Posted in Christian Perspective

Proper Perspective for One’s Faith in Light of Truth: A Plethora of Scriptural Considerations to Challenge the Believer’s Heart and Response before the Lord

One who gives an answer before he hears, it is foolishness and shame to him…The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18.13,17; NASB).
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me” (Psa 51.6).
For my mouth will proclaim truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (Prov 8.7).
“…Just as truth is in Jesus…put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4.21, 24-26).

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INTRODUCTION:

Where are we to project our responses to the situations that we face in this life? To whom do we bear the responsibility of our actions? Years ago, I remember a disagreement between professing Christians over David’s prayer in Psalm 51. It was the following line of the song that caused the disturbance:

Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when you speak and blameless when You judge” (Psa 51.4).

The rub, you see, was that some wanted to lay the stress of David’s sin in equal parts against Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba his wife whom David had an adulterous affair with, and against the Lord. But the emphasis in the text is that David’s sin was against God alone. It was God that was the offended party. And while, one might argue that David had also sinned (i.e., wronged) Uriah and Bathsheba in his sinful activities, the reality is that when we sin it is God alone who has been wronged in our pursuits.

The problem is in our approach to God, His Word, and the creation as a whole. Either our approach will be man-centered or God-centered. I think that this is the reason why we have such a difficult time determining the proper course of action in various scenarios. Not to mention we struggle with making the necessary category distinctions in order to properly weigh what our activities in this life should look like.

When David spoke in the way that he did in Psalm 51:4 he was right to do so. Sin properly defined is a violation of God’s Law-Word. It is a refusal to abide by the dictates of what God has determined to be good. This may be done purposefully or accidentally (i.e., in ignorance), but in either case we are still culpable before God. We are still presented to Him as guilty in His court. Now it is true that my sin may hurt others around me. Perhaps “may” is not the right word, how about “will,” for my sin will definitely hurt others around me. Our actions in this life have a rippling effect. Consequences come from the decisions that we make. And, in David’s case the lust of his heart, which at that moment in time was Bathsheba, rippled generations beyond that fateful day on the roof of his palace.

David, having been laid bear before the Lord through the word of His prophet Nathan recognized his plight. His eyes had been opened that which were formerly blinded by his sin. In response to this awakening he cried and confessed his sin before the Lord above. David knew that it was the Lord alone that he had personally violated with his sin. Though others were harmed by his behavior, it was the Lord God who bore the brunt of David’s sin. Being a God-centered man, having been enlightened by the Word of God, he recognized this and immediately confessed as soon as the sword of the Spirit had pierced his hardened heart.

God-centered versus Man-centered approach…

All of life is ethical, therefore, all of life is religious. Some might prefer the term “spiritual,” which is fine as long as we understand that to be truly spiritual means to be “Spirit led,” or “led by the Spirit.” In fact you cannot be truly God-centered without being guided by the Holy Spirit. If the spirit leading you is any other spirit than the third person of the Triune God, then your approach will most certainly be a Man-centered approach.

Of course this raises an important question: “What does it mean to be guided or led by the Holy Spirit?” In John’s gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that when He finally departs this earth to return to the Father, sharing in the glory that He had in the beginning (John 17.4), He will not leave them alone but will send to them the Spirit of truth (cf. John 14.7; 15.26; 16.13). And the Lord explains that it will be the role of the Holy Spirit to “…guide [them] into all truth; For He will not speak on his own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16.13). Later on, when the years of John’s apostleship are coming to an end, he reminds members of the body of Christ the following:

We are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (1John 4.6; NET).

A similar refrain is offered by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth:

Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1Cor 2.12-13).

In short, it is the God-centered man who has been enlightened by the Spirit of truth. Meaning that such an individual will not only have their thoughts imbued with Spiritual things, but Spiritual activity as the Holy Spirit brings about a reformation of the mind and will of the redeemed person (Rom 12.1-2; cf. Eph 4.17-24). Moreover, this is the reason why Christians are commanded by the Holy Spirit to

“…examine everything; hold[ing] firmly to that which is good, [in order to] abstain from every form of evil” (1Thess 5.21-22; brackets added for clarification).

The Perfect Image…

Why must we do that? Why are we commanded to examine everything? Why are we told to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…?” (1John 4.1b). The short answer is because God’s people are called to imitate Christ (cf. 1Cor 11.1; 1Thess 1.6), who is the perfect image of God in human flesh (Heb 1.3; Col 1.15, 19). And, Christ tested all things. He never made a decision that He did not first weigh in His mind, “Does this honor God or man?” As His own testimony affirms,

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way” (John 5.19; emphasis added).

Now I have given considerable thought to this truth for quite a while. Jesus did nothing outside the purview of God’s will. Just as He told the serpent that, “man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4.4), so too did He live. Furthermore, this is the requirement that He lays at the feet of all those who desire to follow Him, to be His disciples:

If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8.31-32).

For it is the true disciple of Christ that is sanctified by the Word of Truth (John 17.17). But how are we to know what is true if we do not take the time to carefully examine all things in light of God’s Law-Word? How can we say whether or not we have sinned (either in ignorance or purposefully) if we have not taken the time to weigh all things in accordance with God’s objective standard of truth (cf. John 8.46; 2Cor 5.21)?

Unjust Weights and Measures…

There is a passage repeated in the Old Testament that bears repeating. I believe that it provides a necessary justification for what Paul later calls on Christians to do in Thessalonica, as he is prompted by the Holy Spirit. What I am referring to is the various passages on unjust weights and measures:

  • You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measure of weight, or volume. You shall have accurate balances, accurate weights, an accurate ephah, and an accurate hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. So you shall keep all My statutes and all My ordinances, and do them; I am the Lord” (Lev 19.33-37).
  • You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a correct and honest weight; you shall have a correct and honest measure, so that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut 25.13-16).
  • A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight” (Prov 11.1).
  • A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Prov 16.11).
  • Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord…differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good” (Prov 20.10, 23).
  • For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt 7.2).

As with many truths in Scripture there are often layers to them. Or to use my favorite illustration of the diamond with its many cuts, the truth will reflect the light a little differently depending upon the manner in which we look at it. One truth; many points of contact, or application.

The same may be said of these passages regarding unjust weights and measures. The concern is about truth versus falsehood. In the law court this would be seen in relation to issues of justice or injustice. God abhors favoritism. He hates using opposing standards of measurement when weighing right or wrong; meaning He hates arbitrariness or inconsistency. We are told to examine all things, and when we identify that which is good we are to cling to it. Being people of the Lord of Truth, guided by the Spirit of truth, we are to be reformed in our minds by the Law-Word of the God of Truth.

People of the Book, People of the Truth…

All aspects of this life are ethical, religious, and are therefore spiritual. God’s people are to be defined by one standard alone. This is why historically, Christians have been known as people of the book. In Ephesians 4, after Paul explains what the sinners thoughts are guided by, he asserts that Christians are to driven by another standard:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another” (Eph 4.20-25; emphasis added).

How can a person weigh in the balance anything if they refuse to see the issue in its entirety? If you only see one side of the scale, and allow the other side to be hidden, will you have truly examined it in light of God’s Word? If you use God’s Word as the standard for this area of your life to make a judgment call, but then refuse to do the same in another area of your life have you not proved yourself guilty before the Lord? What right does the creature possess to use one standard here, but another standard there when weighing the issues of life? Who is truly “centered” in that choice of action, God or man?

Do you not know that God’s people are called to be bulwarks for the truth? Unmovable towers that do not bend or buckle, regardless of the pressure applied to them? Christ says that He is King, and Scripture testifies that He is King of kings and Lord of lords—He is above all—and, at the same time He says that His people are for the truth. How then can His people abide by a lie? How can they willingly live in it without being tormented day and night? Do you not see that to allow the lie to stand without your opposition to it, you are making yourself an enemy of Christ? That in that instance you are not being faithful to Him, but are sinning against Him?

David lived for nearly a year blinded by the lies of his own heart. How long are we going to live with the lie that is being perpetrated daily through our politicians and media? How long will we allow false weights and measures—arbitrariness and inconsistencies—to rule the day? Who are we to be responding to first and foremost in these things that we currently face? Is it not God alone who is to be our top priority? If we love Him above all, will we not in turn honor Him above all? Will this not also put us at odds with the current cultural winds that are blowing? Yes, but isn’t that the point?

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts” (Prov 17.3).

God is turning up the heat in our culture, not just as a judgment against sinners, but as a manner of testing (and proving) the hearts of His people. If Christ were hated, so too will you also be. But know this,

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1.2-4).
Posted in Christian Perspective

The Impossibility of Ethical Neutrality: An Analysis of Matthew 4:4

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut 30.19; NASB). 1
Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth…But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24.14a, 15).
And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4.2-4; cf. Deut 8.1-4).

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**NOTE TO READER: Read Matthew 3-4:4, along with Deuteronomy 8

Jesus was anointed for God’s purpose in the baptism performed by John the Baptist. John knew that he needed to be baptized by Jesus but the Lord responded,

Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3.15).

To what was the Lord speaking? In what way was righteousness fulfilled? What did His words to John even mean?

Righteous means “right living” (in its most basic sense). Holy living would also fall under this definition. The Lord’s concern then was for the holiness of God—the source/fountain of all that is holy and good and acceptable—to be made manifest.

Jesus was given flesh for a specific purpose—to glorify God. To make His glory known:

And the Word became flesh [a man], and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14; cf. Heb 1.1-3)

Jesus’ baptism—His anointing—was an act, an instance of this truth put on display. That God approved and in fact ordained what had been done that day in the Jordan River by John to Jesus is verified by the testimony of the witnesses:

After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John the Baptist]2 saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and setting on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matt 3.16-17).

Well pleased. That is what the Father said of the Son (the word made flesh) and this the Spirit testified about by “lighting” upon Him. In the Old Testament period oil was used in the anointing process for priests and kings (e.g., Lev 8.12; 1Sam 10.1; 16.13). This practice marked the said individual for God’s purpose.

Death to life…

Baptism signified “death to life.” Righteousness signifies a holy life being lived in devotion to God. Both terms identify the requirements to please God. When one’s object of faith is the Lord, then a “death to life” process has been assented to. And, the exercise of “right (holy) living” is demonstrated in that person’s day-to-day living.

Now Jesus was, as the Scriptures repeatedly testify, without sin (2Cor 5.21). He did no wrong (1Pet 2.22-24). He had been dedicated from birth as the Lord’s primary vessel in all creation. This is the justification for John the Baptist’s comment:

I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt 3.14).

Jesus understood a principle that many of His creatures fail to fully grasp—The only way to live, is to die to self. If anyone had a reason to say, “But I’ve done nothing wrong why must I suffer death?” it was Jesus. But, He did not argue in that way. Rather, the Lord demonstrated a principle that undergirds all of humanities purpose:

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12.25).

In the garden Adam was unwilling to risk his life for the Lord (or, for that matter, his wife). He’d been given careful instruction on how one ought to live, but he rejected it. In order to live, he needed to die to self. Instead, he chose to elevate self in the garden (i.e., to love his life); therefore, he lost it.3

Jesus also taught,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12.24).

Do you see the principle being stressed? It was the same one that drove Jesus to be baptized in the Jordan—a symbolic death to life practice for the man who knew no sin. The same one verified with a loud cry “It is finished” (John 19.30) on the day of His crucifixion, and reiterated on the day He arose from the grave (cf. John 21.14).

Considering the test…

Let us consider—with these things presented to us—the 1st testing of our Lord’s faith after His anointing in the Jordan River. Remember that He was born a king4, one who promoted the truth of God and was willing to die for it.

After being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, after 40 days and nights of fasting, the devil, also called the tempter (i.e., the one who tests), challenged Jesus with a series of questions. We shall only be looking at the first because it sets the tempo for the rest (regardless of what order they might be presented in):

  • Devil (aka., Satan):

…came and said to [Jesus], ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’”

  • Jesus (aka., Son of God/Son of man):

But he answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matt 4.3-4).

What was the test about?

Jesus, we are told, “was hungry” (Matt 4.2), but what was the test about?

As a man Jesus experienced creaturely needs. He grew tired and needed to rest. He grew thirsty and needed to drink. He grew hungry, and therefore, needed to eat. So again, I reiterate, “What was the test really about?” We know that Jesus was hungry.

Before answering the question (though no doubt many of you have already tried, at least in your own heads), let us consider a follow-up question: “Was it wrong for Jesus to turn the stone into bread?” As you mull that one over, ponder something else: “Was it wrong for Jesus to turn water into wine?” (cf. John 2.1-11).


Category Distinctions…

Let me help you a bit: “Were there category distinctions between later signs and this particular testing of Jesus to turn the stone into bread?

In order to answer this question we need to do two things. First, we need to make a necessary category distinction between Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding festival in Cana. From there we may move to the second category of thought; man’s position before God. As I said last week, there are times when we read in the gospels that we need to make a distinction between the man who is Jesus, and the God who is called Jesus. He was both fully human and fully divine. In Him the fullness of God dwelt, but so too did His manliness (cf. Col 1.19; Heb 2.14; respectively).

So in answering the first question we find that the key is in seeing that difference between what transpired in the wilderness (Matt 4) versus Cana at the wedding festival (John 2). Notice first the different terms used in these accounts. In Matthew 4 it is the “tempting” (i.e., testing) of Jesus, but in John 2 it is the “sign” of Jesus. One is a test, but the other is a display. What, do you think, is the reason for this distinction? The answer is very simple. In Matthew 4, Jesus is being tested as a man; particularly, as mankind’s chief representative. Yet, in John 2, Jesus is displaying his divinity. Knowing this we can say without question his turning water into wine was in no way wrong, for it offered those in attendance a testimony that Jesus was in fact from God the Father. He was unique. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and the glory of God was displayed in Him.

Neutrality Error…

Now we turn our attention back to the “stone into bread” scenario. Where we tend to err is when we make a false assumption of neutrality. It is easy to say, “All of life is ethical; therefore, all of life is religious.” It is easy to see the distinction of worship found in going to church on Sunday, singing hymns, praying and reading one’s Bible. It is perhaps easy for some to see that true worship is the exercise of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. It is even easy to at least give a hearty “Amen” to Paul’s comments to the Corinthians:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God” (1Cor 10.31; emphasis added).

Or to the Romans:

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is the one who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But the one who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14.22-23; emphasis added).

However, it is often difficult for a person to see how this truth applies beyond those things. So we are back to the issue at hand. Is eating a neutral endeavor? If it is not, then Christ Jesus turning stone into bread would have been an ethical and therefore religious decision. Why do I say that? Well for starters that is how the text presents the issue to us. It was the tempting (testing) of Jesus that took place. This means that there is a right versus wrong answer regarding it. There is no getting around this.

We need to get accustomed to the idea that all issues of life are ethical and therefore religious. That is the argument that God presents to mankind. Either things are done for God’s glory or things are done for man’s (i.e., the creature’s). This indicates that the underlying motives for our decision making process needs to be evaluated. This too is taught in Scripture, we are to “examine everything [and] hold firmly to that which is good” in order to “abstain from every form of evil” (1Thess 5.21-22).

Jesus in Matthew 4 is being tested as a man—i.e., this is not a question of His divinity like the “signs” recorded in John’s gospel and elsewhere. Like Adam, our Lord is presented with a scenario of tests (cf. Gen 3). Even in the garden there were layers to the testing of Adam, but we do not see them because they are not stated in writing. Regardless, they are there. In Matthew 4 (also: Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13) the layers are presented individually, but the first one, the one we have been looking at, sets the stage. In other words, everything that occurs during this testing period in the wilderness is governed by our Lord’s first response to the devil:

It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God’” (Matt 4.4).

Ethical Implications…

Think about the implications of this powerful statement. Daily needs, of which bread (i.e., food), is one, is not actually what sustains the life of man. This statement by our Lord is a reiteration of what was spoken to the sons of Israel by the mouth of Moses, the Lord’s prophet:

All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, so that you may live…” (Deut 8.1).

This runs counter to the way man naturally thinks. Not surprising given our fallen status. We tend to think that life is maintained by what we do. Sin so binds the heart (the mind) of man that he (or she) fails to see the reality of this statement (Deut 8.1) until they have been taught humility (Deut 8.2). And humility before God comes through testing, through adversity, through struggle and suffering.5 God made the sons of Israel hunger before He fed them (Deut 8.3). He made them needy—to feel their neediness—before He clothed them. He made them dependent upon Him for their well-being; what we call good health (cf. Deut 8.4).

All three elements are present when the Lord was tested. He was hungry, His health depended on God meeting His needs, and the choice before Him determined what manner of clothing He would wear; whether, it be the righteous garments provided by holiness (Eccl 9.8; Rev 3.4-5) or the filthy garments of unrighteousness (Isa 64.6; cf. Gen 3.7).6 The issue of turning the “stone into bread” to meet a real need, a need that was in His power as the divine Word (cf. John 1.1-3), was not a neutral one, but an ethical one. Had the Father willed the Son to do what the devil requested, then it would not have been sinful. However, it was the very fact that the Father had not willed it to take place (turning a stone into bread) that it would have been sinful for Jesus to do what the devil suggested to Him.

Anorexic Word and Gospel…

American Christianity, by and large it would appear has so whittled down the Word and the Gospel that they lack the ability to discern between issues properly. How can you discern all things, as Jesus did in this scenario, if you refuse to look at the entirety of the issue? If you determine beforehand what is and what is not ethical or religious,7 without taking the time to discern through the issue in light of God’s Word, then you err. If you pretend that there are some aspects of life that are not religious or ethical, then you will stumble into various practices that do not glorify God as such, but rather man (i.e., the creature).

In the balance…

We must take the time to weigh things properly. We must be willing to look at both sides of the scale, and then decide what is good or evil, right or wrong in terms of revealed truth. We must avoid making decisions on matters due only to personal preference, tradition or feeling. I have encountered all three aspects of people’s decision making process, and I have encountered those that do not like to have their thoughts weighed in the balance, but if we are going to see and do things correctly we must be willing to do the hard work of analyzing our underlying motives.

Underlying motivations…

Look back and consider what drove Jesus to do what He did. Think about the possible underlying motives. Emotions and feelings are a key driving force for believed or perceived truth in our day and age, but they are shoddy ground to make rational (i.e., goodly reasoned) decisions on. Jesus “felt” hungry, but He refused to let His hunger drive His decision making process. He needed to eat, but that did not guide Him either. Consider this: “Who would He truly have been trusting in (God or man) had He used His own power to meet His needs? A key aspect of humility before God is learning to master our own desires. We must refrain from being like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (cf. Gen 25.33).

Moreover, we must look at issues, at decisions that we are faced with in light of God’s purpose for our life. We were born to glorify and enjoy Him, and so our choices in this life ought to reflect that. Had Jesus turned the stone into bread, He would have violated one of the two key purposes for His coming. He came to be king; for this reason He was born. He came to proclaim truth; for this reason He lived and died. He came to serve God above and man below; for this reason He loved. Consider then, if these things be true (and they are), “Who would Jesus have served and loved in that moment, had He obliged the devil’s request?” Moreover, “Whose word would have been proved true, and who would have been recognized as the true king, had he failed this testing?”

And, when you are presented with various choices, tests or temptations in this life, “Who do you recognize as the true king? Whom do you prove your love for? By what standard are you showing that your life is built upon?” In short, do you practice living in such a way where the bread on the table (the perceived necessities for life) is more or less important that what God has said in His Word?

Finally, let us look at a few aspects of our lives and see how they are not neutral issues, but ethical/religious ones. Here are a few subjects that we can cover: Weddings/funerals; employer/employment; education; sports. My goal is for you to see each area as an area of worship, not a neutral issue to be decided however you see fit, but one consciously weighed by God’s Word. All of life is ethical, therefore all of life is religious, and in our religious practices we are worshiping something. Worship is not relegated to one day of the week where people get together sings songs, reading/exhortation and prayer. Anymore than the Word and Gospel of God is limited to the New Testament or four books called gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Nor is the Gospel just the story of Jesus, his life, death, burial and resurrection. That is the pinnacle of the gospel of God to be sure, but the good-news of God covers much more than just that.

ENDNOTES:

1Unless otherwise noted the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB) shall be used throughout this document.

2John would soon testify about this when he declared Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” See: John 1:31-34.

3This “lose of life” is often misunderstood because we see Adam still living after the sin in the garden; even though, God promised that in the day he rebelled he would “surely die” (Gen 2.17). The “lose of life” was a judicial sentence against Adam. It was an ethical judgment. Physical death would come, but the Lord God had other plans for Adam and his offspring after him, before he would be laid to rest (cf. Gen 5.5)

4There are several passages that attest to this. At His birth (Matt 2.1-2), on the day of His death (cf. John 18.33-38; 19.10-18), and after He had arisen to the Father’s right hand (1Tim 6.13-16).

5This seems to me to be an aspect of the curse of sweat as described in Genesis 3, “Cursed is the ground [i.e., earth] because of you; with hard labor you shall eat from it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (vv., 17, 19). The hard labor and sweating brow is a reminder of our lowly estate. God in the cursing of mankind has brought them (us) low in order for us to be reminded that we are finite creatures that will return to the ground from which we come (v. 19b). Humility is a recognition of our true estate, and then a crying out to our Maker in desperate need to alleviate our suffering. Something He eagerly does when we turn to Him in humility (cf. Matt 11.28-30).

6Adam and Eve’s realization that they were naked was ethical. They sought to cover their nakedness just a little while before they were unashamed of (Gen 2.24). This clues the reader to the idea that they were at least symbolically clothed with God’s righteousness, for it was the entrance of rebellion (sin) that opened their eyes to their nakedness before their Maker. Thus, being ashamed they sought to make coverings for themselves, and realizing that this was insufficient they hid from Him when they heard His approach in the garden (Gen 3.8).

7I use the two terms synonymously in this work. My justification for doing so is rather simple. Ethics deals with right and wrong; good and evil. They deal with choices based upon teachings that determine whether or not a particular practice (word, thought or deed) is right or wrong, good or evil. Religion is the upholding of a particular set of beliefs that are deemed good and right, contrary to what is wrong and evil. And so, in this sense I see the two as one.

Posted in Christian Perspective

Understanding Essentials from a Christian Perspective: In a word…Truth (Watch Your Step)

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about peace and unity. I’ve heard it from various media outlets, political pundits, and some well-meaning evangelical Christians. Normally, I don’t read Christianity today, but I happened to stumble upon an article by Kate Shellnutt the peaked my interest. Its a talk about how Christians need to focus on essentials and not get entangled with that which is not. And so, I was prompted to write the following little article. I hope you enjoy.

I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine that you are somewhat familiar with the following phrase:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”

Rupertus Meldenius, German Lutheran theologian of the early 17th century

What are essentials? How does one determine the difference between an essential and a non-essential? Is it a practical application of the biblical worldview to be charitable “in all things.”

Would you agree that context matters? In a nut shell context means background. In terms of literary study it gives the reader a foundational understanding of what the author’s direction of thought is. And so, without a context everything becomes a pretext; an assumed reality driven by what a person already presupposes to be true.

Since the quoted phrase above is given within a Christian context (background, foundation) I will offer my insight into how I think we should treat this oft repeated mantra in light of proper reasoning.

What are essentials?

The whole counsel of the Word of God. That is to say, everything contained within Scripture provides the believer the necessary prerequisites to be fully trained in living a righteous life (2Tim 3:17; 2Pet 1.3-12). The sort of life that properly mimics God our Father (Eph 5.1-2), Jesus Christ our Lord (1John 2.6), and the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth (John 16.13-14). As Jesus said, His disciples would be defined by God’s Word as it leads them truthfully down the path towards godly sanctification (John 8.31-32; 17.14-18), which is the right and proper way to access the Tree of Life (Rev 22.14-19). In short, what is essential is God’s Truth, His Way, and His Life (John 14.6).

What are Non-Essentials?

No, we are not speaking about the multitude of businesses that we forced to shut their doors, because of some arbitrary standard. That type of foolishness is the fault of our civil governing authorities here in the United States at the local, state and federal levels. I bring this up not just to poke at the jesters we have running our civil institutions today, but to highlight a reasonable conclusion. If something is non-essential rather than essential, then it must have been judged by some non-moving, non-relinquishing standard called Truth.

Anything that falls outside the realm of foundational truths in light of personal conviction is non-essential. For example, a non-essential is eating vegetables rather than meat. Both meat and vegetables (as well as fruit) come from God. It is He that has declared all things good to eat (Gen 9.3;Mark 7.19), but He gives His people freedom to eat what they desire. Such freedom in living under the righteousness of God would fall into the category of non-essentials. Those material practices do not deny the truth, but they fall at different points on the spectrum: eating only vegetation; eating both meat and vegetation; eating only meat.

The only way that one would be allowed to declare it an abuse of “liberty” is when one person harbored in their heart something negative against their neighbor that didn’t think like them. If the vegetarian said to the meat-eater, “Shame on you! You shouldn’t be eating meat since you had to kill one of God’s creatures to provide your meal. It would be better for you to be like me, who is more in line with Adam and Eve in the beginning, than to kill another to satisfy your hunger!” Or, a person from the opposite end of the spectrum saying, “You weak-willed nilly-willy. What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you eat meat? Why do you eat only vegetables? Don’t you know that God has given them both for our consumption? (And then, they go and make a show of it among other members of the body).

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”1

Romans 14:3-4

In such a case, this would be an abuse of the “non-essential liberty cause” and would need to be challenged as a deviation from the Truth of God’s Word; an essential to Christian faith. A call to repentance against such a violation would be necessary.

Some tend to think that “non-essentials…liberty” gives Christians the right to believe whatever they desire about a particular biblical teaching. At this point, I believe you have begun to walk on some very thin ice, unless you carefully define your parameters. Truth is essential. A non-essential offers some leeway within the spectrum that a certain truth may offer, but it does not give to the individual the right to reason however they so choose about a given topic. A good rule of thumb at this point would be to consider the wisdom behind Proverbs 30:5-6,

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar”

(Also see: Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18-19)

As you can see this truth is repeated in the Pentateuch and the book of Revelation. All instances give the reader both encouragement and warning. God does not lie, His word is always true…He is worthy of your (our) trust. However, do not be so presumptuous to add or take away from the meaning that He intends to convey in what He has spoken. Such activity proves that you are worthy of rebuke for lying about what God has said.

A non-essential where one might give liberty may be seen in varying doctrinal standards regarding the sacraments of communion and baptism. How one falls along the line of that particular truth spectrum may differ from individual to individual, congregation to congregation. For example, speaking specifically of communion, one might believe that doing it every time a congregation gathers it is necessary, but others believe it is better to do it a little less in order to prevent one taking it lightly. One church may believe that wine (undiluted) is what should be served, whereas others might believe grape juice is more appropriate since there are members who have struggled with drunkenness in the past. In either case, liberty is to be granted, so long as honoring the Lord is the primary concern.

On the other hand, I would argue that the doctrine of creation is one where liberty should not be allowed. Allowing theistic evolution, turning the days into long ages rather than approx. 24-periods of time, having death before the fall when sin entered in is a clear deviation from the written text. Therefore, I do not believe it should be taught from the pulpit or the classroom (regardless of the level of education) as a possible interpretation. Unless, it is being taught so that students are aware of the inherent error in order to refute it.

Now, you may wonder why I take such a hard stance here. The answer is rather simple: “You cannot come to such conclusions unless you add to the historical creation account in Genesis 1-3.” Therefore, no quarter is to be given.

  • (Note to reader: I should add that I don’t believe that this is a salvation issue, since our salvation comes from faith in Christ alone via the grace of God alone, not our belief of origins. The truth of the matter is that when one becomes a Christian they are a mixed bag of falsehoods, but it is the truth of Jesus that saves. However, as we walk with the Lord in His word the truth is supposed to be setting us free of those falsehoods. Learning to be taught, rebuked, corrected and properly trained in the path of righteousness is the sign of maturity in Christ).

In what way are we to understand “All things charitable?”

Again, we are speaking in context of a Christian worldview (faith-system). To be charitable can mean to be “full of love…and goodwill toward others,” or “merciful or kind in judging others.” Both ways of understanding the term fit nicely in terms of Christian living. We are told by God, whom we love, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and yes, to love even our enemies. In fact, our mode of operation in this life is defined by the apostle Paul in this way,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”

Romans 12:18

That is to say, we are responsible for being as loving, as kind, as respectful, and as peaceful with others as we can. We attempt this as our Christian responsibility, but this by no means that we are at fault when those who we come into contact with deny our attempts at being charitable.

However, there is no way that one can faithfully apply the mantra “in all things charity” when the “in all things” finds itself in opposition to the truth. By the way, opposition to false teachings, false worldviews, false convictions is a form of Christian charity. It is a kindness to save a life. It is a kindness to point out sin. It is a kindness to show people to Christ. This charity is only possible when we are willing to sacrifice our comforts in sharing, standing and fighting for the Truth of God in all areas of life.

Closing Remarks:

All in all, the above quoted phrase sounds nice in theory and it should be practiced when practical within a Christian context, but it is not a blanket statement that can by applied across the board.

My original desire was to write on the following terms: peace, unity, war, violence and disunity. In order to simplify that a bit and just use four of the five words listed, since the way I shall use them will be opposites. That is, war and peace, and unity and violence.

What should a Christian do? Is the ever a time to adopt a violently warring mindset? Or is it better to have peaceful unity? I will discuss those things in an upcoming post….

ENDNOTE:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

Posted in Christian Perspective

Unlikely Allies

Is it possible to join forces with someone you disagree with very strongly? Suppose you are at two ends of the theological spectrum? What about being chief antagonists in partisan politics? Is it possible to find common ground on which to stand?

This particular conversation is one I have been having with myself for a couple of years now. Later I will tell you what brought it on.[1] For now, though I’d like to test the waters.

Putting to Light My Convictions…

A little bit about myself in case you haven’t figured it out yet. (Figuring it out shouldn’t be that hard, if you’ve taken the time to read my bio, and my beliefs pages). I am what you would call theologically conservative. I am a Reformed Christian that takes the Holy Bible as the only consistent rule of faith for living a god-honoring life. What does that mean? Namely, what the Bible says about any area of life it does so authoritatively.

This means that I am not a “red-letter” Christian or a “New Testament” Christian, but one that is concerned about the whole counsel of God—Both Testaments/covenants (cf. Acts 20.27). In other words, God’s Law applies to life as well as a righteous ethical standard given to guide the moral practices of all living; in particular, those who profess to be His people. All people will be judged by this Law of God in light of its chief standard bearer Jesus Christ.

There will be those in this life who will find His sacrifice necessary, others who do not. Those who do will have supplied to them eternal life—an eternal relationship with the Holy Creator, in a holy state. Those who do not, they too will receive an eternal reward but of the negative sort. Wanting nothing to do with God in this life, they will find themselves forever separated from His light cast into outer darkness in a tortuous state where weeping will be a common occurrence, gnashing teeth in anguish and anger with be continual, along with loneliness and despair without end.

**Knowing these things, it would seem that I’d have little in common with an ardent atheist, who denies all of the things I have just mentioned above.

With me so far? Good. Suppose for a moment that the following scenario took place.

Hypothetical Realism

One day in a local pub stooping over a pint of ale I notice in a darkened corner, out of the way of prying eyes a person about to be attacked. The individual in question could be a young lady being come upon by some lecherous men. Or it might be a lanky dude with big engineering glasses and a pocket protector full of pens just trying to ease the stress of a long work day trapped in an office by eating some tasting pub fried delicacies washed down with a cold one, but is about to be attacked by some drunk, abusive thugs.

The Appropriate Response…

Now depending on the type of individual you are, you might be spending your time wondering right now why I would be in such an establishment if I’m a professing Christian that believes in the Bible, Jesus, and all that other jazz? If you are…stop it. That is not the issue. It might be an issue for you, and I’d be happy to discuss it at another time, but not now. The issue is “What should my response be as a Christian?”

According to the Law of God…

The law of God says I am supposed to love my neighbor, but what does that look like in this scenario? The law also says I am not to “murder,” or “rob” my neighbor either, which conversely means that I am called to protecting life and property (primarily in my own sphere—“I don’t kill,” and “I don’t steal”). Therefore, in the scenario presented above I am called to protect my neighbor’s well-being and their wallet from those who mean them harm.

Instinctively, I know this. Being a sincere student of the Word of God (a.k.a. the Holy Bible) affords you this knowledge:

“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psa 82.4).[2]

Back to the Hypothetical…

Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against me. I can handle myself in a tussle, but a safer bet would be to have some aid. (Sorry, I’m not Keanu Reeves in one of his mythical action roles—i.e., Neo, or John Wick).  Seeing that the situation is escalating, I push my personal fears aside and act on behalf of the abused.

Regrettably, my earlier hesitation allowed things to get physical. Their victim is still reeling on the floor dazed. And while I am concerned for their welfare, I can’t really focus on them as I am now in a fight for my own life.

I shove one of the guys out of the way and grab the other dude by the back of his long greasy hair. Their prey has now been forgotten; they’ve got a new pest to be concerned about.  I slug the greaser in his teeth and as he is falling back the fellar I’d shoved off-balance earlier attempts to sucker punch me from behind. I lean slightly forward and offer a short but powerful rear kick (ushiro geri for those in the know) into his lower abdomen. Unfortunately, there was a third perp lurking in the shadows that I had somehow missed. (Maybe he was returning from the restroom, I don’t know). He is on me like a stealthy mosquito. The crack in the back of my skull makes a brilliant light show behind my eyes. I fall back a step…but just when his arcing haymaker is about to finish its flight he is violently struck from the side and drove to the floor.

As the other two guys begin to advance on me several flashlights beam through the shadowy haze. I notice that the music has stopped, and I hear an insistent yell to “FREEZE…KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!” Behind me, I notice that a couple of fellow patrons are helping the previously beaten victim up from the floor.

The Question at Hand

Now, I could go on with my whimsical scenario, but I think I’ll go ahead and stop right there. Suppose, I find out later that the person who came to my rescue was an ardent atheist, or perhaps even a Muslim. Should I as a biblically faithful Christian accept their aide? Should I be thankful? In this case, it appears I had little choice, but what if I did? What then?

Trying Not to Get Sidetracked…

Now I realize that some of you are hung up on possibly two things from my scenario. The first is probably that you are convinced that a Christian would never in his/her life been seen in a pub having a drink. “Those are places where good old holy people don’t go.” You’d be wrong on three different accounts (biblically, historically, and culturally). The second for a smaller number of you would be that a Muslim would never go to a bar, a pub, or any other place that alcohol is served since, like the Fundamentalist and my Baptist brethren, they don’t drink. To do so would be an egregious sin. (I must admit that my knowledge of Islam and the differing sects within it is apt to none. I know the basic fundamentals of their faith, their pillars, from various comparative religious texts, but I am not in the know as someone like Dr. James White at Alpha and Omega Ministries might be).

Regardless of how you might feel about either subject they are side issues. If you’d like to discuss them, drop a comment and I’ll see what I can work up. If not, let’s not get sidetracked.

The Answer to the Question…

The concern here is whether or not it is right for a Christian to accept the aide of someone who is not? Is there ever a circumstance where I might be found working with a non-believer?

The answer is “YES.” When it comes to the preservation of life. When it comes to matters of righteousness and justice. Then, the answer is unequivocally “YES.”

As Christians we are called to love our neighbors. This is not only a mandate from God, but it is a desire from God. All people are made in God’s image, although not all people are God’s children.

Suppose we change the scenario to the Pro-Life arena. There are members of other faiths that agree that the life in the womb is sacred. That it should not be snuffed out in terms of convenience, or as an act of self-worship. If an atheist or a Muslim or whomever wants to help me (us) in stopping the murdering of unborn babies, then I say “thank you Lord!” I can say that, because I am blissfully aware of various truths in Scripture that come to bear on this issue.

How we come to the Correct Answer…

First, you have the question of numbers. I decided long ago that I would not fall to the whims of peer pressure. This commitment was tested on several fronts throughout my younger years as a child. Within the past decade this has been tested some more. If I must go it alone to do right, then I will. But, let’s not be foolish. There is strength in numbers:

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4.12).

Second, Jesus speaks on whether or not those whom we might perceive as non-believers can offer aide to a fellow image bearer in a time of need. The story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 17.29-37) offers some important insight for the observant reader. Parables are interesting literary devices. They have one intended meaning within a given context, but like many other biblical texts there, at times, differing applications one might draw from them.

Contextually, Jesus is answering a probing question as to “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 17.29). The person in question wanted to justify himself. He was a self-righteous bigot that looked down on other members of humanity. To challenge him Jesus uses someone that was thought of as unclean—a Samaritan. Their view of the Bible was grossly distorted as they only retained a small portion of it (i.e., the Pentateuch), which made their theological understanding of God, of worship, etc. defunct. I suppose (I’ve never heard anyone label it this way) we might call them a “cult” in today’s language. Biblical Judaism (as opposed to Pharisee/Sadducee/scribal Judaism) was the only true way to know God and worship Him (cf. John 4.22). And so, for Jesus to use them as an illustration of rebuke is very telling.

In the parable, it is not the Jews that help a man who has been beaten and robbed (Luke 17.30). For a priest and a Levite when they saw the man “passed by on the other side” of the road (Luke 17.31). These were supposed to be godly people. These men were supposed to be believers and therefore lovers of fellow man. But they weren’t. The only person who gave a care in the world about the beaten/robbed Jew was a Samaritan non-believer. “…He had compassion” (Luke 17.33) on the Jew.

“He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then set him on his own animal [while he walked the road] and brought him to an inn and took care of him [at his own expense!]. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back’” (Luke 17.34-35; Brackets added for clarity)

The point being that even a non-believer can sometimes give good gifts (Matt 7.11). There are times when even they will show “love to their enemy” (Matt 5.44) as their own consciences prick them since they too are made in the image of God (Rom 2.15). There are various biblical examples where we might draw inferences from that substantiate this position. I won’t be developing them today, nor dealing with the possible objections that may arise (that will be for another day), but I also don’t want you to think that I am merely drawing these things from the thin air.

An Example given…

Joseph worked alongside fellow slaves in Potiphar’s house. He likewise served the jailer when in chains. And eventually, he worked with Pharaoh as vice-regent to save Egyptians and others (including his brothers that wanted him dead) from the great famine that swept through the land for seven years.[3] All three ungodly individuals treated Joseph with kindness. Though the two former instances might be seen in a limited fashion, the latter was the king of Egypt that had given Joseph authority unsurpassed except for the throne on which he sat. This latter co-working was a part of the Pro-Life movement (Gen 45.5; 50.20). Both Pharaoh (a non-believer) and Joseph (a believer) sought to preserve life from that which endangered it.

Closing Thoughts

Christians are called on by the Lord above to…

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Prov 24.11).

If this means we may be joined in this fight by those that do not hold our theological convictions, then so be it. We fight for life because in our hearts we know it is God who gives it. The non-believer knows this too, even if he/she denies the foundation from which this springs. Let them act inconsistently with their faith-commitment as we act consistently with ours. And when the time presents itself to highlight our distinctive’s in the faith, we do so boldly, unashamedly, with great conviction and love in the hope that God might use this too to open their eyes. For whether they know it or not, the soul that sins…dies. And so, they need rescuing too.


ENDNOTES:

[1] This will probably come to light in a future post.

[2] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[3] The accounting of Joseph’s life, son of Jacob/Israel, is found in Genesis 37-50. His birth record is earlier in the account. See Gen 30:25; 33:2-7.

Posted in Christian Perspective

Black Hearts: False Narratives and American Slavery

Unfortunately, we live in a period of history that has forgotten its past. Not an uncommon occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. Some things are forgotten accidentally. Others are forgotten purposely. Those who want to control the narrative go to great lengths burying that which transgresses their view of reality.

Initial Motivations…

Take for instance the history of our nation’s immigration. What drove the first settlers to the New World in the early 1600’s (17th century) from their homes in Europe? How are we to know? Well it helps to look at the writings from the period.

Rather than seeking to dominate and bind the natives of this land under chains of oppression (a popular narrative today), the early pilgrims wanted an opportunity for a new life. The intention was not tyranny, but living freely and giving the gift of freedom found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is seen in one of the earliest documents of that age, the Mayflower Compact:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, France, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe, by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd the 11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our sovereigne lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie-fourth. Anno. Dom. 1620.[i]

Later, John Winthrop would compare the desire of the Christian colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to a “city on a hill,” a light of Christ for the world to see.[ii] A clear reference to Matthew 5:14:

  • “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”[iii]

Despite the popular narrative taught in public schools and in many of our prestigious liberal (progressive-leaning) universities, the desire of many who initially settled on this continent was gospel centered.

Making Proper Distinctions…

A useful distinction should always be made between those who bear the Name of Christ in name only. When people fail to offer proper category distinctions, then it leads to false, misleading statements about others (both present and past generations).

For example, the “Crusades” were anything but Christian. Though it is true that the name “Christian” is attached to those historic events, the nature of those wars was anything but Christian.  That is not to say that all wars are antithetical to the Christian worldview, some are. But pillaging, raping, and forcing people to “convert” to the Christian faith by the sword is not what Jesus meant when He told His disciples in the first century, “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt 28.18). I have read some who have put “make” in the sense of brute force (fiat), but that is not at all what Christ intended for His people to do.

There is another misunderstanding that is common today, but nonetheless false. Those who control the narrative in education, in public media, in politics’, etc. love to push the idea that the white man—particularly those of European descent were all about enslaving the black man in the early colonies. There is no question that in the Antebellum South chattel slavery is a grave sin that this nation is guilty of. Sadly, those who bore the Name of Christ, sought to enforce this false ideology.

With the continued popularization of Critical “Race” Theory we are witnessing a growing divide not just in our nation, but within many of our Christian churches. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor would I claim to be an expert on such things, but I’m not a fool. I know how to read and interpret the Bible, and so when I hear popular Evangelical leaders claiming white Christians need to repent of their wickedness—i.e. the sin of white racism—I get a little sick. The bile from my stomach metaphorically rises to the back of my throat and I want to vomit.

A knowledgeable Christian ought to know that we are all descended from one blood. In Adam, we all have our being in a physical sense. There are not multiple races, but one race: the human race. Yes, there are different ethnicities in this world. We don’t all look the same. We don’t all talk the same. We don’t all dress the same. We don’t all eat or drink the same things, listen to the same sort of music, or enjoy the same type of extracurricular activities. But if we are in Jesus Christ. If we have embraced the gospel of God, and have been born of the Holy Spirit. Then, we are all united in one Spirit, and all superficial distinctions have been wiped away:

  • “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3.28; italics added).

Recommended Read: A Needed History Lesson

Recently, I read a book by a fellow Christian named Ben Kinchlow entitled “Black Yellow Dogs.” I finished it about a month ago, but I wanted my wife to read it so it has taken me a bit to get around to talking about it. I would recommend the book to all who would like to learn a little history lesson on why we had chattel slavery in the past, and who for a hundred years sought to keep our own flesh and blood segregated because of skin color.

The first case of chattel slavery in the United States of America was not perpetrated by the evil white man, but an evil black man. Anthony Johnson, a former indentured servant along with the rest of his family, owned a sizeable plantation (900 acres) “on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”[iv] Now I realize that some of you might not know what an indentured servant is, so I’ll give a quick explanation. A lot of the people who wanted to come to the New World didn’t have a lot of personal capital. In order to be able to make the voyage over here and start a new life, they would sell themselves to a wealthier person for a period of years (normally 7 years, sometimes less). The government of Virginia would grant such an individual “fifty acres of land”[v] upon completion of their service. Both white and black people did this, and they would also sell their own family members. This was how Anthony Johnson (a black man) was able to gain such wealth in a short amount of time.

Johnson is the first chattel slave owner in American history. He gained this right through a crooked judge. His former indentured servant John Casor (another black fellow) became the first slave on these shores in recorded history. The two individuals who fought to protect John Casor were a couple of white men:

  • “[Robert] Parker and one other influential landowner, both white, sided with Casor, [but] the court ruled for Johnson.”[vi]

According to Kinchlow, “Johnson may have been the first, but he was most surely [not] the only one!”[vii] From 1654, when the Court of Northampton sided with Johnson, until the 1830 census, chattel slavery not only became common practice in our country, but a large percentage of blacks enslaved blacks:

  • “Of the 10,689 free blacks who lived in New Orleans in 1830, more than 3,000 were slave masters. Almost 30 percent of the free blacks in that city own slaves…William Johnson, perhaps Mississippi’s best known free black, was a slaveholder. In 1834, this Adams County native owned roughly 3,000 acres in real property. He speculated in farmland, rented real estate; owned a bathhouse, a delivery firm, and a toyshop; and he rented out his slaves.”[viii]

Kinchlow reports that

  • “According to [the]…1860 census, 261,988 southern blacks were not slaves. One wealthy black sugar planter owned over 100 black slaves and had land holdings valued at over a quarter of a million dollars, making him one of the richest blacks in Louisiana, perhaps one of the richest blacks in the United States. A widow and her son (black) owned a plantation and worked more than 150 slaves. This same census lists several blacks owning sixty-five or more slaves. Blacks in one South Carolina city claimed over $1.5 million in taxable property, including slaves valued in excess of $300,000.”[ix]

Pretty amazing stuff. Not something you’ve probably ever heard. Certainly not something you’ve been taught in a classroom. When I was sharing this information with a fellow brother in the Lord he asked, “Why haven’t we heard this stuff before? How do you know that it is legit?”

My initial response is that the information is out there if you want to find it for yourself. The book by Kinchlow is thoroughly cited, many from primary sources. I also pointed out that worldview bias guides the narrative. This is why you find differences in how a progressive or conservative will report on the same issue.

Take gun violence for example. The way that is phrased tells a lot about the beliefs of one who is presenting the narrative. A progressive will attribute deaths (mass-shootings, etc.) perpetrated with a firearm as “gun violence.” You may run into conservatives using the same language since it is common speech, but their interpretation of the “violence” committed will be vastly different. Guns do not commit violence, people do. Progressives seek to limit the production, sale, and use of firearms; whereas, a conservative will tell a different narrative. They will look at a person’s mental health, previous history, etc., but in the end realize that guns are not the problem, wicked people are.

Back to the issue of slavery. There are those in certain circles that have a particular agenda that they want to thrust upon the public. They want control over a certain sector of society. They want to dominate the lives of others (while increasing their own power and wealth), and so they seek to control the narrative. The fact is “slavery” and/or “racism” are not issues regulated to a person’s melanin content. The issue is sin. This is a spiritual issue, not a colored one; unless you are referring to black hearts.

ENDNOTES:

[i] Bill Bailey, ed., “The Mayflower Compact,” The Federalist Papers Project, Adobe E-Book, 4. Emphasis added. Spelling differences found in the original. May be viewed or downloaded at—https://www.thefederalistpapers.org.

[ii] John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” in America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations, William J. Federer (St. Louis, MO: Amerisearch, Inc., 2000), 425.

[iii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[iv] Ben Kinchlow, Black Yellow Dogs: The Most Dangerous Citizen is not Armed, but Uninformed (New York, NY: WND Books, [2008], 2013), 3.

May be found in: Original MS. Records of the County Court of Northampton. Orders, Deeds and Wills, 1651-1654, p. 10.

[v] Ibid, 1.

[vi] Ibid, 4.

[vii] Ibid, 5.

[viii] Ibid, 6, 7.

May be found in: Mississippi History Now. “A Contested Presence: Free Blacks in Antebellum Mississippi, 1820-1860.” Accessed December 27, 2012 http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/45/a-contested-presence-free-blacks-in-antebellum-mississippi-18201860.

[ix] Ibid, 7.

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