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At least one Collins book can be found in nearly every English-speaking household in the UK.

Speaking personally, we have a Collins Bible, Book of Common Prayer and several dictionaries, including the incomparable Collins Robert French Dictionary. In the past, I also bought annual Collins calendar diaries.

What I did not know until reading the recent obituary of Jan Collins, one of the publishing house’s heirs, was that it was started by a Scottish Evangelical.

The Times published Jan Collins’s obituary on February 14, 2022. Jan, who died at the age of 92 on January 29, will be remembered as much for his tennis prowess as his publishing career.

Of Billy Collins, the publishing house’s founder, the obituary states (emphases mine):

Founded in 1819 by Jan Collins’s great-grandfather William Collins, an evangelical Christian, it was known primarily for its printing of Bibles, dictionaries and diaries. In the early Thirties, more than 600,000 Bibles were published annually. One sales jingle declared: “Satan trembles when he sees/Bibles sold as cheap as these.”

Jan Collins joined his family’s business, then called William Collins, after he graduated from Oxford in 1952. He was assigned to the Bible department, located in Glasgow:

At the time it was still the leading publishing house in Scotland, with some 2,500 people employed in its Glasgow printing presses in Cathedral Street, which could produce up to 15,000 books an hour.

The company’s fiction and non-fiction books were published in London:

The general fiction and non-fiction titles division was based in St James’s Place, London, meanwhile, and was being considerably expanded by Collins’s father, Billy Collins, with the addition of bestselling authors such as Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Alistair MacLean and Patrick O’Brian. In 1956 the firm’s last substantial British acquisition was Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly. In 1960, Collins published 576 new editions, the most in the UK.

Jan Collins was responsible for bringing us The Good News Bible. Love it or loathe it, I know several Americans who told me it was the only version of the Bible they could actually read and understand:

After a decade working in the Bible department he hit upon the money-spinning idea of teaming up with the American Bible Society to publish the New Testament in contemporary English, an edition known as Good News for Modern Man. A decade after that, the Old Testament was included and it was known under the title of the Good News Bible, which is still the most popular Bible currently published. More than a million copies were sold in the first year and subsequently nearly a billion copies have been printed throughout the world.

He then turned his attention to dictionaries and the printing presses in Scotland:

Jan Collins also rebuilt the Collins Dictionary business and spearheaded the modern bilingual dictionaries, forging partnerships with Robert in Paris and Mondadori in Italy. In 1971 he was appointed vice-chairman and by the mid-Seventies was in charge of the manufacturing side of the business. He was responsible for moving the entire printing department from Cathedral Street to a new site on the outskirts in Bishopbriggs, which employed 2,000 people.

When his father Billy Collins died in 1976, the atmosphere in the company became turbulent:

Collins was appointed executive chairman of the entire group but within a few years, boardroom tensions developed between the London and Glasgow-based divisions of the company, particularly because of the persistent losses in the print division and differing opinions about possible solutions. There were also questions raised regarding the management style of Jan Collins and, as a consequence, he stepped down in 1979 but remained as non-executive chairman until 1981. At this point, he and his mother sold their shares to Rupert Murdoch and he stepped down as non-executive chairman as well.

Rupert Murdoch ended up buying the company, which is now known as HarperCollins:

Murdoch held 41.7 per cent of the shares. He made a bid to take a controlling interest in William Collins, but was opposed by the new chairman Ian Chapman (obituary, November 30, 2019) and the rest of the board, which included a number of other Collins family members.

Murdoch finally succeeded in taking over the company in 1989, when he merged it with his other publishing holdings in the US and Australia to become HarperCollins, now one of the three biggest English-language book publishers in the world.

Jan Collins had a rareified upbringing in Scotland and England:

William Janson Collins was born in Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, in 1929, son of Sir William “Billy” Collins, who was head of William Collins and the grandson of the founder of the publishing house, and Priscilla Marian Lloyd. Billy Collins was considered one of the last of the benevolent despots in publishing, who scrutinised every aspect of the business. According to one employee, he combined “the necessary elements of the hustler and the showman with the more discreet and urbane attitudes of the worldly gentleman publisher”.

Shortly after Jan’s birth, the Collins family moved to a William Adam mansion on the outskirts of Troon, the favoured Ayrshire seaside resort of Glaswegian millionaires, thanks to its golf courses. The extended Collins family were all passionate sportsmen, which rubbed off on Jan, who apart from golf, took up shooting and tennis. His parents were both talented players and his uncle Ian Collins played at Wimbledon 12 times, making it to the final of the doubles and mixed doubles in the early Thirties. His father was on the All-England Club committee until late in life, while in the late Forties Jan came only one round short of making the championships at Wimbledon.

He was sent to prep school at Ludgrove, and then Eton, where he was All England Racquets champion at 14, in the first XI cricket team and president of Pop, the elite club of Eton prefects. When Collins was 15, he met his wife, Lady Sally Hely-Hutchinson, at the Eton and Harrow cricket match at Lord’s.

Being president of Pop is a huge deal. Allow me to digress for a while with an article by an Old Etonian, Bill Coles, who wrote about the exclusive club for The Express in 2011, the year of its bicentenary. Coles somewhat regretted that he was never elected to be a member:

The Eton Societyor Pop as it’s known – this year celebrates its 200th anniversary and though Prince William and his uncle Earl Spencer will both have been invited to the £250-a-head party in its honour, I will sadly not be among their number.

At first glance Pop looks like nothing more than a very posh sixth form club. But Eton (with fees of £30,000 a year) is still regarded by many as the top elite school in the country – one that has provided 19 prime ministers (not least our current one) as well as old boys ranging from George Orwell and James Bond author Ian Fleming to Boris Johnson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. And if Eton is an educational elite then Pop is an even smaller elite within it – one that elects its own members, who form not just an exclusive network but one that doesn’t always admit the members you might expect.

well they looked like peacocks strutting among a horde of black crows and to a stripling teenager it all seemed rather exotic. Here, in full, was the uniform of an Eton Popper: a black tailcoat with braid piping; spongebag trousers in a houndstooth check; and a starched wing collar with a white (hand-tied) bow tie.

The uniform would usually be capped off with a thick cow-lick of hair, spit-polished black lace-ups pickers), plus a gardenia or a rose in the button-hole. While the rest of us schoolboys had been shoe-horned into grubby black waistcoats the Poppers were allowed to wear any waistcoat they pleased, at least a dozen and you can only imagine the glorious oneupmanship that was involved.

I remember waistcoats of green leather, waistcoats spangled with Pearly King buttons, and even a hideous fur electric pink number. Prince William, when he was a Popper, tended towards the staid and I believe his most daring outfit was a patriotic Union Jack. To all intents and purposes the Poppers don exactly the same sort of clothes that the gentlemen will be wearing at next month’s royal wedding

When this article appeared, David Cameron was Prime Minister and Boris Johnson was Mayor of London:

Once you realise the sheer showiness of the Pop uniform it is all too easy to understand how David Cameron came to be quite so enamoured with the Bullingdon Club at Oxford. For, if he had been elected into Pop he might never had quite such an urge to dress like a foppish Bullingdon blue-blood (though London Mayor Boris Johnson was in both Pop and the Bullingdon Club). Within Eton, Pop was a self-electing club for the sports stars, which certainly did not include me, and the hearty good guys. There were about 25 of them and they were charged with keeping the 1,300 other boys for such misdemeanours as not being properly dressed, or even “socking” (eating) in the street.

I still recall how, when I was 13, an enormous Popper accosted me in the street for not wearing any cuff links. “Have a pound in my room by lock‑up,” he told me. Ostensibly all this loot went to charity, though doubtless the Poppers were just using it for extra beer money at the school pub, Tap. Speaking to contemporaries who were members, one is struck by the fact that while Pop is exclusive it does not necessarily bother itself with the most opulent surroundings.

It was a bit like a St James’s club in that boys were put up for election but if there was a single blackball against them then they weren’t in. Things have changed more recently and now the Eton masters have a right of veto. You probably don’t get quite so many bad eggs …

One can see how Jan Collins’s sporting prowess appealed to Pop members:

Pop was predominantly filled with sports buffs and swells and that’s still pretty accurate to this day. It appeals to people who like to dress up as a peacock.” Pop was founded in 1811 and it was originally a debating society and had the name “Popina”, from the Latin for “Tea-Shop” which is where the boys used to meet. In its heyday Pop was the ultimate networking tool and could open the most incredible doors. One can even see Pop’s shadow hanging over Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when he culled half his cabinet during “The Night of the Long Knives” in the late Fifties.

It’s said that Macmillan sacked half his friends from Pop – only to replace them with the other half. Fagging at Eton is now a distant memory but in my time in the Eighties a Popper could fag off any boy on the street, sending him off to do any chore he pleased. I still remember my outrage when a Popper took offence at my smirking face and sent me to Windsor to buy him a postcard for his mother. Another extraordinary aspect of the society was that 50 years ago Poppers were empowered to deliver a “Pop tan” – where reprobate boys would be flogged by every member of Pop

One Old Etonian told Bill Coles:

One of the strange things about Pop is that it never goes away. You find it cropping up in a lot of Etonians’ obituaries. These are people who may well have won VCs or who are captains of industry – and yet for some reason the fact that they were a member of Pop is seen to be on a par with anything else that they’ve done.

And, lo, we discover that Jan Collins was not only in Pop but also one of its presidents.

Now, back to the rest of the publisher’s life.

He did his National Service as a young officer in the Coldstream Guards. The obituary has a stunning photograph of him in dress uniform.

Jan Collins married Lady Sally Hely-Hutchinson while he was reading English at Magdalen College, Oxford:

while his sporting prowess continued, winning blues in tennis, squash, cricket and fives. Later in life, he said that his family were “all frightful sporting bores”.

In 1952, they moved to Scotland:

The newly married couple moved to Troon in 1952, and he remained in Ayrshire for the rest of his life.

Lady Sally had a career as a novelist:

Under the pen name of Harriet Martyn, Lady Sally wrote three girls’ boarding school works of fiction — the Balcombe Hall stories — which were inspired by the escapades of her daughter Jane at St Mary’s, Wantage; and as Sara Healy, three historical novels including a Second World War evacuee story inspired by her own experiences. She died in 2013. He is survived by their four children, Noel, an entrepreneur, Jane who runs her own publishing company in Ireland, Tiffany, a company director, and Bryony who is in technology.

Meanwhile, apart from owning and operating three restaurants that closed in relatively short order, Jan devoted the rest of his life to tennis:

After retiring, he became a fully qualified tennis coach. He was appointed MBE for services to tennis in 2004, after raising nearly £2 million to create the largest junior tennis programme in Scotland. He was the oldest surviving member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, having first joined 70 years ago, in 1952. In fact, he had attended every Wimbledon tennis tournament since then, including last year. He was especially proud of winning the over-85 category of the British veterans’ grass court championship at Wimbledon in 2014.

During lockdown in 2021, Jan Collins raised money for charity:

In the summer of 2021, when lockdown regulations meant no golf clubs were open throughout the UK, a private five-hole course was suddenly created in the rear garden of a 90-year-old golfer in Troon. Inspired by the story of Captain Sir Tom Moore, Jan Collins raised £8,000 by playing 1,000 holes of golf in his back garden.

But his was not a totally serious life of work and tennis. Privately, he was known for his wit and harmless pranks.

There was no mention of any religious aspect to his life, but Jan Collins lived quite the life. May he rest in peace.

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Bible and crossThe 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 with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Galatians 3:1-6

By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s relating of the public rebuke he had to give to the Apostle Peter in Antioch for shunning the Gentile converts in favour of Judaizers who had infiltrated the congregation. Antioch was one of the Galatian churches.

In today’s passage, he is taking the Galatians to task for believing the highly erroneous message from these Judaizers that they need to be circumcised in order to be Christians.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

What caused him to write this letter is false teachers had come into that area, and apparently gone from church to church proclaiming a false gospel. Paul is profoundly exercised over this. This is very early in his ministry, very early in his writings. He knows immediately, even though the churches are truly established, they are genuine believers, and they have had the influence of this great apostle – they are subject to false teaching. They will be assaulted, they will be attacked, and in some cases, they will fall victim to false teachers. And that is exactly what happened in Galatia.

So Paul writes this letter to deal with what’s going on in these Galatian churches. In the first two chapters, he defends his apostolic authority as the one called by Christ, taught by Christ, and sent by Christ. So he is the one they are to listen to, and not the false teachers who come from the kingdom of darkness, even though they profess to be Christians.

So the first two chapters deal with his apostolic authority. And then in chapters 3 and 4 he clarifies the truth of the gospel. That’s where we are now in chapters 3 and 4. He goes to the very careful, thoughtful defense of the true gospel of grace alone.

Now what the false teachers basically were saying was: grace was not enough, the cross is not enough, the Holy Spirit is not enough. “What God has wrought among you is not enough. You cannot enter the kingdom of God, you cannot enter heaven unless you are circumcised and adhere to the law of Moses.”

This was a convoluted, adulterated, corrupted gospel. They were adding works to grace and works to faith. Paul is so exercised about this that there is not at the beginning of this letter any commendation.

Paul calls the Galatians ‘foolish’ and asks who has ‘bewitched’ them, saying that they personally learned — from him — that Jesus was publicly crucified (verse 1).

One could easily write an essay on this verse alone, there is that much content to analyse.

Matthew Henry says of their spiritual foolishness:

He reproves them, and the reproof is very close and warm: he calls them foolish Galatians,Galatians 3:1; Galatians 3:1. Though as Christians they were Wisdom’s children, yet as corrupt Christians they were foolish children.

MacArthur says:

This is a powerful portion of Scripture. It is powerful because Paul embraces the Trinity – the Son, the Spirit, and the Father – and essentially says, “By foolishly being bewitched by a false gospel, or a false addition to the gospel, you have called into question the work of the Son and the Spirit and the Father.” In other words, “You have assaulted heaven at its heights.” This is an all-out attack on the Triune God.

The use of ‘bewitched’ is a singular one. It appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

MacArthur tells us:

This is the only place it is used. Is Paul saying that these Galatian believers were bewitched? Absolutely

There’s never a question in this letter about the spiritual condition of the Galatians; they are believers. Initially when the apostle Paul came, they received the gospel that he preached, they fully embraced it. Now they have become bewitched: true believers bewitched

Maybe you never thought about the fact that believers, true believers, can be bewitched. But every warning in the New Testament, every warning about false teachers and false doctrine is an assumption that believers can be bewitched. Every command to hold to the truth, guard the truth, rightly handle the word of truth is also based on the assumption of our susceptibility to bewitching. Yes, believers can be seduced into believing lies about the gospel.

Now the bewitching doesn’t come when someone says, “I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in the Bible. I don’t believe in Christ. I don’t believe in the gospel of grace. I don’t believe in the cross. I don’t believe in the resurrection.” That’s not bewitching; that’s not seductive – that’s obvious to us. The bewitching comes from those who acknowledge the gospel, accept the gospel, and then add works to the gospel

All those warnings, all those commands to faithfulness assume that we can become bewitched. And I would just go so far as to say, most churches in our society are bewitched. Most church leaders are bewitched. At the core, they may believe the true gospel, but they have allowed so many things to be added to the gospel or to corrupt the gospel that they are bewitched.

This isn’t just a problem in the pew. It is a problem in the pew, because it’s a problem in the pulpit. All too common for Christian leaders and pastors in places of great influence to become themselves bewitched about the gospel, even the gospel that saved them. The duty of the pastor is to guard the truth, is to preach the truth, is to fight for the truth, contend for the truth, and to protect his flock from the bewitching errors. We have to assume that bewitching. And it reaches high levels. You can’t even walk into a Christian bookstore and trust everything you find there. There are many bewitching things there.

There are indeed. I do not go into Christian bookstores for that very reason.

A little over a decade ago, I saw a lot of talk on Christian blogs about a book that touted living according to Leviticus. Many people commenting on it said it was wonderful and that their families felt purer for living according to Mosaic law whilst attending church regularly on Sundays.

That is a real life example of becoming bewitched by false teaching. Paul would have been appalled, yet it would have been familiar to him.

Thinking of that book and of these Judaizers, I can just imagine that they probably told the Galatians, ‘But if you just add these ceremonial laws to your life, you’ll be a much better, purer Christian’.

Wrong!

MacArthur tells us about the word ‘bewitched’ in Greek:

It’s from the Greek verb baskain. That in itself isn’t important, except that it’s the only time it’s ever used in the New Testament. Paul went for a word that isn’t used anywhere else. He never uses it anywhere else. He’s going outside of his normal vocabulary to find a word to describe this in a unique way. Never used anywhere else in the New Testament; and it’s always used in a bad sense.

What does it mean in the Greek language outside the Bible? The word meant “to charm,” “to fascinate,” but “to fascinate or charm in a misleading way.” Always has a bad connotation. It meant “to seek to do harm to someone by lies or deception or false promises.” It is even related to magic spells and sorcery, and the evil eye, and demonic power.

It’s a very, very serious word, and the Holy Spirit only used it once to describe not what’s happening to nonbelievers, but what has happened to believers. It’s as if they have been bewitched, not by sorcery, not by magic spells, but by false doctrine.

In the churches that Paul planted, false teachers came in after he left. We saw this in 1 and 2 Corinthians. The same thing also happened in Ephesus.

Satan is behind the bewitching, although he uses agents in the form of false teachers.

MacArthur says:

Now Satan only has two approaches, only two approaches. We see them in Matthew 13 in the words of our Lord. He can, first of all, snatch the gospel seed before it can go into the ground and be productive. And we see that in our Lord’s parable of the soils. Satan comes and snatches the seed away before anybody can understand it. That’s corrupting the gospel on the front end.

The second thing that Satan does is once the gospel has taken root and believers begin to grow and flourish, then Satan’s second approach is to sow tares among the wheat: false believers in a false gospel alongside true believers. And that is corrupting the gospel on the back end. He corrupts it on the front end by snatching it away, often through lack of understanding. He comes back, corrupting it on the back end by bringing into the church corrupt messages that produce corrupt tares among the wheat.

That’s what had happened in Galatia. The Word had come and gone into the soil. The seed had brought about life; that life was flourishing and growing. Satan shows up in the form of Jews from Jerusalem who come to demand that if you’re going to be saved and forgiven and into the kingdom of God and brought to heaven, you must maintain the Mosaic law and circumcision. This was sowing lies, and therefore, liars and tares among the wheat.

MacArthur gives us two televisual examples of bewitching:

It’s a bewitching that comes about because people want popularity, because they want acceptance. If you can go on Oprah, as one self-confessed evangelical did, and Oprah says to you, “Do I, or does a person have to believe in Jesus Christ to enter heaven?” and you say, “No,” you have been bewitched.

Larry King said to me one day, “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. When I die I’m going to be okay.” I said, “Really. Why do you say that?” He said, “Because a well-known evangelist told me, because I’m Jewish God’s going to take special care of me.” Who bewitched him?

MacArthur says the state of being bewitched comes from a weakness in the heart and the mind:

It’s not just mental inability. It’s the sinful heart, neglect of the truth. It’s a mind issue, but it’s a heart issue. The mind is not applied, carefully examining the truth, because the heart is not diligently devoted to that truth. Paul says, “You’re foolish, and you have become bewitched.”

Turning to the second half of the verse, about how Paul (principally) presented Christ and the Crucifixion to the Galatians, MacArthur explains what the Apostle meant:

“This was openly declared to you. I preached the gospel to you, and you embraced me like I was an angel. You embraced me as if I was Christ Himself. It isn’t that you just could hear in your imagination the ringing of the hammers as He was nailed to the cross; it isn’t that you could just hear the cries of the mocking crowd, or the cries of Jesus from the cross, or in your mind’s eye, you could see the blood and sweat running down His body; it isn’t just that you saw the physical reality of His death. It was that you understood that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for you. You understood the significance of His death. You understood that He was dying in your place, that your sins were imputed to Him, so that His righteousness could be imputed to you. You understood the gospel of salvation. I preached Christ to you, fully to you, crucified to you, and therefore, risen again. And the reality was you believed, you believed. And miraculously you were transformed. And all those churches in Galatia are a result of the preaching of the gospel of a crucified Christ.

Now how can you, when you have seen Jesus Christ publicly portrayed crucified, go back to the Law? Are you saying that the cross was unnecessary and you must save yourself, or are you saying that the cross was insufficient, or that the death of Christ was a partial provision, and you have to make up the rest by your works? If you are saying that, you are blaspheming the Christ of the cross. But that’s what a works system does. When it requires something from you, then it’s not all of Christ. You have assaulted Christ.”

On that point, Paul asks the Galatians if they received the Holy Spirit through a works-based law or by hearing with faith (verse 2).

Henry offers this analysis:

He appeals to the experiences they had had of the working of the Spirit upon their souls (Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:2); he puts them in mind that, upon their becoming Christians, they had received the Spirit, that many of them at least had been made partakers not only of the sanctifying influences, but of the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were eminent proofs of the truth of the Christian religion and the several doctrines of it, and especially of this, that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law, which was one of the peculiar and fundamental principles of it. To convince them of the folly of their departing from this doctrine, he desires to know how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law, that is, the preaching of the necessity of these in order to justification? This they could not say, for that doctrine had not then been preached to them, nor had they, as Gentiles, any pretence to justification in that way. Or was it by the hearing of faith, that is, the preaching of the doctrine of faith in Christ as the only way of justification? This, if they would say the truth, they were obliged to own, and therefore must be very unreasonable if they should reject a doctrine of the good effects of which they had had such experience. Note, (1.) It is usually by the ministry of the gospel that the Spirit is communicated to persons. And, (2.) Those are very unwise who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage.

Paul calls the Galatians ‘foolish’ again, asking that, having the Spirit’s work active in them they now think that they can be perfected by the flesh (verse 3), i.e. via circumcision and other ceremonial rituals of the Old Covenant.

MacArthur explains that there is sometimes another false teaching which appears in the Church, a Gnostic one proclaiming that one has to have a special insight in order to receive the Holy Spirit:

That is another bewitching lie that floats around, that you can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit until you attain some level of spirituality. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. So the work of Christ was a finished work, not requiring anything from the Law; and the coming of the Holy Spirit was a complete work, not requiring anything from the Law either. He came by faith.

“Are you so foolish?” – verse 3 – “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In other words, “Is the work of Christ only partial and you have to add the important part? And is the presence of the Holy Spirit only partial and you have to add the important part; and in both cases, the important part is something your flesh produces? See this for what it is: Christ’s work is complete, the Holy Spirit’s presence is complete, the Law adds nothing to the work of Christ, the Law adds nothing to the work of the Holy Spirit.”

The word ‘suffer’ in verse 4 is better translated as ‘experience’. Paul asks if they experienced all that they did in their Christian conversion in vain, if indeed it was in vain (verse 4).

MacArthur reinterprets the verse as follows:

Did you suffer or better, “experience” – “so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

Was that experience in vain? Was it for nothing? And now somehow, was that some kind of false feeling, an illusion, something that never really happened until you get circumcised, and keep the rituals and the ceremonies? What could Judaizers or what could anybody else add to Christ’s work on the cross? Answer – What? – nothing. Don’t be bewitched.

So far, Paul has discussed Christ and the Holy Spirit.

He then brings in God the Father — completing his references to the Holy Trinity — by asking if He, meaning God, supplies them with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the miracles among them by works of the law or by faith (verse 5).

MacArthur offers this analysis:

This is talking about the Father. How do you know that? Because in Luke 11:13, in John 14:16 and 26, twice, Jesus says, “When I go, the Father will send the Spirit.” So he says in verse 5, “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit” – that’s the Father. The Father is the one who provides you with the Spirit; He is one of the gifts of the Father. And, by the way, the word “provides,” epichorge, root word chorge, means “bountifully,” “abundantly,” “super abundantly,” “lavishly.”

“So then, are you saying that the Father who lavishly provided you with the Spirit and works miracles among you,” – perhaps the apostolic miracles, but perhaps even more significantly, the miracle of regeneration done by God “are you saying that He does that by the works of the Law because you’ve earned it? Did God save you because of something you did? Did God come and miraculously transform you because of something you did, or simply by the hearing with faith?”

And we know the answer to this: The Son did a complete work on your behalf, the Spirit did a complete work on your behalf, and the Father did a complete work on your behalf. Nothing is left out. You didn’t receive salvation or the Holy Spirit or regeneration by anything you did, it was the full and perfect work of Christ, the full and perfect work of the Spirit, the full and perfect work of the Father.

“You’ve experienced that. You’ve experienced power of the gospel in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Spirit in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Father in your life. You’ve been living in that trinitarian power. And now all of a sudden, these bewitching Jews show up and tell you that all of this is inadequate.” That is a blasphemous assault on the Triune God. It diminishes the work of Christ on the cross, the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, and the work of the Father in the miracle of regeneration. The whole Trinity and all that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to offer you is yours by faith and faith alone. “You foolish Galatians. Are you so bewitched?” “You are,” says Paul to the Colossians, “complete in Him.”

Then Paul brings in Abraham, saying that our father in faith believed in God’s promises to him during his lifetime and now, even beyond the grave, countless generations later; God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness (verse 6).

Henry expands on our inheritance from Abraham, as God promised:

Abraham believed God, and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6; Galatians 3:6); that is, his faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man: as on this account he is represented as the father of the faithful, so the apostle would have us to know that those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:7), not according to the flesh, but according to the promise; and, consequently, that they are justified in the same way that he was. Abraham was justified by faith, and so are they.

Paul has more to follow on Abraham. We’ll look at what he has to say next week.

Next time — Galatians 3:7-9

What follows are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday, February 27, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This is Quinquagesima Sunday, meaning 50 days before Easter, although the days of Lent are numbered somewhat differently to the way they were centuries ago.

This is also the last Sunday not only in Epiphany but also in Shrovetide. Shrove Tuesday — Pancake Day in Britain, and Mardi Gras in French — is on March 1. Ash Wednesday is the next day, signifying the beginning of Lent.

You can read more about Shrovetide and the Sundays before Lent in the following posts:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses returns from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. His face was radiant, almost blindingly so, reflecting the infinite glory of God.

Exodus 34:29-35

34:29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

34:30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.

34:31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.

34:32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.

34:33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face;

34:34 but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,

34:35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm

This Psalm calls us to exalt God. The verses below describe God’s governance of His people in an equitable and just manner.

Psalm 99

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

Epistle

Paul describes the mercy and freedom to be found in Christ, the giver of the New Covenant, who promises eternal life to the faithful rather than condemnation by the Law under the Old Covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,

3:13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.

3:14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.

3:15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;

3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

4:2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Gospel

Luke gives us his version of the Transfiguration, where once again, the radiance of our God as displayed by Jesus is revealed to Peter and brothers James and John.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.

9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

I wish everyone a blessed Sunday.

Last week, I posted a series on the effect of London’s metropolitan elite on England’s voters in 2015 and 2019.

Those who missed it can read Parts 1, 2 and 3.

On December 12, 2019, a surprising number of staunch Labour voters in the North and the Midlands lent their votes to the Conservatives for the first time.

Those constituencies in England that switched from Labour to Conservative either for the first time or for the first time in decades are known as the Red Wall.

The Conservative MPs who represent them are local people familiar with the issues that concern their constituents.

These MPs are a far cry from the Sir Bufton Tuftons from days of yore.

When the new intake took their seats in the House of Commons, spirits were high on Conservative benches as the UK exited the European Union.

In debates in January 2020, we heard them discuss the hopes they had for Boris Johnson’s levelling up plan concerning rail, roads and industry.

What follows is what is on the minds of Red Wall voters and their MPs.

Tax

Five days before Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his dynamic budget to the House on Wednesday, January 16, 2020, a pollster surveyed Red Wall voters for their views on taxation.

Guido Fawkes has a graph and summary of the poll results: 36% wanted cuts to council tax; 29% wanted cuts to income tax and 22% wanted cuts on fuel duty.

However, Guido found that the voters surveyed contradicted themselves (red emphases in the original):

According to Opinium Research for Lansons, 42% of the famed ‘Red Wall’ new Tory voters state the priority measure they would like to see for this afternoon is a rise in their take-home pay being introduced in the Budget – an income tax cut in other words. That is because 41% of the new Tory voters think taxes are too high and errr, 40% of the same new Tory voters think government spending is too low. Workington, we have a problem….

If the coronavirus is an economic hit on the scale of the credit crisis, a temporary halving of VAT to 10% would incentivise spending, immediately and effectively….

Sadly, because of coronavirus, most of Rishi’s budget had to be binned.

Levelling up

In September 2020, Conservative MPs created a taskforce to level up, i.e. reduce regional inequalities between the North as well as the Midlands versus the South.

The BBC reported that these poorer constituencies now have Conservative MPs:

A report produced for the taskforce says Conservatives now hold more seats in the lowest paid areas than Labour

In the 2019 election the Conservatives won a number of seats across the Midlands and the north of England previously considered to be Labour strongholds, also known as ‘the red wall’

Now this new group, the “levelling up taskforce” – which includes many of the new “red wall” MPs – is urging the government to set itself three key tests as part of its drive to reduce geographical inequality.

It says those areas that have seen the lowest growth in earnings, should see earnings rise faster than they have in recent years; areas with the worst unemployment rate should converge with the national average; and areas with the lowest employment rate should also catch up with the national average.

It also calls on the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes impact different areas

Analysis produced by the Onward think tank for the new group found that of the bottom quarter of seats in Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by the Conservatives (77) than Labour (74).

The following month, Northern Red Wall MPs formed a new group to ensure that Boris Johnson keeps his campaign promises:

The BBC reported:

… the 35-strong Tory group say they want to ensure the government delivers.

It includes several MPs who won seats in traditional Labour heartlands – the so-called “Red Wall” – at last year’s general election.

Paul Howell, who won Tony Blair’s old seat, in Sedgefield, Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow-in-Furness and Sara Britcliffe, who at 24 became the youngest Conservative MP when she won Hyndburn, in Lancashire, are among those who have signed up to the group provisionally named the Northern Research Group.

Ms Britcliffe said: “I don’t need to join a group to speak up for Hyndburn but I have also the responsibility of making sure that we do deliver on our promise.”

The group’s leader Jake Berry, who has been the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010, said it was not “about giving government a bad time”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “There are arguments that we collectively as northern MPs make together, to create a compelling case for the government to invest in the north”.

These include “making sure that this government delivers on its promise to ‘level up’ the north, deliver that Northern Powerhouse and create wealth across the north of England,” he added.

“We don’t form a government unless we win the north.”

Mr Berry is the former minister for Northern Powerhouse, which was set up by former Chancellor George Osborne to redress the North-South economic imbalance, and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.

The problem with levelling up is that some of the local councils most in need of funds are Labour-run. As I have been writing this post on Friday afternoon, February 25, 2022, I have heard Philip Davies, who represents Shipley, tell his fellow MPs that Bradford Council has not even put together a bid in order to get levelling up funds from the Government. Other Red Wall MPs had similar complaints.

This took place during a Private Members’ Bill debate on the Local Authority Boundaries Bill, urging reviews of local council boundaries and making such changes easier. Kemi Badenoch, the minister representing the Government, said that the bill would need significant rewording in order to be considered. She will work with Robbie Moore, also a Red Wall MP, to revise his proposed legislation.

Bradford Council is not the only Labour council that has been under the spotlight.

In October 2020, another Red Wall MP, Chris Clarkson, made known his concerns about Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester.

That brought about a furious backlash from Angela Rayner on the Labour benches. She allegedly called him ‘scum’ …

… and was given a dressing down by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing.

Paying for coronavirus

In March 2021, a pollster asked Red Wall voters how they wanted the Government to handle the cost of coronavirus.

Most Red Wall voters opposed higher taxes, preferring lower spending instead:

Guido’s accompanying post says:

Research from Public First’s Rachel Wolf has revealed that when asked to choose between higher taxes, borrowing, or spending cuts, a plurality of the public back spending cuts over the other options. Tax rises are most popular with high social status white collar ‘AB’ voters, and least popular with working class ‘DE’ voters, who overwhelmingly back spending cuts. Working class constituents in the red wall aren’t typical Islington socialists…

Also:

The other finding is that people are less opposed to taxes they think they don’t have to pay, and more opposed to taxes they think they do have to pay. In reality this translates to taxes they have to pay directly. Any tax that is indirect on business still has an economic cost that is borne in the end by individuals, for example dividend taxes reduce your pension income, business rates and carbon taxes increase consumer prices. The more taxes are understood, the less popular they become.

True. We have tax rises coming, so there will be dissatisfaction in these constituencies.

Net Zero

Another plan that will not go down well is the drive to reach Net Zero. The cost is upwards of £1.5 trillion:

This tweet from 2021 encapsulates the thinking of Red Wall MPs (ignore Michael Fabricant, who was commenting on the wrong thread). Click on the image to see all the comments, especially from Jackie Doyle-Price, who mentions the metropolitan elite:

Minimum wage

In November 2021, Rishi Sunak presented a more sombre budget as the nation was still grappling with coronavirus.

One of the more positive points was his commitment to raising the national minimum wage.

On the face of it, it would seem to appeal to Red Wall voters. However, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn was less sure, asking if Sunak understood them properly. Raising the minimum wage does not lift those in more responsible positions. In fact, the latter have been earning less over recent years (emphases in purple mine):

In his recent Budget, the Chancellor committed the government to several eye-catching policies, including a big uplift in the minimum wage, these days rebranded as the ‘national living wage’. But something that went unremarked upon was reaffirmation of a target of raising the minimum wage as a share of average pay.

A 6.6 per cent uplift this year would, said Sunak, keep the government ‘on track for our target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024.’ Many Tory MPs beamed with happiness, no doubt thinking this would further bolster the working-class parts of their new electoral coalition. But will it?

According to the OECD, the UK minimum wage was worth 34 per cent of mean earnings and 41 per cent of median earnings in the year 2000. It has since risen steadily as a share of these averages, hitting 48 per cent of mean earnings and 58 per cent of median earnings in 2020.

Think about how this must feel to workers on roughly median earnings. Two decades ago they earned two-and-a-half times as much as minimum wage workers. Now they earn less than twice as much. By 2024, Sunak has decreed that minimum wage workers in entry level roles will be earning two-thirds of the amount that median earners do. This will represent a massive compression of wages within a single generation.

For those working people who put in a lot of effort in their schooldays compared to their more idle classmates, or who perhaps underwent apprenticeships on very low earnings at the start of their careers, this is highly unlikely to feel like progress.

When you consider the extra responsibilities higher-earning working class jobs typically entail compared to minimum wage roles – and the fact that various welfare entitlements may further reduce the net advantage – this government policy is coming close to rendering the entire hardworking ethos pointless.

This issue of earnings relativities between different grades of workers has long been a highly sensitive one in industrial relations, often more so than the level of raw pay per se. Indeed, it was the cause of countless strikes in the 1970s.

Instead of anticipating a celebratory mood among new working-class Tory voters, ministers should be on the lookout for restlessness and resentment. Indeed, the former Downing Street pollster James Johnson has already spotted the first stirrings of this in focus groups with participants grumbling that too much help is being directed to those at the very bottom.

Sunak has no parallel policy of ensuring that median earnings catch up as a proportion of the top 10 or 1 per cent of earners. In other words, his approach defies logic. Those in the modest middle of the pay scale have every reason to feel victimised

One can’t help feeling that Margaret Thatcher and her advisers had an altogether better innate understanding of what makes the ambitious working classes and lower middle classes tick than Boris Johnson’s administration. Which is why her flagship policy of bringing in the right-to-buy their council houses at a discount scored an electoral bullseye with aspirational voters

If Tory MPs in red wall seats think this policy is going to delight many of their constituents then I predict that they are about to be disabused of that notion.

It is still too early to tell what most Red Wall voters think of a rise in the minimum wage, but Patrick O’Flynn’s arguments make sense.

Guido Fawkes agrees with O’Flynn and thinks that Red Wall voters would benefit from a reduction in basic income tax rates. Guido took issue with an article in Politico. ‘UC’ stands for Universal Credit:

Sleaze

In November 2021, the then-MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, faced accusations of sleaze via his lobbying. He was forced to resign the seat he had long held. A Liberal Democrat won the by-election.

Some Conservative MPs tried to save Paterson from a 30-day suspension. However, Red Wall MPs were not among them. They objected to having a whipped vote to give Paterson a reprieve. Some voted against the Government, and rightly so.

The rest of the nation also disapproved. This was the beginning of low polling results for Conservatives. It wasn’t long afterwards that Labour began leading in the weekly polls. They still do.

Not only did Red Wall MPs disapprove, so did their voters, as the Daily Mail explained:

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Mr Johnson’s media advisers are thought to have warned that the tactics were high-risk, but those pushing the political benefits of shoring up Mr Paterson and reforming the standards regime won the internal argument.  

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour

One Conservative MP who spoke to The Mail said:

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

… ‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer recently became the new Leader of the House as Jacob Rees-Mogg moved to a new Cabinet position for Brexit opportunities.

Latest news

Many Red Wall MPs were incensed to learn of the Downing Street parties during lockdown.

Some began joining forces on January 18, 2021, when Boris apologised to Parliament:

As someone tweeted, this could have been about damage limitation for themselves:

Boris met with his own MPs that evening:

Lee Anderson is a former Labour councillor. He often confronts Labour benches with their own dismal record in local and national government.

The Red Wall MPs’ plot to write letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady became known as the Pork Pie Plot, because their alleged leader, Alicia Kearns, represents Rutland and Melton. Melton Mowbray is home to England’s famous pork pies.

Steven Swinford, The Times‘s political editor, spoke with a member of Cabinet who found the rebellion a disgrace:

The Red Wall plot to remove Boris Johnson – with Tory MPs meeting to discuss submitting letters – is not going down well in Cabinet

‘It’s pretty sickening. They were only elected because of him. Most of them are a load of —-ing nobodies. It’s nuts’

Hmm:

With the current situation in Ukraine, the Pork Pie Plot seems like a long time ago. Then again, a week is a long time in politics.

The next thing Red Wall residents can look forward to is a Northern branch of Conservative Party Headquarters in Leeds, which is not part of the Red Wall, but it’s close enough. Pictured is Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP:

Guido Fawkes wrote that this had been a promise from Government since 2020:

The Tories look set to imminently boost their red wall presence – and given recent polling, not a moment too soon. A party source tells Guido that their long-awaited Leeds campaign headquarters – first announced by Amanda Milling way back in September 2020 – is set to open in mere weeks …

… staff are already at work following a prolonged recruitment drive and the project will get up to full steam when work-from-home guidance is lifted. Another source suggested given recent events the party will be keen for the moment to be noticed by the media. Guido looks forward to Dowden’s forthcoming ribbon-cutting…

I will have more on the Red Wall coming soon: profiles of those MPs with the most spark.

Gales are a normal weather occurrence in the United Kingdom.

They occur between October and April every year.

Since 2015, they have been assigned names, as with hurricanes. Most people over 50 find this annoying: ‘It’s just a bit of wind, isn’t it?’

Why we have to name these gales is unclear. Everyone in Britain knows about high winds, flooding and the occasional structural damage that results. Northern England and Scotland are usually the areas the most severely affected.

The last major storm to devastate the South East was in 1987. Met Office weatherman Michael Fish made the mistake of his career by saying that nothing would happen. As it happened, there was a lot of damage in London, which usually escapes the worst. Transport was severely affected, preventing many Londoners from getting into work the next day, Friday. Amazingly, Michael Fish kept his job and continued presenting the weather until he retired. Incidentally, today, the 1987 storm is referred to as a hurricane.

Last Friday, February 18, 2022, a damaging storm tore through southern England, including London.

Storm Eunice was sandwiched between Storms Dudley and Franklin. These three ran back-to-back, from the middle of last week through Monday. This has not happened within living memory.

London

Eunice caused the first ever red weather alert for London:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post had a graphic on what to expect along with the following summary:

Overnight, the Met Office updated their Storm Eunice forecast, issuing their first ever red weather warning for London and the South East. While the South West is already being battered by winds of up to 100mph, London is now on course to be hit by the gale between 10am and 3pm.

Where I live, Eunice arrived in earnest around noon and lasted until well after 4:30 p.m.

Big Jet TV proved to be a popular YouTube channel last Friday, with well over 7 million views. It showed what was happening at Heathrow Airport. Some planes could not land immediately and had to resume flying:

Other transport systems were also affected: rail, road and ferries. GB News showed a large lorry that blew over on the motorway. Very few trains and ferries ran.

GB News showed videos of pedestrians blown to the ground in central London. The channel also reported other incidents (emphases mine):

London Ambulance Service (LAS) confirmed two people had been injured in separate incidents.

A man has been taken to hospital after being injured by falling debris in Waterloo, south London, at around midday.

LAS said he was “treated at the scene and taken to a hospital as a priority”.

Another man was taken to hospital with a head injury after being struck by a tree in Streatham, south London.

The incident happened shortly before 11am.

Eunice shredded the soft top roof of the O2 arena, built over 20 years ago for the Millennium. GB News has a video and the story:

The O2 Arena was damaged by Storm Eunice on Friday morning, sparking the evacuation of around 1,000 people.

Witness Mala Sharma told the PA news agency that “more and more parts are getting ripped off”, adding, “it’s going to be a safety issue for people around”.

She said it happened “right in front of my eyes” and that the damage “started off with a patch” but then a “chunk” of the dome roof ripped off.

South coast

South east of London, in Kent, one of the three chimneys at Grain Power Station had been blown down. The Telegraph has a photo.

The Isle of Wight, off the coast of Sussex, saw winds of 122 m.p.h., a record for that part of the nation.

Suffolk

The East of England was also affected severely, including Suffolk, which borders the North Sea.

One father in Suffolk had to deliver his own baby. There wasn’t time to get to the hospital.

The Times reported:

A few hours after Storm Eunice tore into Suffolk, Lauryn Vartan bolted awake at 4am, screaming in pain. The baby is coming, she told her husband, Josh. He grabbed what he could and soon the couple were hurtling through the seaside town of Felixstowe.

They had hoped to reach Ipswich Hospital, but their daughter had other ideas. Just 45 minutes after leaving home, Josh delivered baby Florence on the side of the road, as record-breaking winds rocked their car.

Despite the dramatic circumstances of their daughter’s arrival, Josh and Lauryn decided against a midwife’s suggestion to name their baby Eunice.

Good for them. Instead, they chose to name their daughter Florence.

Josh was euphoric:

Josh said he felt “total euphoria” after the birth. “It is such a lovely feeling — like something you see in a movie, but never think you’ll have to do anything like it. It’s a bit far-fetched but actually such a lovely experience.”

While debris flew along the road, Josh had to stop along a roundabout:

on the A14 at the edge of Felixstowe.

Ambulance staff guided him by telephone with instructions. He had to substitute Lauryn’s dressing gown for towels, which were in the boot (trunk) of the car:

“The only thing I had to hand was Lauryn’s dressing gown, which was freshly cleaned for the hospital stay, and I caught Florence in the dressing gown.

“With the storm just starting to brew, the paramedics were so chuffed we’d managed to keep her so warm in the dressing gown because a brand new baby in the middle of all the wind could have been awful.”

Fortunately, the paramedics were not far away:

Florence was delivered at 4.45am on Friday. Paramedics arrived five minutes later.

Lauryn said:

“They turned up and I had this purple little baby against my chest. I was shivering because during labour you’re so hot, but the wind was really picking up then and we were hanging out of the car. We all sat there shell-shocked.”

South West

The South West of England also saw much damage from Eunice.

GB News has a dramatic video of the top of a church spire which broke off in Wells, Somerset:

A church’s spire has come clean off in shocking footage due to Storm Eunice.

In the video clip, the top of the spire of St Thomas Church in Wells, is seen “quivering” in the strong winds before being blown off.

Another report gave more examples of damage in the region:

A spokesperson for the Severn crossings said staff had received verbal abuse from motorists over the decision to close the M4 and M48 bridges [to and from Wales].

“We understand the effect a dual bridge closure has on people wishing to travel,” they said.

“This is an extremely rare event for us. We have staff out in this storm ensuring action is taken to keep road users safe and they are being abused for it.

“Respectfully, stop. Thank you.”

The A303 is blocked near Grately due to a fallen tree, and a car and a lorry have been damaged by a tree in Bath Road, Atworth, Melksham.

A tree has come down near The Marlborough pub, in High Street, Marlborough, and brought down a stone pillar and street lamp.

Roofs have been damaged in Trowbridge and Swindon and a barn has been blown into the road in Lower Road, Edington.

“A number of outbuildings are said to be insecure so please avoid the area while the scene is dealt with,” a police spokesperson said.

In Wiltshire, fallen trees have caused one lane of the M4 to be closed between junctions 15 and 16 westbound.

In the popular Dorset tourist hotspot of Poole, Sandbanks Road and Shore Road are closed due to flooding.

GB News’s Paul Hawkins reported from the aforementioned bridges, near Bristol. He said:

Only idiotic reporters are going to be out in this weather.

Indeed, Eunice was more than ‘just a bit of wind’:

In Bude, Cornwall, Eunice uprooted an ancient tree that was a local landmark. The local resident who caught it on video was amazed. GB News has the video and the story:

A tree in Bude, Cornwall, is seen collapsing in a shocking moment as intense gusts hit the area.

Twitter users have reacted to the fall, with one user saying: “Such a sad sight to see. That tree is a great landmark and has stood strong for so many years.”

Another user said: “This is heartbreaking. Such a lovely feature of the high street gone.”

Wales

Eunice ravaged Wales and the South West in the morning.

Afterwards, a threesome living along the coast decided to investigate the waves. Two of the three are women in their autumn years. They said they were out for the fun of it, further proof that, for older generations, this was ‘just a bit of wind’:

GB News has a photo of a lighthouse in Porthcawl, Bridgend, Wales, where the waves were impressive indeed. The channel has another video of waves spilling over the sea wall in Amroth.

Some Welsh residents experienced power outages, although service was restored to most on Friday afternoon:

North West of England

Returning to England, the northern half of the country is generally the worst hit.

In Merseyside, three people took a dip in the Irish Sea before the Coastguard ordered them to get out and go home.

GB News has the story and a photo:

A man has been spotted swimming in the sea in New Brighton, Merseyside, as the whole of the UK battles with Storm Eunice.

The man and two others ignored safety warnings and went for a dip in the sea.

They were pictured stripping off to their trunks and getting into the water despite strong winds and high tides.

But after getting into the sea they were spoken to by the Coastguard, who asked them to get out of the water.

The swimmers then got back into their cars and headed away.

Coastguard officers were stationed by the coast of the Wirral seaside resort and moved people off the promenade as the waves got higher after midday.

The car park by Fort Perch Rock was closed as the storm hit and roads in the town were closed.

Merseyside is subject to a Met Office amber warning for wind, which is in place until 6pm.

Advice from the Coastguard is to avoid coastal and exposed areas.

The Midlands

GB News had a reporter on hand at Nottingham railway station. Things looked calmer there, but he said that the winds blew an umbrella out of woman’s hand. A few trains ran, but with delays. A roof also blew off a house in Derby:

North East

Residents in County Durham still remember Storm Arwen from last November.

Some were left without power last week after Dudley. No sooner had that been restored than Eunice arrived.

GB News said:

North East of England Reporter Rachel Sweeney said “this is the worst we’ve had in County Durham since November. In the last couple of hours the wind has drastically changed.”

GB New’s Rachel Sweeney fought to keep her hat on as she was hit by strong winds, saying “the strength is unreal and it’s bitingly cold.”

Updating on the changing situation in County Durham, she said “last time I checked on Northern Power Grid there were around 750 homes without power, which is very stressful for families here considering they have only just got their power back on from Storm Dudley.”

Here’s Rachel Sweeney’s report:

The aftermath

GB News’s Mark White has an excellent video showing material not captured above, including two Londoners being blown to the ground whilst walking:

Mark White estimates that the cost will be great:

The cost of the damage here and across large parts of the country will be measured in the millions.

On Monday, February 21, The Telegraph reported on a record number of power outages. Storm Franklin made recovery efforts difficult:

Around 56,000 people were still without power on Sunday afternoon after Storm Eunice caused what energy providers believe was a record national outage over a 24-hour period, with around 1.4 million homes losing power.

Ross Easton, director of external affairs at the Energy Networks Association, said Storm Franklin will hamper recovery efforts on Monday.

“We’re still making pretty good progress in terms of reconnections, but it’s certainly being hampered by the high winds,” he said.

After Storm Arwen ravaged the North and Scotland last November, residents rightly complained about the delay in recovery to their electricity service, which took more than 10 days in some areas.

Some living in that region complained on social media that, if Arwen had landed on the South, especially London, power would have been restored much more quickly.

However, that is not necessarily true.

Veteran journalist Charles Moore, who lives ‘down South’ in leafy Sussex, filed a report for The Telegraph on Tuesday, February 22, stating that power in his area was still out days later.

His story spells out the raw reality of power loss:

Escape from modernity is enjoyable, however, only if you can get back to it when you want to. We could not. The power was still off the next morning. I began to consider the facts.

They were not good – roads blocked, roofs smashed by trees, shops closed, unable to operate without computerised tills, freezers melting.

The Moore family were ill placed. Our son and daughter-in-law, she anyway suffering from flu, had to contend with an Aga growing tepid and two small children without baths or hot food. My sister’s two autistic sons and their carer all had Covid, so she and her partner had to isolate in their very cold, very old house, mobile-less.

My mother was worst placed. She is a former polio victim who is about to be 90, lives alone and is immobile. Helped by extremely kind neighbours, she survived the first night well, but began to get cold the next day. Because of her infirmity, she cannot light or tend a log fire

By Sunday, the situation began to feel like the plagues of Egypt. All power was still off. My wife had caught the local flu and was sick in the night. My mother woke to find she had no water of any kind, hot or cold. The whole town of Battle was in the same situation, we heard. Without power, the water pumping station was not working properly

As I write, 4,400 homes in Sussex are still without power. I have just left after giving my mother breakfast, still upstairs. She and I agreed that she should stay put, partly because she might fall coming down, mainly because of the ordeal of getting up the stairs again later. There is no solution until the power returns. A carer is with her, and my brother is nobly coming from London later. My poor sister has now tested positive for Covid.

My mother has gamely overcome many adversities in life, but even she is a bit shaken. We all feel slightly embarrassed. After all, the absence of electricity was something familiar to most people 70 years ago.

Yet it has become so embedded in daily life that we can barely live without it for more than 24 hours. The authorities need to acknowledge this, and find quicker ways of restoring heat and light.

I could not agree more. Private companies supply our electricity. We are always told that the private sector is more agile, responsive and proactive than the public sector. So why aren’t they stepping up to the plate? We get plenty of storms here in the UK. They must do better.

A lighthearted moment

There was a lighter moment during the storm as MPs on social media mixed up Eunice and Eustice, the surname of our Environment Minister:

Guido wrote:

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the name of the storm battering the UK, Eunice, shares such a similarity with the name of the man who’ll be in the spotlight once the skies have cleared, DEFRA secretary George Eustice. It turns out plenty of MPs have failed to spot the difference.

Three of the four were Labour MPs; one was a Conservative, George Freeman.

Here is Ruth Jones’s helpful warning about Storm Eustice:

A storm to remember

For those living in the South, Eunice will be a storm to remember.

We still talk about the storm of 1987. Eunice will be a keeper, too.

On Friday, February 18, 2022, Bill Gates told the Munich Security Conference that the Omicron variant works better than the current coronavirus vaccines.

See the following video between 7:08 and 7:30:

Here is the direct quote about Omicron building both B and T cell immunity. He adds that it has circulated more quickly around the world than have manmade vaccines. Note that Gates begins with the word ‘sadly’:

Bill Gates, it seems, has a God complex in his fixation with vaccines.

Omicron is providential in that its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, but the multi-billionaire refuses to learn the lesson that God is infinitely greater than mankind.

Pity poor Bill Gates. He has everything, yet he has nothing.

Thanks to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, England is now the freest country in the Western world.

On Monday, February 21, Boris announced the lifting of the remaining coronavirus restrictions. Some of this began yesterday. However, much of the lifting comes into effect on Thursday, February 24, with the remainder finished by April 1.

He gave a statement to Parliament first, which he followed with a televised coronavirus briefing — press conference — at 7 p.m. that evening.

This was the nub of his statement to the House of Commons (emphases mine):

As we have throughout the past two years, we will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations as they decide how to take forward their own plans. Today’s strategy shows how we will structure our approach in England around four principles. First, we will remove all remaining domestic restrictions in law. From this Thursday, 24 February, we will end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test, and so we will also end self-isolation support payments, although covid provisions for statutory sick pay can still be claimed for a further month. We will end routine contact tracing, and no longer ask fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 to test daily for seven days. We will also remove the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate. Until 1 April, we will still advise people who test positive to stay at home, but after that we will encourage people with covid-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility, just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others …

The testing, tracing and isolation budget in 2020-21 exceeded the entire budget of the Home Office; it cost a further £15.7 billion in this financial year, and £2 billion in January alone, at the height of the omicron wave. We must now scale this back.

From today, we are removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice-weekly asymptomatic testing. And from 1 April, when winter is over and the virus will spread less easily, we will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public. We will continue to provide free symptomatic tests to the oldest age groups and those most vulnerable to covid. And in line with the practice in many other countries, we are working with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to can buy a test. From 1 April, we will also no longer recommend the use of voluntary covid-status certification, although the NHS app will continue to allow people to indicate their vaccination status for international travel. The Government will also expire all temporary provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Of the original 40, 20 have already expired and 16 will expire on 24 March. The last four, relating to innovations in public service, will expire six months later, after we have made those improvements permanent via other means.

Secondly, we will continue to protect the most vulnerable with targeted vaccines and treatments. The UK Government have procured enough doses of vaccine to anticipate a wide range of possible Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommendations. Today, we are taking further action to guard against a possible resurgence of the virus, accepting JCVI advice for a new spring booster offered to those aged 75 and over, to older care home residents, and to those over 12 who are immunosuppressed. The UK is also leading the way on antivirals and therapeutics, with our Antivirals Taskforce securing a supply of almost 5 million, which is more per head than any other country in Europe.

Thirdly, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advises that there is considerable uncertainty about the future path of the pandemic, and there may of course be significant resurgences. SAGE is certain that there will be new variants, and it is very possible that those will be worse than omicron. So we will maintain our resilience to manage and respond to those risks, including our world-leading Office for National Statistics survey, which will allow us to continue tracking the virus in granular detail, with regional and age breakdowns helping us to spot surges as and where they happen. And our laboratory networks will help us understand the evolution of the virus and identify any changes in characteristics.

We will prepare and maintain our capabilities to ramp up testing. We will continue to support other countries in developing their own surveillance capabilities, because a new variant can emerge anywhere. We will meet our commitment to donate 100 million vaccine doses by June, as our part of the agreement at the UK’s G7 summit to provide a billion doses to vaccinate the world over the next year. In all circumstances, our aim will be to manage and respond to future risks through more routine public health interventions, with pharmaceutical interventions as the first line of defence.

Fourthly, we will build on the innovation that has defined the best of our response to the pandemic. The vaccines taskforce will continue to ensure that the UK has access to effective vaccines as they become available, and has already secured contracts with manufacturers trialling bi-valent vaccines, which would provide protection against covid variants. The therapeutics taskforce will continue to support seven national priority clinical trial platforms focused on prevention, novel treatments and treatments for long-covid. We are refreshing our biosecurity strategy to protect the UK against natural zoonosis and accidental laboratory leaks, as well as the potential for biological threats emanating from state and non-state actors.

Building on the five-point plan that I set out at the UN and the agreements reached at the UK’s G7 last year, we are working with our international partners on future pandemic preparedness, including through a new pandemic treaty; an effective early warning system or global pandemic radar; and a mission to make safe and effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines available within the first 100 days of a future pandemic threat being identified. We will host a global pandemic preparedness summit next month.

The pandemic treaty concerns me. Will it supersede individual nations’ laws and liberties?

Boris put the focus on common sense and personal responsibility. People took exception to his taking credit for restoring our liberties — ‘they were ours all along’ — but he was the one who took them away on March 23, 2020, at 8 p.m.:

Covid will not suddenly disappear, so those who would wait for a total end to this war before lifting the remaining regulations would be restricting the liberties of the British people for a long time to come. This Government do not believe that that is right or necessary. Restrictions take a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer. We have a population that is protected by the biggest vaccination programme in our history; we have the antivirals, the treatments and the scientific understanding of this virus; and we have the capabilities to respond rapidly to any resurgence or new variant.

It is time that we got our confidence back. We do not need laws to compel people to be considerate to others. We can rely on our sense of responsibility towards one another, providing practical advice in the knowledge that people will follow it to avoid infecting loved ones and others. So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves without restricting our freedoms. In that spirit, I commend this statement to the House.

I watched the Coronavirus Briefing at 7 p.m. and sincerely hope it would be the last one.

Boris was flanked by Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Officer, and Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer.

Boris spoke first, then we had Chris ‘Next slide, please’ Whitty’s presentation. I do not understand why Downing Street couldn’t have given him a clicker to advance the slides himself.

Listening to Whitty and Vallance, however, gave me a different impression. I wondered if I was alone:

Then I found a Guido Fawkes post, and one of his readers wrote:

Chris Whitty is literally stood there contradicting everything Johnson just said in Parliament. He is advising wearing face masks and self isolation. Emphasising this a ‘gradual series of steps’.

Vallance emphasising the next variant could be more severe. I can’t believe what I am hearing. It’s quite clear they do not agree at all with the announcement. They still quite clearly want a very slow and gradual lifting of restrictions and mass surveillance testing all the way to summer with rapid lockdown again if we a get any rise in infections.

They need to be removed.

I agree that SAGE needs disbanding or a deep reorganisation. Everyone on it is in lockstep. SAGE needs a variety of voices from the medical establishment, with more libertarians. They exist. They just haven’t been invited. It seems as if SAGE nominates its own members, all like-minded people.

I was most surprised to see Whitty say that the vaccine was good for pregnant women and their babies:

As expected, reporters were clearly unhappy with Boris’s announcement. A few accused him of playing politics in order to keep his job.

Later that evening, Toby Young told Dan Wootton of GB News that journos have comfortable houses and gardens to enjoy. They don’t need to worry about lockdowns or self-isolation:

On Monday, Wootton launched his own lockdown inquiry, which he says will be a recurring topic on his show for some time. He rightly blames the media for stoking fear every minute of the day:

Top oncologist Prof Karol Sikora agreed with Wootton about Project Fear:

Public health official Prof John Ashton and Dr Steve James, the unvaccinated consultant anaesthesiologist, joined Wootton. Having just returned from France, Ashton championed masks and asked what the problem was in wearing them. It doesn’t seem he understands the full picture there:

Dr James said that he is not against vaccines. He supports those who want to take them:

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya told Wootton that ‘lockdown’ should become a ‘dirty word’:

Freedom Day feels a bit like Groundhog Day. We’ve been here before:

Still, let’s hope it is definitive this time.

Thanks go to Boris but, more importantly, to the 101 rebel Conservative MPs who opposed an Omicron lockdown before Christmas. They put the frighteners on Boris — and with good reason.

As I discussed in Parts 1 and 2 last week, it is no accident that the Conservatives won the general elections of 2015 and 2019 thanks to the left-leaning metropolitan elite.

In 2015, this is what people wanted from MPs (emphases mine):

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

(1) honesty
(2) probity
(3) the ability to listen to their constituents
(4) the ability to put the needs of their constituents before the interests of big business, the aristocracy or the establishment.

Tick all four boxes and I don’t care where you were born, where you were schooled or where you live. The problem is finding anybody who’ll tick those boxes.

The comment came from a Guardian article from May 20, 2015 on the metropolitan elite. It was published two weeks after the general election, which David Cameron won comfortably.

In my first two instalments of this series, I posted several comments from the article.

Here is one more of note, remarking that the metropolitan elite are driving Labour supporters into voting Conservative, or Tory:

The left just suffered the biggest defeat in a generation. A left largely run– in fact almost exclusively run- by university educated professional metropolitan people or “metropolitan elites”.

You would have thought this would be a time for humility a moment of reflection on why they lost. Nope, just back to banging the same drum we were right everyone else was wrong. This is the kind of attitude that drives people into the arms of the Tory party, the under current of contempt for the people the left claim to speak out for.

And you call other people narrow minded.

It’s this astonishing hubris which will drive the left into the ground over the coming years. If this election hasn’t taught them a lesson nothing will.

By December 12, 2019, those two comments proved to be prophetic.

Something revolutionary happened: the transformation of the Red Wall (former Labour) seats, or constituencies, in England.

That transformation gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson a most unexpected 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.

It was so stunning that it caught the eye of at least one American commentator:

On Friday, December 13, the day after the election, the Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson hailed the political ‘earthquake’ that has given him a ‘mandate to get Brexit done’ today as he marched his new blue-collar Tory army towards a staggering election landslide.

After laying waste to Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-backing strongholds, the PM said he had been given a ‘powerful’ vote of confidence by the British people and vowed to ‘rise to the challenge’ …

In England the Conservatives polled 47.1 per cent to Labour’s 34.3 per cent, and in Wales they were supported by an impressive 36.1 per cent.

By contrast Mr Corbyn [Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader] looks to have stewarded his party to its worst performance since 1935 and plunged it into a seething civil war – despite his allies vainly claiming earlier that high turnout might have helped him pull off a surprise. 

In an address to staff at CCHQ afterwards, Mr Johnson said: ‘We must understand now what an earthquake we have created. 

‘The way in which we have changed the political map in this country

‘We have to grapple with the consequences of that. We have to change our own party. We have to rise to the level of events. We have to rise to the challenge that the British people have given us.’ 

The Conservatives pulled off a massive coup by securing the symbolic swing constituency of Workington, overturning a 3,000 majority to triumph by 4,000 votes with a 10 per cent swing

They also overturned an 8,000 majority to rip the former mining area of Blythe Valley in Northumberland from Labour’s grip for the first time ever. The party’s candidate won by 700 votes after securing an incredible 10.2 per cent swing in what was theoretically only 85th on the target list. 

There were jaw-dropping gains in Bishop Auckland – which had never elected a Conservative MP in 134 years – and Tony Blair’s old stronghold of Sedgefield.

Left-wing ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Dennis Skinner was ejected from the seat he has held since 1970, as Mr Johnson flipped huge swathes of the country from deep red to Tory blue.  

Other fortresses to fall included Leigh, Darlington, Wakefield, Stockton South, Redcar – which saw a 15.5 per cent swing – Peterborough, Wrexham and the Vale of Clywd

As the political map was redrawn in a few tumultuous hours, places like Jarrow, Houghton & Sunderland South, Sunderland Central, and Newcastle Upon-Tyne Central saw enormous movements from Labour to the Conservatives – although the party clung on. 

A pattern was emerging of Brexit Party candidates draining votes from Labour in its northern heartlands, while Tory support held steady

After the Blythe Valley result was declared, flabbergasted ex-chancellor George Osborne said: ‘We never thought we’d get Blythe Valley

‘There’s a Conservative candidate in Hexham who I heard a couple of days ago saying ‘we are going to win Blythe valley’ and I thought he was always a bit optimistic, this guy. But he was right and that is a pretty spectacular win.’ 

Ian Levy, the mental health worker who won the seat for the Tories, said in his victory speech: ‘I would like to thank Boris.’ 

The first big Labour scalp claimed by the Tories was shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman, who lost Workington

Labour’s Gareth Snell predicted his own defeat ahead of the result in another former stronghold, Stoke-on-Trent Central, saying: ‘I’m going to lose badly and this is the start of 20 years of Tory rule.’ 

All the Tory Remainer rebels who stood as independents, including David Gauke and Dominic Grieve, failed to win seats.

And Labour defectors to the Lib Dems Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger fell short. 

Former Labour MP John Mann was correct when he said that his party had lost because they did not listen to their supporters. This is from The Sun:

Mr Mann said the Labour leader had “arrogantly” taken for granted Labour voters in the Red Wall of its traditional strongholds in the North and Midlands

He said what happened in his old seat of Bassetlaw, a Labour seat since 1935 that now has a Tory MP, sums up what he claimed was the “arrogance” of those around Corbyn.

“They didn’t let a local candidate stand, they then removed candidate that was selected, they imposed their own Corbynite candidate and he got humiliated – incredibly predictable.

“That sums up their arrogance – they’ve taken working class voters in the North and Midlands for granted.”

Mr Mann said it was time for Labour to start listening and to elect a leader who understands the party’s traditional voters.

“People have made their mind up and if Labour doesn’t learn their lesson, the Labour party might as well not exist,” he said.

“It’s going to require a leader that understands where people are coming from and understands the issues and then starts talking to those people.

“If that doesn’t go Labour is finished as a political force in this country and it needs a leader who understands that.”

Very true. It is unclear as to whether Sir Keir Starmer is that leader.

Former Labour party member and current Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges — the son of actress and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson — predicted a strong Conservative majority, even though pollsters had not. Hodges said, ‘Labour lost because the Corbynites hated working Britain’:

On Tuesday, December 17, a new electoral map appeared. Its caption says, ‘The “Red Wall” is now a pile of rubble’:

From the start, many of the Red Wall MPs showed how different they are from the conventional Conservative backbenchers. They are feisty, prepared to speak out and have a good memory for Labour disasters — local, regional or national.

Some of these new MPs grew up on council estates. None has an Oxbridge degree. Some were the first in their families to attend university.

Some have prior experience of running a business. Similarly, others worked in the private sector. Unlike the metropolitan elite, they did not go into politics or the civil service straight from university.

One thing has been clear from 2019 onward: they want to help their constituents by responding to their needs and concerns. Furthermore, they are local — not parachuted in from London.

One of the Red Wall MPs, Ben Bradley, who represents Mansfield — and was elected in the 2017 general election — explained why the Conservatives won so handily:

Bradley says that Labour have turned their attention from working for a living to giving handouts to their constituents, something that a lot of Britons don’t want to see happen. Bradley is correct, because this is the line that Labour take in Parliament — nothing about jobs, only money:

Bradley is correct to say that people want hope — and, may I add, the dignity that goes with being self-sufficient in working for a living:

He also points out that Labour criticised Leavers in the Brexit referendum:

Bradley concludes by saying the Conservatives have a lot of work ahead of them to hold onto these votes:

The Red Wall seats defined a new source of Conservative support, more evidence that the English are moving away from Labour. A 2021 Intelligence Squared debate put forward the following proposal (H/T to one of my readers):

‘We’ve lost the trust of working people.’ Those were the words of Labour leader Keir Starmer in early May, neatly summing up the reason his party lost the Hartlepool by-election as well as many of the local elections across the country. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood promptly quit the front bench, complaining that the party has been captured by ’a London-based bourgeoisie’. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair joined in the chorus of despair, saying that the party is being ‘defined by the ”woke” Left’. Labour, it is clear, is now completely out of touch with its traditional voters – older, working-class people without degrees, who live in small towns and industrial heartlands and want to see a more robust defence of their country, its history and culture. They feel Boris Johnson and the Tories better understand their values and concerns. Without the support of these voters Labour can never win power again.

Although Labour have been more popular in the polls over the past three months with Boris’s lockdown parties at Downing Street, there is still no guarantee that people will actually vote for them in the next general election.

Voters should not forget this photo from June 2, 2020, showing Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner:

Millions of us would do well to remember that photo in future. Bookmark it and save it for the day when the next general election is declared in a couple of years’ time.

Although this series ends here, I will have a separate set of posts on the most dynamic Red Wall MPs.

Stay tuned. They don’t do boredom.

Bible read me 2The 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 with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Galatians 2:11-14

Paul Opposes Peter

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[a] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

——————————————————————————–

Last week’s post discussed the affirmation from those leading the church in Jerusalem — Peter (Cephas), James (our Lord’s brother) and John — of Paul’s apostleship.

As was the case with Paul’s other church plants, as soon as he left, false teachers — often Judaizers — infiltrated the congregations spreading a false gospel.

The same happened in the churches of the region of Galatia: Lystra, Iconium, Derbe and Antioch.

Therefore, Paul must condemn them in no uncertain terms. This he does by discussing the Jerusalem Council and, in today’s verses, the damaging effect the Judaizers had upon Peter in Antioch.

Paul is determined to reinforce the doctrine of justification by faith through grace rather than a false works-based salvation through circumcision.

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

This is a polemical book. It is a fight. It is a defense of the true gospel against those who were purveyors of the false gospel.

Paul states bluntly that when Cephas came to Antioch, the church in Syria, he (Paul) opposed him to his face because he stood condemned (verse 11).

That’s a very strong statement and to those, like me, who admire Peter’s bold character even though he is flawed, it seems that Paul was being unnecessarily harsh.

Yet, as we find out — and Pauline apologists already know this — Peter had to be confronted in the most direct terms.

MacArthur explains why Paul calls Peter by the name of Cephas:

Peter is the Greek word; Cephas is the Aramaic

As to Paul’s stance towards Peter, Matthew Henry says that it was also for the benefit of the congregation in Antioch:

Notwithstanding Peter’s character, yet, when he observes him thus behaving himself to the great prejudice both of the truth of the gospel and the peace of the church, he is not afraid to reprove him for it. Paul adhered resolutely to his principles, when others faltered in theirs; he was as good a Jew as any of them (for he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews), but he would magnify his office as the apostle of the Gentiles, and therefore would not see them discouraged and trampled upon.

What was Peter’s role in Antioch?

Henry says that Peter was unlikely to have been the head of the church there, because, if he were, Paul would have treated him differently, which is not to say that he would have excused the Apostle’s sin:

Antioch was one of the chief churches of the Gentile Christians, as Jerusalem was of those Christians who turned from Judaism to the faith of Christ. There is no colour of reason for the supposition that Peter was bishop of Antioch. If he had, surely Paul would not have withstood him in his own church, as we here find he did; but, on the contrary, it is here spoken of as an occasional visit which he made thither. In their other meeting, there had been good harmony and agreement. Peter and the other apostles had both acknowledged Paul’s commission and approved his doctrine, and they parted very good friends. But in this Paul finds himself obliged to oppose Peter, for he was to be blamed, a plain evidence that he was not inferior to him

MacArthur says that Peter had been in Antioch for some time and was well known by the congregation. I would add that his strong personality contributed to the fact that he was viewed favourably there:

Peter had come to Antioch, Antioch of Syria where the first church was and where Paul and Barnabas were pastors, along with a group of other men mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Acts. Peter had come there, and he’d stayed a long time. Peter obviously must have been the center of attention. “Tell us about Jesus.” Can you imagine that? “Tell us about Him. Tell us, What was it like when you walked on water? Tell us all the things that we’ve heard.” Remember the gospels haven’t been written yet, and an eyewitness with Christ would have meant everything to these Gentile believers up in Antioch in a flourishing gospel church. Peter would have been some kind of icon, some kind of hero to them

Peter had done something that Paul saw as an attack on the gospel: the gospel of grace alone, faith alone, apart from works. And so he condemned him. This is an apostolic clash of massive proportions.

Paul says that before the Judaizers — ‘certain men came from James’ — Peter was happy eating with the Gentiles; however, after the Judaizers arrived, Peter drew back from the Gentiles because he feared the men from the ‘circumcision party’ (verse 12).

MacArthur explains that the men who ‘came from James’ were unlikely to have had his consent or commission to go to Antioch; it was a false claim:

I don’t think James sent these men. I think they said they were from James, and they had some connection to the Jerusalem church. At this time, that’s the mother church, that’s the church. So somehow they were associated with it. And prior to the arrival of these men who came from the Jerusalem church and said they had a connection with James, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles.

Peter’s withdrawal from associating with the Gentiles set a bad example for any Jewish converts, because all believers are one in Christ.

Henry says:

… when there came some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, he grew more shy of the Gentiles, only to humour those of the circumcision and for fear of giving them offence, which doubtless was to the great grief and discouragement of the Gentile churches. Then he withdrew, and separated himself. His fault herein had a bad influence upon others, for the other Jews also dissembled with him; though before they might be better disposed, yet now, from his example, they took on them to scruple eating with the Gentiles, and pretended they could not in conscience do it, because they were not circumcised.

MacArthur says that, historically, Jews considered Gentiles to be unclean. He also tells us why it was so egregious for Peter to fall backwards into his old pattern of Jewish traditions:

Just as a normal rule of life, Jews didn’t eat with Gentiles. Forget Christianity, forget the gospel, forget the church; Jews didn’t do that. A Gentile was unclean; a Gentile home was unclean; a Gentile utensil was unclean. They couldn’t go near Gentiles. They couldn’t eat off the dish a Gentile offered them. And these were rabbinic standards that were iron-fisted laws. It was believed that all Gentile food was contaminated by being unclean, to say nothing of that which was not kosher, not according to the standards of the Mosaic dietary laws. So what you had was the Jews holding to their own dietary laws and a kind of developing racism toward Gentiles. We saw the racism even in the day of Jonah, where he didn’t want to see Gentiles repent. Jews resented, hated Gentiles; and they kept separate.

Peter was raised in that environment. He comes to Antioch; he’s in a Gentile church. And what does he do? He does what a Jew would never do. He used to eat with the Gentiles. What is that saying? That he knows that the lesson he learned in Acts 10, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” There’s nothing unclean anymore, nothing unclean anymore – the dietary laws are over. In Christ, the middle wall is broken down. Jew and Gentile are one, and Christ is neither Jew nor Greek. That’s all over with. That’s all over. He knows that.

He also knows that they are brothers and sisters in Christ. And when he eats with them, it’s not just a meal; it’s the love feast; it’s the Lord’s Table. He’s just living life with the Gentiles. He’s with them all the time. They’re being served the same food. He’s finding out what it is to eat all the stuff that Jews could never eat. He’s been liberated.

He is turning his back on the [???] halakhoth, the list of elder traditions that prescribed certain kinds of food. And the fact that you couldn’t eat certain kinds of meat. You couldn’t eat meat that was butchered by a Gentile, or that was, a part of it was offered to idols, or violated the laws of Moses, or had been in the hands of Gentiles, or served on Gentile plates, and all of that. And all of a sudden that’s not even an issue. Peter’s having a great time. He’s discovering all kinds of foods that he’d never eaten before, eating with Gentiles, his brothers and sisters in Christ, until certain men show up. And he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof. He pulled back.

They would have criticized him mercilessly for eating with those Gentiles. And they would have said this: “Not only are you not to eat with Gentiles, they’re not believers, because they haven’t been circumcised, and they don’t adhere to Mosaic rules. So you’re eating not only with Gentiles who are unclean, but you’re eating with nonbelievers.” And they obviously intimidated Peter.

“He began to withdraw and hold himself aloof” – and there’s no questioning the motive – “he was fearing the party of the circumcision.” That’s the Judaizers. “The party of the circumcision” they became known as. He was afraid of them. Good men, great men – for the sake of pride and self-protection, self-preservation, popularity – compromise. They compromise.

Paul says that the rest of the Jews in the church in Antioch copied Peter’s example, ‘hypocritically’; even worse, Barnabas, who had been present at the time the Jerusalem Council took place, went along with them (verse 13).

Henry warns us against spiritual weakness, when we are tempted to please men instead of God:

And (would you think it?) Barnabas himself, one of the apostles of the Gentiles, and one who had been instrumental in planting and watering the churches of the Gentiles, was carried away with their dissimulation. Here note, (1.) The weakness and inconstancy of the best of men, when left to themselves, and how apt they are to falter in their duty to God, out of an undue regard to the pleasing of men. And, (2.) The great force of bad examples, especially the examples of great men and good men, such as are in reputation for wisdom and honour.

MacArthur uses Peter as a common example of the path to sanctification:

Peter just can’t get out of his own shadow, can he? I mean it’s just a history of this guy doing this. He’s an illustration of how sanctification works. It’s not a straight line upward. It’s a few steps forward and a few steps back, and a few steps forward and a few steps back. And it’s where we all live, isn’t it?

How true!

Paul, by interrogating Peter on this sin, encapsulates the confusion and division that could damage the church in Antioch. In front of the congregation, Paul asks Peter how a Jew who can live like a Gentile can force a Gentile to live like a Jew (verse 14).

MacArthur says:

Peter became a hypocrite. He acted like he agreed with the Judaizers – devastating. And so did the rest of the Jews that were there, and so did Barnabas. And now what you have is a fracture in the whole church.

And what is this more than that? This is not about disunity; this is an assault on the gospel of faith, because now Peter is acting as if the Judaizers are right. “For that,” Paul says, “I opposed him to his face, because he was to be condemned.”

MacArthur has more on the composition of the congregation:

That’s a Gentile city and a Gentile church, of course. Some Jewish believers were there, but it was predominantly a Gentile church.

What Peter did was dangerous:

Without saying anything, he took sides with those who taught salvation by faith and works, without saying anything. He fractured the church. Overnight the church was in chaos because of his defection back to Judaism, as if the Judaizers were right, these enemies of the gospel whose message was cursed.

MacArthur explains why Paul had to condemn Peter publicly. Peter had turned his back on the Gentiles in public, therefore, a rebuke in front of the congregation was necessary:

Verse 14, let me read this to you. “When I was that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas” – and this is what he said to him when he opposed him to the face as it’s mentioned in verse 11; this is what he said – “I said to Cephas in the presence of all,” – in front of the entire church – ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles – that’s what you’ve been doing, you’ve been living like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” Paul is profoundly exercised.

Verse 14 says, “I saw that they were not straightforward, ortho podeó, from which we get orthopedic. Ortho meaning straight, podeó is the verb from which the word “foot” comes. They weren’t walking straight. They were not walking straight about the truth of the gospel

Peter had believed that he could eat and fellowship with Gentiles; he had done it. He knew that since Acts 10 and his experience with Cornelius. He had no longer lived according to Jewish prescription. He had left that behind in the tenth chapter of Acts. Now he goes back to that in a hypocritical way and leads others to the same hypocrisy. He didn’t deal honestly with the truth of the gospel, he altered people’s perception of truth by his behavior. What an indictment.

Paul is furious about this, and so he opposes him to his face, but he does it – middle of verse 14 – in the presence of all. Consistent with what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5: “An elder who sins, rebuke before all, that others may fear.” He confronts Peter in a public way.

Augustine said, “It is not advantageous to correct in secret an error which occurred publicly.” He’s right. You have to show public condemnation of a public sin; so he does that. It’s a lot better than pulling Peter aside and trying to fix him in private. He needed to be confronted in public, because that’s where his disaffection had occurred and led people into confusion.

They knew the gospel. This is a church. They’re saved by faith alone, they knew that. The Gentiles knew that; the Jewish believers knew that. That’s why Paul is so shocked. Back in chapter 1 he says, “I’m amazed that you’re so quickly deserting Him who called you for a different gospel. Why are you leaning that way?”

Peter is not overtly saying, “I don’t believe the true gospel.” He’s just acting like what the Judaizers are teaching is true. This is a very dangerous compromise. Anytime those who preach the true gospel affirm or embrace anyone who teaches a false gospel, confusion reigns. “Come out from among them and be separate. Light has no fellowship with darkness; Christ with Belial.”

“Peter, you can’t do this. Everyone in Antioch knows you’re in the habit of living like a Gentile since the tenth chapter of Acts; and you’ve done it here. And they all know that you preach the gospel of grace, and you affirm the gospel of grace and faith alone. And now you’re playing right into the hands of the Judaizers, and you’re acting as if they’re right by lining up with them.” This threatens the integrity of the gospel. This is always about the gospel. This is a serious breach. So, with that, we come to verse 15.

The rest of the chapter is in the Lectionary, but it is worth reading because it is about justification — or righteousness — by faith through grace:

Justified by Faith

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Paul has much more to say on this doctrine, and he rebukes the Galatians for falling away from it.

Next time — Galatians 3:1-6

The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany is February 20, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This day in 2022 is Sexagesima Sunday, meaning 60 days before Easter. Last Sunday was Septuagesima Sunday, signifying 70 days before Easter. Next Sunday will be Quinquagesima Sunday: 50 days before Easter.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period is called Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 6:27-38

6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

6:29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

6:33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

6:34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

6:35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;

6:38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We pick up from where we left off last week with Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes.

Matthew’s version is considerably longer.

John MacArthur says that Jesus probably preached for hours and that the Gospel authors distilled what He said into the basic premise of His sermon:

Luke’s record of what Jesus said that day near the Sea of Galilee is recorded in chapter 6 verses 20 to 49 It is the same sermon about which Matthew wrote in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 Matthew has a much longer treatment of the sermon.  Matthew recorded much more of what the Lord said, but the Lord said what Matthew recorded The Lord also said what Luke recorded And the sermon would be the combination of both and probably a lot more, since you could read through both passages in a very few minutes, and it’s likely that the Lord preached for a long time.

We conclude, therefore, what Matthew gave us is a true record of a portion of that sermon.  What Luke gave us is also a true record of a portion of that sermon.  Combined they would come short of the full teaching of what Jesus said, which we would have to leave to the discretion of God He gave us what He felt we needed to hear

This is likely to be as long a post as last time. Churchgoers and students of the Bible know much of this by heart but how well do we actually live by these verses? Personally, I find some of them very difficult. Yet, Jesus is calling us to love others in the way that He loves us — and loved His enemies during his time on earth.

He says to those that listen: love your enemies and do good to those that hate you (verse 27).

Note that He says ‘I say to you that listen’. He is distinguishing the blessed from the cursed. Those who are listening are being transformed by God. However, not all His disciples were in that happy state. Recall that in John 6, when He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, many of those disciples left Him for good. They found His statement too difficult to comprehend.

MacArthur explains:

… here is the second test for a true disciple First one is how he views himself The second one is how he views others And it’s clear to whom Jesus is referring because verse 27 begins with these words, “But I say to you who – ” What? – “who hear.”  That’s a very important statement There’s a contrast being made here.  There’s a contrast being made between people who have the ability to hear the voice of God and respond and people who don’t

We remember 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural man understands not the things of God, to him they are foolishness.”  And there is a clear distinction between sinners who are referred to in verses 32, 33 and 34, and sons of the Most High, referred to in verse 35 There is a dramatic difference.  And part of that difference, of course, is that the one who is not a true disciple, the one outside the Kingdom, the one who has never been regenerated, the one who has never been saved has no capacity to hear That is to say to understand, to believe and to act on divine truth

So the Lord narrows His audience here and says, “I’m talking to you who can get it.  I’m talking to you who have spiritual understanding, the true believer, poor, hungry, sad, unpopular.  I’m talking to you who are rejected I’m talking to you who are persecuted, and I’m telling you, you are not only known by your hated of sin…mostly in yourself…but you’re known by your love of your enemies This is your character.” 

Of the sermon itself, MacArthur says:

It is an important sermon because it’s a sermon about salvation It’s a sermon that draws some very clear lines.  It is a very simple and very straightforward sermon.  It always amazes me of how complicated…as to how complicated certain commentators can get in trying to understand what is very, very simple and straightforward.  This sermon draws a simple contrast It is a contrast between those people who are blessed and those people who are cursed And, frankly, that includes everybody.  Everybody everywhere who’s ever lived either falls into the category of being blessed or being cursed

And all men relate to the true and living God one way or another They are blessed by Him or they are cursed by Him.  They are in His Kingdom, or out of His Kingdom They are His children or the children of Satan They are in the kingdom of light or they’re in the kingdom of darkness.  They are citizens of heaven or of hell.  And that’s how it is.  Everybody in the human race fits into one of the two categories.

And that’s how Jesus begins His sermon by pointing clearly to the blessed and the cursed.  The word “blessed” is in verse 20, 21, and 22 and the cursed are referred to with “woes,” woe meaning curse, in verses 24, 25 and 26.  And Jesus, like any good evangelist, creates a contrast

Jesus preached this sermon to His disciples, including the Apostles.

MacArthur points out the difference between the two:

Verse 20 tells us that He was talking to disciples That’s a broad generic word for learner, student.  There were lots of people following Him, not just the twelve apostles. 

Don’t confuse the disciples here with the apostles.  The apostles were disciples but they are set apart from the disciples as apostles.  Disciple means student, learner; apostle means messenger, sent oneAnd they had been identified, as we know, back in verse 12 to 14 as apostles So the apostles are the twelve apostles.  The rest of those following Jesus and learning Jesus’ teaching to one degree or another, being students of Jesus are in the broad category of disciples Jesus then speaks to this broad category of people and says you’re either blessed or cursed; you’re either in one category or the other.  You’re either in the Kingdom of God or outside the Kingdom of God.

Those who are in the kingdom of God bless those who curse them and pray for their abusers (verse 28).

This was a radical departure for the works-based salvation system that the Jews had at that time. The Jew obeyed as many of the laws of Moses as he could. That was where his religion began and ended. However, Jesus was calling — and does call — for something greater, an imitation of divine love.

MacArthur says that loving one’s enemy was not part of the Jewish mindset at that time:

Roots in the Old Testament, the true religion that developed a [hybrid] of Judaism that was part Old Testament, part human tradition and invention, and the end result was an apostate form of Judaism But it was a very complex kind of religion and very highly codified and defined And in their system…listen to this…it was a sin to love your enemy It was a sin to love your enemy.  So when Jesus stepped in front of the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount…and He’s got Pharisees there and scribes there; they followed Him everywhere.  He’s got priests and rabbis and local synagogue rulers and the popul[ace]…and He says, “Love your enemies,” that, to the Jews, is a statement that is immoral It is ungodly to say that.  It’s not right.  That’s offensive to them because they tied their spiritual virtue to their hatred

They hated the Romans because the Romans were idolatrous gentile pagans When they came in with their poles on which they had the image of Caesar, that was a violation of the commandment to make no graven images because they worshiped Caesar as a God.  And so here they had blatant idolatry in the land.  Every time a Roman coin passed through a Jew’s hand, it was something to spit on because it had the image of Caesar engraved upon the coin and that was an idol There was a group of Jews connected with the Zealots called the Sicari, who were the terrorists, the Jewish terrorists who went around stabbing Romans They were obviously clandestine.  They were murderous.  The Jews hated them And they thought they hated them with holy hatred; they thought they hated them with a righteous hatred.

They also had developed a hatred of people who violated the law and traditions And they thought that that was a righteous thing to do … 

Here’s what the Essenes say, and I quote some of their literature.  “Love all that God has chosen and hate all He has rejected.”  They also wrote, “Love all the sons of light and hate all the sons of darkness.”  That was prescribed in their ethical, moral, religious code.  Hate sons of darkness, unbelievers.  In fact, they went to far as to curse all non-Essenes, which means hate the Pharisees, hate the Sadducees, hate the Zealots, hate everybody who is a non-Essene, hate them all.

And the Pharisees weren’t much better than that I’m quoting from one of the Maxims of the Pharisees.  “If a Jew sees a gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out of there, for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor but this man is not thy neighbor.’ Why?  Because he’s a gentile, let him drown.  It’s a sin to lift him out of the water.  Don’t rescue a gentile Now this had become a point of their virtue In fact, the Romans…you can find in Roman writings…the Romans actually accused the Jews of hating the human race Nice reputation.  We would like to think that Christians are known by their love In the ancient world Jews were known by their hate It is not unlike contemporary Middle Eastern and other places in the world…Islam.  Strange parallel.

Then we get to the troublesome verse about showing the person striking you your other cheek and the exhortation from Jesus to give your shirt to someone who has stolen your coat (verse 29).

Matthew Henry has a simple explanation:

Let him have that too, rather than fight for it.

The first part of the verse is about being struck on the cheek in the synagogue, which was part of the ritual of being expelled from it.

MacArthur has more:

What is it about?  Jesus said in John 16, … “The time is going to come when they throw you out of the synagogue.  He was telling His followers that They’re going to throw you out of the synagogue … That was not a small deal because Jewish society circled around the synagogue.  That was both the circumference and core of life.  The greatest single humiliation, the greatest shame was to be excommunicated from the synagogue You were then constituted as a reprobate, very serious.  And they took it very seriously.

When someone was unsynagogued, which they were for their faith in Jesus Christ, frequently they were whipped before whoever wanted to watch Clothes were taken of their backs and they received 39 lashes, leather thongs probably imbedded with bits of stone that lacerated their back 39 times The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24 says, “They did it to me five times.”  Five times the Jews did it to me.  Acts 5:40 talks about those in the early church who preached the gospel being flogged That was the physical punishment connected to the shame of being unsynagogued for the sake of Jesus Christ.

But there was something else that they did The way you dishonored someone, one of the ways you dishonored someone, was to slap them across the face And while there was a real flogging, actual physical pain, there was also a symbolic humiliation in front of the synagogue congregation One of the officials would slap the person across the face as a symbolic indignity and humiliation.  That’s what is in view here.  When they bring you in front to humiliate you and they slap you across the face, offer the other cheek, accept your humiliation.  Now don’t get too literal with this Turn to John 18 for a moment.  Let me show you something

John 18 verse 19This is Jesus before the High Priest He had been arrested.  The High Priest questioned Jesus, verse 19, about His disciples, about His teaching And Jesus was going to be legal about this, even if they weren’t.  We still have a law in this day in time about no man incriminating himself Jesus knew that if there was to be any accusation, it had to be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses So the high priest is really in violation of the law when he says, “Tell us about Your teaching.” 

“Jesus answered him,” calling him back to what was right according to law, “I have spoken openly to the world I always taught in synagogues and in the temple where all the Jews come together.  I spoke nothing in secret.  Why do you question Me?  Question those who have heard what I spoke to them, behold, these know what I said.  Bring in the witnesses, they’ll tell you exactly what I said, I never said anything in private.”  He was rebuking this man for putting Him in an illegal position of incriminating Himself rather than calling the witnesses which was the just thing to do.  The reaction, verse 22, “When He had said this, they read it for what it was, a rebuke of the High Priest.  One of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow.  It’s exactly the same thing.  He smashed Him across the face.  “Is that the way You answer the High Priest?” 

This is not so much punishment, this is not so much the flogging, lashing, which later the Lord received at the hands of the Romans, as the indignity and the humiliation and the shame of the slap across the face And you’ll notice that Jesus did not say, “Here, hit the other side.”  He didn’t interpret even His own words in that literal fashion.  He answered and said, “If I’ve spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong.  If rightly, why do you strike Me?”  Why are you hitting Me, why don’t you just bring the witnesses in?

So what then does it mean, “to turn the other cheek?”  It simply means this, when you have been treated with humiliation, when you’ve been treated with shame, when you’ve been treated with sort of the anger and hostility, when you have been despised and scorned and rejected, just keep on loving and get ready to be hit again.  Don’t retaliate.  The love that has been called for here doesn’t retaliate.  It doesn’t defend itself against this kind of humiliation and rejection, hostilityIt doesn’t get angryIt doesn’t hate when it is hit

The second half of the verse, about the cloak and shirt, also relates to the persecution of Christians that would come:

And the second reaction in verse 29 is another abuse that happened to Christians and still does in some form “Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Whoever takes away your outer garment, don’t withhold your inner garment.  This is very similar to Matthew 5:40, to Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.  And this goes back to an issue.  Many of the people, of course, living in Palestine were not wealthy It was common that people had one outer cloak They didn’t have wardrobes like we do today.  And they needed that outer cloak to protect them, to keep them warm and even to use as a blanket at night Exodus 22:26 and 27 says, “If you ever take your neighbor’s coat as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets for that is his cloak for his body.  What else shall he sleep in?”  You don’t want him lying at night in the cold.

One of the ways that they persecuted the believers, the early believers, was to take their cloak so that they were left naked Believe me, the land of Israel can be very cold in the winter.  It snows in Jerusalem.  This was a severe abuse of these believers.  And He says, “If they take your cloak, keep loving them even if they take your shirt.”  Don’t retaliateDon’t seek vengeance They never really are the enemy; they are always the mission field.

We are to give to those who beg from us and, should anyone take our goods, we are not to ask for their return (verse 30).

Henry says that we are not to fight for our possessions:

And (Luke 6:30; Luke 6:30) of him that taketh thy goods” (so Dr. Hammond thinks it should be read), “that borrows them, or that takes them up from thee upon trust, of such do not exact them; if Providence have made such insolvent, do not take the advantage of the law against them, but rather lose it than take them by the throat,Matthew 18:28. If a man run away in thy debt, and take away thy goods with him, do not perplex thyself, nor be incensed against him.”

MacArthur says that this, too, was — and still is — a form of persecution:

One of the things that also happened to these early believers was people robbed them.  They humiliated them, slapped them, mistreating them, abusing them in that fashion.  Took away their clothes.  They came trading on their goodness, borrowing money they never intended to pay back And they robbed them.  And they still do.  Even up until modern times, Christians being persecuted in some parts of the world have their possessions taken That’s happened all through historyChristians persecuted, their personal belongings taken, their homes looted.  But when they do that, don’t demand it back.

We then come to the verse that some refer to as the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would be done by (verse 31).

MacArthur explains that the verse refers to the sort of love those who hate us are incapable of:

Frankly, that sums up the whole idea of loving your enemies Don’t treat them the way they’re treating you.  The world does that.  The world of sinners treats people the way they treat them You treat people the way you would like them to treat you We assume they’re not treating you that way.  They are hating you.  They are cursing you.  They are mistreating you.  They are hitting you on the cheek.  They are taking things from you, stealing them, borrowing them.  They’re already your enemies.  They’re manifesting that in the way they treat you.  This is all abuse, mistreatment.

So what do you do?  Well, if you’re a normal person, you give them back what they gave you:  vengeance, retaliation, hostility, vindictiveness And Jesus says that’s not the way you do it Treat them the way you would like them to treat you, even though they’re not treating you that way That’s the point.  Treat them the way you would like them to treat you.

Now this golden rule is singularly Christian I know you hear that this is a sort of a universal law of religion, but let me sort of sort that out a little bit for you.  Every time you find something like the golden rule that appears in some religion or some philosophical system, it appears in a negative form What I mean by that is it’s don’t treat people the way you don’t want to be treated It’s a negative.  It’s reversed or lowered …

In every case, the emphasis is negative Don’t do to someone what you don’t want them to do to you because there’s a universal principle in life.  Whatever you do to people, they will do back You got that?  That’s how the world works.  That’s human life.  Whatever you do to them, they’re going to do back to you.  So don’t do what you don’t want back.

In the next three verses, Jesus talks about going beyond normal human behaviour in our approach to loving one another.

There is nothing distinctive in reciprocating love to someone who loves us; even sinners do that (verse 32).

Performing good deeds to someone who has shown us a good deed is normal; sinners do that, too (verse 33).

Similarly, lending to someone who is likely to lend to us is easy; sinners do the same thing (verse 34).

Henry explains that Jesus wants us to go well beyond social norms and imitate heavenly norms instead:

To love those that love us has nothing uncommon in it, nothing peculiar to Christ’s disciples, for sinners will love those that love them. There is nothing self-denying in that; it is but following nature, even in its corrupt state, and puts no force at all upon it (Luke 6:32; Luke 6:32): it is no thanks to us to love those that say and do just as we would have them. “And (Luke 6:33; Luke 6:33) if you do good to them that do good to you, and return their kindnesses, it is from a common principle of custom, honour, and gratitude; and therefore what thanks have you? What credit are you to the name of Christ, or what reputation do you bring to it? for sinners also, that know nothing of Christ and his doctrine, do even the same. But it becomes you to do something more excellent and eminent, herein to out-do your neighbours, to do that which sinners will not do, and which no principle of theirs can pretend to reach to: you must render good for evil;” not that any thanks are due to us, but then we are to our God for a name and a praise and he will have the thanks.

Jesus makes the point that when we go above and beyond — by loving our enemies, doing good to all and lending freely — our reward with God will be great and we will be children of the Most High, He who is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked (verse 35).

Similarly, we are to show each other mercy in the same way that God the Father shows us mercy (verse 36).

Henry says:

What is given, or laid out, or lent and lost on earth, from a true principle of charity, will be made up to us in the other world, unspeakably to our advantage. “You shall not only be repaid, but rewarded, greatly rewarded; it will be said to you, Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom.

MacArthur expands on the heavenly reward and the example we show the rest of mankind:

The reward we’re going to receive in heaven for suffering persecution – there will be a heavenly reward.  But this is in the world of men.  You’re loving sinners the way sinners are not used to being loved You’re loving those who don’t love you.  You’re loving those who don’t do good to you.  You’re loving those who don’t lend to you, and you’re asking no love, no goodness, and no loan back.  This is unconditional, free, transcendent love You’re just loving them the way they ought to love you, even though they don’t.  You’re showing them a love that they can’t experience, doesn’t belong to their world, and your reward will be great.

What will be your reward?  Follow along in verse 35.  “And you will be sons of the Most High.”  What do you mean?  Well, the people are going to conclude you’re a son of God.  You will manifestly be in their eyes.  He’s not talking about what God is going to give you He’s talking about what men are going to think They’re going to say, “He’s very much like God.”  Why?  “For he himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” 

The kindness of God, the grace of God, the forgiveness of God, the mercy, tenderness, compassion of God is all through the Old Testament You live like this, the Jews who know the Old Testament, they’re going to know you’re manifesting the kind of love that was true of God.  God is kind, kind even to ungrateful and evil men As I said earlier, that’s the only kind of people there are We’re all in the category of ungrateful, Romans 1:24We’re all in the category of evil, Romans 3:10 and following.  We’re all wicked.  We’re all thankless.  We’re the only people there are to love, and God loves us and is kind It’s the kindness, again, of compassion.  It’s the kindness of warning.  It’s the kindness of invitation.  It’s the kindness of goodness.  And when you do that, people are going to make the connection, like Ephesians 5:1, “Walk in love even as your Father loves, and as Jesus loved and gave His life.”

Further, in verse 36 Jesus added, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  What you’re trying to do, in the words of Paul, is to adorn the doctrine of God What you’re trying to do is manifest your sonship, to demonstrate that the life of God is in your soul, that the divine nature is there in you, that the Spirit of God dwells with you, that you are supernatural in your ability to love.  And people will say, “He’s a son of the Most High.”

“Most High,” by the way, we’ve already discussed that title for God It’s a New Testament equivalent to the Hebrew El Elyon, God Most High, used many, many times.  First of all, in Genesis 14, it’s used four times and then El Elyon goes all through the Old Testament referring to God as the sovereign.  “Most High” means “You’re the sovereign ruler.  You’re the ultimate one.”  Here in the Greek hupsistos is “sovereign, the ultimate, supreme ruler.”  It can refer none other than God Himself And by the way, Christ is called the “Son of the Most High” in Luke 1:32 and 1:76

Jesus says that if we avoid judging and condemning others, then we will not be judged or condemned; if we forgive, we, too, will be forgiven (verse 37).

We often wonder why good things happen to bad people.

MacArthur says that this is because God is good to both evildoers and the faithful in this world:

The reason good things keep happening to bad people is because God is positively kind and merciful He gives and He withholds.  He gives kindness and blessing, and withholds judgment out of His own compassionate heart And you see that, even the Old Testament, Exodus 34, God is merciful, showing mercy to thousands.  He’s compassionate.  He’s kind.  The prophet Joel talks about that.  The prophet Jonah saw the kindness and mercy of God toward Nineveh and it irritated him.  God has pity over sinners.  He grieves over them.  He’s kind, merciful to them.

So when you are kind, positive good toward your enemies, and merciful, withholding judgment, you are like God Therefore you are manifestly sons of the Most High.  You manifestly are giving evidence that God is your Father So until the final day when God’s judgment does fall on everybody, God Himself is kind and God Himself is merciful That’s His nature.  And if you bear His nature and His name, that is how you need to be, as well.

As for judging and condemning, we would do well to leave that to God and show a good example to others instead, which can have positive benefits in this world:

What it forbids is some kind of harsh, hard, critical, compassionless hostility to enemies.

We’ve already had a pretty good hint at this when back in verse 28 it says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  That’s the idea.  That’s the idea.  Don’t become their judge Don’t pronounce judgment on them.  Speak blessing into their lives Don’t pass sentence on them.  Love them mercifully.  Love them kindly.

And the reward for that?  You will not be judged by them, because sinners will give you back what you give them, and if you’re not judgmental, and harsh, and cold, and condemning, they’ll see that and they’ll treat you that way because that’s how sinners do They love who they love because they love them They’re good to those who do good to them They lend to those who lend to them.  That’s how it works in the world. 

So if you, in the midst of being persecuted, and mistreated, and hated, and cursed, will not be their judges, but will love them with kindness, and mercy, and compassion, and goodness, and invitation the way God loves sinners, then what will happen is they will not judge you They’ll ease up on you You don’t want to do something that’s going to shut the door of evangelism.

Finally, if we give freely, we will receive abundantly. To illustrate our reward to come, Jesus uses an analogy of measuring corn (verse 38), which had to be pressed down into a basket in order to fill every bit of space.

MacArthur explains the verse and the process for measuring corn:

… in verse 38 He says, “Give,” and you know what will happen?  As you give, and give, and give, and give, it will be given to you It will be given to you.  Because that’s how people are As you give in common grace, as you give in mercy, as you give in kindness to sinners, sure God will bless you, that’s not the point Look at this, good measure.  “It will be given to you good measure-pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.” 

And that “they” is the interpretive principle for the whole section, “they.”  It’s the people you do this to They’re going to return it back You don’t judge them, they won’t judge you.  You don’t condemn them, they won’t condemn you And if you forgive them, they will tend to forgive you And if you give to them, they will tend to give to you That’s how the world works.  That’s the common human way to love.  But for us, it has to start with loving those who hate us before they can be transformed into this.

If you are merciful, and kind, and non-critical, and non-condemning, and non-judgmental, if you are generous, and giving to sinners, holding no grudge, then they’ll treat you that way because that’s how they work.  And the hard thing for them to understand will be, “How can he or she treat me that way when I treated him or her the way I did?”  They’re going to see your good works and glorify – whom? – your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:16.

And it’s going to be generous.  Look at verse 38.  “They’re going to give to you good measure-pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  That’s a very vivid picture.  Jeremias writing on the history of Jerusalem has a little paragraph that explains this.  “The measuring of corn is a process which is carried out according to an established pattern in Israel The seller crouches on the ground, puts his legs around a huge basket. 

“First of all, he fills the measure three-quarters full, and then gives the basket a rotating shake to make the grain settle, and settle, and settle, and settle.”  You know how important that is.  That’s like when you bring the cookies home that filled the box and by the time they get home they’re all in the bottom and the rest is air.  That’s to prevent this.

“Once the rotary motion is done with the three-quarter filled basket, it all settles and settles, and all the little grain find all the space and fill it up, fill it up, and it’s solid packed, then he fills the rest to the very top.  And once it’s filled to the very top flat, it’s given another shake, and another shake Then he presses the corn together strongly with both hands, pushing, and pushing, and pushing it down Finally, he piles it into a cone with a point in the middle,” writes Jeremias, “tapping it carefully to press the grains together.  From time to time bores a hole in the cone and pours more in, and pours more in, and pours more in, and pours more in, until the cone gets to the very place where it doesn’t run down anymore That’s a full measure.”

And Jesus said, “If you love people like this, they’ll love you back like that.” 

MacArthur concludes that if we treat each other the way Jesus taught His disciples, we then have an opportunity to be true disciples and teach them the Gospel:

You can actually be loved by sinners.  Christians need a good dose of this, don’t they?  We live in a time when Christians are making enemies out of the mission field.  Wouldn’t you like sinners to do that?  You love them.  Love your persecutors.  Love sinners and they will love you back the way you love them That’s how sinners love.  They love those who love them.  They do good to those who do good to them.  They lend to those who lend to them.  That’s the way they work.  The problem is, that’s all they can do.  But you can love your enemies and benefit.

And what is the goal?  The goal, then, would be to have sinners not judge you, not condemn you, forgive you for the offense against them, and be generous with you.  If that’s the case, that would indicate that they have accepted you, and you now have an opportunity to proclaim to them – what? – the gospel

So take advantage of sinners’ limitations.  They can’t love their enemies, but you can.  They do love those who love them, they do give to those who give to them, and they do good to those who do good to them.  You do that when they are enemies, and you will lay down a testimony that you are not like them, but you are like God, who loves His enemies compassionately, kindly, mercifully, invitingly, and that becomes the basis of your witness This is what marks a true disciple.

I have never heard that message in church. It gives me more hope in being able to take the Beatitudes to heart.

May all of my readers have a very blessed Sunday.

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