Books of the Bible
Norbert Link intends to begin this Sabbath with a series on the “Books of the Bible.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
"Edify, Not Destroy!"
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
How careful are we with our words? When we speak, do we do so to edify the hearer? Or do we, intentionally or inadvertently, tear down and criticize others?
Rather than being or coming across as accusatory or assumptive, we all must strive to be positive, uplifting, edifying and constructive, thereby showing the fruits of God’s Spirit.
This is not always easy, since we must overcome our own human nature and replace it with the nature of God. This is a life-long struggle. Human nature, being what it is, can invariably latch on to the negative; it always seems easier to pull down rather than build up. Proverbs 6:16-19 has something to say about those things that God hates:
“(16) These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
(17) A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,
(18) A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,
(19) A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
We should edify, not destroy. We should follow the wise instruction in Romans 14:19:
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Let us speak words of praise about the good in other people. Let us encourage others to do their best. Let us comfort other people when they are discouraged. Let us be a shining example of the way God wants us to be.
Let us always seek to build up and not to pull down; to edify, never to destroy. In short, let us use our tongue and the written word to be a force for good, and not let our arch enemy, the devil, trap us into doing otherwise.
We need to always remember Christ’s words in Matthew 12:36-37, before we speak:
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In light of this, let’s meditate over and apply Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29-32:
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom [better: whereby, Authorized Version] you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
This Week in the News
“AS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH…”
Jesus Christ very precisely identified a future time when mankind would be immersed in self-indulgent pursuits at the cost of understanding that God would shortly intervene to put a stop to the runaway madness of a world headed into oblivion (compare Matthew 24:36-39). If we look at the cause for God destroying the civilization that existed in Noah’s day, we are plainly told, in Genesis 6, that it was due to man’s continuing evil ways and his great wickedness.
You can turn on your television, read newspapers and magazines–and you should come to understand that our time fulfills what Jesus warned of for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!
Now, in these late months of 2002, wickedness is all-pervasive. Wars and rumors of wars have the whole world reeling in uncertainty–overtures for resolution of conflicts and the hopes for peace simply bear little real and lasting success. Let’s just witness the events of this week.
RUSSIA’S VLADIMIR PUTIN
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments in a press conference in Paris on Monday caused an extraordinary outburst: “Islamic ‘radicals have much more ambitious goals. They talk about setting up a worldwide Caliphate and the need to kill Americans and their allies.’ ” (From The Scotsman–Scotland’s National Newspaper Online, 13th of November, 2002.)
These heated comments erupted after Mr. Putin was challenged on his and his country’s handling of Chechen separatists–predominantly Muslims.
OSAMA BIN LADEN
Add to this the possible emergence of Osama bin Laden calling for a continuing Islamic Jihad.
“An Arab TV station broadcast an audiotape Tuesday of a voice that a U.S. official said sounded like Osama bin Laden’s.” The Coloradoan, November 13, 2002.
Most of Germany’s newspapers and magazines expressed hope, joy, and a lot of wishful thinking earlier this week, when they reported, “The ice between Germany and the U.S. is broken.” Cause for this wave of optimism was a 10-minute phone conversation between Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Bush (initiated by Mr. Schroeder) and a meeting in excess of one hour between Donald Rumsfeld and Germany’s Minister of Defense, Peter Struck. German and American governmental officials were anxious to declare that there was “hope for a good working relationship,” and that “we are moving slowly towards a normalization of our relationships.”
However, notice this headline in Der Spiegel of November 13, 2002, “New attack from Washington against Berlin.” The article continues, “Just when it seemed that the German-American relationship had relaxed, an American defense-expert has criticized once again the German Iraq policy.” Reference is made to Richard Perle who, according to the magazine, is “a driving force behind the harsh position of the United States towards Iraq.” Perle stated in an interview with the British Guardian, “Germany has fallen into a morally paralyzing pacifism.” In a German parliamentary debate on November 14, the opposition attacked the German government for its “unjustifiable foreign and defense policy.” It was causing “fear of war and anti-American feelings,” according to Wolfgang Schaeuble, second-in-command of the opposition party, as quoted in Der Spiegel.
It is somewhat ironic, perhaps, that this debate followed an article published by Die Welt on November 9, stating, “All Count on War.” Die Welt is an opposition-friendly newspaper. In the article, it did nothing to eliminate any fear of war or anti-American feelings. Quite to the contrary, it stated, “It happened right after the terrible September 11, 2001. At that time, the President of the United States supposedly asked his minister of defense and his security advisor how many countries around the world are threats for the security of the United States. The answer: ‘About 60, Mr. President.’ And George W. Bush reputedly replied, ‘Then let’s start, one after the other.’ For one right on the top of the list, time is running out — for the dictator Saddam Hussein.”
All of the above comes at the very critical moment when Iraq has accepted U.N. demands to meet conditions for disarmament–thus avoiding an immediate war with the U.S. and its allies. Newscasts report that President Bush has a “zero tolerance” for any non-fulfillment from Iraq.
Most commentators agree that Saddam’s response will probably not prevent war — it will only delay it. The Leader of the German Middle Eastern Institute, Udo Steinbach, predicts a military attack against Iraq. He stated that he cannot imagine that Saddam will agree to a search of all his palaces.
USA Today opinioned Thursday that “there will be other potential crisis points in the weeks to come — deadlines that could ultimately lead Washington and its allies to invade Iraq to force compliance. Baghdad faces a December 8 deadline to declare the banned biological, chemical and nuclear programs Washington is sure Iraq still has,” according to the paper. “If Iraq’s declaration fails to match a U.S. list of suspected weapons sites, the Bush administration could view that as provocation for an invasion. U.S. officials say they believe that there is virtually no chance Iraq will fully comply with the [U.N.] resolution…. Instead, the question reverberating through the Bush administration is whether to wait weeks or months to allow Saddam to build a pattern of deception or omission — or to push for war much sooner if Iraq defies any of the measure’s key demands.” The paper also pointed out that “Washington believes that the resolution sanctions the use of force against Iraq whether the council gives further approval or not.”
This might very well prove to pose a serious problem for the United States. As the paper continues to explain, “Judith Yaphe, an Iraq expert of the National Defense University, also predicts that Saddam will not reveal any new sites and that it might be difficult for inspectors to find incriminating evidence.” But what, if they don’t find anything? What happens, if the inspectors under chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix do not locate any sites of illegal biological or chemical weapons? (After all, Mr. Blix did not locate any sites during his prior investigation.) What if most of America’s allies declare themselves “satisfied” with that outcome? Will the United States, with the possible support of Great Britain and Israel, find themselves alone, when they decide to declare war on Iraq under those circumstances?
FAMINES AROUND THE WORLD
The past several days have witnessed a most welcomed easing of some of the most severe drought conditions in living memory for much of the Western United States. In the critical “reservoir states” such as Colorado, we witness now above average snow levels in the mountain river basins upon which so many downstream population centers rely. Though not out of danger, this early sustained snow fall is gratifying for deeply concerned farmers, ranchers and city dwellers–all of whom were made dramatically aware of the personal cost for limited water resources.
Contrast this good news to the very sobering and pitiful reports coming out of Africa. A report from World Vision International on October 23, 2002, states, “Ethiopia is bracing for the worst drought it’s ever seen. The country’s rainy season, for the third consecutive year, has passed with no rainfall and child deaths and malnutrition are climbing.” The article goes on to point out that “up to 14 million people… may face starvation.”
Mass famines now ravage remote and underdeveloped parts of this earth. There is often little hope for help simply because of the frightening scale and the challenge that faces a world in which too many of its citizens suffer from hunger as a way of life.
Week by week, we find ourselves watching the fulfillment of biblical warnings that will quickly usher in the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of God’s rule. Until then, this world will continue to descend into ever more evil–ever more violence on a greater and greater scale. For us, we must heed this admonition, “‘WATCH therefore, and PRAY always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.'” (Luke 21:36).
In a recent publication from another Church of God organization, Christian participation in certain wars fought by humans is condoned and even advocated. Regarding Luke 22:36-38, it is stated, "Jesus warned his disciples of perilous times to come.
These are not the words of a pacifist.” Could you please explain this passage in light of your strong stance against Christian participation in war?
A: Luke 22:35-38 reads in context:
“And He said to them, ‘When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’ [God took care of them.] Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” For the things concerning Me have an end.’ So they said: ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them: ‘It is enough.'”
This passage cannot be used to justify participation of a Christian in war. In fact, the passage teaches the exact opposite. Firstly, “two swords” would be hardly enough to defend themselves against the coming Roman persecution. Secondly, Christ Himself makes clear why they were to buy swords — so that prophecy regarding Him could be fulfilled. What specific prophetic saying had to be fulfilled? “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” What transgression did the disciples — who had swords — become guilty of?
Note, first, that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). We read, in Matthew 24:51, that Peter took the sword and struck the servant, in order to “defend” Christ. When he did that, he became guilty of the transgression of the spirit of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13; 1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). Notice Matthew 26:51-52: “And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in his place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.'”
Christ does not advocate that His disciples take up weapons to defend themselves, or others, in war. Note His clear statement, “ALL who take the sword will PERISH by the sword.” When Peter took the sword to harm or kill another human being, he became a transgressor of the law. The other disciples had undoubtedly similar feelings as Peter, supporting his conduct in their minds. They were all with Christ, so Christ was “numbered with the transgressors.”
We must also realize that at that time, neither Peter nor any of Christ’s disciples were converted. Their attitude and conduct changed, however, after their conversion (compare, for example, 1 Peter 2:21-23). We also read in James 4:1-3 that the origin of wars comes from “our desires for pleasure that war” in our members. Verse 4 continues, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” James tells us here that we become “enemies” of God, if we were friends with and join the war machine of this world.
Returning to Matthew 26, Christ goes on to explain that His protection does not come from men, but from God. Verse 53, “‘Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” He continues, however, “‘How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?'” (Verse 54). The point is, God would have protected Him, but it was not God’s time for His intervention. Jesus made a similar comment in John 18:36, “‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants [twelve legions of angels whom the Father would have sent Him for protection] would fight, so that I would not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Christ was not talking here about His eleven disciples who had two swords — they could have hardly prevented Jesus’ arrest by “a great multitude with swords and clubs.” (Matthew 26:47).
Christ’s disciples are not to participate in war. Our Master tells us, “Put your sword in his place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” We, who believe in Christ and His Word, are not to perish, though, but to have everlasting life (John 3:15).
We read a similar warning and admonition in Revelation 13:10. The context is a coming persecution of the saints by the beast power (Verse 7). Christ introduces His warning in this way, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” (Verse 9). Then, He says, “He who leads into captivity [including through the means of war], shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.” Christ warns HIS END-TIME CHURCH NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN WAR. He continues, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
Christ’s true disciples will have the patience to endure even war, without resorting to violence and responding in kind. They will have the faith that GOD can and will protect them, even in the face of adversity, and that they must never transgress His law.
Luke 22:36-38 does not teach us that we must arm ourselves to protect ourselves in war. Rather, if we do that, we are “transgressors” in the eyes of God.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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