Friday, April 02, 2021

FAKE JUSTICE

Part 4 of  For we cannot but SPEAK
 
Read Part 1: SPEAK NOW



“And JUDGMENT is turned away backward,
and JUSTICE standeth afar off:
for TRUTH is fallen in the street,
and EQUITY cannot enter.”

(Isaiah 59:14)

 
Continuing our series on freedom to SPEAK, what follows is a unique perspective on the Trial of Jesus Christ, creatively employing descriptive words and phrases that are being used in the current “Cancel Culture.” 
 
 
The LAWLESS Case 
Over the three years of Jesus’s ministry on earth the “Whited Sepulchres” in leadership must have carefully considered their ecclesiastical options and calculated their political strengths. What triggered them? When did they jump off the deep end? When did their Power Base over the people begin to sharply erode? Jesus’s rising popularity with the masses, which was in evidence when He entered Jerusalem before Passover, clearly enraged the Power Elites. Luke 22:2 reveals their evil plotting: “the Chief Priests and Scribes sought how they might KILL Him; for they FEARED THE PEOPLE.” 
 
The Bastions of Legal Extremism – the Pharisees and Scribes, and all of the other assorted Elders in the Religious Establishment – were supposed to be the ones who upheld the LAW. After all, they excessively demanded that everyone conform to the intricate reinterpretations of the old Mosaic Code. THEY controlled the DEFINITIONS of justice, judgment, truth and equity in their System. To the Old Testament Law they appended rigorous extralegal requirements, duties, obligations, rules and regulations. Jesus didn’t buy in to their NARRATIVES. He often called out their hypocrisy (Matt. 15:7; 22:18; 23:14-29; e.g.). No wonder they hated Him so much. He exposed their doctrinal FALSEHOODS, their PRETENSES at virtuosity, and their sinful MOTIVES. 
 
Yet the Plain People dutifully conformed to their edicts and mandates. Why obey such overly strict requirements? Fear of retribution, public shaming, and other onerous penalties? After all, these Micromanagement Experts ran a heavy-handed Social Control system. Citizens were being monitored for compliance. Consider how the Pharisees and Scribes operated. Luke 6: 7 describes their obsessive surveillance of Jesus and His disciples: “And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, whether He would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against Him.” They even trolled Him, “Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth that might accuse Him” (Luke 11:53). 
 
By the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem the Thought Police appeared to be losing their iron grip. He was becoming wildly popular with the Common Folk! Something needed to be done! They needed to regain the upper hand! 
 
But they couldn’t just go after Him in the open, during daylight. Ordinary People might have revolted. So Judas’s betrayal was uncannily timely. It facilitated a late night arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane under cover of darkness. A “great multitude” armed with “swords and staves” sent by the “Chief Priests and Elders” came upon Jesus. This aggressive maneuver worked: “all the disciples forsook Him, and fled” (Matthew 26:47; 55-56). The disciples RAN AWAY even though Jesus had just STATED that if he PRAYED to His Father, God would send Him more than twelve legions of angels! They had been daily EYEWITNESSES to His power for over three years, yet His own closest friends fled in fear. Fear of man trumped logic, common sense and spiritual TRUTH. 
 
The Religious Authorities then put on a good public show of brute force by hauling a physically bound Jesus around to the various trial venues. BOUND! As if mere cords could have stopped Him! Their blindness to their own ridiculousness is astonishing. A short time earlier a BOUND dead man, Lazarus, had actually walked out of his tomb ALIVE! In fact, the entire Lazarus matter must have also triggered the Rulers. John 12 records that hordes of curious people came to Bethany “that they might see Lazarus…” after Jesus raised him from the dead. “But the Chief Priests consulted that they might put Lazarus ALSO to death.” What legitimate CRIME could they possibly charge Lazarus with? There was no crime. John reveals the REAL issue. Because of Lazarus “many of the Jews… BELIEVED ON JESUS.” 
 
“The High Priest then asked Jesus of His disciples,
and of His doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
I SPAKE openly to the world;
I ever TAUGHT in the synagogue,
and in the temple,
whither the Jews always resort;
and in secret have I SAID nothing.”

(John 18:19-20) 
 
The SPEECH Crime 
The Corrupt Priests’ hatred and envy of Jesus, especially His popularity with the rabble, caused them to forego the usual legal constraints. The ends would justify the means. The entire juridical matter had the feel of a rush job to it: hasty proceedings and a fragmented case sloppily slapped together. When these Rabid Leaders set out to charge Jesus with “crimes” they ran roughshod over their own legal Code that protected the rights of the accused. Their entire case would be so poorly constructed that it would go down in history as THE classic example of INJUSTICE. 
 
To any impartial observer the hearings were a travesty. It started off backwards. First, they arrested Jesus, then they had to concoct a crime. Desperately they interviewed witness after witness, hoping to unearth a suitable NARRATIVE to FABRICATE a crime. 
 
Perhaps the FALSE witnesses hoped for a reward. Were they bribed? The Mosaic Law forbade bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16; Deut. 5:20), and there were penalties (Deut. 19:16-19). But this part of the Law was ignored. Then, after a prolonged session, the leaders finally seized upon a plausible accusation – based on Jesus’s own WORDS: “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” (Matthew 26:59-61) 
 
It was a SPEECH crime! This proposed “crime” was based solely on His WORDS. Two witnesses agreed that they had overheard him SPEAK WORDS threatening destruction and reconstruction of the temple. This was a blatant distortion of His TRUE WORDS. John 2:18 records what Jesus actually had said: “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” A physical impossibility. Ridiculous on its face. Not literal… unless… Jesus was actually the Son of God. It is ironical that this charge actually admits He could do it! Similar ironies occur throughout the entire FABRICATED case against Him. 
 
The TRUE STORY of Jesus Christ, Son of God, is juxtaposed against the FALSE NARRATIVE that the Rulers were trying to construct throughout their hearings. During the FAULTY religious trial the High Priest demanded an oath, “I adjure thee by the living God that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus’s TRUTHFUL answer was met with a charge of BLASPHEMY, a twist on the capital crime deserving of death (Lev. 24:15). Yet another irony. Just WHO were the Real Blasphemers here? Certainly not Jesus Christ! It was the Accusers, who utterly failed to recognize Jesus as the Son of God! (Luke 22:65). 
 
“Also to punish the JUST is not good,
nor to STRIKE princes for
[doing] equity.”
(Proverbs 17:26) 
 
Disorder in the Court 
When Jesus stood before Caiphus to answer questions, He was assaulted by a bystanding officer: “And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the High Priest so?” (John 18:22). Scripture does not mention that this officer was reprimanded. He got away with it. This small vignette illustrates the crude nature of the illegal proceedings. 
 
Once the Religious Officials found a “crime” upon which to establish their FAKE NARRATIVE of Jesus’s guilt they should have moved on. But abandoning all restraint they resorted to even more physical violence – they “spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and… smote Him with the palms of their hands” (Matthew 26:67), and “blindfolded Him, [and] they struck Him on the face.” Even their “servants did strike Him” (Mark 14:65). The High Priest must have stood by and permitted this extraordinarily unethical brutality. 
 
How quickly FALSE NARRATIVES degenerate into unwarranted acts of bullying and physical aggression. This brutality illustrates the shallowness of their case. They didn’t want to debate FACTS or hear TRUTH. They hated the TRUTH so much that they went overboard, overplaying their hand, revealing the evil darkness of their hate. They were clearly out for revenge. 
 
“Pilate therefore said unto Him,
Art Thou a king then?
Jesus answered,
Thou sayest that I am a king.
To this end was I born,
and for this cause came I into the world,
that I should BEAR WITNESS unto the TRUTH.
Every one that is of the TRUTH HEARETH My VOICE.”

(Jesus, speaking to Pilate, John 18:37b) 
 
The Kangaroo Court 
The Religious Establishment submitted their shoddy case to the Romans. Why did they take Jesus’s trial to the Civil Jurisdiction when they had “found” a “crime” under their own Law? It seems obvious that they were seeking the Roman imprimatur to bolster their own weak case. It set a terrible precedent. For the next twenty centuries persecutions launched by a Reigning Church often enlisted the State to carry out the executions. 
 
The Elite Elders brought their CONTRIVED charges before Pilate for what would become a very political Show Trial. Immediately they established their own Power Base with Pilate, insisting that he come outside his own Judgment Hall to meet them on their turf. Pilate obliged them, and throughout the course of the trial we read of him walking back and forth. When Pilate inquired about their charges against Jesus, they made a sweeping allegation that “if He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee” (Luke 18:30). Pilate wasn’t buying it. They began winging it. They padded Jesus’s charges with extra FALSE accusations beyond the scope of their original investigations. Mark 15:3 records that “the Chief Priests accused him of many things.” (See also Matthew 27:13.) They even threw in the kitchen sink. Luke 23:2 says they accused Jesus of “forbidding to give tribute to Caesar,” another obvious distortion of His actual WORDS (Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25). 
 
Pilate started off the hearing on a professional stance, but things quickly degenerated. He was a crafty political creature who accurately read their motives and conducted his hearing accordingly, “For he knew that for ENVY they had delivered Him” (Matthew 27:18). Pilate, like the Herod dynasty, was notorious for his use of blunt force rather than savvy diplomacy. Luke 13:1 mentions a previous gruesome act of his brutality: “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” 
 
“The lip of TRUTH shall be established for ever: 
but a LYING tongue is but for a moment.” 
(Proverbs 12:19)
 
 “What Is TRUTH?” 
John 18:38 records Jesus’s curious conversation with Pilate. He asked Jesus, “What is TRUTH?” Was Pilate asking a serious question? Was he mocking? Was he being facetious? Was he influenced by the ancient philosophers who were “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the TRUTH” (2 Tim. 3:7)? Was Pilate attempting to SPIN a NARRATIVE, questioning whether there is such a thing as absolute TRUTH? In a fascinating anecdote, John 18:38 tells us that Pilate didn’t wait around for an answer, but immediately “went out again to the Jews, and saith unto them, ‘I find in him no fault at all.’” 
 
Luke 23 records that Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction, either for some sport or maybe to pass the buck. “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him” (Luke 23:8). This is the same Herod who had beheaded John the Baptist in a capricious act of cruel injustice. Prior to this Jesus had done nothing to ingratiate Himself to this Herod – calling him “that fox” when some conscientious Pharisees had warned Him that “Herod will kill Thee.” He even forewarned Herod via the messengers that “the third day I shall be perfected” (Luke 13:31-33). Herod apparently didn’t want to hear the TRUTH either. Under Herod’s jurisdiction Jesus suffered more mocking and rough brutality. 
 
Cancel Culture politics is very fickle about friends and enemies. In one day, out the next, or vice versa. After this interrogation a new liaison formed: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves” (Luke 23:12). This was a newfound Political Alliance that the Chief Priests probably hadn’t counted on. 
 
“And Pilate, when he had called together the Chief Priests
and the Rulers and the people, Said unto them,
Ye have brought this Man unto me,
as One that perverteth the people:
and, behold, I, having examined Him before you,
have found NO FAULT in this Man touching those things whereof ye ACCUSE Him:
No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to Him;
and, lo, NOTHING worthy of death is done unto Him.”

(Luke 23:13-15) 
 
Manipulating the Masses 
The badly battered Jesus was sent back to Pilate. When Pilate offered the Religious Establishment a choice between Jesus and the REAL criminal Barabbas the “robber” (John 18:40), the Leaders organized street riots, “a TUMULT” (Matt. 27:24) to violently PROCLAIM their LIE. They revved up raucous crowds to CRY bloody murder: “crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13). This incitement of the mob created unrest, riots and civil destabilization, a volatile tactic to achieve the PHONY verdict they desired. These unethical Elder Leaders employed Mob Violence as a tool to achieve their own dastardly purposes. 
 
Which raises an interesting question – just how politically corrupt were these Chief Priests that they could so quickly organize a mass riot? Jesus had only been arrested late the night before, and already the Gang of Elders had managed to orchestrate large chanting crowds as a volatile Pressure Tactic. This whole MOB matter just doesn’t have the feel of a spontaneous uprising. Had the Priestly Class been supporting a group of ruffians, freeloaders, activists and zealots in the background just in case they ever needed to display their Political Clout? A Criminal Class that gladly cried the release of their Comrade in crime, Barabbas, “Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison” (Luke 23:15)? Barabbas was the TRUE insurrectionist (Mark 15:7), but Jesus had assured Pilate that His “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). 
 
For they are a nation void of COUNSEL,
neither is there any understanding in them....
Their wine is the poison of dragons,
and the cruel venom of asps.

(Deuteronomy 32:28, 33)
 
 
Verdict by Verbal Assault 
The Religious Authorities hurled their WORDS like weapons to bash Pilate with their NARRATIVE. Luke 23 tells us the progression of increasing VERBAL assaults that the Religious Authorities spewed. First, they were “all the more FIERCE” (v. 3) with their myriad of accusations. Then they “stood and VEHEMENTLY ACCUSED Him” (v. 10). When it seemed Pilate might release Him, “they CRIED OUT ALL AT ONCE” (vs. 18). By verse 23 “they were INSTANT WITH LOUD VOICES, requiring that He might be crucified.” The verdict was won by the loudest SCREAMERS – “And the VOICES of them and of the Chief Priests prevailed.” Their histrionic rhetoric became more and more vitriolic – once again indicating the inferiority of their actual legal case. 
 
When Pilate heard Jesus’s response to their TRUE claim that “He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7), Pilate flinched. Maybe he was disturbed by that strange dream his wife had about Jesus (Matt. 27:19). After all, the Romans were very superstitious. At the time of Christ, the Romans were still butchering animals and examining their entrails to ascertain divine guidance. When the Romans conquered new territories they simply added in the conquered gods to their already burgeoning pantheon. So Pilate might have panicked – just what sort of “son of God” was Jesus? Who WAS He? Whose SON was He? What sort of “god” was this humble Hebrew fellow? 
 
Seizing upon this momentary weakness the chief priests switched their NARRATIVE to the charge “King of the Jews.” In doing so they left Moses’s LAW in the dust. They then invoked Roman political authority and legal jurisdiction, threatening Pilate: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar” (John 19:12). So much for their pretense at religious sanctity. Their new charge was TREASON against Rome! They even stated a dreadful OATH, “His blood be on us, and our children” (Matthew 27:25). 
 
Pilate caved, but he was no dummy. Pilate would satirize their NARRATIVE, which irritated the Religious Establishment greatly, by posting “The King of the Jews” on Jesus’s cross (John 19:19-22). Fearing people would take it as literal TRUTH, the chief priests begged Pilate, “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews” (John 19:21 – a relativistic statement to the effect that this was just Jesus’s personal “truth” – not THE TRUTH. Pilate didn’t give in to their demands this time. He had caught on to their semantic gymnastics. Thus, he posted the actual TRUTH openly on Jesus’s cross so all could read it. 
 
The Religious Establishment was not content to leave matters alone. They had to get their digs in. They provocatively REVILED Jesus about His “three days” statement while He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:39-40). Their words would soon backfire on them. . . . 
 
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities,
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him;
and with His stripes we are healed.”

(Isaiah 53:5)

 
To Be Continued…. 
 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

JESUS & the CANCEL CULTURE

Part 3 of “For we cannot but SPEAK
 
Read Part 1: SPEAK NOW




“They hate him that REBUKETH in the gate,
and they abhor him that SPEAKETH uprightly.”

(Amos 5:10) 
 
The whole point of what is now called “Cancel Culture” is to shut down (“cancel”) those who speak out TRUTH, FACT, or put forth actual hard SCIENCE or documentable DATA. We know the source of this suppression – the “father of LIES” (John 8:44) who works ceaselessly to STOP the SPEAKING of the GOSPEL. He will attempt to STIFLE any method or media we use to communicate the BIBLE. 
 
As Christians we are called to TEACH the GOSPEL despite any opposition or affliction. In so doing we follow in the honorable footsteps of the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament apostles, and Jesus Christ Himself. 
 
What follows is a unique perspective on the battle for and against the TRUTH as seen in an overview of the life of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In order to convey the sense of these passages we will creatively employ words, terms and phrases used in current “Cancel Culture” vernacular. It is our hope that this unique perspective will encourage us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). 
 
“And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying,
‘This Man receiveth sinners,
and eateth with them.’”

(Luke 15:2)
 
 
Opposition to His TRUTH 
Throughout His earthly ministry PREACHING TRUTH, Jesus Christ of Nazareth would be relentlessly opposed by the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and others in the Religious Establishment. The Religious Elites had an investment in maintaining the status quo. Their self-serving goal in collaborating with the Roman Empire was to maintain an equilibrium, pacify the people, rope everyone into compliance, and enforce both civil and religious mandates. Preserving their high status as Big Church Leaders came with lucrative and tangible rewards. To attain this exclusive position they had to adopt perennial victimhood status, kowtowing to the Romans while cutting deals to preserve their pitiful power base. 
 
Through it all these Religious Establishment Elites maintained the outward appearance of the old Mosaic LAW. This preserved the respectability of their nation-state. Their version of the Law was appended with onerous requirements to stringently regulate the minutiae of people’s conduct in their daily lives. These Leaders operated not as shepherds but as Bullies, wielding their own Cancel Culture and penalizing those who didn’t obey their hyper-religious social mores. Everyone was forced to walk their narrow tight rope of legalism. 
 
The moment He stepped into ministry Jesus of Nazareth became an irritant to this Establishment’s status quo. He lived within the confines of this culture, but only to a point (e.g., Matthew 17:27). Jesus boldly exercised FREE SPEECH. Jesus’s TEACHING, and the way He FREELY lived His life in obedience to God constantly ran afoul of the Rulers. Jesus SPOKE with authority. He said things that were the TRUTH but enraged the Leaders. He WARNED specifically about their perverse leadership. He said to “beware” of the scribes (Mark 23:38), and the “leaven of the Pharisees [the Church], and the leaven of Herod [the State]” (Mark 8:15). He REBUKED their hypocrisy (e.g., Luke 12:1, even calling leaders out as serpents and vipers (Matthew 23). He repeatedly TOLD people to “take heed” and not be deceived by them (Luke 17:3; 21:8, 34; Matt. 16:6; 24:4; etc.). 
 
Thus Jesus did not endear Himself to the Cancel Culture, suck up to them, or get in their good graces (see, for example: Matt:21-12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15). 
 
While Jesus ministered to the people, the Religious Elites murmured on the sidelines, chafing at this lowly carpenter’s SPOKEN WORDS. Time and again the Scribes and Pharisees attempted to entrap Him with their carefully planned, devious questions. It never worked. Jesus’s TRUTHFUL replies skirted their traps, publicly humiliating them. 
 
“And the common people heard Him gladly.”
(Mark 12:37b) 
 
Jesus’s SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM 
WORD of mouth, the old-fashioned Social Media platform, spread news of Jesus’s whereabouts as He traveled from village to village. The Religious Establishment’s power base was particularly threatened when huge crowds, up to 5000 at a time, raptly followed Jesus. Jesus was not only TEACHING the TRUTH to large groups of people but feeding and healing them. The results of Jesus’s ministry to the common people were not only spiritual but visible, physical, tangible, factual, documentable, and readily evident. Thousands of people became eyewitnesses to His miracles. 
 
It was Jesus’s healings that totally flummoxed the Religious Establishment. It was undeniably TRUE that people were being miraculously healed. So how could the Power Elites develop a FALSE NARRATIVE against such FACTUAL episodes? 
 
John 9 recounts how Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. The maddened Pharisees didn’t dare attack Jesus directly – He was too popular with the masses. Instead they interrogated the newly-healed man. This brave man foiled them by repeatedly affirming the same TRUE story. Not content to stop there, the enraged leaders then launched an investigation into his family, interrogating his parents. Perhaps they hoped his parents would LIE. His parents answered honestly that, yes, indeed, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind,” but then asserted they had no clue as to how it happened that he was suddenly sighted. When pressed further, in apparent exasperation, the badgered parents blurted out, “He is of age; ask him: he shall SPEAK for himself.” 
 
John's Gospel recounts the Cancel Culture's fear tactics – there was active suppression of the TRUTH going on. It seems the Religious Establishment had put into effect punitive measures for damage control – the dreaded excommunication for anyone who CONFESSED Jesus was the Christ. John explains what was going on behind the scenes: “These words SPAKE his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did CONFESS that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:22-23). This man’s parents did not CONFESS that Jesus was the Christ. We aren’t told if they were scared of retribution, social ostracizing, and shunning; but we do know they passed the buck back to their healed son, who was the firsthand EYEWITNESS to the miracle in real time. 
 
RESISTANCE to TRUE Revival 
There was plenty of concern in the Upper Echelons about Jesus’s rising popularity amongst the countryside’s riffraff. Common peasants, working class fishermen, prostitutes, criminals, Gentiles, ethnic minorities, lepers, diseased, disabled, deplorables, misfits and contemptibles were getting their faith FACTS from a different SOURCE – Jesus Christ Himself. Their Authority was no longer the Micromanagement Experts who surveilled their every move to catch them in a legalistic flaw. These ordinary people were hungry for TRUTH. They desired to repent of their sins and to be cleansed. They were eager to hear the PREACHING of the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. They switched over their loyalties to Jesus. He showed them THE WAY. 
 
Under the Roman regime one of the Religious Establishment’s duties in Palestine was crowd control, keeping the people pacified by putting a lid on any potential rebellions for which their country was notorious. John records their panic about Jesus: “If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:47-53). Underscoring this fear, notice that a few weeks later, after the Resurrection of Jesus, when John and Peter were being threatened by the Authorities who “took counsel to slay them,” Gamaliel stood up in the Council and reminded the Council of previous insurrections (Acts 5:33-42). These Leaders obviously didn’t want another embarrassing political-religious incident. 
 
And then Palm Sunday happened. John records that much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, 'Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.(John 12:12-13). The Jesus Movement was out of the Elite's control! A REAL revival was going on! The crowds were amassing!

Immediately after this wildly popular entry, Luke's Gospel (19:45-48) tells us that Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought.... And He TAUGHT daily in the temple. Jesus's WORDS and His DEEDS now posed a direct challenge to the crumbling Power Base of the Big Bullies!
 
The PLOT to CANCEL
Something needed to be done! The Leaders had to SHUT Jesus down. They must SUPPRESS His TRUTH. In a high-level meeting they hatched a dastardly plot – they’d terminally CANCEL His VOICE. Deplatform Him permanently – Luke records that “the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to DESTROY Him. And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to HEAR Him.”  
 
They decided to charge Him with crimes so heinous that He would face the death penalty. But the Religious Establishment was limited by a stringent Legal Code, dating back to Moses, requiring evidentiary testimony from more than one eyewitness. Moses’s LAW was just; it granted rights to those who were accused. This absolute LAW stood as a bulwark against tyranny. Or so it should have – but lawlessness was raging in the land. 
 
So they seized on a plot so EVIL that it would destroy not only the Leader but His entire Movement.... or so they hoped....
 
“Smite the Shepherd,
and the sheep shall be scattered”

(Zecharaiah 13:7)
 
 
 
To Be Continued This Week….

Monday, February 01, 2021

Andrew the Preacher

Man of God
 
 
Andrew Miller on his 55th birthday,
with his parents Mel & Lydia

 
A tribute by Sarah H. Leslie
 
Andrew Miller has a special place on the streets of gold. At the ripe old age of 55 he departed from here on earth just a few days ago. He was a preacher to all who would listen. When my husband taught Men's Sunday School class, Andrew sat at the desk next to him, a co-teacher who shared much insight about the love of Jesus Christ. He would copy down words from verses of the Bible and add many extra letters, and words that were legible, filling out multitudes of tablets with ink. He would hand out his notes after Sunday School or church services. 
 
A number of years ago, after he went through a particularly rough bout of pneumonia, I went to visit Andrew at his house. He showed me his bedroom. That's when I realized he was a preacher. He had arranged neatly stacked piles of his handwritten sermon notes all over his bed, along with Sunday School booklets and Bibles. He knew what was in each pile and was quite particular about it. He said this was where he gave his sermons. Indeed, many testified that he would preach to his little nieces and nephews who would sit around him. That day Andrew told me a long story about a street of gold, tall golden gates with pearls, and "shiny, shiny gold everywhere." He kept emphasizing the gold and how shiny it was. I couldn't understand all of his words because he spoke so rapidly. But I caught the gist. How did he know about this? I asked his sister and his father and they said they couldn't recall a time where he had ever listened to Revelation on Bible tapes or heard a sermon about it. But he knew about it. Somehow he knew about it. 

I then went and told my Dad about this. He wasn't a bit surprised. You see, it wasn't until I was 16 years old that I realized, with dismay, that other people did not treat mentally handicapped people very well. My  father, Paul T. Huling, had raised us to believe that there were very special people in the world who had particular gifts and abilities that we could not discern nor measure. Dad taught us that people who appeared to us to be mentally handicapped were actually NOT -- they were actually SUPERIOR to us! And we should treat them this way, with much deference and respect. He strongly believed that God had endowed some people with unique capabilities of intelligence that we had not yet figured out scientifically. He hoped that one day mankind could discover these types of mental gifts and utilize them for our mutual betterment. He also believed they had special spiritual gifts: God could see it all, but we just hadn't yet figured it out. After Dad watched the 1988 movie Rain Man about an autistic savant, he exclaimed, "See? This is what I've been saying!" Dad was very proud that God had gifted him with an autistic grandson, Ace, who has unique gifts that include knowing intricate details about the Titanic, and also about every American president. 

"Dedicated to Andrew, Ace and Pamela,
whose humanity is inestimable and whose worth is immeasurable."

In 2004 we dedicated a monograph to Andrew, and to Ace, and to Susan Conway's daughter Pamela. Pamela and Andrew were specially gifted by God with Down's Syndrome.
 
While we were working on the research for The Pied Pipers of Purpose, we realized to our horror that much of the purpose-driven stuff coming into the church world was based on the corrupt worldview of the management guru Peter Drucker. Drucker spent the last third of his long life advocating for measuring humans based on their economic worth to "Society." It was called "human capital," "knowledge capital," and now it can readily be seen in the Chinese model for "social capital.” Before publishing I discussed our monograph with my father. He had been trained in Peter Drucker's methods in an industrial quality-control setting making "perfect widgets". When I explained how it was being applied to human beings he was appalled.

As we watched new methods and utilitarian mechanisms come into the church in the guise of managing the flock, we recognized that the new "standards" for "performance" that were being drafted would exclude Andrew, Pamela and Ace. Some church structures were so coercive that they would have also excluded us. 

So we warned about the damage this would do to poor innocent sheep, the lost, the weak, the weary, the handicapped, the infirm, the elderly, and the wounded. We feared that under such a repressive system exceptional people would be maligned and harmed. Indeed, as the years went by we received a multitude of reports of sheep fleeing these churches implementing these machinations. As we wrote we also added a satire, based on its undergirding heresy that God was insufficient and that man must make up for His lack. We would go on to publish many Herescope blog posts warning about the dangers of the purpose-driven system. Some of our research was published in Paul Smith's book New Evangelicalism

  

God placed Andrew in a loving home in a small close-knit conservative Mennonite community. You can watch his memorial service HERE where you can witness there are still warm places left on earth in these troubling times. Be blessed by watching starting at the 13 minute mark to see Andrew's best friend Jacob Byler read Scripture with much animation. You've probably never seen or heard the Bible read this way. It is just beautiful! 

When his sister Priscilla sent me Andrew's photo, she wrote: "This was his 55th birthday in May... he never asked for much in life other than tablets and blue ink pens, Diet Coke, a wrist watch and occasionally a walkie talkie set. His favourite things in life were Jesus, his dad and mom, hugs, to be loved and be prayed over, and social life with people. COVID robbed him of that this past year... but he is definitely making up for that in heaven! What a gift he was to our family for 55 years! He was born on my 7th birthday and my parents' 8th Anniversary!!" 

Indeed, Andrew's favorite thing was known far and wide -- birthdays! Andrew had all of his family member's birthdays memorized and he also knew about church people. Early on I began to rehearse with him, "Andrew, when is my birthday?" He would look puzzled, and then a big grin would spread across his face as he would remember "Jesus' birthday." Every year he would then call me on my birthday.

I have a list of people I am anxious to see again some day when I go home to the Lord. One of the first people I will want to see is Andrew. I especially want to see him in all of his glory -- with all of his special gifts and abilities in Jesus fully revealed. That will be a wonderful day!

"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls;
every several gate was of one pearl:
and the street of the city was pure gold,
as it were transparent glass."

(Revelation 21:21)






Wednesday, January 27, 2021

“GO, STAND and SPEAK”

Part 2 of “For we cannot but SPEAK”
 
Read Part 1: SPEAK NOW 
 
“…lift up thy VOICE with strength;
lift it up,
be not afraid…”

(Isaiah 40:9b) 
 
Exhibit 1


The GOSPEL Cannot Be Muffled, Masked or Muzzled
Before proceeding in this article series it is first important to establish a key Scriptural stance. The source of TRUTH is God’s WORD, the BIBLE, and the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. The Bible posits “the WORD of the TRUTH of the GOSPEL” of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 2:5,14; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5). Believers are exhorted repeatedly in Scripture to SPEAK, PREACH and TEACH the WORD: “Let the WORD of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; TEACHING and admonishing one another…” (Col. 3:16). Here is God’s will: 
 
Who will have all men to be saved,
and to come unto the knowledge
of the TRUTH.”

(1 Tim. 2:4) 
 
The Old Testament prophets PREACHED the TRUTH in the face of the LIES of idolatry that people were hearing. The prophets posited God’s WORD to stand against the FALSE and idolatrous mythical NARRATIVES that so captivated ancient Israel. Those prophets who were obedient to God in SPEAKING TRUTH endured much pushback, opposition and persecution. Their TRUTH was deemed religiously and politically incorrect against the established norms. Over and over again God instructed Jeremiah to “go and speak.” King Jehudi was so “triggered” by Jeremiah’s TRUTH that he burned rolls of God’s WORD in his hearth fire. This destructive act backfired. Jeremiah 36 records that God prevailed upon Jeremiah to write God’s WORDS again, and He added even more WORDS.
 
In the New Testament the Religious Establishment, with cooperation with the Roman empire, was determined to suppress the TRUTH of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and especially His resurrection. But these officials ran into difficulties from the very beginning. The TRUTH could not be contained. It leaked out everwhere no matter how fiercely the authorities clamped down on it. At times the TRUTH poured out like a flood. Peter courageously PREACHED the FACTS of the GOSPEL TRUTH regarding the WORD that God had sent “unto the children of Israel, PREACHING peace by Jesus Christ”
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; Whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to PREACH unto the people, and to TESTIFY that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.
(Acts 10:36, 38-43) 
 
THE CENSURESHIP CRACKDOWN 
Recently BigMedia, joined up with BigTech and SocialMedia, has been engaging in LIES and PROPAGANDA, skewed to its particular worldview. Ignoring and suppressing inconvenient FACTS, while promoting FALSE NARRATIVES, is their new modus operandi. The intent is that their LIES become the “truth” and the TRUTH appears to be a lie. FACTUAL TRUTH is being aggressively suppressed, censored, shut down, blocked and obliterated. Those who believe LIES to be “truth” are aggressively finding ways to silence those who TEACH TRUTH. 
 
Make no mistake about it – the new “truth” that these Technocrat Elites are imposing is a FAKE RELIGION, a FALSE religious, political and philosophical worldview for the reigning global Church-State-Corporate system. This is a sign of the times. 
 
It is quickly becoming evident that the suppression of FACTUAL TRUTH is now expanding to censor BIBLICAL TRUTH. These unprecedented days require discernment, knowledge and courage. We will be documenting this encroachment of FREE SPEECH in future articles. Here is where we stand right now. We know the TRUTH of Jesus Christ and His GOSPEL. And we know that His resurrection is FACT. 
 
“But grow in grace,
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

(2 Peter 3:18) 
 
FREEDOM OF SPEECH 
It is understandable why Christian Americans resort to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in times like these. Those of us who have actually been taught history or studied the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution recognize the significance of the freedoms granted by this remarkable Amendment. The First Amendment provides freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. It establishes freedom from religious coercion or totalitarian repression. It reads: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 
One church historian has made the case that here in America it was the freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights that was set up to be a bulwark against a totalitarian rise of a State Church, which is an institutionalized and mandated sacralism: 
The First Amendment of the [U.S.] Federal Constitution, which provided that “Congress shall make no law establishing religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof” was the death sentence of “Christian sacralism.” This Amendment is a Monroe Doctrine in which the soil of the New World is closed to sacralist plantings from the Old World.[2]
There is indeed a rising new State Church, but it is global in its scope. BigMedia, BigTech and BigAcademia have joined together to indoctrinate the public with their new worldview which is antithetical to Christianity. And this worldly consolidation of power now openly seeks to impose its BELIEFS on the public. Thus any dissenting VOICES, such as those of born again Christians, must ultimately be SILENCED. 
 
There are serious signs of trouble for those who would pin their hopes on resolving First Amendment issues here in the United States court system. First, in the past several months we have witnessed an unprecedented level of corruption in the courts at all levels. Second, when one takes a freedom case to the court, if it rules against you, it sets a precedent that erodes freedom for the next case to come along. Third, we have been told that there will be a “packing” of the U.S. Supreme Court with new justices. This highest court up to now has been the place of last resort for those hoping to retain their freedoms. This does not mean that one cannot try, or that you should not try. We have biblical precedence in Paul’s appeal to Caesar, who testified as to his ultimate purpose in that process: “the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the GOSPEL” (Phil. 1:12). At the time Paul wrote this he was in bonds, imprisoned, yet his hope wasn’t in earthly redemption but heavenly. 
 
For several decades many enjoyed freedom of speech in the milieu of SocialMedia and the Internet. However, BigTech along with BigCorporate has exhibited tyrannical behavior over the past several months, ramping it up in the past two weeks in coordinated moves to shut down people, platforms, and technology. Shockingly, there are no rights of recourse when one is censored by BigTech. Whereas one might utilize the judicial system to attempt to regain free speech in society, this is not possible with BigTech Giants who are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which give them immunity.[3]  Thus there is no right of appeal. BigTech Oligarchs are accuser, jury, prosecutor and judge. 
 
Recognizing the signs of the times, we are cognizant of the fact that we cannot trust in chariots and horses (Ps. 20:7), “for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15). Therefore, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24). We proclaim that we “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1), fully dependent upon the mercy of the Lord for courage and strength (Joshua 1:6,9). We assuredly know that we possess a higher freedom than can be found in State documents or man-made rights. Our freedom to speak and assemble is found only within the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. And by His Holy Spirit the GOSPEL TRUTH cannot be contained. 
 
Being born again, not of corruptible seed,
but of incorruptible,
by the WORD of God,
which liveth and abideth for ever….
But the WORD of the Lord endureth for ever.
And this is the WORD
which by the GOSPEL is PREACHED unto you.”

(1 Peter 1:23.25) 

What follows is a study of a pivotal moment in the early church that reveals the source of our FREEDOM OF SPEECH. This passage gives us strength, hope, courage, and joy for the days to come. We have taken the liberty of using current vernacular to illuminate this passage’s relevance to us today. The intent is to illustrate how a small remnant group of believers SPOKE the TRUTH boldly in the face of the Church-State Establishment attempts to SUPPRESS it. 
 
 
 
 
THE DAY THE TRUTH POURED OUT
After Jesus’ resurrection, His tiny core group of eleven followers expanded with family, friends and devotees to number 120 by Pentecost. Whereupon the wind of the HOLY SPIRIT turned a remnant of faint-hearted men into emboldened advocates for  TRUTH. An amazingly transformed Peter then stood up and confessed a risen SAVIOR, the TRUTH, to a diverse crowd from many nations, proclaiming: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses (Acts 2:32). He urged them to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). So powerful was Peter’s WORD of TRUTH ringing out that 3000 souls were converted that very day. 
 
Oops. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Religious Establishment thought they had put a lid on the Jesus Christ TRUE STORY. They thought they had planted their heavily financed FAKE NARRATIVE firmly in people’s minds by bribing the guards who had been at the tomb to tell LIES. But what happened next was even more out of their control. In Acts 3 Luke tells us that Peter and John took what seemed to be a routine visit to the temple when an inexplicable healing miracle occurred – “a certain man lame from his mother’s womb,” a man quite familiar to the temple-goers, aged “forty years old” (Acts 4:22), was healed! Not by Jesus – He was by now sitting on the right hand of the Father – but by lowly Peter, the rough fisherman! 
 
Excitedly this healed man went “walking, and leaping, and praising God” into the temple, “and all the people saw him walking and praising God” (Acts. 3:8). Plenty of eyewitnesses! This was just the sort of worst-case scenario that the Religious Establishment didn’t want to see happen. Not only had Jesus 
died, but there were multiple reports He had come back to life, and now His disciples were filled with power for doing His same sort of miracles. The Religious Establishment feared it was losing control. All of this happening was outside of their purview. This temple healing incident posed a direct challenge to their religious authority and political power. They rose in opposition to SUPPRESS the TRUTH TAUGHT by Peter and John: 
 
“…as they SPAKE unto the people,
the priests, and the captain of the temple,
and the Sadducees,
came upon them,
Being grieved that they TAUGHT the people,
and PREACHED through Jesus
the resurrection from the dead.”

(Acts 4:1,2)
 
It was the Sadducees who came out first. They had to SQUASH the FACT that there had been yet another inexplicable resurrection, a FACT that their doctrine denied. Recall that the chief priests had previously “consulted that they might put Lazarus to death – the man who had already died once whom Jesus raised” (John 11, 12:10). This was the Religious Establishment’s Cancel Culture running amok, which culminated in the killing of Lazarus’s healer, Jesus of Nazareth. So this was not going to be a friendly encounter. It was an aggressive move to reestablish their supremacy and control over a potential insurgency. 
 
These religious officials were not rejoicing in this man’s miraculous healing. No. Rather, they were upset about the TRUE STORY getting out – the Gospel TRUTH that Peter was TEACHING. So what did they do? The next predictable act that always accompanies a failure to suppress the TRUTH. Powerful Elites will always resort to more stringent punitive measures: “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide” (Acts 4:3).
 
Did this unlawful arrest suppress the TRUTH? No. While Peter and John spent the night in jail, meanwhile “Howbeit many of them which HEARD the WORD believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). It backfired! To the 3000 were added 5000! One high profile miracle, and the accompanying testimony about Jesus Christ, along with the move of the Holy Spirit in men’s hearts, had launched a spiritual revival – despite this brazen crackdown on FREE SPEECH! 
 
There was a hearing the next day, although a legitimate charge is never cited. The question the leaders asked Peter and John revealed their spiritual blindness: “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” They must have been shocked by what transpired next. The new man, “Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost,” answered them boldly (Acts 4:7-8). The transformation of this weak-kneed fisherman into a courageous leader was yet another miracle in their midst. And PREACH he did, giving all glory to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Who, Peter reminded them, they had crucified, and Who rose from the dead, and furthermore, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Ironically, in their effort to suppress TRUTH they had to listen to Peter stand before them and state the GOSPEL TRUTH!
 
The BigLeaders were rendered speechless! For a brief moment their false NARRATIVE totally crumbled. “They could say nothing against” either Peter and John’s remarkable transformation, nor the lame man’s incredible healing. It was time for a Re-Set. Things were getting out of control. The TRUTH was leaking out uncontrollably all over Jerusalem and they were seemingly powerless to stop it. Luke records that “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:15-16) 
 
This statement represents their total failure at that moment to control the NARRATIVE. There was no point enlisting fact-checkers. This on-its-face TRUE STORY was “manifest to all.” Every place this healed man joyfully leaped testified to the TRUTH. Jerusalem citizens could visibly see the evidence of this great miracle. Worse, there was still present in Jerusalem that day many of those eyewitnesses to Pentecost from all across the Mediterranean world. How far across the known world would this TRUTH leak? It was time to plug the leaks and jumpstart punitive measures. 
 
THE CENSORSHIP EDICT 
A CENSORSHIP crackdown ensued. The Religious Establishment exerted its bullying authority. In order to suppress THE TRUTH they issued the following edict: “But that it [the GOSPEL TRUTH] spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they SPEAK henceforth to no man in this NAME. And they called them, and commanded them not to SPEAK at all nor TEACH in the NAME OF JESUS.” (Acts 4:17-18) 
 
This new mandate presented a pivotal crisis at the very beginning of the Church era on earth. Would Peter and John obey? Or would they cower in fear? Falter with doubt? Did they back down and say, “Oh, sorry, sirs, we’ll shut up now”? Did they vacillate and start making plans to return to fishing in Galilee? Did they hang around hoping that they’d get a big cash bribe like the guards at the tomb? Did they rush out of the meeting to explain to the crowd that they had just cut a deal with the Religious Establishment and as long as everyone behaved and was QUIET there would be no trouble? No. These men were not political activists, they were spiritual PREACHERS. SPEAKING Gospel TRUTH was non-negotiable. Peter and John didn’t fail their Lord Jesus Christ. They responded to the authorities with a plain statement of TRUTH that has trumpeted resolute strength to the BODY of CHRIST through the centuries and across continents: 
 
“But Peter and John answered and said unto them,
Whether it be right in the sight of God
to hearken unto you more than unto God,
judge ye.
For we cannot but SPEAK
the things which we have seen and heard.”

(Acts 4:19-20) 
 
RUNNING TOWARDS DANGER 
Predictably the Religious Establishment responded negatively: “So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done” (Acts 4:21). At this point God’s Holy Spirit was moving upon the hearts of men. So much so that the Leaders were stymied. Did they fear the power of the crowds – the very mechanism they had previously used to agitate and manipulate Pilate to crucify Christ? These same crowds had previously proved to be very fickle. How many of the multitudes were now believing that Jesus was resurrected – a FACTUAL TRUTH? 
 
Acts 4 records that Peter and John recognized the signs of their times. It dawned on them that they were witnessing a literal fulfillment of Psalm 2, that they were living in the prophesied time when the kings of the earth and the rulers “were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ” (Ps. 2: 26). The very political Religious Establishment in Jerusalem was aligned in opposition to Gospel TRUTH. Recognizing this, Peter PREACHED openly to the crowds: “For of a TRUTH against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together” (vs. 27). This politically powerless band of disciples recognized that the Church-State on Earth had all been arrayed against Christ, and now against them, in a frightful display of power. 
 
Did these men react in fear to these aggressive threats by praying that God would help them run away? Did they ask for an easier load? Did they request to be safe and sheltered from harm? No. Empowered and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, these men were no longer feeble wimps. Instead they prayed a most radical prayer to the Lord: “grant unto thy servants, that with all BOLDNESS [we] may SPEAK Thy WORD” (vs. 29). Like David, who “ran toward the army to meet the Philistine” Goliath (1 Sam. 17:48), these men ran towards danger. They prayed out loud together asking God to grant them courage to go forth, to SPEAK the TRUTH – in direct disobedience to the admonition they had just received to shut up and be silent. They even asked God for accompanying “signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Thy holy child Jesus” (vs. 30). 
 
They desired that God would display His power. They weren’t going to flee from their calling. There would be no hiding under a bushel (Matt. 5:15). The light of the Gospel TRUTH they were proclaiming would fulfill what Jesus once told them to do: “so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). They were essentially praying the WORDS in Ephesians 3:20, asking that God would “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” And God answered thunderously: 
 
“And when they had prayed,
the place was shaken where they were assembled together;
and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
and they SPAKE the WORD of God with boldness.”

(Acts 4:31) 
 
“GO, STAND and SPEAK” 
The real battle was about to begin. Acts 5:10-16 speaks of multitudes and more multitudes coming to salvation in Jesus, to the point that sick people were actually laid on the streets “that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” (v. 15). And “they were healed every one” (vs. 16). 
 
We do not read of the Religious Establishment joyfully celebrating such open miracles and widespread healings. They were not thrilled that there is a great repentance going on in their nation. Instead we read that they “were filled with indignation” (vs. 17, Gk. zelos, which is also translated envy). They were angry that they had lost control of the situation. In desperation they grasped what power they still retained and “laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison” (vs. 18). They resorted to brute physical force and incarceration. And there is no citation for whatever crime was supposedly being committed. The disciples had been SPEAKING and, by God’s grace, healing. Was it against the law to SPEAK? To HEAL sick people? The irrational Religious Establishment was apparently willing to see people suffer with sickness and sins in order to achieve their power objectives. 
 
But the TRUTH could not be contained. God must have had fun doing this next miracle. This time He sent His angel to open the prison doors. The angel charged the released apostles with a wonderful mandate: GO, STAND and SPEAK in the temple to the people all the WORDS of this LIFE” (vs. 20). And the men OBEYED! They continued to SPEAK – in the temple openly! 
 
The next series of events described in Acts 5 sounds like the Keystone Cops – panicked authorities running around hurriedly trying to figure out what had happened when they discovered the men had escaped from jail. Luke informs us that once again the apostles were apprehended, but this time, thankfully, they were brought “without violence: for they feared the people lest they should have been stoned” (vs. 26). Here again can be seen the restraining effect of the growing multitudes upon the Religious Establishment – these BigLeaders feared man (Prov. 29:25). Upon this latest harassment arrest, once again Peter and the apostles were put to the test:
 
“And when they had brought them,
they set them before the council:
and the high priest asked them,
Saying, ‘Did not we straitly command you
that ye should not TEACH in this name?
and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your DOCTRINE,
and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.’
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said,
‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’

(Acts 5:27-29) 
 
“WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN” 
These faith-filled WORDS have reverberated across the centuries and around the world. Such boldness comes only through the Holy Spirit. The God of Daniel who CLOSED the lion’s mouths can OPEN the mouths of believers. Such boldness cannot be repressed. Such TRUTH cannot be suppressed. 
 
The Religious Establishment could not endure such a brazen threat to their authority, particularly by men who openly preached their complicity and moral guilt in Christ’s crucifixion. Peter and John were physically “beaten” and “commanded that they should not SPEAK in the NAME of Jesus.” Did Peter and John react by fleeing the scene? Do we see them running scared out of Jerusalem? Did they hunker down and hide? Did their advisors tell them to keep a low profile and stay quiet to let the storm blow over? After all, this time they had just been painfully beaten, covered in bloody welts and bruises. What more reason did they need to give up and abandon their calling? Did they SHUT UP? No. Instead, we read the most astonishing FACT:
 
“And they departed from the presence of the council,
rejoicing that they were counted worthy
to suffer shame for His NAME.
And daily in the temple, and in every house,
they ceased not to TEACH and PREACH Jesus Christ.

(Acts 5:41-42) 
 
We know the rest of the story. The Religious Establishment soon embarked upon a massive campaign of brutal suppression of SCRIPTURAL TRUTH, eventually enlisting the fanatic Saul of Tarsus who was present at the fatal stoning of Stephen. Saul was a partisan activist, wielding the full power of the Religious Establishment to wreak his violent havoc. But how many persecuted saints prayed in faith for his conversion? Paul, who Jesus directly called to be an Apostle, would later write of these persecutions in 2 Corinthians 6:9, testifying of boldness in proclaiming the TRUTH: “For I DELIVERED unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the SCRIPTURES” (1 Cor. 15:3) 

 
“But the WORD of God
is not bound”

(2 Timothy 2:9) 
 

 
 
“THE WORD OF GOD IS NOT BOUND” 
And here is the sum of the matter. The FACT of Jesus’s Resurrection is TRUE. This Gospel TRUTH cannot be restrained. It cannot be suppressed. It cannot be censored, cancelled or blotted out. Men may fail “…but the WORD of God is not bound.” (2 Timothy 2:9). The Devil has a million ways to squelch the TRUTH, including sanctions and penalties, threats and imprisonment, cancellations and expulsions, banning and shunning, tortures, death and destruction. But God reigns! The living miracle, a converted Paul, would write to the Thessalonians, to “Pray… that the WORD of the Lord may have FREE COURSE, and be glorified…” (2 Thess. 3:1). 
 
The next twenty centuries of church history, bear record of men and women who suffered torture, ruin, imprisonments, deprivations and death for the cause of the TRUTH of the GOSPEL of SALVATION found in the HOLY BIBLE, the SCRIPTURES, the WORD OF GOD. 
 
FREEDOM of SPEECH is grounded in God’s WORD. Human documents may fall, and human justice may fail, but God’s WORD is “For ever… Thy WORD is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). The TRUE STORY is found in God’s WORD. The GOSPEL is FACT, not myth. 
 
“AS DYING, AND, BEHOLD, WE LIVE; 
As chastened, and not killed” (2 Cor. 6:9)
As the dust of the traumatic year 2020 settles, and 2021 worsens, we can now see clearly that we live in a time prophesied by Daniel when there is a massive, concerted effort by Powerful Elites to “cast down the TRUTH to the ground” (Daniel 8:12). Yet Daniel was also told that “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). May we shine GOSPEL TRUTH into the darkness. Where we are cancelled or shut down on one platform, may God grant us other avenues. 
 
The TRUTH is this: we are charged to “stand” and “withstand” because “we wrestle not again flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12-16). We must not neglect to “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD of God” (vs. 17). We must obey Jesus’s final WORDS charging us to SPEAK and TEACH the GOSPEL of His Salvation: 
 
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying,
ALL POWER is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
GO ye therefore, and TEACH all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
TEACHING them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

(Matthew 28:18-20) 
 
“I know thy works: behold,
I have set before thee an OPEN DOOR,
and no man can shut it
:
for thou hast a little strength,
and hast kept my WORD,
and hast not denied My NAME.”

(Revelation 3:8) 
 
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the WORD of their TESTIMONY;
and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

(Revelation 12:11) 
 

Endnotes:
2. Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Eerdmans, 1964), p. 61. Verduin authored an entire book on this topic late in his life: That First Amendment and the Remnant (Christian Hymnary, 1998). He also authored The Anatomy of A Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relationships (Eerdmans, 1976). These books represent an alternative historical perspective concerning church and state, including early U.S. history, which sheds considerable light on the concept of separation of church and state, as well as the religious freedom issues that gave rise to the First Amendment.  
3. See a good explanation in this article by Michelle Edwards, "Silencing Parler: The Power of Twi++er and 'Person X'," UncoverDC, January 20, 2021, https://uncoverdc.com/2020/09/23/doj-announces-proposed-legislation-for-section-230/ .
 
NOTE: Spelling, word and phrase anomalies in this post are intentional.