[Above: The ruins of the 12th century Augustinian Priory at Llanthony. From a watercolour by Lorens Fancourt.]
XIV. NEW FACES - OLD ERRORS:
THE WAY OF CAIN
(Report of Sermon preached in Westminster Chapel, London, on Sunday morning, 28th January, 1979)
“Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion:” Jude 11, N.I.V.
We have seen in our present series that though Jude’s concern is to preserve the faith once delivered unto the saints he spends more time with these men who threatened that faith than he does in giving an exposition of what that faith is. We have already explained why he had to do this. But there is still another explanation why he spends so much time with these men, namely this: these men who wormed their way in became prominent. They not only got into the church but they gained ascendancy; they spoke for Christianity and for the church to the world and gave the world the impression that what they were saying is what true Christianity really was. In other words, the true spokesman - the true heirs of the Gospel - were transcended, eclipsed and set aside by these false men who had taken over. Therefore Jude our Lord’s brother and Peter (in 2 Peter) use all the influence they have and warn the church. They come forward with these epistles, and they take pen in hand that they might unite and solidify and encourage those true members of the family of God. He exposes these men for what they really were.
Now Jude wants to add something that can be put in terms of
two propositions. First let me read the
11: ‘Woe unto them! for they have gone in
the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and
perished in the gainsaying of Core.’ Jude, following what
he has said already, wants to add two things.
First, he wants to consider the awful destiny that awaits these
men. And second, he wants us to know
that there is nothing really new in what these men are saying - what they have
argued for or what they have done. These
men may have the prominence; they may have the prestige; but consider their
end, says Jude. ‘Woe unto them!’
This word ‘woe’ is used in the Gospels by our Lord particularly; you can find it in Matthew 23: 13-33, when Jesus upbraided the
Pharisees. It is used more than once in
the book of Revelation but only once by the Apostle Paul when he said, ‘Woe is me, if
I preach not the gospel!’ (1 Cor. 9: 16). It is this Greek word
ouai. It almost
sounds like ‘woe’. It is translated ‘alas’ in the Authorised Version in Revelation 18: 10.
It is a short word both in Greek and in English that intends to convey
the saddest possible condition. In every
case in which it is used one can see that if there had been a stronger word,
then it would have been used. But this
is used to denote a culmination of calamity and pathos, of hopelessness and
sorrow. When Jesus upbraided the
Pharisees, He called them hypocrites, and at least eight times in one section
says, ‘Woe unto them!’ But it is not until
the end of that section that He tells why they should be afraid of that woe,
and that is: ‘How can you generation of vipers escape the damnation of hell?’
(Matt. 23: 33).
For the word ‘woe’ not only denotes calamity in the here and now but eternal doom in the
world to come. It is used in the book of
Revelation in this twofold sense. For
example, in Revelation 8: 13 the
fourth angel sounded: ‘And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of
heaving, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters
of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels,
which are yet to sound!’ In Revelation 12:11 ‘Woe to the inhabiters of the earth
and of the sea! for the devil is come down
unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.’ In Revelation 18: 10: ‘Standing
afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas,
alas, that great city
Well, then, Jude uses this word ‘woe’ to express the end of these men. It not only shows the ominous destiny that is
pending but it is a word that is used to show that there is no recovery. Once this calamity takes place it is
irrevocable and final. Jude says three
things more regarding these men. They
followed after Cain, after Balaam, and after Korah. By perverting the Gospel that was presented
to them, these men who usurped the privilege of making a profession of faith
are now in the position of awaiting nothing but eternal damnation. Yet these men, as I have said, made their
profession. It is one more awesome
reminder that there is nothing sacramental or automatically guaranteeing about
making a profession of faith, or joining a church, or being baptised. These men had done all that is required,
outwardly speaking, of people who profess faith in Christ. But Jude is pronouncing ‘woe’ unto them because the never ratified
hearts what they had done
outwardly. The fact that they could make
a profession and still be condemned has already been explained by Jude in verse 5 and in that connection we saw three
examples altogether (vv. 5‑7). Jude often uses three
examples. These triads, as we have seen, are peculiar to this style, for no
other writer in the New Testament uses these triads quite like Jude. He referred to the generation of
Now Jude selects three examples again to show further that these men, by what they had argued in their day and how they twisted the Gospel, really had said (or done) nothing new. He wants us to see that they are but new faces repeating old errors. New faces - old errors. It was the German philosopher Hegel who said that the only thing we apparently learn from history is that we do not learn from history. The preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes said that what has happened will happen again and what has been done will be done again, for there is ‘nothing new under the sun’ (Eccl. 1: 9). ‘Is there anything of which one can say, Look! this is new? No, it has already existed long ago before our time’. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. put it like this: ‘When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back.’ One of the most important lessons to learn is that there is nothing new under the sun.
Perhaps Satan’s most common strategy is to make things look new or unique, whether it is with reference to a circumstance or an idea. The way he always tempts a Christian is to make things converge in such a manner that one will say, ‘Well, in my case it’s all right because God knows the circumstances have coalesced in such a way that this matter is unique.’ If you have ever had that thought, it is not new. It is Satan’s strategy. He does the same thing with our understanding of history. He makes things look so different that we are tempted to say that there is no way of dealing with this particular problem, that it is absolutely unprecedented. And so he makes us think there is no precedent for what is going on. This is the way he deals with young people. He says to young people - especially teenagers, ‘The older people don’t understand you. They have not had this to go through. Problems are different now. Everything has changed.’ The devil gets even theologians and biblical scholars to think the same way, so that the Bible will lose its credibility: ‘We have a different cosmology from that which was known when the Bible was written.’ Some theologians today undermine the Reformers because the Reformers thought the world was flat. ‘We know now that it is round; therefore, we can’t listen to the Reformers. They didn’t have our problems.’ In a word: this is Satan’s way of making us think that what is going on now is entirely different, and circumstances are completely unprecedented in history.
What is Satan’s ploy to the church in our generation? It is to say that man has ‘come of age’ and that the Gospel emerged in a pre-scientific age, at a time when there was an antiquated cosmology. ‘That means that the Gospel for our day must be reconstructed.’ This term is sometimes used in order to reach modern man. This ‘reconstruction’ has popularly taken on two forms. There are several other forms that could be mentioned, but the most widely known in our generation are these two. The first is called ‘demythologising’. That is the term used by the late German New Testament scholar Rudolph Bultmann. Here was his thesis: the Gospel emerged when unenlightened man still believed in mythology. For that reason there was no difficulty for men in the church to believe in miracles. They could readily believe that Peter walked on the water because it was a superstitious age. They could believe that Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes. They had no difficulty in believing that Jesus rose from the dead. This way of thinking carried over into the middle ages and the last vestige of it is in unenlightened evangelicals. Modern science has claimed that man evolved from the ape, from lower forms of animal life. We should listen to science; therefore, we have to be honest and say the Bible is not infallible. The Bible is mythological, like what you find in other literature of the same period. These myths are not unlike the bizarre tales to be found in Greek mythology and yet, says Bultmann, there is something valid in the Gospel as it was upheld by the church. So rather than reject it entirely, we demythologise it. Now it is interesting that Bultmann took his cue from an atheistic philosopher, the German existentialist Martin Heidegger. He admitted this and everybody knows about it. Bultmann and Heldegger were contemporaries, but the interesting thing is that Bultmann took his cue from Heidegger before Heidegger himself went into a new phase. Bultmann’s books were written when Heidegger was in his earlier phase. People refer to the ‘early’ and the ‘later’ Heidegger. Bultmann’s thinking comes from the ‘early’ Heidegger.
I come now to the second form of ‘reconstruction’. Believe it or not, it follows the ‘later’ Heidegger.
A good example is Paul Tillich, the American philosopher from
Very well then, these are but two ways of looking at things, whether you take the demythologising enterprise of Bultmann or its advanced form from Heidegger - or secular theology. We need to see that this is nothing new. It has happened before. It is simply new terms and new faces repeating the old errors. Today’s theologians are often playing but a repeat performance of what Jude warned about in ‘these men’. How do we know this? Because the approach so often seen today is much like that of those Jude warned against. Now Jude’s task was to show that the men of his day were saying nothing new. He was showing that they were repeating something that had long been exposed. (I might say in passing that there have been some perceptive historical theologians that have shown in a very academic and convincing way that Bultmann and Tillich are nothing but Gnostics in new dress, for they both essentially adopt an intuitive way of knowing. The Greek gnosis is largely understood as knowledge at an intuitive level.) And so in Jude’s day there were these Gnostics, who had a way of knowing that bypassed the supernatural revelation in the Gospel.
Well then, Jude opposed those in his day and showed how they are to be condemned. But he begins by simply saying, ‘Look at their end. Woe to these men!’ He doesn’t merely feel a need to mention them casually; we are to see the pathos, the sadness, that lies behind these men. For look what is going to happen to them!
But now let us move to this second proposition, simply to show that it is nothing new that they are saying. Now the first time Jude refers to these men he felt a need to vindicate the promise that a man could believe and still be condemned, and we have already dealt with that. We have seen how Jude managed that dilemma. Now in dealing with them this time Jude does not dignify their intellect; he does not cower to them, or even say, ‘Well, they have got a point.’ Neither does he say we have room for them in the Christian church, or that the church is broad enough to include blasphemers. No, Jude doesn’t look at it that way and he is not intimidated by these prominent thinkers. For their learning does not impress him. Their prestige and power does not impress him. He sees these men for what they were; men who revive ancient sin. One thing today’s theologians seldom get around to dealing with, by the way, is that the shameful sins and evil acts that characterised unenlightened man have not disappeared now that man is enlightened. Though man has come of age, he has not changed. And so men today want to demythologise the Gospel but they never succeed in demythologising sin. Jude’s method will bear our looking at. Rather than pay homage to the stature of these men or their ideas he simply exposed them as reviving an old way of thinking.
Now we may ask, How old? Well, about as old as one can imagine. He takes us all the way back to Cain. ‘They follow after the way of Cain.’ Who was Cain? He was the first person to be born in the world. He was the first child of Adam and Eve, thus the first to be born into fallen nature. Now in this we are all like Cain, for all of us are by nature ‘children of wrath’ (Eph. 2: 3). However, Jude is not referring to Cain’s inherited depravity. What else do we know about Cain? He was a tiller of the ground and he brought an offering to the Lord but it was not accepted. Cain had a younger brother whose name was Abel. Abel brought an offering to the Lord which was accepted. Cain’s offering was the produce of the soil. Abel’s offering was the first-born lamb from his flock. Cain became jealous and killed his brother and was therefore the first murderer. Well then, is Jude claiming that these Gnostics were murderers? No, he is not actually claiming that. He is saying that these men went the ‘way’ of Cain. He is dealing with the cause rather than the effect.
What was the ‘way’ of Cain? It is the same Greek word used in John 14: 6: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ Rather than go in the way of Christ they went the way of Cain. And what was that? Three things we may say. First, it was to produce righteousness by his own hands. That is what Cain wanted to do. He felt no need of a righteousness outside himself. He did not think that atonement for sin by way of a sacrifice was necessary. After all, an offering for sin by way of a sacrifice was too unimaginative; it was too unoriginal; too unsophisticated. The way of Cain, then, was to go his own way - to be creative and be the one who thought it first.
The second thing about the way of Cain is this. It was to reject revealed knowledge even after the error had been exposed. Now here is what happened. When Cain’s countenance fell and his offering was not accepted, God said, ‘Wait a minute. If you do well you will be accepted.’ Now nothing can be fairer than that. And God went on to say, ‘If you do not do well, sin crouches at the door which you must reckon with on your own.’ See Genesis 4: 2-8. In other words, what God said to Cain was virtually this: ‘A sacrifice will provide for you a complete substitute; you will be judged not by what you do but that sacrifice will be looked at. There will therefore be no sin for you to answer for. But if you don’t do it this way’, God says to Cain, ‘sin will lie in your lap.’ And here is the point: ‘Not only will sin be imputed to you but its actual dwelling in you will master you and it will be your responsibility now to handle sin on your own. It is in your own hands; you must master it by your own strength without atonement.’ That was God’s advice. It was revealed knowledge but knowledge that was rejected, and rejected even after Cain had been exposed.
The third thing that is to be said about the way of Cain is this, that
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Never would Cain say anything like that.
But Abel’s offering took no imagination. It took no genius. It was simply to offer a lamb. But that’s what God wanted. That was God’s way. Cain’s sin, which was not atoned for by an external sacrifice, was internalised. His sin was then actualised; jealousy took over, and Cain demonstrated his hostility toward God by killing his brother. In a word: the way of Cain was to refuse to worship God in God’s way. Cain preferred his own righteousness as the way by which he wanted to be accepted. He played the game of one-upmanship with God. God would not have that.
Thus when Jude says that these men went the way of
The way of Cain, then, although it is primarily imitating the
cause, ends up imitating the effect. It
does so in this way: as Abel was the
first martyr of the
This trick is still used today. For those who claim to be on the cutting edge of things fancy themselves as the intellectually elite. They alone are the ones who think! They have the learning, the best minds. And so they always want to make an evangelical look stupid and dull. Of Evangelicals they say, ‘They are an ignorant lot; they are hardly learned; they are deprived.’ This approach is often their method. They imply, ‘If you don’t agree with us, you are just not very clever.’ And yet this is a warning to all of us lest we unwittingly imitate them and say that those who don’t agree with us aren’t clever enough.
For we are not dealing with something that is to be seen on the level of one’s intelligence or learning but it is whether or not one dignifies the Gospel as it is presented. The simplest mind or the most brilliant mind still has a responsibility to dignify and honour what God gives him in the Word. Well, I say, the favourite weapon of these men - is to exalt their intellectual superiority and their learning and to imply that those who hold to something as a blood sacrifice for atonement are stupid and ignorant. Behind the times!
And so it was in Jude’s day. These Gnostics wanted to make Christianity into a philosophy. They wanted to give Christianity a philosophical dress. What they wanted to do was this: they wanted to reach modern man. Modern man is nothing new. That is the very thing the Gnostics wanted to do in their day ‑ to reach modern man! Modern man emerges in every generation. These men in Jude’s day are like those who want to show that the Jews (for example) - need not look at Christianity as a stumbling block; and the Greeks need not look at Christianity as foolishness. Modern man is nothing new. Every generation has modern man and we are always confronted by the same problems. Paul faced modern man. Did Paul de-stigmatise the Gospel to reach modern man? No, he simply said: ‘We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, whether they are Jews or Greeks (or whatever), Christ becomes the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1: 23f). Paul could say unashamedly, ‘If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost’ (2 Cor. 4: 3).
Demythologising the Gospel is nothing but the ancient attempt to destigmatise the Gospel. There have always been those who resisted the Gospel. There were always those who rejected the miracles, there were always those who refused to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It is nothing new.
My fellow Christians, there is one thing that cannot be demythologised; there is one thing which man by himself has never been able to control or to suppress. The most advanced learning has not dealt with it. Science and philosophy sweep it under the carpet. Theologians today are often annoyed by it. It is called sin. Sin is unbelief, Rebellion, Lawlessness, Exalting man, dethroning God. Neither philosophy, nor art, nor science, nor chemistry, nor geography, nor archaeology, nor architecture, not medicine, nor psychiatry, nor middle-class morality, nor politics, nor parliament, nor royalty, nor aristocracy, nor industrialists, nor trade unionists - nobody has yet made the first dent in this ancient phenomenon called sin. It is still with us. And men want to ignore it.
There is only one remedy for sin. It still baffles the intelligence; it still embarrasses the philosopher and it insults the sophisticated. And yet it is the only thing that works! It still brings the drunkard out of the gutter. It still takes the prostitute off the streets. It still gives dignity to the dope addict and the dope pusher and restores to him a sense of self-respect. It is the only thing that can heal the conscience and take away all his guilt. It will let the vilest man here know this. It will work for you. It still heals families and restores a sense of worth to the home. And it is that which will bring dignity to our nation. I speak of the blood that flowed in the veins of the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God. That blood that flowed from the veins of Him that was hanging on that middle cross will cleanse the most wicked person. I refer to Him that cried out, ‘It is finished’. Men and women may look to Him and be changed!
Woe unto them who refuse to dignify what He did.
But woe to us if we don’t preach it.
* * *
THE TEN VIRGINS
CALL TO CONSECRATION
H. S. GALLIMORE, M.A.*
Few of the Parables have aroused such interest as this (Matt. 25: 1). Over none has there been more divergence of opinion.
This expositor advances one interpretation; that, another. Often the interpretations are mutually contradictory.
Forgetting for the moment the innumerable tracts, pamphlets, dissertations, and sermons on the subject, let us adopt the attitude of a child which opens its lesson book and ponders some simple yet vivid allegory for the first time; depending on the context for conclusions and unembarrassed by theological subtleties and niceties.
If, in biblical symbology, ten is, in fact, the number of testing, and five the number of grace, the ten virgins seem to figure the church of the end. The kingdom of heaven is likened, not to five virgins, but to ten. Ten was sufficient for a company. Ten Jews were entitled to a synagogue.
Thus the ten virgins represent the visible church at the moment of the Second Coming. Nay, more: they typify the actual church militant; the genuine, not the sham believers. Yet, though all were entitled to the robe of virginity; though all went forth to meet the bridegroom; though all were differentiated from the surrounding neighbours who had little or no interest in the approaching wedding, nevertheless their degree of preparedness was not uniformly the same. Five were wise and five were foolish.
The wisdom of the wise consisted in providing sufficiency of oil the folly of the foolish, in not providing enough.
An oriental wedding commonly takes place at night. In the present instance, the ten virgins were to join the bridal procession en route to the bridegroom’s house, the future home of the bride. There, they were to share the festivities. The party, however, was long in coming; the hours dragged by; the night wore on. The virgins first nodded, then slumbered, then slept. Meanwhile, the lamps, the wicks becoming charred, began to burn low.
Though their preparation was complete, even the wise virgins lost somewhat of, should we say, the excitement over the interesting scene in which they were shortly to be participants. But, at midnight, when least expected, when all were sunk in deep sleep, the cry rings out – “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him!”
And now it is that the scene assumes a solemn and dramatic aspect; but nothing to the anti-type. A few moments suffices the wise to replenish their lamps and clean the wicks. The foolish, on the other hand, find that the oil which lasted during the hours of waiting is not enough for the crowning ceremony. They trim their lamps and find them dying.
Nor can their wiser sisters help them. The oil is incommunicable. It is no more available at the crucial moment than intercessions of saints, mothers’ prayers, and so-called works of supererogation will be at the Day of the Lord and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Furthermore, their own prayer for admission was unavailable the failure was irretrievable; the door was shut.
Late, late, so late and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late but we can enter still!
Too late, too late ye cannot enter now!
When studying parables, we have to distinguish between the essential part and the trappings. The tarrying is an essential part. It was a hint of long delay. So were touches here and there elsewhere, scattered through the New Testament. Such were – “My lord delayeth his coming”; “After a long time the lord of those servants cometh”; and so forth. The early Church was organized on a permanent basis. Yet the possibility of an immediate coming was never overlooked.
How are we to interpret the midnight cry? Does it foreshadow that mighty, world-wide preaching of the Second Coming which has gathered in millions of souls during the past hundred years? One believes it does; but the point cannot be laboured, inasmuch as the said converts were allowed ample opportunity for salvation and sanctification.
* * *
THE TRIAL OF JESUS
The Sanhedrim, a court regularly constituted of
But there are technicalities: although establishing a grave
presumption against the equity of the Sanhedrim, they are not fatal; it is
conceivable that, in spite of technicalities violated, substantial justice
might yet be done to a prisoner. We turn
therefore to the Trial. Two charges
were brought against Christ: the first sedition, the second blasphemy. The charge of sedition was based on an alleged
statement threatening the destruction of the
The Roman Law has been the
foundation of the soundest jurisprudence of the world: yet here again the air
is thick with illegalities. Not
one of the essentials of Roman law was observed in the trial of Jesus. There was no notice of the trial; no
definition of the charge; no invoking of the law whose breach was alleged; no
examination of witnesses; no hearing of counsel; no proof of a criminal act; no
sentence formally pronounced. Still more
amazing, the judge actually acquits the Prisoner whom he delivers to execution. Three times Pilate pronounces the
Prisoner ‘not guilty’ (Luke 23: 4,
15, 22), yet each
time re-tries Him: whereas under Roman law a prisoner might not be tried twice
for the same offence. Three
times Pilate pronounces the
Prisoner ‘not guilty’: yet over the cross, as the law required, Pilate wrote the
charge, and he wrote - treason. Three
times Pilate pronounces the
Prisoner ‘not guilty’: yet he orders his soldiers to execute the sentence of ‘guilty.’ “Jesus of Nazareth,”
says a member of the New York Bar, “was not condemned; he was lynched. The martyrdom of
The People had not yet officially condemned Jesus. Pilate, conscious of Christ’s innocence, resorts to the last expedient open to him under Roman law, short of acquittal. A judge might stop a trial at the demand of the prosecutors, if it appeared to him that that demand was prompted by just motives, and not actuated by any unlawful object. Pilate presents the Pitiful object of the Saviour bleeding after the flogging, crying, “Behold the Man!” and tries the pulse of the crowd by suggesting His release in place of Barabbas. A hoarse cry warned him off: the prosecutors refuse to drop the charge. Pilate then publicly reveals what is happening. It was a Jewish custom, in order to attest one’s innocence of murder, to wash the hands: Pilate therefore, to ensure being understood in that deafening uproar, and amid a crowd of so many diverse languages, symbolises silently that which all will understand - he washes his hands. The judge pronounces the whole transaction to be murder.
The World alas, now shares
the verdict. The issue is as momentous
as ever. “Nineteen
centuries,” says a member of the Italian Bar, “will not again go by before either the cross of
- D. M. PANTON.