July 2004, Volume X, Issue
Holding the Traditions (4)
II Thessalonians 2:15 declares, "Therefore, brethren, stand
fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught." Since the word with
which this text begins translates two Greek words which both mean "therefore,"
it is very closely related to the preceding verses.
All the people of God are commanded to hold the faithful
traditions because, negatively, this is the way of avoiding destruction (10-12).
There is vast apostasy in the professing churches and "the falling away" is
coming (3; the Greek has the article "the"). The man of sin will say that he is
God (4). He will work miracles (9) and be incredibly deceptive (10) and most in
the church will be fooled (4). Moreover, God will send "strong delusion" (11).
How then will we stand? Only by holding fast to the truth! Those who do not hold
fast to the biblical traditions will be deceived and perish.
True, the manifestation of the man of sin may not happen in
our day, though it might, since no one knows when he will be "revealed" (3). But
the apostle teaches that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (7). Many
today are falling for false doctrine. Unbiblical worship corrupts many churches.
Millions are swept away by the false miracles of Roman Catholicism and of
charismaticism, all over the world. What will happen when real miracles are
wrought with "all power" "after the working of Satan" (9) "with all
deceivableness of unrighteousness" (10)?
Though they may say that they believe the truth, many do not
receive "the love of the truth" (10) and so do not actually believe the truth
(12). Instead, they believe "the lie" (11; the Greek has the article "the") and
thus they shall be "damned" (12).
The imperatives, "stand fast" and "hold," are in the present
tense. Thus, right now, you must cling to the truth as it is developed through
the NT age. This includes holding fast to the biblical doctrine of the last
times (eschatology) as taught in II Thessalonians 2 and elsewhere, for even in
apostolic days there was false teaching on eschatology which deceived and
unsettled people (1-3).
Not only must the professing Christian hold fast to biblical
traditions lest he perish (10-12), but this adherence to the truth is also the
way in which God saves us. God’s "beloved" people are "chosen" "from the
beginning," "called," sanctified and glorified (13-14). But God has ordained
that the way of salvation (and the blessed experience of salvation) is the way
of "belief of the truth" and no other way (14). "Therefore, brethren, stand
fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught" (15). Rev. Stewart
Rahab's Lie (1)
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that
believed not, when she had received the spies with peace (Heb. 11:31).
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received
the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (James 2:25).
A reader of the News asks, "Why [in these passages] is Rahab
commended for lying about the Hebrew spies?"
This is an interesting question, which has generated a lot of
debate. The debate centres in the question: Does Scripture approve of lying in
some circumstances? Particularly, when the cause of God is being threatened?
The history of Rahab, briefly, is this. After forty years of
wandering in the wilderness, the nation of Israel was poised to begin the
conquest of Canaan. Jericho, just west of the Jordan, was the most difficult
city in Canaan to capture, for it was a mighty fortress with thick walls and
iron gates. It was the key to the whole land. If Israel could not capture
Jericho, its efforts to conquer the land were futile. If Jericho fell to the
Israelites, this would be a token from God that He fought for them and would
presently give them the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In preparation for war against the city, Joshua sent two
spies to enter Jericho and learn the state of the city, the strength of its
walls, and anything else which would be of value for the Israelites in their
The spies entered the city and made their way to the house of
Rahab, a prostitute, who lived on the wall of the city. Their presence in the
city and their entrance into Rahab’s house were noticed, and the police were
sent to capture them. Rahab admitted that they had been there, but that they had
already left and were headed for the River Jordan, where, if soldiers were
immediately sent, they could be captured. However, she had hidden the spies on
the roof of her house under some flax. After sending the police away on a wild
goose chase, she spoke with the spies and helped them escape from the city by
letting them down the wall with a scarlet rope. Her reason for aiding the spies,
and also for lying to the police was her determination to cast her lot with the
people of Israel. (The entire narrative is found in Joshua 2.)
There are other instances of such lies in Scripture. David
feigned madness when he was in the land of the Philistines during his flight
from murderous Saul. He was brought before Achish, the king of Gath (I Sam.
21:10-15). David writes of this and God’s deliverance from the hand of Achish in
More familiar is the lie which the midwives in Egypt told
Pharaoh’s servants. Pharaoh had commanded that all the male children of the
Israelites be killed. The midwives did not obey Pharaoh, for they feared God.
When questioned about their failures, they lied by telling the police that the
Hebrew women were not very long in labour and that the children were born before
the midwives could get there. God dealt well with the midwives because they
feared Him (Ex. 1).
In ordering the murder of all the male babies Pharaoh sought
to destroy Israel as a separate people and force the nation to amalgamate with
the Egyptians, for the daughters of Israel would be forced to marry Egyptian
men. Behind that plot was the plot of Satan to destroy Christ, for Christ, Satan
knew, was destined to be born of Israel.
These and other instances in Scripture have led some to
conclude that under certain circumstances God permits His people to lie.
Usually, so it is argued, such a lie is justified when the welfare of God’s
people is at stake. Such a concern for the cause of God led Rahab and the
midwives to resort to lies to cover their deeds.
Many argue that in times of war, when a nation is threatened
by an aggressor it is legitimate to tells lies to help defeat the conquering
power. This argument was used, for example, during the Nazi occupation of
mainland Europe. Downed aviators and Jews were hid by those who were willing to
risk their lives to save others. If Gestapo agents came to the doors of such
homes in which refugees were hidden, it was considered lawful to lie to them to
save those they were hiding.
There is agreement among Christians that ordinarily lying is
forbidden by the ninth commandment and by other injunctions in Scripture such as
Ephesians 4:15. The question is: Are there circumstances in which Scripture
While the questioner, quoted above, says that Scripture
condones the lie of Rahab, this is not really true. Nowhere in Scripture does
one find approval of any lying at all. Exodus 1 does not approve the lie of the
midwives; it expresses approval of their fear of God (17, 20-21). Hebrews 11:31
does not express approval of Rahab’s lie, but commends her faith by which she
received the spies in peace. That is, because of her faith that God was with
Israel and that Israel would ultimately prevail against Jericho, she cooperated
with the spies rather than turning them over to the police. Nor does the
narrative in Joshua 2 say one word of approval of Rahab’s lie.
The same is true of James 2. Rahab is said to be justified
because she received the spies and sent them out another way. By this act she
cast her lot with God’s people in whom lived the hope of the coming of the
I do not know of a single place in Scripture where a lie is
condoned. In other words, that Scripture approves of the lie of Rahab (and the
lie of the midwives) is an argument from silence. Scripture does not condemn her
lie in so many words. Rather, Scripture speaks of her faith manifested in her
works. From Scripture’s silence concerning the sin of the lie, one concludes
that Scripture approves.
But we must examine this matter a bit more in our next
News. Prof. H. Hanko
A reader asks for the explanation of Christ’s words in
Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and
stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy
children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye
This text has been abused by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians,
Arminians and Well-Meant Offer men to teach that God desires to save all the
people of Jerusalem (and, by extension, everybody in the world) but many of them
perish. "See," the Well-Meant Offer men say, "Christ wished to save Jerusalem,
but they would not let Him. Here is a universal desire of God for the salvation
of everybody." The Arminians go a step further: "Thus there is no reprobation of
some and no election of others. Also God’s grace must be resistible, for, though
God wanted to save everybody, man’s will stopped Him."
However, Christ does not say that He willed to gather
Jerusalem but Jerusalem resisted. Nor does He say that He willed to gather
Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem’s children resisted. Christ says that He
willed to gather Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem resisted. Christ speaks here
of two different groups: Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s children. He says different
things about these two groups: Jerusalem killed and stoned God’s prophets and
messengers; Christ willed to gather Jerusalem’s children; Jerusalem did not will
that Christ gather Jerusalem’s children.
What is meant by Jerusalem here? Jerusalem refers to the
religious leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees. Read Matthew 23; Christ
denounces the "scribes and Pharisees [as] hypocrites" (cf. esp. 13, 14, 15, 23,
25, 27, 29). They are Jerusalem, as the religious representatives of the people.
This form of speech is used frequently, for example, "Washington" is often used
for the political leaders of the US.
Jerusalem’s children are not the leaders but those led, the
common people. Like children, the common people were not learned and needed
religious guidance. They are the ones Christ willed to gather under His wings of
salvation (cf. Ps. 17:8; 91:4). To speak even more precisely, they are the true
children of the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26), the ones whom the Son of man
"came to seek and to save" (Luke 19:10), the ones given to Christ by His Father
(John 6:37, 39).
Christ willed to save Jerusalem’s children but Jerusalem (the
religious leaders) did not will it. This does not mean that they thwarted
Christ’s will. After Christ says that He willed to gather Jerusalem’s children,
He does not say that they thwarted Him. Instead, He says, "ye would not!" These
words alone do not say whether or not the scribes and Pharisees managed to stop
Christ gathering His children. Instead, they expose the wickedness of the
religious leaders. Their whole calling, as teachers in God’s church, was to work
for the gathering of God’s children. But when the Messiah came to gather His
children, they opposed His work: "ye would not!" No wonder Christ cursed them:
"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:38). Rev. Stewart
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