Our good fight
We believers in Jesus Christ are soldiers of the Lord and as soldiers we are continually at war. We must fight what the Scripture calls “the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18 – NIV). We must fight against our numerous and merciless enemies, but I do not refer to our enemies made of flesh and bones (whom we must love, as it is written: “Love your enemies” Luke 6:27 – NKJV) because our struggle is not against them. The enemies against whom we children of God must fight are wicked spiritual beings that plot against us. However God, knowing this, has provided us with an armor; the weapons are His, they are not carnal because – as I said before – our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but they are “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 – NKJV).
Now Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11-13). The devil is our adversary and he is the prince of this world, which he rules through many spiritual beings which obey his commands, and which are principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Now, know this, that all these spiritual beings are our enemies; they do not love us, they do not pursue what is good for us, they don’t want us to be edified, they don’t protect us, they do not show any mercy toward us because they are merciless. Here is what they desire: they desire us to deny the Lord, so that we may be again entangled in the pollutions of the world from which Jesus Christ has delivered us by His precious blood, and thus we may go to perdition. Through their schemes they try to cause us to wander from the faith and from the truth. Here is how they try to achieve their evil aim: they try to keep us from reading and searching the Word of God, and from meeting the saints; they try to induce us to believe destructive heresies; they try to induce us not to pray to God; they try to induce us not to pursue holiness, for they know that it is written that without holiness no one will see the Lord; they try to induce us not to forgive those who wrong us and must be forgiven; they try to induce us to doubt the faithfulness of God; they try to induce us to forget the poor among the saints (for they don’t want us to meet their needs). In other words, they try to keep us from knowing and doing the will of God. They are indeed our enemies, because they do not want us to do what is good, rather they want us to practice evil (while the Scripture commands us to abhor what is evil – Romans 12:9).
However, know this also, that God knows all the wiles of Satan and his servants, and He enables us to stand against them. This is why He has provided us with His armor and commanded us to put it on, so that we may stand against the wiles of Satan.
How Jesus was tempted by the devil and how He resisted the tempter
Before I speak in detail about the armor of God, I want to dwell upon the temptation that our Lord had to face; yes, because Jesus Christ “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 – NKJV). Reflect upon this: Satan tried to induce Jesus, the Son of God, to sin so that He might not be able to save us! The devil did not want Jesus to die on the cross bearing all our sins in His own body because he knew that in so doing Jesus would condemn sin in the flesh and would rescue many men and women from the hands of the devil through His precious blood. That’s why the devil tried to induce Jesus to sin, because he knew that if Jesus sinned, He would not be able to die for men’s sins and thus men would continue to be under the power of the devil.
Satan tempts us in the same manner he tempted Jesus, thus we must know how Satan tempted Jesus, but above all we must know how Jesus resisted the devil so that we also, following His steps, may resist the devil and put him to flight. Yes, because we must resist the devil without giving place to him and without treating him with familiarity. For this is what the apostles wrote to us: James wrote: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 – NKJV); Paul wrote: “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27 – NIV); and Peter wrote: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith ….” (1 Peter 5:8-9 – NKJV).
Let us see now how Jesus was tempted by the devil and how Jesus resisted the devil. After Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan river, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then He was led up by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (it was necessary for Jesus to be tempted in all points as we are tempted so that He might be able to aid us when we are tempted, as it is written: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” Hebrews 2:18 – NKJV).
● It is written: “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:2-4). Note that the devil tempted Jesus when He had fasted forty days and forty nights; he came to Jesus when He was hungry, that is to say, when He needed something to eat. Now, in the wilderness there was no bread but there were some stones and the devil tempted Jesus to command stones to become bread. The fact that Satan began to tempt Jesus by saying: “If thou be the Son of God …” (Matthew 4:3), indicates that the devil knew that Jesus Christ was the Son of God but by his words he tried to deceive the Lord into believing that since He claimed to be the Son of God He could, because of His authority, turn stones into bread, and also that if he had seen Jesus turn those stones into bread he would have believed that He was the Son of God. Also when Jesus was crucified, He was tempted in a similar way, for while He was on the cross, those who passed by “blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:39-40 – NKJV), and the scribes and the chief priests said: “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42 – NKJV). As you can see, even on the cross Jesus was tempted to rebel against God because his enemies wanted Him to show them that He was the Son of God by coming down from the cross; however, Jesus showed them that He was the Son of God not by coming down from the cross but by rising again because that was the command He had received from His Father. Let us go back to the temptation in the wilderness; the devil tempted Jesus to command those stones to become bread not because he wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle and to believe that Jesus was the Son of God but because he wanted Jesus to fall into transgression, for he knew that if Jesus had obeyed him He would have disobeyed God; nor because he wanted Jesus to eat some food and be strengthened, for the enemy did not care about the needs of Jesus or His physical weakness (“he was a murderer from the beginning” John 8:44 – NKJV, therefore if the devil could have killed Jesus he would have killed Him on that occasion), but the devil used His desire to eat some bread in order to induce Jesus to do things His own way and not according to the will of God. Jesus resisted the devil by the Word of God, quoting that passage of the Scripture which states that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. By those words Jesus meant not only that it was not yet time for Him to eat some bread but also that in order to come out of that distress He did not have to command stones to become bread because God had decided to deliver Him from that distress in another way. The adversary still tempts in the same way, for he tries to induce us to believe that the end justifies the unlawful and dishonest means. However, let us take heed to ourselves, because the fact that we need something must never lead us to do things our own way or by fraud or by craftiness in order to obtain what we have the right to have. On the contrary, we must make every effort to obtain what we need by observing the divine laws, that is to say, by walking in righteousness and holiness. It is true that in acting in this way we suffer, but it is better to suffer, wrestling according to God’s laws, than to lose our patience and thus fall into temptation (remember that “he sins who hastens with his feet” Proverbs 19:2 – NKJV). Know that in the midst of all our distresses and afflictions, Satan tries to cause us to fall into temptation because he sees our weakness, he sees our need and he ‘advises’ us to come out of our distresses and afflictions by disobeying God; he never advises us to obey God in everything. Jesus, the One who turned the water into wine at Cana of Galilee, could have turned those stones into bread because He was able to perform that miracle; but Jesus did not do what the devil tempted Him to do because even when Jesus was hungry His main food was to do the will of Him who had sent Him and to finish His work. For us also, when we are hungry and thirsty, our favourite food must always be to do the will of God. “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them” (1 Corinthians 6:13 – NKJV), therefore both the bread we eat to live and the stomach we have in our body will pass away. While he who does the will of God will never pass away, as it is written: “He who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17 – NKJV). Therefore, in the midst of all our needs we must see that we do the will of God (fearing God and keeping His commandments), because man shall not live by bread alone. Of course, bread also is given to us by God for our own good, but we must not think that in order to be happy we only need to have the necessary material things, for such a thought is untrue, for Jesus affirmed that those who are happy are not those who are full but those who hear the word of God and keep it, as it is written: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28 – NKJV). On the contrary, those who think that they can live by bread alone and affirm that they do not need to keep the commandments of God are unhappy and in addition to this they cannot please God because they live according to the flesh, as it is written: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8 – NKJV) even though they have their daily bread and all the necessary material things. Just as after Jesus had resisted Satan and Satan had departed from Him the angels of God came and ministered to Him, so we also, after we have suffered a while, will be helped by the angels of God whom God will send forth to meet all our needs (as it is written that angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” Hebrews 1:14 – NKJV); yes, because if in the midst our distresses we submit to God and resist the devil we also will see the powerful deliverances that God grants to the upright men; great deliverances which the Lord performs for His elect by His angels.
● “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:5-7). After Jesus told the devil those words of the law of the Lord, the devil tried to cause Jesus to sin in the following manner. He took Jesus up into Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and told Him to throw Himself down if He was the Son of God, for it was written that God would command His angels to bear Him up in their hands lest He dashed His foot against a stone. Seemingly there was no harm in those words the tempter spoke to Jesus, because the tempter quoted one of the faithful promises made by God, ‘believing’ that if Jesus had thrown down God would have helped Jesus and He would not have hurt Himself. However, all this is just a vain appearance because behind those words of the devil there was a cunning scheme of the devil, who wanted to wreck the plan of salvation made by God before the foundation of the world. Brothers, you must always bear in mind that no matter how the devil acts and no matter what he says, he never wants to do good to us. Furthermore, the devil wants people to blaspheme the name of God, he does not want the name of God to be praised. Do not be deceived by the fact that every now and then he quotes even the Word of God, because his purpose is always a wicked purpose. In that specific temptation against Jesus, the devil quoted a promise of God, however he did not quote all the promise but only part of it, for the devil did not say: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12 – NKJV), but he said: “He shall give His angels charge over you and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6 – NKJV). As you can see, the tempter did not quote the following words “to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). Did the devil forget to quote them? Not at all, rather we affirm that he did not want to quote them. Why did he decide not to quote them? Because every time the devil quotes the Word of God he quotes it incorrectly or omitting some words or adding some words of his; therefore we must know very well the Scripture lest we be deceived by the devil. Also in the Garden of Eden the old serpent did not quote correctly the Word of God when he spoke to the woman, for God had said to the man: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17 – NKJV), while the serpent said to Eve: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 – NKJV). In that case, however, the woman did not resist the serpent as she ought to have resisted him, and thus she was deceived and fell into transgression. Jesus knew that His Father had promised to keep Him in all His ways on condition that all His ways were holy and righteous, but He knew also that if He had thrown down from the temple He would not have walked a holy way. Therefore, how could God have kept Him in all His ways if among His ways there had been a wicked way? If Jesus had walked that wicked way He would have sinned and His Father would have got angry with Him. Yes, God commanded His angels to keep His Son in all His ways in the days of His flesh. However, remember that all His ways were righteous. Jesus knew that if He had done what the devil suggested, He would have sinned against God, that’s why He answered the devil saying: “It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:7 – NKJV).
What happened to Jesus teaches us that sometimes the devil wants to induce us to tempt God by quoting the Word of God incorrectly or misinterpreting it; but it teaches also that every time the devil quotes a passage of the Word of God there is always another passage in the Scripture which can be quoted to him in order to put him to flight.
Brothers, we must watch, because the fact that God promised to keep us and to protect us from the evil one must not lead us to think that no matter what we say or what we do or where we go, God will protect us; let us not tempt God, but let us walk in His holy ways and then we will be sure that God will preserve us from all evil.
Let us see now how the children of Israel tempted God in the wilderness because their behaviour helps us to understand what it means to tempt God. After God brought streams out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers, the Israelites “sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people? Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation” (Psalm 78:17-22). After the children of Israel saw God bring streams out of the rock and they quenched their thirst, they tempted God by asking food for their lust. How did they ask for that food? They asked for that food, speaking against God, doubting the power of God as well as the faithfulness of God which they had clearly seen. Did God like their words? No, He didn’t, because that stiff-necked people tested Him. He was very angry and “gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them” (Psalm 106:15 – NIV), says the Scripture. Remember that Paul says to the Corinthians that these things happened to the Israelites as examples, to the intent that we should not tempt the Lord “as some of them also tempted” (1 Corinthians 10:9 – NKJV). Therefore, brothers, let us not follow the same example of disobedience; let us not tempt God, lest we provoke God to wrath and be punished by Him.
Now, through the Word of God I am going to give you a practical example so that you may understand what it means to tempt God. In Isaiah it is written: “When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2 – NKJV). However, if a believer, tempted by the devil, decides to walk on living coals or through the fire in order to show off his faith, for sure he will tempt God even though God made the above mentioned promise. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not go into the burning fiery furnace voluntarily to show off their faith in God or to become famous, because they were cast into the fiery furnace against their will. In this case we cannot affirm that they tempted God, for they were cast into the burning fiery furnace by their enemies because they had obeyed God and so God delivered them. God fulfilled His promise toward His servants who had put their trust in Him, for they walked through the fire (King Nebuchadnezzar saw them walking in the midst of the fire) and they were not burned, as it is written: “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (Daniel 3:26-27). We see in that powerful deliverance worked by God the fulfilment of the above mentioned words of Isaiah. In the prophet Isaiah we read also the following promise: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you” (Isaiah 43:2 – NKJV), however, it is evident that if a believer, tempted by the devil, decides to pass through a swollen river in order to show off his faith, he surely will tempt God.
● “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:8-11). In this temptation, the tempter showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and told Jesus that if He fell down and worshiped him he would give all those things to Him. From that temptation we learn the following things.
The devil, as the Lord Jesus said, “is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44 – NKJV), because when he said to Jesus: “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6 – NKJV), he lied. Now, it is true that the devil is the prince of this world but it is not true at all that he can give the kingdoms of the world and their glory to whomever he wishes because it is written in the book of Daniel that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17 – NKJV), and because when God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah (while Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon) He said: “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him” (Jeremiah 27:5-6 – NKJV); and also because in the book of Psalms David said: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1 – NKJV). Beloved, it is God, the Almighty, that gives the kingdoms of men and their glory to whomever He wishes and not the devil, that’s what the Scripture states. The devil lied to Jesus, for he promised to give to Jesus what God alone could give to Jesus and – we’d better remember this – what God had already promised to give to Jesus. For the Father had said to the Son: “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:8-9 – NKJV), and the Son received this authority from His Father after He made atonement for our sins, in that after Jesus was raised from the dead He said to His disciples: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18 – NKJV), and when Jesus appeared to John on the island called Patmos He said to John: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ – as I also have received from My Father” (Revelation 2:26-27 – NKJV). Remember that during the millennial reign Jesus Christ will rule over all the nations of the earth.
In order to cause us to fall into temptation, the devil plays on the lust of the eyes, for he tried to cause Jesus to fall into sin showing Him all the kingdoms of the earth; therefore we must watch out lest we be overcome by the lust of the eyes, which is of the world, and as you know the world lies under the sway of the devil.
Jesus did not desire to have an earthly kingdom on the earth in the days of His flesh, even though He was a king, because His kingdom was not of this world. Therefore, we must not desire to become powerful and rich according to the flesh because we are not of the world, just as Jesus was not of the world. We must continually desire to inherit the Kingdom of heaven, and we must not desire to have a high social position or to create an earthly kingdom.
The devil gives nothing freely because he always wants something; when he gives some supernatural powers or some material things to some people, he wants them to worship him. Even though he is not worthy to be worshiped, he induces many people to worship him as God in exchange for supernatural powers and ‘commercial successes’. On the one hand all those who accept to do what he wants them to do manage to become famous and rich, but on the other hand they lose their soul; for this is the purpose of the devil, to send to perdition as many people as possible blinding their minds through worthless idols and distracting them so that they might not seek the Lord. Jesus Christ refused to fall down before the devil and to worship him, and once again He quoted the Scripture to resist the devil. It is written: “You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him …. He is your praise” (Deuteronomy 10:20,21 – NKJV); therefore God alone is worthy to be worshiped.
From the temptation Jesus had to face and the way He resisted the devil we learn the following things.
First of all, we learn that the devil is a real spiritual being and not a myth as some people think (thus these people in thinking such a thing deceive themselves). The Holy Scripture speaks also of the devil and his works and the destiny which awaits him and we accept all the things it tells us about the devil because we believe that the Word of God is truth and does not lie to us.
Secondly, we learn that the devil uses the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and the lust of the eyes in order to cause the sons of God to fall into transgression, for he tried to induce Jesus to sin through the wish to eat first, then he tempted Him trying to induce Him to exalt Himself by throwing Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and in the end he tried to seduce Him showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in the hope that He might desire to possess them. As I said before, the tempter uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life in order to cause us to forsake the Lord; all these things are of the world and since the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one, these things lie under the sway of the devil. That’s why we are commanded not to love the world or the things in the world, because he who loves them, loves what lies under the sway of the devil. The world and the things which are in the world oppose the Word of God and the Holy Spirit for they lie under the sway of the one who is the enemy of God and thus those believers who love the worldly lusts and the pride of life are enemies of God, as it is written: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 – NKJV). Therefore, since we children of God live in this world and we are surrounded by the things of this world, we must watch and pray without ceasing lest we be overcome by the worldly lusts and the pride of life that Satan uses to cause us to fall into his trap. Know that if there is someone who wants us children of God to walk according to the flesh, well, that ‘someone’ is Satan who knows perfectly that the Word of God says to us: “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13 – NKJV), and thus he tries to deceive us by his craftiness saying to us the same thing he said to Eve, that is, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4 – NKJV). He tries, by the outward beauty of the pleasures of life, riches, corrupted women, the fashion of this age, philosophy, modern music and many other things, to induce us to love them and to be overcome by them, because he knows that once a believer has been deceived and overcome by these evil lusts, he ceases to keep the commandments of God and to bear fruit to the glory of God, and thus he dies spiritually.
But we are not ignorant of his devices and we know how to resist him when he attacks us because Jesus left us an example. We must use the Word of God to resist the devil, for Jesus answered the devil quoting the Scripture.
Brothers, know that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35 – NKJV), and that when we resist the tempter quoting the Scripture he cannot break the Word of God and he cannot demonstrate that it is false and thus he is forced to leave us.
However, there is another thing that must be said: when we answer the devil we must answer him in the right way because he is still one of the dignitaries, in that he is the prince of this world. When Jesus answered the devil, He said to him: “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matthew 4:10). Now Satan means ‘adversary’, and Jesus called him by name. Jesus did not ridicule or insult him, even though He knew the character and the works of the devil. Therefore, we are not allowed to make fun of the devil calling him ‘slewfoot’ or ‘monkey of God’ and so on, nor are we allowed to insult him. Unfortunately, some preachers whose minds are corrupt take pleasure in ridiculing the devil and insulting him. Let us not follow their bad examples, rather let us follow the example Jesus left us.
The armor of God
We believers don’t have of ourselves any efficacious weapons by which we can resist the devil, we are fully aware of this because we know that in us (that is, in our flesh) nothing good dwells. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ because in His goodness and wisdom He has provided us with a complete and mighty armor. It is complete because it protects believers from every attack of the devil and so it does not allow the devil to open a breach in them; it is mighty because it is so powerful that through it we are able to resist the devil, to pull down his strongholds and to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
The armor of God helps us both to defend ourselves and to attack our enemies, therefore we will do well to put it on in order to live a victorious life on the earth, while we wait for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said that we must put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. The apostle said ‘in the evil day’ because he knew that the day on which the devil tries to cause us to fall into temptation is an evil day. Therefore, bearing in mind the reason why we need to put on the armor of God, let us examine the weapons that God has brought out of His armory to equip His soldiers, who are in this world of darkness.
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (Ephesians 6:14). As good soldiers of the Lord we must gird our waist with truth, which means that we must speak truthfully and we must not love nor practice falsehood, for it is written: “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25 – NKJV). Beloved, speak the truth; lie gives a temporary and weak shelter to those who have decided to make lie their city of refuge and fortress, because God at His appointed time destroys their fortress in a moment and confounds them to show them that He cannot be mocked by anybody. Jesus said that “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2 – NKJV), thus even those lies which are told in order to cover evil actions, hypocrisy and fraud, in due season will be revealed by God. I will cite an incident happened to Abraham to show that even though one hides the truth cunningly, in due season it will be known. It is written: “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way” (Genesis 12:10-19). Now, Abraham had married Sarai, who was the daughter of his father but not the daughter of his mother, therefore it was true that Sarai was his sister but it was also true that she was her wife. When Abraham was about to enter the land of Egypt, he was afraid for he thought that the Egyptians, seeing the beauty of Sarai, would kill him and take away his wife, so he told his wife to say that she was his sister and he was her brother so that he might live. Obviously, when Pharaoh heard Abraham say that Sarai was his sister he took her to be his wife because he believed the words of Abraham. However, the fact that Pharaoh took Sarai to be his wife displeased the Lord, and He plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues to force him to give Sarai back to Abraham. We don’t know how Pharaoh came to know that Sarai was the wife of Abraham, one thing is sure, that is, he came to know it. And when he knew that Sarai was the wife of Abraham he rebuked Abraham for he had said to him that she was his sister and not his wife. As you can see, what Abraham tried to hide from Pharaoh could not be kept secret for a long time because within a short time God brought the truth to light.
The following examples show that God confounds and punishes those who lie.
► Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, lied to Elisha, for when Elisha asked him: “Where did you go, Gehazi?” (2 Kings 5:25 – NKJV), Gehazi answered: “Your servant did not go anywhere” (2 Kings 5:25 – NKJV), while a short time before Gehazi, driven by his covetousness, had hurried after Naaman and had asked him for a talent of silver and two changes of garments and stored them away in the house. Elisha came to know that Gehazi had lied to him because God revealed to him what Gehazi had done, and he foretold him the judgement of God upon him saying: “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever” (2 Kings 5:27 – NKJV). In this case Gehazi told a lie to cover an evil deed, but God confounded him through a revelation and struck him with leprosy.
► Ananias, one of the early Christians, lied to the apostles of the Lord and God put him to death. It is written: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (Acts 5:1-5). Ananias was a believer and he lied to the apostles about that sum of money he had laid at the apostle’s feet after he had sold a possession, and God put him to death because he had lied to God. Note that in this case also, a man of God (an apostle and not a prophet as in the above mentioned incident) came to know in a supernatural way that a person had told a lie.
► The false prophets who were in the midst of the people of Israel practiced falsehood, for they said to those who walked according to the stubbornness of their evil heart: “The Lord has said: You shall have peace” (Jeremiah 23:17 – NKJV), while God had promised no peace to them. God heard all the lies that those prophets told and He said that He would uncover their lies before those to whom they had prophesied peace. For He said to Ezekiel: “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’, when there is no peace – and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar – say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?” (Ezekiel 13:10-12 – NKJV) – the vain visions those prophets had told were the untempered mortar -. And what God had foretold came to pass while the army of the Chaldeans was besieging Jerusalem and was about to conquer it, for the Scripture says that the prophet Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, who had believed the lies of those prophets: “Where now are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land?” (Jeremiah 37:19 – NKJV). As you can see, those prophets who told lies to the people were put to shame by God in that God did not fulfill their false predictions. However, God not only put them to shame, but He also punished them. For instance, the Scripture says that God put to death the prophet Hananiah for he had persuaded the people to trust in lies (Jeremiah 28:1-17).
You must always bear in mind that the father of lies is the devil, therefore every lie comes from the devil and not from God; and we as believers must not tell lies. If we tell lies, we will give place to the devil, and we will make God angry and surely He will punish us and put us to shame. Lie is lie, and a lie which is told to uphold the truth is always a lie, even though it is told to ‘defend and honor’ the Gospel. Know this, that the Gospel does not need any lie in order to be defended and to be believed. I say this because I know that there are some preachers who urge some believers to testify that they have been healed by the Lord while they are still sick; they behave in this way to show that Jesus still heals; however sooner or later what they have testified will prove to be a lie. Many believers who had testified before many people that God had healed them of a certain sickness, after a short time died of that very sickness. Unfortunately, these scandals happens in the midst of the brotherhood, and because of these lies the doctrine of God and the way of truth are blasphemed among those who are outside. Why does this happen? Because since the true miracles and the true healings are missing, some preachers, in order to draw large crowds of people to their meetings, use lies in order to arouse great interest. However, there is another horrible thing which happens in the midst of the people of God: some believers slander other believers so that they may be destroyed morally and may have a bad testimony among the Church. To spread a false accusation against someone means to spread a groundless charge thus an invented charge. Today many believers take pleasure in slandering their neighbour, and they wilfully forget that “whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him” (Proverbs 26:27 – NKJV).
Brothers, first of all I remind you that it is written: “Do not spread false reports” (Exodus 23:1 – NIV), and secondly that in order to receive an accusation against someone the accusation must be confirmed by two or three witnesses (trustworthy witnesses and not false ones) for one witness is not enough. Therefore if you hear an accusation against Tom wait for that accusation to be confirmed or investigate in order to find out whether that accusation is true. I tell you these things because some believers spread false accusations in order to ruin their neighbour. I say it again: for the sake of truth, do not spread false accusations and do not give heed to false lips.
Beloved, those who speak the truth are secure as a young lion and are not afraid to be put to shame because truth does not confound those who love it and speak it. To face our enemies we must tell the truth, lest we be put to shame in their presence; yes, because if a child of God resorts to a lie, which is nothing but a weapon of the enemy whom we fight, he will surely be put to shame before the enemy. who will throw the lie into his face. What I have learned over the years is that it is better to confess our trespasses to one another telling the truth than to cover our transgressions telling lies.
“Having on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). We believers must pursue righteousness because it is written: “Seek righteousness” (Zephaniah 2:3 – NKJV). Let us see now how we must seek the righteousness of God.
We as sons of God must show no favouritism because James says: “If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9 – NKJV). Therefore we must not consider white people superior to black people or to yellow or red people; we must not consider the rich more important than the poor, nor the wise after the flesh (those who have a degree or are holder of a diploma) superior to those who are illiterate or have not studied much at school. Furthermore, since many people tend to justify or tolerate the evil actions committed by their friends or loved ones while they hate and condemn the evil actions committed by their enemies, we must not behave like them. God shows no partiality and we as sons of God must imitate Him. It is not easy, however, it is not impossible either. May God help us to imitate Him, so that we may conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
In addition to this, we must not cheat people out of their goods and we must heed the wisdom of God, which says: “Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice” (Proverbs 16:8 – NKJV). According to what the Scripture teaches, we must not practice usury or lend money on interest to our brethren, as it is written: “You shall not charge interest to your brother – interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest” (Deuteronomy 23:19 – NKJV).
We must not forge scales nor do any injustice in measurement of length, weight or volume, for it is written: “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin ….” (Leviticus 19:35-36 – NKJV). The Scripture teaches that those who think that it is better to have vast revenues without justice (that is, by cheating their neighbour) than to have a little with righteousness are fool people who receive the due penalty for their injustice.
In the book of the prophet Amos we read about the injustices which the Israelites did in those days, and we can read also that God rebuked them and foretold them that if they did not turn from their evil ways He would punish them. The children of Israel laid righteousness to rest in the earth, for they oppressed the humble, they afflicted the just and took bribes, they trod down the poor and took grain taxes from him; they said: “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” (Amos 8:5-6) However, even though they conducted themselves in that abominable way, they went to the house of the Lord to offer Him incense, burnt offerings and sacrifices; and they gathered together and sang songs to God accompanied by the music of their stringed instruments. But God did not like the worship of those rebels and said to them: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:21-24). Brothers, Wisdom says that “to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3 – NKJV), therefore let us not think that even if we refuse to seek righteousness our worship will be acceptable to God, lest we deceive ourselves and be punished by God as those Israelites, who refused to heed the prophet Amos, were punished. God foretold the Israelites the punishments He would inflict on them, and among other things He said to them: “Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. …. And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day” (Amos 8:8,10). And that is exactly what happened, for God sent a strong earthquake first and then He sent the Assyrian army against Israel, which destroyed the land of Israel and carried away captive the Israelites. The Divine longsuffering waited for many years, then God poured out His fury on those Israelites who hated righteousness. Brothers, God does not tolerate unrighteousness and He still pours out His fury on those who hate righteousness for He does not change; so let us search and examine our ways carefully.
If any of us has a dispute with another, he must take it before the saints for judgement and not before the ungodly. For I remind you that in the Church of Corinth there were some disputes and Paul rebuked those who, having a matter against others, went to law before the unrighteous. Here is how Paul rebuked them: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-9) We know that going to law against a brother before the unrighteous is wrong and that those who act in this way conduct themselves unrighteously. When a brother has a dispute with another brother about the things of this life, the dispute must be judged by the saints and not by the unrighteous. If a believer goes to law against another brother before the unbelievers he wrongs his brother. Brothers, keep in mind that one day we will judge the world for it is written in the Psalms: “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints” (Psalm 149:5-9). Therefore, when we need to judge things of this life we must judge them without the help of those who do not know God. We will judge also the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode to fornicate with the daughters of men, whom God has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgement of the great day. Therefore, since we have the power and the wisdom to judge in justice the disputes between believers, for the sake of righteousness we must not go to law against other brothers before the unbelievers.
We must share our material things with those who are in need, as it is written: “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 – NKJV). We must do this so that there may be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Corinthians 8:15 – NKJV). Jesus left us an example, for though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Remember that “righteousness guards him whose way is blameless” (Proverbs 13:6 – NKJV), just as the breastplate protects a soldier, and also that God “loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8 – NKJV)
The preparation of the Gospel of peace
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). We, as it is fitting for the saints, must always be ready to do every good work and furthermore we must be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15-16). According to the Wisdom of God, there are some people whose feet “are swift in running to evil” (Proverbs 6:18 – NKJV), that is, who are ready to do evil things, and these people are an abomination to God. On the contrary, a good soldier of Jesus Christ is always ready to do good because his feet are fitted “with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 – NIV). He is not unprepared, rather he is prepared to do any good work and to evangelize. He does not say to his neighbour: ‘I will help you another time, not now’ nor does he say to him: ‘At the moment I don’t know how to answer your question about my hope’.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 – NIV), and every believer has a measure of faith God has given him. Now, faith is compared to the shield that the roman soldier used to protect himself from the arrows of the enemy; and this comparison is appropriate because for us faith in God is indeed the shield with which we can extinguish all the fiery arrows of the devil. Yes, because our adversary shoots fiery arrows at us which we can quench only by the shield of faith. One of the fiery darts of the devil is doubt; doubt seems to be an insignificant thing, yet anyone who doubts in his heart cannot see the fulfillment of the faithful promises of God in his life. If we doubt, we will receive nothing from God, while if we believe we will see the fullfilment of God’s promises in our life. In the midst of our distresses, in the midst of our various tribulations through which our faith is tested, we must trust in God and in His Word, then the glory of God will be seen upon us.
Now, let us see some examples of men who, by the shield of faith, obtained what was promised to them and quenched the fiery darts of the devil.
►God promised Abraham that his wife would give birth to a child (Genesis 17:19; 18:10) and He would multiply his descendants as the stars of the heaven. The Scripture says: “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:19-21 – NKJV).
As you can see, Abraham was old and even though he was not able to beget a child, he did not doubt the faithfulness of God nor His power. Of course, his faith was tested, but he obtained what God had promised to him because he firmly believed that God would cause Sarah to conceive and bear a child, even though Sarah’s womb was dead. What happened to Abraham teaches us that nothing is too hard for the Lord: He can do whatever He has promised; our God can deliver us from any distress and meet all our needs; however on our part we must trust in Him with all our heart.
► The Scripture says that king Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. He sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counsellors, the treasures, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which king Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Those people came to the dedication of the image, and when the herald of the king commanded all the nations to fall down and worship the gold image, all the people – except Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego – fell down and worshiped it. So when the king came to know that those men had not obeyed his order, he gave command to bring them before him. So they brought those men before him. Nebuchadnezzar said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:14-15), and they answered and said to the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king” (Daniel 3:16-17). So they were cast into the burning fiery furnace. But through faith they “quenched the violence of fire” (Hebrews 11:34 – NKJV), and they survived the burning fiery furnace without a burn.
This is another biblical example which shows that through faith we can face any distress, being sure that the deliverance of the Lord is at hand. In the midst of a distress, against all hope, the righteous in hope believes; he sees that all circumstances are contrary to him and he knows that no man can deliver him from his trouble for the help of man is useless, however he has the promises of God in which he trusts with all his heart and he calls on God so that He may deliver him. And God, in His faithfulness, delivers him and shows everybody that He is indeed “a God of deliverances” (Psalm 68:20 – ASV) and that he who puts his trust in God will not be put to shame.
► Let us see now how Daniel and his three companions through faith “escaped the edge of the sword” (Hebrews 11:34 – NIV). The Scripture says: “And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof. The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter. Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:1-49).
As you can see, not only did Daniel believe that God would reveal him that secret, but he also declared it with his mouth, as it is written that “Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation” (Daniel 2:16 – NKJV). Daniel also had the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke” (2 Corinthians 4:13 – NKJV), for he believed and he spoke even before God made known to him that secret. From the way Daniel spoke to king Nebuchadnezzar, we learn what the Scripture means when it says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1 – NIV). After Daniel spoke to the king, he went to his house and made known the decision to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning that secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:17-18). They prayed to God and God revealed the secret to Daniel. So Daniel went to Arioch, who brought Daniel before the king, and Daniel told the king the dream and its interpretation, and thus Daniel and his companions and all the wise men of Babylon were not put to death.
Our God is a God who reveals secrets; we firmly believe and proclaim that. Any child of God can call to Him concerning a secret, for He says: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 – NKJV). Beloved, what do you need to know about the will of God for you? Do you want to know the ministry God wants you to fulfil? Do you want to know where to go to preach the Gospel? Do you want to know the person you must marry or some other things? There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, call upon Him and you will receive the revelation you need. However, call upon Him in faith, with no doubting, otherwise you will receive nothing from the Lord. I myself have called upon God several times concerning certain things about the will of God for me and God has answered my prayers; He has not disappointed me, because He is faithful.
►Here is what happened in the days of king Hezekiah: “After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself. And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water? Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance. And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem? Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it? Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand? Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand? And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah. He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand. Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city. And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man. And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven” (2 Chronicles 32:1-20). Here is the prayer of Hezekiah: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (Isaiah 37:16-20). The Lord answered the prayer of Hezekiah, for it is written: “And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword. Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth” (2 Chronicles 32:21-23).
In this case also, a man experienced a great deliverance through his faith; simply because he trusted in God with all his heart. We can experience powerful deliverances through the faith God has given us, I have said ‘we can’ because we have to exercise faith in the midst of our trouble in order to see God perform mighty things for us. A soldier can have a shield, however, the fact still remains that if he does not use his shield when the enemy shoots his arrows at him that shield will be useless to him. Likewise, if we prefer to trust in man we cannot affirm that we are fighting the devil with the shield of faith because we refuse to put our trust in God; we can say with our mouth that we trust in God, but the fact is that men, seeing our behaviour which attests the opposite, will not affirm that we are of those who trust in God with all their heart. If we proclaim that we trust in God, we must also show through our life that we trust in God; the children of this age hear many insincere words from many people, so let us see that we speak sincere words, so that they might not affirm that we are of those who speak insincere words.
►Another example of faith, which in my opinion is a great example of faith, is that of the woman who had a flow of blood whom was healed of that affliction through her faith in the Lord after twelve years of sufferings. It is written: “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:25-34).
In this case, a woman who was in need of healing and could not be helped by any physician, put her trust in the Lord and through her faith she obtained what she desired. That woman did not doubt, not even for a moment; she had heard about Jesus and His mighty healings and she was convinced that if only she might touch His clothes she would be healed. She came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His garment and she was healed at once; in this case, therefore, the shield of faith turned out to be a powerful weapon against sickness. Faith in the Lord has always been an invincible weapon, which has always quenched the fiery darts of the devil, so that when a person takes the shield of faith the devil will not manage to prevent him from receiving the fulfilment of the promises of God.
►The greatest example of faith we find in the Scripture is that of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). In the book of the prophet Isaiah it is written: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:10-11).
Now, the Lord knew that in order to justify many He had to offer Himself for our iniquities first, therefore He had to suffer first and then to rise again (as Paul says that Christ “was raised because of our justification” – Romans 4:25 NKJV). By faith Jesus, knowing this beforehand, that is to say, knowing that through His sufferings many would be brought to glory (that was the joy that was set before Him), endured the cross despising the shame. Our Lord did not draw back in the face of death, but He faced it by faith, being sure that His Father would not leave His soul in Hades and would not allow Him to see corruption. Remember that even Jesus had to put His trust in God in order to fulfil the will of the Father, and that if we rejoice in the Lord for we have been set free from our sins we owe our great joy to the unshakeable faith the Son of God, in the days of His flesh, had in God His Father. God is a great God, brothers, when you are in a distress have faith in Him; do not give place to doubt, which the devil tries to put in your mind, for it would destroy you.
To show you that if we doubt, the promises of God will turn out to be useless, I remind you of an incident which happened on the sea of Galilee in the days of Jesus. It is written: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:24-31). As you can see, the Lord Jesus commanded Peter to come to Him on the water, as He said to Peter: “Come” (Matthew 14:29), and so Peter came down out of the boat and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But what happened a few moments later? It happened that Peter, seeing that the wind was boisterous, was afraid and that fear led him to doubt the command of Christ, and because of his doubt he began to sink and he cried out to the Lord ‘Save me!’ As you can see, when Jesus said to Peter “Come!”, Peter believed and by his faith he walked on the water, but a few moments later he doubted and began to sink. The wind was blowing even when he began to walk on the water, therefore the fact that at a certain point he began to sink indicates that he did not continue in faith. From this incident happened to Peter we learn that we must always hold the shield of faith in our hands so that we may use it against our enemies when they try to make us doubt the promises of God through fear. Yes, because it is fear that leads us to doubt the faithfulness and the power of God; the fear of being unsuccessful, the fear of being put to shame or the fear of being left alone against all. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness? Was it not because of the fear of the giants that they rebelled against God and did not have faith in His name and thus they could not inherit the promised land? Remember these incidents continually because they teach us that the devil seeks to stir up doubt in our heart in order to make void our confidence in God.
Beloved, when you are in trouble, stand firm in the faith (do not worry if everybody will forsake you) and you will experience the great deliverances of God, that He will perform to the glory of His name; yes, because God delivers you out of all your distresses so that you may glorify His name, as it is written: “ Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15 – NKJV).
The hope of salvation
“And take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). Since a soldier puts the helmet on his head, and Paul says that we must put on “as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 – NKJV), we must arm ourselves with this thought: we are saved by hope (Romans 8:24). Now, we have been saved from our sins and we have eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ, however the fact still remains that we have not yet obtained “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23 – NKJV). That’s why we affirm that we are waiting for what Paul calls “the redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14 – NKJV. The IBRV reads ‘la piena redenzione’ that is, ‘the full redemption’), which God will manifest when Jesus is revealed from heaven. That’s why we sons of God “groan inwardly” (Romans 8:23 – NIV) while we are in this tent (our body), that is, our earthly house, because we wish “to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4 – NIV). And we know that our wish will be fulfilled at the resurrection of the righteous, that is, when at the trumpet of God the dead in Christ rise and the saints who are alive and remain are caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. That is the day of our salvation, which is drawing near and for which we are eagerly waiting. When we speak of our salvation, we speak of something we do not yet see, for it is written: “Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees” (Romans 8:24 – NKJV), however, by the faith that God gave to us, which “is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1 – NIV), and through the patience produced by our afflictions and through the comfort of Scriptures, we are waiting for what we do not see, being sure that the Lord Jesus will save us from the wrath to come when he comes, in that day, with His mighty angels to take us and bring us to heaven. In order to enter heaven with a body, we must have an immortal and incorruptible body for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50 – NKJV), and we will obtain it in that day, for this is the purpose of God. Therefore let us keep waiting for the return of the Lord because for sure, at the time set by God, He will be revealed from heaven “to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 – NIV) and He will give us a glorious and mighty body, with which we will be able to inherit the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Word of God
“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The Word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, as Peter says: “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21 – NIV); Paul confirms this when he says: “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16 – NIV).
You must understand that through this sword we frighten our enemies because by it we pull down their strongholds, that is to say, all the arguments which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. It is by the Word of God that we refute all the false doctrines that the devil has introduced into the world and even into the Church; we are glad to see that the devil is unable to overcome us who use this mighty sword against him. The devil is defeated when he tries to induce us to accept doctrines which are contrary to the Scripture for the Scripture cannot be broken; the devil opposes the Scripture but he does not manage to destroy it.
Brothers, we need to know the Holy Scriptures in order to fight efficaciously against our enemies, for they try by their craftiness to pass off false doctrines as true doctrines, and to pass off true doctrines as false doctrines. Therefore we have to draw the sword of the Spirit and destroy their arguments lest we be deceived and led astray from the truth. We can see a clear demonstration of the efficacy of the Word of God in the temptation that the Lord had to face, because three times Jesus Christ answered the devil saying: “It is written“ (Matthew 4:4,7,10). Jesus quoted the law in order to defend Himself against the attacks of Satan; He did not try to show the devil that he was wrong by words of human wisdom, but He quoted the Word of God. This teaches us that we must resist the devil with the unadulterated Word of God, lest he take advantage of us. I have said ‘with the unadulterated Word of God’ because the example of Eve in the Garden of Eden teaches us that it is no good resisting the devil with the Word of God mixed with lies. When the serpent said to Eve: “Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 – NKJV), the woman said to the serpent: “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:2-3 – NKJV). The woman told the serpent some words that God had not said to the man, for God had not commanded the man, ‘Don’t touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’, but He had commanded him not to eat of that tree, while the woman told the serpent that God had also commanded them not to touch it. Even the fact that the woman said to the serpent: ‘Lest you die” (Genesis 3:3) rather than: ‘You shall surely die” shows us that the woman made the warning of the Lord weaker. The words of God are powerful and pure, but if we adapt them in order not to offend people we will deprive them of their power and purity, thus we must see that we quote the words of God just as they are written without trying to soften what both the flesh and the rebels do not like because it is hard to accept. Considering those specific temptations Jesus had to face, we can see that the law of Moses also is a powerful weapon if one uses it lawfully, and that reminds us of what Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31 – NKJV), and of what he wrote to Timothy: “The law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8 – NKJV). I say this to affirm that the law is the Word of God, just as the words of Jesus and the words of the apostles are the Word of God, and we must not despise the law rather we must know it in order to destroy all the things which are contrary to the sound doctrine. There are many men of corrupt minds and disapproved concerning the faith who affirm that the commandments God gave to Moses are outdated. When I say ‘the commandments God gave to Moses’ I do not refer to the commandments concerning Jewish feasts or the sabbath day or circumcision or foods, but to the commandments which condemn unbelief, adultery, fraud, lying, the sins against nature, blasphemy, witchcraft (no matter if it is called white or black magic), and many other sins, which they call useful and good things. Brothers, take the word of truth and proclaim it to refute the perverse doctrines taught by those who are outside; defend the Gospel showing from the law and the prophets that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the One of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom …” (Colossians 3:16 – NKJV), let it be fixed upon your lips, so that you may exhort and refute those who oppose the truth. Keep it within you and edify the Church through it; yes, because you also can edify the Church, but you can edify the Church through the truth and not through the lies. The devil uses lies to destroy the saints, but we resist him with the truth to pull down his strongholds and to edify, to teach, to correct and to comfort the redeemed of the Lord.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
According to these words, both the prayer made with the Spirit and the prayer made with the understanding are efficacious weapons against our enemies. Prayer is a weapon, this is why we say that we wrestle in prayer for the saints, for we are aware that when we pray for them we are fighting on their behalf. When we pray to God for our brothers we ask God to do, in one way or another, always good to the saints; while the devil does not want the saints to be helped and blessed by God.
Beloved, do not underestimate prayer because through prayer the saints are helped, comforted, corrected and blessed by the Lord. In order to realize that you also, in your room, secretly, can fight the good fight, consider the fact that with your prayers you can do good to some brothers whom you don’t know or who are not present with you in your room. You must understand that the good fight is fought not only by those who proclaim the way of salvation to the unbelievers in the remote places of the earth, or by those who preach the Word in the place of worship, but also by those who pray earnestly for all the saints; be among them for the Lord’s sake and the sake of His people. Know this, that we show love toward the brothers by praying for them.
Now I want to dwell upon the things Paul exhorted the saints to ask of God. Paul wished to preach the Gospel with all boldness and was convinced that the saints, through their prayers, could help him to preach with boldness. We too are convinced that we need your prayers in order to preach the Word as we ought to preach it, that is, with all boldness. Yes, because this is the way the Gospel must be preached. The Gospel must not be preached with words of human wisdom nor with excellence of speech, lest the Word of God be emptied of its power. Yes, the Word is emptied of its power when it is preached with words of human wisdom or with excellence of speech because Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17 – NIV). Therefore the devil makes every effort to make believers preach the word of Christ with words of human wisdom. He has deceived many preachers into introducing into their preaching those things which empty the cross of its power, and these things are the words of human wisdom and the excellence of speech. When I speak of excellence of speech I refer to all those verbs and words whose meaning is unknown to most people and which are used in their speeches by politicians, scientists, economists, professors, philosophers, and unfortunately even by some of those who preach the Word, and that grieves me because in this way the cross of Christ is emptied of its power. So that you may understand how the Gospel ought to be preached, read how Christ evangelized and how the apostles preached (in the book of the Acts of the apostles are recorded some sermons preached by Peter and Paul to unbelieving people). After reading the sermons of the apostles one cannot but conclude that today many preachers don’t preach the Word with the same boldness and seriousness which characterized the apostles’ sermons. Many preach the Gospel with jokes and quips, mixing the sacred with the profane; it grieves me to see that some false prophets are more serious than these preachers of the Gospel. It is a shame and a scandal to see preachers entertaining the hearers with jokes and quips, and they even laugh their head off when they tell those things which do not edify at all! In addition to this, many deliver long speeches without saying with all boldness what they ought to say because they stuff their speeches with their beloved words of human wisdom, and that also grieves me. God said to Jerusalem: “Your choice wine is diluted with water” (Isaiah 1:22 – NIV), and we know that if wine is diluted with water it loses its original flavour and the more water you put in wine the less strong wine becomes. Is it not what we see? Is it not true that very often the Word of God is preached with words of human wisdom rather than with the Spirit? Is it not true that some sermons are almost tasteless because they are stuffed with improper things? The Word these people preach is less powerful than the Word which was preached by the apostles, sometimes it is unrecognizable because they have stuffed it with words of human wisdom, for they prefer form to substance and replace substance with form. Almost all soften what we must not soften and almost all speak only of smooth things so that the listeners may not be shaken, so that the hearers may not weep and cry out: What must I do to be saved?‘ The message of the Gospel which is being preached is much different from the message of the Gospel which was preached by the apostles also because many have taken away some strong expressions from their sermons and they have softened them (also with the aid of some Biblical translators). It is a rare thing to hear preachers speak of Christ and of Him crucified, and of His glorious resurrection, the way the apostles spoke of Christ, of His crucifixion and of His resurrection, because unfortunately in the midst of the people of God many have decided to preach the Gospel in a way that does not edify and which is clearly different from the way of preaching of the apostles. On the other hand, in order to grant the wish of most people, who want to hear smooth things and not things which arouse fear and terror, a preacher must preach in this way! From what we see, we conclude that sinners must feel at their ease in the congregation of the righteous, or, as some say, they must feel at home; the wicked should not be seized with fear, the wicked should not be afraid of the eternal fire nor should they feel so much sinful in the sight of our God!! Some preachers even exhort the saints to clap their hands in order to welcome the wicked who are in their midst warmly!
But there is something else which must be said. These preachers speak of sin their own way, for they induce the hearers not to consider sin a thing so much serious or so much burdensome for those who are slaves of it. They often say to the wicked: ‘Come to Jesus and He will solve all your problems and you will find in Him a great friend!’, but they never say to them: “Turn, turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11 – NKJV) or: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40 – NIV) or: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 – NKJV). The reason is that they do not want to appear ‘too serious’ or ‘exaggerated’ or ‘out-of-date’ (that’s how are called those who exhort sinners to repent) to most people, and they are afraid of making sinners feel in danger and guilty. I ask you: ‘How should sinners feel?’ Should they feel only persons full of troubles and sorrows because they do not heed the voice of God? Or should they feel also persons slaves of sin and of Satan, who can be set free by the Lord if they repent and believe in Jesus Christ?’ Repentance?!! The children of this age must not repent of any sin because they are holy, upright and blameless!! They are at most people with many problems, but not people with many sins!!! The word ‘repentance’ is an obsolete word. The verb ‘to repent’ was so much used by both Jesus and the apostles, while today it is so much neglected by many preachers because they are afraid to frighten sinners. According to some preachers, after all sinners should not come to the conclusion that if they repent they will inherit eternal life but if they refuse to repent they will be tormented for ever and ever, for they think that they can win sinners to Christ without speaking to them of repentance. How can they think such a thing when we know that Jesus said: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3 – NKJV), and the Scripture says that if the wicked does not repent, God will sharpen His sword and will bend and string His bow (Psalm 7:12)?
Beloved, we must not flatter sinners, lest we spread a net for their feet and we deceive them; they are on the way which leads to the unquenchable fire, they are not on the way which leads to the paradise of God. We must urge them to forsake the way on which they are and we must make every effort to make them feel insecure on that way. I am convinced that it is necessary for every preacher to return to preach repentance from dead works with all boldness, and that he must not be afraid of anybody and anything. What do we want sinners to think? Do we want them to think that to join us means to change religion or just to change some rites? Listen, we must want them to think that to join us means to join the people of God, which He purchased with His own blood, and that they can join us only by repenting of their dead works and believing on our Lord Jesus Christ. It is time to raise our voice and to preach repentance in order to see people really turn to the Lord. Jude tells all of us to snatch them from the fire and to save them (Jude 23), however, some believers do not want to snatch sinners from the fire because they want them to laugh and to be at their ease in the congregation of the righteous. They don’t want sinners to hear that if they don’t repent they will go to hell, they do not want to see sinners weep and become sad in hearing of the place where they will go after death if they don’t repent. On the other hand, the saying of many is ‘the more, the better!’ because they only think of swelling their own denomination so that it may appear big and more and more prestigious to the society and to the other denominations; the more they are and the more secure and powerful they feel, they don’t care if those who go to listen to them don’t repent because what matters is having the place of worship full of people on Sunday so that the name of their denomination may be honoured. Consider this: these people think that it is better not to speak of repentance in order to collect the offerings of the rebels, than to speak of repentance and see the offerings decrease.
What shall we say then about the lake which burns with fire and brimstone? We hear about it so rarely that it seems that it does not exist. Yet the fire is still burning in that place; yet it was prepared by the Lord for the devil and his angels and all those who refuse to obey the Gospel will be cast into it in the day of judgment. Why do many preachers avoid speaking about it then?
Brothers, all those who preach the Gospel must preach it with the Spirit, with power, and with deep conviction so that sinners may repent of their sins and believe in the Gospel; therefore pray to God for His servants so that He may enable them to preach with great boldness.
I want to say another thing; if the apostles were still alive, they would preach as they preached in the first century after Christ, they would not change their way of speaking to please their listeners or some denominations. Some preachers, in order to win the support of some denominations, do not declare any longer the whole counsel of God, but they declare only a little part of it, lest they annoy those who refuse to accept the rest of it. As things are, let us make friends with sinners, drunkards, sodomites, thieves, fornicators, saying to them just these words: ‘Jesus loved you and gave Himself for you also’, and let us not say to them: ‘Repent of your dead works, or else you will be cast into the everlasting fire!’ because these words might annoy them!!! Far be it from us to do such a thing, for we want to please God rather than men! Paul said to the Galatians: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 – NKJV), therefore those who seek to please God do not shun to declare the whole counsel of God for they do not care about the approval of men at all; instead, those who shun to declare the whole counsel of God show that for them the approval of men is more important than the approval of God and they are greatly mistaken.
John the Baptist rebuked Herod the tetrarch concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, (and for all the evils which Herod had done), for John said to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her” (Matthew 14:4 – NKJV). John did not say to Herod: ‘Herod, listen, it is lawful for you to have Herodias if she left her husband for he was unfaithful to her!’ or: ‘It is lawful for you to have her if Herodias and Philip decided to divorce by mutual consent!’, but he said to Herod: ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18 – NKJV), and that’s that. That’s why Herodias hated John and wanted to kill him. Of course, if John had sought to please men or Herod who lived in adultery, he would not have rebuked Herod in that way.
If Jesus had sought to please men, He would not have called God His Father nor would He have rebuked the scribes and the Pharisees for all their wickedness and hypocrisy.
The apostle Paul knew that the Greek philosophers did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, yet when at Athens in the Areopagus he had an opportunity to speak he did not try to avoid speaking of the resurrection of the dead for fear of the reaction of the Athenians and the foreigners who were hearing him.
When Paul appeared before Felix the governor, he spoke with boldness about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, and Felix was afraid and sent him away. Paul did not flatter Felix because Paul was not afraid to become an enemy of Felix or to spend more time in prison.
At Caesarea, in the auditorium when Paul appeared before king Agrippa and Bernice and the commanders and the prominent men of the city, Paul told them with all boldness the story of his conversion, how he turned to the Lord and how the Lord Jesus had appeared to him in a vision and he had spoken to him; he did not care about the reaction of his listeners.
The time would fail me to tell of the prophets, that is to say, of the way the prophets of God spoke to the Israelites, to their princes, and their priests, to their shepherds who had forsaken the Lord and His law. Do you know why the prophets were mocked, scourged, imprisoned, chained, and many of them were killed with the sword and stoned? Because they spoke with boldness from God, without omitting any of the words God commanded them to speak to the obstinate and rebel people. If you want to know what it means to speak with boldness read the messages of the prophets. Read what the prophets of old told to the rebels and you will realize that they risked their life because with all boldness they told the people what they had to do and what they had to stop doing in order to please God. What sort of quips did the prophets tell to the rebels to make them laugh?