April 6, 2003


The Bible says, "And the multitude came together again so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, 'He is out of His mind.' And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He has Beelzebub,' and 'By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.' So He called them to Him and said to them in parables: 'How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house."' (Mark 3:20-27).

From Matthew's account of this conversation, we learn that Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man who had been blind and mute. The multitudes were amazed, and were giving serious consideration that Jesus just might be "the Son of David," that is, the Messiah. The Pharisees, not willing to entertain such a thought, then accused Jesus of being able to cast out demons by being in league with Satan himself. See Matthew

Notice the arguments Jesus used to refute their accusation. First, Satan's power would not be turned against demons; else Satan would be working against himself. He is much too cunning for that.

Second, Matthew's account shows that Jesus called attention to the fact that some of the Pharisees own "sons" or disciples practiced exorcism. If the power to cast out demons was from Satan, were the Pharisees accusing their own people of being in cooperation with the devil?

Finally, Jesus reasoned that the only way a person could successful ly cast out demons -- drive Satan from his abode -- was to be endowed with a power greater than that of Satan. We do not know how many of the Pharisees were in the exorcism business, nor their success rate, but we do know that Jesus never failed to overcome the power of Satan in the lives of those who came to Him for help. Jesus' miracles proved conclusively that (1) He was working against Satan, and (2) that His power was much greater than that of Satan.

Mark tells us that at this point in time, even Jesus' own people -- probably His immediate family -- did not understand the nature of His work. His own brothers did not believe in Him until after His resurrection, John 7:5. After the resurrection, they became converts to His cause, and two of them, James and Jude, wrote books that are now a part of our New Testament Scriptures. 

--Clarence R. Johnson


"Get justice for me from my adversary" pleads the poor widow (Lk. 18:3). Did the judge understand justice? Oh, yes! He understood; he said, "I will avenge her" But was it wrong for her to seek justice? -- to ask to be avenged? Is she required to just dismiss the charge? Hardly! The parable illustrates God's sure justice -- "shall not God avenge his own elect?" (v.7). Justice is right -- God is just when he avenges "his own elect." And "his elect" are right who "cry out day and night " for justice. God would not grant a sinful request, yet Jesus promised that God answers pleas for justice -- "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily" (v.8).

Is it also right for us to expect justice? -- to entreat God against evil adversaries? We often take issue against justice. We plead mercy with such zeal that we forget the place -- yes, the demand - for justice. We reject the right to pursue justice -- as God pursues justice. We are unsatisfied with "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk. 6:36). We require a level of mercy from God's elect that in practice excludes justice and that supercedes God's level of mercy. Something is wrong when men are expected to out do God! Shall godly men pursue justice against evil men?

Nehemiah sought justice against Israel's enemies Tobiah and Sanballat: "Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You;…" (Neh. 4:4-5).

David implored God for justice. He lifted his "prayer against the deeds of the wicked" (Psa. 141:5). For adversaries who "hate me without cause" (Psa. 69:4) -- who caused "my reproach, my shame, my dishonor" (v. 19), David sought retribution from God's avenging hand. "Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents." (v.22-25). Harsh? Yes! Yet, justice often must be harsh to be just. An "eye for an eye" is harsh, but just. Wrong for David to expect justice -- to be avenged? Wrong to plead for such? Recall, David was an inspired prophet. This imprecatory psalm is from the Bible -- not some novel. David pleads as one of "God's own elect " -- a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). He was a godly man seeking justice. 

Jeremiah joins the chorus pleading for justice. Evil men were out to murder Jeremiah. "But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, 'Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more'" (Jer. 11:19). Jeremiah turned to God. "But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, Testing the mind and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them" (v. 20). Jeremiah thought it right to seek justice from the hand of the Lord. Evidently, the Lord agreed. "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, 'Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand'-- therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.'" (v. 21-23). Justice was not in Jeremiah's hand, but it was surely right for him -- as one of "God's elect"-- to ask God to avenge.

"But that is Old Testament." Does that redefine justice? Is justice right only in the Old Testament but wrong to expect in the New Testament? I think not! However, look at the New Testament. Paul appealed for justice against an evil man. "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm" (2 Tim. 4:14). Did Paul just dismiss that? Hardly! "May the Lord repay him according to his works." That is justice! No apology from Paul! He further warns: "beware of him." Does Paul know about forgiving? Is he unmerciful? Is he wrong? Remember, Paul is an inspired apostle -- one who will "bind" and "loose" just as it is in heaven (Mt. 18:18). He did not "loose" Alexander from his sin. Instead, as one of God's "elect who cry out to him," Paul asked for justice. In the very next verse, Paul asked for mercy on those who deserted him." At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them." He knew that mercy and justice both have a place in God's arrangement.

The martyrs cry for justice. "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" (Rev. 6:9-10). Like the poor widow, they cry for justice to "avenge our blood." They are fervent -- and impatient -- crying "How long?" Surely a call for justice from saints "under the altar" is not wrong.

"For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (Jas. 2:13). There is justice without mercy. No one wants that! -- nor should anyone exercise justice without mercy in dealing with others. There is also mercy that simply ignores evil. It has sentimental appeal, but it is not right -- is not approved by God - is not enjoined on His saints. Justice must be respected and supported - and justice is tempered by mercy. "Mercy triumphs over judgment." As is justice and mercy with God, so it must be among men. "For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You" (Psa. 86:5). But it is also written: "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things…" who "will render to each one according to his deeds." God is both merciful and just -- "just" and "justifier" (Rom. 3:26). We also must balance justice and mercy -- standing for justice while being "ready to forgive." And that is no small challenge!

--Joe Fitch, Bible Comments


Our mission field is not necessarily a thousand miles away in a country that does not speak our language. We must recognize that our mission field is where we are at any given moment in time.

If we are on the job, or in a crowed mall, or at a stadium watching an event, and even in the quiet solitude of a closet, we are in our mission field.

Every time we go through a door, our mission field moves with us. Hopefully we leave a little residue of our efforts upon others. For after all, our mission is to plant the seed, and God is the one that will produce the fruit.

Our mission field is in the pew at church, and in the parking lot. Our mission field is in the home as we teach and admonish our mates and children to seek God more diligently.

Our mission field is on the bus, or in the taxi, or on any mass transit vehicle. Our mission field is outside and can be performed while we do yard or housework. Our mission field is found the other side of this computer screen as we offer websites and other study aids to others.

Who is the recipient of our mission? Many benefit from our efforts to fulfill our mission. God is glorified, Christ is exalted, the Holy Spirit's work is accomplished, the church grows, the saved are encouraged and edified, and the lost see their sin and turn from it. But when we consider the question of who benefits the most, it is probably ME.

My job as a servant or child of God is to do what God asked me to do. God asked me to evangelize. God did not ask me to baptize, preach in a pulpit, or any other specific commands. God asked me to tell others the good news of salvation. God asked me to share the hope within me to any who might ask (1 Peter 3:15). I benefit NOW when I put forth the effort (whether results are apparent or not) and I know that I will benefit later, as God commends me with the words "well done thou good and faithful servant".

What is most obvious is that if I fail to share the good news with anyone who will listen, I know that I have possibly deprived them of the hope of salvation (Hebrews 12:15). With such a grand mission before us, why shirk our duty?

Every child of God is a priest and teacher of the law (1 Peter 2:9). We just need to find a way to convince them of their duty.

--Carey Scott



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