Being a disciple Of Christ requires a transformation. One cannot continue as the person they were when they did not know Christ.
Most so-called Christian religions no longer emphasize the need to repent from former courses of conduct that are displeasing to God. It appears to be more important to have large memberships rather than bring up the uncomfortable subject of immoral behavior. Many adulterers, fornicators, drunks, thieves, and other bad people regularly attend ‘church’. And pastors of those groups make them feel okay by telling them, “God loves you just the way you are!” That is a lie.
The apostle Paul dispelled this notion when he wrote the Corinthian congregation his first letter:
1 Corinthian 6:9,10
9 Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts
10 or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. 11 Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. GNT
He wrote the Christian congregation in Ephesis he wrote this reminder:
22 Regarding your former way of life, you were taught to strip off your old nature, which is being ruined by its deceptive desires,
23 to be renewed in your mental attitude,
24 and to clothe yourselves with the new nature, which was created according to God’s image in righteousness and true holiness.
Your present lifestyle and behavior may be pleasing to you yourself and other people; but is it pleasing to God and Christ? Is it wise to base judgments on one’s own self-satisfaction?
One of the greatest threats to our growth as Christians is the notion that we have arrived at a pretty good place and no longer need to develop our Christian walk and become more like Jesus.
Being self-satisfied opens us to sins of pride and arrogance. It makes one see themselves as having no spiritual needs. Therefore, this person does not see a need to change for the better. There is no need for self-examination with this mentality.
One of the greatest dangers in the Christian life is complacency. Webster’s definition of the word “complacency” is: “a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
When a disciple becomes complacent the treachery of the heart has had success. Christian complacency means that no matter what happens, you are fully self-satisfied with your current personal effort in pursuing Christ.
The Bible makes clear that Christians are never standing still. They are either growing or backsliding.
After listing some of the qualities every Christian should have, Peter then states, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). In other words, if you are a Christian who is complacent with your growth in God, you are in danger.
13 Let’s behave decently, as people who live in the light of day. No wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, quarreling, or jealousy!
14 Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and do not obey your flesh and its desires.
It is difficult to imagine what life would be like as a slave and to live without freedom to make your own decisions. God didn’t create man to live that way. He had every right to and he could have had he chosen to create us that way. After all, his way is the right way.
It is your choice to do things God’s way and to take on the characteristics that please him, God doesn’t force himself on us. God and Jesus have given us instructions on how to live a rewarding and fulfilling life, they have told us what the best way is but we don’t have to live that way. We make our own decision.
It doesn’t matter who you are. We all have the same opportunity to make the choice to live to please him. We all get to decide whether Christ is the example we follow or if we are going to continue to live to please ourselves.
What Example Did Jesus Set?
Jesus didn’t only come to save from sin, but he also came so that he could show a godly lifestyle. Jesus was the perfect example , he showed us what it looks like to live with mercy, humility, gentleness, and patience. Jesus showed us how to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
When it comes to the subject of changing our lives, many disciples of Christ feel the same as they feel about going to heaven: They are all for it, but they would rather not go through what you have to go through to get there!
The idea of change sounds good, but when it gets right down to it, many think, “You mean I actually have to live differently? No way!”
But the real Christianity IS a fundamental a changed life. If you claim to believe in Christ, but are living just as you did before you believed in Him, you need to examine whether you truly believe in Him. Becoming a Christian requires turning from your sin to God (repentance). But repentance is not a one-time event. It defines the lifestyle of a believer. God changes us radically at the moment of salvation by imparting new life to us, but this is followed by a lifetime of changing into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
What does the biblical term “repentance” mean? The New Testament term for repentance is from a Greek word that simply means to change one’s mind: μετάνοια, metánoia.
In this sense, repentance is necessary for salvation; we must believe we need saving (which is usually a change of the human mindset). But after baptism we must continue to repent of our former lives, or to change our mindset about our previous way of living. This changing of our minds will certainly lead to our living changed lives in terms of our behaviors.
We read at Acts 3:19-20 that repentance is a prerequisite to receive forgiveness from God.
19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do,20 times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord, and he will send Jesus, who is the Messiah he has already chosen for you.
Repentance which definitely also includes changing one’s way of thinking, is an integral part of the process God uses to save us
In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul paints a grim portrait of how unbelievers live. While not all unbelievers are as bad as they possibly could be, they all live “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (4:17b-18). That bleak picture describes each of us before we met Jesus Christ.
That was our mindset and the way we lived our lives as unbelievers. It took a transformation that first started with a change of mind to change us into people who God approves of.
Building Christian Character In Order To Change Your Behavior
Behavior is a product of your character and your character depends on how you view life. In order to change your behavior, you must work on changing your character.
What’s one word you think someone would use describe your character? What word would you use?
In Bible days if an artist wanted to wear a groove into a metal plate, he would do so by repeatedly etching the same place with a sharp tool. After repeated strokes, an image would begin to take shape. The name for that tool in the Greek language is the word from which our word character is derived. (χαρακτήρ, ῆρος, ὁ, xaraktḗr, Transliteration: charaktér)
That word is used only once in the New Testament: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression [charaktér] of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
Think about the picture the writer of Hebrews was painting. The glory of God is exactly etched into the character of the Son. Just as an image of God is seen in the Son, when the character of Christ is etched into us, we present to the world a clear picture of the glory of God.
Behavior and character are related, but they aren’t the same thing. Behavior is what you do. Character, on the other hand, is the person your behavior has built.
Character is the sum of our behaviors—public and private—consistently arranged across the spectrum of our life. Any behavior—duplicated and reduplicated—forms a part of our character.
Every time you make a decision, you cut a groove. Every time you react to a crisis, you cut a groove. When you hold your tongue and practice self-control or when you let your tongue run loose and speak your mind, you’re carving your character. When you say yes or no to a reckless temptation, you’re signing your name. When you stand up to peer pressure, hold the line on truth, or return kindness for cruelty, you’re cutting the pattern of your character.
To etch positive grooves in your Christian character, keep these words in mind:
You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God.
2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
5 You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry).
6 Because of such things God’s anger will come upon those who do not obey him.
7 At one time you yourselves used to live according to such desires, when your life was dominated by them.
8 But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips.
9 Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits
10 and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself.
Changing your character does not happen overnight. Changing your character requires patience, time, determination, and perseverance on your part. Do not give up.
Biblical Moral Code and Christian Ethics
Ethics are principles that govern a person’s actions. Ethics define right and wrong conduct. The words “ethics,” “morals” and “morality” may be applied in different contexts, but they have essentially the same meaning.
Biblical Ethics and Biblical Morality
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) was the standard of conduct in Old Testament times. Jesus did not abolish the moral and ethical laws that had been in effect from the time of Moses. He affirmed and expanded on those principles, but what matters most to God is our inner lives (attitudes and motives) rather than any outward show of holiness. Jesus taught that we should live by two great principles: 1) humble obedience to God above all else and 2) sincere respect and kindness for all people of the world (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, John 13:34-35).
Not only must we not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14), we should avoid entertaining even the thought of it (Matthew 5:27-28). Not only must we not steal (Exodus 20:15) and not envy what others have (Exodus 20:17), we should focus our lives on God, not on earthly possessions (Matthew 6:19-21). Not only must we not give false testimony (Exodus 20:16), we should even avoid evil thoughts and speech (Matthew 12:35-37). Not only must we be considerate to the poor and outcasts of the world (Deuteronomy 15:7-11), we should treat them as we would treat Jesus Himself! (Matthew 25:31-46).
What Were The Ethical Teachings Of Jesus Christ?
Jesus gave many examples of how to apply His ethical teachings in His “Sermon of the Mount” (Matthew Chapters 5-7) and the shorter “Sermon on the Plain” (Luke 6:20-49). These are the highlights:
3 “Blessed are those who are spiritually needy. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
4 Blessed are those who are sad. They will be comforted.
5 Blessed are those who are free of pride. They will be given the earth.
6 Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right. They will be filled.
7 Blessed are those who show mercy. They will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are those whose hearts are pure. They will see God.
9 Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Jesus’ statements above describe the values of the kingdom of God. At the same time, they describe the “blessed” results of keeping God’s commandments and being part of that kingdom.
What Did Jesus Teach About Anger?
21 “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’
22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21, 22)
Anger is an emotion we all feel sometimes, but the anger here (Greek orgizo) implies extreme anger, perhaps a brooding anger that could lead to hostile words or acts of revenge. We cannot hold onto the anger that spoils our relationship with God and other people. We must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15).
What Did Jesus Teach About Adultery?
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’
28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart.
29 So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.
30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
Many believe that God’s moral laws have changed. But Jesus’ teaching affirmed the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments against adultery (Exodus 20:14), and covetousness (Exodus 20:17).
We must not commit adultery, but we must also avoid the evil desires (lust or covetousness) that may cloud judgment and lead to an actual act of adultery. “So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away!”
What Did Jesus Teach About Divorce and Remarriage?
6 But in the beginning, at the time of creation, ‘God made them male and female,’ as the scripture says.
7 ‘And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife,
8 and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one.
9 No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together.”
10 When they went back into the house, the disciples asked Jesus about this matter.
11 He said to them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife.
12 In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery.” (Mark 10:6–12)
Many people begin a marriage truly in love. But if love should fade, they often divorce and marry another. However, Jesus taught that marriage should be a sacred bond forever. Each spouse must love and honor the other and not give up on the marriage when troubles arise.
Jesus gave only one condition in which a person was morally permitted to divorce his/her spouse:
7 The Pharisees asked him, “Why, then, did Moses give the law for a man to hand his wife a divorce notice and send her away?”
8 Jesus answered, “Moses gave you permission to divorce your wives because you are so hard to teach. But it was not like that at the time of creation. 9 I tell you, then, that any man who divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, commits adultery if he marries some other woman.” (Matthew 19:7,8)
A person has a moral right to divorce in the case of adultery; but there are those who choose to forgive and choose to remain in the marriage. It is purely a personal decision to make.
What Did Jesus Teach About Truthfulness and Honesty?
33 “You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’
34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
37 Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One. (Matthew 5:33–34, 37)
People often made vows or swear oaths (even in God’s or Christ’ names) to convince someone of their sincerity. But instead of making vows, we must be known by our character that we are completely honest in word and deeds so that our simple “yes” or “no” will be believed as truth.
What Did Jesus Teach About Retaliation and Revenge?
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’
44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.
46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that!
47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!
48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. ( Matthew 5:38–39, 43–48)
In the days that Abraham lived, unlimited revenge for a wrong done was considered normal and proper (Genesis 34:1-2, 25-29). But later, the Law of Moses limited revenge to an equal injury for any injury done, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Leviticus 24:18-20). But Jesus said we should not take any revenge at all.
It is an act of love to an enemy to refrain from attempting punish of them ourselves.
Hebrews 10:30 reminds us that vegeance is in God’s hands:
30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
What Did Jesus Teach About Forgiveness?
14 “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done. (Matthew 6:14–15)
The apostle Paul reminds us in his writings us that we are all sinners and that it is only through the grace of God we have an opportunity to be put right with Him.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23,24)
Just as God is merciful and forgives us our sins, we too must be merciful and forgive those who do us harm. Holding a grudge separates us from God’s love and robs all joy from life.
This has been extremely difficult for many to do in practice.
On the one hand a person wants their sins forgiven and erased and on the other hand, many find power in withhold ing forgiveness to someone else (a form of emotional blackmail). We should not be like this. The consequences of such unforgiving ehavior is what Jesus is talking about above. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.”
What Did Jesus Teach About Money and Wealth?
19 “Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal.
20 Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal.
21 For your heart will always be where your riches are.
24 “You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:19–21, 24)
Lust for more wealth or possessions than we really need is the cause of all kinds of evils things as a result (1 Timothy 6:10). Greed is one of the most frequently mentioned sins in the Bible. Those of us who are blessed with more wealth than we need are obligated to share generously with those in need. They should not use their welath and means to lord themself over other people. Jesus gave a detailed parable of the result of such behavior. (Matthew 16:19-31)
What Did Jesus Teach About Condemning (Judging)?
The Bible’s moral and ethical teachings are intended to help us live according to God’s will. They are not intended to be used to criticize or condemn other people.
We are never to take upon ourselves the task of judgment that belongs to God alone. Jesus said that if we judge other people harshly, we will, in turn, be judged harshly:
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
God has appointed a Judge and he is the Judge of all creation. He is the One who can either approve or condemn a soul. Therefore we are actually overstepping when we as imperfect sinners ourselves condemn another person. Paul wrote this:
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Following The Golden Rule In Practice
12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. (NLT, Matthew 7:12)
The Golden Rule is a one-sentence summary of all of Jesus’ ethical teachings. In all aspects of life, we must treat others as we would like to be treated – never taking advantage or holding a grudge or doing harm; always being kind, compassionate and helpful when needed.
Ask youself: Do I Really have to Obey All of Jesus’ Ethical Teachings? Are there Exceptions?
Jesus sets a very high standard of conduct for both private and public life. Some people feel that that these high ethical standards are too difficult or even unrealistic, and there have been many attempts to soften His teachings or limit their scope.
Did Jesus Intend His Teachings only for His Disciples?
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was directed primarily to His disciples (Matthew 5:1-2, Luke 6:20). But the crowds of people were also present and listening (Matthew 7:28-29, Luke 7:1), and the language of His teachings implies that they apply to all people (Matthew 5:19, 5:32, 6:24, 7:13-14, 7:24-27).
It was always Jesus’ plan for His disciples to spread His teachings to the rest of the world.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:14,15)
Do Christ Teachings Apply To All Of Our Relations with Other People?
There are those who have convinced themselves that Jesus’ teachings only apply to those we have a personal relationship with like people within the group they belong to and that they do not apply to relations with people of other religions, races, nationalities, ways of life, etc. However, Jesus never spoke of any such exceptions.
In His parable of the good Samaritan, he made it clear that we must extend our “Christian love” to people of all races, religions and nationalities. He also said,
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43–48)
Ever since the nation split centuries before, Samaritans were despised by Judeans because of the ten tribe defection. Yet the Lord behaved differently.
Jesus actually approach a Samaritan and susequently gave her a witness concerning his identity. (John 4:5-26)
Do Jesus’ Teaching Apply to all Situations?
Some believe that Jesus’ teachings only apply in specific aspect of life. They feel that his teachings only apply to private life and not to public life like business dealings, etc. However, Jesus did not make any such exceptions.
When Jesus cleansed the temple, he threw out the corrupt money changers.
12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” (Matthew 21:12,13)
Money changers would assess a foreign coin for its type, wear and tear, and validity, then accept it as deposit, recording its value in local currency. The merchant could then withdraw the money in local currency to conduct trade or, more likely, keep it deposited: the money changer would act as a clearing facility.
Do Jesus’ Teachings Apply Here and Now?
Some argue that Jesus’ ethical teachings are unrealistic ideals just intended to show us how sinful we are, not commandments we must obey. Others will say Jesus was describing the ethics of the kingdom of God of the future rather than a code to live life by in this world. Are those beliefs consistent with biblical teaching?
Jesus presented His ethical teachings as God’s commandments for here and now, and He never spoke of any exceptions. As people who aspire to belong to the kingdom of God, we must be “in the world, but not of the world”:
21 “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.
Jesus made this remark:
22 When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’
23 Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’ (Matthew 7:21–23)
11 And now I am coming to you; I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. Holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one just as you and I are one.
12 While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me. I protected them, and not one of them was lost, except the man who was bound to be lost—so that the scripture might come true.
13 And now I am coming to you, and I say these things in the world so that they might have my joy in their hearts in all its fullness.
14 I gave them your message, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:11-14).
Jesus also made this statement:
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?
47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them.
48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.” (Luke 6:46–49)
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NRSV, Matthew 7:13–14)
17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” (NLT, Matthew 19:17)
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (NRSV, John 14:15)
It is clear thaat both God and Christ expect us to live according this moral/ethical code during this lifetime.
What if We Fail to Keep Jesus’ Commandments?
We are all imperfect humans, and we are all sinners in our own ways (Romans 3:21-24, 5:12, 1 John 1:8). We will never be able to completely comply with the high ethical standards Jesus set. But that is hardly an excuse for not trying our very best! (Matthew 25:24-30, Romans 2:1-4)
When we do fail, we can take comfort in knowing that God is merciful and is always willing to give us another chance when we sincerely repent.
The Importance Of Our Character And Conduct
When Paul left Timothy as a elder in the Ephesian church and as a young man he was forced to deal with some hard issues that had cropped up among the people of God. And even though Paul was planning on visiting soon, his heart was so heavy for the people of this church that he wrote everything down and sent it to Timothy as a letter.
In Ephesian chapter 4, Paul mentions some of the problem behaviors that had developed:
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 nor give place to the devil.
28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
A part of Paul’s concern was how these Christians were conducting themselves as the church. Christian character and conduct mattered to Paul. But have you ever wondered why it is so important? Is it really that big of a deal to follow a bunch of rules?
Whether we follow Jesus or the world, we are held to rules and a standard of living. Murder, stealing, lying, cheating, and abuse of various kinds are universally unacceptable. But for the world they are unacceptable because they cause chaos, disrupting the peaceful life that people long for. Much of the world’s reasoning is driven by self-love. This is not entirely a bad thing, but it is not the best thing.
As Christians we have a code of conduct that we are called to – not because of what we can get out of it – but because of who God is, and who we are as His people.
When God commands us to not steal but share generously, this is because He is a God of generosity who never takes what isn’t His. When God calls us to love sacrificially or forgive completely, it is because this is what He does. What God does stems from His very nature. And when God calls us to holy living, it is not only because He is holy, but because we are now His holy people, cleansed and declared to be righteous in God’s sight through the work of His Son, Jesus.
Once we too were a people who were driven by self-interest. Now we have been saved to be a people driven by love for God and others. The call to right living according to God’s standards is a call to godliness. Godliness is like God-like-ness. We are called to reflect the God who saved us, provides for us, hears us, loves us, and changes us.
Ultimately, true godliness is seen in Jesus. He is the “mystery of godliness” because once He had been hidden, but now He took on flesh and is godliness personified, and His godliness is credited to us. This is what gives us good standing before our God. And this standing gives us the freedom to obey our Lord.
As Christians and as the Church we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that shows our changed heart, our gratitude for our salvation, and our love for the One who died for us.
How can a Christian know what he may or may not do?
Here is where using having a truly Christian mindset is of great value. When answering the question above, a Christian would ask themselves these sort of questions and keep these sorts of questions in mind:
1. Does it have the ‘appearance’ of wickedness?
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
2. Does it bring glory to God? In I Corinthians 10:31, we read this plain statement:
“Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Before you engage in the activity in question, can you honestly ask for God’s blessing upon it, believing that He will be honored through your participation?
3. Is it “of the world”? If it is, then it is not “of Christ.” He said concerning His disciples,
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).
He was not “of the world” at all. He was in it, but not of it.
15 Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father.
16 Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world.
17 The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but those who do the will of God live forever.
(1 John 2:15-17)
4. Would the Lord have done it? He has left us an example that we should follow His steps:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
5. Would you like to be found doing it when the Lord returns?
Someone has wisely remarked, “Don’t do anything, say anything, or go anywhere that would cause you shame if the Lord should come!”
These mindset is very similar to the thinking of the servant who had recieved the 1,000 talents in Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 25:14-30. Recall what the Master’s response was to that servant?
24 Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed.
25 I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’
26 ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed?
27 Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned.
28 Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has ten thousand coins.
29 For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him.
30 As for this useless servant—throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and gnash his teeth.’
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 1 John 2:28
6. Can you feel free to do it when you remember that God the Holy Spirit dwells within you?
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19). See also Ephesians 4:30:
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
7. Is it fitting conduct for a child of God? When a king’s son acts in an unworthy manner, he brings disgrace on his father’s name. So does the Christian who behaves in an unbecoming way.
“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:24)
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)
8. What effect will your conduct have on others? Will it be a good testimony to the unsaved, or from your conduct will they draw the conclusion that there is really no difference between a Christian and an unbeliever?
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Also, will it cause someone who is young in the faith to stumble? The Apostle Paul warned that no man should put “a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Romans 14:13).
9. Finally, is there the least bit of doubt in your mind about it? If so, then don’t do it, for “he that doubteth is damned [condemned]…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
In connection with this subject of what a Christian may or may not do, it is well to remember that “we are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14,15). This does not mean that we may do as we like, but rather it means we want to do what God likes because He has done so much for us. God’s principles that formed the bases for the Mosaic Law are eternal.
We do not avoid worldly pleasures and amusements because we have to, but because we want to. The reason we want to is because Christ died for us, and now our ambitions are to live in a manner that will please Him
(2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Christ does not say, “If you keep away from sinful pleasures, you will be a Christian.” But He does say, in effect, to the believer, “You are a Christian! Now live in a way that is consistent with your high calling.”
And so Paul wrote:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”(Ephesians 4:1)
It is quite possible that a Christian may forget his dignified position, and go in for the things of the world. In such a case, one must keep in minds the words we read in the Book of Hebrews chapter 10:
26 For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us.
27 Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God! (Hebrews 10:26-27)
It is important to recognize that these are not things we produce primarily through our own effort; rather they come from the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in our lives (2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:17).
At the same time, we are told to obey God and to do our best to conform to His will. Philippians 2:12–13 says it this way: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Also recognize that the Spirit’s work in us is progressive. Christians will mess up; our behavior will not always adhere to God’s holy standards or be a very good demonstration of His work in us. But when we fail, we can trust that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). We can confess our sin and move forward, trusting in God’s grace and faithfulness (1 John 1:9).
Walking out Christian behavior not only honors God in us to others; it also protects us from the war against the fleshly desires within ourselves: “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11; see also Galatians 2:20; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14).
Being a disciple Of Christ requires a transformation. We are not born servant of Christ. And during our lives we pick up many ungodly beliefs and traits from the corrupt world we have been born into. False teachers of Christianity lie to you when they tell you that there is no need to repent, reform, and quit leading a sinful life. And those sheperds mislead and stumble when they tell you, “God loves you just the way you are!”
Remember the apostle Paul’s warning:
9 Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts
10 or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. 11 Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have
been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthian 6:9,10)
We must conform our personality and behaviors to the example Jesus set for us to follow.
This article has examined both the character and the behaviors that are pleasing to God and those that are displeasing to to Him and Christ based upon what the Bile teaches concerning thinking and character that reflect true Christianity.
Who Are The Chief Princes? Who Are The 7 Stars In The Lord’s Right Hand?
“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.”
The ‘chief’ or ‘principal’ angels referred to in the Book of Daniel are the original angels who serve directly before God.
They are also mentioned in the Book of Revelation in chapter 8:
2″ And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.”
They include Gabriel and Michael who are both mentioned in the Bible. There were a total of seven of these princely servant to begin with.
The Bible writers mentions two Books which are not contained within the Books we have available in the recorded Bible today. They both tell about these seven powerful angels by name and much more.
One is the Book of Jasher:
“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” Joshua 10:13
They are also spoken about in a prophetic book written by the man Enoch. That book is quoted from in the Book of Jude :
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,” Jude 14
Available text from Enoch’s writings go into detail about the existence of these seven angels and what transpired as result of the fall.
Jude obviously had information we don’t have access to today. The Bible does not contain the following account that Jude writes about:
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
One fellow disciple observed : “Despite his great power, Michael is still in total submission to the Lord. His dependence on the Lord’s power is seen in Jude 1:9:
“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.‘” (Some believe that Michael is another name for Jesus. But this is wrong. Jesus is not an angel. He helped his Father create the angels. Jesus is a unique creation).
Notice that Michael isn’t ‘lord’, but answers to the Lord.
The righteous angels have a rank and are submissive to authority, and for this reason they are used as a picture of a wife’s submission to her husband.
The Bible tells us, “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). If you take into consideration the great strength of the angel named Michael; the submission he has toward God is all the more beautiful.”
Beyond these facts, the only begotten son of God was not a member of that group of seven angels. Satan however was an angel of that order at one time but fell. He was replaced.
That there were a group of angels that included Gabriel, Michael, and others is common knowledge and has been throughout human history.
The only begotten son of God, Christ, has always been set apart from all other beings and things. He is unlike any other since no other can claim to have been begotten by God. He has no peers or peer group.
As was mentioned previously, Satan was an angel of that order at one time but fell. He was replaced.
Where are those 7 angels now?
Let’s examine Revelation chapter 2 for the answer.
Jesus In The Sanctuary-John’s Vision
In the Revelation to John, he is sees Christ standing in the Holy compartment of the Temple of God in Heaven.
Before Him at a distance are seven golden lamp stands which He says represent the complete congregation of those to whom He is addressing.
They are out before Him because they are human beings made of flesh and as of yet are not where He is, which is in Heaven in the Sanctuary.
The lampstands represent humans in their human enviroment here on Earth. They are not in Heaven.
When John in the vision is instructed to measure the Temple, he is told not to measure the “outer courtyard”:
“I was then given a stick that looked like a measuring-rod, and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count those who are worshiping in the temple. 2 But do not measure the outer courts, because they have been given to the heathen,”
The lampstand exist in the corrupt enviroment here on Earth that Satan and the other fallen angels were thrown down to.
However, within the Temple sanctuary he is seen in holding “seven stars”.
Note that these stars are seen in His right hand. His right hand would have to be connected to His right arm. His right arm would then have to be connected to the right side of His body. And while He is addressing John His body is standing with His feet firmly planted in the Temple Sanctuary.
These therefore have to be already existing spirit creatures because they are with Christ at the time He is addressing the complete church represented by the lamp stands before Him.
He cannot be referring to earthling man as the Watchtower Organization has claimed these 7 stars to be.
Jesus gives the identity of the 7 stars clearly:
20 Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars that you see in my right hand, and of the seven gold lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Yet many refuse to believe Him. Some have the teaching (‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’) that Jesus is calling human men ‘angels’. They say that these angels are symbolic of their elders.
Below is an excerpt from the Watchtower magazine identifying their human leaders as being the 7 stars in Jesus right hand.
It is also important to know the Watchtower doctrine has relegated the term ‘angel’ to be synonymous to ‘messenger’; as if delivering messages is the only task an angel is called upon to perform in service.
Many prominent post exit JW’s teach this erroneous conclusion as well. It is hard to fully escape Watchtower brainwashing.
Watchtower 07 4/21
. How were anointed overseers who served on bodies of elders depicted at Revelation 1:16, 20, and what can be said of appointed elders who are of the other sheep?
6 These “gifts in men” are overseers, or elders, appointed by Jehovah and his Son, through holy spirit, to shepherd the sheep with tenderness. (Acts 20:28, 29) To begin with, these overseers were all anointed Christian men. At Revelation 1:16, 20, those who served on bodies of elders within the anointed congregation were symbolized by “stars” or “angels” in Christ’s right hand, that is, under his control. In this time of the end, however, with the number of anointed overseers still on earth ever dwindling, the vast majority of Christian elders in the congregations are of the other sheep. Since these are appointed by representatives of the Governing Body under the leadings of the holy spirit, they too can be said to be under the right hand (or, under the direction) of the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 61:5, 6) Since the elders in our congregations submit to Christ, the Head of the congregation, they deserve our full cooperation.
(end of Watchtower comments)
There is no biblical basis whatsoever for these extrapolations. The statement begins with declaration as if it were as proven fact in which there is no connection established:
“How were anointed overseers who served on bodies of elders depicted at Revelation 1:16, 20, and what can be said of appointed elders who are of the other sheep?”
How grandiose to replace the true identity of these seven loyal angels with self-appointed weak human beings! These are nothing more than lies designed to place earthling men in a role of unquestionable command and control.
Nowhere in the Bible are men referred to as ‘angels’.
While Acts 6:15 states about Stephen, “All those sitting in the Council fixed their eyes on Stephen and saw that his face looked like the face of an angel”; the passage doesn’t refer to him as an ‘angel’. The Bible doesn’t call men ‘angels’ anywhere.
And Jesus actually says they are angels!
These angels minister on behalf of the Lord where the lamp stands are (Earth). They as mortal beings are exposed to possible corruption or failure just the same as human beings are. They are not incorruptible. So Jesus warns them of the consequences of any deviation.
There have been Holy angels serving before God’s throne for eons of time. They now have a share in priestly service (as the seven in the Revelation to John). They have not been forgotten or discarded.
In the Revelation to John these angels are seen coming out of the Temple sanctuary and are also seen in the Heavenly temple courtyard:
14 Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was what looked like a human being, with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
15 Then another angel came out from the temple and cried out in a loud voice to the one who was sitting on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap the harvest, because the time has come; the earth is ripe for the harvest!”
16 Then the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.
17 Then I saw another angel come out of the temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
18 Then another angel, who is in charge of the fire, came from the altar. He shouted in a loud voice to the angel who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sickle, and cut the grapes from the vineyard of the earth, because the grapes are ripe!”
The angelic ‘chief princes’ were given to Christ by God and are now subject to him. They now serve and answer to Christ as their Master.
This had always been part of God’s divine plan. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:27,28:
27 For the scripture says, “God put all things under his feet.” It is clear, of course, that the words “all things” do not include God himself, who puts all things under Christ.
28 But when all things have been placed under Christ’s rule, then he himself, the Son, will place himself under God, who placed all things under him; and God will rule completely over all.
Were all of the angels in Heaven were aware of this special son of God? Did all the angels know the Son of God? It appears not.
If it were so there would be no explanation for the scene recorded in the Book of Revelation in chapter 5 verses 1 through 4:
1″And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.”
John is not witnessing an earthly scene but one played out in Heaven right before the throne of God.
When this scene occurs all the angels are assembled before the throne of God in attendance.
When as verse two states the cry goes out to those in attendance, “Who is worthy to open the book and loose the seals thereof?”, there is silence for no one among them was worthy to approach the throne of God.
Ask yourself this: If all present during that vision scene were familiar with who the chosen one was (Christ), then why would there have been any uncertainty and silence from those in attendance when the strong angel ask his question? There could have only been one possible choice given all he had done. Also they would have all known that the ‘chosen one’ would of course have to be the heir of the Kingdom. After all, all creation was to become his inheritance.
And if you will notice, Christ does not approach the throne of God out of the midst of the assembled group of angels, but is lead in to appear before the throne of God.
This is when the angelic body is introduced to the son of God and his identity becomes known to them.
The chief princes mentioned in the Book of Daniel are the original angelic servant who served God.
The seven stars that Jesus holds in his right hand are those angels subjected to Christ.
Again, if Christ was well known, there would have been no question as to who was worthy. And if he was a member of an existing group, certainly they would have known he was the worthy one.
Jesus is the only begotten son of God. Michael is as the Bible describes an archangel, one of the principal angels who served before God’s throne. These were the chief angels referred to in the Book of Daniel.
Charles Taze Russell’s Racist Views Printed in Watchtower Publications
“It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race. They have been and are a race of servants, but now in the dawn of the twentieth century, we are all coming to see this matter of service in its true light and to find that the only real joy in life is in serving others; not bossing them. There is no servant in the world as good as a good Colored servant, and the joy that he gets from rendering faithful service is one of the purest joys there is in the world”.
(The Golden Age, July 24, 1929, p. 702)
The quote above is but one of many comments that can be found on the pages of Watchtower publications that reveal the racist beliefs of its founder and subsequent leaders.
While today boasting to have millions of adherents world-wide, the make up of its leadership at the top has alway been caucasian.
Its hard to believe that out of all these millions that either holy spirit or the Lord would not grace men of other races to serve in the capacity of leadership as the so-called governing body of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses nor that of ‘President’
The information in this article can e easily verify by anyone who would care to investigate its factuality and validity.
Reprint of July\Aug 1988 Bethel Min. Newsletter
Blacks and the Watchtower
By Randall Watters (exerpt)
(Randall Watters left the Jehovah’s Witnesses during the 1980 shake-up of the New York Watchtower Headquarters)
Few religious organizations have escaped being tainted by racial prejudice at one time or another. While the Watchtower has not been alone in its preferential treatment of the Caucasian, its history is perhaps a little more interesting and at times amusing in regards to the black man. It is all the more fascinating when you discover how few people really know what the Watchtower has taught regarding racial inferiority.
Taking a glimpse back in time to the beginnings of the Watchtower organization, we find more than just silent prejudice at work. Several statements were put in print regarding the alleged inferiority of the black man! Let’s examine a few of these statements from the past, and then we’ll examine their present view of blacks and even Hispanics in the Governing Body.
From the beginning, President C. T. Russell believed that the millennial kingdom was about to break upon mankind, accompanied by life in paradise and a restoration of the earth to the condition as found in the garden of Eden. Though in this present life the black man was found to be inferior, Russell argues, this will work to his advantage during the millennium. Humility, promoted by a position of inferiority, would breed strength of character to the “colored” if they are so rightly exercised by it (in other words, if they remain humble and not challenge the status quo). Note the following from the April 1, 1914 Watchtower:
“If nature favors the colored brethren and sisters in the exercise of humility it is that much to their advantage, if they are rightly exercised by it. A little while, and our humility will work out for our good. A little while, and those who have been faithful to their Covenant of Sacrifice will be granted new bodies, spiritual, beyond the veil, where color and sex distinctions will be no more. A little while, and the Millennial kingdom will be inaugurated, which will bring restitution to all mankind, restitution to the perfection of mind and body, feature and color, to the grand original standard, which God declared “very good,” and which was lost for a time through sin, but which is soon to be restored by the powerful kingdom of Messiah”.
All men privileged to live in that “new world” would return to man’s original state, including man’s original color and language. And what was that color and language? White and Hebrew, according to the Watchtower. Under the subheading, “CAN THE ETHIOPIAN CHANGE HIS SKIN?”, the Feb. 15, 1904 Watch Tower responds,
“We answer, No. But all will admit that what the Ethiopian cannot do for himself God could readily do for him. The difference between the races of men and the differences between their languages have long been arguments against the solidarity of the human family. The doctrine of restitution has also raised the question. How could all men be brought to perfection and which color of skin was the original? The answer is now provided. God can change the Ethiopian’s skin in his own due time”.
Prof. H. A. Edwards, Supt. of Schools in Slater, Mo., has written for the public press an elaborate description of how Julius Jackson, of New Frankfurt, Mo., a negro boy of nine years, began to grow white in September, 1901, and is now fully ninetenths white. He assures us that this is no whitish skin disease; but that the new white skin is as healthy as that of any white boy, and that the changed boy has never been sick and never has taken medicines”.
The reason for printing such a story, of course, is to demonstrate that God can and will change the “Ethiopian” (black man) into a white man in the New World.
The obvious question to ask at this point is, Why does the black man need to change? The reason they gave revealed their true feelings, as we see from the following excerpts:
“…The negro race is supposed to be descended from Ham, whose special degradation is mentioned in Gen. 9:22, 25”.
(Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1, 1898, p. 230)
“Noah declared, prophetically, that Ham’s characteristics which had led him to unseemly conduct disrespectful to his father, would be found cropping out later, inherited by his son,and prophetically he foretold that this degeneracy would mark the posterity of Canaan, degrading him, making him servile. We are not able to determine to a certainty that the sons of Ham and Canaan are the negroes; but we consider that general view as probable as any other”.
(Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1902, p. 216)
The change was needed as a sign of removal of the curse; black skin was a blemish, so to speak. Yet the skin color of the black man was not the only thing about him that was apparently cursed. In an article attempting to prove the bigots of the day to be in error, an article was written entitled, “The Negro Not A Beast.” The Negro was declared to be indeed human, yet with the following qualification:
“While it is true that the white race exhibits some qualities of superiority over any other, we are to remember that there are wide differences in the same Caucasian (Semitic and Aryan) family; and also we should remember that some of the qualities which have given this branch of the human family its preeminence in the world are not such as can be pointed to as in all respects admirable….The secret of the greater intelligence and aptitude of the Caucasian undoubtedly in great measure is to be attributed to the commingling of blood amongst its various branches; and this was evidently forced in large measure by circumstances under divine control”.
(Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1902, p.215216)
In an effort to provide hope for the Negro, the following story was related in the Zion’s Watch Tower of October 1, 1900, p. 296297:
CAN RESTITUTION CHANGE?
THE ETHIOPIAN’S SKIN?
The following, from the New York World, is the third we have seen reported. These suggest and illustrate the process of restitution soon due. The item reads:
From Black to White He Slowly Turned
“Parkersburg, W. Va., Sept. 8.It has fallen to the lot of the Rev. William H. Draper, pastor of the Logan Memorial church, of Washington Conference, A.M.E. church, of this town, to give a living affirmative answer to the famous Biblical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?”
Though once as black as charcoal, the Rev. Mr. Draper is now white. His people say that his color was changed in answer to prayer. Many years ago Draper was employed by a fairskinned man, and he was often heard to remark that if he could only be white like his employer, he would be happy. While in the white man’s service Draper `experienced’ religion.
From that day forward he prayed constantly and fervently that he might become white. Thirty years ago his prayer began to be answered. He first experienced a prickling sensation on his face, and upon close investigation found a number of small white spots scarcely larger than the point of a pin. He became alarmed, thinking he had some peculiar disease but he did not suffer and aside from the prickling sensation felt nothing unusual. Gradually the white spots became larger and extended themselves, until now, after the change has been in progress for over thirty years, Draper has not a single dark spot on his body”.
(Did this kind of thinking lead Michael Jackson, the famous deceased entertainer who was a member of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses to ‘whitenize’ his skin? Did he feel inferior by having dark skin?)
The advantage of being viewed as inferior supposedly made one a good servant, and The Golden Age magazine (now Awake!), comments:
“It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race. They have been and are a race of servants, but now in the dawn of the twentieth century, we are all coming to see this matter of service in its true light and to find that the only real joy in life is in serving others; not bossing them. There is no servant in the world as good as a good Colored servant, and the joy that he gets from rendering faithful service is one of the purest joys there is in the world”.
(The Golden Age, July 24, 1929, p. 702)
Even as recent as 1952, the Watchtower extols the “teachableness” of the Negro:
“Really, our colored brothers have a great cause for rejoicing. Their race is meek and teachable, and from it comes a high percentage of the theocratic increase“.
(The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, p. 95)
Segregation was practiced during the days of C. T. Russell and even into Rutherford’s term as president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. This excerpt is taken from The Watch Tower of April 1, 1914, p. 105:
“Recognizing that it meant either the success or the failure of the enterprise of the [Photo] Drama as respects the whites, we have been compelled to assign the colored friends to the gallery, which, however, is just as good for seeing and hearing as any other part of The Temple. Some were offended at this arrangement.
We have received numerous letters from the colored friends, some claiming that it is not right to make a difference, others indignantly and bitterly denouncing us as enemies of the colored people. Some, confident that Brother Russell had never sanctioned such a discrimination, told that they believe it would be duty to stand up for equal rights and always to help the oppressed, etc. We were obliged to explain the facts, assuring all of our loving interest in the colored people, and of our desire to do them good, and not injury. We again suggested that if a suitable place could be found in which the Drama could be presented for the benefit of the colored people alone, we would be glad to make such arrangements, or to cooperate with any others in doing so”.
Even more fascinating is the Watchtower’s early view of the lesser interest and intelligence of the Black and Hispanic races concerning the deeper things of the Bible. The Watchtower of April 15, 1900 said the following regarding blacks not participating in the “pioneer” work:
“There are probably as many as a hundred colored brethren on the Watch Tower lists, some of them very clear in the truth, and very earnest in its service, financially and otherwise. We have received letters from several of these, who had intended engaging in the volunteer work, expressing surprise that in the call for volunteers in the March 1st issue we restricted the inquiry to white Protestant churches. They rightly realized that we have not the slightest of race prejudice, and that we love the colored brethren with just the same warmth of heart that we love the white, and they queried therefore why such a distinction should be made in the call. The reason is that so far as we are able to judge, colored people have less education than whites, many of them quite insufficient to permit them to profit by such reading as we have to give forth. Our conclusion therefore is based upon the supposition that reading matter distributed to a colored congregation would more than half of it be utterly wasted, and a very small percentage indeed likely to yield good results”. (p. 122)
The average Jehovah’s Witness today that is confronted with this information would probably excuse the organization of being in error because “the light was dim” back then but that now the “light has gotten brighter and brighter,” and those days are long gone. It is true that times and attitudes have changed. Yet we should not be too hasty in concluding that the Watchtower has fully abandoned their old mentality. It was made known to me in 1977 while I was in charge of the printing of the Watchtower’s large Bible encyclopedia, the Aid to Bible Understanding, that it was not translated and printed in Spanish partly due to the lack of interest of the Spanish brothers in the deeper things of the Word! The feeling was that all that work would only go to waste among Hispanics.
Typical of the “Watchtower amnesia” regarding their own past history, they act today as if they never taught any prejudicial views, and that only the churches of Christendom are guilty of such things. Yet even the Catholic Church surpasses them in this regard! The Watchtower of Oct. 8, 1977 states:
“Even up to a hundred years ago the Catholic Church held the view that blacks were cursed by God”.
Maxwell explains that this view “apparently survived until 1873 when Pope Pius IX attached an indulgence to a prayer for the `wretched Ethiopians in Central Africa that almighty God may at length remove the curse of Cham [Ham] from their hearts.”
(p. 29. See also the 2/8/82 WT, p.1415.)
According to what the Watchtower is saying, the Catholic Church dropped their official prejudice against the black man at least 40 years before they did! Of course, they are banking on the fact that few Witnesses really know the history of the Watchtower organization. As has been demonstrated earlier, they viewed the curse of Ham as applying to the Negro as late as 1929!
Have Old Things Really Passed Away?
The Watchtower of modern times prides itself on its supposed freedom from racial prejudice as an organization (it does acknowledge individuals who have problems from time to time). It takes great delight in quoting the news media as they observe and comment on the massive assemblies across the world each year, with peoples from all races attending in harmony.
One observer they repeatedly quoted was G. Norman Eddy, who comments on Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“I am struck with their genuine high regard for the people of all races. Unlike some who pay lip service to the doctrine of racial brotherhood, the Witnesses welcome all to their society, even to places of outstanding leadership without reference to color or feature”.
(Journal of Bible and Religion, as quoted in the Jan. 15, 1973 WT, p. 37)
It is true that the assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses are remarkable in this regard, but so are many modern church groups across the country, especially among the charismatic persuasions. Yet unlike the churches, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has never had a non Caucasian in its membership, Negro, Hispanic or otherwise. (Samuel F. Herd was appointed to the governing body October 2, 1999 USA)
Further, there are likely more subtle reasons behind the reluctance of the Governing Body to take in minorities. The unspoken requirements of serving as a member of the Governing Body apparently include having the same eccentricities and Victorian attitudes as the men already serving in such capacities, which are somewhat peculiar to certain older Caucasians of English-American descent. Any aspiring soul brother must put on the same attitudes in order to be trusted. While the Watchtower does have a few blacks in high position, including Circuit Overseers and members of the Service Department at Bethel, such ones have been promoted no higher, in spite of their adopting “white” attitudes. Perhaps with increased public pressure and the passing away of the older diehards, a black may be appointed to the Governing Body; time will tell. One thing for sure, they will have to lose their “soul” in order to do so!
Sodom was a city full of injustices written in their laws.
Sodomite laws were completely backward and rewarded wrongdoing.
Details can be found in the Book of Jasher, Hebrew: סֵפֶר הַיׇּשׇׁר.
The Book of Jasher is referenced In Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; And 2 Timothy 3:8.
The following are some examples of the perverted sense of justice of the inhabitants of Sodom.
When Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to Sodom, this is what occurred:
12. And Eliezer went to Sodom, and he met a man of Sodom fighting with a stranger, and the man of Sodom stripped the poor man of all his clothes and went away.
13. And this poor man cried to Eliezer and supplicated his favor on account of what the man of Sodom had done to him.
14. And he said to him, Why dost thou act thus to the poor man who came to thy land?
15. And the man of Sodom answered Eliezer, saying, Is this man thy brother, or have the people of Sodom made thee a judge this day, that thou speakest about this man?
16. And Eliezer strove with the man of Sodom on account of the poor man, and when Eliezer approached to recover the poor man’s clothes from the man of Sodom, he hastened and with a stone smote Eliezer in the forehead.
17. And the blood flowed copiously from Eliezer’s forehead, and when the man saw the blood he caught hold of Eliezer, saying, Give me my hire for having rid thee of this bad blood that was in thy forehead, for such is the custom and the law in our land.
18. And Eliezer said to him, Thou hast wounded me and requirest me to pay thee thy hire; and Eliezer would not hearken to the words of the man of Sodom.
19. And the man laid hold of Eliezer and brought him to Shakra the judge of Sodom for judgment.
20. And the man spoke to the judge, saying, I beseech thee my lord, thus has this man done, for I smote him with a stone that the blood flowed from his forehead, and he is unwilling to give me my hire.
21. And the judge said to Eliezer, This man speaketh truth to thee, give him his hire, for this is the custom in our land; and Eliezer heard the words of the judge, and he lifted up a stone and smote the judge, and the stone struck on his forehead, and the blood flowed copiously from the forehead of the judge, and Eliezer said, If this then is the custom in your land give thou unto this man what I should have given him, for this has been thy decision, thou didst decree it.
22. And Eliezer left the man of Sodom with the judge, and he went away.
Imagine being legally forced to pay someone for assaulting you as if they had done you a favor!
One of their laws for instance, forbade its residents to offer assistance to travelers who passed through the city. If one was caught even giving a traveler a drink of water or a morsel of bread, the punishment was death. This is what happened to a daughter of Lot:
Consider Jasher 19:12-24-35
24 At that time the wife of Lot bare him a daughter, and he called her name Paltith, saying, Because God had delivered him and his whole household from the kings of Elam; and Paltith daughter of Lot grew up, and one of the men of Sodom took her for a wife.
25 And a poor man came into the city to seek a maintenance, and he remained in the city some days, and all the people of Sodom caused a proclamation of their custom not to give this man a morsel of bread to eat, until he dropped dead upon the earth, and they did so.
26 And Paltith the daughter of Lot saw this man lying in the streets starved with hunger, and no one would give him any thing to keep him alive, and he was just upon the point of death.
27 And her soul was filled with pity on account of the man, and she fed him secretly with bread for many days, and the soul of this man was revived.
28 For when she went forth to fetch water she would put the bread in the water pitcher, and when she came to the place where the poor man was, she took the bread from the pitcher and gave it him to eat; so she did many days.
29 And all the people of Sodom and Gomorrah wondered how this man could bear starvation for so many days.
30 And they said to each other, This can only be that he eats and drinks, for no man can bear starvation for so many days or live as this man has, without even his countenance changing; and three men concealed themselves in a place where the poor man was stationed, to know who it was that brought him bread to eat.
31 And Paltith daughter of Lot went forth that day to fetch water, and she put bread into her pitcher of water, and she went to draw water by the poor man’s place, and she took out the bread from the pitcher and gave it to the poor man and he ate it.
32 And the three men saw what Paltith did to the poor man, and they said to her, It is thou then who hast supported him, and therefore has he not starved, nor changed in appearance nor died like the rest.
33 And the three men went out of the place in which they were concealed, and they seized Paltith and the bread which was in the poor man’s hand.
34 And they took Paltith and brought her before their judges, and they said to them, Thus did she do, and it is she who supplied the poor man with bread, therefore did he not die all this time; now therefore declare to us the punishment due to this woman for having transgressed our law.
35 And the people of Sodom and Gomorrah assembled and kindled a fire in the street of the city, and they took the woman and cast her into the fire and she was burned to ashes.
Sodomites were completely and demonically backward in their reasoning or more accurately, their lack of reasoning.
Most people think of Sodom in terms of gross sexual immorality; and it was. But their sins were even more extensive.
Remember that God had condemned the City to destruction prior to the two angels arrival after which the men of the city demanded they be brought out to them.
Sodom, according to the Book of Jasher, was a city where adultery (wife swapping) was also a custom. Orgies seemed to big a favorite pastime.
They also tortured strangers when they would happen through:
And by desire of their four judges the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had beds erected in the streets of the cities, and if a man came to these places they laid hold of him and brought him to one of their beds, and by force made him to lie in them.
4 And as he lay down, three men would stand at his head and three at his feet, and measure him by the length of the bed, and if the man was less than the bed these six men would stretch him at each end, and when he cried out to them they would not answer him.
5 And if he was longer than the bed they would draw together the two sides of the bed at each end, until the man had reached the gates of death.
6 And if he continued to cry out to them, they would answer him, saying, Thus shall it be done to a man that cometh into our land.
7 And when men heard all these things that the people of the cities of Sodom did, they refrained from coming there.
God and Christ compared Jerusalem to Sodom.
Jerusalem was never known as a city of gross sexual immorality. So on what basis was the comparison made?
God stated the sin of Sodom and it can be read at Ezekiel 16:49:
49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
Now we have a basis for comparison.
God declared that the sins of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem were worse than those of the break away ten tribe kingdom to its north whose capital was Samaria. And that they were even worse than those of Sodom.
And Jesus made a similar comment regarding Jerusalem two times. Once when alive on Earth and a second time after his resurrection to Heaven.
1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:
9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
And Christ did so again at the time he gave his prophetic vision to John. He then likens Jerusalem to Sodom:
8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Many believe that the “great city” that is mentioned here is the same great city mentioned in Revelation 16:19, “Babylon the Great”. But it could not be. Why not?
He gives a clue that he is speaking of Jerusalem as he refers to it as the place “where our Lord was crucified”.
The crowd of Israelites who demanded the death of an innocent man in exchange for the release of a guilty murder is very reminiscent of the mindset and behavior of the Sodomites.
Matthew 27:15–18 records the events:
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
“‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas’”
Jesus had been accused of crimes that could not be proven and were in fact based on a false allegation.
Then there was Barabbas who was basically a terrorist.
The crowd chose a murderer over the one who brings the dead back to life.
They chose evil over the one who loves perfectly.
Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, but the crowds roared to free Barabbas and to crucify Jesus.
It is true that God used this travesty of justice to fulfill his will in that it provided an innocent, pure sacrificial offering to redeem mankind.
This did not relieve his murderers from guilt.
Consider for yourself in what ways the people of Israel (Jerusalem ) manifested a spirit and behaviors like those Sodom was condemned for and how its modern day counterpart is just as reprehensible.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him: We ask you, brothers, 2 not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God.”
The following article puts the ‘Interfaith Movement’ and ‘Christian Zionism’ ambitions and motivations into Biblical and historical context. As you read, reflect on what opposition the Lord Jesus and his first century disciples encountered.
What Is Antichrist?
Antichrist is that which is opposed to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only Messiah sent by God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Antichrist pose an ‘alternative’ means of salvation contrary to complete faith and obedience to Jesus Christ.
Christian Zionism and the Interfaith Movement is the modern-day antichrist.
The Interfaith Movement and Christian Zionism
It’s one of the most successful, and in some ways unlikely, interfaith movements in the modern world
On 23 June 1969, at the Midtown Manhattan headquarters of the American Jewish Committee, the evangelist Billy Graham met with two dozen rabbis and Jewish leaders. According to one rabbi, the meeting was to allow Graham to convey ‘the need for dialogue and communication’ between American evangelicals and American Jews, and to find common ground by explaining ‘his relationship with Israel’. It was a pivotal moment in the American Jewish and evangelical Protestant interfaith relationship.
Though some of the Jewish leaders were wary of the ‘wild raving fundamentalist’, Graham won them over. He cited the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, to describe his understanding of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, and explained his support for Israel as recompense for past Christian anti-Judaism. ‘All Christians are guilty as far as Jewish experience was concerned,’ he said. Graham also spoke of his conversations with the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, and assured American Jewish leaders that the United States’ president Richard Nixon was ‘extremely sympathetic’ to Israel.
Today, for many evangelicals, Christian Zionism is no mere side issue. They believe that they are not only correcting the ancient injustice of anti-Semitism, but contributing to the salvation of the world and the completion of God’s redemptive plans. It is, for many, the metanarrative that makes sense of the biblical drama and current events, and provides a road map for the future.
That 1969 meeting contained all the essential elements characterising the exceptional support that evangelical Protestants in the US give to the state of Israel. The spirit of this meeting has since been replicated dozens of times. Graham weaved an evangelical reading of the Bible, a deep-seated longing to aid Israel, and the self-interested power calculations of both communities into a language of interfaith rapprochement and shared Jewish-Christian interests. His Jewish colleagues, concerned about the future of Israel, and cognizant of the evangelicals’ influence, were eager to create new lines of cooperation.
Pressed on theology, Graham would have affirmed his commitment to the exclusive truth claims of Christianity, while the American Jewish leaders undoubtedly retained their own theological exclusivity. Still, their peculiar set of shared interests led to a powerful and lasting partnership. Their alliance is one of the most notable instances of interfaith cooperation in recent history.
In the wake of Europe’s religious wars, exclusive claims to religious truth – ‘theological intolerance’, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau called them in The Social Contract (1762) – grew to be seen as an impediment to civil relations. ‘It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned,’ wrote Rousseau, ‘to love them would be to hate God who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them.’ But the alliance of American evangelicals and American Jews proves that Rousseau’s dictum is not necessarily true.
Close to 50 years after that meeting, evangelicals and Jews remain at loggerheads on most theological and cultural issues. In the face of these vast differences, they have managed to unite – in ever closer cooperation – over support for Israel. No individual has inherited Graham’s stature atop American evangelicalism, and his multiple successors do not share uniform attitudes toward Israel. But many of them lead influential Christian Zionist organisations that constitute one of the most successful single-issue movements in modern US politics.
Christian Zionists have achieved exceptional unity and influence on support for Israel, using a sophisticated combination of religious, historical and political components. They emphasise a potent type of interfaith engagement that elevates biblical covenantal language, and offer a sanitized version of the Jewish-Christian past, yet also orient their work toward the pragmatic goal of increasing political influence.
Interfaith cooperation is a liberal ideal: the world can be a better place if different religions work together.
Understanding Christian Zionism as an important instance of interfaith cooperation helps us understand the powerful ways in which it has shaped not only relationships between Jews and Christians but the identity of American evangelicals.
Interfaith cooperation is at least as old as Moses’ flight to Midian, when he took refuge from his Egyptian pursuers with Jethro, a priest of an unknown religion, who became his father-in-law. Yet the mere fact of people of different religions working together is not the essence of interfaith cooperation. The term is a modern one, and its meaning is found in the 20th century.
Liberal ideas of interfaith cooperation lionize progressive values, expand tolerance, and help to build more democratic civil societies. And interfaith cooperation is a liberal ideal. From the British writer Karen Armstrong to the American campaigner Eboo Patel, its proponents claim that individuals and communities of different religious backgrounds will make the world a better place if they cooperate and work together.
Nonprofits such as Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and the World Faiths Development Dialogue in Washington, DC offer many historical examples of interfaith cooperation, and they’re always progressive. These include the civil rights partnership between Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and the collaboration between Mohandas Gandhi and Bacha Khan in the movement for Indian independence. Sometimes, proponents reach back further, to the cooperative culture of Al-Andalus in medieval Spain and the enlightened reign of Akbar the Great of the Mughal Empire. These examples stand for more peaceful cohabitation, more equality, more happiness, more justice, and more civilisation.
But Christian Zionism rejects progressive ideals and embraces a very different understanding of the world. That’s why it’s seen – by mostly liberal social scientists and journalists – not as a pioneer in interfaith cooperation but as an apocalyptic movement, a Right-wing political grouping, or even a neocolonial venture. To be sure, these analyses offer useful insights, but as a movement of Christians seeking cooperation with Jews, Christian Zionism also represents one of recent history’s most important interfaith cases.
Christian Zionists are seeking to enact what they consider the values of Jewish-Christian cooperation in political and religious terms. Starting with a specific political issue – the wellbeing of Israel – Christian Zionism structures the interfaith relationship in its service. The movement is built to make the case that this goal is vital to evangelical Christians and their identity.
Christian Zionism projects a specific vision of God’s covenantal guarantees and their eschatological fulfilment. In short, it makes God’s promises and their scope more certain, more selective, more exclusive in understanding God’s dealings with humanity. This specificity sets Christian Zionism apart from other interfaith movements, and goes far in explaining its affinity to a certain understanding of Jewish identity.
The issue in which this specificity pays interfaith dividends is in securing Jewish possession of Israel’s covenanted land. The ‘land’ consists of the sites of biblical history and the biblically mandated borders that God in Genesis grants to Israel’s patriarchs. For Christian Zionists, these make up the ideal borders of the state of Israel and include the contested West Bank.
It’s key that US evangelicals’ political Zionism took shape after the Arab-Israeli War of June 1967. This timing meant that, post-1967, evangelical understandings of Israel became preoccupied with its sovereignty over the covenanted land. In the wake of that war, which saw Israel take control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, Jews themselves were undecided on Israel’s significance. The trend, more obvious and expected in Israel, was to emphasise the centrality of land to Jewish identity. The entirety of Judaism could be distilled, in the words of the Israeli official Yona Malachy, to ‘the tripartite union of religion-people-land’. ‘The recognition of the tie between the Jewish people and their country must become the central theme of any future dialogue between Christianity and Jewry,’ he warned in 1969.
Among American Jews, there was less consensus on the preeminence of land to the meaning of Israel, though certainly many came to see the success of Israel as core to their own identity. One of the leading US conservative rabbis, Arthur Hertzberg, claimed in 1971 that ‘the state of Israel … is necessary for the continuity of Judaism and Jews’. Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs and an organiser of Graham’s 1969 meeting, insisted that ‘Christians face and accept the profound historical, religious, cultural and liturgical meaning of the land of Israel and of Jerusalem to the Jewish people’.
American Protestant evangelicals found these demands compelling, mostly for reasons related to their own ideas about the ‘end times’ and Christ’s second coming. For some evangelicals, Israel represented ‘God’s timepiece’ and the centre of the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. For others, it was a testament to God’s fidelity to his chosen people. Many of these eschatological interests also emphasised the central role of Israel in the end times.
Each step that Christian Zionists take toward Jews in practice means a step away from Muslims.
Post-1967, Christian Zionists adopted the emerging Jewish emphasis on Israel as their own. For the US evangelical educator and activist G Douglas Young, the tragedy was that ‘Christians in the US did not, nor do they, understand the Jews’ self-understanding of themselves and their interest in the land of Israel’. Young headed an evangelical graduate school in Jerusalem dedicated to the mission of helping students ‘com[e] to grips with the problem of the Jew’s self-evaluation and his interest in the land’. His selectivity of who defined the Jewish interpretation of Israel (largely Israeli Zionists) should not detract from his explicitly interfaith understanding of his mission.
Other evangelicals soon followed. Along with Graham, the presidents of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention in the late-1960s indicated an openness to adopting what they called a ‘Jewish self-understanding’ of Israel. It was basically a ceding of what Israel meant and should mean in the world today, while holding fast to an eschatology that forecast a bad ending for all non-Christians, including the vast majority of Jews.
After 1967, from the narrow starting point of overlapping concern for the security of Israel, Christian Zionists and their Jewish partners developed a shared set of values. Christian Zionists soon extended their thinking to related issues of anti-Semitism, religious persecution and secularism. Today, they are the most active partisans for Israel on US university campuses. They oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and lobby governments around the world to favour Israel.
A shared fixation on those deemed Israel’s enemies has been integral to this worldview. Arab Palestinians (both Christian and Muslim) hardly receive a hearing by Christian Zionists – a justification often voiced on grounds of interfaith solidarity with Israel. Each step that Christian Zionists take toward Jews, however, in practice means a step away from Muslims. The promise of an ‘Abrahamic’ dialogue or a tri-faith cooperative is nowhere dimmer than in Christian Zionism. In the name of interfaith cooperation, Christian Zionists find theological justifications for most Israeli policies.
Regardless of these political choices, Christian Zionists understand their support for Israel as participation in the redeeming work of God. At the dawn of US evangelical organisation for Israel, Young called for action as a necessary extension of Christian faith. ‘Are you helping the new nation of Israel?’ he asked in The Bride and the Wife (1960). ‘Are you helping them in material and physical ways? Are you expressing real friendship always?’ Assuming the burden of Israel’s security, Young argued, was a Christian duty and a tangible expression of interfaith solidarity between God’s two chosen people, the Church and Israel.
The influence of Zionism also led to recasting interfaith cooperation with Jews as a realisation, rather than a deviation, of evangelical identity. This is evident in the area of evangelical missions to the Jews – long the most contentious barrier to any type of Jewish-Christian rapprochement. Largely as a result of Christian Zionist activism, evangelical leaders – from John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (the largest Christian Zionist organisation in the US) to the European leadership of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (the largest Christian Zionist organisation in the world) – have disavowed missions.
Hagee’s book In Defense of Israel (2007) sought to curb the evangelical obligation of Jewish missions by claiming that Jesus never really meant to save the Jews. ‘The Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who rejected the Jewish desire for him to be their Messiah,’ he wrote, seemingly opening the way for Jews to be saved through their own covenant with God. Outcry by fellow evangelicals led Hagee to revise this specific language, but not his organisation’s refrain from missions.
Rather than endorse missions, Hagee and other Christian Zionists recast support for Israel as necessary Christian penance for the Church’s past mistreatment of Jews. The guilt felt by Christian Zionists is often palpable. ‘Anti-Semitism,’ Hagee wrote, ‘has its origin and its complete root structure in Christianity, dating from the early days of the Christian Church.’ This language is an echo of post-Holocaust Christian theologians – including Father Edward Flannery, whose book The Anguish of the Jews (1965) Hagee cites as formative to his understanding of Jewish-Christian history.
Support for Israel is just one side of the recent evangelical revaluation of Judaism. Once maligned as the religion of ‘Christ-killers’ and ‘Pharisees’, Judaism is now seen by evangelicals in a better light. The reasons for the change include a decline, following the Holocaust, in anti-Semitic views among all Americans, the pluralism of postwar ‘Judeo-Christian’ civil religion, and, less well-known, a revolution in biblical studies and related fields that emphasise ‘Hebraic’ over ‘Hellenistic’ influences on the Bible. Yet it was not principled commitment to pluralism that raised the change in evangelical views of Jews and Judaism, but rather a confluence of politicised eschatology with new intellectual authority urging closer Jewish-Christian cooperation.
Even outside the Christian Zionist movement, evangelical scholars of early Christianity and Judaism have changed their understanding of Jewish-Christian relations. In evangelical colleges and seminaries across the US, instead of Judaism as the negative mirror image of Christianity (the ‘law’ to Christianity’s ‘grace’; the ‘particularism’ to Christianity’s ‘universalism’), scholars now emphasise the Jewish heritage of Christianity and the mutually reinforcing values of the two traditions.
They managed to link academic insights and political organising as two sides of evangelical identity
In the past couple of generations, many evangelical scholars propelling this trend have studied at Jewish institutions: Marvin Wilson, whose book Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of Christian Faith (1989) earned a PhD from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, which is sponsored by the Jewish community; the aforementioned Young, founder of Bridges for Peace, the oldest Christian Zionist organisation, earned a PhD from what was then Dropsie College in Pennsylvania and is now the Herbert D Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. A later generation of evangelical scholars studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, including Brad Young (no relation to G Douglas Young), now a professor of Judaic-Christian studies at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma who recently graduated his first Orthodox Israeli student in the same field. These scholars have, to varying degrees, personally supported Christian Zionist causes, all arguing that partnering with Jews on Israel is a moral and theological good.
Jewish voices have encouraged this change of attitude. David Brog, the director of Christians United for Israel, calls Jews and evangelicals ‘blood brothers’. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a founder of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, heads the Center for Jewish-Christian Cooperation and Understanding, organising joint Jewish-evangelical prayer groups, Bible reading groups and pro-Israel rallies.
The constituent parts of Christian Zionist thinking arise from this milieu of shifting and interacting evangelical and Jewish thought. Less acknowledged but no less important, other Christian work has also informed the transformation of evangelical attitudes. The pioneering scholarship of E P Sanders on Paul’s Hebrew background, the biblical archaeology of William Foxwell Albright, the New Testament research of the Israeli scholar David Flusser provided the foundations for the remarkable Jewish-Christian dialogues that have emerged across North America and Europe, from the Catholic Church’s Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965 to the World Council of Churches’ denunciations of anti-Semitism.
Unlike most interfaith encounters in the 20th century, Christian Zionists managed to bundle these insights and claims with an argument that cooperation was meaningful only if realised through political action. They managed, in essence, to link academic insights and political organising as two sides of evangelical identity. Few if any activists or special-interest groups have more effectively brought scholarship and political action into concert.
Like most American Jews, Israeli Jews differ with American evangelicals on a host of religious, cultural and political issues, from the economy to abortion to women in combat service. The cultural differences between evangelicals and Israelis are vast. Yet Christian Zionism shows that shared values need not be the basis of interfaith cooperation. The evangelical-Zionist bond has faced great challenges and has lasted by clinging to a very narrow set of shared interests. Yet the ideas underpinning Christian Zionism shape both evangelical identity and Israeli understandings of the US.
This is far from an endorsement of Christian Zionism. Criticisms of the movement’s politics, theology, tendency toward apocalypticism, ignoring and ignorance of the Palestinian experience and interests, anti-Muslim stereotyping, and near-unquestioning allegiance to Israel are all worthy of discussion. But Christian Zionism should not be misrepresented. A fundamentally interfaith alliance has informed and propelled Christian Zionists into the very halls of power. They have succeeded, in a way few interfaith movements have.
Students of the Bible understand that Jesus provided a ransom sacrifice spotless and unblemished as required by God to redeem mankind from the slavery to sin and death that Adam and Eve cursed all their descendants to.
1 John 2:1,2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
It should not be overlooked that the chosen one to be offered, had to be a ‘firstborn’ of at least equal value as Adam the firstborn of humankind.
Adam’s sin caused mankind to fall out of grace with God. It became necessary for there to be a means of reconciliation.
God found it acceptable to devise an act of propitiation that would be sufficient that he would open a means to be put right with him.
Propitiation is an action meant to regain someone’s favor or make up for something you did wrong.
He provided His only begotten son to serve as a sacrifice for atonement.
The meaning of the word atonement is simply at-one-ment, He was sacrificed to make all things in Creation at one with God again.
No firstborn animal of a lesser life form would meet the requirements satisfactory to God to serve as the ransomed one.
There is only one other firstborn mentioned in the Scriptures that would possibly qualify. That was the firstborn of creation, the only begotten son of God.
Although he was of much higher stature and value than Adam, he was the only possibility. There were actually no other option; no one else to be considered.
God in his wisdom and foresight withheld immortality from his only begotten son until after his resurrection for this purpose.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
Had God not withheld immortality from His son, this ONLY choice would not have been able to serve as the sacrifice that offset (atoned) for Adam’s transgression. He would not have been able to give up his life because he would not have been able to die. There would have been no one else worthy.
This demonstrates that Almighty God, the Father, knows all thing and he knows the finale from the very beginning.
God’s superlative sacrifice is of sufficient value to cover all things in both Heaven and on Earth. More was being brought back to oneness with God than fallen man. His sacrifice covers things that occurred in the Heavens as well.
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
What did Jesus mean?
16 “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace. One group shouts to the other, 17 ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn’t dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn’t cry!’
That the people of his day, like the people of this day, often stage situations expecting others to automatically play a role they have been presented with. They behave like children who have put on a choreographed skit and then get frustrated that you will not play the part they have created for you.
Instead of excepting and conforming to what God was leading, they desired to bend things to their desire and will.
In the preceding verses, Jesus draws his listener’s attention first to John the baptizer and then to himself.
“When you went out to John in the desert, what did you expect to see? A blade of grass bending in the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in fancy clothes? People who dress like that live in palaces! 9 Tell me, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes indeed, but you saw much more than a prophet. 10 For John is the one of whom the scripture says: ‘God said, I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way for you.’
But John did not fit their expectation and was rejected by the great many of his fellow Israelites. They saw him as some weird guy who didn’t fit in.
John preached about the “Kingdom of heaven” and not about the establishment of an earthly kingdom in the hands of men. This is the same ‘Kingdom’ all the preceding prophets before John had pointed to.
12 From the time John preached his message until this very day the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it. 13 Until the time of John all the prophets and the Law of Moses spoke about the Kingdom; 14 and if you are willing to believe their message, John is Elijah, whose coming was predicted.
It was so as well with the Lord Jesus himself.
Verses 18 and 19
18 When John came, he fasted and drank no wine, and everyone said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 19 When the Son of Man came, he ate and drank, and everyone said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results.”
Jesus did not fulfill their expectations either. The Pharisees and others looked down on him because of his personal habits and the company he chose to keep. The Pharisees you may recall, were very elitist and would never be seen associating with the majority of the kinds of people the Lord was willing to expose himself to.
They had their own ideas of godliness and righteousness that Jesus would not become part of. And many Jews at that time had a Zionist vision that Jesus would have nothing to do with. They were NOT seeking the Kingdom of heaven. Some even wanted to make him their king, but he rejected the notion. And this frustrated them and made them question why.
So Jesus compared them to little children who had prepared a scene of their choosing but wasn’t what God had prepared. Think: If you heard wedding music but there was no actual wedding going on, would you start dancing as if there were? If you heard a funeral dirge yet no one had died, would you weep and mourn anyway?
Because Jesus did not fit their ideas and did not play to their tune so to speak, he was rejected. In rejecting Jesus, they were rejecting God and His divine plan.
Today we see the very same attitudes and behaviors in his fellow Jews and by so-called Christian-Zionist who seek not the Kingdom of heaven, but the establishment of and earthly world ruling government.