Update 148


The Truth – Part III

On Saturday, June 19. 2004, Edwin Pope will be giving the sermon which is entitled, “The Truth–Part III.” The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Better Before


There are many times when we read the Bible and we understand the things that God commands us to do or at least we think so. Then there are the times when we read the Bible and we DON’T understand the things that God commands us to do.

In the latter case should we wait until we understand why God has commanded us in a specific way before we take action or should we act on the commands of God before we understand fully?

The answer is that OBEDIENCE should come before UNDERSTANDING.

We can see the necessity for this when we look at the parent-child relationship. A child lacks knowledge, wisdom, and judgment that experience may bring in the future. Because of this absence it is imperative that the child listen to and obey the parent who has the child’s best interest in mind.

If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God then we need to be able to step out in faith and DO as God has commanded. In the same way that a child needs to obey the parents BEFORE they UNDERSTAND, we need to obey the “mysteries” of God and His Word before we understand.

The “Father of the Faithful,” as Abraham is called, left behind a sterling example of obedience before understanding. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac after God had promised to perpetuate Abraham’s lineage through Isaac (Genesis 21:12). Did Abraham understand why God was asking him to do this? How could Abraham sacrifice his only son and still have descendants as the sand of the sea? How did this fit into God’s plans? Surely Abraham came up with a lot of good questions on his 3 day walk to Mt Moriah and no real good answers. But he knew without a doubt that God would still somehow keep His promise to him (compare Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham was obedient to God even before he understood (Hebrews 11:8). He had learned the lesson through the course of his life that keeping the law of God was the most important thing he could and should do. This time was no different. Though he didn’t understand what God was doing he did it any way and in the end it worked out.

The ramifications of Abraham’s obedience can be seen in the immense blessings of his heirs even until today because God said, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if you will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

When we are faced with whether to follow God’s way or man’s way … choose God’s … no matter what!

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Inquisition Misreported?

From the Guardian, June 16, 2004: “For centuries people were burned at the stake, stretched to death or otherwise tortured for failing to be Roman Catholic. But, if research released by the Vatican is right, the Inquisition was not as bad as one might think.”

As justification for the reportedly high numbers that historians have recounted, the article points out that “What the church initiated as a strictly regulated process, in which torture was allowed for only 15 minutes and in the presence of a doctor, got out of hand when other bodies [governmental officials] were involved.” Continuing, “The church does not deny its responsibility for atrocities committed by Catholics in its name. In 2000 the Pope publicly apologised for the unnecessary ‘violence’ used. But he is not keen to be made to repent for sins the Vatican can prove it did not commit.”

In the aftermath of the highly publicised sexual molestation scandals by priests in the U.S., openness has certainly not been the order of the day on the part of church officials. A case in point is surfacing in Denver, Colorado, as the U.S. Conference of Bishops meets with one of their topics being sexual abuse by clergy. Representatives of SNAP (Survivors Nework of those Abused by Priests) are calling for open meetings–all to no avail! The Rocky Mountain News (6/12/04) reports: “SNAP national director David Cohessy of St. Louis said the bishops have been more defensive than ever, giving only partial reports, providing as little information on abuse allegations as possible and fighting new legislation that requires immediate reporting of child abuse.”

Others complain that those responsible have actually been rewarded rather than punished for their poor leadership in these cases! One case in point is noted in a report from www.katc.com on May 27, 2004: “Pope John Paul II on Thursday gave Cardinal Bernard F. Law an official position in Rome, naming the former Boston archbishop who resigned in the sex abuse scandal as head of a basilica. Law will have the title archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica, a largely ceremonial post often given to retired prelates. The 72-year-old Law resigned Dec. 13, 2002, to quell an outcry over his handling of sex abuse crisis.”

We note that as the Catholic Church gains renewed influence over the affairs of state in Europe, we also are witnessing a revival of an increasingly authoritative role from the office of the Pope along with Rome now playing crucial and pivotal functions in major world events.

Europe’s Crucial Negotiations

Reeling from implacable differences over voting rights and other key issues that occurred six months ago, European Union leaders are meeting in a two day summit in Brussels to hammer out a final European constitution. Poland and Spain blocked the constitutional agreement during the last session, because they would have lost more favorable deals secured in previous agreements.

According to BBC News, “Britain is one of the countries entering the talks defiantly defending so-called ‘red lines’, where they refuse to give up traditional veto powers.” The very fact that the EU has increased from 15 to 25 members since its last meeting poses a real challenge to the unanimity necessary to forge a constitution. Even if ratified, this new constitution will have to be approved by voters in the various countries.

Key to the whole process may be partially dependant on exactly who emerges as a consensus choice as successor to replace outgoing President of the European Commission Romano Prodi.

Among other topics on their agenda, the EU will also discuss terrorism, security, and the Iraqi situation. Europe now feels entitled to be heard in these issues. Coming on the heels of widespread and deeply rooted resentment toward US policies in these areas, the EU leadership continues to harden its rejection of America’s dominant policies–especially in its pre-emptive strategies regarding terrorism.

Iran Next for the US?

A report from the washingtontimes.com/upi for June 15, 2004, states that “Iran reportedly is readying troops to move into Iraq if U.S. troops pull out, leaving a security vacuum.” The article continues: “Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory.”

Indeed, recent news reports speculate that Iranian insurgents are actively trying to destabilize the emerging governmental structure in Iraq. Iran is also seen as a safe retreat for the most violent terrorist now fomenting turmoil in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Another article quotes this ominous move by the U.S. House: “Undeterred by the results of pre-emptive war in Iraq, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution May 6 authorizing pre-emptive military strikes against Iran. The vote was 376-3” (www.raidersnewsupdate.com).

With the combination of extreme militant Islamic groups and the ever widening military involvement of the United States and Great Britain, the rest of the world is becoming more and more at odds with these two western nations. As a consequence, Israel is taking steps to shore up its own standing–especially in the European powerbloc. “Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom yesterday asked the European Union to adopt ‘a more balanced attitude’ towared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for an end to the previously unrestrained backing of the PLO leader Yasser Arafat” (WorldNetDaily.com 6/16/04).

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From the wording of Matthew 5:19, it appears that even those who both break the commandments of God and then teach disobedience will actually be part of the Kingdom of God. Can you explain what this verse means?

This verse must be considered in light of other Scriptures in the Bible. Knowing that it is impossible for God to lie (Compare Titus 1:2), we know that the Bible does not contradict itself–that is, God hasn’t inspired teachings that differ. With that view in mind, let’s consider the verse in the context of Matthew 5 along with applicable principles in God’s Word.

Matthew 5:19 states, ” ‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ ” It is vital to read the continuation of this statement from Jesus in verse 20: ” ‘For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU WILL BY NO MEANS ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.’ “

In verses 17 and 18 of Matthew 5, Jesus taught that He had not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. His whole existence and purpose as a man was prophesied in detail in both the Law and the Prophets. Note John 5:39 in Christ’s own words: ” ‘You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and THESE TESTIFY OF ME.’ ” He also explains His additional role that expands on what we now call the Old Testament: ” ‘The law and the prophets were until John, Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.’ “

We know that “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and SIN IS LAWLESSNESS” (1 John 3:4). Matthew 5:19 speaks of those who both break the law–that is, sin–and also teach such a manner of living. That is what Satan and his ministers do (Compare 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan will certainly not be a part of God’s future Kingdom–not even a “least” part of it (Please refer to our booklet:”Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”)! Neither will sinners be a “least” part of God’s Kingdom!

Paul showed that “…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Sinning and teaching others that it is alright to compromise with and break God’s laws does not end up having eternal life as its reward. Utter destruction is the end result for those who practice such things: ” ‘But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the SECOND DEATH’ ” (Revelation 21:8).

The Bible consistently teaches that sinners will NOT be in God’s future spiritual realm: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will NOT inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

What exactly is meant in Matthew 5:19, and who are these “least”? The very next verse of 1 Corinthians 6 shows us the key: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (verse 11). Paul is reminding these Christians that they were formerly sinners, but they had repented and were now living in a new way (Compare Galatians 2:20).

We also find this statement: “for ALL HAVE SINNED and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since we have all sinned, and since we are ALL TO REPENT (2 Peter 3:9), we must look to the further explanations that have been given about the Kingdom of God. 2 Corinthians 5:10 states: “For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Jesus also showed that the Judgment would involve rendering to each person the consequences of their own ways of living: ” ‘But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you [the “you” being some of those of His own generation who did not repent at His teachings]” (Matthew 11:24; also, Compare Matthew 25:31-46). Consider, too, what Peter says: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not OBEY the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear’ ” (1 Peter 4:17-18)?

Daniel 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament. And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.”

We know from God’s immutable Word that those who repent and overcome will be given eternal life. This is not to say that we are immediately disqualified if and when we slip and sin. We know that we all still do sin, even after conversion. But we are told that when we sin, we need to confess our sin to God, in repentance, and that God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrigtheousness (1 John 1:8-9). We also know that there will be different rewards within the family of God. That plan begins to unfold in the first resurrection and continues on as God brings to pass His awesome plan of salvation. Note this further statement from Jesus: ” ‘Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is LEAST in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ ” (Matthew 11:11).

Since we know that unrepentant sinners, who refuse to repent, will not be in God’s Kingdom, the “least” of Matthew 6 are not those who are unrepentant sinners. Rather, these “least” are those who actually repent and are granted entrance into God’s eternal Kingdom, but they do not bear the fruit of righteousness to the extent that some others do. Regardless of what “position” any may attain in God’s government of the future, to be given the unparalleled gift of eternal life with both the Father and Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment for everyone. Paul, who indeed did at one time fight against Christ and those who followed Him, also bitterly repented and went on to live out his life in service to God with this goal: “if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11).

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