Sin and Perfection (2)
Hear now the Word of God as it is given to us in the Gospel According to St. Luke, the eighteenth chapter, verses 1-8;
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
May this reading of scripture be to the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.
Some years ago, when the intellectual Walter Lippmann was at the height of his influence, a critic ably pinpointed his spirit by referring to him as; ‘the trumpet that always sounds retreat.’ Unhappily, that same description could fit all too many churchmen; the spirit or trumpet that always sounds retreat. And, all too often this parable has been used to sound retreat, to speak of hopelessness. But first of all, this is a parable about faith.
Now, the common opinion contrasts faith to reason or sight. Faith is often referred to as; ‘blind faith.’ There is the assumption that faith is a ‘grin-and-bear-it’ attitude in the face of fearful odds, or even in the face of evidence. In brief, some say that when you have nothing else to go on, go on faith. But this is not scriptural. Scripture tells us; “…by faith we know…” Rather than being contrasted to knowledge, we are told that it is the basis, the foundation of knowledge, the foundation of true sight. To believe in God is not unreason or blindness, but the life of logic, reason and reality. It is sin which his blindness, it is sin which hinders knowledge and faith. It is sin and unbelief which are blind and illogical. Adam, in paradise, had no intellectual problems in believing. It is sin which produces unbelief, ignorance and blindness. And Revelation 21:8 tells us that unbelief and fearfulness go together.
This parable defines faith. Now unhappily, too many people approach this parable with a modern interpretation of the eighth verse; one, true, that has roots in many older opinions but which has come to predominate in the modern age. “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” And the common opinion now is that this means when the Son of man comes at the end of the world, and that He will find so sorry a situation that there will be almost no faith on the earth. And then the whole parable is misread in terms of this interpretation. But’ a much older interpretation, and a much more relevant one because our Lord spoke to the people of His day, and He did speak more than once of His imminent coming in judgment on Jerusalem and Judea, and He stressed this at His trial. We read for example; “…again the high priest asked him and said unto Him, art Thou the Christ, the Son of the blessed? And Jesus said, I am, and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.” And he had reference to the fact that they, his judges at the moment, would soon see Him when He came in judgment on Jerusalem and Judea. This is the context. Our Lord was not speaking of The Second Coming, but His coming in judgment which came with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the nation.
This parable is a parable concerning faith and victory, “…for this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.” The parable gives us a widow, a very stubborn woman. There are such, you know. I’m reminded, since I’m a few thousand miles from home, of my wife. She is a fiery Scot. She comes from a border clan that prided itself in the old days about the number of clans they were at war with. It was a status symbol to be at war with the most number of clans. A tremendous woman, a very godly woman, ideal to have on your side, but not against you! Now, this widow is selected as a type of faith, because humanly speaking a widow is the epitome of helplessness, especially in the ancient world. Widows were easily wronged and defrauded. And this widow has been defrauded. She comes, and the judge, the only judge she can go to, is a reprobate man. But this widow is persistent, she is stubborn, she persists. She nags, in other words. She goes after that judge day and night. “Avenge me of mine adversary!” She persists, and she gains justice.
Now, the whole point of the parable is precisely that. Our Lord says very bluntly, if an unjust judge will give justice to a helpless widow’s prayer, how much more so the all-righteous judge God the Lord? “And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you He will avenge them speedily.” Faith, thus means confidence that God the Lord is far better than an unjust judge, and will readily bring justice to light when we turn to Him in faith.
And so, we are told, that our Lord “…spake this parable to His disciples unto the end that men ought always to pray and not to faint.” Our Lord’s words are very clear. They are like a slap in the face to men of weak faith. To us who fold our hands and say; ‘well that’s the way the world is, what can you expect, it’s a rotten, depraved, fallen world and how can a man get justice?’ But to treat God as though He is not capable of granting what even some unjust judges will grant is not faith n or prayer, but insulting unbelief! How dare we treat God as though He will not do for us what an unjust judge will do for that most helpless type of person, a widow! And so our Lord says, even an unjust judge will give a widow justice at times when she persists, when she nags, when she makes it difficult for him. Now are you going to treat God as though He isn’t capable of doing what even an unjust judge does?
And isn’t that what we’re doing continually? We see evil, we see wrongs all around us and we fold our hands and we say; ‘well that’s the way the world is, we’ll have to grin and bear it.’ And we feel that we’re men of faith. And we’re incapable of that passionate and intense prayer that marked John Knox’s son-in-law, John Welsh who prayed in the cold of the night, night after night, and his wife came and asked him if he were daft, he was going to get his sickness and die, and he rebuked her, and continued to pray, saying; “…Lord give me Scotland or I die!” It was men like that that won Scotland. They never moved in terms of what man was doing, or the triumph around them of the ungodly but in terms of God the all-righteous judge.
In terms of our Lord’s Word; “…men ought always to pray and not to faint.” Thus, faith moves confidently, and aggressively toward victory because it takes God seriously. If we believe therefore God is what He declares Himself to be in His Word, we will pray and act in the confidence of that faith, knowing that God will avenge His elect speedily. Faith thus is defined for us in this parable. It is active, it is aggressive, it is persistent, and it moves in the clear knowledge of what God is and what He declares Himself to be.
Unbelief in God is a radical ignorance about the nature of God and the universe. It presupposes a meaningless and blind world and lives on the presupposition that; ‘all things work together for evil because there is no sense to anything.’ Faith, thus, is inseparable from the most basic kind of knowledge. Through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so the things which are seen are not made of things which do appear. This is why we must hold that faith is basic to true learning and to true knowledge, and a school that is not founded upon faith in the Word of God is not going to be a school where there is any true learning.
Denial of faith in our Lord is, finally, a denial of knowledge, because Jesus is the Truth. By denying our Lord, the modern world is turning its back on truth. Faith is not human belief, but supernatural grace. Therefore, it never appears in isolation from the other works of grace. The doctrine of ‘the carnal Christian,’ thus is an abomination. Faith is God’s work in man, conforming man in all his being and works to God and Christ. Paul declares; “…for whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And again we are told; “…and be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that He may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
We conform ourselves to what we believe in; if we believe in the God of Scripture, then we conform ourselves to Him and to His Word and we manifest the kind of faith that moves in terms of victory. “This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith…,” a faith which, like that of the widow, continues in prayer, believes in the all righteous judge, believes that God’s righteousness shall be set forth to the confounding of His enemies. We conform ourselves to what we believe in.
Modern man is conformed to this world, to the crowd. He is group-controlled. Robert C. Harvey has described the modern man as manifesting a ‘new tribalism.’ He declares that modern man is marked by anxiety because he is always anxious to be accepted and approved by man. He is marked by aggressiveness. He is continually trying to prove himself with other men; marked by a false perfectionism, and he judges all men sharply as a means of exalting himself. And the mistakes of others please him, and he talks of them, and his witness is to the sins of others. In the new tribalism, society and man are homogenized. Men conform themselves one to another and it leads to impersonality, because the crowd governs man. And there is a fear of the future. Where the spirit of man prevails, there also the fear of man prevails. But. for us. the fruit of the spirit is in all good and righteousness and truth.
The widow in the parable did not conform herself to the world, nor to the opinions of the world that; ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ She worked in the confidence that the supreme court of the universe was on her side, and she refused to be overcome of evil, she was an overcomer. And we have a word from the throne concerning this. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.” “But the fearful and the unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death.” The opposite of overcoming, of having faith is to be fearful and unbelieving. And Revelation tells us we are then a companion of depravity in its ultimate form.
This parable summons us, therefore, to faith, faith which is victorious, faith which is triumphant, because our faith is in God the Lord, and, with such a faith, who can fail? John Welsh’s prayers are heard and, though, before the battle is won, he dies, like Moses, he sees The Promised Land. By faith, the saints of old moved in the confidence that what God declared, He would deliver. And they saw, by faith, those things of which we are the inheritors, and of which the ages to come shall be the heirs. By faith they moved as citizens of ‘no mean city.’ Our faith will manifest our citizenship. Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. How do you treat God in your prayers? As not even capable of being as gracious as an unjust judge, or as the righteous Lord of creation? Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, we live in an evil time, and we see the fruits of our sin all around us, our cowardice, our timidity, our sloth, and our weakness. And we see also, all around us, the fruits of our prayerlessness. Oh Lord our God, grant us the spirit of prayer, of this widow of old. Instruct us by Thy Holy Spirit that we may come to Thee in unflagging prayer, in earnest and triumphant prayer, knowing that we come to the throne of righteousness and of omnipotence. Give us grace therefore, to pray without ceasing, to cast our every care upon Thee who carest for us, to rejoice evermore, knowing that greater is He that is with us and in us than he that is in the world, knowing, oh Lord, the glory of Thy promises, the majesty of Thy Word. Make us, oh Lord, a people of faith and of prayer, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder