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.

 

Our Duty to All People, pt. three; Rom. 12:16

Do not be partial; avoid haughtiness and associate with the humble; do not be wise in your own eyes.

To be of the same mind toward one another is to give everyone equal value; it is to be impartial. In Romans 15:5 Paul says this, Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.

“We are to live in harmony with one another. It was Nelson who, after one of his great victories, sent back a dispatch in which he gave us the reason for it: ‘I had the happiness to command a band of brothers.’ It is a band of brothers that any Christian Church should be. Leighton once wrote: ‘The mode of Church government is unconstrained; but peace and concord, kindness and good will are indispensable.’ When strife enters into any Christian society, the hope of doing any good work is gone,” (William Barclay, commentary on Romans).

“Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits.

‘same mind’-() ‘Have equal regard for one another’ (NEB). Think the same thing, i.e. be in agreement, live in harmony (Arndt p. 866) ‘Enter into the mind or feeling of your brother, whether in joy or sorrow.’ (McGarvey p. 500) ‘It does not seem to refer to unity in gospel teaching (as other passages teach), but rather of sentiment, or disposition..each one to enter into the rejoicing and sorrows of the other. (Whiteside p. 253)

Christianity is not a place for ‘free-thinkers’, i.e. people free from the Mind of Christ. How do I want others to view me? As they honestly view themselves. Judge me and treat me in the way that you desire for yourself (Matthew 7:12),” (Mark Dunagan commentary on Romans).

James zeros in on this concept of no partiality here: My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poo’ man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?…But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors, (James 2:1-4,9).

MacArthur observes, “Speaking about honoring and correcting elders, Paul told Timothy, I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality, (1 Timothy: 5:21).

“If there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:11; cf. Acts 10:34; 1 Peter 1:17), shouldn’t the same be true of us?” (Mac p. 199)

Avoid haughtiness and associate with the humble.

This is closely related to not showing partiality. We’re dealing with pride here. Hupsela phronountes from the Greek means minding high things. Not in the sense of high or lofty thoughts or ideals but in the meaning of self-seeking pride or arrogance. This mindset has no regard for or attempt to associate with the lowly.

William Barclay sees it this way: “We are to avoid all pride and snobbishness. We have always to remember that the standards by which the world judges a man are not necessarily the standards by which God judges him. Saintliness has nothing to do with rank, or wealth, or birth. Dr. James Black in his own vivid way described a scene in an early Christian congregation. A notable convert has been made, and the great man comes to his first Church service. He enters the room where the service is being held. The Christian leader points to a place. “Will you sit there please?”

‘But,’ says the man, ‘I cannot sit there, for that would be to sit beside my slave.’ ‘Will you sit there please?’ repeats the leader. ‘But,’ says the man, ‘surely not beside my slave.’ ‘Will you sit there please?’ repeats the leader once again. And the man at last crosses the room, sits beside his slave, and gives him the kiss of peace.

“That is what Christianity did; and that is what it alone could do in the Roman Empire. The Christian Church was the only place where master and slave sat side by side. It is still the place where all earthly distinctions are gone, for with God there is no respect of persons.”

“The point is,” MacArthur adds, “there is no aristocracy in the church, no place for an elite upper crust,” (Mac p. 199).

In review of this point, Jesus said this: When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous, (Luke 14:12-14).

Jesus was not speaking necessarily of the act itself, but the motive behind it. God knows our hearts and the reasons we do things. If we are trying to exalt ourselves in any way then our motives are wrong, coming from self instead of sacrifice. If our motive is to be invited back and to hobnob with “equals,” the sin is compounded by “ignoring those who have no means of repaying us.” (Mac)

“…for nothing tends more to break that unity which has been mentioned, than when we elevate ourselves, and aspire to something higher, so that we may rise to a higher situation. I take the term humble in the neuter gender, to complete the antithesis.

“Here then is condemned all ambition and that elation of mind which insinuates itself under the name of magnanimity; for the chief virtue of the faithful is moderation, or rather lowliness of mind, which ever prefers to give honor to others, rather than to take it away from them.” (John Calvin commentary)

“set not your mind on high things-do not be haughty in mind (NASV), ‘Don’t become snobbish’ (Phi). Strive not after things that are (too high) be too ambitious (Arndt p. 850) ‘Avoid such things as lead one to flatter the great, to court the rich, and be servile to the mighty.” (McGarvey p. 501)

“Class distinctions, high positions, situations, social eminence, etc..are to be avoided as tending to sever your sympathies, interests and desires from your humble brethren.

“condescend-Associate with (NASV), Accommodate yourself to humble ways, or to people, associate with humble folk. (Arndt p. 784). “Accept humble tasks” (Gspd), “Take a real interest in ordinary people. (Phi)

“The word condescend, would suggest to many today, a patronizing attitude. But the word literally means, a yielding, or being carried away by, being guided or led in the thoughts, feelings, plans, by humble objects. (Whiteside p. 254)

“Some would even suggest, let the lowly take you by the hand (i.e. you can learn much from humble, ordinary folk.)” (Dunagan Commentary)

Do not be wise in your own eyes.

Puffed up, prideful, conceited, full of oneself, boastful, arrogant; these are all words to describe the antithesis of what it is to be Christian. “A conceited, self-promoting Christian is a serious contradiction. Every believer should be humbly submissive to the will of God found in the Word of God, having no confidence in himself or in his own wisdom and talent.” (Mac)

 

In God’s Church there can exist neither social nor intellectual aristocracy. No cults, no cliques, no divisions whatsoever. The poor are seated by the rich, black next to white, Jew worshipping his God with Gentile, simple with wise.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.…(Acts 10:34). God is no respecter of persons. Jew and Gentile became one at the cross: And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. It had been a curtain of separation, but the blood of Jesus struck it down! Every believer is of infinite value to the Lord and should be to each of us as well.

“A church that is seeking to faithfully serve Christ will pursue and eagerly accept all genuine believers into its fellowship and consider them all alike, regardless of superficial human distinctions. The only required common ground should be a saving relationship to Jesus Christ and unqualified submission to the Word of God,” (Mac p. 200).

Pride divides; humility embraces and pulls all believers together as one. Jesus prayed for such unity in His church in His high priestly prayer in John 17: I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me… (John 17:20-21).

Part of the reason that we are to show no partiality, avoid haughtiness and conceited self-promotion, and associate with the humble, is evangelistic: that the world may believe that You sent Me. This is so critically important to our witness and testimony of our changed life in Christ.

On the cross, Jesus’ arms were literally nailed open, but He would not have had it any other way—an open embrace, welcoming whosoever would come to Him. We can do no less for our brethren and for a dying world.

Until next time, peace be unto you in our Savior’s name…mike.

 

 

 

Our Duty to All People, part two; Rom. 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Continuing with Paul’s instructions in chapter 12, we see our close identification with one another in that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Our first reaction to this imperative could be, “Oh, I can do that. It’s got to be easier than blessing my enemies, right?”

Well, the rub comes when someone else, for example, gets the promotion at work we thought we had deserved. Would it be a snap to rejoice with someone who “took your place?” The flesh easily springs up in such circumstances.

“…when another person’s blessing and happiness is at our expense, or when their favorable circumstances or notable accomplishments make ours seem barren and dull, the flesh does not lead us to rejoice but tempts us to resent,” (John MacArthur commentary on Romans, vol. II, p. 197).

A good example in Scripture of this type of resentment is Cain (Gen. 4:3-8), who resented God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering but rejection of his because of disobedience. His envy and jealousy drove him to commit the first murder, that of his own brother. The power of these emotions of jealousy and envy and hatred should be dealt with carefully, like nitro, and given over to the Lord!

The bond of tears,” comments William Barclay, “is the strongest of all. And yet it is much easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice. Long ago Chrysostom wrote on this passage: ‘It requires more of a high Christian temper to rejoice with them that do rejoice than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfils perfectly; and thee is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity; but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem.’ It is, indeed, more difficult to congratulate another on his success, especially if his success involves disappointment to us, than it is to sympathize with his sorrow and his loss. It is only when self is dead that we can take as much joy in the success of others as in our own.” (Barclay Romans Commentary)

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, etc. A general truth is in the third place laid down — that the faithful, regarding each other with mutual affection, are to consider the condition of others as their own. He first specifies two particular things — that they were to ‘rejoice with the joyful, and to weep with the weeping.’ For such is the nature of true love, that one prefers to weep with his brother, rather than to look at a distance on his grief, and to live in pleasure or ease. What is meant then is — that we, as much as possible, ought to sympathize with one another, and that, whatever our lot may be, each should transfer to himself the feeling of another, whether of grief in adversity, or of joy in prosperity. And, doubtless, not to regard with joy the happiness of a brother is envy; and not to grieve for his misfortunes is inhumanity. Let there be such a sympathy among us as may at the same time adapt us to all kinds of feelings” (from Calvin’s Bible Commentary).

Alternately, we must not rejoice in another’s misfortune. Proverbs 17:5 directs: The person who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished. Rather, Mac comments, “It is distinctively Christian to rejoice in the blessings, honor, and welfare of others—especially fellow believers—no matter what may be our personal circumstances,” (p. 197).

“rejoice”-“Share the happiness of those who are happy” (Phi) The Christian should be able to share in both the sorrows and joys of others. Why is it that some Christians can never be happy and others can never be sad? (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

‘Is there anything more refreshing than the absence of jealousy in one who sees the good fortune of another? Our world is so full of envy and the grudging spirit. The world is so full of heartache, broken promises, failures and despairing people. Shouldn’t we be glad when someone wins? Don’t detract from the joy of the occasion by a cross face.’ (McGuiggan p. 372; Dunagan Commentary).

Weep with those who weep.

We believers have a responsibility to others, especially brethren, to be empathetic, sympathetic, and sensitive to their suffering. One of the tenants of the counselling profession is that we should be subjective enough to identify with another’s pain while remaining objective enough to help with the solution, if one is called for.

Many times, identification is the solution. Talk to them, listen to them, reassure them of God’s love for them. Don’t just observe stoically from the outside, but get into the sinking boat with him and bail water.

Mac observes, “Compassion has in the very word the idea of suffering with someone. God is called a compassionate God (Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

“He is so compassionate, so tender toward His people, that His compassions never fail (Lam. 3:22). James speaks of Him as being full of compassion (James 5:11). We see this compassion, sympathy, and tenderheartedness of God in the tears of Jesus over the grave of Lazarus. He mingled His tears with those of Mary and Martha (John 11:35),” (Mac p. 197-198).

Paul directed, So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12).

One of the sweetest verses of Scripture to illuminate this is Psalm 56:8: Put my tears in Thy bottle. God keeps our tears in a bottle, like treasures. “If we are to be like our Father and His Son, we, too, must enter into the sorrows of others,” (Mac p. 193).

One of the most poignant moments in Jesus’ ministry is when He wept over the holy city: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate.…, (Matt. 23:37). It is a call filled with pathos, lament, and almost unbearable pain for His people, who were about to be left desolate because of their unyielding sin.

We are to feel for and identify with the pain of others just that deeply. Filled with His Spirit, we can. We can also rejoice at the good benefit of another, no matter what it may cost us personally. This is what God equips us to do and what we must do.

Until next time, Lord willing, glad tidings to you of exceedingly great joy in the gospel of our God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…mike.

 

Our Duty to All People; part one; Romans 12:14

Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation, (12:14-16).

We will deal in this study with verse 14. We as believers, with the love of Jesus flowing through our spiritual veins, are to bless those who persecute [us]; bless and curse not. As a stone dropped into a still pool creates ever widening ripples, our influence of caring now widens even to the whole world (see John 3:16).

But to actually call down blessing on those who are actively persecuting us is a tall order, not prepared for the faint of heart or wobbling faith. We must be strong in the Lord and the power of His might if we are to have success here.

“The obedient Christian not only must resist hating and retaliating against those who harm him but is commanded to take the additional step of blessing them,” (John MacArthur commentary on Romans, vol. 2, p. 195).

“Bless them which persecute you,…. It is the lot of God’s people in this world to be persecuted by the men of it, in some shape or another, either by words or deeds; either by reviling and reproaching them, and speaking all manner of evil of them; or by hindering them the free exercise of religious worship, by confiscation of their goods, imprisonment of their persons, by violently torturing their bodies, and taking away their lives; under all which circumstances they are taught to bless them; that is, to pray for them, that God would show them their evil, give repentance to them, and the remission of their sins; which is the order Christ gave to his disciples, Matthew 5:44; and encouraged to an observance of, by his own example, Luke 23:34; and has been followed herein by his disciples and apostles, Acts 7:60 1 Corinthians 4:12. Moreover, by “blessing” may be meant, giving them good words, mild and soft answers, “not rendering evil for evil, railing for railing”, 1 Peter 3:9; but, on the contrary, blessing in imitation of Christ, who, “when he was reviled, reviled not again”, 1 Peter 2:23, “bless”,

“and curse not: to have a mouth full of cursing and bitterness, Romans 3:14, is the character of an unregenerate man, and what by no means suits one who names the name of Christ; for blessing and cursing to proceed out of the same mouth, is as absurd and unnatural, as if it should be supposed that a fountain should send forth sweet water and bitter, or salt and fresh, James 3:10. The imprecations upon wicked men, used by David and other good men, are no contradictions to this rule; since they were made under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, and were predictions of God’s vengeance, which in righteous judgment should fall on them, and are not to be drawn into an example by us,” (Gill commentary on Romans).

Of course, this is the very commandment of the Lord: I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, (Luke 6:27-28; cf. Matt. 5:44). This is agape love, the quality of devotion Paul describes in verse 9.

Jesus gives His people further direction in Luke 6:29-30: Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone wo asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back, (Luke 6:29-30).

Jesus goes on with His challenge: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same, (vv. 32-33).

“This level of loving is impossible for any who are not “all in” for Christ. Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings, not curses” (NEB) (Luke 6:28; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). “To curse does not mean to use ordinary profanity; it is a call for calamity to befall a person.” (Whiteside p. 253) Pray for their salvation, instead of their damnation! We don”t need to “call down curses” upon the enemies of Christ, for their own sins already condemn them. Evil is coming upon our persecutors, there is no need to call it down. (Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Our desire should be for the salvation of all. (1 Timothy 2:4; Acts 26:29)

“bless”-i.e. pray for them (Matthew 5:44)

“Don’t tell me we can’t live that way. Tell me we don’t; tell me we won’t; but don’t tell me we can’t…Rees cuts to the bone when he parodies: ‘I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep..just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don”t want enough of him to make me love a black man…I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please.’” (McGuiggan p. 371) (Mark Dunagan, Commentary on the Bible).

William Barclay notes the following: “Paul offers a series of rules and principles wherewith to govern our relationships with our fellow men.

“(i) The Christian must meet persecution with a prayer for those who persecute him. Long ago Plato had said that the good man will choose rather to suffer evil than to do evil; and it is always evil to hate. When the Christian is hurt, and insulted, and maltreated, he has the example of his Master before him, for He, upon his Cross, prayed for forgiveness for those who were killing him.

“There has been no greater force to move men into Christianity than this serene forgiveness which the martyrs in every age have showed. Stephen died praying for forgiveness for those who stoned him to death (Acts 7:60). Among those who killed him was a young man named Saul, who afterwards became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles and the slave of Christ. There can be no doubt that the death scene of Stephen was one of the things that turned Paul to Christ. As Augustine said: “The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen. Many a persecutor has become a follower of the faith he once sought to destroy, because he has seen how a Christian can forgive,” (Barclay Commentary on Romans).

Our supreme example of blessing our persecutors is, as noted above, Jesus Christ Himself. As He lay dying in horrible torment on a cruel wooden cross His thoughts and concerns, as always, were for others. He prayed blessings on the very men who were murdering Him! Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing, (Luke 23:34). Incredible! Agape love in its purest form.

For you have been called for this purpose, Peter wrote many years later, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously, (1 Peter 2:21-23).

The key is there; do you see it? We are to [keep] entrusting [ourselves] to Him who judges righteously. One day God will judge and punish the guilty and work justice for his sons and daughters. If we firmly resolve in our minds and hearts that He will set everything right, our faith not shaken, we can and will follow our Lord’s example, even when surrounded by enemies out for our blood! For us this is not the end, but just the beginning.

Bless and do not curse them.

In 14b Paul wants to make sure we are clear that “true blessing of those who persecute us is comprehensive and permanent. Not only are we to bless them, we are not at all or ever to curse them,” (Mac). MacArthur continues with these observations:

“Because of the general tone of religious freedom in modern western society, physical or political persecution for one’s Christian faith is rare. Our temptations to curse are more likely to be in reaction to hostility that does no life-threatening harm but causes us inconvenience or embarrassment. Some studies have indicated that much high blood pressure and other anxiety-related disease is caused not by serious, long-term problems and life-threatening pressures but by persistent attitudes of resentment and hostility that eat at people who habitually react negatively to unpleasant situations and people. It is often a host of ‘little foxes’ that do the most damage in our spiritual and emotional ‘vineyards’ (Song of Sol. 2:15),” (Mac p. 196-197).

Until next time, blessings to all in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who is the Christ…mike.

 

 

The Resurrection: Our Assurance!

1 Peter 1:”18-19– …knowing  that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Taken from Charles Stanley’s In touch Dailey Devotions, April 16, is the following:

“Despite appearances, it had been no ordinary crucifixion. Passersby may have thought three men were simply paying the penalty for their crimes, but events of cosmic import were taking place: Sin was judged and Satan was defeated. Yet that wasn’t all– the cross was also the scene of the greatest purchase in history. It was there that Jesus Christ shed His blood to pay for the salvation of all mankind.

“This transaction occurred at great cost to the purchaser and great benefit to the purchased– you and me. But you might ask, How can I know God the Father accepted Christ’s blood as an atoning sacrifice for my sin? In other words, How can I be sure that the Savior’s death fully paid the debt I owed?

“The answer lies in the resurrection. Jesus had repeatedly said He would rise from the dead (Matt. 16:21; John 2:19; 10:18), and fulfilling such a prophecy is no small accomplishment. Imagine the reaction of all those who witnessed His cruel death– and then saw Him alive.

“Christ’s return to life was the Father’s way of showing He accepted the offering made on our behalf. It was God’s proclamation to the world that the sin debt has been paid in full– and all who trust in His Son are free forever from the power and penalty of sin. What’s more, the resurrection is our assurance that every promise God has made can be trusted.

“Easter is wonderful news: God has broken the power of sin and death, and all who place faith in Christ will enjoy the Lord’s presence throughout eternity. Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

What a Savior indeed! If He is not yours, claim Him now by faith in His awesome finished work on our behalf…mike.