Satanic temple statue is one reason why separation of church and state is a good thing.

A Satanic temple statue is one reason why separation of church and state is a good thing.  Many Christians are against the separation of church and state concept.  The feeling is that the founders of the country were Christian therefore they never intended for the Constitution to be interpreted that way.  I’m working on another piece that addresses this question directly.  It’s going to be titled Are religious beliefs a cover for discrimination, bigotry, and hate? 

I’ll add the link when it’s ready.  You can also sign up to receive emails as new items are added.  Just use the subscribe box towards the top right hand corner of the page.

Satanic temple statue is one reason why separation of church and state is a good thing.However, for this one, we’ll look at something else from the Bible to see why separation of church and state are a good thing.  Especially in cases like this one.

Like I said, some people think the separation of church and state is a bad thing.  But if you’re a regular reader, then you know where I stand.  Why are you looking to the government for your religion?  There’s a whole section here on government and religion if you’d like to find out more about why I ask that.

Anyway, here’s what’s happening with this satanic temple statue.  It’s from an Associated Press (AP) article titled Satanic Temple statue among displays at Illinois Capitol.  Many of you, maybe even most, will wonder how that could possibly happen.  But the truth is, it has to happen.  Yes – it has to happen.

A local chapter of the Satanic Temple has been allowed to place a statue in the Illinois Statehouse alongside holiday displays of a Nativity scene and a menorah.

The State Journal-Register reports the sculpture depicts the forearm of a woman holding an apple. The statue is called “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.”

In its application for the display, Satanic Temple-Chicago calls itself a nontheistic organization that aims to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.”

First of all, I have to point out something that should be obvious to Christians.  There’s a problem with that apple thing.  Given the name of the statue, plus the fact that it’s being held by a woman, it’s natural to assume this is a representation of what happened in the Garden of Eden.

I was curious.  Exactly what is the first reference to an apple in the Bible.  I was also a bit surprised that I never looked that up before.  Well, here it is.

The Song of Moses

Dt 31:30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:

Dt 32:1 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;
hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

Dt 32:2 Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.

Dt 32:3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

Dt 32:4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.

Dt 32:5 They have acted corruptly toward him;
to their shame they are no longer his children,
but a warped and crooked generation.

Dt 32:6 Is this the way you repay the LORD,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
who made you and formed you?

Dt 32:7 Remember the days of old;
consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
your elders, and they will explain to you.

Dt 32:8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of Israel.

Dt 32:9 For the LORD’S portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.

Dt 32:10 In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

Dt 32:11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions.

Notice – it’s from the Song of Moses.  It’s not until long after the Garden of Eden encounter with the serpent.

Now – that probably means one of two things.

  1. Followers of Satan actually believe the Bible, at least through the time of the Exodus, where God led His people after freeing them from captivity in Egypt.  That’s pretty major.  Given that this was a foretelling of what was to come, with Jesus being the means of our salvation and our freedom from none other than Satan – it’s incredible that they would believe even this much of The Bible.
  2. Or, it could mean that followers in this Satanic Temple don’t even know that the apple was never mentioned as being the thing that Eve gave to Adam.  The thing that Eve and the serpent spoke about.  That’s even more unbelievable than the first item.  I mean, how is it that they don’t know this? 

Ge 2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Ge 2:10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Ge 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

See?  No apple.

There was however, as the description says, something about knowledge.

It must be tough for the followers of Satan.  It’s not like they don’t already know what happens.  To get your knowledge of the one you follow from the Book of God.  The God who created Satan.  And the same God who will send Satan to the pit of fire.

Anyway – let’s get back to the AP article.

Secretary of State Spokesman Dave Druker says the group has the same rights as other religious organizations to have a display in the rotunda.

So I have to ask – isn’t it better to have separation of church and state?  Isn’t it better that no religious group is allowed to put up a display on government property?  As I already asked – why are we looking to the government for our religion anyway?

Did Jesus look to the Roman government for the religious beliefs?

Did Jesus look to the Roman government for the religious beliefs?

No.  

Paying Taxes to Caesar

22:15-22 pp — Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Back then the people were amazed at what Jesus said.  Granted, they had something else in mind.  However, what Jesus said isn’t something we can ignore.

Let me rephrase that.  Jesus’ words aren’t something we should ignore.  In fact, unfortunately, ignoring Jesus’ words is something we do a lot these days.

Separation of Church and State

Jesus made a clear distinction between the things of God and those of Caesar.  In other words, between the things of God and the things of this world.

Just in case you’d like to take issue with that example, because of the question that caused this reply, let’s look at more.

The Parable of the Weeds

Mt 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

Mt 13:27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

Mt 13:28 “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

An enemy did this“. 

Any guesses as to who the enemy is?  We’ll find out in a moment.

Mt 13:29 “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

Let both grow together until the harvest“. 

This is very ominous.  If we understand what it means.  Again – we’ll find out in a moment.

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

Mt 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

Mt 13:37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

Oh.  The field is the world.  The things of the world.  This may sound odd, since God created the world.  But remember, after the incident that the Satanic Temple statue is all about, Satan became what Jesus called the prince of the world.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Jn 16:5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned”

Well, I guess I kind of gave away the ending there.  Late spoiler alert.  But you see the prince of the world reference.  And we see why the things of the world are against the things of God.

Mt 13:40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

And here we see that in the end for those who follow the prince of the world, Satan, will have the same ending as the one they follow.

Which is very interesting.

Remember the name of the statue?

Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.

As I said – very interesting.

What the name ignores – what the world ignores – is that there’s a difference between true and false “knowledge”.  I invite you to read, Can I trust what I think I know, over on my sister site – God versus religion.

Ultimately, yes – Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.  But I’d qualify that with the word “true”.  True knowledge is the greatest gift.  Remember what Jesus said about truth:

Jn 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Oh yeah.  One more thing.  Since we qualified the statement about knowledge by adding the word truth, we also need to know what truth means.  Actually – meant.  Here’s what the Greek word from John’s Gospel actually meant at the time.  What Jesus meant when He made that statement above.

225 ἀλήθεια [aletheia /al·ay·thi·a/] n f. From 227; TDNT 1:232; TDNTA 37; GK 237; 110 occurrences; AV translates as “truth” 107 times, “truly + 1909” once, “true” once, and “verity” once. 1 objectively. 1A what is true in any matter under consideration. 1A1 truly, in truth, according to truth. 1A2 of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly. 1B what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth. 1B1 in the greatest latitude. 1B2 the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention. 1C the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians. 2 subjectively. 2A truth as a personal excellence. 2A1 that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Did you happen to notice 1C?  Before I show it to you again, let’s examine that part about “as taught in the Christian religion“.  No – there was nothing called the Christian religion when Jesus was alive.  The term Christian was introduced later, and was actually meant to be derogatory.  But the followers of Jesus – then known as “The way”, kept the name. 

So it’s the actually teachings of Christ that are referenced here.  It’s not anything that people may have turned it into.  Something that isn’t in line with what Jesus taught.  And that thought, is actually included within the definition given below.

the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians.

Yes – truth, as Jesus intended it to be understood, was those things.  Information, in and of itself, really has no value.  But even knowledge, especially as we use the word today, isn’t always valuable either.  Here’s how the word was used in the Old and New Testaments.

KNOW, KNOWLEDGE (Heb. yāḏa˓, da˓aṯ; Gk. ginṓskō, gnṓsis, epígnōsis).† To understand, to grasp or ascertain; especially to be familiar or acquainted with a person or thing.

I. Old Testament

Knowledge in the Old Testament connotes an intimate acquaintance with something. This is not so much knowledge “about,” in the sense of an objective, mental apprehension. Rather, a personal relationship is implied between an individual and the object, whether a spiritual relationship as between worshipper and deity (Ps. 135:5; Isa. 1:2–3; Hos. 5:3), a social relationship between two people (Gen. 29:5), or a sexual relationship between husband and wife (4:1; 1 Sam. 1:19).
For the Hebrews, knowledge was acquired through experience, as evident in the Hebrew concept of wisdom which gave high regard to the common sense attained throughout life. For example, mankind learned the difference between good and evil in the garden of Eden not by the ingesting of fruit mystically imbued with the essence of morality (in philosophical or theoretical terms) but by the very act of transgressing the law of God.

As we can see, this is a far cry from “knowledge” today.  We read something on Twitter – up to a relatively new maximum of 280 characters, and think we know all about the topic.  That in it itself seems to defy common sense.  And yet, it happens.  All the way up to the President of the U.S.

There certainly isn’t all that much of the intimate acquaintance with anything.

Knowledge was an important part of the relationship between mankind and God. Peoples of the ancient Near East often believed that gods could be persuaded by the proper combination of words and sacrifices (cf. Num. 23). Israel, however, understood that God is one, to be loved with all one’s heart (the seat of the intellect; Deut. 6:4–5). Since Yahweh was all powerful and could not be opposed, then knowledge about him was the key to all wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). Yahweh is the source of all wisdom, and the one who searches for wisdom ultimately will find God (2:6).

Knowledge today is often far from being any part of the relationship between mankind and God.  Yes – it’s important for the true Christian.  The one who really gets it and tries to follow Jesus’ teachings.  But that’s an ever decreasing number of people in many parts of the world.

So while more and more people think that the Bible is lies and fairy tales, the Hebrew people considered that God, Yahweh is the source of all wisdom, and the one who searches for wisdom ultimately will find God.  To them, real knowledge had to come from God.  Anything other source of “knowledge” wasn’t really knowledge at all.

Perhaps as a semantic extension of the intimate relationship between subject and object implicit in the Hebrew concept of knowledge, the verb “to know” occurs frequently in a technical sense for the covenantal bond. Thus “to know” God (e.g., Deut. 34:10; Judg. 2:10; Hos. 8:1–2) or another person (e.g., Deut. 28:33; Ruth 2:11; cf. the sexual bond; e.g., Judg. 21:12) means to enter into an intimate bond with that other.

Going back to the Twitter thing, how much of a relationship can one have with or about God in 280 characters or less?  For instance, everything I write goes out on my Twitter account.  But I have no expectation at all that someone’s going to get the point of an article, let alone understand it, with that 280 character Tweet.  No, the best I can hope for is that it catches someone’s interest and they want to read the whole thing.

II. New Testament

The New Testament authors employ the Hebrew understanding of knowledge to combat concepts prevalent in the Hellenistic world. In the classical Greek sense, knowledge was more an intellectual perception than the product of human experience. Thus Gk. ginṓskō occurs with two technical meanings. First, the goal of the Hellenistic mystery religions was to acquire that secret knowledge necessary for salvation; this esoteric information was obtained through visions or an “inner ilumination” which bypassed the normal rational processes. Second, in the world of Hellenistic magic knowledge of special words, rites, and symbols gave the initiate power to work miracles (cf. Simon the sorcerer; Acts 8:9–24).

By New Testament times, we already see the beginnings of knowledge having a new meaning.  Even here though, knowledge was about something higher than what the latest celebrity gossip is all about – and then thinking that we know everything that’s important.

The thing is, even with the Greek view of knowledge at that time, at least it gave Paul an opportunity to say things like this:

In Athens

Ac 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

To us today, it’s probably shocking that things like this took place.  But even with the Greeks back then, knowledge and some sort of “god” were tied together.

Ac 17:22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

There’s a bit of sarcasm here.  But it catches their attention.  

Ac 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Here. Paul compares their quest for knowledge of this “Unknown god” to the Lord of Heaven. 

But realize, the only reason Paul can do this is that there’s already some interest in some kind of “god”.  I don’t mean the god of money, sports, science,  Etc.  I mean a “god” that has something to do with how we got here and why we’re alive.  A purpose.  Not a mere existence.  Too often today, that entire concept is lacking.

The problem is when it gets to the point that God is so far removed from the concept of knowledge that a conversation can’t even begin.  Like when there’s a satanic temple statue named “knowledge is the greatest gift”.  In this case, it’s not knowledge.  Not true knowledge anyway.  And it’s certainly not the greatest gift.

Ac 17:29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

According to the satanic temple in question here, they are a non-theistic organization.  That should mean they don’t believe in God.  In fact, they shouldn’t believe in any “god”.

That claim of being non-theistic could be a way around any possible concerns related to separation of church and state.  You know – no “god”, supposedly, and therefore no church.  And yet, they also claim to have a temple.  That sounds like “church” to me.

We’ll get more into why a satanic temple actually isn’t non-theistic shortly.

Ac 17:32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

At this point, Paul actually stopped talking and didn’t return.  There comes a time when we have to realize that some people just like to talk to hear themselves talk.  Or to waste time.  When there’s no interest in knowledge, the time for trying to give knowledge is over.  At least for a while.

The writers of the New Testament agreed with Gnosticism that there is a knowledge which leads to salvation. But this is not “philosophy and empty deceit … according to the elemental spirits of the universe” (Col. 2:8). Rather, it is the knowledge of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on behalf of the world. This knowledge is not secret or hidden, but is a “mystery” (Gk. mysté̄rion) now revealed to all generations of mankind (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 6:19; Col. 1:26; cf. John 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:1).

This is reminiscent of Paul’s discussion with the Greeks.  

This knowledge gives power to the believer—power over sin (Rom. 6) and power to become children of God (John 1:12). All power belongs to Christ (Matt. 28:18), but he has given it to those who follow him (Luke 10:19), to those who truly “know” him (John 10:14–15; cf. the technical Hebrew sense of knowledge as covenantal bond).

Here, we see the tie-in between Christian “knowledge” and the Hebrew concept from the Old Testament.

It is the New Testament’s Hebraic background which most distinguishes it from the Hellenistic concepts of knowledge. To truly know something, according to the New Testament, is to act upon that knowledge. The teacher must not only communicate knowledge, but live out that knowledge as well (Matt. 5:19; Acts 1:1).
2)Bibliography. J. Bergman and G. J. Botterweck, “yāḏa˓,” TDOT 5 (1985): 448–481; R. Bultmann, “γινώσκω,” TDNT 1 (1964): 689–719.
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 631–632). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Finally, we see something that Jesus said – but even Christians today don’t seem to realize.  Knowledge from God isn’t just about learning more and more.  It’s about doing something with what we’ve learned.  For more on that thought, I invite you to check out Are we supposed to Believe in God, Believe God or Follow God?  

No separation of church and state leads to a satanic temple statue in state capital building

So how did we get here?  After that look at knowledge – true knowledge, false knowledge, useless knowledge – we’ve seen that this is all kind of a mess.  And it’s a long way from the concept of knowledge in Biblical days.  It’s like the smarter we are, the less we “know”.

But still, how did we get to the point where Christians’ desire to intertwine church and state leads to a state capitol having to house a satanic temple statue?

a satanic temple is a church

I said earlier that we’d address this.  There are a few passages in the Bible that talk about how Satan came to be the prince of the world.  But let’s choose one.

The prophecy from Isaiah

Isa 14:12 How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

Isa 14:13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”

Isa 14:15 But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit.

This passage tells us a couple of things.  

First of all, it says that Satan wanted to be like God.  In fact, even greater than God, since he wanted to raise his throne to be above the stars of God.  In other passages with Satan and the angels – both those who followed Satan and those who stayed with God – those angels are referenced as stars.  So we hear from God’s prophet the words directed at Satan by God.

That tells us Satan’s desire was to be not only like God, but over God.  He wanted to be a “god”.  The greatest god.  Whether any human following Satan chooses to acknowledge it or not, that means a member of the satanic temple believes in a monotheistic religion.  With Satan as the god.  Sorry.  That’s just the way it is.  The satanic temple is a religion.  And therefore would be subject to a strictly enforced separation of church and state.

The other thing we learn from the Isaiah passage though, is that Satan loses.  I realize that some people like to go for the underdog.  Especially if it’s a favorite sports team.  Or if you’ve got a huge bet with long odds, and you hope to win a ton of money.  When I was a kid, there was even a cartoon character named Underdog.

But the difference between the cartoon Underdog and the underdog Satan – Satan’s not going to somehow grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.  Why does anyone want to go all in for the loser, when the price to pay is so high?  And forever?  I just don’t get it.

Anyway – back on topic.

Separation of church and state – A fence?

How far should this separation of church and state thing go?  If we go back to Old Testament times, many offenses were punished either with death or banishment from the community.  Should we erect a giant fence, as implied by the image at the top?  Well, if you look closely, that portion of chain-link fence is really old.  Like starting to decay old.

No, I don’t think that’ appropriate.  Not anymore.  Jesus spent a lot of His time with the sinners.  Remember this, from when Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple.

The Calling of Matthew

9:9-13 pp — Mk 2:14-17; Lk 5:27-32

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

No, somehow fences just don’t seem like what Jesus had in mind.  We’re supposed to be with the sinners, not send them away from us.  How else could we possibly fulfill the Great Commission?

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Yes – that would be really hard with giant fences to keep non-Christians away from Christians.

Besides, we are also told this:

Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

In case you didn’t catch it, all those passages have something in common.  As someone told me one time when I was in management, and we were about to add another group into mine – it wasn’t a merger.  It was a takeover.  The other unit had serious issues when it came to providing excellent service.  Not because they didn’t want to – but because their previous leadership wouldn’t give them the resources needed to do it.  So my job was to get them what they needed, and have the existing group influence them.  Not to have service drop in the existing group.

We’re supposed to do something similar as Christians.  With all the earlier talk on knowledge, Christians are to spread true knowledge, not be influenced by false or misleading knowledge.  Again, that cannot happen unless we interact with non-Christians.  So one more time, the fence is out.

Separation of church and state – why it’s good

Earlier, I gave a link to various articles on government and religion.  If you haven’t’ checked it out yet, here’s one more chance.  In any case, it shows that having the government involved in religion influences whatever religion they get involved with.  And history tells us that it’s never in a good way.  Government always – always – bends the religion to fit that government’s agenda.  For an extreme case study, please see Chinese Religious Regulations.

Even in Jesus’ time, you never read of Him telling people to go to the Romans to settle their religious issues.  Jesus didn’t even tell the people to go to their own Jewish leaders for answers.  In fact, He warned them about the Jewish leaders!  Notice that the passage below is spoken to Jesus’ disciples – but also to the crowds that were listening.

As you’re reading this, think about where your government would fit in with these warnings.  That might tell you something about a need for separation of church and state.  What self-serving politician would even want to have a discussion about many of these instances where Jesus calls even the Jewish leaders a bunch of hypocrites?

Seven Woes

23:1-7 pp — Mk 12:38, 39; Lk 20:45, 46
23:37-39 pp — Lk 13:34, 35

Mt 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Mt 23:5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

Mt 23:8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Mt 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Note:  Notice there’s no verse 14.  Some manuscripts have something similar to: Mark 12:40

‘They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Mt 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Mt 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

Mt 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Mt 23:29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

Mt 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”

Separation of church and state – conclusion

Whether it’s the satanic temple, the Buddhist temple, the scientific lab, the sports stadium, the humanist wherever they meet, Etc. – we really don’t need the government involved in telling us how to perform the Great Commission.  

Worse than that, when things like this satanic temple statue get displayed alongside the Christian Nativity Scene, it automatically gets an elevated status.  It’s in the same place.  They’re right next to each other.  That satanic statue gains a level of acceptance and prestige that it otherwise would never have.

And it’s all because so many well-meaning Christians try so hard to overturn the separation of church and state.  Jesus never said to have the two together.  We are to go out and preach the Gospel.  We are to convert people.  We are not to convert the government.  

True enough – we are to convert people within the government.  But still – we are not to make the government Christian.  That, as we saw, will only result in the corruption of Christianity.

On top of that, we really should learn from what goes on in other countries.  China is officially an atheist country.  And yet, they have their own version of Christian Protestantism.  And they’re involved with Catholicism so much that the Pope actually allows them to nominate Bishops for the “Catholic” Church in China.  We can only imagine what that’s going to do to Catholic teachings in that country.

Or look at the Middle East.  Being a Christian can get you put in jail.  Or killed.  Christians can’t even enter Mecca.

Even with the U.S., if we think back to the days when Europeans first came over to North America, it was to get away from the monarch’s version of Christianity.

And if we learn anything at all from Revelation – it’s going to get even worse.  Speaking of Revelation, let’s look at more on Satan.

Satan’s Doom

Rev 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Yes – things are going to get really messed up eventually anyway.  Do we really want to rush in that time by forcing things that don’t have to happen yet?

I mean, it’s not like the satanic temple is out there forcing anything.  They’re just taking advantage of things that Christians have pushed for!  What are we thinking?  Are we thinking?

Do we have eyes to see?  Do we have ears to hear?  Do we understand our own Scriptures?  Do we even read them?  Are we – Christians – so busy pushing our own agenda, rather than Jesus’ agenda, that we’re actually the ones bringing ourselves closer to the end?

Let me answer that for you. The answer is – no.  We aren’t the ones.

The ones doing it are those who call themselves Christians.  Who claim to be followers of Jesus.  And maybe they honestly think they are following the teachings of Jesus.  However, as I asked, do we really understand?  Or are there too many people that already have such a warped view of Christianity that we’ve reached a turning point?  A tipping point even?  One that we can’t recover from?

If we can recover – if we can get back on that narrow path Jesus laid out for us, a good start might very well to get the government out of religion.  And put religion – true Christian teaching and activities – back into the church.  Then, instead of just going to other countries to “do missions”, we can do them right here at home.  Maybe Christians from China and Africa can even come over here to show us how to do it?

References   [ + ]

1. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
2. Bibliography. J. Bergman and G. J. Botterweck, “yāḏa˓,” TDOT 5 (1985): 448–481; R. Bultmann, “γινώσκω,” TDNT 1 (1964): 689–719.
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 631–632). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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