as depending on divine or on human assistance; but since your going to war will cut off both those assistances, those that are for going to war choose evident destruction. What hinders you from slaying your children and wives with your own hands, and burning this most excellent native city of yours? for by this mad prank you will, however, escape the reproach of being beaten; but it were best, O my friends, it were best, while the vessel is still in the haven, to foresee the impending storm, and not to set sail out of the port into the middle of the hurricanes; for we justly pity those who fall into great misfortunes without foreseeing them; but for him who rushes into manifest ruin, he gains reproaches [instead of commiseration].
First, how right Agrippa was. It was then and it is now impossible for a vast empire-nation to rise among nations without Gods direct intervention, i.e., Divine Providence. Thus God was clearly on the side of that nation, though it was at that time ruled by the most debased man in all history, Nero Caesar.
Second, notice the very strong hint on Agrippa's part that the reason Judah was subject to Rome was because Judah had turned its back upon the laws of her God. So his question is valid--"How can those who are 'voluntarily transgressing' God's Laws call upon God when their transgressions makes God turn His face away?" Such people are asking for defeat.
Third, all men go to war depending on either "divine or on human assistance." Agrippa told them, "Since God established Rome and since you are at war against God's Laws, then you must go to war against Rome depending upon human assistance. And where are you going to get human assistance? You might as well kill your wives and children and set fire to your own cities with your own hands and save Rome the trouble."
Forth, wise people keep their vessels in safe haven when they foresee a hurricane. We pity those who fall into great, unforseen misfortunes, but those who go ahead despite the foreseen storm only gain reproach.
But certainly no one can imagine that you can enter into a war as by an agreement, or that when the Romans have got you under their power they will use you with moderation, or will not rather for an example to other nations, burn your holy city, and utterly destroy your whole nation, for those of you who shall survive the war will not be able to find a place whither to flee, since all men the Romans for their lords already, or are afraid they shall have hereafter. Nay, indeed, the danger concerns not those Jews that dwell here only, but those of them who dwell in other cities also; for there is no people upon the habitable earth which have not some portion of you among them, whom your enemies will slay, in case you go to war, and on that account also, and so every city which hath Jews in it will be filled with slaughter for the sake only of a few men, and they who slay them will be pardoned; but if that slaughter be not made by them, consider how wicked a thing it is to take arms against those that are so kind to you. Have pity, therefore, if not on your children and wives, yet upon this your metropolis, and its sacred walls; spare the temple, and preserve the holy house, with its holy furniture, for yourselves; for if the Romans get you under their power, they will no longer abstain from them, when their former abstinences shall have been so ungratefully requited. I call to witness your sanctuary, and the holy angels of God, and this country common to us all, that I have not kept back anything that is for your preservation; and if you will follow that advice which you ought to do, you will have that peace which will be common to you and to me; but if you indulge your passions, you will run those hazards which I shall be free from."
Josephus' account continues
When Agrippa had spoken thus, both he and his sister wept, and by their tears repressed a great deal of the violence of the people; but still they cried out, that they would not fight against the Romans but against Florus, on account of what they had suffered by his means. (According to Josephus, "Florus contrived another way to oblige the jews to begin the war..."4 Florus, thus, was a major instigator to stir up the Jewish revolt against Rome.) To which Agrippa replied, that what they had already done was like such as make war against the. Romans; "for you have not paid the tribute which is due to Caesar ;* and you have cut off the cloisters [of the temple] from joining to the tower Antonia. You will therefore prevent any occasion of revolt, if you will but join these together again, and if you will but pay your tribute; for the citadel does not now belong to Florus, nor are you to pay the tribute-money to Florus."
* Julius Caesar had decreed, that the Jews of Jerusalem should pay an annual tribute to the Romans, excepting the city of Joppa, and for the Sabbatical year; as Spanheim observes from the Antiq. b. xiv, ch. x, sect. 6.
King Agrippa's speech to the Jews 2,000 years ago is applicable for all time.
First, many people seem to be ready to fight and die for "liberty." However, if they were really against slavery, they would be against slavery in the small areas, which they were not--they welcomed slavery in moderation,e.g., credit-card and consumer debt are at record high.
Second, social orders are under oppressive authorities because they sinned against the Lord God of heaven and earth. Their sins result in God exalting oppressive civil governments. And being against God and his law-word, without genuine conversion in attitudes and actions, people have absolutely no chance to regain the liberty they allowed to be removed a little at a time. The Nationalists' problem was not with oppressive Roman civil law and even unjust taxation. It was, rather, a problem with God's law (and his taxes), a fact they refused to acknowledge.
Third, Agrippa certainly identified a major problem--a problem common to man that must be continually deal with:
Had I perceived that you were all zealously disposed to go to war with the Romans, and that the purer and more sincere part of the people did not propose to live in peace, I had not come out to you, nor been so bold as to give you counsel; for all discourses that tend to persuade men to do what they ought to do is superfluous, when the hearers are agreed to do the contrary.
Those whose minds are made up cannot be persuaded otherwise. Sadly, though it may "cut us to the quick," the Lord's injunction many times applies: "Let them alone." (Mat. 15:14.)
Might our prayer be, "Lord, if in anything I am otherwise minded than your word, reveal even this unto me, and give the grace to change." (Php. 3:15.)
As we know, Agrippa's warning fell of deaf ears--their mind was made up. The Jewish nation continued its war against God's law-word, rebelled against Rome, and Rome utterly destroyed it, selling into slavery the best men, women and children, killing the rest, and burning their chief city to the ground. "Accordingly the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upont he world..."5All of this happened in accord with the promise of God.
History is rife with instances where men would rather blame others and perish in their sins than admit personal responsibly before God.
1 "Agrippa I, d. AD 44, called Herod Agrippa in the Bible, was the son of Aristobulus, one of Herod the Great's executed sons. Brought up in Rome he became a favorite of Caligula, who appointed him king of both Philip's and Antipas's territories. He was succeeded after an interval by his son Agrippa II, b. AD 27, under whom Herodian rule ended. The Jews, never great partisans of the Idumaean dynasty and continually outraged by the political and religious insensitivity of the various Herodians and the Roman governors, revolted in AD 66. Agrippa aided the Romans in suppressing the revolt and went to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70. He was the brother of BERENICE." Multimedia Encyclopedia, Ver. 1. Herod Agrippa I, King of Judaea and Samaria, AD 37-44; Herod Agrippa II, AD 52-Roman war, after which he went to Rome. 2 Lightfoot, Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, p. 8. Zondervan. Preface date, February 18, 1865. Lightfoot places Galatians' date as AD 57, 58, ibid, 40. Cæsar Nero's reign over Rome was AD 54-68; however, Nero's serious persecution against the Christians did not start until after Rome burned, AD 64. 3 The charges were brought against Paul in c. AD 58. Paul defended himself before Felix, yet was left in prison for the next couple years. Festus replaced Felix, AD 60. Having appealed to Nero Cæsar, he was sent to Rome in the autumn of AD 60. Paul reached Rome in "the seventh year of Nero's reign, when he had already shown his infamous character by the murder of Agrippina, his mother, in the previous year, and other acts of cruelty... The martyrdom of Paul under Nero is established by the unanimous testimony of antiquity..." (Schaff, History of the Christian Church,I:327, 329.) Thus Paul's ministry (AD 40-64) and a large portion of his writings were under King Agrippa and during the reign of the "Antichrist," Nero. 4 Josephus, Wars, Book II, Chap. XVI, Sec. 1. 5 Ibid, Book VI, Chap. IX, Sec. 4. The estimated number shut up when Rome besieged the city during the Passover is estimated to be 1,337,490. Also, the terrible prophecies of Deut. 28:68, &c., were thus fulfilled, ibid.
The second question to be answered is:
How could so many good professed Christian people with the right motives be so wrong when the facts are so obvious?
Why did not those who love God and have good motives first examine the matter, particularly when they were placing all their livelihood on the line? (Cf. Ezra 10:16.) Why did not the "investors" who claimed to love God and his word look beyond GMI's public statements, particularly GMI's officers' view of God?
The answer is basically that God blinds those he is going to judge, both individuals and nations. I am convinced that America is under God's heavy hand of judgment. The result is that those who should see cannot see the results of their actions, nor can they see God's heavy hand in nature's upheavles. In other words, God blinds those whom he will judge.
The answer must be that men, even Christians, are blinded to the obvious teaching of God's word. A term that describes the situation is JUDICIAL BLINDNESS - God blinds those whom he will judge. Quoting Salvian's (c. AD 450) comments concerning the fall of Rome:
What resulted from all this? Through all that I have said they were fallen so low that in them was fulfilled the saying of the Sacred Word: 41 'wine and women make men fall away from God.' For, while they drink, gamble, commit adultery, and are mad, they begin to deny Christ. And we wonder after all these things that they have suffered the ruin of their own property, they who long before have gone to pieces mentally! Therefore, let nobody think that city perished only at the time of its own ruin. Where such things are done, the inhabitants had already [morally] perished long before they [physically] perished.
(14) I have spoken about the most famous cities. What about other cities in other parts of Gaul? Have they not fallen because of similar vices of their inhabitants? Their crimes possessed them in such a way that they did not fear danger. Their captivity was foretold them and they were not afraid. Indeed, fear was taken away from the sinners to obviate the possibility of caution. Thus, when the barbarians were located almost in plain sight of all, there was neither fear of men nor protection of cities. So great was the blindness of soul, or rather so great was the blindness of sins, that, without doubt, nobody wished to perish, yet nobody did anything to prevent his perishing.
Everything was carelessness and inactivity, negligence and gluttony. Drunkenness and sleep took hold of all, according to that which has been written about such men, 'because the sleep of the Lord had fallen on them.42 Indeed, a sleep flowed in upon them that ruin might follow. For when, as it is written, his measure of iniquities being full and the sinner deserves to perish, foreknowledge is taken away from him, lest he escape perishing. 43 I have said enough about these things. I think I have proved clearly enough what I proposed. This was that the vices of the citizens never ceased, even to the critical moment of destruction of their cities.
(15) Perhaps you are saying that these things happened in the past, or no longer exist, or will forever cease. If today any city or province is struck down by heavenly blows, or is overrun, humbled, converted, and corrected by a hostile population, if practically all peoples who bear the Roman name prefer to perish rather than be corrected, it is easy to see they prefer to die rather than live without their vices. This can be proved in a few words by the fact that the greatest city of Gaul was destroyed three times by successive captures, and, when the whole city had been burned, evil increased after its destruction.
41 Eccli. 19.2. 42 1Kings 26.12. 43 Gen. 15.16. (The Governance of God,176, 177. These references are in the text, but they are not in the KJV Bible. Remember, Salvian writes a thousand years before any English Bible.)
Note some obvious points:
First, a nation perishes morally before it perishes physically. The moral collapse of the USA is obvious. The last number I heard was something like over 60% of Americans profess the name of Christ, "Christian." Yet what do we see? These things are common not only among non Christians, but also among professed Christians: unlimited and innumerable abortions, with the body parts being used for experimentations; adultery and fornication; gambling seen as a legitimate means of raising revenue; drunkenness seen as an illness rather than as sin; secular counselors and drugs solve "emotional problems" rather than the word of God; divorce available upon request; Christian children by the millions sacrificed to the pagan gods in government education; antinomianism, i.e.,lawlessness; wickedness from the top to the bottom in every area of government-family, church, civil, &c.; and the list goes on, but I will not.
Second, sinners lose caution: Though not wishing to perish, nobody does anything to prevent his destruction. His foreknowledge is removed lest he avoid the results of his sin. As a pastor, I have met many people who though knowing the truth of God's word, would rather perish than be corrected; they would rather die in their miserable conditions than exercise the discipline to get out of that condition.
The following is edited from "Judicial Blindness," TBE, July, 1992. Observe:
Judicial Blindness prohibits men from seeing cause and effect, especially in their own lives; therefore, they see no need to repent, to turn or to obey God's word. If they would see the need to repent, they would see God's mercy in every area of society, including their families and civil government. (God must command the light to shine out of darkness, 2 Cor. 4:1-6.)
Judicial Blindness prohibits Christians from seeing the obvious teaching of the word of God--man's problem is sin, and his relationship to God through Christ and the word of God. It prohibits Christians from seeing that the answer to society's ills is the presentation of the gospel, repentance and faith, and making disciples of the converts by teaching them God's word and its application-changed lives. The result is that those blinded escape from reality, tyranny increases and the "New World Order" is instituted.
I am not alone in the following: In my contact with people, including pastors, there are times when I am amazed at the blindness present; they seem to be totally oblivious of any connection between what they see happening all around them (in their families, in their society) and in their own lives with any personal sin (I have met more than a few who are in their distress simply because they will not spend the personal time with the Lord, a fact I am continually amazed at). The Scriptures say a great deal about this Supernatural Blindness (e.g., Exo. 5:2, Deut. 29:4, 32:28, For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. 29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! This is a national curse --national blindness is a result of sin, so the results of sin can come upon the nation).
"But that's Old Testament! It does not apply to the Gospel Age of Grace."
Actually, the New Testament pronounces a harsher "judgment" against God's people than did the Old. James clearly says that one's own lusts blinds him to the reality of his decisions - in other words, if one's lusts are not conquered through Christ, then he will be destroyed by his own lusts, and he will lose everything, e.g., the lust for easy money will lead to the loss of material possessions. (James 1:13-17.) Paul is even more dogmatic, saying that the failure to glorify God as God over every thought and action will result in a darkened heart with foolish decisions and actions. (Rom. 1:21, 22.) He also said that failure to love the truth of God's word and line up with that truth leads to destructive blindness. (2 Thess. 2:10-12.)
An example of Judicial Blindness is Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt. Pharaoh was blinded (hardened) by God, so God might bring judgment against Egypt for its sin against him and his people. Moreover, Israel was blinded so God could bring judgment against them for their sin of rebellion against his man, Moses. Israel had to wander in the desert for fourth years until that generation died off--they were Egyptian slaves at heart. (Cf. Num. ch. 14, Deut 29:1-4, Ps. chs. 78, 105, Mat. 13:11-15, Acts ch. 7.)
Accordingly, Judicial Blindness is not limited to the unsaved. Judicial Blindness is in relationship to the law-word of God--though the Lord God speaks clearly, people are unable to see it or its obvious implications. Accordingly, both professed Christians and pagans can be blinded to cause and effect in relationship to his word.
Six points to consider about Judicial Blindness:
First, the purpose of Judicial Blindness is so the Lord can take flaming vengeance upon the disobedient to his law-word, so that God might judge sinners. (2 Thes. 1:8, 2:12, 12 [cf. Titus 1:16, 1 Jn. 3:4], Ps. 79:6, Pr. 4:19, 10:21, 13:18, 14:12, Isa. 6:9, 10 [Mt. 13:14, Jn. 12:38-41], Isa. 29:10-12, Amos 9:10, Mat 15:14, Rom 11:25.)
Second, a result of blindness is that people cannot understand (or they ignore) Moses. (2 Cor. 3:14, 1 Jn. 1:6, 2:4-9, 3:1.)
Third, blindness replaces the wisdom of God, his Holy Spirit and his word with the wisdom of this world. (1 Cor 1:18-20.)
Fourth, only by God's supernatural intervention will one be delivered out of the kingdom of blindness (darkness) and into the kingdom of light; therefore, the answer to blindness is to sincerely seek the Lord and submit to his word despite our feelings about people and things. (Acts 26:18, Eph. 4:18, Col. 1:13, Pro. 28:5, Ph. 3:15.)
Fifth, our Lord warned us that from his time on, Judicial Blindness will increase, so the increase of evil man and seducers and the destructive blindness of even his people, should not be surprising. (2 Tim. 3:13, 2 Thes. 2:11.)
Note that when Christ said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind (Jn. 9:29-39), he spoke specifically of and to national Israel of his day. In Matthew 23:34-39, Christ said that Jerusalem was going to be judged for all the innocent blood which had been shed upon the earth from Abel unto Zacharias. Thus he came not only to redeem his people out of every nation under heaven (Isa. 53:8), but to judge those who rejected him and the Heavenly Father, whom he represented. This judgment was carried out with the destruction of the nation and of its chief city, Jerusalem. In other words, Israel was supernaturally blinded to Christ so it would crucify the Son of God (Acts 2:23). The purpose was so God could judge them for all the innocent blood that had been shed upon the earth, and so the gospel would go to the Gentiles.
Note also that it took about 4000 years for God to avenge the blood of Able. How long will it be before he avenges the innocent blood from 70 AD to the end of time?
The depth of Judicial Blindness in the church is seen in the fact that many Christians cannot or will not see nor believe the clear teachings of the word of God.
Sixth, we are left with this question regarding Judicial Blindness: "Why does blindness increase instead of decrease?" For this question, I offer the following:
It is through his judgment against sin that men forsake their false gods and graven images, and his law is magnified and made honorable. (Isaiah 42 [v. 21]. The time-frame of Isaiah 42 is important: it was set in motion at the time of Christ, vs. 1-4.)
It is through God's judgment against sin that the hypocrite turns from his hypocrisy. (Isa. 48.)
God's salvation is defined as his judgment against sin, eradicating sin. (Isa. 51, vv. 4-6.) God's righteous judgment against sin (the rod of his mouth) results in slaying the wicked, exaltation of righteousness and the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:4.) As God's righteous judgment against sin descends like the rain, righteousness and peace will flourish like the new mown grass. (Ps. 72, cf. Ps. 96 and Isa. 55:10.) Moreover, his judgment against sin establishes his dominion from sea to sea, unto the ends of the earth; it causes all kings to bow before him and all nations to serve him. God's deliverance of the needy, the poor and those who have no help depends upon his judgment falling against sin. (Cf., Acts 14:17.)
Therefore, the answer to the questions, "What is the purpose of Judicial Blindness?" and "Why does blindness increase instead of decrease?" is that God increases Judicial Blindness so that he can bring in his righteous reign and justice here on this earth. As time progresses from Christ on, men grow harder and harder in their refusal to turn from the way that seems right to them and to the way of the Lord. The result will be the end of God'sgoodness and forbearance and longsuffering, and his wrath revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, his law-word exalted and magnified and, finally, righteousness and salvation springing up as the new mown grass after a rain storm. (Cf. Rom 2.)
Judicial Blindness is prevalent today, not only among those who make no profession of Christ, but among the majority of God's people. People are unable to make the proper connection between their personal relationship with the Lord and his law, their personal lives (attitudes, decisions and indifference to the things of God), and what is taking place around them in society. People are unable to see that society only reflects their attitude toward the Lord and is word. In our present context, people who have lost to GMI are unable to see that it is their own fault for allowing the lure of easy money to make their decisions. Rather, they desire to place the blame on anyone or any thing that interferes with their increase in wealth.
The result is two-fold: first, men, even "Christian men," seek answers everywhere except where the answer lies--renewed faithfulness to the Lord and to his total word. Second, Judicial Blindness can only increase unless there is an acceptance of personal responsibility, confession of sin and return to the Lord's word.
But in spite of the apparent impending flood of fiery wrath against sin, we have a sure promise - judgment must descend like the rain, so that righteousness, justice and salvation might flourish as the crops in the field.
Here in our part of Indiana, the weather conditions have been quite dry. The storms - with their high, damaging winds, large snow drifts and even destructive lightenings - must come, or there will be no crop next year. God's judgment must come, or there will be no righteousness (cf. Mat 7:21-29).
The answer to blindness is for his people to sincerely seek the Lord. (Pro 28:5, Ph. 3:15.) Furthermore, we must return to spreading of the gospel and the instruction in God's total word, which is God's only ordained means to address the problems of our day. (Mat. 28:19, 20.) Any other answer is clearly unscriptural.
What a marvelous day for the faithful servant of God to live in!
Divine Sovereignty & Man's Free Will
There are many important doctrines discussed by Paul in the books of Timothy, two of which are developed from vv. 20-26. The first one we will deal with is one of the more mysterious aspects of God's mind -- Divine Sovereignty and Man's Free Will. The second one is not so mysterious -- Who among professed Christians are we commanded to have "peace" with, Required Peace.
The first point worth developing is Divine Sovereignty and Man's Free Will. Because the fallen, finite mind of man cannot make the two work together, there have been, over the years, many words (some quite hostile) written on both sides concerning God's Sovereignty -- one side makes man a servant of God, while the other makes God a servant of man. So I will add my thoughts to the discussion, and maybe add to the confusion.
As always, there is a context to develop before a proper conclusion can be obtained:
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Tim. 2.)
The great house is the visible Gospel Church. There are many different kinds of people meeting in the visible church buildings we see scattered throughout the land. The vast majority will say they are meeting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:
1) Some are in church out of sincere love for the Lord--their motives are to please the Lord in all they do, and they assemble out of obedience to the Lord and with the purpose of finding out how to please him.
2) On the other hand, there are many in church for other reasons--maybe they are there to please themselves, to please their families, or to please their friends, or any of many reasons other than to please God.
In chapter 2, Paul warned Timothy about false teachers in the church who will tailor the word of God to please the people rather than to please the Lord. Paul's warning to Timothy is for Christians to be careful about who they serve and why they serve who they serve--will they serve the Lord God or will they serve self and the gods of this world? (1 Cor. 11-15.)
The person who serves any "god" other than the Lord God will not be used by the Lord God. Paul instructs Timothy to study God's word, so that he will be a vessel unto honour, and fit for the master's use.
Purge himself from these probably refers to Timothy removing himself from the false teachers and from the teachings Paul has warned him about in this chapter. But it also refers to v. 19, departing from iniquity, sin. (1 Pet. 1:22.)
Those who want to be used by God must study the word of God, they must hear the word of God and they must let God's word reveal sin. Then by the grace of God, they must confess sin and depart from that sin. Otherwise, all their "good works" will be as wood, hay and stubble when they meet the Lord.
An Apparent Conflict:
12 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Rom. 9. See 2 Cor. 4:7, 1 Thess. 4:4, 1 Pet. 3:7. Gifts, Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12. 1 Pet. 4:10, &c.)
The Spirit tells us that God made some vessels to honour and some to dishonour. Though the following is from Romans, it still applies:
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Rom. 11.)
Some vessels are to honour and some vessels are to dishonour, and God made each -- here we see God's Divine Providence at work, and it is far too mysterious for us to understand. Romans 11:34 tells us that it is part of the mind of God that is past finding out.
2 Timothy 2:20, the gifts and callings of God are given according to the will of God, not according to man's will -- God alone determine who has what ability, and where that person is placed in his kingdom. God alone determines if the vessel will be a vessel of honour or dishonour. Yet, v. 21 says that if one will protect himself from the errors and corruptions of the false teachers of v. 18, he will be a vessel the Master can use for his Kingdom work here on this earth.
So 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21 appear to have a conflict. According to William Law [1686-1761]:
True Christianity is nothing but the continual dependence upon God through Christ for all life, light, and virtue...
Man's fall from his first state brought a separation from God and thus from life, light, and virtue which is in Him. Man's salvation can therefore only be effected by a reconciling union of his spirit with the Spirit of the Creator. "Be ye reconciled to God," wrote Paul. Nor can this reconciliation be accomplished by man's own efforts, but it must by its very nature be a gift from God. No angel or man could begin to show any love, faith, or desire toward God, without a living seed of these divine affections being first formed within him by the spirit of God. And as a tree or plant can grow and bear fruit only by the same power that first gave birth to the seed from which it sprang, so faith, hope, and love toward God can grown and fructify only by the same power that created the first seed of them in the soul. Therefore the continuous inspiration and working of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of man is no less essential to that salvation which God has provided through Jesus Christ than the new birth itself...
Take away this inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or suppose it to cease for a moment, then no religious acts or affections can give forth anything that is godly or divine. The creature can offer nothing to God but that which it has first received from Him; and it must of all necessity have the divine and godly nature both born and living in it to render acceptable worship to God. Anything less than this is the abominable worship of the fresh, seeking to present to God that which comes from carnal self. Can anything reflect light before it has first received it? Can any other light be reflected than that which has been received? Neither can any created being have godly affections except as the divine nature dwells and operates in it. If the man Christ Jesus said, "I can of mine own self do nothing," how much more is this certain for us. Of this impaired love, and no other, John says "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." Suppose it to be any other love, brought forth by any other spirit than the Holy Spirit of God breathing His own love in us, and it cannot be true that he who dwells in such love dwells in God. (The Power of the Spirit, William Law [1686-1761]. Edited by Dave Hunt, 16-18. Christian Literature Crusade, Third printing, 1973. Law was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and became a fellow, and in 1711 received holy orders. He refused to take an oath of allegiance upon the accession of George I, so he forfeited fellowship and all prospects of advancement in the Church.Who, 242.)
In other words, if one is a vessel unto honour, it is because God, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, gave him the desire and power to be that vessel unto honour, for "the creature can offer nothing to God but that which it first received from Him..." (Ph. 2:13.) Yet we are told in v. 21, that if a man will purge himself, he will be a vessel unto honour. We see, therefore, that 2 Timothy 2:21, presents God's Divine Sovereignty, and vv. 19, 22, presents man's responsibility.
How do the two go together?
The only answer I have for this apparent conflict is in Romans 11:33, quoted above. Accordingly, what appears to be a conflict to us is no conflict with the Lord. It is part of the mind of God that is totally beyond the grasp of man's finite mind. In other words, in our wildest imagination, we cannot even begin to grasp God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. This is one of the many situations where we must say, By fait we understand. (Cf., He. 11:3.) By faith we understand that God's divine and sovereign grace works all things according to his divine and sovereign will; we understand that every person is responsible for his every action, and we understand that God is always just and righteous (Dan. 4:35, Isa. 45:21, Zeph. 3:5, &c., Rom. 14:10-12, 1 Pet. 4:5, Jude 14-15.)
The context of 2 Timothy 2 tells us the best way to avoid error and corruption is:
1) v. 15, hard and serious study of God's word.
2) v. 16, avoid profane and vain babblings.
We must avoid empty discussions of useless matters -- matters that will not make us any better or worse for not developing nor understanding them. (This refers primarily to the false teachers of v. 14, whose teachings are countered by study of God's word, v. 15. Then v. 16 speaks of agruments over things that do not amount to anything, and only result in strife and hard feelings.)
Probably some of the more profane and vain babblings to be avoided are arguments over God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will. No matter how much Believers study and argue over this doctrine, it will never be understood. However, we are clearly told that our individual responsibility is to make ourselves fit for the master's usethrough studying his word, leading of the Spirit and departing from iniquity. And we will be held accountable accordingly.
Though we will consider them individually, vv. 22-26 go together. The goal of the "minister," and the Christian in general, is found in v. 26 -- recovering those who are held captive by the devil. Vv. 22-25 tell us how that goal will be accomplished. Note that the emphasis is on the spirit, or attitude, of those attempting the rescue -- there is only one reference to his teaching ability but several to his proper attitudes, motives and life style. We easily lose sight of the fact that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare, which will not be won by wisdom of words nor the ability to argue. It will only be won by God's Spirit.
V. 22, flee also youthful lusts. The context implies that a youthful lusts is arguing over the mysteries of God's word; mysteries such as "prophetic" speculations, God's total Sovereignty over all things as carried out by his Divine Providence, election and how man will be held accountable for how he uses his free will.
A second point in this passage is one that is not so mysterious, and that is with whom among Believers we are commanded to have "peace." I know several Christians, pastors included, who will have very little, if anything at all, to do with other Believers who do not agree with them on the "finer" points of doctrine. They bring to mind Paul's words:
1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Cor. 3. See also 1:10-12.)
Paul deals with the issue of Christian unity in this section, v. 22:
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Instructing Timothy, Paul calls upon Christians to flee from youthful lusts, which not only includes uncleanness and filthiness as we think of lusts, but also vain glory, applause of men, desire for wealth, desire for knowledge (that replaces the work of God's Spirit), rash self-confidence, strife, pride, &c.
Faith refers to truth in preaching the gospel of faith in Christ with humility, as we will see; charity, or love for God and for our fellow man, particularly fellow Believers, is to be shown especially to other Believers, though they have different gifts and callings. (Pride is probably the biggest hindrance to charity.)
We will readily agree with the requirements of faith and charity as Christians and pastors, but the rest of the verse may be a little difficult to accept: peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Not only are we required to be at peace with all men as much as possible (Rom. 12:18, Heb. 12:14), but we are to take special care that we are at peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart:
peace, with, etc.--rather, put no comma, "peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (#1Ti 1:5 Eph 6:5 Col 3:22). We are to love all men, but it is not possible to be at peace with all men, for this needs community of purpose and opinion; they alone who call on the Lord sincerely (as contrasted with the false teachers who had only the form of godliness, #2Ti 3:5,8 Tit 1:15,16) have this community [THEODORET]. (#Ro 12:18). (JFB)
In this "Pastoral Epistle," Paul instructs Timothy to flee from youthful lusts, yet he is to pursue peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (See RWP.) The point of agreement with other Christians is, "Do they call upon the Lord out of a pure heart?" We could define a pure heart as the basic Christian faith--such as complete trust in Christ, the desire to know and submit to his entire word and to advance his kingdom (see Jn. 17):
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29.)
That which is revealed includes the law with its promises and threats; consequently that which is hidden can only refer to the mode in which God will carry out in the future His counsel and will, which He has revealed in the law, and complete His work in salvation notwithstanding the apostasy of the people. (Keil-Delitzsch, I.451.)
Man is clearly shown God's will in the law, which includes his promises and threats, e.g., Deuteronomy chapters 28 and following. In showing him these things, man will be held accountable for how he uses his "free will" in carrying out what is required of him. On the other hand, how the Lord -- in his divine and sovereign plan controlling all events, even turning the heart of the king whithersoever he will (Pro. 21:1) -- works behind the scene, is past understanding. How God works his plan is none of man's business, for man's only business is doing the known will of God to the best of the knowledge and ability provided by God's grace.
The point of agreement among Believers IS NOT found in agreeing on the secret things of the mind of God. Paul tells us that we cannot know those mysteries, so when one makes God's secret things the dividing line for fellowship, he genders (causes, e.g., he fathers children) strife.
We are commanded to study the word of God. But no mater how much one studies nor how much knowledge he gains, he will always have a very incomplete understanding of the mind of God. But every person can call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. The indwelling Spirit will bear witness to the seekers of the truth of whether or not another is calling on the Lord out of a pure heart. (Rom. 8:16.)
Thus the unsearchable judgments and ways of the Lord are not our point of unity. Rather, our unity is the willingness (out of a pure heart) to learn and do the mind of the Lord as it is clearly given to us and to our children.
Christians are known for fighting among themselves--shooting down their own planes. (Sadly, some of the "Christian" planes need to be shot down, for they are rife with heresy.) But we are to have love and patience, and we are to work at having peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. According to William Law,
The spirituality of true Christianity was preached to the world by Christ and His disciples under the name of the kingdom of God...
True Christian worship is an attitude of the heart which is inwardly attentive to God. It listens to the voiced of His ever-speaking Word, watches the movings of His eve-sanctifying Spirit within us, waits and longs in the spirit of prayer, faith, hope, love, and resignation to His will...
This has been said in order to demonstrate fully that church unity is not a matter that depends upon any human agreements or organization, but is complete or defective in such degree as we live in unity with, or contrary to, the inward Spirit and outward example of Christ...
In the present fallen state of things, every church distinction is but a reflection of the fleshly wisdom of the worldly-minded man who has so long been building carnal religious systems with the things of God. Divisive factions, under a pretense of serving Christ, act for their own glory by the same sprit which keeps the selfish, partial man solely attached to his own will. All that needs to be removed from every church or Christian society in order to make it part of that "demonstration of the wisdom and power of God" that the true Church is intended to be, is this self-seeking spirit of worldly wisdom. This is the evil root at which the reforming axe should have been laid. Nor can this spirit ever be overcome except by turning the hearts of all redeemed souls to an inward adoration and total dependence upon the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Under this light I am neither Protestant nor papist, according to the common acceptance of the words...
We are exhorted by Scripture, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Therefore I join in the public church assemblies, not because of the purity or perfection of that which is found there, but because of that which is intended by them. Fallen as these church assemblies are from that first spiritual state, I reverence them as the remains of all that was once the glory of a revived church, and I hope will be again: namely, the ministration of the Spirit rather than the dead letter. And I seek to exercise the Spirit of God's love toward whatever good remains. (The Power of the Spirit, William Law [1686-1761]. Pp. 85-87.)
In other words, the church "denominational" distinctions established since the apostles are there because of the fleshly wisdom of worldly-minded men who built religious systems for their own glory. The reformation axe should have been laid against the self-seeking spirit of worldly wisdom.
Paul's instructions are clear -- follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (See Unity in Christ, John 17.)
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12.)
I have been around those who seem to desire persecution: First, they seem to want to be persecuted, even jailed, because they feel it exalts them in the eyes of others (and it appears to do that in many cases). Second, they seem to feel that the more one is persecuted, the more godly that person is. Then the "persecuted" ones look down on those who are not "suffering" for the cause of Christ as they are.
2 Timothy 3:12 follows v. 11, where Paul spoke of the physical abuse he endured because he followed Christ; therefore, we automatically assume the persecution promised to God's people in v. 12 is the world's "fire and sword" against the godly, as it often is, e.g.,
Future passive of diwkw, "shall be persecuted" (shall be hunted as wild beasts). (RWP.)
Does this mean that those who are not "hunted as wild beasts" are not living godly lives? Looking closely at the verse, we see that it does not say at least two things we commonly ascribe to it: First, it does not say the godly will be persecuted with "fire and sword," or "hunted as wild beasts." And second, it does not say that the persecutors are the majority in the world, though presently it seems that they are. This verse simply says that all who live godly will suffer persecution. Observe:
...The apostle had spoken of his own persecutions, how he himself bore them, and how God delivered him out of them; but he now generalizes, in a manner, his own experience: others may look for a measure of the same. None, indeed, are excepted; all who are minded (... having their will set) to live piously in Christ Jesus --in Him, or in union with Him, as the one true source of living godliness--shall be persecuted. He does not say how or to what extent; but merely states the fact, that persecution in some form or another shall be their portion. And even this general announcement obviously presupposes as its ground, the existence in the world around of a spirit of alienation and hostility with respect to vital godliness. But that might not be always and everywhere the same; it could not but vary as Christianity itself rose to power, or the reverse; and so, as regards quantity and force, a certain conditional element necessarily enters into the statement, which may be put thus: In so far as the world retains its native character, those who are bent on leading in it lives of piety shall have to meet persecution. If through the diffusion of the gospel the old has to a considerable extent passed away, and a better order of things taken its place, then the persecution may narrow itself to taunts, reproaches, spiteful or contemptuous treatment, when at the behest of holy principle a stand is made against worldly compliance or fashionable vices. In these, however, the persecuting spirit breathes, only less coarsely and vehemently than when fire and sword are its weapons (Gal. iv. 29). So that the apostolic utterance still has its application to the Christian life, and they who would prosecute this life must be ready to brave such persecution. But they should never court it; they are as much bound to avoid provoking it by indiscretions, as to bear it meekly when excited by their virtue. (The Pastoral Epistles, Patrick Fairbairn, 374, 375. 1874. Klock & Klock reprint.)
First, common sense tells us that Paul makes a general statement. If we try to make this verse stand alone, we must say that if a person is not physically suffering for being a Christian, he is not living godly. Though some people seem to believe this, such a statement will not stand.
Second, though Paul identifies some of the persecution he went through, such as beatings and prisons, he does not identify what kind of persecution, nor to what extent persecution will be for others. He simply states a fact that persecution, in some form or another, will come to those who live godly.
Third, Paul's statement is given in the context of sin, and that sin is found both in the Christian's surrounding society and in his own flesh.
Fourth, as long as sin is in the world, there will be persecution until there shall be time no longer (Rev. 10:6). And as long as the godly are in this world, they will be persecuted. Death is the only release from persecution.
Fifth, Christians must not seek persecution. I know people who seem to seek persecution because, to them at least, it proves that they are godly according to 2 Timothy 3:12. Those people are in danger of pride, thinking that because they face physical persecution, they are living godly lives. We should note that an unsaved person can be physically persecuted for his good actions. Does that persecution mean he is a godly person, as v. 12 implies?
Sixth, physical persecution against those who live godly depends upon the social temper around him. As the surrounding Christian temper varies, so will persecution. So, physical persecution will not be everywhere, nor will it always be the same, nor will it be against every godly person. In other words, Paul tells us that even if we lived in an absolutely perfect world where everyone around us loved God and did their best to live godly, we would still have persecution.
Seventh, persecution does not require "fire and sword."
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:29.)
The Hebrew text, Gen. xxi. 9, has simply 'laughing'... [T]he word seems to mean 'mocking, jeering'... The anger of Sarah, taken in connexion [sic] with the occasion, a festival in honour of the weaning of Isaac, seems to require it. (Galatians, Lightfoot, 183. 1865. Zondervan reprint.)
Ishmael, Hagar's son who was born after the flesh, laughed at, or mocked and made fun of, Isaac, Sarah's son, who was born after the Spirit. Isaac was the son of the promise, not Ishmael. Sarah saw the mockery, and insisted that Hagar and her son be cast out, which they were.
According to Paul's usage in Galatians 4:29, persecution has two definitions. And neither of the two refers to "fire and sword": First, persecution can simply be the wicked mocking, or making fun of the righteous. Second, Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that every child of God has two natures -- the old nature, i.e., Ishmael,and the new nature, i.e., Isaac, placed there by the Holy Spirit of promise. Christian salvation did not solve the problem; rather, salvation fired up the inner conflict between the old and new natures. However, salvation gives the desire and power to obey the new nature. And only the unconverted do not experience that conflict.
Note: An inner conflict between "good" and "bad" does not mean salvation. That conflict could simply be our conscience -- formed by our upbringing and social conditions -- calling our attention to what is proper. (See Rom. 1:20, &c.) The only assurance of salvation is the word of God. (Jn. 5:39, 1 Jn. 5:13.)
Galatians 4:29, promises that the old nature, Ishmael, will persecute the new nature, Isaac, in the child of God. God promises grace to see us through this daily persecution, and only death will deliver us from persecution. (Cf., Rom. 7:14-25.)
According to Galatians 4:29: 1) Persecution is when our desire to please the Heavenly Father is undermined, if not outright killed, by the old nature. 2) Persecution is when everything under the sun comes to mind to justify us not being nor doing what is pleasing in his sight. Ishmael is the one who attacks the godly desires, convincing us that it is unimportant to do certain things that we know please God. 3) Persecution is when the doubts and fears and worries overtake us despite what the Lord promises us in his word. 4) Persecution is when we have made everything right that we know to do by God's grace, yet our conscience is still against us, dragging up that past and beating us down with it. 5) Persecution is when we try to stop some personal action that displeases God. Those who have quit smoking know exactly what is meant -- the old nature persecuted the new nature very harshly as you broke that habit. 6) Persecution is when the old nature,Ishmael, does his best to keep us in bondage to the traditions and errors of the past, using everything at his disposal. He will use, "But that was the way I was raised" to justify our sin. He certainly will not tell us that Christ sets us free from those things, Galatians 5:1. 7) Persecution is when we want to strike out at someone whom we feel did us wrong. ROAD RAGE is a good example -- persecution is when Isaac wants to overlook that wrong, but Ishmael does all he can to urge retaliation. 8) Persecution is when we say, WHY ME, LORD?, or it questions why the Lord allows bad things to happen to good people.
Persecution questions God. Persecution places doubts about God's loving care for his own people. Though by God's grace I am not divorced, I suppose that divorced people, though Christian and remarried, face more persecution than I can imagine, e.g., Why wasn't I good enough?"
And the list of persecutions goes on and on. Moreover, Ishmael's persecution on the inside is far more devastating than any outside "fire or sword." Inner persecution has destroyed the spirit of far more godly people than the outside persecution by wicked people around us ever has. Accordingly, the real persecution is the inward bondage of sin.
And so is the Scripture fulfilled, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Finally, those who might try to please the Heavenly Father with no inward desire to do so are not saved. That is to say that salvation brings the Holy Spirit to live within, and with that Spirit comes the inward desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. If there is no inward desire to live godly, then a major mark of conversion is missing. The old nature will do all it can to persecute and smother that desire to live godly.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Cor. 4.)
Thus the promised persecution of v. 12 can simply be the old nature persecuting the new nature. And this persecution we face continually.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1.)
UNITY IN CHRIST
Paul told Timothy to follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22.)
In presenting the following, this pastor is not suggesting ecumenicalism. The Lord Jesus himself established the common grounds upon which Believers gather to advance his kingdom. The Lord Jesus himself gave the world the right to judge those who claim to be his followers when he said, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (Jn. 13:35.) Were his words restricted to the twelve to whom these words were spoken? Or were these words for his people of all time?
Sadly, it seems that more often than not, professed Christians act as though the Lord spoke only to their particular group within their small section of their particular denomination. However, such thinking is totally contrary to the word of God, as we see from John 17.
John 17 is the true "Lord's prayer." Though the immediate context here is Christ praying for his disciples who were with him at this point in time, the general context is quite clear, v. 20:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
Christ was and is the everlasting high Priest for his people. In this prayer, he prays for -- or mediates between man and God the Father -- himself, for the disciples who were with him at the time, and for every individual of all time who would believe on him through the preaching of the gospel. From the beginning to the end of the world, this prayer is the foundation and ground of the Church of God, so we should look at this prayer.
(EXTRA NOTE: there are two definitions of the Church in Scripture, but there are three in common usages. First, the word Church in common use today is not found in Scripture, and its modern use refers to a building, such as the Linden Baptist Church building -- in the New Testament, the common word was synagogue. Second, the word Church is used to describe a local congregation meeting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is a Scriptural usage. Third, the word Church is one that causes some controversy, and it is used to describe the mystical body of Christ -- that is, all who call on the Lord out of a pure heart, 2 Tim. 2:22. The third usage is probably the most common usage, and is the one referred to by Christ here in John 17. The context of the word will normally tell you what is being referred to.)
It is not hard to pick up the theme of Christ's prayer:
11, And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 21, That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22, And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23, I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Four times, Christ prayed for unity among his people. His evident desire was that his people would follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
But the peace and unity Christ prayed for is not unlimited. By unlimited, I mean that godly peace and unity can only be within the guidelines established by Christ. John 17 gives the basis of unity among his people. Note the basis of the unity of God's people as prayed by Christ himself:
First, v. 2, their common eternal life in Christ.
V. 8 speaks of the common faith -- Christ is the Son of God, and that there is no approach to God the Father except through Christ. And God the Father must give the "souls" to Christ, v. 9. Note that true peace and unity must be around the common faith in Christ. Any other unity is man made, and will not bring peace.
Second, v. 3, their common desire to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent. One purpose of gathering in a public Christian assembly is to better know the only true God, and Jesus Christ.
Third, v. 4, their common work, and that work is identified by Christ as he continues praying.
Fourth, vv. 5, 6, their common desire to manifest the name of God --- that is, glorify the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ by keeping God's word: they have kept thy word. Christ's goal on this earth was to glorify God the Father, and he was dependant upon the Spirit of God to enable him to do that. (Christ's goal was to save the elect, salvation being used in the fullest sense of the word.) The common goal of God's people must be only one goal:
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31.)
V. 8, God is glorified as we keep God's word as delivered to man by the Word of God.
We should mention v. 11 under common desire here - a common desire to be one, as the Father and Son were one while he was here on earth. The unifying point between the Father and the Son was the Son's determination to do the Father's will at all times, regardless of the cost. The one mind of the Father and the Son was to do what always pleased the Father -- And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (Jn. 8:29.)
Note 1. His people are identified by their desire to keep the word of God.
Note 2. When the sincere goal of our heart is to glorify God the Father, then we can honestly pray for and expect special workings of God's Spirit in and through us.
Note 3. How many are willing to pay any price to do God's will as best they know it and understand God's word? William Law said:
This has been said in order to demonstrate fully that church unity is not a matter that depends upon any human agreements or organization, but is complete or defective in such degree as we live in unity with, or contrary to, the inward Spirit and outward example of Christ... (The Power of the Spirit, William Law [1686-1761]. Edited by Dave Hunt. Christian Literature Crusade. 1971. P. 86. Law was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and became a fellow, and in 1711 received holy orders. He refused to take an oath of allegiance upon the accession of George I, so he forfeited fellowship and all prospects of advancement in the Church. Who, 242.)
Church unity is not based upon human agreements or organization, but is based upon living in unity with the indwelling Spirit of God and the outward example of Christ -- that is, the common outward conformity to the Word of God. Many times there must be separation, disunity, among Christians, but those times are identified as when others refuse to separate from sin; then we must separate from them. (1 Cor. 15:33, 6:14ff.)
Fifth, v. 13, their common joy.
Joy is a common word in both the Old and the New Testaments. In both Testaments, the object and ground of the Believer's joy is God himself, as we see here in John 17:13. Joy is a result of being in proper relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ; Biblical joy has very little, if anything, to do with outward circumstances.
Happiness, on the other hand, in its Greek or Hebrew, appears in neither Testament; however, its synonymblessedness occurs in both. The usual word for happy is found in profane (secular, not Scripture) Greek, and does not occur in the LXX or in the NT. The ordinary pagan notion of happiness was purely external -- that is, it was used to describe an emotion that resulted from some pleasant external event or experience. (See A Dictionary of the Bible, by James Hastings, II.300, 790. T & T Clark. 1899.)
Sixth, v. 14, their common enemy, the world.
Note that our enemy IS NOT others who desire to please God above all else, regardless of what "denomination" or church they might identify with, or what system of eschatology they might follow.
Seventh, v. 15, their common deliverance. The prayer is not to be delivered from danger, but that we would be delivered from those things that injure our testimony in the world.
Eighth, v. 15, their common desire to avoid the alluring evils of this present world.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.(Gal. 6:15. See also 2 Cor. 5:17.)
Paul tells us that the all important thing is whether or not a person is a new creature in Christ. The result of being a new creature is having new desires, and those desires are contrary to the evils of this present world.
Note that we should be praying for one another as Christ prayed: that they should be kept from evil.
Ninth, v. 16, their common King, Jesus, and common kingdom while still in this world:
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Col. 1.)
Tenth, v. 17, their common sanctification. God's people are sanctified -- that is, set apart, or dedicated to God. And they have a common word and Spirit to do that setting apart, the indwelling Spirit of God and the written word of God. We have a common truth, God's word, to do that work.
V. 19, fits very closely with v. 17, so we will cover it here. V. 19 tells of a common commitment. The word of God must also be considered a Command-Word from God. Therefore, we all have the same standard to live by. We are, therefore, to have a common commitment or determination to live holy lives (to the death if needs be, as Christ did) according to the grace of God, the indwelling Spirit and the Law-Word of God. (See all of 1 Peter,e.g., 1 Pet. 1:15, 16 and 2 Pet. 3:11.) Our common ground is a common commitment to Christ, not to any man made or designed organization:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1.)
Eleventh, v. 18, their common calling, even as Christ was called by the Father. This common calling must be considered a common command, for he says, I also have sent them into the world. The command is to take Christ and Christianity into the world, even as Christ was called to take God the Father into the world.
Note 1. Unity is NOT based in a common withdrawal from this world, but the common commitment to win the world for Christ.
Note 2. Unity is NOT based in a common meeting place -- that is, a common church building. Actually, v. 18 corresponds with Matthew 28:19, 20, and the command to go into all the world and Christianize the nations. Our common grounds, according to Christ's prayer, is our common commitment to properly represent the Christian Religion in the world.
Christ sends his followers to take his message into the world, even as he was sent by the Father into the world. V. 15, Christ's prayer for his followers includes the prayer that the Father would keep them from absorbing the world's wicked ways.
Twelfth, v. 20, their common unity with the saints of all ages. Though Christ made this a general prayer for all who would be converted, he knows each person by name. When we were saved, our NAMES were written in the Lamb's book of life.
Thirteenth, v. 22, their common glory, and that glory is Christ.
Fourteenth, v. 24, their common home.
What kind of reproach is it against Christ when his people cannot love one another when they will have to spend eternity together in the same place?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8, 9.)
This is no doubt 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 was not free.
In about 450 AD, Salvian, The Presbyter, 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 identically with the U.S., 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 can be mentioned, e.g. (Foot Notes in text are marked [#]):
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:  'the altars of this laughter shall be banished.'
20 I have been unable to locate these texts. (P. 164.)
Where, may I ask, is the largest crowd of professed Christian men on race day when that day falls on Sunday? Where is the largest crowd of Christian men on "Supper Bowl Sunday"? (At a former church where we used to be staff members, when the Dallas Cowboys palyed, the service had better be done in time for the men to get home and watch the kick off. If they thought they would not be home in time, some of the otherwise faithful men would stay home. We had to have a guard in the church parking lot, and on Dallas Cowboy Sundays there was no shortage of men who volunteered to watch the lot.)
The striking thing about Salvian's account is that Rome and the cities of Gall had been converted to Christianity. Salvian 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. (We will reproduce some of his comments concerning the theater, or in our day, the movies and the TV, particularly the wicked "sitcoms" and "soaps." This new fall TV season has reached a new low in corrupt "sitcoms." People watch them, or they would not show the filth.)
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?  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, especially salvation, and his 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.)
Whether or not he is speaking of the ransom paid for our sin in his last paragraph 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, "All captives enjoy their freedom once they are redeemed. We are constantly being redeemed, but we are never free" to do our own thing.
First, "We call what is really a ransom, a gift." Consider what this very perceptive man said 1600 years ago -- what was a really ransom, we call a gift (admittedly, Scripture calls salvation a gift, but it also calls the payment for that gift a ransom, which is true to God's law, e.g., Ex. 21:30, Ps. 49:7, Isa. 43:3, Mat. 20:28, 1 Tim. 2:6).
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 orobligation. (Like so many offers we receive through the mail trying to get us hooked on what is being offered.) 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 his 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:
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? (Isa. 51:10.)
The gift of salvation was given to me by grace through faith, but that gift was a ransom payment for my sins.
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. (Hosea 13:14 Quoted by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:55. Mat. 20:20, 1 Tim. 2:6.)
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 in full.
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:
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:20. See also, 7:21-27.)
Our Salvation is a free gift, but there was a price paid for it--Christ paid a ransom for our souls. 1 Corinthians 7:22 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 servantsto Christ and to righteousness and life.
Paul 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.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (Rom. 1:14. See also 6:18-22. Note that the fallen man wants to be free from righteousness.)
Freedom from sin does not mean freedom from responsibility--it means servitude to God through Christ. (1 Pet. 2:16.) The ransom Christ paid set us free from the power and penalty of sin, yet it bound us to a tremendous responsibility. (Lk. 14:25-34.) Throughout Scripture, we find the warning that though salvation is free, it is not free of responsibility, 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.) 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 what 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." (Salvian,q.v.) 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. (Lk.1:74, 75.)
Yes, salvation is a gift, but it was a ransom paid by the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Those for whom the ransom was paid are now the Lord's freemen--that is, they are now servants of the Lord's rather than servants of sin.
Pokemon and the dangers of role-playing games
Who are the strange little creatures from Japan that have suddenly turned into global superstars? Most kids know: They are called Pokemon (short for POCKEt MONster) and they have stirred up mixed reactions. Any child exploring the most popular Pokemon websites will be linked to a selection of occult games such as SailorMoon, Star Wars, and others more overly evil. A click on the ad for Magic: The Gathering brings Pokemon fans to a site offering promotions such as this:
A global games phenomenon, Magic: The Gathering is to the 1990s what Dungeons and Dragons was to the 1980s, but with the added dimension of collectibility. Here is the official reference to the biggest new teen/young adult fantasy game of the decade, complete with full-color reproductions of every existing Magic card.
THE POKEMON MESSAGE
These websites give us a glimpse of the mysterious little creatures called Pokemon. Ponder the suggestions in this greeting:
Welcome to the world of Pokemon, a special place where people just like you train to become the number-one Pokemon Master in the World!
Pokemon are incredible creatures that share the world with humans.... There are currency 150 documented species of Pokemon.... Each has its own special fighting abilities;... Some grow, or evolve, into even more powerful creatures.... Carry your pokemon with you, and you're ready for anything! You've got the power in your hands, so use it!
What if children follow this advice, as many do. It makes sense to those who watch the TV show. In one episode (May 20), Ash, the boy hero, had just captured his fifth Pokemon. But that wasn't good enough, said his mentor. He must catch more to become a Pokemon master. The more he catches and trains, the more power he will have for future battles.
Ash didn't understand the supernatural powers he faced. Neither do most young Pokeman fans today. Unless they know God and His warnings, they cannot understand the forces that have captivated children around the world. And if parents underestimate the psychological strategies behind the mass marketing, they may dismiss Pokemon as innocent fantasy.
MARKETING A NEW LIFESTYLE
The Pokemon television series is free, but it inspires the obsessive new games that disrupt families by giving children a seductive vision (to become Pokemon masters) and a tempting promise (supernatural power).
These enticements are drilled into young minds through clever ads, snappy slogans, and the "Pokemon rap" at the end of each TV episode: I will travel across the land/Searching far and wide/Each Pokeman to understand /The power that's inside./Gotta catch them all!
The last line, the Pokemon mantra, fuels the craving for more occult cards, games, gadgets, and comic books. While children delight in these mysterious realms, concerned parents wonder what kinds of beliefs does Pokemon teach?
CHANCING BELIEFS AND VALUES
Back in 1995, Cecile DeNozzi's local elementary school had found an exciting way to teach math using Magic: The Gathering.
Mrs. DiNozzi refused to let her son participate in the "Magic dub." But a classmate gave him one of the magic cards which pictured spirits rising from graves. Like al1 the other cards in this ghastly game, it offered this morbid advice: "Sacrifice a white creature."
"What does 'summon' mean?" he asked his mother after school one day.
"Summon? Why do you ask?"
He told her that during recess the children would "summon" the forces on the cards they collect by raising sticks into the air and saying "Spirits enter me." They called it "being possessed."
Occult role-playing games add a sense of personal power and authority through identification with godlike superheroes. Though the demonic realm hasn't changed, today's technology, media, and multicultural climate makes it easier to access and harder than ever to resist.
In role-playing games the child becomes the master. As in contemporary witchcraft, he or she wields the power. Children from Christian homes may have learned to say, "Thy will be done," but in the role-playing world, this prayer changes to "My will be done!" God, parents, pastor and other authority figures no longer fit.
When the game includes occultism and violence, the child-hero becomes an extension of the spiritual power used to destroy opponents. In Pokemon, the repetitive choices to fight, poison and evolve will sear the conscience, devalue life, and produce automatic responses in the player.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
These suggestions can help you prepare your child to resist occult entertainment:
1. Consider scriptures such as Ephesians 5:8, 16, 6:10-18; Philippians 4:8; and Colossians 2:9.
2. Teach a biblical attitude toward evil with comments such as, "Who would want to play with that bad monster? Let's find something that makes us happy instead."
3. Ask,"What does this game show you about magic? About God? About yourself?"
4. Determine if the game involves supernatural power. What is its source?
5. Ask, "What does it teach about violence or immorality? Does it build godly character?"
Berit Kjos is a columnist, conference speaker, grandmother and author of Brave New Schools and A twist of Faith. An expanded version of this article can be found at www.crossroad.to
[Reprinted from AFA Journal, Oct., 1999. PO Drawer 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803. Used by permission.]
The primary mission of a teacher of God's word is to rescue those who might be in the Devil's snare. (2 Tim. 2:26.) Snare is an interesting word. It refers to something that suddenly and unexpectedly entangles and catches birds and animals. It catches them unawares -- they think they are safe until they are caught. And the devil has many times in the past used "harmless" games to ensnare the simple.
Japan has been taken over by monsters, and no, we don't mean Godzilla. The craze over Pokemon (called "Pocket Monsters in Japan) has spread from the Pokemon Game Boy games to toys, clothing, cartoons, and even snack foods. You can't go anywhere in Japan without running into Pokemon, and now, it's taking over america. (From Nintendo's Pokemon Website. Nintendo is a Japanese company.)
Burger King is using Pokemon, as is General Mills. There is a Trading Card Game Tour now traveling the country, and tour dates are set for Pokemon "Trainers." (The owner "trains" the different Pokemon characters for battle.) Pokemon figures are openly called "monsters."
Dateline had a segment on Pokemon this last fall, and they made the point that the Pokemon pictures represent Japanese gods. Notice also that part of the promotion for Pokemon says that only 150 Pokemon identities have been discovered thus far, implying they are still seeking for more of those gods. However, that may well be an advertising ploy.
At the very least, Pokemon (i.e., POCKEt MONster) boarders on being demonic, and Christians must have nothing to do with this "game." The forces being summoned by the children in these Role Playing Games (RPGs), e.g., Magic: The Gathering, are demonic forces. And we wonder why violence is taking over the government schools, and the age of violent offenders continues to decrease. (New laws will not stop the violence; only a new god, the Lord God, will stop the violence.) The government schools are at war against the Christian God and against the family. The government threw God out of the education system several years ago, and now they summon demonic forces to replace him. When the children are taught it is the very worse of evils to seek aid from above, the God of the Bible, then where can they go to seek aid? Notice that "prayer" is forbidden which seeks to summon aid from on high, and instead magic is encouraged, which seeks to summon aid from beneath. Guess which "aid" is the most appealing and the more readily available.
Follow a few of the links from Pokemon sites (there are many), and you will find yourself on sites such asWizards that "teach" youngsters how to use "magic" for fun and games. You will also find links to many sites offering instruction for RPGs. The RPG one will encounter the most is Dungeons & Dragons. Probably the same parents who condemned D&D when it was popular, today allow their children to pursue Pokemon.
"Your sayings are harsh," some may say. Question - which god is glorified by the Pokemon pictures and "game"? The Lord God of the Bible or the prince of the power of the air?
First, RPGs offer the player power over the spirits involved, so that the player's will can be done over the spirits - supernatural powers. This offer is in sharp contrast to the Christian's attitude of "Nevertheless, thy (God's) will be done with me in everything" - subject to God's supernatural power. (Lk. 22:24.)
Consider the difficulty of getting a young person to give up his supposed power over the forces of darkness and submit totally to the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Though Pokemon and D&D offer demon power for the individual's use (the player "trains" the Pokemon images, implying that he controls the power), the end result is that the power binds the individual. It is not a harmless game. Admittedly, Pokemon is not as openly demonic as is D&D, but that certainly does not change the fact that the power the player seeks in RPGs is not the power of the Holy Spirit of God. It is the power of "monsters."
Consider the ease with which the player can attempt to transfer these supernatural powers from his imaginary role into his everyday life. And let us not deceive ourselves into thinking such things will not happen. In my 30 + years working with people, I have encountered more than a few held captive by the powers of darkness behindD&D.
Second, we have been warned:
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Pet. 5.)
The devil's purpose is to ruin men, Christians particularly. He will not miss the opportunity to ambush and sift us - influence us to depart from the faith ever so slightly (make us look like chaff rather than wheat, Lk. 22:31. Gill).
Sober, vigilant, rather than "drunken" and unconcerned. We must always be watchful and on guard, for our enemy is always watching for the opportunity to take advantage of us. In fact, he is continually walking about looking for those who are not paying attention to what is going on. By "paying attention," I mean comparing every thought and action - surrounding events - with the word of God, and acting accordingly. We get so caught up in everyday life that we are prone to ignore things that are not coming at us as a roaring lion. (If it keeps the kids quiet, let them have it.)
Third, because the devil is not coming at us as a roaring lion does not mean he is not intent on devouring us by whatever means he can devise. Satan tempts in three forms: 1) subtle serpent who deceives our senses, perverts our judgment, and holds our imaginations in his spell. 2) angel of light who deceives us with false ideas about spiritual things, including religion, God's providence and grace. 3) roaring lion who runs us down and attempts to destroy us by violent action, persecution and even death. (See Clarke.)
Peter tells us that the enemy does not necessarily pay special attention to us, for what we face is not unique among the brethren who are in the world. Basically, the enemy is looking for the opportunity to catch people unawares.
Fourth, rather than attempting to "fellowship" with (summon) the forces of darkness, Pokemon's demons, &c., we are to reprove them. (Eph. 5:11.) Though Christ hath delivered us from the power of darkness, one can give place to those powers to work in his life. (Col. 1:13, Eph. 4:27 - though the context is clearly speaking against anger and wrath, the warning is equally valid for all areas, particularly when people willingly seek demonic aid and power, even when it is a "game." Cf., Eph. 6:12.)
Fifth, do we think that the scripture saith in vain that our battle is a spiritual battle? (Eph. 6:12.) Those who have "fellowshiped" with beings such as Pokemon's spirits need to renounce those hidden things of dishonesty, i.e., burn the cards, confess the sin, and ask the Spirit of God to remove them and-or their influence from us. Parents must "stand in the gap" for their children under their authority who have been involved in such demonic activity. (2 Cor. 4:2. See War on the Saints, by Jessie Pen-Lewis.)
People reject the truth, the Word of God, and because the sentence against that evil, e.g., seeking the devil's power even in games, is not executed speedily, they think there are no disastrous results. (Ecc. 8:11.) Actually in rejecting the truth, they have accepted the antichrist. Snare implies also that the "victim" does not see the snare, or what lies ahead, and the one attempting the recovery must approach him carefully. Such action is the real "Operation Rescue" -- that is, rescuing those who are caught in devil's snare. (Gal. 6:1.)
Moreover, if one willfully rejects the truth of God's word after being admonished, he must be rejected as a heretic: " If Christ and his gospel will not be received, antichrist shall come in with all lying wonders, and shall prevail." (Taylor, Titus, 527. Klock & Klock.) If a teacher is given over to the antichrist, the Believer should withdraw himself from him if he does not want also to be caught in the snare of the devil. (See 1 Tim. 6:5, 2 Tim. 3:5.)
Note that the society that rejects Christ and his Gospel is open to all kinds of lying wonders - RPG's prepare the way for public acceptance of witchcraft.
By His Sovereign Grace Alone
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