James Patrick’s Blog

January 30, 2019

Prophecy of warning and blessing for Great Britain, 25 November 2018 (by Chris Wickland)

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 6:37 pm
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This prophetic word warns of the great shaking that will cause the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union, to destroy manmade institutions including church denominations, and to restore the UK and its church to fulfil its destiny.

chris wickland

[Sunday evening sermon at Living Word Church, Lee-on-the-Solent – audio recording, titles added in transcript]

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Right, I am about to record what I am saying.  I feel that the Lord is wanting me to prophesy something.  You see, really I am a prophet in a pastor’s clothing, so that really is my primary function, and most of you will never really get to see that much, but there we go.

EU Council and Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

Something has happened today which is very significant for us as Britons.  The European treaty thing has gone through that they have agreed for their side of things on the Brexit deal and I don’t think God is very happy.  This is what I must declare.  I am just going to say it out loud.  You see, when prophets of old would speak, they would not even necessarily go to the nations they spoke to, but they spoke to them because they were releasing the word of the Lord, and word of the Lord will do what He will do.  Unfortunately, I have to say this over our government and over our country:

“MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.  God has numbered your kingdom and finished it.  You are weighed in the balances and found wanting.  Your kingdom is divided and has been given to another.”  [Daniel 5:25-28]

I just feel God is really not pleased with what has happened this week and what is about to happen.  I have had, over the years, many dreams, many visions for about twenty-odd years about what is about to come to this land.  And unfortunately, what has happened now has just triggered it, because God led this country to come out of something that He was not happy we were even in to start with.  People voted for that.  Not only did people vote for that, but He moved people by His Spirit to come out.  And yet people who think they are better and know more than the plans and purposes of God have tried to intervene and tried to stop what God has decreed must happen.  And because man has put his hatchet on the line, and because man has tried to sabotage the engine of what God was trying to do, God has unfortunately had to bring down the axe of his judgement, and unfortunately it is going to bring a separation from us from Europe, whether we like it or not.  But unfortunately, it is going to be costly and it is going to bring our nation to a place of humility.

Humbling Nation and Church

You see, God cannot heal our land until our land has been humbled.  “Unless my people humble themselves and pray… then I will not heal their land” [2Chronicles 7:14].  And this land must now come through a time of humbling.  This land must come to a place where it will call out to the Lord its God.

“It is a nation that is proud.  It is a nation that has become arrogant.  It is a nation that has thrown aside my laws and my precepts and thrown aside my Word and thrown aside my people, and thrown aside my church.  My church has forsaken my ways.  My church has forsaken my laws and my precepts and my holy Word.  They have moved to the left when they should have always been in my Kingdom.  They should have been teaching the Kingdom, but instead they taught the precepts and the doctrines and the philosophies of man.”

“And because of this, I must humble my church as well.  There are those that are following me, and they are following me with all their heart.  I don’t speak to them.  I speak to the church that takes my Word and brings mixture to it, and brings worldliness to it, and brings worldly philosophies and worldly ideologies to my Word.  No more!”

Humbling Government Institutions

“This country is going to humbled, and unfortunately the institutions which hold this country up are now going to have to topple.  The things that this country feels that it has sure foundations I am now going to take away”, says the Lord. “And I will tear away the veil of lasciviousness so this country will finally wake up and look up and see that I alone am God, and I will save all who call upon the name of the Lord.”

But if I feel God is saying, “Enough is enough.  They have had their time.  ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’  You have had your time.  You have had your chance.  You have had your warnings.  But you refused to listen, and you refused to relent, and you refused to repent.  And now, I do not want to do what I now have to do, but you chose this.  You chose to not follow me.  You chose to not follow the voice of the people.  You chose not to follow the leading of my people.  You chose not to follow the leading of my prophets.”

“And I am speaking now to the Government.  They have heard the voice of the prophets.  They have heard the prayers of the saints that have gone up for this land.  They know the petitions of my people, and they have ignored them.  And I tell you now, you will not ignore the voice of my prophets in this land anymore.  You will now come to a time of humility, and you will be humbled,” says the Lord.

“But I have plans for this nation.  Yes, she must be humbled, but I will bandage up her wounds.  I will take care of her, and I will raise her up, and I will look after her, and all of those that call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  And I will bring this country into the plans and purposes that I have for it.  And I have plans to prosper this country; I do not have plans to harm her.”

“But know this: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’  You have chosen to do it your way, and this night, the kingdom will be taken from you.”

Call to Watch and Pray

“But know this, my people, that my plans, my purposes, and the heart of the church praying for revival is now coming about.  But you need to hang on, and you need to hang on tight, because everything is going to be shaken, and all which can be shaken will be shaken.  And I will shake the hearts of man.  I will shake the institutions of man.  I will shake the churches of man.  I will shake everything, so that all that is left is pure and is holy and is righteous and gives glory to my name.”

“And this land will be called great again, not because of the greatness of man, but because of the greatness of my Spirit that sweeps this nation as this nation in humility says, ‘Sorry, Lord, we’re sorry; we repent, Lord.’  When this country, like it did once before in the Second World War, when they came to days of prayer and they humbled themselves and said, ‘God, we cannot do this, we need You to intervene!’, I intervened,” says the Lord.  “Those days will come again.  Those churches will be filled.  And again, my people will cry out, and the people of this land will cry out, and they will say, ‘Save us from what is happening!’  And I will hear their prayers, and I will bring my salvation,” says the Lord.  “Not just salvation of spirit, but salvation of your physical bodies.  I will save you from what is coming.”

“And the church at large, she is happy-go-lucky.  She sees the news, she sees the signs of the times, and she is blind to that which is right in front of her.  She is blind, and when this tidal wave comes, and it has now began, when this tidal wave hits this coast, she will go, ‘Well we never knew, we never saw this coming; God, why did you let this happen?’  And I say to you, church, I told you, I warned you.  You saw it in the papers, you saw it on the news.  You could not have been blind to it.  You knew it was coming.  Even if you didn’t listen to my prophets, you knew that it was coming.  But you chose to ignore it, you chose to brush it under the carpet.”

God’s Motivation

“And sadly, first, judgement must come to the house of the Lord [1Peter 4:17].  But I only judge that I may raise you up, that I may bless you, that I may help you to walk in the things that I have for you.  I am going to do great things in this land.  But I am sorry for what you are about to see come upon this nation.  I am sorry for what is about to happen to your government.  I am sorry about what is about to happen to the institutionalised church.  I am sorry about what is going to happen to your economic systems.”

“But I do this so that I may bring revival.  I do this that I may bring life to this dying country.  I do it that I may bring sanity to the insanity of this nation.  I do it that I may bring light to the darkness.  I do it that I may bring fruitfulness where there is barrenness.  Do not look with the eyes of man, and the eyes of mammon.  But look with the eyes of the Spirit, and see what I am about to do is a glorious thing and a great thing, for it will glorify me,” says the Lord.  “But it will humble man.”

Hallelujah.

No More Frivolity

So, in the light of, of that, one of the things that we need to do…  You see, I have been teaching on purpose for a while now about equipping the church about her walking in a place of faith, about walking in a place of intimacy in the things of God, about meditating on Scripture, about getting deeper and deeper into the things of God.  Because, if I had said two years ago what I know is coming, most people would run for the hills, most people would be frightened, most people would be terrified.  God doesn’t want His people in tumult and in terror.  He wants His people to be in a place of being stood on the foundation and rock solid.

And I am telling you now, everything is going to shake.  Yes, there will be some that will stumble, but you will get back up again.  But what is coming is going to shake us.  And this is why we cannot play around with this [tapping his Bible] any more.  We can’t do this anymore.  We can’t play around with the silliness of man any more.  We can’t do it.

And I tell you the truth, the day has now arrived where all of our nonsense is over.  Because you will look around and go, ‘But, but, but this,’ and ‘But that’.  It will mean nothing tomorrow.  It will mean nothing.  Because the only thing that matters is this [pointing to the pages of the Bible].  The only thing that matters is the kingdom of God.  The only thing that matters is that we are of a kingdom that cannot be shaken [Hebrews 12:28].  That is the only thing that matters.  It is the only thing.

‘What about my new hairdo?  Or what about my new car that I wanted to buy?  What about that mortgage I wanted to take out?  What about this, and what about that?’  Leave it!  Leave it!  Focus on the things of the kingdom.  Focus on the things of God.  Because unfortunately the time has now come.  And our days of frivolity, our days of just coasting in Christianity, our days of taking it easy and sunbathing in the glory of God is over.  It is over.

Holiness of the King

We are now coming into a new season, and it is a season of power.  But you see, when God pours out His power, there comes with it a season of responsibility.  I remember a pastor friend of mine.  He was around… he is still alive now, and he is in his 80s.  And he was, when he was a very young lad – so probably about fifteen, sixteen – his pastor had been in the Welsh Revival with Evan Roberts.  And so, he would ask him questions about the Welsh Revival.  And he said, “So, you know, what did you do all day?  I mean, how was it you were just stuck on the floor for hours?  What were you doing in there?”  Because back in those days they didn’t have smoke machines and lights and real awesome things going on, you know.  They just had a hymn, a thing, and that was it.  He said, “What did you do?”  He said, “Well, well really, when the holiness of God turned up,” he said, “you went to the floor, and you stayed there.  And you didn’t move.  You wouldn’t dare move.”

And you know, some of us are going, ‘Do I really want to see that in the church?  Do I really want to see that?’  I remember years ago, I said to God, “O Lord, send revival!  Send revival!”  And the Holy Spirit said to me so clearly, He said, “There will come a day when you will wish you had never prayed it.”  Because when you see the holiness of God, when you are in the presence of God in the flesh, the flesh in its current state cannot cope with the power and the presence of Almighty God.  When Isaiah was in the presence of God, he was like [bowing his head], “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips!” And when the presence of God comes back to the church, it will be unendurable.  But it will be glorious!  Oh, it will be glorious.  And when you see the power of God moving…

And it is not dependent on a man’s name on a billboard.  It is not down to the great evangelist.  It is not down to Great So-and-so and Brother This and Sister That.  It is a time for our egos to be burned up.  It is a time to put that nonsense aside.  It is a time to put away all the ‘I want to be a great minister in the things of the kingdom of God, I want to have my name etched in the annals of history’.  Forget it!  Because we are not here for us.  But we are here to serve the purposes of the King.  That is all we are here for.  We are here to serve our glorious, mighty, mighty King.

Dream of Fire on the Coastlands

I remember one of the first dreams that God ever gave me was:

I was walking down the south coast, and I saw this big hurricane-type thing, tornado thing, coming in off the, out of the sea and onto the land.  And on the land were all these beach huts just arched around the south coast.  And this column of wind turned into a column of fire, and it just [clapping his hands together] smashed into all these beach huts.  And these beach huts were all the ministries and all the churches and all the institutions that were built in the name of Jesus but were actually built in the name and for the glory of man.  And [clapping his hands together] one by one by one, they were disintegrated and vaporised by the heat of God’s power and God’s glory.  And I ran for my life, and I could feel the searing heat of this fire burning across my face as I had to get away from it, as it was consuming everything that was not of God.  All those ministries that claim to be of God, all of those churches that claim to be of God, He just burned them all up – [clapping his hands together] bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.  And then eventually, there was this house made of stone, down the end of the shore, and the cloud of God’s glory came down and descended upon it.  And the house was disappeared in all of this fire.  But then the fire lifted, and I was taken inside this house.  And as I was inside the house – it looked like a building like this sort of size [gesturing to his own surroundings] – and all the walls were encrusted in gems and gold and silver, because God had purified His church.  And it was the glory of God that purified His church.  You see, every single piece of diamond, every crustation of semi-precious stones and precious stones in the wall, is His people, that were all purified and set on display by the power and the glory and the majesty of God.

Grace, Holiness and Unity

And God is coming back to town, and He wants His church back.  And He is taking the hands of man off that which belongs to Him.  He is taking the hands of man off that which is sacred, and that which is holy.  God is bringing holiness back to the church again.  The days of running into church like the Flappers from the ‘40s, where we are just like, ‘Haha, I am just going to be exuberant, and like this, and I am just going to say it, and I am transgender! And all these things!’  When they come into the presence of Almighty God they will fall to their knees, and cry out, ‘Woe is me, I am before a holy God!’  And God will change them, God will save them, God will set them free.  And the lies and the philosophies of man will be dealt with, with a punishing blow.

We serve a wonderful God.  Jesus loves us.  The message of grace we have had for the last twenty years is a powerful, beautiful message.  But everything comes in seasons.  And the season that we have to move into now, because of the severity of what we are coming into, is…  We will always be under God’s grace, but we are moving into a new season, a season of holiness.  It is not just about the holiness of God.  It is about our holiness.  It is about us being separated to God.  It is about us learning to love one another, and accept one another, and not judge one another.  That we do all things in the light of His glory, and in the light of the revelation of Christ, and not our ideas.  You see, when you behold the glory of God, when you behold the vision of Christ, when you behold God in such a way that you know Him like that, when you look at yourself and you look at others, everything that you are pales into insignificance compared to Him.  And therefore, you are in no place to judge another believer.  You are all in this together.

And you see, this is the irony, is this will be what will unite His church.  This is all prophetic.  You see, this church is a Methodist church.  But it won’t be soon.  There are Church of Englands out there, there are Pentecostal churches, there are charismatic churches out there, there are Baptist churches out there, but there won’t be soon.  There will just be ‘the Church’.  Because all of those things will be torn down.  The Methodist symbol will be ripped down.  The Church of England will be ripped down.  The Pentecostals, we’ll rip it all down, because we are all in this together, because we all worship and serve the same God.  And as a sign of the times, of the end of days, the prayer of John 17 will finally come to pass, when Jesus said, “I pray that my people will be one, even as We are one”.

And we will see a new Church rise up.  We will see, from the destruction of all that we hold dear around us, from the destruction of what even we thought was Christian, as it all falls to the ground and lies doomed in ashes, then we see that building where the glory of God came on it, and then raised.  We see this wonderful, wonderful, beautiful, purified Church in resplendent glory, sharing and shining with the glory that He has given to His Church.  Because Jesus says, “The glory, Lord, that You have given to me, I give to them”.  And we are going to be a glorious Church.

The Great Lurch

And this will be the thing that will make us one.  We will be one people.  There will be none of this – ‘Oh, it’s that church’, or ‘Oh I go this church,’ or ‘My church is better than your church’ – there will be none of that.  Because we will all have the same enemy, we will all have the same fears, we will all have the same problems, and we can only pull through this together.  And this will be a time, a great lurch, as this country breaks free from Europe.  Because God is going to do it whether we like it or not.  And unfortunately, the way it is going to be done is going to be costly to us.  But as our nation lurches to one side and everyone falls over, and things start to shake, as we get up and rise up again, we will realise that as Christians, we cannot afford to do things by ourselves.  The day of wanting to build a name for myself, or you know, be the next Kathryn Kuhlman, or whatever it is, are over.  There is no time for this anymore.  There is no time for celebrities anymore.  Everything that we know will be gone.  The pop idols, all of that, will be meaningless.  Nothing.  Gone.  The only thing that will be idolised in this country will be that which should be idolised, and that is the name of Jesus.  Only He will be idolised in these upcoming days.

It is going to be a glorious time, church.  It is going to be glorious.  But it is going to be difficult, because of the things that we put our trust in.  Even things that we don’t know we put our trust in.  God wants us to trust in Him with all of our hearts.  And He wants us to love Him with all of our mind, all of our spirit, all of our soul, and all of our energies.  God is not judging us tonight.  He is not judging His church.  But He is warning us.  But He is also encouraging us.  Good things are coming.  Really good things are coming.

But a time of great shaking has now begun on our nation.  And you see, God does not want His people walking around like headless chickens, going [squawking] ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’  No, He wants His people to, when the world is going, ‘What is going on around here?’ – and I am telling you, everything will lurch.  You know, what I see in my mind’s eye is:  Everything lurches so hard and so quick.  Buildings are cracking and splitting and things are coming tumbling down, and people are running in panic, wondering what is going on.  The institutions of this land are now going to topple.  And everyone is going to wonder what on earth is going on.  And the only people that should have it together is going to be us.  They are going to look to us, and it is like it says in Isaiah.  It says, many people will come to the Jew and grab a hold of him and say, you know, ‘You have the ways of salvation; you know the way of salvation – tell me! show me!’  [Isaiah 2:3; 4:1; Zechariah 8:20-23]  And that is what is going to happen.  But if you and I are running around like headless chickens, like everybody else…

You can’t say you didn’t know this was coming.  You can’t say that you weren’t warned.  You cannot say it.  You cannot, in good conscience, in your heart of hearts, say, ‘Well, you know, I just, I never knew that was ever going to happen.  I just never thought it was going to happen in my lifetime.’  Because you know, deep down in here.  You’ve known it.  You’ve all in this room, everybody has known it.  And you knew that the clock was ticking away – tick, tick, tick.  Everybody in this room knew it.  You might not have realised it was going to be coming so quick.  But this has been a long time coming.  A long time coming.  And I believe God has been gracious to our nation by holding it off as long as He could.  But it is here now, and it is here to stay.

A Heart For Britain

And this whole country is going to be a new country.  And it is going to be built on the back of prayer.  This nation is not going to be built on the back of labourers, or the cleverness or the wisdom of man, or the economies of man.  This country will be built on the back of the prayers of the saints.  It will be a united church that will bring about this nation’s rising again.  It will be on the back of this church.  This nation… You see, God loves this nation.  People have a heart for Israel, and rightly so.  But people lack a heart for their own country, and for their own people.  And God would have you know that He has a heart for this country.  He has a love for this country.  He has given our nation history that you should be proud of, a heritage of spirituality that has lasted nearly thousands of years in this country.  You should be proud of it.  God has an agenda and a plan and a purpose for this seemingly small and insignificant country.  And God has not forgotten this country.  God has a plan for this country.  There have been many great prophecies over this country.  This country is significant to the affairs of Israel in the future.  God has a plan.

But God wants you to see this land as also as your promised land.  God wants you to see this land as your heritage, your fair and green and pleasant land.  He wants you to get a heart and a hunger for this nation again.  Don’t look at it for all the filth, but look at it for what she once was, and what she could be again.  Look at it with the eyes of the Spirit.  Look at it and go, ‘Lord, this is what we contend for in the Spirit!  This is what we yearn for!  This is what we cry out for!  This is what we pray for, Lord God, that You would make this ancient land thrum with the energy of Your Spirit again, Lord God, as the people are praying and the people are praising and the people are worshipping, and there are churches from the top of this land to the very bottom of this land, Lord God, where people are singing and crying out and praying to You, and the land is full of little fires, all over the place, so the whole country is like a burning torch at night, as this whole nation thrums with the very glory of God.’

“You might say, ‘This is a load of rubbish!’  Well, I would say to you,” says the Lord, “read your history.  Read your history.  I have done it before.  And it stands to reason, if I have done it before, I will do it again.  For I am unchanging,” says the Lord.  “I am the same yesterday, and I am the same today.  I am the Rock, and I changeth not.  If I did it two hundred years ago, I will do it again.  But I am going to do it in greater measure.  Why?  Because there is more at stake.  There are more people.  I am going to give my church such a heart for the souls of this nation, that I am going to birth a spirit of intercession on my people.  But it will be an unnatural spirit of intercession, unnatural for your human body, in that I will enable you to do things in the Spirit that your physical body would not allow you to do.  You will have endurance that the physical body could not endure.  This will be a supernatural empowering of my people to pray for this nation.”

God is going to do some outlandish and crazy things!  The things that He is about to do in this nation, what we are going to do, this is how it is going to be:  In twenty years’ time, we are going to look back and go, ‘Man, we were clueless.  We just had no idea.  We thought we were clever.  We knew nothing.  We knew nothing!  We had no idea that God could do the things that He does now.’  Our God is a good God.  Amen?  [“Amen!”]  He has got a plan.  He has got a hope for us.  Hallelujah.  Glory be to God.

Praise you, Jesus.  Lord, we praise you, Lord, that You have a heart for this nation, Lord God.  You love this nation, Jesus.  You love this green and pleasant land.  You love this place.  You love the heritage she has for You, Lord Jesus.  You love, Lord God, the fact that this nation had communities of people that just prayed and worshipped and adored You.  You love the fact that the whole of the nation came together in prayer, Lord God, from the evil might of the Germans, Lord God.  You came, Lord Jesus, and You delivered us.  You love this land, and we praise You for it, Jesus.  We give You all the praise, and we give You all the glory.  And we pray, O God, let us not be a fearful people, but let us be a triumphant, victorious, brave and strong people.”  O glory, glory, glory, glory, glory.

Muslims and Persecution

God would also say this:  “There will come a persecution, but I will not permit it to get out of hand.  You will get persecution, and it will come from the Muslims, but I will not let it get out of hand.  I will protect my people, because all that which is shaken will be shaken.  You see, as the church provokes my people Israel to jealousy, you will be provoking Muslims to jealousy.  You will be provoking them with the reality that your God is real and theirs is not, and they will hate you for it.  But I will turn many to come to know me.  For I am going to tell you this:  I am going to break the back of Islam in this country.  I am going to break its back, that it will be a weak, feeble religion.  But I am going to do glorious things through those people.  I am going to do glorious things through those people.  But also, church, this is going to be a difficult time, because public opinion is going to move away from the Muslims.  At the moment, everyone loves them.  But the time is coming when public opinion will despise them.  And you see, my church, you have got to be very careful, because you are not allowed to judge or despise anybody.  But you must love all of mankind, and you must help the Muslim, as much as you would help the Englishman, as much as you would help the Jew.  You must help them.  When times of difficulty arise, you must help them!  But in doing that, you may incur the wrath of your own country.  You have a choice: you either go with your country and incur my wrath, or you do the right thing and you may incur the wrath of your people.”

For the Joy Set Before Us…

“These are going to be difficult times, but they are going to be the best of times.  It is going to be known as the golden age of the Church, when the Church comes into her fulness.  You are going to see things…  Well, put it this way, there is no reference point to what you are coming into, no reference point at all.  You will look back at ancient revivals and you will not find what you are looking for, because there is no reference point.  What is coming is so far beyond anything you have experienced or anything you have ever touched, seen or read or known about, that the revivals of the past will not be your reference point.  You will be in the deep end, just as much as they were, but you won’t drown.”

Hallelujah.  So be encouraged.  Be blessed, and forewarned.  You are prepared.  You are God’s Bride.  He loves you.  He delights in you, and He loves you.  Guys, He loves us so much.  He knows that He has brought a heavy word to us.  But what is coming…  You see, Jesus set His face like flint.  He knew what was coming.  But He looked beyond that, because He knew the joys of what was soon to come after that.  And that is how we as the Church need to be – set our faces like flint at what is about to come, but look to the joy of what is over the top of that.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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September 9, 2015

Tear Down The Idols

Filed under: Uncategorized — alabastertheology @ 5:01 pm

On my recent visit to Papua New Guinea, I came across a small booklet produced by the National Community Transformation Network, entitled Tear Down The Idols: A Call To The People Of Papua New Guinea To Destroy All Idolatrous Objects – [Tear Down The Idols (PNG) booklet].  This was prepared and circulated to church leaders throughout the country in the lead-up to this year’s National Day of Repentance public holiday, 26 August 2015, less than a month before the fortieth anniversary of PNG’s independence on 16 September 1975.  Pastors’ fraternals all over PNG welcomed the call and organised united ‘Marches for Jesus’ on this day through their towns.

Biblically, forty years represents a complete generation, following the pattern of the first generation of Israelites who left Egypt in the Exodus and then died in the wilderness, passing on the inheritance of their promises to a new generation (Numbers 14:26-35; 26:63-65).  Theodore Zurenuoc, Speaker of the PNG National Parliament, appealed to this biblical principle in his recent New Year message posted on the PNG Parliament website: Theodore Zurenuoc 2015 New Year message to PNG

Along with the standard public holidays of New Year’s Day and the Christian holy days (Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Monday), the National Day of Repentance has recently been instituted as a fourth public holiday with specifically national significance for PNG, alongside the Queen’s Birthday, Remembrance Day and Independence Day.

The National Day of Repentance, or ‘Repentance Day’, was authorised as an annual day of Christian prayer in August 2011 by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (the first document he signed as PM) following a request by a group of churches to his predecessor, the acting Prime Minister Sam Abal.  Abal had stepped in for Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare who was taken ill at the end of his fourth term of office (1975 [independence] – 1980, 1982-1985, 2002-2007, 2007-2011).  It seems that the choice of 26 August for this new public holiday corresponded to the date in 2007 when Somare as Prime Minister signed the following covenant between the people of Papua New Guinea and the God of Israel.

Somare covenant for PNG 26 Aug 2007

Shortly after this signed covenant, on 5 September 2007, Somare prayed the following prayer on behalf of PNG, renouncing all other covenants with evil spirits and demonic powers [quoted by Zurenuoc in his December 2013 blog post]:

“Now, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I the Prime Minister and Founding Father of Papua New Guinea on behalf of the People of Papua New Guinea repent our iniquities and transgressions, and rededicate our nation to your Almighty God.

I renounce the worship of all IDOL and all EVIL gods. I renounce all covenants with the evil spirits and demonic powers. I renounce and reject all their actions and I reverse all their evil effects.

Almighty God and eternal Good Shepherd, forgive our sins against you and against one another. Deliver us from evil, heal us, heal our land, and grant us your peace and joy. Make us a holy people, pleasing to you in every way.

Today, as the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea; and on behalf of the people and the nation of Papua New Guinea, I make this New Covenant with you and Almighty God, we acknowledge you as One and the ONLY God, we acknowledge you as the only God in whom Papua New Guinea stands.

We acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives in the nation of Papua New Guinea.

On this day I pledge our allegiance to serve No other gods but YOU, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Eternal God, our good Shepherd, as Prime Minister and Founding Father of Papua New Guinea, I submit Papua New Guinea today, its people, its leaders in Church, leaders in the villages, all its leaders of the country into your almighty hands.

We trust you to lead us into this new beginning; to the fulfillment of your plans and destiny for our nation.”

Theodore Zurenuoc was appointed Speaker of the National Parliament on 3 August 2012, just before Peter O’Neill was elected Prime Minister, and in November 2013 he and the five-member House Committee began a process of removing spiritual artefacts in the Parliament building.  Something similar had been attempted in 2000 by a predecessor as Speaker (1999-2002), Bernard Narokobi, who had helped to write the PNG constitution, when he installed temporarily an illuminated cross on the pinnacle of the Parliament building (Gibbs pp.9-10).  Zurenuoc’s initial removal was of the lenticul (nineteen carved heads on the lintel of the entrance, representing the nineteen provinces of PNG), and since then the fifteen metre high installation of three ‘indecent’ carved totem poles in the State Hall has been undergoing a lengthy process of dismantling.

In taking this action Zurenuoc was supported by, among many others, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Religion, Loujaya Kouza MP.  She had recently been to Israel and consulted Messianic Jewish leaders and intercessors there “about the country’s ambition to have a covenant with Israel and to have the God of Israel as the God of PNG”.  She was told that if this was truly the case, PNG should not officially recognise any other god.  [Kouza was quoted by RJ May (p.6) citing a National newspaper article, with further reference to an equivalent Post Courier article.]

Shortly before removal work began, in October 2013 the Prime Minister of PNG, Peter O’Neill, led a senior delegation of Government officials and business people to Israel, where a declaration of cooperation was signed between the two governments.  Further connections with Israel can be seen in the national collection of money on this year’s Repentance Day as an ‘Aliyah’ offering to help Jewish people wishing to return to Israel.

During its removal, the lenticul was cut into three pieces, and it was then offered to the National Museum.  When the Museum objected, the artefacts were left in a garage of the Parliament until someone removed them into his own possession, according to Andrew Moutu, Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery.  Other supporters of this programme of redecoration such as Rev Joseph Walters have clarified that such spirit-defined carvings belong properly in the Museum as objects of PNG’s past, rather than in the national House of Parliament as guiding principles for its future.

Although there have been objections from a number of people, including Members of Parliament and the official Catholic Church in PNG, there are many others who support the changes to the Parliament building.  Outside observers such as Merlan & Rumsey (pp.14-15; see also May’s conclusion, p.9) have noted how the vast majority of ‘grass roots’ people in towns around the country, including lay Catholics and PNG-born priests, would agree with these actions, lacking any nostalgia towards traditional customary practices.  For example, a group of fifteen pastors wrote a joint letter in support of the changes on 15 January 2014.

In place of the triple totem pole in the State Hall, Zurenuoc has been preparing a ‘Pillar of Unity’, incorporating a rare first-edition first-issue copy of the 1611 King James Bible.  This Bible was donated to PNG by Dr Gene Hood from Indiana, USA, who had sponsored Christian radio stations and missionary work in the country, and who passed away just days after handing it over to Zurenuoc and other MPs at a convention in Ohio.  Zurenuoc also apologised at the time on behalf of the nation of PNG for its mistreatment of Christian missionaries in previous generations.  The Bible arrived at Jackson’s Airport in Port Moresby on 27 April 2015, welcomed warmly by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, politicians and religious leaders, and a crowd of about 20,000 people.  The new National Unity and Identity Monument will be unveiled in a public ceremony on 16 September 2015, the fortieth anniversary of PNG independence.

Zurenuoc has set out his vision for a restored Parliament and a united nation of Papua New Guinea in an article last year in Business MelanesiaPNG Parliament restoration & unity project April 2014.  Despite vocal objections from a small minority within and especially outside PNG, this project seems to be moving forward with widespread approval.  Let us pray for wisdom and protection for all of those who truly love PNG and are working for its good, as the country celebrates its fortieth year of independence in one week’s time.

June 7, 2011

Amos’ Message of Hope and the Council of Jerusalem

Apologies for the infrequency of posts recently.  Study continues unabated, and in due course I will have managed to integrate properly the wealth of things I am learning about the Old Testament, enough to be able to publish them in a coherent way.  This brief post began as an observation I made during tutorials on the book of Amos, with the link to Isaiah 16:5 referred to by James A. Meeks in his recent monograph The Gentile Mission in Old Testament Citations in Acts, which I was reviewing at the time.  I trust it will provide some further clarity on the vision of the prophets.

As I have been teaching through the book of Amos, I’ve had to deal with a number of scholarly assessments which conclude that the message of hope in chapter nine has been tacked on to the end by a later ‘redactor’ of the book.  Such a conclusion assumes that prophets typically just preach messages of judgement against their contemporaries (hope is thought to weaken the impact of such a warning).  Such scholars also often place the beginning of the message of hope at 9:11 with the mention of David’s booth, but it undoubtedly begins earlier.

Verse 7 of chapter 9 clearly parallels verse 12 with their mutual message of God’s personal care for other nations in addition to Israel, and in fact both focus specifically on the idea of the ‘remnant’.  The eyes of the LORD on the sinful kingdom in verse 8 would remind the reader of the oracles against the nations in chapters one and two, each of which is destroyed for their sin, but when God holds back from total destruction in the case of the house of Jacob (9:8), this parallels God’s mercy on other nations too.  For example, just as Israel was brought out of Egypt from the house of slavery and through the midst of judgement, so Aram is described as being brought up from Kir, whither they had been told they would be taken into exile in 1:5.  The Philistines did not just originate in Caphtor [Crete or Asia Minor], but Genesis 10:14 says they were descended from a separate group in the area of Caphtor, the Casluhim, and Jeremiah 47:4 says they are in fact the ‘remnant’ of the coastland of Caphtor.  This would fit with the idea that like Israel was brought out of Egypt, so the Philistines had been brought out of Caphtor as a remnant to be settled in their own land.  Amos 1:8 says that the remnant of the Philistines will perish, but like the further judgement even on the remnant of Judah remaining after exile (Isa. 6:13), so I think this means further judgement on [but not annihilation of] the Philistine remnant, as Zechariah 9:5-7 teaches too.

The idea of a remnant from Gentile nations, epitomised by the remnant of Edom [or ‘Adam’ if pronounced slightly differently, meaning ‘humanity’ as James correctly quotes/paraphrases in Acts 15:17], is actually a theme of many prophets.  Before Amos, Joel had summoned all nations against Jerusalem, where God would enter into judgement with them and destroy their assembled armies as He had recently in the valley of Jehoshaphat (2Chr 20).  Amos then combines this idea of judgement on international armies (and their leaders) with the deliverance of even Gentile nations who suffered under their oppression, an idea that goes right back to Abram (Gen 14) who defeated an international coalition led by the king of Elam and recovered not just the remnant of his own people (Lot) but also the remnant of Sodom.  Abram was told he would rule over and thus become a blessing to all nations, and though his great-grandson Joseph was the first to model this, the promise combined with ruling over the promised land got its first proper fulfilment under David, who defeated and ruled over all surrounding nations with justice, even incorporating foreign nationals in his own army (1Chr 11:38 [cf. 5:10], 39, 41, 46).  The greater Son of David, therefore, would similarly defeat all nations who gathered against Jerusalem, and also the ruler of their international coalition (the alternative Messiah/anti-Christ), and would deliver the remnant of all nations from his hand.

Amos has been prophesying judgement on the entire nation of Israel and Judah (cf. 3:1; 5:5 [Beersheba]; 6:1), with a special focus on the northern kingdom of Israel.  This message of judgement has hardly a glimmer of hope from beginning to end (only 3:12; 5:3, 4-6, 14-15, 24; 7:1-6) so without 9:7-15 his audience would be left with the impression that God is indiscriminate in His judgements – what about the poor and needy, the righteous who have been oppressed by their rulers; will they perish also?  9:9 says that unfortunately they will all alike be taken into exile in the nations, but like grain shaken in a sieve the chaff will be removed but the good grains will remain.  9:10 clarifies that it will be the sinners who will die by the sword, rather than the oppressed.  Then when the exiles return to their land they will live in the rebuilt cities and enjoy the fruit of their vineyards (9:14), which is evidently the vindication of those oppressed by the wicked back in 5:11.

More than just the remnant of Israel, though, God’s interest is in restoring the remnant of all nations (cf. Isa 49:5-7), just as He had brought judgement on all nations as well back in chapters one and two.  In this context, therefore, the rebuilding of the ‘fallen booth of David’ does not seem to correspond naturally to the rebuilding of the temple as such, partly because David did not build the temple for the ark in the first place.  Some suggest that this describes the tent he constructed to house the ark before the temple was built, which was presumably where he ‘sat before the LORD’ in 2Sam 7:18, but again, worship does not seem to be the primary focus of this passage in Amos.  The significance of this ‘fallen booth’ idea can actually be perceived in the way the prophet Isaiah interpreted it just a few decades after Amos.  Isaiah shares many of the interests of Amos, both as regards justice and as regards the nations.  He also goes into detail about the ruler of the international coalition who will oppress all nations, naming this Elamite/Median king ‘Cyrus’ (Isa 13:17; 21:2; 22:6; 41:1-7; 45:1-3; 45:22-46:2; etc.), and it is because of this worldwide oppression that the remnant of nations will turn for help and justice to God’s true anointed saviour, the Son of David.  This is a theme that comes up again and again throughout Isaiah’s oracles against the nations also, as anticipated in Isaiah 2:2-4: messengers come from Philistia to seek refuge in Zion (14:32), the remnant of Aram are like the glory of the sons of Israel (17:3), Ethiopians bring a gift of homage to Zion (18:7; cf. Amos 9:7); Egypt is given a Saviour and Champion to deliver them (19:20-22) and therefore worship the LORD along with Assyria (19:23-25), the inhabitants of Ashdod on the coast recognise that they have no hope for deliverance apart from God (20:6), Edomites call to God’s prophet for news of hope (21:11), the Arabian fugitives are met with bread and water (21:14), and the LORD will restore Tyre after seventy years of desolation so that her profit is brought to Him (23:15-18).  It is in the description of the Moabites, however, that the ‘booth of David’ idea appears: the outcasts of Moab flee to Zion, because there “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover He will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (16:5)

Just as Moses had met with the LORD in the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle, and there received divine judgements with which to adjudicate for the nation (Ex 18:15-26; 25:22; Lev 1:1; 24:12-13; Num 15:33-35; Deut 1:9-18; 17:8-13), so David too met with the LORD in his tent of meeting, and this would presumably be where he would have received wisdom with which to adjudicate as the ‘supreme court’ of his nation (anticipated in Deut 17:18-20; cf. 2Sam 12:6 [from Ex 22:1]; 14:4-20; 15:2-4).  The responsibility of the Son of David to act as judge for His [and other] nations is clear in Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:1-10.  David had prayed in Psalm 72 (title can also be read as ‘For Solomon’ – see 72:20) that his son Solomon would continue to judge in righteousness, and indeed Solomon received divine wisdom to do this (1Kgs 3; 10:1-10), metaphorically (and literally) repairing the breach of the city of his father David and building up the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down through David’s sin (1Kgs 3:1; 9:15; 11:27; cf. Ps 51:18-19 and Amos 9:11).  The ‘fallen booth of David’, therefore, refers to the failure of Israel’s kings to make righteous judgements on behalf of the poor and needy, a failure Amos ultimately blamed on Jereboam II (Amos 7:9-11), and its restoration will therefore bring justice once again to the oppressed remnant of Israel, and in fact to those of all other nations also.  Through her King, Israel will ‘possess’ the remnants of all nations, because all nations will acknowledge the authority of Israel’s King, and the nations will call on the name of the LORD as Gentiles, bearing allegiance to His anointed King yet not needing to become Jewish to do so.

It is this principle, therefore, that James was referring to in the Council of Jerusalem; he recognised that Amos’ prophecy not only spoke of Gentiles called by the Lord’s name despite remaining Gentiles (as Simon Peter had reminded the council – Acts 15:7-11, 14) but also spoke of the Son of David judging justly on matters concerning the Gentiles through His people Israel (hence this Jewish council’s authority to pass judgement on what Gentiles must avoid without putting excessive burdens on them to trouble them – 15:19-20).  The reason for this particular judgement was that [the books of] Moses were taught weekly in every synagogue throughout the Roman empire (15:21), and the laws God had laid down for all humanity (prior to the giving of the Law of Moses for Israel uniquely) were therefore already known to all Gentile God-fearers who attended synagogue: abstaining from the pollutions of idols (mankind is the only authorised image and likeness of God – Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2); being faithful to one’s sole spouse (as God established at creation – Gen 2:18-24); and honouring God’s only condition concerning the consumption of meat after the Flood by removing all its blood (Gen 9:2-4).  The Law of Moses would only be recommended for Jewish believers in the land, its original intended audience (cf. Matt. 5:17-20; Acts 21:20-26).  Of course, the other aspect of this rebuilding of the fallen booth of David, the restoration of the Messiah’s authority over all Gentile nations, was working justice for the poor, a key value that both Jewish and Gentile missions of the Early Church shared explicitly (Gal 2:7-10).

February 7, 2011

‘The Lord has need of it.’

Filed under: Exegesis,Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 12:41 am
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Nobody doubts that momentous things are happening across the Muslim world at the moment.  Tunisia, Egypt, and many more nations have been or are being shaken, and one dictator after another is being forced out.  Many are fearful of what this means for the ‘plate tectonics’ of Middle East politics and hence the stability of the rest of the world.

One other factor in this, though, that few have considered, is what God is doing in His Church.  In April 2010, the popular Californian church leader Francis Chan announced to his successful congregation that he would be leaving to pioneer afresh somewhere.  Then just over a week ago, Terry Virgo, leader of the worldwide NewFrontiers family of churches, also announced to his home church in Brighton that he had been feeling stirred like Caleb in Joshua 14 to leave his comfortable situation there (despite his age!) and join a small pioneering church in southwest London.  I have no doubt these are only the tip of the iceberg – significant church leaders across the world are feeling ‘untied’ and called to go out and pioneer once again, leading those who respect their ministry to follow their example and pull up their tent pegs.  It is time to go!

My daily Bible reading today is from Luke 19:33-38, a passage referred to by Terry on his blog as having been of some significance in recognising God’s new call on his life.  This excerpt comes from Jesus’ final journey towards Jerusalem during His first appearance to Israel as their Messiah, nearly 2000 years ago.  He recognised from Scripture that Jerusalem must behold its king arriving not in glory on a warhorse but in humility on a donkey.  Rabbis since His day have similarly noticed that Messiah’s coming to the Jewish people would be on a donkey if they were an entirely wicked generation, but on the clouds of heaven if they were a righteous one (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 98a).  Oh for the day when ‘all Israel will be saved’! (Romans 11:25-32)

In this passage in Luke, the disciples have been sent to find a donkey on which no-one has ever ridden, which is the obvious interpretation of the extra specification in Zechariah 9:9 that the donkey must be a colt (compare also Matthew’s report that both the colt and its mother were brought to Jesus – proof that the colt had not yet been ridden).  Luke records that the ‘lords’ of the colt objected to the disciples untying it, as Jesus had anticipated, and they responded as instructed – “The Lord has need of it.”  It now had a new lord, and its old lords had no authority to resist.

This parallels the same situation, though travelling in the opposite direction, that we find during King David’s departure from Jerusalem over the Mount of Olives in 2 Samuel 16.  At exactly the same place on that mountain where Jesus would later mount his donkey(s), the servant of King Saul’s grandson and heir Mephibosheth brought to David two saddled donkeys “for the king’s household to ride”.  Mephibosheth himself had remained in Jerusalem, and was reported to be anticipating that his ancestral right to the throne of Israel would now be acknowledged by the newly crowned upstart, David’s son Absalom.  Instead, the true king David decreed that all Mephibosheth’s existing possessions were to be stripped from him and given to his servant who had chosen to remain loyal to David.

This is precisely what the Lord and King Jesus is now doing, both in His Church and in the nations.  His return to Jerusalem is imminent, this time in devastating glory, and He is in need of a fitting mount on which to ride on victoriously for truth, meekness and righteousness.  Just before He ascended bodily into heaven, He gave specific instructions to all His followers from that point on, to take the news of His deliverance from sin and death, and soon-coming global kingdom, to every nation on earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:6-8; cf. Matthew 24:14; Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25-32).  Just weeks later, Peter explicitly called his own generation of Jews to turn to their revealed Messiah Jesus so that they might in turn bless “all the families of the earth” and so prepare for the “times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:17-26).  The writer to the Hebrews again appealed to the same generation of Jews, who would soon be exiled from their land in AD70, to metaphorically ‘dwell in tents in the land of promise’ (11:9), joyfully accepting the seizure of their property in the land as they had three decades earlier (10:32-39) because it was not yet time to inherit that land promised to them.  The age of ‘Sabbath rest’ for God’s people will only come when God’s work is finished (4:8-11), that work He decreed for humanity in Genesis 1:28, set the stage for in Genesis 10:1-11:9, and provided the solution for in Genesis 12:3.

God’s work is to ensure that every people group on the face of the earth has been presented with the good news of Jesus’ coming reign over all the earth, so that when He does come He will have representatives in every land who can reign with Him on the earth (Revelation 5:9-10).  It is God’s patience that has prevented Him sending His Son back to earth for the last 2,000 years.  Peter made this clear in 2 Peter 3:9, where he writes that the day of the Lord’s return in glory and judgement will not happen until ‘all’ nations have come to repentance, which is also why he urges believers everywhere to ‘look for and hasten the coming of the day of God’.  There is one and only one reason that Jesus has not returned sooner – the last people group has not yet heard about Him.  The sooner we get out and tell them, the sooner He will return, because that is what He promised: “This good news of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

That means that there are people groups in which Jesus has not yet been experienced as lord, on which He has not yet ridden, so to speak.  The time has now come for His triumphal entry, and He has need of every nation.  Yet many nations are bound in service to other ‘lords’, and Jesus is now sending His disciples ahead to untie them and prepare them for His use.  Their present lords will object to their people being ‘untied’, but if like Mephibosheth they hope to hold on to the authority they think they deserve, all that they have will be stripped from them and given to those who acknowledge Jesus as the true King.  Islam has bound many nations and peoples with a tight cord, preventing them from hearing the wonderful news of salvation in Jesus and His soon coming kingdom.  The time is now upon us for this cord to be loosed, for dictators to topple, and for the good news to be spread far and wide.

This is where the changes in the Church come into play.  Jesus is stirring the hearts of His disciples, sending them ahead of Him to untie peoples and nations, to break new ground, like Paul “to preach the gospel not where Christ is already named, so as not to build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.'” (Romans 15:20-21).  Whether a leader has been serving for sixteen years or forty-three years, if they are hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches they will be feeling an urge to pioneer once more.  They must model how to do this, because from now on the pace of mission will increase to a rate never before known on the earth, and churches must learn an entirely new dynamic of equipping and sending workers into new harvest fields.  There is no time to lose, and any leader who resists what the Spirit is speaking individually to their own hearts out of a desire to hold on to their own authority will eventually have it stripped from them just like Mephibosheth.  Jesus will not endure any leader who is competing with Him for the hearts of His people.

May God confirm the words of His servants, and may the kingdom of His Son come quickly on this earth.

April 21, 2010

How genealogies reveal the purpose of Chronicles

Genealogies are very important for revealing the purpose of texts in traditional societies, and in Chronicles this is particularly the case as they are drawn mostly from records not preserved elsewhere (unlike many of the narratives), and are therefore more obviously distinctive to Chronicler’s purpose.  Genealogies reveal lines of descent and inheritance of authority over one’s brothers, and the last person in the genealogy is usually the one about whom it is written (for example, Phinehas in Exodus 6 – cf. Numbers 25).  In this post we will look first at the message of the genealogical section, then at the narrative section, and finally draw these together with an explanation of the purpose of the book as a whole.

Genealogies

1Chr 1 introduces the following genealogies by gleaning from Genesis all the relevant passages that show Israel’s inheritance from Adam.  Then 1Chr 2-7 lists the genealogies of the tribes of Israel in order to establish which tribe has rightful authority over the others.  Judah is first (the leader is from him – 5:2) [2:3-4:23].  Simeon is listed next to show that his territory is mostly outside Judah’s now, at least since the time of David [4:24-43].  The two-and-a-half tribes (Reuben, Gad, 1/2 Manasseh) do not have the birthright despite Reuben being firstborn, because they were idolatrous and have been exiled up to the present [ch 5].  Levi is described in two halves, the first [6:1-53] designed to show that the distinction between the Aaronic high priesthood and the three Levitical divisions was actually officially recognised by David himself (note that the line of Zadokite high priests extends no further than the exile [6:15], unlike the line of Davidic heirs [3:17-24]), and the second to establish Levitical claim to certain cities in the land during this resettlement after exile [6:54-81].  Then the remaining tribes are listed (apart from Zebulun and Dan, who had perhaps not returned from exile?) – Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim and Asher [ch 7].  Note that Ephraim’s inheritance of Joseph’s birthright is traced no further than Joshua [7:27], although evidently leaders of the Joseph tribes felt it their duty to live in the capitol even after the Return [9:3], in apparently very small numbers.

1Chr 8  then rehearses the genealogy of Benjamin again, this time mentioning their claim on the leadership of Israel (Ehud [8:6], Saul [8:33]), but also especially their claim over Jerusalem [8:28, 32], the city on the border of Judah and Benjamin.  Apparently Benjamin was insisting too on sharing territorial rights over the capitol along with Judah and Joseph [9:3-9] in the years following the return.  1Chr 9:2-34 considers on the other hand the justification for Levitical rights over Jerusalem, not only of priests but even of Levitical gatekeepers, and to support this, appeal is made to the appointments of Samuel and David [9:22] and the records of Nehemiah [Neh 11:3-19].  1Chr 9:35-44 is then a shortened recapitulation of Saul’s genealogy, as an introduction to the brief summary of his failed reign in chapter 10, apparently to reinforce the Davidic claim to leadership in Jerusalem.

Narratives

After the crowning of David, the first event described is the capture of Jerusalem [11:4-9], followed by an extended list of all the warriors of every tribe in Israel who supported David’s claim to the leadership [11:10-12:40], and who also agreed with David’s plans to re-establish worship of the LORD in Jerusalem [13:1-17:27].  This was done despite opposition from Israel’s enemies [14:8-17; 18:1-20:8] and despite even David’s own fallibility, shown by his sin in taking the census [21:1-22:1].  David himself established the Levitical responsibilities and priestly/Levitical divisions at the same time as establishing secular authorities over the kingdom [26:29-27:34], and he himself was entirely responsible for the plans and resources of the Temple even though Solomon built it [chs 22-29].  The message here is that the true son of David will fulfil all that was in David’s heart for the Temple and for priestly/Levitical worship in Jerusalem.

The account of Solomon brackets his building and dedication of the Temple (including the priests and Levites at their posts [2Chr 5:12-14; 7:1-11; 8:14-15]) with an emphasis on his wisdom [chs 1; 8-9] and the wealth and fame that followed the Temple building.  The warning to Solomon in 2Chr 7:12-22 is effectively a warning to all of Solomon’s heirs that failure to worship the LORD properly at the Temple in Jerusalem would eventually result in exile and the destruction of the Temple.  The following history of the Divided Monarchy [chs 10-36] describes the successes and failures of the various Davidic kings consistently as a direct consequence of their attitude and behaviour towards prescribed worship of the LORD at the Temple in Jerusalem.  It particularly emphasises those times when all the tribes assembled, even from the northern kingdom, to worship at Jerusalem (e.g. Rehoboam [11:13-17], Asa [15:8-15], Hezekiah [chs 29-31], Josiah [chs 34-35]; cf. also Jehoshaphat [17:7-9; 19:4-11; 20:4-28] and Jehoiada / Joash [23:1-24:14]).  Even the sins of Manasseh were forgiven because of his renewed piety and devotion to true worship in Jerusalem [ch 33].

Explanation

Significantly, the beginning genealogy of Judah appears to be focused on defending the Davidic claim (of Elioenai and his seven sons [3:24]) over against others who were claiming authority over Judah and Jerusalem through descent from Perez’s firstborn son Hezron.  We would not have expected there to be a need in post-exilic Yehud [Judah] to defend the claim of the David to authority over Judah, let alone Israel, but the fact that his claim is defended has implications for our interpretation of subsequent narratives.  The Chronicler includes much material not found elsewhere about the links between David and the Temple, and many have suggested that he invented them simply to reinforce the importance of the Temple by appealing to David’s authority.  If in fact David’s claim was also not uncontestable, however, it is more likely that this material was drawn from actual records that would not be disputed; in a sense, the claims of both David and the Temple are being defended, so the historical evidence for their connection is meant to be mutually reinforcing.

Looking at the genealogy of Judah, the focus of the claim to leadership of this tribe is on the first of Judah’s twin sons, Perez, who in fact received the rights of the firstborn because his mother was Tamar, the wife of Judah’s firstborn son Er [Gen 38], and therefore Judah had effectively ‘raised up seed’ for his deceased firstborn [Deut 25:5-10].  The sons of Chelubai/Caleb, Perez’s third son, are traced to various towns and regions of Judah, and the only individuals highlighted are from ancient history (e.g. Hur and Bezalel [2:20], Othniel and Caleb son of Jephunneh [4:13, 15]).  The firstborn son of Perez, Jerahmeel, is traced through a second wife, several sons who had no sons of their own, and worst of all through an Egyptian servant who married into the family – all this seems to be deliberately disproving any claim that Elishama [2:41] might have made to the inheritance of the tribe of Judah.  (This Elishama is probably the same as the ‘royal’ grandfather of Ishmael who murdered Gedaliah at the time of Jeremiah and then fled to Ammon, and whose descendants probably returned from there to Jerusalem after the exile.)  Therefore David’s claim stands, even though he was descended from Perez’s second son Ram, because David’s ancestor Nahshon had been ‘leader of the sons of Judah’ under Moses [2:10].

Evidently the book of Chronicles is contributing to a debate in his time about who had the right to live in Jerusalem, the capitol of the restored community of Israel after the exile, and especially about which tribe and clan could claim the authority over their brothers.  The Davidic claim was obviously under attack from various sides (Elishamites, Benjamites, Ephraimites), most probably because there was no immediate likelihood of a restoration to kingship under Persian rule, and people must have been questioning whether the tribes should revert to traditional tribal inheritance based on the rights of the firstborn instead.  Jerusalem was evidently seen as the capitol, but David’s claim to have conquered it was opposed by the Benjamite claim to have been apportioned it as tribal inheritance by Joshua [Jos 18:28; cf. Jdg 1:5-8, 21; Jos 15:63].  The approach of the Chronicler was therefore to allow for Benjamite claims to live in it, but nevertheless to reinforce the Davidic claim to the throne that had been acknowledged by all the tribes, and therefore the right of Judahites also to live in the capitol.

Furthermore, the Chronicler not only defended the Davidic claim to the leadership of the tribes (if not to the birthright [5:2]), but then also tied this leadership as tightly as possible to the responsibility for leading the tribes in correct worship of the LORD in the Jerusalem temple according to the Law and the regulations of Samuel and David especially.  In fact, the suggestion was made in the accounts of Manasseh and others that if the Davidic leader repented and humbled himself by honouring the LORD’s temple, He would restore them from exile and deliver them from their enemies, and thus establish their kingship over the tribes of Israel.

Thus the purpose of Chronicles is to reinforce temple-focused Davidic messianism.  Working out how many generations had passed between the return from Exile under Zerubbabel and the Davidic claimant at the time this book was written (Elioenai [1Chr 3:19-24]) gives us a probable date of around 400BC, a generation or so after the last of Nehemiah’s reforms [cf. Neh 13:6-7].

March 22, 2010

Permanent Apostasy? (Winds of Doctrine #12)

When a person who has accepted God’s testimony about His Son as the source of eternal life then turns back to his own wisdom, either for understanding other Christian doctrines or for his ‘secular’ intellectual pursuits, he will inevitably ‘fall away’ from the ‘faith’-based wisdom of God and allow his thinking to be shaped by the deception of the father of lies.  This is the source of heresy and ‘doctrines of demons’, and it is only by humbly submitting to the word of truth that someone can escape the trap of the devil and the immoral lifestyle that will follow.  Paul’s approach to heresy or immorality in church leaders was to excommunicate them from the fellowship of believers, in order that they might come to their senses out in the pigsty of life without grace, and repent.  However, for church members living in sin or believing lies, he recognised that by remaining part of their local congregation they were choosing to submit themselves to their leaders, and were therefore in the best place to come to accept also the truth that they were being taught.  In both cases, however, those who ‘fall away’ can potentially be brought back to repentance.

John’s first epistle, written some years later with the benefit of being able to observe the ongoing unrepentance of those Paul and Timothy had excommunicated, deals with the question of those who had permanently left the church (contrast 1 Cor 5:1-5 & 2Cor 2:5-11):  ‘They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.’ (1John 2:19)  As long as the teaching of a church is truly biblical, those who reject its message and leave the church for good are demonstrating that they did not truly belong in the first place.  This is difficult to accept, though, when it is those who have participated thoroughly in the life of the local church, apparently understood the biblical truth, and personally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, who then fall away.  The writer to the Hebrews considers this scenario in chapter 6, and concludes that for such a person there would be no possibility of repentance because this was the equivalent of the unbelief of Jesus’ opponents who wilfully attributed His anointing to Satan and were therefore condemned as having committed an unforgivable sin (Matt 12).  Jude would describe such fake believers as ‘hidden reefs in your love feasts’ (Jude 1:12-13).  However, the writer to the Hebrews immediately reassures his listeners that he is convinced of better things for them, because God could not be unjust and forget the genuine love they had borne towards Him.  It is a genuine warning to those considering ‘falling away’, and yet he has confidence that God’s grace that established the church will also preserve it, as Paul regularly affirmed (1Cor 1:7‑9; Php 1:6; 2Tim 1:12).

We must treat the warnings in the book of Hebrews in a similar way to Paul’s stern instruction to ‘Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?’ (2Cor 13:5).  Those who would fail the test, or those turning back to the sacrificial system, would be those who did not actually have the life of Jesus in them.  There will likewise be members of churches today who, when challenged to consider carefully if they have ever truly received Jesus as Lord, will discover that they have never actually trusted in His grace.  The warnings must not be quickly dismissed or explained away as ‘hypothetical’; they are meant to provoke soul-searching on the part of those who read them, driving one back to a complete dependency and trust in God’s ability to save, both at conversion and throughout one’s life.  Anxiety is not evidence of trust, but rather of concern that one’s own efforts will not be enough.  That is completely true, but instead of anxiety we must turn our eyes onto Jesus again and trust Him alone for His all-sufficient grace (cf. Php 4:6‑7).  As Jesus Himself assured us in John 6:37‑40, the task appointed to Him by His Father is to welcome any who are given to Him, and then to make sure that they are not lost but rather raised to life on the last day.  He is the Good Shepherd, the one who goes after the lost sheep and brings them home, and if the Father has graciously enabled us to receive the good news of grace by faith, Jesus is fully able to preserve us and bring us back to repentance and faith.

Apostasy in Light of Faith and Grace (Winds of Doctrine #11)

In the last eight posts we have seen how the Early Church that had demonstrated Jesus to be the Messiah in the 30’s AD, welcomed Gentiles in the 40’s, and reaffirmed God’s plans for the Jews in the 50’s, had to endure mighty winds of heresy and persecution in the 60’s, and then recover their ‘first love’ for each other again in the 70’s.  The 60’s had brought a widespread apostasy, or ‘falling away’, in the church, which some at the time may have interpreted as the prophesied final apostasy that would sweep through the Church before the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus (cf. 2Thes 2:1‑12).  Clearly Paul, Peter and John all recognised that a greater one was still to come (cf. 2Tim 3:1‑9; 4:1‑4; 2Pet 3:1‑18; 1John 2:18‑19, 28; 4:1‑3), whether or not they expected the final one within decades rather than millennia.  It is vital that we consider the nature of that first great apostasy, though, that we might be prepared for the final one that will soon be upon us.

1 Timothy 4:1 makes it clear that “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”.  Hebrews warns believers not to “fall in the wilderness” through disobedience like the generation of Moses (Heb 3:7‑17; 4:11; 6:4‑8; cf. 1Cor 10:1-12).  Whereas Paul is referring to specific fallen individuals in his congregation, whom he has ‘handed over to Satan’ for discipline, the writer to the Hebrews is offering a more general warning from Scripture, confident that his hearers will turn back from the brink and inherit the promises after all (Heb 6:9‑12; 10:23‑39; 12:12‑13).  The reality is that there are in every generation individuals who in practice ‘fall away’ from the Christian beliefs and lifestyle they once had.  Most of those who read this will know several such people, and the issue therefore becomes one in which we have intense personal interest.  Others might be genuinely afraid that they themselves might ‘fall away’ at some future point, and the doctrine of ‘perseverance of the saints’ (“Once saved, always saved”) can sometimes be applied too quickly to dismiss people’s real concerns.  Probably the single most fundamental key to this whole topic is a correct understanding of ‘faith’, a word we looked at in detail above.

Faith in God’s Grace

‘Faith’, or ‘trust’, is the only appropriate response to the ‘grace’ of God, and these two terms sum up absolutely every element of the Christian teaching.  They are the truth that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion ever taught, because they teach that as humans we have nothing to contribute to our relationship with God, and can only trust Him to bring about in our lives what is pleasing to Him.  Jesus is the fullest expression both of the grace of God towards humanity and the world, and of the faith in God which God considers to be true ‘righteousness’.  We receive ‘salvation’ and enter into God’s family when we share the ‘faith’ of God’s unique Son Jesus, and this has two elements according to Romans 10:3‑13.  The first element is the conviction that God alone can raise the dead to bodily life, which Jesus went to the cross believing, and therefore that God did indeed raise Jesus to permanent bodily life.  The second element is the willingness to surrender one’s life completely to the direction of this God like Jesus did, which Jesus describes as ‘take up your cross and follow me’.  The writer to the Hebrews says that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him’ (11:6).  There are many who have heard about Jesus, admired Him, and even dedicated their lives to imitating His good works, but none of this matters at all if they have not understood that the only way of pleasing God and receiving eternal life is to accept that Jesus has done everything required, and to put one’s life entirely in His hands.  Even this decision itself is a work of grace in the believer’s life.  As Luke points out in Acts 13:48, ‘as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed’.

If a person has truly understood that they can do nothing of any value without God’s gracious giving, they will be in the right place to receive His Holy Spirit, who gives us everything we need for life and godliness, empowering us to do what God has called us to do.  This is the beginning of a life of trust, or ‘faith’, in which time and again the believer comes back to God asking for grace to accomplish what he or she has been given to do.  If at any point we turn back to our own wisdom and strength, we have ‘turned away’ or ‘fallen away’ from faith, or from ‘the [life of] faith’.  ‘Whatever is not from faith is sin.’ (Rom 14:23)  Paul expresses exactly the same concept in Galatians 5:4, when he tells those trying to be righteous by keeping laws that they have ‘fallen from grace’.

Faith is just as necessary for one’s beliefs as it is for one’s life, because we are unable to arrive at the truth through our own wisdom or ‘rational’ thought processes.  God has deliberately planned it this way, so that those who come to Him are forced to accept what He says without the benefit of their own five senses.  If we were able to reason our way to the ‘meaning of life’, we would have no need for grace, and we could boast in our own wisdom.  As it is, God has chosen to save people through the apparent ‘foolishness’ of what is preached, the message of a crucified Saviour (1Cor 1:17–2:5).  Of course, that is not to say that God leaves us in the darkness just for the sake of it, or that He has not revealed elements of the truth about the world around us to those who do not trust Him.  Rather, God reveals more and more to those who keep coming to Him for wisdom, and He graciously enables others who do not trust Him personally to nevertheless recognise the divine order and beauty with which He created the world.

Ephesus According to 1 John (Winds of Doctrine #10)

As explained in two posts above, Ephesus had gone through a very turbulent time in the mid-60’s AD, with Paul and Timothy expelling elders from the church who were teaching heresy or living immorally or both, followed by a period of intense persecution when Paul himself was taken from them and executed.  Paul’s primary instruction to the church in his second letter to Timothy had been to cleanse themselves from wickedness and become sanctified for good works (2Tim 2:19‑21); a repentance that was even more of a priority than doctrinal correction, which could only follow repentance (2Tim 2:24‑26).  Partly from fear of a repeat situation, therefore (1John 4:17‑18), the Ephesian church had become very strict against sin, to the point of equating it with heresy (1John 3:10; 5:16‑17), and making it a justification for excluding immature Christian brethren from fellowship (1John 2:19; 3:23; 4:20–5:1) or denying them the benefit of material support from the church (1John 3:16‑18).  It is likely that the primary issue of sin in the church was the issue of ongoing participation in the idolatrous secular culture of Ephesus by recent converts (1John 5:21), whether just in terms of appreciating the aesthetics and achievements of that culture (1John 2:15‑17), or perhaps the issue of dining in idol temples with colleagues at official work functions (cf. 1Cor 8:10; 10:19‑22; contrast 10:25).  It is quite possible that the false teachers had been teaching that ‘righteousness’ is just a matter of the heart, and not a matter of outward actions (1John 3:7‑10).

John has a difficult job on his hands, therefore.  He has to be very clear in his instruction to the ‘little children’, the immature believers who were still engaging in sin, that they must not continue to sin.  But on the other hand, he has to appeal to the ‘young men’ who had stood firm under persecution and held to the truth (1John 2:13-14), and help them to see that they too could not claim to be without sin, and in fact by failing to love their weak brethren they too were committing a sin, as wicked as the sin of Cain (3:10‑18).  The ‘fathers’ of the church would certainly remember the ‘old commandment which you have had from the beginning’ (1:7; 2:13-14, 24; 3:11).   John has to affirm their rejection of the heretical teaching of those who had left the church (2:18‑26), while also urging them to continue to receive teachers from outside, like himself, who did speak truth (4:1‑6, 14‑15; 5:5‑13, 20).  As a result, his letter, which is more of an extended essay than a letter as such, moves back and forth between appeals to the little children to keep themselves from sin and idolatry, and appeals to the more mature members of the church to love and pray for their immature brethren like Jesus did (2:5‑6) rather than ‘hating’ them by excluding them (5:14‑17).

As for the specific form of doctrinal heresy that John and the Ephesian church were facing, it is clear from the first paragraph of 1 John that it has to do with the identity of Jesus as both having been with the Father from the beginning and yet also having been a real tangible man (1John 1:1‑3).  The false teachers who had left the Ephesian church were those who denied that Jesus was the Messiah (2:22; 5:1), that Jesus is ‘Messiah come in the flesh’ (4:2), and that Jesus is ‘the Son of God’ (4:15; 5:5).  When John defines the ‘false-Messiah’ [i.e. ‘anti-christ’] teaching as the denial that Jesus is the Messiah, he is probably not referring to Jews outside the church who did not believe Jesus was the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah (though that would also apply).  Rather, he is focusing on heresy within the church that redefines what sort of ‘Messiah’ Jesus actually is, which is just as much an ‘anti-christ’ teaching.  John clarifies further in 1 John 2:22‑23 that what he means by those who deny Jesus’ Messiah-ship is the denial of Jesus as Son and therefore of God as Father, something that the writer to the Hebrews emphasises also in his first two chapters about Jesus being superior to the angels.  The theme of Jesus’ divine sonship appears throughout 1 John (1:3, 7; 2:22‑24; 3:8, 23; 4:10, 14‑15; 5:1, 4‑5, 9‑13, 18, 20), but John deliberately mixes this with a concentration on Jesus’ very real humanity, whether that is His tangibility (1:1‑3) or His flesh (4:2), or His very real blood (1:7; 5:6‑8).  The ‘water’ refers to Jesus’ baptism at which God testified that Jesus is His Son (5:6, 9‑11), but this does not contradict the testimony of the ‘blood’ of Jesus poured out at death showing that Jesus is also human (5:6, 8), nor are either of these contradicted by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers (4:13‑15; 5:6, 10), as the false teachers had evidently been claiming (2:20‑27; 3:24‑4:6).  The Spirit of Truth confirms to us both Jesus’ divine sonship shown at His baptism, and Jesus’ real humanity shown at His death.  The claims of the false teachers, that Jesus was one of the powerful angelic mediators spoken about in popular Jewish religious literature of the day, were inadequate both in their denial of Jesus’ superior divine sonship and unique mediatorial role (cf. 2:1) and in their denial of Jesus’ genuine humanity, and were thus presenting a ‘false Messiah’, an ‘anti-christ’.

Context of 1-3 John (Winds of Doctrine #9)

Tradition records that Paul was executed in Rome by Nero, just as he anticipated in his second letter to Timothy, and we can assume that Timothy did travel to Rome to see Paul, leaving Tychicus with Prisca and Aquila in Ephesus to teach the church.  Timothy would have raised up new elders to replace those who had left, ‘faithful men able to teach others’ (1Tim 3:1‑7; 2Tim 2:2).  A church that had been through such an upheaval, though, might be expected to be particularly alert to both false teaching and immorality, being experienced in enduring persecution and persevering with a siege-like mentality (Rev 2:1‑7).  In 1 Timothy 2:7, Paul seems to be contrasting his own true call as a herald and apostle with the ‘lying’ of others who called themselves apostles.  After his death, then, the Ephesian church would have been very wary of receiving anyone else who called himself an ‘apostle’ (Rev 2:2), and would therefore have found it almost impossible to accept genuine apostolic oversight from anyone apart from a co-worker of Paul.  We do not know whether Tychicus stayed for long in Ephesus, or whether Timothy or Titus were able to return to support Prisca and Aquila.

It is into just this situation that the three epistles of John seem to have been written.  According to tradition, John son of Zebedee ended up in Ephesus at some point after Paul’s death and Timothy’s departure, apparently working hard to re-establish this church in their ‘first love’ that they had lost through the experience of apostasy in the mid-60’s AD (cf. Rev 2:4).  Who better than the ‘beloved disciple’ to teach this large and influential church about love and unity?  The book of Revelation begins with letters to the seven churches, which in one sense function as John’s divine ‘letter of commendation’ to the churches in Asia Minor.  The false teachers addressed in these letters are also Jewish (Rev 2:9; 3:9), known as the ‘Nicolaitans’ (Rev 2:6, 15), and the book anticipates a time of renewed persecution coming on the whole world (Rev 1:9; 2:10, 13; 3:10; 6:9‑11; 7:14; 12:11).  The description of the nation of Israel being taken into exile in ‘the wilderness’ (Rev 12:1‑2, 5‑6, 13‑16) probably describes the consequences of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, although the description of the nations trampling the temple in Jerusalem for three-and-a-half years (Rev 11:2‑3, 8 ) may suggest that the book was written very shortly after that destruction.  There is still the very clear understanding that the gospel must be preached to every nation before Jesus’ return (Rev 1:7; 7:9‑10; 10:7; 14:6), but this is seen as imminent (cf. John 21:20‑23).

If Revelation was written in the early 70’s AD, shortly after John was released from imprisonment on Patmos (Rev 1:9), this would explain why the letters to the seven Asian churches do not give the impression that John was very familiar to them.  2 John, which is put after 1 John presumably because of its brevity, makes most sense if it was actually the first letter he sent to the church in Ephesus after writing Revelation.  He writes as ‘the elder’, which makes sense in light of the Ephesians’ wariness of the title ‘apostle’ (Rev 2:2), and is writing from another congregation known to those in Ephesus (2John 1:1, 13), though he doesn’t appear to have a personal connection with his recipients.  He has evidently heard of the faithfulness of some in the congregation who have resisted false teaching (1:4), and he mentions the love that both he and all the churches have for them (1:1), and urges them to remain on their guard against false teachers (1:7‑11).  However, his main reason for writing is to urge them to love each other (1:5‑6), which was the primary accusation against them in Revelation 2:4‑5, and is the only specific detail that John seems to know about the Ephesians apart from their survival through heresy (1:4; cf. Rev 2:2-3, 6).  It is understandable why John would feel it important to try to establish a personal connection with this bruised church after Jesus’ stern warning to them, and so rather than writing a long letter, he tells the church that he has many things to write to them but he would rather come soon and speak with them face to face (2John 1:12).  Unlike the book of Revelation, which he wrote out himself and which therefore is fairly poor Hebraic Greek, he would have used the help of an amanuensis, or professional scribe, to help him craft a letter in good (but simple) Greek for the educated church of Ephesus.

John’s brief introduction letter to the Ephesian church would have been delivered by one of his co-workers to Ephesus, but on his co-worker’s return he would have been made aware of the many problems in the church in much more detail.  It seems that some in Ephesus who had heard John’s brief letter were questioning what right John had to be writing to them, not even knowing them.  As a result, he composed a much more thorough elaboration of his original message to them (e.g. 1John 2:7‑8), which was also a defence of his own authority to give them instruction (1John 1:1‑4), and an explanation of why he was writing to them (1John 2:12‑14, 21, 26‑27; 5:13).  By the time he wrote his third letter perhaps a couple of years later, this time to the elder Gaius (presumably one of the elders of the Ephesian church), he was personally known to many in the church (3John 1:15), and could refer to them as ‘my children’ (3John 1:4).  Presumably he had therefore managed to travel to Ephesus himself in order to meet the church and reinforce the message of love he was writing about (2John 1:12), before returning to his ‘home’ congregation.  Unlike earlier letters, however, 3 John was not written to the whole church of Ephesus but rather to one of its elders, Gaius.  The reason for this is apparently that when John had written another letter to the church (one that has not been preserved), those who returned from delivering it reported to him that although Gaius had received them warmly, the lead elder of Ephesus, Diotrephes, had refused to allow John’s letter to be read out to the gathered church.  As a result, John sent a short letter to Gaius, delivered by Demetrius, in which he is basically warning Diotrephes that he will be returning shortly and will sort him out.  Apparently this did indeed happen, because tradition records that John ended up moving to Ephesus permanently, and lived there to the end of his life around the turn of the second century.

Background of 2 Timothy (Winds of Doctrine #8)

Filed under: Exegesis,History,Theology — alabastertheology @ 5:35 pm
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By the time of writing his second letter to Timothy, it might have appeared that Paul’s authority over the church in Ephesus had been weakened through church leaders in the province abandoning him to his fate, even if they had not also abandoned his gospel (2Tim 1:15).  Their fear of suffering was probably quite justified, as Nero had started an intense persecution against Christians in AD64 and before his own death in AD68 had executed both Peter and Paul in Rome along with many other believers.  Paul’s denunciation of the heresy of Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander had apparently added to his suffering at the hands of the authorities (2Tim 2:8‑9, 17‑18; 4:14‑15), yet he stood firm in his fearless proclamation to strengthen those whose faith had been shaken by both heresy and persecution (2Tim 2:10, 18; 4:17).  Unlike other leaders, Timothy had been unashamed to be known as Paul’s co-worker, and having survived opposition in Ephesus, Paul was now urging him to go one step further and share in his suffering by joining him in Rome (2Tim 1:8, 12, 15‑16).  Had heresy still been a threat to the church, Paul would not have risked calling for Timothy, but clearly the foundation Paul had laid in the Ephesian church had managed to weather the storm of false teaching (2Tim 2:19).  This church itself was the precious treasure Paul had entrusted to Jesus to preserve blameless until His coming (2Tim 1:12; cf. 1Thes 2:19‑20; 3:13; 1Cor 1:7‑9; Php 1:6), and also entrusted to Timothy (2Tim 1:14), and his trust had not been disappointed (2Tim 2:19).

Even so, the clean-up operation was not over.  The false teachers had been routed, but remaining disputes within the church over words and speculations had to be corrected by Timothy without resorting to the quarrelling approach of the false teachers (2Tim 2:14, 16, 23‑24).  They were still in the area (cf. 1John 2:19; 4:5-6; 2John 1:10-11), and permitting ‘worldly, empty chatter’ might encourage their teaching to spread like gangrene, requiring further amputation (2Tim 2:17).  Just as in his first letter (1Tim 5:20, 24‑25), Paul views immoral living as evidence of doctrinal error, which is why leaders with such problems had to be removed from authority.  Church members, though, who remained in the congregation despite moral failure and doctrinal issues, were instead called upon to repent and so be cleansed and restored like polluted but precious vessels (2Tim 2:19‑22), which was ultimately Paul’s intention in excommunication also (1Tim 1:20; 1Cor 5:5; 2Cor 2:5‑11).  Timothy was told that loving admonition would hopefully bring church members who still opposed him to repentance and thence to knowledge of the truth (2Tim 2:25‑26).

At this point, Paul turns from the situation addressed in 1 Timothy, which was now on the mend, and warns Timothy that this would not be the last battle he or the church would have to face.  Paul was soon to ‘depart’, having ‘fought the good fight’, but corruption and apostasy would again be seen in the Church before Jesus’ return.  No specific heresy is identified prophetically, beyond ‘evil men and imposters… deceiving and being deceived’.  Instead, Paul focuses on the moral destitution and powerlessness that would clearly reveal the unbelief and folly of those deceiving the immature with clever words and apparent learning (2Tim 3:1‑7).  This is a well-established method of uncovering heresy, going all the way back to Moses who had in this way shamed the Egyptian magicians who opposed him (2Tim 3:7‑9).  There is no point seeking out heresy, however.  Churchgoers will often turn away from sound doctrine, preferring myths and finding teachers who will ‘tickle their ears’ (2Tim 3:13; 4:3‑4).  The only thing that can adequately equip the church leader for his task is what Paul ‘solemnly charges’ Timothy to do – knowing, obeying and preaching the inspired Scripture (2Tim 3:10‑12; 3:14–4:2; cf. 1:13; 2:1‑3).

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