25 ¶ The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
This is a tough one for Christians. We are not to fear men but to put our trust in the Lord.
Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Psalm 118:9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
But for a thousand years, Christians who refused to baptize their newborns, or as in the command of Charlemagne, up to a month old, were fined, imprisoned, had their land and children taken, and were often murdered. Some historians estimate that the slaughter of Christians by the state churches of Rome and Constantinople as well as even Zurich where the famous “reformer” Zwingli had ordered them tied into sacks and drowned in Lake Zurich, in Germany where they were stripped, beaten, and exiled and if they returned killed to the number of between 5 million and 50 million. Luther hated those Christians who refused to baptize their infants. While the Eastern Roman Empire murdered hundreds of thousands of Paulicians the Church at Rome is estimated to have killed nearly a million dissenting Vaudois Christians whose doctrinal beliefs were established in the valleys of the Alps by missionaries from Antioch, Syria in the second century. Some writers speak of an average of 400 executions per day throughout Europe in that thousand year period with charges of witchcraft being also laid at the dissenters feet and curious, bloodthirsty crowds of tens of thousands enjoying some spectacles. Medieval Catholic and Protestant Europe’s bloodthirsty lust for the blood of Christian martyrs made the Aztecs look wimpy by comparison.
Tens of millions of Christians weren’t safe physically by trusting in the Lord were they?
As Greek philosophy and pagan religion became mingled with the simplicity of the Christian message in the second century and people began worshipping in “church buildings” rather than in simple homes things began to change. When Christianity was coopted by pagan Rome in the fourth century and the Emperor Constantine made it the state religion the Roman concept of massive and beautiful buildings became the ideal. Along with the heresies introduced with “church buildings” in the second century from Greek and Roman religion was the concept that Baptism, rather than being a type of salvation, as the Bible clearly states in the doctrines to the Christian, was the means by which people were saved, that being ‘born again’ wasn’t as much by simple faith in Christ but by ritual observance, raising Baptism to a level of importance that Circumcision had for the infant Jew. Again, taken straight from pagan mystery religions this heresy became dominant in the Greco-Roman Christianity.
Christians who rejected this notion were tortured. Christians who denied this notion were murdered. Christians who refused this notion were put in prison. Tens of millions of Christians weren’t safe physically by trusting in the Lord were they?
In Pagan Rome religion was the bulwark of the state. To deny the Roman observance of religion; the temples where the god’s dwell, the emperor as a living god of the state where even Augustus signed documents as the “son of god”, the gods and goddesses of the field, of the nursing mother, of the hearth and home, and the thousands upon thousands of gods and goddesses of every facet of human life was to be unpatriotic and a hater of humanity.
The Bible believing Christian, whether it be the Old Latin of the Byzantine textual line, the Syriac Peshitta, the Gothic Bible, or any number of old versions of the Bible, had to face a pagan Christianity that said that God resided in a church building, that you came to church to “meet with God”, that you kneeled at an altar to “do business with God”, and that’s where God met with you and nowhere else, that a Pastor was really a priest like in the Hebrew religion, a “man of God” like a prophet of the Old Testament, and that to obey the Pastor was to obey God. The order of worship of the early Christians, singing psalms, praying for each other, reading from the Scriptures, some with the gift of preaching and prophesying offering their understanding of Scriptures, with people freely and joyfully exercising the gifts of teaching, hospitality, and charity toward each other became instead a structured Greco-Roman ritual. Pulpits, chairs as thrones, choirs, stained glass windows depicting important Bible scenes, and eventually pews were added as fitting for a state religion with order and Roman structure. Christians who dissented, who worshipped apart from the state sanctioned church were punished, many hunted down and killed like criminals.
Even today there are those who say there is no Holy Spirit in the believer, that it resides only in the church organization, just as there are some who say that you can’t serve God outside of the church organization. Those Christians who refused to consent to the edifice of the state church were murdered and imprisoned.
Throughout history Christians went against the prevailing laws and copied and wrote and translated the Bible into their own native tongue, sought out the Holy Spirit and a spirit filled Pastor to teach them, and constantly talked about the power of the words of God, experiencing it in their dailiy lives. And for that they were murdered and imprisoned by the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, and the millions.
Those Christians weren’t safe trusting in the Lord, were they?
But what does it mean to be safe?
Psalm 119:117 Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Were Christians promised a life free from persecution? Were those people who believed the Bible that the temple of God was their body and that He did not reside in dwellings of stone and wood, that the church was the people of God meeting, that the house of God was the family of God, that believers were saved by God’s response to their faith in Christ, that no building, ritual, so called sacrament, or observance had any saving power, who were called atheists and haters of humanity, unpatriotic, and heretics betrayed by a belief in a protecting God? Did those people who believed, as the Bible teaches, that there are no sacred spaces in Christianity outside of the born again heart get fooled by a promise that they would never suffer wrong? As pagan Christianity ruled the western world should these true Chrsitians simply have gone along to get along?
The Bible says that the god of this world keeps men from Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:4. Clearly the god of this world isn’t the God of the Bible. Jesus warned His Jewish followers to expect this from the world.
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
Paul warned a young Pastor.
2Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution
The promise to the Christian was a guarantee of persecution in this world but a promise of Christ’s encouragement, love, support, and of His eventual triumph over the world, and most of all to lay hold onto eternal life through Him which was promised to all believers.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
1Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
The snare that the fear of man brings is unbelief, a lack of trusting in God. It ruins your faith, destroys your testimony, and denies your joy in the Lord. The Christian doesn’t have experience with God through ritual or public displays of piety but through prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with other Christians in an attitude of charity and nonexploitive love. Faith is simple and trusting with everyone having an opportunity to participate. To focus on the condemnation of the world will keep you from knocking on someone’s door, or handing them a gospel tract at a gas station, or helping someone whom the world hates to get a meal or a warm place to sleep. The snare of the fear of man will keep you from uniting with other Christians in worship, or of proclaiming your faith at all.
But, trusting in the Lord will keep you safe in the Lord. When you learn not to worry about what Mr. Self Righteous or Ms. Busybody at church care about and learn not to be concerned with the civil penalty for refusing to go along with the world or how you are looked at by other Christians who have turned their back on the “Common Bible” of America’s Christian heritage then you will find peace and safety in Christ.
The early Christians met before dawn on the first day of the week to sing hymns and pray together, to hear the Scriptures read and the understanding given. Sunday wasn’t a day off from work until Constantine made it so. Throughout history they refused to burn incense to a pagan emperor’s so called deity, to baptize infants for which there is no warrant in the Bible, to honor a human “god like priest”, to fail to copy and write and translate the Bible into their own tongue and let the Holy Spirit and spirit filled Pastors teach them, and to honor the state’s authority over their spiritual lives and relationship to Christ. And they were safe in the Lord.