Christianity and Society

The Church and Politics in Malawi

In less than a year from now, Malawians will go to polls to elect their president, members of parliament, and local government leaders (councilors). As always, some of the questions that Christians have now include should Christians join politics and what role should the church play in regard to politics? In this post, I am wrestling with such questions and endeavoring to give answers that I believe are biblical.

We will do well to begin by reminding ourselves that Christ is the King over all the earth (Col. 3:16, 17). He is the one who removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21). As one Dutch Reformed theologian once observed, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

Therefore, Christians can and should join politics if the Lord calls them. They should not be afraid to accept the calling believing that politics is a dirty game as it is often said. For sure, politics like any other human institution can be full of sin at times, but Christianity is not Gnosticism, which believes that the matter or the world is evil. Christianity does not minimize the consequences of the fall on human race yet at the same time it is always hopeful of the power of the gospel and the knowledge that Christ is redeeming his creation including the fallen political systems of our world.

The Westminster Confession of Faith best captures the Bible’s teaching about a Christian’s involvement in politics: “It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate (government official or politician), when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion” (Chapter 31.5). Please notice the emphasis here is that Christians who are called into politics are to maintain piety, justice and peace of their country.

But while Christians could be called to serve as politicians, the calling of the church is different. The church is never called into politics. She is called to pray for magistrates and give them godly counsel when needed to but she should never turn the pulpit into a political podium.  (There is a great nuance here since when Christians join politics it could also be said in one sense that the church is in politics. But I believe that you get what I am trying to put across. The separation of the church and state is never absolute because we will always have members of the church who are also members of the state).

Again, the Westminster Confession of Faith is helpful here: “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate” (Chapter 31.5)

It is important to notice that the confession does not completely prohibit the church from petitioning or advising the government. When the civil magistrates have asked the church for advice, the church should do so gladly and dutifully. “The Church and State may co-operate in the advancement of objects common to both; but each of them must be careful to act within its own proper sphere- the one never intermeddling with the affairs which properly belong to the province of the other.”[1] Nonetheless,  the cooperation of the State and the Church must never mean blurring the line that clearly separates the two.

That said, the next question I anticipate is: doesn’t the church ought to have a prophetic voice in society? Certainly, the church has a prophetic voice in any society; but it does not mean that she as an institution should become directly involved in the politics because that is not why Christ established his church. Christ often demonstrated that his mission was to be differentiated from that of the state. For example, Jesus refused a request of a certain man who asked him to mediate between him and his brother regarding their inheritance and specified that he was not a judge of a civil court (Luke 12:13:14). Another example is when Jesus was before Pontius Pilate. Christ refused to associate the Church with the kingdoms of this world when he clearly told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence,” (John 18:36).

What if the government oppresses its citizenry?  Isn’t the church supposed to defend the poor and vulnerable and even be willing to pick up arms to fight against a wicked state? The Bible calls Christians to obey only the lawful commands of the magistrates. Therefore if the magistrates command what is unlawful, the church ought to stand up and declare as the early church that she will obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Nevertheless, it’s never the calling of the church to be in forefront picking up arms against the state.

The Reformers, more especially, John Calvin ably discusses how the Church should respond to “wicked and intolerable” governments. He notes that the Church which in this case means members of the visible church (whom Calvin also refers to as private citizens) should never directly pick up arms against the state but rather support other magistrates who after observing the wickedness of their government/leadership have mounted resistance. This teaching is sometimes called the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates. Calvin writes,

For if there are now any magistrates of the people appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings…I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with the duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.[2]

The Church is not a lesser magistrate (an opposition party). The lesser magistrates, especially those who are Christians, have a responsibility to restrain the evil of unjust kings over their subjects. In cases where the greater magistrates (governing authorities) are oppressing their citizens, Christians should come behind the lesser magistrates and support, pray, and encourage them in their efforts to curb the evil or injustices from the greater magistrates. All this is to be done within the bounds of the just laws.

[1]Robert Shaw, The Reformed faith: exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith(Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008), 398.

[2]Calvin,Institutes of the Christian religion.IV.XX.31

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Christianity and theology

Does Every Christian Have a Special Guardian Angel?

I guess you have heard of the notion of guardian angels before. Those who believe in guardian angels state that every Christian has an angel assigned to them by God to care and protect them. This belief is not recent. Church history shows that it dates back so many centuries ago. In fact, some early Church Fathers like Origen and Chrysostom in third and fourth centuries respectively believed and taught about guardian angels.

Those who advocate for the belief in guardian angels cite Matthew 18:10 and Acts 12:15 as their biblical basis. In the first verses of Matthew 18, Jesus speaks to his apostles about humbling themselves like children. Then he later says to them: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (10).

In the first verses of Acts 12 we find Jesus’ disciples praying in the house of Mary (the mother of John Mark) for Peter who has been put in prison by the Jewish religious and government leaders. However, when a girl reports to them that Peter is released from prison and is standing outside the house in which they were in, the disciples disbelieve her and say, “You are out of your mind.” But the girl insists but still they dismiss her and say, “It is his angel!” (15).

Now, do these verses teach that each Christian has a particular guardian angel? I do not believe so. In the case of Matthew 18:10, we should understand the “little ones” and “their angels” in a collective sense rather than individualistic sense. In other words, the verse states that angels who minister to these little ones and can also minister to every believer see the face of God the Father (not a particular angel of a particular little one sees the face of God the Father). In the case of Acts 12:15, we should understand it to mean that the believers thought that at this particular time God had sent this angel to probably encourage them and they referred to this angel as “Peter’s angel” implying an angel that was sent to them for the cause of Peter whom they were praying for.

It is important to guard against the belief of guardian angels because it can easily lead to the worship of angels which is prohibited in Scripture (Rev. 22:8, 9). Herman Bavinck observes, “The problem with the doctrine of guardian angels is that it leads to veneration and worship, a practice apparently referred to in Colossians 2:18.” If a believer is so occupied with the thoughts of a special angel who cares and protects them, they stand in danger of obliterating God in their minds as a sole sustainer and preserver of their lives and instead accredit this sustenance and preservation to an angel.

Having said this, it is important to point out that the Bible does teach that angels do minister to God’s people (but not a particular angel specifically for a particular Christian). Angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). So, God uses angels to help believers in various ways. For instance we read in Psalms 34:7 and 91:11 that they watch over believers. Angels also intervene is some special ways in some events of God’s people (Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19). They also execute judgments against God’s enemies (Genesis 19:1, 13; 2 Kings 19:35; Matthew 13:41).

So, yes God uses his angels to help or minister to his people but God never sets aside or assign a particular angel to a particular Christian. This belief is hardly supported by Scripture and can easily lead to worship of angels which the Bible prohibits. I fully agree with the Belgic Confession Article 12 which clearly states: “He (God) also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect (all believers).”

I also agree with John Calvin when he writes:

“But whether individual angels have been assigned to individual believers for their protection, I dare not affirm with confidence… Indeed, those who confine to one angel the care that God takes of each one of us are doing a great injustice both to themselves and to all the members of the church; as if it were an idle promise that we should fight more valiantly with these hosts supporting and protecting us round about!”

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Sound Teaching

The Challenge for the Preacher

“When it comes to preaching the Word of God, a man will never follow the right course if he cannot forget self, and close his eyes to anything that might distract him in this world from acting according to God’s pure ways. Indeed, he will surely stray away from the path, first to one side, then to the other. Hence, God’s doctrines are often corrupted because those who ought to preach them are inclined to malevolent, or to seek the favour of their hearers. They may fear to incur bad feeling or to provoke anger against themselves.

Therefore, it is impossible for us to serve God in our natural state; we must be absolutely determined, with unshakeable constancy, to suffer for the doctrines that we preach, and not to let this cause us grief. We must fight under the ensign of our captain, Jesus Christ, knowing that we cannot share in the glory of his resurrection if we have not first suffered with him, following his example. All believers must certainly strengthen themselves to do these things. . .

. . .Those who are called by God to preach his Word must be resolved that they will not compromise, even if the whole world were to rise up against them. They must bear all conflicts, knowing that God will help them in their need and always grant them victory, provided they follow their vocation in purity and simplicity. The greatest insult and injury that we can give to God is in yielding to the desires of man, and twisting his Word both left and right. It is not only a question of abandoning our own ideas, but also of constantly upholding God’s truth, which is immutable; it must never be altered, however changeable and inconstant man may be.”

Taken from: John Calvin’s Sermons on Galatians. (Copied from Reformed Bibliophile, http://www.erictyoung.com ).

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Sound Teaching

Lessons from John Calvin’s Method of Preaching

One major aspect of John Calvin’s ministry was his form of expository preaching of the books of the Bible verse by verse also called lexio continua. On Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Calvin climbed up the steps of the St. Pierre Cathedral’s pulpit and patiently led his congregation verse by verse through book after book of the Bible. He often preached two to four verses in a sermon; however, in some instances he would preach two to three consecutive sermons on one verse as was the case with 1 Timothy 2:5 and 2 Timothy 1:8 respectively. As he tackled each verse, he would explain its meaning and apply it to his congregation.

But what would motivate Calvin to involve himself in this huge but worthy and profitable task. I believe that Calvin’s view of the Bible as the word or voice of God (vox dei) had a great impact and influence on his adoption of lexio continua method of preaching. Calvin’s high regard for Scripture is evidently seen in his magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which he writes:

In order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” (1.6.2)….“We affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that (the Bible) has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men” (1.8.5).

This view had a profound impact on his preaching as he revealed in his sermon on Micah 3:7:

For what ought sermons and doctrines be, except expositions of what Scripture contains? Truly, if we add the slightest nuance, it only results in corruption. Our Lord has left us a perfect doctrine in the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. Thus, what ought we be preaching today? We ought not be adding anything new to the text, but ought to be providing a clearer exposition that would confirm our understanding of God’s teachings. That, I repeat, is the purpose of any sermon or lecture we hear, that we might each be better instructed with respect to God’s will. That way, whenever we hear anything, we have a basis for inquiring whether God has spoken or not. By the same token, all who are charged with preaching God’s Word know that it is wrong of them to add anything of their own, or anything they might event. They must be certain that what they preach is not of their own conjecture but derives from God, who guides them on the basis of his certain and infallible word.

John Calvin was strongly convinced that a preacher can faithfully proclaim the message of his Master only by letting him speak as he has already spoken in the Scriptures. Preaching on 1 Timothy 3:2, he said,

“(The preacher) should not show off so that everyone applauds him and says, ‘Oh, well-spoken! Oh! What a breadth of learning! Oh! What a breadth of mind! When a man has climbed up the pulpit…It is that God may speak to us by the mouth of man.”

The other significant element that greatly influenced John Calvin to preach verse by verse throughout the Bible was his view of the preacher as the ambassador of God. In his commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:20 in which Paul and other preachers of the gospel are described as Christ ambassadors, Calvin comments that a preacher is indeed an ambassador of Christ and he has been ordained by God to speak as God speaks to him in the Scriptures hence Christ could boldly say that whoever pays attention to the gospel preacher pays attention to Christ himself. Here it is important to highlight that Calvin was very much aware that preaching should not be equated with the Bible hence while preaching from Deuteronomy 1:43, he cautioned:

So the teaching which is put forward in the name of God ought to be as authoritative as if all the angels of heaven descended on us, as if God himself were manifesting his majesty before our eyes (but) it is true that when men speak we must weigh their words carefully. For if one were willing to receive everything that was put forward, there would be no distinction between liars and false prophets who seduce men’s souls and the true ministers of God.

Calvin was also influenced toward lexio continua preaching by his view of the hearer of the gospel as a fallen man. In fact, this view has implications both on the preacher and hearer of the gospel as Calvin states in his sermon on 1 Timothy 4:6-7:

Now, just as many preachers are themselves far too given to ambition and in order to find grace and favor seek only what will please, so also on the other side the people are the cause of making preachers swerve aside from the good way. And why? Because, men have ‘itching ears’ and want to be fed with pleasing stories and buffoonery or ‘old wives’ fables as St. Paul calls them here. Seeing that men have such desires –like pregnant women whose cravings are inordinate –ah well this is the cause of some preachers degenerating and disguising themselves and transforming God’s teaching, which is as bad as destroying it.

Calvin fully understood that due to the fallen nature of man both the preacher and the hearer might lean toward preaching and hearing messages that do not disturb them in their comfort zone. Since due to the fall, man is in constant rebellion against God, the fallen nature in the preacher and the hearer might pull them away from the faithful proclamation and hearing of God’s word. However, when lexio continua is the method of preaching in a congregation both the preacher and congregant are forced to fully submit to the whole counsel of God as it unfolds verse after verse and book after book of the Bible; thereby, fully proving that the Scripture as God’s Word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Lexio continua preaching has a lot of benefits for the church today. First, it is one of the real ways in which full submission to God’s word both by the preacher and the congregation is demonstrated. The main challenge that the Church faces today is full submission to God’s Word. Due to the fallen nature of man, we tend to choose what we want to hear, and as the Church is bombarded with liberal and humanistic challenges, the temptation to choose what to obey and practice from the Scriptures also increases. However, where the word of God is preached in lexio continua form, both the preacher and the congregation are compelled to be subservient to God’s Word and to have their minds taken captive by it.

Secondly, lexio continua preaching frees the pastor from the temptation of preaching his mind instead of God’s word. Calvin observed that lexio continua preaching delivers the preacher from the temptation of esteeming or deciding at his pleasure what is profitable to be uttered and what is useless to be omitted. Lastly but not least, related to the above points, Calvin’s type of expository preaching affirms God’s sovereignty in preaching. As he rightly portrayed the preacher as the ambassador of Christ, the minister’s main goal then is similar to an earthly ambassador who is commissioned to advance and protect the interests and of his country. The ambassador demonstrates this commitment both in his words and actions. Similarly, the preacher has no any other agenda apart from seeking to affirm God’s sovereignty in the proclamation of the gospel. God’s sovereignty is affirmed when the preacher allows the Scripture to guide the agenda of preaching in the church or ministry.

The significance of letting Christ speak directly to his Church through the words of Scripture cannot be overemphasized. Ministers and preachers as the carriers of the voice of God should be challenged to consider the importance of lexio continua preaching in their churches or ministries. This form of preaching was essential for a health growth of the church in Geneva where Calvin preached and it also essential even to the present Church. John Leith has profound words for preachers today as he writes, “Calvin the preacher cannot be copied or repeated today in this new time and place, but…we can rightly hope and struggle to do as preachers of the Word in our particular time and place what Calvin did in his. For however much the culture and social matrix change, human existence remains essentially the same.”

John Calvin the Preacher

John Calvin the Preacher

 

 

 

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Christianity and theology

Death Penalty From a Biblical Perspective

Lucius Banda, one of well known musicians in Malawi,  once sang in a song titled “Tisayana bwanji”:

Malemba amanena usaphe munthu

Sati boma lokha lingathe kupha…

Chigawenga ndichouma mtima

Koma ngati boma lichibwezera zasiyana pati.

Literal translation would render the verse as follows:

The Scriptures says “Thou shall not kill”

They don’t  say that only the human government can kill…

A murderer is a merciless person

But if government executes him too then where is the difference?

This is a popular opinion among those who reject the death penalty also known as the capital punishment.  There are so many Christians in Malawi and all over the world today who hold that the death penalty for murderers is unbiblical. But does Scripture really prohibit the observance of  death penalty by human governments? When human governments implement death penalty, are they committing murder thereby breaking the Sixth Commandment?  Doesn’t Jesus words in Matthew 5:38, 39 prohibiting  an eye for an eye principal (lex talionis) render capital punishment unbiblical? What should we say about those who are falsely accused of murder and are executed,  and how do we deal with those who commit murder but manipulate justice systems and get away with it? These are the questions I would like to address in this post. Please note that I am discussing death penalty as punishment for murder cases only.

First, we need to know the origin of death penalty. It all begun with God himself in Genesis Chapter Nine. But before we  dwell on  this chapter, I would like us to consider the first murder to occur in the history of the world as recorded in Genesis 4:8. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother, Abel. God pronounced judgment on Cain and said: “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth,” (Genesis 4:11, 12). Cain then complained to the Lord that his punishment was greater than he could bear and people who would  find him in his wandering would kill him. Then God said, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:15).  The Lord then  put a mark on Cain so that no one should kill him.

In this passage, we see the Lord reserving the right of implementing capital punishment to himself. God does not execute Cain; instead,  God punishes Cain in a different way and declares that no one should put him to death. If this was the  only instance of God’s revelation  regarding murder and death penalty, those who advance that human governments should not implement capital punishment could have surely been right.

However, this incident is just the beginning of God’s revelation to us regarding murder and capital punishment. We need to progress to Genesis Chapter Nine where God reveals even more clear regarding murder and death penalty. In His covenant with Noah after the flood  which also applies to us even today, God makes this statement: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his image” (Genesis 9:6). This is where the capital punishment is established by God.

Unlike in the case of Cain in Genesis Chapter Four where God reserved the right to implement death penalty for himself, in Genesis Chapter Nine God entrusts the responsibility of implementing death penalty to human government for he says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” The man to shed the blood of the murderer is not just any man but the human government. Commenting on these two instances, O. Palmer Robertson in his book, Christ of the Covenants writes:”Earlier, God had reserved for himself alone the right to deal with the manslayer. In the case of Cain, God spoke judgment against the one who would dare touch him (Gen. 4:15). But now God deliberately places the responsibility for the execution of the wrongdoer on man himself (human government).” God requires that whosoever sheds human blood should have his own blood shed because man is created in the image of God hence Geerhardus Vos in his book, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments comments, “In life slain it is the image of God, i.e. the divine majesty that is assaulted.”

Therefore, when human governments (and all human governments are established by God as we read Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17) implement capital punishment, they are not committing murder and thereby breaking the Sixth Commandment rather they are carrying out their God-given responsibility. God’s command for capital punishment was later repeated in Exodus 21:12, 28 and Numbers 35:16-21.

Secondly, I would like to address some questions or concerns that arise regarding the death penalty. Doesn’t  the capital punishment contradict the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38, 39 in which He says: “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Is Jesus not prohibiting us from observing  the captial punishment in our societies in this passage? The answer is a resounding no.

Before I address what Christ is saying in the verses, I would like us to remember that Christ is God and it is God who established the capital punishment. Therefore, it means that it is Jesus who established the capital punishment. We should bear this in mind as we approach Matthew 5:38, 39.

Now, lets dive into the passage. Jesus words in these verses are based on the following passages of Old Testament: Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. The main teaching in these passages is that punishment for any crime should be equitable and fit for the crime. In the case of murder, God already declared that the fitting punishment for murder is the capital punishment. The words of Jesus in passage prohibit exacting a greater punishment on a lesser crime. Jesus further teaches against personal vengeance because the responsibility of exacting the punishment on various crimes is entrusted to civil authorities. The passage has nothing to do with abolition of death penalty as some argue. John Calvin says it better in his Bible Commentary:

An eye for an eye. Here another error is corrected. God had enjoined, by his law, (Le 24:20) that judges and magistrates should punish those who had done injuries, by making them endure as much as they had inflicted. The consequence was, that every one seized on this as a pretext for taking private revenge. They thought that they did no wrong, provided they were not the first to make the attack, but only, when injured, returned like for like. Christ informs them, on the contrary, that, though judges were entrusted with the defense of the community, and were invested with authority to restrain the wicked and repress their violence, yet it is the duty of every man to bear patiently the injuries which he receives (http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc31/cc31057.htm).

A fellow blogger has discussed Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:38, 39 at length on this link:  http://wittenberg-door.blogspot.com/2013/01/was-jesus-against-capital-punishment.html Please check it if you wish a further discussion on the passage.

Another concern that is usually raised is that sometimes innocent people (those who did not commit murder but are accused of murder) end up being executed for the crime they did not commit. It is true that some have been executed because they were falsely accused of murder. I don’t intend to underestimate the pain and the agony that this brings upon the individual that is falsely accused and also upon his or her family, relations and friends. However, we still need to realize that injustice occurs in this world because we are all fallen. We are not always able to know the truth regarding various allegations; nevertheless, this must not form a basis for abolition of the capital punishment. Where enough evidence has been given to prove that one committed murder, human governments should implement the capital punishment. In cases of  those who are falsely accused and later executed, our comfort should lie in the fact that God is sovereign and he knows all things. One day he will bring every secret thing into the open and he shall let truth and justice prevail (Ecclesiates 12:14).

Yet another concern is on those who commit murder and through their power and money and influence manipulate the justice system of human governments and get away with it. Shouldn’t this discourage Christians from advocating for the capital punishment since it only disfavors the poor. Again, I say not at all.  Regarding this matter, John Calvin in his Commentary of Genesis writes: “And we see some die in highways, some in stews, and many in wars. Therefore, however, magistrates may connive at the crime, God sends executioners from other quarters, who shall render unto sanguinary men their reward.” Calvin’s main point here is that although some might manipulate the justice system but God has his own ways of dealing with such individuals. We should always bear in mind that God is sovereign and all powerful.

In this post, I have labored to explain why death penalty for murderers is biblical and why human governments should implement it. I have also addressed some questions and concerns that seem to justify the abolition of capital punishments in human societies. Now, if we are to go back to Lucius Banda’s song I would respond and say: Human governments are established by God and God has entrusted them with the responsibility to carry out the capital punishment on murderers. Capital punishment is not the same as murder hence it doesn’t break the Sixth Commandment which orders, “Thou shall not kill.

Lucius Banda’s track,  “Tisiyana bwanji” below:

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Christianity and theology

Of Anointed Water, Stickers, Handkerchiefs etc

There is one dangerous thing I have lately observed in the African Church, more especially, in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles and would like to raise an alarm. Some ‘men of God’ are giving or selling out anointed water, stickers, handkerchiefs and what have you so that people can use them to receive various miracles from God. The miracles include jobs, special favors, success, healing, deliverance from demons  etc.

The most dangerous thing I have noticed concerning this development is that these anointed objects are slowly and steadily taking the place of Christ in the lives of people hence ending up being idols. John Calvin once remarked that ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’ and indeed due to our fallen nature, we easily make idols of many shapes and sizes and worship them thereafter.

The anointed items are fast becoming idols for many. What is happening with this anointed stuff is that people are told to use them whenever they want to experience a miracle or blessing from God. Recently, I met a relation who is a Christian and he greatly boasted about a certain anointed sticker bearing a face of ‘man of God’ and said:

“You know, this sticker is very powerful. I always travel with it in my car and if the devil had plans for me to get involved in a road accident, it doesn’t work. I am also told that next time, I am invited for job interviews, I should just put it in my shirt’s pocket and before entering the interview, I should pull it out, gaze at it for a while and then say a prayer and I will be successful.”

It is evident that my relation’s life is revolving around this anointed sticker. To him this sticker is his life. Now, where is the place of Christ in his life?  Are not our lives supposed to revolve around Christ? I hope you get my point.  I will not mince words here: placing our faith in this anointed stuff is superstition and nothing else.  It is not different from relying on charms or ‘small pillows’ (zithumwa) from witchdoctors.

My fellow Africans will understand this better. For most Africans who are not Christians, they rely on witchdoctors.  For instance, when one wants to get a job, they might go to a witchdoctor who would give them some charms which they are to put in their trouser’s pocket when going for job-interviews. The charms, they are told, will guarantee success in the interviews.

I believe this is similar to how some Christians are treating these anointed objects.   Only that this time around we have sugar-coated them with the name of Christ. Please, fellow Christian, think twice about your involvement with these anointed objects.

But some will quote for me Acts 19:11, 12 which reads: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” They will then ask, isn’t this passage supporting the use of these anointed items?

No, it isn’t. A couple of things need to be pointed out here. First, Paul never asked for any amount of money  for the handkerchiefs and aprons. But the ‘’men of God’ today are asking for a certain amount of money for one to have these anointed stuffs.

Secondly, Paul never sat down and packed these aprons and handkerchiefs and sent them out to be used for miracles rather it was the people who came to Paul who took these  items and used them on the sick.  As a matter of fact, these aprons and handkerchiefs were used ones. New Testament historians tell us that the handkerchiefs were wore around Paul’s head to absorb the sweat as he worked as a tent-maker while the aprons were used to cover Paul’s clothes to protect them from dirt and dust(The Acts of Apostles: The Daily Study Bible ©1966, The Saint Andrew Press).

Thirdly, let me borrow the words of R.C. Sproul and point out that “This was not Paul’s doing; because of their pagan religious background, the Ephesians were used to employing superstitious means (v.19). God accommodated His gracious work to their ignorance” (Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries © 2005).

Fourthly, it is very important to note that what is recorded for us in Acts 19:11, 12 was never a trend. You don’t read this anywhere else apart from this passage which means that this was not a regular occurrence and I, strongly, believe that this was done in Ephesus only.

However, some ‘men of God’ today have made the giving or selling out of anointed items a trend, thereby leading our fallen nature to turn these objects into idols.  It’s very heartbreaking to see that some Christians can’t live without this anointed stuff. Oh Lord, may you deliver us from these idols.

 

 

 

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