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The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
These two verses continue on from Matthew 18:1-4, about the necessity of believers to become as humble as children. Jesus was responding to the disciples’ question about the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This is more evident in the parallel passages of Luke 9:46-48 and Mark 9:33-37. The latter is in the three-year Lectionary.
In order to better illustrate His point, Jesus put a small child in their midst (Matthew 18:2). In verse 5, we read ‘one such child’ in the context of being kind to him. Are we to understand that He is referring to that toddler and others like him?
John MacArthur says no (emphases mine):
… the little child in verse 4. What little child is that? It’s the one who humbles himself as the illustration of the child. What in verse 3, “Becoming as a little child.” In other words, he’s talking about the same little child that entered the Kingdom, the same little child whose humility made him great, is the same little child that you’re to receive. It is the spiritual little child, the believer, the one that comes to Christ. It’s not talking about the infant. It’s talking about how you treat one of God’s children who came to Him in humility, who came to Him in simple childlike faith, which was the whole point, as we saw, of verses 3 and 4 in our study last week. No matter how lowly that child is, no matter how humble, no matter how lacking in sophistication, no matter how lacking in power or in fame or in grandeur, no matter if it is an ignoble, if it is the poor, if it is the least among men. That little one who belongs to Jesus Christ, even one such one, is to be received as if you are receiving Jesus Christ Himself. So how you treat Christians is how you treat Him …
He can’t be talking about physical children, micron, little, tiny infants can’t believe in Him. He’s talking about those believers who are classified in this whole chapter as infants or childlike.
However, all children of God — old and young, having reached the age of reason — are to be treated properly in not leading them to sin. Matthew Henry has this explanation:
Their believing in Christ, though they be little ones, unites them to him, and interests him in their cause, so that, as they partake of the benefit of his sufferings, he also partakes in the wrong of theirs. Even the little ones that believe have the same privileges with the great ones, for they have all obtained like precious faith.
The consequences for causing believers of any age to sin is extremely serious. That person will wish s/he had been drowned with a millstone tied around his neck instead (verse 6). Jesus implied that the punishment will be the lake of fire, hell. Henry tells us:
Note, 1. Hell is worse than the depth of the sea for it is a bottomless pit, and it is a burning lake. The depth of the sea is only killing, but hell is tormenting. We meet with one that had comfort in the depth of the sea, it was Jonah (Matthew 2:2,4,9) but never any had the least grain or glimpse of comfort in hell, nor will have to eternity. 2. The irresistible irrevocable doom of the great Judge will sink sooner and surer, and bind faster, than a mill-stone hanged about the neck. It fixes a great gulf, which can never be broken through, Luke 16:26. Offending Christ’s little ones, though by omission, is assigned as the reason of that dreadful sentence, Go ye cursed, which will at last be the doom of proud persecutors.
You would be better off dead than alive offending a Christian, making ’em sin. You see, God is not only concerned that we not sin, but that we not make other people sin….Better you should be dead. Beneficial you should be dead. Profitable that you should be dead rather than do that. Preferable. The language here is really vivid.
He explains why Jesus chose the millstone to illustrate His point:
… the millstone. Literally, in the Greek, mulassanikas, the mule stone or the ass’s stone. This is not the little one you had in the house. This is the one that was pulled by the mule, the one that Sampson was tied up to when he was grinding grain in his blindness. A beast had to pull it. A massive, huge stone, weighing tons. Huge would come into their minds when they heard mulassanikas.
It would be better if you took a stone like that, tied it around your neck, and, literally, in the Greek, it says drowned far out in the open sea. Taken way out with a stone weighing tons around your neck and poonk, and I mean you’d go to the bottom like a rocket…
The notion of drowning was intended to shock His disciples. The Jews did not drown people. However, the Romans did:
Jews didn’t drown people for any kind of crime. It was, to them, a horrible, unimaginable punishment. And to be drowned all alone with a millstone around your neck in some far off region of the ocean was terrifying. The Romans did that. The Jews didn’t…That’s what Jesus says would be better for you, a lonely, terrorizing, shocking, painful end to your life. You would be better off dead with the worst kind of death imaginable than to offend a Christian, to cause that Christian to sin.
The effect on the disciples must have been stunning. They had just been arguing about who among them was the greatest and Jesus put a stop to that foolish talk promptly:
Oh, what a lesson. I can imagine there were a few gulps in the room, because the disciples had been around there for a while making each other jealous, envious, bitter, resentful, hateful, proud, self-seeking, causing each other to sin. So the thought is marvelous. Those who come into God’s Kingdom are small infants. They’re children. They’re the weak. They’re the lowly, and their own resources are limited. They’re children. They’re infants, and infants need care, and they need protection, and they need guarding, and they don’t need exposure to danger. Children are lowly. They’re weak. They need to be cared for. They need to be protected. God expects that with his family, and we must never cause His children to sin. It is an enormous crime, enormous.
The apostles later forgot the lesson and raised the question of who among them was the greatest at the Last Supper, no less (Luke 22:24-30).
There are two types of sin, that of commission and that of omission.
Sins of commission involve active temptation:
… the first way we make people sin is by directly tempting them. That’s right. Satan can use us. The world can use us. The flesh can use us to be the direct source of temptation. We know that. We’ve had people who come to us and say, “Let’s do this.” “Well, that’s not right to do.” “I know, but we’ll get away with it.” From the time you’re little, you hear that deal. “Oh, listen, we paid enough tax in that last year, honey. I mean just go ahead and put it down. I know we didn’t have a right claim that deduction, but put it down anyway. They’ll never know.” And so you have led someone into sin. Better you should be drowned in the middle of the sea.
Or you let your children expose themselves to garbage and filth on television or at the theater or wherever, in the things they read. You are leading that child. Better you should be dead. Or maybe in your business, you’re getting your employees involved in that which is illegal and illicit and not right, and you’re causing those who are Christian employees in your business to do things that are not right. Better you should be dead than seduce God’s people. Young man take a young girl out and try to get to compromise her virtue. Better you should be drowned, my friend, than that you should steal the virtue of some lovely young girl…
The Bible has many examples of sin emanating from temptation. God punished all of those sinners, from Jereboam to Jezebel, as they led others into sin.
Sins of omission involve turning a blind eye to certain situations which result in physical or emotional pain. Ignoring a friend or family member’s anxiety is one example. That anxiety can lead them to drink, drugs, self-harm or suicide. Postponing the spiritual guidance of young children in our care is another. I know parents who leave that to teachers, because they cannot be bothered. That can lead to immorality, nihilism and/or atheism in an adolescent. A manager who does nothing about bullying in the office is also guilty in not only encouraging a dysfunctional atmosphere but encouraging, even indirectly, an employee’s hurt and loneliness.
Americans and Britons are enjoying a three-day holiday weekend. The Americans have Memorial Day (remembering those who died in the armed forces) and the British celebrate Whitsun (Pentecost) — now Spring — Bank Holiday Monday. Let’s make sure we enjoy these days in the the way He would wish. As the Lord’s Prayer says:
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Next time: Matthew 18:7-9
On April 26, 2016, The Guardian reported that the Church of England published a short prayer for the EU Referendum:
God of truth, give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum with honesty and openness. Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion and discernment to those who vote, that our nation may prosper and that with all the peoples of Europe we may work for peace and the common good; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The article says that the prayer was carefully worded to maintain neutrality.
However, the Right Reverend David Hamid, the Anglican Suffragan Bishop in Europe, told The Guardian he hopes Remain wins because a number of his congregants are British expats living and working on the Continent. He also thinks remaining in the EU secures peace.
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, also supports Remain because he prefers the status quo; it is easier, he says, for countries to work together.
Apparently, so do those placing EU Referendum bets with Ladbrokes. On May 21, Matthew Shaddick (‘Shadsy’ at PoliticalBetting.com) wrote an article for The Spectator discussing the bets placed recently on the referendum’s outcome. Shaddick is Ladbrokes’ head of political odds. He says:
Bookies have seen a very substantial swing toward Remain over the last few days. The odds on the UK staying in Europe have collapsed from 1/3 last week to 1/5 today. This shows that the chances of Brexit are now at a new low of just 21 per cent compared to the giddy heights of 40 per cent at the end of 2015.
On balance, the polls have probably been better for Remain recently, but there’s still a lot of variance, with some surveys still showing Leave ahead. However, the betting public can only see one result: with more than nine pounds out of every ten wagered at Ladbrokes over the last month being staked on a Remain victory.
Conventional wisdom and history tells us that bookies are not often wrong. Shaddick reminds us that they got the results of both the 2014 Scottish Referendum and 2015 UK election results correct.
On the Referendum, I’ve gone for a bet on Remain winning with between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of the vote, but if the odds for Leave get any bigger that might become the value bet.
No doubt he has seen the results of a huge poll of 22,000 voters, published in The Independent on May 18 and to be released in full later this month. The Independent says:
The outcome of the EU referendum vote is on a knife edge with little more than one month to go, according to one of the largest surveys to date.
… Remain has a narrow lead of 43 to 40.5 per cent, according to new data from the British Election Survey.
But the advantage is wiped out among voters who say they are very likely to vote – giving Leave the victory by 45 per cent to 44.5 per cent.
We have one month left until voting takes place on Thursday, June 23. Meanwhile, the name calling on the Remain side is ramping up. As James Delingpole, journalist and Leave supporter who is in Brexit: The Movie, put it for The Spectator:
… if I were an undecided wondering where to place my X, I think the thing that would swing it for me would be the marked difference in tone between the two camps — with the Remainers coming across as shrill, prickly and bitter, and the Brexiters surprisingly sunny, relaxed and optimistic.
This isn’t what you might have expected at the start of the campaign. Really, it makes no sense. When you’re the odds-on favourite with the weight of the global elite behind you — Obama, Lagarde, Goldman Sachs, the BBC, Ed Balls — you ought to be able to afford to be magnanimous, jolly and decent. It’s the anti-EU rebels, the spoilers, the malcontents, you’d imagine would be most afflicted by rage, spite and peevishness.
But it hasn’t turned out that way. Yes, there has been some vicious factional backbiting between the different Brexit camps, I can’t deny that. The tone of their campaigning, though, has been almost weirdly upbeat: Boris larking about with Cornish pasties and angle-grinders; Gove batting off Marr with his effortless good cheer; Farage with his pint-and-fags common touch; Martin Durkin with his insightful, inspirational and often very funny crowd-funded documentary Brexit: the Movie.
He’s right. I certainly won’t be discussing it offline anymore. Once was enough. Everyone — bar one, thanks to Brexit: The Movie — I know is for Remain. If Leave wins, I’ll never hear the end of it, until five years from now, when we turn our nation into a hybrid of Switzerland and post-war Germany.
It seems to me that the Remain people are fearful Leave might just squeak through. We can but see.
(Image credit: God and Science)
Past posts on this important feast in the Church are as follows:
The Gospel reading for Year C of the three-year Lectionary used in public worship is John 16:12-15:
16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jesus spoke these words just after the Last Supper. It was His final teaching session with the Twelve. John documents the entire lesson: John 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those are, in my opinion, the most beautiful chapters of the New Testament.
In this reading, we discover that Jesus had much more to say, however, He knew that the Apostles could not fully understand it (verse 12). Matthew Henry explains:
it would have confounded and stumbled them, rather than have given them any satisfaction.
Hence the sending of the Holy Spirit to them and the disciples on the first Pentecost, so that the Spirit would lead them into ‘all the truth’ as He hears it (verse 13). The Spirit also told them of what was to come, a primary example of which is St John’s Book of Revelation.
The dramatic Book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit guided the disciples to do great things in the name of Christ Jesus. John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):
The very first day the Spirit of God came He began to show things to come. And you could just go right through the Bible and you’ll find out He continued to show things to come.
In Acts chapter 11 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 20 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 21 He showed some more things to come. In the early days of the Spirit’s coming He began to show prophecy that would come to pass, things to come, directed by the Holy Spirit. Listen to Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Things to come, I believe there, refers to everything from the church age on but has great reference to the prophetic truth …
It’s replete with truth. The whole book of Revelation is loaded with things to come. So there’s the pattern of the Spirit. He not only speaks from God but He speaks of things to come through the church age and out through eternity.
Henry points out:
What are the four gospels? Who’s the main person in the four gospels? Jesus Christ. Who’s the main person in the book of Acts preaching the gospel by the apostles to establish the church and becomes the head of the church? Christ. Who’s the main person in all the Epistles that explain the meaning of the gospel? Christ. Who’s the main person in Revelation? Christ.
He is not everywhere in the Old Testament, He is many places: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, many others. But He is everywhere in the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament write to explain either the history of His life, the significance of the gospel as He builds His church, or an explanation of the theology of the gospel and the Epistles, or the glory of the revelation. “These are written about Christ that you might believe – ” as John says, “ – and believing in Him, have life in His name.”
The gospels record His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His ascension. The Acts record the preaching about His death and resurrection, suffering, and glory, and establishment of His church, which He is the head. The Epistles explain the doctrinal significance and application of His life and work. Revelation presents Him as the coming Judge who will set up His kingdom on earth and rule forever in eternity.
The New Testament is about Him. “The Spirit will come take of Mine and show it to you.” So we preach the New Testament; it’s about Christ. And then we go back and we compare it with the Old Testament; and that’s what we should be doing.
In Acts 18, there was a preacher by the name of Apollos, and he gives us a kind of a good model, Apollos. It says in Acts 18:28, “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of being guided ‘into all the truth’:
… it is to be intimately and experimentally acquainted with it to be piously and strongly affected with it not only to have the notion of it in our heads, but the relish and savour and power of it in our hearts[;] it denotes a gradual discovery of truth shining more and more: “He shall lead you by those truths that are plain and easy to those that are more difficult.” But how into all truth?
First, Into the whole truth relating to their embassy whatever was needful or useful for them to know, in order to the due discharge of their office, they should be fully instructed in it what truths they were to teach others the Spirit would teach them, would give them the understanding of, and enable them both to explain and to defend.
Secondly, Into nothing but the truth …
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would reveal the divine truth to the disciples which would glorify Him as Christ our Lord (verse 14). The New Testament is the fullest source of that truth, which is why it is so important to read and understand it. Furthermore, the more we read it, the greater our understanding.
I despair when people say, ‘I read the New Testament in school. I don’t need to look at it anymore’. How wrong they are. We can read it 100 times and still see something new or be reminded of something we forgot. The Holy Spirit works through us as we read Scripture.
Jesus’s words describe how the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — work for our benefit (verse 15). What is the Father’s is the Son’s and is declared to us via the Spirit, who, as Henry observes:
came not to erect a new kingdom, but to advance and establish the same kingdom that Christ had erected, to maintain the same interest and pursue the same design those therefore that pretend to the Spirit, and vilify Christ, give themselves the lie, for he came to glorify Christ. Secondly, That herein the things of God should be communicated to us. Lest any should think that the receiving of this would not make them much the richer, he adds, All things that the Father hath are mine. As God, all that self-existent light and self-sufficient happiness which the Father has, he has as Mediator, all things are delivered to him of the Father (Matthew 11:27) all that grace and truth which God designed to show us he lodged in the hands of the Lord Jesus, Colossians 1:19.
Henry has a closing thought on this passage, which also serves as a perfect summation of Trinity Sunday:
Spiritual blessings in heavenly things are given by the Father to the Son for us, and the Son entrusts the Spirit to convey them to us.
This is what we remember with thanksgiving on this day, which marks the last great feast in the Church calendar until we celebrate Christmas again.
The Gospel readings for the 2016 Season after Pentecost — sometimes ‘after Trinity’ or ‘Ordinary Time’ — are from St Luke and detail Christ’s ministry of teaching and healing. The liturgical colour is green during this season.
Forbidden Bible Verses resumes next week.
Because there was such a long wait between the first and second series of Grantchester, we watched the finale this week.
This was too good a show to watch weekly as it aired. Viewing pleasure must be rationed.
The tension in a few of the episodes was palpable, especially when Sidney and a half-cut (inebriated) Geordie were on the roof of King’s College Chapel.
It was a relief to hear during the credits that the series is being renewed for 2017. It will air on both ITV1 and PBS. Series 2 was broadcast in the US and the UK at around the same time.
If anyone wants to discuss Grantchester, please feel free to do so in the comments below. This has to be one of the most intelligent and content-rich shows on television today.
Yesterday’s post showed to what extremes his views have been taken by other Protestant clergy and laymen, including church discipline. Yikes!
Yet, not one of them is warning Christians against voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, both of whom are pro-choice. Clinton could also be asked any number of questions on unresolved topics over the past few decades.
Therefore, we appear to be receiving a particular sort of message from Moore and those who agree with him.
Unpacking the message
What a number Southern Baptists saw in Moore’s message was the mention of their denomination. Therefore, many of them are taking to heart the advice not to vote for Trump.
Some Evangelicals saw that his article, or citations of it elsewhere, concerned them. Gosh, they thought, it is time to sit up, read and reconsider.
Moore crafted his message cannily and cynically. In essence, he implies that white Evangelicals are inherently racist, beginning with the title, ‘A White Church No More’.
The body of his op-ed piece — which might have been more relevant in the early 1970s rather than now — includes insults to the intelligence such as:
If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.
No one ever said He did.
The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus …
The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America …
A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock …
Mayberry, for my readers who are not from the US, refers to two 1960s television shows that took place in a fictional small town of the same name: The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. There are very few Mayberries left. America is widely integrated today.
Moore is barking up the wrong tree.
I attended integrated churches — Catholic and, later, Episcopalian — in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. We had Hispanics in the former (suburbs) and blacks in the latter (metropolis). The white congregants made them feel most welcome. They played prominent roles in the guitar Masses (Catholic) or were ushers and greeters (Episcopalian).
I also once attended one of the first big-box Evangelical churches in the area where I lived in the 1970s. There were several black families, all greeted and treated like anyone else in the congregation.
No one cared what colour anyone else was then, nor do they now.
Moore’s Wikipedia entry says that prior to entering the ministry, he was an aide to a Democrat, Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.
On this note, in 2015, Moore interviewed some of the presidential candidates at a missions conference during the summer. Interestingly, he did not issue invitations to fellow Southern Baptists — Republicans — Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. Yet, he invited Methodist Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. She declined.
Regardless of his politics now, deep down he appears to be playing a Democrat game. So do the other men mentioned in this post; go to the linked essays therein and read the comments.
In 2016, as the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Moore opposed the views not only of Trump but also Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. He objected to Cruz’s call for a religious test for refugees wishing to enter the United States. He opposed Clinton’s pro-choice stance.
Then, in March, he wrote, also for the NYT, that Christians should vote for a third-party candidate if faced with Clinton and Trump.
Now — in May — he mentions only Trump and gives Clinton a pass.
There is also the matter of churches making money off of resettling refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States. I saw a news show recently that said that immigration officials know where to direct newcomers. There is a list of local churches and charities who will take them in immediately and begin their resettlement.
Voluntary agencies (Volags) — religious and secular — helping out in this regard are paid by the US government, i.e. the taxpayer. Refugee Resettlement Watch has more, including the following:
Below are some of the sources of income for Volags:
a. $1,850 per refugee (including children) from the State Department.
b. Up to $2,200 for each refugee by participating in a U.S. DHHS program known as Matching Grant. To get the $2,200, the Volag need only show it spent $200 and gave away $800 worth of donated clothes, furniture or cars.
c. The Volag pockets 25% of every transportation loan it collects from refugees it “sponsors”.
d. All Volag expenses and overhead in the Washington, DC HQ are paid by the U.S. government.
e. For their refugee programs, Volags collect money from all federal grant programs – “Marriage Initiative”, “Faith-based”, “Ownership Society”, etc., as well as from various state and local grants.
The program is so lucrative that in some towns the Catholic Church has lessened support for traditional charity works to put more effort into resettlement …
Public money has thoroughly driven out private money.
Therefore, voluntary refugee and immigrant agencies — including churches — make a lot of money from the taxpayer. Readers may consider this at their leisure.
Evangelical churches in the United States
It is unclear as to why Moore works on the presumption that white Evangelicals are, by definition, anti-immigrant.
Evangelicals are truly a broad church and have different affiliations. Some, like the ELCA, are Lutheran. Others are Pentecostal. Others are independent but affiliate with broader Evangelical groups with similarly-minded theology.
Some are inclined towards the Democratic Party, even when they interpret the Bible literally. Others lean Republican but are openly accepting and welcoming of all who attend their churches.
I have read a lot of Evangelical commentary since I started this blog in 2009. I have not read one racist comment from anyone — layperson, elder or minister.
Why Trump is winning the Evangelical vote
Like every other American, Evangelicals also need to put food on the table and clothes in the wardrobe.
They have homes and health insurance to pay for, cars to run and jobs to keep — or find.
Evangelicals are concerned about the future, especially that of their children and grandchildren.
Trump is the only candidate who talks about job creation and improving the economy. Is it any surprise that people, including Evangelicals, like that message?
For the record
For the record, a Trump insider says the billionaire changed his mind about abortion once his youngest son Barron was born ten years ago. He sometimes tells the story as being about an anonymous third person, because it was an intensely private journey for him to make.
As for enemies foreign and domestic, Trump is the only candidate to point out that terrorism is an issue. He has said in a number of his rallies that he has Muslim friends and business associates in the US and in the Middle East. His proposals for immigration or travel among this religious group have always included either the words ‘temporary’ or ‘until we figure out what’s going on’. Note that, only a few days after he first said this in December 2015, the San Bernardino attack took place. He spoke of Brussels’s dire situation in January. Two attacks on that city took place in March. Meanwhile, the Belgian and French security forces already knew there was a hotbed of extremism in parts of Brussels. That became clear when Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015.
Also note that the no-fly list has been in place since Bush II’s administration. A Muslim family from the UK were banned from flying to the US just before Christmas — under the Obama administration — because Homeland Security suspected a family member of having links to extremists.
With regard to immigration, Trump is careful in his speeches to specify that he supports legal immigration. Can he help it if people like Moore and the media take it out of context? And, yes, there is a rape epidemic affecting Mexican women crossing the border into the US. Even PBS has pointed that out. Why can’t Trump?
Personally, I do not care for whom you vote. That is your business.
However, let’s not be taken in by people saying voting for this or that candidate is immoral and is subject to church discipline. That is absurd and wrong. Voting is an intensely private matter. Let’s nip this in the bud — now!
Singling out one candidate when the others are all equally sinners in one way or another is, in and of itself, morally objectionable.
You can read what clergy have to say at Time.
Some Christians say that voting for Donald Trump is a matter of church discipline.
This post on another site lays out the full case.
Why isn’t voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders worthy of church discipline?
There are scandals that took place during Bill Clinton’s administration, and his wife was at the heart of the action. Her term as Secretary of State has also had its episodes: Benghazi, then the classified emails which are still being investigated.
One could equally question whether Bernie Sanders represents a Jewish God-fearing perspective. One has to wonder about someone who went to the USSR on his honeymoon and who thinks that a highly-taxed populace is acceptable, when, in fact, excessive levies on a population could be construed as a form of theft.
More importantly, what about the Democrats’ pro-choice positions?
First, voting has always been considered a private activity, one of conscience. If your pastor or elders demand that you tell them who you are voting or have voted for, it’s time to find another church.
Secondly, do a bit of research and see who is making these statements. I shall look at one of these clergymen tomorrow. He is not a Republican — rather, a Democrat — yet he is advising conservative Republican Christians how to vote.
The second name mentioned in the post linked to above is that of a man who came to the Republican Party when James Dobson and the Religious Right began meddling in it during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He is upset Ted Cruz is out of the running and a moderate Republican is in.
The third man mentioned in that post is one who, like many of his ilk, voted Republican only because of the party’s stance on social issues. He says (emphases mine):
We voted Republican because of the issue of abortion and a desire to protect our religious values against government coercion. Sometimes we went in for the various economic arguments, but we never really dug in deeply to understand them, and they didn’t actually come from any kind of long-standing conservative root system. For a variety of reasons, not all of them honorable, the GOP was not our home. We were just a passin’ through. And so now we have our opportunity to begin leaving it for good. We do not need to do this all at once, but we need to begin preparing ourselves to do so, and the Donald gives us our best opportunity to get started.
That is an honest assessment. (Incidentally, this man also admits to being partial to ‘distributivist theocracy’.)
It also calls into question what the word ‘conservative’ means. For him and his people it primarily means a biblical social policy.
For people like me ‘conservative’ means small government and fiscal responsibility.
In any event, the party is called the Republican Party. Until 1980, most of its members and unaffiliated supporters considered it a secular party that upheld the values upon which the United States was built. It was a broad church, so to speak, of people — including centrists — who loved America. They sought to preserve the Great Republic.
Donald Trump is a centrist candidate who loves America and wants to make the Republic great again. The Religious Right recoil because he rarely brings the Church or social issues into the equation.
In conclusion, one Democrat and two Religious Right men are mistaken in telling Christians that voting for Trump is a cause for church discipline.
This comment to the post cited in my second paragraph says it all:
I believe there to be some confusion between Christianity and politics here. Christians ought to be cautious when the church starts playing politics. There is only one mediator between man and God and He assures every man the right to his own conscience before God. The church is truly deceived if she looks to politics to fulfill her her responsibility to spread this truth. Perhaps in need of discipline herself.
Your vote is private, between you, God and the ballot box. No pastors, no elders — and, for women — no husbands or elder sons. Keep it that way.
Tomorrow: Russell Moore
On May 15, 2016, Christians celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which is the Church’s birthday.
We call it the Church’s birthday because on the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and enabled them to spread the Good News from Jerusalem to Samaria. St Paul, who was not among the original number because he had not yet been converted, later called people to Christ in Asia Minor and Rome. These conversions, accompanied by miracles, are in Acts. Other apostles, such as Sts John and Peter, wrote letters to their converts. St John also wrote Revelation. Christ’s chosen spread the Gospel message far and wide throughout the known world at that time. Not all of it is included in Scripture.
Past posts on Pentecost are as follows:
This year we are in Year C of the three-year Lectionary used in public worship. The Epistle for Pentecost in 2016 is Romans 8:14-17:
8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”
8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
The Holy Spirit takes us all the way to glory … He does it by freeing us from sin and death. We saw that in verses 2 and 3. He does that by freeing us from sin and death through the wonderful work of…imputation, whereby our sins are imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. He has delivered us from the law of sin of death, because Christ has paid the penalty.
With the Spirit’s guidance, we turn from what is worldly to what is holy (verses 5 – 8). The Holy Spirit must dwell in us in order for us to belong to Christ (verse 9). Even though we have fallen short through sin:
the Holy Spirit maintains our no-condemnation status by empowering us in that new nature for victory. It is according to the Spirit, verse 13, that we are able to put to death the deeds of the body and, thus, to live.
This brings us to today’s Epistle which describes our adoption into God’s family through the Holy Spirit. MacArthur has a lot to say about the meaning of adoption, especially in the ancient world during Paul’s time. Paul’s message must have been exciting news to the Romans, as we will see.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God (verse 14). This explains the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit. The oldest Christian denominations have the ordinance — for Catholics, the Sacrament — of Confirmation. Receiving the Holy Spirit and reaffirming our faith takes us to the point in our spiritual life whereby we recognise He guides us to do what is right and good.
More importantly, however, receiving the Holy Spirit makes us adopted members of God’s family. We can now, with confidence, call Him ‘Dad’ — Abba (verse 15). We recognise Him not as a fearsome Father but as a truly loving one.
When we think of adoption over the past few centuries, it appears to us as a mixed blessing. Orphanages have been and continue to be, in some cases, depressing and brutal places where children wait for parents to come rescue them. Over the past 40 years, psychotherapy has, perhaps mistakenly, encouraged adopted children to talk and write about finding their natural mothers and disparage their adopted families. There is often a tinge of sadness when we discuss adoption.
By contrast, in the ancient world, adoption was a tremendous, positive step for both the adopter and the adopted. It really did mean a new life not only in a family sense but also a legal one.
In ancient Greece, a man who had no sons would seek out a well-bred young man to adopt. The young man would then inherit his adoptive father’s estate and business concerns.
The same custom existed in Rome. A man who had no sons — or sons whom he thought were unsuitable to inherit his estate — went out in search of a young man whom he could adopt. The adopted son had a higher status than the natural sons did.
It was a tremendous privilege to be adopted during that era.
In Rome, fathers had power over their children throughout their lifetimes. They could even kill their sons or daughters. It was legal. Children were under their father’s control — patria potestas — until he died.
MacArthur describes how Roman adoption worked, given patria potestas (emphases mine):
Now obviously this…made adoption into another family very difficult and very serious unless the person was … an illegitimate child or an orphan. And if a man saw a son that he wanted and that son belonged to another father he had to go through a very formidable operation to get that person to pass out from under patria potestas into his own control. There were two steps. The first one was called mancipatio from which we get the word emancipation. And mancipatio was carried out about a symbolic sort of sale. If the father would agree to let this son be adopted by another man there was this symbolic sale they went to; they had some scales and some copper and they used this symbolism to carry out sort of a transaction like I’m selling this young man to you. They did it three times. Twice the father symbolically sold the son and twice he bought him back and then the third time he didn’t buy him back and the patria potestas was broken.
After the sale there was ceremony called vindicatio and the adopting father went to the Roman magistrate and presented a legal case for the actual legal transference of the person to be adopted into his own patria potestas. And when all this was complete the adoption was done.
Adoption in the Roman world signified four things. We can reflect on them the way the Romans who heard Paul’s letter did and relate them to adoption by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. MacArthur says:
First thing that happened was the adopted person lost all relationship to his old family. Everything was gone and he gained all rights to the new family. It’s a beautiful picture of salvation, isn’t it?
Second thing, it followed that he became heir to all the father’s, the new father’s estate. And even if the other children were blood born, it did not affect his rights. He was inalienably the co-heir with them and perhaps even exceeding above them, if that was in the prerogative of the father.
The third thing that happened, according to Roman law, was that the former life of the adopted person was completely wiped out. All his legal debts were cancelled. They were wiped out as if he had never existed. And the adopted person was given a new name and it was as if he had just been born. Sound familiar? When you came to Jesus Christ and were adopted into the family of God, all your past debts were what? Cancelled, and you became a co-heir of all that the born son, the Lord Jesus Christ, possesses.
The fourth thing was in the eyes of the law the adopted person was literally and absolutely the son of his new father. And so, when we were adopted, all these things, no doubt, are in the mind of the apostle and the Spirit, and we know they took place in our adoption. We have cut the cord with the past. We have become co-heirs to God’s kingdom. All the old debts are wiped out and we are absolutely and legally and forever the son of God.
Verse 16 refers to regeneration via the Holy Spirit. MacArthur explains:
Adoption gives us the title to the inheritance. Regeneration gives us the nature of sons and gives us the fitness for that inheritance. Both are important.
This regeneration starts our path of sanctification as the Holy Spirit guides us to do what God wants us to do. We turn away from sin towards accomplishing His will and purpose for us.
Knowing we are full members of God’s family through adoption gives us assurance that we are heirs with Christ, our heavenly Brother. As marvellous as that is, with the promise of eternal life with Him, it also means that we may suffer in this transitory life. We may be called to suffer as He was called to suffer (verse 17). MacArthur tells us:
Suffering is a necessary part of the preparation for glory.
For some Christians this might mean physical persecution or, in the case of death for the faith, martyrdom. For most of us, however, it might mean losing family members or longtime friends. We might find it difficult keeping or finding a job if our managers are set against Christians.
Ultimately, however, we will be glorified as Christ was glorified because we are heirs to the kingdom of God. And the Holy Spirit is with us from now through to life eternal.
MacArthur leaves us with this reflection on the Holy Spirit as Romans 8 describes:
The Holy Spirit frees us from sin and death. We looked at that in verses 2 and 3. The Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law, verse 4. The Holy Spirit changes our nature, verses 5 to 11. The Holy Spirit empowers us for victory over sin, verses 12 and 13. And then last time, the Holy Spirit adopts us into God’s family as sons, verses 14 through 16. All of this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit for which we give Him praise and thanks.
Now we come to the final point: The Holy Spirit secures our eternal glory.
In the second half of Romans 8, Paul describes how the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work in us then tells us of God’s everlasting love. These verses are familiar ones:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us?
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
May we reflect on these realities and powers of the Holy Spirit and give thanks, not only at Pentecost but every day.
Let us also remember to pray to the Holy Spirit for daily guidance. He will help us in all that we do.
Now that Ted Cruz has dropped out of the Republican race, right-of-centre Christians are concerned about whom to vote for in November 2016.
Ted Cruz was seen as the ‘moral’ choice for many churchgoers. I was never a supporter, and it emerges my instincts might have been right, especially as he suspended his campaign the day a startling family allegation, complete with photographic evidence, came to light. And it did not involve his wife Heidi.
What do these Christians do? They could vote for the Constitution Party.
The presumptive GOP nominee
However, the following questions should be asked and answered with thought and consideration:
- Which candidate will best serve my family’s and my needs?
- Is there a candidate who pledges to raise the profile of Christianity in America? (Yes, and he’s a Presbyterian.)
- How much do I know about the presumptive Republican nominee?
The media are now directing the narrative for the 2016 elections.
The candidate they dislike the most is the one who has pragmatic policies that will fix a broken America.
Yet, churchgoers say it would be immoral to vote for a man who is on his third wife and who speaks as he finds. Did it ever occur to them that the media are pushing certain themes — including accusations and quotes out of context — to steer honest Americans away from the man most likely to help them? Are the widespread negative optics influencing people unduly?
Have the churchgoers absorbing the media narrative and negative campaign advertising ever gone on YouTube to watch and listen to the candidate in question address the public — by now, hundreds of thousands of them?
If so, they would find a highly listenable extemporaneous speaker, one who puts forth his thoughts conversationally without the aid of a teleprompter. They will discover his plans for job creation and discouraging companies to leave the United States. They will hear how often he uses the words ‘love’ and ‘amazing’ — positively. They will understand why the US must stop being the world’s policeman free of charge to foreign countries. They may even see his immaculately-groomed wife and children. All of his children, bar the youngest (aged 10), are gainfully employed. They have families of their own. They have never been in trouble with drugs, alcohol or the police.
Nor has the candidate in question, who is stone cold sober every moment of the day and night. He only needs four hours sleep, so is able to take calls from world leaders. He enjoys working and he enjoys challenges.
He will not start a war. For him, that would be defeat. He prides himself on his negotiating skills. He even speaks highly of his opponents — Cruz or Paul Ryan — and wants to get along with them. He is not the problem at this juncture. They are. The same goes for protesters attempting to disrupt and destroy private gatherings of his supporters.
‘God qualifies the called’
You may remain unconvinced at this point.
However, in 2013, I read one of the Revd Walter Bright’s posts which has stayed in my mind ever since.
It is called ‘God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called’. I hope he does not mind my borrowing it for use in a political context, but this election cycle has me thinking of the title at least once a day.
The opening paragraphs, excerpted below, come from a Facebook post:
Isaac was a day dreamer, Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper and denied Christ, David had an affair and tried to cover it up with murder, Noah got drunk. Elisha was suicidal, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer and he was way too religious.
The post has this important message:
God is not looking for the qualified, he’s looking for people who would just avail themselves to him. When Jesus called the 12, most of them were not even educated. Yet, Jesus equipped them and they turned the world upside down …
Those whom God calls, He equips.
This same principle can apply to many people in this life, including in a secular context.
Rahab and the Wall of Jericho
Rahab was a woman of ill repute. Bible translations describe her as a ‘harlot’ or ‘prostitute’. Women in the Bible tells us the Bible story of the woman who ran an inn with her family:
They made their living by running a tavern: down- rather than up-market. It was a rowdy place, frequented by men who were not troubled by scruples. Rahab ‘comforted’ her customers from time to time. In short, she was no better than she should be.
Was she an upstanding, godly person? No.
Joshua 2 introduces her to us and describes her fearless work for the God she would come to know and love.
As Women in the Bible points out (emphasis in the original):
- Even an ordinary person can further God’s plan. Rahab was definitely from the wrong side of the tracks, but God used her to help His people.
She hid two Hebrew spies from soldiers who sought them.
She later negotiated with the Hebrew men, telling them that their people were a threat to her city, Jericho. She told them she put her life and those of her family members at risk by hiding them. The men promised to protect her and her family in return.
She worked with them to plan their escape and signal with a red cord that she and her family would not perish.
Again, she had no belief in the God of Israel at this point. She had a bad reputation. Yet, she was actively helping God’s people and risking her life in the process.
Joshua 6 describes the fall of Jericho. It took a week:
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.[b] Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent …
22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel …
25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
Rahab’s story reminds us that even those we do not perceive as godly can — and are called — to do the Lord’s work. Through that, those such as Rahab come to the Lord — or renew their relationship — with Him through grace by faith.
Before we get too self-righteous about our moralistic beliefs and personal purity, may we recall Rahab in the coming months and consider her story when deciding for whom to vote.
A final thought
In closing, the presumptive GOP nominee is a baptised Presbyterian who has also been confirmed. He is hardly the perfect Christian, but he does attend church at least twice a year and worshipped publicly on Easter Sunday 2016.
May conservative Republicans also remember that their party is called the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party. As such, moderate candidates should be made to feel welcome.
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
Who Is the Greatest?
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Last week’s reading at the end of Matthew 17 was about the temple tax. The discussion in today’s reading occurred at the same time (verse 1).
Parallel passages are Luke 9:46-48, which I wrote about in 2014, and Mark 9:33-37, which is in the three-year Lectionary. Matthew’s account is the only one of the three which says the disciples asked Him the question of who was the greatest. In Luke’s account, they were arguing about it until He intervened with a child. In Mark’s account, He asked them what they were discussing on the way to Capernaum that day.
The disciples were still thinking of a temporal kingdom of Israel with Jesus as its ruler. Matthew Henry has this explanation:
They strive who it should be, each having some pretence or other to it. Peter was always the chief speaker, and already had the keys given him he expects to be lord-chancellor, or lord-chamberlain of the household, and so to be the greatest. Judas had the bag, and therefore he expects to be lord-treasurer, which, though now he come last, he hopes, will then denominate him the greatest. Simon and Jude are nearly related to Christ, and they hope to take place of all the great officers of state, as princes of the blood. John is the beloved disciple, the favourite of the Prince, and therefore hopes to be the greatest. Andrew was first called, and why should not he be first preferred?
Even though Jesus had already told them of His imminent suffering to come, they focussed on His discussions of glory. They still had not grasped that He spoke of the world to come.
In order to illustrate His answer clearly, Jesus called a child to Him (verse 2). It is unclear whose child this was, but it might have been one of Peter’s as they were in his house when this took place. Some translations, such as the King James Version, says the child was little, implying a toddler.
With the child before them, he explained that they would have to ‘turn’ and become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (verse 3). The King James Version has ‘converted’, not ‘turn’.
Becoming like children in this context involves turning away from sin: repentance. We must put away worldly thoughts and sins of ambition, greed and lust. Furthermore, we must realise we are very little and lowly compared to the Lord. It involves recognising that we are dependent upon our Father in heaven for our lives and His blessings.
Becoming childlike includes donning the cloak of humility (verse 4). Humility leads to greatness in heaven.
Note that Jesus spoke of ‘entering the kingdom of heaven’, which meant that even the disciples, His chosen followers, were not ‘there’ yet. That applies to us as well. We are not born into the kingdom of heaven as an automatic right. We have to be fully dependent on the Lord in order to enter it. John MacArthur says (emphases mine):
If the Bible tells us we must enter the Kingdom of heaven, what does it assume? That we’re born where? Outside of it, right? We’re born outside of it. And that entering it is an act which we must do. All men are born outside of God’s Kingdom and are called to enter that Kingdom. And the gospel is presented that men may enter the Kingdom. “God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.” God wants people in His Kingdom. Jesus looked at the city of Jerusalem and said, “How often I would have gathered you but you would not.” He wanted to call men to His Kingdom and He did preach the Kingdom and John the Baptist preached the Kingdom and the Apostles preached the Kingdom and they called men into the Kingdom.
And that is exactly what our Lord is doing here. He’s talking about entering the Kingdom. And by the way, that phrase is used three times in Matthew…chapter 7, verse 21; chapter 18, verse 3; and again in chapter 19, verse 23 … about the rich man. It simply means to become saved, to become redeemed, to become regenerate, to be born again, to come into God’s Kingdom, God’s family, God’s influence, God’s rule, God’s dominion, God’s world. It is synonymous, for example, in chapter 18, verse 8, with entering into life. For entering into God’s Kingdom is entering into life. It is synonymous with chapter 25:21, entering into the joy of the Lord. When you enter into the Kingdom you enter into life. When you enter into life in God’s Kingdom you enter into the joy of the Lord.
So, men are called to enter. There is a gate in Matthew 17 and we are to enter, right? By the narrow gate, we are called to enter which assumes we’re outside and must come in…when it means to come under the rule of Jesus Christ, of God in His Kingdom.
MacArthur explains what Jesus is doing here, as recorded in Matthew 17:14 through Matthew 20:
… Jesus teaches the Twelve. He’s getting them ready for His death. He’s getting them ready for His departure. He’s getting them ready for their ministry. And so He’s teaching them very important truths. The emphasis of these months before His cross is not on the crowds, though there were times when He met the crowds, the emphasis is on His own, His disciples. This is their time. They are the object of His teaching.
Contrasting this with the temple tax episode just before this exchange, MacArthur tells us:
… this is not the believer’s relationship in the world, but the believer’s relationship in the family. And so, on the same day they get a tremendous insight into how they are to operate as citizens of the world and how they are to operate as children of God.
However, Jesus’s answer, complete with child, still does not resolve the issue of temporal greatness among them:
If you were to go over to the twentieth chapter of Matthew … you would find they’re still debating about this and James and John, in the twentieth chapter around verse 20 to 28, send their mother to Jesus and they say through their mother, “Well, could my boys be the chief ones in the Kingdom?”
And in case you just want to lay all the blame on James and John, you might want to know that the Bible also tells us that all the rest of them were filled with envy and jealousy. They were all having the same problem. They just didn’t all have a mother around who would do what James and John’s mother did. So they were all in the same boat.
And you want to know something that’s really sad? The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, they were arguing about the same thing still. I mean, they just never bothered to get in on the fact that Jesus was going to die and demonstrate a little sympathy and a little care and a little comfort toward the one who would bear the sins of the world. They never came to that, to the very night before He died, they were still arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. I mean, they were really stuck on that issue. Ambition, pride, selfishness, self‑glory were behind the discord, the dissension and the in‑fighting among the Twelve.
Let us remember this lesson the next time we are tempted to be first or to be great, especially in a church context. Our Lord humbled Himself to come to earth, mingle among sinful mankind, then die on the cross in order to redeem us. He gave us the greatest lesson in humility, humility, humility throughout His earthly life from start to finish. May we never forget it.
In closing, some may wonder if there is a difference between Gospel references to the ‘kingdom of God’ and the ‘kingdom of heaven’. MacArthur provides this analysis:
You say, “Why the different titles?” Very simple. The Kingdom of God emphasizes the ruler. The Kingdom of heaven emphasizes the character of His ruling. It is God who rules that Kingdom and He rules it with heavenly principles and heavenly power and heavenly majesty and heavenly blessing, as opposed to that which is earthly.
So, what Jesus is talking about is the Kingdom of heaven insofar as it means the rule and reign of God, the dominion of God, the sphere of God’s influence and God’s power and God’s rule and God’s blessing coming into the Kingdom of the Lord, coming into the sphere of God, coming in to eternal life, if you will, being saved, being redeemed, belonging to God, under His dominion. So, the concept of Kingdom of heaven simply means God’s sphere of rule.
Now when you see the term “Kingdom of heaven,” in the book of Matthew and you see it many, many times, as I said, there are many facets to that dominion of God, that sphere of God’s rule, many facets. And when you see the phrase, you must carefully look at the context to help you to understand what facet of that Kingdom is in view.
For example, if you were to look at chapter 25 and verse 1, here you read, “Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins,” and you remember the virgins who had the lamps, five had them ready and five didn’t when the Lord returned. Now there you have the Kingdom of heaven relating to the return of Christ to set up His Kingdom. So it is the millennial aspect of the Kingdom of heaven in view in chapter 25. The future thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, that’s in view with that use of Kingdom of heaven …
So, sometimes the Kingdom of heaven can refer to eternity. Sometimes it can refer to the millennial earth, sometimes it can refer to the influence of Christianity on the world. Sometimes it can refer to the sphere of Christianity which includes the true and the false. Sometimes it refers to the personal appropriation of the Kingdom, that is coming into the Kingdom personally, receiving Christ, being redeemed, being saved in the genuine sense …
And now we can turn back to chapter 18. And I believe what the Lord is saying here is again relative to the personal appropriation of the Kingdom. He is not talking here about entering the Millennium, He’s not talking here particularly about entering the eternal state, although those are all inherent in this because they will be the final end of all of those who are in the Kingdom. He’s not talking about the true and the false existing within the sphere of Christian influence and the influence of the Kingdom. He’s not talking about its influence on the world externally. He here is saying if you want to really genuinely enter in to God’s Kingdom, if you want to become one of His subjects, one of His followers, a child of God, a Son of God, redeemed and saved and born again, it is a parallel, if you will, to the third chapter of John’s gospel, it’s another way to talk about regeneration and the new birth.
So, the aspect of the Kingdom of heaven in view here is personal appropriation, entering in to God’s Kingdom by believing, receiving salvation. And I think that’s clear from the context, it can’t mean anything else. So, let’s talk about that. We then know what the Kingdom of heaven is, let’s talk about entering the Kingdom of heaven because He says in verse 3, “Except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter.”
It is a happy coincidence that this passage from Matthew came up for Exaudi Sunday, between Ascension Day and Pentecost, even if some will be reading it on Saturday. It tells us how much the apostles and disciples needed the Holy Spirit’s gifts and guidance — and how much we need them, too. Something for us to reflect on with thanksgiving in the week ahead.
Next time: Matthew 18:5-6
This coming Sunday is traditionally known as Exaudi Sunday. Today, it is called the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The traditional name comes from the first word of the Introit in Latin: ‘Exaudi Domine’, or, in English, ‘Lord, hear my voice’.
The traditional text for the Introit comes from Psalm 27:
Hearken, O Lord, unto my voice which has called out to you, alleluia; my heart declared to you: “Your countenance have I sought; I shall ever seek your countenance, O Lord; do not turn your face from me, alleluia, alleluia.” The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
My cyberfriend and reader Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod has an excellent sermon which explains the relevance of Exaudi Sunday to Christians today. I excerpted it three years ago and it is the best I’ve read yet:
That post also expands on the meaning of the word ‘exaudi’ and how this Sunday links to the Ascension and Pentecost.
This is the final Sunday of Eastertide 2016.