Saturday 21 October 2017

Matthew 22 v.15/22

When we study a Bible passage there are three points to consider, what is it saying; what does it mean; how is it relevant to us in the Church today.

We are continuing the Lectionary journey through Matthew’s gospel where Jesus has been rebuking the chief priests and leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem for not giving proper guidance to the people and for disobeying God. Now those men have joined together and are preparing to set a trap question for Jesus, hoping to discredit Him in front of a gathered crowd. So united are they that two parties, normally divided opponents, have joined together.

The country was occupied by the Roman army and the authorities had put in place three taxes. One was a produce tax which people had to pay, a tax partly with produce and money. The second was an income tax of 1% of income. The third was a poll tax which was paid by all aged 14/65 and amounted to a denarius. It was this coin which was to be centre of the question; a denarius was a coin on which was stamped the head image of the Emperor.

Jesus was told how wise and clever before asking ‘is it right to pay taxes to Caesar’? They had tried force, now resorted to flattery This placed Jesus in an awkward situation for if He said yes it is, that would upset the Jews who thought only God was a king, and it was not right to call anyone else a king and pay tax, one which they resented and hated. If Jesus had said it wasn’t right they would have reported Him to the Romans for Him to be arrested and punished. Therefore it seemed to them He would be caught out whichever way He answered.

Jesus asked to see and then took the coin, and asked whose head it was on the coin. When they said it was Caesar, He told them to pay to Caesar what was due to Him, and render unto God what belongs to God.

Jesus in His wisdom never laid down regulations, but gave principles which are why His teaching is timeless, but people find them uncomfortable and try to suggest they only applied to the days of Jesus’ time on earth.

We now have to apply the teaching of Jesus to Christians and the Church in the present day, for the words of Jesus are enduring for people of all ages even though so many hears have passed.

Render to God what belongs to God. If Jesus was here today I am sure He would have much rebuking to give to the leaders of the Church for the way they have failed Him, led people astray and cast aside much of what God laid down in Scripture, which Jesus endorsed.

Whilst it may be unfair to all Christians, but is factual, is that the Church of England in this country sets the image for people by what it says and does, for they command the attention of the press, being the established and largest Church. I regret so much they are not creating a right or desirable image, although other denominations are failing somewhat, and it appears to me only the black Pentecostal Churches are endeavouring to be faithful to the Bible.

We are not rendering to God what belongs to Him. He gave us the Bible and a large part of the Church is using only parts which please them. If anyone read the report of the last general Synod of the Church of England they could be excused for thinking it referred to some secularist institution.

Bishops were proposing legislation which flew in the face of what God has laid down; they overruled His Word blatantly; and whilst officially opposing same sex marriage, are now proposing services of blessing for that which they are supposed to not support. Services are to be formed to cater for purposes, which again are against God’s teaching. It has become in places an apostate Church, as will any other which adopts the same practices. This is quite shameful and completely against the stated beliefs and Articles of the Church

Next Sunday is Bible Sunday; this service was once held on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, but for some reason I cannot trace, was moved to the last Sunday in October, when individual churches can decide whether to follow the normal lectionary or the special bible readings. To do this demeans the Bible and reveals what part it plays in the life of the Church.

In Acts we read of the first Christian Church meeting devotedly to the teaching of the Apostles, which became the foundation for the Church. Our Lord’s last words were for the Apostles to go into all the world and make followers. This they did without any of the wonderful technological aids we have.

From the earliest days the Church has always been under attack and whilst we face an aggressive and forceful secular lobby, our most insidious foe is the liberal wing of the Church, which wants to rewrite the Bible to ignore all that does not meet modern thinking. We are consequently losing member at an alarming rate without attracting new people, for we have nothing special to give which they cannot find outside he Church.

Life for many young people today can be very hectic and full of pressure. The Church should be a place where they can find hope, peace, comfort and reassurance. Unless we speak the things of Jesus we will not meet their needs, and it is tragic if we let a vociferous minority impose the things of Caesar unto God to satisfy their desires. We must get back to the teaching of the Apostles.

We tell of God making a beautiful world for man woman and child to live in mutual love and happiness, but we have all fallen short of God’s expectations. Jesus was sent into the world and suffered a cruel death on the Cross so that all misdoings and sins could be forgiven by God, and all who are prepared to believe in Jesus and accept they are forgiven because of His death, will be forgiven. But this requires more than a verbal promise, we must follow the teaching given to us in the manual God provided for our guidance and observance; it is called the Bible.

To day we are witnessing people at all levels in the Church, clergy and lay, who are flagrantly disobeying that teaching and acting in a way which is clearly wrong. In the case of clergy, this is a complete disregard of the vows made in front of God in His house. Such will be remembered when one day Jesus is faced.

Let us all re-commit ourselves to render unto God those things belonging to God.

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