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A new development in February 2000, in the Anglican Church in Australia, gives challenge to some, and warning to others!
There is indeed much cause for care in the current ecclesiastical mine-fields. Satan has declared all out war on the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by confusion and profusion, deceitful doctrines of devils as Peter prophetically calls them (II Peter 2), and numerous varieties as if at some super-market for spiritual nostrums and charms, there is effort to make people putty in the propagandist hands.
This is as foretold in II Peter 2 and 3, in II Timothy 3, in I Timothy 4, in Matthew 24:24 and elsewhere, such as II Thessalonians 2. It is all part of an approach to a climax, very like the last movements of a team to the top of Mt Everest. The pressure is on, the climax is near and the efforts are vast. This is ONE feature in the tartan of events patterned for the "last times" which usher in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as a pattern ushered in His first coming - including its date (cf. SMR pp. 886ff.).
Christ in His incarnation has landed, as it were, on the beachhead of Normandy, and the devil is not pleased, far less willing for the thing to spread. It has spread. Hence he now confuses the issue times without number (humiliated, it is true, by the predictions that just this would evidence the state of the world awaiting judgment, before the Lord returned - cf. SMR Ch.8, pp. 687-707), with sects and formerly sound churches falling away into the scrum and thump of pretension without piety, ceremonies without faith and churches without the authority of the Bible.
As to that, see SMR Appendix D, and not later in this volume, Chapter 16. I Corinthians 2:9-13 tells us that both substance and words are supplied by the Spirit of God in the formulation of Scripture, which is paralleled in I Peter 1:10-12, II Peter 1:20, Matthew 5:19-20, where we find the smallest part of a letter and the smallest letter alike, in the law and the prophets, will be honoured and indeed fulfilled by God, as seen indeed in Isaiah 34:16, 59:21 and 8:19ff.. The Bible is the absolute criterion of doctrine and truth, in Christ, not because it is a book, but because it is as Isaiah puts it, "the book of the Lord". If we do not speak according to this word, He says, it is because there is not truth in us, no light. (Cf. Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 16, and in particular, End-note 1).
The Lord who came (SMR Ch.6) is also the Lord who MADE (Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium13, A Spiritual Potpourri 1-9, SMR Chs. 1-2, That Magnificent Rock Chs. 1, 5, 7, 8), and HE KNOWS, and has left directions which, if followed, would have spared many millions of people the dying horrors of AIDS and many children the donation of the thing at birth. It is NOT ONLY perversion which does it, but this has been ONE SALIENT ENTRY point for the simple reason that the physiological and designed protection unit is not there operative in the specialised way, when perversion occurs in this way.
Small wonder the Lord, in this and in all requires that man should live "by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4), and speaks so severely of NO LIGHT where there is departure from His speech.
That as seen so well in Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible and Bible in the Balance, has been the norm throughout history. It has of course, as with the Jews (cf. Isaiah 30:8ff.) been grossly misused, but its authority is as stated. Christ too was grossly abused, but is no less the Son of God for that; indeed, had He NOT been so abused, He would have been not deity, but devil; for fraud is no small thing in the magnificence of eternity and deity! (cf. Luke 24:24-25).
THAT is precisely what happens to the word of God, living or written, from the days of Noah (cf. Genesis 6:1-3)! It is precisely what is to ABOUND in this final phase of precisely predicted, patterned and characterised of history for our present Age, and it is, meek as a lamb in procedure, though bold as a lion in action, doing exactly as God foretold.
Thus many being offended by such falling, failing, indeed flailing churches is not to be surprised at (cf. Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch.14). Indeed, Christ Himself said this: "Then false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to al the nations, and then he the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
PRIVILEGES OF PRIMACY IN THE ANGLICAN ESTABLISHMENT ?
Hence when the new Primate, or chief archbishop in the Anglican Church of Australia, indicates that he has a view of what the Bible calls sex "against nature" (Romans 1), in terms of which he proceeds to characterise the former Anglican view as immature, and to make some sort of compromise by avoiding the term 'marriage' ... perhaps, for same-sex fornication (he does not use that term, but that is the substance, Biblically) and using some other nomenclature, like 'friendship': then one is not entirely surprised. After all, this is the prophesied time when the sky, or perhaps more aptly, the pit, is the limit! (See concerning developments in Lutheranism, Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 4,; concerning Anglicanism, the same volume, Ch.5; concerning the World Council of Churches, Ch.1; concerning Rome, SMR pp. 1032-1088G.)
FRIENDSHIP, he thought, a better category than marriage for this sort of activity. How ? The Bible indicates it is a sure fire path to hell. Thus catamites and homosexuals are listed in I Corinthians 6:9 and their end is OUTSIDE THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. In I Timothy 1:10, we find them listed with perjurers and manslayers, as those for whom the law is apt, and fitting; as against all others who are, to use his words, against sound doctrine. Jude advises us that Sodom and Gomorrah, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and in particular having "gone after strange flesh" (a synonym in the Bible for what Sodom has given its unillustrious name to, in 'sodomy'), are "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (v.7). Eternal fire and friendship are an odd couple! You do not normally ask thieves to categorise and give a name to their sins; and sin in general does tend to make obtuse the judgment. Biblically, the sure way to hell is friendship, a relatively apt term! Eternal vengeance of fire is to be called in the wording of love, kindness and mutual concern!
Having ordained women priests (see A Spiritual Potpourri 10-11) in complete rebellion against what is written, the Primate proceeds down the path of novelty. This too is nothing surprising, Paul having made it clear that "itching ears", the desire for SOMETHING NEW would be a symptom specific to the Last Times (I Timothy 4:3). People so afflicted would get for themselves teachers to match, we read in Timothy here.
Maturity in the church, to use the Primate's term in this connection, is NOT going to be found by some study, unless it be that of the Bible, where "how to make moral judgments" - to use the Primate's phrase - is not hard*1: you believe what God, the Maker, says about HIS equipment. That is not so very hard! When you and God are equals, of course, perhaps there is room for negotiation. But any God who is your equal, or that of any church, does not have the privilege of existing. Luke 6:46 says it: "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things that I say!" These people, says Isaiah 29:13, "draw near Me with their mouths, and honour Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men."
reader, you are offended by these many fallings on the part of some larger
churches in particular (and cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 3, on the Uniting Church), do not be alarmed. It
is all part of the disease leading to the return of the Great Physician for
His church which, though left by many, and sought as a target by more, stands
in the simple faith of Christ as Lord and Saviour, His word as truth and
His Cross such that "God forbid that I should
glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has
been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). Stand firm and fast, find the church which
keeps to the word of God and keep loyally on with the work of the century,
till Christ returns. This is your place in the Lord. Serve where He commands.
Moral Judgments ?
INTO MAKING gods, or Peace with God; and manufacturing christs from the composition
of one's mind, then using them to authorise one's preference.
MAKING PEACE WITH GOD
Let us consider the steps. When one approaches God (as in Isaiah 55) and forsakes one's errors and sins, being covered as to guilt by Isaiah 53:4-6, as to peace, by Isaiah 32:1-4,16-17, 27:5, Romans 4:25-5:11, and as to eternity by Isaiah 51:6 with 51:11, John 10:9, Ephesians 1:11), then that is one thing. It is called the gospel, and the result redemption, which is everlasting in kind (Hebrews 9:12ff.).
THEN one consults the MOUTH of God which betokens His MIND and one minds His ways (Psalm 84:5-7, Psalm 119:9,13-16,24). This is still a challenge: one must find the case with care, apply the word with grace and understand the weighty matters of the law, mercy and judgment. Still, the thing is clear and the morals are exceptionally impactive, enough to penetrate the toughest armour of self-will, when the heart and mind of man is willing to listen.
there are a number of simple options, which constitute rebellion against the
mouth, the word and the mind of God.
MAKING NEW WAYS INSTEAD
SELF TYPE DIRECT
1) People often make themselves the criterion, and ignore their Maker. This is even tried in some churches in the lurk of saying, "I will pray about it" and then ignoring what is categorically written, coming out with spiritual glow, and doing what one wishes. The worst thing about hypocrisy is that, like diseases of the body in many cases, once it gets it grip, it could seem even normal, natural, and one is then self-deceived! To eat the fruit of one's own ways, as the Bible puts it, is a fate worse than death, and indeed, is a species of death before the worm ever attacks the flesh (Proverbs 1:24-26, 31ff.). They "will be filled to the full with their own fancies" - Pr. 1:31. "Measuring themselves by themselves, they are not wise" (II Cor. 10:12), ignoring authority they are wilful, inhabiting churches they are a 5th column.
MAKE A CHRIST
2) The other way is to invent some christ, and fail to distinguish between the One who died to cover sin and this new one.
It is a special field for theologians, but you do not need this office in order to indulge in this fancy.
You can make an existential christ, who is MINE ALONE (your mind alone make it), and in the blur of visions and revelations, you can discount this scripture (the liberals will help you), ignore that, and being most spiritual, talk in a confused way about "Christ", now referring to the Bible, now to prayer, now to new lights and understandings. Do not misunderstand! It is ALWAYS good to search and seek in the word of God for fresh and increasing knowledge and understanding: IN the word, not bouncing FROM it like a diving board!
You could vary this. For you, there could be a growing Christ, who back in the Nazareth of your preference (you could, like Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes cartoon), could grow the way you want. Your new mental picture could be a morally changeable entity, who would take account of recent 'moral judgments', to use the Primate's term, and adapt to them. If you were very bold (and often those concerned are MOST bold, so that a novelist might learn from them), you could even make your invented christ ADOPT your or your society's statistical ... preferences. Then you could cite him. You could even say: THIS is the way it was going, and extending this trend, this is the way it would have ended. I am only saying what would have been said ... by 'christ' (that is, your tame pet one which you consult like necromancers).
You could make any number of christs, and an almost limitless number of TYPES of adaptable christs. Then you cite them and follow them: like a dog who, having broken loose from his master, takes some child and gives him the leash, and then leads that child.
MAKE A JESUS
3) You can also make a JESUS. In this case, there is a personal element of sanctity, so loaded with prayer and possibly fasting, that 'my Jesus' can be used to lead the impressionable in almost ANY direction. One Pentecostal pastor of some repute in Melbourne, once told me in an unsolicited telephone call, that it is not what happened in the gospels which is so important, but the 'christ in one's heart': this was the critical factor. Which christ however happens to be lodging in a heart which is not too concerned about the one who bothered to come from heaven as a substitutionary, sacrificial victim to purge sin and enable mercy in love to have consummation ? Another JESUS, says Paul in II Cor. 11, another gospel, another spirit ... many may well take! The idea is not new; the extent of it is like a flood for the 21st century.
This however is phenomenally condemned by Paul as we just saw. Not for nothing is the Bible so clear about the word of God (cf. SMR Appendix D, and Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 13). NO TRUTH IN THEM if they do not speak "according to this word", you recall! When after all, you are citing God, it is just as well to stick to what He says. Indeed, when you citing so insignificant a Christian as this present author, it would be well and indeed wise to STICK TO WHAT I SAY. My words may or may not be good in some spot; but I do not want MY NAME to be used except with care when WORDS, thoughts or ideas are attributed to me. If I in my littleness am so careful about truth, and right citations, what of God! Infinitely important it is for the infinitely important One, whose personal zeal is so intense, truth so unique, who indeed has a monopoly on the truth. It is the STANDARD, the way a platinum bar was the standard of the metre, in Paris. It is no SMALL THING to tamper with THAT! Everything else (at that time in principle) depended on it!
JESUS CHRIST THE LORD
is to be cited in making moral judgments in Christian circles.
It is not ANY christ. It is not ANY Jesus. It is not ANY Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ the Lord. Nor is it ANY Jesus Christ the Lord. It is Jesus Christ, the Lord, and only Saviour (Acts 4:11-12) who is to be cited, incarnate, definitive expression of God, eternal, and without sin, who said: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word... He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me" (as in Isaiah 51:16 - as in Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 15, and 49:2). This of course pre-supposes that His words are there, and this fact is then an exhibition of His truth and power, that they ARE there!(cf. SMR Appendix C).
But HOW do you make moral judgments ? In these ways:
1) IF Christ or the apostles have spoken, the case is closed.
necessary inference from what has been thus said is present, the case is
the Bible directs thought to the truth, not limited to the Old Covenant (Hebrews
7-10), then the case is similarly closed (thus we do not now circumcise, but
this is not a moral change: God's morals do not change cf. News 24, The
Kingdom of Heaven Ch.3; Barbs, Arrows
and Balms 13).
4) If the case is not covered directly in this way, it may be covered indirectly. Thus, the WAY in which a dispute in to be covered in terms of Matthew 18:16, is not to be formalistic and severely critical, but understanding in heart, gracious in disposition and severance is to come only after the utmost concern and compassion, when the mercy of God is dismissed by the renegade.
But WHAT if the case is not so covered (unlike the case of homosexuality and female priests, which is - as in News 24, Swift Witness 3*1, and A Spiritual Potpourri 10-11).
THEN one has to consider what IS covered, the WEIGHTIER MATTERS OF THE LAW as Christ said, whilst focussing mercy and justice (Matthew 23:23), self-control and self-sacrifice, the love of God (that love which rejoices in the truth as in I Cor. 13), the example of Christ. When one ALSO consults the word, JUDGE NOT THAT YOU BE NOT JUDGED (as in Matthew 7), it becomes very much easier.
It is good not to presume (as in Psalm 19). Thus a famous case in Australia involved 5 Japanese persons who were alleged to have connived or committed offence in importing drugs illegally. The evidence as far as much effort and communication has been able to determine, is entirely circumstantial. The report of the people concerned about thefts and dumping of materials into their cases has, as far again as one has been able after much effort to determined, never been disproved.
Now the crime - if it was committed - is severe. So is murder. Do you hang people because murder is bad and it is rather likely that they committed it! One would certainly hope not. Do you imprison, incarcerated 5 people because they MAY have been guilty! One should hope not. One is currently waiting on Senator Vanstone to see how she will reply, for the Premier of Victoria just past, did not bother personally to reply at all, but had communication sent on to some official who evidently did not like the task. The result was political paralysis on the issue. Paralysis does not help.
should one do ? THIS is par excellence a 'moral issue'.
all the facts just as carefully as you would do if you were in prison.
if the story or account of how the thing happened can be SHOWN to have broken
down in some point.
not leap to some minor inconsistency such as YOU could make in the situation
of being in another country with another language: judge righteous judgment,
and look for the actual facts, with heart, feeling and understanding.
you CANNOT show that the account of the people concerned is false, then DO
NOT PRESUME to take decades of their lives away because it is
in case they were guilty
b) helpful in deterring others,
or any other prevarication.
Your PURPOSE is to find the truth, and if you cannot show that it is beyond question, do NOT indite, lest you commit a MORAL CRIME yourself.
It is not too hard. It takes self-control and consideration of the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy. Justice does not guess. It does not use legal phrases and paraphernalia to disguise (intentionally or not - here, the case is indifferent) the fact that you DO NOT KNOW, and then CONVICT. That is gambling, not justice.
That is an example.
When God is in your heart, His word is in your mind, His principles are in your knowledge and applied, His mercy is at work in your spirit, and you apply the golden rule, Do to others as you would that they should do to you... you are in no very great danger of error.
this, you can learn how to make 'moral judgments' till you are blue in the
face, and you will still, in the last analysis, be merely toying with words.
(Cf. Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 16).
For convenience, Swift Witness 3
is reproduced below.
SWIFT WITNESS 3 -
A QUERY ON THE LAW AND THE MIND OF GOD
I refer to your newsletter NEWS 59 which quotes Leviticus 20:13 :
"If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they should surely be put to death....".
Where would you draw the line between -
'This text can be understood in a "straight" forward way'
- 'This order is no longer
valid for us Christians today (because we are no longer
under the law etc. etc.)'?
In other words: Would you, relying on this text, be in favour of death penalty for sexually active gays? If not, how do you justify that the moral condemnation is still valid for you, but the penalty isn't?
This was the gist of the query.
REPLY may interest or prove helpful to some, and hence it is included.
Naturally, the source of the query is not relevant here. The main reply from
REPLY TO THIS ISSUE
Your question was of interest,
and it so happens that I have just constructed two new parts of Joyful
Jottings (available in the first left hand margin on the Home Page,
by hyperlink), Numbers 27 and 28, which relate in terms of basic, underlying
principles to your question. I do recommend you read these for perspective
and orientation. If you still should have further questions, please actively
pursue any element of interest. The scripture has enormous depth, and repays
Meanwhile, your questions
I shall take one at a time.
Hence it does not use the implements of the kingdoms of this world. The 'peculiar people', or 'people of His own' of I Peter 2:9 is no longer formed into a theocracy. THAT has served its educative purpose, and now this serves it own place. THAT showed the reality of justice, judgment and righteousness, and that it MATTERS. THIS shows the reality of the mercy (always available, but now highlighted abundantly) which is NEEDED to avoid the intense penalties of law on sin. In EACH, the other is present; in each there is a specialisation. The SEQUENCE of the specialisation is itself a teaching lesson.
THUS the penalty of death
is now applicable in the style of WHAT IS HIS KINGDOM - namely in terms of
exclusion from it, of being cut off from the King and people spiritually -
as is explicitly stated in I Corinthians 6:9-10. The remedy is to be "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit
of our God" (I Cor.6:11), and the Biblically defined RESULT of this
in terms of living we shall look into shortly (it is also found in Joyful
Jottings 27, 28, the two noted earlier).
Thus II Timothy 3:16 instructs us that the law is suitable for "instruction in righteousness". Righteousness does not change; the penalties associated with its APPLICATION vary, but not in kind, merely in quality and disposition. As to sin, God is against it, and as seen in the Old Testament (and indeed in the New) such sin He penalises it most heavily ALWAYS. It is not however a sin that cannot be covered and the soul that sins is not a soul that cannot be converted. Adultery can damn too, if not repented, in heart and spirit.
No. Emphatically not. Even if a "church" HAD somehow gained a political rule, I should not deem this apt. The theocracy is NO LONGER AUTHORISED AS THE MODE OF GOD'S EXPRESSION CORPORATELY, so that its laws and powers, apt for a social-political-legal-theological unit are no longer applicable. The discipline of the CHURCH is at most exclusion. The JUDGMENTS are for later on, for the impenitent; but now is the day of salvation (II Cor. 6:1). Emphasis is vast and the desire is profound, to this end.
NO NATION is allowed to claim this power or right of governing the church, for the body of Christ is now THE CHURCH (Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:15-16, I Cor. 12:27ff.). It is international and dispersed.
The church, for its own part
has authority only as and while it obeys the Lord, for as Paul stated, in
II Cor. 13:8ff., "For we can do nothing against the
truth, but for the truth... Therefore I write these things being absent, lest
being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord
has given me to edification, and not to destruction." THIS is his
So the disciples are sent AS He was sent (John 20:21), subject to authority and to express it according to His word; and HE was sent not to condemn, but that the world might be saved. Indeed, even His own doctrine He did not preach, for the Father had given Him a commandment what He should say (John 12:48-50). IF of course HE as Saviour and Lord was rejected, then, His mission rejected, the longstanding judgments simply remained (as in John 8:23-24), and the destiny of the rebellious is merely defined in the very presence of the light. This is very precisely put in John 15:22-24.
Again, the death penalty is expressly not apt for a kingdom "NOT of this world". As we have just noted, in John 3:17 we find that He came not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved.
Saving produced pardon PLUS the dictum, "GO AND SIN NO MORE ," (John 8:1ff. etc.), the invariant requirement of righteousness (read carefully Joyful Jottings 27,28 and note Romans 5:21).
It is not, then, a 'mere' moral condemnation which is in view in the case you note, but a spiritual abomination, by God. It is one of a group of allied sins. Its impact is now revealed in an ultimate and eternal sense - the 'ante' rises. However, the condemnation remains.
What we are dealing with, seeing it in its divine creation perspective, is not simply SOME ONE SIN: it is rather an EXAMPLE of design breach which fouls up the works of the spirit within, the heart and the emotions, BECAUSE these are not suffered to have that orientation devised by the Almighty when making us a physical format designed to be capable of fellowship with Himself. HE has no body (except when and as incarnated, an excursion mode), being a Spirit (John 4); but for those who DO have bodies, this is the way in which the full-orbed range of family, romance, adventure, friendship, domesticity and so on, is arranged.
Neither physically nor spiritually has He organised it in another way. This reality is all obvious scripturally, but the point I am wanting to make is this: that it is repugnant to Him for adultery and sodomy and all the rest, because it trifles with what has been prepared in the rainbow grandeurs which are nevertheless quite precise in their provisions.
That however is not to the
immediate point of your question, merely a background to prevent law as seeming
the whole issue: rather it is expressive of it in a particular formulation.
The substance goes beyond. Law regulates, it does not create. It deals with
wrong-doing, as Paul indicates in I Timothy 1; it is not the substance itself
(see I Timothy 1:5,9). This in no way adds to my answer to the immediate
point of your question; but it is valuable always to see things in their
But let us return to the law as such.
The penal force of the law is what Christ BORE (Galatians 3:1-13) for those who receive Him (Romans 8:32); and that is for them thus fulfilled. The grace that bore, however, for His own, is that which "reigns through righteousness to eternal life " - Romans 5:21. It does not reign through unrighteousness: that is the exact opposite in fact.
Judgment comes later for the recalcitrant, for whom no grace relates, no regeneration is desired, no crucifixion of the "old man" (cf. Galatians 2:20, 5:24) is tolerable; and it comes as graphically shown in Revelation, to the very place of heaven - by EXCLUSION (Revelation 21:8). With this, as with any other sin, it is either repented, with a repentance not to be repented of, or it is not (II Cor. 7:10, I John 3).
If it is, it is covered;
if it is not, it stays. WHEN it is, the whole being is changed, the various
sins and the sin itself which has dominated the sinful personality, being
covered, the spirit cleansed, the heart renewed and the life regenerated.
Please do feel free to correspond: it is good to hear from you ...