One of the results of building a powerful and rigid organizational structure to carry out your purposes is that people will rebel against it. Pope Gregory VII and those who followed his principles tried to build a strong and well-organized papacy to fight against the civil government. One person who rebelled against it was Peter de Bruys. Now there were various types of rebellions. There were those who were of the old Manichean beliefs that there were two Gods, a good God and an evil God, and that matter was the product of the evil God. There were those, such as Tanchelm and Eudo de l'Etoile, who claimed to be themselves the Son of God. And there were others who wanted to overthrow the whole medieval government and societal classes and form a new system where goods were shared in common and everyone was equal. Peter de Bruys and his follower Henry of Lausanne represent the more positive sort of rebel.
It does not help that the only account we have of Peter is from his opponents. This makes it harder to see what his basic ideas were. He was accused of opposing infant baptism, claiming consecrated buildings and altars were meaningless, stating crosses should be destroyed (probably because they were objects of worship), opposing the Mass (he was clearly against transubstantiation and may have wanted to throw out the Lord's Supper entirely), and opposing all prayers and works for the dead. He seems to have been generally going the right way in advocating heart worship over institutionalized worship. He may have gone too far, especially if he really did advocate abandoning the Lord's Supper. There is a danger here of over-reacting. In opposing an external, by-the-motions form of worship, one can so spiritualize things as to make all physical actions irrelevant. But there is a point where it is clearly necessary to rebel against putting all the emphasis on the external. In this, Peter de Bruys was followed by Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe and John Hus, and ultimately the Protestant Reformation. There is more to genuinely following God than just going through the motions of being part of the organization.
We are told that love does not take
into account a wrong suffered (1 Corinthians 13:5). Now it is clear from
Scripture that, as Christians, we need to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32;
Colossians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 2:6,7). And the basis of our forgiveness of
others must always be the fact that God has forgiven us (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews
8:12; Matthew 18:21-35). If we recognize that we ourselves are sinners (Romans
3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). If we recognize our sins were paid for by
Christ’s sacrifice (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
And that we are saved by putting our faith in Christ apart from works (Romans
4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). Then it follows, we need to forgive
others. But there is another aspect.
An underlying issue is, who is in
control of your life? If circumstances are in control, then any seriously bad
thing that happens to you can devastate you. This being so, any person who does
something really nasty to you has the potential of ruining your live. And there
are many people who go through life with the concept that someone destroyed the
life they should have had. Needless to say, such a thing can be hard to
forgive. Or if we believe we control our own life, then people, or at least
those who are opposed to us, can become obstacles that we need to overcome. In
this case, whether we succeed or fail, it can be hard not to continue to be
hostile to them. But Scripture says God is in control of my life, and this
gives a different perspective (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13; Daniel 4:34,35). Because
of this, I realize that God is at work in my life to accomplish His purposes
(Romans 8:28-30; Genesis 50:20; Ephesians 2:10). Whether we understand this
makes a difference in how we face circumstances. To have the idea that what
someone else does to us, or even our bad choices, will so mess up our life that
God can never get it back on track again is to live on the edge of a precipice.
Now God does want us to live in obedience to Him (Titus 2:11-14; Romans
6:12-14; Galatians 5:13). But we are all people in process, and we are not
there yet (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17; Romans 7:14-25). But God has
promised to bring His people through, victorious (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians
2:14; Philippians 1:6).
Now I do not want to excuse bad
choices. Nor do I want to excuse doing bad things to others. But God uses these
things to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Even if we are told to go to
Nineveh and we run the opposite direction, God can bring us back on track and
use even this to accomplish His purposes (see Jonah). Therefore, we can repent
of our sins and leave them behind us (2 Corinthians 7:10) and forgive those who
have wronged us (1 Peter 4:8).
A person’s coming to Christ is the
result of a work of God in their heart (John 16:8-11; 6:44; Romans 10:17). I am
not here speaking of the issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism. But whatever side
you take on that issue, it is clear that a work of God is involved. Therefore,
whether you think that, in the final analysis, the issue is God choosing us or
us choosing God, there is one thing it does not ultimately depend on. The
ability of the evangelist. In fact, Paul states that he avoids basing his
approach on his ability, so that his converts’ faith may rest on the God’s
power rather then Paul’s technique (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Now do not get me
wrong; I am not advocating sloppiness and laziness. I am convinced that God
wants us to do our best in this area (1 Peter 2:15). But what I am trying to
avoid is the idea that if I do not have some special method or some special
ability, I cannot share Christ.
My main claim to expertise in
evangelism is that I have done almost everything there is to do wrong, wrong,
and I can tell you how to avoid my mistakes. I have come on too strong and been
too mealy-mouthed. It have lost my temper with the one I was witnessing to and
the partner I was witnessing with. I have chickened out in saying things when I
should have said something and said things when it would have been better if I
would have kept my mouth shut. If I believed that everything depended on my
technique, I would have given up on talking to people about Christ years ago.
Now I am not suggesting you follow my example in doing all these things wrong.
But I am suggesting that you not be scared off from sharing with people because
you have not got it all down. Rather, the best way to learn to do it is to do
The bottom line is God is at work in
the world, building His church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:5-7). He has
work for each of us to do as part of this (Ephesians 2:10) and promises His
power working in us to carry this out (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Colossians 1:29).
But if we concentrate on our abilities or our past track record, we can become
paralyzed and reluctant to do those things God has commanded us to. We also
need to recognize that if we press on to share the truth of God with people, we
will meet opposition, because the gospel is a stumbling block and there will be
those who refuse to accept it (1 Corinthians 1:18-23). But God calls us to
continue doing what He has called us to do, as He is the one who is ultimately
in control of the situation (Psalms 127:1,2).
Our salvation may be thus divided between the death and resurrection of Christ: by the former, sin was abolished and death annihilated; by the latter, righteousness was restored and life revived, the power and efficacy of the former being still bestowed upon us by means of the latter.
John Calvin, 1509-1564, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter XVI, 13, (translated by Henry Beveridge, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1973, Vol. 1, p. 447).
How do the death and resurrection of Christ accomplish our salvation? How does this change how we live our life?
How should we look at death? It is the universal fact. And it
is a fact we continually deny. Why? There is a modern tendency to try to
persuade ourselves that death is normal. Then why do we not feel like it? If
death is natural, why do we see it as an intruder, an enemy? Why has the vast
majority of the human race believed in some form or another of life beyond
death? And why do we find, in culture after culture, the grand theme of the
great god or hero who seeks to conquer death? Sometimes the hero succeeds.
Sometimes the hero tries and looks back the last minute and fails. These are
set in different times and different places. They have little in common but the
basic theme. And they all are set long ago and far away and in some mythical country
unconnected to the real world. Except one.
The Christian position is that death seems like an intruder
because it is an intruder. That it is a result of our rebellion against our
Creator (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22). We are all
sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), and we are therefore under
the sentence of death, with judgment to follow (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27;
Revelation 20:11-15). But God had promised from the beginning a Savior who
would break the power of death (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-12; Daniel 12:1-3).
This was fulfilled when God became a man, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:9-18; John
1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11), and paid the price for sin (1 Peter 2:24,25;
Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And He validated this by rising from
the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-20; Romans 4:25; 1:4). Based on this we are
offered eternal life through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5;
This did not happen in some never-never land, but in the full
light of history. Further, it is not an incidental part of the Christian faith,
but the very heart of it. Without it there would have been no Christian faith.
The original founders, who ought to have known if it was a scam, maintained the
truth of the resurrection amidst persecution and criticism, and most are said
to have died for it. Chuck Colson, based on his Watergate experience, points
out how unlikely this is. Did people
have hallucinations or some sort of mystical experience? If so (and corporate
hallucinations are extremely dubious), why did others believe them? People were
being put to death for being Christians within about 30 years of the event.
Something happened then that was so clear-cut and so convincing that people
were willing to die for it. There were many critics who put out various
theories, but the ones near the time did not deny the fact of the empty tomb.
How is this to be explained? The best explanation is that death, the universal
enemy, had finally been conquered. And we can conquer it, too, through faith in