Posted in self-defense

Stepping Along a Path of Contention: Further Musings on Self-Defense and the Key Issue that Drives the Debate–The Taking of Another’s Life

Thou shall not kill” (Exod 20:13; KJV).

In the letters the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and eliminate the entire army of people or province which was going to attack them…” (Esther 8:11; NASB).1

INTRODUCTION:

For years, we have been conditioned to think that religion and politics are separate issues. People on both sides of the aisle get nervous, aggravated, and, sometimes, downright disgusted that you dare try to mingle the two supposedly unrelated subjects. In the past, I have found this amusing. There is nothing wrong with being ignorant—to lack knowledge in a given subject. We all fall in that category somewhere along the intellectual line. But it is absolutely disheartening when one refuses to listen, preferring their ignorant bliss over being teachable.

I am soon closing in on nearly two decades of serving in Christian ministry. I have had the privilege of pastoring two rural churches in southeastern Ohio. And so, I have had my fair share of encounters with persons who prefer not to know the truth of a matter. Such individuals dislike having cherished narratives that they hold challenged. They refuse to investigate matters thoroughly, even though it is their responsibility as representatives of Christ.

You may be correct on a given issue but you will never truly know until that issue has been challenged. It used to be taught in scientific inquiry that the goal of the scientific method was the disapproval of a supposed concept. Within a generation, this standard has been removed.

The goal of sciences…

Are you aware that there was a time in the past when Christian theology was called the “queen of the sciences?” Just like most people offhandedly dismiss the idea that politics and faith are interrelated issues, so too is their disdain for the idea that the study of God is truly a scientific endeavor. No, not science in the sense of empirical data gathering. But science in the sense of pursuing knowledge and wisdom. Empirical science is a tool that seeks to gain knowledge and wisdom about the material world. The same is true of theological inquiry, it is the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom about the Maker of heaven and earth and all therein.

Answer to a troubling question…

In case you are wondering where in the heck I’m headed, I’ll let you in on the big reveal. For a few weeks now I have been speaking on issues pertaining to the 2nd Amendment; the right to bear arms, the right to self-defense. Previously I have stated that this is a religious issue. Some may wonder at this: “How is that possible when it is surely a political issue?” This is an important question. One that needs to be carefully weighed and responded to. In particular, it is a question that Christians need to wrestle with and come down on the right side of.

You see, my primary goal is to reach professing Christians—that is my target audience. I’m not opposed to others reading my work, but as a pastor, my goal is the edification of the body of Christ. Many Christians do not see the connection between politics and their faith. Some believe that our citizenship in heaven prevents us from getting entangled in the affairs of this earth. Politics is focused on societal behaviors. However, you need to ask yourself, “What is the governing principle behind one’s political views or the policies that may be enacted upon a society?” Two things need to be understood.

Two things: Politics and Faith…

First, while it is true that we are citizens of heaven, if we are in Christ, another equal truth is established from our faith: we are citizens of this earth. Christians have dual citizenship: in heaven and on earth. And so, since our faith is not meant to be lived under a basket, we need to be concerned about this world (for our children, our children’s children, our children’s children’s children sake, etc., etc.). Furthermore, as Christians it is our responsibility to have concerns about the welfare of others, even beyond the welfare of our families and churches, for we are commanded to love our neighbors; even our enemies. Thus, politics which deals with society, which affects society either positively or negatively, ought to be a Christian’s concern. We are not permitted to say to our neighbors, “Oh, you’re cold…be warm” but give them nothing to warm themselves. Or, “Oh, you’re thirsty…be quenched” but give them nothing to drink. Or, “Oh you’re being robbed, assaulted, infringed upon through unjust taxation (among a list of others things)…” but do nothing to help alleviate the harm being done to them.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does… What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?…if [faith] does not have works, [it] is dead” (James 1.22-25; 2.14, 17).

This leads to the second principle that ought to be carefully considered. What is the foundation or cornerstone—i.e., the governing principle—behind political views and policies that are enacted upon a society? Think about this. What do the various policies meant to curb a society’s behavior entail? They attempt to establish a parameter of right and wrong. Politics seeks to answer ethical questions about life, about the inner workings of a given society. Therefore, politics is never neutral. How can it be, when people are not? Consequently, politics is likewise a religious issue.

We read in Scripture that,

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14.1a).

Does this mean that the fool does not worship anything? Is the fool without religious convictions? No, that is not what the Holy Spirit says. The fool’s denial of God is not a denial of an object of worship or a god to serve, but as seen in the case of atheism (no-god), they worship themselves for they are their own object of worship. Their mind is the determiner of truth, the arbitrator of right and wrong.

So Christian what sort of leader should you prefer to govern the policies of society? One that is founded upon the Word of God, held under the conviction that Christ is Lord over all; or another who pretends that they speak as gods and that they are the messiah of the masses? The Christian faith demands that we defend against all manner of wrong, once it has been sought out and properly identified. Moreover, our faith established the groundwork for self-defense.

Stepping along the path of contention…

How will a father protect his children, the very heritage that the Lord from above has granted him if he lays down his arms of self-defense? Do you not know that a mother bear will, without shame, protect her young cubs from harm? Even when the enemy in question is much larger and stronger than she is, like a male bear?

I pointed out last time that David, the young shepherd, stood against a mighty foe named Goliath as an act of self-defense. He defended himself, his family, his king, and his nation. More importantly, David fought to protect the sacred name of God. A testimony to all the nations that God alone is God:

You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber,” says David, “but I come to you in the name of the Lord of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that this entire assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will hand you over to us!” (1Samuel 17.45-47; emphasis added).

Remember that self-defense properly defined is “the act of defending oneself, one’s property, or a close relative.”2 A defender protects, he does not instigate or provoke. While this concept is difficult for some to accept, what seems to be the decisive point of contention is that self-defense sometimes leads to the taking of another human life.

Humanitarian hearts…

Human life is sacred. Do you believe this? Do you think that human lives are precious? Though I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, you need to understand that the ONLY reason this is the case is that life is a gift from God. If you believe that life sprung up as a result of random processes (chance) due to some, as of yet unexplained, series of evolutionary actions, then you have no legitimate justification to argue about the dignity of life. Either life is an accident or life is purposeful. The Christian worldview alone accounts for this truth, the only way someone who denies biblical truth can attempt to argue in such a way is to adopt (borrow or steal) from a system of faith that is not their own. However, since all human creatures have been created in the image of God, a common belief will no doubt be held that life is sacred, precious and is worth preserving and protecting.3 Such intellectual schizophrenia is to be expected by rebellious sinners who deny their Creator.

This schizophrenia is visible in many of the arguments surrounding the 2nd Amendment. People on both sides of the aisle will argue that life is precious and must be protected. To do this, it is argued, is to avoid self-defense in the sense of taking another life regardless of the circumstances. It is believed that if dangerous weapons like guns were removed from the public’s grasp, then life would be properly guarded. David Barton highlights this popular attitude. He writes,

“…there is also the subjective, emotional argument. That is, since every individual with any sense of humanity detests seeing families destroyed, innocent children sacrificed, and promising lives snuffed out as a result of gun violence, the argument is advanced that the reducing the number of guns will produce a safer society.”4

The key issue in the debate over self-defense is whether or not an individual has the right to take the life of another. Period. Christians wonder, “If the taking of life is ever right within the confines of the biblical worldview?” Pacifist pastors like John Piper say, “no.” Progressive Christian scholars like David P. Gushee seem to share similar thoughts. Gushee, in his book entitled The Sacredness of Human Life argues,

“Jesus never blessed killing. He died for God’s kingdom but did not kill for it. His disciples understood the centrality of his radical nonviolence and became a nonviolent movement in a violent context of imperial oppression and domination. They rejected and recoiled from every form of killing, from abortion to infanticide to the gladiator games to war to the death penalty. They could not bear to see anyone killed, ‘though justly.’”5

Earlier in the same text, Gushee opined what he evidently believed was an inescapable truth:

“Let us grant that no simple appeal to life’s sacredness can resolve the question whether Christians can support or participate in war… Just-war theory has been pristine only in theory, not where the bodies pile up.”6

If we were to classify the three arguments against taking life under the guise of self-defense they would be as follows: no weapons, no just-killing, no just-war. All three are interrelated in the sense that they desire the preservation of life. Yet, all three fail to discern the nature of reality as it truly is:

“…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen 8.21; cf. Gen 6.5).

When Killing Ain’t Wrong, and When it is…

Almost every person that visited a Sunday school at some point in their life (or at least had friends that did?) has heard this biblical text cited. Don’t worry, even if you didn’t go to Sunday school or at least had friends that did, odds are you’ve heard this commandment before. You may have even recited it yourself:

"Thou shall not kill" (Exod 20.13; KJV).

The one who understands this commandment as saying that all forms of killing are wrong will then proceed to explain why the death penalty is wrong, eating animals is not the way to go. To be a Christian and then argue that there are times, in certain situations, where killing is justified is from their point-of-view groundless, hypocritical dribble. Thus, leading to a divided camp in Christendom (that’s Christ’s kingdom for the uninitiated)8 regarding the use of firearms or the self-defense claim.9

But is that what Exodus 20:13 says? “Come on man, can’t you read,” decries the critic, “that’s exactly what it says!” While there is nothing wrong with the King James rendering of the verse, murder would have been a more accurate translation of the Hebrew text for not all killing is unjustified. As the writer of Ecclesiastes explains, there is

"A time to kill…" (Eccl 3.3a).

And a few verses later the writer even says there is

"A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace" (Eccl 3.8).

Mark that! Not all killing is unjustified. In some cases, you would be unjustified in not killing.

So that Bible says that you shouldn’t kill, but then you should kill. O’ how some people love a supposed contradiction. Yeah, that’s right, I said supposed. I say that because it’s true. There is no contradiction here. For, the biblical witness describes and defines when killing is appropriate and when it is not. Scripturally speaking, killing another is justified when practicing self-defense (Exodus 22:2)10; when the civil authorities find one guilty of a crime worthy of death and they have them executed (Exodus 21.12; cf. Lev 24.16); when warring with another nation (people) is justified (Esther 8.11 cited above; cf. 2Samuel 10:12; Nehemiah 4.11-14 ).

This seems to be a good place to stop. We shall investigate the matter further before we move on, and in so doing, we shall see what necessary safeguards the Lord has put in place to prevent the wanton taking of life….

ENDNOTES:

1Unless otherwise noted all scriptural references shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

2Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2008 Desktop edition, s.v., “self-defense” def. 2.

3Due to different objects of faith there will be variances in how this is to be understood. A case in point is seen in the argument over abortion (the murder of unborn babies). Both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life advocates will argue that life is precious but the former will not be as consistent as to when life is a truly precious life worth preserving and protecting. For the Pro-Choicer the woman’s autonomy is the most precious aspect of life and it needs to be protected at all costs. The Pro-Lifer believes that both the woman and the child are precious but not at the expense of one or the other; absolute autonomy is therefore rightly rejected.

4David Barton, The Second Amendment: Preserving the Inalienable Right of Individual Protection (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 2000), Kindle Edition, loc 305-313.

5David P. Gushee, The Sacredness of Human Life: Why an Ancient Biblical Vision is Key to the World’s Future, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), 370-371.

6Ibid., 166. Allow me to put those citations provided by Gushee into context. The first quote above (p. 370-371) is in light of Gushee’s discussion regarding the death penalty. The second quote (p. 166) is in the sixth chapter of his book “Christendom divided against itself: Three Case Studies” where he argues against “war” in a Christian context. To the reader, I will add my thoughts regarding both issues.

8And yes, I am one of those guys that says Christ reigns supreme from heaven on earth and anything in creation—seen or unseen—that fall in between. He is Lord, King, of it all, for ALL authority in heaven and on earth is His by divine right, through sacrificial love, via the power of the Holy Spirit. That is Christ Jesus is the earthly representative of the invisible God. He alone can reveal God for He alone is God, was with God, and shares in the glory of God something no mere creature could do.

9John Piper once said that if a man were assailing his wife rather than violently intervening, he’d call the police and wait. See: John Piper, “Should Christians be Encouraged to Arm Themselves,” Desiring God, December 22, 2015, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-christians-be-encouraged-to-arm-themselves. (Reference point in the article is under heading #8). In a forthcoming post, I will be arguing against the various points Piper uses to substantiate his claim. For it is my conviction that such pacifism while sounding holy, is as unholy as turning a stone into bread so that a hungry man might have a bite to eat. Such pacifism encourages violence, rather than dissuading it. Rather the godly man should play the part of Phineas and run that devil through (cf. Num 25.7-11)!

10The next verse adds further clarity on the intention here. It states, “[But] if the sun has risen on him, there will be guilt for bloodshed on his account” (Exod 22.3a). The idea seems to be that in a more vulnerable state (like in the night) you are not to be held accountable for acting in self-defense; however, if the sun has arisen (meaning you are able to assess the situation more accurately) then you will be held accountable for killing unnecessarily. Restraint should always be used in defense, unless no other option is available.

Posted in unity and love

A Day Dedicated to Love: As God Intended

Over the weekend I had the privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of my eldest son, Gabriel.Here is a picture of the newly wed couple.

It was an exiting day for our family. Marriage is a wonderful gift from our Creator. While, my wife and I are not eager to be grandparents in the foreseeable future, we are thrilled to graft our newly wed daughter (in-law) into our family. Even better is knowing that both of them love the Lord Jesus Christ and desire to honor Him for what I hope is a long-life.

Weeks before the wedding I was asked whether or not I was going to preach a sermon. After some thoughtful consideration and prayer I knew in my own heart that a sermon was not optional. And so, I considered what would be an appropriate message for the young couple, as well as those in attendance. Because I have not had the time to post much of my writing on this site, I thought it appropriate to share the message I gave on October 16, 2021.

Love is a powerful word. It is what brought the two of you here today. But, God’s definition of love is in many ways a foreign concept with our current cultural convictions.

In Scripture, love is described as an action. First and foremost love is defined by how we relate to the Triune Creator God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit):

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10.27a; cf. Deut 6.5; NASB).

Secondly, this love is to be reciprocated to others:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12.31; cf. Lev 19.18).

While these truths are often repeated by believers and non, they only give us direction as to where our love is to be pointed, but they tell little of how we are to love. There is no need to fret, though, for Jesus Christ gives us the directives for how we are to love. Love is defined by keeping the Law-Word of God; following His instructions in regards to good and evil:

If you love Me,” Jesus says, “you will keep My commandments” (John 14.10). Furthermore, the Holy One of Israel adds, “If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love” (John 15.10). Jesus expresses to His followers that true love is one that is faithful to the Word of God, keen on the instruction God has given us for living, so that we may enjoy loves true expression. “Why,” you might ask? The answer is given to us by the apostle Paul:

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law [of God]” (Rom 13.10; bracket added for clarity).

Often times at weddings you will hear the recitation of 1 Corinthians 13. The reason for this is rather simple, it gives wonderful sounding words in defining biblical love. Contextually, Paul is speaking about the type of love that is to be given to fellow members of the body of Christ (ekklessia—from the Greek; the congregation or assembly of Jesus; often called the Church). However, given the nature of marriage—a covenantal institution ordained by God in the beginning; a gift given to a man and a woman who desire to share their lives with one another—it does seem appropriate that the love described there apply to marital union.

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness [that is, sin], but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things endures all things. Love never fails…” (1Cor 13.4-8a; emphasis added).

Notice that in each expression love is defined as an action. True love is found in humility before God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. True love is God’s Law-Word at work in the life of a believer. This does not insinuate perfection on the part of the believer for reality proves that we all fall short and sin; first and foremost against our Maker, but also against our neighbor. In such cases the solution is to confess our wrong and seek forgiveness against the offended part. One final word by the apostle Paul is important for the soon to be newly wed couple to hear (as well as you in this audience).

In Ephesians 5 some words of wisdom are given to the married and the marrying. First Paul calls on the Christian to remember his or her position before their Lord God:

...Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5.1-2).

Then, Paul speaks to the married, and in our case this afternoon, the soon to be married:

Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are parts of His body. For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, as for you individually, each husband is to love his own wife the same as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (Eph 5.25-33).

Let me simplify this passage for you all, in particular for the two of you, for there is much that Paul says here. Paul is comparing the union of husband and wife with Christ Jesus and His bride, the Church. Just as the bride of Christ is called to submit and respect her Lord, so too is the wife to submit and respect her husband. Why? In the same way that Christ is the head of the Church, the husband is the head of his wife. Meaning what? That he is responsible for her. He is responsible for how he leads in the home, how he cares for his wife, how he protects her from all harm in the same way that Christ leads, cares for, and protects His Church. And if the husband performs his role as husband properly—a spiritual leader that is concerned with doing right and abstaining from wrong (although not perfectly)–then the wife needs to follow his lead, and in so doing she honors her Lord and Savior Jesus.

The husband is commanded to love his wife like Christ loved the Church. How did Jesus do this? He willingly laid down His life for His brides sake. So too then is the husband expected to willingly give of his life for the betterment of his wife. Just as we would never harm our own bodies, the same ought to be true of husbands and their wives. If the husband acts with such things in mind, then he too honors his Lord above.

Again we find that true love, when defined properly, is action. It is based on a faithful commitment to one another. Gabriel and Makalah this is the type of love you are expected to demonstrate to one another; before God and mankind. The same expression of love Christ demonstrated and is now demonstrating for those bonded to Him, is required of the two of you. If you love Christ, as you both have professed, then you will love each other as He commands.

Marriage is a wonderful gift from our Creator. One that is not meant to be taken or entered into lightly. May the Lord of Glory bless your union on this day. And, may those in attendance be a help and not a hindrance to your new found life together.

Let us pray.

Posted in Uncategorized

Preaching Christ Crucified Means Preaching Him in All Areas of Life

What does it mean to preach Christ crucified? The apostle Paul tells his Corinthian audience he was determined to do nothing else (1Cor 2.2). As pastor and agitator of the masses Doug Wilson points out, Paul wasn’t talking about a truncated gospel of fundamentalist proportions. To preach the gospel requires more than a 3×5 index card, it requires the sweat and tears of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20.18-27).

Why? Well I’ll let ole Dougy explain that one. And as he does in your reading don’t hesitate to thank the Lord for giving us wisdom through sages such as these. Godly men unashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God (Rom 1.16).

The unbelieving world sins in everything it touches, and so the unbelieving world needs a Savior who can save and sanctify everything they touch. This would include banking, and war, and marketing, and sex, and child rearing, and recycling, and traffic control, and anything else that men might do. We have even figured out how to rebel against Heaven in how we use pronouns. That shows a certain measure of diligence.

—Doug Wilson , Getting Evangelicals Saved

Click the title. Read the article. God Bless!!

Posted in Pro-Life

All Lives not Some not Most but ALL: promoting New Saint Andrews

wordpress.com/read/feeds/15207328/posts/2790042312

Even if you have no desire to attend New Saint Andrews College their marketing video offers some keen insight on the hypocritical debacle of BLM. All life, All Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red and any other shade you want to slap on the human race MATTERS. From the womb to the grave life is precious but not all people think so. We need to do a better job of identifying who the HATERS truly are. Perhaps, if college is in your near future New Saint Andrews will be the solution your looking for. If college is not in your future, but you want to watch a slam of a marketing ploy that hits WOKEY McWoke in his teeth…click on the link above.

Happy 4th!!🇱🇷

Posted in Beliefs

An Evil World Ruled by Satan? A Critique of a Popularly Held Myth in Christian Thought

Today I wanted to take a look at a concept that is popularly held by many Evangelical Christians today. It is the dual interrelated belief that Christians should not love this world, and that the devil is actually the god of this world. These beliefs are drawn from two key texts: 1 John 2:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 4:4.

What I’ll do is present to you the reader those two texts and then offer some probing questions to help us get to the bottom of this issue. Let’s get started:

1 John 2:15-16 reads,

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”[1]

Initial probing questions:

Does this text teach Christians to hate the world as in creation or the world as something else? Is the world evil or is it really good? What is meant by the phrases “lust of the flesh,” lust of the eyes” and “boastful pride of life?” Does this mean that all lusting (desires) of the flesh are wrong? Suppose I’m hungry and I lust after a decent meal, perhaps with various treats on the side? Is that “lust of the flesh” bad? In a similar fashion is it wrong to lust after beautiful things, to long to look at the beauty in this world such as a scenic drive through the countryside on a warm summer morn? Or to take in the beauty of my wife from head to toe? Is that sort of “lust of the eyes” evil? What about taking pride in my labors, or in the success of my children, are these the sorts of “pride of life” that the apostle John is warning Christians to steer clear from?

Before we begin to answer those questions, let’s look at the second text.

2 Corinthians 4:4 reads,

“…in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Initial probing questions:

Is the text before us calling the devil god in the same way that God is referred to as God in Scripture? What significance does the “mind of the unbelieving” play in understanding this statement by the apostle Paul? How has the “god of this world… blinded” the minds of such people? How does a proper understanding of Scripture—particularly that which is in the Old Testament—help us in comprehending Paul’s meaning?

Considering Similarities…

At first glance it may appear that these two texts, which do have different contextual concerns in that they are written by different men, for different purposes, to different people, with different immediate needs/concerns, but the two share an underlying theme found in a way of life. John is warning those Christians he is writing to, to stay away from the type of living that dominates the lives of unbelievers. The desires (lusts) that are in the heart of believers vs. non-believers are radically different (cf. Eph 4.17-24). Paul is explaining to Christians why unbeliever’s fail to see the gospel in its proper light—they are blinded? What blinds them? The reign of sin in their hearts. He identifies this reign with a person. The “god of this world” is really an idiom speaking of a particular individual; whom the Scriptures reveal as the devil.

Understanding the Fundamental Presuppositions of the Apostolic Faith

Both Paul and John were Jews. Being Hebrews, their worldview was governed by the Tanakh. This means that they had a particular lens through which they viewed the world around them; including the seen (physical) and unseen (spiritual or immaterial). Both knew that the entire created order was brought into being by God:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and it was very good….” (Gen 1.1, 31).

Knowing God as Creator other truths fell in line. God is King, Sovereign over His creation:

“For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth…For God is king of all the earth…God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Psa 47.2, 7-8; ESV).

And they knew well the declaration that God alone is God, there is no other who is like Him:

“Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me” (Isa 43.10b).

So then, if God alone is God with their being no other, and that He alone is King over the whole earth reigning over all people throughout history, how is it that Paul speaks of another “god of this world” and what of John’s commanding Christians to not love this world’s lusts?

The Diamond Standard

As I have said in the past, words have various shades of meaning. Contextual considerations are what helps us see the proper way in which a word or even a concept is being used by a biblical writer. Errors occur when we import ideas foreign to the text of Scripture and the overriding theology of Scripture. I realize that Christians come from a wide variety of theological convictions. That is not what I’m talking about when I speak of the “overriding theology of Scripture.” The Bible teaches a proper way to view God and His creation. Variances occur in the creatures understanding due to our limited abilities. Scripture teaches one theology; we tend to muck up the pure waters of the Word when our own traditions, biases, assumptions get in the way.

I have come to see biblical truth in the symbolic representation of a diamond. Diamonds are precious stones of much value.[2] A diamond is a solid rock that is strong enough to crush all others.[3] A diamond is also a thing of intense beauty.[4] One of the ways that a diamond’s beauty really resonates with us and catches our attention is when it is shifted ever so slightly in the light.[5] The light makes the diamond sparkle, bring out greater depth and beauty than if we looked at it from only one angle; which, in a sense makes our hearts leap with joy at what we’ve witnessed.[6]

In a similar way, but in a fashion that goes far beyond that of the diamond (a created thing), the truth of God’s Word is of infinite value.[7] It as a vestige of truth that as a solid rock makes the one who builds on it very wise.[8] When viewed properly through the light of the Holy Spirit we see the greater depths and beauty within, our attention is gripped[9], our hearts burn[10], and our minds are changed.[11] While a correct interpretation of Scripture reveals one truth, when we turn that perspective truth over and over, looking at it from a variety of angles, we notice wider applications than previously were noticed.

Shades of meaning

I say all of that to prepare you for something that you may or may not know. The term translated in English as God—(Elohim in Hebrew) and (Theos in Greek)—has a deeper/wider application that we often apply to it. For example, we see the term Elohim being applied to various individuals in the Old Testament (Tanakh), just as we see the term Theos being used similarly.

John 10…

When the Jews of Jesus’ day picked up stones to stone Him, they were about to do so for what they viewed as a clear violation of the Law of God; blasphemy (cf. Lev 24.16). It was not for good works that they wanted to kill Jesus it was because He made Himself equal with God (John 10.33). Jesus rebukes them by pointing out that they are being very inconsistent, since it is “written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’” (John 10.35a). He continues, “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’” (John 10.35b-36).

References…

Now many Bibles will reference Jesus’ words here back to Psalm 82. I agree that this is probably the chief text in consideration, but it is not the only one where we see God calling those He has established for a specific purpose; god/gods. One other example is found in Exodus where the Lord God labels Moses in a similar fashion. Here are the texts of which I am speaking:

  • “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment…I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the most high, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince (Psa 82.6-7)
  • “He [Aaron, your brother] shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him” (Exod 4.16)
  • “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet’” (Exod 7.1).

So, what do we do with those texts? Well, would could say that they are proof positive that the Scriptures are in contradiction with one another. A skeptic would prefer that position. We could say that we must take them in a wooden literal fashion and say they are “little gods,” but not thee God. Various aberrations of the orthodox Christian faith would prefer that position (e.g., Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons). There is another option, we could define the term “god/gods” within their given context. This would be the wise response.

Thinking through Exodus 4:16 and 7:1…

Since Moses came first, we shall deal with him, and then allow this understanding (the simpler one) to guide our thoughts as we progress through biblical revelation (to some the more difficult passages). When God called Moses god, was He using the term Elohim in the same sense? In other words, was Moses identical to God? No. Moses was not the Creator, but a creature and so this is not the sense in which God is using the term to identify Moses.

Another key are the words “like” and “as” which offers the reader insight into the figurative way in which the Lord is speaking. Moses was made like God. In what way? He was in a position of authority over Aaron, for Aaron only spoke what Moses commanded. He was also in a position of authority over Pharaoh, although the king of Egypt sought to deny it. But every time he did deny Moses rained down plagues of judgment on his head (cf. Exod 4-12). Moses received this position of supremacy from the Lord God. It was given to him; he did not possess it of his own accord. Moses authority was delegated authority to rule in God’s stead, but he was to do it in God’s way.

According to a Hebrew lexicon “Elohim” has several shades of meaning.[12] The sense that it is being used in this passage, and as I will show in a moment the passage in the 82nd Psalm, is that of a supreme ruler and/or magistrate. As I said earlier, the position that Moses finds himself is one of delegated authority. God gave Moses the right to rule in His stead, before the people.

Considering Psalm 82…

Look back at the 82nd Psalm. Read through it. What do you see? Did you notice that the subjects in question fit within the context of human rulers/judges/magistrates? You ask, “How do you know that?” Look at verses 2-4. God says to these “gods,”

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Psa 82.2).

    • Rather than vindicating “the weak and the fatherless” (v. 3a);
    • rather than giving “justice to the afflicted and destitute” (v. 3b);
    • rather than rescuing “the weak and the needy” (v. 4a);
    • rather than delivering “them out of the hand the wicked” (v.4b), these “gods” (supreme rulers/magistrates/judges) refused to do what was right in God’s sight.

God put them in positions of authority to uphold His Law-Word and they refused. And so, God (identified as “judge of the earth”) was arising to judge them, for he alone is God—sovereign over “all the nations” (Psa 82.8).  The declaration by the Lord that they would die “like men” could also be translated “like Adam” since the term is singular and is the same from where we derive the translation of Adam (see Gen 2.20; 3.17). The point is that they would be struck down from their station, because like Adam before them they chose their own standard of righteousness and ruled the people wickedly.

Looking back at 1 John 2.15-16…

The problem that John identifies with the world is not the world in and of itself (i.e., the created order). The problem with the world is the attitude of sin that dominates it. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life are deviations from God’s holy purpose. They refer to man’s sinful pursuits. Rather than follow the lead of God they follow another. Rather than submit to the rule of God, they bow before another.

We should love the world and the things in it (i.e., God’s creation, His creatures). We should have a proper form of desire, one that desires not the natural man’s perversion of goodness, but one that reflects the Creators heart. If you are not convinced, I only remind you that the Savior sacrificed Himself because He loved the world (John 3.16). Not just His people whom He been sent to redeem, but also the very creation itself that travails in distress under the corruption of sin (Rom 8.19-21).

Looking back at 2 Corinthians 4:4…

When Paul says that the gospel of Jesus is veiled (hidden due to blindness) to those who are perishing and then he points to the “god of this world,” he is not saying that Satan/the Devil is actually a god in the same sense that God is God. He is speaking of the ruler of natural men’s hearts (cf. Eph 2.2). He is referring to the one who rules this world through sin. Not the entirety of creation, but fallen mankind (male and female).

Don’t believe me? Think I’m wrong? Then weigh my words in light of Christ Jesus’ own testimony as recorded in John’s gospel:

  • “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12.31)
  • “I [Jesus] will not speak much more with you [My disciples], for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me” (John 14.30).
  • “And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16.8, 11).[13]

The devil is nothing more than a despot. A tyrant that deceives sinners into believing that they are free, all the while they are in chains. However, the purpose of Christ Jesus’ coming into the world was to destroy the devil’s works, to break his grip, to bring him low in destruction (cf. 1 John 3.8). Satan has no power over the elect of God, for in resisting him he flees (James 4.7). His authority has been usurped and this is evidenced in the world under the dominion of Christ’s disciples (Luke 10.18). For Jesus has given His people power over serpents and scorpions—i.e., the curse and the cursor (Luke 10.19). And as the gospel of Jesus advances, God gives His people victory in the world—because it is His world and no others—to smite the devil (Rom 16.20; cf. 1 John 4.4).

Closing Remarks…

These words were meant to be a corrective to those who are fearful that the devil has power where he does not. That he rules over this entire planet when he does not. He is a creature and like all creatures He is subservient to the God of Glory.

This teaching is also meant to be an encouragement. We are living in some difficult times when despots and tyrants are unashamedly showing their faces. Panic and fear are driving the hearts of many, but in Christ Jesus there is nothing to fear. We have nothing to panic over, for all that comes to pass comes to pass under His watch. He is not weak and His strength is given to those who trust in Him.

Therefore, don’t let news and events break your resolve. Nor would I waste a moment’s breath giving glory to Satan as if he is really more than what he is…a vagabond living on borrowed time with a mortal injury. His days are numbered. He knows it, and so should we as we rejoice in his inevitable demise.

Godspeed!


ENDNOTES:

[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard 95’ Update (NASB).

[2] See Isa 28:16; also 1Pet 2:4.

[3] See Matt 21:44; also Dan 2:34-35, 44-45; Psa 110:5-6.

[4] See Psa 27:4; also Isa 28:5

[5] “For with you [O Lord] is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psa 36.9). Also see: John 8:12; 2 Cor 4:6; James 1:17.

[6] See Mal 4:2

[7] Prov 2:1-6; also see: Matt 13:44.

[8] Ff. Matt 7:24; also see: 1 Cor 3:11.

[9] Psa 1:2.

[10] Luke 24:32.

[11] Rom 12:2.

[12] “rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power.” Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers, Reprint 1906 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 43. S.v. Elohim, 1a.

[13] Italics added for emphasis and brackets added for clarity.