God’s Purpose In CREATION

By Alan H. Crosby

The Universe
One of God’s purposes in creation is to display His glory! The psalmist looked up with his naked eyes and saw only about six thousand stars, a handful of planets and one moon. Yet his response was, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 ESV). With our modern instruments we discovered that the Milky Way, our galaxy, is made up of billions of stars. Astronomers have found billions of such galaxies. We have also discovered about two thousand planets circling the distant stars in our galaxy and there may be many more!

We are not told the details of God’s purposes in creating, only that “all things … visible and invisible … were created through [the Son] and for Him” (Col. 1:16). God’s “plan for the fullness of time [is] to unite all things in Him” (Eph. 1:10). This plan involves the little planet we call “Earth” which circles a minor star we call “the sun.”

Before creating, God had in mind that the earth should be a suitable place for humans to inhabit and that people should be in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27), “holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4). But Satan seduced man into becoming like him, God’s enemy. To overcome this enmity, God sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself through faith. The Son became a man that “in His body of flesh by His death” we could be made “holy and … above reproach before Him” (Col. 1:22). By this single sacrifice “He has perfected [us] for all time” (Heb. 10:14), making us fit for the glory that Christ gives to His own (Jn. 17:22). Of the blessings we will have, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

In creation, God declared His glory. And when all His purposes are worked out, believers will be blessed with unimaginable blessings! May we ever “praise [God] for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (Ps. 150:2).

Magazine February 2016


Emphasis: When Confronted By Culture -Paul Alberts
Worship: Gods Purpose In Creation -Alan H. Crosby
Feature: Culture: Opinion, Prejudice And Perception -Roger Penney
Feature: Christianity And Culture -Stephen Campbell
Feature: Culture: Who Are You To Judge Me? -Timothy P. Hadley
Issues: Confronting Immorality In The Flesh -Warren Henderson
Serving: Contending For The Faith -Hamilton Smith
Discover: Discover Questions -Alan Groth
Series: Some Practical Instruction … On Pride -Alfred T. Schofield
Uplook: Genuine Repentance -Timothy P. Hadley
YouAsked: Was Paul driven by fear? -Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
Overview: Jeremiah -Leslie M. Grant
Response: Responses
GoodNews: As It Was In The Days Of Noah
Full Magazine PDF: Magazine PDF

QUESTION: In Galatians 2, Paul rebuked Peter for his double standard when he sided with the Jews that came from James by separating himself from the Gentiles. In Acts 16, Paul circumcised Timothy which is not necessary in the New Testament dispensation. Was his act not driven by the same fear of which he accused Peter?

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

ANSWER: We do well to remind ourselves that God alone knows our hearts and motivations (Acts 1:24; Heb. 4:12-13 NKJV). The conclusions we often draw as we watch one another not only may be wrong, but it is not even our business to attempt to discern the motivations of others (1 Cor. 4:5). We are to abstain from every form of evil (1 Th. 5:22). Therefore, we are right in judging whether something is good or evil, but God has reserved to Himself the matter of judging motives.

Peter, in the account mentioned in Galatians 2, had freely eaten with Gentile believers at Antioch. But when certain men came from Jerusalem, from James, he separated himself from these Gentile Christians. This appears to have happened after the events detailed in Acts 15 when the Holy Spirit made plain to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem that it was not necessary for Gentile believers to be circumcised. Circumcision would add nothing to their salvation. Moreover, Jewish believers did not have to eat separately from Gentiles. In fact, Ephesians 2:14 says plainly that God has broken down the middle wall of separation and united Jewish and Gentile believers into one body.

Peter confesses in Acts 10:28 that God had shown him not to call any man common or unclean. Therefore he had come to the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius, which was contrary to Jewish law. What he and other Jewish believers, including Barnabas, were doing in Galatians 2 was hypocritical and done out of fear of man. “The fear of man brings a snare,” we read in Proverbs 29:25. It was into this snare that Peter had fallen. Being a leader and having been entrusted by the Lord with shepherding His sheep, he merited the public rebuke Paul gave him, for by his conduct he was leading other believers astray.

Paul’s act of circumcising Timothy was quite a different matter. Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage. His mother was a godly Jewess (2 Tim 1:5) and his father is simply called a Greek, with the additional notation that all in the region in which Timothy lived knew of this abnormal situation (Acts 16:1-3). According to Jewish law a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew. (This definition was even affirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court a few years ago.) What kind of Jew was a Jew who had never been circumcised? Such a situation was radically out of place!

Thus to take this godly young brother with him when he would enter into Jewish synagogues to present Christ would be highly offensive to the unsaved Jews Paul was trying to reach. Paul tells us his principle in seeking to reach out to the unsaved in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law … I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Timothy learned early in life and in his service for the Lord to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). What Paul did and what Timothy submitted to was to give them entrance to Jewish synagogues to bring the gospel to these people whom Paul was so anxious to reach for his Lord. It was quite different from what Peter did at Antioch among his fellow believers, being hypocritical and endangering other believers spiritually. May the Lord give us discernment to do His will as we seek to win others to Him and help us not to lead others astray by setting before them a bad example!

Genuine Repentance

Genuine Repentance

Repentance For The Believer
Do either of these statements indicate genuine repentance? I don’t think so. Both are prompted by guilt or embarrassment rather than a heartfelt sense of remorse over the fact that the Father has been grieved. Usually people offering such apologies have no intention of changing. They just want God “off of their backs.”

Genuine repentance involves confession and the recognition that the sin was against God. It is not just “Lord, I’m sorry for my mistake,” but “Lord, I have sinned against You.” Confession acknowledges guilt. Repentance recognizes the one offended, as David’s after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. He admitted that his sin was primarily against the LORD (Ps. 51:4). Other people may be hurt as well. However, when we hold our sin up to the love the Father expressed through the cross, we see that is where sin is darkest.

Repentance also includes taking full responsibility for our sin. David did not blame Bathsheba or make any excuses for himself. He said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3 NASB). Whenever we catch ourselves blaming someone else for our sin, our repentance is incomplete. We should take full responsibility for our offense no matter what happened or who was involved. Regardless of the temptation, we are ultimately the one who chose to sin.

Also, repentance is not complete without honesty. I believe God is looking for us to be honest about our weaknesses, failures and frustrations. Honesty promotes fellowship. As long as we are open and honest with the Lord, He can continue to work with us, even after we have sinned.

We get into trouble when we start to cover things up: “Now, Lord, I know I made a mistake. But after all, everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.” Responding this way avoids the real issue and is therefore dishonest. As long as we approach God in this fashion, there is not much He can do with us.

Repentance For The Unbeliever
Repentance means a change of mind. The unbeliever needs to change his mind about what he believes concerning Jesus and move from unbelief to belief, that Christ paid the penalty for his sin. An unsaved person needs to admit that he cannot save himself. He must trust Jesus instead of his own goodness for eternal life and change his mind about God and His payment for sin.

It is important to understand that repentance for the unbeliever is not referring to his cleaning up his own life. If he could earn forgiveness of sin and a home in heaven by changing his life through self-effort, there would be no need for the cross.

True belief and repentance are closely intertwined; one leads to the other. Jesus used the terms together when He said, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” … “that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed [to be believed] in His name” (Mk. 1:15; Lk. 24:46-47).

After a sinner receives Jesus, he continues to repent as he grows in Christian faith and character. This repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior.

Repent Quickly!
What happens when we delay our repentance? The Bible teaches that God disciplines those who are disobedient. When we keep going in our sin with no intention of stopping, we won’t escape the disciplining hand of the Father. However, if you and I deal with our sin genuinely, openly and immediately, God can lessen the severity of our discipline. We are wise to repent quickly.

Some Practical Instruction On PRIDE

By Alfred T. Schofield, (adapted)

The sin of selfishness, which we wrote about last month, may be specially characterized as the sin most unlike Christ; but the sin of pride is directly of the devil. The one is anti-Christian and the other is Satanic. Such, indeed, is the clear language of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 3:6 we see that being lifted up with pride was the cause of “the condemnation of the devil” (KJV); and in Ezekiel 28 we read the detailed account of how the heart of one who was once “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” was lifted up because of his beauty. But his wisdom was corrupted by reason of his brightness and he therefore fell from heaven to hell.

Pride Springs From The Heart
Pride is in every human heart. All are afflicted with this disease, although many regard it as an ornament rather than a blemish. The Word of God says simply that “a high look, and a proud heart” – so highly thought of in the world – are “sin” (Prov. 21:4). They are hateful to God (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5) and to Christ, who is typified by wisdom (Prov. 8:13).

The root of all pride is in the heart: “Out of the heart of men, proceed … pride, foolishness …” (Mk. 7:21–22). How can a believer get rid of a proud heart? There is only one way – by sitting at the feet of Him who is meek and lowly in heart until we are ashamed to continue to cherish a quality so unlike Christ but so like Satan.

Spiritual Pride
Let us consider a few kinds of pride spoken of in the Word. We find one type, spiritual or religious pride, in the Pharisees. They were not ashamed to come before God with words like these: “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are” (Lk. 18:11). Surely no such an expression finds a place in the prayers of believers.

We must remember that pride is one of the characteristics of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2) and therefore we have need to be greatly on our watch against it. Spiritual pride is perhaps the worst variety because it is not ashamed to show itself in connection with Christ’s name – a terrible thing when we think that such persons profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Let this sin be kept far from us, and let none who read these lines sin so fearfully against God as to use His truth to help them to commit the very sin of the devil – spiritual pride.

When we truly get into His presence, this can never be the case. “Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” (2 Sam. 7:18). But when we are out of God’s presence, then boasting begins (consider 2 Corinthians 12:7).

Pride Of Position
Another sort of pride arises from riches and position. We may see instances of this in Hezekiah (2 Ki. 20:13), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30), Belshazzar (Dan. 5:22), Herod (Acts 12:21) and many others. The question is: “Is it seen in us? Do we in any of our actions display this un-Christ-like spirit to any who are poorer and humbler than ourselves?” Surely not! For if spiritual pride is terrible, this one is contemptible and clearly shows that we have never really understood the place where God’s sovereign grace has set us. It is alluded to in James 3.

Other Forms Of Pride
Riches are not needed to produce pride. This fatal seed is seen everywhere and often those who are poorest are most proud – which is especially the case among the Lord’s people. Many having become Christians and then mixing freely on equal terms with those they never could have met on any other basis, instead of increasing in humility, have lost what little they possessed and developed a proud heart.

When we talk of having very sensitive feelings and being hurt by remarks of others, it is often only pride, showing how miserably we are taken up with ourselves. Pride may be seen in outward adornment, dressing after the fashion of the world and in a manner unsuitable for a Christian. Another variety is being puffed up by gifts God may have bestowed.

The Remedy
The Lord Himself expressly declared that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11:29). We find Him showing this in various ways, such as by taking our nature apart from sin (Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 4:15), and in His choice of position in life (Jn. 9:29). How many of us who profess to show His spirit, if left to ourselves to choose our place in this world, would have made such a selection? We are called to be conformed to the image of our Lord. Of whom among us is this true? We may well ask this question when we see Christians trying to be more successful in this world than their parents were or pushing their own children still higher than themselves. We rigidly obey the first half of James 1:9 – “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted” – but how many rejoice when they are made low (v.10)?

Christ Or Self
There is a line visible from heaven whether we on earth can distinguish it or not. On one side are Christians who, be what they may, would strive to be something more or imagine themselves to be something they are not. They cannot enjoy what they have because they desire more, and they cannot be gratified because they are never satisfied. Some are even ashamed of the position their Master chose, but are proud of one He refused to occupy. On the other side of this line are Christ and believers who display His image. It is not that we are called to change our place in life, but we are called to change our mind.

The Lord took a lower place than being a carpenter. He became the servant of all (Mt. 20:28; Lk. 22:27), even washing His disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:5). On account of all this He was despised (Mk. 6:3; Jn. 9:29) – and those who follow Him will be despised too. They will be called “mean spirited” and be pushed aside and trodden down by the proud and ambitious. It does not matter, for if those who suffer have drunk at the pure spring of humility in Philippians 2, their souls will be so refreshed that they will be full of joy at simply bearing the beauty of their Lord.

What God Thinks Of The Humble
Hear what God has to say of the humble:

  • He hears them (Ps. 9:12).
  • They enjoy His presence (Isa. 57:15).
  • He delivers them (Job 22:29).
  • He exalts them (Lk. 14:11; 18:14).
  • He gives them more grace (Jas. 4:6), while He resists the proud.

Saints are exhorted to put on humility and “be clothed” with it. The word used in 1 Peter 5:5 is beautiful, meaning that on whatever side we are approached, humility is seen. Believers are to walk in humility (Eph. 4:1-2) while guarding against false humility in themselves (Col. 2:18,23), which is only pride in disguise.

Nothing perhaps shows more of the transforming power of the grace of Christ than when a man naturally proud and haughty becomes truly meek and lowly in spirit. By contrast, nothing tells more strongly of the way in which the letter of truth held apart from Christ corrupts than when we see a humble, quiet person become vain and puffed up after coming among Christians. Sadly, this is a sight which is seen too often!

We plead then, in closing, that our dear readers seek to cultivate the two graces of which we have already spoken – unselfishness and humility – and become like Christ. Put away as hateful things the anti-Christian sin of selfishness and the Satanic sin of pride.

Who is sufficient for these things? Thank God, the answer is not far to seek: “Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5); the meek will He teach His way (Ps. 25:8-9). May we look to Him in all meekness to put upon us more of the grace of Christ and fit us better to become humble followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Oh, may that mind in us be found That shone so bright in Thee – The humble, meek, and lowly mind From pride and envy free.”

Contending For The Faith

By Hamilton Smith

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” —Jude 3 NKJV

The faith of which Jude speaks is not the personal faith by which we believe, but that which is to be believed – the truth. When error prevails and opposition raises its head, it is not sufficient that we should expound the truth, we must contend for it. This implies conflict, but when Christ is assailed and the truth is at stake, we must not shrink from fighting the good fight of faith under any plea of Christian charity or love.

Moreover it is the faith for which we are to contend; that is, the whole circle of truth. We are not simply to contend for a particular truth. This indeed has been done, with the result that the truth as a whole has been lost and sects have been formed to maintain a particular truth such as holiness, the presence of the Spirit, the unity of the church, or the coming of the Lord.

Further let us note that the faith for which we are to contend is the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” It admits of no addition, no modification and no development. There is no fresh communication of truth to the saints. It has been delivered to them once for all. We may have much to learn about the truth. God may grant fresh light upon the truth already revealed. We should grow in our apprehension of it knowing that the truth has been once for all delivered.

We are not called to contend with error. Many sincere souls have done so and formed crusades against different glaring evils. There are occasions, indeed, when contending for the truth necessitates the exposure of evil. But the great business of God’s people is with the truth, not the error. Jude does not say, “earnestly expose the error,” but “earnestly contend for the faith.”

Confronting Immorality In The Flesh

By Warren Henderson

Paul told us that in the latter days of the Church Age many who say they are Christians will not follow sound doctrine (2 Th. 2:3), “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” – that is, a mere profession (2 Tim. 3:5 KJV). Those days are apparent and perhaps no more obvious than by the acceptance of the homosexual agenda and other forms of sexual immorality by many in Christianity. When popularity polls, instead of the Bible, determine what proper doctrine is, the Church is heading towards apostasy – the intentional, total abandonment of God.

Some say that homosexuality was only condemned by Old Testament law and that it is now permissible in the New Testament under grace. Yet God instituted His design for marriage before the law: one man and one woman until death separates them (Gen. 2). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus affirmed that this was God’s plan for marriage (Mt. 19:4-6). This is the pattern to which the apostles, church elders and deacons adhered (1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:1-12). Consequently, there are no examples of Christians engaging in homosexual relationships in the New Testament. There are, however, many warnings and prohibitions against fornication. Jude included a history lesson in his warning: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Scripturally speaking, any sexual relation other than that between a husband and his wife is referred to as fornication. This is why Paul said, “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife” (1 Cor. 7:2). Fornication includes adultery and pre-marital relationships, along with many others under a variety of names. Under the law any Jew who engaged in these sexual sins was to be put to death (Lev. 20:10-13), except for those who engaged in pre-marital sex – they were to marry each other (Dt. 22:29). God gave the law to His covenant people so they might be a holy people unto Him and separated from the godlessness and the worldliness of the nations.

While Gentiles (those who are not Jews) were never under the law – and Christians will never be put under the law – the moral aspects of the law still reflect God’s standard of holiness for us. For example, the Lord Jesus affirmed the relevance of nine of the Ten Commandments during His earthly ministry – the exception being the Sabbath day, as the Church would gather on resurrection day, Sunday, to show Christianity’s distinction from the old system put away by the cross. Consequently, Paul told Christians that by the law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20, 7:7) and the law shows us our need for a Savior (Gal. 3:24).

When it comes to God’s standard concerning sexual behavior, nothing has changed in the New Testament. Such sins are still an offense against God and will be punished, but immediate death is not now commanded. To say, as many do, that the New Testament does not condemn homosexual behavior is absurd. Paul tells us that when people exchange divinely revealed truth for a lie God responds by turning them over to their own morally depraved thinking. The Bible tells us that homosexuality was a primary behavior that resulted when God removed His convicting influence (Rom. 1:21-28). Those who engaged in this type of conduct were worthy of God’s condemnation and deep down they knew it (Rom. 1:32).

Other verses that condemn all sexual immorality – the conduct as distinguished from the feelings – include:

  • “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. 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” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Notice that this passage shows that the lifestyle before conversion was repented of after coming to Christ.
  • “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord … flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:13,18).
  • “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; … For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:3-5).
  • “But the … sexually immoral … shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Th. 4:3).

While it is possible for a Christian to commit an act of fornication, he or she would feel quite guilty afterwards. That person would not want to grieve the Lord by ongoing fornication. To do so would invite His chastening hand (Heb. 12:6). A true child of God cannot continue in any willful, persistent sin (1 Jn. 3:9).

Whether we can relate to other people’s lusting is not the issue; but our concern is what we do about our own inappropriate lusting. Christians are not to accept what God disapproves. Rather, they are to align their desires with God’s will in order to obtain His blessing (Rom. 6:11-13, 12:1-2). He will not bless what is outside of His will – to do so would condone sin and that He cannot do.

For those having homosexual feelings and yearnings, yielding to God’s will may not lead them into a Christ-honoring marriage, but it will certainly afford His favor and peace. Obedience by a believer, especially in hard things, is a practical way to tell the Lord Jesus that he loves Him (Jn. 14:15).

Scripture must guide our interaction with others as well. Believers cannot have fellowship with someone who claims to be a Christian and is engaging in fornication (1 Cor. 5:11). Having feelings that do not align with God’s will does not scripturally limit our interaction with each other. Yet, God’s Word does prohibit believers from associating with those naming the name of Christ and yet engaging in willful sin or with those who are publicly promoting it (Rom. 16:17; 2 Th. 3:6,14).

Christ loves sinners, but He hates their sin and so should we. Fornication is normal behavior for those dead in sin (Gal. 5:19). Hence, Paul encourages believers to interact faithfully with the lost (without engaging in their sin) that they might first see, then hear the gospel message and hopefully be saved (1 Cor. 5:9-10). To speak sincerely to fornicators about the love of Christ is not a “hate crime,” but to scorn or belittle souls for whom Christ bled and died is.

In summary, believers are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Silence condones sin. If God’s Word condemns a behavior, we must side with God and not be swayed by family relationships or sympathetic reasoning – which is a frequent tactic of the devil. Scripture is clear in condemning sexually immoral practices and also in limiting the believer’s contact with those who claim to be Christians but are engaging in such sin. However, this restriction does not apply to fornicators who do not hold the name of Christ. Believers should be tactfully conversing with them about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Wisdom sorrows over men who brush aside all her counsel and who will have nothing to do with her constructive criticism. What makes man’s stubborn refusal so irrational is that God’s commandments and warnings are for man’s good, not for God’s. This is illustrated in a story which a preacher once told. A small child squeezed past the metal railing that kept spectators six feet from the lions’ cage at the Washington Zoo. When her grandfather ordered her to come out, she backed away teasingly. A waiting lion grabbed her, dragged her into the cage and mangled her to death.

According to the preacher the lesson is this: God has given us commandments and principles that are for our good; God never gives us a commandment because He is arbitrary or because He doesn’t want us to have fun. He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” not because He is jealous of His own position and prerogatives, but because He knows that if we put anything, anything before Him, it will hurt us. If we understand the principle behind this fact, we can also understand why God corrects and disciplines us. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens” (Heb. 12:6). He doesn’t want us to back into a lion, for there is a lion, the Devil, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). — William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (adapted)

Wisdom sorrows over men who brush aside all her counsel and who will have nothing to do with her constructive criticism. What makes man’s stubborn refusal so irrational is that God’s commandments and warnings are for man’s good, not for God’s. This is illustrated in a story which a preacher once told. A small child squeezed past the metal railing that kept spectators six feet from the lions’ cage at the Washington Zoo. When her grandfather ordered her to come out, she backed away teasingly. A waiting lion grabbed her, dragged her into the cage and mangled her to death.

According to the preacher the lesson is this: God has given us commandments and principles that are for our good; God never gives us a commandment because He is arbitrary or because He doesn’t want us to have fun. He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” not because He is jealous of His own position and prerogatives, but because He knows that if we put anything, anything before Him, it will hurt us. If we understand the principle behind this fact, we can also understand why God corrects and disciplines us. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens” (Heb. 12:6). He doesn’t want us to back into a lion, for there is a lion, the Devil, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8).

— William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (adapted)

CULTURE: Who Are You To Judge Me?

By Timothy P. Hadley

One of the most popular verses in our culture today is Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (NKJV). Both Christians and unbelievers may quote this verse if you say something they are doing is wrong. This is especially true in our day of “tolerance,” which is really a search for acceptance. People want others to accept their way of life, teaching or whatever it might be. They don’t want anyone to question a wrong thing or call it sin. If you do, you will likely be accused of judging!

What does the Bible say about judging? The word “judge” in its various forms (judging, judgment, judges and others) is found over 700 times in God’s Word. One whole book of the Bible is titled “Judges,” for it was written about a time when God raised up judges to lead His people. The Authority On Judging
The Bible makes it very clear that there is one supreme Judge of all – God Himself. He alone has the authority to determine right and wrong, including motives and behaviors. There are many verses in the Old Testament that tell us God is Judge, such as:

“God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgments for the peoples in uprightness” (Ps. 9:8). “Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge. Selah” (Ps. 50:6). “For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us (Isa. 33:22).

When we come to the New Testament we find that the Father has committed authority and judgment to the Son. Jesus spoke of this authority before He ascended to heaven after the resurrection: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). We also read:

  • “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (Jn. 5:22).
  • “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:46-48).
  • “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

The Bible makes it very clear that one day Jesus will rightly judge all humanity based on each individual’s faith in or rejection of the Son of God. The Judge of the universe has already announced His judgment about salvation: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Judging Among People
Now let’s consider judging as it relates to believers and unbelievers. The methods are different when dealing with these two groups, but the goal for both is reconciliation. Unbelievers need to know Christ and be reconciled to Him, and believers need to grow in Christ and be reconciled to each other.

Whenever we present the gospel to unbelievers a judgment is made regarding their standing with God. The Bible clearly declares that all men are sinners, have fallen short of the glory of God and are in need of redemption from their sins (Rom. 3:23). Believers should present the gospel lovingly and graciously – knowing that only what the Bible says matters, not our opinions!

Many feel that Christians should not make judgments on issues such as abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage. This view might become known when a Christian says, in accordance with God’s Word, that homosexual behavior is a sin and that same-sex marriage is wrong. That believer might be met with objections like:

  • “Who are you to judge two people who love each other?”
  • “Who do you think you are, telling someone who they can and cannot love? You’re a sinner, too!”
  • “Someone’s private life is none of your business. Don’t judge them.”

Some will even quote our verse in Matthew 7:1 – the Bible, itself!

There are significant logical problems with the claim that believers should not make judgments. This becomes evident when we read the context of our verse: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:1–5).

In this passage Christ warns believers against making judgments in a hypocritical or condemning manner. That type of judging is often associated with the Pharisees during the ministry of Jesus. Many people who quote “judge not” from Matthew 7:1 fail to notice the command to judge in Matthew 7:5, where it says, “Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The point Jesus emphasizes here is to judge yourself before you make judgments about others. Notice that discernment and judgment are required. In the broader context, Jesus is telling believers to be discerning when it comes to false teaching and false prophets because they “look” Christian, but their goal is to lead the flock astray (Mt. 7:15–20; Lk. 6:43–45).

As Christians we should be living godly lives, concentrating first on our own repentance of sin. Sanctification, living separated to God and from the world and its ways, is a lifelong process of being transformed every day into the image of Christ. Without this happening, we have no place in helping another person. What Christ teaches His believers in Matthew 7 is that if we have not personally repented of our sins, we are in no position to tell others how sinful they are acting. But remember, the Bible does tell us to preach the gospel – and part of the gospel message is that people are sinners in need of salvation.

We often hear claims from Christians that we are not to make judgments about other believers, especially as it relates to their erroneous teachings. They tell us that we should simply love one another and not judge. But is it really showing love if we allow another Christian to remain in error and even deceive others? Loving others requires that we graciously correct them when they fall into error (see Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 1:11 and Galatians 6:1). Those who err do not necessarily know they are in error; they are possibly deceived or ignorant. Therefore we should gently and carefully correct the error in regard to teaching, no matter what the situation. After all, this is one of the responsibilities of the church: to teach sound doctrine and correct erroneous teaching (2 Tim. 2:25, 3:16; Ti. 2:1). And we must use discernment (judging between right and wrong) if we are to obey verses like:

  • “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person’” (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
  • “If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?” (1 Cor. 6:4).
  • “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Th. 3:6).

Consider also 1 Timothy 6:20 and Titus 3:9.

What Judging Others Does Not Mean
Being discerning with regard to a person’s character or teaching is not wrong. Many people quote Matthew 7:1 about not judging others without reading down to verse 6, where Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine.” To obey this verse you must make some judgmental decisions about a person’s character!

Later, in verse 15, Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” It takes a discerning sheep to recognize which ones are not true sheep and warn others, “That’s not a true sheep! That’s a wolf dressed like a sheep!” This requires judging the man’s teaching as false. Romans 16:17-18 continues: “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (NASB).

Some say that it’s okay to expose the false doctrine in general terms but that you should never specifically name a false teacher. However, Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 1:19 that some have rejected faith and a good conscience, “and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” He doesn’t leave it there, but goes on, “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme” (v.20). He also names Hymenaeus and Philetus, adding, “men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Later Paul tells Timothy, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” (4:10). In verse 14 he warns Timothy about “Alexander the coppersmith,” who did Paul much harm. The apostle of love, John, in 3 John 9-10 warns the flock about “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them,” but “does not accept what we say.” Paul names two quarreling ladies, Euodia and Syntyche, urging them “to live in harmony in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). He pointedly tells the church in Colossae, “Say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to your ministry’” (Col. 4:17). These apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, named names!

The apostles were not, in any of these instances, wrongly judging others. So we must conclude that it is not judging someone to exercise discernment about ungodly behavior or false teaching. Nor is it judging someone to speak to him about sin or false teaching. If you see your child about to run in front of a speeding car, you would do everything in your power to warn him. If you see a brother in Christ about to ruin his life by sin or by believing false doctrine, love should motivate you to do everything possible to warn him in grace. James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Paul taught that it is the responsibility of every spiritual believer to confront a fellow disciple who has fallen into sin (Gal. 6:1). It should begin in private, unless the sin was done publicly (Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 5:1-13). The Lord Jesus taught this kind of confrontation in Matthew 18:15-18.

It is not judging someone to evaluate spiritual maturity or doctrinal views for ministry. To make wise ministry decisions and to shepherd the flock, one must make judgments about a person’s character and doctrinal views.

Judging Others Wrongly
We judge others wrongly when we criticize them out of jealousy, bitterness, selfish ambition or some other sin, rather than seeking to build them up in Christ. James 4:11 challenges our motives in judging: “Do not speak evil of one another” (NKJV). To slander means to malign someone or damage his reputation by sharing false or deliberately misleading information. But the word that James uses has a broader meaning that includes any form of criticism or negative comment from selfish motives.

We judge someone wrongly when we assume that we know all of the pertinent facts and motives behind the person’s words or actions. Proverbs warns us that “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” because “the first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:13,17).

Again, we judge someone wrongly when we set up human standards rather than holding to God’s Word as the standard. Paul devotes two chapters to this problem. In Romans 14, vegetarian believers were judging those who ate meat. Others observed certain days as holy and judged those who did not. In 1 Corinthians 8, the problem was that of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. It is wrong to take personal convictions into areas where the Bible does not give definitive commands and set views up as standards to judge those who do not share them. This is what the Pharisees did when they added dozens of man-made rules to God’s law and then judged everyone that did not keep their rules. They were giving minor matters too much value and focusing on outward appearances, but their hearts were far from God. They neglected God’s commandments and held instead to the traditions of men (Mk. 7:6-9).

If we do not first judge our own sin before trying to help another with his sin, we judge wrongly. This is the real teaching of Matthew 7:1-5, as was already mentioned. The Lord does not say that it is wrong to help your brother get the speck out of his eye. But before you try to do so, deal with the log in your own eye.

We judge someone wrongly when we share confidential or personal information with the wrong intent. It is easy to sound spiritual and say to another believer, “I wanted you to know about this situation so you can pray.” The truth often is that we just wanted to feel important because we know something. We must be careful.

It is clear from Scripture that we should not judge a person’s motives as we can’t see into an individual’s heart. But the Bible is equally clear that there is a time to judge the fruit and actions of someone who claims to be a follower of Christ. We should never condemn, but we are to have discernment as to whether or not the life matches up with the profession.

Why Is All This Important?
What is at stake in relation to judging? What really ought to concern us? The glory of God!

It is absolutely true that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8-10), but the same book of the Bible also tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). This first chapter goes on to tell us that our life ought to match our profession: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (v.6). It is inconsistent to say that I’m a Christian and then practice or live in a way that is in opposition to the Word of God.

As a Christian I ought to be concerned with the glory of God. There is so much made of people’s rights today, but what about God’s rights? What about the rights of the Lord Jesus? Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 that Satan wants to blind men’s eyes to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ! As Christians, that light is to shine in us and ought to shine out of us (2 Cor. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 2:9). Our lives ought to demonstrate not only the love of God, but also His holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

Christianity And CULTURE

By Stephen Campbell

Multitudes gathered to hear John the Baptist when he began preaching at the Jordan River (Lk. 3:7-14). When the crowds desired to repent, he said they should prove the reality of their desire by sharing with the poor. To tax collectors who asked what they should do, he told them about honesty; and when soldiers asked, he spoke about gentleness and contentment. Each group of people lived within a set of experiences that not only defined who they were but also created unique challenges. In the same way, as Christians we do not merely exist in the world but we participate in a particular set of activities based on where we live and who we are. Since we are God’s people, we can bring His beauty into our surroundings; yet that same environment often resists our testimony for Him.

Understanding Culture
The atmosphere we live in is often called our “culture.” This term encompasses the values, preferences and behaviors that collectively characterize a country, region or society of people. Many details of our culture are simply an inescapable part of who we are. Things that are considered polite, proper, funny, rude, interesting or important are all impressed upon us as we live in our own societies. For example, some nationalities or ethnic groups are emotionally expressive while those from other regions tend to be more stoic or reserved; and there is a large number of such characteristics that vary from one culture to another.

Many cultural norms, or typical behaviors, simply reflect basic ideas about life and are well suited for expressing Christian beliefs. In a society that values hard work, Christians can work as unto the Lord. In a culture that appreciates creativity, Christians can write poetry or produce art that glorifies God. In our families, our school and work lives, and our personal attitudes, we Christians can display the beauty of Christ as we participate in our culture.

Culture can also influence the different ways Christians live out their faith. These differences can still be God-honoring even though they may seem unusual to other cultures. An enthusiastic style of Christian singing may seem improper to a believer who has grown up in a more reserved culture – just as the expressive believer might view classical-style hymns as cold and lifeless. Yet both individuals may well be singing to the Lord in a pure, selfless expression of worship. In some cultures, men and women sit separately in Christian meetings, while in others the entire family sits together. These cultural traditions are not detriments but merely facts about who we are and where we live.

Similar features of culture are illustrated by godly people in the Scriptures. When Joseph was made a ruler in Egypt, he lived according to Egyptian cultural norms. He accepted the honor that was appropriate to his position and worked to improve the prosperity of the country (Gen. 41:42-45, 47:20-26). His language and appearance were so thoroughly Egyptian that he was not at first recognizable to his family; and he also followed the conventional separation between Egyptians and Hebrews when it was fitting to do so (42:7-8,23, 43:32-34, 46:33-34).

Similarly, when Daniel and his friends were taken to Babylon they excelled at learning its literature and knowledge, and they desired the good of the king (Dan. 1:20, 4:19). Later, under Persian rule, Mordecai followed cultural regulations against public mourning in the king’s courtyard (Est. 4:1-2). In the New Testament Paul circumcised Timothy in order to remove a potential cause of offense to others even though circumcision had been publicly declared unnecessary for Christians (Acts 15:5,10-11, 16:3).

In these situations, God’s people not only lived within their culture but beautified it. They conducted themselves honorably, not merely out of respect for local customs but out of reverence for their Lord. Paul said, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16 ESV). Godly people enrich their culture by their righteous integrity.

Yet the analysis of culture also contains a warning because culture often makes demands that go outside of the bounds of godliness. Daniel refused to eat the king’s food because that would dishonor God (Dan. 1:8). Mordecai refused to bow before the king’s nobleman, even though that was both rule and custom (Est. 3:2). In Paul’s time Gentile believers were to shun the rampant sexual immorality that was acceptable in their cultures (Acts 15:20; 1 Th. 4:3-4).

The Discerning Christian
These facts reveal that Christians must use careful discernment about culture. It would be wrong to disengage from our culture, both because it is not the scriptural way and because it is not really even possible to do so. Yet it would also be wrong to believe that every aspect of our culture can be “Christianized,” because many aspects are directly opposed to God’s ways.

This assessment reveals the challenge of the Lord’s instruction to be in the world but not of the world (Jn. 17:6-18). For centuries, Christian gatherings have wrestled with the application of this precept. Some respond with the error of isolationism, which leads to a set of moral codes that demand something which God’s grace does not. Others err by assimilation, adopting present-day cultural attitudes because they view the Word of God as a relic of its own culture that must therefore be reinterpreted when times change.*

The discerning Christian sees a more biblical response than both of these errors. That discernment requires dependence on God and His Word, and therefore this approach to life is challenging, not simplistic. By the Holy Spirit’s guidance, however, the relationship between culture and faith can be lived out in ways that honor God among believers and unbelievers alike.

Guiding Principles
It is true that we are all products of our culture, yet culture takes a back seat to Christianity. Peter wrote about the “brotherhood” of believers (1 Pet. 2:17, 5:9), using a unique word to portray the Christian union as a bond that surpasses aspects of culture like gender, ethnicity, nationality or custom. Christianity must be our foremost characteristic! The writer of this article is a white American man, and all those characteristics exert a cultural influence on daily life. But I should not primarily consider myself a white Christian or an American Christian, interpreting principles of Christianity through the lens of those cultural facts.

Therefore, a related point is that we cannot allow culture to dictate how to apply Christian principles. Culture must defer to historical Christianity, which Jude 3 describes as “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” In Jude’s time, unbelievers had infiltrated the Church and used the grace of God as an excuse for sins like greed and rebellion. Relying on the historical, God-given principles of Christianity will establish us in the truth, so even if greed and immorality become normal in a culture, we will still recognize those sins for what they are.

Another danger develops when culture becomes so entwined with faith that we consider our traditions to be actual Christian principles. For example, Peter had to be divinely instructed to share the gospel with Gentiles. He and others had thought they should not even keep company with non-Jews (Acts 10:28, 11:3). Such restrictions had been aspects of the Jewish oral tradition and are contained in writings of the Jewish rabbis – but they are not in the Old Testament Scriptures. Moreover, the Lord Jesus had already told His disciples that all nations would receive the gospel (Lk. 24:47). The separation which they thought God wanted was only a cultural tradition, one which exceeded God’s Word as well as Christ’s own verbal instructions.

The lessons of Acts 10:1-11:18 are weighty. Because culture is the atmosphere in which we live, it is easy to believe that the ways we practice Christianity are the correct ways, when in fact our culture has sometimes colored our perspective. In Peter’s case, culture went beyond Scripture. In other cases, culture and Scripture might coexist for us personally, but they might clash strongly elsewhere. Some Christians have certain views about alcohol, tobacco, coffee, clothing, music and so on; and these have become connected with scriptural reasons in the minds of believers in that culture. Yet Christians in other cultures may be far more tolerant or far more restrictive about the same issues, and they will also have scriptural explanations for their views.

Culture is not universal, and although the Word of God does not yield to culture, there is often more than one way to live out the same truth. The discerning Christian seeks to distinguish essentials from preferences. What roles should women take in the Church? What is the significance of the head covering? What kinds of jewelry are appropriate? What leisure activities are acceptable? Some of these matters are addressed very precisely in the Bible and are therefore not questions of culture. Other points are addressed indirectly, and still others are not mentioned at all; in those cases, we seek godly principles that satisfy scriptural standards and our own Christian consciences.

Sometimes believers in different areas reach different conclusions, yet we must always be careful when criticizing other believers since we naturally tend to agree with those most like our own cultures. This caused difficulties in the early Church among some who distributed funds for widows and among others who simply shared a meal together (Acts 6:1; Gal. 2:11-13). We will be prone to the same errors if we evaluate the non-essential preferences of others based on our own experiences. If a subject is not addressed explicitly in the Bible, we should try to appreciate the liberty that is in Christ, who taught us that defilement is not caused by external matters but by what arises in the heart (Mk. 7:14-23).

A further principle is that all cultures can come to God where they are. The council of apostles and elders in Acts 15 affirmed this truth. Whereas some insisted that Gentiles must be circumcised – that is, become like Jews – in order to be saved, the council was guided by the Holy Spirit to declare only that believing Gentiles should live pure lives, mentioning four essential points but nothing more (15:5,28-29). In both foreign missionary work and neighborhood evangelism, the temptation is to tell new believers, “This is the way you do it,” providing them with our own styles of music and other lifestyle choices. If we trust God, He will guide them into the most suitable expressions of the truth. He does not ask us to make people into proselytes who simply act like we do (Mt. 23:15).

Because all people can call on the name of the Lord where they are, it is important for Christians to be active participants in their culture. This does not mean we should adopt the ungodly aspects of the rest of the world. But if we are living like the salt of the earth and light of the world (Mt. 5:13-16), we should actively and intentionally bring the beauty of Christ into the school groups, community activities and neighborhood events around us.

Reviewing Implications
People in various regions are united by their culture; yet barriers of age, language, ethnic background, income and similar issues drive wedges between them. In the Church, we should act with purpose to show that these factors do not hinder our oneness or influence our understanding of God’s eternal Word. Instead, let us testify of the Lord faithfully, using culture as a vehicle for Christ-centered living while overcoming its influences – not conforming ourselves to the spirit of the times but proving God’s good and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).

Partiality and Acceptance “And a voice spoke to [Peter] again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This was done three times … Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean’ … Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him … And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission [forgiveness] of sins.’” —Acts 10:15-16,28,34-35,42-43 NKJV

* In the middle of the 20th century, a man named H. Richard Niebuhr described five ways Christians have historically viewed culture, including the opposing perspectives mentioned here. His book Christ And Culture, published in 1951, additionally identified some believers who separate faith and culture; some who consider it a paradox that Christians inhabit the realms of both faith and culture; and some who believe culture should be transformed by the Christian faith. The “paradox” view is most similar to the position taken in this article.

CULTURE: Opinion, Prejudice And Perception

By Roger Penney

Culture consists of many things, history and religion among them. It affects our perceptions; therefore opinions and prejudices are often those of our particular social or religious group and its traditions. We tend to be driven very strongly by the thinking of other people, influenced by our parents and family, and then our society.

In 1904 Gustave LeBon published a book he called The Crowd. This was decades before Adolf Hitler worked out his techniques of control by mass rallies, news, entertainment and schools. LeBon saw a crowd as a very strong influence. Being a Christian often involves rejecting the influence of the crowd and other sources to stand alone and think for oneself, according to His Word and like many prophets of old.

When it comes to truth we find that we are up against practices held by our culture such as worshiping celebrities and the following of their beliefs. This is not new. The love for and loyalty towards those whom history records as great men is well documented. The love for Caesar by his soldiers is well known, as was that for Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and a host of lesser tyrants.

Standing For What?
What is less well known is the courage and determination of brave men and women who defied popular culture to do what was right and pleasing in the sight of God. In England the anti-slavery movement was led by men and women like Wilberforce, Clarkson, Thornton and Moore. In the United States other brave persons defied popular opinion, which saw black slaves as lesser beings, and formed what became known as the “Underground Railroad.” This was a network of safe houses stretching from the slave-owning south to the north or to Canada to help escaping slaves, both men and women, from the plantations to freedom.

The slave owners and traders in Britain and America published misinformation about the lot of the slaves, giving the impression that the slaves were better off in a civilized country than in the alleged barbarianism from which they were “saved.” The clergy was told that to take people from Africa to Europe or America was to open them up to conversion to Christianity. Millions believed these lies.

The Quaker movement took up a campaign, beginning in the seventeenth century, to tell the truth about the abominable trade in human flesh and to stop it. Members of the “Society of Friends” were forbidden to own or trade in slaves. If anyone did they were put out of the movement. George Fox, its founder, even set before the governor of Barbados the question, in effect, “How would you like to be a slave?”

In Britain, Wilberforce saw a bill passed in Parliament outlawing the slave trade in 1807. It took another 27 years for slavery to be banned in the then extensive British Empire. The massive task had been to change the opinion of the rich and powerful, and that of the slavers themselves. In this they had a mighty ally: the Word of God.

Exodus 21:16 says, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death”(KJV). This was an effective incentive in a society which generally believed the Bible to be the Word of God. Not only seen as being real, they also saw God as One who knew and judged the thoughts, words and deeds of men. To realize that you have been disobeying God in a matter so serious that the death penalty was prescribed by Holy Writ must have had a profound effect on the slave traders and others who profited from the abominable trade.

The events in Britain encouraged the persons responsible for the semi-secret Underground Railroad and much of the public opinion in the United States finally turned against slavery. Abraham Lincoln was then able to carry out a pledge made when a young man, having caught his first sight of slavery, to “hit that thing.”

This may encourage us not to lose heart as we see the English-speaking world losing its Christian basis. Indeed, the cultural values are worsening, subtly undermined by those who regard Christianity as outmoded and disproved. “Surely the fear of God is not in this place” (Gen. 20:11).

Depending And Thinking On What?
Scripture warns us that things will be “as the days of Noah were” (Mt. 24:37). We are also warned of the rise of the Empire of Rome and its resurgence in the last days. During the first Roman Empire the lower classes were controlled by the Emperor and the Senate of Rome by two powerful means. First, corn was given to citizens eking out an existence on the edge of starvation. This was to keep them from rebelling and venturing from the vast slum into respectable areas of the city. Second, in this desolate place filled with gangs and violence, the people were given games so they would not “think too much.” There was chariot racing in the Circus Maximus as well as gladiator fighting and beast hunts, with plenty of blood and suffering, in the Colosseum. The citizens were entertained and their leisure hours taken up so they would not rise up against the government. The Emperor and Senate could go on in peace, running the empire and getting rich on the proceeds.

So what has changed? Nothing much at all. The ethics of big business and politicians are often highly questionable and the lower classes have benefits and television. The young listen to mind numbing entertainment and music on their smartphones and other devices while they wander aimlessly with nothing better to do through the wasteland of this world.

Culturally accepted practices have changed in the past through the work of God. But in today’s world we may wonder, “What can a believer do?” I would like to share one example with you.

Presenting What?
Recently a Christian drop-in center opened on London’s High Street. People come in for tea and a chat. It is a brilliant idea where once we thought the only place for gospel preaching was in a mission hall on a Sunday morning or evening. I am not suggesting that we all open drop-in centers as we must, like the couple whose vision it was, pray much about these things. But in the midst of a hostile society we can still get the Word of the gospel to the people. God will lead us if we ask.

There are “giants in the land” (see Numbers 13), giants of atheism, evolution, greed, false religion, selfishness and hatred toward God and His Son. Does it matter? The psalmist wrote: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1-3). Take courage! Man’s action against the Lord Jesus Christ and in disobedience to God’s Word is futile.

We have a commission to fulfill but we have to put our own house in order first. If there are serious rifts among us and if we are unsure what to believe, then we only have ourselves to blame. Paul’s words to the Philippian church are particularly relevant today: “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind … Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:2-5). We may see this as an ideal that is not possible on this side of heaven. But the Holy Spirit would not have inspired Paul to write this had it been unattainable. Once we are reaching toward what honors God and are showing that Christians really do love one another, then and only then can we begin to influence the world around us. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35).

What if the world will not listen? Well, that is the world’s problem! At least they will have heard and the Lord will be able to say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21). Do not let us think that there is a revival just around the corner. It may not be so. People will still reject the message we bring – rejecting the Word of God and God Himself, a dreadful thing to do!

Ezekiel was told that he was a watchman and had to sound a warning that danger was approaching. To sound the warning was to discharge his own responsibility, whether the people listened or not (Ezek. 3:4-7,10-11, 33:1-11). Do we owe it to the people around us? We who know the Word of God are to speak it to this generation while living the Word before them.

We can surely see what God is doing, what He has planned to do and has prophesied accordingly. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is: and I will give it to Him” (Ezek. 21:27).