The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise

“Let us go, therefore, to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt, who trust in horses, who rely on chariots because there are many of them, and on horses because of their strength. YHWH also is wise and can bring disaster; He will not retract His word and will destroy them. Now, their horses are flesh and not spirit. They will stumble and there will be no one to help. They will fall, and there will be no one to raise them up.”

“The wisdom of the wise I will confound.”

“I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came in weakness and trembling. My words and message were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power… We do teach a wisdom, but it is not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away, but the secret wisdom of God… None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

“I rejoice… in insults.”

I am clueless, as to why the sentiment these verses express is so much missing in American so-called Christianity. As Christians, we follow the crucified Lord of Glory. We are identified with Him – is His name not ours? The world crucified Him; it is ours to rejoice when it excludes us! “It is enough that the servant should be like His Master, and the disciple like His teacher. If they have called the Master of the House Beelzebul, how much more the members of His household!” I always thought that verse must have a tone of encouragement and joy in it! It is, plain out flat, an honor to be treated like your King. It is, plain out flat, a cause of rejoicing to be like the one you love and want to be like. It just is. Joy in exclusions, and insults, and reproaches, and, when it comes to that, crucifixions, makes plain, common sense, if you take one of the first tenets of our faith: they crucified the Lord of Glory. First, they called Him a devil. It only doesn’t make sense if you imagine that the old has not gone, that Christians are not new creatures in Christ. If He isn’t really your King, if you don’t really love Him, if you aren’t really an enemy of the world, why then, of course you want to be friends with the world! But, if He is your King and God, wouldn’t it be an outrageous honor to be treated like Him? Wouldn’t it be a little worrisome if the world didn’t, at the very minimum, insult, exclude, or lie about you?

So, after that introduction, let me give an example or two of compromise. I’m not claiming the compromises I will show are compromises that clearly deny the essentials of the faith, or that deny the commands of God. I’m simply claiming that they ignore the meaning of the essentials of the faith even while they “defend” them. If you keep the previous paragraph in mind, this should all make sense. I will also need to do some clarifying. Try to pay attention to the words I use, and not impose some idea you were taught or heard somewhere else on what I am saying.

I am not here to attack all uses of apologetics*. To make this clear, I have used apologetics at times. I have looked up ancient manuscripts for people who claim they are all corrupted. Of course, I mostly simply counter apologetics. I use some knowledge of the Greek to counter objections that what John 1:1 really says is something other than, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If you want to call an essay on how thoroughly everything in the entire Bible testifies that Jesus Christ is the One True and Eternal God, apologetics, then you can see this. I am sometimes a little confused by what is meant by what by whom. As should already be evident, though, apologetics can, at times, be used to throw away an objection. However, apologetics will never bring someone to Christ; that must be a work of God, through the drawing of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit of Truth. Becoming a new creation in Christ is too radical a change of being (it truly is crucifixion with Christ and resurrection with Him). To rely on apologetics, to put any trust in apologetics, is wrong – it is going to the world, like going to Egypt. We must never take any kind of tactic or ideal and put any trust or reliance on it, but must always be open to the will of God, trusting and relying only on Him, walking by faith and not by sight. We should relate to human beings, to persons, in love: we must never use the wisdom or understanding of the world, for it is a weapon of the enemy.

As I have often seen it used (note: often does not mean always; there are people who do not use it in this way), apologetics is a form of compromise. I found a statement, in the first chapter of a book on apologetics by a rather prominent apologist, that runs something like this: “If Christians learn and use apologetics, then Christianity will become a reasonable option for people. We can shape the culture so that we can win converts to Christianity much more easily.” “We need apologetics so that people will think that Christians are reasonable, intelligent, respectable people, instead of lunatics and crazy people.” Much of apologetics seems to be made to convince semi-intellectuals and others that Christianity is reasonable, that it is respectable to be a Christian, that believing in Jesus is not absurd.

Is Christianity reasonable?

Do you think that God, YHWH Himself, nailed to a cross, crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and dying for the very ones who crucified Him, is reasonable? Do you think that rejoicing in insults, and persecutions, and humiliations, and beatings is reasonable? Do you think believing that one who was crucified in weakness is the God of strength is reasonable? Do you think that loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you is reasonable?

If this is reasonable, then, Christianity is the most reasonable thing that ever happened on the earth. If this is insanity, then Christianity is the most insane thing that ever happened on the earth.

Trying to make the world that crucified your King think that it is reasonable and respectable to follow the crucified King seems like treason to me. Either, treason or a veiled denial that the crucifixion ever happened, a veiled denial of sin, a veiled denial of who God is. They hung Him on a tree – I do not want their recognition! They mocked Him while He died – I do not want them to think me respectable! If they called Him a Samaritan and one possessed by devils, and He told me the commonsense bit of information, that if the King was called such things, surely His subjects will be called the same, then I will be very worried if I am not insulted and spoken all kinds of evil against (sooner or later). If we are the Body of Christ on earth, will we not all, to varying degrees, experience in our own lives and bodies the hostility of the world against Christ?

I will now address some verses that many use to support the use of apologetics, and to claim that the use and study thereof is necessary and commanded.

“But, if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats, or be troubled. But, in your hearts, sanctify Christ as Lord, and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you, to anyone who asks, but do this with gentleness and respect.”

I don’t care whether you translate it as “reason” or as “defense.” I cannot even see how it makes a difference. The context is clear. When you are persecuted for righteousness, you are blessed, and you will not fear or be dismayed; indeed, you must not, for it would be a denial of your blessing. Instead, you must set apart Christ as your only Lord – to do otherwise would be to compromise and deny Him – and so, when you are asked why you have hope, then you must always be prepared to give the reason: that the Son of God was crucified to take away your sin, and He has risen from the dead and reigns; because He lives, you also live. You must always be prepared to do this, because Jesus is your only Lord, and you want to exalt Him, even though it may mean insults or worse.

“Contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” This is a command to guard against heresy. It is not apologetics, but theology, that is plainly commanded here. This means, that you give no foothold to any form of denial of the Resurrection, or the Godhead and Manhood of Jesus Christ, or any other essential, such as the Holiness of God. If you read the entire book of Jude, you find that he is urging us not to permit the denial of the Lord Jesus Christ through the perversion of the grace of God into a sanction for idolatry of various forms. It is not about convincing those outside the Church, or even keeping people inside a so-called Church, but about guarding the beliefs and practices of the Church and thrusting all who deny the faith outside.

It is plain that neither of these verses have anything to do with apologetics.

I’ve also seen people say that you should study apologetics to get to know God. It will not work. I’m not sure how anyone even came up with that. If you want to know God, pray. Ask God to show you Himself. Make your whole life about knowing God. Seek His face in everything. Learn theology by praying and obeying, by living in His presence, both taking time aside to be alone with Him, and living your entire life before Him. Be silent in His presence. Read the Bible (and other books by saints of God who have truly known Him) and resolve that you will know nothing except what God reveals to you. Do not seek second-hand knowledge, or believe interpretations and ideas because you have been taught them or managed to think of them, but seek to know God Himself and His Truth in everything. Wait on God to reveal Himself to you, and everything else, too. Put into practice what God tells you, and obey Him though it may not make sense or may disrupt your “life” – Jesus Christ is the Life and your life.

“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things of heaven, not on the things of earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with Him in glory.”

 

Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

 

*I choose apologetics for an example, an illustration, because I know it best and can most easily illustrate what I intend here, using the use, or rather mis-use, of apologetics. There are other ways in which compromise occurs, that are similar to the issue with the mis-use of apologetics (apologetics DOES have a place). I cannot find out, think about, and explain all forms of subtle or accepted compromise. Also, I bring this out because I think many are led astray through no fault of their own. This does not make them inferior Christians.

Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness

Some people think that one should never ask God “Why?” about anything. Others seem to be very interested in asking God “Why?” about all kinds of things.

Asking God “Why?” is not necessarily doubting His goodness or His love. It depends on why you are asking “Why?” and on what you are asking. Sometimes, asking God “Why?” is actually declaring that you believe that God has a good reason for what He is doing: that He is in control, that He is wise, that He is loving. Sometimes, you may ask God, “Why do you allow me to sin?” – because you hate your sin and want to be delivered from it, you know this desire comes from God, and you know He has a reason – which you would like to know. When you ask God this, or why He allows others to defile the reputation of His Name, either by their blasphemous words or by their blasphemous actions, you are not doubting that God is good, that He is holy, that He is in control, or that He has a reason for all that He does – and all that He does not do. Rather, you are expressing your confidence that all these things are true. Sometimes, you may even ask God why He gives you so many pleasant things that you can enjoy, like water, or why He made something wonderful. You can also ask God why He allows terrible things or horrible suffering without doubting His sovereignty, His goodness, or His love: you would not be asking Him if you doubted His sovereignty, for He were not sovereign, what sense would there be in asking Him why He allows these things or makes the world so? You ask Him “Why?” because you know that He is good and loving, and so you know that He must have a reason for allowing these things: He must hate them as much as you do, in fact, infinitely more! So, He must have a good reason.

In your personal life, when something affects you very closely, you may ask because you want to know His will for you: you want to know what it is in you that He wants to show forth or change. You may want to know how He wants you to pray, or to pray for those around you, who are either suffering more than yourself, or with you, or causing your suffering (or all three). You may not know what you want, or why you are asking “Why, God?” but that does not mean that you are asking “Why?” because you doubt Him in any way. As long as God has not told you not to ask “Why?” – as long as you do not know that your asking is sinful – I believe it is quite acceptable. God may want to reveal His reason to you, and He may want to do it through your asking for it. At times, it may even be sinful not to ask God “Why?” However, sometimes He may want you not to ask Him, or you may be asking nonsense or a question to which you should not or cannot know the answer. We should always obey God.

On the other side of things, I shudder when people say, “Don’t be afraid to ask God! He can take your anger and your doubt.” In fact, I cringe even having written that. God is infinite Love and He is patient beyond measure: but we must never try Him: His love is Holy love. Do not, I implore you, ever give that advice to anyone: how do you know that he or she will not die for testing the Living God, as the Israelites fell in the desert? It is a sin to doubt God’s goodness or love (though it may not be a sin to suspect that something you have been taught about God is not true and is evil: certainly if what you have been taught – or what you have understood or misunderstood – is not right). It is a sin to doubt God: it means you accuse Him of being unfaithful, of being like a man, a creature: it is a blasphemy.It is a sin to be angry with God. It means that you accuse God of sin: it means that you blaspheme. Nor does the fact that God knows how you feel mean that it is all right to accuse Him, to tell Him, not with shame, trembling, trusting in the blood of Jesus and praying to God to change you, in confession of sin, but with boldness. If you tell that to someone, you are leading them to damnation: for God is holy, and in the end He will judge all who hate Him, and all who are angry with Him will be put to shame. If you tell that to someone, you are dissuading them from repentance, from turning to God: you are attacking the conviction of sin, the shame at sin and the shame in the presence of God, which sinners rightly experience and is actually a gift, meant to lead to Jesus.

On a slightly different note, I am amazed at the questions people ask and at the ways people try to answer them. People ask why God allowed some Christian to be persecuted, or any other number of things. I cannot think of any “Why?” that can be more easily answered from the Bible than why God permits Christians to suffer for Christ. The verses answering this are numerous. Through such suffering, we are identified with Christ, we experience a special joy in our union with and blessing in Him, and we offer a witness to the world. To some extent, these purposes – identification with Christ, joy in our union with and blessings in Christ, and witness to the world – are fulfilled whenever Christians suffer and look to their Savior. This is all over the Bible. (These purposes, in some way, whenever Christians look to their Savior, but that is not a topic for this post. See One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone and All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men insult you, and slander you, and speak all kinds of evil against you for My sake. Rejoice and be glad in that day, for great is your reward in heaven.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, having obtained access by faith into this grace into which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Moreover, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured His love into our hearts by His Spirit which He has given to us.” “Beloved, do not be surprised at this fiery trial which is among you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, that you may exult in His glory when He comes. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you.” “Though they slander you, they will see your good conduct, and glorify God in that day when He comes.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various sorts, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance have its work in you, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may comfort those who are afflicted with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by Him. For just as our afflictions abound, so also our comfort through Christ abounds. If, then, we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, and if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort, which is evident in the same patient endurance of the afflictions we ourselves suffer.” “We encountered such fierce opposition… we felt in our bodies the sentence of death, so that we despaired even of life. This was so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” “They went forth from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name.” This is what came to mind quickly.

On another note, we cannot expect to know why God does what He does, let alone all that He does. We can expect to often not understand: God is God, and we are creatures. His wisdom is infinite, and we are finite, so we will not always understand, though we can always understand that His love is behind all He ordains and all that He ordains to allow. If we cannot expect to understand why God acts in our own lives, we can expect to understand even less about why He acts in the lives of others.

 

Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale