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By Barbara Ste. Marie

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:5).

 

Rahab was a woman from Jericho. She had a home on the wall of the city and her whole family lived in the city as well. Life probably seemed good to her, until the city heard of the mighty deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt by the Lord God. Let us read the portion about Rahab from the account of the taking of Jericho.

 

“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window. And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them: And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (Joshua 2:1-24).

 

Rahab was living an independent, worldly, do as you please lifestyle. She was living in open sin. All was good until the news of the Israelites coming to conquer Jericho was spread throughout the city. Still this would not have been such terrible news; they had their own mighty men to protect the city and the city walls were tall and broad. Wide enough to have houses built on top: Rahab’s own house was atop the wall. This news would not have been horrifying enough to make their hearts melt with fear and drain the courage from the men and make them faint, but for the fact of Israel’s God.

  The inhabitants of Jericho had heard of the deliverance from Egypt, how the Lord God dried up the Red Sea for their passage through, then released the waters and destroyed all of Pharaoh’s armies; how the Lord gave them victory over the Amorite kings on the other side of the Jordan River; how the Lord kept and prepared them in the wilderness. They heard of the power of the Almighty Lord.

  Rahab heard all of this too, and she took it into her heart. This news changed her – changed her whole life. Hebrews 11:31 says “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”

  Rahab had faith in Israel’s God. She had true living faith, faith that made her risk her own life for the spies from Israel. She took them in, hid them, lied about their whereabouts, and after speaking with them sent them away in another direction.

  Rahab could have been overwhelmed by fear, like the rest of the people of Jericho. She could have turned over the spies to the king’s men to try to stop what was coming, but she saw the One True Living God. She had not seen His mighty acts with her eyes but she “saw” them clearly with her heart of faith. She abandoned whatever gods her people had and whatever they would expect her to do, to serve the Living God by hiding the spies. Rahab then asked them to promise by the Lord that they would save her father’s household. They swore they would save her and her father’s house, and Rahab gathered her family into her house on the wall and bound the scarlet thread in the window as a sign. She had faith that even though destruction would come, she would be saved and even her relatives with her.

 

“And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (Joshua 6:24-25).

 

Rahab had a living faith, a faith that makes one do things they never would have done before, trusting and believing in God’s power and direction, a faith that causes people to leave the world and surrender to God’s will.

  Rahab loved the Lord the rest of her life while dwelling in Israel and her reward here on earth was to bring forth a son in the line of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).

  Rahab’s faith changed her. James 2:24-26 says “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Rahab’s faith allowed her to hide the spies and send them out another way because she trusted God and put her life in His Hands.

  A natural outpouring of her faith was to do good to His people. She did not just believe with her mind and then go about her worldly life, living the same but thinking “I will be saved from the destruction to come.”

  Let us remember the actions of Rahab and ask ourselves, has my faith changed me? Have I seen God’s mighty works through the eyes of faith? Do I have faith in action? Is my faith dead (without the Spirit) or alive unto good works?

 

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

 

Originally published in The Witness 10(7) (July 2012)

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 897-899)

In the year of our Lord 1572, the lords of justice at Dortrecht in Holland, laid their hands on two very meek and dear friends of God, who followed their Saviour, the slain Lamb of the cross, Jesus Christ, and were not of the least of the members of the church of the Lord scattered abroad in all countries, in showing forth, as lights in this world, their eminent virtues among this evil and perverse generation. They were both taken out of the fold like lambs for the slaughter, the circumstances being as follows:

  First, Adriaenken Jans’ daughter was suddenly apprehended. She resided at Molenaersgraef, in the Papendrecht district; which was under the jurisdiction of the city of Dortrecht, and because she was said to be a heretic, she was seized and imprisoned in the Vuylpoort.

  After that the plan was formed to capture Jan Wouterss van Kuyck, who resided in the city, but frequently changed his abode, so as not to be so easily recognized. To this end, the bailiff, having learned where he resided (namely, in the street leading to the Rietdijck, near the New Gate, in a room which was reached from the street by a flight of stairs), came with his beadles and unexpectedly, and without asking anything, ascended the stairs, where Jan Wouterss met him just as he opened the door. The bailiff said, since he did not know him: “Does Jan van Kuyck reside here?” to which this good, upright and very sincere man, not willing to speak contrary to the truth, answered yes, adding that it was he himself.

  These words he spoke very loudly, in order that his dear wife, who was back in the room, should hear it and flee, which she did: his only daughter, however, a child of only about seven years, remained in the room and saw her father apprehended, to which no attention was paid. The ministers of justice immediately laid their hands upon this friend of God, and forcibly bound him, whereupon he said: “O my lords, how you bind me, as though I were a wicked man; however, you bind not me, but yourselves.” Then a great lamentation arose among them; however, they proceeded, and led him, as a defenseless lamb that is overcome by wolves, from the Rietdijck to the Vuylpoort, about half an hour’s walk through the city, where they put him into another cell than the one in which Adriaenken Jans was confined, though within the same walls and under the same roof of said prison.

  In the meantime both had to suffer much temptation, according to the body as well as in regard to the soul; several times they were severely tortured, stripped, and scourged, so that almost the entire city spoke about their sufferings and misery, as Jan Wouterss subsequently also indicated in one of his letters.

  The [Roman Catholic] clergy also assailed them much according to the soul, in order to deprive them, by many wiles and snares, of the treasure of a true faith; but they were not able to accomplish anything with either of them; hence they [the two martyrs], were finally sentenced to death in open court, to be executed with fire, on the water front of the city, near a certain lime kiln, where now the new fortification is, between the mill that stands upon the bastion, and the rampart; however, with the condition, that Adriaenken Jans should not really die by fire, but should prior to her burning be strangled at the stake, which lesser penalty of death we do not find to have been executed on Jan Wouterss.

  In the meantime both prepared themselves for death with great desire and inward joy, unable sufficiently to praise God that they had been counted worthy to deliver up their bodies as a sacrifice for His holy name’s sake.

  When the hour of their departure had come, both were tied together; however, they fell upon their knees, and quietly offered up, before they were led forth, an earnest prayer to God the Lord, that He would strengthen them in their impending suffering, to persevere unto the end.

  Thereupon their mouths (for fear that they should speak something to the people), were gagged with a piece of wood, or some other instrument made for this purpose, and they were thus led from the prison which presented a pitiful sight. Jan Wouterss, however, pulled out the piece of wood, or instrument, with one hand, which it appears was not bound, and cried with a loud voice: “O Lord, strengthen Thy feeble servant: and Thy poor handmaiden. It is for Thy name’s sake that we have come to this for which we have willingly prepared ourselves.”

  When he had said this, one of his fellow believers, whose heart, as it seems, had been set aflame hereby mightily pressed his way through the people, and coming before him, said: “Strive valiantly, dear brother, you will suffer no more hereafter.”

Thereupon Jan Wouterss instantly pulled open his jacket and showed him his breast bloody from the scourging inflicted upon him in prison and said: “I already bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus;” and he lifted up his eyes to heaven, looking longingly as it were to the heavenly resting place.

  In the meanwhile, before all this was properly noticed, because of the surging crowd, said person went out of sight and disappeared among the people; whereupon some of the servants of justice murmured and sternly asked, where this man was. This occurred near the swine market, close by the New Haven. They went on and soon arrived at the place of execution, where two stakes stood erected near, and around which an innumerable multitude was gathered.

  Having arrived there, they ascended the height, or erected scaffold, where they on their knees again quietly prayed to God, though Jan Wouterss only was able to speak, since the mouth of Adriaenken Jans was well gagged with the previously mentioned piece of wood, or instrument.

  When they had risen, preparations were first made to strangle Adriaenken Jans, whereupon she placed herself at the stake.

  Then Jan Wouterss said: “This is the day of salvation.” But the underbailiff, hearing this, sternly cried: “Be silent.” Thereupon Jan Wouterss said: “Why should I keep silent; I certainly speak nothing that is evil.”

  In the meantime Adriaenken Jans was strangled…

  The servants of justice then turned to Jan Wouterss, who cheerfully, yea, with a smiling countenance, placed himself at the other stake, which stood close by, where he while being fastened to it, noticed that some of his fellow believers stood among the people, to see his end; to whom, without naming any one, he cried aloud: “Adieu and farewell, my dear brethren and sisters, I will herewith commend you to the Lord, to the Lord who shed His blood for us.” With this he made haste and prepared himself for death, commending his soul to God in these words: “O God, who art my strength, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”

  Then fire was set to the wood piled around him, and this friend of God was burned alive, as it appears, with his dead sister, to the great sorrow of many that stood around and were filled with commiseration at the sight of it.

  This was the end of these two dear favorites of the Lord, of whom no one spake any evil (touching their life), but whom every one praised on account of their virtuous walk.

By Pablo Yoder

“What are you doing here?” was the question that God asked Elijah, the time that he ran, scared silly by the threats of a woman. Discouraged and tired from running, he was hiding in a cave, wishing to die. He had believed a bunch of the devil’s lies, and that is why this usually courageous prophet was acting so strangely. Then he heard that familiar voice, “What are you doing here?”

Fortunately Elijah was honest enough to answer truthfully to the owner of the voice. “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts (true enough): for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain the prophets with the sword (again, true enough); and I, even I only, am left (Whoa! That’s a lie from the pit); and they seek my life, to take it away … (True again; but the God that made fire fall from the sky that was so hot that it even burned stones and water, that gave you the stamina to run for miles with the speed of the antelope, that baked little miracle cakes out of thin air, and that came up with little cruises of water from nothing can take care of you, my dear prophet friend) …”

Have you ever heard modern-day Elijahs whine the same way? “My church is full of problems and I am so alone. I am the only one left that really wants to serve the Lord or obey the Bible. Everybody is going liberal. Nobody loves me. Nobody cares. Nobody sees all the work I do for the Lord. I am worthless. I am so discouraged. I’m going to throw in the towel …”

Today God calls you to come out of the cave of your discouragement to stand before HIM. It’s time to quit believing lies and to look at God Jehovah. Will he have to rend your life asunder with the awful winds of trials? Or shake the very earth you stand on with the terrible earthquakes of upheaving circumstances? Or burn the dross from your gold with the hot fire of persecution?

Come out of the lonely grotto of your discouragement and listen for the still, small voice. The still, small voice of God says:

What are you doing here? Get back to the very place you ran from, and get to work. I have so much for you to do. Messages to deliver. Kings to anoint. Men to put to work for my kingdom …

My kingdom has not died. Stop believing all those lies. I am not done with the church yet. I am going to win this battle.

I, Jesus Christ, will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!

And look around you. Open up your spiritual eyes. You aren’t seeing right and it’s hard for you to believe, but I have chosen 7000 that have not bowed the knee to nor kissed Baal!

The time for moping is over, discouraged brother. If you are getting old, find your Elisha to replace you and make sure he has a double measure of your spirit. If you are a church leader, get others involved in the battle and clean up the church. God is more interested in revival than you are!

It is time to enter the battle. This is war! Spiritual warfare! God bless you as you take up all the armor of God and enter the fray. And don’t forget to listen daily to the still, small voice!

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Arlin Weaver

Imagine the proverbial man who lives in a room of mirrors. No matter which way he turns, everything points back to himself.

And it’s a view he’s very content with—because he’s delighted to be the center of his universe. If he looks north, the view is graced with … himself. To the south … himself. East and west reflect the same image.

The man of the mirrors is content in his own glory—until the day a longing, vague and ill-defined, taunts him with hints of life beyond the mirrors.

This Mr. Ego is a narcissist, though, and not quickly shaken. Still, with passing years and building despair, the crisis comes, and in ultimate desperation, he cries out to the world beyond his mirrors.

He meets the Man who breaks the mirrored cell as a Liberator—and indeed, He is!

To the north is a limitless expanse of meadows, trees, and beauty. To the east are the ocean and the rising sun. To the south are inviting paths, happy homes, and busy villages. To the west are smiling faces, cheerful children, and gracious friends. This is the world beyond the broken mirror.

We’ve all been as foolish as the man of the mirrors. We’ve imprisoned ourselves by our own visions of self-aggrandizement; we’ve lived preoccupied with ourselves; we’ve embezzled God’s great gift of life and spent it on ourselves.

And only God can convince us that our walls are confining, and that there is life beyond self. At first, the very idea of the world beyond self is strange to us. Then it teases us, and ultimately torments us. The tug of the infinite trounces the tawdry cheapness of the mirrored room.

“For none of us liveth to himself” (Romans 14:7).

The advent of the gospel in our lives demands the end of the mirrors—it dares to shatter them without apology. The call of the Liberator, Jesus, is for Mr. Ego to “deny [utterly disown] himself.” He goes even further, insisting that self must die—and die by crucifixion.

This Liberator redefines virtue, too. Instead of self-gratification and self-esteem, He gives us three true virtues: love, faith, and hope (see 1 Corinthians 13:13). These are like the great, expansive vistas outside the broken room of mirrors.

With love, we forget ourselves—and our old mirror prison.

With love we discover others. Love introduces us to a world of relationships, of joyful interaction, and creative self-abandonment. With love, we become givers. With love, we share. With love, we uplift others. And with love, we forget ourselves—and our old mirror prison.

With faith we discover God. Faith is God-focused. We worship our Liberator—instead of haunting the temple of our sacrilegious self-worship. We live for God alone, we love God first, and we abandon self for God.

With hope we discover the infinite. Outside our room of mirrors, we begin our journey into an eternal future. Freed, God calls us to journey from our prison into His permanent, built-for-forever kingdom. Transience and temporal living are forgotten, and the things and virtues of God become eternally worth our investments.

I suspect you know where you live. If it’s in a room of mirrors, then you’re imprisoned.

But if God has broken your cell, and you have escaped the bondage of self, then the vistas beyond the broken mirror are yours.

Let God liberate self, and let Him teach you how to live in the freedom of love, discovering faith, and journeying with hope.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

This November is another presidential election in the United States.  Once again the people of the United States have the opportunity to choose the next President and other elected officials.  In the midst of the heated campaign cycle, we who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus would do well to ask the question: “should Christians vote?”  Are there compelling reasons to abstain from voting?  Indeed there are.

 

Voting and political involvement promotes dissension in the brotherhood.  Political affiliations and opinions promote division among Christ’s body.  One man is convinced that the conservatives are right and is excited to vote Republican; the next is convinced that a liberal agenda will do the country better and will vote Democrat.  A third says that everyone should vote for a third party.  They then proceed to debate and argue, then go away holding anger in their hearts toward each other.  Such things happening in the world is bad enough; why would we ever want to bring this horrid, division-creating plague into the church?  There has been enough bitterness, dissension, and division among those who call themselves Christians already; why would we want to add yet another controversial subject into the church which has no relevance to the Christian’s mission?

 

A friend of mine told me about how his father, who was a minister in his denomination, ran as a Republican for Congress.  When his political views became known, he was nearly thrown out of the church which was predominantly Democrat.

 

Voting and political involvement detracts from the Gospel.  Jesus has given His church the mission of taking the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them, and teaching them to keep every commandment He gave (Matthew 28:19-20).  Add to this the commands of the Apostles, and the church has a full-time job.  Why would we want to add to this divinely-given mission any efforts to campaign for political issues or people?  May God forbid that any effort would ever be made to convince people to vote one way or another across a pulpit meant for the proclamation of the Gospel and obedience to God’s commands!

 

Not only does politics detract from the Gospel in time and effort, it also detracts from the Gospel in credibility.  What if the church expends time, energy, and effort into a political candidate who is successfully elected, then it is discovered that the candidate was not what the church thought he was?  What if he gets the country into a deeper mess than it already is in?  The church will find itself discredited in the eyes of the world, and when she tries to proclaim the Gospel, the world will turn a deaf ear.  “You told us about the wonders of the political candidate last year and we believed you; it did not turn out; why should we pay attention to your Gospel this year?”

 

I heard a missionary to Africa once tell the story of how in an election year, some politicians came into the area where he was working.  They met with the native ministers and asked them to help campaign for their candidate, for which they would be paid.  The native ministers met together and discussed the situation in the missionary’s absence.  Having never discussed politics with the missionary, they came to the conclusion on their own that doing so would detract from the Gospel, so they refrained from doing it.

 

God will put in power whom He will, regardless of what we do or do not do.  God sent a dream to Nebuchadnezzar the king, warning him of the punishment awaiting his pride.  In the dream, it was stated that Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment would be “to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of  men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).  Daniel the prophet praised God because “he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

 

God will set up as President (or Congressman, or governor, etc.) whomever He has chosen to allow to use that office.  His purposes will be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, all of earth can oppose it – but in vain.  God’s will shall be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, it will not matter if I vote in favor of that person or another – my vote will not make a difference.  God’s will shall be accomplished.

 

Voting and political involvement consumes valuable time which could be spent on the Kingdom of God.  Even if one never says a word to another person about politics, if he votes and keeps himself informed on the issues and candidates, he must pour a large amount of time into politics.  Imagine all the time spent reading, researching, pondering, forming resolutions, and acting on political subjects!  Now imagine how much could be accomplished for the Kingdom of God in that much time!  Time spent reading the Word of God and good books, researching and studying important topics, pondering God’s truth, making resolves, and then acting on them!  How much time which could be spent furthering the church’s God-given mission is wasted on the worthless politics of this hell-bound earth!

 

Voting and political involvement compromises nonresistance.  Jesus was clear about nonresistance: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).  “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39).  We who profess to be Christians must obey Jesus’ commandments, including these ones.  How then is it an expression of nonresistance and love for our enemies when a man, professing to be a Christian, casts his vote for the Commander-in-Chief of the American military?  How is it an expression of nonresistance when he purposely votes (if he chooses to do so) for a man whose principles are to attack the enemies of America and to fight in war against those who attack our country?  War is the way the kingdoms of this world settle their disputes; let us, followers of the Prince of Peace, keep far away from partaking, even indirectly, in their diabolical method of “problem-solving”.

 

Voting and involvement with politics blurs the line between the church and the world.  Earthly government, politics, voting, lobbying – all are worldly methods to take care of worldly issues.  Christians involving themselves in such activities are at best compromising with the world on these issues (if not completely giving up to the world).  The Bible talks again and again about the necessity of keeping separation from the world:

 

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

 

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4).

 

Fellow-Christians, we have a divinely given mission – to spread the Gospel, baptize, and teach the commands of Jesus and His Apostles.  We have no time or resources to waste on the vanity of politics.  We must not compromise nonresistance or separation from the world; we must not mix the Two Kingdoms (the Kingdomof Godand the kingdoms of this world) by involvement in politics.  May we carefully avoid any political entanglement or any involvement with other things with which our enemy, the Devil, seeks to ensnare the church and turn it from its mission.

 

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

 Originally published in The Witness, September 2012.

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, p. 644)

 

A.D. 1560 there were brought before the court at Antwerp two pious Christians, named Joris and Joachim.  As they were standing as sheep for the slaughter before the lords, the bailiff asked Joris whether he was rebaptized.  He replied: “I am baptized according to the doctrine of Christ, as He commanded His apostles, saying: ‘Go and preach to all nations.  He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.’  Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16.  Hence they must first be taught and believe, and then be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

 

The bailiff also asked Joachim whether he was baptized.  He replied: “I hold to one baptism, one faith, one Lord, and God.”  Eph. 4:5, 6.

 

Then the lords sentenced them according to the king’s mandate, whereupon Joachim, hearing his sentence, said: “My lords, we thank you for your trouble with us; but may God forgive you the blindness of your heart, and grant that you may become enlightened.”

 

As they were coming out of the court, they said: “We are not ashamed of the Gospel” (Rom. 1:16); and while walking in the street, they sang:

 

“O Lord forever in my thought Thou art;

My soul doth long to be close to Thy heart.”

Ps. 143:8.

 

Thereupon Joachim said: “Fear not them that kill the body; for hereafter, when they mourn, we shall rejoice.”  Luke 6:23.

 

Thus they as giants in the faith pressed through the strait gate to the new Jerusalem.  After they had come to the place where they were to offer up their burnt sacrifice, they gave each other the kiss of peace.  Standing at the stake, Joachim said: “O Father, forgive them that inflict this suffering upon us; but we thank Thee that Thou hast made us worthy to suffer for Thy name; therefore, O Lord, assist us, and succor us with Thy help in this last extremity.” 

 

Joris said: “Lord Thou knowest that I have sought Thee and my salvation; and for this cause I must now die.  Therefore, O Lord, receive me graciously.”  He further said: “Citizens of Antwerp, fear not; though we die for the truth, Christ our Lord went before us, and we must follow Him.”  They then began to sing this farewell hymn: “Farewell, brethren and sisters all,” etc.  Thereupon they commended their spirits into the hands of God, and ended their lives in the fire.  They now lie under the altar, and wait to be clothed with white linen raiment, and to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father, where they shall be served with new wine and heavenly bread.  Rev. 6:9; 19:8; Matt. 13:43; 26:28; Rev. 2:17.

From the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7

 

And seeing the multitudes, he [Jesus Christ] went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.  And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

 

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:  But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?  do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.  Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

 

 

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

 

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?  or, What shall we drink?  or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: ) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

 

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

 

 

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

 

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

 

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

 

 

 

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 741-742)

 

In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in Holland, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists (Roman Catholics.) But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast unto the end; wherefore, when the chief Shepherd shall appear in the clouds of heaven and gather together His elect from all the ends of the earth, he shall also through grace hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” I Pet. 5:4; Matt. 24:31; 25:23.

Concerning his apprehension, it is stated by trustworthy persons, that when he fled he was hotly pursued by a thief-catcher, and as there had been some frost, said Dirk Willems ran before over the ice, getting across with considerable peril. The thief-catcher following him broke through, when Dirk Willems, perceiving that the former was in danger of his life, quickly returned and aided him in getting out, and thus saved his life. The thief-catcher wanted to let him go, but the burgomaster, very sternly called to him to consider his oath, and thus he was again seized by the thief-catcher, and, at said place, after severe imprisonment and great trials proceeding from the deceitful papists, put to death at a lingering fire by these bloodthirsty, ravening wolves, enduring it with great steadfastness, and confirming the genuine faith of the truth with his death and blood, as an instructive example to all pious Christians of this time, and to the everlasting disgrace of the tyrannous papists.

NOTE: In this connection, it is related as true from the trustworthy memoirs of those who were present at the death of this pious witness of Jesus Christ, that the place where this offering occurred was without Asperen, on the side of Leerdam, and that, a strong east wind blowing that day, the kindled fire was much driven away from the upper part of his body, as he stood at the stake; in consequence of which this good man suffered a lingering death, insomuch that in the town of Leerdam, towards which the wind was blowing, he was heard to exclaim over seventy times, “O my Lord; my God,” etc., for which cause the judge or bailiff, who was present on horseback, filled with sorrow and regret at the man’s sufferings, wheeled about his horse, turning his back toward the place of execution, and said to the executioner, “Dispatch the man with a quick death.” But how or in what manner the executioner then dealt with this pious witness of Jesus, I have not been able to learn, except only, that his life was consumed by the fire, and that he passed through the conflict with great steadfastness, having commended his soul into the hands of God.

As we have come into possession of the sentence which these rulers of darkness passed upon this friend of God, we have deemed it well, to add it here for the benefit of the readers, in order that reading the same, they may be able to perceive the truth of this matter.

COPY: Whereas, Dirk Willems, born at Asperen, at present a prisoner, has, without torture and iron bonds (or otherwise) before the bailiff and us judges, confessed, that at the age of fifteen, eighteen or twenty years, he was rebaptized in Rotterdam, at the house of one Pieter Willems, and that he, further, in Asperen, at his house, at divers hours, harbored and admitted secret conventicles and prohibited doctrines, and that he also has permitted several persons to be rebaptized in his aforesaid house; all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty. So done this 16th of May, in presence of the judges: Cornelis Goverts, Jan van Stege Jans, Adriaen Gerritts, Adriaen Jans, Lucas Rutgers, Jan Jans, and Jan Roefelofs, A. D., 1569.

Extracted from the records of the town of Asperen, and after collation this copy was found to agree [with the original], the 15th of October 1606. Acknowledged by me, the town clerk of Asperen.

Aug 28

Hijacked!

By Mike Atnip

 

The most famous hijacking that has ever occurred is probably the notorious 9/11 attacks. Four airliners took off on ordinary runs to predetermined destinies, only to be taken over by men with a mission to destroy. Within a few hours both of the World Trade Center towers lay in smoldering heaps, and the Pentagon was damaged. An intervention of passengers on the fourth jet thwarted the plans to ram the White House as well. By the end of the day, almost 3,000 souls had been stripped of bodily life.

 

Despite the notoriety of that quadruple hijack, there is another quadruple hijack that has destroyed its ten thousands. And instead of commandeering airliners and turning them into potent bombs, this hijacking uses mere words. By taking four words and turning them in another direction than where they were intended to go, many have been deceived and stripped of spiritual life.

 

Those four words are found in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Grace, saved, faith, and works. Let’s look at these terms in the context in which they were written. With each word we will start with the hijacked definition and then strive to turn it back to its intended meaning.

 

Grace

When it is used in the New Testament, [grace] refers to that favor which God did at Calvary when He stepped down from His judgment throne to take upon Himself the guilt and penalty of human sin. …

 

“Grace” means “undeserved favor.” Even though you deserve to pay your own penalty for sin which is death in the Lake of Fire, God offers to pay your penalty for you through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.

 

The above words represent a typical view of grace in a typical church in North America. But what is wrong with that definition? It reminds me of someone who takes a pie that is 12 inches in diameter, and cuts a slice one inch wide and eats it. Then he tells everyone he has eaten a whole pie. Not so!

 

The above view of grace takes one small aspect, the forgiveness of past sins, and makes that the whole of grace. And, that is not even getting into any debate about whether the viewpoint presented above about Christ’s atonement is correct or complete. Is grace only about forgiveness of past sins? Let’s look at what else grace accomplishes:

Grace gives ability and power to missionaries. Acts 14:26 Grace turns unjust men into just men. Romans 3:24 Grace gives power to reign over sin. Romans 5:17 Grace gives gifts to minister: prophecy, teaching, exhortation, etc. Romans 12:6 Grace makes men to be wise architects in God’s kingdom. 1 Corinthians 3:10 Grace leads men to simplicity and sincerity. 2 Corinthians 1:12 Grace moves the poor to give liberally. 2 Corinthians 8:1 Grace moved Christ to live in voluntary poverty, to enrich us. 2 Corinthians 8:9 Grace makes good works abound in men. 2 Corinthians 9:8 Grace provides strength to the weak. 2 Corinthians 12:9 Grace teaches us to deny self and live godly right here on earth. Titus 2:11-12 Grace enabled Jesus to taste death. Hebrews 2:9 Grace gives us the Spirit. Hebrews 10:29 Grace enables us to serve God acceptably. Hebrews 12:28

To state that “in the New Testament, grace refers to that favor which God did at Calvary …” definitely limits grace pretty severely! As can be deduced from the above verses, grace is God’s power working in humanity. And yet, when people read Ephesians 2:8, I think it would be safe to say that a large number of them think only in that very limited scope of grace that deals with pardon for past sins. They eat a one inch slice of pie, thinking they are eating the whole thing!

 

 

Saved

To be saved means “to be forgiven of all one’s sins.” At least that is what myriads of people seem to think. Has the word “saved” been hijacked?

 

Yes!

 

No one should think that I am indicating that “getting saved” (as a broad phrase often used in current church settings) does not include a total forgiveness of all past sins. However, the word “saved” in its biblical usage does not refer to the act of pardon, but rather deliverance. For a start, let’s look at the use of the word in the Old Testament. With a concordance or Bible software, check how the words “save,” “saved,” “salvation,” and “savior” are used in the Old Testament. What you will find is that those words are not expressly attached to the idea of forgiveness, not one single time! Yes, there are times when the context is not exactly given and the writer could be referring to the idea of forgiveness, such as in Psalm 6:4. Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

 

But in every case where the context is clear, “save” and its various forms always have the meaning of “rescue” or “deliver from danger.” A couple of examples from among the many available:

And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? Judges 6:14 Gideon saved Israel … not by a sacrifice for forgiveness, but by a deliverance from enemies. So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven. 1 Samuel 14:23 God’s saving act was not a pardon. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. Nehemiah 9:27 Notice how that men are called “saviours” here! Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:13 Notice that God’s salvation was accomplished by killing Israel’s enemies, not by pardoning them of sins.

 

Moving into the New Testament, the same basic pattern is seen. Note that I am not saying that the word salvation in the New Testament never includes the idea of pardon of past sins, but that is not what the word in and of itself centers on. In the New Testament, it also carries the idea of healing, so that sometimes the same Greek word is translated “save” and sometimes “heal.”

 

A few cases where “saved” is obviously referring to a rescue, rather than a pardon:

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. Matthew 14:30 It is obvious here that Peter was not asking for a pardon, but a rescue. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Luke 9:56 This was said by Jesus in the context of calling down fire from heaven. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. Acts 27:20

 

The list could go on. The point is clear that in these cases “saved” has a clear context of “rescue.” Now let’s look at some cases where the context is not so clear:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 How will Jesus “save” people from their sins if they are only pardoned from the ones they have committed already? If there is no grace to conquer future sins, then we have not been saved from our sins. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Matthew 24:13 Again we find the same dilemma; if we only have a reprieve from past committed sins, but no power to endure in the future, have we been saved from sin? For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10 How does the life of Christ save us? Does His life procure a pardon? No, his life, put within us, gives us power over sin. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Timothy 4:16 Can we pardon ourselves of our sins before God? Obviously not. But by continuing in the teachings of Jesus, we rescue ourselves, not in the sense that we “lift ourselves by our own bootstraps,” but in the sense that we will continue to find grace to conquer, if we will but keep looking in faith to Him. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Titus 3:5 In this verse, how did God accomplish our salvation? By a regeneration and a baptism of the Holy Ghost! “Regeneration” speaks of a remanufacturing, and “renewing” is a renovation. Both words speak of a transformation of character, not a pardon for past failures. Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. James 5:20 To save a soul from death … does that mean to only pardon past sins? The only way a person can be rescued from death is if the past deeds of death are pardoned and the future is made alive. If not made alive, the dead spirit will continue to produce evil fruit. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:21 A very controversial verse, I know. But let’s pull out the words in parenthesis and reduce it to “baptism saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Let’s skip the point, for this article, of how and when a person should be baptized with water. The point to focus on is how the salvation is accomplished: by the resurrection of Jesus. In short, we have to experience the same death Christ did, and the same resurrection, in our own hearts. We have to die with Him to our self-centered ways (take up the cross), and be brought to a new life by Him (experience the “first resurrection”). Christ’s resurrection in us accomplishes this, and that saves us—rescues us—from the power of sin. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. Luke 1:77 Ah, salvation equals pardon for sins! Maybe … The word “remission” means to release in some cases (See Luke 4:18 where the words “deliverance” and “liberty” are used) while in other places it does seem to refer specifically to a pardon (See Mark 3:29). Let’s stick the meaning of “deliverance and liberty” into Luke 1:77 and see what happens: To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the deliverance and liberty from their sins. That sounds like exceptionally good news![1]

 

The point is that we limit our Christian experience drastically if we only think in terms of pardon when we read “saved” or “salvation.”

 

What does all this mean for Ephesians 2:8?

 

Let’s take the fullness of “grace” and add that to the fullness of “salvation,” and reword the phrase “For by grace are ye saved.” Ready?

For by God’s power working in humanity—whereby men are enabled to live righteously, minister, give liberally, reign over sin, prophesy, abound unto good works, deny self, and live godly right here on earth—you are liberated and delivered from sin.

Now that we have seen what grace does, the next phrase tells how to attain that grace.

 

Faith

 

The Bible makes it clear that you can only be saved by God’s grace by putting your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, not in your own righteous deeds.

 

So goes a typical explanation of the “faith” that Ephesians 2:8 speaks of. But let’s just get real painfully honest here. (Please read these next paragraphs slowly and completely or you may miss my point!) Where does the Bible tell us to put our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus?

 

Nowhere!

 

That’s right! Nowhere are we told to “trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross.” Don’t believe me? Check your Bible.

 

Let’s get more painfully honest yet. The Bible never even talks specifically about “the finished work of Christ on the cross.” And yet, how many times have we heard statements like, “My faith is in the finished work of Christ on the cross, not in my own works.”

 

We need to be careful about making any grand theological conclusions by this next statement alone—Christ did need to die on the cross as part of the redemption plan—but have you ever realized that Jesus said that He had already finished His work before He went to the cross? See John 17:4. Think about that verse and what it implies about the value that Jesus placed on His “work” of teaching the kingdom ethics.

 

Yet how many people are “trusting only in the finished work of Christ on the cross”? While I am not saying that Jesus did not accomplish anything on the cross, I will emphatically declare that we are never told to put our faith only in what He did on the cross.

 

Here’s why. Think with me slowly through this as it may well be a totally new paradigm for you.

 

Every time in the Bible that we are told to put faith in or believe in something, we are told to put that faith in a Person, not in what that Person did. Do you catch the difference? We are always told to believe on Him; never to believe on what He did. Check your Bible if you doubt that statement. It’s revolutionary!

 

The 1/3 Jesus

 

Here is what happens if you believe on what Jesus did, rather than on Him as a Person. You end up separating His offices and worshipping a 1/3 Jesus. Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. That anointing made Him to be Prophet, Priest, and King.

 

If someone “trusts only in the finished work of Christ on the cross for his salvation,” he ends up accepting Jesus as High Priest—a 1/3 Jesus—to the exclusion of Prophet and King. Some people have even coined the term “saving faith,” which is not found in the Bible. While that term may not be wrong if used rightly, it is often used in the context of accepting Jesus’ work as High Priest, but not including Jesus’ work as Prophet (who proclaimed God’s new law) and King (who started a new kingdom when He came).

 

Can we divide Jesus up? Can we be saved if we trust in what He did, rather than who He was? Can we accept some parts of His life, but not the whole? Can we say, “I accept Jesus as my personal Savior (Priest),” and then not accept Him as our Prophet and King?

 

No! We cannot say, “I will drink His blood, but not eat His flesh.” John 6:53 Furthermore, we need to consider Hebrews 5:9:

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

Jesus became the Author of Salvation unto all that obey Him. All who disobey Him are without salvation. Jesus will certainly not be your High Priest if you do not submit to His kingship and His rules and do what He says.

 

Back to Ephesians 2:8

 

We have established that we must trust in the Man Christ Jesus—the whole Jesus—to access grace. That should be sufficient when we think of defining faith, but unfortunately the idea of faith has been hijacked in another area, commonly called “faith alone.” The idea is perpetuated that true faith is tainted if it is mixed with any works that a man might do. And, supposedly, only the faith which has no strings attached to any sort of human works will open the door so grace can forgive us. Is this so?

 

James asks one of those “ouch” questions. In his typical straightforwardness, he asks, “Can faith save?” James 2:14 Can raw, naked faith, stripped of any works, save a man?

 

“Absolutely! That is the only kind of faith that can save!” says the modern Evangelical.

 

“No!” says James.

 

Raw, naked faith, stripped of all works, is dead. However, we don’t take raw, naked faith and add some random works to it either. If the faith we have isn’t producing good works, we should throw that faith away and get a faith that works. The solution is neither “faith without works” nor “faith and works.” The solution is “faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6

 

Does faith save?

 

Notice also that Ephesians 2:8 does not say that faith saves us. It says “through faith.” Faith is simply a means to an end. The preposition “through” is the Greek preposition “dia,” which we will recognize in English words such as diameter (measurement by means of going through the middle), diagnosis (a conclusion achieved by looking through knowledge we have gathered), and other words with dia- as a prefix. Greek dia has the idea of what one must go through to get to arrive elsewhere—the channel used to get somewhere.

 

Faith in and of itself has not power to save us. Faith is simply the channel through which one goes to find grace, God’s power working in man. What happens if you stop in the channel, and trust in the channel to get you to the other end? Well, just take a trip to England and visit the Channel Tunnel between England and France. Enter a few steps into the Channel and stop there. Then trust the Channel to take you to France. The Channel Tunnel is a means to get to France, but it in and by itself has not power to get you there.

 

Thus it goes for those who somehow think that faith in and of itself will save a man. “Through (by means of) faith” we are saved, by grace. Grace does the actual liberating; faith is simply the channel through which grace—God’s power—can flow.

 

 

Works

 

“God doesn’t look at our performance.”

 

“Your works have nothing to do with your salvation.”

 

“I could shoot you dead, brother, and still go to heaven if I died right afterward.”

 

“Salvation has nothing to do with obedience.”

 

Yes, I have heard all of the above statements. Such erroneous ideas stem from a hijacking of the phrase, “not of works.”

 

We have seen that grace is the propelling force which liberates us from sin. We have seen that faith is the access channel to this power. Now Paul tells us something about the origins of it all. He does this by the use of another preposition, “of.” The Greek form is another recognizable prefix, “ex.” We might say, “ex-President,” or “ex-race car driver,” or “ex-Mormon.” All of these indicate the origin of a person—where he came from—but tell us nothing about where he currently is, nor where he will go. “Not of works” tells us that this whole thing of salvation does not originate from works.

 

The question is, what kind of “works” does Paul refer to? The works of God’s hand? Dead works? Works of the law? Works of love? Good works?

 

The confusion is understandable. The immediate context of Ephesians 2:8 really doesn’t offer any clear answer. But when we look at the context in which Paul uses the same phrase, in Romans and Galatians, we can determine that he is referring to “works of the law.” (See Romans 9:32 and Galatians 3:2,5 for examples.) The context of Romans and Galatians is that of the Judaizers, who declared in another place that “it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5

 

Why some Jews were confused

 

The confusion of the Jewish believers is understandable. For centuries it had been pounded into their psyche that one had to keep the Law of Moses, with all its ceremonies and rituals, to have a relationship with God. And that was so.

 

Except they forgot one very important fact …

 

The foundation of a relationship with God is faith, trusting in God through what He has said. The Jews, or at least some of them, forgot that underneath the structure of the Mosaic Law was the foundation of faith. And in his letters to various churches, Paul has to repeatedly remind the Jewish believers that, although the Mosaic Law was a valid structure for a certain people in a certain time frame, the foundation (faith) under that structure extended both before and after the Mosaic Law.

 

Paul used Abraham as a way to get the Jewish believers to understand the foundation of faith. He starts out by asking them a simple question (not directly, but by inference): Was Abraham a righteous man?

 

Of course, not a Jew in the whole world would deny that Abraham was righteous! Then Paul moves to his next question: How did Abraham become a righteous man?

 

At this point, the Jews probably began to see his point. Abraham lived several centuries before Moses, so obviously Abraham didn’t become a righteous man by doing the Mosaic ceremonies and sacrifices. But perhaps Abraham became righteous by getting circumcised?

 

No. Paul points out that Abraham was righteous before he was even circumcised, which the Jews would have probably agreed with upon thinking about the matter. So just how did Abraham become a righteous man?

 

Simple. Abraham took what God said and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. If God said it, Abraham threw his whole life on it and acted upon it. And that is called “faith.” And when God saw that faith, He marked it down on Abraham’s account that Abraham had acted righteously.

 

One foundation; four structures

 

In Noah’s day, the making of the ark was done on the foundation of faith in what God had said. And Noah was a righteous man for taking what God had said and acting upon those words. In Abraham’s day, faith meant pulling up the tent stakes and moving out of Ur, not knowing where he would end up. In Moses’ day, faith meant living by the precepts of the Mosaic Law. In our day, faith means acting on what Jesus has said and taught.

 

Thus we see four different constructions built upon the same foundation of faith in God. Paul didn’t destroy Moses’ Law by preaching faith; in fact he validated the Mosaic Law as a genuine expression of faith … in its proper time and place. Paul explained that a better structure—the kingdom of God—was now being built on that same foundation of faith that extended from Adam into the future. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Christians all build on the same foundation: faith. But each of the four had different structures to build on that one foundation.

 

The problem with the Judaizers was their thinking that the Mosaic Law was the foundation, and Christ’s teaching should then be built on top of that Law with all its Sabbaths, new moons, and dietary laws. Paul then explained in Romans and Galatians that Christianity is not “ex” (originated from) works of the Law, but “ex” (originated from) faith in God.

 

By faith, not works … The above chart shows how that the kingdom of God has a foundation of faith, not works of the Law. The kingdom of God is actually the outworking of faith, the structure that is now the valid expression of faith in God. Noah built an ark out of faith in God. Abraham left Ur out of faith in God. Moses taught and practiced the 10 Commandments out of faith in God. Today, we live by the teachings of Jesus’ kingdom out of faith in God. The kingdom of God is not “of works [of the Mosaic Law],” but rather “of [built upon] faith.” The confusion about “faith and works” many times begins when people think that Paul was referring to “good works” when he wrote about the Judaizers in his epistles. See the chart below to compare Paul’s view (as illustrated above) with the view of the Judaizers.

The error of the Judaizers was that of thinking that the Mosaic Law was the foundation of a relationship with God, and that the kingdom of God needed to be built on the foundation of sabbaths, dietary regulations, sacrifices, and ceremonies that Moses had taught.

In another of those “ouch” questions, Paul asked the Galatians: 

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Galatians 3:2

Quite bluntly, Paul asks them how they got their baptism of the Holy Ghost. Did you get a baptism of the Spirit because you kept the Sabbath so perfectly for seven times in a row, or the new moon ritual for 10 times, or because for one whole year you kept all the dietary regulations so perfectly?

Of course not! They knew that they had been baptized with the Holy Ghost in the moment in which they had made Jesus to be the Prophet, Priest, and King of their life! Paul then reminded them that the Law of Moses was a valid structure for time past, but now the kingdom of God was to be built upon the foundation of faith in God.

 

Ephesians 2:9 again

 

Paul is reminding the Ephesians of the source—the origin—for the grace that delivered them from sin. Did that grace come from keeping the Mosaic Law? No! If one could earn a baptism of the Holy Ghost by his having kept the Sabbath, new moons, and dietary laws so perfectly, he could boast that he earned it. But the grace of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, given to those who receive Jesus as the Prophet, Priest, and King of their entire being.

 

But wait, there’s more …

 

We have looked at the four words that have had their meaning hijacked. But that is not the end of the story. Ephesians 2:8-9 really isn’t the end of Paul’s thought. Verse 10 continues with:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Continuing the thought that Christians didn’t become holy and righteous by their own strength, Paul calls the believers “God’s poem.” Yes, “workmanship” is a translation for the Greek word poiema! He made us, not we ourselves. And what did He remake us for?

 

So that we should walk in good works! Producing good works is an ordinance of God!

 

The fallout

 

So what is the fallout of this quadruple hijacking of Ephesians 2:8-10? We see it daily all around us. Men and women are told that they can be “saved” if they will put their trust in one act that Jesus did while on earth. They can accept a 1/3 Jesus, which then becomes another Jesus than the one the Bible reveals to us.

 

We see it daily in “gospel” tracts of the “fake $20 bill” type. First, you make a person feel guilty for disobeying the 10 Commandments. Next, you quickly throw out the “grace” of a hijacked version of Ephesians 2:8-10 as a way to relieve that guilty conscience. “Presto!”—you have another “convert.” But sadly, too often not a word has been said about the Messiah also being Prophet and King; about the necessity of taking up the cross daily and following that King in His kingdom ethics—actually doing them here and now. The gospel that Jesus preached in His sermon on the mount is totally neglected, and replaced with a hijacked version of Ephesians 2:8-10.

 

I am reminded of the words of the Anabaptist Hans Denck, who during the Protestant Reformation days asked the Reformers some of those “ouch” questions:

You [the Reformers] say that the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29). How is it then that your sins are not gone?[2] …

Do you wish to have Christ the Son of the living God for a King (John 6:15); yet He should not rule over you (Luke 19:29ff)? …

You dishonor the Son if you avoid and ridicule His way, which He Himself has walked unto life, and on which He desires to lead us too.[3]

So goes the fallout from a hijacked version of what it means to be “saved by grace through faith.” Yes, some who may pick up and read a typical “get’em feeling guilty and then quick get’em saved by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross” tract will actually come through to a genuine new birth. But more people have probably been deceived by that theology than have burst through into the kingdom of God by a total renovation of the Holy Ghost.

 

And then we have the altar calls … “Raise your hand and say this prayer with me if you want to be saved. ‘Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I accept your free gift of salvation that you purchased on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me.’”

 

Again, there have been some real mighty conversions by people saying such a prayer, because the heart was in a true state of contrition, and the speaker of those words also let Christ be the King and Prophet of his life in that moment and started following Jesus from there on out. However, for the other 95%,[4] they walk out of the church building after saying that prayer without their sins having been taken away from them.

 

It’s called inoculation. Inoculation happens when something is injected into a plant or animal to keep it from contracting a disease. But in this case, a hijacked version of Ephesians 2:8-10 is used to inoculate a person from contracting the “disease” of a Jesus-following, obedient-to-the-King, separated, sin-killing, good-works-producing, radical Christianity.

 

In summary

 

It sometimes amazes me how some folks seem intent on making sure that good works and Christianity are shown to be eternally allergic to each other. Not so! Beginning with faith as a channel to access grace, the believer is liberated from the power of sin by grace, so that he may glorify God thereafter with a life of abundant good works. God delights in good works! Hebrews 13:16

 

Yet, Ephesians 2:8-10 has suffered a quadruple hijack to make it appear that salvation consists only of a pardon for sins, made possible to a person if he/she will trust in what Jesus did on the cross. Good works mixed in with faith in Jesus’ work on the cross will jeopardize the believer’s purity, and perhaps even cause the person to totally miss being saved by grace, because faith mixed with works is not “faith alone” …

 

What a hijack!

 

 

[1] Lord willing, in a future article I want to address “remission” and show how that ties in with the Old Testament jubilee.

[2] Meaning, their sins were not taken out of their lives; they had no freedom from sin. It is a known fact that the morals of Germany were worse after the Protestant Reformation than before.

[3] Hans Denck, Selected writings of Hans Denck (Pickwick Press, 1976), 91–92.

[4] I, of course, do not know the actual percentage of people that do get converted by saying the “sinner’s prayer.” I am probably being very charitable to say that even 5% of those saying the “sinner’s prayer” actually do get born into the kingdom of God while saying it.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Mike Atnip

 

I have a baptism to be baptized with … Luke 12:50

 

One could fill a library with the books that have been written about the first two baptisms. In the life of Jesus, our Perfect Example, we find Him being baptized with water by John the Baptist. In quick succession, the Holy Spirit “descend[ed] like a dove, and light[ed] upon him.” It is easy to see two baptisms here; one with water, and the other with the Holy Ghost.

 

But further on in the Gospel story, we see Jesus commenting about a baptism that He had not yet accomplished: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Lu. 12:50

 

It was this baptism that the early Anabaptists called “the third baptism.” Sometimes it was referred to as the “baptism of suffering,” or “the baptism of blood.” This latter term came from 1 John 5:8, which tells us, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

 

The “forgotten” baptism

 

This third baptism is largely ignored today. In fact, it has in some cases been replaced with a baptism that is just the opposite of suffering. By this I mean what may well be called a “baptism of blessings.” This so-called “Prosperity Gospel” is what the Apostle Paul called “another gospel” in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:16. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of “another spirit” and “another Jesus.” So if someone comes preaching a Jesus that does not live and act like the Jesus in the four Gospels, then we need to beware. In connection with the theme of this article, we can easily deduce that whoever does not preach that the disciples of Jesus should follow their Master into His baptism of suffering, it is “another Jesus.” The Jesus that Paul preached told His disciples, “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Mt 10:38

 

Yet today we see preachers, famous in this world, telling people about a Jesus that offers them material prosperity. The “proof” is the preacher’s $23,000 toilet, air-conditioned doghouse, or the $20 million dollar jet. So instead of preaching a bloody, painful baptism of suffering, a baptism of material blessings is promised to those who believe in their “Jesus.”

 

I promise you …

 

It would seem that a person who is looking for people to follow him would offer his devotees something better than a lifetime of suffering. How many political candidates would get elected if in his campaign speeches he said, “Hey, vote for me and I promise you that I will lead you into the biggest economic depression this country has seen yet!” Yet, Jesus—the Jesus of the Bible—essentially tells His followers something very close to that. “Follow Me,” He told them. And then He voluntarily allowed Himself to be martyred without the least resistance—and He could have called 10,000 angels if He wanted to!

 

Why suffering?

 

One of the big causes of unbelief that people stumble over concerning the God of the Bible is the question as to how a “good God” can allow evil to happen. How can a supposedly omnipotent [All-powerful] God allow suffering and evil to continue in the world? How could He, who is stronger than Satan, have allowed him to continue for so long? How can it be that a good God allows innocent children to starve?

 

Those are valid questions, ones that I don’t claim to be able to give a complete answer to, other than two points: 1. Man’s choice to sin is the cause of evil in the world, and God allows humanity a free choice. The freedom for a man to choose unrighteousness will affect others around them. Although God sometimes does limit a man from harming others, He does not totally stop sin and its consequences from happening. 2. Suffering is necessary in this world so that the righteous character of God can be made manifest.

 

We will examine the second point in this article.

 

The beginning

 

When Adam chose to disobey God, God was forced to separate from Adam. Adam and his posterity were then left to the whims of their own mind and the temptations of their flesh and those of Satan. By nature—without God’s Spirit within to guide and empower—humans will choose that which serves to bring them the most pleasure. This is the opposite of God’s nature, which is love, the opposite of self-centeredness. Thus man’s fallen state left his character opposed to God’s character. Self and love cannot be mixed, just like oil and water do not mix.

 

When man began to follow his own ways, it was anarchy. In anarchy, every man does that which he thinks best, and this usually translates into doing what brings him the most personal gain and pleasure. So if Bob has 100 acres, but he sees Joe has 200 acres and better cows, Bob plans a midnight raid and kills Joe and takes over his land and cows.

 

We call that “unrighteousness” because it is not morally right, not what God’s character is like. And God’s character is the basis that determines if something is “righteous” or “unrighteous.”

 

Man without God will basically act like an animal, as Ecclesiastes 3:18 tells us: “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.” So just like a wild animal will fight for its survival, killing one of its own over who gets to eat the prey, man fights and kills and strives for the mastery over his fellow man.

 

Righteous vs. unrighteousness

 

Humanity without God will be unrighteous. As their morals and integrity degrade (which is the natural course for people without God), humans will cheat and hurt and deceive even those who try to help them. Think of those men who will cheat old grandmothers out of their bank accounts and houses, even though the old lady is very kind to them. This is total unrighteousness: returning evil for good.

 

To limit this unrighteousness and help humanity from slipping into total degeneracy, God instituted human governments. These usually form some sort of basic guidelines to help limit the worst forms of unrighteousness, with applicable punishments for those who break the guidelines. The Law of Moses was one of these governments, albeit a special law that also had many types and shadows of the Gospel built into it.

 

These laws did not restore humanity to the fullness of God’s nature and character, but they did try to put a harness on the worst of man’s unrighteous actions. Most governments recognize that murder, stealing, and cheating are wrong and make laws to limit these evils. Basically, instead of evil for good, civil laws say evil for evil and good for good. This means that Bob should not kill Joe for his land and his cows, but if Bob does break the moral code and attack Joe, Joe is allowed to return the evil and defend himself. Most of the civil governments of this world operate on this basis, more or less. Under the threat of punishment, most men can live up to the “evil for evil” standard of righteousness. And of course, it is not hard to return good for good. If Bob invites Joe for a barbecue, Joe may well invite him for some watermelon on a hot day.

 

A kingdom of righteousness

 

Then came the kingdom of God. Jesus began the Gospel message by laying out the righteousness upon which His kingdom would operate. Of course, it would not be unrighteousness: evil for good. But, neither would it be evil for evil, good for good. It was to be a radically new kingdom. Actually, it was simply a return to God’s original intent for man in the Garden of Eden. Christ’s kingdom would be a kingdom based upon the heavenly concept of good for evil! Now, when Joe hears the rumor that Bob is about to attack him and take his land and cows, Joe visits Bob and blesses him.

 

So we see the three “levels” of righteousness:

Total unrighteousness: evil for good. Righteousness by civil law, or human righteousness: evil for evil, good for good. The righteousness of God: good for evil.

Let’s look at a few issues in the light of these three levels of righteousness, starting with war. In total unrighteousness, one nation can attack another for whatever reason. In human righteousness, war is often limited to what may be called “just war”: if one nation does attack another, then the attacked people have a right to fight back. In God’s righteousness, when a people are attacked, they do not fight back, but even bless the attackers.

 

In boundary disputes, total unrighteousness may flare into a shootout if the two parties involved get into an argument. When one side has killed the other, “to the victor go the spoils.” In human righteousness, boundary disputes are taken before a judge, who tries to hear both sides and make a just decision. In the kingdom of God, if one side tries to move the boundary marker illegitimately, the other lets him do so without a fight, and may even tell the offender to take double.

 

Back to suffering

 

What place does a baptism of suffering have in the kingdom of God? The answer is that suffering is the only way in which the righteousness of God can be manifested. One early Anabaptist writer even put it this way: “A man can only be made righteous through suffering.” If you are like me, that little sentence will make you shake your head on the first time reading it. But after contemplation as to what he meant, I began to concur. Let me explain.

 

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 6:32-34 that “if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” In other words, is it really anything extra-ordinary for a man to practice human righteousness? Of course, those who do practice “evil for evil, good for good” can congratulate themselves that they are not like the totally unrighteous person who practices “evil for good.” But Jesus came preaching a higher level of righteousness, the righteousness of God, the righteousness that is inherent to His holy character. He told His disciples in Matthew 5:20, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

 

The righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees measured themselves with was the Mosaic law. And this law did hold men accountable to a measure of righteousness that was better than total unrighteousness. Poking out a man’s eye for no reason was prohibited. But if someone poked out your eye, you had a right to poke his out: eye for eye. “Evil for evil” was okay in Moses’ law, but “evil for good” was outlawed. Jesus told His followers that if they were going to enter into and live in His kingdom, they had to move beyond the “evil for evil” level of righteousness.

 

Jesus did not leave His disciples in the dark as to some practical applications. He took them through several points of the Mosaic law and lifted the standard up to the righteous character of God, and how that would work out in practical terms.

 

His disciples were a bit taken aback. At one point, they exclaimed, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” It seems they questioned, like many people do, whether it would be possible to live up to the new standard.

 

The role of suffering

 

Let’s contemplate the heavenly kingdom’s standard of righteousness. Jesus said it plainly when He told His followers, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 12:21: “Overcome evil with good.”

 

Now, here is the “big” question: how could a man practice the kingdom righteousness of “good for evil,” if there were no evil in this world? If all that was in the world was good, there would be no opportunities for the character of God’s righteousness to fully manifest itself. If there were no unjust (unrighteous) people in the earth, God could never manifest His full righteous character of returning “good for evil.”

 

Obviously, we would all prefer to live in a world in which there was no unrighteousness. But when we ponder this whole point, suddenly we see the “need” for evil. If all were good, there would never be the opportunity to manifest the character of our good God in its fullness. Only when the true righteousness of God confronts evil, and overcomes it by good, can God’s glory shine its brightest. One cannot suffer triumphantly if he never suffers!

 

And so to reveal the glory of God, God had to come into an evil place, a place where He would suffer evil, so that He could practice—make manifest—His righteous character trait of “good for evil.”

 

Thus God came into this world through His Son Jesus to suffer, to triumph over evil by returning good to those who abused Him. His name was glorified through it all.

 

Made righteous through suffering

 

The author of Hebrews tells us that the Messiah, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” It is a little hard for us to think of Jesus having to “learn obedience,” but the author continues, saying, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

 

That word “perfect” can throw us into a tailspin if we are not careful. The word “perfect” in the KJV usually means “completed,” or “brought to its finished state.” So when Jesus passed through the final “test” of suffering, and “passed the test” by forgiving and returning a blessing on those who had unrighteously treated Him, His obedience was “perfected.” He had proved that He “had what it takes” to always return good for evil. The righteous character of God within Him had triumphed over every temptation. He now had the right to become the “author of eternal salvation.” In Hebrews 2:10, it is written “For it became him [was necessary for Him], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

 

An analogy could be like a construction company that is looking for an experienced backhoe operator. When the applicant shows up, they may well take him out back and show him the machine that he will be operating, and say, “Fire it up and dig me a hole over there. I want to see if you can really do this.”

 

God could have planned it somehow that Jesus just stayed in heaven, and then told everyone to believe that it was possible for a man to walk on earth in a human body without sinning. But God “proved” to the world that it was possible. He proved, through His son Jesus, that it is possible to live righteously among unredeemed people, practicing “good for evil” and holiness. He sent Jesus, permitting great abuse to be heaped upon Him, to prove that this Jesus was capable in all circumstances to overcome the evil with good. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him,” (Is. 53:10) because the Father knew the Son would overcome the evil with good. The righteous response of the Son towards the evil inflicted upon Him was a beautiful aroma in the Father’s nose, qualifying Him to be the “author of eternal salvation.”

 

The Lion of the tribe of Judah prevailed over evil, and His blood was taken from Him and sprinkled in the inner sanctuary [spirit] of dead humanity to enliven, purify, and forgive. Whosoever would look upon the victorious Son on the tree could be quickened into a new life of righteousness, by the Holy Spirit.

 

He suffers still

 

But the Messiah still suffers today … in His body. And He still overcomes today … in His body. He is still going through the third baptism, yet today … in His body. His people are still being “baptized” with unrighteous deeds against them, so that the righteousness of God can manifest itself in every generation. Persecutions, banishments, lawsuits, divorces, angry words, abuse, and cursings are still heaped upon the saints.

 

Yes, it still pleases God to “bruise” His people with suffering, because He knows that the beautiful aroma of His righteous character—which He planted in them—will arise from the situation. Just like a crushed flower gives off a greater aroma, so God’s people produce more righteousness when they are “crushed” in suffering.

 

God is not a sadist. He does not enjoy watching people suffer because He enjoys watching twisted faces, looks of despair, and hearing screams of pains. But it is only when we suffer that we can return good for evil. If we never pass through evil circumstances, we could never respond righteously to evil circumstances. Thus it remains the lot of God’s people to suffer.

 

The first letter of Peter is filled with the idea of suffering, and how suffering fits into the Christian life. Although we will not look at all of that letter now, notice one phrase in 1 Peter 3:14: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” While I would not insist that the following is what Peter meant, let us consider what may be a new way of looking at this sentence. We probably tend to think that Peter is saying that “If you did what was right and got blasted for it, rejoice.” That is certainly true, and may be what Peter intended. But let’s suppose that Peter means, “If God sends you into a situation where you suffer terrible, unjust treatment—just so God can have you respond with “good for evil” righteousness—rejoice!” In other words, God may allow one of your employees to embezzle $50,000 from your business, just so that the world can see you respond like Christ would in the situation. God is “bruising” you to get a sweet odor! And we are supposed to rejoice at the opportunity!

 

There are no opt-out options to the third baptism in the Christian life!     No opt-outs allowed

 

When a man or a woman comes to Christ to be a disciple, no alternative is given to opt out of any of the three baptisms. We definitely need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. How else could we be empowered to live like Christ? We are commanded to go into the whole world, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Our flesh usually has no problem accepting baptism with water or with the Holy Ghost. But it screams in defiance at the third baptism: the baptism of a bloody suffering. There are no little boxes to check off in the “contract” of the New Covenant, that is, a little box that says, “Check here if you would like to opt out of any of the following baptisms.” Entrance into the kingdom is a total surrender of the will to whatever God has in store; we don’t “bargain” with God.

 

Jesus told us we need to count the cost before following Him. He said that we must take up the cross and follow Him. No opt-outs. As we have already seen in this article, the only way that the righteousness of the kingdom of God can manifest itself is when evil happens. Evil must happen, or we cannot overcome it with good.

 

So we must count the cost. If we don’t want to have any suffering in our lives … then don’t even think of becoming a disciple of Jesus! It is true; God may choose some of us to have less suffering, but if we want to conquer unrighteousness, unrighteousness has to happen to us. We cannot overcome bitterness unless we experience a situation that tempts us to hold a grudge. Being treated nicely doesn’t usually tempt us to bitterness, so we must needs experience treatment—a mistreatment—that isn’t so nice!

 

Glorification through suffering

 

Right after Judas left the room on the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” Jn 13:32

 

When we think of glorifying God, we often think of singing praises or testifying of the great things God has done. While this is one way to glorify God, there is a better way. That way is to manifest God’s character in trying situations. Others looking on will see the righteous response and glorify the Father.

 

Jesus glorified the Father on the cross when He openly revealed that He had something within Him that was stronger than the terrible injustice being done to Him. [He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city … Pr. 16:32] In return, God glorified the Son. It is recorded that when the centurion who was at the crucifixion “saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” Lu. 23:47

 

Peter, preaching after Pentecost, told the crowd about the glory of the cross: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” The glorification of Jesus happened when He was unjustly crucified and responded with forgiveness.

 

God will also glorify us, if we will accept the suffering in our life and respond righteously. Paul wrote that we are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” And in another place Paul expressed the great longing to know God. Not just know about Him, but to really know Him. And in that context, Paul speaks of the role of sufferings in his relationship with Christ, saying, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Fellowship with Christ consisted of cosuffering with Him. In his letter to Timothy, Paul states that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” That simply means that if we will take Christ and His power with us into an unjust situation that we are put into, He will give us grace to return good for evil, thus conquering evil. If we let an evil circumstance move us to respond back with evil, evil has conquered us. But when we let Christ move us to respond to evil with good, we have conquered evil.

 

Destroying sin by suffering

 

Peter tells us in his letter, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” 1 Pe. 4:1

 

In 1527, the Anabaptist Leonard Schiemer wrote a letter to the church at Rattenberg, saying, “It is true, Christ’s suffering destroys sin, but only if He suffers in man. For as the water does not quench my thirst unless I drink it, and as the bread does not drive away my hunger unless I eat it, even so Christ’s suffering does not prevent me from sinning until He suffers in me.”[1] When Jesus suffered unrighteous treatment, He “ceased from sin” by not returning evil for evil. In the same way, we can “cease from sin” when we return good for the evil done to us. In this way, sin is destroyed and conquered … by the Christ living in us!

 

One favorite analogy among the early Anabaptists was that of a tree in the woods. That tree is a house; but only a potential house. Only after the tree suffers the pain of the axe and saw, turning the tree into useful boards, is the tree really a house.

 

And so it is with the Christian and righteousness. A child of God, birthed into a new life by a baptism of the Holy Ghost, is a fountain of righteous deeds—or like the tree in the woods, a potential fountain. It is only after the believer has been sawn and shaped by sufferings does his righteous character come to any fruitful use. In this analogy, we can now grasp how the one Anabaptist could write that we can only be made righteous through suffering. We are made righteous when God regenerates us, but that righteousness becomes tangible through our responses to unrighteous actions against us.

 

Fruits of righteousness

 

In 1536, Andres Keller wrote an anguished plea to the lords who had him imprisoned for his faith:

I hope, dear lords, that you will not act rashly against me. I say this not from deceitful motives, but because I do not want you to incriminate yourselves by doing me violence. What good is it to you to reduce me to this miserable condition? I am distressed beyond misery, I am poverty-stricken and robbed of my ability to work, beyond what I could ever overcome in my lifetime [They had tortured him so severely he didn’t think he would ever heal enough to be able to work again.] I have been starved so that I cannot now eat or drink, and my body is broken. How would you like to live for five weeks with only boiled water and unflavored bread soup?

I have been lying in the darkness on straw. All this would not be possible if God had not given me an equal measure of His love. I marvel that I have not become confused or insane. I would have frozen if God had not strengthened me, for you can well imagine how a little bit of hot water will warm one. In addition to this, I suffered great torture twice from the executioner, who has ruined my hands, unless the Lord heals them. I have had enough [torture] to last me the rest of my days.

However, I know that God never forsakes me if I suffer for the sake of his word. I know full well that I have experienced with great pain the Enemy’s temptations against you. May God forgive you and all the dear people who have falsely accused me before you.[2]

Did you catch the righteousness of God manifesting itself? The returning of good for evil, the blessing for cursing? Mangled for life because of false accusations, yet forgiving … that is the righteousness of Christ coming out of suffering! That is the tree being sawn into boards to create a house.

 

Such poignant accounts of suffering should strike us here in North America as to how little we suffer in our time. We think it is “suffering” if we leave our lights on at Walmart and have a dead battery when we get back out to our vehicle. Or, perhaps we rip our dress on the rose bush while we pass.

 

Yet, I know that we all do suffer injustice in some degree. It is part and parcel of life on Earth, and it is a required part of being a disciple of Jesus. People mock us. People steal our goods. People cheat us. Friends turn their back on us. Although the Bible doesn’t clearly say so, I personally believe that God purposely lines Christians up to suffer some of these things, quite on purpose, just to manifest His glory.

 

These are hard things to go through, but if we would just stop and consider the matter, it is the only way that we can clearly manifest the righteous character of God that He has given to us as a great, undeserved gift. And just like the tree needs some working to become useful, we must pass through suffering to produce the full righteousness of Christ.

 

The answer

 

Perhaps it will help us to look upon our future sufferings not as “trials” (which they are), but as opportunities for God to overcome evil with good. When evil is overcome by good, then the kingdom of God has come to earth. Someday, all evil will be banished forever, and the kings of God’s kingdom (those who overcame evil) will be taken to a place where there will never be any more evil to conquer. What a day that will be!

 

But until that time, we must, as Conrad Grebel wrote to Thomas Muntzer, “be baptized in anguish and affliction, tribulation, persecution, suffering, and death. [We] must be tried with fire, and must reach the fatherland of eternal rest, not by killing [our] bodily enemies, but by killing [our] spiritual enemies.”[3]

 

Jesus has told us, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!” Re. 2:10

 

May the grace of God take you through your third baptism! A crown awaits those who overcome!

 

[1] Walter Klassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline, ((Kitchener, Ont, Scottdale, Pa): Herald Press, 1981), 90-91.

[2] Ibid., 93.

[3] George Huntston Williams and Angel M. Mergal, eds., Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, Ichthus, ((Philadelphia, PA): Westminster, 1957), 80.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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