Volume. XXXI, No. 14
Sunday, 02 October 2016


From The Pastors Heart: An Example of Religious Zealots


As we study the Gospel of Matthew, we can see the reality of religious compromises that take place against Jesus, by all the religious and political parties of that time including Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians.  The Sadducees were liberals, the Herodians maybe humanists, and the Pharisees conservatives.  From Acts 23 we know that the Pharisees took Paul’s side, therefore we cannot easily dismiss them as theologically insignificant.  In Acts 23:6 Paul speaks, “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.”  
In response to that, the Pharisees took action in Acts 23:9, “And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”  They came to Paul’s rescue from the hands of the Sadducees.  They were theological conservatives in Judaism but also religious zealots as they would do anything for their religious and spiritual causes.  They studied the Torah and gave meanings to each and every one of the Lord’s commandments, in such detail, that they twisted certain truths of the Bible and eventually denied the Lord Jesus as their Messiah.  They were neither infidels nor ignorant of their religion within their own terms.  Their religious zeal did not lead them to the truth.
Over the years, as a pastor, I have found that local churches have been perverted, distorted, and even destroyed not only by the enemies of the Gospel but also by the overly zealous people claiming a spiritual cause.  In fact, newly found America became a fertile soil for various activities of such zealous people.  To understand this we must begin with knowing the  reason why people wanted to emigrate from England to the ‘New World’.  One of the most powerful reasons was a desire for religious freedom in the ‘New World’.  
Many believers in 16th century England were under the rule of Queen Elizabeth and found the  evils they were subjected to still sufferable.  However, her successor, James 1 did not hide his ill feelings against the Puritans.  Charles I was even worse in terms of governing the country.  He dismissed the Parliament at his own will.  Many preachers in the country cried out against the sins of the government and the country and warned the coming of God’s judgments against them.  Sincere and serious believers of Christ wanted to separate themselves from any association with the Anglican Church, because they felt that she was too corrupt to be restored.  They defied the evil world and the corrupt churches.  They began to move to the ‘New World’ for pure worship and religious freedom.  
When they came to the ‘New World’, they wanted to establish a country which honoured God and would observe His commandments in every detail.  They hoped to build a kingdom of God on earth, a noble aim.  However, this did not come without complications.  For example, they wanted to execute justice and to punish sins.  In principle, this was not a problem as it was everybody’s desire.  However, they could not agree on what comprised sin.  Gross forms of sins were easily identified.  The real problem came when some believers’ definitions of sin seemed to be stricter than God’s own rules.They could not fully understand the limits of man’s ability and of God’s commands.  Unfortunately, these zealots did not see that the earthly kingdom was a kingdom of flesh and blood, not of heavenly angels.  “The authorities in England . . . had a way of handling the problem of fanatics: bore their tongues, cut off their ears, brand them, imprison them, silence them” (Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma, ed. Oscar Handlin, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958, 73).  To avoid such harsh treatments, these zealots came to the ‘New World’.  They had a noble desire to establish a society and church in the ‘New World’ to practice their religious freedom according to their conscience and to honour God through true worship.  They wanted to use the Bible as the rule of faith and life.  However, everyone seemed to read the Bible according to his own way.  They could not even agree on what kind of church government they should have: Presbyterian or Congregational?  Whose conscience was the right one?
Understanding this background, we come to know of a man, Roger Williams.  According to Edmund Morgan, he was “a charming, sweet-tempered, winning man, courageous, selfless, God-intoxicated – and stubborn.”  He was young, fresh from Cambridge, and had studied divinity.  He felt that the Church of England was contaminated by the admission of unregenerate persons to communion, and that he could not regard her churches as churches at all.  He renounced everything and happily left England to the ‘New World’.  He had set a very high mark for the believers and their churches.  He had a sweetness of spirit “that clothed his harshest opinions with a mantle of holiness.”  Having seen and heard him, William Bradford, the judicious governor of the colony said that he was “a man godly and zealous, having many precious parts, but very unsettled in judgment.”  Because of his charming character, many people liked him and he was invited to pastor a church.  
With his burning zeal for the Lord, he began to generate many opinions and practices.  Some examples include: “a regenerate man ought not to pray in company with an unregenerate one, not even with his wife or children, and that he ought not to give thanks after the sacrament or after meals.”  People considered him as a holy and godly person, though their pastors cautioned them of him.  Even the people of Salem invited him to be their pastor, after their cautious pastor Samuel Skelton died.  He was at the height of his furious and indefatigable righteousness.  Eventually, he denounced churches in Massachusetts pronouncing that they were no longer pure, and he insisted that his own congregation must renounce the other churches in Massachusetts.  Otherwise, he would withdraw himself from his own church.  He eventually drew about twenty people to his opinion and moved to a different town.  He spoke to the governor, Winthrop, that he should “abstract himself with a holy violence from the dung heap of this earth.”  
Williams eventually came to believe that “the church must not include children simply on the basis of their parents’ membership and abandoned the practice of infant baptism in the congregation he had gathered among the handful of the faithful who followed him to Providence.  He had himself and all the other members re-baptized, but shortly after began to question whether there could be a proper church at all until God raised up some new apostolic power.  Finally, he reached the position where he could not consciously have communion with anyone but his wife.”  His religious zeal for God and holiness somehow led him to be left alone only with his wife.  
You may be wondering how he ended his spiritual life.  Here is an irony.  Edmund Morgan said, “. . . since he could not escape the dung heap, he would embrace it.  And so, Winthrop says, ‘having, a little before, refused communion with all, save his own wife, not he would preach to and pray with all comers’” (p. 131).  He became a staunch liberal who accepted everything!
I desire to see all believers being zealous for God.  At the same time, I have seen enough troubles caused by such zealots in Christian churches.  They must have teachable hearts and be submissive to the leaders appointed by the Lord over them.  When I see zealous un-nurtured believers, I cannot but be concerned.  Usually they do not know that they are the source of problems in the Lord’s churches.  Aha . . . .
Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bros Danny Chu & Benjamin Wong; Sis Amy Han. Helpers next week: Bros Edwin D’Mello, Daniel Ki & Daniel Volvricht.
*Welcome: Rev Dr Johnson & Mrs Susan George
*Service roster for next quarter is available. Please see Sis Purdee Yeo for a hard or soft copy.
*Helpers needed for Holiday Bible Club which is after next Lord’s Day. Please see Dn John Wong if you are able to serve.
*Sparks4Christ-YAF Retreat continues at Nunyara Conference Centre, 5 Burnell Drive, Belair after Fellowship Lunch.

Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Rev Dr & Mrs Johnson George; & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in the past week.
Safety & Protection during the heavy storm last week.

Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore) & Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Bro Grant Munchenberg; Mr Ballan Sanders (Hampstead); Sis Julie Tan (shingles).
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne & VBS in Providence BPC (8-14 Oct).
Cambodia Missions:
Batam Missions:
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for Task Force & congregation.
Theological studies for Dn Sung Hyun Ma & Bro Kevin Low & families.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
God’s guidance for Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs to form an Australian B-P Presbytery.
Journey mercies: Ps Okman & Sis Myung Ki; Sisters Jun Lin, Catherine & Sally Teng (Adl); Retreat participants (Nunyara/Adl) & others who are travelling.
 God’s guidance & wisdom for Sparks4Christ & YAF Retreat Speakers, Dr & Mrs Johnson George.
Postnatal health - Sisters Maritas Mangco (Cebu) &  Emily Zhang.  Health for their  newborn babies.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Year 12 students preparing for exams: Bros Timothy Gan & Benjamin Wong; & Sis Emilie Kour.
God’s guidance for trouble-free settlement of new church on 20 Jan 2017.
Australia - Salvation of Australians & for our politicians not to pass any legislation that is against God’s Law.
 Jobs - Those seeking for employment.
 Believers under persecution in Islamic countries.
Holiday Bible Club: Speakers, teachers, organisers, helpers & students.
Ebenezer BPC’s 17th Anniversary Thanksgiving next Lord’s Day (Melb).

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063