The Standard: Be Subject to Civil Authorities; Rom. 13:1a; part two

The church in her first few centuries was little involved with society or government because they were so involved in their own communities living out their faith. As Mac comments, they were not uncaring or insensitive to others, but they did live very distinct and separated lives. In fact, Tertullian notes that third century Christians were more likely to be executed for presumed anti-social behaviors than for inflammatory behavior or teaching.

That is not the focus of many churches in our modern day. “Many of the weapons of our warfare are…of the flesh, and ineffective rather than spiritual, and divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses, (2 Cor. 10:4), (Mac p. 214 commentary on Romans).

Jeremiah writes the words of God to his people in Jer. 29:7, a people who were captive to the Babylonians, instructing them to seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.

There is only one limitation to the Christian submission to civil authority: when civil mandate runs counter to God’s clear will and commands. There are numerous examples of this in both the Old and New Testaments. In Exodus 1:17, pharaoh ordered Jewish midwives to kill all male Hebrew babies, but Shiphrah and Puah feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

Because these brave women chose to obey God rather than the king, God honored their “civil disobedience” and was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty (v. 20). Another example is when king Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to worship his gods and the golden image he had erected. They replied to his command, O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up, (Daniel 3:16-18).

This is an amazing passage of undaunted courage and strength of resolve in the face of incredible human power. These young men did not know whether God would let them come through this monumental trial unscathed, but they were sure that even if they died, God would deliver them from being forced to worship idols. They showed the king the respect due his office, but they answered him with a fearless confidence in their Deliverer and a resolute determination to obey Him. Of course, they did live, because the pre-incarnate Christ walked through the flames with them!

Jesus will always travel the roughest roads right beside us; He promised to never leave us or forsake us! See also Daniel chapter one and chapter six for other examples of civil disobedience as a result of direct obedience to God for a higher goal.

An instance in the New Testament of this same principle is when Peter and John were preaching the gospel in the streets of Jerusalem. When they were warned by the Jewish leaders not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), the apostles relied, Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).

“The Lord had commanded, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20), and therefore to obey those human rulers would mean to disobey their divine Ruler, which they would not do. When Peter and John persisted in their evangelization, the Jewish leaders warned them again, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:28-29) (Mac p. 216).

MacArthur observes that in most of the world, even in former communist lands, by far the most common obligation is to obey both God and men. However, Christians continue to see our Constitutional rights to freedom of religion being eroded today. The absence of public prayer in schools and public meetings is notable as just one example.

Mac writes: “Although He sends His own people out as sheep in the midst of wolves our Lord commands us to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves, (Matt. 10:16). We are to be alert, cautious, and concerned about what is going on around us and in the world. But that must not be the focus of our attention, and our living in the midst of it must be innocent—free of anxiety, ill will, rancor, and self-righteousness.

“Men will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues, Jesus continued to warn, and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you,” (Matt. 10:18-20) (Mac p. 217).

We must understand also that persecution is not an excuse for civil disobedience or rebellion, but for “patient endurance and righteousness, (Mac). A Christian should not seek persecution, he continues to note, because persecution of itself has no inherent value. In fact, Jesus said, Whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next, (Matt. 10:23). Paul did just that in his ministry, barely escaping with his life in several cases. And aren’t we glad he lived on to write another letter, comfort another church?

I’ll close with a quote from John MacArthur: “Regardless of the failures of government—many of them immoral, unjust, and ungodly—Christians are to pray and live peaceful lives that influence the world by godly, selfless living, not by protests, sit-ins, and marches, much less by rebellion. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, we have both the right and the obligation to confront and oppose the sins and evils of our society, but only in the Lord’s way and power, not the world’s. In this way, says Paul, our living is good and profitable for men, (Titus 3:8), because it shows them the power of God in salvation. They see what a person saved from sin is like,” (Mac p. 217).

Until next time, may the Lord bless you as you study His holy Word and seek to live godly lives in these challenging times. God bless all…mike.

 

The Standard: Be Subject to Civil Authorities; Rom. 13:1a

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities (13:1a).

The words every person apply to every human being from the beginning to the end of time. It is a universal command to all people– Christian, Jew, and Gentile alike. Government was created by God and instituted by Him for the welfare of all.

But, as MacArthur notes, Paul is writing to and thus speaking directly to Christians here. Following the Christian faith and civil obedience go together; they are inseparable. And subjection to the governing authorities includes more than simply obeying the laws and staying out of trouble. Mac says, “…it also includes genuine honor and respect for government officials as God’s agents for maintaining order and justice in human society,” (Mac commentary on Romans II, p. 212).

William Barclay comments: “…in point of fact, this is a commandment which runs through the whole New Testament. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, we read: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and for all who are in high positions; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” (William Barclay commentary on Romans)

Some think that since Paul was writing to Christians at Rome these were special instructions to them because of their tenuous standing among people who served multiple gods, a way to stay out of trouble. But Paul’s arguments here, as well as similar passages throughout the New Testament, make clear that subjection to human authority is the norm for the whole church.

Peter wrote to believers who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1). Peter said further, Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king, (1 Peter 2:13-17).

As always, the Apostle Paul followed his own admonition. When he and Silas were brutally beaten, thrown into prison, and the stocks at Philippi, instead of complaining or threatening their captors, the two believers spent the night in jail (until their miraculous delivery) singing songs and hymns to their God, knowing that He could and would deliver them from every enemy (Acts 16:25).

Mac tells of Giorgi Vins, a Russian pastor, who, during Soviet communism, suffered with his Christian brothers and pastors, every sort of evil and mistreatment. They were determined to obey every law, just or unjust, as long as it did not force them to turn against their God. They wanted to suffer for doing what was right but not for doing what is wrong, (1 Peter 3:17).

“Believers are to be model citizens,” Mac observes, “known as law-abiding not rabble-rousing, obedient rather than rebellious, respectful of government rather than demeaning of it. We must speak against sin, against injustice, against immorality and ungodliness with fearless dedication, but we must do it within the framework of civil law and with respect for civil authorities. We are to be a godly society, doing good and living peaceably within an ungodly society, manifesting our transformed lives so that the saving power of God is seen clearly,” (Mac p. 213).

Be in subjection, huppotaso, is a military term often used to describe soldiers who are under the absolute authority of a commanding officer. Since the verb is a passive imperative, it shows that the phrase is a command, not an option. Second, the believer is to willingly place himself under all governing authorities, whoever they may be and wherever he may find them.

There are no qualifications or conditions given. It is human nature to look for the escape clause, but there are none. “Every human authority is to be submitted to willingly…” (Mac).

In the biographical book, “Unbroken,” the main character, Louis Zamperini, is a World War II Navy bomber crewman whose plane is downed in the Pacific. He is also a Christian. The true story follows his incredible path of survival, first at sea and then as a prisoner of war under the brutal hands of his Japanese captors. Louis endured horrifying torture under a completely evil government, but he did not disobey or try to escape them. He submitted to the government he found himself under, trusting his Lord to protect and deliver him. Louis survived! After the war, Louis returned to Japan to personally forgive his former captors. He and men like him are a model for all of us! ”

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul teaches that  entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity, (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Mac teaches that we are to submit  “…with no exception related to the ruler’s competence or incompetence, morality or immorality, cruelty or kindness, or even godliness or ungodliness. He gives the same instruction in his letter to Titus, to whom he wrote, Remind them [believers under his care] to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men, (Titus 3:1-2) (Mac p. 214).

Paul admonished the Thessalonian church to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need, (1 Thess. 4:11-12).

In view of our nation’s present political landscape, do you think Christians have an opportunity to let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven? (Matt. 5:16)

We have an opportunity to support our political leaders, to love the Constitution and the laws of the land. Do we not need to pray for the people who lead our nation rather than gossip, profane their names and character, and hold them in disrespect? Is it not almighty God who placed them in authority in the first place? Do we profane Him by our disobedience and disrespect? Sobriety is called for, brethren.

Our obedience to God’s Word here is essential. This is the way the world is changed for good– by Christians taking God’s commands seriously, zealously, with an unbridled passion to do what is right. Unbelievers cannot help but be drawn to that quality of devotion, since obedience to the higher standard is so seldom seen in our society.

By God’s sweet grace we will pick up from here next time. Until then I will leave you with this: Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it! (Acts 28:28). Blessings on all…mike.

The Christian’s Response to Government (opening); pt. 3; Rom. 13:1-7

The Jews of Paul’s day, like other nations Rome had conquered, were little more than chattel in the hands of an oppressive, dominating government. They were an underprivileged minority, a very small cog in the rolling machinery of Roman domination.

They had no legal rights or recourse if wronged. Many reactionary Jews, called zealots, were in constant rebellion to Rome and sought every opportunity to disrupt or dismantle the stifling chains of slavery their invaders had placed on them.

But, as MacArthur relates, despite heavy restrictions, the Jews were allowed many religious freedoms. Mac relates, “…they were not required to worship Caesar or any pagan deity. They were free to maintain their priesthood and temple and to support those religious institutions by offerings.

“The Romans safeguarded the Sabbath, the Mosaic ceremonial and dietary laws, and they upheld the Jews’ wish to prohibit idols, including images of the emperor…Because the Romans generally considered Christianity to be a sect of Judaism, the early church was generally able to share many of the Jews’ religious freedoms,” (Mac commentary on Romans, Vol. II, p. 210).

But most Jews could not tolerate the Roman domination. They took this rebellious feeling as a divine mandate, using Deut. 17:15 as their standard: You may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.

Just as the early church was getting started the tensions between Rome and Jerusalem seethed until they came to a boiling point of murder, social disobedience, and general unrest and hostility. Jewish insurrection expanded and eventuated in the holocaust of A.D. 70 in which 1,100,000 Jews—including women, children, and priests—were massacred without mercy by the retaliating Romans.

Many if not most Jews of Jesus’ day expected that Messiah would come as a conquering king to free the nation from its oppressors. Even Jesus’ disciples consistently wondered when He was going to claim by force His rightful position as Messianic king over Israel. But Jesus made no such claim for His ministry. He came in peace to affect and change men’s hearts, not the political or social powers. He said, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s, (Matt. 22:21). “…He made no call for political or social reform, even by peaceful means…He never attempted to capture the culture for biblical morality or to gain greater freedom,” (Mac p. 210).

Jesus didn’t have many positive things to say about the scribes (lawyers) and Pharisees (the dominant religious sect of Judaism), but in regards to obedience He did say this: The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them, (Matt. 23:2-3). “Those wicked leaders were not to be emulated, but they were to be obeyed. Changing the form of government or superficially moralizing it were not Jesus’ goals. He sought to redeem individual souls,” (Mac p. 211).

Jesus compassion for the pain and hardships of people was profound. He healed and taught multiple thousands of the lost sheep of Israel, and sometimes at great personal sacrifice for His own comfort and safety. Jesus Himself, the Lord of the universe, creator of everything that is, was homeless on the earth. He said of Himself, Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head, (Matt. 8:20). Social morality and structure were never His concern.

The following is an extended quote from John MacArthur to close out the introduction to chapter 13 of Romans. With what has been studied in the last three blogs I think we have a good solid foundation to build on to correctly understand and exegete the chapter:

“But even meeting physical needs was not the goal of His [Jesus’] life and ministry. Above all else, He came to meet a need that far surpasses all other needs, a need that only He could satisfy. He therefore spoke to the hearts and souls of individual men and women—never to their political, social, economic, or racial rights or physical pain and plights. He taught the saving gospel that had power to make their souls right with His Father and to grant them eternal life—in light of which, temporal rights and morals pale in importance.

“He did not come to proclaim or establish a new social order but a new spiritual order, His church. He did not seek to make the old creation moral but to make the new creations holy. And He mandated His church to perpetuate His ministry in that same way and toward that same end, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation, (Mark 16:15).

“No minority in the United States or in any other part of the western world has had their babies massacred while they slept. Many people on welfare today have amenities, conveniences, opportunities, and rights that even the wealthiest citizens of Jesus’ day could not have imagined. Yet neither the Lord nor His apostles give any justification for political revolt, rebellion, or civil disobedience. There was no effort on His part to eliminate social or political injustice.

“What, then, is the Christian’s responsibility to society, and to government in particular, if we are to remain ‘aliens and strangers’ in this world (1 Peter 2:11) who have a platform to call people to salvation? How are we to live in the world but not be of it (John 17:11, 16)?

“In the present text, Paul presents the two basic principles that answer those questions. First: Be subject to government (v. 1); and second: Pay taxes (v. 6). Those commands summarize the Christian’s civic duty. It is through fulfilling those two obligations that we render to Caesar things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s, (Matt. 22:21),” (Mac p. 211).

Next time, by God’s sweet grace, we will look at 13:1 together. Until then, remember, He who calls you is faithful, Who also will do it, (1 Thess. 5:24). Peace to all in Christ Jesus….mike.

 

 

The Christian’s Response to Government (opening); pt. two; Rom. 13:1-7

John MacArthur makes some very timely points in his opening remarks regarding chapt. 13, such as the following quote:

“Some evangelical pastors and other church leaders have turned from emphasizing the gospel to emphasizing politics, from emphasizing the Word of God to emphasizing coalitions to ‘impact culture.’ Some Christians expect the government to be not only the church’s ally but its primary partner. But the state is temporal and affects only things that are temporal. It is a foolish and wasteful stewardship that devotes a great deal of time to try to bring better morality—which at best is transient—but little time bringing them the gospel, which offers eternal life.

“It really does not matter whether people go to hell as policemen or prostitutes, judges or criminals, pro-life or pro-abortion. The moral will persist with the immoral. Our task is the proclamation of the gospel. Neglecting it is the spiritual equivalent of a skilled heart surgeon abandoning his profession to become a make-up artist, spending his time making people look better rather than saving lives. The mission of the church is not to change society—although that is often a beneficial by-product of faithful ministry and living—but to worship and serve the Lord and to bring others to saving faith in Him.” (Mac commentary on Romans, book 2, p. 208)

One of the subtle tricks of the enemy, Satan, is to lead us down rabbit trails. The trails may look important and beneficial to help people, but unless what we are doing will help people find Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, it makes no eternal difference to make life or society better. Without Christ they are all going to perish forever—every last one of them—and we cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked or confused. We believers are here on earth to bring people to Christ and help them grow in Him. Everything else should be a means to that end. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven, (Matt. 5:16).

Jesus said to all disciples of every age, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, (Mark 16:15).

Human governments do have a societal function, but it does not include teaming up with evangelicals to “save the world.” As we will see in our coming studies, the function of government is to protect the lives and interests of those who do good and to punish those who do evil. The government, no matter how moral, cannot save anyone, just as the Law cannot save anyone.

“But even the absolute best of human governments do not participate in the work of the kingdom, and the worst of human societal systems cannot hinder the power of the Word and the Spirit. God instituted civil authority for an entirely different, temporal, and transient purpose.” (Mac p. 208)

It is not that believers are to refrain from being involved in government to affect it for good; just the opposite. We should vote for the best candidates and support the change of bad laws for good ones. That’s part of doing good in our society (cf. Gal 6:10; Titus 3:1-2).

And, as the Lord leads, Christians should run for office to affect the government for good for all society. Biblical examples like Joseph and Daniel filled leadership capacities in ungodly governments in extraordinary ways. But they did not try to “convert” the government or the masses by passing new laws or re-shaping things from the outside in. Real Scriptural change always comes from the inside out.

“After Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, He did not advise him to leave the army (see Matt. 8:5-13). After Zaccheus was converted, he did not leave his civil profession but became an honest tax collector (see Luke 19:1-10). Cornelius, another Roman centurion, was saved through the ministry of Peter and continued to serve in the army (see Acts 10). And there is no reason to believe that the proconsul Sergius Paulus did not remain in his high civil office after he was saved (see Acts 13:4-12),” (Mac p. 209).

Mac observes further, “At issue is the matter of priority, of realizing that even the greatest earthly good we may be able to accomplish in the temporal world pales beside what the Lord is able to accomplish through us in the spiritual work of His kingdom…the church is called to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of social activists. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, Peter reminds us, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, (1 Peter 2:9).” (Mac p. 209).

Lord willing, next time we will conclude with the opening to the thirteenth chapter. Until then, God’s blessings of salvation and growth in Christ on all…mike.

 

 

 

 

 

The Christian’s Response to Government; Rom.13:1-7; part one

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.

But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

This is one of the most timely passages I can remember teaching. Today our nation seems to be headed for a state of near-anarchy. As I write this today’s news is fresh and shocking in my mind. A crazed man with a gun has just opened fire on a Republican leader and many others at a baseball field close to Washington D.C. He asked if Republicans or Democrats were playing the game. Once he learned it was Republicans he opened fire for 10 minutes before he was killed by police.

At the same time, in N.Y., a play modernizing “Julius Caesar” portrays president Trump being assassinated! This is unconscionable! Is the world going mad?

None of us can forget the recent terror attacks in London and France and other locales as well. Whether in the U.S. or abroad, people no longer seem to feel the need to subject themselves to any governmental authority. The seeds of anarchy and extreme social unrest are everywhere.

So where does the Christian fit in to this malaise? What is our responsibility and who is it to. As we go through the thirteenth chapter of Romans it is my hope that Paul’s writing will give us clarity and a new urgency to make disciples of every nation.

I’m going to be drawing from the well of John MacArthur’s many years of experience on this subject, and my thanks goes to his God-given wisdom. We’ll also be looking at the remarks of commentators from both this century and the last to round out our thinking. So let’s begin.

“These seven verses,” says MacArthur, “contain the clearest and most specific New Testament teaching on the Christian’s responsibility to civil authority. Every Christian, no matter what form of government he lives under, is under command from the Lord to maintain proper and useful submission to that government for the sake of leading a peaceful life and having an effective witness. This recurring theme of submission to society’s controlling power is nowhere more forcefully dealt with than here,” (Mac commentary on Romans p. 205-206).

The first eleven chapters of Romans, especially 1-8, talk of Man’s lost-ness and show us how to be saved. The power of this wisdom is summed up beautifully by Paul here: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, (3:21-24).

In Romans 12 we saw how the monumental miracle of salvation impacted our relationships, first with God (vs. 1-2); then with believers (vs. 3-16); and finally with non-Christians, including our enemies (vs. 17-21). In 13:1-7 we will learn how this new creation, the saved man or woman, is to have a right relationship with the human governments under which we live.

Historically, Christians have been involved in the forceful overthrow of repressive or despotic governments. This is frequently done in the name of their faith. But is it right in light of the above passage? It is possible to do the right thing but for the reasons. Did God call us to swoop in to make bad governments good, or to simply preach and live the gospel as shining lights? There is much confusion in Christian ranks over this. “For such reasons it is difficult for many Christians to be clear, or even objective and honest, about a passage so unambiguously restrictive as Romans 13:1-7,” (Mac)

Many evangelicals believe that the American Revolution was wholly justified, both politically and biblically. They would argue that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not only endowed by God, but that their defense and attainment are somehow “Christian” and thus justified at whatever cost.

John MacArthur: “Obviously, such action is forbidden by God, and, judged in the light of the present text, it is equally obvious that the United States was born out of violation of Scripture,” (Mac p. 207). This may hit our patriotic funny bone in a not-so-funny way, but it is true.

It is, of course, just as obvious that God has greatly blessed our nation far above, in many ways, any nation on earth. His blessings have been in spite of disobedience to His Word through the revolution. Before now I had never seen it this way. I had been raised to think we Americans were the good guys.

This feeling of the end justifying the means carries over today. Many evangelicals engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, Mac explains, when a cause such as opposition to abortion has a biblical basis. Some will even refuse to pay taxes because some of the money will be used for causes that are unjust or immoral.

Mac further gives a warning: “Many evangelicals believe that Christians should become active in political causes, relying on social action and pressure tactics to change laws and government policies…that are plainly evil and to protect cherished religious rights that are being encroached upon. This zeal for preservation of the Christian faith…often gets blended in with strong views about economics, taxation, social issues, and partisanship, so that the Bible gets wrapped in the flag.” Mac p. 207)

MacArthur continues: “Even social and political activites that are perfectly worthwhile can deplete the amount of a believer’s time, energy, and money that is available for the central work of the gospel. The focus is shifted from the call to build the spiritual kingdom through the gospel to efforts to moralize culture—trying to change society from the outside rather than individuals from the inside. (underline added)

“When the church is politicized,” Mac continues, “even in support of good causes, its spiritual power is vitiated and its moral influence diluted. And when such causes are supported in worldly ways and by worldly means, the tragedy is compounded. We are to be the conscience of the nation through faithful preaching and godly living, confronting it not with the political pressure of man’s wisdom- including our own- but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using legislation, adjudication, or intimidation to achieve a superficial, temporal ‘Christian morality’ is not our calling—and has no eternal value,” (Mac p. 207).

These opening remarks should give pause to think and a sense of what’s coming. I think that readers who are sensitive to Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s leading will begin to align our thinking more closely with the truths of God’s Word. Until next time, God’s blessings on you…mike.

 

 

 

 

How to Lovingly Deal with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, part three

Dealing in a loving way with the cults while staying true to the principles and tenants of holy Scripture is a delicate balancing act. We don’t want to come off too strong and “preachy” so as to drive them away angry. On the other hand, believers must stand firm in our convictions while loving and praying for those we seek to share the good news with. We must convey to them that we are truly interested in them as people.

We must remember that it truly is good news we bring, and that, like Paul, we are to be unashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek, (Rom. 1:16). We are to preach the truth in love, holding that balance. Our testimony and use of Scripture could set any of these people free forever from the bondage of works righteousness, which is what a cult is about.

Jude says of this, And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh, (Jude 22, 23).

The following Scriptures can be helpful in contradicting cult doctrine which teaches that there is no Triune God.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, (Gen.1:26). The Lord God wastes no time in showing that the Triune Godhead created man in their image, that of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word [Jesus: see John 1], and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one, (1 John 5:5, 7). Such a clear reference to the Trinity; impossible to deny without revealing their willful unbelief!

For through Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father, (Eph. 2:18).Speaks of the Trinity and salvation.

We believers, according to 1 Peter 1:1, are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Trinity in action! God is dynamic, ever moving!

And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen, (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus Himself testifies of the existence of and the cooperating work of the Trinity in salvation.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, (Matt. 3:16-17).

Who else throughout Scripture did the Father audibly speak of and give testimony to in this way? Abraham? Moses? David? One of the prophets? No, not one. The phrase, My beloved Son, was reserved for Jesus alone. The Son of God, only begotten of the Father, Jesus Christ, God the Son, second Person of the Trinity! 

Notice that the Spirit also gives visible testimony: He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. So again we have the Trinity giving audible and visible testimony of the Son’s identity, favor with God, and of His place in the triune godhead.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, (Jude 20,21). An obvious illustration of the Trinity at work in our salvation and sanctification.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life, (Titus 3:4-7).

Titus 3:4-7 is a jackpot verse. We see here the doctrine of salvation, both what it is and is not; we see again the Trinity at work for our good in our justification, our growth in Christ, and our hope of eternal life; and finally, God our Savior and Jesus Christ our Savior are titles used in the same verse. Jesus Christ is equal to God and is the second Person of the Trinity. We are justified by His grace so that we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

In this 3-part series of how to deal lovingly with cults there are many Scriptures, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Unless you have an infallible memory I would suggest memorizing a few key Scriptures that deal with the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and salvation theology, one or two for each to start. Write all of these Scriptures in the leaf of your Bible and use that Bible when cult people come to the door. That way you will have plenty of Scripture truth for them to think about.

Cults often go door to door in pairs, sometimes an elder with a younger, less-experienced member. While God can work in anyone’s heart, note the expression of the younger member as you talk. That one may be open to the truth. Pray for them!

Don’t be discouraged if these folks do not convert. Through the conversation try to leave a door open by your loving concern for them so that they will be more likely to come back. Remember, they have probable received years of indoctrination in the false teaching of their church. Don’t give up. We never know when God will open a previously closed heart.

These people need salvation just as desperately as anyone else. They are lost. They don’t know what salvation is. Their cult is based on works righteousness, and the standard for salvation is impossibly high. They will tell you one can’t know if you are saved until the very end. This is typical of works-based salvation. It doesn’t work! There is no joy, no faith, hope, or love; no peace with God or peace of God. It is our duty to speak the truth in love to them. Let me know of your experiences.

God’s blessings on you and me as we seek that which was lost, and (just maybe) is now found! In Christ’s love…mike.

How to Lovingly Deal with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, part two

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘”I Am has sent you.’” (Exodus 3:14) I AM is God’s name for Himself that He wanted Moses to identify Him by to the Hebrew children. Now, the cults one and all deny the deity of Jesus Christ. In this second part of our teaching on the cults we will give you solid Scriptures that proclaim the truth of Christ’s deity as the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.

Compare the above Old Testament Scripture with this statement Jesus made to His enemies concerning His own identity: Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM, (John 8:58). I AM is God’s name; in addition Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham existed, again pointing to His deity! These claims are why the Jews were always trying to kill Him. They saw His words as blaspheme. See this pointedly in the following text:

But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death, (Mark 14:61-64).

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified concerning Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, because He was before me.’” From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace, (John 1:15). Here John the Baptist echoes our Savior, testifying that Jesus was before him, not only in status but in time.

The answer to those who would deny the deity of Jesus Christ is given with clarity by John the Apostle: Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also, (1 John 2:22-23). This strikes directly at the false doctrine of the cults.

In the beginning, God created… (Genesis 1:1) connects perfectly with this pronouncement from the Christ: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty, (Rev. 1:8). Again, here Jesus’ deity is undeniable. The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End, the Almighty are all terms for God!

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer [Jesus Christ], the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.  And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them.  Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” (Isa. 44:6-8)

For unto us a child is born [Jesus], unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this, (Isaiah 9:6-7). Again, these are the names wholly reserved for deity. Jesus Christ is the mighty God, the everlasting Father. Jesus Christ is God! He will sit on the throne of David as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Almighty! Forever and forever. Amen!

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:1) The Apostle Peter clearly points to Jesus Christ as God and Savior. Peter knew Jesus as an intimate friend and leader, but he also recognized Him as Almighty God.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, (Phil. 2:5-7). Language so eloquent that only fools would deign to change or twist it. Jesus is equal to God; Jesus Christ is God the Son!

Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God,” (Matt. 14:33). (Son equal to the Father) Any self-respecting Jew knew that worship is reserved for God alone. The disciples were worshipping the Son as God.

 

 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.”

 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God [Jesus Christ], is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God [the Father], has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions,”(Hebrews one). Realize the importance of this: God the Father is saying to God the Son, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. This is undeniable, irrefutable truth from the mouth of God that Jesus Christ is equal to God. He is God the Son!

And: “You, Lord [Jesus Christ], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth (see John one), And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You [Jesus Christ, the Son] are the same, And Your years will not fail.”

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.”  He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:  ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”  And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore, (Matt. 22:41-46).

His enemies were always trying to trip Jesus up or accuse Him in some way. Here He turns the tables on them with a question they cannot answer. How could Jesus be both David’s descendant and His Lord unless He truly is who He claims to be? Just as Jesus was before Abraham and Moses and John the Baptist, He was also before David. As God He has no beginning and no end. None of these religious elitists, His enemies, could stand against the Lord’s irresistible wisdom.

We are going long, so by God’s grace we will finish looking at the Scriptural defenses against false teaching in our next study. After that we’ll begin Romans 13. God bless all…mike.

How To Deal With Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses

I don’t know about other countries, but in the U.S. it is a common thing for people to approach our door looking to spread their religion. Usually these people are either Mormon or Jehovah Witness representatives.

Now Jesus instructed His disciples and all believers today and since to…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned, (Mark 16:15-16). That edict has not changed and will not change as we stand at the brink of the End Times spoken of in the book of Revelation.

The key here is that we are to preach the gospel. This gospel, or good news, is the whole truth about who Jesus Christ is, where He came from, and what He accomplished in His earthly ministry. Belief systems like the two mentioned above deviate from this gospel of the Scriptures in several important ways.

First, they have all taken the Holy Scriptures and twisted them for their own use. They typically take words or sentences of Scripture out of context and either obliterate or exaggerate the true meaning to “force” the Word of God to say what they want, to meet their ends.

Second, they always deny the deity of Christ, which is so clearly taught in many Scriptures. With this they also deny the Trinity and the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.

Third, because of their reckless denial of the truth about Christ and Scripture, they have no clear understanding of Salvation. They have no clue how to be saved! For instance, a Jehovah Witness will say that no one can know who will be saved until the very end of time. This is false. There is “some” truth in what they say about some things, but this is what can confuse genuine believers. They will seek some commonality so they can draw the unwary in. They will tell you they believe in the same Christ as you do, but, trust me, they do not. Their Jesus either is not deity or He did not truly become human. Don’t be fooled!

At the very end of Scripture the Lord gives a fearsome warning to any who would malign or change His Holy Word: For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book [Scripture]: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book, (Revelation 22:18-19).

And John, writing his second epistle, says this, For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist…Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds, (2 John 1:7, 9-11).

So, you may ask, if one or more of these people comes to my door, what should I do. Well, first, always do as the Lord leads. We know He instructs us to neither greet them nor let them into your home. I take “greet” here to mean to greet as a brother in faith or as a trusted friend.

O.K., but can I preach the gospel to them? Can we meet lies with truth? Well, what does Jesus command—preach the gospel to every creature. I take that to mean every man, woman and child, including even lt members.

If you are a young Christian or a new believer you may not feel equipped to confront people who are so entrenched in untruth. Some of these people are very smart and dedicated to their false faith. But do not let them scare you. You have the truth, they do not. They are on extremely shaky ground; they just don’t know it. Many of them are quite comfortable in their ignorance and mishandling of God’s holy Word. They may believe they are doing a good thing. After all, it takes no small amount of courage to go door to door and entreat strangers to believe as they do. But false religion saves no one!

The fact is that they are in great error and are looking to spread that error. One of the biggest problems for the first century church was the rampant spread of false doctrine. Many portions of Paul’s epistles and others are written to correct various false teachings which had crept in to a given church when he had left to continue his ministry elsewhere. He warned the Ephesian church of things to come regarding false teaching:

Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them.…, (Acts 20:29).

Jude gives the following warning: …concerning our common salvation I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ, (Jude vs. 3-4).

Realize that even people who have been steeped in the false doctrines of a cult for years may yet be open to the truth. Perhaps God has been dealing with their heart for some time. We just don’t know. Prepare with prayer for the souls of these lost people. Be open to the possibility that the Lord wants you to speak truth to such a person. God promises this: So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it, (Isaiah 55:11).

That is a promise to take to the bank! No matter how fumbling or stumbling we thing we may be at handling His precious Word, if our hearts are right and lovingly concerned for the lost, He will use our efforts and magnify His name!

By God’s perfect grace, next time we will visit Scriptures appropriate to use against false teaching. My hope is that we will then be able to equip ourselves with the ammunition to confidently meet lies head-on, but in love, with God’s magnificent truth!

After that we will begin looking at Romans 13.

To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 25)…mike.

 

 

Our Duty Toward Personal Enemies, part two; Rom. 12:17-21

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Be at peace with all men.

This is a conditional command. We are to make every effort to have peaceful relations with everyone, even our enemies. But it does take both sides to agree to peace. “By definition, a peaceful relationship cannot be one-sided. Our responsibility is to make sure that our side of the relationship is right, that our inner desire is genuinely to be at peace with everyone,” (MacArthur commentary on Romans II). Some people will not make peace with you even though you do everything in your power to effect it. That’s why Paul says, if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

We should, Mac continues, go to great lengths to “build peaceful bridges to those who hate us and harm us,” (Mac p. 202). We must wipe the slate clean in our own hearts of past wrongs and grudges because that is what God through Jesus Christ has done for us. God will not hold the believer’s sins against him. Can we do any less for our fellow man without defiling ourselves, holding a root of bitterness in our heart, and weakening our relationship with the Savior?

Looking at the balance, William Barclay notes that we cannot be at peace with those who would have us abandon our godly principles: “We are to live at peace with all men. But Paul adds two qualifications. (a) He says, ‘if it be possible.’ There may come a time when the claims of courtesy have to submit to the claims of principle. Christianity is not an easy-going tolerance which will accept anything and shut its eyes to everything. There may come a time when some battle has to be fought, and when it does, the Christian will not shirk it.” (William Barclay, commentary on Romans)

“Peaceableness and a life so ordered as to render us beloved by all, is no common gift in a Christian. If we desire to attain this, we must not only be endued with perfect uprightness, but also with very courteous and kind manners, which may not only conciliate the just and the good, but produce also a favorable impression on the hearts of the ungodly.

“But here two cautions must be stated: We are not to seek to be in such esteem as to refuse to undergo the hatred of any for Christ, whenever it may be necessary. And indeed we see that there are some who, though they render themselves amicable to all by the sweetness of their manners and peaceableness of their minds, are yet hated even by their nearest connections on account of the gospel. The second caution is, — that courteousness should not degenerate into compliance, so as to lead us to flatter the vices of men for the sake of preserving peace.

“Since then it cannot always be, that we can have peace with all men, he has annexed two particulars by way of exception, If it be possible, and, as far as you can. But we are to conclude from what piety and love require, that we are not to violate peace, except when constrained by either of these two things. For we ought, for the sake of cherishing peace, to bear many things, to pardon offenses, and kindly to remit the full rigor of the law; and yet in such a way, that we may be prepared, whenever necessity requires, to fight courageously: for it is impossible that the soldiers of Christ should have perpetual peace with the world, whose prince is Satan,” (John Calvin’s commentary on the Bible).

“Paul here realizes that all men will not permit us to have peace with them. Some men will refuse reconciliation, others will refuse to depart from their sins, others will refuse to forgive. This verse does suggest hard work in trying to bring about peace. Not a peace-talker, or a peace-wisher, or peaceable, but a peace-maker (Matthew 5:9; 1 Peter 3:11),” (Mark Dunagan’s commentary on the Bible).

Never Avenge Yourself

These last two characteristics are reiterations. Paul once more denounces evil for evil, saying to all believers that we are never to take our own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God. We are not judges over other people. Scripture tells us there is only one judge, and that is God. We are to leave room for the wrath of God. This is nothing new. Going back to Deut. 32:35 Paul quotes the Mosaic law, reminding his readers that it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (cf. 2 Sam. 22:48; Nah. 1:2; Heb. 10:30). God’s divine wrath and judgement will come upon all the unrepentant ungodly and wicked in due time (Col. 3:6; Jude). But Jesus did not come to judge but to save sinners, and we believers need to give full attention to the same God-given mission.

Calvin says, “The precept; then is, — that we are not to revenge nor seek to revenge injuries done to us. The manner is added, a place is to be given to wrath. To give place to wrath, is to commit to the Lord the right of judging, which they take away from him who attempt revenge. Hence, as it is not lawful to usurp the office of God, it is not lawful to revenge; for we thus anticipate the judgment of God, who will have this office reserved for Himself. He at the same time intimates, that they shall have God as their defender, who patiently wait for his help; but that those who anticipate him leave no place for the help of God.”

“Christians need to realize that when someone is sinning, the wrath of God is already on the move. (2 Peter 2:3their judgement from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep). We tend to be vindictive, when we forget or never have grasped how bad hell is. If we really realized what the unrepentant will face, we would make every effort to save them and not desire their destruction. Bitterness, spite, vindictiveness are attitudes that creep into my life, when I have forgotten the horrible fate that my enemy stands daily in danger of, with only the thin thread of life keeping him/her from it. (Jude 1:22-23). (Mark Dunagan commentary on the Bible)

Overcome evil with good

Now it is one thing to withhold ourselves from returning evil for evil. But challenging as that may be, the Lord requires further that we overcome evil with good. Yet, as Mac comments, this was the obligation of godly people even under the Old Covenant. Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22: But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.

Take positive action! If your enemy has a need, meet it if you can, seeking to show the love and mercy of Jesus Christ for unbelievers. True agape love is the greatest force in the universe. When poured through our lives it is unbelievably magnetic and powerful.

“The phrase heap burning coals upon his head referred to an ancient Egyptian custom. When a person wanted to demonstrate public contrition, he would carry on his head a pan of burning coals to represent the burning pain of his shame and guilt. The point here is that, when we love our enemy and genuinely seek to meet his needs, we shame him for his hatred.” (Mac commentary on Romans vol. II) This is powerful righteous living!

There are two applications here. First, we must not be overcome by the evil others might do to us. Second, and more important, we must not let ourselves be overcome by our own evil responses. The Lord is glorified not by what is done to us, but in how we handle it. If our faith, hope, and love remain intact, God gets the glory, others cannot help but witness such a powerful testimony, and the believer maintains the peace God gives to His obedient children. Mac teaches, “Our own evil is infinitely more detrimental to us than is the evil done to us by others,” (Mac p. 203). We must not let a root of bitterness spring up in our heart.

Beloved, at its core, any challenge we face, no matter how big, shows, by how we handle it, how much or how little we trust God. Abraham trusted God, and it was account to him for righteousness. When our enemies mock us, spit on us, ridicule us, or even render physical harm to us, as they did to our Lord, what will our response be? As always, Jesus sets the example:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.…, (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Next time, Lord willing, we begin with a new chapter! Whew! Bet you thought we’d never get there. I hope you are as excited as I am! Until then, God bless all with His manifold mercies and great love…mike.

P.S. May our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families of those who were hurt or killed in Manchester, England by the senseless terrorism of godless people. I have great sorrow for these victims. I hope it is clear according to Scripture how to treat the enemies of humanity who perpetrated this and other horrific acts. What will your heart do?

Our Duty to Personal Enemies; Rom. 12:17-21

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, (12:17-21).

We will consider verse 17 today. In this last chapter section Paul brings into focus with laser-like precision one of the paramount functions and attributes of agape love, to overcome evil with good. In this twelfth chapter of his great epistle the apostle has continually challenged believers to think, speak, and act outside the box of normal human relations. By virtue of our new birth and the indwelling Holy Spirit and Word of God we are to relate to other people on a supernatural level with divine love flowing through and spilling out of us at every turn.

The climax to this new holy thinking comes in verses 17-21. It is one thing to truly love family, friends and even strangers. It is yet another to love our enemies with our thoughts and words and, practically, with our actions. But this is what the Lord calls us to do, because that is exactly what He did and how He lived.

First, we are to never, under any circumstances, no matter how deserving we think they may be, pay back evil for evil to anyone. This includes even our worst enemies, who may be hell-bent on our destruction. Scripture demands that we bless them and not curse them, and certainly never be moved to an act of revenge.

John MacArthur advises this: “The Old Testament law of “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” (Ex. 21:24; cf. Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21) pertained to civil justice, not personal revenge. Not only that, but its major purpose was to prevent the severity of the offense. In other words, someone guilty of destroying another person’s eye could not be punished with any greater penalty than that of forfeiting one of his own eyes,” (Mac p. 201).

When we soon get into chapter 13 we will read Paul’s teaching that civil authority is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil, (Rom. 13:4).

Mac says further, “But that very authority, which not only is divinely permitted but divinely mandated for civil government, is divinely forbidden for personal purposes,” (p. 201). We will talk more of civil authority under God and the responsibility and obligation of citizens to uphold that authority when we study the next chapter. The subject is certainly profoundly relevant for our times in view of how disgracefully so many malcontents are treating our American president and our Constitution.

Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to see that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men, (1 Thess. 5:15). Peter echoes the same truth with this: To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing, (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Always respect what is right (v. 17b).

We must cultivate a deep inner respect for what is right in the sight of all men. So many lost people only respect what is right to them alone. They have their own value system or no values at all! Morality has become in this fallen world very subjective and inward. But there is a code of ethics written on the heart of all men by God Himself. It is objective truth. We innately know right from wrong. It is our bad choices running contrary to this knowledge that illustrate our lost and wretched condition before salvation. God calls this out in Romans chapter one:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them…so that they are without excuse, (Rom. 1:18-20).

Therefore, we must cultivate respect for others as creations of God after His own image, as human beings with all the inalienable rights of life and liberty and justice, and as brothers and sisters in Christ for those who are members of His body. If we have this respect for others we are much less likely to be vindictive or seek revenge when we have been wronged.

Mac teaches, “Kalos (right) refers to that which is intrinsically good, proper, and honest. It also carries the idea of being visibly, obviously right, as emphasized in its being fitting and proper in the sight of all men. Paul is not speaking of hidden feelings but of outwardly expressed goodness. Our forgiving, gracious behavior toward our enemies should commend us to them and to others who witness that behavior. It will also adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect, (Titus 2:10).

Lord willing we will continue next time with our study of the believer’s response to personal enemies. Don’t be discouraged. The Lord is faithful and able to help us change inwardly toward even our most vicious detractors. And He is changing us for good every day: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:18)…blessings to all…mike.