Image above is of the First Nicene Council; from a Fresco in Sistine Chapel, Vatican; public domain.
I remind you from the last post that in Malachi we are “listening-in on” two conversations from the past—
- The conversation of those who have rejected the Lord and His Word 3:13-15;
- The conversation of those who have remained faithful to the Lord and His Word 3:16-4:3.
We have these two conversations still ongoing today in our church and nation. Some individuals and even Churches compromise their beliefs to “fit-in better with the culture.”
As we saw last post, the theme of Malachi 3:13-15 is—
Believers need to remain faithful to God and the teachings of His Word in order to avoid building a godless civilization.
vs. 14 You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?”
II. We cannot reduce the application of God’s Word to fit a compatible theology of our modern public sphere. vs. 14
Richard John Neuhaus wrote a book that has greatly influenced evangelicals from the 1980s to the present—The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. “The public sphere…is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.” (see Public Sphere, below.) Today the public sphere includes social media. Neuhaus rightly saw the exclusion of God from the public square (national discourse) would lead to the collapse of democracy.
It is easy to be a follower of Christ in our homes or in Churches. In the public sphere, we may lose our livelihood for giving a testimony to the exclusiveness of Christ as God in human flesh. So some won’t do this outwardly, lest FB put them in “time-out” for violating public policy.
Papal Caution about Denying Communion to Abortion Politicians
Pope Francis has cautioned bishops about wading into politics as U.S. bishops question whether or not to deny communion to pro-choice politicians such as President Biden.
“I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” the pope said… .”
The point he stressed was that bishops should be pastors, not politicians, according to The New York Times. He referred to communion as “a gift” and not “a prize for the perfect.” “What must the pastor do? Be a pastor; don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.
The pope stressed, however, that the Catholic Church views abortion as homicide. (See Aitken, below.)
Is not giving communion to pro-abortion politicians a political stance in line with the agenda of pro-abortionist politicians? Doesn’t the church try to maintain its place in society by aligning itself with popular politicians regardless of their anti-God bias?
The Church must conform to God and His Word in the public sphere to properly posture itself for maximum impact on the world! Thank God we have patterns of believer’s resistance to anti-Biblical ideas of government from the past. This is one reason I like biography of Christian greats from the past. They are mentors to follow.
Needed Words from Robert Cardinal Sarah
Robert Cardinal Sarah schooled the Pope and other church leaders by writing in God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith—
The idea of putting Magisterial teaching in a beautiful display case while separating it from pastoral practice, which then could evolve along with circumstances, fashions, and passions, is a sort of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I therefore solemnly state that the Church in Africa…is committed in the name of the Lord Jesus to keeping unchanged the teaching of God and of the Church. (See Cardinal Sarah, below; emphasis mine.)
As believers we cannot conclude that since it doesn’t pay to be too public with our theology, we must remain silent in the public sphere about religion.
“Against the word; for the World”
“In the fourth century, the number one heresy was the teaching of a presbyter in Alexandria named Arius, concerning the person of Christ. (pictured left). Arius held that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father with the difference that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father, therefore Jesus was not co-eternal with God the Father. Arianism holds that the Son is distinct from the Father and therefore subordinate to Him.” (See Arianism, below.) Arians would say, “There was a time when He [the Son of God] was not.”
“Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, refuted the teaching of Arius and his followers and this eventually led the emperor Constantine to call the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea during the winter of 324–325. The Arian controversy produced not only the Nicene Creed of AD 325 (which is still recited in many churches today) but it also brought to the fore a truly heroic figure of the faith, namely, Athanasius of Alexandria.” (See Jones, below.)
“Alexander stood for truth and when he opposed Arius. He had a young deacon whom he had ordained in 319. In 325, Athanasius served as Alexander’s secretary at the First Council of Nicaea. Already a recognized theologian and ascetic, he was the obvious choice to replace his ageing mentor Alexander as the Patriarch of Alexandria. Athanasius had a mentor in Alexander.” (See Jones, below.) He later stood in opposition to Arius because of what he saw in his mentor. Who is looking at us as we stand for God and His word over the current fancy of the world? We may be a mentor to others who are younger and will take the same stand in the future.
Here are the words of the Nicene Creed that refutes Arianism—
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being† with the Father. [†con-substantial]
(See Nicene Creed, below)
Image left is “Saint Athanasius was persecuted.” from Wikimedia Commons; public domain.
Later after Athanasius became the Bishop of Alexandria, “Constantine [Emperor of the Roman Empire]…wrote a letter to Athanasius urging him to receive Arius ‘whose opinions had been misrepresented.’ Athanasius refused to re-admit Arius and his followers on the grounds that ‘there could be no fellowship between the church and the one who denied the divinity of Christ.’ Seeing that the Emperor and many of his fellow officers were pushing for restoration, concession would have been easy if not understandable for Athanasius, but he would not budge.” (See Jones, below.)
“Athanasius was hounded through five exiles, and he was finally summoned before emperor Theodosius [Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, pictured right], who demanded he cease his opposition to Arius. The emperor reproved him and asked, ‘Do you not realize that all the world is against you?’ Athanasius quickly answered, ‘Then I am against all the world.'” (see Athanasius, below.)
We can be against the world and for the world at the same time. We cannot be for the world and against God at the same time! Only by embracing God’s Word and ways can we influence people for eternity.
I John 2:15-17 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [ESV; emphasis mine.]
The ones in Malachi 3:14 who had departed from God saw their compromising lifestyle as paying off in a big way. They would profit like the godless who seemed to prosper rather than suffer ill. The Hebrew word in vs. 14 for “vain” is shav which means “futility, emptiness, or vanity.” Further the Hebrew word for “profit” is betsa‘ meaning “gain made by violence, unjust gain, or profit.” Since there was no capitalism in the ancient world, people had to resort to cheating and robbery to get rich suddenly.
Those who had abandoned God and His ways in Malachi’s day…”had made some efforts at improvement [in their walk with God], expecting immediate results in added blessings; and as these did not come as quickly as they hoped, they relapsed into their old [compromising ways].” (see Spence, below.)
Today some often subconsciously do a profit margin analysis between the lives of those who serve God and those who do not. The business analysis is always the bottom line—how much does it pay. Serving and walking with God cannot be assessed from the standpoint of how much do I get out of following God in this life (contrary to the health and wealth gospel teachers.)
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [ESV; emphasis mine.]
Jesus’s analysis is on another scale. Matthew 6 gives it—
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Christian Fight Song
On January 23, 2012, Dr. R.C. Sproul spoke at Reformation Bible College’s chapel service on the subject of “The Wrath of God Revealed” from Romans 1:18. At the close of his message, he reminded us of “the Christian fight song,” saying:
“It goes back to the fourth century to the Arian controversy when the Arians were denying the Trinity. And part of the way they communicated their heresy was to make up bawdy songs that were insulting, and they stood on one side of the river and sang these insulting songs to the Trinitarians. And so the Christians came up with their own fight song.”
Here is the Christian fight song that the Trinitarians would sing back to the Arians.
Glory be to the Father;
And to the Son;
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it† was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.
† The word “it” refers to the eternal nature of God as three persons equal in power and glory.
The attribute of glory that is the supreme attribute of deity, is to be given to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The next time you sing it, will you sing the Gloria as the Christian fight song? (See Sproul, below.)
Next time we will look at verse 15.
Notes on Sources
Aitken, P. (2021). “Pope Francis on communion for ‘controversial’ Catholic politicians” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.foxnews.com/world/pope-francis-communion-catholic-politicians-eucharist
Athanasius. (2021). “Athanasius of Alexandria” accessed 11 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria
Arianism. (2021). Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism
Cardinal Sarah, (2015). God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Fransico, CA: Ignatius Press.
Halloran, K. P. (2013). Jim Elliot’s Diary Entry with He is no fool”; blog. Accessed 12 October 2021 from https://www.kevinhalloran.net/jim-elliot-quote-he-is-no-fool/
Jones, K. (2004). “Contra Mundum” [against the world]. Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/contra-mundum
Maya, J. (2017). “Profit Margin.” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://brocorights.blogspot.com/2017/12/profit-margin-profit-margin-ratio.html
Nicene Creed. (1997). “English Language Liturgical Commission translation.” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm
Public Sphere. (2021). Definition from Wikipedia accessed 13 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_sphere
Sproul, R. C. (2012). The Christian Fight Song. Blog post. Accessed 14 October 2021 from https://garyware.me/2012/02/08/the-christian-fight-song-via-nathan-bingham-r-c-sproul/