The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in A.D. 30, the second greatest event that affected the disciples in the first century was the consummation of national Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. We must not underestimate the significance of this God-ordained historical event in reference to biblical interpretation and the evangelistic work of the early disciples. This is particularly true in reference to Jesus’ teachings in the parables, and specifically, in the context of Matthew 24 where Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
Abraham was called in order that his descendants become a monotheistic nation that would preserve a segment of society through which God could introduce His Son into the world (See Gn 12:1-3). It would be through this nation that God would send the Redeemer into the world, and His message of the gospel. We must understand, therefore, that through the seed of Abraham, the Messiah (the Christ) would come (Gl 3:16). Once the Seed came, then Israel was dissolved in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gl 3:26-29). There was no longer a need for an earthly symbol of heavenly kingdom reign. Citizens of the new kingdom reign of the new King would be the people of all nations who would submit to the gospel of King Jesus.
Those Israelites who were sons of Abraham by faith were brought into Christ, wherein they enjoyed a special new covenant relationship with God (See Jr 31:31-33). However, with the consummation of all that God had accomplished through Israel, it was time in A.D. 70 for the visual removal of Israel as having a special national covenant relationship with God. The righteous of God, the church, would then shine forth under the kingdom reign of King Jesus had begun forty years before on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 (See Mt 13:36-43).
After the establishment of the new covenant with God through His Son, no special covenant needed to be maintained with national Israel (Hb 8:7-13). The church of Christ is now the new Israel of God, the members of which God has now established a new covenant relationship through Jesus. It was to this end that God used the vehicle of national Israel to first bring the Savior into the world, and then take the gospel of the Savior into all the world.
The early evangelists and writers of the epistles had in mind the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem when they wrote to the disciples of Christ within two decades before A.D. 70 (See Mt 24). This is particularly true in reference to those epistles that were written in the middle and latter part of the 60s. When Jesus and the New Testament writers prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord in judgment on unbelieving Jews, they were warning Jewish Christians to stay away from Jerusalem and Judaism (See Jd 14,15). When the time came for the destruction to occur, the early disciples had been thoroughly warned and prepared to accept the end of national Israel. The destruction of national Israel, therefore, was the final sign to the world that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ was ordained as God’s people on earth (See Mt 13:36-43).
Matthew 13:3-9,36-43: The harvest of the parable of the tares reveals the ministry of Jesus and the disciples that would take place before the end of the age of national Israel (Mt 13:39). Jesus first initiated the reaping during His earthly ministry, while His disciples continued to reap from the field of national Israel unto A.D. 70. When national Israel was terminated, then the righteous in Christ were revealed as the true people of God.
Matthew 21:33-46: The manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth was taken from the Jews who crucified the Messiah, and given to those who believed in the Stone that was rejected by national Israel (See Dn 2:34,35).
Matthew 22:1-14: Jesus announced to the Jews that they should come to His feast of the gospel. They refused by rejecting Him. They also rejected the disciples as they went forth preaching the gospel to the Jews after the ascension. King Jesus subsequently destroyed the murderers who crucified Him in their city.
Matthew 23:29-39: All the rejection of the religious leaders throughout history would come upon those leaders of Jesus’ generation. It would come in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Matthew 24: Judgment on the generation to whom Jesus delivered this final declaration of the termination of national Israel would come to pass in the lives of some of those who were in His immediate audience (Mk 9:1). The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was God’s final proof that He was the Son of God.
National Israel was terminated only when God had set in place a new covenant and law. All this took place forty years before the termination of national Israel in A.D. 70. God gave the Jews forty years to repent as the early disciples went forth from one synagogue to another in order to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and thus the Savior of the world (At 9:20; 13:5,14,42; 14:1; 17:1,2,10,17; 18:4,19,26; 19:8).
I want to encourage those who are needing material for preaching and teaching to copy and paste the next series of blogs in your files. However, all these blogs will eventually be published as the new and revised ENCYLOPEDIC STUDY GUIDE HANDBOOK.
The Greek philosopher Socrates was known during the days of the ancients in the fifth century B.C. to be the wisest man in the world. Unfortunately, he met his fatal end by being condemned to death by a court of five hundred jurors. He was subsequently consigned to a suicidal death by drinking the executioner’s cup of the deadly hemlock poison. Socrates’ only “crime” was that he asked too many questions, and by asking too many questions he forced his intellectual and political peers to question any absolutes that they considered to be concrete truth. So really, why would someone who was considered to be the wisest man in the world end up condemned by a court of contemporary jurors simply because he asked questions concerning the beliefs of those who thought that they knew all the answers?
The Jewish Messiah Jesus was known in His days of the first century as the wisest man who ever walked across the face of the earth. He was the greatest teacher of moral integrity of all history—Christians know this. But He too by those of His time was condemned to death by both the contemporary religious leaders and the occupying Roman government of Palestine. But why did Jesus meet the same end as Socrates, having also forced to “commit suicide” on a cross outside Jerusalem? Unfortunately, He too asked to many questions that forced people to confront the very soul of their religious beliefs and behavior.
The fatal mistake of both Socrates and Jesus was that they asked too many questions, questions that forced individuals, or groups of individuals, to seriously consider the validity of what they considered to be either truth or moral. And worse yet, we wonder why would some people who were supposed to be either intellectual or spiritual leaders of the people, would behave so hypocritically? The questions of both Socrates and Jesus unleased a vile eruption on the part of those who were suffering from the indigestion of their own misguided religiosity, or in the case of Socrates, unprovable philosophical conclusions.
Both Jesus and Socrates directed questions to the hearts of those who already harbored damaged souls, and thus, the two thinkers became the opportunity for corrupted souls to unleash their venom on those who would dare question their thinking, whether philosophical or religious.
Socrates believed that in determining the validity of any truth, the truth itself must be approached with a series of questions, each question being asked to force the one who is interrogated to self-judge for himself what he considered to be the truth or a final moral standard.
By being persistent in asking challenging questions, the individual or group is forced to eliminate all alternatives to that which one considers to be the final truth or moral. In this systematic persistence of asking questions, the Socratic method of inquiry was establish, which method later gave Socrates the honor of being considered “the father of political philosophy.” The Socratic method of questioning is what defines the existing legal system of the American court.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Socratic method for determining truth or moral standard falls far short of that truth or moral standards that are maintained and revealed by a Higher Authority, which Higher Authority Socrates failed to discover. He simply saw the assortment of inconsistencies in religion through the interactive Greek gods of Athens who seemed to function only on demand of those who believed in them.
Socrates simply concluded that there was no such thing as a final authority in matters of faith. And if there were no God, then he was right. For him and the Greeks, there was only this catalog of gods who had been created after the imagine of desirous men who sought to play with the imagination of men’s minds. All such religious thinking only presented the opportunity for someone as Socrates to drive into hysteria those who believed in the gods.
Therefore, Socrates was accused of asking too many questions about the imagined gods who supposedly had for centuries playfully interacted with mankind. He was thus endangering the youth of his day, for he motivated them to ask questions concerning the traditional beliefs of the fathers, and the moral political system that was prevalent in Athens. His questions undermined any religious heritage that may have been given by the gods. He was thus accused of asking too many questions of religionists and politicians, and especially asking questions to which he himself gave no answers. This system of learning, therefore, set him at odds with the religious, philosophical and political establishment of his day. His questioning thus doomed him to a fateful end.
Socrates wrote nothing throughout his entire life. We think that he did not lest his writings be questioned and he be found in some contradiction of what he previously questioned. But in reference to his quest for truth through systematic questioning, to him, no truth could be considered concrete, and thus written down in the permanency of literature. So Socrates responded to his critics, “I know that I know nothing.” And if one knew nothing, then there was nothing to write. He was on an endless quest for truth through systematic questioning. In the end, he simply concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
It seems that Jesus was not unfamiliar with Socrates, whose method of systematic questioning made its way from Greece to Palestine three hundred years later through the writings of one of Socrates’ most famous students, Plato. At least the apostle John many years after the death of Jesus was familiar with the writings of Plato, for when John searched throughout the Greek dictionary in order to write concerning the incarnation of God, there was only one word in the entire Greek dictionary that he could use in reference to God Himself coming into the world of humanity. John thus wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [Gr. logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
The Greek word logos was the best word, if not the only word in the Greek dictionary, that John could use to define how a “god” could incarnate into the affairs of the world. And it was Plato, the student of Socrates, who had three centuries before defined for philosophy the “logos” to be the word that should be used in reference to “the gods” intervening (fellowship) in the affairs of man. If John wanted to use only one word to explain the incarnation, it was the Greek word logos. So that he might not be misunderstood, in the same text of the preceding statement, John explained, “The Word [logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is what set the stage for the irreconcilable confrontation between religiously broken souls and Jesus’ call for the broken to look beyond Him as the Word, to the fact that He was indeed God in the flesh.
These were considerations that Socrates forced “believers” in gods to reconsider. Plato simply put the matter into words, or at least, one word. So back to the point of comparison. During his final trial—and see if you do not recognize this today—Socrates accused his five hundred prejudiced jurors, who sought to impeach him, that they were more worried about their careers and political ambitions than they were about damaging their souls with an unjust condemnation of him. As all prejudiced judgments, what they would cast upon him would even further damage their souls. The point being, that through the injustices by which they were about to vote in reference to his fate, their vote of death would validate the fact that damaged souls could act no differently. With every prejudicial judgment, damaged souls only sink deeper into the abyss of injustice and the twisted irony of hypocritical judges.
Their unjust trial and judgment would continue to damage their souls because of their deep seated prejudices to condemn him were not based on their search for truth, but on promoting their own political agendas. Whatever judgment they made, therefore, would be prejudiced, and thus the revelation that their souls were deeply damaged morally. (Does this remind you of any contemporary circumstances?) Jurors with damaged souls render few fair verdicts.
Jesus fell victim to the same fate that was poured out by the damaged souls of Socrates’ court. As Socrates, Jesus asked too many questions. On one occasion, the religious court asked Jesus in reference to His plucking of grain on the Sabbath, “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:2)—of course, this was not a violation of the Sinai law, only their self-imposed religious law.
But Jesus in turn questioned this court of religiously damaged souls in order to make them face up to their own hypocritical inconsistencies: “Have you not heard what David did … he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread?” (Mt 12:3,4)—now this was against the Sinai law. The religious jurors, however, justified David who actually violated the Sinai law, but they condemned Jesus because He questioned them about justifying David, who did violate the Sinai law, but condemned Jesus by violating some of their religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that they had invented for themselves.
And then on another occasion there was the case when Jesus, as Socrates, asked a question of the religious court of His day in order to reveal their broken souls. He asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Mt 12:10). The damaged soul of the religious leaders was on this occasion again revealed because the religionists, without answering, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mt 12:14).
Religious courts do not like to have their honored religious rites, rituals and ceremonies questioned. The jurors of such courts especially do not like their morals questioned. Such questioning of long held norms more often reveals the fact that one’s religious heritage and accepted behavior are based only on traditions, or the pronouncements of Diotrephetic leaders. Such theologies exist among religious adherents because people are often compelled to base their faith on biblically baseless mandates that are cried out from podiums around the world by persuasive religious propagandists.
Socrates questioned all such morals and traditional heritages by which men determined that which was true. In the case of religion, he questioned the inconsistencies of the religionists of his day who manufactured gods after the imagination of spirited people who had the gift of persuasion, and thus could talk the people into believing anything. Jesus did the same in questioning such religionists. He exposed their beliefs by leading them to self-examining their own thinking. Their concept of God was found lacking because the one true and living God was standing incarnate right there before their eyes.
Throughout His short ministry, Jesus continually questioned the religious establishment. On one occasion He questioned His religious judges, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” (Mk 3:4). By this time in His ministry, the self-righteous religious judges could say nothing to such a pointed and direct question. So, “they held their peace” (Mk 3:4). Their frustration was building, and Jesus knew this. In this way He was taking Himself to the cross, for He knew what damaged souls would eventually do if they were forced to realize the inconsistent theologies of their own religiosity, but especially the evil of their own hearts.
By the time in His ministry when Jesus started introducing the truth that He was God in the flesh, His continual questioning had embarrassed His adversaries so much that they remained silent. Eventually, they would lash out at Him. Their initial silence, however, revealed that they were religious judges with damaged souls, for only those with damaged souls would reject the incarnate Son of God who stood in their midst. Therefore, because they were morally damaged, it was not possible for them to see the Father through the Son.
When inquisitive minds question matters of tradition and heritage, especially matters of religious tradition and moral standards, those with damaged souls will lash out with fury, no matter how sincere they might claim to be in their religiosity. Since religion exists because of biblical ignorance, zealously religious people will often be the first to lash out at those who ask questions that force religionists to validate their beliefs and behavior with a Bible book, chapter and verse. It is at this time that inquiring individuals should be looking out for a cup of hemlock, or possibly the echoing sound of a cross being built.
We know the conclusion to the life of Socrates. Instead of fleeing to safety from His opposition, as did Confucius, he willingly took the cup and drank the poisonous hemlock. And Jesus did the same. He too drank the poisonous “cross” in order to crucify Himself for the salvation of those who did believe. We must not forget what He said in anticipation of the cross: “I lay down My life for the sheep … I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:15,17,18). He could have called on legions of angels to deliver Him from the fate that was handed to Him by the unjust judges. Instead, He “swallowed” death on the cross in order that one day death might be swallowed up in our victory.
Yes indeed, the religious court of Jesus’ day sent an innocent man to crucify Himself. All the jurors voted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So He relinquished to their cries and drank of the cross for us.
Jesus wrote not a word during His life. Only His immediate disciples recorded His life and word in which we grow. As His disciples, we write with the dedication of our lives that He is the greatest intellectual who ever set foot on this earth, and now, the greatest King who reigns over all this earth.
By our love for one another, people understand that we are not those with damaged souls, but the church of those who have responded with love and gratitude to the grace of the One who allowed nails to be driven through incarnate hands and feet on our behalf (2 Co 4:15; 5:14). Our faith in Him, therefore, is not shallow, for faith is only kept shallow by some damage in our souls that seems to persist.
We must continually remind ourselves, however, that all the damage that we may have brought on our souls in the past has now been healed by His grace. Therefore, in forgiving ourselves as He forgave us through the cross, our faith continues to grows deeper. It goes deeper as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him who revealed this grace to us (2 Pt 3:18). We will not, therefore, damage our souls again by heaping unjust judgment upon another who is likewise struggling to keep his or her soul clean with the blood of Jesus (See Mt 18:21-35).
There is moral truth to the truth of the Socratic method of inquiry that has permeated thinking since the days of Socrates, and then Jesus. It is the imperative of every disciple to ask questions concerning the “why” we believe or behave in this or that way. If we ask the questions, and all that comes in return from the religious establishment is the reply, “This is simply what we have been handed to us by our fathers, and thus we will continue to believe,” then it is time for further questions. If at the end of our systematic questioning we do not receive a Bible book, chapter and verse in answer to our persistent questions, then the one giving us answers is caught up in religion. It is then time for us to cuddle our Bibles in our hands and move on.
As with those who finally led to the end of Jesus and Socrates on earth, questions will engender frustration, if not outright rage. Therefore, if we still hammer away with questions about why we religiously do this or that, the outcome is not always pleasant. Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary. And we would supposed that those today who cannot give Bible book, chapter and verse replies to all our questions concerning faith, they will do as Diotrephes who loved power more than Bible, even more than the apostle of love, John. Because his soul was damaged, as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, with a thirst for power he kicked every questioning “Socrates” out of his cloned monastery of religious robots (3 Jn 10).
The behavior of philosophers today is no different than the philosophers of Socrates’ day, who did not want their political social order disrupted by someone who was persistently forcing them to answer questions that made them go deep into their souls concerning what they believed was the foundation of their moral and political views. Socrates was an outsider in reference to the religious, philosophical and political establishment. And because he was, there was no place for him in their establishment. Jesus came into and became the same in the religious establishment of His day. Because both asked too many questions, both had to be eliminated.
The behavior of some religionists today is no different than the hypocritical antagonists of Jesus’ day who likewise did not want their “Jewish religion” to be disrupted by someone who persistently questioned their inconsistent theologies and religious leadership (See Gl 1:14). The religious leaders did not like being forced to see the hypocrisies of their own behavior (See Mt 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:9; 22:18; 23:13-15,23-29).
Jesus’ persistent questioning forced the religious leaders to answer questions that revealed the inconsistencies of their thinking and hypocritical behavior in reference to their own teachings. They were thus embarrassed before the people. The cross was subsequently the only answer for their embarrassment.
Therefore, the extreme frustration of the religious leaders come to a climax. Jesus’ questions forced them to be the judges of their own souls, and to face the inconsistencies of their own theologies. In fact, those who were persistently questioned by Jesus became so frustrated that they eventually schemed to commit murder. Such a scheme proved that they were indeed damaged souls of the lowest level. Therefore, Jesus’ judgment of them was validated: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn 8:44).
And so it is today. If you ask too many questions of the guardians of the religious establishment, and do not receive book, chapter and verse answers for your questions, then there will probably be handed you a cup of “hemlock” disfellowship, or possibly a cross which you can carry outside the church house, and nail yourself thereon. Questions presented to those who seek to defend biblically unsubstantiated religious heritages will engender great hostility. Depending on where you live in the world, it might be written of you in your questioning the religious establishment, as it was in the final hours of the life of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:2).
This Inscription may save your life, and many others around you.]
History has forever labelled it the “forgotten pandemic.” It appeared first in America in the spring of 1918, at the time when history was about to draw the curtain on WW I. It was a time when the American government, as well as all governments of the Allied Forces, had hushed all negative news broadcasts that might discourage the people from supporting the Allied fighting forces in Europe in their defeat of Germany. Therefore, all news media, except for Spain who remained neutral during the war, could not report to the world a plague that was sweeping across the face of the earth.
Unfortunately, the Spanish media alone went public to report the pandemic scourge that was killing millions of people around the world. This was the influenza pandemic. And because only the nation of Spain was broadcasting the devastation of the pandemic through their news media, the plague was eventually labelled the “Spanish flu.”
Today, no one really understands the origin of the influenza virus and why it would eventually claim from 50 to 100 million lives worldwide. Some virologists have suggested that it originated in the deplorable conditions of the trenches in Europe when the Allied Forces were deadlocked in fact off against the Germans in WW I between 1914 and 1918. Others have suggested that the first outbreak was in the Shanxi Province of China in 1917. And then some have suggested that it originated at the American military base of Camp Funston, Kansas in early 1918. A Kansas health official reported that 40 soldiers in the camp had died from some mysterious strand of a vicious flu virus. In the spring of 1918, hundreds soldiers from this military camp were eventually shipped to other camps, and then onto crowded ships that transported them overseas to fight in the war.
It was from both Europe and America that the virus spread like wildfire around the world in only a few months. In one religious newspaper in South Africa, one of the religious leaders of the country reported, “People died by the thousands. It has not yet been fully determined how many died as a result of the sickness [of influenza]” (Pentecostal Holiness Advocate, Apr. 3, 1919). In fact, during the two-year long pandemic more people died in America, about 675,000, than all the American soldiers who died during WW I. Because the reports of the pandemic were kept under wraps in America during the final days of the war, some thought that all the deaths were only the result of the common flu virus. However, it was everything but common.
Though this flu virus by September 28, 1918 had been reported to be spreading at pandemic light speed around the world, on that day the leaders of the city of Philadelphia went forward and conducted the Liberty Loan Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had decided to carry on with the parade because it was an event where tens of thousands of people could come together in a mass crowd of celebration, especially in celebrating of the coming signing of the armistice to end the war that would take place in France two months latter on November 11, 1918. However, within ten days after the event, 1000 Philadelphians were dead. 200,000 were sick and confined to beds. By March of 1919 over 15,000 had died from the virus.
In contrast to the behavior of the leaders in Philadelphia, the civic leaders of St. Louis, Missouri shut down all their theaters, schools, and banned all public gatherings, including churches. As a result, at the peak of the pandemic the city suffered only one-eighth of the number of deaths that occurred in Philadelphia.
By the summer of 1918, the pandemic was raging across America. In the month of October alone in 1918, it was reported that 195,000 people died across America because of the virus. Civic leaders vigorously reacted to the mounting death rate by asking the public to refrain from hand shaking, wear masks and also discontinue all public assemblies, including church assemblies. In fact, in San Francisco, California, the civic leaders were so serious about the pandemic that citizens were fined $5.00 if they were found in public without a face mask. At that time that amount would be equivalent today to a few hundred dollars. Those who did not wear a face mask were mockingly called “mask slackers.”
In response to the pandemic, churches of America were called on to terminate their assemblies for the safety of the members. Thousands of churches throughout America subsequently complied with this request because the church was the true beacon of love in society. And in order for the members to love one another, they had to distance themselves from one another. By discontinuing their assemblies they revealed that they truly did love one another. However, though gathering together is certainly a signal of Christian love, during pandemic, assemblies actually revealed a lack of love for one another.
This call to restrict assemblies also came to the people of central Kansas where my forefathers almost fifty years before had homesteaded the area. One of the churches that had been established by the pioneering Christian homesteaders was the Peace Creek church of Christ that was only a few miles from where I grew up on a farm in central Kansas. The Peace Creek church building itself was about ten miles (about 15) kilometers) from the nearest town of Sylvia, Kansas. (Please read of the history and work of the Peace Creek church in the book, A Prairie Beacon by Grant M. Clothier and Jeanie Clothier Montford. Find it on Amazon.)
After several people of central Kansas had succumbed to the influenza virus, the members of Peace Creek decided to close the doors on their assembly. And such they did for about three months. They conformed to the best understanding that the health authorities had at that time concerning the spread of the virus through the air when people spoke to one another in close proximity, or coughed or sneezed. I have always thought it interesting that these farmers out on the plains of Kansas were willing to educate themselves as much as possible about a pandemic, and then take action to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus.
In order to impede the virus through human to human contact, the Peace Creek members, as well as thousands of other churches across America, decided that as churches they would protect themselves from one another by terminating their assemblies. The members, therefore, went into isolation to their own homes and stayed there in lockdown with their children. Unfortunately, the virus had already struck down one of the leading members of the Peace Creek church, leaving a widow and eight children without a breadwinner for the grieving family. This was a common scenario that was repeated thousands of times throughout America in those days. But the members of this church, as well as thousands of other churches across America, closed their doors in order to save their lives.
By the summer of 1919, the influenza pandemic was subsiding. Virologists assume that so many people had died from the virus, that only those who remained alive by survive the virus by developing an immunity to the virus. The immunity thus prevented the continued spread of the virus. The virus had no place to go. It had run its course.
Nevertheless, the “Spanish flu” virus still lingers with us today through mutated variants of the original virus. Because flu viruses quickly mutate, they have a tendency to bypass immunity and carry on throughout history. An effective vaccine against the influenza virus was not discovered and made available until 1938, and then it was initially given only to military servicemen who were going into WW II in Europe.
We are fortunate today because several vaccines have now come on the market to stop the present pandemic, and its variants. It would certainly be unwise, if not irresponsible, to advise people not to be vaccinated. If you are one of those who have voiced your apprehensions about being vaccinated, please keep in mind that your unwise advice may be gossiped to hundreds of other people, who respond by not being vaccinated because of your apprehensions. If a thousand people refuse to be vaccinated South Africa because of your apprehensions that you have voiced to others, two to three of the one thousand who took seriously your advice will be infected and die. This is true because two to three people out of every one thousand people die in South Africa from the present pandemic virus.
The problem with any virus is that some people can have the virus, but be asymptomatic for days before any indications arise that one is infected. While one is asymptomatic, he or she can be infecting others. With the influenza virus, one might not show any symptoms, but eventually come down with the usual chills, fever, fatigue, and then recover. The Spanish flu virus was so vicious that one could be dead from the virus within a few hours, and at the most, a few days.
So now you are asking me why all this discussion about the 1917-1919 influenza pandemic that took so many lives throughout the world? The problem is that many in the religious world today are becoming victims of a new virus because they are victims of some of their religious behavior and some unfortunate interpretations that are associated with their particular religion, specifically in reference to the practice that they continue unrestricted assemblies. It might be good here to point out some of these scenarios where some might find themselves testing God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted [tested], ‘I am tempted [tested] by God.’ For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt [or test] any man” (Js 1:13).
We need to pay close attention to James in reference to the present pandemic that is upon us. God does not test us by leading us into evil, nor does He test us by inflicting suffering. At the same time, neither can we test God by thinking that we can lead Him into doing evil (suffering) to us. We are testing God if we unwisely put ourselves into a situation where we suppose He is going to work some miracle to deliver us directly from our own foolish behavior. When dealing with evil and suffering, all such happenings in the fallen world must be accredited to Satan, who goes about as a roaring lion. He continually seeks permission from God, as in reference to Job, to do some evil in this world or cause some suffering. We would advise that this is a time for all of us to read the book of Job. If we willingly endanger our health while thinking that God will heal us, then we are testing God. It is like a smoker asking God to heal his or her lung cancer.
Nevertheless, when we do suffer from the plagues of this material world, we pray fervently that God would heal us (Js 5:13,14). But if God does not bring recovery, we will not blame Him for directly inflicting us with suffering. It is simply a simple faith to blame God for that which is in this world through the work of Satan.
We must continually be positive about these matters, as was inferred by Isaiah: “For when Your [God’s] judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Is 26:9). God will take responsibility for all the “judgments” that inflict the world, though the pandemics, with God’s permission, originate directly from Satan. The blessing of the pandemics, however, is that people of true faith move closer to God. It was the same James in the same book who introduced his theme with the words, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3).
If we foolishly do not take all the precautions that we know to guard ourselves from evil and suffering in this time of a pandemic, then we will possibly be infected with a virus that will cause us much suffering, if not death. If we behave foolishly, then we cannot blame God by saying that He directly infected us with a virus, and thus He must be held directly responsible for our suffering, and possible death. Also, if we are infected with the virus, but continue to blame God for not healing us, then we are blaming the wrong entity. Evil and suffering are the business work of Satan.
We cannot test God by putting ourselves in a situation where we can be infected, and then presume that God did not protect us from infection when we are tested positive for the infecting virus. We cannot test God with such foolishness. Satan is roaming about as a roaring lion, and if we step into to his realm of roaming, then we open ourselves up to be “bitten” by a pandemic virus. Sometimes we are “bitten” even though we make all precautions to stay safe.
However, we are not so foolish as to step off a high building and think that God will protect us from the law of gravity. We cannot be so foolish as to place ourselves in harms way of a virus and think that God controls all those viruses so that they will not infect us. If we do such things, we are foolishly testing God.
We will not be involved in such mockery of God. We enshrine one particular statement of the Holy Spirit that came through the pen of Paul’s hand: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap correction” (Gl 6:7).
In reference to this, and all pandemics, many preachers are sitting between a rock and a hard place on this matter. In fact, some have even involved themselves in testing God—those of you who live in Western countries will probably not understand what I am going to advise here for some of our preachers who live in the developing world. My advice is that many preachers need to take another look at what they are doing in reference to the assembly of God’s innocent flock.
Here is the dilemma. There are hundreds local preachers who have faithfully worked hard to establish churches in their communities. In the past, and on every Sunday, the members of these churches have faithfully assembled and taken up a contribution to support their faithful preachers and their families—this story could also be told of those who lived over one hundred years ago during the influenza pandemic.
As in any pandemic, people die in the thousands worldwide. Friends, relatives and members of the body of Christ are almost daily laid to rest in graves, some who could have possibly not have faced this fate if someone had behaved sensibly as those members of the Peace Creek church and hundreds of other churches in America during the influenza pandemic.
Health officials around the world today have faithfully sought to function for the safety of the people. So when the health officials of a particular nation mandated that all public assemblies be shut down in order to abate the pandemic and protect church memberships, many preachers around the world lost their weekly income. If they had no garden to til for food, then their families often went into destitution. If they were urban preachers, they could have no gardens to feed their families.
So what some of these preachers have done is to behave unwisely. They have continued to call their members together in the close assemblies of small church buildings with little ventilation so they could take up a contribution for food for their families. The result has been that members have infected one another with the virus and people have died. I am personally acquainted with several cases as this. Some of our preachers are thrown into the lion’s den by infected members calling them to funerals, praying for members beside deathbeds, counseling in times of grief, etc. It is unfair and unwise. In Africa we do not have Zoom. We do not have internet communications. There is no live-streaming in the village. We are often in a village where people just die like they have always done throughout the centuries.
But in the preceding scenario some preachers have become Grim Reapers, that is, for the sake of the contribution they have presented the opportunity for the virus, and subsequent death, to spread among the members because they needed the weekly contributions from the assembled members in order to feed their families. They thus loved their families more than the health of the members.
Those of you in the West need to keep in mind that we live in Africa, and India; in the developing world where living is often from day to day. Therefore, before you are too harsh with these preachers who continue to call the members of the church together into small church buildings with little ventilation, for which they struggled to piece together with a few bricks and sticks, we need to understand that this is their world.
Some in the West helped them to build these confined premises, and thus do not want them to stand empty during this dreadful pandemic. Some are intimidating the local folks to continue to meet in something that has become a hall of death. Pictures are thus posted on social media to reaffirm the supporters that meetings are still taking place, and often with little social distancing. Therefore, before we criticize the preacher for reporting back that he had no one in attendance on Sunday morning, we must think again about requiring him and the members of the church in his area to do a most unwise thing in reference to the present pandemic.
Even in houses in the cities, the same scenario has developed. I recently had one church leader come by and boast that he had thirty-five people present in the assembly of his house last Sunday—and yes he was given this same lesson of exhortation I am now writing to you.
Thousands of preachers throughout the world are living in these dire circumstances and calling the members of the body to continue to assemble in small “coffins” with little ventilation wherein the virus has every opportunity to migrate from one victim to another. These cases are primarily in rural situations as in those days back in 1918 when the Peace Creek church shut down their assembly. Those farmers had enough sense to follow the instructions of their health departments, and thus, not offer the opportunity for the influenza virus to spread in the public gatherings of the churches. They also had enough knowledge of the Bible to understand that God gave no law concerning assemblies that would endanger the health of His people.
Nevertheless, there may be some differences between then and now. The Peace Creek members, and many other churches in those days, had no full-time preacher who depended exclusively on the contributions every Sunday to survive. Unfortunately, some preachers of rural Africa and India have made the mistake of making themselves “full-time,” and thus subjugated themselves to depending on the weekly contributions of the saints. Therefore, when an assembly is closed down, so also is closed down the income of a family.
The result of all this is that there are thousands of “full-time” preachers in the developing world who continue to unwisely call their members together into an environment wherein the members are infected with the pandemic virus of today. Some of these preachers seem to be more concerned about the weekly contribution than they are about the safety of the members. And the fact that they have harped for years to the members that unless they “give to God, God will not give to them,” they must come together and make their contributions in order that God continue to bless them.
And then there are those preachers who have for years been teaching an erroneous legalized system of assembly and worship. They have convinced themselves, and those who attend their assemblies, that there is no true worship if the members to do assemble together in order to perform five legal ceremonial acts of worship, with focus on the act of contribution. They have failed to understand that Paul and Silas were truly worshiping alone as two Christian prisoners in a Philippian prison.
Some preachers have taught for years that unless members come together and legally perform their acts of worship, then no true worship has transpired. To them, the church ceases to exist if there is no assembly of the members—I am not making this up. There are thousands of preachers out there who have for years preached this message, and thus they have made the members feel guilty if they did not regularly show up on Sunday morning for their ceremonial worship, and thus make the contribution. And now, many of these members are sitting at home alone in lockdown on Sunday morning at 10:00, feeling that they are out of touch with God. Again, I am not making this up.
Fancy terms have been added to theological discussions on this matter. One can worship in his or her house, but then there is the official “corporate” worship of all the members on Sunday morning. If one does not attend the official “corporate” worship, then he or she has not truly worshiped God in spirit and truth. And if one seeks to worship with his family and friends in a house when there is a “corporate” worship going on in town at the same time, then one has supposed “left the church.” Of course this is all theological nonsense.
This terminology and theology developed many years after the existence of the rural Peace Creek church, which church of members—according to the thinking of these modern-day theologians who master in the subject of assembliology—supposedly gave up their “corporate” worship in order to worship as families in their homes. They subsequently and supposedly terminated the existence of the church in the Peace Creek community.
However, did the Peace Creek really cease to exist as the church in the area of Peace Creek because the members ceased to assemble for some “corporate worship”? According to some, their worship was also supposedly not “true” until they were all able to come back together again into one assembly three months later after the pandemic.
You might think that I am setting up a straw man against some who differ with my point. But I assure you that almost no week goes by when I do not read on social media the outcry of some assembliologist who seeks to keep the people together in some assembly in order to continue “the church.”
On the positive side of these matters, one of the blessings of the pandemic is that it has forced people to take another look at the assembly instructions concerning the church. Isaiah was right. Hard times make us think.
Nevertheless, we are in an era where the present pandemic will be spread among millions who unwisely persist in maintaining their unfortunate understanding of the assembly of the saints. I asked a north Malawian church leader about what the members of the church were doing in northern Malawi. He replied, “The members are carrying on as usual in their assemblies.” And then recently on the news one of the doctors of the association, Doctors Without Borders, said of Malawi, “The pandemic will soon hit hard in the country of Malawi,” as it will in all those countries where people walk in ignorance of the infectious nature of the present virus.
What the Western world does not understand about Africa is the ingrained fatalism that permeates the thinking of the typical African. Africans have been dying from diseases for centuries. Influenza, Ebola, AIDS, and now Covid; “we just die” as one brother told me. The most recent cause of death is just another pandemic that will take thousands of lives, even as the Spanish flu did a little over one hundred years ago. The lack of education on these matters, combined with a fatalistic view of life, will lead to a great number of our brothers and sisters going on to glory before their time.
It is the responsibility of church leaders in these times of a worldwide pandemic to act wisely in order to protect God’s people. This virus is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, it is a time to hunker down and pray for the Lord to come and deliver us from this Satan infected world. I am ready to go up directly to the arms of Jesus when He is visibly revealed with His mighty angels. Until that time, however, I would just as soon not have to met Him via some Covid grave, though regardless, the final destination will be the same.
[Share this note around the world. You might save some lives. If you need help in straightening out some twisted scriptures on the assembly of the saints, download free Book 103 of the Biblical Research Library from the following website: ]
The word “incarnation” means “to be made in the bodily flesh of man.” This word can only be applied to God coming in the flesh of man, for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always existed eternally in the spirit. In reference specifically to Jesus, the Son of God, that which was in spirit in eternity was revealed in this world in the flesh of man, whom Joseph and Mary named “Jesus” (Mt 1:21).
The Holy Spirit gave us a commentary on this gospel journey of the Son of God in Philippians 2:5-11. This commentary begins with the following statement: “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Ph 2:5). Before He explained the incarnational journey of the Son of God, the Holy Spirit first stated that everyone who would be a Christian must think and behave after the example of the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God. The Spirit emphasized the importance of this thinking and behavior in reference to the continued transformation of our lives in response to the grace of God (See Rm 12:2).
In Philippians 2:6, the Spirit continued to explain, “Who [that is, the Son of God], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Ph 2:6). Jesus was previously in the nature of God. However, He did not consider this equality with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the one God in spirit something to be continually grasped. He did not because all people of this world would continue dead in their sins if there were no incarnational offering for them (See Rm 3:10). Therefore, through His incarnational sacrifice, the Son of God was willing, on our behalf, to give up His eternal equality in spirit with the Father and Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, through the apostle John, further informs us what happened through the incarnation of the Son of God into the flesh of man: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). The preceding Philippian 2:6 statement revealed that the Word initially “existed in the form of God.” So as one with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Word—this was Jesus in the flesh before He was born into this world—was God. He was one with God, and thus existed in the nature of God.
However, the Holy Spirit continued to explain through John, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn 1:2,3). The Holy Spirit revealed this work of the Son while He was in spirit with God before the creation: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Cl 1:16). In order words, the world and all mankind were created for the purpose of the Son of God. We were created in order that the love of God eventually be manifested in history through the incarnation of the Son of God (See Gl 4:4).
In the beginning when all things were created, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gn 1:29). In this statement God was not saying that the image of God before creation was physical as that which we see in man. If the Son of God were in any way physical in eternity, then there would have been no such thing as an incarnation of the Son of God into the flesh of men. We must remember that God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). He is not flesh. Therefore, the extent of the incarnation of the Son of God is in the fact that He, in the spirit, had to be revealed in this world in the same flesh into which He originally created humanity from dust of the earth (Gn 2:7).
The preceding is exactly what the Holy Spirit continued to reveal in the context of Philippians 2: “But He [the Son of God] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). And in the incarnate form of the flesh of man, “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Ph 2:8). If there were no incarnation, therefore, then there would have been no cross, for a spirit cannot be crucified. And if there were no incarnational offering for our sins, then all of us would be without any hope in this world.
Incarnation means that the Son of God took upon Himself that which would be able to suffer crucifixion. We would indeed have a shallow understanding of the cross, if we did not first comprehend the magnitude of the incarnational suffering of the Son of God on the cross.
The incarnational crucifixion of Jesus’ body on the cross was His destiny. It was His destiny from the time the very first word was spoken in reference to creating humanity in the beginning. Even before the Son of God created Adam and Eve, He knew that all people would sin (See Rm 3:10). Therefore, we would assume that before He spoke the first word to create, He had already planned to be incarnate in the flesh in order to suffer crucifixion for our sins.
We must keep in mind that we cannot fully understand the extent of the cross until we understand to the best of our ability the extremity of the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God coming into the flesh of man. The extremity of the incarnation reveals the extreme love that Jesus has for us.
When we consider our own response to the gospel, therefore, we must understand that our obedience is not a matter of conforming to laws of obedience in order that we might legally, according to law, justify ourselves before God (See Gl 2:16). On the contrary, our obedience must be the result of our gratitude for what the Son of God did for us through His incarnation into our flesh in order to go to the cross for us. The Spirit explained this in the following statement of the apostle Paul: “For all things are for your sakes [that is, all things in reference to our salvation], so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15). It was by grace that God extended to us His Son who was destined to suffer on the cross. It is this grace that motivates us to respond with thanksgiving to our crucified Savior.
It was because of the love of God that the Son of God was incarnate into the flesh of man for our salvation (See Rm 5:8). This revelation of God in the flesh came as a result of the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). When we understand this tremendous amount of love that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God for our behalf, then we are compelled to respond to Jesus’ gospel journey into this world.
Jesus’ love offering for us in His crucifixion for our sins inspires our love response to Him in preaching the message of the gospel to others: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge that if one died for all, then all died” (2 Co 5:14). All of us must be compelled by the love and grace of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God. We cannot appreciate the gospel of the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and sovereign reign of the Son of God, if we do not understand His incarnation into the flesh of man.
[The theme of the following does not actually fall into the definition of the “Inscriptions,” but since I am completing a book on the DICKSON DIARIES, I thought the scope of the following message might teach a very important point that folks today should consider, and thus, count their many blessings that they often take for granted.]
The usual—as in every winter of midwestern America—a great monster of a winter blizzard was bearing down upon us in the old farmhouse. At the time of the relentless onslaught, it was just a few degrees above freezing Fahrenheit, that is inside our old farmhouse in central Kansas that had absolutely no insulation. It was the same in all those farmhouses that were built at the turn of the last century. And because of the cooking and human humidity, ice froze on the inside of the windows. Because there was only a thin layer of wood on the outside of the wall studs, and plaster on slats on the inside that stood as a barrier between human flesh and those miserable conditions outside, we could only sit there cocooned in cotton blankets. We sat there listening to the howling northern monster coming through the trees that our father had planted years before on the north side of the house in order to somewhat cushion the house and those frail human occupants from those invading “Northerners.” In all this typical winter blizzard, we believed we were all fine in such a lockdown. Sometimes we were mostly inside that house for weeks, busying ourselves with our own entertainment.
Thankfully, and without any prodding by our father, we three brothers had during the fall chopped and gather enough fire wood to stoke a homemade furnace in the basement. Our father had knocked the end out of two fifty gallon drums, welded the two opened ends together, welded on legs, and then cut a log-size whole in one end into which we would faithfully, as railroad engineers, stoke the fire with wood. This was the main heater of the old farmhouse because it was in the basement. Convection would take its life-preserving heat to the second floor, and then on to the top floor where we slept in somewhat refrigerated comfort. On the intermediate floor there was an added diesel-burning heater that was likewise laboriously puffing away in the living room. With the two sources of survival running full blast, and with winter sweaters cloaking our tender bodies, we could survive any demon out of the north during those cold winter nights in central Kansas.
When one of those Northerners came through, the temperature outside our survival cocoon would plummet to as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius), and sometimes much colder. I remember—I do not know why I remember this—that on one winter night the weatherman reported that it was colder in Goodland, Kansas for the day than any place on the entire northern continent of America and Canada, even in Alaska. It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit (-27 Celius). We somewhat took pride in that historical fact of Kansas cold, for it toughened us to live longer—people who live in colder climates live longer. I also remember that for three years from 1960 to 1962 there was very little snow. The reason I was told that there was little snow was that it was too cold to snow. And indeed it was simply fridged during those years.
But back then we did not know how good we had it. When Kansas was first settled by the early pioneers in the middle 1800s, including the Dicksons, there was no fire wood in those regions. In our day when we cut firewood for the blast furnace in our basement, we were cutting wood from trees, particularly Cottonwoods, that had been planted in central Kansas when time turned the calendar to the 1900s, and specifically when America went through the great tree-planting, job-creating New Deal of the Great Depression. But back in those pioneer days of the 1800s, there were only “buffalo chips” to burn. And if you do not know what a buffalo chip is, it is, or was, the sun-dried mature of the buffalo herds that had wandered throughout the region. Little did those buffalos know that they deposited survival possibilities for a future civilization by relieving themselves of “fire wood” for settlers who would later follow in their footsteps. Once dried in the sun, the manure made good “fire wood.” At least one advantage of the old sod houses was that they had tremendous insolation, and thus a little heat from the buffalo chips would allow the occupants to survive. So in my day in growing up on the farm, we really had it good. At least we could cut existing wood and not wander around the Kansas plains searching for and picking up dried buffalo manure.
So what do humans do in such conditions? They go into real lockdown. These were the days before central heating was installed in homes in the northern hemisphere. These were the days before anyone ever heard of insulation. These were the days when vehicle batteries were so cold that they could barely start an engine. If a cold snap surprised the diesel fuel industry, the diesel fuel would congeal and not flow through the fuel lines because the oil companies did not have time to put a special additive in the fuel in order that it not become like jelly in frigid conditions. Those were the “good ole days” only because we were totally ignorant of any better days.
Now suppose you lived in such conditions for three to four months out of every year. I remember what we did in those lockdown days, which conditions are now almost totally foreign to those today who “suffer” through a few weeks of lockdown during a pandemic. I can remember that during the “winter lockdowns” we played a lot of monopoly, and then spades, hearts and bridge with cards, and then dominoes, and then whatever board game we had in the house. I am not certain, but I believe that the creativity of many people inspired the creation of games during those years that later made them a great deal of money when the games were sold on the market.
Sometimes we would just dream up some game, like sliding down the staircase on a mattress, or roller skating in the basement. We had no television, and rarely listened to the radio. There were more exciting things to do than idly sitting in front of the TV or listening to a radio. For example, my bother and I once made a sand box in the basement of the old farmhouse wherein we crafted our own tractors and vehicles out of wood and Coke bottom caps for wheels for our miniature farms we carved out of the sand. My oldest brother had his trains with which he played endlessly. In other words, we busied ourselves with ourselves. Being alone was not frightful.T
here was no such thing as video games or computers, or even Zoom. No telephone. Well … we had a telephone, but the ice in the middle of the winter often collected on the telephone lines and subsequently brought down the lines. We were out of touch with the world, and the house itself became our only world. We were isolated in an icy world, and sometimes snow drifts behind the farm buildings were so high that you could dig a cave in them. Because we were in such isolation, we created our own little worlds. I must confess that I do not ever remember being bored. The winter lockdown forced the development of our creativity, and thus we entertained ourselves. Those were the days when family members were interdependent, not disconnected from one another during the week with countless individual activities of people outside the immediate family.
Other than going out to the barn dressed with coats, clothes and shoes that almost weighed as much as our bodies, we fed the cows, and then scurried back to the house. When we came in from the cold, we welcomed the warmth of the lockdown, realizing that if we were stranded outside, we would certainly end up being just another ice cycle.
So for all those depressed grumblers out there who complain today about lockdowns during pandemics, I would suggest that you be thankful that every winter you do not have to go about chopping wood, or even worse, scavenging around the prairie collecting buffalo chips. Nevertheless, I can remember that when I left the farm I told others that I did not want to ever be cold again.
In the letter of 2 Peter, the apostle Peter wrote to Christians. When he concluded this letter, he encouraged those to whom he wrote to grow in their knowledge of the grace of God: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). By growing in our knowledge of the grace of God, grace becomes our instructor as to how we can live a spiritually abundant life (See Jn 10:10).
We must allow the grace of God that appeared on earth through the Son of God to teach us how to live a better life. The Holy Spirit instructed,
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age” (See Ti 2:11,12).
The gospel of God’s grace must be our teacher as to how we should live. Grace teaches us how to live a better life. It is for this reason that Christians must continue to grow in their knowledge of the revelation of the grace of God that was revealed to humanity through the appearing of the Son of God in this world.
The apostle Paul’s desire to go to Christians in Rome illustrates the mission of teaching grace in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We must allow the grace of God to teach us how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. This teaching on the subject of grace is necessary in order that we live righteously and godly in this present world.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome that he planned to go to them in order to accomplish the mission of producing spiritual fruit in their lives. He explained that he wanted to go to them “so that I might have some fruit among you also” (Rm 1:13). His motivation for going to the Roman disciples reveals how he would produce this spiritual fruit: “I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15).
Paul’s primary motivation to go to Rome was to preach again the gospel of grace to the believers in Rome, not unbelievers, though he would take every opportunity to preach the gospel to unbelievers. However, his primary objective in going to Rome was to produce spiritual fruit in the Roman Christians as they continued to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This means that we must always allow ourselves to be taught the gospel of God’s grace. It is through study of the gospel of grace that we are motivated to grow in the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Paul continued to explain what would cause spiritual growth in the hearts of the believers in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rm 1:16). We often quote this statement in reference to preaching the gospel to unbelievers. But in the context of Paul’s desire to go to Rome, he made the statement in reference to preaching the gospel to believers in order that the power of the gospel continue to produce spiritual growth in the lives of the Christians in Rome.
The gospel is the power by which God produces spiritual fruit in our lives. In other words, the more we grow in our understanding of all that God did for us through the gospel of His Son, the more we are motivated to respond with gratitude for what Jesus did for us. All things that God did for us through Jesus causes thanksgiving for the gift of His Son (2 Co 4:15). It is in this context that Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Co 5:14). God’s love for us through Jesus compels us to grow spiritually as we emulate His love for us in our love for others (See 1 Jn 4:7-11). The more we study the good news of the coming of the Son of God into this world for us, therefore, the more we grow spiritually in response to God for giving His Son for us (See Jn 3:16). It is for this reason that we, as believers in Christ, must grow continually in our knowledge of the gospel. The more we understand the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace, the more we are motivated to grow spiritually.
So in order to make an emphatic statement about what the Holy Spirit sought to remind all of us in the New Testament, the Spirit emphasized the power of the gospel as the central motivating factor to Christian living. There can be no politics in our total commitment to live the gospel. If we marginalize the gospel, we marginalize its power to transform our lives. We marginalize the cross and the sacrifice of the One who was nailed there.
• The truth of the gospel means that the gospel is true: In the three letters that Paul wrote to the two evangelists, Timothy and Titus, the fact of the gospel was made strikingly clear in his use of the phrase “the truth.” Before the letters were written, both evangelists had been with Paul for several years in his efforts to preach the gospel. These two former companions in the ministry of the gospel believed that the gospel was true. For this reason, Paul used the abbreviated form of the phrase “the truth of the gospel” in reference to all the gospel events and their significance throughout his letters to the two former fellow workers. He did not have to use the entire phrase. Because Timothy and Titus had preached the truth of the gospel with Paul for years, Paul needed only to remind the two evangelists of the message they had preached by using the abbreviated phrase, “the truth.”
Therefore, when we go on a journey with Paul through his three letters to Timothy and Titus, something becomes clear in reference to the power of the gospel and our necessity to continue to respond to the report (the New Testament) of the events that revealed the good news of God’s grace. If the reader has previously been schooled that the phrase “the truth” is a reference to some system of theology by which we can self-justify ourselves before God, then the following exercise of reading quotations throughout 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus will be quite helpful, if not revealing. If nothing would change one’s thinking from making “the truth” some self-justifying system of doctrine, to the historical events of the incarnational offering, resurrection, ascension and present kingdom reign of the Son of God that inspires godly living, then one is stuck in religion. He or she has denied the faith. He or she has severed themselves from Christ. Therefore, the following is a reading of the texts of Paul’s letters, with the phrase “of the gospel” added when Paul used the phrase “the truth”:
• 1 Timothy 2:4: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” It is absolutely necessary to know the gospel before one can obey the gospel. However, knowing the gospel is not a matter of better understanding codes of doctrine. Neither is meritorious law-keeping the truth of the gospel. When we better understand the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God, it is then that we are motivated to begin living the gospel by first obeying it in baptism (Rm 6:3-6). It is this that God desires all men know. In order for the gospel to be known, it must first be preached.
• 1 Timothy 2:7: “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I speak the truth [of the gospel] in Christ.” Paul announced the true events of the good news. It was not an announcement of doctrinal matters of law-keeping that he preached to the world. It was the truth concerning the gospel journey of the incarnate Son of God. He was personally chosen by Jesus to preach this good news to the world.
• 1 Timothy 3:15:“But if I tarry long, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth [of the gospel].” We, the church, are the medium through which the events of the gospel are made known to the world. God will not send angels to preach the crucifixion and resurrection. We are the pillar and ground of the gospel simply because the world will never know the gospel unless we live and preach it.
• 1 Timothy 4:1,3:“Now the Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith [Jd 3], … forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth [of the gospel.” Religionists will devise all sorts of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies in reference to religious behavior. These performances are preached in order to draw people to favorite religious groups. But those who have obeyed the gospel will always receive with thanksgiving those things that have been created by God. They do so because they believe what Jesus did for them. Their motivation is the good news about the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God and the fact that He is now reigning over all things.
• 1 Timothy 6:3-5: Some are “obsessed with controversy and disputes about words, from which come … perverse disputings between men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth [of the gospel], supposing that godliness is a means to gain.” If there is no believe in the truth that Jesus is the resurrected King, then there is no impetus (power) in the gospel to motivated change in our lives. Men can dispute about certain points on an outline of doctrine, but there can be absolutely no debate about the events of the gospel journey of Jesus.
• 2 Timothy 2:17,18:“And their word will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymanaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth [of the gospel] have strayed, saying that the resurrection is already past. And they overthrow the faith of some.” If indeed Jesus was not raised from the dead, then there is no reason to live righteously before God. Those who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus have sucked the power of the gospel. Their faith has been overthrown, and as those who presume to be followers of Jesus, they wreck the faith of others.
• 2 Timothy 2:24,25:“And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God perhaps will grant them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” In other words, one cannot understand the good news of the incarnate Son of God if he does not live a repentant life. We repent in changing our lives to conform to the life that was illustrated by Jesus during His earthly ministry. Repentance in the New Testament is not in reference to changing doctrinal beliefs, though one must change beliefs if he or she believes that the gospel events truly occurred. We believe what Jesus said because we believe He was raised from the dead. But we must first believe in the events of the gospel before we change our beliefs, and most important, change our lives.
• 2 Timothy 3:6,7:“For of these are those who creep into houses and lead captive gullible women weighed down with sins, let away with various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” If one would fully understand that the Son of God was crucified for our sins, then the desire to sin would be suppressed. But some, because of their desire to live unrighteously, never want to understand the love of God for them that was revealed through the incarnation and crucifixion of His Son. Those who do not want to transform their lives in order to spiritually align with Jesus will never understand who Jesus really was and is (See Rm 12:1,2).
• 2 Timothy 3:8: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth [of the gospel]—men of corrupt minds, rejected concerning the faith.” Those who are corrupted in their thinking have no desire to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial offering for their sins. Those who are rebellious against authority will always resist the authority that has been given to King Jesus (Mt 28:18; Ep 1:19-23; Hb 1:3).
• 2 Timothy 4:3,4:“For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching [about the gospel]. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with those who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth [of the gospel], and will be turned to fables.” Some religions are created after the desires of those who want to live immoral lives. For example, many today seek to live in fornication (adultery, lesbianism, homosexuality) because they seek to follow after the lusts of the flesh. Some religions are fabricated around the desires of those who have thus gone astray morally. It is for this reason that they do not desire any knowledge of a resurrected King Jesus before whom we all must eventually give account (See Hb 4:13; 9:27).
• Titus 1:2:“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel] that is according to godliness.” The gospel is according to godliness because those who believe that the gospel is true seek to live a repentant live in conformity to the instructions of their Father.
• Titus 1:13,14:“This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they may be sound in the faith [Jd 3], not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth [of the gospel].” When religious people start believing in fables and the religious authority of the commandments of men, they turn away from the power of the gospel. Therefore, it is inherent in religion itself to be opposed to the true events of the incarnational journey of the Son of God.
• Falling from a life-style: Obedience in response to the gospel means that one is motivated to live within the parameters of the instructions of the One who loved us through the offering of His Son. Therefore, our lives must reveal that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Our submission to the lordship of Jesus must be revealed in the life of every disciple of Jesus. If one would fall away from the gospel, therefore, he falls away because his life is no longer motivated and controlled by the lordship of King Jesus. In the first century, such falling away was happening among many of the Jewish Christians prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. This was a falling away that was addressed by the Hebrew writer about thirty years after the event of the gospel in Jerusalem. It was a falling away unto destruction (Hb 10:38,39).
James, John and Jude wrote at about the same time as the Hebrew writer, sometime in the decade before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A. D. 70. It is not incidental, therefore, that all four writers referred to “the truth” of the gospel events in their letters. Their use of the phrase “the truth” was a reference to the motivation that encouraged a life-style that would keep one in fellowship with God (See 1 Jn 1:3). It was not that people were falling away from a catechism of doctrine, but from the power that encouraged one to continue in the faith. The following statements, therefore, must be understood in the context of what the gospel of God’s grace must cause in the life of those who believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate, resurrected and reigning Son of God:
• Hebrews 10:26:“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” This is not a reference to receive an outline of law, but receiving a knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah and offering of God for the sins of the world. If we would turn away from this truth, then the offering of Jesus for our sins no longer continues in our lives.
• James 5:19,20:“Brethren, if any of you strays from the truth [of the gospel], and one brings him back, let him know that he who converts the sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” The error is in straying from our belief that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God who was offered for our sins. We are saved by the gospel as long as we continue to believe in the salvational events of the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1,2).
• 1 John 1:6:“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth [of the gospel].” Reference here is not to performing the points on an outline of doctrine, but to living in thanksgiving of our Savior Jesus who offered Himself for us. The power of the gospel, therefore, is beyond salvational matters in reference to baptism for remission of sins. The power of the gospel continues in the lives of baptized believers in order that they are transformed into the image of the One who died for them (Rm 12:1,2). When lives are transformed, then people are living the gospel that they obeyed in baptism.
• 1 John 1:8:“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth [of the gospel] is not in us.” It is true that we continue to sin when in Christ. However, if we say that we are not sinners in Christ, then the gospel of Jesus’ redemption is invalidated by our desire to live in sin. When we continue to allow the mind of the Son of God to influence our behavior, it is then that the transforming power of His gospel journey changes and guides our lives (See Ph 2:5-11).
• 1 John 2:4: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar. And the truth [of the gospel] is not in him.” Those who are disobedient to the will of God cease allowing the grace of God to cause thanksgiving in their lives. Since the gospel of God’s grace must motivate us to be obedient to the will of our Father, if we say that we are living by the gospel while willfully sinning, then we are liars. One’s faith in the truth of the gospel motivates one to live in response to the gospel.
• 1 John 2:21: “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth [of the gospel], but because you now it, and because no lie is of the truth [of the gospel].” We accept the letters of the New Testament because we have not grown dull of hearing (Hb 5:11). We believe what is written about the gospel because we believe the gospel.
• 1 John 3:19:“And by this we will know that we are of the truth [of the gospel], and will assure our heart before Him.” We will know that we are living after the gospel when we live in gratitude of what the Son of God did for us at the cross. When we are motivated by this faith, then we are of the gospel. When we are motivated by the same love by which God loved us, then we know that we are of Him (1 Jn 4:9,19).
• 1 John 5:6:“This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by the water and the blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is [bears witness to] the truth [of the gospel].” The Holy Spirit bears witness to the gospel through the New Testament letters that were written in order to explain the gospel, as well as reveal the effect the gospel had on the lives of thousands of people in the first century. The Holy Spirit is the revelation of the event of the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1-4).
• 2 John 1,2: “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, for the sake of the truth [of the gospel] that dwells in us and will be with us forever.” God and His Son dwell in us as we live in response to the redemptive work of the Son. His sacrificial redemptive work will take us into eternity.
• 3 John 8:“Therefore, we ought to show hospitality to such men [evangelists] so that we might be fellow workers for the truth [of the gospel].” Jesus commissioned His first disciples to preach the gospel to the world (Mk 16:15,16). When Christians, as Gaius, financially support those who go forth and preach the gospel, then they are partnering with those evangelists they support. Supporting evangelists thus makes one a fellow worker to preach the gospel to the world.
• 3 John 3,4: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth [of the gospel] that is in you, just as you walk in truth [of the gospel]. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth [of the gospel].” John’s reference to “walking” was a metaphor that explained the life-style of Gaius to whom he wrote. It was not that Gaius was living according to the subpoints of an outline on Christian living. He was walking in response to the fact that he believed that the gospel was true. In this way he lived in response to the gospel, and thus, the gospel was in him. We can know, therefore, that one believes the gospel by the manner of his or her behavior in response to the gospel.
• 3 John 12: “Demetrius has a good report from all, and of the truth [of the gospel] itself.” If one walks in response to the grace of the gospel, then his walk reveals that he lives in response to the gospel. Our lives, therefore, should manifest to the world that King Jesus is our Lord.
Paul reminded Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). When Paul used the phrase “the truth” in the context of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, he was using it as an abbreviated form of the complete phrase, “the truth of the gospel” that he used in the letter to the Galatians (Gl 2:14). Therefore, when Paul made the preceding statement, he wanted all men to come to a knowledge of the historical event of the Son of God coming into the world for the salvation of all people. The meaning of “the truth” was not in reference to learning a theological outline of scriptures in reference to some doctrinal system of law. Paul wanted the world to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His redemptive offering for the sins of the world (See Rm 9:1-3; 10:1).
The gospel is not an outline of true points of a church catechism. “The truth of the gospel” is not some systematic theology that is assembled together through the organization of favorite proof texts. The abbreviated statement of this phrase, “the truth,” is not a reference to doctrine, though doctrine of the New Testament is true and important. But in reference to “the truth” as the phrase is connected with the word “gospel,” it is truth in reference to a Divine being and action in reference to the salvation of the world. Jesus explained, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus said that He was “the truth.” This is person, not doctrine.
Though the religionists to whom Jesus spoke on the occasion of the preceding statement in John 14 were seeking some systematic theology of traditions or doctrinal mandates from Jesus, at the time, they, as well as the disciples who stood with Jesus on the occasion, still could not understand that He was the incarnate “Word of God.” He was “the truth” that was revealed from God. He was God’s Word through which redemption came to mankind.
Now consider this point in reference to Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, who stood before Pilate. Jesus said to Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this cause I came into he world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Jn 18:37). But Jesus’ statement so befuddled Pilate that he responded to Jesus, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). What Pilate did not understand is that the “what” was the “who” who was standing before him. Jesus was “the truth” to whom John the Baptist gave witness (Jn 5:33). Jesus was the incarnate Word who was sent to mankind. This truth was far outside the understanding of Pilate at the time. The King who was before him was “the truth,” the incarnate Word who had come into the world (Jn 1:1,2,14). This was “the truth” to whom the Father had given witness through the works that Jesus did in the midst of the people (Jn 5:36).
Nevertheless, regardless of Pilate’s limited understanding of these spiritual matters, he was certainly not asking from Jesus some doctrinal manifest that would explain a systematic theology that Jesus was promoting, specifically in reference to the existence of Jewish insurrections who were scattered through the Roman Empire. At the time, Pilate was frustrated, seeing Jesus only as a man whom the Jews sought to have eliminated. But he could find no fault in His behavior that would warrant His execution (Jn 18:38).
Our understanding that Jesus is “the truth” is brought out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In the same context of those who would not walk according to the gospel in Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “To whom [the legalistic Jewish religionists] we did not yield in subjection even for an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gl 2:5). These were those who “were not straighforward about the truth of the gospel” (Gl 2:14). Jesus was the good news that was revealed to the Galatians. He is the truth to which all people must gravitate. It is as Jesus said during His earthly ministry, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me” (Jn 12:32).
When the apostles first went forth to preach the gospel, people heard “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Cl 1:5). There is a difference between the medium of the preached word by which the gospel of Jesus is communicated to the world, and the gospel itself (See 1 Co 15:1-4). The gospel is good news about the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, sacrificial offering, resurrection, ascension and reign at the right hand of God. We use words to communicate this salvational journey of the Son of God into and out of this world. These are the truthful events that must be preached to the world in order that all those who desire to hear might “come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (1 Tm 2:4). It is knowledge of this Jesus to which all men must come.
When one ceases to believe the word by which “the truth” of Jesus is communicated, then he begins to turn from the truth of who Jesus is. His doubt assumes that he no longer believes any of the events of the gospel, and thus begins to doubt whether Jesus is the Son of God. There are those who enter into the body of Christ who were initially convicted by the truth of the gospel. But later they began to doubt the historical events of the gospel, and thus they eroded Jesus Christ as the foundation upon which their faith was built (1 Co 3:11).
When belief in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God is preached, church happens, because people believe that He is our resurrected Savior (See Mt 16:18,19). The church in turn becomes the medium through which the truth of the gospel is preached to the world (1 Tm 3:15). Nevertheless, there are those in the church who become “destitute of the truth [of the gospel]” (1 Tm 6:5). They are as Hymanaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth [of the gospel] have strayed” (2 Tm 2:18). In the case of these two brethren, they denied the gospel of the resurrection. And by making such a denial, “they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tm 2:18).
God desires that we continue to grow in our knowledge of the gospel. The textbook of the New Testament must be devoured lest we ourselves be devoured by Satan. For this reason, the early evangelists returned to Christians who had initially responded to the gospel. They returned to teach again the gospel in order that they might come to “a full knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (2 Tm 2:26). Some wrote to encourage the disciples to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pt 3:18). On one occasion, this was the reason why Paul wanted to make a trip to Rome. He wanted to go to the disciples in Rome in order that he might bear fruit among them through his continued teaching of the gospel (See Rm 1:13-16). He knew that some are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (2 Tm 3:7). Therefore, Christians must take every opportunity to study and discuss matters concerning the truth of the gospel.
In view of the fact that there are always present among the disciples “men of corrupt minds” (2 Tm 3:8), it is the work of every evangelist to continue to teach the gospel in order that the members of the body might come to a full knowledge of the gospel. This is necessary because there are always those in the fellowship of the church who “will turn away their ears from the truth [of the gospel] and will be turned to fables” (2 Tm 4:4). In the first century, these were those who gave “heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth [of the gospel]” (Ti 1:14). Such people need to remember the final warning of the Hebrew writer in reference to some Jewish Christians who were returning to the religion of the Jews: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hb 10:26).