“Who has bewitched you?” Paul was seriously concerned that someone was leading the Galatians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was pointedly questioning them, and strongly warning them to beware.
Beware being bewitched, Paul warned – understanding that there is not another gospel to be drawn away to, even if it appears that angels from heaven are presenting it. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn out of position in Christ. Don’t be misled by charm into evil doctrines. Don’t be fascinated, and deceived, by false representations claiming to be truth.
What is offered to bewitch the saints? What is offered to pervert the gospel? Emptiness. Things that beguile through enticing words. That cause us to question God and His goodness and His precious plan of salvation:
- Appealing to the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit
- Pleasing man rather than God
- Appealing to works rather than faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sins
- Back into bondage rather than freedom in Christ
- Glorying in the flesh instead of the cross
- Traditions of men rather than the truth of God
- Trusting in self rather than the Saviour
- The law rather than grace
Paul so strongly opposed false prophets, he put a curse on them! Read it yourself in Galatians chapter 1. Perverting the gospel is a serious crime in the kingdom of Christ. Those who attempt to bewitch followers of Christ anger God Himself. Jesus flatly stated that those who cause others to stumble in the faith would be better off drowned. Those who trouble the saints will bear their judgment, Paul wrote.
Paul warned the Galatians to not be otherwise minded. One of the Greek definitions of bewitched is to be put out of our wits. When someone is tempted to not obey the truth through false representations, they’re being pulled off the mark. And if we miss the mark, we also miss the prize. If we miss the mark by being bewitched, we risk tearing down the hedge of spiritual protection around our children, confusing and endangering them along with ourselves. What we reap, we sow. Beware being bewitched. And warn others with sincerity and humility to avoid the same trap.
If any within the Church are pulled off base by being bewitched, we are to lovingly restore them to the right path with meekness, exhorting them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free in order to escape being entangled with bondage. Jesus warned that if, having put our hand to the plow, we look back, we endanger our souls. Let’s watch out for ourselves and others lest the enemy devour any of us. Beware being bewitched.
Many Christians today believe that there truly is a “wall of separation between Church and State” and that the Church should not get involved in any kind of “political” activity, but should instead leave that to secular organizations. Their belief is based both on Scripture and what they have been taught in the school system and general society.
The Scripture that is often cited for this belief is Matthew 22:21, which states, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Also there is Romans 13:1, which states, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are chosen by God.”
Additionally, since the early 1960s, the Supreme Court has been restricting the role that religion plays in the “public square”, based mainly on the concept of “Separation of Church and State” (which does not appear in the Constitution). This separation idea has led many churches to shy away from anything that even appears to be political, and the vast majority of the Christian community is comfortable with this stance. It is fortunate for us that this has not always been the case. We need only look at the history of early America and the mid-to late-1700s to see how different the position of the Christian community was, and the critical difference this made to the founding of our country.
After a couple of generations were born in America, there was a decline in regular church attendance. Keep in mind that 99% of America’s population was Bible-believing Christians. There were various reasons for this decline, which we won’t go into here. God, however, had a plan, and He inspired evangelists to begin what would become the greatest revival the country has ever experienced.
Once the revival had succeeded, regular church attendance again exceeded 90%, and Americans were not willing to go to war against “God’s-appointed” ruler (King George III) without clear Scriptural basis. Fortunately, God’s Word was there to help the country. Because the Protestant Reformers in the 1500s had faced similar problems going against the civil authorities in many countries who were aligned, there were many writings covering this very issue.
In the Bible there are numerous recorded instances of Christians and Jews defying government authority, when and only when that authority is not acting within God’s Law. The instances include: the Hebrew midwives defying Pharaoh when he ordered them to kill the male children, Daniel and his companions in Babylon defying the Chaldean King who ordered them to worship him as a god and, in the New Testament, Peter and James, after the day of Pentecost, defying the Jewish Leaders and continuing to preach on the Temple grounds. All of these instances had in common that God’s Law had been violated and Christians and Jews chose to follow God’s Law instead of man’s.
American congregations were advised that in order to justify a “revolution”, they must be sure that the King and Parliament were, in fact, violating God’s Law. Such justification was found in the actions of the King who had chosen to not only be the executor of laws, but gave himself veto power over any law the colonial assemblies passed. Further, he also required all Royal Judges to swear loyalty to him and to follow his decrees and not those of the colonial assemblies. He became a dictator, and therefore was acting against the will of the Americans and violating God’s Law.
The Americans had tried numerous times to reach a compromise with the King, but he refused, stating the he “was born to rule and that the colonists were born to be ruled over.” (Which is a clear violation of God’s Law.)
The Americans stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence that the King had violated God’s Law and spelled out the long train of abuses that the king had perpetrated against the Americans. The Preamble reads, in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis mine).
During the Supreme Court session that ended on June 30, 2018, the Court chose not to hear, among others, two cases which were decided at the lower court levels with conflicting outcomes. Both of these cases had to do with prayer at public meetings. In one case, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that it was constitutional for School Board meetings to begin with student-led prayers that were predominantly Christian. In another case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that it was unconstitutional for a County Commissioners meeting to begin with prayers offered by the Commissioners themselves who were predominantly Christian.
As recently as 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled on prayers to open public meetings. In that case (Town of Greece v. Galloway), the Court ruled that “Americans should have the freedom to pray without being censored, even when opening public meetings.” However, the 4th Circuit Court decisions goes against that previous ruling. The Supreme Court has therefore let stand two decisions which are in conflict with one another.
The Supreme Court has become the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not. In the two cases they declined to hear, they let stand two lower court decisions which are in conflict with one another. The question then becomes: under what circumstances can a prayer (invocation) be given at a public meeting? The last case upon which the Court did rule is the 2014 case in which they said essentially that as long as there is an opportunity for people attending the meeting to “opt out”, and as long as the meeting format provides an opportunity for a variety of faiths to provide the invocation; then the invocation before a public meeting is constitutional.
It is unfortunate that these types of cases keep coming up, and the fault lies squarely with the Supreme Court and its unwillingness to provide a “general guideline” which covers all public meetings. The Court has chosen rather to rule on each individual case, causing confusion. They are “splitting hairs” on this issue. Therefore questions still arise such as: is it okay to pray at a public school event? Is it alright to pray at a school board meeting if members of the board pray or if a student leads the prayer? At City Council and County Commissioners meetings, is it acceptable to have clergy lead a prayer, or is it okay if a member of the Council or Board of Commissioners leads the prayer? The Court has arrived at different decisions on each of these instances or rejected cases that have been decided by lower courts that have ruled.
Prior to 1962 it was okay to pray in school and any other public meeting. Since that time it became “unconstitutional”. Similar issues have arisen with regard to the display of the Ten Commandments, with the Court deciding that some “versions” of the Commandment are “denominational” and therefore promote one religion over another and thus cannot be displayed on public land.
The Court has gradually moved toward eliminating God from the public square and the results are easy to see today. Other countries have followed suit and again the results have not been good. When God disappears from the lives of people, the population loses its sense of direction and priorities. It happened over and over again to the Hebrews when they got to Israel. Anyone who reads and understands the Old Testament knows what consequences befell the Hebrews.
The lessons in the Old Testament are clear and obvious. When people turn their backs on God, He will wait for a time to see if people repent and turn back to Him; but if not He will provide a “reminder”.
On Monday, 6/4/18, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the Masterpiece Bakeshop case. The case was about a Christian baker in Denver, CO who refused to custom-make a wedding cake for a gay marriage. Jack Phillips, the owner of the shop, had offered to sell the couple any of the ready-make cakes in the shop, but stated that, because of his belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman, he would not comply with their request for a custom-made cake.
The case was taken before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) who found that the baker had violated the anti-discrimination laws in CO and, therefore, should either make the cake or be fined. The case then went through the federal legal system with the courts affirming the CCRC’s decision. In January of this year the case was heard by the Court and, on Monday, they issued their ruling.
The majority (7 to 2) found that the CCRC did not take into consideration the religious rights of the bakeshop owner and were in some instances hostile to those beliefs. The Court therefore ruled that the CCRC would need to take another look at the case. Left out of their decision was to what extent a business or individual selling services to the public can refuse those services to a customer, because of the business owner’s religious beliefs.
Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in which he stated:
“Some of the commissioners at the formal public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried in to the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillip’s faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust…The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commissions adjudication of Phillip’s case.”
Justice Kennedy also stated that,”When the CCRC considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.”
Supporters of Masterpiece Bakeshop point to the ruling as a win for Christians, as they see in it that the government cannot treat them differently than others, and must take into serious consideration the beliefs of Christians when deciding what course of action to take. Those who support the government forcing current societal beliefs on Christians point to the fact that the Court did not say the baker could legally refuse to make the cake. Instead it declared that when someone demands a Christian baker make a cake, that person must first seriously consider the the baker’s beliefs and be respectful of them before then forcing him to make the cake.
In truth, the latter position, unfortunately, is one which may prevail in government going forward until other similar cases are decided upon by the Supreme Court. The point is that the Court did not say the baker could refuse to make the cake, it merely said that the lower courts or commissions cannot be hostile to the religious beliefs of either party in the case.
In 1952 the Supreme Court ruled on one of the many religious freedom cases that have come before over the years. The case was Zorach v Clausen. This decision, like several previous ones, argued that the government should not merely permit the free exercise of religion, but should actively cooperate with religious authority. The decision, reads in part:
“The First Amendment does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. Otherwise the State and religion would be aliens to each other, hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly. We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”
The Supreme Court could have used this case as a guide, however it was not mentioned. The Court stated plainly that they did not want to rule on the broader issue of to what extent religious beliefs take precedent over civil law. So Christians need understand that they may still be subject to persecution for their beliefs and may continue to be subject to the whims of the judicial system.
A law passed in California in 2015 has required Pro-Life Planning Clinics to advertise state-funded abortion services. Pro-Life groups sued the state and on Tuesday, March 20th, the Supreme Court heard arguments in this case. A decision on this case will come later in the year. Many Pro-Life groups are watching this case as other states might institute similar requirements, should the Court rule in favor of California.
The argument from the California side is that many of the women who have “un-wanted” pregnancies do not know that the State provides low-cost or no-cost abortion services. They argue, therefore, that any clinic or family planning, or pregnancy center must advertise the State’s services regardless of their beliefs about abortion.
The Pro-Life clinics and pregnancy centers see this law as a violation of their right to religious freedom under the First Amendment. That is, the right not to advertise for services they object to on religious grounds. Additionally, the Pro-Life groups believe that the new law is one which “compels speech”, which in this case means that regardless of beliefs, the clinics must “speak” about abortion services. Historically, the Court has ruled that individuals and groups cannot be “compelled to speak” beliefs with which they do not agree. The Pro-Life groups also realize that this new law is a desperate attempt by the Pro-Abortion groups because the Pro-Life movement has gained broader acceptance within the population across the country.
For Christians, the issue should be clear. Life begins at conception and God is “knitting you in the womb”. From that point forward, any termination of life is murder. Many Pro-Lifers get caught up in the arguments such as, “What about rape or incest?” Such arguments are distractions when you stick to the Truth as stated above. There are many remedies in rape and incest cases after the child is born. But until that time, any termination is murder.
What is missing from the arguments on behalf of California is the answer to the question: “What are the consequences from the broader concept that once the government can compel speech in one instance, what is to stop them from compelling it in others?”
A similar case was argued before the Court earlier this year in the Masterpiece Bake Shop being required to participate in a gay wedding when it violated their Christian beliefs about the definition of marriage. While the outcome of this case will come later this year and while this case of not coerced “speech” but “action”, the concept is the same. It is the government requiring actions by Christians which are against their beliefs.
While the Court, over recent years, has moved far away from the original intent of the First Amendment, there is always hope that they will show common sense in this and the Masterpiece Bake Shop case to protect Christians from what amounts to religious discrimination.
The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment (the very first of all amendments) to emphasize that the government should not interfere with religious practices, nor should they “establish” a state sponsored religion (as had been the case in England). Today, America has “Secular Humanism/Anti Christianity” as its state sponsored religion. Christian principles, which are the bedrock of this country’s founding, are no longer welcome in the public square. It is time for us to begin the long road to restoration of those principles so as to not continue to lose favor in the eyes of God.
Today, January 22nd, marks the 45th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions in the United States which legalized abortion in all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. Yes, very late third trimester abortions do happen and are legal in our very own state of Colorado. Not only that, but you and I are paying for them.
More than 60 million babies have been destroyed since that day. Millions upon millions of mothers and fathers have been lied to, and our nation has suffered as we’ve devalued the lives of anyone considered less than perfect.
But somber as that is, and as much as we mourn the lost, we do have cause for celebration.
After reaching a high point in 1990 of over 1.6 million abortions performed, we’ve begun to see an annual decline. We are now back down to levels not seen since the late 1970s. The tide has turned.
I fully believe that 2018 will be a year of victories. We’ve already seen unprecedented support for the pro-life movement. For the first time ever, our nation’s President gave a live address at the March for Life. You may recall the group of young mothers and children who formed the crowd behind President Trump during his speech. They were comprised of actual pregnancy center clients who chose life and were in Washington as part of the “Babies go to Congress” event hosted by Heartbeat International. They were given the exciting opportunity to witness his historic address from a position of honor.
Millions more celebrated SOHL (Sanctity of Human Life) Sunday this weekend in their churches. This weekend, pastors and clergy spoke out in support of life from pulpits across the nation. Pregnancy centers were honored, side walk counselors were celebrated, and a message of hope and healing to post-abortive women were shared.
We are winning but we still have much to do.
“My Body, My Choice” was chanted over and over at this past weekend’s March for Women in Pueblo. Pink kitty hats and supporters of the abortion mill, Planned Parenthood, were scattered throughout the crowd of roughly 1,000 people. The most common sentiment at our march was unsurprisingly mimicked across the nation at similar gatherings. As the guests at the podium spoke of their support for ‘reproductive rights’ and talked about the ‘life saving work’ being done at PP, my heart ached for those men, women, and children as they whooped and hollered in agreement. They are victims as well. They’ve been deceived.
I encourage you to learn all you can about abortion, laws, and alternatives. Seek out ways to support your local pregnancy resource centers. Learn the language of compassion and hope. Join us on this side of history and fight for the Right to Life.
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” ―Saint Augustine
Blog submitted by Tamra Axworthy
Our culture has changed drastically recently, with many traditionally held beliefs now being questioned and overturned, even to the point where those who still hold true to those beliefs are seen as morally wrong. The most obvious area where this has occurred is in the realm of sexuality, beginning with the sexual revolution years ago and leading to the influential LGBTQ movement today. There has been progression from sex being seen by our culture as a sacred act reserved for a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage, to teens being mocked if they haven’t had sex by the time they graduate high school, or earlier. Not only did the normalization of sexual relationships outside of marriage take hold in our society, but the created order of sex being between a man and woman is now rejected. Actually, the very lines and definitions that divide men and women are now questioned, but that’s another blog for another time.
Many in the LGBTQ movement claimed gay marriage wouldn’t lead to any other traditionally cultural taboo being embraced. They claimed there would be no slippery slope when the definition of marriage was opened and changed to include same sex marriage – but they were wrong. At this rate, the movement will not stop with the legalization of same sex marriage, but will continue to overthrow traditional, biblical standards and embrace relationships which are sinful and contrary to God’s plan. The arguments used to justify gay marriage – the often repeated “love is love” – can be used to justify other sinful relationships, too. If the definition of marriage, given by God, is removed as authoritative, why stop with gay marriage? If our argument is simply “love is love”, why is love limited to two people? Actually, many people have been asking this question for years, and have been pushing for legalization of non-monogamous marriages. Muslims in Italy right now are pushing for polygamy, men being allowed to marry multiple women (which many Muslims believe the Qur’an allows), and their legal argument is if homosexuality can be legal based on “love is love”, why can’t polygamy?
When God and objective moral standards are removed from the equation, why stop with homosexuality? Why not allow all types of “love”? In the past years, the American acceptance of polygamy has doubled, which can (in part) be attributed to the normalization of polygamous relationships in the media. Shows such as “Sister Wives” sparked the interest of millions of Americans, some of which asked the simple question, “Why can’t we marry more than one person?” The question is a valid one if our laws are simply based on our feelings. If “love is love” and objective standards are removed, polygamy would be a natural progression. Actually, why stop with one man and three women? Why not one man married to two women and two men, and why can’t these men also be married to other women? If absolute authorities are removed as the standard, such as the Word of God and morality as defined by God, why not? Love is love.
Actually, if love is love, why can’t someone marry him or herself? After all, our culture is obsessed with loving ourselves and being selfish and “me” focused, so why not allow people to marry themselves? Sologamy is the name given to self-marriage, and several people around the world have already taken part in these wedding ceremonies. Why not make it legal in America and give those people tax benefits? Why two? Why not one person married to him or herself, or five people together? Why is two the magic number?
The question is easily answered when God’s plan and purpose in creation and His Word are taken into account. However, when God and absolute authorities are thrown out the window, then who cares, love is love, isn’t it? Be prepared, just as the sexual revolution didn’t end with the normalization of casual, pre-marital sex, it won’t end with the legalization of gay marriage either.
Today, December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case centers on whether or not the owners of a commercial enterprise which is open to the public is allowed to determine who they will provide products or services to, or if they must serve anyone who comes through their doors, regardless of the business owner’s religious beliefs. The decision on this case will be made public sometime in the first quarter of 2018. The Court has previously decided cases which put the outcome in doubt, because the “public accommodation” requirement decided in the 1960s says that a business cannot discriminate based on race, and in the recent Hobby Lobby case, the Court decided that faith-based businesses do not have to comply with the Obamacare mandate regarding birth control.
The case may come down to a simple fact that black people are born black whereas gay people have made a lifestyle choice. The decision therefore will hinge on whether being a “constitutionally protected lifestyle” (which is a recently “discovered” right by the Court) is more “constitutional” than the religious freedom (which is contained in the written Constitution) of the owner of the business.
If the Court decides in favor of the baker, it may have to acknowledge that the homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and not something people are born with. Such a decision would undermine one of the fundamental tenants of the homosexual community: that homosexual people are “born that way”. While they may acknowledge that there is no “gay gene”, they believe that homosexuality starts in the very early stages of life, rather than something that someone who has reached the age of reason (however that is defined) makes on their own.
Unfortunately, this Court has tended to make narrow decisions based on the specifics of the case and has shied away from making blanket decisions (that is with the exception of the gay marriage case). The Court could decide that making a cake is actually an expression of the owner’s artistic talents and therefore is his ‘personal property’ which would allow him to pick and choose who his customers are. This leaves to door open to additional law suites which try to define what “artistic expression” is and is not. Such a decision would leave open the question of what is the extent of religious freedom enjoyed by other business owners.
In the worst case scenario, if the court sides with the Civil Rights Commission and forces the baker to make the wedding cake for the homosexual couple, religious freedom will suffer a large setback. We know from experience how aggressive segments of the homosexual community are and you can be assured that other Christian owned businesses will be targeted, forcing them to make the decision to go against their beliefs or close their businesses (as those would be the only choices).
While, as yet churches and other court-defined religious organizations have not been forced to go against their religious beliefs on matters pertaining to abortion, a negative outcome from the Masterpiece Bakery case could certainly subject those organizations to recognize homosexual marriage and in some cases require them to participate in such ceremonies.
The Bible clearly instructs believers to follow God’s law and teachings even if they conflict with government mandates or laws. Christians must stand up for their beliefs and not walk away from the Truth. We need to continue to proclaim the Truth in the face of both social and legal opposition. We need to stand on that Truth and we know that, though we may suffer, God has a plan to prosper and not to harm. He always blesses those who obey His Word.
Years ago, I came across a chart arguing that same sex marriage was not biblically wrong. The chart was shared by many of my Facebook friends, and by both Christians and non-Christians. My heart was saddened to see many of my Christian friends sharing the chart, not grasping the horrendous errors it espoused. After noticing similar charts show up again on my news feed recently, I determined that a response is in order. I encourage everyone to take a moment and familiarize yourself with the chart below, which I’ll address over a series of blogs in order to provide more depth than a single blog can.
The writer(s) of this chart are either ignorant of theology, doctrine, and Scripture (and logic), or are purposefully using fallacious arguments and twisted representations of Scripture to win people to their side, which no correct position would need. Let’s answer the question, “Why is homosexuality sinful?” and “Should gays should be allowed to marry?”
Our discussion will start with, “Because the Old Testament said so!”, and the inevitable response of, “The O.T. also says it’s sinful to eat shell-fish, to wear clothes woven with different fabrics, and to eat pork” and, “Should we still live by the O.T. laws?”
The creators of this chart are trying to remove the Old Testament as an authority today because several verses make it quite clear homosexuality is sinful:
Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Leviticus 20:13: If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.
While many try to discount these verses with a context change, they have failed (on every level) to justify those grammatical/contextual changes. The chart above doesn’t take that approach, but instead makes the sweeping implication that all Old Testament commands are irrelevant today, after all, many Christians eat bacon, which is banned by the Old Testament, right? Why is it okay to ignore those rules but not the homosexual rules? Haven’t all those rules expired? No.
The writers of the chart have either ignored or completely misunderstood basic Old Testament theology and the different types of laws given in the Old Testament. Why is it okay to eat pork but not murder? (Both are said to be wrong in the Old Testament.) Because the law dealing with pork is not the moral law given in the Old Testament, but a law specifically for Israel which was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Many laws were given to the nation of Israel to define their culture, or to guide the sacrifices during the O.T. time frame.
The cultural laws were meant to keep Israel separate from the pagan nations surrounding them. God knew if they mingled with the pagan nations, those nations would lead Israel away from Him. In fact, every time Israel ignored God’s command to stay separate from the other nations, those nations did lead them away from God. The cultural laws, and the laws governing sacrifice during the O.T., are no longer applicable to Christians today, because Christ has provided the ultimate sacrifice. Actually, the New Testament reveals this over and over, explaining the differences between these laws in several places, such as the book of Hebrews and Peter’s vision in Acts 10. However, there is another law given in the O.T. which is never overturned, which never expires, and is re-emphasized by Jesus and every writer of the N.T.: the moral law of God.
God’s moral law does not change, because it comes from the nature of God Himself, who is eternal and unchanging. Again, these laws are reiterated in the N.T., just as homosexuality being sinful is reiterated in the N.T., showing it was part of the moral law. In fact, if we look at the passages above in Leviticus, they are clearly defining moral behavior, and therefore never expire. The same passage which says homosexuality is sinful (Leviticus 18) also gives the moral law against incest. The passage in Leviticus 20:13 is clearly moral, too. Beginning in verse nine, God gives moral laws, such as not cursing your parents, not committing adultery, not lying with your father’s wife or your daughter-in-law, and, finally, in verse 15, the passage condemns beastiality. Is the author suggesting these laws have all expired? Is committing adultery now allowed by God? Or other sexual abominations such as beastiality? Clearly not.
The Old Testament is clear: homosexuality is sinful. Should we live by all the laws of the Old Testament? No, not at all, but no Christian was suggesting that anyway. This argument gives a false dilemma by claiming you either follow all the laws or none of the laws, which isn’t the case. The cultural and sacrificial laws expired with the coming of Jesus Christ, but the moral law is only reinforced by Jesus and will never change. So do I still think homosexuality is sinful because the Old Testament says so? Yes, I do. Does that make me a “sexist, chauvinistic, judgmental, xeno-phobic” person? No, it doesn’t. It simply means I love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth, even if many people will spew hatred in my direction for doing so.
This year, nearly a month ago on October 31st, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. The act of nailing a document to the door was not, in and of itself, that unusual, but it was its content that was to make history. As mentioned, the act itself was not that unusual; the nailing of documents to the door was a call to debate, and the defense of one side or another was posted for all to read and thus respond.
What Martin Luther did was to call into question one of the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church: that of “justification”. That is to say, that one is saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) (Sola Fide, Sola Gratia). The Truth is found in the Bible alone, and not in what the Church may say it is (Sola Scriptura). Further, that Jesus Christ is our only Lord and Savior (Sola Christus). And finally, we live for the Glory of God alone, not for the Church or anyone therein (Soli Deo Gloria).
These themes contained in Luther’s theses were put forth to convince the Church that they needed to change and reform their practices which had corrupted their doctrine. The Church had been allowing people to “buy” their way into heaven. The money, of course, went to the Church allowing them to expand and beautify their churches. It had also led to the placing of “unqualified” individuals into positions of authority in the Church, as they were able to buy a Bishop position, or even Cardinal. The Church wanted to be the “go-between” between God and the people, setting the rules based on their interpretation of Scripture (to which few had access).
The Catholic Church had been the only Christian denomination for more than 1,000 years and, during that time, had grown to be more of a political force than a spiritual one. They did, however, use their spiritual authority to convince the political leaders to “cooperate” with the Church, when it suited their needs. They had lost sight of their true mission, which was to share the gospel and grow up life-long followers of Christ. It became, rather, an international multinational enterprise designed to enrich its members.
Luther defended himself at a “trial” in Worms, Germany and was fortunate to have royal supports who protected him from the Church, or he would have been “eliminated” as a heretic, as those who had come before him had been. Luther found sanctuary in Germany and was able to translate the Bible into German for the general public to begin to know the Word of God directly and personally.
Once the earthly power of the Church had been broken, others followed Luther in defiance of the Church. What would become the Protestant Reformation had begun and there was no turning back. The Church did begin to push back against the “heretics” who now taught that Scripture was the final authority and not the Church. For the next 300 years numerous conflicts within and among nations were largely based on religious grounds. Thousands of people were killed defending what each thought was the “true” religion.
While there were negative consequences of this Reformation, there were many positive ones. There was a gradual spread of the Bible in native languages, and although Bibles were still hard to come by (because of the expense of the printing), it was able to be read by those who were literate.
The Reformation also allowed for the questioning of “authority” on the political level, as it had been questioned on the spiritual level. Ultimately the founding of this country was based on a willingness to question the authority of the King which had been born, in part, out of the Reformation. The Reformation laid the ground work for the justification of questioning kings and princes, whose actions did not line up with the Word of God. The Founding Fathers studied the writings of the early Reformers to find the scriptural justification for the American Revolution. Such works proved critical to the Americans who were reluctant to defy the “lawful” king without scriptural justification.