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The readings for Holy Saturday can be found here.

My exegesis, thanks to Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, for one of the two Gospel readings — John 19:38-42 — is here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

1 Peter 4:1-8

4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

4:2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4:4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

All credit to the Lectionary compilers, this is an excellent Epistle for Holy Saturday.

Peter begins this chapter with the Crucifixion. He tells his Jewish converts how they must live knowing that Christ died for their sins, therefore, they must arm themselves to end their sinfulness (verse 1).

John MacArthur describes the unimaginable pain of sin as Christ experienced it on the Cross:

Christ has suffered in the flesh.  You tell me what did it do to Christ, in one word?  Killed him.  Killed him.  Cost him his life.  Can you enjoy it when you know what it did to Christ?  When you realize that he was made sin.  When you realize that he bore in his body our sins on the cross.  When you realize the body says he was made a curse for us, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree, in Galatians.  When you realize that he was the spotless, pure and holy second member of the Trinity who never had come into any contact with sin and who then was made sin and bore the sins of the world on his body and they took his life, they killed him.  They separated him from God so that he cried, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  When you realize that it put him on a cross and nails were hammered through is limbs and thorns crushed into his brown and spit dripped off his body and a spear was rammed into his side, when you realize all of that and all of that was caused by sin, it ought to help you to hate sin, right? 

Matthew Henry says much the same and counsels us to address the state of our minds if we are to arm ourselves against sin:

The antecedent or supposition is that Christ had suffered for us in the flesh, or in his human nature. The consequent or inference is, “Arm and fortify yourselves likewise with the same mind, courage, and resolution.” The word flesh in the former part of the verse signifies Christ’s human nature, but in the latter part it signifies man’s corrupt nature. So the sense is, “As Christ suffered in his human nature, do you, according to your baptismal vow and profession, make your corrupt nature suffer, by putting to death the body of sin by self-denial and mortification; for, if you do not thus suffer, you will be conformable to Christ in his death and resurrection, and will cease from sin. Learn, 1. Some of the strongest and best arguments against all sorts of sin are taken from the sufferings of Christ. All sympathy and tenderness for Christ as a sufferer are lost of you do not put away sin. He dies to destroy it; and, though he could cheerfully submit to the worst sufferings, yet he could never submit to the least sin. 2. The beginning of all true mortification lies in the mind, not in penances and hardships upon the body. The mind of man is carnal, full of enmity; the understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18. Man is not a sincere creature, but partial, blind, and wicked, till he be renewed and sanctifies by the regenerating grace of God.

Peter says that shunning sin means living our lives not by human desires but by the will of God (verse 2).

Henry says there is a negative and a positive message in that verse:

The apostle explains what he means by being dead to sin, and ceasing from sin, both negatively and positively. Negatively, a Christian ought no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the sinful lusts and corrupt desires of carnal wicked men; but, positively, he ought to conform himself to the revealed will of the holy God. Learn, 1. The lusts of men are the springs of all their wickedness, James 1:13; James 1:14. Let occasional temptations be what they will, they could not prevail, were it not for men’s own corruptions. 2. All good Christians make the will of God, not their own lusts or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. 3. True conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life of every one who partakes of it. It brings a man off from all his old, fashionable, and delightful lusts, and from the common ways and vices of the world, to the will of God. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, way, and conversation of every one who has experienced it.

Peter tells his audience that they have already engaged in enough sin: ‘licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’ (verse 3).

Our commentators have differing opinions on who Peter’s audience is.

Henry says they were Jews living amongst Gentiles:

those were Jews to whom the apostle wrote, yet the living among the Gentiles they had learned their way.

MacArthur says they were Gentiles:

He knew these people were converted out of a pagan background. They were influenced still by the presence of that paganism. These people had come to Christ because they had enough of that stuff.

MacArthur says that Peter was reminding these converts of their former state of brokenness in sin:

What’s he saying? He’s saying, look, haven’t you had enough of that stuff? Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that pursued Christ, bringing Him nothing but sorrow till it killed Him? Yes it was in the purpose of God but nonetheless it was sin that effected it. Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that rebels against God who seeks only your best? And haven’t you had enough of that stuff that used to be the typical fare of your daily life? I mean, surely it’s true, isn’t it, that when a person is converted, when they’re saved, if they’re not saying anything else they’re at least saying this, I have had enough of this. Aren’t they saying that? I can’t carry the load of my sin anymore. I want forgiveness, I want deliverance, I want transformation. Surely when you came to Christ weren’t you saying, “I can’t bear this anymore”?

When I was in Catholic primary school, the nuns cautioned us against sin. They said if you start with one habitual sin, another will enter in, then another and they will all pile up.

Henry says much the same:

One sin, allowed, draws on another. Here are six named, and they have a connection and dependence one upon another. (1.) Lasciviousness or wantonness, expressed in looks, gesture, or behaviour, Romans 13:13. (2.) Lusts, acts of lewdness, such as whoredom and adultery. (3.) Excess of wine, though short of drunkenness, an immoderate use of it, to the prejudice of health or business, is here condemned. (4.) Revellings, or luxurious feastings, too frequent, too full, or too expensive. (5.) Banquetings, by which is meant gluttony or excess in eating. (6.) Abominable idolatry; the idol-worship of the Gentiles was attended with lewdness, drunkenness, gluttony, and all sorts of brutality and cruelty; and these Jews living long among them were, some of them at least, debauched and corrupted by such practices.

MacArthur explains Peter’s language, including in the original Greek:

… just to remind us what that life was like he said, “You used to pursue that, having pursued a course of sensuality,” aselgeia. It describes unrestrained vice, unbridled sin.  It’s an old word that’s often used to translate it, debauchery, excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure.  You had that and you had the lusts, the evil desires, the feelings, the kind of mindless passions.  And you had the carousals as well as the drunkenness and the drinking parties.  Those all go together kind of, drunkenness speaks for itself, carousals has the idea of a wild drunken party, a sort of a public…a public…it pictures a kind of a group of people sort of going down the street in a public display of drunkenness.  You’ve been in on the drinking parties.  You’ve engaged in the abominable idolatries“Abominable” means they are at variance with the law of God; they are lawless.  You… You were in the whole package, right?  Sexual wickedness, alcoholic excess, ungodly, worshiping the wrong things, the wrong gods, you had the whole package.  You did it all, isn’t that enough?  What is there you want back?  Haven’t you had your fill?  Remember that, will you, that you filled up on that, you overdosed on it and you wanted deliverance once. Now do you want it back?

Furthermore, they malign you.  They don’t even like you, why do you want to act like people that don’t even like you?  The word “malign” is blasphēmeō, blaspheme youIt means to defame, attack you, slander youHere is the cesspool crowd slandering the Christian.  They’re an ugly bunch.  They are an ugly bunch, sexually perverted, drunk, worshiping all their false gods, rushing madly into the cesspool of sin.  You’ve been saved out of thatYou wanted out of that.  You don’t have a thing to do with that anymore.  They don’t even like you anymore Why in the world do you want to do what they’re doing?

Peter reminds his converts that their former friends were surprised at the turnaround in their lives, their refusal to continue to engage in sin; their surprise turned into blasphemy, or assailing their good character (verse 4).

Henry has an excellent analysis about how conversion affects old relationships:

They no longer run on in the same courses, or with the same companions, as they used to do. Hereupon observe the conduct of their wicked acquaintance towards them. 1. They think it strange, they are surprised and wonder at it, as at something new and unusual, that their old friends should be so much altered, and not run with as much violence as they used to do to the same excess of riot, to the same sottish excesses and luxury which before they had greedily and madly followed. 2. They speak evil of them. Their surprise carries them to blasphemy. They speak evil of their persons, of their way, their religion, and their God. Learn, (1.) Those that are once really converted will not return to their former course of life, though ever so much tempted by the frowns or flatteries of others to do so. Neither persuasion nor reproach will prevail with them to be or to do as they were wont to do. (2.) The temper and behaviour of true Christians seem very strange to ungodly men. That they should despise that which every one else is fond of, that they should believe many things which to others seem incredible, that they should delight in what is irksome and tedious, be zealous where they have no visible interest to serve, and depend so much upon hope, is what the ungodly cannot comprehend. (3.) The best actions of religious people cannot escape the censures and slanders of those who are irreligious. Those actions which cost a good man the most pains, hazard, and self-denial, shall be most censured by the uncharitable and ill-natured world; they will speak evil of good people, though they themselves reap the fruits of their charity, piety, and goodness.

Peter reminds his converts that those former friends assailing them now will have to give an account of themselves to Him who judges the living and the dead (verse 5).

MacArthur says:

… they’re going to give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. They’re going to pay a price for this. I mean this is damnable lifestyle. You don’t want anything to do that. They have to give an account. They are amassing a debt to God they will be required to pay forever in hell. And whether they live or die in this world, whether they’re around till the Judge comes, or whether they die before He gets here, they’re going to show up at the judgment. They’re going to be condemned.

Peter says that the reason that the Gospel was preached even to the dead, who were judged according to the flesh, is so that they might live according to the Spirit, according to God’s will (verse 6).

Henry says that this is a difficult verse to interpret and gives us two explanations:

Some understand this difficult place thus: For this cause was the gospel preached to all the faithful of old, who are now dead in Christ, that thereby they might be taught and encouraged to bear the unrighteous judgments and persecutions which the rage of men put upon them in the flesh, but might live in the Spirit unto God. Others take the expression, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, in a spiritual sense, thus: The gospel was preached to them, to judge them, condemn them, and reprove them, for the corruption of their natures, and the viciousness of their lives, while they lived after the manner of the heathen or the mere natural man; and that, having thus mortified their sins, they might live according to God, a new and spiritual life. Take it thus; and thence learn, 1. The mortifying of our sins and living to God are the expected effects of the gospel preached to us. 2. God will certainly reckon with all those who have had the gospel preached to them, but without these good effects produced by it. God is ready to judge all those who have received the gospel in vain. 3. It is no matter how we are judged according to men in the flesh, if we do but live according to God in the Spirit.

MacArthur says that the dead in that verse refers to converts amongst Peter’s audience who have since died, possibly through martyrdom:

This is a simple and profound verse.  “For the gospel has been preached” means the saving message of Jesus Christ.  “Even to those who are dead” simply means those who are now dead.  He has in mind some believers who heard the gospel and are now dead Some of them perhaps had been martyred Maybe some in the association of those to whom this letter was sent had died for their faith in Christ.  And so the whole overarching idea here is that the believer, under persecution, under unjust treatment, under punishment, and even death, even death, should be willing to suffer knowing there is triumph. Because though he may die in the flesh as a man, he will live in the spirit according to the will of God.

What Peter is saying, is that God has promised you that through death you’ll overcome sin. So he reminds his readers that the gospel was preached to those now dead for this purpose That though they are judged in the flesh as men, literally put to death for their faith in Christ, they will live in the spirit according to God And so he takes us back to where we started.  All death can do is bring you into everlasting life into the presence of God You see, it’s a parallel to all that we have been learning at the end of chapter 3 verse 18.  Christ died, but he didn’t stay dead He was made alive in the spirit His body was dead, His spirit was alive.  Same point hereThey may kill your body, but your spirit will be alive And you will enter into the promise of eternal life. So shunning sin in the face of great threats, in the face of persecution, and even death—it’s possible, noble, righteous; it is commanded.  And one way to assist in that overcoming is to remember and to remember what sin did to Christ, what it does to Christians, what it does to God, what it does to the lost. And then remember what God has promised you in the future. 

No matter what they do to us, we can be victorious I guess Jesus said much the same thing when He said, “Fear not those who destroy the body.  But fear the one who destroys both soul and body in hell.” 

Peter says that the end is near, therefore, the converts are to discipline themselves spiritually for the sake of their prayers (verse 7).

Our commentators interpret this verse differently with regard to the first half of the verse, ‘The end of all things is near’.

Because Henry thought that Peter was addressing Jewish converts, he thinks that the Apostle was referring to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Peter wrote this in AD 66. The temple was destroyed four years later.

Henry says:

The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.

1. To sobriety and watchfulness: “Be you therefore sober, 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 4:7. Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations, 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 4:3. And watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares,” Luke 21:34; Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:41

Henry says that the exhortations in the next two verses — 8 and 9 (not included in our reading) — follow on from the warning in verse 7 about the end being near:

2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,1 Peter 4:8; 1 Peter 4:8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting

3. To hospitality, 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Peter 4:9. The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged Christians to be hospitable one to another

MacArthur understands verse 7 as a reference to Christ’s Second Coming, not the destruction of the temple:

Verse 7.  “The end of all things is at hand.”  Stop right there.  That’s the incentive: the end of all things is at hand I want you to get a grip, if nothing else, on this statement.  The term “end” is the Greek word telos, a very familiar word to any Bible student.  And when it is translated “end,” it could convey the wrong idea It could convey the idea of cessation It could convey the idea of termination It does not mean either of those things It is never used of a temporal end in all of the New Testament It is never used of some kind of chronological end as if it simply means something stops It always has the idea of a consummation

To put it another way, it has the idea of a goal achieved, or a result attained, or a purpose consummated.  It has the idea of fulfillment realized, of ultimate destiny It’s not just the end of something; it is the culmination, the conclusion, the success, the goal, the realization, the fulfillment, the consummation.  So, he says, the consummation of all things is at hand.

Now, beloved, that has to refer to the return of Christ If he had said the consummation of your trouble is at hand, we could say well maybe he was referring to something temporal.  Or if he said the consummation of your persecution is at hand, we could have assumed that maybe a different kind of government might come into play in their lives and treat them more kindly.  But he doesn’t say that.  He doesn’t say the consummation of your difficulty, your trouble, your situation.  He says the consummation of all things.  And the consummation of all things points directly to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ It must refer to that.  It can’t refer to anything less than that, for that and that alone is when all things are consummated And it takes us back to 1 Peter 1:5 again where he says we are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time And then, verse 7 he says that we will be found in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

It could be read this way, “The end of all things is about to arrive,” or to come near.  It is a perfect tense, and has the idea of a process consummated with a resulting nearness.  And I believe it refers to immanency.  That is, the coming of Christ is imminent; the next event can happen at any time It is near.  Peter is reminding them then that they are to live in anticipation of the nearness of the return of Jesus Christ.  We could say that they are to live with, here’s the word, expectancy.  Do you realize that every generation since then has therefore lived in that same expectancy?  All of us live today, or should live, in the expectancy of the coming of Jesus Christ Not to do that is not to be a faithful church … 

To show you how secretive this whole matter is, I remind you of Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son but the Father alone.”  God knows, and Jesus in His self-imposed incarnational limitations did not even know.  Peter is saying to his readers, “You must live in constant expectancy as if Jesus was to come at any moment.” 

With regard to the second half of verse 7 concerning prayer, MacArthur says that Peter wants his converts to have disciplined minds in order to make the most of their relationship with God through prayer:

He says, “Be of sound judgment,” and then adds, “and sober spirit.”  And this is a synonym or very close to a synonym.  It means basically to keep a clear head, to take serious things seriously, to be vigilant, to be alertIn Matthew 24:42, it’s translated “Be on the alert.”  Matthew 26:40 and 41, “Be watching.”  You might combine these two terms by putting it this way: good, clear, godly, biblical thinking leads to spiritual alertness, spiritual watchfulness It leads to the ability to view things in the eternal perspective, in the divine perspective, and to establish right responses

This is indispensable, and it is indispensable to one very, very essential element of Christian living that is noted in verse 7.  Please come to the climax of the thought.  Sound judgment and sober spirit are for the purpose of prayer.  Why?  Because holiness flows out of direct communion with a holy God And when that communion is hindered by a cluttered mind, an imbalanced mind, that which is most significant in Christian experience is lost.  A confused mind, a self-centered mind, a mind knocked out of balance by worldly lusts and pursuits, a mind victimized by emotion or passion out of control, a mind that is ignorant of God’s truth, a mind that is indifferent to God’s purposes is a mind that cannot know the fullness of holy communion in prayer with God After all, you bring your mind to that communion, don’t you?  And so, your relationship to God, in a very real sense which is expressed in this matter of prayer, is determined by the attitudes that you bring, which attitudes are the result of your thinking And if you are to pray effectively, and if you are to commune with God deeply and spiritually, then you must think biblically and spiritually as well

So, says Peter, the Christian life summed up is as simple as this: think God’s thoughts What does that mean?  That means every day in the Word of God, every day meditating, thinking, absorbing, drawing out, learning to think God’s thoughts As I often say, it should come to pass that you are so deeply filled with Scripture, that your involuntary responses are godly because you’re so controlled And then, comes the sweetness of communion, then comes effective prayer, then comes powerThat’s the vertical link in Christian living.

Peter exhorts his converts to maintain a constant love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (verse 8).

MacArthur points out that Peter is citing Proverbs 10:12:

He borrowed it from Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.”  Present tense here, I think, indicates that which is constantly true.  It is axiomatic.  It is a self-evident truth.  Love is always by very nature hiding a multitude of sins.  It forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and the great, great model of that is God Why did God show mercy to us?  Why did God forgive our sins?  Ephesians 2:4 and 5 says, “For His great love where with He loved us.”  It’s true of God, it’s true of us.

Henry says this exhortation refers to the Christian community:

Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have received, freely give.

MacArthur concludes on Christian love with this:

Beloved, this is the heart of the church To be honest with you, if we take care of this, we’ve fulfilled the whole law Is that not true?  The whole law.  You can see again the genius of the Spirit of God, how in an economy of words He says so much.  You want to take care of the whole dimension of living before God?  Get a biblical mind, a spiritual mind, be deep in communion with Christ and you’ll have a powerful life You want to know how to function in the complexity of the church?  Just be so full of overflowing love that you cover sin This does not preclude, by the way, the discipline of an unrepentant member That is dealt with in other texts But even in the church, we are much more eager, I think, to point out sin than we are to cover it Hatred will stir up strife Selfishness will stir up strife.  Self-centeredness will stir up strife.  Love will hide sin.  Love will conceal it Love will pass it by in silence And what a transformation that would bring to the church.  It is that which is at the very base of all our spiritual relationships.  It is a complex world, isn’t it?  But there are not complex solutions, simple ones.  Not simply performed, simply stated, performed only in the power of the Spirit.

What a powerful meditation as we make our preparations for the greatest feast in the Church year, Easter, Christ’s resurrection from the dead which brings us to eternal life.

May everyone reading this have a blessed day ahead.

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The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany is February 20, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

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

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

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

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

Shrovetide — a history

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

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 6:27-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

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

Matthew’s version is considerably longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacArthur explains:

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

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

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

Of the sermon itself, MacArthur says:

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

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

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

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

MacArthur points out the difference between the two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Henry has a simple explanation:

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

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

MacArthur has more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We often wonder why good things happen to bad people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacArthur explains the verse and the process for measuring corn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May all of my readers have a very blessed Sunday.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

The traditions behind this day go back millenia. During pagan times, it was called Lupercalia and took place on February 15. It is thought that Pope Gelasius I turned the event into a Christian feast day in the fifth century, assigning it to St Valentine. However, Gelasius is better known for giving the Church the feast of Candlemas, February 2, encouraging a devotion to Mary. Incidentally, the Latin word Febrare, from which we derive February, means ‘to purify’. Read more about the history of February 14 here.

There is also the question of which St Valentine is remembered. All three lived during Roman times and were connected with love and marriage. As such, in 1969, the Catholic Church dropped the feast day, but parts of the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church remember the saint on February 14. Read more about the three Valentines and romantic traditions that developed through the centuries here.

For many, February 14 is either a day of joy or one of dread.

For those who do not have someone special with whom to celebrate, this year, The Times has an article about the application of the Drake Formula, used in seeking alien life (!), to romance.

It says, in part (emphases mine):

The quest to find intelligent life out there can feel hopeless. You can search for years without any progress.

Yes, searching for a viable romantic date has a lot in common with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence …

As with rocky exoplanets, so with girlfriends. Love interests have to live close, be of the right gender, attractive to you and — crucially — attracted to you in turn. Drake calculated that perhaps 1 in 200,000 star systems contained contactable alien civilisations.

The adapted formula is based on an idea by Peter Backus, now at Manchester University. In a paper titled, Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK, Backus tweaked the original variables.

The rate of star formation became the birth rate, while the other variables sought to narrow down that number to women in his city and age range.

Backus concluded his odds of finding love were infinitesimal.

However, Steven Wooding, a member of the Institute of Physics who works for Omni Calculator, said:

… that there is hope. “The problem with the Drake equation and aliens is there is a lot of uncertainty in those numbers. Whereas we definitely know people fall in love.”

Incidentally, Backus himself is happily married. He told The Times:

My love life is actually great. I am married to the loveliest, smartest, most gorgeous person I know.

Good for him!

But what if someone has a sweetheart who doesn’t fit their ‘type’? Is that person Ms or Mr Right?

The Telegraph says that some seemingly improbable couples can — and do — truly love each other:

The flight of Cupid’s arrow is notoriously unpredictable. Sometimes people fall in love with the boy (or girl) next door. Sometimes mutual friends set us up, with varying degrees of subtlety and success. But sometimes people fall for another human being who seems to be not only not their “type”, but from a different planet altogether. The eyes meet, the arrow hits home. It will never last, friends say. But sometimes it does

Clearly, fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle or upbringing don’t need to stand in the way of happiness, even if dating algorithms would never match you. One in every 10 UK couples identifies as intercultural and, according to the 2001-11 Census, one to two per cent of all UK marriages are interfaith.

“We’re drawn towards certain individuals, almost as if we’ve known them our whole lives,” says psychotherapist Malcolm Stern, author of Slay Your Dragons with Compassion. “It’s that easy dialogue that happens between you the second you meet that creates an instant connection. Somehow you just click.”

Of course, where there are profound cultural and religious differences, or a large age gap, opposition from family members, or society in general can give a certain “us against the world” feeling. Research shows that the average age difference for UK couples is between three and five years. But there are long-term marriages where the divide is greater. Somehow these marriages do work …

If you make each other happy, who’s to say what’s right or wrong in love? …

As with all major choices in life, one has to be discerning as a potentially serious relationship develops:

If you have a similar outlook, there’s a good chance your love will endure. But if you have markedly different personalities, a recent study found that while opposites may attract at first, after a while they may well start attacking each other, with differences leading to frustration and animosity.

Psychologist Edward Waring found that self-disclosure is the way to build intimacy between couples who seem incompatible, in order to discover what values, beliefs, and personality traits they share and to reveal what really matters to them. According to the Association for Psychological Science, chemistry emerges from interactions and encompasses the feeling that a relationship is special and different from other ones.

The Telegraph‘s article gives us profiles of four successful couples who come from different backgrounds. I wish them well.

For those who got engaged at the most romantic time of the year, the question of what sort of wedding to have looms large.

This year, a few articles appeared in the British press advising against lavish ‘Bridezilla’ festivities. Personally, I find such displays rather vulgar.

The Telegraph has a cautionary article on the subject: ‘Marriage rests on shaky ground when the wedding itself is the big event’.

Columnist Jane Shilling warns against ostentation:

the influence of celebrity, both in selling product and framing modern mores, has led to a steady normalisation of weddings as extravagant displays of that most perishable of commodities, romance, rather than the solemnisation of a relationship intended to last a lifetime.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, can the type of wedding one has predict success or failure in marriage?

Not really.

Things can go either way.

Celebrity-type weddings can sometimes be ill-fated:

… the Marriage Foundation, a charity dedicated to promoting the advantages of marriage, sounds a cautionary note. A survey commissioned by the Foundation found that weddings costing more than £20,000 were twice as likely to end in divorce than more modest ceremonies.

On the other hand, a modest celebration does not guarantee success in marriage:

Frugality apparently offers no sounder footing for a durable partnership: the survey found that almost a third of weddings attended by fewer than 10 guests ended in divorce.

My advice for those who are single? First, don’t give up on love. Secondly, marry your best friend. Thirdly, be sensible: make sure one of you can cook from scratch. As the old American saying goes: kissin’ don’t last; cookin’ do.

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity — the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost — is September 26, 2021.

The readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 9:38-50

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

9:40 Whoever is not against us is for us.

9:41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

9:42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

9:45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.

9:47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,

9:48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.

9:50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

These verses pick up from where we left off last week:

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

9:36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

9:37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Jesus refers to children again in today’s reading as well as the disciples’ argument about who shall be first among them.

Jesus spoke of radical Christianity here, the necessity of mortifying our carnal desires and of ensuring our own purity.

‘Radical’ derives from the word ‘root’, meaning that it is essential.

John MacArthur has more:

This is a very unique portion of Scripture. It is full of graphic terminology, dramatic acts, severe warnings, and rather violent threats. It really is a passage about radical discipleship, and the language bears testimony to that. It calls for radical behaviors, and it shows us just how radical it is to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Our Lord here, in these verses, is calling for radical discipleship. I think this is a message that is highly necessary for the day in which we live when under the name of Christianity and even evangelical Christianity, there is so much superficiality.

The language here is severe, extreme, fanatical, and radical language. And that fits the radical nature of our Lord’s invitation to true discipleship. Let me talk about the word “radical.” It’s a word you hear, it’s a word you know, it’s a word that we experience in our world commonly.

If you look in the dictionary, you’ll find two meanings for the word “radical.” Number one probably will be this word means basic or fundamental or foundational, something primary, intrinsic or essential. The second meaning, which may be the one that is more popular today, is that it also means something that deviates by its extreme. When we think of something radical, we think of something revolutionary or something severe or, as I mentioned, something fanatical. But really, the word is both.

It is a word that refers to something that is fundamental and fanatical, that is intrinsic and intensive, that is essential and extreme. Therefore, it is a great word to use as an adjective for a discipleship because discipleship is something fundamental and fanatical, something intrinsic and intensive, something essential and something extreme. The basics of being a disciple are really radical.

John tells Jesus that he and the disciples saw someone casting out demons in His name and that they tried to stop him from doing so because he was not one of them (verse 38).

We do not know when this happened. It could have been during the time when Jesus invested the Apostles with His own divine gifts of teaching and healing.

Jesus replied, saying that no one performing a powerful deed in His name would be able to speak evil of him afterwards (verse 39).

Furthermore, He said that whoever is not against us is for us (verse 40).

Matthew Henry and John MacArthur agree that it is possible that God granted a few outsiders these divine gifts.

MacArthur says:

There were others that the Lord had given this power to. Perhaps this is one who became a part of the 70. We don’t know. But what he was doing was legitimate. God was doing it because he was a true believer in Christ and he was doing it in the name of Christ. But they were telling the guy to stop because he wasn’t a part of their group. This is not Simon Magus, folks. This is the real thing here

Henry posits that the man might have been a follower of John the Baptist and spoke of the Messiah to come, not realising that Jesus was already on Earth:

some think that he was a disciple of John, who made use of the name of the Messiah, not as come, but as near at hand, not knowing that Jesus was he. It should rather seem that he made use of the name of Jesus, believing him to be the Christ, as the other disciples did. And why not he receive that power from Christ, whose Spirit, like the wind, blows where it listeth, without such an outward call as the apostles had? And perhaps there were many more such. Christ’s grace is not tied to the visible church.

Henry refers to a similar incident with Joshua in the Old Testament:

This was like the motion Joshua made concerning Eldad and Medad, that prophesied in the camp, and went not up with the rest to the door of the tabernacle; “My lord Moses, forbid them (Numbers 11:28); restrain them, silence them, for it is a schism.” Thus apt are we to imagine that those do not follow Christ at all, who do not follow him with us, and that those do nothing well, who do not just as we do. But the Lord knows them that are his, however they are dispersed; and this instance gives us a needful caution, to take heed lest we be carried, by an excess of zeal for the unity of the church, and for that which we are sure is right and good, to oppose that which yet may tend to the enlargement of the church, and the advancement of its true interests another way.

2. The rebuke he gave to them for this (Mark 9:39; Mark 9:39); Jesus said, “Forbid him not, nor any other that does likewise.” This was like the check Moses gave to Joshua; Enviest thou for my sake? Note, That which is good, and doeth good, must not be prohibited, though there be some defect or irregularity in the manner of doing it. Casting out devils, and so destroying Satan’s kingdom, doing this in Christ’s name, and so owning him to be sent of God, and giving honour to him as the Fountain of grace, preaching down sin, and preaching up Christ, are good things, very good things, which ought not to be forbidden to any, merely because they follow not with us. If Christ be preached, Paul therein doth, and will rejoice, though he be eclipsed by it, Philippians 1:18. Two reasons Christ gives why such should not be forbidden. (1.) Because we cannot suppose that any man who makes use of Christ’s name in working miracles, should blaspheme his name, as the scribes and Pharisees did. There were those indeed that did in Christ’s name cast out devils, and yet in other respects were workers of iniquity; but they did not speak evil of Christ. (2.) Because those that differed in communion, while they agreed to fight against Satan under the banner of Christ, ought to look upon one another as on the same side, notwithstanding that difference. He that is not against us is on our part. As to the great controversy between Christ an Beelzebub, he had said, He that is not with me is against me, Matthew 12:30. He that will not own Christ, owns Satan. But as to those that own Christ, though not in the same circumstances, that follow him, though not with us, we must reckon that though these differ from us, they are not against us, and therefore are on our part, and we must not be any hindrance to their usefulness.

Following on the same theme, Jesus said that anyone offering the disciples a drink of water because they represent Him will be rewarded (verse 41).

Henry tells us:

If Christ reckons kindness to us services to him, we ought to reckon services to him kindnesses to us, and to encourage them, though done by those that follow not with us.

MacArthur says that Jesus was cautioning against pride on the part of the disciples:

You give a cup of water to drink to someone who belongs to Christ, that’s humility. You don’t have any psychoanalysis of what humility feels like. Forget that. Because as soon as you feel humble, guess what? You’re proud. And as soon as you feel proud, you have hope for humility. I’m not talking about feeling, we’re talking about what humility does because that’s the only way you can define it. It looks like this, it’s basically kind, it’s basically sacrificial toward those who bear the name of Christ.

Whichever one of you goes to the other and gives a cup of cold water for the sake of Christ, you will not lose your reward. Because the fear was, “Oh, if I humble myself, I’m going to lose the fight. This is a competition, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to be first, we’ve got to be first.” So the fear is, if I end up at the bottom, I’m going to lose the reward, I’m going to lose the prize. No, you’re not going to lose it. You’re going to gain it. The simple act of sacrificial kindness to one who belongs to Christ will result in what you will never achieve by elevating yourself. You won’t lose your reward, you’ll gain it.

Then Jesus said that anyone who puts a stumbling block — temptation — before His ‘little ones’ would be better off having a millstone put around his neck and thrown in the sea than suffer the consequences of divine judgement (verse 42).

He was referring to the child in his arms but also to the wider body of believers, God’s children.

Henry tells us:

Whosoever shall grieve any true Christians, though they be of the weakest, shall oppose their entrance into the ways of God, or discourage and obstruct their progress in those ways, shall either restrain them from doing good, or draw them in to commit sin, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea: his punishment will be very great, and the death and ruin of his soul more terrible than such a death and ruin of his body would be. See Matthew 18:6.

MacArthur explains the gravity of that threat:

The threat is unmistakable. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe” – not children but believers who are considered His children, His precious ones – “to stumble” – to stumble. What do we mean by stumble? Skandalizomai, to be caught in sin, to be trapped in sin, entrapped. “Whoever causes one” – not a group, one, and one is emphatic – “it would be better to have a, mulos onikos, tied around your neck. Mulos is mule, onikos is stone.

They used to grind grain using a mule. There would be a fixed stone and on top of that a round stone that would roll around and crush the grain and be pulled by a mule. It would weigh tons – tons. You would be better off to have one of those tied around your neck and have you thrown to the bottom of the ocean than to cause another Christian to be trapped in sin. Drowning is a very unforgettable threat to Jewish people. They are not seafaring people. The ocean is a great barrier to them. They are agrarian people. They fish in the lake. They don’t like the depths of the sea. This is a horrifying threat.

What our Lord is calling for here is radical love, the kind of love that works very hard never to be a source of sinful solicitation to another person. To solicit them toward the lust of the flesh, toward the lust of the eyes, materialism, toward the love of the world, toward pride. We’re talking here about the other believers in your life, children, spouses, friends, acquaintances. Love doesn’t do that. Love doesn’t solicit to sin. Love does the very opposite of that. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 13, love doesn’t enjoy someone falling into sin …

This is the strongest threat that ever came out of the mouth of Jesus to His own people, and it calls for radical love, and love seeks someone’s best, love seeks to elevate, love seeks to purify, love seeks to bless.

Jesus expanded on that by citing parts of our body that can cause us to sin. He does not intend us to actually remove them, just to rid ourselves of touching (verse 43), going to (verse 45) and seeing things (verse 47) that tempt us. Otherwise, we will end up in hell forever.

MacArthur says that He is calling us to radical purity:

But not just radical love is called for in radical discipleship. Secondly is radical purity – radical purity. And that’s what is laid out in verses 43, 45, and 47. And, of course, they go together because you’re never going to be able to lead someone else into righteousness if you’re not righteous yourself. You’re not going to be a purifying influence on others unless your own heart is pure. Just the reverse is true. If your own heart is impure, you will lead others into sin. You will be the means of other people’s entrapment.

So the danger of leading others to sin is eliminated when you deal with sin in your own heart. And what this text calls for is a radical, severe dealing with that sin.

MacArthur explains the strong metaphors that Jesus used:

The language here is just so strong. First thing that strikes me is the severity with which we are to deal with sin. This is extreme behavior. This reminds me of the illustration of the Old Testament of hacking Agag to pieces as a kind of a symbol of how we have to deal with sin. This is the language that’s similar to Romans where Paul talks about killing sin, mortifying it. This is aggressive, severe treatment of sin, and it’s in metaphoric hyperbole – it’s in metaphoric hyperbole.

The language calls for radical, severe action against any and all sin. Body parts are mentioned here, the hands, the feet, and the eyes. And I think the sum of those is simply to say everything you see, everything you do, everywhere you go – everything that relates to your life, all behaviors, these three separate parts are symbolic of the overall, general emphasis, and the verbs are all in the present tense, which means you keep on doing it. It’s not once and for all. We would like to think of that, but that’s not the way it is. Present tense verbs emphasize the continual struggle with temptation and with sin.

And what our Lord is saying is that salvation and the kingdom of God, mentioned in verse 47, which you want to enter, or life, as it’s referred to in verse 43 and 44, which means eternal life, spiritual life, salvation on the positive side and escape from hell on the negative side, is so important that you need to get rid of anything that is a barrier to that. That’s the point. Amputation is what’s in view. Amputation, radical, severe action against anything that stands in the way of the pursuit of holiness, righteousness, and purity.

Obviously, our Lord is not calling for physical mutilation, not at all. I promise you, a person with one eye and a person with one hand and a person with one leg – or, for that matter, a person with no hands, no legs, and no eyes does not thereby conquer sin. That kind of folly developed in the history of the church, even from the second century on, that somehow if you emasculated yourself or if you mutilated yourself physically in some way, you could defeat sin.

That kind of view in those early years gained enough traction to have developed into kind of a full-fledged cult in the Middle Ages, a false view developed by monks and ascetics who took passages like these and Matthew 19:12 where it refers to those who have been made eunuchs, as if somehow in an action like that they could thereby conquer sin. The testimony from people who did that is that it had no real effect on their hearts, although it may have seriously altered their behavior. The issue is on the inside.

Eagle-eyed readers might be wondering what happened to verses 44 and 46.

MacArthur says that they might have been added later then removed because they were not in the original text:

There are things here that are so firm, so strong, so threatening, so severe that somewhere along the line people thought they needed to ramp up the message because of its severity. And there are things in this passage that are cryptic and challenging to interpret, and so through the years, there have been some alterations, maybe by scribes who wanted to clarify a little bit. Not a good thing to do, change the text, but, fortunately, we have as close to the original as we’re going to get, and we’re going to take the passage at its purest form.

One of the great realities of Scripture is the preservation of the original, which God has overseen so that we have a true reflection of the original Greek and Hebrew text. Let me read this to you, and if you’ll notice it, I’m going to skip verses 44 and 46 when I read. It may be, if you have an NAS or one of the newer translations, you see brackets around them. That is because in the earlier manuscripts, these two statements do not occur. However, the statement in verse 44 and 46 is in verse 48. So we assume that some scribe saw the urgency of this and just wanted to pile it on a little bit.

Jesus said that the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched in hell (verse 48).

MacArthur explains why He used those words, which would have resonated with the Jews, His disciples:

The word “hell,” by the way, is gehenna – gehenna. It is a very interesting term. It is always the term that refers to the lake of fire, not just the place of the dead (like hades) but the actual burning lake of fire. That is why verse 43 describes hell as the place of unquenchable fire. And verse 48, “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

Gehenna – where did that word come from? The root of that word comes from the Valley of Hinnom – the Valley of Hinnom, mentioned in Joshua 15:8. It is a steep ravine down to a valley, south of the city of Jerusalem, very severe. That was a place where Ahaz and Manasseh, two kings, offered human sacrifices to Molech. You can read about it in 2 Kings 16 and 21, 2 Chronicles 28 and 33. Human sacrifices in the land of Israel in the Valley of Hinnom to pacify this vicious, false deity named Molech, an unthinkable practice that Jewish people would sacrifice their babies to Molech.

It was denounced, of course, by the prophets, particularly Jeremiah, Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 32:35. In fact, Jeremiah renames it in Jeremiah 19:6. He calls it the Valley of Slaughter – the Valley of Slaughter. And he also calls it the Valley of Topheth. Topheth comes from a Hebrew word that means drum. Why would it be called the Valley of the Drum? Because some historians tell us that drums were beaten there regularly to drown out the screams of the burning babies. A horrendous place.

Josiah, the good king, according to 2 Kings 23:10, shut that down, stopped all that, and turned it into Jerusalem’s garbage dump. I mean real garbage, no plastic, no paper. Rancid food, sewage, maggots, and a 24/7 fire consuming it. And it was easily adapted as the word to describe eternal hell, unquenchable fire. This is the emphasis of Scripture. All the way from the beginning, Matthew 25 to the end, Revelation 20, hell is a reality about which we are warned. Hell is mentioned twelve times in the New Testament, eleven of them by Jesus, the other one by James (James 3:6) and in this place, the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies, that’s verse 48.

By the way, verse 48 is a direct quote from Isaiah 66:24, and if you remember Isaiah, that’s the last verse in Isaiah. Isaiah ends with a horrible, horrible pronunciation of judgment. “They will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against me, for their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched, and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” Looking at the judgment when the Lord comes as final judge.

This is the strongest call to discipleship, maybe the strongest our Lord ever gave. You either deal radically with issues of sin in your life or you end up in the eternal dump, the garbage pit, punished forever, where there will be darkness, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in isolation, according to what we read in so many places in Matthew.

Jesus went on to mention salt, in a negative and a positive way.

The use of ‘salt’ would also have resonated with His disciples, because salt was mandated in sacrifices of animals and grain as a sign of God’s covenant with His people.

MacArthur tells us:

Salt was added to sacrifices as a symbol of God’s enduring covenant. Salt is a preservative. But there’s one particular sacrifice that really fits perfectly here, Leviticus 2. In the opening five chapters of Leviticus, you have Scripture instruction on the five offerings – five offerings. In chapter 2, you have the grain offering – the grain offering – and it describes that offering.

But I want you to go down to verse 13, “Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt so that the salt of the covenant of your God should not be lacking from your grain offering.” With all your offerings, you shall offer salt. Salt symbolizes God’s promise, God’s covenant, God’s enduring faithfulness as you make the offering.

Jesus said that those who go to hell will be salted with fire (verse 49).

Henry explains that this salting with fire is eternal, because it works both as a corrosive and as a preservative:

in hell they shall be salted with fire; coals of fire shall be scattered upon them (Ezekiel 10:2), as salt upon the meat, and brimstone (Job 18:15), as fire and brimstone were rained on Sodom; the pleasures they have lived in, shall eat their flesh, as it were with fire,James 5:3. The pain of mortifying the flesh now is no more to be compared with the punishment for not mortifying it, than salting with burning. And since he had said, that the fire of hell shall not be quenched, but it might be objected, that the fuel will not last always, he here intimates, that by the power of God it shall be made to last always; for those that are cast into hell, will find the fire to have not only the corroding quality of salt, but its preserving quality; whence it is used to signify that which is lasting: a covenant of salt is a perpetual covenant, and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt, made her a remaining monument of divine vengeance. Now since this will certainly be the doom of those that do not crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, let us, knowing this terror of the Lord, be persuaded to do it.

Jesus then ended with the good use of salt, a seasoning which makes our food taste good, and, in this context, a sign of grace making our utterances and actions palatable and pleasant as believers. If we lose our saltiness, how can we recover it? He called on the disciples and calls on us to have salt in ourselves and to be at peace with one another (verse 50).

Henry says:

Those that have the salt of grace, must make it appear that they have it; that they have salt in themselves, a living principle of grace in their hearts, which works out all corrupt dispositions, and every thing in the soul that tends to putrefaction, and would offend our God, or our own consciences, as unsavoury meat doth. Our speech must be always with grace seasoned with this salt, that no corrupt communication may proceed out of our mouth, but we may loathe it as much as we would to put putrid meat into our mouths …

We must not only have this salt of grace, but we must always retain the relish and savour of it; for if this salt lose its saltiness, if a Christian revolt from his Christianity, if he loses the savour of it, and be no longer under the power and influence of it, what can recover him, or wherewith will ye season him? This was said Matthew 5:13.

Jesus warned against salt that had lost its flavour.

MacArthur explains that this is because some salt was cut, or mixed, with other additives, one of which was gypsum:

Now, if any of you are into chemicals out there, chemistry, you know that sodium chloride is stable. Just sitting around, it doesn’t lose its saltiness, so the question comes up: What can this mean, since salt is stable and doesn’t lose its property, even over a long period of time? What can it refer to?

We’re helped by some historians. Some of them may be ancient, like Pliny, who recorded the fact that there were several kinds of salts in Israel and many of them had properties that made them impure, and they were basically worthless. One kind that seemed to be in some abundant supply was salt that was imperceptibly mixed with gypsum, and it was worse than useless.

So our Lord says, while we’re talking about salt and dedication, let me just pick my salt illustration up and move it up to another point. Salt is good but it’s only good if its unmixed – if it’s unmixed. And then comes His statement: Have salt in yourselves. Be salt, don’t be salt mixed with gypsum or anything else, be undiluted, unmixed.

Being at peace with one another means being humble rather than fighting over who will win top spot in the next life:

… that’s a command and I think it’s a command to radical obedience, a life that is unmixed. Why do you say that? Because He then gives them a direct practical application, “And be at peace with one another.”

Why does He say that? Because that’s what they needed to hear. Back in verse 33 they were – Jesus says, “What were you discussing on the way down here to Capernaum?” They kept silent. On the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Wow. They were basically proud, self-serving, competitive. They were guilty of leading each other into sin. There was anger. Anything but humility.

I think our Lord simply says, “You need to be unmixed in your obedience, and here’s the command for today: Stop fighting. Stop elevating yourselves. Stop the competition. Stop being the cause of temptation. Such is the essence of radical discipleship, then, to love extremely, to deal with sin severely, to sacrifice one’s life wholly, and to obey fanatically.

These are certainly not messages we hear in today’s church.

I am looking forward to Sunday’s sermon at my church and seeing how close it comes to this exposition from Henry and MacArthur.

On June 24, 2020, John MacArthur posted a sermon, ‘Act Like Men’, with the key phrase from the Bible, ‘be strong and courageous’:

It is one hour and six minutes long and, as you would expect, every minute is well spent watching and listening.

Without saying it explicitly, MacArthur disparages the welfare state which has caused millions of men to relinquish their family responsibilities.

Those of us who have had responsible fathers will greatly appreciate what the founder of Grace To You and Master’s Seminary has to say to men in the modern world.

In order to place this into context, you might wish to read my post from June 29, ‘John MacArthur videos about the protests’, which offers excellent advice about what to do in our journey as Christians.

Excerpts from the ‘Act Like Men’ transcript follow, emphases mine.

MacArthur begins by saying that, in the wake of the protests across the United States and the rest of Western world, he called a meeting of men from his congregation and Master’s Seminary — particularly men of colour — to enlighten him further. He asked them to give him five working points for a Christian agenda moving forward:

These are young Black men that gave up a chunk of their time to sit with me and talk through some of these issues. Thanks to Carl Hargrove for kind of leading that discussion which was powerfully fruitful for me

So I said to these men after about two hours plus of talking together, and it was a very gracious and loving communication. I said, “So give me five things that we need to do as believers in Jesus Christ to reach across racial lines and bring the gospel to these people and have it received.” So I said, “You get five shots, and I’ll have this as the introduction to my sermon.” So here we go. This is what they said to me.

Number One: “Tell people that racism is a sin.” Racism is a sin, isn’t it. Any kind of hate is a sin, and racism is an utterly irrational hate. Racism is what causes genocide, what caused the Holocaust, what causes ethnic battles all across the planet as long as there’s been human history. But then men in their natural state hate God, and the Bible says they hate each other. The first crime was a murder based upon anger, based upon hate, when Cain killed his brother.

Any kind of hate is a sin. Any kind of racial hate is an irrational expanded form of hate coming from any human heart; it is reflective of the fallenness of that heart. And we also know in our society that there are some people who have received more of that than others. We need to make it very clear that to hate anyone on any basis or any group of people is a sin against God of monumental proportions.

Secondly: “We need to show compassion, compassion to those who’ve experienced this.” And lots of people have. We need to open our hearts and weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Jesus looked at the multitudes and had compassion. Even when He went to the grave of Lazarus, He wept; and He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, and He still wept. That’s the heart of Jesus.

Life is hard, and it has been especially hard for some groups of people; and that certainly speaks to the issue of the history of Black people in America. For those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, they don’t want to hear the statistics, but they would love to know you have compassion for them.

Thirdly, we talked about the fact that, “We need to listen.” And that’s pretty much a basic principle, isn’t it: slow to speak and quick to hear. We may have all the theological answers, we may have all the statistical answers, but can we keep our mouths closed long enough to hear the heart of someone else? Engaging someone with the gospel is so much more effective if that comes in the context of having heard their heart.

Number Four they said: “Use these days as an opportunity to show the love of Christ.” This was really rich advice for me. Say racism is a sin, and it is. Any kind of hate coming from anybody in any direction and you can see that it is tearing this culture to shreds.

Show compassion, listen, and use these opportunities as an occasion to show love. That’s four; got one more. And the final one was this: “The only thing that’s going to break the cycle of our problems in this country is godly fathers. Help us develop godly fathers.” Now you might say that was a providence of God that it happened the week of Father’s Day. Sure set me up for this morning because I want to talk about fathers.

Here are the current American statistics on fatherhood. These involve the main demographics, by the way. The statistics are probably similar, proportionally, throughout the Western world. Please read these and note them well:

Here’s the current reality. Twenty-five million children in our country live without a biological father – one out of three. Grades 1 to 12, forty percent of children live without a biological father in the home. Over fifty percent currently of children are born outside marriage. Eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home. Eighty-five percent of children with behavioral disorders came from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of youth who run away and become homeless come from fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are three hundred percent more likely to deal drugs and carry weapons.

This is a holocaust. And it’s not limited to any group of ethnic people, it is a national holocaust. The statistics I gave you are across the board for our country. Just that one statistic, eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home, is a terrifying reality.

I used to hear when I was a kid that if you had a good mother you could have any ol’ schtick for a dad. That’s not true. I used to hear when I was a kid preachers say, “You men, it’s important how you live, you Christian men, because your children will get their view of God from you.” That’s ridiculous. They don’t get their view of God from me, they get their view of God from the Bible. That’s an insult to God. What they do get from me is their view of a man. Children will get their view of a man and what a man is from the father.

There, I must disagree, at least in part. I have posted a few entries on fathers and clergy who have not fulfilled their respective responsibilities, either in the family or in the Church:

Here’s what happens when Dad doesn’t attend church

Consistent churchgoing habits important for children

The Methodist Church advocates man-centredness — survey (2010)

Which is more deplorable, the gun culture or the fatherless culture?

What kind of father doesn’t protect his family? (concerns bishops)

But I digress.

Back to John MacArthur:

Sexual immorality, relentless assault of feminism, overexposure to perversion, complete collapse of homes has just produced generations of bad fathers. And the reality is nothing is more devastating to a society than that, nothing. And on the other hand, the only hope for stability and the only hope for sanity, the only hope for peace in a society is masculine, virtuous men.

Some will find that hard to absorb. However, think of the rise of the welfare state over the past half-century. That might begin to put this into context. A virtuous life is not about absentee fathers or Big Government acting as a husband or father. If you sire a child, you need to be there as part of a family unit.

Even if one disagrees with that, it is hard to disagree that, during the past 50 years or so, the further we slip into moral laxity, the more we see evil. In fact, we’re seeing unimaginable evil. We thought we would be nice and allow people to do what they please. Now we see the results of that ill-advised experiment:

Evil abounds absolutely everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of a society. Let me say that again: “Evil abounds everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of that society.” One psychologist said, “Masculinity is taking responsibility to reduce evil and produce good.”

No culture will ever rise above the character of its men: fathers. The feminist lie has been that patriarchy is bad. It is tyrannical. It is toxic. It needs to be destroyed. And they’ve been doing it for decades. To destroy masculinity, to destroy strong male leadership and character leads to the current disaster: irresponsible men running loose in the streets terrorizing a society. Weak men have given us this legacy. Weak men produce the death of society. And men are in a crisis today, they are being continually told to try to get in touch with their feminine side, so they have become defensive about their masculinity.

Women rise higher and higher and higher and more frequently into positions of leadership, as men feel overwhelmed and overpowered and unable to fight against the trend. Oh, there are lots of men at the gym, pretty buff, have some muscles, but they’re doing virtually nothing to stop the tide of evil in the world. And by the way, in case women haven’t begun to realize it: weak, immoral men abuse women, and they produce more weak, immoral sons. No, children don’t get their view of God from their father, but they do get their view of what a man is. And we are in some serious trouble because the current crop of men are infecting the children.

There are two views in the Bible on generational sin. If one repents of a generational sin, one has wiped his slate clean. See Ezekiel 18:19-20:

19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Yet, where there is no repentance from generation to generation, the sin endures as a punishable act:

Listen to the Word of God, Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5: I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.” Listen to Exodus 34:7, “God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” God says it again in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 10, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Repeatedly, God says corrupt fathers create in society a legacy of corruption that is generational. He’s not saying that a son would be punished for a father’s sin; clearly that is not the case. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone will be put to death for his own sin.” We’re not talking about an individual suffering punishment for another person’s sin. What we are saying is fathers – plural – who are corrupt leave a legacy that will not be overturned in three or four generations. And if the next generation is corrupt, it pushes that out another three or four, and the next generation another three or four, and it becomes an impossible cycle.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah as he begins his prophecy, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. “Do not be like your fathers.”’” Something has to break the cycle.

This is what happens without repentance:

Clearly, a generation dominated by sinful fathers will bear the crushing consequence of their sinful progenitors. Their children will suffer. Their grandchildren will suffer. Their great-grandchildren will suffer. No generation exists in isolation or as an island. A wicked society defined as wicked by the behavior of the men won’t be rooted out for multiple generations. So it isn’t that people get their view of God from a father, but they do get their view of what a father is, and if it’s the wrong view, it’s just purposely repeated again and again and again.

So, as Christians, what do we do? First, we need to acknowledge that we are all prone to sin. When we give in to sin, we give in to all sorts of carnality. On the other hand, when we are alive in Christ, God’s infinite grace enables us to resist temptation through faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

The default position of every man is corruption, right? It’s the most natural thing they do is sin. The most accessible affect of that sin is on the women in their lives, and then on the children in their lives, and then it extends to everybody else.

The problem is, “There’s none righteous, no, not one. They’re all evil,” as we read in Romans 3. They don’t seek after God. They hate God, they hate others, and they’re influencing their children while they’re harming their wives. I understand why there’s a women’s movement. And even though it’s wrong and totally devastates a society, pushes women into places they were never intended to be and men out of the places they were intended to be, I understand it because of the corruption of men.

So where do we begin? We have to begin as believers who have new natures, right? We are new creations in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, and we start by breaking the cycle. It’s not going to be broken, it’s still around, right? What you’re seeing today in the chaos of this culture, what you see in the weakness and foolishness of people in high places, what you see is just the reality that corrupt fathers destroy society.

MacArthur then begins discussing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: fortitude. As we are in the season of Pentecost — please do ignore the term ‘Ordinary Time’ — it is important that we take some lessons from the weeks from Pentecost until the end of the Church year, just before December.

Fortitude is no casual word. It is not restricted to men alone, however, it is in scarce supply these days among some of today’s men, enough to make a difference in Western society:

Fortitude. What is fortitude? It’s a great word. Firmness, strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint. Fortitude: “Firmness and strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint.” That’s not a theological definition, that’s just a definition of the word.

When you say a man has fortitude, you’re talking about someone who doesn’t compromise even when there’s danger, even when that danger escalates to fear and pain. Fortitude is a combination of conviction, courage, and endurance – conviction, courage, and endurance. It is the willingness – it is not just the willingness, I would say it’s even the desire to risk, to literally create challenges if they’re not already there, to attack difficulty, to challenge difficulty head on, to bear suffering with courage. This is what makes a man a man, and this is the kind of man in whom a woman finds her security, finds her protection; and in that kind of relationship, the woman’s femininity flourishes.

Men are those who should be the protectors, the purifiers, who secure their wives, who secure their children, who accomplish all that needs to be done to reduce evil in a society and produce good; and yet this society for years and decades has had men busy producing evil, and diminishing good. True manliness is bound up in the word “courage.” That is the virtue that marks a real man. Truth, conviction, courage.

Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16, 1 Corinthians chapter 16. At the end of this wonderful letter, near the end, is tucked a very important verse, actually two verses: verses 13 and 14. Listen to what the apostle Paul says: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” “Be on the alert,” – danger is everywhere – “stand firm in the faith,” – don’t waiver in your belief and convictions – “act like men,” – What does that mean? Fortitude, uncompromising courage – “be strong.” The New King James actually says, “Be brave, be strong.” “Act like men” essentially means to conduct one’s self in a courageous way, to conduct one’s self in a courageous way.

Courage is the stock-in-trade of a man: courage in the face of danger, courage in the face of temptation, courage in the face of loss, courage in the face of suffering. This strength of verse 13, essentially four statements saying, one way or another, “Be strong.” Is then balanced in verse 14 by, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And how important is it to add that. There’s nothing more manly than a man with consummate conviction, courage, and endurance, who is marked by love. That’s a man – not weak, not vacillating, not fearful; and loving.

Real men face life with this kind of fortitude. They’re watchful of the dangers around them. They’re alert. They’re protectors of their wives and children, and of their friends and all the people over whom they have influence. They have convictions about what is true. They have courage to live out those convictions and the strength to be unwavering when those convictions will cost them everything. Your convictions, they’re only real convictions if they hold up under the most intense pressure.

MacArthur then goes into the many Bible verses with the words ‘be strong and courageous’:

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is passing the mantle on to Joshua, and in verse 6, Deuteronomy 31, he says this: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them,” – meaning your enemies – “for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” “Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” That’s the greatest transitional leadership speech ever.

Look at … 2 Samuel chapter 10 and verse 12. This is Joab to the Israelites who were facing opposition, strong opposition, tremendously strong opposition. Back in verse 6, it lays out the forces that were coming against them. But in verse 12, Joab says to the Israelites, “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

First Kings chapter 2. In 1 Kings chapter 2, David addresses Solomon his son. “David’s time to die drew near. He charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I’m going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke.’” Moses to Joshua, Joab to the Israelites, David to Solomon.

For another view of David’s speech to his son Solomon, look at 1 Chronicles chapter 22. I’m showing you these because I want you to see how common this is. First Chronicles 22, David calls for his son to build the house of God, and we can pick it up in verse 11: “Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper, if you’re careful to observe the statues and ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.” All of these declarations assume that your devotion to God is going to be tested, and you’re going to have to be strong. It’s going to be tested, no way around it.

David says again, 1 Chronicles 28:20, to his son Solomon, he gives this speech another time: “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” Just a couple more.

Toward the end of 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah is speaking to men in positions of leadership. Hezekiah, chapter 32 of 2 Chronicles, the first verse: “After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came, invaded Judah, besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come invading Judah and he intended to make war on Jerusalem; he decided with his officers and warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs” – this was a siege – “which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and streams which flowed through the region, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?’ And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, built another outside wall, strengthened the Millo in the city of David, made weapons and shields in great number, appointed military officers over the people and gathered them in the square of the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, and this is what he said: ‘Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’” That’s a great pep talk, isn’t it, for an army. Psalm 27:14 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage.”

Men don’t give in to fear. Men don’t give in to pressure. Men don’t give in to intimidation, and they don’t give in to temptation. They don’t seek the easy way. They will take the pain, they will invite the risk, they will confront the challenge, and they will not bow to the pressure to compromise the commandments of God. Strength of a man is that he lives on principle, that he lives on conviction, that he has the courage of those convictions, stands strong against everything that comes at those convictions, bravely faces the challenges in a fortified way. Manly fortitude means contending with difficulty, facing every enemy, meeting the enemy head on, bearing the pain, maintaining self-discipline, upholding truth, pressing on to the goal. That’s what defines a man.

MacArthur cites more examples. God spoke the same words to Joshua in the presence of Moses:

I want to show you another passage back in Joshua, right at the beginning of Joshua. Moses gives this speech again as he passes the baton, as it were, to Joshua. He says to him in chapter 1 of Joshua, verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” This is God now speaking, God is the one speaking. “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.”

So here it comes not from Moses to Joshua, but from God to Joshua in the presence of Moses. And here’s what God says to Joshua, verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”

And here comes the key to that. How do you live like that? How do you live with that strength and courage? How do you live without ever compromising? Verse 8: “This book of the law” – the Word of God – “shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It’s an incredible speech from God.

“Be strong” – verse 5 – “because God will be with you,” – “because you’re fulfilling a divine cause, a promise from God.” Verses 7 and 8, “The only way you can do this is to submit to the Word of God so that it constantly is in your mind and you live out its truths.” You will be able to be obedient if you’re saturated by the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.

Can you see why this speech is repeated so many, many times? This is the mark of a man. It takes a father like that to raise a son like that. Spiritual men are courageous, strong, principled, uncompromising, and bold. This is God’s role for men to play in a society, but it is also God’s role for the men to play who are the leaders of His people Israel. And this is God’s standard for the men who lead His church.

This is what we should expect from our clergy:

When we come into the New Testament and we are introduced to the kind of men that the Lord commands to lead His church. This is how He describes them in 1 Timothy 3: “This man must be above reproach, a one-woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own children, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” High standards for a pastor, an elder.

To Titus, Paul says similarly, “Appoint elders. If a man is above reproach, one-woman man, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion; for the overseer” – or the shepherd, pastor, bishop – “must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he’ll be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” This is the kind of men who lead the church.

Why is the standard so high for the leaders of the church? Because the leaders of the church have the responsibility to set the pattern for what manliness looks like in a godly environment. It’s not that they alone should be like this, it is that they should be like this so the others can see what a man should be. It isn’t that the Lord wants to pick up all the pastors and elders and take them to another level of spirituality which no one could attain, it is rather that this is what God expects from every man. But it’s got to be modeled. Men like that and men, as Ephesians 5 said, who love their wives like Christ loved the church, and who are protectors of their wives and who literally are the saviors of their wives, are the kind of men who become a haven for the wife, who make her feel secure and protected, nourished, cherished. And when children grow up in a home where the man secures the woman and the children, there’s peace.

So, how have we gone so far astray?

This culture has turned on God, eliminated His Word. The bible and the gospel is an enemy.

One wonders what John MacArthur thinks of President Trump. To my knowledge, he has not been invited to the White House. I wish that President Trump would invite him. That would make for an interesting transcript.

But I digress. MacArthur says:

The leaders of this nation have no interest in God or in His Word, and they are basically running this country right into hell as fast as they can. The only thing that’s going to stop this is not a group of feminized men who thinks God just wants to give them what they want so they can be happy. What this world needs is not sensitive men, it needs strong men. We live in a world of compromise, more than compromise. You could barely call it compromise because there’s nothing left of that which is good, so what are they compromising with.

That said, it is clear that MacArthur, a Californian, disapproves of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s views. Newsom is a self-proclaimed Catholic. Here’s a 2008 video of the two of them on the old Larry King Show on CNN when Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco and married to his second wife at the time:

Now on to the word ‘integrity’:

To add another word to your thoughts about this, I would say that people who have no price have integrity, integrity. So we talk about fortitude, let me talk about integrity. “People who have no price have integrity.”

What is integrity? It is essentially unbreakable fortitude. Integrity is defined as steadfast adherence to a moral code. It comes from “integer,” which means “whole” or “complete.” Its synonyms are “honesty,” “sincerity,” “simplicity,” “incorruptibility.” It’s antonym is “duplicity” or “hypocrisy.” A person who lacks integrity is a hypocrite. Integrity means that you live by your convictions: you say what you believe, you hold to what you believe, you’re immoveable. That’s wholeness. That’s integrity: you are one. It was said long ago of a preacher that he preached very well, but he lived better. The world is a seducer, and Satan is a seducing deceiver, pushing us into compromise, and therefore into hypocrisy.

When our Lord indicted the scribes and Pharisees who were the frequent objects of His blistering attacks. Inevitably it was on their integrity that He assaulted them. For example, in Matthew 23:3, He said, “They say things and do not do them.”

MacArthur, who is truly blessed, has a number of additional observations. As such, I would invite you to read or watch his sermon in full.

In short, manliness does not involve belonging to a street gang.

Each man, at some point, will have to rely upon his own wits, determination and fortitude to resolve his own trials, whether they be his own or those of his family.

We need to recover the biblical ideal of manliness, which has kept Western society protected for centuries. It hasn’t always succeeded, but we are fallen people, susceptible to temptation and sin.

Men have been beaten into the ground for decades. This must be remedied:

We need a generation of men who are alert to danger, who stand firm in the faith, who are courageous with the Word of God, uncompromising and strong.

And, listen, everything about this that I’ve said indicates they will be tested. Manliness will be tested. Conviction will be tested. Courage will be tested. Strength will be tested. The pressure will come, it’ll come in unexpected ways, but it’ll come. You may get away with your statement of conviction for years, but there will come a test, and many men will shock the people who knew them by selling out, compromising, abandoning their integrity, playing the hypocrite out of cowardice. This falls into a translation of Romans 12:2. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.

Stay strong. Stand firm in the faith, as Saint Paul did.

The world needs real men now more than ever, especially to stand by principled women.

Maybe I can just squeak by with this, as a local eatery near us is advertising Valentine’s Day dinner specials through the weekend.

I saw Jamie Glazov’s Front Page article about Valentine’s Day on February 15: ‘Hating Valentine’s: Why Islamists and the Radical Left loathe the Day of Love’.

Glazov starts by giving a near-comprehensive review of penalties for and protests against celebrating Valentine’s Day in Muslim countries. I’ll let you read that in your own time.

The more puzzling aspect, which he explains nicely, is why the notionally tolerant Left don’t like February 14. Aren’t they the ones in favour of love?

Glazov tells us (emphases mine):

As an individual who spent more than a decade in academia, I was privileged to witness this war against Valentine’s Day up close and personal. Feminist icons like Jane Fonda, meanwhile, help lead the assault on Valentine’s Day in society at large. As David Horowitz has documented, Fonda has led the campaign to transform this special day into “V-Day” (“Violence against Women Day”) — which is, when it all comes down to it, a day of hate, featuring a mass indictment of men.

Why, oh why, oh why?

Because:

Islam and the radical Left both revile the notion of private love, a non-tangible and divine entity that draws individuals to each other and, therefore, distracts them from submitting themselves to a secular deity.

Valentine’s Day is a day of two people celebrating their love and devotion to each other — not to a collective or to a government regime. Therefore, opponents want it stopped.

Incidentally, I wrote about the St Valentines various and the traditions behind the day. The following post from 2015 discusses the different St Valentines, all of whom brought two people together in the name of love:

A bit of history about Valentine’s Day

The next post, from 2016, describes ancient traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day and the meaning of ‘x’, symbolic of the cross of St Andrew:

More history about Valentine’s Day

From its post-Lupercalian origin, Valentine’s Day has been about two people and their fidelity to each other.

This brings us neatly back to the present day and the totalitarian resistance — whether religious or socio-political — to the Day of Love.

Glazov explains:

The highest objective of both Islam and the radical Left is clear: to shatter the sacred intimacy that a man and a woman can share with one another, for such a bond is inaccessible to the order. History, therefore, demonstrates how Islam, like Communism, wages a ferocious war on any kind of private and unregulated love. In the case of Islam, the reality is epitomized in its monstrous structures of gender apartheid and the terror that keeps it in place. Indeed, female sexuality and freedom are demonized and, therefore, forced veiling, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, honor killings and other misogynist monstrosities become mandatory parts of the sadistic paradigm.

Totalitarian regimes are similar:

In Stalinist Russia, sexual pleasure was portrayed as unsocialist and counter-revolutionary. More recent Communist societies have also waged war on sexuality — a war that Islam, as we know, wages with similar ferocity. These totalist structures cannot survive in environments filled with self-interested, pleasure-seeking individuals who prioritize devotion to other individual human beings over the collective and the state. Because the leftist believer viscerally hates the notion and reality of personal love and “the couple,” he champions the enforcement of totalitarian puritanism by the despotic regimes he worships.

Some may say that the earliest Communists promoted promiscuity — and abortion. Yes, they did, but note that a) promiscuity violates tender, loving fidelity between two people and b) abortion prevents the fruit of that beautiful union.

Glazov goes on to discuss famous dystopian novels, each of which involves a totalitarian state that forbids love between two adults. HG Wells’s novels described the totalitarian atmosphere. A Russian literary editor and novelist, Yevgeny Zamyatin, who had edited translations of Wells’s works in Russian, was inspired to take the concepts further in his 1924 novel We, which the early Soviet government banned. Zamyatin’s novel describes a couple who experience devotion to each other. Because this is illegal, the protagonist D-503 must undergo the Great Operation, which deadens the parts of the brain dedicated to passion, imagination and, by extension, love. D-503’s lover O-90 gives birth to his child. O-90 cannot bear to give their child up to the state, so D-503 manages to get her and their child smuggled out of the state to safety.

We inspired other dystopian works, the most famous of which are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984. Those also contain story lines of forbidden love.

Totalitarianism encourages promiscuity, but not faithful love. Religious totalitarianism values sexual segregation, but not mutual devotion:

And that is why love presents such a threat to the totalitarian order: it dares to serve itself. It is a force more powerful than the all-pervading fear that a totalitarian order needs to impose in order to survive. Leftist and Muslim social engineers, therefore, in their twisted and human-hating imaginations, believe that the road toward earthly redemption (under a classless society or Sharia) stands a chance only if private love and affection is purged from the human condition.

However, as we know, that is impossible. We are hard-wired to be like Adam and Eve. God created them so they could be loving, supportive companions who could create a family.

This brings us to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Those of us who are old enough to remember recall slogans of ‘free love’ and so on. Various sexual positions, some of them non-procreational, were vaunted. If couples weren’t engaging in these, they were not ‘doing it right’. The Joy of Sex was a newlywed’s go-to book in the 1970s. Swingers’ clubs were popular amongst small segments of the middle class.

And, yes, there were swingers living near my home in the 1970s. My parents and I knew two. This middle-aged couple — second marriage for both, grown children — tried to recruit my parents. Mum and Dad were appalled. My mother tried to engage the couple in a philosophical discussion about the nature of love and marriage. Their response was, ‘Who needs it?’ Not surprisingly, they divorced and moved away within the year. If I remember rightly, the woman started cavorting with a fellow swinger and left her husband. He was very angry with her and changed his tune. ‘What happened to her fidelity to me?’ he asked my parents. Lesson learned? For him, yes. For her, it came afterwards when her swinger boyfriend dumped her. That was the last we heard of or about them.

The sexual revolution — still continuing today, with teenagers engaging in oral or copulative sex as if it were nothing — is something sensible people must resist. Sex education in schools is not designed to tell children about the birds and the bees in a biological way. It is intended to subvert the sanctity of married life and bringing children into the world.

During this same era, Bill Ayers — a longtime educator who goes on public speaking tours across America — was a radical who escaped a prison sentence on a technicality. You can read more about him here:

Obama friend Bill Ayers’s magnum opus: Prairie Fire

Obama friend Bill Ayers’s commitment to radicalism … and state education

He was one of the leaders of the Weather Underground, a group of violent radicals. Glazov tells us:

as Peter Collier and David Horowitz demonstrate in Destructive Generation, the Weather Underground not only waged war against American society through violence and mayhem, but also waged war on private love within its own ranks. Bill Ayers, one of the leading terrorists in the group, argued in a speech defending the campaign:

Any notion that people can have responsibility for one person, that they can have that ‘out’ — we have to destroy that notion in order to build a collective; we have to destroy all ‘outs,’ to destroy the notion that people can lean on one person and not be responsible to the entire collective.

That was at the time of the ‘free love’ sexual revolution in the late 1960s.

Similarly, promiscuity was the order of the day in communes, also popular then, whether large or small. Invariably, even though they started out with an egalitarian programme, all of them ended up with an alpha male leader who seduced the women in the group, creating a harem. Other men ended up being marginalised. Couples were fractured. People got hurt emotionally. Some required deep therapy to bring them back to a trusting, loving state of mind.

Although I digress somewhat, these vignettes from half a century ago tell us that we should be wary of deviating from a biblical norm when it comes to love.

Now to the present day. A bewildering series of protests have been taking place over the past few months. The most bemusing involve feminists veiling themselves as if they were Muslim. Why?

Glazov explains that totalitarian regimes rely on clothing that conceals one’s sexuality. Historically:

As sociologist Paul Hollander has documented in his classic Political Pilgrims, fellow travelers were especially enthralled with the desexualized dress that the Maoist regime imposed on its citizens. This at once satisfied the leftist’s desire for enforced sameness and the imperative of erasing attractions between private citizens. As I have demonstrated in United in Hate, the Maoists’ unisex clothing finds its parallel in fundamentalist Islam’s mandate for shapeless coverings to be worn by both males and females. The collective “uniform” symbolizes submission to a higher entity and frustrates individual expression, mutual physical attraction, and private connection and affection. And so, once again, the Western leftist remains not only uncritical, but completely supportive of — and enthralled in — this form of totalitarian puritanism.

With regard to today’s female protesters:

This is precisely why leftist feminists today do not condemn the forced veiling of women in the Islamic world; because they support everything that forced veiling engenders.

As Glazov points out, even European law enforcement officers have been advising women to cover up so they won’t be targets of immigrant Muslim men.

Before I conclude, it is essential at this point to offer documented proof that, 40 years ago, Muslim women — except for those out in the sticks — wore normal Western clothing. I wrote about this in 2015 with loads of links to photographs:

From the modern to the mediaeval in 40 years

Today, I saw two more items relating to Muslim women’s attire during that time. Rare Historical Photos has a good piece, ‘Women protesting forced hijab days after the Iranian Revolution, 1979’. Here’s an unrelated tweet from someone too young, perhaps, to know what I remember from my youth:

Glazov concludes that:

Valentine’s Day is a “shameful day” for the Muslim world and for the radical Left. It is shameful because private love is considered obscene, since it threatens the highest of values: the need for a totalitarian order to attract the complete and undivided attention, allegiance and veneration of every citizen. Love serves as the most lethal threat to the tyrants seeking to build Sharia and a classless utopia on earth, and so these tyrants yearn for the annihilation of every ingredient in man that smacks of anything that it means to be human …

This day reminds us that we have a weapon, the most powerful arsenal on the face of the earth, in front of which despots and terrorists quiver and shake, and sprint from in horror into the shadows of darkness, desperately avoiding its piercing light.

That arsenal is love

Love will prevail.

Long Live Valentine’s Day.

With work schedules and business trips such as they are, some readers might be celebrating a Valentine’s weekend. I wish you a very happy time. May it be love-filled today and always.

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