In December 2022, I wrote about the UK’s 2021 census that revealed we haven’t had such a high number of non-Christians since the Dark Ages.

My post included this tweet:

Since then, the news in Britain seems to be worsening by the day.

Scotland has realised it has a behavioural problem in the classroom. The Times‘s ‘End of school punishments blamed for pupil disorder’ reveals that all hell is breaking loose (emphases mine):

Teachers and parents have become increasingly alarmed by a decline in classroom behaviour since the end of the pandemic — and a method imported from the justice system is being blamed.

Restorative practice, involving “constructive conversations” with unruly youngsters in an attempt to make them understand what they have done wrong, is taking the place of more traditional sanctions such as detentions or withdrawal from activities.

But members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) have unanimously backed a motion that warns the approach is time-consuming and if mishandled can result in “severe damage to teachers’ classroom authority”.

Apparently, teachers are not properly trained in class discipline and even less in ‘restorative practice’. It is amazing that detentions are out of fashion. The article continues:

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said restorative practice seemed to be “flavour of the month” when it came to managing challenging behaviour in schools …

He warned pupils were taken out of class supposedly to have restorative conversations but would then be returned to lessons without the discussion genuinely taking place

“The youngsters in class, they see things black and white, it is either right or it is wrong. There is no half-way. They expect that if a child misbehaves something happens. If they think for one second that so-and-so can get away with that, [then they think] why can’t I do it?”

This is an issue upon which all political parties north of the border agree: something must be done.

These are a few of the things going on.

First, the school bully:

One parent recalled how her six-year-old boy had come home from school and told her: “You will not believe what they have done. The teachers have taken the nastiest, most horrible boy in the class and have put him in charge of looking after the new pupil who started today.”

The manoeuvre had somewhat backfired when the young delinquent began teaching his classmate how to hurl items at other kids.

Teachers thought that by shepherding the new boy, the bully would learn empathy, but the article said that no discussion about that took place.

Secondly, the reward for bad behaviour:

Other parents have described unruly children being rewarded with trips to a local café. A deputy head said one pupil with extreme problems “came into school with fast food”.

The senior teacher explained: “He had been taken out for the day. He went in and rubbed it in the face of every single child around him. It alienated him from other people in the school, it alienated the child from his peers. His teacher was saying: ‘What is going on?’”

I’m not sure what ‘it’ in the second sentence of the previous paragraph means. On first reading, I thought ‘it’ might mean the fast food from the local café. It would not surprise me.

Thirdly, the threat at home:

[A mother, Ms] Green describes her son being involved in a playground tussle started by another boy. They were called inside for a restorative conversation and her son was asked to understand why the boy was having a bad day. “No one asked why my son was upset,” she said.

Two days after the “restorative chat”, she says the aggressor appeared at her house and said to her son “when you are not in school I am going to jump you and kill you”.

The article says that restorative practices are being rolled out in other British nations, which is a pathetic development:

They have crossed to education from the justice system after projects found it could reduce the chance of reoffending if criminals were put in touch with their victims.

Violent incidents are rising in primary (!) schools:

Figures uncovered by the Scottish Liberal Democrats earlier this month show 10,852 incidents of violence were recorded in primary schools in 2021-22 compared with 10,772 in 2018-19. For the secondary sector they have increased from 2951 from 2728.

Good grief. That wouldn’t have happened in my day.

This is another thing that wouldn’t have happened when I was at school:

Refusal to work, mobile phone misuse, disrespect and wandering around are the most common issues reported. Three quarters said they had experienced verbal aggression.

We never thought of ‘wandering around’.

Not surprisingly, students often give the following excuse as the reason for misbehaving:

“because I can!”


“That child will not be short on telling people: ‘nothing happened to me, I have just been put in another room’.”

Furthermore, children will band together to confront a teacher:

Stuart Hunter, president of the SSTA, said he had seen restorative conversations carried out badly. In one situation, he said, two pupils raised a complaint about work they had been set. When the teacher was called into an office for the restorative discussion, she found the girls had friends with them for support. The implication, he says, was the teacher was in the wrong.

Nothing much happens to wrongdoers at all. I didn’t bookmark it, but I recently read that the UK is a criminal’s paradise because the police are so soft.

In fact, whether real or staged, misbehaviour is rewarded. Take the case of Bacari-Bronze O’Garro, 18 and father of one, better known as Mizzy. Within the matter of a month, the Londoner has even been on television being interviewed about his exploits, which, in some cases, were criminal:

In May 2022, O’Garro was given a community protection notice prohibiting him from trespassing on private property.[9] On 24 May 2023, he was fined £200 plus costs and surcharge (£365 in all) after admitting breaching that community protection order on 15 May and was issued with a two-year criminal behaviour order (CBO).[5][10] The next day, O’Garro was interviewed by journalist Piers Morgan on Piers Morgan Uncensored[11] who called him “an idiot” … Former politician and journalist Patrick O’Flynn praised O’Garro’s entrepreneurial spirit, noting his ability to grab the media spotlight and convert it into social media fans.[13]

Remind me not to cite any further articles by Patrick O’Flynn.

At least his TikTok and YouTube accounts, on which his exploits appeared, have been terminated. Social media companies go where police and the justice system fear to tread.

What has Mizzy learned? That criminal acts have propelled him to fame:

Our political class is no better. They would rather ruin the UK than make the necessary effort to restore it to its former greatness. Pictured below are two Labour MPs Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Speaker of the House) and Keir Starmer (Labour leader) with the Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak:

The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs tells us:

There is no delicate way of putting it: the British governing class has completely lost the plot. It would rather risk some kind of economic collapse or populist backlash than actually deal with any of the country’s problems. Bereft of values and captured by institutional pessimism, our politicians are incapable of decisive action. Numbed by groupthink, and poisoned by ever-expanding managerial surveillance and ministerial turf wars, the Civil Service has been rendered inoperable. The British governing machine is broken; we are heading for total systems failure

How did Britain end up like this? Blairite Third Way politics, devoid of principle beyond “capturing the centre ground”, has a lot to answer for. It is hard to imagine a Tory party with a confident philosophy on free markets contemplating price caps; nor a Labour Party committed to a high-wage economy proving so bashful about the country’s addiction to mass migration. Institutionalised back-covering, and a total breakdown in trust between ministers and officials, meanwhile, mean that any policy that is difficult or controversial is increasingly impossible to deliver.

A Ground Zero moment of implosion may now be unavoidable. At that point, we can only hope that at least one of the two major parties rediscovers its core beliefs, and regains the stomach to fight for them. Big messy wars will need to be fought – starting with a breakup of the Treasury, bringing an end to its reign of terror.

For now, though, things look pretty bleak. In complex systems theory, a system becomes pathological when it gets to the point where measures being taken to maintain equilibrium are actually destroying the system. A system is also classed as fatally neurotic when it deems the psychological cost of detaching from the status quo to be too great, even if failure to adapt threatens its own destruction. There is little doubt that the British ruling class strongly exhibits both of these symptoms. And things will get a lot worse before they get better.

Sherelle Jacobs is not wrong.

But — and it’s a big BUT — two glimmers of hope have emerged.

In September 2022, two months before Britain’s post-Christian census figures appeared, The Guardian published ‘”God gives me reason to hope”: why young Britons are turning to prayer’.

Six of the paper’s readers gave their reasons for praying in response to a survey which found:

More young people in the UK are turning to prayer compared with 20 years ago, with one in three 18- to 36-year-olds saying they had prayed within the past month.

… spirituality in its many forms are thought to be behind the increase.

Three of the responses are from Christians. Two of them follow.

A 32-year-old midwife says:

Since getting pregnant, I’ve come back to prayer. I was raised Christian and have come back to it from time to time. But this time things feel different. With the world crumbling, God has given me a reason to hope and see beyond the hopelessness of our current political and financial landscape. It’s quite a scary time to be bringing a baby into the world with all the uncertainty – the financial situation and working out what kind of world he’s going to be born into is quite scary. Prayer has really helped me to take myself out of those world problems and see things in a broader context.

An 18-year-old student explains:

I used to go to church with the Scouts when I was six or seven but it was never regular – I didn’t really understand what was happening when I was that young. I wasn’t brought up in a religious family and I didn’t have a relationship with faith until recently, when I started seeing videos by priests on TikTok. After I saw that and became interested, I could understand it a bit more. I wanted to connect with faith because I wasn’t happy with the way my life was going, and I wanted to be better to other people. Developing my spiritual health has made me feel happier. I pray because it’s a way I can speak to God and give him my worries or concerns. I’m not involved with a particular church – I’m just trying to find my place at the moment.

Even more surprising is that nearly one-third of Britons under the age of 40 believe in the afterlife and hell, compared with 18 per cent between the ages of 60 and 77.

On May 23, 2023, The Guardian reported on these findings from the World Values Study, conducted by King’s College London:

You may think the idea of hellfire belongs to an age when people’s lives were shaped by the threat of eternal damnation.

Wrong, it seems: generation Z and millennials in the UK are significantly more likely to believe in hell than baby boomers, according to a new study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

Younger people are also more likely to believe in life after death than older generations, despite being less religious generally.

The findings are part of the World Values Study, one of the largest academic social surveys in the world, which has been running for more than 40 years.

According to its data, just under half (49%) of Britons said they believed in God, down from 75% in 1981. Only five countries – Norway, South Korea, Japan, Sweden and China – are less likely to believe in God than the UK. The Philippines topped the league table [in religious belief], scoring 100%.

Good for the Philippines!

Here are the stats on heaven, hell and the afterlife:

Belief in heaven among the UK public has also fallen, from 57% in 1981 to 41% last year. But belief in hell and in life after death has remained largely consistent, at 26% and 46% respectively.

When broken down by age, 32% of those under the age of about 40 said they believed in hell, compared with 18% of those aged between 59 and 77. Belief in life after death was 51-53% for younger generations, compared with 35-39% for older people.

“Our cultural attachment to organised religion has continued to decline in the UK – but our belief that there is something beyond this life is holding strong, including among the youngest generations,” said Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute.

“While the youngest generations continue to have lower attachment to formal religion, many of them have similar or even greater need to believe that there is ‘more than this’.”

The article has international graphs to explore, which are fascinating.

Also of interest is that Britons have a newly increased confidence in religious institutions:

Another unexpected finding is that confidence in religious institutions had rebounded. Between 1981 and 2018, Britons’ confidence in churches and religious organisations fell from 49% to 31%, but by 2022 had risen again to 42%.

A possible explanation is the provision by churches and other religious institutions of essential social services such as food banks, social hubs, warm spots and debt counselling as the cost of living crisis has escalated.

Duffy said religious belief in the UK was unlikely to disappear, but would keep eroding. “It looks like a slow but inevitable decline, unless organised religions can engage with that broader sense of wanting something else beyond this life,” he said.

One week after this article appeared, the rector of St Bartholomew’s in London, the Revd Marcus Walker, posted a series of adverts from the Episcopal Church in the United States, which seem to come from the 1980s. I don’t remember these at all. I would have, too, had I seen them, as I had become an Episcopalian during that decade.

These are really powerful, especially the one about Holy Communion:

As Jesus said (John 6:47-48):

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.

Everyone responding to Marcus Walker was surprised:

Someone from the Church of England should ask for permission to repurpose these. In Scotland, they could use the text as it is, because the denomination is known as The Episcopal Church there and it’s not doing well.

If not, something similar can be done throughout the UK.

Let’s go, clergy. What are we waiting for? Carpe diem!


John F MacArthurIn His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said (Matthew 6:21):

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So many Westerners have been troubled, particularly since the pandemic and its lockdowns, that we have a near emergency with regard to mental health in people of all ages.

Of course, these days, therapy and counselling are seen to be the obvious and only solutions.

However, as with so many things in life, we can help ourselves a bit first.

As my regular readers know, I enjoy scriptural serendipity, by which I mean running across similar Bible verses and commentaries within 24 hours.

On Saturday, June 3, I posted my exegesis on the Gospel for Trinity Sunday (Year A), Matthew 28:16-20. While that post has to do with the Great Commission, John MacArthur encourages people to explore their hearts when they say they cannot afford to give to their church.

In his 1985 sermon on the subject, ‘The Making Disciples of All Nations, Part 1’, he cites a personal friend of his, Sam Erickson, who often receives requests for counselling. Let’s see how he handles those requests, beginning with MacArthur’s introduction about financing churches and missionaries (emphases mine):

I mean, there are people who will spend thousands of dollars to travel halfway around the world to shop, and wouldn’t spend half that much to send around the world to reach somebody with the gospel

… We are crippled by the indulgent mentality of a self-centered society into which most Christians have bought. And instead of thinking, “How can I sell my house and get a smaller one, take my equity, and invest it in the winning of souls?” we’re thinking, “How can I get more money in my house, and get a bigger one?” I mean, that’s just so basic. But it’s frightening. Sam Erickson suggested to me that maybe the Lord hasn’t given us more money is because we’re such poor stewards of what He’s given us already.

I mean, where – where are we really setting the priorities? Sam was sharing with me that he has a technique that he always uses when people want counseling. He says people will call him and say, “Well, I have a spiritual problem, I have a burden; I want to talk to you” – he’s an elder in his church, chairman of the elders. And he says, “I always tell them the same thing. ‘I’ll be happy to talk with you. Bring your checkbook.’” And people will say, “My checkbook?” “Yes, your checkbook. I want to go over your checkbook with you first, before we talk about anything else.”

Well, the standard answer is, “Why do you want to do that?” And his answer is, “I want to see where your heart is, because Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.’” I don’t think he does a lot of counseling. Where’s your heart? You want to know where your heart is? Look at your checkbook, look around your house. People think that they need to store up all their money for the future, they need to lay it all away, you know, build up all their assets, make all their investments, hoard all they possibly can, with the goal in mind of security in the future.

That is Satan’s lie to this generation of Christians. Now, I’m not saying you should be foolish. What I am saying is, there’s a world to be won for Christ, and who cares how comfortable it is for us? Misplaced priorities. Now, after you’re done checking through your checkbook, check through your calendar, and find out where you’re spending your time, and what occupies your mind.

These days, few people write cheques.

Therefore, those seeking therapy or counselling should first look at their credit card statements, their bank statements, the websites and apps they frequent — in addition to their calendars, as suggested above.

Sam Erickson showed up indirectly in another MacArthur sermon, one from 1987 — ‘The Danger in Loving Money’ — that I used to write my June 4 exegesis on 1 Timothy 6:6-10, which is about seeking godliness with contentment and ends with a warning about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evils:

In terms of what the Bible has to say about this matter of loving money, the Scripture is replete with injunctions against loving money of one kind or another. Perhaps the most telling statement in all of Scripture related to money are the words of our Lord, “Where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.” To put that into common language, show me where your money is and I’ll show you where your affections lie. To make it even more mundane, go through your checkbook and find out what you really care about. Your spiritual life can be measured probably better by what you do with your money than any other single thing. Experts tell us that the average person thinks about money 50 percent of his or her waking time. Amazing isn’t it? How to get it, how to keep it, how to save it, how to spend it, how to find it, whatever it might be, we’re tremendously occupied with the matter of money.

Jesus, in saying where your treasure is there your heart is also, tells us that what we do with our money is the measure of our hearts.

There was for centuries a well known saying, one I have not heard in a long time:

You are what you read.

Those seeking counselling should also examine their reading matter, because that will play a part in what dominates their thoughts. Similarly, online videos, boxed sets and popular films.

Many things in this world can trouble our minds and souls. Let us look for the roots of the problem and try to eradicate those first.

Although I am not a qualified counsellor and admit that some people do need some sort of professional therapy, in many cases, we can take those first steps ourselves by eliminating harmful influences from our lives.

If therapy is the only answer, it might result in fewer sessions because, by being honest with ourselves in the first instance, we will be able to present a clearer picture to the professional we pay for help.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, especially when money is tight.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.


Last week’s post discussed what false teachers do in their pride and arrogance: bringing about quarrels and fomenting discord.

Indeed, the churches in Ephesus and neighbouring towns had dangerous false teachers which had risen in their midst.

They also had people who were focussed on greed rather than contentment.

John MacArthur says:

Paul is correcting issues in the church at Ephesus where Timothy is now laboring. So when he brings up a subject, it is a subject that is being abused in the life of the church.

Paul tells Timothy that there is great gain to be had in godliness with contentment (verse 6).

Matthew Henry’s commentary gives us this interpretation (emphases mine):

if a man have but a little in this world, yet, if he have but enough to carry him through it, he needs desire no more, his godliness with that will be his great gain. For a little which a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked, Ps 37 16. We read it, godliness with contentment; godliness is itself great gain, it is profitable to all things; and, wherever there is true godliness, there will be contentment; but those have arrived at the highest pitch of contentment with their godliness are certainly the easiest happiest people in this world. Godliness with contentment, that is, Christian contentment (content must come from principles of godliness) is great gain; it is all the wealth in the world. He that is godly is sure to be happy in another world; and if withal he do by contentment accommodate himself to his condition in this world he has enough. Here we have, [1.] A Christian’s gain; it is godliness with contentment, this is the true way to gain, yea, it is gain itself. [2.] A Christian’s gain is great: it is not like the little gain of worldlings, who are so fond of a little worldly advantage. [3.] Godliness is ever accompanied with contentment in a great or less degree; all truly godly people have learned with Paul, in whatever state they are, to be therewith content, Phil 4 11. They are content with what God allots for them, well knowing that this is best for them. Let us all then endeavour after godliness with contentment.

MacArthur explains why Paul includes that thought in his letter to Timothy:

Well, Paul had just in verse 5 been talking about false teachers who are motivated by gain. He said they suppose that their kind of godliness, which is a fake godliness, is going to bring them material gain. That’s their motive. And then he transitions and says, “Well, godliness with contentment,” verse 6, “is great gain.” In other words, when I say that the false teacher who supposes that his godliness will bring gain is wrong, I don’t mean that true godliness isn’t great gain because it is. And that’s the transition and so he takes off in verse 6 to talk about it in a general sense and goes right on down to verse 10 to warn us all about the danger of loving money.

The false teachers and their inordinate love for money trigger the subject in a general sense from verses 6 to 10.

MacArthur says that even the great pagan thinkers of the day understood the value of contentment:

What is godliness? That’s that very familiar word used in the pastorals, eusebeia. It means reverence, piety, godliness, all those good things that I like to think of as God-likeness. Where there is true God-likeness with contentment, there is great gain. Now if all you want is money, you’ll never have that, because you’ll never be content. The genuine great gain comes from true godliness which is inseparably linked to contentment. The word autarkeias means self-sufficiency. It was used by the cynics and the stoics to speak of self-mastery, the person who was unflappable, the person who was not moved by circumstance, the person who lived immune to external distraction, oblivious to outside troubles, the person who had that most noble of human virtues, the ability not to control his environment but to properly react to it. That’s that idea of that word. It basically means to be sufficient, to seek nothing more, to be content with what you have. And it is a noble human trait, but Paul takes it further and takes that concept and that word and sanctifies it

The Greek philosopher Epicurus said “The secret of contentment is not to add to a man’s possessions but to take away from his desires.” That’s the issue. He is most rich who desires least. Right? You are rich when you are content. That’s riches. You have enough. Paul says it’s irrelevant to me. I know how to be abounding, that is to have an abundance; I know how to be abased, that is to have less than an abundance; I know how to be full; I know how to be empty; I know how to be rich and poor; and I don’t really care either way, because I am content to be in the will of God.

MacArthur refers to Matthew 6 in his sermon. These are our Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount which are relevant:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.[f]

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Paul reminds Timothy that we came into this world with nothing and we cannot take anything out of it (verse 7).

This is the King James Version, which puts it better:

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

The addition of ‘it is certain’ adds more emphasis.

Paul says that, if we have food and clothing, we will — should — be content (verse 8).

Of these two verses, Henry says:

We had our beings, our bodies, our lives (which are more than meat, and which are more than raiment), when we came into the world, though we came naked, and brought nothing with us; may we not then be content while our beings and lives are continued to us, though we have not every thing we would have? We brought nothing with us into this world, and yet God provided for us, care was taken of us, we have been fed all our lives long unto this day; and therefore, when we are reduced to the greatest straits, we cannot be poorer than when we came into this world, and yet then we were provided for; therefore let us trust in God for the remaining part of our pilgrimageA shroud, a coffin, and a grave, are all that the richest man in the world can have from his thousands. Therefore why should we covet much? Why should we not be content with a little, because, how much soever we have, we must leave it behind us? Eccl 5 15, 16.

Both commentators cite Proverbs 30:8, which are sometimes said to be Agur‘s because he compiled the wise sayings of Solomon that comprise Proverbs 30.

Henry says:

Observe, If God give us the necessary supports of life, we ought to be content therewith, though we have not the ornaments and delights of it. If nature should be content with a little, grace should be content with less; though we have not dainty food, though we have not costly raiment, if we have but food and raiment convenient for us we ought to be content. This was Agur’s prayer: Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, Prov 30 8.

MacArthur says:

Proverbs 30 verse 8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is my portion.” Give me exactly what You and Your sovereignty desire me to have. I don’t want too much; I don’t want too little. If I have too much I might be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I had too little, I might be in want and steal and profane the name of my God. So God, don’t give me too much and don’t give me too little. Give me what You want me to have with a contented heart. That’s riches. That’s riches. That’s the kind of godliness that makes a person rich because it produces satisfaction. True godliness and true gain is unrelated to how much you have. It is only related to how much you want. And if you are content with what God gives, you’re rich – you’re rich.

He cites a Spanish proverb about exiting this mortal coil:

Not one thing did you bring in and not one thing will you take out. As a friend of mine says, “You have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” The Spanish proverb of past years was, “There are no pockets in a shroud.” Material possessions are bound by time and space.

He explains why Paul and Jesus say not to be anxious about material things, including money:

It obscures the simplicity of life. Verse 8 he says, “Having food and clothes” – and it’s possible the word for clothes could also embrace the idea of shelter. The word can refer to that. So if we take it in the broadest sense, having nourishment, clothing, shelter, the basic necessities of life – “let us be therewith satisfied.” Same word in the verb form used in verse 6. In other words, we need to be satisfied with the simplicity of life. Boy, life gets so complex. And the more money you have the more complex it gets. Right? And the less you can enjoy it because you sit around worrying all the time about what you’re going to do with all this money. Or you spend all your time racing around like a maniac from one place to another buying stuff you don’t need, stacking it on shelves and hang it in closets, putting it in the garage. It’s absolutely unbelievable how much we have that is useless. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t take us anywhere. It doesn’t provide anything. It’s just something to have. And it really is a barometer on the condition of the heart in so many cases.

Having enough money and possessions isn’t bad in itself, it’s our attitude towards both that is the issue.

MacArthur tells us:

it’s not that Paul’s condemning having possessions, he’s condemning the desire that rises out of discontent.

Nearly 40 years on from the time that MacArthur preached this sermon in 1987, Western society is stuck in the same rut. Add omnipresent mobile phones to the mix, and we are even worse off:

What we’ve done with all of our money is replace people with things, replace conversation with entertainment. And we have lost a tremendous dimension of the simplicity of life, the simple joys.

And somewhere in the back of all of our minds there’s this secret longing to go out in the woods, right, and just pack our little group and stay there. And what we’re saying is there is something wonderful about simplicity, about talking to people in your familypulling the earphones off the head of your teenager saying, “Speak, child, speak.” You know, move your lips in meaningful words. When is the last time you just sat down and thanked God for a simple meal. You can hardly even come up to thanking God for your meal because you’re so over indulged. Right? That’s a real loss, a real loss to lose that sense of thankfulness. So much is lost when we lose the simplicity of life. It’s a wistful thing to think about but I think most of us would long to go back to a simple kind of life, and take away a lot of the junk that’s cluttered up our world.

The substance of Christian experience should be relationships. My time in relationship to God, my time in relationship to people I love and family and friends, but that gets all clouded because the world goes so fast and pulls at me so strongly and demands that I purchase all the goodies that it drags by and somehow life gets so confused. Instead of being able to enjoy life, I’m trying to figure out how I can make my checks stretch to pay the bills for the stuff I can’t stand. But I bought it and so my whole demeanor and attitude is depressed because I’m in debt. You can see the compounding of all these – the loss of simple joys. Is it any wonder Jesus reduced it all to a very simple thing?

In Matthew 6 [Jesus] said, look, this is the way to live, a very simple way to live. “You can’t serve God and money,” He says in verse 24. So make your choice, “And don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat, what you drink or your body, what you’ll wear.” And then He talks about how He takes care of the birds and the lilies and all of this, and He says you’re certainly worth more than all of these things. Your Father knows you have need. And then verse 33, “Seek first” – what? – “the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” If we could just get to the place where our whole consuming passion and affection is directed toward heaven, toward God, toward the kingdom, toward the work of the Lord and just pour all of our energy and all of our resources into that, that brings back that simple joy. The simplicity of life is to accept what God gives, not be covetous. Seek Him and His glory and not consume oneself with complexities that are not necessary, that just steal joy away.

Dining out too often is another problem as is not being able to enjoy a proper home life:

I have seen people who spend their money to eat. They go out and eat and they eat and they eat out and that becomes their fancy. And they literally cannot after a period of time eat at home. They’re controlled by this overpowering trap to go out and waste money eating, eating, eating, eating. And much of our eating today has little to do with food and a whole lot to do with entertainment and environment. I have seen people who are captive to the most bizarre and strange kind of sins. People who find it almost impossible to stay at home in the evening and have conversation with their family. They’re so compelled all the time to be moving around in the fast pace environment of the world they can’t sit still anymore. They become entrapped in that materialistic pursuit that basically is almost irrational.

Paul tells Timothy that those who desire to be rich — note, he does not say ‘those who are rich’ — fall into temptation, a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (verse 9).

Again, I prefer the KJV because it has the word ‘perdition’:

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

Henry gives us this analysis:

It is not said, those that are rich, but those that will be rich, that is, that place their happiness in worldly wealth, that covet it inordinately, and are eager and violent in the pursuit of it. Those that are such fall into temptation and a snare, unavoidably; for, when the devil sees which way their lusts carry them, he will soon bait his hook accordingly …

(1.) The apostle supposes that, [1.] Some will be rich; that is, they are resolved upon it, nothing short of a great abundance will satisfy. [2.] Such will not be safe nor innocent, for they will be in danger of ruining themselves for ever; they fall into temptation, and a snare, etc. [3.] Worldly lusts are foolish and hurtful, for they drown men in destruction and perdition. [4.] It is good for us to consider the mischievousness of worldly fleshly lusts. They are foolish, and therefore we should be ashamed of them, hurtful, and therefore we should be afraid of them, especially considering to what degree they are hurtful, for they drown men in destruction and perdition.

MacArthur has more:

verse 9, money love is dangerous not only because of its nature, that is what inherent to it, but because of its effects – what it does to you. And again there are three things that I would draw to your attention. First of all, in verse 9, it leads to sinful entrapment. Verse 9, “But they that will be rich” – they that purpose to be rich. That they decide to be rich – boulomai. They that have a settled rational desire to be rich out of their mind, not out of their emotions, but they have decided they’re going to pursue it. To put it another way, they that are greedy. To put it another way, they that love money. They that approach life that way – “are falling” – present tense – “into temptation” – it’s kind of an over and over situation – “and a snare.” They’re continually in the process of falling into all kinds of sins that trap them – that trap them …

The greedy person is tempted initially to reach out for what he wants. He reaches out, steps into the trap, is caught in the trap of sin. That trap then begins to make a victim out of that person.

We know people like that. I think about the people who are now joining Gamblers Anonymous. They wanted money. And they started to gamble for money and it became so compulsive that it literally controls their life. I just read the article about that quarterback from Ohio State named Art Schlichter who totally destroyed his football career and his life by being unable to control the love of money and the tremendous compulsion to gamble. What happens with the love of money is you love it so much something allures you, you reach for that something, and you’re trapped in some complex situation. You become a victim of it. It’s a trap. And Satan sets the trap and holds you in it as long as he possibly can

And then secondly, not only does it lead to sinful entrapment, but it succumbs to harmful desires. Verse 9 he says, “And they also are falling into many foolish and harmful desires.” You get involved in the love of money and not only will you be trapped, but you’ll be controlled by your passion, controlled by your desire. He calls them foolish – epithumia – foolish evil impulses in the sense that they’re irrational. Here is this person like an animal caught in a trap thrashing all over the place trying to get free, totally irrational, moral sense is blurred, and the burning desire for self-fulfillment and more money, a senseless non-rational illogical animalistic kind of conduct. They become victims of their own lust. And James says in [Chapter] 4, you desire – [Chapter] 4 verse 1 and 2 – you desire to have and you can’t obtain, so you kill. You lust and you want; you can’t get, so you make war. In other words, all the violence that comes when your passions are restrained by circumstances.

So he says first of all the love of money is dangerous for the obvious reason that it takes you into a sinful trap and secondly that once you’re trapped in there you become a victim of illogical irrational animalistic desires which bring you harm. They are harmful – blaberos. It means injurious. You hurt yourself – the opposite of true happiness. Chasing money is not the way to happiness. It’s the way to being trapped in sin and being a victim of your lusts and a victim of your desires and totally a victim of these evil habits that control you. So loving money leads to sin. It leads to entrapment. It leads to control by lust that is irrational and only brings self-inflicted harm.

Then MacArthur comes to destruction and perdition:

And then the final effect, he says in verse 9, “Which drown men in destruction and perdition.” These lusts, these evil impulses ultimately drown men in judgment. The word drown means just that, to submerge, to drag to the bottom like a sunken ship. The picture is not of a partial devastation; it’s of a total devastation. That’s why he chose the word. They just go out of sight; they’re just gone. The word destruction – olethros – is used very often of the body, the destruction of the body, although it can also be used in a general sense of destruction as it is in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. The word perdition is used, I think, most times of the destruction of the soul. It’s used, for example, of the place where the false prophet and the beast are cast in Revelation 17:8. The hell of hells where souls go who do not know God. And what he’s saying is, if we can put those two together and make a little bit of a distinction, we can say that there’s a total devastation of body and soul, total judgment. The combination here has the sense at least of complete eternal irreversible loss. Love of money damns people. It plunges them into an ocean of eternal destruction. It totally destroys their life.

Paul ends this section by saying that the love of money — note, not money itself, but coveting it — is the root of all kinds of evils; it is through that craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (verse 10).

For most of us, the KJV will resonate more:

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Henry gives us another version of Paul’s verse — some people love money so much they will give up their faith for it, in vain:

What sins will not men be drawn to by the love of money? Particularly this was at the bottom of the apostasy of many from the faith of Christ; while they coveted money, they erred from the faith, they quitted their Christianity, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Observe, [1.] What is the root of all evil; the love of money: people may have money, and yet not love it; but, if they love it inordinately, it will push them on to all evil. [2.] Covetous persons will quit the faith, if that be the way to get money: Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith. Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, 2 Tim 4 10. For the world was dearer to him than Christianity. Observe, Those that err from the faith pierce themselves with many sorrows; those that depart from God do but treasure up sorrows for themselves.

MacArthur gives us an example of such a covetous person, one who ended up committing suicide:

Who does he have in mind? Who are the some who did this? Well, I can think of one, he’s not named but he must have been in the thought of Paul. His name was – what? Judas, who having loved money erred from the faith. In proximity to Jesus Christ, one of His disciples, and yet he chose, over the Son of God, 30 pieces of silver – inconceivable stupidity. You think that was rational? You think it was smart to choose 30 pieces of silver over against the God of the universe?

… Certainly Judas was dissatisfied, grieving, disillusioned with a condemning conscience and an unfulfilled heart when he went out an hanged himself. He pierced himself through, believe me, with many, many griefs, and he will be pierced with them forever and ever in hell. That’s no way to live. So Paul says this is something that’s already been out there for you to see, some have tried to live after the love of money, they have erred from the true faith and they have literally skewered their souls forever.

MacArthur offers the following valuable advice, both materially and spiritually:

Now let me ask you a practical question at this point, see if we can’t make it practical in terms of application. How can you be content with the simplicity of life and stop desiring more things? How do you put an end to this? How do you put the brakes on? We are really moving fast, and we’re being blasted by all this media stuff to buy into everything. How do you stop it? Let me give you some principles that I’ve tried to apply in my own life. One, consciously realize that the Lord is the owner of everything you have. Consciously realize that the Lord is the owner of everything you have. So when you go to buy something ask yourself this, does the Lord need this? Does the Lord want this? Is this going to serve Him better? Is this going to bring Him glory? Is this going to enable His kingdom to advance? He is the conscious owner of everything I possess. So whatever is my desire, is this going to fit with His? Is this going to make my ministry more effective? Is this going to enable me to accomplish what I need to accomplish? Is this going to be able to be used as a way to show love to other people? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. He is consciously the owner of everything I possess. That helps me in the decision process.

Secondly, cultivate a thankful heart. Cultivate a thankful heart. Whatever you have, whatever you don’t have, be thankful. Which is to say I recognize, God, that Your providence has put me exactly where I am with what I have and what I don’t have and I want You to know I’m really grateful. I’m really grateful. Thirdly, discern your needs from your wants. Discern your needs from your wants and be honest about that. If you just start asking yourself that. That will be a tremendous controlling factor on your next trip to the mall. What do you need? Tremendous, tremendously simple question that could put a tremendous amount of money into the kingdom of the Lord.

Another one, don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him, and that’s kind of what we said originally. Don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him. So you ask yourself, how will this enhance my ability to serve God? Another question that you want to ask yourself, am I spending less than I make? Please spend less than you make. You would be staggered to find out what a high percentage of people in America regularly spend more than they make and are in debt that they’ll never get out of in their life time. They’re total prisoners. They have no ability to be at all in charge of their resources. Spend less than you make; save what’s left. Save what’s left for some purpose which God may put upon your heart.

Consciously transfer the ownership of everything you have to Him; cultivate a thankful heart; discern your needs from your wants; don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him; spend less than you make; save what’s left and give sacrificially to the Lord. Give sacrificially to the Lord. That should be your highest joy. You should be coming in here so anxious for the offering that you can hardly stand it, just so that you have the privilege of giving to God. Laying up treasure in heaven for the work of the kingdom.

And things like this, practical little things like this, if you can get them working in your mind are going to prevent your life from becoming a complex struggle over money. The joy of life is not what you have. Listen, the joy of life is your relationships; it’s who you know and who you love. Just compare when you lose someone you love, you would have gladly traded everything or maybe – anything or everything, I should say, for the person you lost because people are so much more valuable. I think Jesus, when He speaks of the true riches, has in mind people. If you can’t handle money, why would He give you the true riches, He says. So the nature of money love makes it dangerous because it ignores the true gain, it focuses on the temporal, and it obscures the simplicity of life, the simple joys of being content with whatever you have and building your life around relationships and honoring God rather than the complexity of attaining riches.

In the verses that follow, Paul reminds Timothy of his sacred calling, the ministry.

Next time — 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Trinity Sunday is June 4, 2023.

Readings for Year A and additional resources for this important feast day can be found here.

The icon on the left was painted by St Andrei Rublev. It is a rare Eastern Orthodox depiction of the Holy Trinity, using three angels to symbolise the Triune God. St Andrei used ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’ as his theme.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Today’s reading is the Great Commission, recorded most fully in Matthew’s Gospel. These are the closing verses to his book. Some translations end it with the word ‘Amen’. Matthew’s objective was to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, and many Jewish people, having read it, have become Christians as a result.

A number of Christians believe that there should be no missionaries, because missionaries ‘force’ people to adopt Christianity and give up their own cultural norms. Objecting Christians believe that is wrong. Ironically, Africa is where the Church is strongest today: something for the objectors to ponder.

Today’s verses show that bringing fallen men and women to believe in Him is what Christ expects of all of us, no matter where we live.

John MacArthur elaborates on the Christian’s — and the Church’s — purpose:

Beloved, we have no different mission in the world than the incarnate Jesus Christ had: to fulfill the heart of God in winning the lost. That is our mission. To glorify God by bringing salvation to lost men and women.

… if fellowship was our purpose, God would have taken us to heaven. Teaching? If our purpose is that we may know doctrine and know knowledge, the best thing God could do is take us immediately to heaven, where we would know as we are known instantaneously, and all teaching ceases, because everybody knows everything they need to know. No. If the purpose of the church was teaching, we’d be gone. Well, what about praise? If God wanted perfect praise out of His church, He’d take them to heaven, too, because that’s where perfect praise occurs …

The point is this – and I want you to get it: there is only one reason we are here, and one reason alone, and that is that we may seek and save those who are lost. It is as the Father sent the Son that the Son sends us. If the Father wanted fellowship with the Son, He would have kept Him in heaven. If the Father wanted perfect knowledge with the Son, He would have kept Him in heaven. If the Father wanted the perfect praise that was His, He would have kept Him in heaven. He wouldn’t need to send Him to earth.

But if the Father wanted to redeem fallen men, He had to send Him to this earth. That’s the only reason we’re here. There is no other reason. Now, I hope that simplifies it for you. That’s it. So, when you evaluate your Christian commitment, and you evaluate how you’re using your life, ask yourself one question: am I involved in winning lost men and women to Jesus Christ? Is that where my time, and energy, and effort, and talent, and money is going, to do that? That’s the only reason you’re here.

So, unless you’re committed to the fact that we are here for the responsibility of winning a lost world to Jesus Christ, then you better reexamine why you are existing. Fellowship, teaching, praise, are not the mission of the church; they’re part of the preparation and the training for the mission. I mean, a great athlete does a lot of things in training, but the training is not to be confused with the competing and the winning. It is not to be confused with running the race. All the exercise and preparation you go through in your education is not to be confused with succeeding in your profession.

Furthermore, our heart must be in the right place, focussed on Christ — all the time:

The whole heart set on Christ; the whole affection set on Christ; the whole mind set on Christ. All the goals are set on Christ. He is all in all. He fills our thought and our intention, and we spend our days and our nights thinking not how can we make it better for ourselves, but how can we exalt His blessed name. Not how can we be more comfortable as Christians, but how can we win the lost no matter how discomforting it is to us. So, where’s your focus? Are you available? Are you a worshiper?

And by that I don’t mean stained glass windows and organ music and show up on Sunday. What I mean is that you focus your whole intent and purpose in life on Christ. I mean, it’s basic. It means being controlled by the Holy Spirit, who is the only one who can cause you to call Jesus Lord, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says. My life is controlled by the Spirit; all my assets, all my possessions, all my time, all my energy, all my talent, all my gifts. It not only means I’m controlled by the Spirit, but it means I’m centered on the Word, because the Word is where Christ is seen.

The Christ-centered life, the worshiping life, is a life that is yielded to the Spirit of God, and it is centered on the Word of God, and consequently, it is cleansed from sin. “Search me, O God, and know me: try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” says Psalm 139:23 and 24.

In this regard, MacArthur gives an example of how a pastor of his acquaintance answers requests for counselling. This was back in 1985, so feel free to substitute ‘credit card statement’ for ‘chequebook’ below:

Sam Erickson suggested to me that maybe the Lord hasn’t given us more money is because we’re such poor stewards of what He’s given us already.

I mean, where – where are we really setting the priorities? Sam was sharing with me that he has a technique that he always uses when people want counseling. He says people will call him and say, “Well, I have a spiritual problem, I have a burden; I want to talk to you” – he’s an elder in his church, chairman of the elders. And he says, “I always tell them the same thing. ‘I’ll be happy to talk with you. Bring your checkbook.’” And people will say, “My checkbook?” “Yes, your checkbook. I want to go over your checkbook with you first, before we talk about anything else.”

Well, the standard answer is, “Why do you want to do that?” And his answer is, “I want to see where your heart is, because Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.’” I don’t think he does a lot of counseling. Where’s your heart? You want to know where your heart is? Look at your checkbook, look around your house. People think that they need to store up all their money for the future, they need to lay it all away, you know, build up all their assets, make all their investments, hoard all they possibly can, with the goal in mind of security in the future.

That is Satan’s lie to this generation of Christians. Now, I’m not saying you should be foolish. What I am saying is, there’s a world to be won for Christ, and who cares how comfortable it is for us? Misplaced priorities. Now, after you’re done checking through your checkbook, check through your calendar, and find out where you’re spending your time, and what occupies your mind. Well, we’re great at fellowship; fellowship stimulates us. We’re great at teaching; teaching sort of entertains us, and assists us in growth. And we’re great at praise that gives expression.

But we’re sure not so good at sacrificial living, or sacrificial giving to reach the lost. And, friends, I’m trying to say what Jesus said, and what the Scripture indicates, is that that’s the only reason we’re here; every other purpose could be better accomplished in heaven. Now, we’ve got to come to grips with this. The sad part is most Christians are content with the trivia of this life, to amass the junk of this life, to pad their own case, fill up their lives with all the accessories they can possibly enjoy, while the world is going to hell and we’re not there to reach them

Now, what is necessary for effective evangelism? If we’re going to make disciples of all nations, if we’re going to reach the world, what is necessary? First, what I’ve given you in this introduction must be understood. But now, I want you to look at five explicit or implicit elements

These are in the text of Matthew 28:16 to 20, and they are those things which are essential to effective fulfillment of the purpose for which the church exists: availability, worship, submission, obedience, and power

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them (verse 16).

MacArthur continues on his theme:

availability. This is implied in verse 16, in a very, very wonderful way. By the way, someone once said, “The greatest ability is availability.” I like that. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you’re not available. The greatest ability is availability, and we see that here.

There’s going to be a great commissioning on this day, and there are going to be people sent out into all the world with the promise of the presence and the power of the living Christ. But if you weren’t there, you weren’t going to be a part of that. The ones who were available were the ones who received the privilege.

Matthew Henry’s commentary discusses the journey from Jerusalem, where the Apostles and our Lord’s female disciples had been, to Galilee. It was a lengthy journey to make:

This evangelist passes over several other appearances of Christ, recorded by Luke and John, and hastens to this, which was of all other the most solemn, as being promised and appointed again and again before his death, and after his resurrection. Observe,

I. How the disciples attended his appearance, according to the appointment (v. 16); They went into Galilee, a long journey to go for one sight of Christ, but it was worth while. They had seen him several times at Jerusalem, and yet they went into Galilee, to see him there.

1. Because he appointed them to do so. Though it seemed a needless thing to go into Galilee, to see him whom they might see at Jerusalem, especially when they must so soon come back again to Jerusalem, before his ascension, yet they had learned to obey Christ’s commands and not object against them. Note, Those who would maintain communion with Christ, must attend him there where he has appointed. Those who have met him in one ordinance, must attend him in another; those who have seen him at Jerusalem, must go to Galilee.

2. Because that was to be a public and general meeting. They had seen him themselves, and conversed with him in private, but that should not excuse their attendance in a solemn assembly, where many were to be gathered together to see him. Note, Our communion with God in secret must not supersede our attendance on public worship, as we have opportunity; for God loves the gates of Zion, and so must we. The place was a mountain in Galilee, probably the same mountain on which he was transfigured. There they met, for privacy, and perhaps to signify the exalted state into which he was entered, and his advances toward the upper world.

MacArthur runs through the timeline between the Last Supper and this journey to Galilee:

Back in chapter 26, verse 32, He said, “When I’m raised from the dead, I’ll go before you into Galilee.” After He was raised from the dead – notice verse 7 of chapter 28 – the angel said to the women, “He goes before you into Galilee: there you will see Him.” When Jesus appeared to those same women, later on in verse 10, Jesus said to them, “Go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”

In other words, before and after the resurrection, Jesus said He would meet with His disciples in Galilee. He was calling together a great conclave there, for the purpose of commissioning them to reach the world. They were told, then, before His death and after His resurrection, that they were to be there. And no doubt, the word spread beyond the disciples to all the others who believed in Jesus Christ, and they were all gathered, as we shall see, on that mountain on that appointed day.

Now, we have no specific knowledge as to how Jesus communicated to them the time and the place, what day and what mountain. We don’t know. It just says here that they went away into Galilee, into the mountain, the Greek text says, the specific mountain, which Jesus had Himself appointed; the verb form indicating there that it was by His own discretion and His own will that He appointed a certain mountain to meet them. We don’t know how that message was conveyed to them, but it was.

Now, when did this happen? Obviously, it was after His resurrection. Obviously, the day of His resurrection, He met the women, He went on the road to Emmaus, saw a couple of other disciples, saw the disciples that night in the upper room, saw them eight days later again in the upper room, so it would be at least after that eighth day. Then, after that eighth day when the disciples had seen Him, they would need a certain amount of time to journey north into Galilee, maybe a week. When they come into Galilee, in John 21, we see them fishing, and it seems that they’d actually gone back to their old profession.

They were in a boat that may well have been Peter’s own boat, as if he were taking up his old trade, not really knowing what to expect in the future from the Lord, even though he had been told to go to Galilee and wait for the Lord to come. So, the disciples had time to go back, to sort of reestablish their fishing enterprise. They were down there in the boat. You remember Jesus came. They couldn’t catch anything. Jesus showed them that He had control over the fish. Called them to the shore, asked Peter if he loved Him three times, then commissioned them to serve and feed His sheep.

So, the Lord has had all of these several meetings: the first eight days in Jerusalem, maybe a week to go north – that would put it, maybe, at 15 days. Maybe three or four days to sort of settle into the fishing – maybe it’s 20 days later, by the time this happens. Now, we know, in Acts 1:3, it says that Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days, so it’s somewhere between 20 days, maybe, and 40 days that this occurs. It wouldn’t be at the end of the 40, because the last appearance was at the Mount of Olives, where He ascended, and the Mount of Olives is outside Jerusalem.

They would have had to have another few days to get back there. So maybe somewhere between 20 and 35 days after His resurrection, but still with time to return to Galilee and to see Him ascend, Jesus then calls together this group of people for this very special commissioning. Now, you say, “What group of people is this, specifically?” I believe it is the group of people indicated in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 6 and 7, where it says 500-plus brethren saw Him at one time.

Here is the gathering in Galilee with the 500 plus; that has been the consistent view of biblical teachers throughout the years, and I see that as being very accurate. Now, it only tells us in verse 16 that the eleven disciples were there, because, of course, they were central to the issue. They used to be called the twelve, but with the defection, apostasy, and death of Judas, who went to his own place, as Acts 1:25 says, they were now reduced to eleven, and they become known as the eleven.

But this sighting of Jesus here was not limited to them, because in chapter 28, verse 7, the angel said to the women, “He goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see Him. Lo, I have told you.” So, it was for the eleven, it was for the women, and presumably, it was for all the other believers and disciples in Galilee, who were to be commissioned for this responsibility of reaching the world. The 500 at one time who saw Him, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 7.

There’s no reason for Jesus to go all the way to Galilee to have a meeting with just the eleven disciples. He had met them twice in Jerusalem. If He wanted another meeting with them, He could have done it. The command here given, to go and make disciples of all nations, doesn’t know any hierarchy. That’s a command given to everybody, whether you’re an apostle or not. It fits all of those who love and follow Jesus Christ. And certainly, our Lord would have wanted to give this commission to the largest group possible.

And the largest group possible would be the 500 gathered in Galilee, because there were so many more believers in Galilee than in Jerusalem. You say, “How do you know that?” Because in Acts chapter 1, verse 15, when the believers in Jerusalem met to wait for the Holy Spirit, there were only 120 of them in the upper room. The number of disciples in Jerusalem was much smaller; the hostility was much greater, and the dominance of Christ’s ministry had occurred in Galilee, where the hearts were more open.

He came, in Matthew 4, as a light to the Gentiles, to the Galilean area known as Galilee of the Gentiles. He came to that region first of all to present His message, and so, the bulk of believers were there. Also, Galilee would be a fitting place, not only because of the number of believers, but because of the seclusion of it, away from the hostility of Jerusalem. And because there could be so easily found a place where they could have privacy, on the many hillsides around the sea. So, it provided the largest group of disciples, the greatest seclusion, the greatest safety.

And the right setting – because it was a place where many nations lived surrounding it – the right setting to tell people to go to reach all those nations with the gospel. And so, the eleven are there, and I believe the women were there, and I believe all the rest of the disciples of Jesus who believed in Him in the Galilee region were there, also. And they were in the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. We don’t know what mountain it was. It may have been the Mount of Transfiguration, it may have been that the mount of glory became the mount of resurrection, and the mount of commissioning.

It may have been the mount where He taught the Sermon on the Mount. It may have been the mountain where He fed the crowd, or the mountain that He went to so often to pray. Could have been any mountain. We really don’t know. But it becomes a sacred mountain because of what happens here, as over 500 of them, with all their weaknesses, and confusion, and doubts, and misgivings, and fears, and questions, and bewilderments, are gathered together. They’re not the greatest people in the world, they’re not the most capable, or the most brilliant; they’re not the most experienced; but they are there, and that is to be commended.

They are available. And that’s what I love about this verse. That means ready for service. Everything at this point focuses on the fact that they were there. Jesus said, “Be there,” and they were there. They’re reminiscent of the availability of Isaiah, who after the vision of God, in chapter 6, verses 1 to 7, says, “Here am I, Lord; send me. I may not be the best – I’m a man with a dirty mouth – but I don’t see anybody else volunteering I think Your choices are limited. Here am I, send me.”

When the assembled saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted (verse 17).

Henry explains the doubt on the part of some:

Now was the time that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, 1 Cor 15 6. Some think that they saw him, at first, at some distance, above in the air, ephthe epanoHe was seen above, of five hundred brethren (so they read it); which gave occasion to some to doubt, till he came nearer (v. 18), and then they were satisfied.

MacArthur has more on the worship and the doubt:

There’s a second principle that I just want to mention – it doesn’t need to be elucidated at great length – and that is the attitude of worship that we see in verse 17. The first prerequisite or element in fulfilling this commission to make disciples is to be available; the second is to worship. And this is a question of focus; it’s a question of focus. It says in verse 17 – and this is absolutely marvelous, the way this verse appears – “And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him: but some doubted.”

I love that. I think that’s so honest. “And when they saw Him” – He appeared, all of a sudden, in the supernatural way in which He could transfer Himself from one place to another. He appeared, and in an instant, everyone saw Him in that supernatural appearance, and it created an instantly overwhelming effect, and they worshiped Him – proskuneō, to prostrate oneself in adoring worship. The risen Christ commanded their worship. They weren’t worshiping Him as some human dignitary, they weren’t worshiping Him as some earthly king.

They were worshiping Him as God, for it had been affirmed that He was indeed God, the Son of God. Even in His death, did not the centurion say, “Truly, this was the Son of God?” Did not Thomas say, “My Lord and My God,” as recorded in the twentieth chapter of John? This is more than homage to an earthly king. This is honor for God Himself in human flesh. They fall in adoring worship. They had worshiped once earlier; it’s referred to one other time that the disciples actually worshiped Him.

Remember that the people in Galilee had not seen Jesus in His post-resurrection glorified body. Combine that with the distance that some were from Him when He appeared, and you would have doubt:

He is risen from the dead. Not only is He a miracle worker, but He is the One who has conquered death, and they have seen Him, and touched Him. Chapter 28, verse 9, the women held His feet, and the disciples touched His body, and He was with them. He went out of the grave, right through the stone, He came in the room, right through the wall.

And yet He was able to be touched, and they knew they were dealing with a divine, glorious, supernatural person. And so, when He appeared, they worshiped Him. And then, I love this note: “But some doubted.” You say, “Matthew, you shouldn’t put that in there. We’re trying to make a case for the validity of the resurrection; why would you do that?” And that, again, is a reminder to us of the transparent honesty of the biblical writer, who is not trying to contrive a believable story by reporting it in a selective way.

He’s not collecting evidence that’s only going to make his case. The integrity of this is a great proof of the truthfulness of it. If men were trying to falsify and contrive a message about a resurrection, they wouldn’t throw in the very climactic point but some doubted unless it was true. And it was true, so it’s included; and that’s the integrity of Scripture. And we ask ourselves, first of all, “What kind of doubt was this?” Well, some suggest that the doubters were the eleven, because it says, “some doubted,” and the some must go back to verse 16, the eleven disciples who were there.

Well, it possibly could be that some doubted. It doesn’t say that some doubted that Jesus was alive, or that they doubted that He was raised from the dead. The indication is when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted that it was Him. It wasn’t so much necessarily a question of the resurrection issue, but the doubt was that this was really Him. That could have happened among the disciples. Some of them may not have been able to clearly see His face.

Some of them, because He was appearing now in resurrection glory, and maybe revealing Himself in a way different than they had seen Him in the upper room, were really unable to be certain, and some of them were a little bit more hesitant to affirm this until they had surer evidence. But on the other hand, if the women were there, and including – included a group of, say, 489 plus the eleven, it could have been any of them. And keep this in mind – apart from the women and the disciples, none of those other people had ever seen Him after His resurrection.

So, this is the first time for them. So, we’re not surprised that now they’re going to have an experience they’ve never had. There’s a group that’s so large, 500 people, that not everybody’s going to be in the front of the group. Christ appears to them. They’re not sure that it’s Him. Maybe some of the disciples are not quite sure yet.

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (verse 18).

The first important word in addressing the doubt is ‘came’ or, in other translations, ‘came nearer’. Everyone could see Him.

MacArthur says:

You say, “Well, how could they not be sure if He was there in their presence?” The answer comes in a very wonderful way at the beginning of verse 18, and it says, “And Jesus” – aorist active participle – “came nearer,” or approaching.

Which indicates to us the probable cause for their doubt, that Jesus in His appearance appeared at a distance. And it wasn’t until He came near them and began to speak that those who doubted would have their doubt erased. So, the doubts possibly could have come from those who were disciples, but as yet could not be sure that this was Jesus, because He was afar off. Or it could have come from those who had never ever seen Him in resurrection glory, and it wasn’t for them either until He was near that they could identify Him as the one they knew to be Jesus Christ.

But it’s so lovely, and so beautiful, that the writer includes this, because it’s so natural, and it’s so true, and it’s so uncontrived, and it’s such a convincing indicator of the validity of the scene itself. So, at first they doubted, but as He came near, all doubt was dispelled. Doubting the Son of God and worshiping the Son of God is mentioned in the same breath on one other incident that I mentioned earlier, in Matthew 14, when Jesus walked on the water, and seen at a distance, they doubted. When He came near, they believed, and they worshiped.

Henry points out our Lord’s understanding of their doubt:

Though there were those that doubted, yet, he did not therefore reject them; for he will not break the bruised reed. He did not stand at a distance, but came near, and gave them such convincing proofs of his resurrection, as turned the wavering scale, and made their faith to triumph over their doubts. He came, and spoke familiarly to them, as one friend speaks to another, that they might be fully satisfied in the commission he was about to give them.

Looking at our Lord’s statement about His authority over everything in heaven and on earth, MacArthur brings in the third element of evangelism:

It is not only an available heart, it is a worshiping heart. And then thirdly – and this is where we come to our lesson today – the third element of fulfilling the great commission we see in the passage is submission; submission. In verse 18, our Lord, when He does come near, speaks, and says, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” And He makes a statement, frankly, that staggers my thoughts, and it reaches far beyond my ability to conceive or articulate. He is making a claim to consummate sovereign authority.

He has all authority. Now the word authority is the word exousia. It basically is a word that means privilege or right or power or authority. Essentially, you could define it as the freedom to do whatever you wish. It is freedom without limitation. Jesus Christ, with all authority, is free to do what He wants, when He wants, where He wants, with what He wants, to whomever He wants. It is absolute freedom of choice and action. That’s the essence of sovereign authority.

It is useful to think of this authority when we are asked to do something for our own church. Do we say ‘no’ for whatever reason and risk our Lord asking at His Second Coming why we refused? Or do we accept that lay ministry — whatever it is, even cleaning the church or the church kitchen — without reservation? That’s something to think about.

Henry elaborates on the source and power of Christ’s authority:

… here he tells us, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; a very great word, and which none but he could say. Hereby he asserts his universal dominion as Mediator, which is the great foundation of the Christian religion. He has all power. Observe, (1.) Whence he hath this power. He did not assume it, or usurp it, but it was given him, he was legally entitled to it, and invested in it, by a grant from him who is the Fountain of all being, and consequently of all power. God set him King (Ps 2 6), inaugurated and enthroned him, Luke 1 32. As God, equal with the Father, all power was originally and essentially his; but as Mediator, as God-man, all power was given him; partly in recompence of his work (because he humbled himself, therefore God thus exalted him), and partly in pursuance of his design; he had this power given him over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as were given him (John 17 2), for the more effectual carrying on and completing our salvation. This power he was now more signally invested in, upon his resurrection, Acts 13 3. He had power before, power to forgive sins (ch. 9 6); but now all power is given him. He is now going to receive for himself a kingdom (Luke 19 12), to sit down at the right hand, Ps 110 1. Having purchased it, nothing remains but to take possession; it is his own for ever. (2.) Where he has this power; in heaven and earth, comprehending the universe. Christ is the sole universal Monarch, he is Lord of all, Acts 10 36. He has all power in heaven. He has power of dominion over the angels, they are all his humble servants, Eph 1 20, 21. He has power of intercession with his Father, in the virtue of his satisfaction and atonement; he intercedes, not as a suppliant, but as a demandant; Father, I will. He has all power on earth too; having prevailed with God, by the sacrifice of atonement, he prevails with men, and deals with them as one having authority, by the ministry of reconciliation. He is indeed, in all causes and over all persons, supreme Moderator and Governor. By him kings reign. All souls are his, and to him every heart and knee must bow, and every tongue confess him to be the Lord. This our Lord Jesus tells them, not only to satisfy them of the authority he had to commission them, and to bring them out in the execution of their commission, but to take off the offence of the cross; they had no reason to be ashamed of Christ crucified, when they saw him thus glorified.

Then Jesus announced His Great Commission: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (verse 19).

The next time someone says there should be no missionaries, remind them of that verse. Christ calls all believers to be missionaries, in whatever way we can. We might not be the ones doing the baptising, but we can lead people to that great sacrament, which brings us into communion with the Holy Trinity, the Triune Godhead we honour this particular Sunday.

Henry explains the manner in which Christ gave that command:

Go ye therefore. This commission is given, (1.) To the apostles primarily, the chief ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom, the architects that laid the foundation of the church. Now those that had followed Christ in the regeneration, were set on thrones (Luke 22 30); Go ye. It is not only a word of command, like that, Son, go work, but a word of encouragement, Go, and fear not, have I not sent you? Go, and make a business of this work. They must not take state, and issue out summons to the nations to attend upon them; but they must go, and bring the gospel to their doors, Go ye. They had doted on Christ’s bodily presence, and hung upon that, and built all their joys and hopes upon that; but now Christ discharges them from further attendance on his person, and sends them abroad about other work. As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, to excite them to fly (Deut 32 11), so Christ stirs up his disciples, to disperse themselves over all the world. (2.) It is given to their successors, the ministers of the gospel, whose business it is to transmit the gospel from age to age, to the end of the world in time, as it was theirs to transmit it from nation to nation, to the end of the world in place, and no less necessary.

MacArthur explains how we should receive the Great Commission:

His terms are He is Savior and Lord, and He calls for submission. His word and His commands are absolute. And that’s why in verse 19 it says, “Therefore.” Therefore – what do you mean, therefore? “Since I’m in charge, you are to do this. Make disciples of all nations.” Why? “Because I am in charge, and I say to do that.” There’s got to be a submissive spirit. And when you look for someone that you want to invest your life into, when I look for someone that I want to invest my life in, that I feel has spiritual potential, I look for someone with a submissive spirit.

Someone who is – to put it in another term – teachable. He is the sovereign Lord. This isn’t negotiable. The great commission, the mission of the church, then, is predicated on three attitudes: the attitude of availability, the attitude of worship, and the attitude of submission. Now, listen to me. Those three attitudes indicate a God-centered preoccupation of the heart. They indicate a Godward focus, that my heart is set toward God, that there is a willing, devoted heart. I love in the Old Testament, when it talks about a willing heart.

Exodus 25, Exodus 35, Judges 5, Judges 8, Nehemiah 11, Esther – or Ezra 1, Ezra 3 verse 5, other places. It talks about “the people had a willing heart, the people had a willing heart.” That’s the kind of heart you see here, a willing heart, available; a worshiping heart, a submissive heart, to do what He says. And that’s – that’s the antithesis of being caught up in the inane trivia of our modern world; of spending our lives, and our time, and our talent, and our energy, and our money, and our resources, on ourselves.

So, you look at your own life, and if you’re not desirous of fulfilling the great commission, it isn’t that you need a zap from God, and it isn’t that you need some direct place to go, it is that you need to look to the attitude of your heart, and ask, are you available? Am I really available? Am I really worshiping? Do I have a single focus in my life? Am I submissive, so that when I find a command of God, I eagerly obey it? Now, those are three foundational attitudes. He has all authority, and if He has all authority, that means He has authority that extends to everything …

And here, in verse 19, is where we have the command, “make disciples of all nations,” and it calls for obedience. How are you doing that? How are you doing that? How are you making disciples of the people around you? The people around the world? How are you doing it? Or are you doing it? It may seem to you unnatural or impossible, as it must have to them, but it was commanded.

He tells you how to do it, right here in verse 19, with three participles. The main verb is “making disciples of all nations.” The three participles are going, baptizing, teaching. That’s how you do it. Going, baptizing, teaching; that’s how you make a disciple. It isn’t just that they should believe, it is that they should believe and be taught.

It isn’t just that they are taught, it also encompasses their act of faith, which is symbolized in baptism. And neither of those can take place until you go to those people. The commission of the church is not to wait until the world shows up. The commission of the church is to go to the world, to go to them. Now let’s talk about that first participle, going, poreuthentes. Actually, in the Greek, it could be translated better having gone; having gone. It isn’t a command, go ye; that’s not a command in the Greek.

In the Authorized, they put it in the imperative mode, but in the Greek, it’s an assumption, having gone. I mean, it’s basic that if you’re going to make disciples of all nations, you’ve got to have gone; having gone is assumed.

MacArthur discusses baptism:

The first essential element of making disciples, then, is to go

The second element, the second participle that modifies the main verb, is baptizing – “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptizō, a familiar term, means to immerse in water, to dip in water, and our Lord is saying, “When you go, you are to be baptizing.” Now, what import does this have? Why does He stress this? Because baptism was the outward sign of an inward act of faith in Christ. Baptism was synonymous with salvation, though baptism in no way saved.

It was the outward visible symbol of what had been done in the heart. And it was an overt act of obedience, by which a person could demonstrate the reality of the miracle of salvation. There’s no way that you can see someone being saved. I have never seen a salvation, have you? I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t be able to see it; it’s a supernatural spiritual transaction. I have never seen a salvation. All I have ever seen is the fruit of one, true? All I have ever seen is the result of one. And if I don’t see the result, then I have to question whether there was a salvation.

And in the early church, it was essential that salvation be demonstrated by the fruit of obedience, and that initial fruit of obedience was baptism, by which an individual testified to their union in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, so beautifully symbolized in immersion. Now, the baptism of John the Baptist was different; it was a baptism of repentance, of a people repenting of their sin, to purify themselves inwardly, and show it. They were – show it by their outward baptism, to ready themselves for Messiah.

Jesus also baptized. John, of course, his baptism described in Matthew 3, Jesus’ baptism described in John 4:1 and 2. Jesus baptized, and it was also an outward symbol of a desire for a purified heart. But here is a new kind of baptism. For the first time, since Jesus died and rose again by now, people can be baptized as a demonstration of their identity with Christ in His death and resurrection

Baptism, then, was commanded as we see here, and that’s why it was done. Jesus said, “Baptize them.” Now, when you get into the book of Acts, and people are converted, and you see them being baptized, you know why. Because they were obedient to a command. Those who put their faith in Christ were to be baptized, but the command here is for those who preach the gospel to baptize, which means that in giving the gospel, beloved, we are to tell people that it is not just something you believe, and that’s it.

It is something you believe, and publicly confess in this act of baptism. And when you find someone who is reluctant to do that, you may have reason to question the genuineness of their faith, for Jesus said, “Him that confesses Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven.” This is public confession. No one is saved by baptism itself. Water can’t save you. Any religious rite or act is impotent to save you. But this is an act of obedience. This is a symbol. And that is why the Scripture so repeatedly emphasizes baptism.

When you come to Christ, confess Him as Lord and Savior, believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and demonstrate that in an act of obedient baptism, you are a disciple

MacArthur then discusses the baptismal formula that Christ gave versus others in the New Testament and says that even the others are valid:

Now, would you notice that He says baptism is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?

First of all, I need to say that that is not necessarily a formula for baptism; that’s a common way, and we often use that in our baptisms, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And it’s a beautiful way to do that. There are, however, several occasions in the book of Acts where people are baptized in the name of the Lord, baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is no baptism in the book of Acts in which this formula is ever used. It only appears here.

Every baptism specifically where any formula is given, or any statement is made as to who the baptism is in or into, is the Lord, the Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ. Now, we conclude from that, then, really, that there’s no binding formula. People want to make a big case out of that, but there’s really no binding formula. To baptize someone in the name of Jesus Christ is simply to baptize them, sort of demonstrating and portraying and picturing their union with Jesus Christ, and that’s wonderful; and that says plenty.

Here, we just have the fullest statement possible. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, shows not only their union with Christ, but their unity with the whole Godhead. It’s a fuller, and richer, and more comprehensive statement. But, in no way should we construe that it is some kind of absolutely necessary formula, since there are other statements made in the book of Acts. The wonderful thing we do want to note, though, in the book of Acts, is that they were obedient to this, and everywhere the gospel was preached and everywhere people believed, people were being baptized.

Acts 2:41, Acts 8:38, Acts 9:18, the tenth chapter of Acts with Cornelius, verse 48, the sixteenth chapter of Acts, verse 33, the Philippian jailer and his family. You come into Acts 18:8, Acts 19:5, the followers of John the Baptist, over in Acts 22, I think around verse 10, baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, always going on, always going on. And so, we’re not looking at some kind of ceremonial rite, in which conversion takes place by water, and there’s some special formula you have to say.

It’s just that our Lord has given us the richest possible statement of the comprehensive union that occurs when a saint comes to faith in Jesus Christ. We are one with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; marvelous thought. That’s a great statement, also, because Christ puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the trinity, and those people who want to say that Jesus never claimed to be God have got some problems in that verse. He puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the trinity.

It’s a great verse, also, to prove the trinity. All three persons are there. And would you please notice this: it doesn’t say, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit,” nor does it say, “In the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” It is one name with three persons, the mystery of the trinity. The name means all that a person is and does, all that is bound up in that name. The name means all that God is as a trinity, all that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are.

We are baptized in. And the word eis could mean into, it could mean unto, it could mean in. It’s just the idea that when we are baptized, we come into a union with the trinity through Jesus Christ. And as I said before, it symbolizes His death and resurrection. We have a full union with Jesus Christ. What a wonderful, glorious thought. And not only with Him, but with the Father, and with the Son, as well. Now, the point is this: becoming a disciple happens at salvation, and involves a full union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is a transforming reality demonstrated by the beautiful ceremony of baptism.

Jesus ended by saying that the people gathered with Him were to teach others to obey everything that He commanded them, adding (verse 20), ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

That applies to us also, as MacArthur explains:

What are we called to do, then? While we’re going, or already having gone, we are to be bringing men to the Savior, baptizing them as an outward testimony of this inward union. And then, would you notice verse 20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” It’s not only a converting ministry that we’re called to, but it’s a teaching ministry. Now, we have to follow up that new convert, who is now desirous of being obedient, and therefore desirous of learning what it is he is or she is to obey, by teaching all things – the whole counsel of God, in terms of Acts 20:27.

Oh, that’s such a marvelous thing. We’re to teach them all things the Lord has commanded, lifelong; lifelong commitment to obedience. I love that. You see, being a disciple is a question of obeying commands. You can’t be a disciple of Christ without an obedient heart. You can’t be a disciple of Christ without a desire to follow Him as your Lord. That’s the whole point of the rich young ruler, when He said to him, you know, “Take all you have, sell it, and give the money to the poor, and follow Me,” and the guy went away, and said, “Forget it. You’re not in charge of my life.” He couldn’t be converted.

Coming to Christ is saying, “You are in charge of my life. I submit. I want to be obedient.” And so, He says to those people gathered there, “You teach them all the things whatsoever I have commanded you.” And He’d commanded them a lot. And some of them would write it down. John 14:26, He told them, “I’ll send you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said.” And the Bible writers wrote it down. The Spirit of God gave it to all of us. We have the commands of Christ. We have the words of Christ. We have the teaching that He gave.

And that is what we are to teach other people. We are to teach them all of it; all of it. I love that. All things. There are not options. There – there’s just a great, grand host of teachings, to which we must submit. There’s no true discipleship apart from personal faith in Christ, and there’s no true discipleship apart from the desire for an obedient heart. That’s why the Bible talks about the obedience of faith. That’s why it says, in Hebrews 5:9, that the only people who really are people who have been redeemed – Hebrews 5:9 – the only ones whom Christ has really transformed – and I think this is so clear – it says, “are all them that obey Him.”

We find the specifics in the books following the Gospels. Some are difficult teachings to obey, especially in today’s world, which gets more bizarre by the day in distancing itself from biblical truth. Believers are called to be Christlike, to reject the world, to become dead to sin rather than dead in it. That comes from knowing Scripture, praying for more faith and grace and submitting to our Lord’s will for our lives.

May all reading this have a blessed Trinity Sunday.

One year ago today saw the beginning of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

As she was in such poor health, she was only able to make balcony appearances at Buckingham Palace.

However, she was with us in spirit.

Christian faith

One of the events was a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Queen was a woman of faith. It seemed that, as she grew older, she gave us more religious reflections in her Christmas addresses.

On March 1, 2016, six weeks before her 90th birthday, Fox News reported on the foreword to a book about her (emphases mine):

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II reflects on Jesus’ central role in her life in a new book ahead of her 90th birthday, calling Christ “the King she serves” in the title.

“I have been — and remain — very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love,” the British monarch writes in the foreword to The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, which is to be released in April.

“I have indeed seen His faithfulness,” she adds.

Thousands of churches will reportedly be giving away copies of the book, which is being published by HOPE, Bible Society and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, according to the Church of England.

“As I’ve been writing this book and talking about it to friends, to family who don’t know Jesus, to my Jewish barber, I’ve been struck how very interested they are to discover more about the Queen’s faith,” said Mark Greene, executive director of LICC, who is the co-author of the book.

“The Queen has served us all her adult life, with amazing consistency of character, concern for others and a clear dependence on Christ. The more I’ve read what she’s written and talked to people who know her, the clearer that is,” he added.

The following year, one of her chaplains, the Rt Revd Gavin Ashenden, felt pressure from Buckingham Palace to resign. He went further and, in 2019, left Anglicanism for the Catholic Church.

On December 16, 2019, Church Militant reported:

An internationally renowned Anglican bishop and former chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is leaving the Anglican Church to become a Catholic.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden will be received into full communion by Shrewsbury’s Bp. Mark Davies on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Shrewsbury Cathedral, England.

The outspoken prelate became a global media celebrity after he objected to the reading of the Koran at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Koranic chapter on Mary, read from the lectern at the service of Holy Communion, on the Feast of the Epiphany 2017, explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus.

Under pressure from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Ashenden resigned his royal chaplaincy in order to be free to challenge the rising tide of apostasy in the Church of England.

Later that year, Ashenden was consecrated a missionary bishop to the United Kingdom and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church to provide episcopal cover to traditionalist Anglicans leaving the Church of England

Ashenden explained to Church Militant that for some time he believed he had “the advantage of working out his faith in a broad church as an Anglican,” until Anglicanism capitulated “to the increasingly intense and non-negotiaible demands of a secular culture.”

“I watched as the Church of England suffered a collapse of inner integrity as it swallowed wholesale secular society’s descent into a post-Christian culture,” he noted

Did Ashenden’s comments about the reading at the cathedral in Glasgow reach the Queen? How much influence did she have on the decision or did the prelate in charge of the Royal chaplaincy more or less make the decision himself with just a nod from her? We’ll never know.

Ill health

Returning to the Queen’s faith, the UK was shocked when Her Majesty missed the 2016 Christmas Day service at Sandringham because of ill health. On January 3, 2017, ITV reported:

The Queen’s health continues to generate headlines all over the world as she still has not been seen in public since getting a heavy cold.

But Buckingham Palace says she is continuing to recuperate and is dealing daily with documents she receives from the government.

The Queen was last seen on our televisions in a pre-recorded speech on Christmas Day.

But it was her non-appearance at church that day that sent shockwaves throughout the world.

It is thought to be the first time in 28 years that the Queen had missed the Christmas Day service at Sandringham.

Four days after Christmas a fake BBC Twitter account sent alarm bells ringing with the false report that the Queen had died.

But when the Queen did not show up at the New Year’s Day service either – fears grew despite Princess Anne telling well-wishers her mother was feeling better.

Visitors at Sandringham today were pleased the 90-year-old monarch is resting up. But it is likely the world will remain anxious until the Queen appears in public again, looking hale and hearty.

In 2022, in the run-up to the Platinum Jubilee, the Queen had not been seen in public since a Women’s Institute engagement near Sandringham in February and May, when she opened the Elizabeth Line in London.

Before then, on May 11, her absence prompted Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror‘s associate editor, to say on GB News that her ‘royal perks’ should be removed. Dan Wootton and Calvin Robinson, who hadn’t yet been ordained, reacted most strongly:

A lot of people, as can be seen from the reactions to the following tweet, did not understand why GB News was asking the question Maguire was to answer that evening:

When asked what he had ever done for his country, Maguire pompously replied, ‘I do my duty talking to people like you’. I rather like the reply about removing salary and perks from Northern Ireland’s MLAs who refuse to meet at Stormont. They had been out for a three-year period not so long ago, then reconvened, then dissolved again over Brexit-related issues. It’s no big deal for MLAs, because they get paid salary and expenses (for what?):

Christmas broadcasts

Millions of people tuned in at 3 p.m. on Christmas Day in the UK to watch the Queen’s pre-recorded addresses to the nation. My far better half and I missed only one; we were out of the country at the time.

Millions more tuned in from Commonwealth countries where her Christmas messages were also broadcast.

A selection of these messages follows. Faith features in many of them.

In 1960, she opened by greeting the Commonwealth and sending good wishes from herself and her family for Christmas and the New Year. She expressed her gratitude for all the letters and telegrams that she received from people all over the Commonwealth on the birth of her second son (Andrew). Those messages ‘made me feel very close to all the family groups throughout the Commonwealth’. She was looking forward to visiting India and Pakistan then Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia in 1961. Then she said that 1960 was a year of less than pleasant events, although she mentioned no specifics. She said that we can influence the world through our personal behaviour, clinging ‘most strongly to all those principles we hold to be right and good’. Only that could ‘halt and reverse a growing tendency towards violence and disintegration’. She said that one sign of good news was the way in which Nigeria achieved independence that year, and she was happy that it remained part of the Commonwealth. She was also happy about the growing co-operation among those countries. There was no religious message that year:

Her 1975 address is just as relevant today as it was nearly 50 years ago. At the 1:30 mark, she spoke of people being ‘dominated by great impersonal forces beyond our control, the scale of things and organisations seem to get bigger and more inhuman’ and of inflation, ‘the frightening sickness of our world today’. She then spoke of the happiness of Christmas and our Lord’s life on earth, saying that His love and example has ‘made an enormous difference to the lives of people who have come to understand His teaching’. She added, ‘His simple message of love has been turning the world upside down ever since’. She then examined His commandment to love one another as we love ourselves, saying, ‘It is a matter of making the best of ourselves, not just doing the best for ourselves’ and ‘If we do this well, it will also be good for our neighbours’. She added, ‘Kindness, sympathy, resolution and courteous behaviour are infectious’. That year’s theme — terrorism — came at the end. The point was that, together, we can ‘defeat the evils of our time’:

1997’s was very newsy and began with Westminster Abbey, where she and Prince Philip celebrated their golden anniversary. Princess Diana’s funeral took place there, too. Windsor Castle was ready to reopen after the devastating fire from 1992. She welcomed her dear friend Nelson Mandela to the Palace. She spoke about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that year. Wales and Scotland were preparing for devolution. Unity and kindness were big themes near the end. She ended by saying that St Paul spoke of the first Christmas as the kindness of God dawning upon the world (8:26). The world needs that kindness now more than ever, the kindness and consideration of others. She said it was important for people to show ‘kindness and respect for one another’. She added that Christmas is a reminder that God is with us today, but, as she had discovered that year, He is always present in the kindness and love from our friends and family:

Her 2015 message topped the television ratings for Christmas Day. The Telegraph reported:

The Queen’s speech topped the Christmas Day television ratings, as nearly 7.5 million viewers tuned in to watch her festive broadcast across the BBC and ITV.

The message, in which Her Majesty reflected on atrocities across the world in 2015, was watched by 6.1m people on the BBC and 1.3m on ITV.

The last ever episode of Downton Abbey drew the highest viewing figures of any single programme, with an audience of 6.9m.

The ITV show, in which much-loved characters got their happy endings, attracted a 30% share of all viewers last night.

In 2017, she said (6:27) that it was Jesus Christ’s love and selfless example that has influenced her own life of service:

In her last address — 2021, the year of Prince Philip’s death — she said that the teachings of Jesus Christ had formed the bedrock of her faith. She added that His birth meant a new beginning for the world, citing the carol, ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight’ (6:15):


In March 2022, a small piece of needlework went up for auction.

Princess Elizabeth stitched it when she was only five years old. The Mail has a photo of the postcard-sized embroidery sampler. The precision stitching is remarkable for a small child:

A delightful embroidered card made by the Queen as a child is tipped to fetch £5,000 at auction. 

The then five-year-old Princess Elizabeth painstakingly stitched an image of a baby in a green and pink pram to give to royal physician Sir Frederick Still in 1932. 

She also signed her name ‘Lilibet’ on a letter thanking Sir Frederick for her ‘new dolly with a squeak in the tummy’. 

The little princess’s stitching was far better than her handwriting.

The article continues:

The deeply personal items are part of a collection of royal memorabilia that will go under the hammer at David Lay & FRICS in Penzance, Cornwall, on Thursday.  

It also includes letters sent to Sir David by the Queen Mother, who built up a close relationship with the physician during his years in service to the Royal Family. 

Among the most touching is a letter dated December 26, 1930 that was dictated by the then four-year-old Princess Elizabeth to her mother. 

It reads: ‘Dear Doctor Still. I loved my dolly that had a squeak in her tummy. Thank you for my lovely dolly, and we laughed at the squeak so much. Did you have a nice Christmas? From Lilibet.’

The young princess signed her own name and her mother added the postscript: ‘A dictated letter!’

In 1927 the Queen Mother wrote to Sir David to thank him for looking after Princess Elizabeth while she joined King George VI, then the Duke of York, on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, leaving her young daughter at home …

Dr Still, who died in 1941, worked at Guy’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Evelina Hospital of Sick Children. 

The Londoner, often referred to as the ‘father of British paediatrics’, rose from humble beginnings to become Physician to the Royal Household and was knighted in 1937.

No doubt patience developed from an early age served the Queen well during her time as an Army mechanic during the Second World War:


The Queen had not only patience but also perseverance.

Both were put to the test in 1992, which she famously described as her ‘annus horribilis’.

Royal biographer and Mail columnist Robert Hardman covered the events of 1992 in his book Queen Of Our Times: The Life Of Elizabeth II which appeared in March 2022:

It was a bold assignment. On the morning of October 22, 1992, the Royal car pulled up outside the Kreuzkirche church in Dresden, to be greeted by an uncomfortable silence. Next came a few boos. Then came the first egg

… strong emotions were in play as the Queen embarked on her 1992 state visit to Germany. It was her first since the fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification and the collapse of Communism across Eastern Europe. Hence her visit to Dresden.

However, Her Majesty managed to turn around the mood:

Her speech at the German president’s banquet touched millions, as she proclaimed: ‘The Iron Curtain melted in the heat of the people’s will for freedom’ …

That a trip of this sensitivity and magnitude should have barely registered in British minds at the time – or since – is testimony to the relentless and enduring awfulness of 1992.

In terms of their scale, suddenness and variety, the calamities which befell the Monarch in the course of that dismal year still seem incredible.

Her problems began in January, which cast a pall over any celebrations for her 40th year on the throne:

In a memo to the Prime Minister, John Major’s private secretary, Andrew Turnbull, added a handwritten note: ‘Prime Minister to be aware of the Queen’s attitude to her 40th anniversary.’

Just two ideas met her approval.

One was former premier Jim Callaghan’s proposal for a dinner given by her Prime Ministers. The other was for a luncheon given by the City of London. That lunch would go down in history for a single phrase: ‘Annus horribilis.’

Fergie was the first problem:

The trouble had started in January, when newspapers discovered photographs of the Duchess of York on holiday with an American oil executive, Steve Wyatt. Their existence reinforced widespread gossip that the Yorks’ marriage was close to collapse.

The Duke of York ‘hit the roof’ and the couple began consulting divorce lawyers.

The next disaster was Charles and Diana’s marriage:

Meanwhile, the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was also starting to unravel in public.

In February, the Princess posed for the cameras in front of that eternal symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, while all alone. The messaging was clear.

The next PR issue was Anne’s divorce from her first husband:

… in April, the divorce of the Princess Royal was finalised. She had been separated – amicably –from Mark Phillips for some years. The Princess stuck doggedly to her duties through it all.

The Queen took it in her stride:

The Queen was very sad about her children’s marital problems – but not shocked. As she put it to one courtier: ‘You know, I’ve decided I’m not old-fashioned enough to be Queen.’

Then came Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story.

Fergie re-entered the scene during the summer:

… the Daily Mirror recorded one of the highest sales in its entire history with intimate photographs of a topless Duchess of York on yet another holiday, this time with her ‘financial adviser’, John Bryan.

The Duchess was staying with the Queen at Balmoral, together with her daughters, when she came down in the morning to find members of the family agog at ten pages of unvarnished ignominy.

As did Diana:

The Sun, produced an equally devastating … recording of an innuendo-charged conversation between the Princess of Wales and James Gilbey, an old friend who had been one of the sources for Morton’s book. Could things get worse? Yes – but the Queen continued to hold her nerve.

The Queen made sure that, despite their marital woes, the Prince and Princess of Wales fulfilled their obligation of undertaking a tour of Korea for the Foreign Office.

Once they returned home, tensions resumed:

Just days after their arrival home, Charles and Diana had a row which would push their marriage to the point of no return. Their sons were about to have an exeat weekend from prep school. 

The Prince had arranged for the couple to present a united front over a family-oriented shooting weekend with friends at Sandringham. 

With only a week to go, however, the Princess announced that she wanted to take William and Harry elsewhere, thus tearing up the Prince’s plans.

It was starting to feel like the end of the road for both parties.

At the end of that week, the Prince resolved the time had come to commence separation plans and to call in his lawyers the following week.

Around that time, Windsor Castle caught fire on the morning of Friday, November 20:

… the first clouds of smoke were suddenly seen billowing out from the state apartments of Windsor Castle.

A major maintenance project was in progress, shielded from view by some heavy drapes. The fire began in the Queen’s private chapel.

‘Behind the curtains, which were obviously closed, were spotlights that lit up the altar and the ceiling,’ the Duke of Edinburgh explained to me, after the restoration. ‘After a bit, the lights got hot and set fire to the curtains, and the flames went up’ …

Miraculously, there were no serious injuries or deaths and only one painting was lost – Sir William Beechey’s colossal 1798 portrait George III And The Prince Of Wales Reviewing Troops.

The Duke of Edinburgh was overseas at the time, but the Queen quickly drove down from London. She had a very specific mission in mind.

‘She went into her own apartments to take a few precious things to safety, because only she knew what they were and where they were,’ says Charles Anson, her press secretary at the time. As a result, she suffered a small amount of smoke inhalation on top of a nasty cold.

Four days later came the 40th anniversary lunch at the Guildhall in the City of London:

With her throat still hoarse from both her cold and the smoke, she began: ‘Nineteen Ninety-Two is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘annus horribilis’.’ 

Though this would be the phrase remembered for ever more, the main point of the speech was not to dwell on her own misfortune (or ‘One’s Bum Year’, as The Sun put it). Rather, it was to ask for a little more understanding from the Monarchy’s critics.

There was a big furore about who should foot the bill for the extensive repairs needed at Windsor Castle:

Even the Conservative press called for the Royal Family to ‘listen’ and to offer up some sort of financial sacrifice. The Monarchy would end up providing the money.

Another big furore was about the Queen not paying income tax. With the kerfuffle about Windsor Castle, the Queen decided to pay it. This was a huge development:

What the critics were unaware of was that the Queen and her officials had, for more than a year, been planning a voluntary end to a historic but complex Royal tax exemption, agreed by her father after the Abdication crisis of 1936.

‘Anything in the way of a dictum her father had left her was very important,’ says her former private secretary, Sir William Heseltine.

John Major also says he was against any such reform. However, stung by the latest row about fire repairs, the Queen wanted to bring the plan forward.

So, just two days after her Guildhall speech, Mr Major told Parliament that the Queen and the Prince of Wales would, in future, voluntarily pay tax at the regular rate.

That the Queen was now prepared to go against her father’s wishes – and indeed her Prime Minister – on such a sensitive point defines this decision as one of the most important judgment calls of her reign.

The Queen was exempt from inheritance tax, as are present and future monarchs. So I heard on GB News last night. My reader dearieme has more:

As I understand it, the position now is that there is no inheritance tax bill for anything left monarch-to-monarch. So what she left to Charles is tax-free; anything she left to her other children, or her grandchildren, is taxed in the normal fashion.

In December, Charles and Diana separated.

That same month, Princess Anne remarried:

There was a brief glimmer of happiness for the Queen at the end of that week, as the Royal Family gathered at Crathie Church, Balmoral, for the most modest Royal Wedding in history.

The Princess Royal had insisted on a low-key ceremony for her second marriage, to Commander Tim Laurence. Following a reception of soup and sandwiches, the couple enjoyed a 36-hour honeymoon on the estate while the other guests flew home.

The entire affair is believed to have cost less than £2,000.

The year ended with The Sun leaking the contents of her Christmas address:

When the broadcast finally appeared on Christmas Day, the nation heard her acknowledge her woes, without dwelling on them. ‘As some of you may have heard me observe, it has, indeed, been a sombre year. But Christmas is surely the right moment to try to put it behind us.’

Some of the subsequent years also proved difficult.

1997 was particularly bad:

… the events of 1992 were the prelude to a succession of grave dynastic challenges over several years, including the Princess of Wales’s fateful 1995 Panorama interview – ‘there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded’ – the eventual divorces of both the Waleses and the Yorks, the decommissioning of the Queen’s beloved Royal Yacht and, above all, the tragic loss of Diana in 1997.

It was Tony Blair’s idea to decommission the yacht Britannia. To think, he had only been elected in May that year!

Hardman tells us that it was not Tony Blair’s idea but the Palace’s in dealing with Diana’s death in a way that would resonate with the people:

Though it has become received wisdom that Tony Blair and his new Labour administration somehow ‘saved’ a dithering Monarchy in the febrile days after the Princess’s death in that Paris car crash, a very different, more balanced picture now emerges 25 years on.

Within hours, a key team inside the Palace, led by the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Airlie Lord Airlie, and the Comptroller, Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Ross, were already drawing up the main elements of Diana’s funeral, which would be one of the most watched Royal events in history.

Lord Airlie recalls his very first instruction to Ross and his colleagues: ‘I said, ‘The one thing is this – don’t look at a file. This has to be de novo.’ In other words, this had to be done quite differently.’

He wrote a memo to the Queen outlining a general plan.

‘For instance,’ he says now, ‘the importance of catching and reflecting the public mood of ‘the people’s Princess’, and ensuring that the ceremony was not overwhelmed by officialdom. I felt, too, that the procession of the coffin to Westminster Abbey should break with tradition and be somewhat radical.’

The key elements were that the event should be public, not private, and as unique as Diana herself. Invitations to the Abbey should range widely and not be governed by what was done at previous Royal funerals. The very next day, he sent all these points to the Queen at Balmoral.

‘The answer came back, saying, ‘Go ahead.’ So that let Malcolm Ross and his chaps get on with the job, which they did brilliantly.’

All this had already been agreed by the time the first emissaries from Downing Street, including Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell had so much as set foot inside Buckingham Palace to discuss the nation’s farewell to the Princess.

2002, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year, was bittersweet as her sister and her mother died within two months of each other, in February and April, respectively. Even before those sad events, the Queen was concerned whether people would want to celebrate her 50th anniversary:

Could her Golden Jubilee replicate the astonishing success of the 1977 Silver Jubilee?

‘There’s no doubt she was not confident about it,’ a former senior staff member told me. ‘She had been knocked by those many years of trials and tribulations.’

No sooner had the celebrations started than Princess Margaret died, aged 71. The Queen was as sad as she had ever been. 

Always protective of free-spirited, mercurial Margaret since the nursery, she had spoken to her almost every day of her life. Weeks later, she lost her mother, too.

An estimated one million people turned out to watch the Queen Mother’s coffin make its final journey from Westminster Abbey to St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

I paid my respects at Westminster Hall.

Robert Hardman continues:

Yet, just days later, after a bare minimum of Court mourning, the Queen embarked on her Golden Jubilee tour of the UK.

The crowds were colossal and deeply appreciative wherever she went.

For many, however, the spirit of that Jubilee summer was summed up by the sight of Queen guitarist Brian May playing a national anthem riff on the Palace roof.

Yes! As I mentioned in another post this week, my better half and I were at dinner near the Palace the night of the concert. I went up to the venue’s terrace and heard Elton John. There was a real buzz in the capital.

It was a superb Jubilee year.

The next difficult year was 2021 when Prince Philip died during our semi-lockdown for the pandemic. Guests were limited to close family. The Queen sat alone, wearing a black mask.

Still, our monarch’s faith, patience, perseverance — and resilience — got her through those troubling times in her reign. She showed us such an excellent example of how to live — and serve — based on biblical principles.

It is hard to believe that Queen Elizabeth II died only seven months ago and that it was one year ago that her Platinum Jubilee celebrations were just about to begin. That first weekend in June 2022 was a memorable one.

This post focuses on the Queen in film.

Royal Family

In 1969, a controversial documentary aired not only in the UK but in other countries around the world: Royal Family.

As I mentioned before, I saw it when I was growing up in the United States and found it fascinating.

This was the first time that Britain’s Royals were seen up close and personal. In fact, one wonders if any other royal family ever allowed the cameras in for hours and days at a time.

Some commentators panned the programme at the time. Not surprisingly, that narrative prevails today. Yet, it was well received here and in the United States, although the media did wonder if there would be any negative repercussions for the family as a result.

I was glad to see that The Mail carried an excerpt on the subject from Royal biographer — and Mail columnist — Robert Hardman’s book, Queen of Our Times, on April 5, 2022. The article also includes two still photos from it — not to be missed. Emphases mine below:

The Royal Family took part in the film, which was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV, in a bid to show they were just like their subjects, which quickly became a British phenomenon. 

It was watched over two weekends to rave reviews in June 1969, but was last shown three years later after reports Buckingham Palace feared it ‘let the magic out’ about the royals.

However in new book Queen of Our Times, Daily Mail Columnist Robert Hardman argued many in the royal household actually raved about the film, even nicknaming it ‘Carry On Reigning’.

He wrote: ‘Half a century on, some commentators have suggested that the family quickly came to regard it all as a terrible mistake, never to be seen again – a view reinforced by The Crown. Those within the Royal Household remember the complete opposite.’ 

Hardman has covered the royal family extensively for the Daily Telegraph and, since 2001, writes for the Daily Mail. 

And as opposed to the film being banned from appearing on screen because it had offended the Queen, Hardman said it hadn’t been shown because of copyright issues.

He wrote: ‘From the outset, the film was only ever supposed to have a limited timespan before being locked away.

‘Royal Family was not news footage, like the coronation or a state visit. Rather, it was seen as a personal snapshot of its time.

‘The Queen retained the copyright and did not want the material being quarried or adapted for years to come.’       

The idea for the documentary, which aired in June 1969, came from the Palace’s new royal press secretary William Heseltine, rather than the Duke of Edinburgh, as the Netflix hos claims.  

Heseltine wanted to encourage public support for a monarchy that was increasingly seen as out-of-touch.

The programme was met with praise and proved so popular that it was aired again that same year and once more in 1972

1972 was the year of the Silver Jubilee, which generated much more excitement and enthusiasm than the media predicted. (No surprise there.)

The article continues:

[it] hasn’t been broadcast in full since but short clips from the documentary were made available as part of an exhibition for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee 2012.

However, for the most part the original documentary remains under lock and key with researchers having to pay to view it at BBC HQ, only after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first.

‘You’re killing the monarchy, you know, with this film you’re making,’ the legendary anthropologist and wildlife expert David Attenborough wrote furiously in 1969 to the producer-director of the controversial and ground-breaking television documentary, Royal Family.

‘The whole institution depends on ­mystique and the tribal chief in his hut,’ continued Attenborough, then BBC 2 controller.

‘If any member of the tribe ever sees inside the hut, then the whole system of the tribal chiefdom is damaged and the tribe eventually disintegrates’, he said.

I had no idea that David Attenborough, considered to be a living saint for reasons which escape me, was a BBC controller. No wonder the broadcaster makes such a big deal out of him. It is good to see he was absolutely wrong about Royal Family.

Read his words again. They further reinforce the notion that the British public are nothing more than plebs. Now we know he has believed that for over 50 years. Furthermore, the older he gets the more it seems that he loathes humanity in general. Everything wrong in the world is the fault of everyday people going about their everyday business. He thinks we are common; that is plain to see in his interviews.

The Queen obviously liked him, though, as we’ll see below. She gave him a second knighthood in 2020: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list ‘for services to TV and conservation’.

Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen

On the last Sunday in May 2022, the BBC aired hitherto unseen family film footage of the Queen’s life, beginning with her childhood.

Our appetites were whetted on May 7 that year when The Telegraph reported, complete with stills from Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen:

The footage, unearthed within more than 400 reels of film watched by programme-makers, shows the Queen as a young woman, at the heart of a happy family before the weight of her public responsibility took hold.

It includes scenes of her gazing at an engagement ring just given to her by Prince Philip, before news of their betrothal was shared with the waiting world …

Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen will “offer audiences the chance to witness rare private moments from the monarch’s life”, the corporation said, “telling the real story of her life as a Princess – through her own eyes and in her own words from across her reign”.

It will be narrated largely by the Queen herself, using clips and newsreel audio from her speeches to explain what viewers are seeing.

The 75-minute programme includes footage of the baby Princess Elizabeth being pushed in a pram by her mother, through to her Coronation in 1953 at the age of 27.

All the videos are believed to have been filmed by the Royal Family, firstly by the Queen’s doting parents and later Prince Philip.

… footage from Balmoral, taken in 1951, captures the King’s final visit there before his death, while home film reels show the Queen’s grandfather George V – known to her as “Grandpa England” – sailing off the Isle of Wight in 1931 …

In viewing more than 400 reels of film, producers discovered lost footage from behind-the-scenes at state events, believed to have been privately commissioned by the Royal Family and given to the Queen.

They also listened to more than three hundred of the Queen’s speeches across eight decades of public life.

In common with all royal videos since the 1920s, the homemade recordings had been stored carefully in the Royal Collection vaults of the British Film Institute, with no promise of being aired.

The Platinum Jubilee presented a worthy moment to air them to the public.

The Times had a delightful Twitter thread on the home movies:

If I remember rightly, the BBC rebroadcast the programme after the Queen died last September.

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts came out at the end of May 2022, also in time for the Platinum Jubilee.

Unfortunately, its maker, Roger Michell, died in September 2021 before its release.

On May 26 last year, veteran columnist Simon Heffer reviewed the film, which appeared in cinemas, for The Telegraph. Heffer gave it four out of five stars:

Michell, renowned for Notting Hill and who died suddenly and too young last September, pillaged newsreels, films, television news and other documentaries to provide an eclectic, 90-minute, chapter-by-chapter remembrance of Her Majesty’s life, and all the “parts” she has played.

And they are all there: from riding ponies as a child to pottering around in great old age with her contemporary David Attenborough. It is a warts-and-all picture, as directorial integrity must dictate. There is a chapter entitled “Annus Horribilis”, in which the debacle of the Prince of Wales’s marriage to Diana Spencer, the doomed life of the Duke of York, and the accidents-will-happen story of the Princess Royal’s first marriage are interlaced with film of the Windsor Castle fire that seemed at the time, and still, to sum up the mess “The Firm” had got itself into. 

It is a mess that comes of trying to run a monarchy in a post-deferential age of 24-hour news while simultaneously rearing a family in the public eye. And it is not just the appearance of the Duke of York that reminds us that this particular chapter is not over: the Sussexes have a walk-on part too.

Speaking of the Sussexes, Meghan would not have wanted the life of a Royal:

Watching the episodic, non-chronological story of the Queen’s life and reign, one is above all aware of how stalwart she is: the endless walkabouts, the myriad presentations of bouquets by winsome children, the relentless factory visits and, above all, the tourist-inducing pomp and ceremony. The effort of all that cheerfulness would kill most people. Anyone who sneers at the notion that hers has been a life of duty can’t have seen this film. In its unconventional, demotic depiction of Her Majesty the film humanises her and makes her seem, frankly, all the more magnificent.

Michell’s film also portrays the deference people showed our late monarch:

Of course things have changed: it is hard to imagine a man smacking a peer of the realm for being mildly rude about the Queen, as someone did to Lord Altrincham in 1957 (Michell included the clip).

I wonder if anyone would defend our present and future monarchs in that way.

Heffer continues:

we are carried along, paradoxically by the hopping backwards and forwards in time, realising what “continuity” really means; the little girl running around in the garden with her parents and sister 85 years ago is still our Head of State today.

One also realises that, for all her constitutional functions (and the political class plays, fortunately, a small part in the film), the Queen’s main function is to relate to her people: and the film shows how well she has done that. There are amusing snippets of people being told how to address her (“Your Majesty” the first time, “Ma’am” subsequently), where to stand when she is near, and generally what to do; but one realises this is not about making the Sovereign feel comfortable, it is about her vital role of making those she meets feel special. And it appears she does.

Michell did not include the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at which the Queen sat alone in black, wearing a mask, in April 2021.

Heffer concludes that we learn as much about ourselves over the past 70 years as we do of the Queen:

… he has left us a profoundly moving portrait, made the more so by his poignant choice of music – everything from George Formby and Gracie Fields to the Beatles and Stormzy, reflecting some of the diversity of the culture of those over whom the Queen has reigned. It is first and foremost a picture of her, but it is also a picture of us; … it reminds us not just of her profound decency but also, oddly enough, of ours.

Incidentally, in 2022, the Queen made very few public appearances because of ill health. Her penultimate grand opening was at The Royal London Hospital in April that year. The final one was opening the Elizabeth Line in May.

Of the hospital visit, the Mail reported the following. Note how she replied to everyone with a kind, caring remark. The pandemic was first and foremost on everyone’s minds, including the Queen’s. She, too, had succumbed to the virus:

This week the Queen – who will celebrate her 96th birthday at the end of next week [April 21]marked the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Unit at The Royal London Hospital, of which she is patron, talking to staff and one former patient. 

Wearing a floral dress with a pearl necklace, she said the staff’s work was ‘splendid’

Nurse Charlie Mort said: ‘The amount of bravery that both the patients and my colleagues showed throughout the entire pandemic was amazing and the amount of kindness we were shown was inspiring. I think we will all be bonded together because of it, forever.’ 

‘It’s amazing, isn’t it, what can be done when needs be,’ the Queen said. 

Imam Faruq Siddiqi, hospital chaplain, said families ‘felt a sense of hope’ when they knew he was visiting their loved ones. ‘Although I didn’t hold any miracles, I hope I was able to bring some sort of comfort to them through my presence and prayers,’ he said. 

The Queen replied: ‘It obviously was a very frightening experience to have Covid very badly, wasn’t it?’ 

Mr Siddiqi said: ‘I think what made it worse was being by themselves.’ ‘Exactly. So they were alone, too,’ the Queen remarked.

Mireia Lopez Rey Ferrer, senior sister, said that the intensive care unit had been ‘unrecognisable’ with so many patients. 

‘As nurses we made sure they were not alone,’ she said.

‘We held their hands, we wiped their tears, and we provided comfort. It felt at times that we were running a marathon with no finish line.’ 

‘It must have been a terrible time for all of you,’ the Queen said. ‘Not seeing your own families and also working so very hard… That [was] the unusual part of it wasn’t it, not being able to meet your relatives and being isolated.’ 

Asef Hussain, a former patient, explained how he and his family had contracted Covid in December 2020. His father and brother were also treated at the unit for Covid before they passed away. 

Mr Hussain, joined by his wife, Shamina, said his brother was admitted first and died that day. He was taken to hospital himself after struggling to breathe and was put to sleep for seven weeks. 

‘Once I woke up I saw the brilliant work the nurses, the doctors – the whole team here were doing. They supported me and my family in a fantastic way. 

‘Unfortunately while I was asleep my father passed away from Covid as well,’ he said. 

‘Are you better now?’ the Queen asked. ‘I’m getting there, I’m recovering, I’m much better,’ Mr Hussain said. 

Mr Hussain’s wife explained how she prayed for his recovery on Zoom calls with family around the world. ‘Praying for him, oh wonderful,’ the Queen said. 

She added: ‘I’m glad that you’re getting better. It does leave one very tired and exhausted doesn’t it, this horrible pandemic? It is not a nice result.’ 

The monarch also spoke to the team behind the building of the new unit and burst out laughing when Jeff Barley, project director, told her he plundered his ‘black book’ to find people to help him. 

The Queen replied: ‘That is marvellous isn’t it. It is very interesting isn’t it, when there’s some very vital thing, how everybody works together and pulls together. Marvellous, isn’t it.’ 

Mr Barley hailed the ‘little bit of Dunkirk spirit’ involved, prompting the Queen, smiling, to say: ‘Thank goodness it still exists’, amid laughter. The plaque was then unveiled and held up to show the monarch. 

The Royal London Hospital has served the residents of East London for the past 280 years. It was granted its royal title by the Queen during a visit in 1990 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its opening on the Whitechapel site.

On May 17, the Queen opened the Elizabeth Line, a magnificent crossrail project linking Berkshire to Essex via London. Londoners were thrilled that her health held up. As Guido Fawkes wrote, it was a ‘surprise appearance’.

She did much better than Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did when he had problems paying for a soft drink in a photo opportunity:

Does a Royal peek-behind-the-scenes programme work? Only when the Queen handled it.

Unfortunately, we know too much about most of her descendants already. One way or another, they did away with any mystique they could have had over te years.

Prince William and Princess Catherine would do well to imitate Granny’s example. At the moment, we know just enough about them without knowing too much. However, I would suggest waiting about 10 or 20 years, because right now we are hearing too much from and about the Sussexes.

As the Queen knew well, timing is everything.

As Platinum Jubilee celebrations were just about to start one year ago, it seemed apposite for me to continue to remember the Queen.

Yesterday’s post pointed out that she was the most portrayed person in all of history.

Although the Queen led a charmed life for all her 96 years, she had a sense of Royal duty from the time she was 10 years old when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated.

On September 8, 2022, Politico had an interesting obituary with specially commissioned portraits of the late monarch. Given that Politico is not at all associated with love of the monarchy, the portraits were sensitively done.

Excerpts follow from the article, emphases mine.

Regal silence

There is no question that the Queen’s demeanour helped her to make her 70 years as Head of State dignified and memorable. She was:

a revered figure who donned crowns, opened parliaments and asked people who they were and what they did at garden parties. It was she who stared out Mona Lisa-like from banknotes and who became head of state to 150 million people, from Papua New Guinea to Canada, and one of the most famous people of her time …

Lauded globally — she stood alongside the Dalai Lama and the pope as one of those rare definite articles who seemed to be above scrutiny. So much so that even die-hard republicans would temper their calls for an end to the monarchy by saying: “But the queen has done a fantastic job.”

She succeeded at that job, in no small part, by making a virtue out of silence. She stubbornly refused to be interviewed, examined or subjected to scrutiny. While younger royals broke the fourth wall of monarchy, the queen remained quiet and immutable.

Indeed, it was by keeping her official alter ego as vague as the unwritten British constitution, and her private persona hidden away altogether, that Elizabeth II became the most successful sovereign since Victoria, bringing relevance to a feudal institution that was 200 years past its sell-by date.

But because of that, in writing the story of her life, it is almost impossible to find out who she really was beneath the hats and robes and jewels.

The queen was an abstraction: a role, like any other — and it was the person behind her, Elizabeth Windsor, who expertly played the part

This is the life of Elizabeth Windsor.

Life at 145 Piccadilly

Politico tells us of Princess Elizabeth’s birth:

She was born by caesarean section on April 21, 1926, to her mother, also Elizabeth, the Duchess of York. As was then the custom, the Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks, was present — just in case she was swapped for someone who was not of royal birth. 

As Princess Elizabeth, she was third in line to the throne, with her uncle Edward the presumed heir apparent.  

Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, had no ordinary London residence:

Official biographers like to make much of her “ordinary childhood” and the very normal-sounding York family address at 145 Piccadilly in the heart of London. In truth, the address was no common or garden terraced home. It was a substantial palace, with 25 bedrooms, a ballroom, a library and an enormous garden.

Royal Central has more:

Following her birth on April 21 1926 at the home of her maternal grandparents at 17 Bruton St Mayfair, the baby Princess Elizabeth moved to the house that her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, had taken at 145 Piccadilly W1. This would be the house in which she would spend the first years of her childhood, as well as White Lodge in Richmond Park. These were the residences where the young princess would live together with her parents and her younger sister Princess Margaret Rose, who was born four years later in 1930. In 1932, the Duke and Duchess of York began to use Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as a private country residence, when Princess Elizabeth was aged six. During this period of her childhood, Princess Elizabeth also spent time at the country homes of her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

The white terraced, stone-faced residence had a large garden and a semi-basement kitchen. Princess Elizabeth is said to have been taken out by her nanny from this house, for a stroll in the pram through nearby Mayfair to Hyde Park. An old British paramount newsreel recording from 1935 shows the Duke and Duchess of York at 145 Piccadilly, arriving and leaving the property. Among the photographic collection of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, is a photograph of Queen Elizabeth together with the corgi dog Jane taken in the grounds of 145 Piccadilly in around 1936, the fateful year which saw both the abdication of Edward VIII and the accession of her husband the Duke of York to the British throne as King George VI.

The site has been home to the InterContinental London Park Lane for nearly 50 years. The hotel’s history page tells us:

Historical accounts recall a white terraced building, indistinguishable from those on either side of it. There was a semi-basement kitchen, ‘like the giant’s kitchen in a pantomime with its immense shiny copper pots and great fire-range’, Lisa Sheridan.

An extensive garden at the back, shared with other houses, added an element of community. Elizabeth lived in a suite of rooms at the top of the house, consisting of a day nursery, a night nursery and a bathroom linked by a landing, with wide windows looking down on the park. It was not unusual for her nanny to put her in her pram and take a two-hour stroll through Mayfair into Hyde Park.

Other stories relating to Elizabeth’s childhood at 145 Piccadilly told of the Princess allegedly playing games by fetching a small toy, such as a teddy bear or a ball, and dropping it from the nursery landing down the stairwell onto visitors as they arrived at the house.

The best modern day representation of the late Queen’s childhood at 145 Piccadilly can be found in the multiple Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech. Scenes of the young family trying their best to enjoy London life in the heart of Mayfair during the years of the Depression were actually filmed at 33 Portland Place, but the so-called ‘shabby chic’ interiors are said to be in keeping with the style of the house at that time

Years later:

The hotel was opened by His Grace the 8th Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley on 23rd September 1975.

Returning to Royal Central:

According to the website ‘Westend at War’, the building was destroyed by a high explosive bomb on 7 October 1940. The same website quotes the source Westminster in War (William Sansom, 1947) to explain that in 1940, the site at 145 Piccadilly was being used as a chief office for a “relief and comforts fund”. The permanent record that was made out by the ARP on this date describing the damage that the house had sustained, is today kept in the Westminster City Archives.

The former 145 Piccadilly is at No. 1 Hamilton Place, the site of which is occupied today by the upscale InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel. The hotel was constructed between 1968- 1975 under the direction of Sir Frederick Gibberd. Close to the five-starred London Hilton and the Four Seasons hotels, it overlooks Hyde Park Corner, together with the Wellington Arch and statue of the Duke of Wellington. Apsley House, also known as Number One, London is located on Hyde Park Corner and is the London home of the Dukes of Wellington. The InterContinental London Park Lane is proud of the royal connection with the location on which the hotel stands and has been welcoming guests ever since it opened.

Scene Therapy has photos of young Princess Elizabeth with her two first corgis as well of photos of 145 Piccadilly as it was when she lived there.

We discover that it was a modest residence by Royal standards of the day:

In 1926, Princess Elizabeth of York was born in her maternal grandparents’ Mayfair townhouse at 17 Bruton Street. A year later, the new family moved a few blocks away to Piccadilly; one of the most exclusive addresses in the capital. Piccadilly is a busy central London road that stretches from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner, with famous establishments lining the route such as The Ritz, The Royal Academy and Fortnum & Mason. Throughout the 19th century and into the early 1900s, Piccadilly was also home to some of the most elite townhouses in the country, with residents including the Rothschilds, the Duke of Wellington, Lords and Vice-Admirals. The handsome homes that made up ‘Piccadilly Terrace’ featured spacious rooms with high ceilings and large windows set across 4-5 floors including servants quarters, all with views of Green Park.

For senior royals to reside in a townhouse, however grand, was considered rather unusual. At the time, however, Britain was suffering significant austerity thanks to The Great War and subsequent Great Depression, so King George V requested his family reign-in their spending and consider more ‘modest’ abodes. So The Yorks lived at 145 Piccadilly during the week and retired to The Royal Lodge on the Windsor Estate at weekends.

145 Piccadilly featured an abundance of panelling, mouldings and ornate plasterwork, with drawing room details gilded in gold and double doors encased in arched doorways. The interiors are packed with antique furnishings including a large 17th Belgian tapestry hung at the rear of the drawing room featuring a woodland scene woven by Marcus de Vos, and a ceramic and gilt-bronzed mantel clock by Balthazar à Paris, both now housed in the Royal Collection Trust. Other furniture and objects from 145 Piccadilly can now be seen in various royal residences across the UK, such as the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother that stands at the rear of 145’s drawing room, which can now be seen hung in the library ante-room at Prince Charles’ Clarence House.

The houses that made up Piccadilly Terrace featured the full range of floors expected of a smart aristocratic residence including an attic floor, usually home to servants’ sleeping quarters, a chamber floor for principle bedrooms and nursery rooms (such as the Day Nursery and Night Nursery as seen included in the images below), a drawing room floor, which housed private rooms including a boudoir and spacious library, the ground floor, home to reception rooms, and a basement where staff rooms, kitchens, pantries and other utility rooms featured.

Though 145 Piccadilly was considered ‘modest’ by royal standards, the interiors proved to be more befitting of the London homes of other aristocrats such as the nearby Apsley House or Spencer House, which both still stand today. 145 and its adjacent homes on Piccadilly Terrace were damaged during WWII before eventually being torn down

Returning to Politico, we learn of the nannies:

Photos of the era depict Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret being doted on by their mother and father, but in truth, they were brought up by an army of servants and rarely saw their parents. Childcare was left to two nannies: Clara Knight, a strict disciplinarian who instilled fear and good manners, and Margaret MacDonald.

Margaret ‘Bobo’ MacDonald

Incredibly, Margaret MacDonald remained by the Queen’s side for life:

MacDonald was the only person outside of the royal family who was allowed to call Elizabeth by her family nickname Lilibet, and she shared a bedroom with her charge until she was 11 years old. Lilibet’s first word, “Bobo,” was addressed to MacDonald — and the nickname stuck. 

Every morning, MacDonald brought Elizabeth a cup of tea, laid out her clothes and ran her daily bath. Effectively prohibited from marriage — to have done so would have cost her the job — MacDonald dedicated her life to the queen until her death in 1993

“In her later years Bobo held a unique position in Buckingham Palace, having her own suite, no duties, and enjoying a closer personal friendship with the queen than practically anyone else, including some of the queen’s closest relatives,” wrote Douglas Keay, author of “The Queen: A Revealing Look at the Private Life of Elizabeth II.” 

But we know nothing more. The loyal servant never gave an interview, never discussed her relationship with her mistress and died with her secrets intact. 

Marion ‘Crawfie’ Crawford

Marion Crawford was the opposite of Bobo MacDonald with regard to discretion.

Crawford was the princesses’ governess.

Most people will know her story, as she was one who fell from grace for disloyalty.

Politico summarises what happened:

Crawfie was the Yorks’ very own Mary Poppins, steering her charges through the change in their circumstances when their uncle abdicated and their father unexpectedly became king. If Bobo was a surrogate mother, Crawfie was an older sister, role model and friend. 

But by 1947, neither Elizabeth nor Margaret had need of a governess, and aged just 39, Crawfie was retired. 

Two years later she accepted an offer to write a book called “The Little Princesses,” which caused a sensation when it was published in 1950. 

Despite having approved the project, the queen mother declared that Crawfie had “gone off her head,” and the woman who had devoted the first part of her life to the monarchy was unceremoniously ghosted.  

The incident was all the more remarkable given the book was a wholly affectionate memoir and showed the royal family in a very good light. Her fate was probably sealed by one or two turns of phrase that hinted at the king’s bad temper during the war.  

Nonetheless, “to do a Crawfie” became royal slang for treachery. Deprived of her grace and favor, Crawford disappeared from official records and narratives in a manner that would have put Soviet propagandists to shame.  

The impact on Crawfie cannot be understated. She attempted suicide twice. Later in life, she moved close to the Balmoral estate in the hope that she might one day chance upon her old charge and that amends could be made. But the moment never came. When she eventually died in 1988, the royal family sent not so much as a wreath to the funeral. 

We don’t know how this affected Elizabeth. Nor do we know how much of a role she played in perpetuating Crawfie’s misery. But this brutal and callous dispatching of such a close confidante and loyal friend speaks volumes about the family that is sometimes referred to as “The Firm.”  

The lifeblood of the monarchy is self-preservation. Nobody is indispensable. Nobody is bigger than the machine. Throughout the queen’s reign, that ruthless self-preservation — so at odds with her image — would rear its head again and again.  

It seems as if Politico missed Tatler‘s 2020 article about Marion Crawford and her husband, which is much more nuanced. It comes complete with photos and its author, Wendy Holden, tells an amazing story:

… the original scandal of the Queen’s life – also chronicled in a book that lays bare royal secrets – doesn’t exist in the Windsor Cloud. For 70 years, it successfully ‘disappeared’. Few accounts of the time afford it more than a footnote. The protagonist’s name, though, remains a byword for betrayal.

The unimaginable bounder this suggests was none other than a young Scottish teacher. Marion Crawford was governess to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, aged six and almost two when she arrived in 1932. She stayed for 17 years. ‘Crawfie’, as they fondly called her, was not only their teacher, but their constant confidante and companion.

Crawfie guided the girls through the drama of the abdication of their uncle, the upheaval of their parents’ accession and the trauma of the Second World War, when she took them to Windsor Castle’s dungeon bomb shelters as Heinkels roared above. Later, she was there when Elizabeth met Philip. Yet, at the end of her service, the royals cut her off. The reason? A harmless memoir, The Little Princesses.

I came across it by accident in a second-hand bookshop on a rainy day. It immediately became the inspiration for the royal-themed novel I’d always wanted to write. The Governess, my new book, fictionalises Marion Crawford’s time with the Royal Family. It shines a new light not only on the Queen’s little-known childhood, but on the lively young teacher who helped make her the monarch she is today …

The Duchess of York poached her sister’s servant:

It could have been so different. Crawfie never intended to teach royalty – rather, the other end of the social scale. Her vocation, she felt, was in the slums of Edinburgh. ‘I wanted desperately to help… but,’ as she puts it in The Little Princesses, ‘something else was coming my way.’ That would be the famously charming Queen Mother (then Duchess of York), whose sister Crawfie worked for during the holidays. Spotting the young teacher’s potential, she poached her, persuading Crawfie to come for a trial ‘to see if you like us and we like you’.

Even though Crawford had spent the day travelling from Scotland to Windsor, she was expected to start work on arrival:

Crawfie, with her progressive ideas, was certain she wouldn’t like them. It didn’t help that she arrived at Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park, late at night. Since Lilibet (as they called Princess Elizabeth) had insisted on staying awake, an exhausted Crawfie, straight off the train, was obliged to stagger into the nursery. Here, a child was sitting up in bed, yanking on dressing gown cords tied to the bedposts. ‘I’m driving my horses round the park,’ she winningly explained.

It was love at first sight for them both. And so Crawfie stayed, but with caveats.

It was Crawford who showed them how the other half lived. She took the princesses on all manner of distinctly un-Royal visits:

She thought the Royal Family stuffy and wanted to bring normality and fun to her pupils’ sequestered lives. Defying court protocol, she took them on the Tube, shopping at Woolworths, swimming at public baths and even helped set up a Buckingham Palace Girl Guide group. This exposure to the ordinary has proved invaluable to the Queen.

Despite these daring things, everything went well.

Then, after Crawford’s retirement in 1947, as the princesses were old enough not to need a governess anymore, there was an intersection of the Queen (as the Duchess of York became), an American magazine, and Crawford’s husband with the governess stuck in the middle:

What became The Little Princesses seems originally to have been the Queen Mother’s idea. The then Queen Elizabeth thought it would benefit post-war relations if pieces about her eldest daughter appeared in the American press. A palace courtier was chosen to write articles and the now-retired Crawfie, who knew Princess Elizabeth better than anyone, was ordered to tell him all she knew. He, not she, would have the byline and be paid by the magazine, the Ladies’ Home Journal. But Crawfie’s husband, George Buthlay, felt his wife should write her own account and sent her to Queen Elizabeth to ask permission. It was flatly refused and Crawfie prepared to shelve the project. But Buthlay had other ideas – for Crawfie to write a memoir.

It was the beginning of the end, a very painful one for Crawford, who never recovered:

Though different versions of the story have been put forward, the definitive account seems to be this: together with the Ladies’ Home Journal’s unscrupulous editors, Buthlay told his wife that Her Majesty would see the manuscript – that nothing would be published without royal approval. All lies; the book came out regardless, initially as magazine articles. The Royal Family was furious, considering it an act of treachery, and poor Crawfie was cast into the outer darkness.

She fled to Aberdeen and bought a house right on the route that the Royal Family took annually to Balmoral. But her hope that they might one day stop and forgive her proved unfounded. She became depressed and lonely – it had been too late, on retirement, to have children of her own. Crawford left a poignant note on attempting to take her own life: ‘I can’t bear those I love to pass me by on the road.’

That the Windsors maintained their animus until Crawfie’s death in 1988 seems extraordinary, especially as breaches of royal privacy, many self-inflicted, have been numerous since. But at the funeral of the woman who had served them so devotedly, not a single royal flower was sent.

In my opinion, be it ever so humble on matters Royal, the Queen Mother was still very much alive and well when Crawford died. From what I understand, the Queen Mother, as jovial as she appeared in public, ran the family’s private affairs with a rule of iron. I think she would have put her foot down at giving Crawford any honour at all. The Royal Family used to be like Las Vegas. What went on behind closed doors stayed there.

What I find puzzling it that, if or since The Little Princesses was published in 1950 and the Queen Mother was so cross, how was it that Crawford and her husband ended up attending a garden party at Holyrood Palace (Edinburgh) in 1952? The Tatler article has a photo of them getting into a chauffeur-driven car to the event.

Nevertheless, it appeared that the Queen had a change of mind late in life:

The material released to mark the Queen’s 94th birthday in April included a few seconds of film in which Crawfie and the princesses are dancing the Lambeth Walk.

Perhaps the scandals besetting the monarchy in recent years have given the Queen a new perspective on an old hurt. Nearly nine decades after that first meeting in the night nursery, has Her Majesty finally forgiven Crawfie?

Prince Philip

Marion Crawford was there when the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth met the man of her dreams.

Politico tells us:

In 1939, in the shadow of war, the 13-year-old princess met her Prince Charming during a visit to Dartmouth naval college.

Philip, then aged 19, was exotic Eurotrash. An exiled Greek prince who had grown up in Paris, he was estranged from his family. His three surviving sisters had married into the Nazi regime. His father was living the life of an aging playboy in Monte Carlo. His mother had been declared insane.

In Britain he found a home. In Elizabeth he found devotion.

She was smitten from the get-go:

In a letter to a cousin, she declared that she had met a “Viking God,” and for the rest of the war the two exchanged letters.

Like almost everything else in the queen’s private world, we know nothing of what they said to each other.

The Queen was less than impressed, so the princess enlisted help from elsewhere in the family:

The queen mother distrusted Philip and nicknamed him “the Hun,” but Elizabeth got her way, finding in Louis Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle, a Machiavellian ally. In 1947 the couple were engaged.

That year, the princess wrote a letter, describing her feelings for her fiancé:

In a rare gushing letter to the author Betty Shew written that same year, we get a tantalizing glimpse of Elizabeth’s feelings. Over four excitable pages. Elizabeth talks about nightclubs and dancing and how they were once pursued thrillingly by a photographer through the streets of London. It’s the letter of a woman who is deeply in love.

The wedding in November 1947 was modest for post-war Britain, but it was still lavish by any standards today:

Their wedding that November was a matter of national celebration. Billed as an “austerity wedding,” it was really nothing of the sort. The union was an excuse for nationwide festivities. Thousands of people descended on London for the event. There were 2,500 presents — including a shawl woven by Gandhi and a diamond and platinum Cartier necklace from the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The war had given the royals a new raison d’etre as a “national family,” and the marriage of the beautiful young princess to the handsome young prince seemed to encapsulate fresh beginnings and a new hope of a better world to come.

Early married life

Princess Elizabeth became a naval wife for a time, but not just any naval wife:

They had two children (Charles and Anne) in quick succession and between 1949 and 1951 lived in Malta, where Philip was serving as a naval officer on HMS Chequers.

Once again, official biographies portray this era as a period of “normality.” It’s not entirely true. They lived in a six-bedroom mansion, and in addition to Bobo, had an army of staff.

More approachability

During the Queen’s reign, the Royal Family began opening up in the 1960s, not least with a multi-episode documentary which I saw when growing up in the US. My parents and I were fascinated and amused in equal parts.

Politico says it was a disaster, but I wonder if the chap who wrote the article was even alive then. The Investiture of the Prince of Wales took place around the same time, which my mother and I got up early to watch. Both programmes helped to demystify the Royals.

At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, even though the media tried to play down the Royal Family and the Sex Pistols came out with ‘God Save the Queen’, her subjects broke out the bunting and organised street parties. The monarch sent her heartfelt thanks.

Diana and Fergie

What can one say about the wives of Charles and Andrew?

With regard to Diana, I have read in several places then and now that the Queen Mother had a hand in that marriage.

Politico says:

In 1981, the crowds turned out again, this time to watch Prince Charles marry Diana Spencer, and people turned out to wave again. From the fawning coverage, it looked like a fairy tale, but for the royal family, it was the beginning of a tragedy.

The couple had only met a dozen times and had been pushed together in near desperation, and the relationship quickly dissolved into a battle between Diana and The Firm.

The Duchess of York was no angel, but she and Prince Andrew are still together, despite their divorce.

Later jubilees

How wonderful it was to celebrate the Queen’s Golden (2002), Diamond (2012) and Platinum Jubilees (2022). Those of us alive at the time should consider ourselves blessed.

Politico points out that the Golden Jubilee was a departure from the norm. I was having dinner not far away on the night of the concert and could hear the music on the venue’s terrace. It was electric:

the event was turned instead into a “people’s party,” complete with Brian May playing the national anthem on Buckingham Palace’s roof.

the queen — having been the nation’s sweetheart and the nation’s mother — was reinvented as the nation’s grandmother

Even in her teatime years, the Queen continued to surprise us:

As she advanced into her 80s, the outward image of an unsmiling monarch seemed to loosen up a bit. There was a stunt with James Bond actor Daniel Craig at the opening of the 2012 Olympics, when she appeared to jump out of a helicopter, and she made a funny viral video with her grandson Harry in the run-up to the Invictus Games in 2016.

Her Christmas Day messages became softer in tone …

And who can forget her sketch with Paddington Bear last year at the Palace?

An enduring enigma

Politico concludes that we knew the Queen, yet we didn’t know her at all. That was by design:

At the end — the life of Elizabeth remains an enigma.

We know this much about her: She was in essence a countrywoman, of a certain type familiar among the British upper classes. Dry and stiff upper lipped. Raised in singularly cosseted surroundings from which she never strayed far. She adored horses and people who loved horses, and dogs and people who loved dogs.

Interestingly, one of the last films the Queen made, in April 2022, was with her horses at Sandringham. ITV showed the footage a year ago during the Platinum Jubilee weekend. The Mail had the story, complete with photos and a short video:

The monarch, 96, described one of the horses as an ‘extraordinary girl’ and is heard to say she wonders what goes through the creature’s head.

The clips, filmed at the Royal Stud in Sandringham in April, will be shown in a special feature as part of ITV‘s Saturday Platinum Jubilee coverage …

In the clips, the monarch, wearing a black coat and with a floral headscarf wrapped around her head, observed various horses and foals, alongside her trusted bloodstock and racing adviser John Warren …

Gently stroking the coat of one of the horses, the Queen is heard to say: ‘Well it must be three or four years when she came down into Windsor yard, but behaved as though she’d always been there.’

Admiring the horse, she added: ‘Extraordinary girl, aren’t you?’

Another clip showed the Queen asking a horse ‘would you like another one?’, before picking a carrot from a bowl and feeding it.

Later, observing two horses walking alongside each other in the yard, the Queen is heard to say: ‘I often wonder what goes through her head’ … 

Her Majesty’s fondness of horses began when she was just four after her grandfather, King George V, gave her a little Shetland pony.

By the age of six she had fallen in love with riding, becoming an accomplished equestrian in her teenage years and has continued to ride for pleasure throughout her life.

From her first appearance at the annual Trooping the Colour to 1986, the monarch would attend the ceremony on horseback.

She first attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show as a horse-mad teenager in 1943. Together with Princess Margaret, the 17-year-old showed off her equestrian prowess by winning the Pony & Dogcart class.

The Queen owns several thoroughbreds for racing after she initially inherited King George’s breeding and racing stock following his death in February 1952.

In 1974, the monarch’s interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title, The Queen’s Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated.

Returning to Politico:

She knew a lot about the things she had inherited and not much about anything else. She drove — fast — about her estates in a beaten-up Land Rover and dedicated her life to fiercely protecting the promulgation of the family firm.

But it was almost as if she was absent from her own story — her legend as rigorously curated and spun as that of any autocrat. To provide her United Kingdom with the monarch she felt it needed, she sacrificed an ordinary life and the other things most of us take for granted. But then the curious nature of hereditary monarchy never offered her another path.

Britain will consider itself lucky to have had such a stalwart head of state. Elizabeth Windsor played the role of queen with unflinching conviction for more than 70 years. In performing the part so well, she has left a hole that might yet prove impossible to fill.


What can we learn from the Queen’s conduct?

Discretion, which, according to an old British saying, is the better part of valour.

Silence, in not saying more than one should.

Order, in everything: attire, appearance and daily life.

Those things coupled with a deep personal faith comprised an extraordinary person.

If we all took these aspects of the Queen’s life to heart and cultivated them, the world would be a much better place.

One year ago, we were on the cusp of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, an event that will not recur for at least a century, probably longer.

This was Tatler‘s cover to celebrate that historic British milestone:

The artist was honoured to have been asked to create the portrait:

The Commonwealth was very important to the Queen and, during her reign, she visited nearly every Parliament building in those countries:

On April 6, in a 70-photo countdown to the Platinum Jubilee, the Royal Family selected one of the Queen with the Commonwealth Heads of State from 1964. It was taken at Buckingham Palace. The Commonwealth was dear to her heart. The Mail published the photo and a report.

The picture:

showcases a dinner party at Buckingham Palace with the Queen smiling as she was joined by Commonwealth Heads of State, including Prime Minister Robert Menzies of Australia, Donald Sangster of Jamaica and Milton Obote of Uganda.

Her Majesty is Head of the Commonwealth, which has grown from 8 to 54 members in the last 70 years. 

Explaining the countdown, the Royal family’s Instagram page reads: ‘Over the next 70 days, as we countdown to the #PlatinumJubilee Celebration Weekend, we’ll be sharing an image a day of The Queen – each representing a year of Her Majesty’s 70-year long reign.’

Each of the 70 photos represent a year of the monarch’s seven-decade reign, and each post also highlights a notable moment in history from the same year. 

Vogue‘s Platinum Jubilee cover featured a stunning 1957 portrait of her by the late Lord Snowdon. On March 24, The Mail included the photo in their report:

Queen Elizabeth II will appear on the cover of April’s edition of British Vogue for the first time ever in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee.

The cover features a 1957 image of her Majesty, taken by Lord Snowden, the former husband of Princess Margaret. The Queen wears the George IV State Diadem in the photo, which was taken around the time of her tenth wedding anniversary to Prince Philip.       

There is no woman who has had her image reproduced as often as the Queen, because she was on all our stamps (even in silhouette), coinage and bank notes, too. That is also unlikely to recur for at least a century, if not longer.

March 17, 2010 was the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s first appearance on British currency. In fact, it was the first time any British monarch’s image had appeared on a bank note, something of which I was unaware.

The Daily Mail had a short but interesting retrospective of the various bank notes and her different portraits during that time:

Kings and queens have featured on coins for centuries, but it wasn’t until March 17 1960 that a monarch’s image was printed on paper currency.

Since then there have been five different portraits of the Queen used – some of them at the same time on different denominations.

The images were produced by Robert Austin (1960), Reynolds Stone (1963), Harry Eccleston (1970 and 1971) and Roger Withington (1990).

From 1970, the Queen’s face was frozen for 20 years, with Mr Eccleston’s image gradually introduced on every note – including the reintroduced-50 in 1981.

But in 1990 Mr Withington sketched the Queen, showing her for the first time as a slightly older-looking woman.

The banknotes and the portraits are included in the free A Decoration-And A Safeguard exhibition which opens at the Bank of England Museum, in London, today.

Another historic event that took place during her lifetime was the shift to new money. This was how the old system worked:

Here is a close up of old currency from 1967:

As Politico‘s obituary of her on September 8, 2022, put it:

The queen was an icon, in the literal sense. She inspired Andy Warhol screen prints, tea towels …

“God save the queen!” the Sex Pistols sang in 1977. “She ain’t no human being!” And they made a compelling point.

A punk image of her appeared on that Sex Pistols’ album cover, too.

Even from the very beginning, Elizabeth Windsor’s image went worldwide. When she was born to the Duke and Duchess of York, as they were at the time, official portraits of mother and child were taken almost immediately. Tatler, which was then a weekly, published them straightaway.

When the Queen turned 84 in April 2010, the Palace released unseen photos of her as a toddler. On April 20 that year, The Telegraph reproduced one of the images and reported:

The photographs form part of an exhibition of the work of the photographer Marcus Adams, which opens at Windsor Castle on Saturday.

The 56 images on display include pictures of the then Princess Elizabeth which were taken to be sent to her mother and father, the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, while they were on a six-month tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Among the collection is a poignant letter from the Princess’s nanny, Clara Knight, which reflects how many landmarks of their young daughter’s life the then Duke and Duchess of York missed while they were on the tour.

The note, written on March 8, 1927, reads: “If Mummy looks into my wide open mouth with a little magnifying glass she will see my two teeth. Elizabeth is quite well & happy!”

Lisa Heighway, the collection’s curator, explained that, in those days, Royal children were not taken on long, official tours. They stayed at home with their nanny. However, times change, and a young Prince William joined the then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their tour of Australia.

On May 30, 2022, The Mail republished a selection of newly colourised candids of the Queen from her infancy through to young adulthood:

Newly colourised photos of the Queen as young woman have given a glimpse at Princess Elizabeth as you’ve never seen her before …

The photos have been discovered in the TopFoto archives, documenting moments throughout the Queen’s life from her birth in 1926 to 1952, just before she ascended the throne.

Another photo many readers will not have seen is this one from the 1960s:

Until 2022, the Queen distributed Maundy Money to pensioners in England every Maundy Thursday. On April 9, 2009, The Telegraph published a set of photographs from her visit that year to St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. In case anyone was wondering:

Initially the sovereign gave money to the poor – and washed recipients’ feet. Foot-washing ended with James II in the 17th Century.

On April 8, 2022, The Mail reported that the cancellation was the first one of her reign. Sadly, it turned out to be her last as well:

The Queen has pulled out of the annual Maundy Day church service ‘with regret’, Buckingham Palace has announced. 

In a first for her reign, the monarch, who turns 96 this month, will instead be represented by Prince Charles and Camilla at the event, due to be held on April 14.  

The service will take place a St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.   

It comes after the Queen, who suffers from widely-publicised mobility issues, pulled out of the Commonwealth Service last month amid concerns over her health.   

In May 2022, a few weeks before her Platinum Jubilee, the Queen’s last grand opening event was that of the eponymous Elizabeth Line, which runs from Reading, Berkshire, through London to Shenfield, Essex, with a branch line going south of the Thames to Abbey Wood.

Conservative MP Greg Hands pointed out that the Queen was surrounded by male world leaders for many years. She is shown taking a short ride on the Elizabeth Line:

On September 8, 2022, The Times posted a splendid collection of photographs from her birth on April 21, 1926 through to her final one, taken just before she met Liz Truss to ask her to form a new government on September 6, 2022.

What do we learn from the Queen’s many photographs and portraits?

Who can better explain than the award-winning art critic Waldemar Januszczak, who wrote a critique of her images for The Times on May 29, 2022, and included a variety of photos and paintings. Emphases mine below:

Think of all those history-changing individuals — Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Marilyn Monroe. Yet, according to the National Portrait Gallery, Elizabeth II has out-portrayed every one. She is “the most portrayed individual in history.” It’s an extraordinary fact.

The reasons there are so many portraits of her are many and varied. Her longevity has obviously been crucial. As we press our lips to the trumpets and toot our 70 platinum toots most of us will have lived our lives within her reign. The Queen has bookended our existence. She has always been there …

Since she was a small girl, beaming from the cigarette cards pressed into the British fag packet by WD & HO Wills, the camera has loved the Queen. At first it was that Shirley Temple thing she had. As a child she oozed a bouncy blonde confidence. Especially when Princess Margaret was in the shot as well and Elizabeth could adopt the presence of a mildly bossy elder sister.

Yet it was in her princess years, when the cherub of the cigarette cards blossomed into the seriously beautiful heir to the throne, that things really started to heat up between the Queen and the camera. Sociologists, historians and cynics will tell you that these were already years of exponential growth in the image industry — new magazines, new cameras, a new interest in the new. As an entity, the royal family had become actively aware of the need to present a fresh image of itself to its populace. Not just in Britain, but in every corner of the huge pink empire it ruled.

It’s all true. Everybody loves a princess. But any old princess would not have emitted the powerful gamma rays that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor emitted

this particular princess could have been a film star. The line of her neck. The precise bunching of her hair, carefully parted, but with a hint of noirish unruliness. The society photographer Dorothy Wilding saw it too. It was one of Wilding’s perfect royal profiles, taken immediately after the accession in 1952, that became the image repeated on our national stamps.

Later still, Andy Warhol used one of the official state likenesses of her as the basis for a brightly iconic royal screenprint. From the start, Elizabeth Windsor had something about her that lenses go giddy over.

So, yes, the camera loved the Queen. But — and this is where it gets slippery — she evidently loved it back … as a young woman, Elizabeth knew what she had and was never entirely shy about putting it out there. She could smoulder. She could do the half-smile thing. She could look back at us alluringly over a naked shoulder.

The photographer who recognised this most precisely was Cecil Beaton. It started when he was telephoned out of the blue by Buckingham Palace. At the time, the years before and after the Coronation, he was the world’s best known fashion photographer. But a fashion photographer is not a royal photographer. Hiring him was an independent and pointed thing for the Queen to do.

With his rococo details, cascading cloths and bountiful bouquets, Beaton gave the postwar world the fairytale princess it desired. When she became Queen the regalia changed, but not the mood. For him she was always a monarch of the Cinderella dynasty. What Beaton knew from the start, with his fashion training, is that a supermodel had ascended to the British throne.

I have met her only once, while making a film about the art in the Royal Collection. Invited for tea at Buckingham Palace, I was struck by her complexion. She was in her seventies, but her face was as smooth as a piece of Meissen porcelain. Her eyes — butterfly blue at the centre, snow white at the edges — still looked new, as if they had just come out of a Harrods box.

Unfortunately, most of the Queen’s painted portraits were quite dismal:

Most of the painters she has turned to have come from that bleak institution: the Establishment School of Untalented Lackeys. The results have been bad likenesses or very uninteresting ones. The fashionable Italian Pietro Annigoni had perhaps the best go in 1955 when he painted the recently crowned monarch in a traditional manner — the post, post, post-Renaissance style. The results were close enough to one of Beaton’s royal photographs to remain charming. Just.

Annigoni’s is my favourite. Warhol’s is my next favourite. Both are in the article.

Januszczak surmises that the Palace wanted to downplay the Queen’s regal aura by commissioning less-than-stellar portrait artists:

What happened, I think, is that the confidence and charisma of the princess years were brushed aside by a Palace strategy that demanded a more humble, less privileged royal portraiture. In an effort to ingratiate themselves with the Joneses, the Windsors began to downplay their aristocracy.

I could not agree more, and it is a shame. The Queen deserved far better, which makes the portraits of her youth so enticing. We want to go back to them all the more. Their beauty and composition draw us in. Can we look at them only once? No. We return for a second and a third look.

More on the Queen to follow tomorrow. How I wish she were still alive.

It was by sheer coincidence that yesterday, Pentecost Sunday, I happened to be writing about 1 Timothy 6:3-5, a passage that gives the characteristics of false teachers, and then ran across a profile of a former vicar.

Those verses are worth reading before proceeding with the following post.

It is unfortunate that the ex-vicar in question is the Revd Richard Coles, famous in Britain for being on nearly every reality television series going.

It is unfortunate because his on-screen persona is exactly what one would want in a vicar: joviality, warmth and humour. No doubt many Britons empathised when his civil partner David, also a Church of England priest, died a week before Christmas in 2019.

In July 2020, Coles, who was straddling his responsibilities as a vicar with television engagements, defended the Church over slavery. This was a month after George Floyd protests had taken place during lockdown — no problem there, as we saw — and discussions continued from henceforth.

On July 2 that year, The Express reported:

Reverend Richard Coles was shut down by African Studies Professor Kehinde Andrews who explained the Anglo-Church paid some of the largest compensation after the end of the slave trade. The pair clashed in a heated debate over the portrayal of Jesus. It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for reconsideration of Jesus being perceived as a white man.

Speaking on GMB [ITV’s Good Morning Britain], Reverend Richard Coles said: “The Church has also played a prophetic part in seeking equality for black people around the world.

“The Church of England in the 18th and 19th centuries played a significant role in the legislation to bring about the abolition of the slave trade.

“The Church of England played a very important part.”

However, the professor was unhappy and cited Isaiah 1:18:

“The image of the white Jesus was given to us as the enslaved.

“It was taken to African schools and put on to us in one of the main ways to pacify us.

“You still have people in Black churches in this country saying that ‘he will wash you white as snow’.

“That’s the original white saviour image and the whole purpose of it was to embed colonialism and slavery …”

This is the problem with taking anything, including the Bible, out of context. The Lord was referring to scarlet sins.

Here is an excerpt from Isaiah 1 (emphases mine):

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

In 2022, Coles made a one-off documentary for Channel 4, Good Grief, which aired on August 8. By then, he had just retired as a vicar of Finedon in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands and had moved to a seaside village in Sussex, on the south coast.

The day before the programme aired, Coles told The Telegraph of the anger he felt when his alcoholic partner, the priest, died. We also got a synopsis of the show. Note that there is no mention of Scripture:

In the show, we see him searching for new ways to process his sense of loss, immersing himself in a plethora of grief therapies.

He throws himself into skydiving, boxing and surfing to escape his thoughts and tries yoga laughter to “act” his way out of pain; he gathers with others for a grief “supper club” and, perhaps most movingly, a grief cruise in Miami

Researching the film reminded Richard that there are, of course, no quick fixes to the outrageous pain of grief. “You won’t find something that will magically make you feel better. But there are things which can help you connect to the part of yourself that’s most vulnerable, and I found this helpful. Boxing, especially, was my favourite.”

This might surprise his fans, who know him as an erudite, witty man more at home on the Strictly dance floor, rather than sweating in a gym. He laughs when I suggest this.

“Boxing licensed my anger. As a vicar, you swallow your own feelings to help other people manage theirs. Boxing was a way of legitimising the pointless fury of grief.” The more physical activities also helped him push back against the sense of life becoming diminished and made smaller, which grief brings with it. “Grief can make you feel irrational anger towards the dead person for having wrecked your life, which is perhaps why grief, guilt and anger often go around as a trio. Boxing allowed me to feel everything, which was helpful.”

There was also an element of catharsis at work, because Richard is honest about how angry he felt over David’s continued drinking. “At its worst, his addiction was very bad, and I think I knew, at a deep level, that it could only end with his death,” he confides. “And I felt furious with him for drinking like that, and also guilty for feeling furious. But when it was especially bad, I’d arrive home and sit in the drive thinking, what fresh hell awaits me inside?”

Coles has a famous friend in Northamptonshire, Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother:

He tells me about spending the Christmas following David’s death with his friend, Charles [9th Earl Spencer and younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales]. “And we ended up at Diana’s grave, the most mourned person in my entire life, so yes, we would all see the dark comedy in that.”

Coles retains his house in Northamptonshire.

He rightly pointed out that we no longer know how to cope with death. He also rightly brought up his Christian beliefs:

It’s interesting to hear Richard wrestling with the transcendent power of his own faith in relation to his very human and earthly longing to see David again. “Because I am a Christian and believe in the power of the Gospel, I live in hope of something that awaits beyond the horizon of death. But while the thought of David enduring is wonderful, all I really want today is for him to walk in through the door again.”

However, all I could think of was that Coles would have done better to immerse himself in the epistles at his time of grief, Paul’s, in particular. We are all bound to suffer to some degree in this life. As we know, the death of a loved one affects us all. When we are mourning and calling upon Christ to comfort us, we are also called to use that as a means of sanctification.

In my post on 1 Timothy 6:3-5, I cited John MacArthur’s sermon on those verses. MacArthur spoke of the importance of knowing and understanding the Bible:

If false teaching is contrary to Scripture, it is easily recognized by one who knows what Scripture teaches, one who, in the terms of 1 John 2, has become a spiritual young man, because the Word of God abides in you and you are strong and therefore you have overcome the wicked one. The wicked one plying his false teaching is overcome by one who is strong in the Word

That’s why the primary task of the shepherd is to feed the sheep, so that they begin to recognize what is their proper diet, and they don’t go out to eat the noxious deadly weeds that grow on the fringes of their pasture …

When you know good doctrine and your people know good doctrine, you’re protected. You’re protected from the deadly virus of error. And the only protecting antibiotic that we have against false teaching is the truth – the truth of God.

Yoga isn’t going to cure our inner pain as a mourner. Neither is boxing, although there will be some need to release tension and, for some, boxing fulfils the brief. Yet, the most important element of mourning is keeping an eye on Christ and His infinite grace. Our grief, in some measure, shall pass with time.

On May 28, 2023, on the feast of Pentecost, The Sunday Times Magazine published Decca Aitkenhead’s interview with the celebrity ex-vicar, ‘Richard Coles: “I met my new boyfriend on EliteSingles”‘.

I was stunned to read of the amount of anger that this man of the cloth had had since his youth. Couple that with greed as well as the love of fame, and it’s an unholy mix. It seems apposite that he is now retired from the pulpit. Good grief.

Consider Paul’s verses, then contemplate the following anecdotes.

His fury and materialism began during his schooldays, something he is writing about in his third novel involving a protagonist named Daniel:

Coles’s own father was a wealthy shoe manufacturer who similarly went broke while Coles was a teenager at a prestigious boarding school. It was “an excoriating experience, a life-changing experience” — the emotional legacy of which, he agrees, is betrayed in Daniel’s mother.

“At school everyone judged their fathers by the car they drove. And woe betide the person who once turned up in a Rolls-Royce and next turned up in a Ford Granada.” The memory still haunts him. “Status,” he murmurs reverently. “Prestige.” He has a friend whose father also lost everything while he was at boarding school, and is one of the most driven people he knows. “We both think some iron entered our souls at that point when we were teenagers and we lost prestige because our parents lost wealth. Yeah, that was really formative.”

His relationship with money is “hugely” loaded. “I’ve always disguised it from myself and told myself I’m committed to antimaterialistic doctrines and Christianity. But you know what? I’ve always been able to make a buck. And I have always been scared of poverty.”

He recently told his accountant he was frightened that he would end up living on the street, destitute. The astonished accountant assured him that was not going to happen. “Well, you say that,” Coles retorted, implacably unconvinced.

Years ago, Coles lied about being HIV-positive. It is unclear why he did so:

I’m still trying to work out how someone so honest about himself could ever have told his closest friends a total lie about being HIV positive. “It was an awful thing to do.” He shudders. “Even talking about it now, I’m ashamed of it. It’s there on the record, for ever, and it makes me feel very bad. But I am that person.”

At the end of the interview, Aitkenhead cornered him on his love of prestige and lying:

Years ago, in the course of research for an article about a pair of fraudsters, I read a lot of books about liars. One consistent theme, I begin to say — “I think I can guess what it is,” he interrupts. “Was it loss of prestige in their teenage years?” It was indeed.

“That makes perfect sense to me.” He nods. “Perfect sense.”

Dear, oh dear.

Even his friendship with Earl Spencer seems to have lost a bit of its glow, only because the two know each other so well now:

In his former parish Coles used to spend a good deal of time at nearby Althorp House, the home of Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother. It feels unlikely, I suggest, that anyone could accidentally have made so many famous friends.

“I suppose what I would have said in the past is, ‘Oh, it just sort of happened that way because that’s the world I live in, dah dah dah.’ But it’s because I seek them out. And find, in their company and society, something that affirms me.” To restore his own lost prestige? He thinks for a moment. “Maybe if I’m in their golden glow, I’ll be a bit safer.” He pauses again. “But what happens of course is that it only lasts for a bit. There’s a dazzle. And then after that, if a friendship with someone comes out of it, then you’re just two people, right?”

Let’s return to anger and add lust to the mix.

This is what happened after his father’s financial failure:

In the early Eighties Coles was an angry young man on the dole in King’s Cross, fresh out of a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt at 17, and full of fury about homophobia and Margaret Thatcher.

Then he made a name for himself in popular music:

He joined a radical gay activist theatrical troupe and made friends with the Bronski Beat singer Jimmy Somerville. Together they formed the Communards in 1985 and became huge pop stars practically overnight.

Enter anger and the lie about being HIV-positive:

Yet Coles couldn’t enjoy all the fun and five-star hotels and first-class flights because he was always furious with Somerville for getting more attention than him.

Perhaps Somerville had the more winsome personality.


During one of their many blazing rows, in a fit of jealous pique Coles screamed that he had just been diagnosed with HIV. The upper hand and dark glamour this lie conferred was so gratifying, he repeated it to all his closest friends and couldn’t bring himself to come clean for five years. Most of his friends were extraordinarily forgiving — “That took something to admit, doll,” was all Somerville said — but one was so upset he didn’t speak to Coles for a year.

While he kept the lie alive:

the Communards had long since split, undone by mutual loathing — although they later made up and remain on friendly terms — and Coles had survived an epic two-year bender on Ecstasy, cocaine and speed.

Then came Christianity:

What had begun as high-spirited hedonism descended into wretched self-destruction and squalor, but after coming to his senses in his late twenties and cleaning up, to his surprise he found God.

Then came theology studies — and more fame:

By the early Nineties he was a theology student, a Sony award-winning BBC radio presenter and a big hit in celebrity media social circles.

When he had finished studying theology:

On graduation he moved back to his home county of Northamptonshire, where he took up dogging. He thinks that having roadside sex with random strangers was “actually rather good for me”, remedying his lifelong sense of undesirability. “But I think also I was unkind to people sometimes, so absorbed in my own gratification.”

At that point, the first half of St Paul’s 1 Timothy 6:4 came alive:

he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.

Then came seminary:

The dogging had stopped by the time he began training for the clergy, and in 2005 he was ordained.

I am sure that John MacArthur’s Masters Seminary would have despatched Coles quickly for reasons various.

Then came his parish work, partner and more television:

Two years later, by then a vicar in Norfolk, he fell in love with a fellow clergyman from a neighbouring parish, David, and their relationship was formalised with a civil partnership in 2010. The following year Coles moved to a Northamptonshire parish, began presenting Saturday Live and became Britain’s favourite vicar. The jovial dog-collared doyen of light entertainment has appeared on everything from Celebrity MasterChef to Celebrity Mastermind, The Weakest Link to Strictly Come Dancing, and the tragedy of David’s death from alcoholism in 2019, at just 43, shocked the nation.

Coles feels no regrets about breaking his ordination vow of celibacy in light of the nature of his sexual relationship:

He doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about breaking the same-sex celibacy oath CofE rules obliged him to take. “It’s true, bang to rights, I was dishonest. I don’t like breaking an oath, but if it is one that is unholy then I don’t feel the moral obligation to observe it.” To honour an oath that he “thought was unjust and inhuman and degrading”, he adds, “ would be much worse”.

All of that made me think of 1 Timothy 6:3 …

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[a] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,

… and the end of verse 5:

imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Aitkenhead, herself an atheist, found that aspects of Coles’s life didn’t sit well with her:

… most of all I’m intrigued by his conversion from brittle pop diva to humble cleric — chiefly because it has always struck me as fishy. In my experience, fame-hungry, troubled young pop stars do not grow up to be self-effacing saints. The disarming surprise is how cheerfully he agrees.

“Yes, I don’t actually believe that finding God can fundamentally rewire most of that.” The young Coles who used to storm out of Communards interviews because all the questions had been directed at Somerville is, he chuckles, the person he remains to this day. So why has everyone mistaken him for a sweetie? “Because I’ve offered them that version of me.” With a soft groan, he despairs, “Why do I do it? Sometimes I could drown in a sea of my own whimsy.”

It is a good thing that he has retired.

He admits to his former parishoners having the same impression as Aitkenhead:

I wonder if his celebrity circles made any parishioners suspicious of him. “I’m sure it did.” Of the only two arguments he had with them, one was sparked when someone made a snide swipe about “you and your fancy friends”. He looks embarrassed. “And I snapped. I lost my temper. And why do I lose my temper? Because I’m called out on something.”

A similar disagreement occurred with his late partner:

He had a whopping row with his late husband when he was voted off Strictly and pretended not to mind. “And David knew that I really minded, he wasn’t buying it, and we had a big fight. I lost my temper. And then I felt stupid.” The honest truth, he admits, is he had secretly thought he might win.

That is the Coles story up to this point.

More verses from 1 Timothy have come to mind over the past few hours.

In 1 Timothy 1:3-7, Paul introduced his discussion on false teachers, including this assertion of truth:

The aim of our charge [command] is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Then there are the verses from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (continued here and here) about the characteristics of a good overseer — a pastor or vicar:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

St Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew what he was talking about. The Church would be restored if only more of today’s seminaries followed his instructions to Timothy.

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

False Teachers and True Contentment

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[a] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instructions to Timothy about being a good employee. If you haven’t read it, it is truly a message to be shared with others, especially young people who do not like to work, something of a phenomenon in British society these days.

The second half of verse 2 appears in some versions, e.g. the ESVUK, connected with this section. Here it is:

Teach and urge these things.

John MacArthur explains why that is (emphases mine):

Go back to verse 2 at the end, “These things teach and exhort,” says Paul in ending verse 2. And what things does he have in mind? Everything that he has brought up in this epistle. It’s got to go back even beyond verses 1 and 2 which has to do with employment responsibility, to encompass the whole epistle. And that started in chapter 1 with a proper understanding of the law of God, with a proper understanding of the gospel, the saving gospel, with a proper understanding of the majesty of God in verse 17. It goes back to chapter 2 where Paul instructed about evangelistic praying, praying for the lost. It goes back to chapter 2 verses 9 to 15, the instruction on the role of a woman in the order of the church; chapter 3, principles to characterize church leaders and church deacons; chapter 4, you have there statements regarding false doctrine, and then you have the model of an effective ministry given, principles for proper ministry. Chapter 5 deals with how to treat older men and how to treat older women, particularly widows. And then how to treat younger widows. And then it discusses also how to treat the elders of the church. Then you come to chapter 6 and the matter of employment and how one is to work under both a believing and unbelieving boss.

And what Paul is saying at the end of verse 2 is all these things are to be taught and given by way of admonition and exhortation. In other words, teach the truth, teach the revealed truth of God in all these dimensions.

Paul says that there are those who teach a different doctrine and disagree with the sound — healthy — words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness (verse 3).

Paul begins that verse with ‘If’, and MacArthur gives us the construction in the original Greek:

he says in verse 3, “If anyone teaches differently” – differently than revelation, differently than what has been revealed through the inspiration of the Spirit of God in Scripture.

Now by the way, the ‘if’ here is a first‑class conditional in Greek, and that means that it assumes reality. If and it is true – if and it is true – could be translated “since.” Since some are teaching differently – it’s assumed that this is a reality. And it was a reality. Already from studying 1 Timothy we know that men had infiltrated the church teaching bizarre fables, endless genealogies, teaching questions rather than things that edified, vain jangling. They were desiring to be teachers of the law but didn’t know what they were talking about. They were shipwrecking the faith. They were teaching doctrines of demons spawned by seducing spirits. They were lying in hypocrisy. They were teaching areas of abstinence which were contrary to God’s truth. They were teaching knowledge falsely so called vain, profane babblings. False teaching was there.

And so when he says, “If anyone teach otherwise,” he is saying, “And I know they are.” That’s why he uses the construction of a first-class conditional. There is no specific teacher mentioned; there is no specific teaching, so we can say it’s a generic phrase. It’s a generic statement embracing all false teaching, all subversive doctrines, all subversive agents of Satan who have infiltrated the church to infect people … with the deadly virus of lying, false teaching. So it is generic enough not only to relate to everything Timothy would face but to relate to everything the church would face in any age, including today.

Matthew Henry’s commentary succinctly explains Christian doctrine:

Observe, The doctrine of our Lord Jesus is a doctrine according to godliness; it has a direct tendency to make people godly.

MacArthur tells us what is ungodly:

Paul is saying, “Look, if anyone teaches differently, that’s the mark.” That’s how you know them. It is, first of all then, what they affirm. You have to listen to what they say. Is it different than what you know Scripture says? Are they saying something different? The word is heterodidaskalei, a heterodox teaching rather than an orthodox teaching. That means a heresy, a false teaching, something that is different than the Scripture teaches. They don’t get their teaching out of the Word of God. They have something different than the Bible, some vision, some revelation, some psychological insight, some self-generated, self-spawned doctrine, some interpretation that is contrary to Scripture. Anything different than the sound true teaching of the Word of God revealed – marks a false teacher. It could be a teaching that denies that God is the only true God. It could be a teaching that denies that God is a spirit and turns God into an idol or a man. It could be a teaching that denies that God is a trinity or that denies some of the attributes or any of the attributes of God. It could be a teaching that denies that God is almighty, that God is sovereign, that God is the creator, that God has revealed Himself in history. It can be a teaching that denies His person, His attributes, or His works. And any such thing marks out one who has a virus that is deadly.

It could be error about Christ, error about His lineage, error about His virgin birth. Someone who teaches contrary to the sinless perfection of Christ, contrary to His substitutionary atoning death on the cross, contrary to His resurrection, contrary to His miraculous life and works, His perfect teaching, His Second Coming, His high priestly ministry of intercession, His eternal reign, any of that. Anyone who teaches differently than that. It could be a denial of the authenticity of Scripture, the inspiration of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the inerrancy of Scripture. It could be a denial of the work and ministry and person of the Holy Spirit as revealed on the pages of holy Scripture. Any deviation from what the Bible teaches marks out the virus of false teaching that can in a deadly way infect people. Any area of truth twisted, perverted, or superseding Scripture is cause for us to take note.

The person teaching a false doctrine is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing; he has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander and evil suspicions (verse 4).

Henry explains:

he that does not consent to the words of Christ is proud (v. 4) and contentious, ignorant, and does a great deal of mischief to the church, knowing nothing. Observe, Commonly those are most proud who know least; for with all their knowledge they do not know themselves.—But doting about questions. Those who fall off from the plain practical doctrines of Christianity fall in with controversies, which eat out the life and power of religion; they dote about questions and strifes of words, which do a great deal of mischief in the church, are the occasion of envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. When men are not content with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness, but will frame notions of their own and impose them, and that too in their own words, which man’s wisdom teaches, and not in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches ( 1 Cor 2 13), they sow the seeds of all mischief in the church.

This is why it is so important to truly understand Scripture.

MacArthur says:

If false teaching is contrary to Scripture, it is easily recognized by one who knows what Scripture teaches, one who, in the terms of 1 John 2, has become a spiritual young man, because the Word of God abides in you and you are strong and therefore you have overcome the wicked one. The wicked one plying his false teaching is overcome by one who is strong in the Word

That’s why the primary task of the shepherd is to feed the sheep, so that they begin to recognize what is their proper diet, and they don’t go out to eat the noxious deadly weeds that grow on the fringes of their pasture …

When you know good doctrine and your people know good doctrine, you’re protected. You’re protected from the deadly virus of error. And the only protecting antibiotic that we have against false teaching is the truth – the truth of God.

It is so sad that so few denominations do focus on the Bible these days, because those sheep are easily led astray. And Satan is cunning in his ways to work through his human agents in the Church.

MacArthur has more on the words about false teachers that Paul uses:

They affirm something different than Scripture, and they are not willing to consent to healthy words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a present tense. The false teacher is not presently in agreement with – the idea here is in their teaching they disagree with Scripture. They’re not in agreement with healthy words. That word in the Greek becomes the English word hygiene. They don’t give themselves to the hygienic words, the healthy words, the wholesome words, the beneficial words that are namely the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

the words of our Lord Jesus Christ – really in the literature the Greek says, “The ones of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, they do not commit themselves to the wholesome life-giving beneficial spiritually productive words that have come to us from our Lord Jesus Christ. And that does not simply refer to the very quotes of Jesus in the gospels but all the word that He has given to us as the author of Scripture using the Spirit of God in inspiration through the human writers. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ refers to any revelation given to us and particularly – most particularly – the New Testament revelation.

There is a danger with clerics who are not committed to the teachings of the Bible:

False teachers will be all over the place. They may talk about Jesus. They may talk about God. But the heart of their ministry will not be the Word of God. They add to that and they take away from that. And so they affirm things different than Scripture and they do not consent to what is in the Scripture. And you can mark them out. The Scripture is the beginning and the ending of God’s revelation, and all that we are to teach is contained within its pages …

The ultimate test of truth is resulting godliness. They do not agree with the teaching which is related to godliness. Truth always results in godliness when it is applied. The Word of God will produce healthy spiritual behavior. The Word of God will bring truth to bear on a life that results in godliness. That’s why 4:7 of 1 Timothy says, “Exercise yourself unto godliness” – exercise yourself unto godliness.

Now listen, error can never produce godliness. What do we mean by godliness? Reverence, piety, but simply to be like God, to be like Christ. False teaching, heresy, error cannot produce Christ-likeness. Only the truth of God can do that. Only the Word can produce godliness. Living holiness, living reverence, living God-likeness, living Christ-likeness is the fruit of truth. So the ultimate test of a teacher’s teaching is to take a look at his or her life.

… Take a look at their conduct. Do they take pleasure in wickedness, as Peter says they do? Are they given over to presumptuous self-willed lewdness as Peter also says, 2 Peter 2, in so many words? Are they given over to sinful life? Are the oriented to pride? When you see them do you see them concerned with prestige and recognition and power and popularity? And is there a certain sexual looseness in their behavior? Are they self‑centered, self‑indulgent, self‑gratifying? If so, those are the things not produced by truth but produced by lies.

Look at their creed. Listen to what they say. Are they calling for repentance? Are they calling for holiness? Are they calling for God-likeness and Christ-likeness? Are they telling people to abandon their self-indulgence? Are they calling for brokenness over sin? Or are they teaching teachings that accommodate the carnal mind and feed the fallenness of man? That’s the question. And so when you look to the identifying marks in the pathology of false teachers, first of all they say things different than Scripture. Secondly, they deny things the Scripture says. And thirdly, what they teach does not produce godliness. That’s how you mark them

I remember a professor who is well known to my family in a seminary, a very well-known seminary, who got into these kinds of speculations and these kinds of word games and became so totally frustrated that he went into an apartment one night, shut the windows, turned the gas on and gassed himself. Clouds with no water – raging seas foaming out nothing but shame – wandering stars. Their minds know nothing, and they engage themselves in useless speculations about words that only start battles, logomachias, semantic battles.

MacArthur explains what ‘puffed up’ means in Greek:

Verse 4, the first statement is simple, “He is” – what? – “proud.” What’s their attitude? Pride. Their mark is heresy and their attitude is pride. It’s the same word used in chapter 3 verse 6. It’s a very unique word. It’s the word tuphoō, which means to be enveloped in smoke or engulfed in smoke. It’s a perfect passive form, which means they’re in a settled state of being engulfed in their own smoke. In other words, they’re just pure smoke. They’re just a big puff of hot air. Arrogance is what that word implies. They are arrogant. False teachers inevitably are arrogant.

Such people engage in and encourage conflict — constant friction — among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (verse 5), meaning making money.

Henry says:

We observe, 1. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are wholesome words, they are the fittest to prevent or heal the church’s wounds, as well as to heal a wounded conscience; for Christ has the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary, Isa 50 4. The words of Christ are the best to prevent ruptures in the church; for none who profess faith in him will dispute the aptness or authority of his words who is their Lord and teacher, and it has never gone well with the church since the words of men have claimed a regard equal to his words, and in some cases a much greater. 2. Whoever teaches otherwise, and does not consent to these wholesome words, he is proud, knowing nothing; for pride and ignorance commonly go together. 3. Paul sets a brand only on those who consent not to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness; they are proud, knowing nothing: other words more wholesome he knew not. 4. We learn the sad effects of doting about questions and strifes of words; of such doting about questions comes envy, strife, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings; when men leave the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, they will never agree in other words, either of their own or other men’s invention, but will perpetually wrangle and quarrel about them; and this will produce envy, when they see the words of others preferred to those they have adopted for their own; and this will be attended with jealousies and suspicions of one another, called here evil surmisings; then they will proceed to perverse disputings. 5. Such persons as are given to perverse disputings appear to be men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth; especially such as act in this manner for the sake of gain, which is all their godliness, supposing gain to be godliness, contrary to the apostle‘s judgment, who reckoned godliness great gain. 6. Good ministers and Christians will withdraw themselves from such. “Come out from among them, my people, and be ye separate,” says the Lord: from such withdraw thyself.

MacArthur cautions us to be wary of clerics who boast of multiple academic degrees or their new truth or revelation:

I don’t care how many PhD’s or how much training or preparation they have, they know nothing. It doesn’t say they don’t know much. It says they don’t know anything. They are pompous ignoramuses. They don’t know anything, but they are inflated about what they think they know. They parade their imagined intelligence, their imagined scholarship, their imagined superior understanding, their imagined deeper insights, their imagined religious acumen, and the truth is they don’t know anything. They’re fools. First Corinthians chapter 1 and 2, they are absolute fools. And the wisdom of the world, he says, is – what? – foolishness with God. They don’t have insight into any matter of spiritual truth.

They have the wisdom, of James, that is not from above, that is earthly, sensual, demoniacal. They don’t have any truth. People who come along, whether they’re liberal theologians or cultic leaders, like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy and Judge Rutherford and whoever else they are, whether they’re L. Ron Hubbard or whoever they are, they come along and espouse some great truth, and the fact of it is they’re absolutely ignorant. They know nothing, absolutely nothing. Because you can’t know anything apart from the revelation of God. That is anything about spiritual reality. They claim some new truth, some new insight. They claim to know things that no one else knows, and they pontificate in their pompous ignorance about all the solutions to everything, and they don’t know anything.

Beloved, it’s so wonderful that the Lord has chosen to hide these things from the “wise and the prudent” – in their own eyes – and reveal them unto babes. God has hidden these things from the prosperous, self-promoting minds of this world and given it to the common folks like us. Those of us who know the Word of God know far more than the most erudite educated people who deny it.

Another thing to be wary of is the authorship of books of the Bible, a very big thing. Look at any Wikipedia entry on canonical books and you will find a running controversy on authorship in many cases:

And it isn’t enough to accept the Bible, you take the first five books of the Bible and the Scripture says they were written by Moses and along come the critics and say, “Now wait a minute, we can’t have those books written by Moses. We have a better solution.” And they invented what was called the documentary hypothesis – words, words – the documentary hypothesis. You say what is the documentary hypothesis? That means Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch. Who did? JEP&D. Who are JEP&D? Every time you see Jehovah, that’s the J writer; every time you see Elohim, that’s the E writer; every time you see a priestly passage that’s the P writer; and Deuteronomy was written by the Deuteronomists. And these are unknown people who much later than the Bible claims got a whole lot of documents and did their little thing and mish-mashed it all together, and a bunch of redactors and editors came along and changed this and changed that and fixed this and fixed that. And that’s how we got the Bible.

And you say, where does it say that? Oh, it doesn’t say that. Well, then when the Bible claims that a certain person wrote the book, is that the truth? No, no, that’s not the truth. So we deny the Scripture. We postulate the documentary hypothesis. We have all these people trying to figure out how JEP&D could do all this, especially when you have JEP&D in the same verse. Are they just passing the quill back and forth?

You come into the New Testament, and then you’ve got people who want to deny the authorship of the epistles. I can take you book after book after book, on introduction to the New Testament, where the whole approach to the author is to deny that Paul wrote the Pauline books, James wrote his epistle, deny Peter wrote his and all the way through – deny, deny, deny and postulate some – some speculative issue that they themselves have developed. This is typical. You can go back to allegorism, where they were making things in the Bible mean mystical things that they didn’t mean at all. For example, the old rabbis used to say that in the name Abraham, you give numerical equivalence to the consonants and they add up to 318. And every time you see the word Abraham that means that he had 318 servants. That’s bizarre, absolutely bizarre. And that kind of stuff goes on and on.

MacArthur has more on the characteristics of false teachers:

The mark then? Heresy. The attitude? Pride. The mentality? Ignorance. The effects? Chaos. Number five, just briefly, the cause of false teachers. Now I don’t mean by that the supernatural cause, the Satanic or demonic cause, I mean the source within them. Look at verse 5 again, “These perverse disputings come from men of corrupt minds.” There’s your basic cause. What you have is an unregenerate mind. You have a mind that’s never been transformed. You have the mind that is at enmity with God; that Paul calls, in Romans 8 the, carnal mind is at enmity with God. It’s an enemy of God. It is that earthly wisdom James refers to that fights against God. Corrupt minds. Romans 1:28, Paul says a reprobate mind, given over to every evil thing. Their mental faculties no longer function normally in the moral or spiritual realm. They do not react normally to truth. They are natural men, 1 Corinthians 2:14, who cannot understand the things of God.

So the pathological source of their disease is a corrupt mind. The deadly virus of ignorant words comes out of an abnormal mind. They don’t understand God. They don’t understand truth. They can’t understand truth. Their minds are darkened, Ephesians 4 says. Their minds are alienated from God, Ephesians 4 says. Their minds are totally wicked. It says in Colossians 1:21, your mind is basically attached to wicked works.

So alienated minds, wicked minds, darkened minds, carnal minds, corrupt minds, that’s the source. They’ve never been transformed. They have not received what I love Colossians – or 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “But you have received the mind of” – whom? – “of Christ.” They don’t have that mind. They don’t have that mind. They don’t have the renewed mind that Paul writes about. And that’s the source. You’re dealing with a corrupt mind. You’re dealing with a regenerate mind. They may have degrees coming out their ears. They may have religious involvement. They may be a part of a cult or an -ism or whatever it is but their mind is corrupt. And out of a corrupt mind come ignorant words. That’s the cause.

Number six, the condition of false teachers. What is the present pervasive condition? Verse 5 again, he says not only are they men of corrupt minds, but, “and destitute of the truth” – and destitute of the truth. This is their condition. Their present condition is they are bereft. The word destitute means – it comes from a verb that means to steal, rob, deprive. They have been deprived of the truth, or it could be a middle voice – they have deprived themselves of the truth. They have robbed themselves of the truth, or they have been robbed of the truth.

That is a very dangerous spiritual condition, because it can — and does — lead to apostasy, which can lead to eternal condemnation in the next life:

… they moved away from the truth on their own volition. It’s not saying they were ever saved. They had a Bible. They read the Bible. They knew the truth but they moved away from it. On the other hand, it could be a passive – someone took it away. Maybe they came under the influence of someone who pulled them away from it. We might warn folks to be careful who you listen to and what you read so that you’re not a victim of that.

These are people who once were in proximity to the truth. They once had contact with the truth, maybe nothing more than having the Word of God in hand – and that’s enough, having a Bible – but now they have been deprived of it, or they have deprived themselves of it. They have literally fallen into Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10, those who were once enlightened and now have abandoned that which they once knew. They have seen and known and now rejected. And so we say their condition is apostasy. Their condition is apostasy. Their effect is chaos. Their condition is apostasy. They have departed from the faith. Who have they been listening to? The father of all lies, John 8:44, Satan himself. They have departed from the truth. They have deviated from the truth. As it says in 2 Timothy 2:18, they have erred concerning the truth. They are “ever learning,” chapter 3 verse 7 of 2 Timothy, “but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It says in the next verse, “They resist the truth because they are men of corrupt minds” – here it is – “reprobate concerning the faith.” Corrupt minds, destitute of truth, reprobate concerning the faith, it all goes together. It all goes together. Their condition is one of apostasy. They have deviated from the truth.

MacArthur ends with a seventh characteristic of false teachers:

Seventh, what’s the prognosis of false teachers? What is their prognosis? This is implied in the statement “destitute of the truth,” and their prognosis is judgment. Anyone who is utterly devoid of truth, anyone who is bereft of truth is headed for judgment. In fact, in Hebrews 6 if you turn away from the truth, there’s no hope of ever coming back to salvation. In Hebrews chapter 10, if you trample under your feet the blood of the covenant, you are headed for a disastrous and eternal judgment. Peter says in 2 Peter 2 again, they bring on themselves swift destruction. He says their destruction shall not sleep, their judgment from long ago is not idle. And then he gives illustrations by saying, verse 4, if God didn’t spare the angels that sinned but cast them down to hell, and if God didn’t spare the old world before Noah but destroyed that world of the ungodly, and if God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah turning them into ashes, if God did all of that to those apostates, then you can expect He’ll do the same to these. And so he goes on then describing these apostates and what God is going to do to them.

Jude in his little epistle gets very direct. He says they are “of old,” verse 4, “ordained to condemnation.” And then he says about them in verse 15 that God is going to come, “And convict all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Judgment. The prognosis of false teachers is judgment, eternal hell, and the severest hell of all because they, having seen the truth, touched the truth, apostatized from it.

MacArthur concludes:

Do you know – are you aware – can you see with your two eyes the religious charlatans are a steady parade across your eyes in this society who are in it for the money? They’re everywhere – everywhere …

Let me review it very briefly, listen carefully. Stay away from people who teach contrary to Scripture. Stay away from those who deny the truth. Stay away from those who are not Christlike and godly in conduct. Stay away from and don’t listen to those attitude is arrogant, who are totally ignorant of the spiritual reality and truth and constantly theorize about useless speculation which generates word battles leading only to chaos, confusion, disorder, and disunity. Stay away from and don’t listen to those who spin their arrogant teaching out of corrupt minds which have forsaken the truth and are headed for eternal judgment. Stay clear of those who are desirous of personal enrichment at your expense … They’re infected. And the prognosis for them and those they infect is very, very sad.

This seems an apposite passage for Pentecost Sunday. Let us make use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly wisdom and discernment. Let us also make use of another, fortitude, that we may stand firm and resolute in faith.

I will feature an example of this type of cleric tomorrow.

Next time — 1 Timothy 6:6-10

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