Rome: The Light ExtinguishedErwin W. Lutzer | June 9, 1991
Selected highlights from this sermon
Apart from the city of Jerusalem, there’s no city in the entire world that’s had as great an impact on Christianity as the city of Rome. In this message, Pastor Lutzer walks us through the history of the early church in Rome, the persecutions, and finally the acceptance of Christianity. Then we’ll see the corruption of the Catholic church and the distortion of the Gospel.
Apart from the city of Jerusalem there is no city in all the world that has had as great an impact on Christianity and the world as the city of Rome. I think it is true to say that it is impossible for me to exaggerate the impact that Rome has had on Christendom.
The city of Rome began in about 763 B.C. or 753 B.C. historians tell us, when it was built on those seven hills along the Tiber River. I suppose you know something about the history of the Caesars and the Great Roman Empire, which perhaps reached one of its greatest pinnacles during the time when Jesus Christ was born in Jerusalem under the reign of Octavian, who was known as Caesar Augustus. You can understand something of Rome’s influence during that time because even Palestine was under Roman rule during the time of Jesus Christ.
We know that there were some Jews who were in Rome already in the second and third centuries B.C. because historians tell us that there were perhaps 13 different Jewish synagogues within that great city of Rome. We’re not sure exactly how Christianity got to Rome, but I think that we have a hint in Acts 2:10 where the Bible says that on the Day of Pentecost, when people were there from all over the then known world, there were people there from the city of Rome. And they would have been there when Peter preached that very famous sermon and when 3,000 people were baptized because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps then it was this delegation that took the Gospel to Rome, and it is there that a church was planted that became very strong and very influential.
As a matter of fact, by the time it was 57 A.D., and we’re only talking about 15 or 16 years after Jesus was crucified over in the city of Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome. I want you to turn to Romans and notice what Paul says in this letter to the church at Rome, which we call Romans. He says in Romans 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”
Wow! That’s power! The church was begun just years before – a couple of decades before – and lo and behold it’s known already throughout the whole world. Rome, of course, was a great center politically, and therefore it became a great center religiously.
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.”
Paul wrote the book of Romans not only to explain Christian doctrine, and it is one of his most important letters. It is an ocean of Christian doctrine. But he wrote this letter also so that he might explain to the people of Rome that he’d like to be able to visit them. “I’d love to be able to come to Rome so that we might be mutually strengthened and that the church might be able to grow even more.”
Now I want you to notice that Paul made it to Rome. Turn back to the book of Acts just a few pages. You’ll find Acts 25:11, where it gives the story of how Paul was being brought because he was preaching the Gospel, and he was falsely accused and all of that. We can’t go into the details, but notice what it says in verse 11: “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”
Paul used his Roman citizenship as a pretext really to get to Rome, and said, “I do not want my case settled over here in Israel (the land that we call Israel today).” He said, “I don’t want my case settled here in Caesarea. I want to go directly to Rome and I appeal to Caesar.” And because of Paul’s prominence, and because of the insurrection that they possibly feared if they didn’t grant him his request, Paul was put on a boat and sent to Rome.
Look at Acts 27. It is a remarkable story of Paul going to Rome. And I wish I could tell you the whole story. We don’t have time to. There were 276 persons on a boat. You say, “Well, how do you know that?” I’m just reading verse 37 of chapter 27. It says 276 were on the boat. It says that there was grain on the boat, and some of the soldiers were on the boat to take care of the prisoners who were on their way to Rome, to make sure that the prisoners wouldn’t get away. It’s a fascinating story.
Paul tries to convince them to stay at Crete for the winter. He says, “If we go, we’re going to encounter some storms and some difficulties in the cold,” and they said, “No, we’re going to go anyway.” And so they override his decision.
It’s a beautiful example of what happens when you are part of a company that makes bad decisions, and you were a victim of other people’s wrong choices, especially if you foresaw those choices and knew better than the leaders of the company knew. That’s what’s happened to Paul.
Well, sure enough, they are shipwrecked. They get into trouble and some want to escape, and the prisoners want to escape, and Paul says, “Look, everyone stay right here because we’re going to make it okay if we all hang together.” And they do hang together, and in chapter 28, Paul arrives in Rome.
I’m skipping to Acts 28:11: “After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island (they needed a new one because the other one was totally wrecked), a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead (very specific detail here about the ship). Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome.”
If you’ve ever been to Rome, the Apostle Paul would have gone along The Appian Way. He’d have come to the Circus Maximus, where later many, many Christians died because of their faith. He’d have gone on through the Roman Forum and ended up in what is called today the Mamertine Prison, under house arrest, having a guard chained to him, but nevertheless being able to entertain visitors.
And there he was in Rome, and the book of Acts ends in verse 30 of this chapter. He stayed a full two years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. He has a prison sentence, but it was not a difficult sentence in the sense that he was confined. It was not solitary confinement. He could receive visitors, and he used it as an opportunity to preach the Gospel.
What did Paul do during those two years in Rome? Well, we know that he preached. That’s obvious. But also he wrote some letters. He decided that he would write to some other churches he had visited, and give them a bit of encouragement. And he wrote the book of Ephesians from the prison in Rome.
He wrote Philippians. Turn to the book of Philippians for just a moment. What does he say in the book? In Philippians 1:12-13 he is talking about his imprisonment. He says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
Paul is really creating a scene there among the soldiers and the other inmates. And he says, “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What they were saying was, “If Paul can preach the Gospel with some chains around him, chained to a soldier – under those conditions, we are encouraged to preach it under better conditions because we’re not in prison.”
So Paul says, “My circumstance has strengthened the church. It’s given them courage.” Paul was a controversial figure. Verse 15: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry (they are envious of Paul), but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former (who have wrong motives) proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.”
Paul goes on to say, “What difference does it make?” He says, “I’m glad that Christ is preached. It is better to have Christ preached out of a bad motive than not have Him preached at all.” So Paul says, “My imprisonment is turning out for the furtherance of the Gospel.”
Now what you need to know is that Paul was martyred in Rome, history tells us. He was put to death. And what I’d like to do in the next few moments is to talk to you about two different influences that the city of Rome had on Christendom. And the first influence, of course, that I want to mention is none other than persecution – the persecution that Rome gave to the believers. As the Christian Church began to grow, Nero was in power at this time. And in A.D. 64 he set the city of Rome on fire. According to Tacitus, he set the city on fire and then he blamed it on the Christians so that he could begin to persecute them. And persecute them he did.
My wife and I were in Rome 20 years ago, and then also three years ago. Twenty years ago when we were there we were not only at the Circus Maximus, which we walked through because many Christians died there at the Circus Maximus, as well as the Coliseum later. But we also saw Nero’s palace in Rome. If I remember correctly it has 70 rooms – the ruins of Nero’s palace. But when you come out of the palace there is an area there – a large mound of several acres – and then in the distance not too far away is the Coliseum.
According to Tacitus, the historian, Nero took Christians, had his soldiers pour tar and pitch over them, nailed them to crosses and lit them to light his gardens. And as we walked through the ancient gardens of Nero I was reminded of the fact that I was stepping in places that I was not worthy to walk because here thousands of Christians were lighted and burned – all because of the whim and the anger of Nero.
Historians don’t know whether the Apostle Paul was put to death before the fire of 64 or after the fire of 64, but they are generally agreed that the Apostle Paul was martyred under Nero’s reign. By the way, not only were Christians lit, but also they had the skins of wild beasts put on them, and then they were thrown to the lions, and thrown to wild dogs that came and tore them up. And this is what happened to the Christians in Rome.
Now I have to ask a question. Why all this persecution? Was it because the Romans didn’t like the name of Jesus, and they did not want to have another god added to all the gods they already believed in? Absolutely not! I want you to know that in Rome religion was a matter of personal preference. You could believe in whatever gods you wanted to believe in. And you could disbelieve in whatever gods you wanted to disbelieve in. The Romans had at least 5,000 gods. It was hard to keep track of them. You chose whatever gods you wanted. If you wanted to add some gods to the list you could go ahead and you could add the gods to the list. That did not make the slightest bit of difference.
If you wanted to pray to Jesus, pray to Jesus. They couldn’t have cared less in Rome. Why then all this hostility against the Christians? Why all this persecution? The thing that the Roman authorities hated was not because Christians believed in Jesus. They hated the fact that Christianity was so exclusive as to say that there is only one God and only one Savior, and that cancelled out all of the pagan gods. And that irritated the leaders of Rome. That made Nero and his company good and angry.
Then there was another thing. The Romans would require that every year you offer a sacrifice to the Caesar, and you would say, “Caesar is lord.” Just a little sacrifice! And then you called Caesar Lord, and the rest of the year you could worship whomever you wanted. And there were some Christians that were so bullheaded, so committed to Christ, that they said, “There’s no way that we’re going to call Caesar Lord because there is only one Lord, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” And the Roman authorities were angry with these narrow-minded bigoted Christians. And so they said, “You’re a threat to the Empire. You are really calling into question the sovereignty of Nero and Caesar,” and so under the guise of politics they said, “You are subversive because you are not supporting the State. You need to be rubbed out.”
Now I want to tell you today that historians tell us there were ten waves of persecution. Let me mention some of them to you. By the way, I should have added that Christians were also accused of being atheists because they were not believing in all the pagan deities. They were also accused of cannibalism because of the Lord’s Supper. Word got out that they were eating the body and the flesh of human beings.
Furthermore, here’s what really bothered the Romans. Here you have belief in all these pagan gods, and Rome reaches its zenith. It has basically conquered the world. All roads led to Rome. There was communication. There was organization throughout the Empire. The Romans had it all. And then there was disintegration. There was rebellion because of some of the barbaric hoards that began to storm the city of Rome. And what the Romans said is, “That’s the Christians’ fault. As long as we believed in the pagan gods, the pagan gods made Rome great, and now look at the flourishing of the Christian church, and Rome is beginning to disintegrate,” and so they blamed it on the Christians.
Under Trajen (The year is 97 to 117) the Christians were executed unless they recanted. And by the way, some did recant and denounce their Christianity. Under Hadrian from 117 to 138 he at least insisted that you have proof if you accused someone of being a Christian. You see, what happened was there many people who said, “You know, I don’t like you,” and they had all kinds of disputes, and so they’d accuse you of being a Christian, and you’d be put to death whether you were a Christian or not. Hadrian at least said, “Hey look, if you’re going to make an accusation, you’re in big trouble unless this guy actually is a Christian.” But if they were Christians it was tough news.
Decius: after his time there was empire-wide persecution. Think about this, folks, on a comfortable day in Chicago. What this emperor said was, “I want a certificate of every person in the empire, proving that they have acknowledged Caesar is Lord. And you need the certificate. If not, you are put to death.”
What could Christians do? There were three possibilities. One was to renounce their faith, and some did. By the way, did you know that after some renounced their faith, one of the big problems the church had after the persecutions ended was to know what to do with people who renounced their faith under persecution, and then wanted to be reinstated when good times came. That in itself is an interesting chapter of church history.
So there were some who renounced. There were some who bought the certificate on the Black Market. They did not make the sacrifice. They did not acknowledge Caesar as Lord, but they had the certificate, so they were exempt from persecution. Then there were thousands of them that said, “No way! We don’t want the certificate. We don’t want to acknowledge that Caesar is Lord under any condition. We don’t want the certificate. We’re just going to take whatever comes.” And persecution began empire-wide. All the way from Britain to Arabia there was a systematic attempt to stamp out Christianity.
And even as bad as it was, it was of no comparison to the year 303 under Diocletian. When Diocletian became emperor, he was talked into trying to exterminate Christianity. And during that period of about nine or ten years, the persecution became so intense and violent, and so filled with the rending of human bodies and the stench of dead people, when they were through with their executions, even the pagans said, “This is too much.” And there began to be opposition against some of the persecution, even from the pagans because they said, “No human being should ever treat others this way.” What an awesome thing!
If you ever go to Rome, walk through the Circus Maximus. Go to the House of Nero. Stand in the garden and think. Brothers and sisters in Christ were laying down their lives, their wives and their children being left behind, and they died because they said, “We will not serve any other King except the Lord God, and we will not even acknowledge Caesar to be Lord and then say, “Well, Lord, I said it but you know I didn’t mean it.” They said, “We’d rather die that compromise.”
“And the blood of the martyrs,” said Tertullian, “was the seed of the church.” And the more they killed them, the more they began to spring up. They could not stamp it out. And then comes the year 312. Oh, my friends, I need to pause right here because when I was young (and that, incidentally, is getting further and further away) I went to school. Some of my staff doubts it, but I did. And I used to have to study history and thought it was boring. I thought to myself that all it is, is names and dates. And so you study it and you pass the exam, and you try to forget it as fast as you possibly can the day after the exam. I want you to know today, my friend, that history is the most interesting thing that one could ever read next to the Bible. It is absolutely livid with fascination if you see it in relationship.
What happened in 312? If somebody were to say to me, excluding what happened in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, name some of the most important events that ever have taken place in church history that have changed the map of the Christian church and have transformed Christianity forever, please list them, I would have to take the event of 312 and put it in at least the top three.
Constantine: He is coming to conquer Rome because he wants to be the next Caesar. It’s 312 and he’s standing there at the Tiber River at the Milvian Bridge. And he needs some guidance because he knows he’s in for a big battle. And he’s got all these Roman gods that have been called in to help the opposition. So he prays and he says that he sees a sign that says, “In this sign conquer.” And of all things it’s the sign of the cross. So he said, “Hey, I’m going to go with the God of Christianity.” So he asked all of his soldiers to become Christians. He baptized them as Christians and put the symbol of the cross on their shields, and said, “We’re going in the name of Christ.”
I don’t think that Constantine was ever really converted, but at any rate, that’s what he did in 312. That’s why I told you a couple of weeks ago that when we were in Rome three years ago I said to the young man who was there, “Take us to the Milvian Bridge.” And he knew where it was. It is now within the city of Rome. And I walked up and down the bridge. I am sure that it has been reconstructed several times since the days of Constantine, but there it was. I couldn’t believe it. (I’ve got pictures of it. I’ve got lovely slides if somebody ever asked me to show them to them.) Why? Constantine then, becoming emperor, issued The Edict of Toleration - you can be a Christian. Not only can you be a Christian, but it’s Christianity, my friend, that is in. It’s popular now. No more persecution!
Look at this! In 312 Constantine has that vision. In 325 (What is that? Thirteen years later?) Constantine calls a council in Nicea, 25 miles out of Constantinople, the city that he named after himself, and he calls 318 bishops together. Why? It’s because he’s got a crisis in his empire. There is absolutely so much theological division over the person of Christ, that it is said that you could not even buy a loaf of bread without being asked, “Now what do you think? Do you think that Jesus Christ was begotten or made? Do you think that He was of the same substance as God the Father, or was He a different substance of God the Father?” You’d be asked that in the marketplace, and this theological question of the deity of Christ was tearing his empire apart. So he asked all these bishops to come, and he led the meeting there in Nicea. He stood up and gave the opening speech and said, “The theological controversy is worse than war. Please solve this problem regarding the person of Jesus Christ.”
But here’s the point. At the meeting among these 318 bishops were people with huge lacerations down their back. They had just experienced persecution a few years before. This was right after Diocletian. And now suddenly they are paid to go to the Council of Nicea, paid by the emperor, all expenses paid by the political authorities, and suddenly they are on the inside rung of political power. And they are there to discuss the deity of Christ. There’s little wonder after those awful persecutions that one of them wrote, according to the Eusebius, the great historian, “It was as if we were in the kingdom of God, sitting down, eating, with the blessing of Constantine who paid all expenses.”
By the way (no extra charge) there were three groups at the Council of Nicea. There were the Arians. They said that Jesus Christ was not God; He was created. Modern Day Jehovah’s Witnesses! They were immediately excluded as heresy. Then there was Athanasius who believed that Christ was God, a very God. And then there’s always got to be a compromiser. Have you ever been at a meeting where there isn’t a compromiser, who says, “Hey look, this faction’s got two sides. What I’m going to do is I’m going to walk the middle path.” That was Eusebius. Eusebius said this. He said, “Christ is God but he’s of a different substance than God the Father.” That created a huge argument. Eventually Athanasius won. That’s why we have the Nicean Creed. He is God, a very God, begotten and not made.”
Constantine chaired the thing. He didn’t know anything about theology. He just said, “Guys, solve this because I can’t put up with theological division.” And after that the church began to gain in ascendency and power, year after year, decade after decade until you get to the year 800 A.D. – Christmas Day with Charlemagne, Charles the Great, crowned as head of the Holy Roman Empire by whom? By the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome! Notice that! The church had so gained in power that all the political and the temporal authorities were subject to the spiritual rulers of Rome. The church was totally in control
You say, “Well, isn’t that great just to think that the church has such wonderful power? Finally it was in charge.” Well, folks, just relax a little. I wish I could tell you it was all that great. It wasn’t all that great because here’s what happened. You see, after the time of Constantine, you have all of this paganism in the Roman Empire. I told you about all their many gods. I told you about many, many theories. And what happened is now that the church began to be inclusive and encompass the Holy Roman Empire and take control, they absorbed into the church all kinds of pagan ideas that were Christianized so that people would not have to give up their paganism to become a part of the church. And it was absorbed, oftentimes wholesale, into the church along with a lot of superstitions.
For example, I want you to turn to two Old Testament passages because I want to show you something about pagan religion. First of all Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, was talking about the Babylonians of his day who were pagans, as you know, and had many, many different gods, and he was talking about the mother-child cult of Babylon. Babylon had a mother-child cult. The mother was Semamiras, and the child was Tamas, and they called her the Queen of Heaven. And notice how Jeremiah scathes his people for worshiping the Queen of Heaven. It says in Jeremiah 7:16-17: “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes (of all things) for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.”
They are praying to the Babylonian goddess. The religion of Babylon filtered through places like Ephesus and Pergamum, and came to Rome. It was part of the paganism that we were talking about. And people came into the church and they began to say, “Well, we’ve always prayed to the Queen of Heaven.” And so within time they said that Mary is the Queen of Heaven. And that’s exactly what she was called. She was called just like taking the Babylonian name and ascribing it to her, and people began to pray to Mary as the Queen of Heaven.
I told you that the Romans had about five thousand gods. There was a god if you went on a journey. There was a god if you sold something. There was a god not only for physical ailments, but every single physical ailment had its own god. And so once again people said, “Well, I was used to praying to this god if I was going to go on a journey for protection, and I’m used to praying to this god.” All of those responsibilities were then prescribed to saints. So I’ve seen a list of saints a page long who had various responsibilities corresponding to the various pagan gods of Rome. And so if you went on a journey you prayed to this saint. And if you wanted to sell something you prayed to that saint. And if you needed help you’d pray to this saint. And all of these responsibilities that had been a part of paganism were now assigned to saints. And people actually prayed to dead people.
I asked you to turn to two passages in the Old Testament. There’s one other and that is in 1 Kings because I want you to see what the pagans did way back in Old Testament times in 1 Kings 19:18. God is speaking to Elisha, you remember, who was feeling very, very depressed. And he feels depressed because he thinks that he’s the only one left that has the truth. And the Lord says to him in verse 18: “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal (that’s the ancient god of Babylon), and every mouth that has not kissed him.” See, what the pagans used to do was they would kiss their idols and their gods. That was just common practice, and that began to be done in the church. And people would begin to kiss statues of Peter, or statues of Mary, or some other saint. They would actually bow down and they would kiss this statue, again absorbing wholesale the pagan practices of pagan Rome.
Now, of course, you know within a period of time people began to have no certainty as to where they stood before God. They were unsure of their relationship with God because salvation was so encrusted with many, many different traditions. And people didn’t know where they stood and so they began to talk about a treasury of merit. They said that Jesus did more good than He would have had to because He was righteous, and some of the saints have done more good than they would have had to, and so there is a treasury of merit from which people can draw for themselves. And so indulgences were sold so that you could get in on the treasury of merit, and so merit could be applied to you. And if it was the case that some of your loved ones had died, nobody knew how long purgatory was, but the belief was that you could at least get a certain number of years off of purgatory, not knowing its duration, but it could be shortened if you paid for an indulgence, not only for yourself, but also for the dead.
What happened to the Gospel in all of this? It was totally lost. People no longer understood with clarity that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrifice for sinners and it could be freely received, even apart from the church, and that God worked in people’s hearts directly, and not through all of the sacraments that the church had in its possession. All that was lost, and you see, people became disillusioned because the message of the Gospel no longer could be found.
By the way, isn’t it interesting that Rome is going to be revived? In a couple of months I hope to preach a series of messages entitled Seven Signs of Christ’s Return and one of those signs is the revival of the Roman Empire. And out of the Roman Empire there is going to be an Antichrist who is going to rise. He is going to do political miracles, and then he is going to unite church and state into one. He is going to be worshiped. It says in the book of Revelation: “All that dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him for his political and monetary miracles.” What an amazing man he is going to be, coming out of the Roman Empire that we’ve just been talking about.
What is the bottom line? The bottom line is this: In Satan’s attempt to extinguish the pure light of the Gospel, he has tried two different tactics. One is persecution. What he discovered is that as he took that candle and he began to blow it out, all that it did is the sparks fell everywhere, and the church continued to grow and prosper. And no matter where he stamped it, a fire would begin somewhere else. That’s the persecution that the church endured.
But then there is another way that Satan is able to extinguish the Gospel, and that, perhaps, in the long run is more effective. And that is to take the world and to have the church absorb it so that the church loses its distinctiveness and no longer has recovered the Gospel, and has taken the Gospel and has preached a misguided message.
Today there is a mainline Protestant denomination that is debating a sexual document that not only condones homosexuality, but even suggests that children should not be excluded from experimenting with their sexuality, and that in effect, approves adultery. All that you need is justice, love and a meaningful relationship between people. Ideas like that, you know, have been propounded for years and years. That’s nothing new. That’s been around since the beginning of time. What makes it newsworthy is that this is being proclaimed by a church that claims to have some attachment to the Bible, but nobody knows what that attachment actually is because it’s very, very unclear.
And so, you see, what happens is no longer are the enemies out there where we are being persecuted. The problem with the church is that when Christianity becomes popular and begins to be the thing to do, with popularity comes a loss of power, and the Gospel is compromised.
We’ve come a long way since Paul was in Rome. There’s a lot to learn from church history, but the thing that I want to leave you with is the reminder of this fact. Throughout history in many varying ways, whether Catholic or Protestant, there have been all kinds of attempts to take the message of the Gospel and to cloud it so that people don’t know where they stand with God. And the best that they can do is hope. The best that they can do is to think that “I’m going to do what I can, and I’m as good as the next fellow,” and they don’t understand. And that’s oftentimes been the case.
I want you to know today that Paul says, “The Gospel is the dynamite of God unto salvation to all who believe.” He wrote that in that letter to the Romans. He said to the Jew first and also to the Greek: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation,” because the Gospel says that we are all sinners and that there are no attempts and no sacraments that we can ever offer to appease a Holy God. There is only one sacrifice that has been offered, and that is Jesus Christ who fully met God’s requirements, and His blessing and merits are applied only to those who recognize their helplessness, and transfer their trust solely and totally to Him and give up dependency on all other gimmicks. That’s the Gospel, and how often it has been clouded throughout the generations.
Will you remember that when Christianity is unpopular, it does become strong and pure? We were in China in 1984 and Bishop Ding said to us, “Persecution wiped out all theological liberalism in China.” With persecution the church is pure. With popularity its power is drained.
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, we want to thank You today that in Your grace and mercy You have allowed us to have a Bible. You’ve allowed us to read for ourselves the wondrous message of Christ and His goodness. And we pray today that You will help us to explain to people what the issues really are. And we pray for Your Church, Oh God - believers all over the world! Make us pure. Make the message clear. Help us not to compromise on the issues, that men and women will be correctly led. Even those who hear this message today, open their hearts to the truth, and we pray that no barrier would be formed against what has been said, but that it might be torn down by Your Holy Spirit, that the light of the Gospel – the Good News – would come to those who listen. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.