LUKE 6 (cont.) THE REDISTRIBITIVE ASPECTS OF DIVINE JUDGEMENT

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Jesus’ teaching of final judgement is dealt with more definitively in Matthew’s account (chapter 25 – considered a few posts ago). Luke, a companion of Paul [1] recorded Jesus as teaching that an individual’s status and suffering during their lifetime is taken into account at Judgement, both in his rendering of the Beatitudes, the negative aspects of which I have quoted above, and particularly in what is effectively the only account we have of an individuals’ experience in Hell [2]: the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the text of which requires careful attention (Lk16:19-31). The only stated criterion distinguishing these two men was that one had had a life of ease and comfort whilst the other had been poor and wretched (Lk16:25). It may be deduced (from vv27-31) that the rich man was suffering because of the way he had utilised his wealth; living wantonly whilst failing to show care and compassion for miserable beggars like Lazarus (with whom Jesus personally identifies – Mt25:45), yet no reason is given at all why Lazarus should be comforted after his death other than that he had experienced a life of poverty and sickness (Lk16:25); thus had he been salted (cf. Mk9:49). The redistributive or compensatory aspects of judgement at death are also emphasised in the letter of James who exhorts the oppressive rich to weep and howl for the miseries that are to come upon them (Ja5:1KJV). It is clear from subsequent verses that he is referring to the materially wealthy who obtained their wealth by defrauding and exploiting of the poor. James (as ever) is reflecting the teaching of Christ, who also had a word of warning for the well-to-do:
Alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have plenty to eat now: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who are laughing now: you shall mourn and weep (Lk6:24,25).

I now understand this to be partly a question of redistributive justice but that it also relates to the role and necessity of human suffering (salting) explained in the theodicy (chapter seven of my book). For sure, Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching needs to be taken alongside Matthew’s emphasis on more spiritual and moral qualities (Mt5): poverty of spirit, hunger for righteousness, kindness, compassion and purity. For a lousy crook may be poor but is hardly fitted for God’s Kingdom. So life experience, moral and spiritual integrity, and especially how one has treated the poor with whom Christ personally identifies (Mt25) will determine how one fares after death, and also when Christ’s kingdom is consummated, resulting in a change of fortunes for many (cf. Mk10:31).
[1] Some biblical scholars question whether the author of Luke-Acts could possibly be the Luke referred to as Paul’s companion in three of his letters; partly in view of seeming differences in the account of Paul’s conversion and subsequent events (Acts9:1-31 cf. Gal1:17-24); more particularly in view of their understanding that Luke’s theology was different to Paul’s, whereas I am in the business of demonstrating that Paul’s theology (once properly understood) does not contradict that of any other contributors to Scripture.
[2] strictly “Hades” being the place of the dead, an intermediate state between death and resurrection in which, according to Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching, disembodied spirits are nevertheless conscious and aware of either pain or comfort.

 

LUKE CHAPTER SIX – THE TEACHING OF CHRIST: THE FOUNDATION FOR LIFE

 

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:   He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell.[i] And the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49)

A children’s chorus comes to mind as I read this passage: The wise man built his house on the rock – but what is the rock? “So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ” concludes the chorus, but Jesus is not here referring to Himself as the rock but His teaching. In this instance he is referring to what we are to do not what He has done on our behalf. Hence, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say?  He who hears the Lord’s sayings and does them is the one who builds on the rock (v47). Such is the obedience of faith and our participation in it. Similarly, back in Matthew – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Such people will have imagined they had built their life on the LJC – His name was ever on their lips and He was at the heart of what they perceived to have been their ministry, yet their hearts were far from Him. That may well have been because they were unaware they were expected to fulfil what James refers to as “the royal law” – to love one’s neighbour as oneself (Jam2:8). This may appear to contradict the teaching of Paul but I endeavour to show in my book that such is not the case. Once Paul has been rightly understood both he, James, Peter and the rest will be seen to affirm the teaching of the Master, the spiritual Rock that is indeed the Christ (1Cor10:4).

 

 

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PARENTS – RIGHTEOUS IN THE EYES OF GOD

 

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:5,6 NKJV)

Continuing into Luke, I am highlighting verses and passages of the new Testament that particularly came to my attention during the preparation of “The Fellowship of the Secret” (often because I used to believe quite the opposite of what I now understand them to be indicating!) Here we have an example of an individual or in this case a couple regarded as “righteous” in God’s sight. On what basis were they righteous? – According to Luke it was simply that they had faithfully observed the commandments and ordinances they had received as practicing Jews. But perfect they were not – a few verses later Zacharias was rebuked and punished by Arch-Angel Gabriel for his reluctance to believe the good news concerning his wife’s pregnancy. But how does Luke’s description concur with what Paul writes in the opening chapters of Romans, especially 3:10 “As it is written there is none righteous, no not one”, etc?  One should observe that he then he goes on to write in reference to the Jews: “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (3:18). Would anyone believe that Paul considered that no Jewish individual had ever feared God?  Acts13:16,26 confirms the contrary; likewise, Luke’s account of righteous Cornelius before his conversion to Christianity, confirming that his prayers and alms giving had been noted by God (Acts10:2,4,22). The apostle in his letter to the Roman churches had been utilising a typically Jewish literary technique, linking together OT scriptural references, in this case to adduce universal sinfulness, i.e. that both Jew and Gentile were under the reign of sin and fall short of God’s glorious holiness (Rom3:23); he was not intimating that it is in the nature of all people to be godless and hateful so as to act in the depraved manner described in those concatenated excerpts, which themselves need to be examined in context. Rather it refers back to Rom1:18 and his assertion that individuals (not all humanity as some translators’ insertion of a comma intimates) who wilfully suppress the truth God has revealed to them in creed or conscience will come under condemnation. This is not to deny that Paul is indeed in the business of affirming that to keep the law of God perfectly is quite impossible for fallen man – rather he is to submit to “the righteousness of God”, provided through the faithfulness of Christ [pisteos Iesou Christou – often translated “faith in Christ” – Rom3:22] for the benefit of all (including Cornelius) who even before he knew Christ “believed”, i.e.  feared God and did what he knew to be right (cf. Acts10:35). Such “believers” are justified, not on the basis of their law-keeping or accrual of good works but freely through God’s kindly favour (grace) and the faithfulness of Christ, i.e. by the merits of His atoning death which avails for all the scattered children of God. Such people effectively exercise godly fear when they pay heed to the light of Christ provided through the faculty of conscience, being as Paul himself affirms, the law of God written in the heart (Rom2:15; cf. Jn1:9 Greek). These principles are worked out, hopefully in a more comprehensive manner in chapter three of the book*.

* “The Fellowship of the Secret” e-book freely available from:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/606930

MARK 3   – THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN – NEVER COMMITTED IN IGNORANCE

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And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So (Jesus) called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.  No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter;  but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”—  because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.

According to One who should know, the only sin that will not be forgiven either in this age or the next (cf. Matthew’s account 12:22-32) is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The above passage indicates that relates to knowing or sensing in one’s heart that something is of God working through the Spirit but asserting it to be wicked or satanic, precisely as these scribes did with regard to Jesus’ miracle which they wished to discredit in order to preserve their own status and traditions.  One may well have challenged the working of the Spirit in ignorance, but what is done in ignorance cannot be the unforgivable sin, which is why even blasphemy against Christ can be forgiven but not what is said against the direct working of the Spirit where that is perceived within the conscience; for in such cases the Spirit Himself convicts the person of their error yet they are determined to persist with their accusation.  In the field of activity that I’m currently concerned with, writing and blogging and of necessity challenging some established Christian teaching (and esteemed teachers) as a result of what I believe the Spirit has shown me, I have to be very careful to pay heed to the dictates of conscience before asserting my ideas or challenging others. But so also would anyone determined to defend a particular theological position or tradition against what they sense might in fact be divine light. If they do sense as much, it is because the Spirit affirms it in their mind and conscience yet they rebel against it. For this  sin is a form of intransigence being an unwillingness to be persuaded of the truth by any means. Heretics and false prophets can be sincere but simply mistaken or deluded for which they will no doubt be punished for their presumption, but those who directly revile or obstruct the workings of the Spirit are in still greater danger. Such were these scribes and Pharisees who will have known in their hearts that the Saviour’s acts of compassion and miraculous healing were never the devil’s work, but were determined to malign them for their own ends, wilfully speaking evil of the work of the Spirit.

MARK CH 1 – THE HEARTFELT COMPASSION OF CHRIST – NOT  A HUMAN WEAKNESS ON HIS PART

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Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, *moved with compassion*, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once,  and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Mk1:41-44NKJV)

The fearsome Augustine had once insisted that charity should be exercised “in serenity” rather than an emotional empathy. Those who were moved by compassion to help others he believed lacked wisdom. He concluded on the matter: “There is no harm in the word ‘compassionate’ providing there is no passion in the case” [A]. Such stoicism is surely misplaced: it is noble enough for an individual to endure misery without complaint but any who remain unmoved by another’s pain or distress show themselves to be inhumane and spiritually dead. Jesus Christ provided the pattern for genuine stoicism: silent resilience in the face of personal suffering and abuse; yet filled with heartfelt (literally bowel-felt) compassion (Greek: splagchnistheis) towards others who were in need, as with the leper in the quoted passage. Neither is Jesus merely reflecting  “the human face of God”: YHWE’s character even as it is revealed in the Old Testament exhibits both passion and compassion; the Father’s nature that we are to emulate (Eph5:1) is thoroughly animated in the face of human wickedness, cruelty, injustice, lies and hypocrisy: He does not exhibit a placid, deistic indifference to these matters but is filled with righteous anger, as was often expressed through His prophets (e.g. Jer6:11). Yet equally He is compassionate towards those who fear Him and who suffer through the wickedness of others, and has promised to punish the latter firmly and proportionately, recompensing the offended at the expense of the offender (cf. Is59:18KJV). Those who are pained by the suffering of others, far from “lacking wisdom” show themselves to be truly human by reflecting the definitive quality of the divine, being Agape   (1Jn4:7,8).

 

[A] Augustine – “On the morals of the Catholic Church” chap. 27 (para 53)

MATTHEW 28: THE GREAT COMMISSION – TO INSTRUCT THE NATIONS CONCERNING THE TEACHING OF CHRIST

“Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Mt28:19,20)

Such was the great commission: to relay the teaching OF CHRIST to the nations. If any teaching should arise that should contradict that teaching it is to be rejected – it is not the Gospel but heresy. If therefore one imagines Paul to be contradicting the moral teaching of Christ, then that thirteenth apostle’s writings should be rejected; he should be regarded as an infidel. But as my book endeavours to demonstrate, Paul’s teaching does not in any way contradict either the moral or juridical teaching of the Master; the way many have interpreted him is another matter. But he is the thirteenth apostle (Matthias replacing Judas as #12) and there is an aspect of Christ’s teaching as received by the twelve which Paul DOES subvert at the risen Christ’s command: matters pertaining to the constitution of the people of God. In terms of Paul himself, Jesus will not have indicated there were to be thirteen apostles: He opted for twelve for a reason (cf. Mt19:28). Likewise, the Lord clearly had not taught (or disclosed) that the Gentiles were to receive the same nature of spiritual blessing as the Jews: it was a shock to everyone; not least Peter (Acts11:17,18). All this relates to the subject of my book*: the fellowship pertaining to the secret (plan) hidden in God (the Father) from the previous age (cf. Eph3:9-12). Paul refers to it as “MY gospel”, being the revelation of the mystery which has been KEPT SECRET SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN” (Rom16:25). Or as he wrote to the Colossian church:

THE MYSTERY WHICH HAS BEEN HIDDEN FROM AGES AND GENERATIONS, BUT NOW HAS BEEN REVEALED TO HIS SAINTS, TO WHOM GOD WILLED TO MAKE KNOWN WHAT ARE THE RICHES OF THE GLORY OF THIS MYSTERY AMONG THE GENTILES, WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY (COL1:26,27NKJV)

Once the implications of this mystery are grasped, God’s broader providence towards all people of good will may be perceived. Such should bring joy to many without detracting at all from the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom, concerning which (as Paul has just indicated) those who are to be glorified with Christ are exclusively His disciples: those who suffer with Him, dwell in Him and are indwelt by Him – Christ in you, the hope of glory (cf. Jn6:56; 2Tim2:12).

 

* “The Fellowship of the Secret” – Available from Amazon and Smashwords; free downloads of e-book version at Free-ebook.com and Lulu

Unravelling the mystery of divine providence and the resolution of Scripture