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The Greatest Question in the World,

and how it may be answered

Mark 11:30

There are times when no answer means no!



- the answer would embarrass them!

The First Approach

Palm Sundays events were echoing in the vaults of time, Christ's actions in the amazed temple! He would not allow people to carry wares for sale, through its precincts. A place of prayer or a den of thieves ? citing by contrast, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, Christ challenged the commercial corruption of religion and the rampant irreligious formalism! Was this religion or irreligion, opportunism or hearty response to the oracular, to the gift of God ? (Mark 11:17). That was the first question implied in His rugged challenge.

By what authority have you done these things ? asked the chief priests, scribes and elders (Mark 11:27-28). The form of government arises, not the response of the heart. How would darkness answer light ?

Jesus responded, assuring them He would tell them if they first answered a question of His own: the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men ?

If they said, from heaven, then He might ask: Since John the Baptist showed Me to be the Messiah (John 1:29), as my subsequent actions have verified, why then do you challenge Me!
I am cleansing the temple from what you fellows have failed in excluding, these horrid pollutions!
Is it not clear ? I am doing it as the Messiah, where purity reigns (Isaiah 9, 11. 32).

If instead, however,  they were to answer, from men, then He might ask: Why then do you not take a clear position against John the Baptist, declaring him  a fraud, confused, or both, for he attested Me, just as My own works from My Father have manifestly done! If you are so interested in authority, why do you not use your own and become consistent! Cease sitting on the fence and protecting yourselves!

If to meet such a challenge, they should say just that, so rejecting John the Baptist, then  a huge popular wave of revulsion would upset their peaceful temple authority, and it would be they, not Christ who would be in evil focus. This they dared not do.

Therefore they did not reply. Thus TWICE, Christ asked them to ANSWER. 

Answer me! (Mark 11:29-30). I will ask, He declared, then  'answer Me'.


The Issues Raised

There are times when the corrupt heart has no answer, for if it spoke truth, it exposes itself; and some do not wish to expose themselves even to themselves, so great is their shame; far less openly to expose their designs and defilements.

They for their part sought to defile Christ's reputation, defy His works, defame His name, dishonour His testimony, vitiate His verification, devalue His deity, denounce His authenticity.

He sought to expose their lavishly articulate, inordinately vacuous thought. He did it simply by forcing them to face the fact that JOHN had recognised Him as the Messiah, in a milieu where the people witnessed His own works, a thrust from above which John the Baptist had been quick to realise, recognise and proclaim (John 1:29). Set apart as a prophet from childhood, John was a byword for purity and intention, perspicuity of life and reliability of religion.

For integrity, John was there; for sincerity he ranked highly; for a hater of humbug he was hard to excel, for a prophet he was universally undeniable, and whatever word might be used, the realities shone without ceasing. John put Christ so far above himself that it was one of the great submissions of all time: it was as if a lion lay at the feet of a horse with adulation. It was more, for as John put it, he was unworthy even to unloose the strings of Christ's sandals, and should be baptised by Christ, not vice versa! (Matthew 3:11-17, John 1:29).

What then ? For the acme of denunciation (Matthew 3:7-10) and the agent of truth to recognise an impostor, this was comic. His indelible testimony concerning the Messiah and in acknowledging Jesus to be He, once delivered, public and echoing in the hearts of the innumerable disciples and admirers of John, many of whom went to the desert to be baptised by him, meant that the priests who hated Him had a confrontation on their hands: public conviction.

For John to recognise a dishonourable denizen of the realm of fraud, liars, deception and deviousness, when there was by acute contrast, about Christ only the authentic, the undeniable, the supernatural works of word and revelation attendant like experiments in chemistry always fulfilled; and together with this, about His whole atmosphere and domain of operation, the realm of the 'experiments', a testimony concerning a multitude of the works of holiness, healing, verification in His own Person of numerous prophecies, was not only the word of the one venerated for integrity and truth, their own popular prophet.

It was this word in the midst of the testimony of the One whom he so venerated: for in Christ and His deeds, they were in the field of the miraculous, both as to their genesis from a 'carpenter,' their grace and grandeur of conception and their sheer continual power.

Lowly in human deposition, in birth, Christ had to be for it was part of the prophecy (Isaiah 53:1-3) concerning His advent on earth. Had it been otherwise the prophecy would have been falsified; but in this as in all things it was by mere observation, fulfilled. If John were to be doubted, the actions of Christ could not be, but the people believed him, because the focus he made on Christ revealed as John's words were found so strongly to do, the truth. What John identified, the Lord self-identified and the Father confirmed.

What John said, the Lord did! What the Bible said, the Lord did. What the people needed, the feeding of faithfulness in the name of the Messiah for the rest of their hearts, God gave, the Lord imparting by His own word, just that (Matthew 11:28-30). There was rest, relief and reinforcement.

Thus there were twin testimonies, the identification by John, and the authorisation from God, demonstrated in word and work continually. Each reinforced the other. How could it be doubted except by the the politics of envy, the irrationalities of obscuration or the ravings or rantings of obfuscation, obstruction and obduracy! Those thus confronted by Christ with His unanswerable question, did not answer! There WAS no answer but the exposure of their own fraud.


The Piercingly Apparent Situation

You have only to look at what happened in Matthew 14-16, to see just one example of the sheer splendour of the magnitude of His mercies. How easy to debunk would these things have been, as at Pentecost, had they not resounded like trumpets in and around Jerusalem to the knowledge of thousands! But they did not so act; for there are things, like the presence of General MacArthur in the north of Australia during the Japanese war, that if denied, bring question of the sanity of the critic. It is vain.

Hence Christianity spread like wild fire, as the apostles showed the MEANING and the outcome of these events which had arrested the nation and impaled the puniness of much in a corrupted priesthood - and even this, was as foretold (Ezekiel 34).

What then do we find in Matthew 14-16, but a continuum of wonder, relished by the reasonable, delighted in by the afflicted, regaling the cured, relieving the fed: all finding not imposition but exposition, not charges but challenges and power with the work of the Messiah before their very eyes!

Following the death of John the Baptist at the hand of Herod, Christ proceeds to feed five thousand, not as a gimmick for publicity but as a fulfilment of the need of those who had been following Him for a great time (John 6:1-14, Mark 6:30ff.,  Matthew 14:13-14). He taught and they listened (Mark 6:33, John 6:34). Many had seen His healings (John 6:2, cf. Matthew 8-11 – indeed He had even sent out the twelve who healed in His name – Matthew 10, Luke 9:6). Masses heard His teaching and came, indeed, as before, so also after this display of miraculous combination of compassion and control, grace and power (Matthew 14:34-35, Mark 6:53ff.).

It was after the feeding of the 5000, that there came a spiritual challenge. As seen in John 6, they wanted to make Him king; but this He refused, instead praying alone as He sent off His disciples; and in the night coming, He was seen walking on water as they crossed the sea, to their amazement and fear, as if He had been a ghost. Not satisfied with this, He was at once involved in another sort of challenge. Peter, in his impetuous faith, wanted to come to Him on the water. He permitted this, so that Peter set out on foot on the sea. When however that disciple saw the state of the waves under his feet, he was overwhelmed in spirit, and began to sink in body also (Matthew 14:31).

To meet this, Christ on the waters, stretched out His hand to deliver Peter, and reproved him for his 'little faith'. Then they got into the boat.

From Mark 6:51-52, we find that the disciples were amazed at Christ’s walking on the sea and the wind stopping when He entered the boat; and it notes that their heart was hardened, for they had not  understood about the loaves!

This was not an item, but the very nature of the Lord. Earlier, in Matthew 8:26, we see that Christ marvelled at their fear of maritime furies, before proceeding to order the wind and waves to be still! The point was this: they did it!  It was now clear: if He could invoke the supernatural power even to feed those who hungered for teaching, could He not do so to deliver them on mission from untimely decease, being majestically in charge! For no small reason, then, after the feeding of the 5000 and the water episode and Peter’s deliverance, they declared, "Truly You are the Son of God!" (Matthew 14:33). Demur there was not. He let the works speak (John 14:1-14).

A little later, as seen in John 6:59-69, we find that following Jesus' exposition of the spiritual message behind the bread, they declared "... we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (though Christ already was well aware that one heart was not where its mouth was - John 6:70-71). This was to be consolidated at Caesarea Philippi!

Having crossed to the land of Gennesaret, they were met by expectation. The people at once sent out to the surrounding districts for the sick, begging that they might only touch the hem of His garment. This being permitted, it was observed that every one who did this, was healed, so that here was a multitudinous successor to the healing action of Matthew 9:18ff., which had as its own sequel, the raising of the dead.

From Mark 6, we learn that they even carried out people on beds to meet Him, to wherever they heard He was in their district. In whatever villages He entered, there they laid their sick in market places, begging for that touch to the hem of His garment, and those who did - small wonder the begging! - were healed.

This myriad expression of mercy and mastery was precisely like that in His walking in the sea, rescuing people, feeding the hungry: it was not only that it did not cease. It never was confounded, there was no dither, there was only dynamic, compassion and grace, while on the other side, there was denunciation of hypocrisy and ecclesiastical corruption. This was precisely as told from the outset, in Ezekiel 34, concerning the outrage of the Lord at such things, linked with His decision to come to earth to show the way as the Good Shepherd (Christ announcing Himself as such, as recorded in John 10). The thing rang with integrity, tolled with the bells of power, was melodious in majesty like music announcing the king, incessant as if tiredness, though a real danger, were subject itself to first meeting need.

Nor, by any means, was this a surge of easy power. The Pharisees and the scribes had their far more numerous than annual outing to try to flout the grace and expose the wonder of Christ by their tongues, traducing truth itself. Envy was a massive thrust on the part of those derelict in duty and unfaithful in profession.

They sought to trap Him (Matthew 15). Washing hands was a nice ritualistic sort of expression of superior sanctity, and the routine prescribed in this by tradition (up to the elbows was one format) being not met by Christ and His disciples, He was confronted. On the very topic of tradition, He then exposed their hypocrisy and greed, and proceeded to point out that such excessive concern could be obsessive, and that in fact the real danger was to be found in what proceeded OUT OF the heart, more than INTO the stomach! These, He told His disciples, are blind, blind leaders of the blind: leave them alone!

If only many in our own generation had the same wisdom, to leave alone what departs from the word of God (cf. Matthew 5:17-20)! Yet they continue to seek to worship where it is openly flouted, as if it moved by some lure, caught and unable to detach themselves! Such was the case with  many of the priests - though not all, for some believed as we read in Acts 6.

Moving now in His itineracy to the area of Tyre and Sidon, Christ was met by a request for the healing of the daughter of Canaanite woman. Severely demon-possessed, the girl needed the masterful word of One who had control in the spirit world, as in the material. Christ at first demurred, declaring He was not sent except to the lost sheep of Israel; but she persisted, saying that even the little dogs under the table could take some of the scraps. She was rewarded and congratulated on her vital faith, and at that same hour, her daughter was healed. Thus the primary aim of Christ was clear, and His opening up to the Gentiles no less, a thing to be consummated in its time,  as also forecast in Isaiah 42:6, 49:6.

Travelling next to Galilee (Matthew 15:29ff.), Jesus ascended a mountain and took up His post. We learn that "great multitudes" - as you might imagine if you sought to translate this into a contemporary scene! - came to Him. Lame, blind, mute,  maimed, it was indifferent: they all came. Many more, they laid before Him. Was He internally involved, tired, overmastered by numbers ? Not at all. He "healed them all." There was no failure, failing or faintheartedness. There was nothing to expose but compassion and power, with supernatural constancy; for as John put it, He was not given the Spirit by measure!

In the midst of such a multitude, Christ might now be thought to need re-charging; but moved with compassion again, in the presence of so many now gathered and milling, He Himself took the initiative and instructed His disciples to prepare food for the multitude.

Again the disciples ask the obvious: there being no fast-food lines in those days, they wanted to know where the food would be gained ? They had however on this occasion, to hand, seven loaves and a few little fish. Christ as before, took the small offering and having had the multitude sit, He took the food and having given thanks, broke and gave to the disciples for distribution. Last time, they wanted Him king; but this time having eaten their fill, some 4000 men, women and children, they were simply sent away, while He moved to Magdala by boat.

Thus the routine of marvel continued, with multiples of endless-seeming healings as if it were routine to do the impossible. He feeds the 5000, the soul, the 4000, has baskets full in each case, heals abundantly further, rejects a desire to have Him crowned, walks on water, rescues Peter from drowning when he wants to do the same maritime walk. Then, as we shall see, He asks for identification of His mission from the mouths of His disciples, yes more, of His nature in reality; and it is Peter, who saved a little while earlier, roundly declares Him the Christ, the Son of the living God.

What other possible interpretation could you give, right down to the defacing of His name ? and that before there came that brutal defiling of His face literally.  All this  was part of His prophetic depiction (Isaiah 52:13-15), of the identikit for the Messiah as in Isaiah 49:7 with the practical outcome of Isaiah 53! If it was blatantly obvious then, how much more is it declaratively explosive, like an evidential atomic bomb now, that Christ's own words are being fulfilled with that same flair, flourish and consummate skill that always attested His works, in our own day (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9)!


The Suffusion with Light

If ever there were rationality, and resolution, the meeting of ALL questions with ONE answer as is just from God, it was here.


The preparation in preliminaries was fulfilled;


the date of Daniel's forecast of the Messiah's cutting off had come
(Daniel 9:24-27 cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4);


the power of God in spectacular abundance, it had come;


the hatred of the Messiah by the authorities, it had come;


the sheer sight of the actualities for 'experimental verification' with one's own eyes,
it had come;


 the reason for the expectation of truth on all sides,
even when some disdained the thoughts of others
as if they COULD NOT EVEN IN PRINCIPLE know the truth:


 this too,  and all had come.

Truth was vindicated, scepticism exposed by  the mere showers of power, purity and authority, preludes in prophecy and fulfilments in dynamism, in heart, before the eyes, the ears. Small wonder when later tested before the religious authorities, Peter and John declared that they could not cease to testify of what they had heard and seen, come whatever! (Acts 4:18-20, 5:28-29). Moreover, the intense moments when ONE failure would have sunk the Messianic claim in untimely death, like that of the Titanic, as in Mark 2, when a failure to have INSTANT and ABSOLUTE healing and confirmation of His every word, this conjunction of timing with power, and reliability with sheer magnitude, this too was present: it had all come.

Indeed, the REMEDY had come. Here was the verified power, the prophesied precision, the splendour of speech (Isaiah 11), the passion for righteousness, the simplicity of action on the vast and unmatched scale of what was given without measure, all leading to the Messianic death for sin, so that the reason for the non-destruction of the earth on account of its sustained contrariety and sin, became apparent. God was waiting till the entirety of liberty, of opportunity, of the multitudinous lessons of history, of the no less numerous exhibitions of the futility of denying the obvious, till all this was done, and in his own SYSTEMATIC, SEQUENTIAL way was displaying the entirety of essential truth, both positively and negatively, each phase tested, to the eyes of unbelieving man.

Since it was to ANY ONE that it was sent, this truth, this remedy, this salvation, it was ANY ONE who came to receive what He offered who would be abstracted from the confused and mentally ludicrous antinomies, anomalies and antilogies of man and his vapid, secular logic and transferred into that arc-light of consistent illumination which God has long had on offer to man (cf. John 8-9).

Yet they who contend and will not amend ? What of them ? They make NO GOD or invent one, the same arrogance, and yet imagine by nothing or invention they can have truth, even that with which to declare it as if their minds were god-producers, artisans of reality itself, though there is none on such a basis! Then at other times, they surge and search for the truth they announce, even while jilting revelation or deleting God, and then with assurance invent a source for it as well, so that their inventions can live; but they do not name it. It is mere imagination, and on this they build.

They affirm their ideas on the basis of their functions, intuition, conviction or concern, and then deny the significance of their selves, or make themselves into gods, either way the mere concoction of imagination: and since when did the universe obey their extravaganzas and their false claims of these affirmative deities, superficial censors with no sensors for realism. Instead, with increasing disdain for such godless delusion, this same universe is about their ears, and crashing in clashing dissonances to their aspirations, leaving them like blubber of whale, deceased upon the beach of their aspirations*1. The rot then sets in.

It is no accident that the world is averse to man, since man is averse to its Maker, and ex-handbook, ex-inspiration, ex-revelation or with revelation deceased in their active wit as they so add to and subtract from it that they become its virtual authors, and it merely a virtual revelation, man is charging into it like a mad bull. It however is not afraid; nor does it cower as its created powers and keys to them open into rooms and houses of brilliance which, exploited, ill-understood and vaguely perceived, leave them like children in a control centre. Now that a few people can blow up vast civilisations at their centre, the whole apparatus of mere power without wisdom, investigation without understanding and secular insurgencies ex-God becomes as ludicrous to appearance as it always has been in reality.

Much of this was yet to come at the time when Christ was on earth; but He did not fail to foretell it with the apostles whom He named, as in Matthew 24, Luke 21, Revelation and Romans, Timothy and Peter. Yet there was the same asinine arrogance, then as now: knowing all things based on nothing. Rejecting both the scripture they affirmed to be believed, and the Christ which it embraced, they brought on their land the same ruin within a generation as this world now callowly brings on itself by the same misfitting mischiefs of unbelief, assured of itself and its imaginary chicaneries, and rejecting the Lord of Creation, Revelation, Reason, System, Structure, Scenario, Prophecy, Personal Power and Wise Peace.

The question then, of unbending truth was asked of the pundits of that day in their hour of opportunity, as it is asked of those who immerse themselves in antilogies and antitheses innumerable, as if they depended on irrationality, detested facts and had an allergy towards verification, in our own day.

Then it was simple, but searching. The baptism of John, Christ challenged, was it of God or of
man ?


From what would they answer ? There was not only the actual testimony of John the Baptist, but the ENVIRONMENT in which it was made, one constantly growing in intensity like noon day.

Christ's works and John's words of identification were like sun and moon. Each ministered to and with the other. There was not only the environment of events, moreover, there was the nature of those events, the sheer power, and with that, the evangelical bliss of the people who having found the power, found the person and the peace! It cohered like a symphony, with successive movements in expansive refrains and developments, gripping like a masterpiece, like none other in life, and it was indeed the Masterpiece of Life!

Let us then, having mused on the background and the depth in the background of this direct confrontation, return to the event.

Pursuing it, we find in the very next verse, following their challenge to Christ's authority, and His reply that He would first ask of them one question, these words:

"The baptism of John - was it from heaven or from men. Answer me!"

There was no room to hide, and their failure to respond intelligently or at all, left them under the cloud of the undirected and indecisive, the confounded, idle people either without sight or courage, or both.



Matthew 16, 26, John 21

People are often in this position. They may want the stability of 'the church' as the priests did, but not the claims of Christ. They may not want to answer at all. Instead, many want the solidity of the institution and its comfort, but not its work, its labour or its meat. They are spiritual vegetarians; they do not like meat. They are conscientious objectors; they do not like to labour in the vineyard.

It is however one thing to fail in some great scene, of which you are ashamed, as Peter did; but it is quite another, as with so many of the chief priests in Christ's day, to answer emptily. There are 100 other things to do,  even in the temple perhaps, one might say, and suffocate with little doing while ignoring the major issue. It is not the little things that defiles the duty to God, but the blind to the great (cf. Matthew 23:23). Indeed,  as to a robust faith in Christ which meets every challenge in every situation, some  may say:  Save it for the Marines, they need it!

Not  so. You need this same faith in Christ too. Leave the Marines out of it. Destiny does not dally because someone is not currently fighting a war. Life does not chatter; it calls: some fall, some respond, wherever they are, in whatever they are engaged.

This is one place where a person cannot be left out of it any more than could the priests in Christ's day. Have you done a shabby deal ? have you stolen something, in effect ? have you ditched the testimony you should have made in deed as well as in word, for some imagined gain ? have you betrayed Christ ? It is not an occasion; it is the entire life of testimony, lived for Him or for another. For whom then are you living ?

The question must be faced, and that, not only verbally, for many will tell Christ in judgment day of their good works; but actually. ANSWER ME! is a command not only for the mouth, but for the life which expresses the heart. While words come out of the mouth, evils can come from the hear t (Mark 7:1-13). You either do the will of God in preference to your own, your own content and pleasure and wilfulness, or you do not. Crushing conscience will never crush condemnation, but only increase it. The life of the Lord brings the fruit of the Lord when the seed of life is planted in the soil of faith by the hand of the Father. Testimony to truth is simply one of its fruits.

Each must, taking example from the apostles, ask himself, herself, AM I ASTRAY, INTENT TO BETRAY ? (Matthew 26:21-23), or more exactly, "Is it I ?" The challenge of Christ concerning fidelity and faith comes clear from the day He uttered it: ANSWER ME! He will not be put off.

The challenge was first positive: WHO AM I ? and this was the crucial question concerning Christ which each disciple had to face. Much was positive for nearly all of them believed in Him; yet it was then also that there came the negative, for of those who acknowledged and even followed Him, one was a lair for the lie! as in Matthew 26. It inhabited him (John 6:70). It had life in him, that pallid substitute rather which has but a remnant as when the soul is sold.


Challenge of the mouth of Man,

Answer from the Mouth of God


The Mouth of Man

First now et us consider the challenge to the mouth (Matthew 16) . It is often a matter of finality, ultimacy. There were very many who cast out of their mouths any semblance of faith. Consider the Pharisees for example.

Such a result came when some of the crucial but preliminary actions outlined above having  made their impact, with whatever thoughts and understanding mounting like waves crashing on the rocky shores of life, the issue was put.

You see it in Matthew 16, first from the mouth of antagonists. The Pharisees, up to their unthinkable games, dared to ask the Performer of these Prodigies for a sign! A sign ? Do you ask Einstein for a sign of mental competence after E = MC2 ? do you ask a lion for evidence of being carnivorous, after it destroys a pile of prey ? Do you ask Christ for a sign when His very work has been sending signals like yacht as it passes every buoy, miles in the lead! Yet they dared. None for you, said He. You can see for yourselves weather signs, yet when it comes to the signs of the times you are blind! How blind were they to even dare to ask!

Having warned His disciples after this, to beware of the style of thought and teaching which such people had, He proceeded Caesarea Philippi. It was there that He asked: "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am ?"

Now  was the time for the response of faith to the works that no man had ever done, the words none could imitate, the date none could prevent as predicted, the entire cast of circumstances, foretold data in detail and the composition like the painting of some sublime artist, but more than this, it was in real life with the colours of eternity, the felicity of reality and the power of God.

Thus the disciples listened to the question, who was this Son of man as Christ put it, who was He ?

In using the Danielic term 'Son of Man', He was already giving no small clue (Daniel 7). After all, Daniel there showed the Messiah in glorified rule, dominion and authority in the very presence of the Ancient of Days.

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man,

Coming with the clouds of heaven!

He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

       Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,

That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,

And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

What was to be their reply to Christ’s question then ? They traversed news item material - well, they replied, some thought Him John the Baptist, resurrected, some Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. There had to be SOME explanation and the most remotely unrealistic ideas had been assembled, rather than facing the simple actuality of the long and lavish prophecy concerning the Messiah. Christ, pursuing the theme, asked who they thought He was! They had had something more even than we, in being personally present whereas we gain it by reading.

Peter answered in bold, ringing tones: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"

The 'son of man' had been the phrase used in the Lord's question. For answer Peter supplied the parallel, 'the Son of God.' Christ at once congratulated Peter, whose direct, frank answer had reality and not mere mouthing: vivid in form, clear in meaning, it struck home. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you: spiritual reality is not available to casual thought or through mere personality traits on the part of the observer. We as sinners are alienated from God, whatever our words (Eph. 4:17ff.), and only by divine action can even the obvious be accepted.

Christ stressed that it was the Father who is in heaven who revealed to Peter on earth, the truth which faith grasped. The Lord then announced that Peter, on this basis of the One whom Christ by faith was recognised to be, would be given certain keys.

Of course, the others were given the power to bind also as in John 20, but here Peter is signalised. This 'key' feature would be fulfilled in Peter's opening up of the way for Christian Gospel and teaching to Samaria (Acts 8), to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and receiving Paul as a scripture writer (II Peter 3). Thus it was the Lord Himself, the Rock as ever in scripture, recognised by faith as exemplified in Peter, it was He on whom the church was to be built. He, of whom it is written (II Samuel 22:32), "who is a Rock except our God,"  whom Peter recognised, it is He who is maestro, master and massif, no other.

In so seeing, Peter showed the foundation, the only Rock that there is. What is that ? It is Christ, the Son of the living God, seen as such, and thus realised and received to BE the Lord, indeed exposed in this by the very power and work of God in heaven Himself: it is His Eternal Word (John 1), the Lord Himself as sent (John 8:58, Micah 5:3, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 45), it is He who is and remains the Rock. The verificatory reality may be put in the form of exhortation.

Do not therefore flurry, but rest on the Rock. Do not worry, but stand on the Rock. Do not tarry, but rely on the Rock and progress without fear. It is the living Rock, and from it come knowledge, wisdom, strength, peace and power to do the will of God. Let the storms and traveling ice-bergs do what they will. In the Rock is reliability, destiny (John 14) and from it a shadow proceeds, for one’s right hand, to build, and in it is a defence for rest (cf. Isaiah 33).


The Mouth of God



The Dismissal

The petra rock of natural depth and impressive, it was on this, not on the pebble or stone, Peter, that any Church would be built! The word of God emphatically excluded any other rock, many times, both elsewhere and in the very words Christ used. Nevertheless, Peter saw fit to exclude any confusion again, having done well in the identification phase concerning the Lord, by immediately, counselling Christ not to worry about the death bit (Matthew 16:22). Thus such a 'rock' was a pebble indeed, as his name suggested. Stone as stones go, but no rock! If he had been a foundation, it would have cracked within minutes.

It is a good time to review the Rock in the Bible, and what it means.

The 'Petra' (a different word), 'living rock', on which Jesus Christ said He would build His church is not 'petros', 'a stone', Peter...  In addition, in that very context and on that very occasion, Peter proceeded to seek to dissuade Christ from dying on the Cross! A founding rock ? it was just Peter, a stone, here found excluding the Cross, and thus himself rocked already.

Christ's answer to this adventure showed who the foundation assuredly was not; for since through Peter, basic Gospel on that very occasion had been rebuked, that disciple heard this response from his Lord: "Get behind me Satan".

Peter's position had momentarily changed to that of an adversary, whatever the motive, however great the dedication. It is ONLY Christ who is the foundation, so that without Him ALONE as God and Lord, among all men, there is no truth; and so has it been always when men exalt anyone, idolatrously, to perform the functions which the Rock of the Bible always reserves for Himself. Calamity is the infallible consequence where such errors go unrebuked!

If any bind (and the apostles could as in John 20, and 3 can as in Matthew 18), their words have irresistible power only when, and because they are in strict accord with the word of God, as God (John 14:12-15, 15:7, Luke 10:17-20), with no supplemental Saviour, Master, teacher or Lord. There is ONE Lord, God (Ephesians 4:4) in the Church. There is room for no more: more is less, and indeed a deadly addition, being delusive fantasy. Foundation on fantasy is worse than nothing, for with nothing, at least you have no illusions. Unfounded, you founder, and what could you then expect!

Thus immediate rebuke came to Peter from the Master, the Rock, the Lord, because of the temptation he was forwarding, the error which after the congratulation, he at once committed, at the highest level! Imagine now if this ‘papal' word TO God about God, had been sanctified in solemn assemblies. After all, what is more crucial a fault than to TELL God what He needs to know, and to CONTRADICT God in telling Him! That has been the Roman Way, like the old Roman roads. It has led to untold horrors, mutilations and insurgencies; though many have been told and the ruin may be estimated in millions.

No, nothing like that was the Petra, the rock on which the church was built. It would have been dead long ago if that were its base. No such power was given to Peter; and indeed, so far from God having to do what the priest tells Him, as one formulation has it, ALL men have to do and are to believe what God tells them. This is firstly because HE, unlike man, KNOWS. It is secondly, because when God saves your soul, it is not so that you might play god all over again, and instruct Him on the manual of life. What next ? will the car owner tell the manufacturer what to write ? Yes he may, but not man God!

Thus, just as the words applied to Peter, petros stone, and to the foundation of the church, petra, rock, diverge in form and basic meaning, so did the authority stay right where it began, in Christ, the ONLY Teacher (Matthew 23:8-10). The rest are brethren, in contrast with this; and who are these brethren who are lords over your faith ? Certainly, ONE of them was NOT Peter. HE says so (I Peter 5). Ignoring words and their meaning is certainly no way to interpret them - as contextually dramatised in this instance!

As with Mary (Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 11:27-28, 2:22ff with Leviticus 12:7-8), so with Mass, so with Peter, these are three figments, three fictions. I myself find it particularly unpleasant when someone makes it appear I hold, did or did not do something of great significance, one way or the other, when it is not so. One feels almost a subject of fiction, put in a novel. When it is to God Himself who is concerned, and yet you make the fictions, and when you pretend to have the power to do so, in addition, there is no help! Crushed to powder is the end of it (Revelation 18-19, Matthew 21:44).

Despising authority is found in various ways; exalting your own into that domain is merely one way of doing it (Jude 8). Speaking evil of Christ, they make Him a movable object at the priest's hand, His doctrine movable, His settlement for sin now once in the end of the world (Hebrews 9), unsettled, unfinished, continuing, and they make it a bloodless sacrifice in their mass, though without the shedding of blood there is no redemption, as well as without suffering, whereas it was with suffering that the only effectual blood sacrifice was made (Hebrews 9:22,26 cf. SMR pp. 1086-1088C). How degrading to the deity is this!

How degrading to make up a Peter who asserts his authority, when in fact that delightful apostle learned so swiftly that to present his authority in the presence of God, is mere madness! How horrid to make of Mary, the Queen of Heaven, and to have popes speak of her as the Redemptrix, when Christ declared that EVERY ONE who does the will of God is His brother, mother ... It is as with children. When they exalt their own authority, as some do now, they despise that of the ones who begot them.   


The Foundation

Let us then summarise on names. 

Rock, petra, the church's stated foundation (cf.1 Corinthians 3:11) and Peter Petros, the words denote the Biblically immovable Christ, God, and verbally and factually movable Peter. It is what Peter saw and said, which, as Jesus pointed out, itself came by revelation from God, which is the crucial truth. There is available for man's salvation, no other rock and God says so repeatedly (II Samuel 22:31-33, Psalm 62:1-2, Isaiah 44:9, 26:4 in 1:20, Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 18:30, I Corinthians 10:4, 3:11).

This is the foundation of the church, and God says so. Woe to the man who puts himself or his church or his will or his views or his ideologies or philosophies into that place ... reserved for the Son, whom to have is eternal life (I John 5:12) whom to know, Himself and His beloved Father, is eternal life (John 17:1). As Christ said,

¨   "If God were your Father you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself but He sent Me" - John 8:42.

Blessed is the man who knows the Lord: the man who, with John (l John 1:1-4) can savour the reality of knowing the Son and living thereby that eternal life which was with the Father and which was revealed to us. Thus

¨   "he who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him"

(1 John 5:1);

and such remain the very children of God (1 John 3:9).

As Christ said, He shared the glory with the Father before the world was (John 17:3); but God will share this with no one who is not the eternal and uncreated God (Isaiah 42:8). Seize it then? Those who 'take' it, take but air. Those who take those who take it, take but a snare. Those who take the Son have thus and therefore the Father;... God himself bearing testimony that He is the only rock, over and over, He is the One on whom He expects us to rest on (Isaiah 11:10, Matthew 11:28), He the everlasting Rock, He, the eternal God is our refuge (Deuteronomy 33:27), "the sure foundation laid in Zion" (Isaiah 28:16)...

In Isaiah 32 and 28, you see, as indeed one saw in Isaiah 7 and 9 before, in the prophecy -


“For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, the Mighty God …”


that this foundation stone which God will LAY in ZION (Isaiah 28:16), is “ a man,”
in whom one must believe, indeed he is not only foundation, but a king, one who


“will be as a hiding place from the wind, and as a cover from the tempest,
as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”


To the Christian on this Rock therefore, there comes the results of the fact that it is LIVING Rock. That is the whole point of PETRA, apart from contrasting through magnitude and strength, with the mere stone qualities of Peter. What then follows, and what in verification is to be found ? It is this, which culled as an exhortation, is nevertheless a clinical reality. Do not therefore flurry, but rest on the Rock. Do not worry, but stand on the Rock. Do not tarry. It is the living Rock, and from it come knowledge, wisdom, strength, peace and power to do the will of God. Let the storms and travelling ice- bergs do what they will. In the Rock is reliability, destiny (John 14) and from it a shadow for one's right hand, to build,  and a defence for  rest (Isaiah 33). Such was and is the testimony of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Dynamic

¨   Indeed, His Messianic role is foundation and dynamic alike, for

¨   “the eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those  who hear will listen, and the heart of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly.”

Isaiah 29 and 35 with 11, 9 and 32, 42 and 49 show the coming majesty and might of this Son of the living God, in healings and wonders innumerable, indispensable to His recognition, inalienable from His role. This last is a mini-message to Pentecostal excesses!  Here is the foundation and the grace of God in the King of the Jews; and as we learn in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, it is not enough that He be this, for  He will be as He has become: a LIGHT TO THE GENTILES. Knowledge will replace rashness, and what better example than that of Peter himself, whose inspired epistles with those of Paul are so deep in understanding (I Cor. 2:9-13, II Peter 3:16-21). Indeed, ALL scripture is nothing liberated from man’s private resources, “for” it has come through prophets sent as by driving wind of God.

What a transformation was wrought in both of these by the understanding that the Lord gives. What an understanding was given to Peter as in I Peter 5, when he makes it clear he is to be conceived as one of the elders, NONE of whom have any lordship over the flock.Paul declares, No, it is as helpers of your faith, not as dominating that we operate. Thus in II Corinthians 1:24, Paul is moved to write this, declaring thus their mission:

¨   “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy;
for by faith you stand.”

To contest this exclusive foundation and mastery in Christ, is not only to contest His own place and prerogative: it is to request the destruction, of an avalanche, which crushes to powder (Matthew 21:44)!  God has both said, prescribed, and acted, inscribed sin on the hands and  feet of His Son, that He might adopt many children to glory.

This matter of Peter’s place,  then, it was resolved at once. The enormous rebuke sundered the air as Peter sought blithely and dully to advise on salvation, to add his own words.  No room was there for supplement to the Saviour or addition, qualification or contradiction for His wisdom, to become set later as tradition.  Apostles and their companions expound rather than compound, and even that ceased (Galatians 1, Revelation 22:18-19); and never could they impound the word of God, as the scribes did (Luke 11:52, Mark 7:7ff.), with such disastrous results!

The word of Christ echoes to eternity to idolatry: "Get behind Me, Satan!" The Rock being God, and the context making it apparent the Rock is God recognised in the being of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God - the whole point of Christ's question, thus any mismanagement of keys from simple and felicitous brotherly function to personal authority went like a soap bubble.

That having been said, our strength is in God only. Thus it is well to recognise that on this Rock one is never rocked, no, not even to sleep.

It is living Rock, apt, able, articulate, reinforcing, immovable, strong.

As I John 5:12 puts it: 

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  

God Himself, for whom it is impossible to lie, His way and will being otherwise and He omnipotent, has granted eternal life (Titus 1:1-3), and done it thus, and thus only! It is His life, and its marvels are not for alteration or transcript!

Peter then erred at once in seeking to direct the Lord by his own inspiration, perhaps puffed by the praise; and  the papacy has not failed to do so, since its inglorious inception many centuries later (cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H, 912ff.), in starkest confrontation with the Bible and the Church of God. Small wonder that one of Rome's bishops, wrongly deemed 'popes', Gregory I, declared the whole concept of primacy was one of antichrist!*2 There was still a will for the word of God to rule at that time! Peter's momentary error, however, in all good will to save his Lord - the opposite being the actual regime, for the Lord to save Peter by His sacrificial death, was a preliminary.

It was one fall.

Nor was this all. Excellent as Peter appears as a character, he had of course the sort of trend to a defect which no foundation dare contain. Quick to speak in faith, as at Caesarea Philippi, he was also alas quick to depart from the very heart of the Gospel in his misplaced love and devotion, requiring the answering rebuke of Christ to this from Peter:


"Get behind Me Satan!"

for Christ saw the work of the devil right there at the outset. Peter, for the moment had been used by the utter foe ...

It was much later that the all but fatal fault came, as if from an earthquake. Christ, near the day of His death on this earth, TOLD Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowing came, and of course, with His customary felicity to a marvel, Christ was shown right. Peter however with his quick and sincere, if at times misled, speed had been quick to determine that even if all failed Him, he, Peter would NOT do so!





Now Ponder the Work of the Legs

Matthew 26:31ff.

Here then was the work of the mouth, the mouth of man, and was to be met again and again, by the mouth of God. There had in the former been some excellent features, but not without a lapse or two, even at the foundational level!

There is indeed nothing wrong with the work of the mouth as such; indeed, those who are ashamed of Christ on earth can expect a reciprocal result in heaven (Luke 9:25-26). Rebuke, exhort with all authority, says Paul to Timothy (II Tim. 4:2). The mouth has its most crucial place; but it is not alone.

Thus when Christ was arrested, Peter with the normal felicity of function, was ready to act. Yet it was not felicitous how it was shown. He cut off the ear of one engaged in the arrest of Christ. This may have resulted from dedicated devotion to Christ, as may in intent, the desire for Him not to die. However, here as there, it was wrong, foundationally wrong.

Christ not only reproved Peter for the action, but healed the ear, surely one of the most spectacularly works of kindness you could ever desire to see. The man wrongfully seeking to arrest you for your (known to be coming) death, being hurt minimally (compared with what is wrongfully coming to the Innocent), is healed! How does Christ detest the ample authority of a commandment voiding Romanism, when it used even armies against such as the Christian Waldensians over a period of horrid turmoil, incited Kings to strike other Kings, and tortured the saints! He would not even let an ear stay lost, on His account.

Peter, let us be clear, was valiant and courageous and devoted. However, he was wrong.

Amazed at this rebuff, seeing the Master meekly submitting to being taken, and countervailing his own efforts, instead of supporting and extending them, Peter, who had earlier been non keen on the death, was now not sure what to do; so he fled. In time, he found himself at the fire in the priestly mansion, and there was three times accosted. Were you not ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE ? came the challenge. Not at all, don't know the man! replied the lying Peter. Here was an evaporating foundation! But the Church had a foundling rather  than a foundation here!

For all that, Peter, despite all, repented when he heard the rooster's crow, remembering how in this as in all, Christ was right, knew what was coming, and had after all, known an foretold what was coming over and over again (cf. Matthew 16-17). Amazingly, in this case, it was the look of the Lord, His eye on Peter as He passed from anguish to anguish in the evil judgments of that evening of His arrest, that 'spoke', with an eloquent no barrister could surpass. This and the recollection of Christ's prediction led to Peter's repentance.

As to his first lapse, concerning urging Christ not to die, there is more to ponder. Had it not indeed been shown from the first by John the Baptist (John 1:29) that this would be! "Behold," said he, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  It was not at first sight, however, when it came to the point of ACTUAL death for the Lord, a piece of news Peter liked to be taken so literally! Death in poetry ? maybe, but not actual death. But alas, Peter, sacrificial lambs DO die, and sin DOES require it!

Peter repented, weeping bitterly, his wholesome sincerity alerted, now alight and burning freely. He showed later the depth and reality of that repentance (cf. II Corinthians 7:10) in the often chaste beauty and bold courage of His walk and work for the Lord. .


Last look at  the Work in the Heart

John 21

Thus Peter ON AN OCCASION, betrayed Christ, not as a life but in a word, indeed in many words! Yet even for this, he had to answer. Thus when he had repented and wept bitterly, and found the Lord after His resurrection, Peter had the embarrassing, but soul-cleansing question: Do you love Me ? This came from Christ, and thus again the MOUTH OF GOD took precedence, assessing and investigating, ruling the case with a severe simplicity and a beautiful focus. In this instance, there was no direct confrontation, but rather an elicitation, tender but inescapable to a cleansed conscience.

This question put three times. It was as if once again, Christ were saying, this time to the apostle: ANSWER ME! Do not quaver, do not equivocate, but ANSWER ME! Peter did, first in word and then in deed. His deeds showed the truth of his words. Peter made his answer, through the torrents of events, correcting for zeal misled, for weakness misapplied, and becoming indeed a blessed Christian.

Each must be willing to do no less; for though there are but few apostles, built in the Church's foundation, there are many stones, and each is like one of these in the temple of Christ, built to offer Him praise and be a structure of testimony, praise and courage, attesting the Gospel and teaching His word (Matthew 28:16ff., I Peter 2:4-9).

Each must answer with lip and leg alike; and if necessary, with bitter tears and contrition, a torrent on which the message of the Gospel can then sail untroubled on, in fidelity and with courage sent.



Friend, why have come ? ...
Matthew 26


That was the positive outcome. There is however the negative option, so amazingly popular.

It is that of Judas, who though often close to Christ spatially,  and for 3 years in one sense, an ardent churchgoer - insofar as being present with Christ in His mission was like Church work, not mere attendance, yet betrayed Him! He has many brothers.

He was a devil, known as such from the first (John 6:64, 70). For all His knowledge, however, Christ still sought the poor deluded religionist, even when he came to show the One to be arrested, as act of betrayal wrought by the atrocious deceit of kissing Him in greeting (Matthew 26:48). "Whomever I kiss, He is the One. Seize Him!" he had told the treacherous priests' searching guard.

There you have some of the elements of religion. First, even Judas is very clear as to the centre and focus of it, Jesus Christ. Secondly, he realises that one must draw near to Him, as Christians also do, for Christ is God, and it is written, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to  you!" (James 4:8, cf. Zechariah 1:3). .

It was in WHAT HE DID WITH HIM, when outwardly near, that the error lay. Focus first ? right. Draw very near to Him ? right. Then worship, and receive Him as Lord and Saviour ? so that you DO what He desires ?

In this case, the answer is no. No! instead of that,  rather seize Him, smother Him up by being near, prevent your soul hearing His voice, by being too near for a conversation; USE religion to escape Christ. This is the formula for very many indeed, and doubtless many will inhabit the legion whom Christ depicted in Matthew 7:24-26.  with the word of rejection ringing in their estranged ears: "I never knew you!" He will tell them.

How could He say otherwise, since they were merely USING HIM, not worshipping!

Let us revert to Judas. Jesus Christ Himself - even under this duress, placed in this frightful scene in which, at the shadowy darkness of night, a disciple so-called, comes with military power to seek to have Him seized while no one is about who would protest: He is slow to condemn.

In fact, He was most gracious, though He knew what was the nature of Judas (John 6:70, Matthew 26:20ff.).

How then did Christ meet this foreknown traitor ?

"Friend," He responded to that treacherous greeting, "why have you come ?" (Matthew 26:50).


That was the pointed question. It was for Judas to answer, for HE KNEW very well why he
had come! had he not been most content with the price of a block of land for the deed, paid in advance ? (Matthew 26:14-15). It was not to serve the Lord, but to seize Him; not to obey but to fray Him; not to worship but to USE Him, to secure the more amply his little nest. Whatever else he planned, this was a verified part of it.

If then even the apostles asked, each one, when Christ spoke of this coming betrayal, "Is it I ?" (Mark 14:19), Judas too asked; and Jesus in His own way and time, confirmed that he was the one (Matthew 26:25).

How intimate Judas was, right up to the Last Supper! He was dipping into the dish of the feast with Christ, so close, so cruel, so drawn, so distant: a mass of contrast surging to shame. John 13:30, tells us that Judas being exposed, "went out into the night".

It was so not only in the dark hour, since sunset, but in the dark lower of hell.

ANSWER ME! was the desire of Judas, as he asked Christ, Is it I ? ANSWER ME was and is the demand of Christ. It was this that was asked of the faithless priests, it was this that was impressed upon the fallen Peter; and it is asked of each one of us. Answer me! are you willing to follow, is it to be hollow as for Peter on that first night, but not thereafter ? Is it into the night, or into the light ?

You cannot have it both ways. If you are His, you FOLLOW Him and drawing close, do not do it in order to escape sacrifice, spirituality and godliness, His supremacy as Lord and His entitlement to your life, but to find it in yielding and obeying.

In your heart, before your next Communion, and better before next you sleep, therefore, give Him an answer, that life will attest.

It is the least one can do. After that, let the light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify God; and ensure your labours  themselves, products and conditions that they are, are wrought BY and FOR Him, in HIS Spirit, not in your own designs and desires. DOING THE WILL of GOD is not a poetic sigh, but a Christian's design, desire and yearning, and the grant of God to His people. What more exhilarating, more challenging, in patience, in reliance, in spiritual discernment, in loyalty, in love!

Yieldedness to the Lord is the beginning of service; for how can anyone serve, who is at war with the master, or who withholds the required totality of surrender for service in truth and in spirit! (Luke 14:27ff.) ? If there is just one good thing that you won't do, take care lest that very thing is a mere symbol of rebellion. BE FULL OF LIGHT! is Christ's exhortation (Luke 11:38, and not to seek to capture the stray beam that happens to strike you where you sit!

 On the other hand, if is is mere weakness that afflicts you, ask Him for the strength (Isaiah 42:3, Ephesians 3:16, 1:19, II Peter 1:4ff.), not just to look like what you know you are, but to be it; ans ask for His diligent search IN YOU, to find if there be any undetected wicked way, that you may be delivered from it. If you are a tree planted by the Lord (Matthew 15:13, Isaiah 61:3), say an orange, then what ? Seek not to appear like an orange tree, but to grow like one, imperfect maybe, but every whit an orange tree. When HE says, Go! go; and when Come! then come, and where, then there, and how ? seek to be filled with faith and grace. God is not slow to groom, and we must all grow (II Peter 3:18).





See SMR pp. 504ff., News   5, Biblical Blessings Ch.    2,

The True God has Go, Gives Growth and Glory Ch.   3,  

Barbs, Arrows and Balms  18 (the ruthless, irrational style of thinking);

Christ Incomparable, Lord Indomitable Ch.   9

Let God be God! Ch.   8

The Moon Soon, Journey  to God, or Fantasy's Flight to the Infernal



 The arising of this error is seen in some of the earlier bishops of Rome, who fought against the folly, Gregory I in a way most memorable and commendable. Below is an excerpt from SMR
pp. 913-914, on this topic.

Thus Boniface VIII, so long occupied in conflict with Philip the Fair of France, had some words echoing with divine sovereignty:

How shall we assume to judge kings and princes, and not dare to proceed against a worm! Let them perish forever, that they may understand that the name of the Roman pontiff is known in all the earth and that he alone is most high over princes. (Italics added. Address to the Cardinals against the Colonna: Schaff - History of the Christian Church, Vol.VI, p. 16.)

One had thought that God alone was most high and all the princes of the earth were as dust before Him (Isaiah 40:1-17)! Again, for ever... seems a long time for one mortal sinner to reflect on the superior, and indeed lordly powers of another mortal sinner, when it is God alone who "shall be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:10-11) when all is revealed. That day will of course take place within the 'for ever' held in view by the Roman pontiff. For ever will become never! and this by strictest principle. It is again a strong penalty pompously envisaged on behalf of one mortal sinner who specifically is not to be in the lordly mode of 'the Gentiles' (Matthew 20:25-27), if a Christian. For as Christ said:

He who is greatest among you will be your servant ... and he who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

The lesson, if learnt, would not seem to correspond to the 'humbling of himself' on the part of the pope. The object of the lesson is in fact the precise opposite - the full realisation of the ineffable power claimed by the Pope, and defended with such zeal that eternity is needed to reflect adequately on it. Such is the pope's lesson, here! Such teaching and such 'understanding', he would impart.

Further, as Schaff also observes (loc. cit.), in view of this exaltation of the Bishop of Rome alone, it is notable that, in recognising the Emperor, Albrecht, Pope Boniface declared that "as the moon has no light except as she receives it from the sun, so no earthly power has anything which it does not receive from the ecclesiastical authority". God, for His part declares:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers... He brings the princes to nothing: He makes the judges of the earth useless (Isaiah 40:22-23).

It would appear a most anomalous grasshopper who makes the princes depend on him! One of the antichrist sentiments seems commonly to be the removal of God from all practical involvement, whether verbally, symbolically, by philosophy or, as here, by mere pretension; and when you reflect on it, this is natural. To be God requires no opposition; and to make Him inoperative or irrelevant to the point, would prima facie convince some that all that was HIS was now theirs, for their own disposition; and perhaps it might almost convince some of the victims likewise!

Small wonder Boniface I, another bishop of Rome (*5) once sent a humble petition "to the emperor to provide some remedy against the ambitious contentions of the clergy concerning the bishopric of Rome" (Foxe, in his Book Of Martyrs, p. 12); whilst Gregory 1 (op. cit., p. 15) detested the vulpine vulgarity of 'universal bishop' as a title. This is merely the flesh and the spirit, as so often, at war: the one aspiring, the other adoring Christ. Thus of Gregory I, Foxe writes:

In his epistles how oft does he repeat and declare the same to be directly against the gospel, and ancient decrees of councils, affirming that none of his predecessors did ever usurp to himself that style or title and concludes that whoever does so, declares himself to be a forerunner of antichrist.

Thus did faithful Gregory, in the early days, despise such high claims to being 'universal bishop', repudiate them, claim them as novelties in the history of the church - though himself bishop of Rome. His predecessor, Bishop Pelagius of Rome, urged similarly, showing that to take such a title makes one bishop to become 'derogatory' of another. Gregory, Foxe notes, spoke "with sharp words and rebukes, detesting the same title, calling it new, foolish, proud, perverse, wicked, profane, and that to consent to it, is as much as to deny the faith." This is scarcely surprising in view of Matthew 23:10. It is not only disobedience, but direct usurpation: for the reason that it is forbidden, is this - that the post is Christ's!

I Peter 5:1 tells us that Peter is a fellow elder, and 2:25 that Christ is operative "bishop of our souls".

Verbally to arrogate that title is to derogate deity!
To assume such a role is to imitate deity in His majesty; to suffer it, is to allow idolatry!
To embrace it in the heart, is idolatrous.
We must agree absolutely with Gregory I in his assessment, in the early springtime of his office.

Wrote Gregory: "As for me I seek not mine advancement in words, but in manners: neither do I account that any honour wherein the honour of my brethren I see to be hindered... my honour is the full and perfect vigour of my brethren. Then am I honoured when to no man is denied the due honour which to him belongs... Let these words therefore go, which do nothing but puff up vanity, and wound charity..." (Foxe, loc. cit.).

In the grip of these ungoverned pontifical pretensions, long an object lesson in grasping at the sceptre of God, Pope Leo Xlll (Sapientae Christianae) could say:

Union of minds requires not only a perfect accord in one Faith, but complete submission and obedience of will { to God ? no... } to the Church, and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself. This obedience, however, should be perfect, because it is enjoined by faith itself, and has this in common with faith, that it cannot be given in shreds.

There is the crux of idolatry and the criterion of antichrist: that another snatches the sceptre, takes the post, achieves the position, masquerades quite directly as God. God is one whom no man can impersonate, because His personality is infinite; and whom no man can replace, because He says so. There is one God (Ephesians 4:4), one Lord of all; so that the mathematical error of calling one two, when there is no question of a quadripartite God, is mere blasphemy.

'Appalling blasphemy' is the sense of the "abomination of desolation" which is to be "standing in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15); and this is in Blasphemy Avenue, en route to such a blasphemy as that. There is little in development, then, at this level, before the 'man of sin' in person; but Rome, as we will see, can here only make her not insignificant contribution.

We must honour those who stood up to their contemporaries, even when important positions could have corrupted their impartiality and courage. Gregory I remains one of this author's favourites for integrity. Bishop in Rome he may have been, but under-shepherd for God, tender-hearted to his brethren, concerned for the honour unique and unsharable, of his God (cf. Isaiah 42:8), he remained in the midst of a corruptive clamour. Not only did he not SHARE the stare of hauteur which invaded Roman religion; he condemned it from where he sat!