|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
(Violence and Militancy)
2) By His Sovereign Grace Alone
[NOTE: The following was put together a month before the Oklahoma bombing; it was proofed and ready to print when the sad event took place. The text remains unchanged in spite of the bombing. This writer is greatly saddened and distressed by what took place in Oklahoma. He was also greatly saddened and distressed by the attack against Randy Weaver and against innocent men, women and children at Waco.
One should not overlook the fact that wars have been caused and fought and multiplied tens of thousands killed for the primary purpose of increasing the powers of centralized governments: Citizens will tolerate increased centralized control if the cause is great enough.]
This writer must admit that we face some extremely confusing times. As a pastor friend says, "We have not passed this way before." We live in an unique time and place in history: a time and place where America's Christian freedoms were obtained with the blood of Godly men. But most of those freedoms have passed into history, victim of the indifference of our "Christian" fathers. Moreover, most of the cloudy issues of our day, e.g. "What will I do if `thus and such' happens?" will be cleared up when and if the day comes, James 4:13. Obviously, James does not call for a presumptuous attitude concerning tomorrow, for Proverbs 22:3; 27:12, &c. still apply. Though presented in the context of eating and special days, Romans 14:4 must be considered:
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
We should, therefore, be cautious before condemning another believer to eternal damnation for not seeing things our way. There are areas clearly addressed by God's Word, e.g. abortion, murder, sodomy, fornication, God's sovereignty, redemption, &c. But other areas are not so clearly addressed, and, because of our fallen nature, may well remain clouded until we see the Lord. So the following is presented for thought, for no matter what the Christian decides God would have him do "tomorrow," the following must be considered.
The church at the end of this millennium is being confronted with, in this writers opinion, a very serious situation, viz. a spirit of militancy. [Eye to Eye, 4/7/95, had an interesting report concerning the violent, confrontational, "in your face" spirit now in America. A writer interviewed pointed out that the "in your face" spirit marked the end of our social order: "End of Game," a term used in Chess.] Many people, both inside and outside the church, appear to be pushed to the brink by what they consider oppression and government intrusion, and they see only one option, i.e. violent, militant action. The militant attitude is being exhibited in violence against those around them, e.g. Paul Harvy, reporting a Post Office shooting, mentioned that the number two cause of death on the job in the U.S. Postal Service is shootings, and the number three cause of death on the job in industry is shootings by disgruntled co-workers.
Clearly, a spirit of militancy has replaced the Christian spirit of meekness in society, Ps 45:4; 1 Co 4:21; 2 Co 10:1; Ga 5:23; 6:1; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Ti 6:11; 2 Ti 2:25; Tit 3:2; Jas 1:21; Jas 3:13; 1 Pe 3:15, &c. Has the Book of 1 Thessalonians been removed from the Bible by modern New Testament Christians, especially 5:15?
See that no one render to any evil for evil, but pursue always what is good towards one another and towards all.
It seems that everyone now demands his rights, and will turn to violence to claim those rights whether in his home or in the work-place. He has lost all hope of peacefully bringing about change. (One would wonder if the militant union crowd is not now reaping what it has sown in the past, e.g. militant union action!)
This writer realizes the following will "cloud the issue," and will probably present more questions than answers, so before the following is dismissed, please consider a few points: 1) there is a time to make war, and Christians must know that proper time - Ecc 3:1., To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, for there is A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up, and A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace; 2) though those quoted below were fallible, they presented some thoughts that must not be ignored; 3) those assured of how they will respond in the midst of future, traumatic events are called by the Word, evil boasters - James 4:13., Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil, and 4) the following is intended to confront the militant spirit overtaking even those professing Christ.
It deals, accordingly, with the subjects of militancy and vengeance against the ungodly: Can vengeance be taken by individual Christians against the wicked deserving of death according to the Word of God, must vengeance be left to the civil authorities though corrupt, must all vengeance be left to God, or is vengeance a combination of all three options?
Moreover, how should Christians regard the wicked who have been exalted into places of civil authorities? Should they be regarded as holding offices appointed them by Satan, or do they hold their offices by appointment of God Almighty?
What is meant by the term, "The Church Militant?" Is the church to take up arms and strike out against oppressors?
The reader is left to draw his own conclusions and do his own research concerning other matters presented in the following statements.
Those of us who believe the total of God's Word clearly see the Lord moving against a sin-hardened world, e.g. Judges 7:22. We also know that the Word of God offers God's faithful people a hiding place as He moves the hardened against one another, and His move is bringing a couple generations of Humanistic indoctrination to fruition, i.e. complete and total failure:
Zeph 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.
Meekness describes the Messiah, Zech 9:9, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Meekness is contrasted with scoffing, Pro 3:34, Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. James 4:6, But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Meekness, furthermore, is contrasted with haughtiness, Ps 18:27, For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. & 2 Sa 22:28, And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.
As a parenthesis: This writer is finding that the world's crowd, though unsaved, has more of an insight concerning the disintegration of the humanistic systems around them than do professed Christians: Far more unchurched than churched in our area are fleeing the humanistic, statist school system for home schooling. What a reproach against modern "Christianity" when it cannot see what is happening to its own children, their paganization.
Romans 13:4 contains one of the only two New Testament usages of the word revenger: the other is 1 Thess 4:6. Revenger, according to Thayer,
1. without law and justice, unjust [no NT usage]. 2. exacting penalty from one; an avenger, punisher: Ro. xiii.4; 1 Th. iv.6...
Observe: First, notice v. 4 is located after v. 3: do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. In other words, doing Godly good comes before the praise. The civil authority always reflects the attitude of the people; therefore, when the people loose sight of Godly good, the civil authority looses sight of what to reward and what to punish. Second, how did the early church of A.D. 90-200 regard v. 4?
As we consider the following, please keep in mind that the child of God is not bound by the teachings, actions nor attitudes of Godly men of the past; rather, he is bound only by God's Word. But the child of God cannot ignore the fact that the actions and attitudes of first and second century Christians conquered the pagan Roman empire by A.D. 325. The following statement is found in "The Anti-Nicene Fathers," vol VII, p 436. It is listed in a chapter headed, "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," and its attributed date is A.D. 80-120. [P 375.] The "Introductory Note" to volume I points out that the men of A.D. 100-200 were the ones to whom the Word of God was committed: And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also, 2 Tim 2:2. Regarding Rom 13:4, we read:
IN WHAT THINGS WE OUGHT TO BE SUBJECT TO THE RULERS OF THIS WORLD
XIII. Be ye subject to all royal power and dominion in things which are pleasing to God, as to the ministers of God, and the punishers of the ungodly. [FN. See I Pet. ii. 13; Tit. iii. I.] Render all the fear that is due them, all offerings, all customs, all honour, gifts, and taxes. [FN. Rom. xiii.I, 4, 7.] For this is God's command, that ye owe nothing to any one but the pledge of love, which God has commanded by Christ. [FN. Rom. xiii. 8.]
The points worth noticing are: 1) its date is extremely early, possibly within the lifetime of some of the original Apostles; 2) its early date places the statement within the time-frame of persecution against the early church, and 3) what is said, i.e."as to the ministers of God, and the punishers of the ungodly." The early church thus saw even the extremely evil Roman civil authority it existed under as the executer of God's wrath against the ungodly.
But more important for our examination and understanding of the early church's teaching concerning Rom 13:4, are the writings of a man who lived during the height of persecution:
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John. Polycarp, born A.D. 69, a year before the destruction of Jerusalem, "may have enjoyed the friendship of St. John for twenty years or more." Steadfastly "refusing before the proconsul to deny his King and Saviour, whom he had served six and eighty years," Polycarp "joyfully went up to the stake, and amidst the flames praised God for having deemed him worthy `to be numbered among his martyrs, to drink the cup of Christ's sufferings, unto the eternal resurrection of the soul and the body in the incorruption of the Holy Spirit.'" [History of the Christian Church, Vol II, Schaff, p 52.] Polycarp's death is dated as A.D. 155, making Irenaeus, his disciple, about 32 years of age at the time if his teacher's martyrdom by the civil authority, Rome.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, France, wrote his treatises against heresies around A.D. 182-188, 30 years after Polycarp's martyrdom. Though in France, he had contact with many awaiting martyrdom in Rome. [The Anti-Nicene Fathers, The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, V. I, pp 312-313. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.] Clearly, therefore, Irenaeus was not unfamiliar with Rome's vigorous attempt to stamp out what it, by that time, perceived "as vicious and dangerous to the welfare of the state," Christianity. Hence, as we consider Irenaeus view of Rom 13:4, we must keep in mind the social and political climate of his time, for it was beyond anything known before or since in its stand against Christians.
The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius [A.D. 161-180] "had no sympathy with Christianity, and probably regarded it as an absurd and fanatical superstition." Only once does Aurelius "allude to them, and then with scorn, tracing their noble enthusiasm for martyrdom to `sheer obstinacy' and love for theatrical display." Aurelius "considered the Christian doctrine of the immortality of the soul, with its moral consequences, as vicious and dangerous to the welfare of the state. A law was passed under his reign, punishing every one with exile who should endeavor to influence people's mind by fear of the Divinity, and this law was, do doubt aimed at the Christians..."
About the year 170 the apologist Melito wrote: "the race of the worshipers of God in Asia is now persecuted by new edicts as it never has been heretofore; shameless, greedy sycophants, finding occasion in the edicts, now plunder the innocent day and night." The empire was visited at that time by a number of conflagrations, a destructive flood of the Tiber, an earthquake, insurrections, and particularly a pestilence, which spread from Ethiopia to Gaul. This gave rise to bloody persecutions, in which government and people united against the enemies of the gods and the supposed authors of these misfortunes. Celsus expressed his joy that "the demon" [of the Christians] was "not only reviled, but banished from every land and sea," and saw in this judgment the fulfillment of the oracle: "the mills of the gods grind late." But at the same time these persecutions, and the simultaneous literary assaults on Christianity by Celsus and Lucain, show that the new religion was constantly gaining importance in the empire. [History, vol II, p 55. Emp added.]
Christians were considered a separate race of people: sounds like God's definition of His people, i.e. a new race. "[S]upposed authors..." Though the populace was pagan, it recognized the "conflagrations" as Divine movement against the ungodly, and, therefore, increased persecution against God's people. The Lord Himself moved in vengeance against the workers of iniquity who were against His people. Modern society is, accordingly, more pagan than was that of A.D. 170, for it refuses to see any Divine hand in modern "conflagrations." Christianity, as a whole, is no longer considered an "enemy of the gods" of this world.
Irenaeus "succeeded Pothinus as bishop of Lyons, probably about A.D. 177." [Fathers, vol 1, p 312.]
In 177, the churches of Lyons and Vienne, in the South of France, underwent a severe trial. Heathen slaves were forced by the rack to declare, that their Christian masters practised all the unnatural vices which rumor charged them with; and this was made to justify the exquisite tortures to which the Christians were subjected..." The most distinguished victims of this Gallic persecution were the bishop Pothinus, who, at the age of ninety years, and just recovered from a sickness, was subjected to all sorts of abuse, and then thrown into a dismal dungeon, where he died in two days; the virgin Blandin, a slave, who showed almost superhuman strength and constancy under the most cruel tortures, and was at last thrown to a wild beast in a net; Ponticus, a boy of fifteen years, who could be deterred by no sort of cruelty from confessing his Saviour. The corpses of the martyrs, which covered the streets, were shamefully mutilated, then burned, and the ashes cast into the Rhone, lest any remnants of the enemies of the gods might desecrate the soil. At last the people grew weary of slaughter, and a considerable number of Christians survived. The martyrs of Lyons distinguished themselves by true humility, disclaiming in their prison the title of honor...
About the same time a persecution of less extent appears to have visited Autyn (Augustodunum) near Lyons. Symphorinus, a young man of good family, having refused to fall down before the image of Cybele, was condemned to be beheaded...
Of isolated cases of martyrdom in this reign, we notice that of Justin Martyr, at Rome, in the year 166...
Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his cruel and contemptible son, Commodus (180-192), who wallowed in the mire of every sensual debauchery, and displayed at the same time like Nero the most ridiculous vanity as dancer and singer, and in the character of buffoon; but he was accidentally made to favor the Christians by the influence of a concubine, Marcia, and accordingly did not disturb them. Yet under his reign a Roman senator, Apollonius, was put to death for his faith... [History, vol II, pp 55-57.]
Septamius Severus [A.D. 193-211] succeeded Commodus as Roman Emperor; his attitude toward Christians caused Clement of Alexandria to write, "`Many martyrs are daily burned, confined, or beheaded, before our eyes.'" In A.D. 202, Severus "enacted a rigid law against the further spread both of Christianity and of Judaism." The result was that many were beheaded, including Origen, many were cast to the beasts in public festivals and some were boiled in pitch. [History, vol II, pp 57-58.]
Though Irenaeus' very lengthy treatise against heresies may sound as though it were written in pleasant conditions for Christians, maybe similar to early America, we must remember some things: Christians in his town had been tortured in the most cruel ways imaginable by the civil authorities to cause them to deny Christ; the streets of his town had been littered with dismembered corpses of persecuted Christians; he succeeded a man who had been martyred for his Christian faith; he had contact with many in Rome who were martyred; Polycarp and Justin were martyred in his lifetime; the civil authorities demanded of the Christians that they fall down before images of the emperor, and atrocities of the most horrible description were practiced with vigor against Christians, much to the delight of the general population. Yet in spite of all these persecutions, Christianity gained great strength and influence.
The following contains lengthy quotes, but they are far to applicable for our day to be ignored. The child of God, confronted with a very formidable, militant spirit on every side, must make some extremely important decisions concerning his attitude toward those civil authorities who act wickedly; those decisions must not be made in hast, and they should take into consideration the attitude of the early church toward its civil authority, Rome, for it conquered its enemy, Rome. In the Introductory Note to "Irenaeus Against Heresies," we find the following:
[A.D. 120-202.] This history introduces us to the Church in her Western outposts. We reach the banks of the Rhone, where for nearly a century Christian missions have flourished. Between Marseilles and Smyrna there seems to have been a brisk trade, and Polycarp had sent Pothinus into Celtic Gaul at an early date as its evangelist. He had fixed his see at Lyons, when Irenaeus joined him as a presbyter, having been his fellow-pupil under Polycarp [a disciple of the Apostle John, ed]. There, under the "good Aurelius," as he is miscalled (A.D. 177), arose the terrible persecution which made "the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne" so memorable. It was during this persecution that Irenaeus was sent to Rome with letters of remonstrance against the rising pestilence of heresy; and he was probably the author of the account of the sufferings of the martyrs which is appended to their testimony. But he had the mortification of finding the Montanist heresy patronized by Eleutherys the Bishop of Rome; and there he met an old friend from the school of Polycarp, who had embraced the Valentinian heresy. We cannot doubt that to this visit we owe the life-long struggle of Irenaeus against the heresies that now came in, like locusts, to devour the harvests of the Gospel...
If it shocks the young student of the virgin years of Christianity to find such a state of things, [i.e. the inroad of great heretical tendencies into the new church, ed] let him reflect that it was all foretold by Christ himself, and demonstrates the malice and power of the adversary. "An enemy hath done this," said the Master. The spirit that was then working "in the children of disobedience," now manifested itself. The awful visions of the Apocalypse began to be realized. It was now evident in what sense "the Prince of peace" had pronounced His mission, "not peace, but a sword." In short, it became a conspicuous fact, that the Church here on earth is "militant;" while at the same time, there was seen to be a profound philosophy in the apostolic comment, "There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest." In the divine economy of Providence it was permitted that every form of heresy which was ever to infest the Church should now exhibit its essential principle, and attract the censures of the faithful. Thus testimony to primitive truth was secured and recorded: the language of catholic orthodoxy was developed and defined, and landmarks of faith were set up for perpetual memorial to all generations...
The Introductory Notice of the learned translators is as follows:--
The work of Irenaeus Against Heresies is one of the most precious remains of early Christian antiquity. It is devoted, on the one hand, to an account and refutation of those multiform Gnostic heresies which prevailed in the latter half of the second century; and, on the other hand, to an exposition of the Catholic faith [not Roman faith, ed]. [The Anti-Nicene Fathers, The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, v. I, pp 309-311.]
Please examine what was said in the above introduction to the writings quoted below: 1) it was a time of terrible persecution; 2) "every form of heresy which was ever to infest the Church" had crept in "to devour the harvests of the Gospel"; 3) the Lord promised that the enemy would plant many heresies within His Kingdom on earth, the Church; 4) the Church "militant" is militancy against the heresies that would rob the Church of her strength; 5) every sort of heresy rose very early in Church history, close to her roots while the Apostles' teachings were still fresh in the minds of the faithful who would stand against the heresies, and 6) against the early heresies was established orthodox language and the "landmarks of the faith" for all generations to follow. We are among the following generations, but we have ignored the "landmarks of the faith" established by these early church fathers against the many heresies they confronted. Certainly, these men were not inspired, but their teachings cannot be ignored.
We can clearly lay the blame for our current social and religious chaos on the fact that the Church, by and large, has failed to consistently wage militant warfare against heresies after the manner of the early Church fathers, e.g. Irenaeus. See 2 Cor 10:3.
The question is this: Are we standing where they stood? Are we building upon the foundations laid by these faithful men of the early Church, the foundation cemented with their own blood? Consider Irenaeus'--Polycarp's student, who was John's student--statement below as found near the end of his lengthy writings "AGAINST HERESIES," preserved for our edification. The total "AGAINST HERESIES" consumes about half of vol II, i.e. pp 315-567 [not all the footnotes are reproduced; FN denotes those reproduced]. The heresy Irenaeus writes against, which is our present concern, is found in:
CHAP. XXIV.--OF THE CONSTANT FALSEHOOD OF THE DEVIL, AND OF THE POWERS AND GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD, WHICH WE OUGHT TO OBEY, INASMUCH AS THEY ARE APPOINTED OF GOD, NOT OF THE DEVIL.
I. As therefore the devil lied at the beginning, so did he also in the end, when he said, "All these are delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give them." [FN. Matt. iv. 9; Luke iv. 6.] For it is not he who has appointed the kingdoms of this world, but God; for "the heart of the king is in the hand of God." [FN. Prov. xxi. I.] And the Word also says by Solomon, "By me kings do reign, and princes administer justice. By me chiefs are raised up, and by me kings rule the earth." [FN. Prov. viii. 15.] Paul the apostle also says upon this same subject: "Be ye subject to all the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; now those which are have been ordained of God." [FN. Rom xiii. I.] And again, in reference to them he says, "For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, the avenger for wrath to him who does evil." Now, that he spake these words, not in regard to angelical powers, nor of invisible rulers--as some venture to expound the passage--but of those of actual human authorities, [he shows when] he says, "For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, doing service for this very thing." This also the Lord confirmed, when He did not do what He was tempted to by the devil; but He gave directions that tribute should be paid by the tax-gatherers for Himself and Peter; because "they are the ministers of God, serving for this very thing."
2. For since men, by departing from God, reached such a pitch of fury as even to look upon his brother as his enemy, and engaged without fear in every kind of restless conduct, and murder, and avarice; God imposed upon mankind the fear of man, as they did not acknowledge the fear of God, in order that, being subjected to the authority of men, and kept under restraint by their laws, they might attain to some degree of justice, and exercise mutual forbearance through dread of the sword suspended full in their view, as the apostle says: "For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, the avenger for wrath upon him who does evil." And for this reason too, magistrates themselves, having laws as a clothing of righteousness whenever they act in a just and legitimate manner, shall not be called in question for their conduct, nor be liable to punishment. But whatsoever they do to the subversion of justice, iniquitously, and impiously, and illegally, and tyrannically, in these things shall they also perish; for the just judgment of God comes equally upon all, and in no case is defective. Earthly rule, therefore, has been appointed by God for the benefit of nations, and not by the devil, who is never at rest at all, nay, who does not love to see even nations conducting themselves after a quiet manner, so that under the fear of human rule, men may not eat each other up like fishes; but that, by means of the establishment of laws, they may keep down an excess of wickedness among the nations. And considered from this point of view, those who exact tribute from us are "God's ministers, serving for this very purpose."
3. As, then, the powers that be are ordained of God," it is clear that the devil lied when he said, "These are delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give them." For by the law of the same Being as calls men into existence are kings also appointed, adapted for those men who are at the time placed under their government. Some of these [rulers] are given for the correction and benefit of their subjects, and for the preservation of justice; but others, for the purposes of fear and punishment and rebuke: others, as [the subjects] deserve it, are for deception, disgrace, and pride; while the just judgment of God, as I have observed already, passes equally upon all. The devil, however, as he is the apostate angel, can only go to this length, as he did at the beginning, [namely] to deceive and lead astray the mind of man into disobeying the commandments of God, and gradually to darken the hearts of those who would endeavour to serve him, to the forgetting of the true God, but to the adoration of himself as God.
4. Just as if any one, being an apostate, and seizing in a hostile manner another man's territory, should harass the inhabitants of it, in order that he might claim for himself the glory of a king among those ignorant of his apostasy and robbery; so likewise also the devil, being one among those angels who are placed over the spirit of the air, as the Apostle Paul has declared in his Epistle to the Ephesians, [FN, Eph ii. 2.] becoming envious of man, was rendered an apostate from the divine law: for envy is a thing foreign to God. And as his apostasy was exposed by man, and man became the [means of] searching out his thoughts (et examinatio sententice ejus, homo factus est), he has set himself to this with greater and greater determination, in opposition to man, envying his life, and wishing to involve him in his own apostate power. The Word of God, however, the Maker of all things, conquering him by means of human nature, and showing him to be an apostate, has, on the contrary, put him under the power of man. For He says, "Behold, I confer upon you the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy," in order that, as he obtained dominion over man by apostasy, so again his apostasy might be deprived of power by means of man turning back again to God. [Ibid, pp 552-553.]
Before we make a few points brought out by Irenaeus, let us quickly review the time and circumstances in which he wrote against the above mentioned second century heresy that said the devil exalts rulers of this world: 1) it was a time of terrible persecution; 2) "every form of heresy which was ever to infest the Church" had crept in "to devour the harvests of the Gospel"; 3) the Lord promised that the enemy would plant many heresies within His Kingdom on earth, the Church; 4) the Church "militant" is militancy against heresies that would rob the Church of her strength; 5) every sort of heresy rose very early in Church history, close to her roots while the Apostles' teaching was still fresh in the minds of the faithful who would stand against the heresies, and 6) against the early heresies were established orthodox language and the "landmarks of the faith" for all generations to follow.
CHAP. XXIV. A major heresy confronted by Irenaeus was the heresy saying that the devil, rather than God, appoints the powers and governments of the world. The result of the heresy is, therefore, that vengeance, anger, hatred, militancy, &c., is justified in the minds of some against civil authorities who act lawlessly.
First, in spite of the fact that Irenaeus was in the midst of terrible persecution and the bodies of martyred Christians littered his streets, he did not believe the devil was in control: "the devil lied at the beginning, so did he also in the end..." In fact, Irenaeus thought this point so important that he makes it thrice, #I, #2, i.e. "Earthly rule, therefore, has been appointed by God for the benefit of nations, and not by the devil...," & #3. He firmly believed, and Scripturally defended his belief, that neither the Lord God nor Adam delivered to Satan the power nor authority to exalt one ruler over another, nor can he deliver nations and kingdoms to men. Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and his power over nations, rulers and men is in his ability to cause them to believe his lies. Therefore, if Satan can cause Christians to believe that he exalts wicked rulers, he has caused them to deny the Word of God: They have departed from the faith, and have united with Satan in his stand against Truth.
Second, though the civil authority was using the sword against Christians, slaughtering them like sheep, Irenaeus said, "For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, the avenger for wrath to him who does evil." Irenaeus did not spiritualize Paul's statement away, but clearly said that Paul refers to "actual human authorities." Speaking from the midst of persecution and the lawless use of the sword, Irenaeus said that civil authority alone had the power of the sword against evil. There can be, accordingly, no personal vengeance against the evil doer.
We will skip "For this cause..." as presented by Irenaeus, for our present "tax structure" is voluntary, howbeit at the point of a gun, i.e. "Volunteer or we will throw you in jail."
Third, because men depart from God and refuse to fear Him, God raises up and empowers men--civil rulers--with the sword, i.e. capital punishment. When men lose the fear of God, the Lord must exalt fearful, wicked men to suspend the sword in full view to prevent anarchy as happened before the Flood, Rom 3:10-18. [Cf., Ge 20:11; Ps 36:1; Pr 8:13; Pr 16:6; Pr 23:17; Lu 23:40; Re 19:5, &c.] Godly fear would naturally result in Godly self-control, resulting in very little "government" control, but as Godly fear fails from society, rulers must become more oppressive. Even a despotic government, as existed in A.D. 100-200 over Irenaeus, obtains some "degree of justice," keeping evil under some degree of control--though, admittedly, very little at times. Even a tyrannical governments prevent men from eating "each other up like fishes."
Fourth, tyrannical, unjust, illegal rulers subverting Godly justice will not escaped God's justice: "for the just judgment of God comes equally upon all, and in no case is defective," regardless of what good men might think. The early church found strength and patience to endure, knowing that the Lord was keeping score.
Fifth, God's ideal under the Prince of Peace is "nations conducting themselves after a quiet manner," but Godless nations will "eat each other up like fishes" without the fear of human rule. "Earthly rule, therefore, has been appointed by God for the benefit of nations, and not by the devil, who is never at rest at all..."
Sixth, some rulers are exalted by God for the purpose "of fear and punishment and rebuke" against subjects deserving it for their "deception, disgrace, and pride..." In other words, proud, deceptive, covetous people who believe the devil's lie that they can be like God cause God to raise up civil rulers who believe the devil's lie that are God. But the wicked rulers who follow the devil's lie will face the justice of God, as will the people.
Seventh, the devil has seized another man's territory, i.e. the King's kingdom. He can, therefore, only rule over those who willingly believe his claim upon the King's territory, the earth and the fullness thereof. His rule can thus extend only over Christians who fall victim to his lie that he can and does exalt earthly rulers, 2 Tim 2:25, 26. Satan can, therefore, only be glorified as the god of this world by those who believe his lie, for his legitimate rule is limited by the Lord God to the powers of darkness and powers of the air, Eph 2:2. Satan is not called a god by the Word of God; rather, he is referred to as prince, John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph 2:2. Note that even the Pharisees called Satan a prince, Mat 9:34, &c.
Thus 2 Cor 4:4 can be understood in two ways: First, the Lord God, the legitimate God of this world, hides the clear gospel from the unsaved, which corresponds best to the context of total Scripture, or second, Satan is the god of this world only to those who believe his lie which claims that he, and not the Creator, is the legitimate god of this present age. 1 Jn 5:19 says that The whole world lieth in wickedness; it does not say in the wicked one, i.e. Satan. In other words, the world at large is now believing and following Satan's lie; and believing his lie, he is thus their god. Let us not read more into a verse than it contains. John Gill [1696-1771] rightly comments on 2 Cor 4:4: to those "who have voluntarily given themselves up to him, and whose lusts they will do; and so declare themselves to be his children, and him their father, yea their god..." He is master of only those who do his works, and got to those who believe his lie. It is interesting that the first printing of the King James Bible capitalised the world God in 2 Cor 4:4. The word can reference either god or God.
Yes, Satan is called a ruler, but notice his limited rule, viz. the kingdom of darkness, Eph 6:12 & Col 1:13. See also Mat 12:29. This wicked prince has a limited earthly "kingdom," rule over men and events, but his kingdom is usurped from the Lord, and even then, Job shows that he must answer to his Creator in his usurped kingdom.
Speaking in Switzerland in the early 1840s, J.N. Darby presented this thought: "Satan, as god of this world, gives him [the beast, ed] his throne and his power..." [Collected Writings, Vol II, p 344. ND.] Thus the lie was presented by Darby and received and developed by his hearers that Satan has the power to exalt and remove earthly rulers. Not only did Darby's new thoughts cause riots in Switzerland, [Letters, vol. 1, pp 54, 82, dates, 1842, 1845 - Darby's new theories caused the Council of State to attempt to stop him, causing him to plead for "religious liberty"] but when Darby presented thoughts such as this one to the American Church in the early 1870s, the American Church was astonished. [Letters, Vol 2, p 189.] It was D.L. Moody's Northfieled Bible Conferences, 1880-1886, that made Darby's unique understanding of Scripture, as presented by Darby's followers at the conferences, "legitimate" in America: American Christians were persuaded that it was wrong to attempt social change through the preaching of the gospel in a world controlled by Satan. The Word of God Himself makes liers out of men like Darby who would say that Satan exalts any ruler, even the basest of men, e.g. the beast of Revelation 13, Dan 4:17, &c. All power is now given to Christ - Who, by the way, in spite Darby's statement that Christ "will sit on His own throne" [emp added. Letters, vol I, p 22], now sits on His throne, 1 Pe 3:22. The power to make war in Rev 13:4 & 7, had to come from Christ, for All power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth, and He shares it with neither man nor devil.
The devil has seized another Man's territory, and he only sits as ruler over those who believe that he is the legitimate ruler of that territory. If Christian's believe the devil's lie in this area, then they have apostatized and joined the Deceiver in his usurped rule against the Lord and His Christ.
Eighth, the Saviour, in human flesh, conquered Satan: SATAN DEFEATED THE FIRST MAN, BUT HE WAS SUBSEQUENTLY DEFEATED BY A MAN, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim 2:5. His defeat by the man Christ Jesus revealed Satan for what he is in his claim of earthly rule and authority to exalt and put down earthly rulers. Thus fallen man is given authority over Satan through the risen Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is, consequently, a fraud and a liar, for he, claiming power to exalt and cast down, is under the authority of Godly men, Luke 10:17-22. Have Christians forgotten that the works of the devil have been destroyed, 1 Jn 3:8? Thus it is a description of the many antichrists in the church that says that the cause of Christ cannot change society,, ibid, 2:18, &c.
Ninth, Satan gains and retains his usurped, worldly power and dominion by persuading men to apostatize from the Truth; therefore, he is deprived of his usurped power and dominion "by the means of man turning back again to God": consequently, the necessity of militant warfare against false doctrine.
Let us now consider some answers for our opening questions: The first and second century church considered even the most wicked rulers as established by God, God's servants on this earth. Clearly, those early Christians did not seek vengeance against the ungodly; rather, they believed that all execution of earthly vengeance had been given to civil authority, viz. it was thus the civil authorities' responsibility to exercise capital punishment against the deserving according to God's Law-Word. And if the civil authority failed its responsibility to put to death the lawless, they saw no Scriptural justification to do it themselves.
There seems to be a modern feeling that the wicked in civil government are not there by God's appointment, but, rather, Satan's; there appears to be a feeling that Satan has the power and authority to appoint his servants as earthly kings and rulers. Such ideas were considered by Irenaeus, Polycarp's student, as heresies to be militated against. No matter how wickedly the civil authority acted, even filling the streets with the bodies of Christians slaughtered by torture, the Christians of A.D. 180 saw those authorities appointed by God. Any other attitude joins in and strengthens Satan's kingdom.
Is it any wonder that the whole world lies in wickedness? Many of God's people have willingly submitted to Satan's usurped kingdom
According to Irenaeus, any modern heresy within the church attributing unBiblical power to Satan to exalt and put down earthly rulers has subjected those believers to Satan's kingdom: They have made themselves willing subjects of Satan's usurped kingdom, strengthening him in his rebellion against the rightful King of the whole earth, the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:9 must not be overlooked:
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished...
The context refers to false prophets... who quietly bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction, v. 1. Peter implies the prophets are "saved," but they have found it profitable to "preach" vengeance and revenge, vv. 3, 10. V. 9, therefore, tells us that both the prophets and their followers have forgotten something, viz. they have forgotten, either intentionally or unintentionally, that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly and how to reserve the wicked for judgment to be punished. The child of God, accordingly, must leave all vengeance, both emotional and physical, with the Lord to Whom alone belongs all vengeance and judgment. The Lord knows who and where the ungodly are; He knows exactly their ungodly deeds, and He will see that they receive just payment when He brings their day of judgment to pass, Rom 12:19, Heb 10:30, &c.
It is time for a militant church to rise to warfare, and the first and most important battle must be fought within, AGAINST HERESIES, before there can be any victory without. Every though and action must be compared to God's revelation to man, His Word. Those doctrines and men contrary to that Word must be confronted and removed:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3, 4.)
"The enemy may have been stabbed at the heart; yet will he get up, and renew the fight. Thou must walk - yea- sleep - in thine armour. It must be worn, not laid up. There is `no discharge from this war,' till the body of sin and death is laid in the grave. Meanwhile victory is declared, before the conflict begins. Let every day then be a day of triumph. The promises are to present victory. With such stirring, stimulating hopes, thou shalt surely have rule, if thou wilt but dare to have it. And if thou hast not courage enough to be a Christian, thou must be a slave for life to the hardest of task-masters.
This bloodless victory, so contrary to the turmoil of war (Isa ix. 5), is the crown of Christian grace. (Rom xii. 19.) No other grace of the gospel can be exercised without its influence. Yet the daily conquest anticipates the final victory, the spoils of which will be reaped throughout eternity." (Proverbs, Charles Bridges, 1846. 1981 reprint by The Banner of Truth Trust, p 251, 252.)
[An added, concluding thought. Circumstances now dictate that pastors must do what is required of them by God; that is, seriously study God's Word and its implications, and then carry out serious warfare against false doctrines and false teachers in the church. The Word of God must be so clearly developed that the pastor/teacher will not need to name names - obviously, church discipline excepted; rather, the hearers must be effectively equipped, enabling them to compare the developed Word of God with the situations and people around them. The saints must be equipped with the Word of God so well that they can readily identify every situation in the light of God's Word. Reading 1 and 2 John, we find that the spirit of antichrist is in the church, not in the civil government; this though will be developed at a latter date.]
|A Very Personal Note|
By His Sovereign Grace Alone
Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Eph 2:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will...
We have received many comments about the receint mailing, "A New Religion, Patriotism." We praise the Lord that He has seen fit to bless the efforts extended in His Name here at Linden. But I personally would like to remind the reader that I sign my letters, "By His Sovereign Grace Alone" for a purpose: I am aware that whatever ability I might have is provided strictly by God's grace.
This writer realizes that some who read these mailings are fearful of the term "Grace." They are even more fearful, bordering at times on hatred, of the term "Sovereign Grace," considering the users of the term as heretics. But if the reader had been through what this writer has been through, the reader would also be firmly committed to "Sovereign Grace."
This pastor did not have any goal except to be a heavy construction equipment operator, dozers and earth movers of all kinds. The dream was perused from the time he was old enough to sit in a seat and reach the pedals, for his dad had a business that permitted him do this from an early age. Moreover, he pursued this dream in the US NAVY SEABEES at a period when one had to document 5 years heavy equipment experience to be accepted by the NAVY's Mobile Construction Battalions as an operator: he had the experience by the age of 20. He did not, therefore, make any educational plans, such as even taking typing in High School. He came close to having to retake English several times in High School because of low grades. Upon release from the NAVY in '65, he still had no desire except the construction trades.
Through a series of events and over this writer's personal objections, Divine Providence placed him in the ministry. Along with that placement came a desire to read Scripture, write down what was observed from Scripture and search out and learn from Godly men through their writings. Providence even gave the desire to learn to type a few years ago (at the age of 48), so with the aid of a computer program, this pastor learned to type, having never even tried a typewriter.
This writer realizes that his "experience" is not unique, for he has met many who have been led by Divine Providence along the same path. He would, however, assume that many who were determined to enter the ministry from an early age, or even immediately upon their "salvation," and pursued their determinations throughout their educations, high schools, colleges, &c., would not be as overwhelmed at the sudden change wrought in them by the Spirit in spite of their education and natural qualifications.
The result, consequently, is that this writer fully realizes that whatever "gift" and ability he might have has been provided to him by the Lord God, for HE provided the desire and ability to do what is pleasing in HIS sight. This writer continues to be overwhelmed that anyone would find of interest what the Lord shows him from His Word. He also pities those who are not overwhelmed by the grace of God that takes a human vessel with all its flaws and uses it for His glory. This writer would also point out to the reader that with God's gifts and abilities come equal responsibilities: "USE IT OR LOSE IT."
Therefore, this writer must sign his correspondences, "By His Sovereign Grace Alone,"
Pastor Ovid Need, jr.
Thank you for your encouragement.
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