Dear praying friends,
When commenting on the parable of the householder and his vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46) the great English Anglican Bishop J C Ryle wrote ‘The fruit that the Lord receives from His vineyard in this land is disgracefully small compared with what it ought to be. We should note what an awful reckoning God sometimes makes with nations and churches… A time came when the long-suffering of God towards the Jews had an end. Forty years after our Lord’s death…they received a heavy chastisement for their sins in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple… And will the same things ever happen to us? Will the judgments of God come down upon this nation… Only God knows. But history tells us that judgments have come on many churches and nations. Where are all the early African and Eastern churches? They are run over by Islam and destroyed…Nothing offends God so much as the neglect of privileges. Much has been given to us and much will be required’. Truly remarkable and in many ways ‘prophetic’ words seeing that they were first published in 1856. Margaret and I thank you all for another year of encouragement and support and wish you His rich blessing in 2009 [DV].
Your servant for Christ
The Rock’ of Christ’s Church
In June of this year I spoke over a weekend on a number of topics given to me by a local church. The topics all related to Roman Catholicism and one of the subjects allocated was ‘The Papacy’. In the course of my preparations for that particular talk one of the important issues that needed to be addressed was the Roman Catholic claim that the Apostle Peter is ‘the rock of Christ’s Church’. There is a saying that goes something like this ‘when a text is taken out of context it becomes a pretext’. Basically this means that if a verse of scripture is ‘wrenched free’ from the verses surrounding it then it can be used as the basis of false teaching. Keeping that saying in mind I want first to quote the relevant verses from Matthew 16 in the course of which Rome bases her claim that Peter is ‘the rock’ upon which Christ would build His Church. These are the relevant verses – 13 – 23
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
You will note that in these 11 verses I have highlighted and underlined what for Rome is the kernel truth of these verses namely that Peter is ‘the rock’ upon which Christ will build His Church. In Dr James Butler’s Catechism [This catechism carried the approval of ‘The Four Catholic Archbishops of Irelan’ when published in 1944] the question is asked on page 28 –
‘When was St Peter made Pope or head of the Church?’ and the answer given – ‘Chiefly when Christ said to him “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” – Matthew 16: John 21’.
Let me quickly deal with the ‘giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ and the command to ‘feed my lambs, feed my sheep’. The giving of these roles and responsibilities within the church were not restricted solely to Peter. ‘The keys’ must not be divorced from what follows namely the subject of ‘binding’ and loosing’. We learn from Matthew 18:15-18 that these issues deal with the matter of sin in the life of a professing believer. In those verses we read –
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Pastor John MacArthur in his Study Bible makes these comments on ‘the keys’ of Matthew 16:19
‘These [the keys] represent authority and here Christ gives Peter authority to declare what was bound or loosed in heaven. This echoed the promise of John 20:23 where Christ gave the disciples authority to forgive or retain the sins of people. All this must be understood in the context of Matthew 18:15-17 where Christ laid out specific instructions for dealing with sin in the church…any duly constituted body of believers, acting in accord with God’s Word, has the authority to declare if someone is forgiven or unforgiven…When they make such judgments on the basis of God’s Word they can be sure heaven is in accord. In other words whatever they “bind” or “loose” on earth is already “bound” or “loosed” in heaven’.
Clearly this authority [‘keys’] within the church resides with the ‘ruling elders’ and was not the sole prerogative of Peter who wrote in 1st Peter 5:1 “The elders who are among you I exhort, who am also an elder”- Peter viewed himself as merely being a fellow-elder, on a par with local church elders and not superior to them.
Moving on then, is Peter the only one able to ‘feed my lambs, feed my sheep’ as quoted in Dr Butler’s catechism? Well, if I continue on from the quote from 1st Peter 5:1 Peter goes on to write these instructions to the elders in verse 2 “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight of it”. This echoes very much the parting words of the Apostle Paul to the elders at Ephesus when he was taking his leave of them. In Acts 20: 28 we read these words of instruction from Paul to the elders “Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood”.
The ‘keys’, the ‘binding’, the ‘loosing’ and the ‘feeding’ of God’s sheep were not roles and responsibilities given solely and exclusively to Peter [and to his supposed papal successors] but according to God’s Word are roles and responsibilities given to and exercised by local elders in local churches.
Dr Butler’s catechism that I quoted was the 1944 edition – have things changed in more recent times in Rome’s understanding of the issues we have been considering. The most up to date Roman Catholic Catechism was published in 1994. Paragraph 881 of that catechism reads –
‘The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head [This ‘head’ is not Christ but the Pope for Vatican 2: Volume 2 states in paragraph 22 of Lumen Gentium on page 375 “The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head”]. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope’.
Paragraph 936 of the catechism reinforces these claims by Rome – ‘The Lord made St Peter the visible foundation of his church. He entrusted the keys of the church to Him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St Peter, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth’.
Rome still maintains these teachings to this day and the assertion that Peter is ‘the rock of Christ’s Church’ is based firmly on verse 18 of Matthew 16. In determining whether or not this claim by Rome is true I want in the first instance to set out now a verse-by-verse table of Matthew 16:13-20 and then later I will do likewise with verses 21-23. This is the first table –
Verse – Text – Theme
13 – When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? – The Person of Christ
14 – And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. – The Person of Christ
15 – He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? – The Person of Christ
16 – And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. – The Person of Christ
17 – And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. – The Person of Christ(Divinely revealed)
18 – And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it – The Foundation upon which Christ’s Church will be built
19 – And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. – Christ’s authority over and delegation of a function to His Church
20 – Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. – The Person of Christ
These 8 verses begin and end with the Saviour focussing upon His Person. Verses 14-17 that precede Peter’s great declaration also focus upon The Person of Christ. In the context it is clear that Christ is preparing His disciples to learn a great truth about His Person – and what is that truth? – the truth that upon “this rock”, that upon the divinely revealed truth that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, He will build His Church. And because it will be His Church in verses 18-19 He demonstrates His authority over it by entrusting ‘the keys’ to His disciples. What can we understand by ‘the keys’? I believe we find the answer in Acts 2:42 where we learn that the early Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and prayers”. The Lord entrusted ‘the keys’ of right doctrine and right practice to His disciples and those ‘keys’ today are still in the care and keeping of faithful church elders. This was a great theme of Paul in his pastoral epistles – just a few verses by way of example –
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things [the threat posed by ‘seducing spirits and doctrines of devils’] thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine…Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…Take Heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine” [1st Timothy 4:6, 13 & 16]
“Thou therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard from me among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also” [2nd Timothy 2: 2]
“For a bishop (elder) must be…Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the opposers” [those who contradict sound doctrine] Titus 1:7 & 9]
“But speak thou the things which become [are proper for/in keeping with] sound doctrine” [Titus 2:1]
‘Sound doctrine’ and the practice and disciplines that flow from it [such as dealing with sin within the professing church as we read earlier] are ‘the keys’ that have been entrusted by Christ to the ruling elders of His Church and that is why Christ’s Church should be “the pillar and ground of the truth” [1st Timothy 3:15]. To wrench 3 words “thou art Peter” from the context of these 8 verses and build a doctrine of Papal rule as enshrined in the Catholic Catechisms is a glaring example of turning ‘a text’ into ‘a pretext’. But the identification of “the rock” upon which Christ is building His Church does not end with verse 20. The foundational theme is carried over into the next 3 verses, as we shall see from the following table –
Verse – Text – Theme
21 – From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. – The Redemptive Work of Christ on The Cross
22 – Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee – The Redemptive Work of Christ on The Cross rejected by Peter
23 – But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. – The Redemptive Work of Christ on The Cross is God’s plan
Foundational to the building of His Church is not only ‘the Person’ of Christ but also ‘the Redemptive Work of Christ on The Cross’. These 2 elements in the foundation of The Church are inextricably linked as only ‘the Person’ of Christ could satisfactorily perform ‘the Redemptive work of Christ on The Cross’. Only ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ could offer an acceptable, redemptive ransom price to God His Father [Matthew 20: 28] by which rebel sinners could be freed from sin’s curse, hell’s claims and the grave’s constraint.
Only Christ’s shed blood could propitiate His Holy Father’s just and righteous anger against sin [Romans 3:25]. Only Christ’s shed blood could purchase redemption for those who were slaves to sin and its curse [1st Peter 1:18-19]. Only Christ’s shed blood could obtain justification [the divine verdict of ‘not guilty’] for guilty hell-deserving sinners [Romans 3:26 & 5:1]. Only Christ’s shed blood could effect reconciliation between an offended Holy God and a straying sinful people who were by nature enemies of God [Romans 5:10].
So where is Peter in all this – is he as Rome claims ‘the rock’ upon which Christ would build His Church? The reference to Peter in the midst of verses 13-20 is incidental to the main ‘theme’ of these verses that centre and focus supremely upon ‘the Person of Christ’ as the foundation of His own Church.
And in the next 3 verses the role of Peter is to demonstrate how Satan would seek to blind men to the truth of the ‘theme’ of these verses that, essential to the foundation of Christ’s Church, is ‘Christ’s Redemptive work on The Cross’ – “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not” [2nd Corinthians 4:4].
It is clear that Peter learnt great lessons from this encounter for on the day of Pentecost, in the midst of his sermon and referring to the person and death of Christ on the Cross, he said that Christ was “approved of God” [‘The Christ’] and “delivered [to ‘The Cross’] by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. He was unveiling ‘the rock’ upon which Christ would build His Church and on that day alone about “three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41] were added to Christ’s Church and these “lively [living] stones” were laid upon the foundation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” [1st Corinthians 2:2].
The verses of Matthew 16:13-23 teach a truth that Paul would later repeat when dealing with factionalism within the Corinthian church. There were elements there that wanted to align themselves with people like Paul, Apollos or Cephas [Peter] [1st Corinthians 3:22] but earlier in verse 11 Paul declared “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ”.
Paul, on another occasion and referring to the Old Testament scriptures wrote, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” [Romans 15:4] and in a similar vein in 1st Corinthians 10:11 he wrote, “they are written for our admonition”. Can we learn anything from the Old Testament scriptures about the identity of “the rock” that will be for our “learning” and “admonition”? I believe we most certainly can.
When it comes to understanding what the Scriptures teach there are a number of universally accepted principles or laws. There is a principle known as ‘hermeneutics’ and there is also ‘the law of first mention’.
Under the principle of ‘hermeneutics’ we should interpret any scripture in the light of other scriptures. In other words, when considering a particular topic or theme we must consider all the relevant verses in the scriptures that pertain to that particular topic or theme in order to get the ‘full/complete picture’ to enlighten our understanding.
Then in relation to ‘the law of first mention’, when considering a subject, attitude or principle we should look for its ‘first mention’ in the scriptures to see what meaning is revealed there for that meaning will hold good throughout the rest of scripture. A useful website that has an article on these principles/laws is http://bibleresources.bible.com/Bstudy.php
There also you can do a word or passage search and it will list all relevant usages in the entire scriptures. When it comes to the word ‘rock’ we find that the ‘first mention’ is found in Exodus 17:6 that reads as follows –
“Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink”.
Here we find people wandering in the wilderness who were saved when a rock was ‘smitten’ and it brought forth life-giving water. The Apostle Paul made reference to this incident in 1st Corinthians 10:1&4 when he wrote, “our fathers…drank of that spiritual ROCK that followed them and that ROCK was Christ”.
Pastor John MacArthur in his bible study notes writes ‘The Jews had a legend that the actual rock Moses struck followed them throughout their wilderness wanderings, providing water for them. Paul says they have a Rock providing all they need but it is Christ’. All that is needed for spiritual life is found in Christ and that echoes the words of Christ Himself in John 7:37 “In that last day…Jesus stood and cried…If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink”.
This first mention of ‘rock’ In Exodus 17:6 is a picture of Christ and His Redemptive work on The Cross. Isaiah 53 is known as a prophetic picture of the sufferings of Christ on The Cross and there in verse 4 we read of Christ being “smitten of God”. The weight of what Christ would have to do and endure to redeem His people began to weigh heavily upon Him when he went to Gethsemane after the Last Supper and there to His disciples Jesus said “All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered” [Mark 14:27 making reference to Zechariah 13:7]. We tend to think of the ‘rock’ that Moses smote as being a very large boulder but in Vine’s Expository Dictionary we read this about the ‘rock’ of Exodus 17:6 – ‘means “rocky wall” or “cliff”. This is probably what Moses struck in Exodus 17:6’ and by way of further illustration Vine goes on to say ‘Thus God hid Moses in a cleft of the “rocky cliff” [Exodus 33:21-22]. My how the hymn writer captured it so well ‘Thou blest rock of ages, I’m hiding in thee’. One final illustration of how ‘rock’ clearly refers to a “rocky cliff” is found in 2nd Chronicles 25:11-12 “And Amaziah strengthened himself, and led forth his people, and went to the Valley of salt and smote of the children of Seir ten thousand. And other ten thousand, left alive, did the children of Judah carry away captive, and brought them unto the top of the rock [‘rocky cliff’] and cast them down from the top of the rock [‘rocky cliff’] and they were all broken in pieces”. Keeping this picture of Christ being like the ‘rocky cliff’ that was smitten by Moses to bring forth life-giving water the significance of the location where Christ made His statement that “upon this rock I will build my church” should not be overlooked. From verse 13 we learn that the location was ‘Caesarea Philippi’ as in the picture below.
This pictured ‘rocky cliff’ (I had the privilege of visiting this location during a trip to Israel back in 1986) could possibly have been the backdrop to the dialogue between the Lord and His disciples. This ‘rocky cliff’ at Caesarea Philippi was the ‘home’ to statues of Pagan gods like ‘Pan’ that were located in ‘clefts’ in its surface. How all the more fitting then would it have been for the Saviour to declare, in the face of this natural ‘shrine’ to Paganism, that upon ‘the rock’ of His sinless Person and of Him being ‘smitten’ like a ‘rocky cliff’ of old that brought forth life-giving water, He would build His Church. How truly inspired Paul was when he wrote, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” [Romans 15:4]. One final thought in conclusion. Vine’s Expository Dictionary also has this to say about ‘rock’ – ‘In some cases this noun is an epithet or meaningful name of God’. There are many examples of this to be found in the Old Testament but let me just cite two from the book of Psalms. In Psalm 40:1-4 we read “I waited patiently for THE LORD… He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a ROCK… he hath put a new song in my mouth even praise unto our GOD… Blessed is that man who maketh THE LORD his trust” and then in Psalm 62:1-2 & 5-7 we read, “Truly my soul waiteth upon GOD… He only is my ROCK… My soul, wait thou only upon GOD… He only is my ROCK… In GOD is my salvation and my glory, the ROCK of my strength; my refuge is in GOD”.
We learnt earlier that the 1994 Roman Catholic Catechism declares in Paragraph 881 ‘The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter the “rock” of his Church’. God’s Word teaches clearly that ‘the [foundational] rock’ of Christ’s Church is not Peter but rather it is ‘The Person’ and Redemptive Work on The Cross’ of Christ Himself. Are foundations important? Let me finish with this in Luke 6:47-49 and I have highlighted and capitalised just a few crucial words to emphasise the importance of the right ‘foundation’ –
47 Whosoever cometh TO ME, and heareth MY SAYINGS, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid THE FOUNDATION ON A ROCK: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was FOUNDED UPON A ROCK.49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
No ‘straight talk’ from Cliff Richard
For many years the issue of pop-legend and professing Christian Cliff Richard’s ‘sexual orientation’ has been a matter of much speculation. This article will not concern itself directly with that particular issue but will rather focus on Cliff Richard’s views on one of today’s ‘hot’ topics namely the attitude of the Church towards those in same-sex relationships. He has been making various public comments on this issue over recent years. Going back to December 2005 the Irish Examiner in a short article reported as follows
Christian pop legend Cliff Richard has urged the Church to “learn to deal” with homosexuality, and accept the world is very different from when Jesus Christ was alive. The Saviour’s Day singer, 65, is saddened by conservative religious figures’ attitude to gay priests and has urged for tolerance of homosexuality. Speaking on the Sky Report on British TV channel Sky News, Richard says: “I’m sad because we have to learn to deal with everything. Everything has changed. The church has got to come to terms with the fact that things have changed since even Jesus has died. It’s only a mere 2,000 years. I mean slavery was an in-thing at one time. We were told to deal with it. And we’ve dealt with it. And we’ve got to deal with every aspect of life. There are gay people in this world. Some of them are very talented. Some of them could be great priests.”
I don’t quite follow Cliff Richard’s line of thought when he first says ‘I mean slavery was an in-thing at one time. We were told to deal with it. And we’ve dealt with it’ and then goes on to say ‘we’ve got to deal with every aspect of life. There are gay people in this world. Some of them are very talented. Some of them could be great priests’. No true Christian would deny that ‘slavery’ was wrong and sinful and it was right for someone like William Wilberforce, motivated by his Christian faith, to campaign for its abolition. However, whilst ‘slavery’ was morally sinful, the ‘repudiation of homosexuality’ that presumably Cliff Richard views as another ‘in-thing’ is most certainly not in the light of the teaching God’s Word. True Christians have no need ‘to deal’ with their ‘repudiation’ of this type of immoral behaviour except in the sense of resolutely defending their opposition to it. Clearly Cliff Richard would like to see true Christians setting aside their Biblical objections to this type of immoral lifestyle and instead embracing it as being perfectly acceptable in the light of his claim that ‘things have changed since even Jesus has died’. In one sense he is probably correct as we see the increasing wickedness and sinfulness that is engulfing the world as prophesied in passages such as 1st Timothy 4:1-2 and 2nd Timothy 3:1-5. How apt that Paul identified that in the midst of the predicted coming immorality and wickedness those engaged in such would have “a form of godliness but denying the power of it” [2nd Timothy 3:5]. The “power” of all true “godliness” is of course God the HOLY Spirit, but clearly these prophesied immoral religious people will be and are totally devoid of HIS presence and influence. The biblical command to true Christians in relation to these false professing religious people is “from such turn away” but in contrast Cliff Richard urges an embracing of such – is this a Holy Spirit inspired response by Cliff Richard – not in the light of the clear teaching of God’s inspired Word. Moving on to May 2008 the Times Online reported
‘Sir Cliff Richard marked the 50th anniversary of his start in showbusiness yesterday with the publication of a book containing his top 50 Bible stories for children. The pop star, a devout Anglican, said that the Church of England could overcome its present difficulties over gays and declining attendance by letting go of the intellectual approach to faith and learning to keep it simple…“The Church has to remain relevant … I often admire America, they have a spirituality that we seem to have lost…“Maybe we have lost that simple touch…He was also critical of the Anglican Church’s approach to the debate over homosexuality, currently driving it to schism. Sir Cliff, who is on the Church’s evangelical wing, said it was not up to the Church to judge homosexuals. He said: “It seems to me that the Church is going to have to start seeing people as people and have God be the judge.” He said he had many gay friends, some who had been in committed relationships for 50 years. The Church moved on from condoning slavery, and there had to be a way for it to move on from its impasse over gays. The answer was to “just take away the intellect” and let the heart deal with it, he said. Describing how he is writing his autobiography, he said he had no regrets about not having children of his own. His nieces, nephews and now great-nieces and great-nephews kept him busy’
Once again we see Cliff Richard resorting to his false analogy of comparing supposed Christian acceptance in times past of slavery with current Christian repudiation of homosexual behaviour. He then reportedly makes the astounding statement that ‘it was not up to the church to judge homosexuals’. The Church is very much commanded to judge sin within its professing ranks as these scriptures show –
“Them that sin REBUKE before all, that others also may fear” [1st Timothy 5:20]
“Preach the word; be diligent in season, out of season; reprove, REBUKE…”[2nd Timothy 4:2] “Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I HAVE DELIEVERED UNTO SATAN that they may learn not to blaspheme” [1st Timothy 1:20] “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you…and ye are puffed up and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed MIGHT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM AMONG YOU, For I…HAVE JUDGED already…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…to DELIVER SUCH AN ONE UNTO SATAN for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…PURGE OUT therefore the old leaven” [1st Corinthians 5:1-7].
Commenting on 1st Timothy 1:20 John MacArthur wrote ‘Paul put both men [Hymenaeus and Alexander] out of the church thus ending their influence and removing them from the protection and insulation of God’s people. They were no longer in the environment of God’s blessing but under Satan’s control. …God hands some people over to Satan for judgment such as King Saul and the sinning member of the Corinthian church (1st Corinthians 5:1-5)’ and in his comments on these verses in 1st Corinthians Pastor MacArthur writes ‘This sin was so vile [incest] that even the church’s pagan neighbours were doubtless scandalised by it. [No doubt the same applies today in how Muslims view the lax supposed ‘Christian’ attitude towards homosexuality within much of the professing ‘church’] The Corinthians had rationalised or minimised this sin (and were) so arrogant and carnal as to excuse even that extreme wickedness…Paul had passed judgment on the sinner (excommunication) and the church also needed to’. Cliff Richard is totally wrong when he states ‘it is not up to the church to judge homosexuals’. Before moving to another report on this subject can I just mention that in the Times Online report they referred to how Cliff was then ‘writing his autobiography’ and I’ll make further comment on this shortly. Moving to his most recent pronouncements we turn to the Times Online of 4 September 2008
Sir Cliff Richard has rarely courted the degree of controversy likely to be provoked by a chapter in his new autobiography, in which he calls on the Church to give its blessing to same-sex marriage. Sir Cliff…claims same-sex marriages are a modern example of how the world has moved on. “I think the Church must come round and see people as they are now,” he says. “Gone are the days when we assumed loving relationships would be solely between men and women.” The singer, who is a well-known pin-up for the Christian faith, has long been dogged by speculation about his sexuality. In his book he says he is sick of such rumours and defends homosexuality as a way of life. “In the end, I believe, people are going to be judged for what they are. It seems to me that commitment is the issue, and if anyone comes to me and says: ’This is my partner – we are committed to each other,’ then I don’t care what their sexuality is. I’m not going to judge – I’ll leave that to God.” Sir Cliff, 67, also spoke …about his friendship with the former Roman Catholic priest with whom he shares his many homes. He describes Father John McElynn as his “companion”… “John and I have over time struck up a close friendship. He has also become a companion, which is great because I don’t like living alone, even now,” he says. “People often make the mistake of thinking that only marriage equals happiness. I may suddenly meet someone and feel differently, but right now I am not sure marriage would enhance my happiness. As for my sexuality, I am sick to death of the media’s speculation about it. “What business is it of anyone else’s what any of us are as individuals? I don’t think my fans would care either way.”
Here Cliff Richard calls ‘on the Church to give its blessing to same-sex marriage’. In a recent article [enclosed with this newsletter] ‘Welcome to the Church of Ireland: Diocese of Sodom and Gomorrah’ I dealt with the ‘What we Believe’ statement posted on the website of the pro-gay group ‘Changing Attitude Ireland’. Amongst portions I quoted was the following [underlined] and I gave God’s answer to it with a biblical quotation that follows
‘Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are called by God to express their sexuality in loving, faithful and committed relationships’. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” [Genesis 2:24-25]. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” [Hebrews 13:4].
It is clear from God’s Word that “marriage” is only honourable in the sight of God when it is between a man and a woman and that is the only setting in which sexual intimacy is viewed by God as being pure and free from any sinful defilement. This report also made reference to Cliff’s ‘companion’ – former Roman Catholic priest, John McElynn. Again I am not going to speculate as to the full nature of their friendship but it is interesting that on the ‘Changing Attitude Ireland’ website you can see a posting of the comments made by Cliff Richard in the Times Online report. In this report Cliff Richard asserted – “It seems to me that commitment is the issue, and if anyone comes to me and says: ’This is my partner – we are committed to each other,’ then I don’t care what their sexuality is. I’m not going to judge – I’ll leave that to God.” I’m not saying that people of the same-sex couldn’t or shouldn’t live together simply as friends and for companionship but this is not what this whole debate is about – it is about such relationships that include a sexual dimension and Cliff’s view is “I’m not going to judge – I’ll leave that to God.” That flies in the face of the Lord’s command to His people that they are to be “the salt of the earth” and that they are to “let your light so shine before men” [Matthew 5: 13& 6]. True Christians are to be God’s agents in helping to stem and hold back the tide of sinful immorality that would seek to engulf the whole world and likewise they are to be beacons of spiritual light in a world that ‘loves darkness rather than light because its deed are evil’ [Jon 3:19]. True Christians are not to remain neutral or silent when confronted by those who would seek to introduce and portray sinful immoral concepts as being acceptable standards within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. One really does have to wonder what ‘spirit’ is driving Cliff Richard to come out with such publicly-expressed anti-biblical sentiments. By way of conclusion I made reference earlier to the Times Online report of May 2008 that mentioned that Cliff was ‘writing his autobiography’. In this more recent report of 4th September 2008 we learn that the book is now printed and published. The Belfast Telegraph of Saturday 20th September under a heading of ‘Gloria [Hunniford] and Cliff in a battle of the books’ wrote ‘Cliff’s book “My Life, My Way” is top of the literary charts and with the launch of Gloria’s new book, “Always With You” she would love to leapfrog over Cliff to the number one spot. “But having said that I want Cliff’s new single ‘Thank You For a Lifetime’ to make it to number one and fulfil his dream of a chart-topper for six successive decades” said Gloria’. Clearly the advance pubicity concerning Cliff’s autobiography such as that reported in the Times Online article of 4th September stimulated buying interest amongst the general public so much so that by 20th September it was ‘top of the literary charts’. In an article published by The Guardian on 23rd January 2006 on the subject of the spending ability of ‘gay’ people we read –
‘The true power of the pink pound was revealed today with the publication of a survey of gay men and women’s earnings suggesting they outstrip the straight salary by up to £10,000 a year…Gay men in full-time jobs earn on average £34,200 a year, compared with the national average for men of £24,800. Lesbians earn £6,000 more than the national average for women, take two more holidays a year and spend £400 a month on credit cards, according to the survey of 1,118 readers of Diva and Gay Times by the marketing consultancy Out Now. Last year’s government figures, which put the number of gay people in the UK at more than 3 million – or 6% of the population – has enabled companies to make clearer estimates of the potential of the pink pound and led to huge interest among some of Britain’s biggest brands. Based on those numbers, gay men and women in the UK spent more than £800m on CDs, even more – £843m – on DVDs and as much again on books and magazines…Ian Johnson, managing director of Out Now, said: “Now that the market is able to be accurately measured, more companies can develop marketing plans to better position their brands to attract gay and lesbian customers’.
It would be interesting to be able to gauge if the ‘pro-gay, pro-same-sex marriage’ views expressed by Cliff Richard in the run-up to the publication of his autobiography led to an increase in the number of ‘pink pounds’ being spent on copies of his book than might otherwise have been expected but that is something we could never be certain about. However I think it would be fair to say that his comments would not have harmed the potential ‘pink pound’ market and that is a market that any faithful Christian would not want to be actively courting. The ‘Changing Attitude Ireland’ website, under a heading of ‘Prejudice is unacceptable’ stated ‘the church should stop colluding with cultural repression and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in all parts of the world’. Cliff Richard is doing his best to promote that unscriptural agenda and my response to him is the same as the one posted in our earlier website article – “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” [Ephesians 5:12]. It would appear that Cliff Richard has no Holy-Spirit-inspired “shame” when it comes to this issue and that perhaps might explain why he does not come out with biblically based ‘straight talk’ when commenting on it.