The Biblical Role and Responsibility of a Man

Article by: Col (Ret’d)  Gerry Potter (President)

This article is an exploration of the biblical role of a man.  Genesis 1-2, a unique biblical narrative, records God’s initial design for the Creation, so this articulation of the role of a man will rely principally upon the framework described within these two chapters.  While the Fall described in Genesis 3 corrupted God’s initial design, it is my understanding that follow-on biblical references to the role of a man are intended to provide both further detail regarding God’s primordial framework and to facilitate a man’s reorientation with the original and perfect design.  At the outset, it is important to define what is meant by the term role. In the context of this assessment the term role is used as a descriptor of the fundamental duty or activity that a man is responsible and accountable before God to perform.  Since a man’s biblical roles are that which have been given by God in his Word then they are neither bound by time nor socio-cultural contexts.  Biblical male roles are universal.  Yet, the practical expression of those roles is greatly influence by the socio-cultural contexts in which Christian men live.  Though most of the passages referenced refer to both a man and a woman, the focus of this study is the roles of the man.

Genesis 1:26-28 (NASB)

In the Biblical narrative of the Creation, Elohim (God) declares that the plurality of Himself, identified in Genesis 1:2 as Elohim (God) and Ruach (Spirit), and creates human beings out of His unity.  While this portion of Scripture shows God only as Elohim and Ruach, John 1:1-5 and 1:14-18 further reveals that Jesus Christ was also present during the Creation fulfilling a central role. Thus, the Trinity, in perfect unity, created man as a binary male-female construct that He describes as imaging Himself.  The purpose for which God created man according to this passage was two-fold: the first was to procreate and the second was to rule over all living things.
There was no distinction made between the male and the female regarding the initial two-fold purpose, but rather God’s declaration clearly implies that the accomplishment of the purpose was intended to be through the unity of the male and the female, which is a reflection of the unity of the Trinity.  The implied purpose for the male-female construct was to image the Trinity in His unity.  Looking at the male and female individually then, there is an additional implied role for each of them, that being to execute their two-fold purpose in unity such that they together in the fulfillment of the roles of procreation and ruling reflect the Trinity in oneness.  A further implication is that whatever the male and female do, they do as a unity. So, from this passage there are three original roles for the man: to procreate, to rule over the creation and to perform the first two roles in unity with the female thus imaging the Trinity’s oneness.

Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB)

Though in Genesis 1, the narrative describes the global purpose of man, in Gen 2:15-17 the reader is exposed to some of the specifics of ruling and subduing, as the male, Adam, is specifically assigned the activity of cultivating and keeping the garden of Eden. The context of the verb to cultivate can be generalized to mean “to work.”  It is reasonable then to conclude that work that serves to rule and to subdue over the earth is a role that the male has been given.  This is not to say that work is a role exclusive to a male, since this would contravene the general purpose assigned to both the male and the female in 1:26-28.  However, given that the male is singled out in the role assignment there is an implied assigning of responsibility and accountability for the fulfillment of the role. Additionally, Adam was tasked to “keep” the garden which can be understood to mean that he was to protect the garden.  The requirement to protect introduces the concept of an existing threat, yet no such threat has been previously identified.  However, the requirement for protection is revealed in later passages. So, from this passage the male has two roles: to work within the creation to fulfill a general improvement agenda and to protect the creation from threats.  A third role that is obedience to God’s commands.  Obedience renders two results: the freedom to enjoy creation within a limited restricted structure.

Genesis 2:18-25 (NASB)

While in chapter 1, the narrative describes the purposeful creation of both male and female, in this passage additional details are provided as to the reasoning and the sequencing behind God’s decision to create females.  First, God announces that it is not good for a man to be alone.  A resultant implied role for a man is to avoid an independent existence and be in relationship.  God rectifies the specific “not-good” situation by creating a female as a compatible helpmate for the male. God gives further specificity to a man’s role to be in relationship, that is to be in a unity with a woman in which the two work in a integrated manner, reflective of the Trinity, to fill the earth and subdue it.  Additionally, since the woman is referred to as a helpmate to the male there is an implied role of leadership with associated responsibility and accountability for the effects of that leadership.  Also, in Genesis 2:24, a man is to leave his parents and become united with his wife, a female, becoming fully integrated with her.  There is a sense of a new entity being created in this passage, one that consists of one male and one female that together become “one flesh.” The image is that of a complete integrated unity.  It is worth noting that there is an implied role for the man of being the responsible agent for the unity.  The last implied role in this section is that of being exposed before each other and before God, and given the male’s leadership role, it can be conclude that the male had a responsibility to lead this as well.

Thus, according to Genesis 1 and 2 a man has five fundamental roles.  The first is to image God. The role of imaging God as a male is repeated in Genesis 5:1-2 and in the post-deluvian narrative in Genesis 9:6. In 1 Corinthians Paul refers to a man’s role of imaging God when he describes the complementary aspects of the male’s and the female’s specific roles in their imaging God.  For the male, he images God by having his head uncovered when he prays, which serves to reflect the image and glory of God.  In Ephesians 4:24 Paul provides additional commentary on the meaning of imaging God, a person is to “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  The image referred to in this passage is that of the “new self,” which is to put on Christ (Rom 6:5-7; 13:14).  Putting on Christ requires a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:2; Col 3:10).  So, to image God, is to emulate Christ (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; Philp 3:21), and to emulate Christ requires a renewed mind that manifests thoughts and behaviours that reflect Christlikeness. Further, a component of imaging God is the implied role of unity in community.  Unity in Genesis 1-2 is described as an integration between a man and a woman that is so complete that the two become one.  This degree of male-female oneness is repeated in Matt 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9 and Eph 5:28-33.  However, as evidenced in Gen 3:16b, unity between a man and a woman has been frustrated due to the Fall resulting in an innate struggle between the man and the woman to control the other. Yet, a man is called to over-ride his base programing through Christ-like love for his wife (Eph 5:25-33).

A man’s second role is to procreate. The man-woman construct is jointly assigned the role of procreation.  God repeats this assigned duty in 9:1, when He speaks to Noah and his sons after the deluvian flood.  In Leviticus 26 God dictates to Moses His moral code of conduct restating the role of procreation as part of a conditional promise – if God’s decrees and commands are carefully obeyed (26:3) then the consequences of the fall will be reversed including God-orchestrated procreation.  Psalm 127:3-5 describes successful procreation as evidence of God’s favour.  Yet, because of the Fall, procreation is filled with pain (Gen 3:16a).  There is no Scriptural reference that indicates that this aspect of procreation in a post-Fall world will be redeemed prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

A man’s third role is to subdue, rule and protect the Creation; or in other words to work. While the role of subduing, ruling and protecting was a permanent assignment, as a result of the Fall, the Creation has been cursed frustrating this role resulting in painful toil.  However, in conjunction with procreation, Lev 26:2-13 indicates that the effects of the Fall upon man’s role to subdue, rule and protect can be reversed if a man will follow and carefully obey God’s decrees and commands.

A man’s fourth role is to obey God. In Gen 1-2 the man was given several commands, one of which had a stated consequence should the man disobey.  The man was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, if he did then he would die (Gen 2:17).  The man disobeyed God, and then he blamed God and the woman for his failure.  The effects of the man’s disobedience were catastrophic resulting in: not only his death, but the death of the woman and the death of all mankind; and the frustration of all assigned roles.  Yet, as mention previously, in Lev 26:2-13; Deut 7:12-26; and 28:1-14 God provides an opportunity for the redemption of all that had been lost.  In Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37; Mk 12:30-31 and Lk 10:27 the Scriptures reveal the core commandment of God. Love the LORD God with all heart, soul, mind and strength; and love one’s neighbour as oneself.  According to John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 5:3; and 2 John 6 a man expresses love to God through obedience to God’s decrees and commands.

The fifth and final general role of a man is to lead.  A man’s leadership role is described in relation to a woman with whom he has entered into a relationship of unity. Characteristics of this role are described in Eph 5:25-33 and in Col 3:18-19 in which a husband is called to love his wife, like Christ loved the Church, like he loves his own body, and to avoid becoming embittered against her. A further amplification is given in 1 Pet 3:7-6 in which the man is commanded to exhibit understanding and honour towards his wife. Col 3:21 extends the man’s leadership role to his children in which he is cautioned to not exasperate them such that they lose heart. The man’s role of Christ-like loving leadership within the male-female unity construct was frustrated by the Fall which resulted in conflict and an unloving-style of leadership. Yet, the commands contained in the New Testament reveal that the man is required to counter the effects of the Fall, by imaging Christ.

Within the Creation narrative, there are several roles assigned to a man, all of which are expressed within the male-female construct, and all of which are shared with the woman with whom he is in a unity relationship, except for one, leadership. This is not to say that the female does not possess or is gifted with leadership within the family or societal context, but it is clear that God holds the man principally responsible and accountable for the couple’s state of oneness; obedience; procreation; subduing, ruling and protection of the Creation; and for imaging God.  The practical cross-cultural implications of the male’s unique role of leadership are that the man is responsible and accountable for: all decisions affecting the male-female unity; all actions affecting the subduing, ruling and protecting of the creation; modeling the imaging of God; modeling obedience to God’s commands; advancing procreation and the nurture of children and conducting his roles along with his wife in a loving, understanding and honouring manner.

The Creation narrative sets the stage for the existence of all things. God decreed that a man and a woman in a unity relationship would form the base construct for all of humanity and assigned them four fundamental roles: image God; procreate; subdue, rule and protect the creation and obey God.  To the man alone, God assigned the responsibility and the accountability to lead the fulfillment of the four joint roles.  An important next question is – What is Godly leadership?

Reflections Upon the Origin of the Knights Templar

Christians on a Mission 

Romans 12:1 

“Rejoice, brave warrior, if you live and conquer in the Lord, but rejoice still more and give thanks if you die and go to join the Lord. This life can be fruitful and victory is glorious yet a holy death for righteousness is worth more. Certainly ‘blessed are they who die in the Lord’ but how much more so are those who die for Him.” [i]
Bernard of Clairvaux

The Knights Templar had a simple and undramatic beginning.  After the conclusion of the First Crusade nine knights banded together to apply their skills and knowledge of warfare in service to the king of Jerusalem to meet an urgent need.  The group grew, slowly at first, and then seemingly exponentially in numbers and wealth.  The Knights Templar was a construct that had come of age.  The order enjoyed the favour of popes and kings, of nobles and peasants.  The order was envied by its peers and persecuted by its opponents. Yet, in spite of all the honour and wealth the order enjoyed, their existence was short-lived by monastic standards and their demise was as meteoric as their rise in popularity.  The Templars have become popularized and their history has become muddled; however, there are reliable sources that present sufficient details from which much can be learned and even applied today.  This paper will review some of the thinking that led to the Templar’s genesis and growth focusing on the two primary topics of the evolution of practical theology and men’s responses to it.

To understand the thinking that underlay the birth of the Templars it is instructive to consider the teachings of Augustine on the theology of “Just War.” In his written response to the Manichean Faustus, Augustine argues the unity of the Old and New Testaments, with a particular focus on the rightness of military actions that were on the surface seemingly wrong.  With specific reference to Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac, an act that in the eyes of an uninformed observer would have been incomprehensible, Augustine justifies Abraham’s action as having been specifically ordained by God.[i]  Also, writing of the wars conducted by Moses, Augustine argues that the conflicts were ordered by God, which therefore made such action right.  God-ordained conflict is not an evil, rather the evil would be to not enter into the conflict, which would be an act of disobedience.

…in wars carried on by divine command, he showed not ferocity but obedience; and God in giving the command, acted not in cruelty, but in righteous retribution, giving to all what they deserved, and warning those who needed warning. What is the evil in war? Is it the death of some who will soon die in any case, that others may live in peaceful subjection? This is mere cowardly dislike, not any religious feeling.[ii]

This line of thinking resulted in the first criterion for just war or conflict, that being Jus Ad Bellum– the right to go to war.  Though a conflict may be justified, Augustine also argued that the motivations of those involved in the conflict could themselves be a source of evil, which leads to the second criterion for just war, Jus In Bello– the right sorts of conduct in war.

The real evils in war are love of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power, and such like; and it is generally to punish these things, when force is required to inflict the punishment, that, in obedience to God or some lawful authority, good men undertake wars, when they find themselves in such a position as regards the conduct of human affairs, that right conduct requires them to act, or to make others act in this way.[iii]

While a fulsome investigation of Augustine’s theology on the matter of justified conflict is beyond the intent of this paper, the fundamental criteria of Jus Ad Bellumand Jus In Belloare helpful in understanding the theological logic behind the creation and operations of the Templars.

Another factor to consider is the state of European society during the 10thcentury.  In general, European society was fractured and it was violent. The grand powers of the Church and the monarchy dominated the urban centres, of which there were few, while the countryside, which accounted for the majority of territory, was rampant with lawlessness.  Chieftains ruled locally, in accordance with their individual desires. They fought with neighbouring lords at their discretion and for their purposes.  Travel was restricted due to the inherent dangers in a lawless environment where might was the determinant factor in what was right.[iv]  The mightiest was the one whose fighting men were adept at fighting from a horse, individuals that the Franks termed chevalier.  Horses large enough to carry a man encased in protective and offensive equipment and those who rode them were necessarily large, healthy and well trained.  These discriminators meant that only those of some degree of wealth could afford to be chevaliers.  Such men came from families of at least some substance and normally enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with local clergy.  Though direct lines of cause and effect are not possible to identify, the influence of the clergy and an enlightened code of conduct, evidently inherent within Germanic tribes, is viewed as a primary source for the development of a code for the conduct of mounted men.  A code of behaviour which became a system of Chivalry or Knighthood.  The code was not a written Rule, rather it was a series of practices that were learned through practice as well as observation.[v]  Given the development of the Augustinian theology of Jus Ad Bellumand Jus In Bellothe evolution of a social code of conduct in conflicts between mounted men, who were themselves somewhat educated for the time period, is likely.

In the mid 11thcentury the Holy Land had been occupied by Muslim forces since the 7thcentury.  In spite of its occupation, Church doctrine of the era, stipulated that pilgrimages to designated holy sites were “a significant penitential act after the commission of serious sins.”[vi]The need for Christians to travel to Jerusalem and environs was essential. Fortunately, Caliph Omar made a solemn promise to Sophronius the patriarch that one fourth of the inner city would remain in the hands of Christians, and pilgrims would be permitted to transit Muslim held territory to visit revered sites and objects upon the payment of a small fee.  Thus a mutually beneficial, albeit unequal, relationship between the occupiers, and Christian residents and pilgrims evolved and became the source of a peaceful co-existence. There, was evidently a spiritual revival of a sort in 1064, for over 7,000 pilgrims made the long journey to Jerusalem that year.  However, the year following, circumstances changed.  Turcoman forces under the command of emir Ortok invaded the region. 3000 citizens of Jerusalem were murdered, and Christians specifically came under sever persecution.[vii]

Twenty years later, persecution of Christians in the Holy Land had become normalized, yet Pope Urban II saw value in liberating Jerusalem from Islamic occupation.  Islamic scholars point to:wide-spread poverty in Europe and a resultant loss of faith among the populace, a power struggle between the Church and secular authorities, envy towards the wealth of the Muslim East and a papacy’s fanatical desire to export Catholicism through a militarized delivery system as precipitates of Urban’s call for crusade.[viii]While, there may be some truth within these assessments, they do not present sufficient rational to explain the overwhelming response and the apparent religious zeal that infected some who volunteered.  On 27 November 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II appealed to the 300 clerics in attendance.[ix]  An original copy of Urban’s speech does not exist; however, there are five separate accounts from either witnesses or those who spoke to clerics who had attended the Council.  The pertinent parts of his speech as it pertains to the First Crusade were: first, the Holy Land was occupied by infidels and it was the Lord’s will that it be liberated by Christians of the West; second, that any Christian who participated in the crusade, whether they died on the way to the Holy Land or they died in battle against the pagans, would earn for himself the complete remission of all sin; and third, that resources hithertofore expended in conflict between Christians must be redirected against the infidel.[x]In the 11thcentury, salvation was works-based. Penance was a standard means by which to receive forgiveness and every sin had an associated penitential act. The life of a Christian was one of confession, repentance, and penance. People lived under the fear that they would not be able to sufficiently even the scales between righteousness and sin to assure themselves of a place in heaven.  Urban II was offering the ultimate penitential act.[xi]  One year later, four armies were fielded.

The Crusader armies were disjointed. The first to arrive in the East was led by Peter the Hermit, a monk of no military training.  They were crushed.[xii]Subsequent, Christian forces were better trained, with leaders experienced in armed conflict. On 7 July 1099, Jerusalem was liberated, and Pope Urban’s II divinely assigned mission was complete. Western forces returned to their regions victorious and free from the consequences of their sins: past, present, and future.  For those who sought pilgrimage, the road to Jerusalem had been reopened. Unfortunately, though Islamic fighters had either been killed or driven out of the urban areas, those that lived continued to operate in the country side and harassed, robbed, raped, terrorized and murdered pilgrims who were transiting.

It is within this post-crusade context in 1120 that Hugh de Payens, a knight of Champagne, along with Geoffrey de Saint-Omer and seven other knights formed a small para-military type police force[xiii].  All had distinguished themselves in the battle for Jerusalem, and having witnessed the continuing persecution of Christians by localized Muslim bandits they collectively decided to apply their knightly skills and knowledge towards ensuring the safety of pilgrims and the defence of religion. Though unpaid, they formally offered their services to king Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who evidently seeing value in such service accepted their offer. Concurrently, and at the discretion of the nine, a decision was taken that they should collectively swear a solemn vow to Guarimond, patriarch of Jerusalem, embracing the fundamental monastic vows of perpetual chastity, obedience and poverty. Initially, the nine took upon themselves the name of “The Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ.”[xiv]Knights were not simple-minded men. By their nature, as previously intimated, they were themselves men of some degree of wealth and education.  They had performed the ultimate penitential service and could return home in honour and in a state of permeant righteousness.  Heaven had been earned. Yet, they remained in Jerusalem.

Military service in the Middle Ages provided the soldier with a variety of compensations: respect, honour, esteem, purpose, plunder and adventure, so there was an attraction.  It also offers moral confusion and injury, physical disease, psychological misery, physical and psychological injury and death. While there were benefits to be enjoyed as a knight, one must return to the presence of family and friends and away from the risks of battle to obtain them.  The nine rejected the benefits and by their actions embraced the cost.

In medieval times there were essentially two types of religious vows: the simple vow and the solemn vow.  The simple vow, though given in similar manner to the solemn vow, was temporary in nature, valid only while serving with a particular congregation or order, and it could be relinquished at the will of the individual.  The solemn vow was permanent, rendering the individual a religious in the canonical sense and the giver could only be liberated from his commitment at the discretion of the Church and then only in the gravest of circumstances, such as apostasy.[xv]  The nine collectively surrendered themselves to the life of a religious.

Recognizing the potential value of an increased number of Templar knights, King Baldwin II sent Hugh de Payens back to France in order to further legitimize the nascent community by obtaining “from the Pope the approbation of their order.”[xvi]  Seeking support for the initiative, Baldwin sent a letter along with Hugh de Payens to St. Bernard of Clairvaux requesting his assistance with the Pope.[xvii]  Bernard was a French abbot and the primary reformer of the Cistercian order, an order that itself was young, having only been established in 1098.  Impressed with Hugh de Payens and the concept behind the brothers of the temple, Bernard influenced the sitting of a Council at Troyes to consider Hughes application for papal recognition of the order.  At the Council Hughes explained to the Council the history and purpose of the order of the temple knights of Jerusalem. Bernard, who was recognized within the Church for his wisdom and piety and who history has deemed as the last of the Church Fathers, provided his endorsement and a Rule for the new order based upon that for the Cistercians.  The Council approved the establishment of knights of the Temple as a monastic order with a unique mission and the Rule by which they would live.[xviii]

A succession of papal Bulls increased the legitimacy, autonomy and power of the Templars. In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a bull entitled “Omne Datum Optimumthat granted the Templars a range of extraordinary privileges.”[xix]Among which, the Templar order was accountable only to the Holy See, permanently; they were exempt from all forms of tithes and taxes, they retained their own clergy, and they were the “designated ‘defenders of the Catholic Church and attackers of the enemies of Christ, a licence so broad as to be effectively all-encompassing.”[xx]  In 1144 Pope Celestine II’s Milites Templi (Knights of the Temple), granted all members of the order permanent relief from penance, essentially the same as that granted to participants who died in and on the way to the First Crusade. And in 1145 Pope Eugene III’s Militia Deireconfirm the Templars the right to select their own clergy, use their own cemeteries and to establish their own oratories, which would allow the order a steady and substantial cash flow through tithes and fees.[xxi]

There is no evidence as to why the nine chose to become religious.  During the 11thcentury monasticism in general had been experiencing a paradigm shift.  Previously, monastics were men of solitude who dedicated their lives to contemplation and prayer.  The shift was towards an outward service orientation.  Yet, the same underlying denial of self, detachment from earthly things and complete consecration to God remained as values in the evolving orders.  Within Jerusalem were the Hospitalliers, a monastic order of the new paradigm, and at the time of the Templars inception, the Hospitalliers were solely dedicated to providing medical care to injured and sick pilgrims.  It may have been that the nine were influenced by their medically oriented counter-parts, but it still would not fully explain why nine knights would surrender their lives in service to physically defending the weak and advancing the Catholic cause. It is also possible that the earlier teachings of Augustine’s Just War, and its 11thcentury interpretation and application were also influences. Initially, there was no financial gain as they lived on alms, wore old clothing and ate left over food given to them by the Hospitalliers. It is likely that these nine men were profoundly affected by: their previous training and experiences as knights; their response to Urban II’s call to arms; the immediate needs of the community in which they lived; their abilities as knights and a spiritual call to serve in the name of Jesus Christ in similar manner to their non-military monastic peers. Whatever motivation or series thereof moved the nine to take the solemn vow in 1120 in service to the sovereign and the patriarch of Jerusalem, their actions were seismic.  Within twenty-five years of its inception the small band of nine had become Pope’s Special Forces, completely self-contained, self-sustaining and self-governing.  Tens of thousands would line up and join.  20,000 would literally give their lives in sacrifice unto the mission. Yet, in spite of the Templar inspired spiritual revival, their unique and privileged position would eventually provide the stimulus for the order’s decimation.

Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President[i]John Langan, “The Elements of St. Augustine’s Just War Theory,” The Journal of Religious Ethics 12, no. 1 (Spring 1984): 21.

[ii]Augustine, “Contra Faustum, Book XXII,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, paragraph 74, accessed December 10, 2017.  http://www.newadvent.or”g/fathers/140622.htm

[iii]Augustine, paragraph 74.

[iv]Woodhouse, F. C. The Military Religious Orders of the Middle Ages: the Knights Templar, Hospitaller and Others.(Great Britain: Leonaur, 2010), loc. 116, Kindle.

[v]Woodhouse, loc. 159.

[vi]James R. Ginther, The Westminster Handbook to Medieval Theology, (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press), 151.

[vii]C. G. Addison, The Knights Templars Third ed., (London: Longman Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1842), loc. 205.

[viii]Al Jazeera, “Shock: The First Crusade and the Conquest of Jerusalem,” Al Jazeera, December 07, 2016, accessed December 13, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/the-crusades-an-arab-perspective/2016/12/shock-crusade-conquest-jerusalem-161205081421743.html.

[ix]Wikipedia, “Council of Clermont,” Wikipedia, December 11, 2017, accessed December 13, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Clermont.

[x]Charles River, ed., The Teutonic Knights: The History and Legacy of the Catholic Church’s Most Famous Military Order(Charles River Editors), Loc. 127, Kindle.

[xi]Dan Jones, The Templars: the Rise and Spectacular Fall of Gods Holy Warriors (NY, NY: Viking, 2017), loc. 309, Kindle.

[xii]Wikipedia, “First Crusade,” Wikipedia, December 11, 2017, accessed December 13, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Crusade.

[xiii]Jones, loc. 647.

[xiv]Jones, loc. 220.

[xv]Charles Warren Currier, History of Religious Orders: A Compendious and Popular Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Principal Monastic, Canonical, Military Mendicant and Clerical Orders and Congregations of the Eastern and Western Churches together with A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Relation to Religious Orders, (New York, NK: Murphy & McCarthy, 1898), pg. 31.

[xvi]Addison, loc 288.

[xvii]River, loc. 2378.

[xviii]Jones, loc. 888.

[xix]Jones, loc. 1066.

[xx]Jones, loc. 1078.

[xxi]Jones, loc. 1100.

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Readiness

William Carey (1761-1834) is historically known as the “father of modern missions.” A former Anglican, Carey became a Calvinistic Baptist Non-Conformist in 1779.  Of note, though being Calvinist in his theological understanding of salvation, Carey along with Andrew Fuller held the perspective that they were still responsible to evangelize.  Inspired by a number of predecessors, such as John Wesley, the Moravians and other earlier missionaries Carey argued for the evangelization of peoples who had not yet heard the gospel, which eventually resulted in the creation of the Baptist Missionary Society.  Taking his own advice, Carey along with his family, became a missionary to the peoples of India.

At my writing of this discussion topic I am in Jerusalem to participate in Easter celebrations, while concurrently avoiding the implications of the recently expressed Islamic call for a day of rage to correspond with Passover.  Tension in Jerusalem, and Bethlehem for that matter, I have learned, is a way of life that the general populace seems to take in stride.  What is an aberration is the frequent interjection of “Christians” who are bringing a different gospel, one that is filled with eschatological goofiness that is grounded in aberrant teachings of self-proclaimed prophets, some of which have large followings.  Likely, it is the time of year, but since this is my first visit to Israel and since my encounter with such groups has been frequent over the past week, I can’t help but make an uninformed speculative observation that there is an overabundance of such “missionaries.”  I confess that I am over sensitized to doctrinal deviations in general as a result of seminary studies and I do try to contain my surprise at the Scriptural interpretations I hear so freely and confidently thrown around like they were divine dictates from an “anointed” orator.  But, I also confess that sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

Carey observed the vast void of the gospel among heathen people and though a Calvinist who wholeheartedly subscribed to the doctrine of election, he also fully endorsed the essential need to preach the gospel so that the elect could hear the Word and by the Spirit be born again.  Unlike Carey’s century, our world is awash in digital information.  Seekers merely have to type “Jesus” into a web-browser to access a seemingly unlimited reservoir of information to inform, entertain, and titillate their senses about Him.  But, in that is our challenge.  In Carey’s day the darkness was a deafening silence, into which the Words of Scripture needed to be spoken.  Today, the darkness is the overwhelming barrage of fake gospels, which is equally deafening, but maybe more difficult to overcome.  The need for missionaries who are equipped to bring the Word is equally dire as that in Carey’s time.  I am a Calvinist in my doctrinal understanding, and I am convicted by the likes of Carey and Fuller of the need to communicate the gospel at every chance I am granted.  Trusting in the Holy Spirit to use the Word to illuminate, quicken and save those whom Christ has called.  I am also convicted of the need to train more biblically grounded messengers.

For most military Christians their India is the military community in which they work and live. Though the prevalence of churches around our communities and the wealth of information available through our hand-held devices is vast, the call of God expressed in 1 Tim 4 to pay close attention to and persevere in biblically grounded teaching is urgently needed by every believer.  Do not allow yourself to whimsically wander from one trendy “thought” to another; rather like preparation for deployment get yourself readied through good biblically teaching, so that you may be able in season and out to give the reason for the hope that is in you.

Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President

“The MCF War Room”

In 1st Timothy Paul writes to his protégé telling him to stay in Ephesus and intervene with those who were teaching false doctrine.  In Ephesus, there were teacher-wanna-bees who, as Paul describes them, were fully confident of their worldly viewpoints and sought to communicate their heresy.  It is clear from Paul’s instruction that there were many who taught error and shipwrecked not only their faith, but the faith of others.  Two thousand years later, such circumstances continue.

There is a popularized phrase that one can hear used by various personalities, both national and international, that being “fake news.”  Fake news isn’t new.  It existed when the gospel was first being proclaimed.  Paul’s council to Timothy is as applicable to you and me as it was when Timothy was in Ephesus.  So, I want us to take note of the specific action step that Paul gave to Timothy.

In Chapter 2 Paul states:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Paul’s first line of offense was petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving so that all people (that’s everyone) would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. The objective is not to be a better debater than the fake-news artist, but it is to know Christ and to make Him known.  The first means by which to attain that objective is through the spiritual weapon called prayer.

Prayer? Yes prayer!

In chapter 5 of James, the author also discusses the weapon of prayer and what is accomplished when it is welded by a person who is right with God.  It is powerful and effective.  Ordinary Christ-followers who have prayed in faith have witnessed and experienced the intervention of the Living God, who desires to answer their prayers as they intercede for others. Recently, a film entitled “The War Room” dramatically presented prayer as a weapon of spiritual warfare that when use by the Christ-follower results in spiritual breakthroughs.  Prayer is not a repetition of some magical incantation, rather it is a conversation with our Lord expressing our thanks to Him, raising matters of spiritual and practical needs on our own behalves and the behalves of others.  Jesus taught us repeatedly (Matt 18:19; 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13; 15:7; 15:16; and 16:23) that we are to present our requests, our concerns, and our hopes for the spread of the gospel.  This is what we intend to do.

During the past several months, a number of MCF members have been gathering together to pray for the military community.  The objects of our prayers have been for political and military leaders; for churches that seek to minister to the military community and for individuals within that community.  We are seeing and hearing of positive developments within those areas that we pray for.  We get it – prayer works.  So, beginning on 21 October, the Ottawa group of the MCF will live-stream on Facebook what we have entitled “The MCF War Room.”  We have chosen to live-stream the event so that you may observe, be inspired to do the same and participate either in praying with us or by submitting your prayer requests to us, which we will immediately pray for.  The focus of our prayer will generally remain the same, the Canadian military community and the proclamation of Jesus throughout.  Exact timings, and other details will be communicated to you in the following weeks.

I admit that I am nervous and a bit intimidated at where the Lord is leading us, but more than that I am excited to see what He will do.  The men, women, and families of the military community need Jesus; our mission is to bring His good news of relationship with him to this community; will you join us in the War Room?

Until All 

Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President

An invitation to stop and spend time with the Living God and with others who seek the same.

How long does it take you to get ready for the day? When I have a heavy schedule, I can be out of bed, saved, showered, dressed and in the car with coffee in hand in under 15 minutes.  If I leave by 6:00 am and drive and the traffic lights are just right, I can be in downtown Ottawa in 20 minutes.  Depending on where I park, I can end up behind a computer on and be triaging emails within 50 minutes of waking up.  Depending where you live, your timing could be faster than mine, but if you lived next door to me, you would be hard pressed to beat my time.  If I leave downtown before 3:00 pm, it takes 25 minutes to get home, again depending on the lights.  Now, I don’t have young children, but if I did, my arrival at home would be the commencement of another schedule, which would run until those kids were in bed.  Working Monday to Friday and managing a family means that weekends are full of the stuff that I didn’t have time for during the week, its catch up time.  Then there are the weekend responsibilities in support of kid’s sports, in support of church and maybe other activities.  Generally, life is busy, and for some real busy.

For the past few years the MCF has held its AGM in concert with Remembrance Day.  We chose that day because, for the military community, it is generally mandated that those serving stop and take time to remember the sacrifices of their comrades, both present and past.  As the military community is already oriented towards contemplation, it is appropriate for those who follow Jesus to concurrently fix their gaze upon Him.  In contrast to the speed of life described in the beginning of this letter, last year I sought to change that pace and offered members an occasion to extend their Remembrance Day pause by attending a spiritual retreat during which a short period of time was allocated to the MCF AGM.  For those who were able to participate and enter Christ’s rest, an experience of spiritual refreshment took place.  The after effects were not an over-stimulated “energizer bunny” as some conferences tend to produce, but rather a strengthening of faith and a deepening of friendships.

This fall, 10-12 November, we will again hold a spiritual retreat for MCF members and you are invited.  We will meet at the National House of prayer in Ottawa beginning on Friday evening, 10 November. The evening will be a time of fellowship, reflection and worship.  On Saturday morning we will meet again for a prayer breakfast after which we will proceed to the National War Memorial to witness the Remembrance Day ceremonies.  In the afternoon we will continue our reflection and prayer culminating with a fellowship meal.  After the meal we will hold the business portion of the weekend otherwise known as the AGM, during which those gathered will have opportunity to share what the Lord has been communicating to them during the previous two days.  Our evening will conclude with worship and prayer.  Sunday, MCF members from out of town will be invited to attend local churches of their specific faith tradition.  We will provide recommendations based upon a survey of churches that will feature a military community oriented service as part of the Remembrance Day weekend.

Please inquire of the Lord if He desires that you come and be part of the 2017 spiritual retreat and then contact the MCF office to let us know so that we can prepare for your arrival.  Over the next few weeks additional details will be forwarded to you.  May you know the peace of the Lord our Saviour.

Until All 

Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President

2017 – GOALS

2017-goals.

Last month, On November 11th and 12th, the MCF held its first spiritual retreat in conjunction with the annual general meeting.  The intent was to come together in the name of Jesus, stop our busy routines, worship, fellowship, reflect upon the Word, listen and pray.  The hope that prompted the retreat was that we would encounter the Lord in a tangible way.  We were not disappointed.

The two-day retreat began with a prayer breakfast at the National House of Prayer.  Next, all those gathered, walked to the National War Memorial to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony.  After the ceremony, folks fellowshipped over lunch.  Beginning in the afternoon of the 11th and running until the afternoon of the 12th we followed a pattern of: orientation, silent prayer, scripture reading and meditation, then communal reflection upon what each person learned and experienced during their contemplative time with the Lord.  The retreat was based upon two words: disciple and disciple-making. When the group reviewed the results of the communal reflection period several themes became obvious, which together provided direction for the MCF.

In Matthew 18 Jesus responded to what in military terms could be called “careerism.”  Careerism occurs in various degrees, but the central issue is the pursuit of a mission for the primary purpose of advancing one’s career, one’s self interests.  The disciples came to Jesus and asked Him “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Wow, it’s difficult to believe that they could be so bold, so presumptuous as to ask such a question.  Yet, I appreciate their honesty.  Who hasn’t sought to be elevated?  The military’s personnel evaluation system is dedicated to elevating people and most members are assimilated into its thinking, but the mindset is counter-Kingdom.  Jesus’ response is to point to a child as the standard for greatness: humble, trusting and obedient.  While Jesus continued to amplify His point, it is verse 20 that reflects part of what the Lord was communicating to us at the spiritual retreat – “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.

The MCF’s mission is to bring the gospel to the military community.  Ok, then how?  Should we hold regional evangelistic meetings?  Should we preach on street corners?  Should we produce all sorts of printed material and distribute it door-to-door?  Should we knock on doors, should we host MCF events?  How people and organizations have communicated the gospel is diverse; however, the direction to the MCF reflects Matthew 18:20.  Small groups of two or three people are the core of how the MCF is to bring the gospel.  One-on-one disciple-making and discipleship.  While the MCF operates within a military culture, which is personified by a hierarchy of authority, the MCF is a network of small, and some would say very small, groups in which one member disciples another.  The group needs to be singularly focused on following Jesus together.

So, over the next year there are five simple goals that I would like each of us to pursue together:
  1. Every member is in an MCF small group (2-3 people – sometimes more);
  2. Every member understands who Jesus is and how to become one of his disciples;
  3. Every member can confidently present their testimony of faith in Jesus;
  4. Every member can confidently explain how to become a follower of Jesus;
  5. Every member is active in praying regularly for at least one unsaved family member or friend.
Jesus wants us to disciple others as we go about our lives.  The pursuit and achievement of these five goals will enable each of us to fulfill His call on our lives.  Pursuing these goals together within the military community will enable us to achieve the MCF mission.

Until All
Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President

“Remember me”

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Remember Me
Jesus, beaten, tortured, humiliated, on the cross, crucified, thirsting, bleeding, dying, an object of ridicule, receiving on to Himself the sin of the world for all time for every person who had lived, who lived and who would live.  Jesus, in the midst of the physical and emotional pain, who also was experiencing the rejection and judgement of God the Father, experiencing the most profound spiritual pain, heard the voice of the criminal who had been crucified beside him – “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The criminal, who was dying beside Jesus, admitted openly, that he was being punished justly, that he was getting what his deeds deserved.  Incredibly, through the illumination that only comes from the Holy Spirit, the criminal recognized Jesus as sinless, as the King of kings, whose kingdom transcended this world.  In his absolute poverty, the criminal appealed to Jesus, “remember me.”
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31, tells us, that God choses those whom society rejects to nullify those whose worldly position gives them reason to boast.  God’s man, the person who is granted entrance into the kingdom, is the one who reflects the criminal on the cross.  Broken in spirit, broken and contrite of heart, aware of one’s lostness and need of a saviour, this is the person whom God remembers (Psalm 51:17).
Some, will appeal to Jesus “Lord, Lord, remember me” but they will not enter the kingdom, and instead they will hear Jesus say “I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers.”  What a horrible day that will be for those who Jesus does not remember (Matthew 7:23).
Friday, 11 November, is the day we remember the sacrifice of men, women, families, communities, and countries.  We are grateful for the temporal freedom that we have been given as a result of their sacrifice. As you take pause this day, to show your love and respect, as you bow your head, please take time to plead your case before the Father, to bow your soul in the full acknowledgement of your sinfulness and the just consequences that you deserve and ask Jesus – “remember me.”
God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9) and keeps His promise and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9). God will sanctify you through and through (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Jesus, remember me.

Update to the MCF Spiritual Retreat and AGM 2016

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A reminder to set aside a few days to join us for our first annual spiritual retreat in Ottawa, which will coincide with our annual general meeting. On Friday, November 11th, there will be an MCF prayer breakfast at 7:00 am at the National House of Prayer, 17 Myrand Ave, Ottawa, ON. K1N 5N7, which will be followed by attendance at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in downtown Ottawa.  Lunch is available at the Chateau Laurier, or at various Messes in Ottawa. For information on these, please contact the MCF office.
 
In the afternoon, beginning at 1:30 pm, at Greenbelt Church, 839 Shefford Rd Ottawa, we will spend time reflecting upon Jesus’ call to us to make disciples.  The session will start with a tutorial on disciple-making and then continue with individual prayer and meditation on the Scriptures.  We will then come together again to share what the Lord has been communicating to us individually.  We will close the day at approximately 5:30 pm. 
 
On Saturday, November 12th, a small change in the schedule, we will recommence at 9:00 am with prayer and worship.  Snack and coffee will be served and in our second session we will consider the concept of discipleship.  Following a similar agenda to the previous afternoon, we anticipate ending the session at 12:00 and then share lunch together, which will be provided.  The annual general meeting will commence at 1:00 pm.
 
Please reply to this email if the Spirit leads you to join us in Ottawa.  As we get closer to the weekend of the spiritual retreat, more details will be forth coming.
 
Life is busy, there are many demands to which we must respond.  God knows this and He gives us strength to endure, but He also instructs us to stop, listen, and pray.  Take time to be still and know that He is God.  I invite you to come and stop together on the 1st annual MCF spiritual retreat.

Soldier on

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…1 Peter 4:1,5  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 
It was during my second posting that I became a follower of Jesus.  Circumstances in my life had become dire. Work was suffering, relationships were suffering, and financial challenges were overwhelming. I came to the end of myself. Christ stepped in front of me and figuratively held out His hand.  I was a broken man, my pride was gone, so I grabbed hold, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and He began His work in me to transform me, my life and my mission to being that of a servant, a Disciple-maker.
The joy and the peace I experienced as a result of my re-birth was extraordinary and, being a person who likes to share experiences, I shared my new found faith with my spouse, my friends and co-workers. Oddly, they weren’t as excited as I was about my experience with Jesus.  Some were polite, some less so.  For a short while I enjoyed a type of honeymoon with Jesus.  When I read His word I understood, when I spent time with other Christ-followers I was inexplicably encouraged and when I worshiped with others, hearing His word preached and singing songs that praised Jesus I was filled with that crazy consuming joy.  I know that at times I was irritatingly joyful, but it was uncontrollable.
Soon, my friends and colleagues began to push back.  On occasion they would avoid me, sometimes walk away, and sometimes maliciously attack me.  I began to learn to temper my enthusiasm. However, the push back began to turn into efforts to get me to compromise the rule that I had chosen to follow.  When I did not compromise, then ridicule followed. It followed me into the work place and it followed me into social settings and I began to withdraw.
The description given in 1 Peter 4 of what a follower of Jesus will experience is real.  It will be different for each of us depending on our life circumstances, but the effects will be very similar.
I came to a point where I had to make a decision between three options: blend in, go along to get along, so that the persecution would stop; continue to withdraw and isolate myself so that I could minimized the frequency and intensity of the attacks; or I could resume my willingness to be transparent about my love for Jesus regardless of the reaction.  After a few weeks of discussions with God, my pastor and my fellow believers, I chose option three.  I admit that the experience did temper my enthusiasm somewhat, and I was not as bubbly with some people as I was before, but I lived my faith openly.
The efforts of others to get me to compromise resumed with intensity, but my temporary retreat seemed to steel my will to follow Jesus.  Instead of withdrawing, I placed the names of my persecutors on a piece of paper and prayed for them daily. I asked God to help me remain faithful, to love those who sought to cause me harm, and to give me opportunities to serve them.  Those opportunities came and I served.  Eventually, the attacks diminished and became infrequent, and some began to ask questions about this Jesus, even going to church to check Him out and some, even becoming Christ-followers themselves.
Jesus tells us that the struggles that Christians face are many times the result of the spiritual forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12), who use people and circumstances to persecute Christians, but we also are told that those forces are no match for the power of the Living God who lives in the Christ-follower in the form of His Spirit (1 John 4:4-5). “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.”
I have been walking with Jesus for 33 years now.  My circle of friends and colleagues still contains many more non-believers than believers.  The joy I have in Christ continues unabated as does the persecutions, albeit they are more sophisticate and subtle now, yet I know I still fight the same enemy and I still use the same weapons and in Christ I still win.  I am grateful for Jesus and His love for me, I am grateful that He still gives me opportunity to serve in His mission, to be in the fight.
How about you? How goes the fight? We are in this together, and though it might seem at times that the darkness has the edge, it has already lost.
Soldier on.

The Gospel

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The two-word phrase “the gospel,” is derived from the Greek word “euangelion.” Though not a commonly used phrase today, on occasion one hears its use within Western English speaking society as a metaphor that attributes the quality of truth to a particular set of assertions. While the roots of the phrase pre-exist its use in the New Testament, the quality that it denotes when it is used to qualify a grouping of ideas is derived from its use in the Bible.

Within Christianity, the phrase has been used to describe various view points as to what Christians should be doing to improve their surroundings and in so doing, working to steadily usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. However, theologically this is an incorrect premise. 2 Peter 3:10 tells the reader that the earth is destined for complete renewal, so no amount of effort on man’s part will hinder what is in store for the earth on the Day of the Lord. Other Christians take the perspective that the gospel is about loving one’s neighbour, commonly referred to as “the social gospel.” The responsibility for Christians to love their neighbour is foundational; it is one of the two core commands pronounced by Jesus, yet it is a command for the right conduct of those who have become children of God, and while it is good news for those who are in need of social assistance, for those who are concerned for the environment; for social equality; for social justice, etc.; it is not the good news of The Gospel.

As communicated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which is the clearest, concise and most precise explanation, The Gospel is simply:

  • Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
  • Christ was buried;
  • Christ was raised to life on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Romans 10:9 communicates that if a person declares with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead, that they will be saved.  While The Gospel is simple and it can be stated in a few short phrases, man’s comprehension and subsequent response to it requires the supernatural intervention of God’s Holy Spirit, who grants the gift of faith to a person, enabling them to act in accordance with Romans 10:9.
When I was 13 years old, I recognized my need for Jesus and I responded to an offer to confess and repent of my sin, declaring Jesus as my Lord, believing in His death and resurrection as the sole means by which I am forgiven.  Yet, it was not until I was 26 years old and at the end of myself, that I surrendered my life to Jesus.  Today, 33 years later, my awareness of my need of Jesus and my gratefulness for the salvation that I have received continues to increase.  Without Jesus, I am lost: spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically.  With Jesus I have hope: hope for today and for tomorrow; hope for my family and for those whom God has allowed me to have influence with; and I have hope for eternity.
I have heard it said that the Church is the hope of the world, and while the phrase sounds good, I am not sure of its theological soundness.  My understanding is that The Gospel is the hope of the world, and the Church has been assigned the task of communicating it to the world.  The Church is the chosen tool of God with which He communicates His message of hope and He has given it clear, concise and precise orders – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”[1]  God has not given this directive to anyone else, so the hope that the world needs will come only from the church.  As such the church must be focused on communicating The Gospel.  Though there are many “good” activities that the church could be involved in, if the communication of The Gospel is not its primary intent, if The Gospel does not permeate everything that the Church does, then it is abdicating its primary purpose and the world is lost.