Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

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The Turning of the Cheek… Was Jesus a Pacifist?

February 8, 2012

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, is Jesus teaching Pacifism?

No. Pacifism is defined as “opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; or an attitude or policy of nonresistance.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  This is not what Jesus is talking about.  He is not invalidating or even speaking to the ideas of international affairs, or wars, or the draft, or civil or criminal justice.  Jesus repeatedly in this sermon is trying to confront the common beliefs of His disciples and radically change their view of the world and how a kingdom citizen should act in the world.  Jesus here again, just like with murder, just like with adultery, is dealing with the heart.  His command is meant to “prohibit acts of retaliation and revenge inspired by anger and resentment.”[1]

Charles Quarles in his book,  Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church, a couple very helpful qualifications for Jesus’ instruction not resist evil and to turn the other cheek:

a. Jesus’ message does not prohibit defensive action or evasive action necessary to protect oneself or others from serious harm.  “Jesus Himself, “turning the cheek” is to be understood as a figure for enduring abuse without seeking revenge.”  We see a prime example of this in John 18:22-23, Jesus is slapped by the guards and rather than suffering silently he protested the injustice of the beating, Jesus verbally defended himself and challenged the guards to provide evidence supporting their actions.  Scripture gives us several instances where Jesus withdrew from a situation to avoid injury: Mark 9:30-31; Luke 4:30; John 7:1,10; 10:39.

b. Jesus’ message does not prescribe that his disciples suffer fatal abuse without resistance.  The “slap” His disciples were to endure graciously, while painful and insulting, was not likely to cause permanent harm or be life threatening.  It is significant that He did not say “if anyone strikes your right cheek with a sword…” or ” if someone pummels your nose with his fist…”  So, for example, the believing wife who is in an abusive marriage should not simply “turn the other cheek” but should seek remedy through escape, legal recourse, and even physical resistance to protect herself and her family.  Likewise if someone breaks into your house, and attempts to steal from you, and harm you and your family, you are not bound to simply sit and let the violence be done.  “a person may do what is necessary to protect himself in the case of life-threatening or potentially dangerous attack.” Certainly we are to protect the innocent from evil, and defend the helpless, even if violence is called for in the endeavor.  Jesus is not addressing that.  He is addressing our tendency to be filled with anger and the desire for revenge when someone wrongs us.  Jesus is telling us, “wait, slow down, vengeance is mine, I will repay, do not respond in anger if someone insults you. Rather rise above it and display God’s love in the face of hostility, as I did.”

c. Jesus message does not preclude us from prosecuting those who have harmed someone if the legal action is against the one who assaulted them. “Victims of violent crimes should press charges against the one who assaulted them.  This is necessary for the public good in order to prevent others from being victimized.  Still the victim should purge his or her heart of malice, quenching the longing for revenge.”


[1] Quarles, 150.

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How to Love our Enemies…

February 7, 2012

Matthew 5:44, “pray for those who persecute you…”

Jesus models for us the actions we must take to display love to those who are our enemies.  The love here in this passage is the Greek word Agapaw or “Agapa’oh”.  This love is a self-sacrificing love; love that goes beyond feeling, but moves to action.  This is the same word we find in John 3:16.  The world was hostile to God, denying Him and choosing their own way (Romans 1) and yet he “loved” them so much that he sent His only Son. That is the love for “enemies” that is displayed before us.

How do we show enemies we love them?  Love for our enemies begins in our heart.  Jesus has already told us that we are to consider ourselves blessed when “others insult you and persecute you… because of me.”  Jesus makes clear that outward actions have their genesis in the heart, whether its murder, lust, adultery, anger, it begins with the condition of our heart.  Here He instructs us concerning love.  We are to display our love to our enemies through prayer.  We are to pray for them.  When we are reviled we don’t curse in kind, we pray.  When we are taunted we don’t take the bait, we pray.  When we are teased we don’t respond in anger, we pray.  It is difficult to pray for anyone you hate, and that is kind of the point.  Prayer softens our heart, orients it toward God, and focuses on Him and His love for us and others.  We are rarely more like Christ than when we pray for those who seek our harm.  “praying for an enemy and loving him proves mutually reinforcing, the more love, the more prayer, the more prayer the more love.”[1]

“When you pray for someone while they are persecuting you, you are assaulting the throne of God on their behalf: “God, help this person.” That is supernatural! If you do that, you are walking in the heavenlies with Jesus. One of the benefits of praying for our enemies is that it changes us. It is impossible to go on praying for another without loving him or her. Those for whom we truly pray will become objects of our conscious love.”[2]


[1] Carson, DA. The Gospel of Matthew. The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1984. 158

[2] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books

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Theological Inception, waging war within a hostile mind…

January 24, 2011

Their inclination to hide is as old as the garden, they retreat from God not in fear but in contempt, not behind bushes but beneath ignorance and indifference.  Why then do we hide when we possess so great a catalogue of grace?  May God grant us strength to resist denial and courage to say what Peter would not, ‘yes I am His disciple.’ -R. Nash.

There are common phrases in the evangelical world, rallying cries of evangelism that find their root in Scripture.  “We must reach the nations,” “we must preach to unreached people groups.”  These phrases are supplemented by organizations that highlight our mission to “Go into all the world, making disciples of all the nations;”  to “be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”   We spend millions of dollars, give thousands of sermons to millions of agreeable souls, all focused on the mission we’ve been given and the various ways to carry it out.  But when the people leave the pews, the churches are quiet and the dollars reach their destination a stark reality begins to take hold.  No amount of oratorical skill or financial resource will be able to do what it is pledged to do; no program can replace the delicate skill of an individual Christian speaking the truth in love into the darkened mind of the hostile sinner.

The New Testament is replete with instances of Christ and His apostles engaging one on one with individuals; confronting desires, rhetorical defenses and extraneous supernatural forces to address the individual’s true need.  There were no capital campaigns, there were no ‘evangelism emphasis weeks’, or mass rallies, just daily interaction with the living Word, the Word that exposes the needs of men.

Mind you, I am not criticising modern efforts to address the logistical hurdles that exist in evangelism, rather I wish to redeem the act of conversation as central to our walk and our witness.  Too many Christians, would rather aspire to Peter at Jerusalem than settle for Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch.  Many pastors would rather engage the intellectual elite like Paul at Mars Hill than mirror Jesus with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, or Zaccheus.  What lies beyond the crowds of the unreached is the individual.  Each one with their personal story, searching for solace in every location imaginable except the one place where they may truly find rest.

As we encounter these persons along the byways of life we come face to face with their efforts to deaden the pain of a Godless existence and muffle the call of the Shepherd.  They soothe their divorces with drink, their abuse with misplaced affection and their failures with anger and frustration.  Frustration with a world claiming to possess answers but whose mantra is to continually question everything.

A glance across every crowded coffee shop or airport waiting area will expose a sea of hurt masked by technology, hidden behind laptop screens and deafened by head phones.  These defenses on display are the same ones we use to signal that we are far too busy or preoccupied to engage nearby persons in conversation.

When you do engage in conversation you soon become aware that you are combatting forces both within and without of the individual.  These forces are working in concert to fend off the advance of the Gospel.  These external forces lie within the domain of the unseen powers and can range from the distraction of sirens and music, to loud neighboring conversation, perhaps even rude and hostile neighbors at the next table.  There is a genuine element of spiritual warfare on display, it is truly amazing how at key points in conversations the atmosphere around you can change and the cacophony rises to repel any advance you may be making in the mind of your subject.

When those outside distractions are overcome or if they are non-existent in your setting, there still remains the formidable front of the natural human mind.  This line of defense is multifaceted.  There are cultural preconceptions, past experiences, personal preferences and non-sensical opinions all working together to change the subject and distract you from your message.  Most lethal is the impression they may give that they are open and accepting to all points of view.  This is moralistic relativism on display and in practice, they will say ‘you have what works for you  and I have what works for me, to each his own.’  The temptation is to accept these statements as passive toward the Gospel, nothing could be further from the truth.  As Ronald Nash rightly puts it,  “Human beings are never neutral with regard to God.  Either we worship God as creator and Lord, or we turn away from God.”

The role of apologetics is not to engage the mind in order to sway it but rather to use world-views to weave past the mind’s defenses and confront the rebellious soul with the gospel of Truth.  Once Christ is proclaimed as Lord within the conversation the person’s mind will engage in every manner of distraction to avoid confronting the uncomfortable truth that they are subject to a sovereign God.

Rarely are we able to maintain the discipline necessary to keep combating every distracting argument with the Gospel.  Jesus models this intuition and persistence with expected brilliance.  To Nicodemus who focused on earthly fixations, Christ trained his eyes toward Heaven to see the Son of Man descending so that none should perish.  To the woman at the well so keen to discuss water and worship, Jesus taught her confront her sin and to savor a new spring of eternal life.  To the multitudes obsessed with physical restoration and healing He would address their malady then primarily speak those words He and He alone could say, “See, you are well, go and sin no more.”

When the crowds had drifted away, and the sermons had been preached, the distractions of this world faded, grace came to a thief hanging next to his savior.  There was no mundane coffee shop, no water cooler, just a poignant conversation between two men.  One facing death hopelessly lost and the other bearing the reproach of the world, giving His life that all might live.  Our context is different but our message the same; ‘one day we can see each other in paradise, if only you will confess His Lordship and utter the simple phrase’, Lord “remember me.”

These stories in the gospels are not merely fodder for crusade sermons, but a blueprint for daily intellectual and spiritual engagement.  How do you engage those around you?  What form does your apology take?  Do you have grand un-accomplished designs for evangelistic greatness or small intimate displays of one-on-one faithfulness to the great commission?

“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,

Searching all the innermost parts of his being”  -Proverbs 20:27

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Online Tools for the Theological Trade…

January 12, 2011

There is a great site that I have just been made aware of; Theopedia.com is a “Wikipedia” like site for Theological topics.  It claims to be “essentially a community-driven, information-management system,” whose sole aim is to compile a library of theological and biblical topics.

Theopedia is separate and unrelated to Wikipedia and prohibits word-for-word copying/pasting of Wikipedia articles onto its site.

You can read their Statement of Faith, which every editor of the site is required to affirm prior to editing any material on the site.

As with any site of this type, discretion is called for when searching for and gathering information, as the “community-driven” nature of these sites can be unpredictable and sometimes unreliable.

If anything, use this site as a jumping off point to study and delve into the profound truths which spring from the Word and make up the body of theological studies.

Click here for Theopedia’s Home Page…

Click here for Theopedia’s about page...

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Find the Time and Redeem it…

August 5, 2010


I thought I would post a couple links to some resources for those who ask the question, “I have a Bible, so now what?”

The first is an excellent and brief book of instruction on studying the word entitled, How to Study the Bible” by John MacArthur from Moody Publishers, 2009.

This book attempts and succeeds to communicate the vital importance of the word to the life of any believer. It is an excellent aid for those new believers as well as those Christians who need to taste and see, again, why our Lord is good.

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Two is the Loneliest Number

May 2, 2010

Ephesians 2:113:13

How soon we forget.  God has so wisely designed our bodies, each part performs a function, each part is necessary.  His body of the church has likewise been designed with a care and function which ultimately, if guided properly serves to give Him Glory.  Paul’s ministry to Ephesus brought God glory and brings us valuable and necessary encouragement and instruction.  Once we enter the body we must not forget the means by which we entered.  Paul repeatedly, in this passage calls the Ephesians and by extension each of us to remember.  Remember that one time “you were gentiles” (11); remember that one time you were “separated from Christ”(12).  In true Pauline fashion though, he follows these reminders of separation and alienation with his famous “but now.”  Now we the gentiles have been brought near through Christ, and have been joined into one new man literally, “in the place of two.”(15)  This unity of body is marked by three characteristics.

The first is peace.  Once God has joined us both Jew and gentile together into one body through the cross, the hostilities which marked their separation should cease.  This peace was preached to those who were far off and to those who were near; strangers and sojourners alike.  Now all are granted access through the Spirit into God’s household.

The second characteristic is worship.  This far-flung group is being gathered and joined for a function.  The new believers will add to the foundation of a structure begun by the apostles and prophets of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone.  Peter uses this metaphor to great effect in his first epistle in chapter two; that we are in fact living stones, being built up, a royal priesthood, a chosen race.  Here Paul proclaims that this structure is a Holy Temple, and all those in Christ are built into this structure which will serve as “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”(2:22)

The third characteristic is action.  Jesus’ gospel, “the mystery” made known to Paul by revelation, must be proclaimed to all, both Jews and Gentiles.  So Paul models the message that there has been a plan, a mystery hidden for ages that man must now be made aware.  God revealed that mystery in Christ and it is by God’s grace that Paul and all of us in Jesus, can preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Recognizing that these characteristics are part of God’s eternal plan, should encourage us to both seize hold of the promises God places before us; and take heart when misfortune falls on us as it did Paul.  For though he suffered for the Ephesians the message and hope of Christ pressed on; the structure continued to grow; for increase of our faith and for God’s glory.