Hell; Then and Now

Go to Hell
To Hell and back
What the Hell?
Give em Hell
Come Hell or high water
We’re proud that our Preacher doesn’t preach  “Hell, fire, and brimstone”
The Road to hell is paved with good intentions
“Hell is other people” — Jean Sartre (No Exit)
Going to hell in a hand-basket
People will say of the soon to be deceased, “They will split hell in half.”
Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.

So the idea of “Hell” is much in our lexicon but increasingly we as a people don’t believe in Hell.

We know that because in a 2007 Barna survey it was revealed

that only 32 percent of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”

We know that Hell isn’t in our belief system much because as Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist Seminary has said,

“You can traverse the entire United States on any given Sunday morning, and you very probably will not hear a sermon on the judgment of God or eternal punishment. Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in (the doctrine of hell) or else no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and say anything about it.”

Because Hell is so little spoken of and because it is one of the themes in Scripture, I try, every couple of years to preach at least one sermon on Hell and that in the Summer time because there is an easy to connect corollary.

First, we must note

I) The reality of Hell

A.) The New Testament speaks openly and repeatedly regarding the reality of Hell. It is,

The final abode of those condemned to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41-46, Rev. 20:11-15)

Described as a place of fire and darkness (Jude 7, 13)

Described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30)

Described as a place of destruction (II Thes. 1:7-9, II Peter 3:7, I Thes. 5:3)

Described as a place of torment (Rev. 20:10, Luke 16:23)

B.) Jesus Himself repeatedly speaks of Hell

HADES — Abode of the Dead

(1)  Capernaum exalted to heaven, then brought down to hell (hades) Mt 11:23 / Lk 10:15 …two mentions on SAME OCCASION
(2)  Lord says He will build His church: Mt 16:18 …one mention, ONE OCCASION
(3)  Parable of Rich man & Lazerus:  Lk 16:23 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

GEHENNA

(1) Sermon on the mount: Matt 5:29-30,22 and Mark 9:43,45,47… all 6 on the SAME OCCASION reported by both Mark and Matthew…
(2) Warning the Apostles to fear: Mark 10:28 Luke 12:5  two mentions…SAME OCCASION…
(3) Upbraiding the Pharisees:  Matt 23:15, 33 …2 mentions …SAME OCCASION
(4) Warning against offending little ones: Matt 18:9 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

The Greek word for Hell here is significant. Gehenna or the valley of Henna was a deep, narrow slight valley south of Jerusalem. Here the ancient idolatrous Jewish Kings and people would offer up their children in sacrifice to Molech ( 2 Chronicles 28:3 ; 33:6 ; Jeremiah 7:31 ; 19:2-6 ).

Later in time this same valley  became the Jerusalem dump. Here the corpse’s of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast away and consumed by a fire forever stoked and smoldering. The Gehenna dump thus in process of time became the image of the place of everlasting destruction.

This is the word used for the place of the wicked. It is the word used to speak of the Devil’s residence along with his servants. Because of the constant burning fire of the Jerusalem dump we easily understand the connection to everlasting fire as associated with Hell.  However, there might be more observed here about the nature of Hell with the usage of the word Gehenna. The Gehenna in Jerusalem like all city dumps was a place where no order existed nor meaningful relationship between objects exist. Hierarchy was non-existent.  It was a place of utter chaos and destructiveness.

Contrast that with this sanctuary or with your own homes. There is order here. Everything is in the place it is in for a reason. All is in a meaningful relationship with all else. The pews are faced in all one direction. The Cross, in the center, is ever before us. The pulpit is in the center thus communicating the centrality of God’s Word. The acoustics are designed for sound. The Windows for the movement of air. All is in order and all is properly related to everything else. Even our brass Church mouse speaks of meaning as it speaks of the necessity for quiet in God’s house.  (Quiet as a Church Mouse.) So there you have it. As humans we thrive on order, hierarchy, and meaning but a city dump as standing as metaphor for Hell there is no order… there is no natural relationship between objects. There is no meaning in the dump. There you find a once priceless Grandfather clock next to some old tattered sheets next to an old tennis shoe, next to a empty box of Frosted mini flakes, next to used kitty litter. The city dump is meaningless chaos. The city dump is total destructiveness.

In the words of Rushdoony,

“This tells us then something about Heaven and Hell. Heaven is that realm where all people and all things have a meaningful, loving fulfillment, one in another. There is a totality of meaning, a totality of purpose, a totality of fulfillment; whereas in Hell, there is a totality of isolation. There is no community between one person and another. There is a total isolation, so that everyone is his own world, his own universe, his own god.”

Well, what might we say here? We might note that as man constantly flees from God he at the same time integrates downward into the Gehenna dump with the result that he creates cultures of Hell where meaninglessness is prized as meaning. Where order is surrendered in pursuit of chaos. Where hierarchy is given up in favor of equality.

“Hierarchies are celestial. In hell all are equal.”

~Nicolás Gómez Davilla

One thing that is certainly true in a dump is that all the refuse and junk is equal … equally useless.

So, hell in Scripture is a place of endless burning. This stands in contrast in Scripture to heaven which is a place of endless blessing. Hell, like the Gehenna Jerusalem dump is a place of chaos, equality, and meaninglessness. Heaven, to the contrary, is a place of perfect order, eternal hierarchy, and total meaning. Hell is a place of total isolation whereas heaven is a place of complete community.

Here we can find a measuring rod for our family, churches, and communities. Do our community relationships take on the flavor of heaven or do they take on the character of the city dump — everything in isolation, nothing unique, all equally rotten and corrupt?

II.) Church History and Hell

For the Augustinians…….“They who shall enter into the joy of the Lord shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”

Augustine, The City of God

SECTION 1.“In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.”

Aquinas
Summa Theologica

“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.

Jonathan Edwards
[“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

“God shall not pity them but laugh at their calamity. The righteous company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s judgment, and shall sing while the smoke riseth up for ever.”

Thomas Boston, Scottish preacher, 1732

III.) Hell and the Character of God

A.) Lose the Doctrine of Hell, and you lose the Justice of God

1.)  The denial of the eternality of Hell is another example of putative Christians or unlearned Christians or immature Christians attempting to make God out to be nicer than He makes Himself out to be. It is an attempt to save God from being God. It is sentimentality trying to rescue the alleged mean glowering character of God. It is another example of do gooders, who by doing their good, end up making Christianity crueler then any Devil could. This denial of the eternality of Hell is taken up by those who, at the very least think, “My God would never be that mean.” It is the argument which attempts to make God “reasonable.”

But God is not “reasonable.” At least not by modern man’s standards. This is something the Reformed Evangelist Rolfe Barnard understood. Barnard quotes two Psalms,

Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God”

And in Psalm 7:11, we find these words: “God is angry with the wicked every day.”

Despite everything we hear today, Hell, God’s eternal penitentiary of the damned, is a terrible reality that men need to be faced with these days. I am aware of the fact that the popular “god” of the popular Christianity today is not the God of the Bible. Like a dead trunk, the popular “god” has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no arms to punish the ungodly. But the God of the Bible had fire in Sodom. He had a rod of iron for Samaria, for Tyre, for Jerusalem, and for Belshazzar. The God of the Bible dashed to pieces entire nations like a potter’s vessel. However, the modern “god” has no judgment in his hand; according to the popular gospel today, the modern “god” has sheathed the sword, and sits down as an indulgent weakling. His arm which used to visit vengeance upon impenitent sinners, now hangs nerveless and paralyzed–that is the popular “god” of today. I refuse to worship such a “god”–such a “god” is the creation of man’s wishes, but not the true God of the Bible.

Rolfe Barnard

 2.) Denials of Hell do not seem to comprehend that by altering the anchor example of God’s eternal justice (The condemnation to Eternal punishment for those who rebelled against God and His Christ) that the effect is a relativizing of temporal justice and punishment. If the anchor of justice is set loose and diminished in the Cosmic Divine realm the effect is to set adrift any ideas of absolute justice in the temporal realm.  If God’s justice is altered in terms of Hell and / or its duration then justice is the realm of man can be relativized and altered as well. One reason why we see so much injustice around us is that the Church no longer upholds the justice of God, by affirming the doctrine of Hell.
3.) Those who insist upon the conditionality of Hell or deny the eternality of Hell are those who will, in themselves or in their generations, become those who rebel against the whole concept of fixed Justice. When we deny the proper required Justice applied (eternal Hell) against those who commit crimes against God’s character and who do not find forgiveness in Christ, we will, over the course of time, deny the proper required justice against those who commit other lesser crimes. If the required proper punishment is denied, in our thinking, against those who commit the greatest of all crimes (unrepentant rebellion against the Character of God) then the consequence of that will eventually be the denial of justice implemented against all other lesser crimes.

So … getting rid of the eternal character of Hell guarantees the eventual arise of Hell on earth.

  4.) The Holiness of God is infinite and as such rebellion against God’s Holiness requires eternal punishment for those who do not close with Christ. The denial of the eternality of Hell is a denial of the august and majestic character of God. Low views of Hell insure, and in turn cause, low views of God.

The doctrine of Hell is a case where the punishment fits the crime. Any lesser punishment would suggest a lesser crime. The suggestion of a lesser crime would suggest that an offense against the person of God is somehow an offense that shouldn’t have the fullest possible consequences.  The eternality of Hell corresponds to the Majesty of God and His Law.

B.) And here we round off in speaking of Christ.

Christ is the who bore the Hell of God’s elect that that we might know God’s favor. If we deny Hell, we are denying at the same time the monumental importance of Christ’s work. If Hell, is not real … not eternal, then why is Christ dying for sins that merit the punishment of Hell?

A denial of Hell, ends up being a denial of the meritorious finished work of Christ. On the Cross Christ takes my punishment but if there is no eternal punishment why should I be grateful that He took it?

 

 

 

A Few Observations — Matthew 28:18-20

In the Great Commission, we see that the Christian, per marching orders from the Lord Christ, is required to be future oriented, message-oriented, and nation oriented.

Future-oriented because we have been given a teleology that requires us to be constantly looking to the future extension of the Kingdom. Message-oriented because we have been given a set core of truth that is required to be transmitted. Nation oriented because we are tasked with discipling nations as nations.

In the Great Commission Christ created in His people a future orientation. He left them a task that gave them a teleology … a goal. With that goal of seeing the present Kingdom ever expanded they were oriented towards the future. They were not to be past- oriented nor present-oriented. They were to be future-oriented

As Harvard Scholar Banfield put it, “[T]he individual’s orientation toward the future will be regarded as a function of two factors: (1) ability to imagine a future, and (2) ability to discipline oneself to sacrifice present for future satisfaction.”

The Great Commission fulfills these two requirements. In assigning the Great Commission there is an imagined future when the Nations bow to Christ and secondly God’s people have decidedly modeled an ability to discipline oneself to sacrifice for the future.

A future orientation can manifest itself in many ways.

1.) Entrepreneurs forgo short term pleasure spending so they can plow their profits back into the business.

2.) Students being trained in highly skilled abilities will eat Macaroni and cheese or live in less than ideal housing so they can reap the larger benefits down the road.

3.)  Trustee families forgo present splurging looking to benefit future generations.

4.) In this text, the future orientation implied is connected with the Missionary endeavor to see Christ’s Kingdom expand. What we see in Scripture is the enduring of hardships so the future would be characterized as the Nations bowing to Christ. The willingness to undergo present hardship so that the future would look increasingly Christian.

I.) With the great Commission, Christ ensures that His people will be a future-oriented people.

This past week I’ve been working through a book that deals with the history of Communist Revolution. One thing that is clearly seen starting with Robespierre and Babeuf and working through Chernyshevsky, Tkachev, and Lenin is that though they were loathsome people they were future oriented. They gave up everything in the present in order to work towards a utopian future in which they believed.

This future orientation used to be characteristic of Christians. They envisioned the swelling of Christ’s future Kingdom and sacrificed in the short term to see that future become the present.

Of course future orientation, that identification marker once characteristic of Christians is no longer seen.  The modernists, not being able to ever have enough golden eggs, finally kills the golden goose in hopes of getting more. The instant gratification of materialism and of sexual license that bespeaks a presentism, ever beckons us to be unfaithful to our wives, unfaithful to our children and unfaithful to God.

Christians are to be future oriented and the future orientation is tied to leaving a godly inheritance to subsequent generations. That godly inheritance includes discipling our children so that they can be future oriented so that they will disciple their children.

Without Christ man is characterized by a sin and guilt that works in him a presentism that says, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye die.” In Christ death which paid for our sin and guilt we’ve been released from our inherent presentism to be future oriented and so to work for the extension of the Kingdom in being hearlders of the Great Commission, first to our covenant children, then to our extended Kin and then to our nation and then to the Nations. Our own Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the Earth.

II.) Message Oriented

“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;”

And what had Jesus commanded them? Well, only what the Father had ever commanded His people and that is to walk in terms of God’s gracious Covenant Law Word.

Jesus Himself had said,

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [h]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [i]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [j]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

So, when Jesus gives the Great Commission here he is reaffirming the standard and normalcy of God’s law. The Nations would not be regenerated or Justified by observing God’s law but upon being regenerated and Justified …. having been made right before God they would now be a people who would love God’s law and delight in it both day and night.

Jesus did not come and give a new law as if He were a new God. When Jesus tells those disciples to teach the Nations to observe all that He commanded them He was authorizing them to be Champions of God’s law.

There would yet remain many Nations but each of those nations were to be ruled by God’s One Mediator and God’s One Law. Here we see, in microcosm, the idea of unity in diversity.

III.) Nation Oriented

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them

If all the Church had was this one passage it would be enough to suggest that Christianity is a religion that affirms nations and so a biblical Nationalism. Of course, this idea of Nations coming into the Church as Nations has lost its luster and has been replaced by a kind of Christian Cosmopolitan Internationalism where the first requirement for being Christian is that we forgo our National identity. We seem to be agreeing with enemies of the Church like Adam Weishaupt who could say,

“Princes and nations will disappear without violence from the earth, the human race will become one family and the world the abode of reasonable men.”

-Adam Weishaupt, quoted in Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (London: Orion Books Limited, 1993), p. 32

Contrary to Weishaupt, and all New World Order types, Rev. Hugh M’Neile could properly offer,

“We cannot agree in that cosmopolitan view of Christianity which undermines the particularities of our National Establishment, any more than we could agree in such a cosmopolitan view of philanthropy as would extinguish domestic affections, in all their vivid and constraining peculiarity of influence.”

Rev. Hugh M’Neile, M.A.
Sermon — Nationalism in Religion
Delivered — 08 May, 1839

Christ here affirms Nations. It is the Nations as nations to which we are to Teach, Baptize and convert and as we learn in the book of Revelation it is Nations as Nations which are found in the New Jerusalem.

“Nationalism, within proper limits, has the divine sanction; an imperialism that would, in the interest of one people, obliterate all lines of distinction is everywhere condemned as contrary to the divine will. Later prophecy raises its voice against the attempt at world-power, and that not only, as is sometimes assumed, because it threatens Israel, but for the far more principal reason, that the whole idea is pagan and immoral.

Now it is through maintaining the national diversities, as these express themselves in the difference of language, and are in turn upheld by this difference, that God prevents realization of the attempted scheme… [In this] was a positive intent that concerned the natural life of humanity. Under the providence of God each race or nation has a positive purpose to serve, fulfillment of which depends on relative seclusion from others.”

-Geerhardus Vos,
Biblical Theology

The way the Nations are gathered is by Baptism,

Lent … I Peter 5 … Humility & Repentance


I Peter 5:6 
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I am positing this morning that the call for humility, in order to be hearkened to requires also a spirit of repentance. We can not be a humble people if not repentant and where there is no repentance there can be no humility.

Scripture itself yokes the idea of humility and repentance together as it often associates repentance with humbling oneself.

Examples,

I Chronicles 7:14      If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I Kings 21:27ff — It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”

Isaiah 57:15 — For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite

Proverbs 15:30: — He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof
Will dwell among the wise.
32 He who neglects discipline despises himself,
But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,
And before honor comes humility.

And so a humble people are characterized as a people who are familiar with repentance. This is why Luther could offer as #1 in his 99 Theses

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Of course, the virtues of both humbleness and repentance are byproducts of living before the face of God. I seriously doubt the ability of anyone to be adorned by these character markers who do not believe in the God of the Bible.

Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible have no sure foundation for either humbleness nor repentance. Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible live with themselves as the center of their reality and if anything approximating humility or repentance is pursued it is pursued with themselves at the center of their actions. How do I know this?

Well, men apart from Christ can only live with self at the center. Self never denies self. Self, by its definition, is anti-humble, and anti-repentant. Self, by definition, is proud and assertive. And so only the Christian man or woman is concerned for a Scriptural humility and repentance that reflects their “in-Christness.”

This call that Peter gives for humility and, by way of extension, repentance is a call for God’s people to become increasingly epistemologically self-conscious about the fact that our audience in all our living is primarily God. God is the one before whose presence we live in all our doing. God is to be the primary backdrop that should condition and inform all of our behavior. It is because of the reality of God that we can be a humble people.

Peter’s counsel here begins with the call of submissiveness to the Elders. But even this call of a proper submissiveness for the young was presaged by Peter’s teaching that the leadership should not be haughty with those they were to shepherd (vs. 3).

nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

This is why in vs. 5 Peter can start with the word “Likewise.” The Elders are not Shepherding as those who are “Lording over those in their charge,” and youth are in turn also being submissive to the Elders.

A brief excursion here.

We must add that this necessity to be submissive to your Elders adds credibility to the necessity to be in a congregation where you share a common confession and a common worldview with those who are Elders. If you are a Biblical Christian in a Church that is ruled by Elders that are Historical-Critical Christians you are setting yourself up for the necessary inability to be submissive to your Elders. There will be little capacity to be submissive in a Christ-honoring way if you are part of a congregation that does not share your core beliefs.

And practicing a lack of submissiveness, even as the needing to do so might be necessary is not a good thing to practice because it lays down a lack of humbleness as a principle of your life.

So, make sure you’re part of a Congregation where being submissive isn’t an automatic issue because of conflicting confessions and worldviews.

When Peter uses the word “elders” here it may be a reference to the leadership in the Church. More likely it is referring to seasoned saints in general.

This call for respecting of age is not without parallel in the Scripture. Paul can advise Timothy

“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father…”

From this call to the youth being submissive to Elders Peter then moves to a call for a spirit of mutual submissiveness and to be clothed with humility.

Of course, human relations in Churches and in general work better where people are preferring one another. This idea of mutual submissiveness is consistently called for in Scripture.

Phil 3:3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 12:10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.

However, we must keep before us that this call for being humble and mutual submissiveness does not eliminate proper hierarchy in the Scripture. For example, the fact that we are to be submissive to one another does not mean that parents are to be submissive to their children in terms of their proper roles.  Submissiveness looks different according to the different stations and rank wherein God has called us.

What is being called for here is a spirit of humility in general.

Peter then, quoting from Proverbs 3:34, then provides the reason for humility,

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”

James 4:6 also cites this scripture.

6.) “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”

Humble yourselves — The necessity to be pro-active about the matter

Might hand of God — Refers of God’s providential dealings.

6b.) The promise that God has not forgotten — (He may exalt you in due time.)

7.) Casting all your care upon him, for He cares for you

Of course the only reason we can be confident that God cares for us is because we are located and anchored in the finished work of Christ. We can obey this call to humility because we are safely ensconced in Christ.


 

Parable of Good Samaritan

We come to a passage this morning that is likely one of the most well known passages in Scripture. It is also one of those passages that is one of the most misinterpreted and most ill used.

It is a simple enough passages. Two exchanges between Jesus and a Religious Lawyer at the time. I believe that the exchange was adversarial between the two. In other words I believe the the intent of the Lawyer in questioning Jesus was not benign. I advance this because of the word “test” in the passage.  The Lawyer “stands up” which was a sign of respect in the culture and asks a question to “test Jesus.”

We see this “testing of Jesus” frequently by his detractors.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. (Mt. 16)

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Mt. 19)

They said this to test Him, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.  (John 8)

The fact that this is an adversarial setting is important to keep in mind because in such situations Jesus seldom gives a straight answer to questions but instead often answers their questions with questions. What happens here is no different. The Lawyer asks questions and Jesus deflects the questions with questions of His own to drive the conversation Jesus desires.

Well, back to how the text is misused. Time does not allow us to go as fully in depth in dismissing these errant readings as I would like. I want to raise them. Try to dismiss them. Then move on to the correct reading of the Parable.

I.) Mis-reading #1 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order to Support Amnesty Legislation for Illegal Immigrants in the West.

I can’t tell you how much material I’ve run across in preparation this week which appeals to the Parable of the Good Samaritan as the template that all Christians must use in order to demand that amnesty for illegal immigrants be put in place.

The Good Samaritan has been made the tool of Social Justice Warriors everywhere and by it we are being taught that in order to inherit eternal life we must disinherit ourselves and our children so that the alien and the stranger can inherit the here and the now. This is an exceptionally un-neighborly thing to do to our Children and our descendants. According to this interpretation the teaching of the Good Samaritan means that we must treat our children and our people as Aliens and Stranger in order to treat Aliens and Stranger like our children and our people.

The failure with this interpretation lies in the attempt to universalize a particular obligation. Jesus is teaching here in a very specific and particular situation.  The Lord Christ was not laying down policy for 21st century Nation States to take up. He was not creating new policy for Magistrates of all time everywhere to pursue. He was speaking to a religious Lawyer in order to crack his smug confidence that he indeed was a good person.

Jesus is giving ethical instruction, I believe, to the end that the Lawyer would see that he is not an ethical person.

The thinking that insists that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about immigration and amnesty policy, if taken literally, would mean the disappearance of borders and nations and peoples. It is a world where we can

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do

Upon giving this Parable, Jesus was not setting National or International Policy. He was not teaching on the Universal brotherhood of all man. He was not negating the reality of ever widening concentric circles whereby we first have to look out for our own who are of the household of faith. Jesus was not negating the prioritizing of them who are of the household of faith in terms of our care and affection.

He is simply teaching that in the course of our daily living, as we walk through life, when we come upon a real live human being in desperate need of care we have a duty and privilege to care for the least of these.

Some will retort that by seeing this passage as individual and personal that I am not loving my neighbor. Some will insist that by not championing that the Government open up the borders that I am not loving my neighbor. But what of my next door neighbor who can’t find work? How loving is it to that neighbor to glut the market with cheap labor so he will never find work? What of the minority communities in this country who’s unemployment rate is 25-30% in some quarters? Is it neighbor love to them to insist on an amnesty which will cement their unemployment? Is it neighbor love to fellow Christians to invite in a global population that is hostile to Biblical Christianity? Is it neighbor love to Christian women to open the borders to those from misogynistic cultures?

Those who want to use the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the end of pursuing the Cultural Marxist agenda of Social Justice have only incompletely thought through the matter. In many instances the misuse of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is just a means to advance a liberal humanist non Christian agenda.

Much more could be said but time wanes.

II.) Mis-reading #2 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order That We Might Be Able to Inherit Eternal Life

One of the curios of this passage is that many people don’t bother to spend the time to point out that Jesus is not here pointing out how it is that someone can go about inheriting eternal life.

What the Lord Christ is doing here is showing the folly of the premise of the Lawyer. You want to inherit eternal life? Fine … go to the law and fulfill all that it requires you will inherit eternal life?

What does it mean to fulfill the law to love God and neighbor? Well, let me tell you a story. Now, you go on loving God and neighbor in just this way and you will indeed inherit eternal life.

The “Go and do likewise” we find at the end of the passage was NOT good news.  The impact of the “go and do likewise” at the end of the passage would have been punctuated by the sound of wind being sucked through the collective audience’s teeth as they doubtless asked themselves “who then can be saved.”

The impact of this teaching, I am convinced, is to bring the man to the end of himself. The necessity of loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and my neighbor as myself as a prerequisite for inheriting Eternal life is not good news for humans this side of heaven. We are a people who are incessantly self centered. In even the most thoroughly converted of us we tend to look to our own interest and not the interests of others. We have problems loving our own kith and kin unselfishly never mind the complete stranger … or worse yet time worn enemies.  What Jesus tells this man he must do to inherit eternal life is not possible for those of us who know ourselves.

Love God and neighbor? Is that all? Well why didn’t you tell me that sooner Jesus? No problem. Is that the way we would really have God’s people think about this passage? As ministers do we want our people leaving service thinking that they can indeed do something to inherit eternal life?

So, why does Jesus play along with the Lawyer here? Why not just say … “Only legal heirs inherit eternal life, there is no doing unto Eternal life?”

Likely the answer to that is that Jesus desired the Lawyer to come to that conclusion by lifting the requirement bar for doing that would bring inheritance so high that the Lawyer would conclude, “Who then can be saved.”

Jesus speaks this way from time to time. When he says that “ye must be perfect even as your heavenly father is perfect,” He raises the behavior standard so high for inheritance of heaven that it is seen as impossible.  When Jesus gives the behavioral standard for a rich man to get into heaven He is met with the exclamation … “who then can be saved.” When Jesus speaks this way the intent is to both esteem the Law AND to bring people to an end of themselves in terms of thinking of themselves in terms of doing the law in order to inherit eternal life.

So, this parable is not here so that people can love God and neighbor so well that they can inherit eternal life. The passage is not here to stoke confidence in the self which is exactly what the Lawyer is seeking to accomplish. We know this because the text tells us of the Lawyer,

29 But he, desiring to justify himself  …

Benson in his commentary offers,

(He asks this), to show he had done this, and was blameless, even with respect to the duties which are least liable to be counterfeited … ”

The Lawyer wanted it to be clearly seen that he indeed had fulfilled the law in terms of loving God and neighbor and had earned his inheritance of Eternal life. Jesus tells the parable, I’m convinced, in order to dissuade this Lawyer and everybody else of this conviction.

So, the Good Samaritan Parable Was not Given In Order That We Might Be Able to convince ourselves that we are the excellent doers, who, because of our doing, will inherit eternal life.

So, what is the proper reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If these are improper readings what is the proper reading of this text.

III.) The Proper Reading of This Text Examined

A.) A proper reading of the parable reminds us that the function of the law is both a street light to show us our sin and a guide to life.

Jesus goes to the Law, thus demonstrating He is not antinomian.

But the Law has more than one purpose. As I have said earlier the purpose here is to cut out the legs from underneath this self righteous lawyer’s misinterpretation and smugness.

However, this does not mean that the law does not have the purpose as a guide to life. It should be our intent to be a people who help others in need as we have opportunity and means.

And so a proper reading of this text esteems the law, as rightly interpreted.

B.) A proper reading of the parable casts us upon Christ.

Our tendency in reading the Scriptures is always to make the Scripture about ourselves. This text is no different. Often we leave the text examining ourselves to see if we have been Good Samaritans in our lives. And there is nothing automatically wrong with that. Scripture calls for self examination.

However before we make the passage subjective as about us we should pause to ask if the passage is about someone else being a good Samaritan.

Examined closely the parable of the good Samaritan is not teaching us about what our immigration policy should be. After all, this parable was not given in order for the Magistrate to set policy but it was given that men might see Christ and their own individual duty. The parable is not teaching us that we can earn eternal life. After all, if loving God and neighbor perfectly is the standard who can earn eternal life? The parable is only about us after it is about Christ. Christ is the good Samaritan who found us as beaten by the fall and stripped of any hope. The Priest and the Levite, representatives of the Law, passed by, unable and unwilling to do us any good. It is Lord Christ, who was, just as the Samaritan was, one who was not received by the institutional religious community and it is the Lord Christ, just as the Good Samaritan, who stops and binds up our wounds and gives us the medicinal oil and wine of the Gospel … who has compassion upon us as completely unable to help ourselves … who took it upon Himself to do all the doing that we as beaten sinners could not do.

You see, we are not so much the Good Samaritans of the account here. We are the unidentified chap robbed, beat up, and left for dead. The Good Samaritan is Christ who has bound up our wounds and treated us with the oblation of Himself.

Here is the picture of inheriting eternal life. We were left for dead and someone came along and did all the doing.

If we have any hope to be Good Samaritans ourselves it is only in light of the reality that Christ was first our own Good Samaritan. He had pity on us as beaten and stripped sinners and provided our healing and paid all our costs.

The parable thus shows that Eternal life is not a matter of us fulfilling all the law and so being worthy of life as inheritance. The parable demonstrates the Gospel of Christ as doing what we can’t do for ourselves.

________________________

Conclusion

1.) Many people want to use this parable to show that Jesus was sharply attacking communal or racial prejudices. I don’t see that in the text. The chap beaten up was unidentifiable. The Priest and the Levite do not pass by because they know the victim is Gentile or Samaritan or Jew. There is no communal or racial prejudice connected with their passing by.  They pass by in keeping with their teaching from the book of Ecclesiasticus,

12 When you do a good deed, make sure you know who is benefiting from it; then what you do will not be wasted.[a] You will be repaid for any kindness you show to a devout person. If he doesn’t repay you, the Most High will. No good ever comes to a person who gives comfort to the wicked; it is not a righteous act.[b] Give to religious people, but don’t help sinners. Do good to humble people, but don’t give anything to those who are not devout. Don’t give them food, or they will use your kindness against you. Every good thing you do for such people will bring you twice as much trouble in return. The Most High himself hates sinners, and he will punish them. Give to good people, but do not help sinners.

They pass by because of concerns about becoming ceremonially unclean.

If Jesus is sharply attacking anything He is sharply attacking what He constantly attacks in Scripture and that is the damnable hypocrisy of the Religious leadership.

Jesus introduces the Samaritan in order to demonstrate that those thought to be religiously and racially vile are more righteous than the supposed religious good guys.

The Samaritan likewise knows nothing about the victim. The point isn’t that he is rising above his racial prejudices. The point is that the hated Samaritan enemy is more of a lawkeeper than the righteous.

2.) We live in an age, as one writer has put it, of pornographic compassion. We bleed over the sensationalism made by the news media of the suffering in Rawanda, or Afghanistan, or Syria, all the while we turn a blind eye to the needs that Jesus has brought to our own feet found among our family and neighbors. We rush past the stripped and beaten of our own circle of influence so that we can feel good about ourselves by how big a check we cut for the stripped and beaten 4000 miles away.

In the words of Thomas Fleming,

“We have been plagued … by the cynical sentimentalism that raises trillions of dollars to help strangers while poisoning us against the needs of family, neighbors, and friends.”

Ask the Pastor…. “But Christians Aren’t Under the Law?”

 

Dear Pastor,

Scripture says that we (Christians) are no longer under law. Can you explain to me why you teach that Christians are obliged to walk by God’s Law-Word?

Patrick
Colon, Michigan

Dear Patrick,

Let’s look at the passage that you reference

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Paul is using the word “law” here to designate that which must be fulfilled as a required precursor to acceptance with God. The Christian has been delivered from being under law as a means of find peace with God. As such, when St. Paul says here that we are not “under law” he is not suggesting that God’s law is no longer relevant to the Christian. Paul is saying that the Christian is not under law as a systematic program to escape condemnation.

If Christians did yet remain under the law as a totalistic program for righteousness then sin would continue to have dominion over the Christian since the law, as a program for righteousness, cannot deliver but can only accuse. Because the Christian is under the reign of grace as God’s means of righteousness the Christian can refuse to let sin reign in their mortal bodies. “Under the reign of Grace” provides a power source for dealing with sin that “Under the reign of Law” could never provide, dead as we were in Adam.

Note also, though that at the Apostle repeatedly talks about “sin.” This implies a necessity for the concept of law because there is no way to even know what sin is apart from a standard (God’s Law) by which sin can be defined and identified. If we were to be done with the law, as many Christians advocate, then we would also be done with any concept of sin. It does me no good to encourage me to say no to sin or to lust if at the same time there is no law that standardizes what sin is.  How could we possibly know what behavior, thinking, attitudes please our great Liege-Lord apart from His Law-Word?

Christ did not redeem us so that we might walk contrary to His Law-Word. The Law’s intent is not so that by the keeping of it we can be saved. We can’t keep it as it is needed to be kept. That is why Christ came as our covenant head. Our Lord Christ fulfilled the law in our stead and because of the righteousness accounted to us we are counted Law keepers. Similarly, our covenant head, the Lord Christ, bore our penalty in our place on the Cross that our indebtedness to the Law is fulfilled as we are united to Christ.

BUT now that the law has been fulfilled for us in Christ’s law keeping and penalty bearing we now walk in terms of God’s law. We delight in God’s law now, not as means of gaining something we do not have. We delight in God’s law now, as a consequence of being given something, via imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that we could not earn or merit.

As WCF IX:18 notes, “Law and grace do doth sweetly comply (agree).” We can not posit Grace against law for the Christian. God’s law for the Christian is gracious and God’s grace unto the Christian was due to its honoring all that the law required.

So, now we study God’s law in order to more fully delight in God’s grace.

Some will contend that we have been delivered from the law and so interpret that to mean that we have nothing to do with the law. This is an unfortunate error in interpreting and thinking. The aspect of the law that we have been delivered from is the condemning aspect of the law. Because we are in Christ we are delivered from the law’s condemnation. There is, after all, therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, deliverance from the law’s condemnation is not equal to the idea of no longer having anything to do with the law. This is why the inspired Apostle can say that; “The law is Holy, Righteous, and Good.”

Praise God for His kindness to usward as expressed by giving us His Law-Word. Praise God that the Lord Christ was and remains the embodiment and incarnation of God’s Law. To properly love God’s law is to love Christ. Correspondingly a lack of love for God’s Law-Word is a lack of love for Christ.