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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 22:7-13

The Passover with the Disciples

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.


It is apposite, yet entirely coincidental, that this study of Luke’s Gospel brings us to the Last Supper during Lent 2015.

My longstanding readers might recall the corresponding account from Mark 14:12-16, which I wrote about at this time in 2013:

The Passover with the Disciples

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

Matthew 26:17-19 — the three-year Lectionary reading for Wednesday of Holy Week — has a shorter account but with one important statement the other two Synoptic Gospels do not have (emphases mine below):

The Passover with the Disciples

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

Because our Lord’s time was at hand, the Last Supper had to take place according to God’s plan. Hence Jesus’s discretion in sending only His most trusted apostles John and Peter to arrange it (verse 8). Recall that Judas had already arranged the betrayal with the chief priests. Jesus, being all human and all divine, would have known what was happening in the background.

Jesus preserved discretion and secrecy by instructing the two to look for a man carrying water who would meet them (verse 10). They were to follow him as his house would be the venue.

With the Jews coming to Jerusalem for Passover, the city was crowded, with more than two million people at this time. However, John MacArthur tells us that only women carried water. A man would not have done so. Therefore, the two apostles would have been on the lookout for a rare sight.

Jesus told Peter and John to ask the man for use of his guest room on behalf of their Teacher (verse 11). We ask ourselves what might have happened if the man had said, ‘What teacher?’ However, all this was divinely ordained. The man knew of whom the two spoke. MacArthur thinks the man might have been a recent convert. We do not know. However, we can safely assume that Jesus knew.

As Jesus said, the man showed them the upper room of the house (verse 12) and the two apostles prepared the Passover meal (verse 13).

Matthew Henry has this observation:

Christ could have described the house to them probably it was a house they knew, and he might have said no more than, Go to such a one’s house, or to a house in such a street, with such a sign, &c. But he directed them thus, to teach them to depend upon the conduct of Providence, and to follow that, step by step. They went, not knowing whither they went, nor whom they followed … they need not fear a disappointment who go upon Christ’s word according to the orders given them, they got every thing in readiness for the passover, Luke 22:11.

Peter and John would have been busy for the rest of the day. As we know, the Passover menu is a complex one with several elements. As they were staying with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, they would not have had any of these on hand. They had to purchase unleavened bread, the lamb, the wine, the requisite herbs, spices, fruits, nuts and so on — all of which recalled the hurried Exodus from Egypt centuries before.

MacArthur posits another reason why Jesus sent only two apostles to arrange this meal. Only two men ever brought one lamb for slaughter; otherwise, the slaughter area would be too crowded with bystanders.

In closing, some people might wonder why, if Passover (and Jewish Sabbath) dinners are always on a Friday, how it happened that the Last Supper took place on a Thursday. MacArthur explains:

Study Josephus. Study the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish law and other historical sources. You find that the Jews in the north and the Jewish people in the south, the Galileans say as opposed to the Judeans, had different ways of calculating their days. These chronological aspects have been a wonderful study in anybody’s…anybody who makes an effort to studying this in the New Testament is greatly enriched by it. But in the north, they calculated days from sunrise to sunrise…sunrise to sunrise. That was a day. Whereas in the south, they calculated the day from sunset to sunset. So that’s a very clear distinction. In Galilee, where Jesus and all the disciples except Judas, had grown up, they calculated days from sunrise to sunrise. So the fourteenth of Nissan was sunrise on Thursday to sunrise on Friday. That puts the Passover Thursday night. For the Jews in the south, it was sunset to sunset, so that puts it in late Friday for the southern Jews. Same day calculated two different ways. And that worked well for the Jews.

By the way, the Pharisees tended to go with the northern approach. The Sadducees who were all around Jerusalem tended to go, of course, with the southern approach. What that did was solve a couple of problems. It split the number of animals to be killed into two different periods, Thursday night and Friday night. It also reduced what were called regional clashes cause the southern people didn’t think too highly of the northern people. So it just was easier to have them separated.

So Jesus is celebrating a Galilean Passover Thursday evening, and that is Friday, the beginning of Friday, sunset, for the Jews who celebrate it late the next day. The timetable is perfect. The Lord can celebrate the Passover, fulfill all righteousness with His disciples on Thursday and it’s a true Passover, the lambs were slain. And He can still die on the Passover the next night because there are two times when the Passover lamb is slain.

Next time: Luke 22:31-34


In February 2014, Tatler published an article on the stiff upper lip by the UK’s foremost art critic, Brian Sewell.

Sewell, to many of us Britons, is the only critic worth reading. He writes and speaks beautifully. What he does not know about classical painting, drawing and architecture isn’t worth pursuing.

I’ve read many of his columns in London’s Evening Standard and had the pleasure of hearing him give a lecture on art with a generous question and answer session. I was amazed that during this two-hour long engagement, Sewell did not take one sip of water. He was flawless, even though he was in poor health at the time.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that he wrote ‘Chin Up, Britain’ (pp. 62, 63, 143), exhorting us to embrace the stiff upper lip, which we seem to have forgotten about since August 1997, when Princess Diana died. Sadly, we became Americanised that day, in my estimation.

Sewell provided little-known facts about the stiff upper lip (p. 62):

– The term is an ‘Americanism’, dating from the early 19th century.

– It means, according to him, not betraying ‘the slightest hint of fear, funk or perturbation’.

– It signifies Fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues of Christianity. The other three are Prudence, Temperance and Justice.

– Early Christians living in Roman times and many more martyrs thereafter have employed it to endure being torn apart by animals, gladiators and other methods of torture.

– Saint Laurence was sentenced to death by being roasted alive on a spit. When he could take no more flames on his back, he asked his tormentors to turn him over.

– Learning about martyrs at school as part of Religious Education taught centuries of British children how to accept pain and suffering without showing emotion.

– Boys’ books featuring protagonists of a young age never described them as crying or weak.

Sewell deplores the decline of a once-prominent British characteristic. He attributes its decline to a long period of peace, the abolition of National Service and the lack of reading classic boys’ books for pleasure.

Tatler included a side box of nine famous Britons — ‘The Stiffest Upper Lips’ — who positively exude this quality (p. 63). I was happy to see the Duke of Edinburgh mentioned for his resilience and perfect humour during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant which sailed the Thames in June 2012. A nonagenarian and not in the best of health, he stood at the Queen’s side throughout in cold, rainy weather. I watched the entirety on television in amazement. He was taken to hospital the next day for a bladder infection, where he remained for the remainder of the festivities.

Sewell exhorts us to turn away from emotion, tears in particular (p. 143):

Excessive emotion is about us everywhere.

He describes footballers who ‘kiss and cuddle’ each other when the match is going well and ‘weep’ when it isn’t. (This is one of the reasons why I prefer rugby.)

He writes of teenagers losing their self control when they get even mediocre passing exam results.


every ordinary birth, death and marriage is the occasion for an unrestrained torrent of tears, joy indistinguishable from grief.

I have noticed that old-school Britons, men in particular, shed a tear only when their children are born and at the funerals of immediate family members. That’s it.

Sewell doubts we can recapture the stiff upper lip as a primary British characteristic. He does not think appeals to schools for proper conduct in the classroom and on the playing field will work:

… these are common times and we’d not be understood.

The only way it might return is if we as a nation find ourselves embroiled in another war.

Sadly, I think he is right. However, that doesn’t mean we should not try to do our part to display Fortitude as much as possible.

The stiff upper lip — exhibiting this Christian cardinal virtue — can and should be learned. It takes time and is well worth the effort.

How we believers behave towards others reflects much about Christianity — good and bad.

Although times are hard — the economic crisis has been lingering since 2008 — and some of us have medical conditions, let us at least try to do our best.

It is important that we greet others with a smile and a cordial hello, whether they be our neighbours, tradesmen, shopkeepers and couriers. I can think of any number of times neighbours come to collect a parcel of theirs which has been left at our house because they were out. These churchgoers come with a deadpan face, collect their item and barely manage a thank you. Where is the greeting? What about a ‘How are you?’

Let’s not be so preoccupied with our own problems that we appear grumpy, sullen and unfriendly. This includes online discourse as well.

A cordial manner will help bring others to the faith, especially in difficult environments. Conversely, a cold exterior can make others wonder just what sort of religion Christianity is.

Good breeding — that is, putting others at ease — costs nothing and is the sign of a well-brought up person. We seem to forget this in adulthood. I, too, have erred in this area and am determined to do better this year. Perhaps it’s not a bad Lenten resolution — one that can be carried forward in future.

Bible ourhomewithgodcomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 22:1-6

The Plot to Kill Jesus

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Judas to Betray Jesus

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.


The end of Luke 21 tells us that Jesus spent the night before Passover — Wednesday night — on Mount Olivet, the Mount of Olives.

Meanwhile, the Jewish hierarchy plotted His death in a way that would not excite the crowds coming to Jerusalem for this feast (verses 1, 2).

They were aware how popular our Lord was. Only days before, a huge crowd lined the road on his triumphal entry into the city. If He were killed, there might be a mass revolt. It is also worth remembering that more and more Jews were in the city by now, possibly 2 million. The more people, the greater the Roman presence.

John MacArthur explains:

… they’re all very, very aware that this is exactly the kind of time that if anything starts that looks anywhere near like a riot, the Romans are going to come down hard with military force and change the relationship we currently have with them, which gives us a certain measure of freedom.  We’ve got to arrest Him, we’ve got to arrest Him now.

John 11:45-57 explains more about the mindset of the Jewish elite, including their fear of losing their power and prestige. Verses 47-53 are particularly pertinent:

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Returning to Luke 22 now, verse 3 tells us: ‘Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot’. Matthew Henry says:

Whoever betrays Christ, or his truths or ways, it is Satan that puts them upon it.

Satan was already in Judas. Jesus stated this in John 6:70-71:

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

Our Lord made the same observation of the Jewish elite in John 8:38-47, specifically verses 43 through 47 (emphases mine):

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Judas was obsessed by materialism; in fact, he was the one who kept the money bag for Jesus and the Apostles. This should serve as a warning to us not to place money and possessions above the Holy Trinity. This also extends temporally to our family and friends. Are some people too obsessed with earning money to attend to their loved ones? We have read many cautionary tales about parents who hardly ever see their children then wonder why they end up in rehab. They realise, too late, that they should have been better parents. The same holds true when people lose friends because they haven’t kept in touch often enough; they’ve been too busy with work. But I digress.

Verse 4 of today’s reading tells us that Judas went off to discuss with the Jewish leaders how he could betray Jesus. It is for this reason that traditionalist Catholics refer to Wednesday of Holy Week, or Passion Week, as Spy Wednesday.

Henry has this observation about treachery by insiders, more insidious than that from external enemies:

Note, It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ’s kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends: nay, without the latter its enemies could not gain their point as they do.

The Jewish leaders welcomed Judas’s proposition and agreed to pay him (verse 5). The 30 coins amounted to a few months’ wages. Judas went off to contemplate how he could execute his betrayal quietly, without attracting the attention of the crowd (verse 6).

MacArthur explains:

The devil moved them to do what they did and now the devil had another of his own children, Judas, and he moved him to do what he did.  In fact, he not only moved him, he not only made treacherous suggestions to Judas, he moved in.  There’s a progression there. 

And whilst Satan is powerful, God keeps Him in check. In short, it was now ‘the time’ and ‘the hour’ — words used throughout the Gospels — for our Lord’s crucifixion. Hence God allows him to enter into Judas’s soul.

Scripture was soon fulfilled in Christ’s dying for the sins of the world, past, present and future. God meant it to happen. Jesus knew it was coming. A reading the Gospels tells us this. Jesus escaped angry people — His fellow Nazarenes and the hierarchy — who wanted to kill Him. He knew those moments were not the appointed time.

MacArthur tells us not to blame the Jewish people for the crucifixion. Nor should this make Christians opposed to Israel. In fact, those who rank with the Jews of Jesus’s time are the unbelievers and mockers throughout history, including those in the future:

it was the Jews of that generation, living in that place, at that time, in that nation, in that crowd that wanted Jesus dead, and basically blackmailed Pilate into executing Him. This is no warrant for unscrupulous people to brand all Jews as a race as Christ-killers. The truth of the matter is, Jew or Gentile, anyone who rejects Jesus Christ takes a position against Jesus Christ and eliminates any hope of eternal salvation. That’s true of anybody. But to use what the people did to Jesus, the people of that generation did to Jesus, as some kind of justification for hate crimes, and holocausts against Jewish people is anything but Christian, anything but Christian. It is satanic. That kind of bigotry doesn’t come from God. It doesn’t come from true Christians. It comes from Satan. It is anti-Christian. It is true that Israel’s leaders bore culpability. The people bore culpability. Every person, Jew or Gentile who rejects Jesus Christ bears guilt. It is true. That is no reason to hate Israel. Even God loves Israel. And one day will save that nation. And even now is building His church of Jew and Gentile. Be reminded that way back in the Abrahamic covenant we are told whoever blesses Israel, God will what? Will bless. Whoever curses Israel, God will curse.

Next time: Luke 22:7-13

The Puritan Board forum has a good discussion on mind-altering drugs and the Bible.

A member asked why Scripture is silent about these substances. Another long-time forum member, Steve Rafalsky, who attends a Presbyterian Church of America in Astoria, Queens, replied with much to say on the topic. And, no, the Bible is not silent on the matter.

Rafalsky took drugs in the 1960s and became a Christian when he saw how destructive the counterculture lifestyle was. His comments come highly recommended, particularly to readers under the age of 50.

In commenting on the 1960s and the legacy of that decade, Rafalsky says, in part (emphases mine):

That drug culture killed a lot of people, and drove many others mad, and influenced the mental and spiritual consciousness of collective humankind by opening a terrible Pandora’s box – an interdimensional gateway, if you will – allowing direct demonic influence to enter the archetypal human heartlands by means of these sorcerous drugs. Many pagans are aware of these things (though not from the Christian view which discerns the evil), but most of the Christians not, which will be a grave handicap in maintaining holiness in the church, seeing as we are growing so lax in letting the world into our sanctuary.

The United States changed forever. This is happening in Europe, too:

… much as Tolkien’s “shadow of Mordor” encroaching upon all of Middle Earth, or the days of Noah where “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . [and] the earth [was] filled with violence through them” (Gen 6:5,13) – and what was once a relatively pleasant world (and country, for those in America) to live in, became increasingly hostile and unjust, and the culture Babylonian, that is, seductive by means of its arts, entertainments, luxuries, comforts (while multitudes elsewhere languished in misery and want). The world became more beast-like with its wars everywhere, emerging police states even in the supposedly civilized West. Ethnic groups now fostered hatred toward other groups (cf Matt 24:7 – “nation shall rise against nation”, which in the Greek is ethnos shall rise against ethnos – people groups against people groups), and social fabrics increasingly disintegrated.

This odyssey / pilgrimage to the Heavenly home now became a trek through a gauntlet of violence, and not only that, but due to the increasing wickedness the Almighty meted judgments upon this Babylonian entity. The stench of the blood and pain of 96,000,000 babies murdered in the womb (in America alone) over the brief period of 41 years, along with the celebrating all manner of sexual perversions and sin drew from Heaven great wrath, and the days were to become hard.

Some of the Puritan Board’s younger readers think this is an overstatement, however, Rafalsky is writing a book which he will self-publish about a reformed drug user who backslides and then finally sees the horror of what it is before returning to the Church.

Rafalsky has a lengthy blog post, also on Puritan Board, which parents, guardians and youth pastors might find useful. In it, he addresses the many mentions of mind-altering substances and those who administer them.

Scripture, he says, used the following Greek words in ancient translations concerning drugs and those who administer them:

With regard to pharmakeiaBAGD 2nd Edition says, that in Rev 18:23 the meaning is “sorcery, magic”, and in Rev 9:21, “magic arts”. It also gives usages in many other classical and LXX readings, but for brevity I’ll limit it to the NT usage, and will in the following citations also.

Concerning pharmakon – drug – in classical use (it’s not used in the AV NT) there are 3 meanings: 1) “poison”, 2) “magic potion, charm”, and 3) “medicine, remedy”. These are on page 854a of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition.

Pharmakos – “poisoner, sorcerer, magician”. These entries were all found on page 1917 of Liddell and Scott.

He explains that ‘sorcerer’ and ‘magician’ in this context are not the way we understand them today, but in Revelation are used to denote:

one who administers or uses a certain class of drugs to “enchant”, to cast a psychic spell upon by use of these drugs and accompanying demonic power. It doesn’t mean a deceiver – a liar – generally or even figuratively, but specifically one who uses sorcerous potions. Liars / deceivers are already classed separately in this listing. Likewise in Rev 22:15 where a similar Greek word, pharmakos, is used for sorcerer, with the same meaning as pharmakeus in 21:8, again with liars / deceivers named separately. In these verses the usage clearly refers to drug-using-and-promoting people, so at the very least it is quite possible pharmakeia / sorceries in Revelation 18:23 – “by thy sorceries were all nations deceived” – refers to drug-related activity and not deceptive practices.

To those who doubt the meaning, Rafalsky cites an additional source (underscore and emphases in the original):

Consider this item from The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558,

. . . pharmakos, magician (Rev. 22:15); pharmakeus, mixer of potions, magician (Rev. 21:8); pharmakeia, magic, sorcery (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23). The basic word pharmakon does not occur in the NT, but its meaning of medicine, magic potion, poison gives the underlying idea of the words. Potions include poisons, but there has always been a magical tradition of herbs gathered and prepared for spells, and also for encouraging the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies (cf. possibly the final sentence of Ezek. 8:17: “They put the branch to their nose”). Sorcery is classed among the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:20. [underlined and last bold and italicized emphases added –SMR]

He goes on to mention instances where hallucinogens are used in non-Christian religious rituals and explains:

we are confronted with a class of drugs that “induce magic spells” or, to put it in other words, whose affect in the consciousness enable the user to have profound mystical / spiritual experiences, as well as to come into the presence of spirit beings. This is not all of their possible effects, but enough to get us started in our examination. This is Biblically-defined “sorcery” – pharmakeia …

He adds:

when Scripture speaks in Revelation 9:21 of men refusing to repent of their “sorceries” (pharmakeia) in the time of the sixth trumpet and its judgments, and in Rev 18:23 of the judgment of the harlot Babylon for (among other things) her “sorceries” (pharmakeia) which deceived the nations – those centuries prior to the latter half of the 20th might not have understood the meaning and significance of the “sorceries” written of here, for sorcery and magic arts then were practiced in the dark, away from the view of society, hidden in all its aspects due to its evil nature, widespread condemnation, and severe penalties.

How true. But, what about recreational drugs, we ask? Rafalsky states:

People smoke or ingest marijuana to attain a psychological or psychic “high” – an elevated and enhanced state of consciousness – though some would deny calling this “high” as much a pharmakeia activity as a more spiritual awareness, or not even that, but only a psychological high, or simply an enhancement of the senses . To deny that pharmakeia can involve enhanced physical sensation and pleasure through this psychic “high” – to the exclusion of overt occultism – as well as said occult activity, is an attempt to dissociate their sinning from pharmakeia activity. But this is taking refuge in lies. We must recognize that to use sorcery to indulge in sensory pleasure is as much one of its activities as the seeking of psychic, occult, and spiritual experience.

He also points out (emphasis in purple mine):

The widespread acceptance of “getting high” – “the relative innocence of this harmless substance” (if used moderately, so the reasoning goes) – has made it seem like harmless fun indeed. Many argue on this basis and will not even hear the exposition of Scripture. It has been said that such exposition is “stretching the meaning of the Greek words” – even though the meaning is clear and unequivocal. There is no stretching of the meaning of pharmakeia; its lexical import is precise: illicit drugs used to enhance the awareness of the flesh, its senses, and its state of mind or consciousness, quickened to these ends by a psychic energy not the Holy Spirit, but such as enables souls to be influenced by the demonic, or, if they are closed to this possibility, to be influenced by the demonic while completely unaware of it – thinking their “fun” state is just a super lark. Though the demonic influence is there, affecting their psyche, and they [are] blind to it. That’s a dangerous deception. Some call this, “Reefer madness hysteria.” The watchman on the wall is but called to cry out the danger approaching. We are responsible for heeding the cry.

He sums up scriptural references to drugs this way:

What we see is that there are different “levels” of Biblically-defined sorcery: occultic, spiritual, psychic high, and sensual pleasure. The enhancement by means of psychedelic agents constitutes them all pharmakeia activities.

This also includes most forms of cannibis, with the exception of those which have the THC removed, and, therefore, the high.

Rafalsky goes on to deplore the laxist attitude of Christians and clergy who say that there is nothing wrong with mind-altering drugs. On the contrary, he posits that taking them is spiritual fornication, which Scripture condemns. Of the 1960s, he says (emphasis mine):

There was an event (the term now used for military-scale biological, chemical, or nuclear events) that befell the entire world through the drug-energized sixties generation in America, as this potent counterculture permeated the nations of the world through its music, literature, art, film, and other culture-bearing vehicles. These nations and cultures of the world were leavened from within by the exciting new consciousness of the sixties and the Woodstock spirit exported into them, but it was a Trojan Horse filled with the denizens of Hell. Its impact was, in the psychic realm, the equivalent of a massive nuclear detonation. The “fallout” of this “detonation” came in the presence of malign spirits and their influence upon the new thinking: it became (seemingly) obvious to all that real vitality was not to be found in the Christian faith but in the relativity of postmodernism – the validation of everyone’s subjective truths and beliefs – and thus was the world made ripe for satanic deception on an unprecedented scale.


The damage done is irreversible. The timetable of the Sovereign God is counting down. Across the non-Western world Christians are already under severe duress, persecution increasing daily. And the signs are that a groundswell is building up in the West – the mystery of iniquity and lawlessness – and that He who restrains it will not restrain it for long (2 Thess 2:6 ff.).

There is much more. Rafalsky might sound alarmist and heavy-handed, but he was immersed in the drug culture 50 years ago and know whereof he speaks.

The term ‘recreational drug’ only became part of popular parlance around that time. Yes, there were certain groups of people who used them before, but they were small subsets of society. During the latter half of the 20th century we saw an explosion in drug use. In the 21st century, we are now seeing legalisation of substances which have no place in a Christian lifestyle.

I would highly recommend Rafalsky’s research and thoughts, although they might need to be expressed differently to a young person.

That said, he proves that Scripture has much to say on the prohibition of mind-altering drugs.

The Reformed site Puritan Board recently had a discussion about faith.

In response to a question on their forum — ‘Faith: what is it?’ — the Revd Bruce G Buchanan of ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, Central Lake, Michigan, gave an excellent response.

First, he said that all of us — including unbelievers — exercise a certain amount of faith every day: we trust our floors will be sound and our toothpaste non-toxic.

He then went on to list the components of biblical faith, which differs from the ‘blind faith’ atheists accuse us of. Emphases in the original below:

One component of faith is knowledge. Is.43:10 “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.'” Promise typically comes to us in the form of information; although that information does not always come to us in propositional form. It can be personal as well: so for example a mother makes promises conveyed to her infant by presence, by care, by comfort and provision; but not to begin with by verbal propositions at all. Jesus preferred people to believe him and the words he said; but if that was too difficult, he counseled them to “…believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him,” Jn.10:38.

Verbal communication allows promises to take disembodied form, thus permitting the extension of knowledge and confidence, particularly when the form of communication is fixed and permanent. Revelation takes place when formerly unknown, or otherwise unknowable, truth is attained or imparted. God’s revelation to man is centered on Jesus the Son of God, the Incarnate (re-embodied!) Word (Jn.1:1,14), by whom God comes at last to us (Is.7:14; Mt.1:23) and speaks to us, Heb.1:1-2.

A second component of faith is assent. Assent means acknowledging the truth of something that has been spoken or revealed. Not everything spoken nor impression left (but unspoken) is true. But even if it is true, it may be disbelieved. This is the opposite of what faith does with truth. Israel acknowledged Jehovah as God and Lord alone at Sinai (and often afterward); but in their hearts and by their behavior they showed how far from heartfelt assent they were, by worshiping a golden calf. Every sin of ours is a bit of our innate denial as well.

Act.24:9 “And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.” These people gave witness that to what was previously spoken they heartily agreed. 1Tim.5:19 “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Here is a text that commands the church NOT to admit a charge (of sin); it tells us NOT to receive or believe one man’s word against another. We are not to give it credence or assent to it, unless/until it meets a better standard.

2Tim.2:25 “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Some are confronted with the law who refuse to acknowledge it. Whereas others are granted the ability from God not only to encounter the Word, but also to be convicted thereby unto repentance, which is a full assent of the truth of God, knowing our just desert and having hope in Christ alone. Tit.1:1 “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” Here are THE faith (speaking of fact/content) and (full) knowledge composed, which things alone produce godliness.

But knowledge and assent are not all of faith. We have not yet come to what Heb.11:1 is getting at. Jas.2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Superficial devotion to God, to his Word, may gain acceptance of truth. But consent characterized by fear is not full faith; nor is “dead faith” (which James is there criticizing). Faith is also trust. Faith actually rests upon what it claims to have heard and consented with. Jn.7:17 “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” This verse ordains that upon the (genuine) commitment of the will unto divine revelation–i.e. God’s will–shall issue full assurance. In other words, faith’s blessing can only be obtained in the exercise of faith. One may desire to rest one’s legs from weariness; a chair has been provided for him, and he has looked it over (it seems sturdy enough to support his weight). But unless he repose himself upon it, he has not trusted it in fact.

Illustrating this ultimate element of trust is the aim of the author of Hebrews. He describes faith, 11:1, as that substance, basis, confidence–the sure resting–and the conviction, the discovery, the evidence–really, that which is found by the resting–though it is not seen, or gained by the senses or even by any bodily experiences whatever, possibly even contrary to such experiences (as the OT saints repeatedly demonstrated).

That final sense of assurance is properly “of” faith, but we like to say it is not “of the essence” of faith, so that without a full enjoyment of assurance faith is not realized. If that were so, then those whose faith was weak could scarcely be comforted, hardly encouraged to persevere in faith no matter how weak. Is.42:3 “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” But assurance is not only possible, it is positively encouraged: 1Jn.5:13 “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Faith ought to result ordinarily (and again and again) in blessed assurance of God’s favor. Feelings fluctuate, but God never changes, 2Tim.2:11-13.

More could be said about faith. Certainly faith is not what name-and-claim practitioners teach. Faith is not an achievement, nor is it a tool for pulling on the Cosmic Vending Machine of Pleasure. Christian faith is a gift of God (Eph.2:8; Php.1:29). Faith is an insight into spiritual things not attainable by human efforts, Jn.3:3. Note the way John associates faith with spiritual sight; compare that expression with the way Paul contrasts faith and physical sight, 2Cor.5:7. Even our eyesight is something that happens largely apart from any effort of our own. We need light to see (cf. Ps.119:130; 36:9); we need the eyeball and faculty of sight (Ps.19:8; Mt.6:22-23; Act.26:18); we need life or the eye will remain useless (Jn.8:12; 2Tim.1:10). All these are gifts, whether of physical kind or spiritual.

To summarise: faith is a gift from God which comprises our knowledge of Him, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, our assent and acknowledgement of divine revelation as well as our trust in this eternal truth which, with grace, brings assurance of the promise of life everlasting.

May we be forever grateful.

Bible GenevaContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:32-38

32 [“]Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.


Most of Luke 21 is about our Lord’s warnings for the near future — the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple — and the distant future which includes wars and persecution, all leading to His Second Coming.

Today’s tendency for clergy and lay ministers is to read this chapter as one concerning the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. Yet, most recently, we have had unimaginable wars in the 20th century and protracted conflicts are still occurring today.

Perhaps a more realistic way of reading this chapter is to view the destruction of Jerusalem as a foretaste for what the Second Coming will be like. It might or might not occur in our lifetime. Note Luke 21:24-28, particularly the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles, which certainly was not in 70 AD:

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Hence, Jesus’s counsel in today’s verses. Many horrible and devastating events must occur before He comes again in glory (verse 32). Furthermore, even though heaven and earth disappear, His words will remain everlasting (verse 33).

He advises us not to become downcast by the cares of this life, which are many: financial, social and political insecurity. We are to avoid excesses in drink and food as self-medication in case that final day arrives when we are unprepared (verse 34). Matthew Henry explains:

the immoderate use of meat and drink, which burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with those things that are most affecting.

We can include drugs in that warning. They, too, alter our ability to function at our best.

Henry also includes materialism as another sin to be avoided (emphases mine):

The inordinate pursuit of the good things of this world. The heart is overcharged with the cares of this life. The former is the snare of those that are given to their pleasures: this is the snare of the men of business, that will be rich. We have need to guard on both hands, not only lest at the time when death comes, but lest at any time our hearts should be thus overcharged. Our caution against sin, and our care of our own souls, must be constant.

Contrary to what unbelievers think — ‘That’s your God, nothing to do with me’ — everyone alive on that day will experience this finality (verse 35).

Therefore, Jesus tells us to be in a sober frame of mind so that we can handle the awesome (‘terrifying’, not ‘cool’) events that will take place and to be able to face Him in person (verse 36).

Jesus spoke these words in Wednesday of His Passover — and our Passion, or Holy, Week. Luke tells us that He was now no longer returning out of town to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s house but to Mount Olivet to spend the night (verse 37). Henry surmises a close friend might have lodged Him there. He then returned to the temple to preach the next day (verse 38).

John MacArthur tells us:

it would have been very dangerous…very dangerous for Him to be anywhere easily found at night. The Jews wanted Him dead. They had been planning that for a long, long time…since His ministry began, since even before the Galilean ministry was completed they wanted Him dead. But the timing wasn’t right and they couldn’t ever pull it off until the timing was right. And then as it turned out, they wind up executing Jesus at the time they most wanted not to do it. And this is because, before you ever talk about the role of the devout or the devil or the defector, or the role of the disciples, you have to talk about the role of the deity which is really the design of the whole plan.

It is vital that we remember that our Lord was meant to die on the Cross for our sins. Hence His death on the Cross is paramount in our thoughts:

If you don’t know that and believe that, you’re not a Christian. That’s what it means to be a Christian, to know this and believe this…that’s being a Christian. We understand that. Christ’s death then is the highpoint in redemptive history, it is God’s highpoint, it is God’s moment. It is the center of God’s story. The cross is our only hope, our only refuge from divine judgment. And listen to me, the cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship. The cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship, that’s why it’s here behind me for all of you to see, to sit at the foot of the cross and be reminded that this is our Holy of Holies. You cannot take it for granted. You cannot become familiar with it so that it loses its wonder.

This is why St Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 1:23-30):

23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[a] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[b] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[c] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption …

Next time: Luke 22:1-6

bible-wornContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

Luke 21:20-24

Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.


Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s foretelling of wars and persecution.

These verses which follow concern the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD. Our Lord foretold the destruction of the temple earlier (Luke 21:5-6):

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And so it remains today.

In 66 AD the Jews rebelled against the Romans. This conflict culminated in 70 AD. Our Lord foresaw the city being surrounded by armies and its ultimate destruction (verse 20). The Jews fled to the mountains, and those in Jerusalem left (verse 21).

Jesus said that these events fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (verse 22). Matthew Henry tells us that this was a judgement on the Jewish people for their unbelief and that it also gives us an idea of what His Second Coming will be like for unbelievers: terrible and chaotic.

Jesus went on to say that pregnant women and nursing mothers would be particularly disadvantaged (verse 23). Henry explains:

Woe to them, not only because they are most subject to frights, and least able to shift for their own safety, but because it will be a very great torment to them to think of having borne and nursed children for the murderers.

Our Lord said that the wrath of the Romans would cause the Jews much distress. Henry says:

By the general confusion that should be all the nation over. There shall be great distress in the land, for men will not know what course to take, nor how to help themselves.

Verse 24 expresses a devastating attack on Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Of the deaths, Henry tells us:

It is computed that in those wars of the Jews there fell by the sword above eleven hundred thousand. And the siege of Jerusalem was, in effect, a military execution.

The Jews would be exiled, not just to one nation, as in the Old Testament, but to many:

which made it impossible for them to correspond with each other, much less to incorporate.

The Romans destroyed Jerusalem:

laid it quite waste, as a rebellious and bad city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and therefore hateful to them.

The Wikipedia entry on this siege cites the historian Josephus. The Emperor Titus asked Josephus to negotiate with the Zealots fighting the Romans. Those negotiations failed; after the first, the Zealots had even wounded Josephus with an arrow. After the destruction, the historian wrote:

… truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.[3]

As for the 1.1 million people were killed:

The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.[5]

Of the survivors, 97,000 were taken as slaves. The rest fled to countries around the Mediterranean.

Next time: Luke 21:32-38

One of my readers, Pastor Ashcraft of Mustard Seed Budget, has a great post on forgiving and forgetting.

He suggests we get ‘Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s’:

What I mean by Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s is to forget what we must forgive, to heal the wounds in our hearts, to remember the good and forget the bad, to move on, to stay in relationship with people who have hurt us deeply. When God forgives, He forgets. Would we could do likewise.

He also says that his mother had Alzheimer’s, therefore, using this terminology is not one of disrespect to those who might directly or indirectly be affected by this horrible disorder.

However, last year, I had the opportunity to get Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s and was very glad I did. I also reached out to someone who decided to keep her memory for the time being, if you get my drift. That was disappointing, but I have forgiven her — and forgotten the past.

Life is too short to be holding grudges that have lasted for decades, particularly when they become irrelevant over time.

Bible read me 1Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:10-19

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[a] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.


Luke 21:5-9 recounts Jesus’s foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD by the Romans.

In Luke 21:7, one of the disciples asked Him when that would happen and how they would know beforehand. The answer came as follows:

And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

This brings us to today’s verses.

Many agnostics and unbelievers say, ‘If there were a God, my father would not have died, wars would not take place, nor would natural disasters. If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen?’

Too few Christians know the answer to that question, which is in all the Synoptic Gospels:

Matthew 24

Mark 3:3-13

Luke 21:8 – 18

Everyone who calls himself a Christian should know where to point people in the right direction for the answer.

It astounds me that none of these passages is in the three-year Lectionary.

Too many of us think that nothing bad should ever happen to us or to others. However, we have lived in a fallen world since Adam and Eve’s Original Sin. Events will continue to wax and wane until the Second Coming. Does that mean we should sit back passively? No, let us do what we can to help each other by providing practical help as well as prayers. But none of us should be under any misconceptions; these things are meant to happen — and they will.

Let’s imagine what the disciples thought as they heard Jesus’s words. Remember that the Messiah was to bring the Jewish people into a temporal golden age which would last forever. They would have been confused by His foretelling of wars around the world (verse 10), natural disasters, famine, plagues (verse 11) must have shocked them.

Most shocking must have been His telling them in no uncertain terms that they would be persecuted — for His sake (verse 12). John MacArthur describes the justice system of that era:

Synagogues…contained the Jewish local courts. In every village, in every town there were synagogues. In those synagogues was the dispensing of local justice both criminal and civil. Twenty-three judges usually were required to sit and adjudicate on the cases that were brought to the synagogue court.

To be brought, by the way, before that court was considered a severe discrediting and indignity. The court would listen to the case, the court would make a decision, that is the judge would render his verdict, and punishment was executed immediately on the spot. Generally speaking, since the Romans had not allowed the Jews to have the right of capital punishment, the Jews would have to do something to punish people short of stoning them to death, and so they would scourge them with whips, the way Jesus was scourged, in fact, by the Romans was the typical way the Jews scourged the guilty. One judge would recite an appropriate Psalm, or Old Testament text, that had something to do with the crime committed. The second would count the blows. And a third would command the blows and a servant of the synagogue, he was called, would deliver the blows and they would come immediately upon the adjudication and in full public view.

In the case of these believers, they would not only be scourged, but they would be put in prison.

Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will be their chance to bear Christian witness (verse 13). As to the abject fear felt in these situations, He advised not to be afraid of finding words of self-defence (verse 14), because He will enable them — and us — to speak in such a way that no one can contradict what is being said (verse 15).

Matthew Henry tells us that this wisdom came to the disciples at the first Pentecost:

This was remarkably fulfilled presently after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priests and rulers, and answered them so as to make them ashamed, Acts 4:1-6:15.

Jesus goes on to say that those close to the disciples will turn them in to the authorities for preaching in His name. Death would be a real possibility (verse 16).

All of this pertains to us, too.

After the Romans destroyed temple, Jewish persecution of Christians ceased. Gentile persecution continued and, as we know, exists today all over the world. In some countries it is more random. In others, it is an everyday preoccupation.

Jesus tells the disciples that people will hate them because those same people hate Him (verse 17). Those who persecute sometimes do it in the name of God, to help Him rid the world of heretics and infidels. Think of the attacks in Paris in January 2015 as the most recent example (as I write).

Jesus ends His discourse by reassuring them that they will perish (verse 18) and that, thanks to their endurance, they will gain their lives (verse 19). He means that they will share eternal life with Him.

The second half of John MacArthur’s sermon tells us what happened to the Apostles and disciples. Jesus’s words were fulfilled. Some of the evidence is in the book of Acts (emphases mine):

The church starts in chapter 2. Peter preaches his first sermon in chapter 3. They’re put in jail in chapter 4. Before anything else could happen as exactly as Jesus had stated. Shortly after that, however, stung by the phenomenal growth of the church, three thousand on the Day of Pentecost and thousands more soon after, you come in to chapter 5, the next chapter in Acts, and what do you read? “The high priest rose up along with all of his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees, filled with jealousy they laid hands on the Apostles and put them in a public jail.” Just exactly what Jesus said would happen at the hands of the Jews. That’s chapter 5.

You come to chapter 6, you meet Stephen, a servant in the church. Stephen is falsely accused. He is arrested by the Jews. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council. And then he is, in chapter 7, stoned to death. After his death, you come to chapter 8. How does chapter 8 begin? With a general persecution breaking out against all Christians, spear-headed by none other than a man named Saul of Tarsus. The persecution begins and it spreads.

It finally reaches the Apostles in the twelfth chapter. The first of the Apostles to be martyred is James, the brother of John, and he is executed by the will of the Jews at the hands of Herod, chapter 12.

Soon after that, Peter, Andrew, Philip, James the son of Alphaeus, all crucified. Bartholomew whipped to death and then crucified. Thomas stabbed with spears. And these are the very men to whom Jesus said you will be hated, persecuted and killed. And they were.

Even outside that original circle of disciples, Mark was dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria. James, the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, was stoned by order of the Sanhedrin. Matthew, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus and even Timothy were killed for their unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. It was Clement of Rome, a contemporary of the Apostles, who died around 100 A.D. who observed this, quote: “Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church have been persecuted and executed.”

Jesus said it would happen and it happened. Jesus wasn’t limiting this persecution just to them. He said it would start with them and it would continue. The Apostle Paul says, “All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

As for Saul of Tarsus who underwent dramatic conversion as Paul, the second half of Acts has his story, which MacArthur details for us. At the end:

Eventually he has a harrowing sea voyage and shipwreck. In Roman custody he arrives in Rome. There, Acts 28, local Jewish opposition comes against him. They tracked him even to the end of the book of Acts because they hated Christ. The Romans released him after two years of imprisonment. Acts 28:30, eventually rearrested him and cut off his head under Nero’s persecution.

The world will make our lives a misery to lesser or greater degrees. Regardless of what happens, our Lord will keep us close to Him not only in this world but in the next:

18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Next time: Luke 21:20-24

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