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At the weekend, two articles promoting marriage appeared in the papers.

N.B.: Adult content follows.

Separately, two Britons — feminist Louise Perry and conservative columnist Peter Hitchens — say it is time to dump the sexual revolution from the 1960s and return to traditional marriage.

Louise Perry’s book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, is published this Friday, June 3, 2022.

The Sunday Times reported that it is a call to return to the centuries-old tradition of getting married (emphases mine):

She has a piece of simple advice for the young women reading her book: “Get married. And do your best to stay married.”

Perry, who read women’s studies at the left-wing School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was brought up to embrace sexual freedom and personal choice.

Then she began volunteering for the National Rape Crisis Helpline and was appalled by what she discovered, Times journalist Laura Hackett says:

“That was a turning point,” she tells me. All the feminist theory she was studying had “no relevancethere was nothing in there about sexual violence, it didn’t map on to reality.”

It turns out that society’s obsession with pornography has a lot to do with damaging and fractured relationships between men and women:

We are being exposed to more and more explicit content in our everyday lives — everything from lingerie and perfume adverts to Fifty Shades of Grey — and this deadens our responses to actual sex, she argues, destroying our romantic relationships.

Should we ban it, then? She pauses. “I’m not sure if I want to bring back the old classification board . . . but either you have centralised censorship or you have a free market, and the free market is producing this horror show.”

Perry is dismayed that the #MeToo movement has not put people off watching sex scenes. “I really feel for actors. Who would have thought 20 years ago that signing up to be an actor would mean basically signing up to be a porn star?” The difference, of course, is that the sex isn’t real, but Perry doesn’t back down. “From what I’ve heard it’s not far off. And it clearly is sometimes a source of distress for actors and an opportunity for sex pests.”

Rightly, Perry thinks that rough sex, which is prevalent in today’s pornography, is a form of domestic abuse:

The erotic bestsellers women are reading today — Fifty Shades of Grey for mums, and Sarah J Maas’s sexy fantasy fiction for their daughters — are heavily focused on BDSM, which Perry believes is little more than abuse. She helped to found the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, which aims to eradicate the use of “rough sex” defences to the killing or harming of women.

She also points out that one-night stands give little pleasure to the women pursuing them:

Perry is eloquent, empathetic — and very persuasive. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with her on most things: porn is clearly a dangerous, exploitative industry; prostitution isn’t just a normal job (or else why would we be so outraged by landlords asking for sex as payment?); and hook-up culture has practically no benefits for women (only 10 per cent of women orgasm during a one-night stand; no prizes for guessing that figure is much higher among men).

What is the solution, other than marriage?

“This idea that marriage is inherently oppressive to women I don’t think is true,” Perry says.

In her book she races through statistics highlighting the benefits of marriage: almost half of divorced people in the UK regret it, fatherless boys are more likely to go to prison, and fatherless girls are more likely to become pregnant in their teens. She even lauds the hidden benefits of shotgun marriages and the stigma around single motherhood. “In an era without contraception,” Perry writes, “a prohibition on sex before marriage served female, not male, interests.” I’m not sure how Ireland’s mother and baby homes, for example, which locked up unmarried mothers and removed their children, served female interests. Perry nods. “What haunts me is: do we have to choose between Magdalene laundries and PornHub?”

Perry also laments the ease of getting a divorce, made even simpler now because of a new law that Parliament passed earlier this year:

Perry argues that while it is important to have divorce as an option for people in terrible, abusive marriages, the easy availability of divorce under any circumstances has killed off the institution of marriage — and that’s bad news for women.

Interestingly, given her upbringing and university studies, Perry married a police officer.

She is adamant about tough sentencing for convicted rape:

prison — for life, if needs be.

She says that the male urge to dominate women is atavistic:

She links the crime back to biology, rejecting the prevailing view that our sexist culture encourages men to rape. Evolutionary theory, she explains, shows that rape confers a selection advantage on men, giving them more opportunities to pass on their genes. In other words sexual violence is rational. It’s no coincidence, she says, that women are most likely to be raped between the ages of 12 and 30 — their fertile years.

She believes that the education policy instructing students about mutual consent is wrong because it does not work:

When it comes to prevention, Perry thinks consent workshops, which teach young people how to check that their partner really wants to have sex, are useless. “If we think that the problem is young men being really horny and larger and more aggressive than young women, then things like gender-neutral bathrooms in school are the stupidest things ever.”

Her book also has a chapter on rules for young women, which sound very last century:

“In the earlier stages of writing I had that feeling of walking on eggshells and being worried I’d piss off everyone … But in the end I just wrote what I thought was true.”

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is explicitly directed towards young women who have grown up in a world of PornHub, OnlyFans and Tinder; 21st-century sexual freedom has not been liberating for them at all, but instead benefited men, Perry believes. She provides a list of 11 rules for young women in the epilogue, including: “Get drunk or high in private and with female friends rather than in public or in mixed company”; “Avoid being alone with men [you] don’t know”; “Hold off on having sex with a new boyfriend for at least a few months”; “Don’t use dating apps”; and “Only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children”.

It surprised me to read over the past two years — and this was true before lockdown — that young people are having fewer sexual encounters at a time when their hormones and fertility are in their prime. Is it because of pornography? I don’t know.

However, the Times journalist says that Perry could be tapping into something with her book:

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is unapologetically focused on improving women’s health and happiness. Will it work? The tide does seem to be turning in our attitudes. Young people are having less sex; they’re worried about age gaps and power imbalances in their relationships; and a recent BBC documentary on Mary Whitehouse [censorious campaigner of the late 20th century] even asked if she was ahead of her time. Perry may have predicted a new age of sexual puritanism, and perhaps it will make us happier.

Incidentally, Perry had her first child, a boy, while writing her book. She says that men are also harmed by our anything-goes lifestyle:

Has that altered her perspective? “Yes, to the extent that I had a baby boy. It made me think a bit more about the way that men are harmed by this culture.”

Speaking of children, Mail columnist Peter Hitchens says that broken homes harm their prospects as adults.

We always say that, in case of a relationship breakup, children are resilient, but is that actually true in the long term?

Hitchens says that it isn’t.

He points to the recent release of a report on children’s social care:

Last week great publicity was rightly given to a report on children’s social care. It predicted that the number of children in care, now 80,000, would rise to 100,000 by 2032, costing taxpayers a colossal £15 billion a year.

Of course many terrible things happen to children in so-called ‘care’ apart from actual violence and death. The general outcomes for children deprived of what we would once have called stable family life, and deprived of fathers, are just not very good

No doubt plenty of social workers, foster parents and others do all they can, and I am not trying to criticise these individuals but they just cannot do what a loving, stable home can do.

He, too, points indirectly to the sexual revolution which has seen a continuing decline in marriage and an increase in divorce:

The tragedy of care is a direct consequence of 50 years in which the law, and our culture, have encouraged the idea that lifelong marriage is dispensable – a cruel prison from which adults should be free to escape. The latest loosening of the marriage laws, effectively allowing divorce on demand, follows the same failed view.

I agree. I was appalled to see a Conservative government push that law through the statute books.

Hitchens also says that today’s marriage vows outside of church do not pledge fidelity over the years:

Should we not connect the number of children in care to the fact that, in England and Wales, the numbers getting married fell in 2019 to the lowest rate since records began? Less than 20 per cent of these weddings were in a religious building, where the idea that marriage is for life is still pretty much insisted upon.

Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.

He says there is a class divide when it comes to divorce and children:

the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.

Among the well-off, the damage is generally not so bad, though there is damage. But among the poor, and in the parts of the country where the schools are bad and the streets are grim, it is another story. And that story often ends in care, with all its miseries, loneliness, insecurity and disappointment.

It is not the same sort of hell as the workhouses and the orphanages of the past were, but it can be hell even so. We need a modern Charles Dickens to depict it. If more people realised how bad it was, we might start to wonder if the gradual dismantling of stable marriage was such a good idea after all.

I am delighted to read about two Britons championing traditional marriage. I hope the case they make for lifelong marital vows is heard far and wide. Marriage was instituted for our benefit. We can see that doing away with it has done us precious little good as a society.

You could not make this up.

Ascension Day was last Thursday, May 26, 2022, a principal feast of the Church year. Without our Lord’s ascension, He could not have sent His disciples the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost, which is the Church’s birthday.

In 2022, we read Luke’s Epistle and Gospel accounts of that miraculous event of Jesus returning to His Father to sit on His right hand in glory.

However, Anglican clergy chose not to discuss that.

On May 29, the Daily Mail reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury opined on social media instead. Another clergyman discussed colonialism.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Social media is polarising society and destroying the ‘common narrative’ of the Christian story uniting Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned yesterday.

Justin Welby criticised online platforms for giving people ‘a very loud voice’ and creating colliding ‘waves’ of opinions.

The Archbishop, who has 173,000 Twitter followers, said social media had led to the erosion of shared experiences.

‘People don’t know the narratives and the stories of the Christian faith – the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep,’ he added.

And whose fault is that?

Anglican pronouncements are no better than an op-ed page in an average newspaper. They tell us nothing about the Gospel story.

Here’s another secular perspective, from the Dean of Trinity College Cambridge, the Reverend Dr Michael Banner.

This was his Ascension Day message:

A leading clergyman has accused Christianity of spreading colonialism around the globe – and wants the Church of England to make reparations for its ‘corporate and ancestral guilt’.

Preaching in an Ascension Day service broadcast on Radio 4, the Reverend Dr Michael Banner said Christians had marched around the world, ‘subduing and rendering it one vast kingdom hand in hand with merchants and colonialists’.

Dr Banner, Dean of Trinity College Cambridge, said Christ urged disciples to be his witnesses, but added: ‘We were not witnesses, but a scandal.’ He told worshippers at St Martin-in-the-Fields, central London on Thursday: ‘Now is the time for moral repair and reparations.’

In September, he became the first clergyman to call for the Government to make reparations, but said it was not ‘a demand for a pile of cash’ but ‘a holistic healing of the wounds of colonialism’.

Well, there you go. There is much spiritual enlightenment there for Ascension Day, wouldn’t you agree?

It is highly unfortunate that Banner omitted that it was an English MP, William Wilberforce, a Yorkshireman, who made it his life’s ambition to abolish slavery.

Wilberforce became an Evangelical in 1785 and began looking at the world entirely differently, all thanks to his Christian faith. He became England’s leading abolitionist. His 20-year campaign in Parliament resulted in the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Even when he left Parliament in 1826 because of ill health, he continued to campaign against the evils of slavery. He died three days after the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was passed.

Wilberforce was also instrumental in persuading the US Navy to co-ordinate interdiction efforts with the Royal Navy off the coast of West Africa in an effort to stamp out slave trade.

I did like the way the Mail‘s piece on Banner’s sermon concluded:

Last week, black commentator Calvin Robinson told The Mail on Sunday he was blocked from becoming an Anglican priest because he refused to endorse the view that the Church of England was racist.

Indeed. Here’s my message to senior C of E clergy: mote, meet plank.

Readers can learn more about Calvin Robinson’s sad situation that has caused him to join a less judgmental and more traditional Anglican movement, GAFCON, here.

Bible kevinroosecomThe 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.

Ephesians 3:13

13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

———————————————————————————————

Last week’s post introduced Paul’s letter and greeting to the Ephesians.

Thankfully, most of Ephesians is in the three-year Lectionary, so I will write about it more in detail once I begin preparing exegeses of the Sunday Epistles.

For now, however, as this is such a beautiful book, I will post the text below, emphases mine.

Here is Ephesians 2, particularly meaningful as, in 2022, Pentecost Sunday is on June 5:

By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit.

In the first part of Ephesians 3, Paul reveals the mystery of the Gospel, which is that Gentiles are equal heirs to the promise of eternal life through Christ Jesus:

The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter (Ephesians 3:1), as last week’s post explained. It is amazing that someone in prison would be determined to write a letter to a church congregation. Yet, Paul was that sort of Apostle, a bondservant to Christ, to whom he devoted his life. Because he devoted his life to our Lord, he was determined that the congregations of the churches he planted delve even deeper into doctrine, correcting some churches, e.g. the Corinthians and the Galatians, when necessary.

Coming to verse 13 now, Paul tells the Ephesians that they should not be afraid for him in his suffering, because he is doing it for their glory, meaning not only for their blessed conversion but also the life to come in eternity with Jesus.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

… seeing Paul while he was a prisoner employed himself in such prayers to God in behalf of the Ephesians, we should learn that no particular sufferings of our own should make us so solicitous about ourselves as to neglect the cases of others in our supplications and addresses to God. He speaks again of his sufferings: Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory,Ephesians 3:13; Ephesians 3:13. While he was in prison, he suffered much there; and, though it was upon their account that he suffered, yet he would not have them discouraged nor dismayed at this, seeing God had done such great things for them by his ministry. What a tender concern was here for these Ephesians! The apostle seems to have been more solicitous lest they should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations than about what he himself endured; and, to prevent this, he tells them that his sufferings were their glory, and would be so far from being a real discouragement, if they duly considered the matter, that they ministered cause to them for glorying and for rejoicing, as this discovered the great esteem and regard which God bore to them, in that he not only sent his apostles to preach the gospel to them, but even to suffer for them, and to confirm the truths they delivered by the persecutions they underwent. Observe, Not only the faithful ministers of Christ themselves, but their people too, have some special cause for joy and glorying, when they suffer for the sake of dispensing the gospel.

John MacArthur explains why Paul felt so deeply for his congregations, even in prison:

You understand why Paul felt so deeply about this when you recognize that it cost him his freedom, and then it cost him his life. I mean, the whole episode that got him to prison—maybe as many as five years in prison by the time he writes Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon—the whole episode that got him to prison was that the Jews tried to kill him in a mob action in Jerusalem for preaching that Gentiles were acceptable to God. The Romans rescued him from the mob. And again, they were trying to kill him for saying God was bringing Gentiles into this new humanity called the church. That’s how disastrous such a thought was to Jewish people, and even Jewish believers. It cost him his freedom, and then it cost him his life when an executioner chopped his head off in prison in Rome.

Of course, the Gentiles persecuted him, too:

The great challenge for Paul was not just preaching the gospel to the Gentiles—and that was a challenge, believe me, because he was persecuted by the Gentiles for his message of the gospel. But I think an even greater challenge was getting the Jews and the Gentiles to accept each other, to accept each other in the body of Christ. And the reason I say that is because he deals with it in chapter 2, he deals with it in chapter 3, and then he deals with it in chapter 4. It’s as if he just cannot let go of this very difficult issue.

Of course, we today do not consider that welcoming Gentiles into the Church as equal partners with Jewish converts was any mystery, but it was revealed fully and actively in the New Testament. Paul’s letters were written before the Gospel accounts of Christ’s ministry, and this is why he puts special emphasis on the divine revelation he received not only in his Damascene conversion but also in the three years he spent in the desert in Nabatean Arabia before he began to evangelise.

MacArthur explains. It is serendipitous that he cites the Gospel for the day on which I am writing this, the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year C), John 17, our Lord’s prayer for our unity in Him and the Father:

So the Old Testament was very clear that God is going to save the world; He’s going to save the nations—and He’s been doing that. That was supposed to be, of course, His plan and His purpose; and it was, even in the Old Testament. And the people of Israel were to be the instrument, the witness nation. They, as you clearly know, were unfaithful and apostate. The time came when they not only rejected God, not only followed idols, not only hated their neighbors instead of loving them, but they rejected the Messiah. And so on the day of Pentecost the Lord made a new covenant people, a new humanity: the church, the church of Jesus Christ. And we are now one.

And the imagery is a metaphor that’s not in the Old Testament. It’s—the church is called the body of Christ. That is the most integrated of all metaphors used to speak of people’s relationship to each other and to God. In the Old Testament the people of God are called subjects of a kingdom. They’re even identified as a bride to God who is the Bridegroom. They’re identified as a family. But never is Israel seen as a body. The intimacy and the organistic relationships that exist in the church are new in a fresh way, and that is because the Holy Spirit has come in a fullness to bring about this one new man.

Now, Jesus in His prayer in John 17 told us why this was so important, and it’s the very reason we exist. Listen to John 17:21; He’s praying to the Father, and He says, “[I pray] that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” So what’s at stake here? The world believing that God sent Christ. The whole of Christianity rises or falls on the fact that they are one.

And down in verse 23, He essentially repeats it: “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You loved Me.” How is the world going to know that the gospel is true, that God, the God of the Bible, is the true and living God, the only God, and that Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world? How is the world going to know that? By the unity of the church.

That unity, MacArthur tells us, was Paul’s primary goal and one he gladly risked beatings, scourgings and prison for:

Paul is going to try to bring the Jew and the Gentile together when there has been nothing but animosity, nothing but animosity, and massive cultural differences, cultural differences by design that totally isolated the Jews, purposely, so they couldn’t easily interact with the Gentile because they would then be pulled more easily into idolatry. They had so many traditions that even today when we see one of those rare, anachronistic, orthodox Jews walking around, he looks like he’s from another era or another planet. But that adherence to that would have been similarly, completely odd throughout all of their history.

So Paul’s task is to bring everyone together

So Paul has made an issue out of this because in the formative time of his life and ministry, this was a very, very challenging task. Now he wants us to understand it; that’s what he says in verse 4. I’m saying more because I want you to understand it. Chapter 3 really began with him starting to pray, “For this reason I, Paul, prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—” and then he just stops, and you have a parenthesis from verse 2 to 13. And he picks up the prayer in verse 14 again by saying the same thing, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” It’s as if he says, “I’m ready to pray that you’ll understand this—oh, I don’t think I can do that yet; I have to tell you some more. You don’t know enough; you don’t know enough. That prayer can’t be answered unless you have further revelation.” So that’s why he unfolds this mystery in these opening thirteen verses.

Now we started last time with the first point, the prisoner of the mystery, the prisoner of the mystery; and this is really important. Paul introduces himself, “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” In chapter 4, verse 1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord.” He is not talking about some spiritual relationship; he is a prisoner. He is in a prison. And as I said, he may have been there as much as five years. And the reason he’s in that prison is because the Romans rescued him from a mob of Jews in Jerusalem who were going to kill him, murder him on the spot. They took him into protective custody, and then they had him on their hands. They finally take him to prison in Rome, and in his imprisonment he writes this wonderful epistle.

MacArthur reminds us that Paul, as Saul, would have been the least likely man to promote Christian unity. Yet, God had a plan for him:

The Lord doesn’t pick somebody who had had some experience in conciliating Jews and Gentiles. You get that? No, He didn’t pick somebody who had showed he could broker a relationship. He picks a Jew who was killing Gentiles to be the reconciling minister. And in fact, he says, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” He says more about that in Philippians. He was fanatical, Pharisaical, fanatical Judaism. And God selects a fanatical Jew who hates Gentile[s], and who is as extreme a legalist as is possible, to be the one to preach that Jew and Gentile are one in Christ.

Now how does he convince Paul to do this? It wasn’t easy, verse 15, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb”—he knows he was ordained from his mother’s womb to this—“and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.” Why? Well who would he go to?

When he finally does get to Jerusalem a number of years later, they don’t like the idea that Gentiles are to be accepted into the body of Christ even then. So who’s going to come and be an ally to him? No one necessarily. So what do you do? He said, “I didn’t go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. I didn’t even go to the apostles because the message would probably not be understandable to them. I went away to Arabia”—Nabataean Arabia, east and south from the land of Israel—“and returned once more to Damascus. Then”—verse 18—“three years later I went to Jerusalem.” Oh.

How long did it take for Paul to get this through his thick skull? Apparently three years before he was going to test-drive this in Jerusalem. This is just too extreme, too extreme. So he’s converted; he goes to Arabia; at some point he comes back to Damascus. Three years of divine revelation from Christ to transform this killer of Gentile Christians into one who’s the apostle to the Gentiles and has the responsibility to bring Jew and Gentile together in the church.

So back to verse 3 of Ephesians 3, “By revelation was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.” “The Lord gave me insight”—sunesis—“the Lord gave me understanding over all that period of time, that the mystery of Christ was to be the message to preach, which in other generations,” verse 5, “was known.” And the ministry of Paul is to preach Christ to the Gentiles, and to the Jew and Gentiles, that there is one body of Jew and Gentile, one in Christ.

Now that’s the prisoner of the mystery. At least let me give you a second point: the planning of the mystery, verses 5 and 6, the planning of the mystery. And this is pretty evident by now. What is a mystery of Christ? It is that “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.”

So a mystery is not something that is intended to be obscure or oblique. A mystery, specifically the term mustērion in the New Testament, refers to something hidden in the past and revealed in the new. Other generations it wasn’t made known; now it is revealed. And he said it was “revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.” By the revelation of the Spirit, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All divine revelation comes by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

And it came to the apostles. Now “apostles” in the sense here, as you would obviously know it, of the twelve—minus Judas, plus Matthias, plus Paul—these are chosen men, and there was a criteria for that choice. Listen to 1 Corinthians 9:1; Paul says, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” What was the qualification for an apostle? He had to have seen Christ and seen the risen Christ. And Paul had that experience on the Damascus Road and a couple of other times as well.

So this revelation has been revealed to Paul, and not only to Paul but to the holy apostles as well. The other apostles had come to understand this, but it was Paul’s unique responsibility to go to the Gentiles. And the apostles were then to proclaim this. John gives us a wonderful picture of that, 1 John 1, verses 1 to 3. Here’s John giving us kind of a rundown on the apostles’ ministry. He’s speaking in the plural for himself and the other apostles: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” The Word of Life is Christ

So John is telling us, basically coming back behind Paul and bolstering Paul’s purpose, we all were called to this: We were all called to proclaim Christ. But Paul particularly had this responsibility of bringing Jew and Gentile together. And that’s what verse 6 is saying: “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Just an incredibly difficult task.

At some point in the future, God will fulfil His promise to Israel as they, too, convert in great numbers (Romans 11:25-28):

God is not through with Israel; He’s going to go back and save Israel. He is now calling out His church, but His promises to Israel cannot be revoked because the gifts and callings of God are not subject to change.

So when the church is complete and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, the Lord will then turn to the salvation of Israel, as He promised. In the future they will look on the One they’ve pierced, and they will mourn for Him as an only son—meaning they’ll see Christ for who He was—and salvation will come to Israel, and all Israel will be saved. But at the front end, this was a profoundly difficult ministry. And it cost Paul his life, a price he was willing to pay, because his stewardship was given to him by God.

The rest of Ephesians 3 follows:

Prayer for Spiritual Strength

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Ephesians 4, Paul begins a focus on Christian behaviours, telling the Ephesians how they can ‘put on a new self’ through spiritual renewal in the likeness of God.

Next time — Ephesians 4:17-24

The Seventh Sunday of Easter is on May 29, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This particular Sunday, which falls between the Ascension and Pentecost, is traditionally known as Exaudi Sunday.

For centuries, a number of theologians deemed it the saddest of the Church year, because Jesus ascended into Heaven and would no longer physically be with His disciples.

I wrote about the history behind Exaudi Sunday several years ago. Here is an excerpt:

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 17:20-26

17:20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

17:21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

17:24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.

17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 17 is comprised of our Lord’s three prayers before His arrest. He prays for God to glorify Him, then prays for His disciples, then — today’s reading — for all believers throughout history into the future.

On Ascension Day, this past Thursday, we heard Luke’s versions of the Ascension. The Gospel reading concluded his Gospel with Jesus blessing the disciples until they could see Him no more, and the Epistle is a fuller account from Acts 1 of that glorious event which meant that He could send the Holy Spirit to them at the first Pentecost.

Luke’s Gospel says that the Apostles rejoiced at the Ascension. They were finally beginning to understand the full import of what Jesus had told them throughout His ministry.

Yet, later on in the ensuing ten days, they might have wondered what would truly happen next. They might also have realised that they would never see Jesus again in their lifetime. Hence, Exaudi Sunday. We cannot know for certain.

As today’s reading opens, Jesus had just finished praying for His disciples. Therefore, He petitions His Father not only on their behalf but also those who will believe in the future through their word (verse 20), meaning those who heard the Apostles preach or read their Gospel accounts.

Matthew Henry’s commentary offers the following analysis:

Note, here, 1. Those, and those only, are interested in the mediation of Christ, that do, or shall, believe in him. This is that by which they are described, and it comprehends all the character and duty of a Christian. They that lived then, saw and believed, but they in after ages have not seen, and yet have believed. 2. It is through the word that souls are brought to believe on Christ, and it is for this end that Christ appointed the scriptures to be written, and a standing ministry to continue in the church, while the church stands, that is, while the world stands, for the raising up of a seed. 3. It is certainly and infallibly known to Christ who shall believe on him. He does not here pray at a venture, upon a contingency depending on the treacherous will of man, which pretends to be free, but by reason of sin is in bondage with its children; no, Christ knew very well whom he prayed for, the matter was reduced to a certainty by the divine prescience and purpose; he knew who were given him, who being ordained to eternal life, were entered in the Lamb’s book, and should undoubtedly believe, Acts 13:48. 4. Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest post of trust and honour in his kingdom, but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. As the divine providence extends itself to the meanest creature, so does the divine grace to the meanest Christian. The good Shepherd has an eye even to the poor of the flock. 5. Jesus Christ in his mediation had an actual regard to those of the chosen remnant that were yet unborn, the people that should be created (Psalms 22:31), the other sheep which he must yet bring. Before they are formed in the womb he knows them (Jeremiah 1:5), and prayers are filed in heaven for them beforehand, by him who declareth the end from the beginning, and calleth things that are not as though they were.

John MacArthur points out:

He doesn’t pray for unbelievers.

Jesus prayed that believers would all be as one, a commingling — a communion — of us with God the Father and God the Son, so that the world will believe that God sent Jesus (verse 21) to redeem us.

This is a prayer of unity, Henry says:

The heart of Christ was much upon this. Some think that the oneness prayed for in John 17:11; John 17:11 has special reference to the disciples as ministers and apostles, that they might be one in their testimony to Christ; and that the harmony of the evangelists, and concurrence of the first preachers of the gospel, are owing to this prayer. Let them be not only of one heart, but of one mouth, speaking the same thing. The unity of the gospel ministers is both the beauty and strength of the gospel interest. But it is certain that the oneness prayed for in John 17:21; John 17:21 respects all believers. It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his, and we may be sure it is an answered prayer–that they all may be one, one in us (John 17:21; John 17:21) …

Jesus expanded on His petition, saying that He has passed on His God-given glory to believers so that they may be one corporate body as are the Father and the Son (verse 22).

He prays that as He and His Father are one, so may we be one also, witnessing to the fact that God sent Him to love us just as much as the Father loves the Son (verse 23).

Henry tells us that this can happen only with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

This is plainly implied in this–that they may be one in us. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. He that is joined to the Lord in one spirit,1 Corinthians 6:17. Let them all be stamped with the same image and superscription, and influenced by the same power.

Henry explains what this unity means:

That they all may be one, (1.) In judgment and sentiment; not in every little thing–this is neither possible nor needful, but in the great things of God, and in them, by the virtue of this prayer, they are all agreed–that God’s favour is better than life–that sin is the worst of evils, Christ the best of friends–that there is another life after this, and the like. (2.) In disposition and inclination. All that are sanctified have the same divine nature and image; they have all a new heart, and it is one heart. (3.) They are all one in their designs and aims. Every true Christian, as far as he is so, eyes the glory of God as his highest end, and the glory of heaven as his chief good. (4.) They are all one in their desires and prayers; though they differ in words and the manner of expressions, yet, having received the same spirit of adoption, and observing the same rule, they pray for the same things in effect. (5.) All one in love and affection. Every true Christian has that in him which inclines him to love all true Christians as such. That which Christ here prays for is that communion of saints which we profess to believe; the fellowship which all believers have with God, and their intimate union with all the saints in heaven and earth, 1 John 1:3. But this prayer of Christ will not have its complete answer till all the saints come to heaven, for then, and not till then, they shall be perfect in one, John 17:23; Ephesians 4:13.

Jesus added another petition, asking that those whom the Father has given Him be with Him in Heaven to see His glory, which the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world (verse 24).

MacArthur says:

Here is the ultimate; here is the ultimate: the Son prays for the Father to bring all His chosen sons to glory. Again, Jesus is praying us into heaven. We’re going to heaven; that’s a promise. The reason that promise is fulfilled, the means for that to be fulfilled, is the intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Henry also says that this is the ultimate petition; the first three built up to this culmination:

He had prayed that God would preserve, sanctify, and unite them; and now he prays that he would crown all his gifts with their glorification. In this method we must pray, first for grace, and then for glory (Psalms 84:11); for in this method God gives. Far be it from the only wise God to come under the imputation either of that foolish builder who without a foundation built upon the sand, as he would if he should glorify any whom he has not first sanctified; or of that foolish builder who began to build and was not able to finish, as he would if he should sanctify any, and not glorify them.

Jesus then offered the closing verses of His prayer, first by addressing God as Righteous Father, then appealing on the believers’ behalf by saying that although we have not seen God, we know — unlike the rest of the world — that He sent His Son to us (verse 25).

Henry explains:

(1.) The title he gives to God: O righteous Father. When he prayed that they might be sanctified, he called him holy Father; when he prays that they may be glorified, he calls him righteous Father; for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge shall give. God’s righteousness was engaged for the giving out of all that good which the Father had promised and the Son had purchased.

(2.) The character he gives of the world that lay in wickedness: The world has not known thee. Note, Ignorance of God overspreads the world of mankind; this is the darkness they sit in. Now this is urged here, [1.] To show that these disciples need the aids of special grace, both because of the necessity of their work–they were to bring a world that knew not God to the knowledge of him; and also, because of the difficulty of their work–they must bring light to those that rebelled against the light; therefore keep them. [2.] To show that they were qualified for further peculiar favours, for they had that knowledge of God which the world had not.

(3.) The plea he insists upon for himself: But I have known thee. Christ knew the Father as no one else ever did; knew upon what grounds he went in his undertaking, knew his Father’s mind in every thing, and therefore, in this prayer, came to him with confidence, as we do to one we know. Christ is here suing out blessings for those that were his; pursuing this petition, when he had said, The world has not known thee, one would expect it should follow, but they have known thee; no, their knowledge was not to be boasted of, but I have known thee, which intimates that there is nothing in us to recommend us to God’s favour, but all our interest in him, and intercourse with him, result from, and depend upon, Christ’s interest and intercourse. We are unworthy, but he is worthy.

(4.) The plea he insists upon for his disciples: And they have known that thou hast sent me; and, [1.] Hereby they are distinguished from the unbelieving world. When multitudes to whom Christ was sent, and his grace offered, would not believe that God had sent him, these knew it, and believed it, and were not ashamed to own it. Note, To know and believe in Jesus Christ, in the midst of a world that persists in ignorance and infidelity, is highly pleasing to God, and shall certainly be crowned with distinguishing glory. Singular faith qualifies for singular favours. [2.] Hereby they are interested in the mediation of Christ, and partake of the benefit of his acquaintance with the Father: “I have known thee, immediately and perfectly; and these, though they have not so known thee, nor were capable of knowing thee so, yet have known that thou hast sent me, have known that which was required of them to know, have known the Creator in the Redeemer.” Knowing Christ as sent of God, they have, in him, known the Father, and are introduced to an acquaintance with him; therefore, “Father, look after them for my sake.”

Jesus closed His prayer by saying that He made His Father’s name known to believers and will continue to do so in order that the love God has shown Him will be in them and Jesus with them (verse 26).

Henry says that Jesus asked for communion between believers and God as well as their union in Him, the Son:

[1.] Communion with God: “Therefore I have given them the knowledge of thy name, of all that whereby thou hast made thyself known, that thy love, even that wherewith thou hast loved me, may be, not only towards them, but in them;that is, First, “Let them have the fruits of that love for their sanctification; let the Spirit of love, with which thou hast filled me, be in them. Christ declares his Father’s name to believers, that with that divine light darted into their minds a divine love may be shed abroad in their hearts, to be in them a commanding constraining principle of holiness, that they may partake of a divine nature. When God’s love to us comes to be in us, it is like the virtue which the loadstone gives the needle, inclining it to move towards the pole; it draws out the soul towards God in pious and devout affections, which are as the spirits of the divine life in the soul. Secondly, “Let them have the taste and relish of that love for their consolation; let them not only be interested in the love of God, by having God’s name declared to them, but, by a further declaration of it, let them have the comfort of that interest; that they may not only know God, but know that they know him, 1 John 2:3. It is the love of God thus shed abroad in the heart that fills it with joy, Romans 5:3; Romans 5:5. This God has provided for, that we may not only be satisfied with his loving kindness, but be satisfied of it; and so may live a life of complacency in God and communion with him; this we must pray for, this we must press after; if we have it, we must thank Christ for it; if we want it, we may thank ourselves.

[2.] Union with Christ in order hereunto: And I in them. There is no getting into the love of God but through Christ, nor can we keep ourselves in that love but by abiding in Christ, that is, having him to abide in us; nor can we have the sense and apprehension of that love but by our experience of the indwelling of Christ, that is, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. It is Christ in us that is the only hope of glory that will not make us ashamed, Colossians 1:27. All our communion with God, the reception of his love to us with our return of love to him again, passes through the hands of the Lord Jesus, and the comfort of it is owing purely to him. Christ had said but a little before, I in them (John 17:23; John 17:23), and here it is repeated (though the sense was complete without it), and the prayer closed with it, to show how much the heart of Christ was sent upon it; all his petitions centre in this, and with this the prayers of Jesus, the Son of David, are ended: “I in them; let me have this, and I desire no more.” It is the glory of the Redeemer to dwell in the redeemed: it is his rest for ever, and he has desired it. Let us therefore make sure our union with Christ, and then take the comfort of his intercession. This prayer had an end, but that he ever lives to make.

MacArthur says that this prayer defines Heaven:

if you want to define heaven, you just got the definition. It’s all glory and all love, all glory and all love. God is love and eternally loved His Son – infinitely loved His Son, intimately loved His Son; and eternally, infinitely, and intimately loves all of His sons, all of us. And His eternal Son wants to bring us all to glory so that we can see the manifestation of how much the Father loves Him, and so that we can also experience it ourselves. God cannot love His Son any more than He does; He cannot love us any more than He does. His mediatorial work, to bring us to glory, is to bring us into that incomprehensible love; and He will get us there.

What a marvellous meditation to contemplate as we near Pentecost Sunday, which is one week away.

Last Friday’s post introduced Red Wall MP Lee Anderson, who serves the Ashfield constituency in Nottinghamshire.

I ran across an article about him in the Daily Mail, which published it exactly one month before the 2019 general election.

To set the background, Anderson had switched party membership from Labour to Conservative the year before, largely because of Brexit but also because of radical elements in Labour. Jeremy Corbyn, now an Independent MP, was Labour leader and his followers formed a movement within the party called Momentum. The movement has since lost its, err, momentum, particularly during the leadership challenge which Sir Keir Starmer won in 2020.

The Mail‘s portrait of Lee Anderson tells us about his situation three years ago. His predecessor Gloria de Piero, for whom he worked, was and currently is a television presenter. She appears on GB News (emphases mine):

A former aide to a Labour frontbencher has defected to the Tories claiming he was hounded out of his old party by far-Left bullies.

Lee Anderson, an ex-miner who worked for MP Gloria de Piero, said he was labelled a ‘traitor’ by party officials for backing Brexit.

He claims they camped outside his home to spy on him and spread false rumours about his terminally-ill wife.

Now Mr Anderson, a lifelong Labour supporter, is standing as a Tory candidate in Mrs de Piero’s old seat, Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.

That seat will be one of the most closely-watched of the election and currently has a Labour majority of just 441.

Mr Anderson, 52, claims the constituency Labour party was taken over by Momentum ‘almost overnight’ after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.

He claims they started bullying him in the run-up to the Brexit vote in June 2016 labelling him ‘treacherous’ and a ‘traitor’ for wanting to leave the EU.

At the time, Mr Anderson’s wife Sinead was ill with cystic fibrosis and on a life-support machine awaiting a double lung transplant.

He said: ‘It was like being in a crowded room of people who were whispering all the time. Finger-pointing, I’m a freak in the house, the Brexit freak. There was social media bullying, ‘traitor’, ‘Tory-boy’, ‘scum’. People were camped outside, spying on me.

‘At the time my wife was terminally ill and we thought she only had a few months to live. They said I was just using her illness as an excuse not to attend a meeting.’

Mr Anderson claims the party also targeted Mrs de Piero after she tried to oust Mr Corbyn in a failed coup in 2016. She is not standing at the election …

The former Citizens’ Advice counsellor said: ‘My background is mining and if the pits were still open now, the miners would not be voting Labour

‘You’re in a Labour group meeting in Ashfield when really we should be talking about litter, grass-cutting, cemeteries, dog-fouling. They’d want to be talking about Palestine.’

Mr Anderson resigned as Mrs de Piero’s office manager 18 months ago and was recruited by the local Conservative party to be a campaigns manager.

His wife’s health was transformed following a lung transplant in 2016 and she is now a Tory councillor in Mansfield.

Brexit and Bray

After seeing off the Labour candidate in Ashfield, Anderson went up to London, only to meet with a new, albeit occasional, adversary: Steve Bray, who is rumoured to be paid and housed by unknown benefactors to denounce Brexit every day near the Houses of Parliament.

Everyone thought that the middle-aged man clad in an EU flag or EU tee shirt and hat would have given up his daily shouting after the 2016 referendum. He didn’t. Then we thought that he would stop on January 1, 2021, after we officially left the EU. He didn’t.

Guido Fawkes captured the moment when Lee Anderson met Steve Bray on June 16, 2021:

Guido reported the scene outside the Red Lion pub near Parliament:

Steve has continued loitering around SW1 to yell at politicos and interrupt interviews. He may have picked off more than he could chew as he tried taking on rottweiler Lee Anderson outside the Red Lion … Anderson rightly repeatedly told Bray to “get a job” and concluded with:

You’re nothing but a parasite, a malingerer and a scrounger!

You always know where you stand with Lee Anderson.

Bray quickly threatened legal action against the MP:

Of the threatened legal action, Guido said (red emphases in the original):

On what grounds, Guido cannot fathom.

If the threat is anything more than a cry for attention, Bray has a decent pot of funds. He’s been crowdfunding for 46 weeks in support of his general nuisance-making and has scrounged over £21,000. Anderson tells Guido he “won’t be losing any sleep over it”…

Anderson’s second encounter with Bray came on November 24 that year, with Bray strangely continuing to accuse Anderson of lying to the people of ‘the North’:

Anderson told Bray that he had a look at the activist’s CV (resumé) and that it was not very impressive. When Bray moved in closer, Anderson told him that his breath was foul. One can imagine that it is:

Guido wrote:

For some reason, Bray must think he won the exchange, given he uploaded the clip to his own Twitter account…

Responding to Bray’s Twitter threat of possible legal action, Guido asked Anderson whether he was concerned. He said “Yes, it keeps me awake every single night. I would love to see the evidence that he has a job though.”

Their third meeting took place on March 16, 2022, when Anderson had to shove Bray out of the way so he could get to the Tube. Once again, Bray threatened legal action, this time for assault:

Guido has the story:

Steve Bray is once again pottering around Westminster, shouting at MPs and blabbering about Brexit. And once again, Red Wall rottweiler Lee Anderson was having absolutely none of it…

With Bray squawking about “Russian money” and how he somehow “pays [Anderson’s] wages” as an unemployed man who loiters around SW1 all day, Anderson bit back:

I tell you what, Steve, if you’d have been around 100 years ago, you’d have been traveling around the country in a tent. You’re nothing but a freak-show.

Lee had to give Bray a small shove out the way to enter the Tube station, at which point Steve lost it. Guido makes that 3-0 to Anderson…

On their most recent encounter — April 20 — Anderson told Bray that he would make a good tramp:

Guido had the video and the dialogue:

Despite the threat of police involvement, Steve Bray is still spending his days floating around Westminster to badger MPs and shout about Brexit. This afternoon, however, Bray once again collided with his nemesis – the Red Wall rottweiler Lee Anderson … Today it was time for the rematch…

Inevitably, it was another knockout win for Lee, who told Bray:

Listen, you’re nothing but a parasite. We’ve established that. You’re a scrounger. Why are you here every day dressed like a tramp? … In fact, I’ll rephrase that, if you smartened yourself up, you’d make a good tramp.

At one point Bray asked Anderson, “People fund me to do this. Do you know why?”. The MP hilariously shot back “Because they’re tapped.” 4-0 to Anderson…

Steve Bray’s daily rants are a nuisance, so much so that, on May 11, Anderson’s fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi brought his noise up in Parliament as news emerged that parliamentary authorities have been investigating Bray’s behaviour.

GB News asked Bray for his reaction. He said:

“You know what these Tories are like. They don’t want protests which is why they are stripping away our rights.

“And Marco Longhi and also his best buddy Lee Anderson, they are not happy to see me because they normally try and wind me up but I end up turning it on them.

“Here is the thing about those two – they are going to lose their seats in the next election, so they are just griping for any little bit of press coverage they can get. The less they get the better, to be honest, because they are so insignificant.”

The problem is that hardly any witnesses with evidence are coming forward enabling a court case. Bray is playing his long game well, making it impossible to distinguish whether he is harassing people or just a right pain in the proverbial.

There could be a case to be made for breach of the peace. Police are out there every day. Surely they can do something about Steve Bray. Oh, what a fitting name.

Media

Lee Anderson has also shown himself to be a plain speaker when it comes to the media.

On May 24, 2021, he announced that he had torn up his TV licence, necessary to watch anything on television, even though the BBC is the recipient of the annual tax:

He made an impassioned plea to then-Government minister John Whittingdale MP.

Guido wrote:

Co-conspirators’ favourite no-nonsense Tory MP Lee Anderson had another barnstorming outing in the Commons yesterday, professing that he has torn up his TV Licence following the Martin Bashir scandal, and the corporation “won’t get another penny” out of him “ever“. The Ashfield MP told fellow MPs the BBC is “rotten”:

In my opinion, the once-great BBC is rotten, and my constituents should not have to pay for a service if they don’t use it.

He ended his intervention with a call to the minister to transform the BBC into a subscription service. Whittingdale didn’t fully avoid the point, saying “I have no doubt that that is a debate that has already started and will continue.” Guido will make sure of it…

Later that year, in the middle of November, he and other MPs who were first elected in 2019 attended a meeting with Boris Johnson about MPs’ standards in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal which saw that MP resign.

Channel 4 interviewed various MPs who gave brief, courteous answers to the reporter. Not Lee Anderson. He simply said:

I’m just the window cleaner, mate.

Here’s the video:

On a more serious note, Anderson fought and won a court case against Google, which served a defamatory advert about the MP:

The legal fight took nearly a year to resolve.

Guido has the full story from March 10, 2022, excerpted below:

After nearly a year locked in a legal fight with the tech giants, Red Wall heavyweight fighter Lee Anderson has finally walked away victorious after Google issued a formal High Court apology to the MP for serving a defamatory advert falsely accusing him of protecting a paedophile. An advert which was targeted at Guido readers…

It was bought via Google’s programmatic network and was unseen by our commercial representatives, nor indeed ourselves, until it popped up. Google has a near monopoly on this type of advertising, where publishers offload unsold advertising inventory to Google to fill. Scam adverts get through frequently, though this is the first time we have ever seen a defamatory attack via this method …

While the terms of the settlement are confidential, Google finally apologised in court. They also accepted that they should not have allowed this advert to appear. Guido would argue that they were negligent in allowing this advert to appear and they should be held liable for any damages arising in this situation. Guido argued before the case began that we should not be a party to it because we had no knowledge of the advert prior to it appearing in a space that Google had effectively rented and published to without our active involvement. We were akin to the paper supplier to a newspaper, not the printer or publisher. This settlement avoided the arguments being heard, though no doubt lawyers will study this for future cases. 

Lee tells Guido that

I am pleased that Google has publicly apologised in Court and put an end to this very difficult and distressing time for me and my family.

I do however think it is a real shame that it has taken so long for this to happen and that I had to get lawyers involved and threaten Google with legal action to get here.

I want to thank Guido for swiftly taking down this ad once they were made aware and for their ongoing support through a difficult time.

M’learned friends can read and study the official Statement (Anderson v Google). We’re just glad that Lee fought and won justice in his battle against the trillion dollar plus Google behemoth…

I’m delighted that Anderson won, too.

Guido’s post has Lee Anderson’s statement in full.

He is an incredible MP with a niche following of Britons who think he’d make a great Prime Minister. It will never happen, but we can but dream.

More on Lee Anderson soon.

To be continued

The Revd William ‘Will’ Pearson-Gee’s Twitter feed is always interesting to read.

I wrote about him in December 2021 when the Government threatened another Christmas lockdown. On December 19, he gave a sermon in which he said he would not close down his church in Buckingham, England. Fortunately, the Government relented and Christmas went ahead as planned, including in church.

On Easter, his church restored the Cup to Holy Communion. I am curious about that because, at mine, we are still receiving the Host only.

In any event, one can fully appreciate how much happier Easter was with both consecrated elements, not to mention kneeling once more at the Lord’s Table (altar rail). Well done:

On a secular level, a persistent problem in the UK is the Passport Office. Like many other civil servants, they think they can get the job done from home. Wrong! MPs have raised this issue in Parliament several times since the beginning of the year. Countless people are waiting for renewals or new passports. No one answers the phones. Even parliamentary staff have spent six to nine hours on the Home Office’s passport hotline.

The Revd Will was in the same frustrating boat, but finally received his newly renewed passport. Note that our passports have gone back to the original wording and navy blue cover, which doesn’t show up too well in the photo:

However, returning to religion, his other complaint has been with the Church of England, which refuses to touch issues of morality:

His tweet has the title of the article from Premier Christianity. Using the pseudonym ‘Mary Wren’, a Catholic convert to Anglicanism laments the omission of guidance on morality.

Before anyone has a go at her, she converted because she fell in love with an Anglican who intends on becoming a priest.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

I am the wife of an Anglican vicar in training and, sometimes, I bitterly miss the Catholic Church. But it’s not for the reasons you might think; it’s got nothing to do with theology or cathedrals. It’s got everything to do with moral courage and spiritual leadership.

When I was asked where I stood on an issue (for example, abortion) I could explain that, as a Catholic, I followed the teachings of the Catholic Church. It did not excuse me from doing my own thinking, but it did mean that my views were not taken as personal. To an abortion advocate, their disagreement was not with me as an individual but with the teachings of the Catholic Church, a global institution with over 1.3 billion members. I was protected.

When I moved to the Church of England, my experience changed completely. I found that when these questions came up, the tone of the conversation was much more vicious and personal. It took me a while to figure out why, but I understand now. Where the Catholic Church teaches clearly on what it believes, the Church of England stays silent …

But what happens when the teachers stay silent?

Readers will find that this echoes Calvin Robinson’s parlous experience of being refused a post in the Church of England:

Well, the issue is no longer that I am a Catholic. Now the issue is me. I must be against abortion because I have internalised misogyny or some other personal bigotry that I’m using my religion to justify. The Church stays silent, protecting itself from attack, and I am expected to absorb the blows of culture. That is a heavy burden to place on one soul. I’m writing under a pseudonym precisely because I know this could compromise my husband’s career.

‘Mary Wren’ says that the pressure in standing alone is daunting:

I have the added pressure of knowing that I alone will be under attack if the position I come to doesn’t align with the world’s teaching. Because you, the Church, have provided no teaching, you cannot be blamed for where I’ve landed. It is a neat little circle. Very convenient for you.

You hypocrites. You should be the ones with sight, leading the blind so we do not fall into a pit.

Where is the shepherd? Where are the watchmen at the walls? Where are the moral and spiritual teachers?

She does an excellent job in the following summary of C of E positions. How sad when someone finds more of a moral compass in the stock market (FTSE 100) than the Church. It is unlikely that hers is a lone voice:

You are concerned with baptism but not catechesis, evangelism but not discipleship, seeker sensitivity but not the teachings of scripture, claiming that God’s moral law might put people off.

You will speak on the housing market but not on trans issues, on agriculture but not abortion. You will revert to broad and uncontroversial topics under the guise of teaching us the basics, but you will not address the questions you are actually asked.

The largest companies are outlining their stances on the key issues of the day. I can find more moral clarity from the FTSE 100 than I can from the Church. How is it that secular corporations display more moral fabric than the house of God?

You tell me that it is the archbishop’s job to set out the Christian position on key matters. I will ask you what your job is when the archbishop fails to do so.

You tell me that I don’t understand the importance of Church unity. But unity is not a cover for moral compromise.

You tell me you need time. But you had plenty of time. What have you done with it? You are late, like the virgins who waited until the very last minute to purchase their oil.

You tell me that not every issue needs to be spoken on. I would agree. But staying silent to attract as many as possible is a politician’s compromise, not a spiritual communion

Your silence does not serve God. Your silence serves only yourself.

I am not asking you to constantly beat people over the head with controversial positions. I am simply asking you to teach me. I am prepared to spend my life serving your fractured house, but please – will the teachers of the Church stand up?

My unsolicited advice for anyone in a quandary such as Mary Wren’s is to start a deep, independent study of the Bible using good commentaries. By ‘good’, I mean faithful to the true meaning of Scripture.

I wish her and her husband every blessing as they pursue their respective ministries. Being a priest’s wife is a unique — and, in its own way, demanding — service to God.

francisco_camilo_-_ascension_-_-672x1024-1Ascension Day, which is remembered 40 days after Easter, therefore, always on a Thursday, is May 26, 2022.

The Spanish artist Francisco Camilo painted Ascension in 1651. It can be seen at the Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya in Barcelona. (Image credit: canadiancatechist.com)

Readings for this important feast day can be found here.

My exegesis for the first reading, Acts 1:1-11, is here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 24:44-53

24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Unlike the other three Gospel accounts from the Resurrection to the Ascension, Luke’s is quite short, although it contains some of the same events, including our Lord’s giving the Apostles the Great Commission.

That said, it is worth keeping in mind that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, which recounts the Ascension in the first chapter: the first reading for this feast day.

John MacArthur explains the various Gospel accounts:

When you come to chapter 24 … indeed, Jesus Christ came; the Son of God suffered, died, rose again the third day; and provided forgiveness of sins in His name. So the Book ends having proven what it promised at the beginning.

Since He died and rose again, He is the Son of God, He is the Lord, He is the Redeemer, salvation is accomplished, forgiveness of sin is available; and now you go tell the world. And by the way, Luke moves quickly to his conclusion. Verse 43 ended the night Jesus arose when He met with His disciples. On that first day of the week, the third day after He was crucified, you remember He appeared to the disciples that night. And to prove that He was literally physically alive, He took a fish and ate it.

And then Luke moves in verse 44 to the final commission and the ascension. Luke tells us nothing about the forty days, nothing at all. Jesus made many appearances to His own during the forty days; at least ten of them are indicated in the New Testament. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about them in his history.

However, in the book of Acts, which is Luke’s second volume of history, which tells the story of how the apostles and the disciples obeyed the Great Commission, he opens the book of Acts in chapter 1 by telling us about the Lord’s appearances during those forty days, and thus he overlaps and interlocks these two histories. So he comes all the way to the ascension here; and then when he starts Acts, he backs up, describes what happened in the forty days, and retells the ascension in detail, so that this is one history overlapping and interlocking. It’s one story, and it’s a story you will notice from verse 44 that goes clear back to Genesis, this one great, vast, unfolding mural of redemptive history. So the words of our Lord here in verse 44, very likely spoken at the end of forty days. Luke 1 tells us it was forty days that Jesus appeared to His disciples before He ascended.

It’s not unusual for Bible writers to vary their approaches. John gives us details about our Lord’s appearance in Galilee during those forty days. If you want to know about the Lord appearing to the disciples, the most interesting description of it is in John 21. But John tells us nothing about the ascension.

Matthew tells us nothing about the ascension either; doesn’t even mention it. But he tells us more about the Great Commission. And this is the beauty of Scripture. You put it all together and you get the whole picture.

So these final words are designed to launch the history of the proclamation of the gospel. You say, “Well how does it relate to us?” Well, the baton just keeps passing generation, to generation, to generation, to generation. This is our time to be obedient to this commission.

Jesus told His disciples that He had told them while He was with them — during His ministry — that everything written about Him in Scripture, in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, must be fulfilled (verse 44).

Then Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures (verse 45).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates on the importance of those two verses:

(1.) He refers them to the word which they had heard from him when he was with them, and puts them in mind of that as the angel had done (Luke 24:44; Luke 24:44): These are the words which I said unto you in private, many a time, while I was yet with you. We should better understand what Christ does, if we did but better remember what he hath said, and had but the art of comparing them together. (2.) He refers them to the word they had read in the Old Testament, to which the word they had heard from him directed them: All things must be fulfilled which were written. Christ had given them this general hint for the regulating of their expectations–that whatever they found written concerning the Messiah, in the Old Testament, must be fulfilled in him, what was written concerning his sufferings as well as what was written concerning his kingdom; these God had joined together in the prediction, and it could not be thought that they should be put asunder in the event. All things must be fulfilled, even the hardest, even the heaviest, even the vinegar; he could not die till he had that, because he could not till then say, It is finished. The several parts of the Old Testament are here mentioned, as containing each of them things concerning Christ: The law of Moses, that is, the Pentateuch, or the five books written by Moses,–the prophets, containing not only the books that are purely prophetical, but those historical books that were written by prophetical men,–the Psalms, containing the other writings, which they called the Hagiographa. See in what various ways of writing God did of old reveal his will; but all proceeded from one and the self-same Spirit, who by them gave notice of the coming and kingdom of the Messiah; for to him bore all the prophets witness. (3.) By an immediate present work upon their minds, of which they themselves could not but be sensible, he gave them to apprehend the true intent and meaning of the Old-Testament prophecies of Christ, and to see them all fulfilled in him: Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,Luke 24:45; Luke 24:45. In his discourse with the two disciples he took the veil from off the text, by opening the scriptures; here he took the veil from off the heart, by opening the mind.

Also:

The design of opening the understanding is that we may understand the scriptures; not that we may be wise above what is written, but that we may be wiser in what is written, and may be made wise to salvation by it. The Spirit in the word and the Spirit in the heart say the same thing. Christ’s scholars never learn above their bibles in this world; but they need to be learning still more and more out of their bibles, and to grow more ready and mighty in the scriptures. That we may have right thoughts of Christ, and have our mistakes concerning him rectified, there needs no more than to be made to understand the scriptures.

Jesus then said, ‘It is written’ — meaning that this was foretold in the Old Testament — that the Messiah would suffer then rise from the dead on the third day (verse 46), emphasising the truth of Scripture.

He instructed the disciples to preach the repentance and forgiveness of sin to all nations, i.e. including Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem (verse 47).

MacArthur explains why Jerusalem was going to be a problematic starting point:

this was very, very difficult, because the Jews didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews had seen Jesus as utterly disqualified to be the Messiah, because He was the enemy of their religious system, their false religious system, which they thought was the true. Jesus was killed, rejected by the leaders, died, disqualified, had no army, triumphed over nothing. They had a theology of Messiah that only included the triumph and the glory; they didn’t have a theology that included the suffering, and dying, and rising again. They had totally missed that part.

So now the disciples and the apostles are going to have the responsibility to start in Jerusalem to overturn everything the people believed, to change everything. And they were going to have to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. How would you do that? You can’t use the New Testament, there isn’t any. And the one thing they did revere was the Old Testament. So what did they have to use? The Old Testament.

But they had shown a lack of understanding of the Old Testament. They had shown a severe lack of understanding of most of what Jesus said, even when He said it to them face-to-face in very simple, clear, straight-forward terms. They had been subject all their life to a rather inadequate, if not downright wrong interpretation of the Old Testament at the hands of their rabbis; and so they were in no position to rightly interpret the Old Testament unless somebody helped them. They needed a total correction of their theology and their hermeneutics.

So what’s so very, very important is this: They needed to understand that Christianity was not a disruption of Judaism, it wasn’t a new religion; it was continuity, it was the same great redemptive plan of God rolling through history; and that Judaism without Christ is a false religion, because Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And so in order to get the gospel in its right context, in order to understand redemptive continuity and redemptive history, you’ve got to go back. And that’s exactly what He does. He says to them in verse 44, “These are My words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you.”

MacArthur cites a few of the relevant passages from the Old Testament, which has more:

The Old Testament promised the Messiah would come and the Messiah would be from the line of Abraham, the Old Testament, Genesis 12; promised that He would come through the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49; that He would come through the line of David, 2 Samuel chapter 7; that He would be born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14; born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2; that He would be betrayed by a familiar friend, as the psalmist puts it; that He would be beaten, spit on, beard pulled, gambling would take place for His clothing. He would be pierced, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 69. His death would be vicarious, Isaiah 53. And He would rise from the dead, Isaiah 53 end of the chapter, Psalm 16:8 to 11; many other details.

The Christ of gospel history did not invent Himself, nor is He the invention of a little group of people in the first century. He is the unmistakable fulfillment of divine prophecy. That’s at the heart, that’s at the foundation of the gospel. So we say that if you’re going to carry out the mandate of the gospel and fulfill your mission – and it is your mission – you must understand that as to its foundation, the gospel is Old Testament, biblical.

MacArthur addresses the importance of repentance and forgiveness of sins:

What is the provision that transforms? It is the forgiveness of sins. The gospel message to be proclaimed across the world, folks, is just one simple message: repent and ask for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ. That’s it.

We say, “You know, we want people to be saved.” And the obvious question is, “Saved from what?” From their sins, and the punishment of those sins that is everlasting in hell. This is our only message. We don’t have a social message. There are social implications in the gospel, because godly people behave differently. We don’t have an economic message. We don’t have an educational message. We have one message: forgiveness of sins. That’s it. And that’s what was laid out at the beginning.

Let me show you something … Back in chapter 1, verse 77 … in the prophecy of Zechariah, which sets the course of the Book. “He is coming” – this Son of God, the Messiah – “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation.” Okay? How they going to get that? How are they going to be saved? “By the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.”

Another point to bear in mind that the Apostles, being Jewish, did not associate with Gentiles. Therefore, preaching to all nations was going to be another stumbling block.

MacArthur explains how this unfolds in Acts:

… the gospel now, while starting there and capturing the remnant, is to go to the world. It’s a very new idea to even Jewish believers. Gentile salvation was never popular with them. Testimony to that comes from Jonah, who chose to take a short ride on a big fish rather than go and preach to Ninevites, because he didn’t want them to repent and get in on the blessings that God provided Israel.

Even the early apostles seemed reluctant to buy into this global extent. Do you know there’s not really any evangelism of Gentiles. They started where they were supposed to. Matthew says, “Go into all the world.” And in Luke’s account, he says, “You are to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world.” But this was a hard pill for them to swallow, because they were basically anti-Gentile. And I think they were reluctant to think about this until Acts 10.

You see, the problem they had with going to the Gentiles was they were convinced that their religion, if they were faithful to it, isolated them from Gentiles. They couldn’t go to a Gentile house. They couldn’t eat with a Gentile utensil. They couldn’t consume non-kosher food. They couldn’t go into a Gentile country without being impure. So they had created this idea of holiness that isolated them.

So how were they going to do this and get across what they believed to be things that honored God? I mean it was God, wasn’t it, who gave them all the dietary laws. It was God who gave them all the restrictions that isolated them from the nations around them for their own preservation and protection. But God never intended it to cause them to be so isolated they wouldn’t take the truth of Him as the true and living trinitarian God to those nations. But they didn’t do that.

And they’re still confused, I think, because God has to come to Peter. God says to Peter – shows him a sheet full of all kinds of animals clean and unclean, and says, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” By the way, that is a meat-eater’s dream, that passage. For you vegetarians, you’ve got a problem there in Acts 10. “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” So Peter says, “No, can’t do it. I’ve never touched anything unclean.” And this whole thing is a metaphor for how are you going to evangelize the Gentiles. You’ve got to get past this.

So they’re very reluctant. And God has to go into very dramatic means to get Peter to do what He wants him to do, and that is, “Go, give the gospel to a Gentile centurion named Cornelius.” That’s a big hurdle, huge.

Peter does it. Turn to Acts 10; and this is the first occasion, really, where they get past Samaria. They go to Samaria, remember, with Philip in chapter 8. The gospel is moving through Jerusalem in the early chapters, and it gets scattered belong Jerusalem. And how does God do that? Did they do it on their own? No, they don’t do it on their own. Chapter 8 begins with a great persecution brought against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered into Judea and Samaria.

You know, God had to scatter them, because it was so hard for them to go. Even Samaritans they despised. They despised them for what they thought was abandoning the truth of God and coming up with a false religious system, which they carried out on Mount Gerizim; and they were the half-breeds who betrayed their people, and their nation, and their heritage, et cetera, et cetera. And they had a hard time going there; that’s why no Jew ever walked through Samaria …

And the apostles finally got it, as we showed in chapter 10. In chapter 9, Paul is converted, and he becomes God’s very special tool to begin this massive enterprise of taking the glorious gospel to the Gentile world; and he launches his ministry in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Paul understood Gentile salvation. It was explained to him at his conversion, right? Just read it in chapter 9: “You’re going to be a light to the nations.” He understood the responsibility that he had to go to the world.

Jesus told the Apostles that they were witnesses to these things (verse 48).

Henry says this means that they were not to be passive but active in their forthcoming ministries:

The instructions he gave them as apostles, who were to be employed in setting up his kingdom in the world. They expected, while their Master was with them, that they should be preferred to posts of honour, of which they thought themselves quite disappointed when he was dead. “No,” saith, he, “you are now to enter upon them; you are to be witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48; Luke 24:48), to carry the notice of them to all the world; not only to report them as matter of news, but to assert them as evidence given upon the trial of the great cause that has been so long depending between God and Satan, the issue of which must be the casting down and casting out of the prince of this world. You are fully assured of these things yourselves, you are eye and ear-witnesses of them; go, and assure the world of them; and the same Spirit that has enlightened you shall go along with you for the enlightening of others.”

MacArthur says that this act of witness also extends to us:

He can’t just be talking about the apostles, because they couldn’t get to the uttermost part of the earth. They would be dead long before the gospel ever got there. So this is to all of us. Sure the apostles are witnesses.

By the way, the word “witness,” martus, is used all through the book of Acts. “You are My witnesses. You are the ones I’m going to depend on to proclaim this. You, the first generation apostles and prophets” – apostles and disciples I should say – “you are the ones who know Me personally.”

The Apostles — and present-day witnesses — received divine help to spread the Gospel:

So the gospel is biblical, historical, transformational, Christological, global, personal, and finally, one more component: the gospel is supernatural as to its power, supernatural as to its power, because “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,” 2 Corinthians 10. The gospel of the King and the kingdom does not advance by human power, human creativity, human ingenuity, human cleverness. It doesn’t even advance by human zeal.

Jesus alluded to the divine power behind witnessing for the Gospel. He told the Apostles that He would be sending what God the Father promised, ‘power from on high’; therefore, they were to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit arrived (verse 49). Some translations have ‘Behold’ instead of ‘And see’, indicating that the Apostles should pay special attention to His words.

MacArthur tells us why Jesus said that and how it was prophesied in the Old Testament:

Their responsibility to personal witnesses in the doing of this, they’ve got it all down, and they have the zeal and the passion and drive, and they’re ready to go.

But, verse 49: “And behold,” – it’s a surprise what he says, that’s why “behold” is there, it’s a surprise: there’s something you’re missing – “I’m sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you’re to stay in the city until you’re clothed with power from on high.”

“With all of that you have going for you, correct theology of the Messiah, the correct historical understanding of the Messiah, eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all that you know about the responsibility you have, proclaim the forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ, don’t go anywhere until you’re powered from on high. Don’t go. Even with all of this, you’re inadequate.”

“I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you,” epangelian. This is the only time this word is used, by the way, in the four Gospels. “I’m sending forth the promise.” It’s all over the book of Acts and the Epistles as the promise begins to unfold.

What is the promise? Promise of the Holy Spirit. Promise of the Holy Spirit. That’s the promise. And by the way, that promise also was given in the Old Testament. Listen to Joel 2:28, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” And on the Day of Pentecost, you remember when the Spirit was first poured out, Peter stood up and said, “What you’ve just seen is the fulfillment in part, in part.” Maybe a pre-fulfillment of the words of Joel; and he recites the very words that I just read to you.

But it isn’t just that passage. There are other passages that promise the coming of the Holy Spirit connected with salvation. You remember the promise in Ezekiel 36: “I will put My Spirit” – verse 27 – “within you, cause you to talk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. I will put My Spirit within you. That’s a prophecy connected to the New Covenant. Ezekiel 37:14, “I’ll put My Spirit within you and you’ll come to life.” Even in chapter 39, “I will not hide My face from them” – verse 29 – “any longer. I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel.” The Old Testament promises then the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so our Lord says, “Don’t go anywhere until that prophecy is also fulfilled.”

You remember that in the New Testament in that last night in the upper room, John 14, Jesus said, “The Spirit has been with you. He shall be in you. You’ve had power; you’ve been given authority and power. You’ve had power; you will now have full power.”

John 20:22 says that on resurrection Sunday Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t have that reception then, this was by way of promise. Forty days later, or during the forty-day gap, He repeats that: “I’m sending forth the promise.” And the Spirit actually came on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after the ascension of Jesus.

Then we come to our Lord’s ascension, His return to Heaven.

Luke tells us that Jesus led the Apostles out of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany, and, lifting up His hands, He blessed them (verse 50).

MacArthur tells us more about Bethany, the home of siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus:

We saw from verse 49 that they were in the city and he told them to stay there. Bethany is a suburb I guess you could say of Jerusalem. If you go out the eastern gate of Jerusalem and you’ll see the Mount of Olives and just a little to the south and over the edge of the Mount of Olives, you will arrive in Bethany. It is a little village on the back slope of the Mount of Olives. Literally, the original text can be translated, “He led them in the vicinity of Bethany.” Acts 1:12 says it was at the Mount of Olives. That is consistent. Just to the east of Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives, and just on the back slope of that hill is the little village of Bethany. I have a lot of memories of Bethany, having visited it a number of times. And what makes it so memorable to me is of course visiting Lazarus’ tomb there …

But that little village to this day is still a very simple and humble little village. It was a very familiar little village to Jesus. He had stayed there often during his ministry because he had a family there that he loved, two ladies, sisters, very famous, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus whom he had not long before this raised from the dead. And during Passion Week it seems that he would stay there with that family if he wasn’t in the deeps of the Mount of Olives in prayer with his Father. So it was a very familiar place for him, and because of its proximity to Jerusalem, it was a great place to go to get away from everything, because it was the Mount of Olives, which is right there near the village of Bethany where the gardens were. People inside the city wall very often had gardens outside the wall, and of course Jesus went into the garden that we call Gethsemane. Olive press, olive trees covered that area. Still many exist today there. So it was a restful place. It was a park-like environment. It was a place that he had familiarized himself with many times in prayer.

And then of course during Passion Week it was there that he went with his followers after the Last Supper, and it was there that he agonized and sweat as it were great drops of blood in anticipation of his sin-bearing. It was there that they came and arrested him, and it was there that Peter pulled out his sword and there that he healed the servant’s ear. It would be there that the Mount of Olives that he would return. Zechariah 14:4 says, “He will come back in his Second Coming to the Mount of Olives.” So this little hill on the backside of Jerusalem has a very, very important place in God’s plan. And so he leads them out in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:4 because he’s going to leave and an angel’s going to come and say, “He’s going to come back the same way he left.” So it had to happen near Bethany at the Mount of Olives, because that’s where he’s coming back.

There Jesus blessed the Apostles, and while doing so, He withdrew from them and was raised up to Heaven (verse 51).

We can think of it as our Lord blessing the Apostles on Earth then, as He rose, blessing them from Heaven, as it were, although He was on the way there before He vanished from their sight. It was a continuing blessing for them. He would not — and did not — forget them when He returned to His Father.

Henry tells us:

While he was blessing them, he was parted from them; not as if he were taken away before he had said all he had to say, but to intimate that his being parted from them did not put an end to his blessing them, for the intercession which he went to heaven to make for all his is a continuation of the blessing. He began to bless them on earth, but he went to heaven to go on with it.

Of the blessing, MacArthur says:

So he led them out as far as Bethany, and then he lifted up his hands, which would be a common gesture for people to make upon offering blessing. By lifting up your hands, you’re pointing in the direction of the source of all blessing. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights.” And he lifted up his hands pointing toward heaven to symbolize the place from where all blessing descends, and he blessed them. I don’t want you to short circuit that statement, “He blessed them,” because I think sometimes we might think of that as some kind of a symbolism, some kind of a symbolic gesture. It isn’t that at all. It isn’t some kind of a mystical sign. When he blessed them, it simply means that he pledged to them blessing. Now, according to Ephesians 1:3, “We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,” right? According to Ephesians 2:6 and 7, the promise through grace is that God will demonstrate in Christ through all the ages to come his mercy and his kindness toward us. He will lavish us with the riches of his grace forever and ever and ever. And so I think what happened here, I think the last thing Jesus said was blessing. He had given them the commission; that’s responsibility, that’s duty. But the final word is the word of blessing. What would he have said? “Everlasting grace is yours. Everlasting mercy is yours. Everlasting salvation is yours. Comfort is yours. Peace, everlasting peace is yours. I pledge to you my care, my love. I promise you all the things again that I have promised you all along. I am going to heaven to fulfill all my promises to you.”

The Apostles worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (verse 52).

Henry says the Apostles’ joy was a sign that they were finally beginning to fully understand the prophecies of Holy Scripture:

This was a wonderful change, and an effect of the opening of their understandings. When Christ told them that he must leave them sorrow filled their hearts; yet now that they see him go they are filled with joy, being convinced at length that it was expedient for them and for the church that he should go away, to send the Comforter.

The Apostles were continually in the temple praising God (verse 53).

MacArthur explains the significance of the Ascension:

It marked the completion of his salvation work. It marked the completion of his salvation work. After the cross and the resurrection, there was nothing more to do to provide any aspect of salvation. That was summed up in the words on the cross, “It is finished.” “I glorified you on earth,” he said to the Father in John 17, “how having finished the work you gave me to do.” The work of redemption is done.

Secondly, it is the end of his limitation. He says in John 17:5, “Take me back to the glory I had with you before the world began.” He set aside the independent use of his divine authority and power to become a slave to the Father. When that was over, he came back to his preincarnate glory. He came back in once sense more than when he left. He left as Spirit; he came back as Theanthropos, the God man, whom he remains forever. And even when you go to heaven to worship him, according to Revelation 5, you’re going to see a Lamb who has been wounded.

Thirdly, the ascension marked his exaltation and his coronation. It was then that God gave him the name above every name, the name Lord and called on all to bow. Fourthly, it signaled his sending of the Holy Spirit. John 16:7: “If I don’t go, I can’t send the Holy Spirit.” “It’s better for you,” he said, “that I go so that I can send the Helper, the Holy Spirit who will be with you all the time. He has been with you. He shall be in you.”

Number five, his ascension marked the start of his preparation for our heavenly home. In John 14, when they were all moaning and sorrowing over his leaving, he saw it so very differently. “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” He is there preparing our heavenly home.

Number six, the ascension marked the passing of the work of evangelism to his followers. That’s why the Book of Acts begins with Luke saying, “The former treatise, namely the Gospel of Luke, I wrote O Theophilus of all that Jesus began.” Yes, there is the finished work of Christ; that’s the redemptive work. The work of evangelism only began, and he passed the baton to his followers.

Number seven, the ascension signaled our Lord’s headship over the church. He, who is named Lord, he according to Ephesians 1 who is far above all rule, power, dominion, and authority is given as head over the church, which is his body in in which all the fulness dwells. He is exalted then to be Lord and ruler of his church, which embodies his person. That all is launched at the ascension.

Number eight, it marked his triumph over Satan. First John 3:8 says, “He came to destroy the works of the devil.” And in his triumphant coronation, the Father was affirming that he had done that destruction in full. The serpent’s head was crushed, and Christ is supreme. Hebrews 2 puts it this way: “He took away from Satan the power of death, by which he held men in bondage all their lives.”

Number nine, it signaled our Lord’s giving the work of ministry to gifted men. He was the gifted man with his disciples. He never seemed to pass the teacher’s mantle to any of them, but according to Ephesians 4:8, “When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives and gave gifts to men.” Because of his work, when he ascended into heaven, he had provided a salvation that would capture souls who would be given back as gifts to men, some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastor-teachers for the equipping of the Saints for the work of the ministry. So in his earthly provision of salvation, he secured the salvation of all future leaders of the church who would be given to the church for its own edification to make it strong for the work of evangelism.

And then as we’ve indicated, number ten, the ascension marked the start of his high priestly work. He now ever-lives to intercede for us. He is our advocate before the Father no matter what accusations are brought against us by Satan and his emissaries. “Who is going to lay any successful charge against God’s elect? Not Christ who justified us. He has been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” So he’s a “sympathetic and merciful High Priest,” the writer of Hebrews says, “who can come to us and nurture us in all our struggles.”

And finally, the ascension guarantees and secures his Second Coming. “He has been taken from you but he will come in like manner as you have seen him go,” Acts 1:11. What an amazing event. Talk about something worth celebrating. If we can go all the way from the birth of Christ to the ascension of Christ, from his arrival to his departure, we’ll get a picture of the whole thing. He is exalted by his ascension, crowned as Lord. He sends the Holy Spirit. He begins to prepare our eternal home. He takes the headship of the church. He defeats Satan. He passes evangelism and ministry to his followers. He begins the blessed work of intercession on behalf of his people and stands ready to return in God’s perfect time. Yes, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “He who was rich became poor, divesting himself of all heaven’s riches, that we through his poverty might be made rich.”

Some of us will be going to church, where possible, on Ascension Day. Others are likely to have the Ascension Day readings this coming Sunday.

Ascension Day has never really been given the universal glory in worship that it deserves. It is to be hoped that more churches will offer services on this important feast day, withouth which we would not been able to have the first Pentecost and the Holy Spirit resting upon all believers from that point forward.

May all reading this have a blessed Ascension Day.

Last weekend saw an Anglican news story make the papers: that of ordinand Calvin Robinson, who is effectively being prevented from taking Holy Orders in the Church of England.

Even though he is mixed-race black, he appears to be the ‘wrong sort’ of minority for the C of E: too biblical, too conservative, too traditional.

I wrote about him a month ago, when it was clear he was having problems securing a priestly placement, even though he had been offered one in central London at St Alban’s in Holborn.

Background

In 2020, Calvin Robinson was a campaigner for Defund the BBC. Here he tells Dan Wootton, then a broadcaster on talkRADIO, that it was absurd for the BBC’s Countryfile to suggest that people of colour would feel awkward in the countryside. Robinson said that he practically grew up in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire:

He had more to say in September, when the BBC’s A Question of Sport revamped its panel because of their skin colour. Robinson called for more diversity of thought and economic background instead, i.e. conservative working-class people:

Robinson worked as a schoolteacher and assistant principal before entering the seminary. He was also a school governor, so a well-rounded children’s education remains important to him. On October 15, he took exception to radical ‘theories’ entering the British school system:

He had more to say a few days later when Parliament debated the subject. Kemi Badenoch MP is at the despatch box. The Opposition view her as the ‘wrong sort’ of minority woman:

He deplored the National Education Union’s push for school closures early in 2021 because of the pandemic:

Shortly after he tweeted that, he had appeared on a BBC Sunday morning show, The Big Questions. His appearance brought reaction in the form of verbal insults from an activist and academic at Leeds Beckett University, more about whom below. On February 18, he wrote an article about it for the Mail:

… after I had appeared on the long-running BBC discussion show The Big Questions last Sunday morning, I saw a message on Twitter from Aysha Khanom, the founder and director of the Race Trust charity, which works with schools and universities and purports to promote ‘racial equity’.

Aysha Khanom personally tweeted of me: ‘Please somebody deal with this man!’

I found that menacing. I don’t know exactly what she meant by it, but it echoes the sort of language that Tony Soprano would use when he wanted a rival rubbed out.

‘Deal with’ could easily be read as an incitement to violence.

But I shrugged it off. If I obsessed over every piece of abuse I receive through my phone, I would never think about anything else.

Shortly afterwards, though, the Race Trust Twitter account also attacked me — and this time it was less ambiguous. 

‘Calvin Robinson,’ the tweet read, ‘does it not shame you that most people see you as a house n****?’

I knew immediately that any decent person would find that language abhorrent. And sure enough, within 48 hours, Leeds Beckett University, which had worked closely in the past with the Race Trust, cut all ties and deleted Aysha Khanom’s profile from its website.

For what it’s worth, Race Trust now denies Aysha Khanom sent that second tweet. It claims it came from an anonymous employee without approval, and that this unnamed person has since been dismissed …

There was no apology to me for labelling me with a racist slur …

The sad truth is that many on the Left want to remove my freedom to speak independently.

To them, my skin colour means I am supposed to be part of a homogenous, faceless group, without a mind of my own.

But I am more than that. I am British, a Christian, a Midlander, a former computer programmer, a qualified teacher, a political adviser, a son and a brother.

I have many elements to my identity, and all these things have far more effect on how I see the world.

Above all, I believe in self-reliance and personal responsibility. I want to make the most of my life and refuse to see myself as oppressed or downtrodden …

After Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes aired, Robinson was dismayed that Meghan claimed the Archbishop of Canterbury married her and Harry privately in the garden when it was only a rehearsal. Robinson explains the C of E criteria for a wedding ceremony:

Robinson joined GB News as a panellist and presenter soon after its launch in the summer of 2021.

This appearance of his from August 2021 was excellent. In it, he defended traditional Christian values which have informed the UK’s way of life for centuries:

Two weeks earlier, he reminded us that then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock resolutely said in November 2020 that the coronavirus vaccines would not be given to children. Robinson is opposed to children receiving the vaccine. Yet, by the time he posted this tweet, schoolchildren were receiving it. What a difference several months make:

On August 18, he was very generous in defending the free speech of the aforementioned academic at Leeds Beckett University who called him something offensive. He wrote an article for Spiked about her, saying:

It is for that reason that I haven’t joined in the demands for academic Aysha Khanom to lose her job. Leeds Beckett University has cut ties with Khanom after an organisation she runs, the Race Trust, racially abused me on social media.

Earlier this year, I appeared on BBC One’s The Big Questions to discuss the state of racism in the UK. I spoke about how I have been racially abused for not holding the ‘correct’ opinions. In response, the Race Trust tweeted: ‘Does it not shame you that most people see you as a house negro?’

Khanom maintains that the ‘house negro’ tweet was not sent by her, though she accepts responsibility for it. Either she or someone at her organisation was clearly comfortable using such racist language in public. The good news is that the tweet was rightly challenged and ‘ratioed’ by the masses on Twitter …

In my eyes, what’s most worrying about this incident is that Khanom’s organisation was set up to promote this critical race theory view – or what it calls ‘race literacy’ – in schools and universities. Sadly, this is what passes for ‘anti-racism’ today. Is this really the kind of worldview we want to indoctrinate our young people into?

The rise of identitarian racism should definitely worry us, but we won’t be able to challenge it openly if its defenders aren’t free to express themselves.

On Remembrance Sunday last year, an asylum seeker attempted to bomb Liverpool Cathedral but set himself off at the nearby children’s hospital instead. He had converted to Christianity. Pictured below is a man from his church who housed him for a while. Calvin voiced his opinion:

By early 2022, anyone not towing the media-Government line on coronavirus was anathema. Robinson was empathetic but frank with a university student who lost her friends because she dared to dissent:

Calvin Robinson anathema to C of E bishops

This brings us to the present, the past week, in fact.

On Friday, May 20, Robinson said on GB News that he had no choice but to leave the Church of England. He announced that he would be joining GAFCON, Global Anglican Future Conference, which is traditional in its teaching and practice.

The Mail on Sunday was already working on the story. A Mail+ article from Saturday, May 21, reported (emphases mine):

Internal emails obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asked to be shown examples of Mr Robinson’s tweets amid mounting alarm within the Church over his criticism of  ‘bleeding-heart liberal vicars’ and the Church’s race policy

In one, The Rt Rev Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton, voiced his fears to senior church leaders after Mr Robinson insisted that Britain was not riven with racism. ‘Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country,’ he wrote

Mr Robinson also claimed that the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, lectured him about racism in the church, insisting that ‘as a white woman I can tell you that the Church is institutionally racist’.

Mr Robinson, a former teacher who has trained for two years to become an ordained member of the clergy, has been told that plans for him to serve as a deacon at a parish in London have been axed.

Last night he described the decision as ‘soul-destroying’ and claimed it followed a ‘sustained campaign’ against him by the Bishop of Edmonton over his views, including on whether Britain and the Church were institutionally racist. ‘These people are claiming they are institutionally racist, yet they are disregarding the opinion of an ethnic minority because it is not fitting their narrative,’ he said

In comments set to rock the Church’s hierarchy, he questioned whether the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has claimed the Church is ‘deeply institutionally racist’, had a part in blocking his ordination.  

‘I would love to know how big a role the Archbishop had in it because he has certainly been a part of the conversation. He is the boss and the fact they have gone ahead and cancelled me suggests that he was happy with that.’  

The Church said last night there were only a few clergy positions in London and ‘no suitable option’ available in London for Mr Robinson, who became a trainee vicar – an ordinand – at St Stephen’s House, a theological college at the University of Oxford, in October 2020.

Yet, Robinson had already been offered a post at St Alban’s, Holborn.

I gave you his background above because that is what the bishops were examining:

The emails reveal that even before starting his studies, Mr Robinson’s public comments were being scrutinised by church leaders. He claimed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in September 2020 that the Black Lives Matter movement was stoking racial tensions, adding: ‘There are elements of racism in this country we need to stamp out, but while we are seeing everything as racist we are kind of undermining those racial issues we need to address.’

That day the Bishop of Edmonton emailed the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, and a PR adviser to the Diocese of London to register ‘concern’ about Mr Robinson’s denial of institutional racism in Britain. ‘Calvin Robinson is not only a political commentator, but he’s an ordinand and former teacher in this area,’ he added. Despite the Church’s view on racism, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities concluded in March 2021 that Britain did not have a systemic racism problem. In November 2021 senior Church leaders received a complaint after Mr Robinson shared on social media a Daily Mail investigation that exposed how the Church gave official advice that being baptised could help failed asylum seekers stay in Britain.

It followed news that suicide bomber Enzo Almeni, who detonated a device at a hospital in Liverpool last year, was baptised there as a Christian in 2015. Mr Robinson, by then a GB News commentator, tweeted that ‘misguided bleeding-heart liberal vicars could be complicit in recent terror attack’, adding: ‘Not to mention abuse of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism.’

Bishop Wickham criticised the ‘highly irresponsible’ comments in an email to Emma Ineson, assistant bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and said they remained online after 27 migrants died in the English Channel. ‘These are clear examples as to why, in my opinion, his ordination should be looked at very closely indeed,’ he wrote. ‘Calvin’s Twitter feed is here. It is worth scrolling down.’ He revealed the Archbishop of Canterbury had ‘asked for examples of Calvin Robinson’s tweets’ and highlighted that Mr Robinson had also criticised the findings of the Church’s anti-racism taskforce, which recommended quotas to boost the number of black and ethnic-minority senior clergy. Bishop Ineson said she would show the information to Archbishop Welby.

Mr Robinson was to be ordained as a deacon with a part-time role as assistant curate at St Alban’s Church in Holborn, central London. But in February the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, told him the role was ‘likely to prove problematic, and would not lead to a fruitful or happy formation for you in your early years in ordained ministry’. Mr Robinson offered to reduce his media work but was told he would still not be able to take up the proposed role because ‘that moment had passed’.

The Bishop of London suggested he was stoking division:

At a meeting with Mr Robinson this month, Bishop Mullally insisted the decision was not about his politics, but because his ‘presence’ on social media and TV ‘is often divisive and brings disunity’.

Robinson received support from a young Conservative MP, Tom Hunt:

Tory MP Tom Hunt backed Mr Robinson last night, saying: ‘The message the Church seems comfortable to send out is that it’s OK to propagate some political views but not others. Sadly, Church of England congregations will continue to decline as millions of Christians are alienated by its behaviour.’

The C of E prelates involved in deciding Robinson’s fate as a future priest declined to comment:

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishops of Edmonton and London declined to comment. The Diocese of London said: ‘We have a limited number of curacies available. In this instance, it is felt that there is no suitable option available that London can offer. We continue to be in conversation with Calvin, are willing to work with him to discern the right way forward, and we keep him in our prayers.’

The Mail on Sunday‘s article has this title: ‘EXCLUSIVE: Not woke enough to be a vicar! Black political commentator Calvin Robinson who said Britain is NOT a racist country is BLOCKED from becoming a priest by a white bishop as a result’.

That title sums the situation up perfectly. Is not the bishops’ attitude a racist one, as in ‘We whites know better than you’?

Calvin tweeted the article:

The article is the same as Mail+‘s, but it does include photos of the main players in this story.

The Mail kindly gave space for Robinson to respond beneath their article.

Excerpts follow:

Sitting in an ornate study in the Old Deanery – a 17th Century mansion house opposite St Paul’s Cathedral – the Bishop of London put her hand on my arm and quietly said something that left me astounded.

‘Calvin, as a white woman I can tell you that the Church IS institutionally racist,’ the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally told me.

We had been discussing the Church’s race policy, which I had been vocally objecting to for some time. The Bishop could not understand that as a black man, I simply did not share her – and the Church hierarchy’s – view on this contentious issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has proclaimed that the Church of England is ‘deeply institutionally racist’ and called for ‘radical and decisive’ action. Last year an Anti-Racism Task Force recommended using quotas to boost the number of black and ethnic-minority senior clergy, introducing salaried ‘racial justice officers’ in all 42 dioceses and launching ‘racial justice Sunday’ once a year.

I fundamentally disagreed with this approach, which is based on a faith in divisive Left-wing Critical Race Theory, instead of the teachings of Christ. I believe it is divisive and offensive.

I have experienced plenty of racism in my life, but it has always been down to a minority of malicious individuals. I do not think the claim that either the Church, or wider society, is institutionally racist has ever been supported by robust evidence.

The Bishop of London’s hushed condescension during our meeting made me realise that any dissent from the Church’s ingrained view, which to me seems like nothing more than virtue-signalling, is not welcomed. The Church claims it wants to listen to the perspectives of minorities – well, I am one of them but it doesn’t appear to want to hear my view because it also happens to be a conservative one.

For the past two years I have been training for ordination at St Stephen’s House at the University of Oxford. I was due to begin a curacy at a lovely parish in Holborn, Central London, and within a year I hoped to be ordained a priest.

It takes a long time to acknowledge a call from God to serve as a priest, and it’s a vocation that often involves the sacrifice of leaving behind a successful career. I gave up my career as an assistant headteacher and consultant for the Department for Education to throw myself into my theological studies.

He said that the role at St Alban’s would have allowed him time to still appear on GB News and do other media work:

as an acknowledgment that I see my media work, which reaches a huge audience, as part of my calling and future ministry.

Another bishop was involved with deciding Robinson’s fate, the Bishop of Fulham, also in London:

During a Zoom call, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, told me that there had been ‘a lot of turbulence’ over some of the views I had expressed online and on TV. It was no secret that senior figures in the Church disliked me. I am after all a traditionalist – which means I do not believe in the ordination of women – and I have never been afraid to voice my criticism of the Church’s drift away from what I, and many of its parishioners, think are its core values.

I did not expect everyone to agree with me, but what I did expect is the right to express my own opinions. I had always been taught that the Church of England was a broad church.

I later discovered that Church leaders in London appeared to have had deep misgivings about my ordination from the very beginning of my training – despite spending more than £20,000 of parishioners’ money on sending me to study theology at Oxford.

Emails that I obtained via data-protection rules revealed that bishops at the very top of the Church had been closely scrutinising my public comments.

His political agenda is I guess what you would call libertarian – anti-woke, anti-identity politics, Covid-sceptical,’ the Bishop of Fulham wrote in one email. ‘His tweets get him into trouble sometimes and there have been complaints to the Bishop of London that he shouldn’t be ordained.’

Robinson rightly asks why, if the Church is institutionally racist, these white bishops have not tendered their resignations:

If the Church is institutionally racist, as the Archbishop of Canterbury insists, then why have he and other senior figures, including Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, and Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, not resigned? After all, they have all been bishops for years, which suggests they have been unable to solve the problem.

He warns that the C of E is entering apostasy. He is not wrong:

If you defend family values, the sanctity of marriage, all human life being sacred, or the fact that God made us male and female, you’ll face opprobrium.

Something has gone wrong. The established Church is entering apostasy, and the faithful masses in the congregations and the hard-working clergy deserve better.

Fortunately, he has received much support from clergy and laity:

Since my ordination was blocked I’ve been contacted by clergymen and lay people up and down the country who have been sharing their stories of how they’ve been silenced by the Church for holding conservative views.

He confirmed that he will be joining GAFCON and explained why it is so heartbreaking for him to leave the C of E:

After becoming increasingly disillusioned, I recently decided to leave the Church of England and join a more orthodox institution, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Walking away from the Church of England has been heartbreaking.

People often quizzed me on why, if I was so troubled by its direction, I was also so determined to take holy orders in the Church of England. It was because, for me, the Church is the body of Christ and, perhaps naively, I thought I could help pull things back on track from within.

The Sunday Telegraph provided a few more details:

He had been training to become a priest at the University of Oxford for the past two years and was due to begin a curacy at a parish in Holborn, London, but was turned down for the role by the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, in February

Mr Robinson submitted a subject access request (SAR) to the Church of England – asking the organisation for access to the personal information it held on him

It was then that he discovered a series of internal emails between Church bosses raising concerns over his opinions on institutional racism in Britain …

In another email, the Bishop of Fulham writes: “I wanted a word about an ordinand, Calvin Robinson. You might be aware of him … ”

Of the Bishop of London, he pointed out the irony of her insisting that the Church was institutionally racist:

Former teacher Mr Robinson added: “She was just ignorant. She accused me of being controversial so I said to her in a polite way that some of the things she says are controversial too – like the fact that she thinks the Church is institutionally racist. And then she turned around and said that.

“She was contradicting herself because in one instance she’s saying the Church is racist and needs to listen to the lived experiences of ethnic minorities, but then she was refusing to listen to my lived experience as a black man because it didn’t fit with her narrative.”

On Sunday evening, he appeared on Mark Dolan’s GB News show:

On Monday, May 23, The Times carried a report.

In it, we discovered that the Bishop of Edmonton’s child or children attended the school where Robinson was an assistant principal:

Calvin Robinson has been blocked as a priest by the Church of England after the Right Rev Rob Wickham, the Bishop of Edmonton, privately warned church leaders against ordaining him. Robinson, a social commentator, was an assistant principal at a school where Wickham was a parent

Robinson said that he was shocked to be told in February that his ordination was likely to be problematic. He applied under the Data Protection Act to see the information the church had on him.

He discovered that the Bishop of Edmonton had been reporting him to church leaders since he began his studies. Robinson went on Good Morning Britain in September 2020 to say that he was against Black Lives Matter because it was increasing racial tensions, and he believed that everyone in this country had an equal opportunity to succeed. The same day Wickham wrote to the Right Rev Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, to “bring it to your attention . . . Calvin Robinson is not only a political commentator, but he’s an ordinand and former teacher in this area who has just started at St Stephen’s House. Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country.”

In December last year, Wickham wrote to the Right Rev Emma Ineson, Bishop to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also to the Bishop of London. Wickham sent them some of Robinson’s tweets, adding: “These are clear examples as to why his ordination should be looked at very closely.”

Robinson said he felt “betrayed and a bit heartbroken” at Wickham’s conduct. He said: “To hear that people are campaigning behind your back after you have given them all that you have got, I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Church sources said that Wickham’s status as a parent at the school had no bearing on this matter.

Robinson rightly urges the C of E to return to the fundamentals of faith:

The TV pundit, who now works for GB News, accused the church of apostasy by “moving away from core tenets of the faith. They need to focus on scripture because that’s the word of God.”

He said that he had now joined the Global Anglican Future Conference and would be ordained to one of its parishes. “My hope is to attract all the people who feel the Church of England doesn’t represent them because it is obsessed with woke issues.”

The Diocese of London issued an updated statement:

A spokesman for the Diocese of London said: “We wish him well in the ministry he is now going to exercise.”

On Monday evening, Douglas Murray’s editorial for The Times appeared. It listed a modern litany of the C of E’s preoccupation with race at the expense of everything else, including during the time when an African, the Right Revd John Sentamu, now retired, was Archbishop of York. Oh, the irony:

It is two years since Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave a speech to the General Synod in which he apologised for the “institutional racism” of the Church of England. “I am sorry and ashamed,” the archbishop said. “I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure. There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.”

It was a strange claim to make — not least because at the time the next most important bishop in the church was John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

Murray rightly points out the diversity among C of E clergy:

This fatal combination of ignorance and present-era preening seems to have become the tenor of the established church — and in no area so much as in the church’s demands for clergy representation. As it happens, the Anglican communion has one of the most diverse bodies of clergy that any religious denomination could wish for. But the church has declared that it will continue to be racist until such a day as minority ethnic groups (or UKME as the acronym-laden C of E likes to call them) are over-represented among the clergy.

Even my church has had a minority vicar, who has since been promoted within the Church.

Murray then discussed Calvin Robinson’s sad situation:

And in a way, here is revealed the modern Church of England’s actual party political affiliation.

Having shut its doors throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the church now seems to be back with a new faith: an evangelical and dogmatic belief in its own iniquity and racism. Fail to go along with that belief and the church has no place for you.

So determined is the C of E about this new gospel that a church hierarchy of white people is even willing to bar a young black man from joining the clergy because he will not agree with their insistence that their own church is racist. It is a farce, certainly, but a tragedy, too — for a church that has need of talent, and an era that has need of institutions that are not principally intent on blowing themselves up.

On GB News Monday evening, presenter Dan Wootton chose the Bishop of Edmonton as his Union Jackass of the day. Good on the former Brexit Party MEP, the lady on the right, for nominating him:

Conclusion

Calvin Robinson is surely doing all the right things. That is why our pharisaical clergy have opposed his ordination.

May God continue to sustain Calvin with his grace. May our Lord Jesus continue to give him inner peace. And may the Holy Spirit continue to enhance his gifts of wisdom, fortitude and discernment.

I wish him all the best as he pursues a path to ordination.

Most Anglicans know that their main denominations, e.g. the Church of England or the Episcopal Church, stopped preaching about sin at least a generation ago.

However, acknowledging sin is essential in realising that we need help — divine help.

Following an article by an Anglican priest changing churches, which I wrote about here several days ago, a man named Dave Corby left an excellent comment about sin.

Emphases mine:

A wonderful essay that I enjoyed very much.
The only thing missing is the critical subject of sin.
Rather than a “small shove in the back” what we need is more preaching to help people understand the reason for the feeling of guilt and that constant nudge of the conscience when we do anything that deviates from the right and true way.
We all know that there is a cost to doing wrong, even the smallest lie or the second look at something we should not view burns in our brain for days, months, years, or even the rest of our life.
Once we acknowledge that cost, and that it is the unconscious knowledge of sin that leads to death, only then can we understand why we need a savior. We sin against God and he loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the price of that debt.
That deep, deep, acknowledgment of our sin and desperate need for forgiveness is what drives us to take that step of faith.

It’s such a simple message and such a profound one, yet we hear little about it from the average Anglican Communion pulpit.

It is unfathomable how Anglican clergy can ignore sin, considering that the whole of the Bible revolves around acknowledging our trespasses and transgressions.

God hates sin. That is why, as the Book of Hebrews explains, He required countless blood sacrifices from His people until He sent His Son to us as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the whole world — past, present and future.

There was a brief moment during the Crucifixion when God could no longer bear the thought of sin. That is why Jesus called out in desperation, ‘My God, My God, why are you foresaking Me?’ At that moment, Jesus felt — and carried — the full weight of mankind’s sins.

However, afterwards, just before dying on the Cross, Jesus, always obedient, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit’.

If Anglican clergy preached more about sin rather than social issues — also a by-product of sin — they would have more people’s attention. It sounds paradoxical, but more of us would start going to church again.

John MacArthur often preaches about sin and his Grace Community Church has thousands of people in attendance every week.

It would be fascinating and instructive to see MacArthur go head-to-head in a debate about sin with an Anglican bishop. No prizes for guessing who would win.

Bible readingThe 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.

Ephesians 1:1-2

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

————————————————————————————–

Today’s post begins a brief exploration of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

It will be brief, because most of its six chapters are in the Lectionary. As such, I will include the content of the chapters in each post, because it is such a beautiful letter about the Church.

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur say that this letter is a handbook for the Church. Also, Paul was divinely inspired to reveal certain mysteries about the Gospel and God’s plan for the Church.

Furthermore, both commentators say that whether Paul actually addressed the book specifically to the Ephesians is in question. Some early commentaries omitted mentioning the church in Ephesus and had a blank space instead, suggesting it could have also been sent elsewhere. It could be argued that this letter was intended to apply to all the churches in Asia Minor.

Henry‘s commentary tells us how it was seen to be attached to Ephesus (emphases mine):

SOME think that this epistle to the Ephesians was a circular letter sent to several churches, and that the copy directed to the Ephesians happened to be taken into the canon, and so it came to bear that particular inscription. And they have been induced the rather to think this because it is the only one of all Paul’s epistles that has nothing in it peculiarly adapted to the state or case of that particular church; but it has much of common concernment to all Christians, and especially to all who, having been Gentiles in times past, were converted to Christianity. But then it may be observed, on the other hand, that the epistle is expressly inscribed (Ephesians 1:1) to the saints which are at Ephesus; and in the close of it he tells them that he had sent Tychicus unto them, whom, in 2 Timothy 4:12, he says he had sent to Ephesus.

Paul wrote Ephesians from prison:

It is an epistle that bears date out of a prison: and some have observed that what this apostle wrote when he was a prisoner had the greatest relish and savour in it of the things of God. When his tribulations did abound, his consolations and experiences did much more abound, whence we may observe that the afflictive exercises of God’s people, and particularly of his ministers, often tend to the advantage of others as well as to their own.

In addition to revealing mysteries of the Gospel and laying out a pattern for the Church, it is also theologically rich:

The apostle’s design is to settle and establish the Ephesians in the truth, and further to acquaint them with the mystery of the gospel, in order to it. In the former part he represents the great privilege of the Ephesians, who, having been in time past idolatrous heathens, were now converted to Christianity and received into covenant with God, which he illustrates from a view of their deplorable state before their conversion, Ephesians 1:1-3; Ephesians 1:1-3. In the latter part (which we have in the Ephesians 4:1-6) he instructs them in the principal duties of religion, both personal and relative, and exhorts and quickens them to the faithful discharge of them. Zanchy [Italian Reformer Girolamo Zanchi, 1516-1590] observes that we have here an epitome of the whole Christian doctrine, and of almost all the chief heads of divinity.

In 1978, John MacArthur said that he used Ephesians as a guide to modelling the principles of his own Grace Community Church, founded in 1969:

All that I had ever dreamed a church could be came to crystallization in my mind as I studied Ephesians. It formed, for me, the whole pattern of the church: what it is, how it operates, everything just came together in the study of Ephesians.

The result of that study was I wrote a book entitled The Church, the Body of Christ. Those months that we spent studying Ephesians eight years ago – seven or eight years ago – were the months that formed the character of Grace Church in terms of its present dimensions of ministry.

Grace Community Church is a church built on the principles of the book of Ephesians. In those days, I suppose we maybe had 400 or 500 people who studied with us all the way through the book. And now, at this point, we’ve got 5,000 people, and so the elders felt there were a whole lot of folks who ought to know what Grace Church is built on. And so, we’re going to study the book of Ephesians together.

I’m so excited about this because it’s a book that I absolutely love. I’ve taught it many, many times in other situations, and the riches of this book are unlimited. Really, more than any other book in the Bible, I feel this book was the catalyst that launched Grace Church. And, people, if you’re a part of Grace Church, you are a part of something that is indeed unusual, a church that has gone from 500 to 5,000 people in 9 years, a church where so many ministries have developed. It’s just really an incredible thing, and it isn’t due to one individual; it’s due to the will of God, but it’s due also to an understanding of the principles of the book of Ephesians, a very vital book.

When I think about how God has expanded this ministry, it just boggles my mind. We were talking the other day that the receipts, over the last two weeks, that have been given to Grace Church by you, God’s people, for the ministry here are more than the entire year’s giving of 1969. It’s incredible what God has done.

He describes the book in more detail:

If you get a handle on the book of Ephesians, you – some people have called it the bank of the believer. This is your spiritual checkbook, and every time you write a check out of this bank, your funds are non-diminished. In other words, you can write checks on all the riches of God as often as you want, for as much as you want and never diminish the account. Isn’t that nice? That’s the book of Ephesians. It’s a book about riches. It’s a book about fullnesses. It’s a book about being filled with things. It’s a book about inheritance. It’s a book that just tells us what we own in Christ. Some have called it the treasure house of the Bible

You can draw out all you want, all the time, and never diminish your account. But you don’t know that unless you understand the principles in the book of Ephesians.

So, you want to get the book of Ephesians and get it down good. It’ll absolutely revolutionize your lifeIt will teach you who you are, how rich you are, and how you are to use those riches for God’s glory

God is unloading all of His riches in the book of Ephesians. The word “grace” is used 12 times, and the word “grace” means God’s unmerited, undeserved kindness and favor. Grace is behind all of this lavishness that God pours out. So, the word “grace” is used 12 times. The word “glory” is used eight times. The word “inheritance” is used four times. The word “riches” is used five times. The words “fullness” and “filled” are used seven times. And the key to everything is because we are in Christ that all the fullness of the riches of the inheritance of the glory of His grace is ours. Do you see?

Because we are one with Christ in His Church, because we are redeemed, this incredible fullness is ours. Maybe the sum of it all is in chapter 3, “That you might be filled with all the fullness of God.” It’s just an incredible thought. That literally the believer can be filled with all the fullness of God Himself; that we would know the unsearchable riches of Christ; that we would be able to do exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think according to the power that works in us.

You see, it’s all such magnanimous, grandiose concepts: fullness, riches, inheritance, wealth, resources – all in the book of Ephesians. There are enough resources in heaven to cover all past debts, present liabilities, and future needs and still not diminish your account. That’s God’s plan

So, the guarantee for the believer in all of this is where it says it’s in Christ. And as secure as Christ is in the plan of God and in the love of the father, and as available as the resources of God are to Christ, so available are they to you. See? Because in our union with Christ, we become, according to Romans 8, joint – what? – heirs. And as Hebrews says, “He is not ashamed to call us brother.” And, “He that is joined to the spirit” – 1 Corinthians 6:17 – or “joined to the Lord,” rather – “is one spirit,” so that we have what He has. We possess what He possesses; all His riches are at our disposal.

Peter calls it an inheritance that’s laid away incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for us. That’s Ephesians. Now, it’s all in Christ. It’s all because we’re in Christ. And if you’re not in Christ, you’re poor; you’re destitute; you’re a pauper; you’re a beggar. If you’re in Christ, you’re rich beyond all wild imagination. It’s all based on Him. It’s not anything we did; it’s not anything we earned. It’s all His.

So, this is your bankbook. This is the treasure house. This is where you check out your resources. And in the first – now watch it – in the first three chapters, he tells you what they are, and in the last three, he tells you how to use them. You’ve got to get it all. You’ve got to stay with us for the whole thing. You can’t spend them if you don’t know what they are; and if you know what they are, you got to know how to spend them.

So, the first three chapters, the theology of the rich believer; the practice in chapters 4 to 6. And there are other things that are involved, but that’s just the main thing. Now, let me go a step further and turn the corner a little bit in your thinking. Just kind of file that category of riches related to Ephesians, and I want to talk about another dimension. It not only talks about our riches, but it talks about the whole idea that all this is ours because we’re in the Church. Okay? It’s all ours because we’re in the Church …

Now, the book, then, discusses the Church. It discusses what the Church is, how the Church functions, how we function in the Church, and it discusses the riches of the Church

The book of Ephesians presents the mystery of the Church. The mystery of the Church … it’s been revealed to Paul.

And what was it? That the Gentiles are fellow heirs of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ by the Gospel. In other words, the hidden secret of the past was revealed to Paul. And what was it? It was that the Gentile and the Jew would be in one body in the Church. Now, stay with that; we’re going to expand it a little bit.

Let’s talk about how God reveals things. This will help you to understand this. There are three ways, basically, that I want to mention to you. Number one, there are some things God never tells anybody. Okay? God has some secrets that He never reveals to anybody any time. These are secrets. You just don’t know them; I don’t know them; nobody knows them. God doesn’t reveal them. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells about these things. It says this, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but the things which are revealed belong unto us and our children forever”

Second category. God has some secrets that He reveals to special people all through history

In Psalm 25:14, it says this, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.” Proverbs 3:32 says, “His secret is with the righteous.” Amos 3:7, “He reveals His secrets unto His servants.” So, the righteous, the servants, the people of God, those that fear Him, they know His truth. Now, who are they? Believers. You and me. The fact of the matter is there are some things that nobody knows. The second part is there are some things that only believers know. We know things the unsaved don’t know. Right? …

There’s a third category I want you to get. There are some things which God keeps secret from everybody, for a period of time, and finally reveals to His special people in the New Testament. All right? Now don’t get lost. Point one, God keeps some secrets permanently. Point two, He reveals some things to all His people through all history. Point three, He keeps some secrets through history until the New Testament and reveals them only to the New Testament people.

Do you know we know things that the Old Testament saints didn’t know? That’s right. The New Testament wasn’t written yet. The New Testament is new truth for a new age, sacred secrets revealed by God. In fact, the Old Testament saints used to look to try to see what things meant. Read it in Peter’s epistle. He says they were searching what this thing was they were writing. Do you know that the angels long to understand some of the things that we know such as the meaning of salvation? There are some things that God has kept secret through all history and finally just revealed in the New Testament. Now, these are the mysteries. These are the mustērion, the Greek word

Now, by the way, the man who was given, for the most part, the job of revealing the mysteries was Paul the apostle. He was the mystery man. He was the one to whom God revealed the sacred secrets that had been hidden from the Old Testament saints.

So, these are the mysteries. So, when you see the word “mystery” in chapter 3, verse 3, it simply means a spiritual truth never before revealed but now revealed in the New Testament. New truth for a new age …

So, when Jesus talked, He talked in a way, when He was on earth, that His people would understand it, and the unbelieving would not, and He talked in parables. Right? So, they said to Him … “Why do you speak in parables?” And He said, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Again, the mysteries are something hidden that God reveals to His special people in the New Testament age …

Where does He reign now? In the heart of the believer. He is enthroned. In the kingdom, will there be peace? Yes. In the heart of the believer, is there peace that passes understanding? Yes. In the kingdom, Christ will dispense salvation. He has dispensed it in our lives now. In the kingdom there will be joy and happiness and blessing, and things will flourish, and so do they in the life of an obedient believer now. You see?

At this point, it is worth noting that yesterday’s Gospel reading — for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C) — pertains to this, particularly these verses from John 14, when Jesus was giving His final discourse to the Apostles after the Last Supper:

14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Let us now move on to Ephesians 1, keeping those verses in mind. This is serendipitous.

Paul calls himself an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and greets the congregation as saints who are faithful in Him (verse 1).

Henry has a splendid analysis of the verse:

Here is, 1. The title St. Paul takes to himself, as belonging to him–Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, c. He reckoned it a great honour to be employed by Christ, as one of his messengers to the sons of men. The apostles were prime officers in the Christian church, being extraordinary ministers appointed for a time only. They were furnished by their great Lord with extraordinary gifts and the immediate assistance of the Spirit, that they might be fitted for publishing and spreading the gospel and for governing the church in its infant state. Such a one Paul was, and that not by the will of man conferring that office upon him, nor by his own intrusion into it but by the will of God, very expressly and plainly intimated to him, he being immediately called (as the other apostles were) by Christ himself to the work. Every faithful minister of Christ (though his call and office are not of so extraordinary a nature) may, with our apostle, reflect on it as an honour and comfort to himself that he is what he is by the will of God. 2. The persons to whom this epistle is sent: To the saints who are at Ephesus, that is, to the Christians who were members of the church at Ephesus, the metropolis of Asia. He calls them saints, for such they were in profession, such they were bound to be in truth and reality, and many of them were such. All Christians must be saints; and, if they come not under that character on earth, they will never be saints in glory. He calls them the faithful in Christ Jesus, believers in him, and firm and constant in their adherence to him and to his truths and ways.

As ever, Paul stamps his apostolic authority on his work. MacArthur explains why he did so:

… this is the single credential that he lays out: “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” Even though he stood outside the twelve—he was maybe overshadowed by them in some sense—he wants us to understand that he is a legitimate apostle. He does this with no vanity, no self-glory. In fact, he says, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” He says, “We have received grace and apostleship,” Romans 1:5.

But what do we know about his apostolic calling? When he called himself an apostle, four things were in view; let’s look at them just briefly. First, his apostolic call. That is to say, it had to be directly from the Lord. An apostle was one called directly by the Lord Himself—as he was, on the Damascus Road. Only fourteen men were ever given this call: the twelve; Judas is out, Mathias is in, that makes the thirteenth; and Paul is the fourteenth. He had a divine calling. His life was interrupted on the Damascus Road; certainly the most dramatic calling of any apostle by Christ Himself—even the risen, exalted, ascended Christ.

The second thing that characterizes an apostle is that the notion of his identity is wrapped up in the One he represents. He belonged to Christ. He frequently refers to himself as a slave of Christ. This life was not his own; he was the possession of Christ, bought and paid for on the cross, so that he would say, “For me, to live is Christ.”

Now apostle means “sent one.” So here is one who has received a unique call personally from Christ, who belongs to Christ as a slave, for the sole purpose of fulfilling, thirdly, a commission. Apostolos means a sent one. His commission, in particular, was to the Gentiles.

The fourth element of it simply is to understand that he had power. An apostle is given delegated authority; he can speak for the one he represents. Even in the Jewish setting, the Sanhedrin was a supreme court of the Jews; and in matters of religion, they had authority over every Jew in the world. And when the Sanhedrin came to a decision about anything, and that decision as given then to the public, it was carried out by a messenger called an apostolos and taken to those who needed to hear it. When such an apostle of the Sanhedrin went out, he didn’t go with his own message or his own authority—behind him was the authority of the supreme court of Israel.

So it was with Paul. He had authority granted to him by Christ. That authority was validated by signs and wonders and miraculous things, as God validated him as a true apostle by supernatural signs. Not only is he an apostle, but he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” This is double authority, from the Father and the Son. God sovereignly directed the work, specially equipped the apostle called the apostle, as did Christ Himself.

Again, although many translations mention the congregation at Ephesus, that was not the case in the earliest manuscripts:

“At Ephesus”—though this letter is directed to the Ephesians, and I think that’s legitimately to whom Paul wrote it, there are no personal aspects in this letter. There are no references to local people or local events or local issues in this church. And in some ancient manuscripts there’s a blank where it says, “who are at Ephesus”—“who are at blank.” Where did such manuscripts come from, and why did that occur? We can’t be certain, but many scholars believe that this was such a general letter that it was circulated to all the churches, not only in Ephesus and close by, but all through Asia Minor—the seven churches that are listed in the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In Colossians, in fact, Paul refers to a letter from Laodicea. Some feel this might be that letter; we can’t know that. But nonetheless, in some ancient manuscripts there’s a blank there so that any church could fill its own name in, and it would be appropriate to them.

MacArthur gives us more information about Paul’s imprisonment, which Henry dates as AD 61, and the other letters that he wrote during that time:

It’s written from Rome. Paul is a prisoner during his third missionary tour. It’s carried by Tychicus and Onesimus, along with Colossians and Philemon, to the churches and to Philemon.

MacArthur says that calling the congregation saints refers not only to their justification by faith through grace but also sanctification on their Christian journey:

to show you that, 1 Corinthians chapter 1. And you might say of all the people who didn’t act saintly, the Corinthians probably headed the list. But listen to how he begins 1 Corinthians: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth”—that’s the whole church at Corinth—“to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” If you’re a saint, you’re not only justified, you’re in the process of being sanctified. And the Corinthians seem like some of the least sanctified saints—and yet that is how Paul describes them

There are plenty of scriptures that indicate there’s no such thing as justification without sanctification. One more comes to mind. Acts 26:18, Paul says his commission is to the Gentiles, to whom the Lord is sending him—verse 18, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God”—that’s conversion, and—“ that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” When you put your faith in Christ, you’re not only justified, you’re sanctified; not perfectly sanctified, but you’re on the path of sanctification.

So that, if you are a saint, you also can be designated faithful. That’s why those go together: “to the saints who are faithful.” What does that mean? Pistos, who are believers, who believe in Christ Jesus.

There [was] a movement years ago that I basically took on in The Gospel According to Jesus that said you could be a Christian and completely lose your faith, be an unbelieving believer. Not possible. True believers are justified and sanctified. They are saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus.

So Paul is writing this letter to those saints and faithful believers.

Paul wishes the Ephesians grace and peace from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (verse 2).

Henry explains:

The apostolical benediction: Grace be to you, c. This is the token in every epistle and it expresses the apostle’s good-will to his friends, and a real desire of their welfare. By grace we are to understand the free and undeserved love and favour of God, and those graces of the Spirit which proceed from it; by peace all other blessings, spiritual and temporal, the fruits and product of the former. No peace without grace. No peace, nor grace, but from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. These peculiar blessings proceed from God, not as a Creator, but as a Father by special relation: and they come from our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having purchased them for his people, has a right to bestow them upon them. Indeed the saints, and the faithful in Christ Jesus, had already received grace and peace; but the increase of these is very desirable, and the best saints stand in need of fresh supplies of the graces of the Spirit, and cannot but desire to improve and grow: and therefore they should pray, each one for himself and all for one another, that such blessings may still abound unto them.

MacArthur focuses on divine grace and divine peace:

First, grace—charis, the kindness of God toward undeserving sinners. Peace, eirēnē. Peace means peace with God, the peace of God, peace with each other. Those are the first blessings: grace and peace. Grace is the fountain; peace is the stream that flows from that fountain.

MacArthur summarises the next set of verses:

In verses 3 through 14, Paul gives one long sentence listing all the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ: election, sanctification, foreordination, adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, enrichment, enlightenment, inheritance, sealing, promise, on and on and on. Everything that is ours is laid out in that opening chapter. And, of course, from there you go through the whole treasure house of God’s provision for His people: the treasures of grace, the treasures of glory, the treasures of Christ. In this chapter, running down through verse 14, you will see the work of the Father, you will see the work of the Son, and you’ll see the work of the Spirit. And all of it has one purpose: verse 6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace”; verse 12, “to the praise of His glory”; verse 14, “to the praise of His glory.”

Everything that happens in the life of the church is to the praise of His glory. It is all for His glory—and particularly, the praise of the glory of His grace, praise of the glory of His grace, as we saw in verse 6.

Henry tells us to look at the rest of the chapter as a combination of praises and prayers:

… though it may seem somewhat peculiar in a letter, yet the Spirit of God saw fit that his discourse of divine things in this chapter should be cast into prayers and praises, which, as they are solemn addresses to God, so they convey weighty instructions to others. Prayer may preach; and praise may do so too.

Here is the rest of the chapter:

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Next week, I will look at Ephesians 2 and the first part of Ephesians 3.

Next time — Ephesians 3:13

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