PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XLIX
Grace, in action, is a bond between God and man. It is man who must remain in grace because he is the one who can change. For the sap of the tree to reach the branch, it must remain on the vine and the believer in Christ. Grace is like love or any other gift, if we do not use it, we lose it. Jesus uttered this warning:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him/her, he/she it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:4-6).
GRACE IS NOT LASTING OR ENDURING WITHOUT BEING PERSISTENTLY CARED FOR
Grace, like Christ and God, does not change! However, our use of grace is up to us! In fact, the Lord depends on us to use grace to its fulness; for, in this life on earth, the abundance of God’s grace can never run out. However, Jesus did not expect that “His Grace” would be received with open arms. Jesus even doubted that his disciples would leave a greater impression before He returned to gather his people and judge the world. One time, Jesus remarked, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
In Gethsemane, Jesus’ last day as a human being, He begged the Father to set Him free from the burden grace had put on Him. To witness Jesus’ ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took with Him three of his disciples:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go yonder and pray.” And talking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, watch and pray with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And he came to the disciples and found the sleeping and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second tie, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, they will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see my betrayer is at hand” (Matthew 26:36-46).
Before Jesus took his disciples to Gethsemane, and while He was on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus made them aware of what they too would face in the future. Jesus’ own sacrifice only would be the beginning of a time of tribulation Israel had never gone through. Jerusalem, itself, would be trampled on in the disciple’s life-time:
But before all this they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which no one of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:12-24).
LIVING IN GRACE IS NOT A PLEASURE RIDE, BUT IT IS THE WAY OF THE CROSS
Christians, like their Lord the Christ, live redemptive lives in the world. They dispense grace by daily being cross-bearers (Luke 9:23-27). A person, who cannot or who is not willing to carry his own cross, cannot be a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:27). To become heirs of God’s Kingdom, requires suffering (Romans 8:17). To be with Christ, in His future Kingdom, calls for suffering and dying like Jesus suffered and like Jesus died (Philippians 3:10). Look at the picture that has been flashed from heaven of the persons who qualified to be with Christ.
After this I (John) looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stand round he throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on heir faces before he throne and worshiped God, sayin, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and hansgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulations; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:9-17).
THE CROSS WAS AND THE CROSS STILL IS THE FINAL REDEMPTIVE PAYMENT FOR MORTAL SINS
The cross was not a Roman tool of execution! However, the cross was a Hebrew tool to sentence people to death. The Jewish leaders, specifically, demanded that Jesus be crucified (John 19:6). Moses wrote the “First Law” for the Hebrews how a criminal was to be hung on a tree and to be taken down before nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The Jews practiced crucifixion on a large scale. Alexander Jannaeus, a grandson of Mattathias Maccabee, revenged himself against the Pharisees and crucified eight hundred of them in one day. Alexander was a self-made Hasmonean king and priest, who forced the Greek culture on his Jews. Enclosed find Dr. Pfeiffer account of Jannaeus heinous contact and crime.
“The rift between the Pharisees and the Hasmonean rulers (Hellenistic Sadducees), first noted in the reign of John Hyrcanus, reached its climax during the days of Alexander Jannaeus. Jannaeus kept the Pharisees in subjection by the use of foreign mercenaries.
Open rebellion broke out at a memorable Feast of Tabernacles when annaeus was officiating in the Temple as King-Priest. Showing his contempt for the Pharisees, Jannaeus poured out a water libation at his feet instead of on the altar, as prescribed by Pharisaic ritual. The people in the Temple, enraged at this impious act, pelted Jannaeus with the citrons which they were carrying in honor of the feast. Jannaeus called upon his soldiers to restore order. Hundred of defenseless people were killed in the process.
The result was open civil war. The Pharisees invited the king of Syria to aid them. War brings strange allies! The descendants of the Hasidim asked the descendants of Antiochus Epiphanes to aid them against the descendants of the Maccabees.
The Syrians came and, aided by the Pharisees, forced Jannaeus into hiding in the Judean hills. The Pharisees did some serious thinking. Fearing that the Syrians would claim Judea as the fruit of victory, and thinking that Alexander Jannaeus and his Sadducean sympathizers were sufficiently punished, thousand of the Pharisees deserted the Syrian army and went over to Jannaeus. The Syrians werer defeated by this realignment of forces.
Jannaeus was not content to learn from his near-defeat, however. He instituted a hunt for the leaders of the rebellion, and made a horrible example of those he caught. He gave a banquet to the Sadducean leaders to celebrate his victory. Eight hundred Pharisees were crucified in the presence of his celebrating guests. Alexander Jannaeus thus goes down in history as a tyrant. Compromise between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was rendered impossible. Many students of the Dead Sea Scrolls identify Jannaeus as the Wicked Priest who persecuted the pious leader known as the Teacher of Righteousness.
Tradition suggest that Jannaeus repented on his deathbed. It relates how he instructed his wife, Salome Alexandra, to dismiss his Sadducean advisers and reign with the aid of the Pharisees. (Charles F. Pfeiffer, Between the Testaments, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1959, pp 100-101).
WHAT THE JEWS DID TO JESUS, THE INQUISITION AND THE COUNCIL OF TRENT DID TO JESUS’ FOLLOWERS
The Pharisees were the spiritual people, who were being persecuted by imposters and who claimed to be representing God. The leaders of the Latin Church made a similar claim and they persecuted the real followers of Jesus by setting up an inquisition in 1542, and legalising it in the Council of Trent in 1544-63. Great suffering and death was inflicted and carried out against any one who disagreed with the Pope and with his clergy. The historian Qualben gave us a bird’s eye view of this brutal system that called itself “Holy Office.”
The Inquisition: The Holy Office, usually called the inquisition, was a church tribunal whose objective it was to discover and to eradicate heresy. Those suspected of heresy or spiritual offences against the Roman church were brought before this court. Confession frequently was wrung from the victims under torture as cruel as imagination could devise. Penalties usually consisted of confiscation of property, imprisonment, banishment, or death. The sentences were executed by the secular government.
This terrible institution, which had prevented Protestantism from getting any foothold in Spain, was set up in Italy in 1542 on recommendation of Caraffa, and under the supervision of Pope Paul IV. Six cardinals were appointed Inquisitors-General with full power to act in cases of heresy on both sides of the Alps. The inquisitorial courts were so successful in the suppression of Protestantism in Italy that the pope decided to use them also in Corsica and Sardinia and the Low Countries. In time, the Inquisition became a world-wide institution.
How could such cruel coercion and infliction of pain enter into the Catholic propaganda? The Catholics justified the use of this terrible machinery on the ground that the Catholic church, as they said, was the only true Church, outside of which there was no salvation. When the people were led astray by Protestant “heresy,” it was the duty of the Church to bring those people back again. Heresy was to the church body as cancer was to the human body. The physical tortures of the Inquisition were like painful operations, absolutely necessary in order that the body might be kept in a sound condition.
The Council of Trent, 1544-63: The second great agency of the Counter Reformation was the Council of Trent, which during its three separate sessions, decided to close the door of the Roman church firmly against all forms of Protestantism. The Council had three specific purposes: first, to define and codify the Catholic doctrine; second, to reform the life of the Catholic church; third, to suppress heresy.
The Council of Trent co-ordinated Scripture and Tradition as joint rules of faith. Tradition was inspired as true as the Scriptures, and should therefore enjoy equal authority. The Church alone had the right of interpretation. The apocryphal books of the Old Testament were acknowledged. The doctrine of justification on left room for work-merit. Sanction was given to the seven medieval sacraments. The Council emphatically rejected any compromise or modification of the medieval Catholic doctrine. But the Catholic theology was adorned with the embellishments of modern humanistic learnings, stated in such a way as to repudiate the views of he Protestant reformers. The doctrine of papal supremacy was implied in the twofold proviso that “the Pope was to be the sole exponent of the decrees henceforth, and that no one, on pain of anathema, was to impeach the accepted usages and order of the Church.” (Lars P. Qualben, A History of the Christian Church, Nelson and Sons, New York, 1958, pp. 342-343).
SUMMING UP: Being a survivor of World War Two, I am not unfamiliar with hardships of the Pharisees, the disciples, and the Christians under Roman persecution. My eyes have seen what good people had to do to satisfy greed and hate.