Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 4. Greater than Giants . Giants in the face of violence (Part 2)

. Giants in the face of violence (Part 2)



Matthew 11:11-12 (ESV) 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.


Last week we started our fist of this two part sermon entitled, “Giants in the face of violence.”

Our focus is on verse 12 that says: "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force." Now there are two ways to approach the text as the word ‘Biazo’ can be translated in either the passive or the middle voice. The middle voice is also called the reflexive voice. ‘Biazo’ translated simply means ‘to force, to force a way or to suffer violence’. So, even as the text seems to be obvious in English in the first part of the verse, there is a double barrel meaning to the text.  Now if you translate it in the passive voice it means that the Kingdom of heaven is suffering violence, and violent people are seeking to take it away from others entering. The word ‘take’ as in the second part comes from the word “harpazo {har-pad'-zo} which is to seize, carry off by force, to claim for one's self eagerly, or to snatch out or to snatch away.

The translation of Biatzo in the first part of the verse will determine how "biastes" {bee-as-tace'} is translated in the second part of the verse.  So last time we looked at the Kingdom of God suffering violence by our own minds, which are by nature opposed to the Kingdom, but also the Kingdom is under attack from outside and it is also under attack from inside. So in this sermon we look at it from a different angle.

Point 2. Those who violently enter the Kingdom

Now what happens to the same text is we translate it reflexively, or if we see (biazo) in the middle voice, it would read this way.  “The Kingdom of heaven is vigorously pressing itself forward and forceful people are eagerly taking it”. It means the very opposite. It's interesting. What it says, then, is that the kingdom is moving ahead and forceful people are entering or pressing into it. Spurgeon calls this Holy Violence. I believe that this is a very acceptable way to approach the text especially when you look at the parallel text in Luke 16:16 (ESV) “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it."

So the middle or reflexive voice makes it positive then. What it is saying is that since the preaching of John, something has changed, people are now turning to Christ and therefore into the Kingdom under the rule of God, and people are pressing vigorously or violently into the Kingdom and even in our day are still doing exactly that, but the only reason they can do that is because the Kingdom of God is moving itself violently forward. Now that does not mean that we violently force people into the Kingdom. Cults do that, not Christianity. There is no point that we make the text to mean what I have often heard, and that is that we are violently attacking the Kingdom of Satan in spreading the Kingdom of heaven. On the contrary Christianity goes forth against violence. It goes forward in spite of violence.

Many a dictator has tried to suppress the truth as we saw last week, but my friend, you can force the church underground but it will be like a spring that bursts forth somewhere else. Why because it is the word of God which is powerful. Study the parable of the sower and you will see how the Kingdom of God advances. It is as the word of God that is sown and causes the growth in the Kingdom. Now either you are going to violently oppose it as our previous point has stated or you are going to violently embrace it.

This has happened since John, some rejected it and others embraced it. I want to focus for a moment on the statement: “violent men are seizing it.” Now there are three ways to describe these people who forcefully or violently take the Kingdom.

2.1 They are those who flee from wrath.

John the Baptist had a marvellous impact, didn't he? People were turning to God, they were repenting of their sins and he was leading many into the Kingdom. In Luke 1:16-17 (ESV) an angel appears to the Father of John the Baptist, Zechariah who was a priest in the temple, but hear what he says about John –16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” John’s message was clear. He has one message for the people and we see it in Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

His message changes a bit in temperature when he sees the Pharisees and Sadducees coming towards him. In verse Matthew 3:7 (ESV) 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Obviously he did not do a course in diplomacy; neither was he a disciple of Joel Osteen who says that God has just given him a positive message. John’s message is clear and suddenly we see people whose hearts are turning to God and so the Kingdom is moving ahead vigorously as people take his sermons and the consequence of his sermon seriously.

If you believe the message you become violent, but let’s keep it to Holy Violence as Spurgeon says. I remember years ago we would camp 5 miles from the Orpen gate under a big fig tree there in the bush. We would leave Kruger at late afternoon, and then stop at this spot and collect firewood, pitch our tents, make a big fire for security and eat and sleep listening to all the wonderful animal sounds. On this one trip we were a group of young adults from Nelspruit Baptist Church and amongst us there was one guy who was always nice, he would not hurt a fly. Suddenly the ground shook as a male lion roared in close proximity, and everybody scattered back to the cars. Somehow our placid friend outran and out bumped everyone to get into the car first. When he heard the lion roar, he believed the message and became violent. He pressed into that car with vigour that came from an inner belief. He violently pressed into the car not as if his life depended on it but because his life depended on it.

So John was God’s messenger, he preached about the imminent Kingdom, he declared the wrath of God and since that time and even now as Christ was preaching people were fleeing from the wrath to come and the Kingdom was moving ahead violently.

Yes, many as per our first point refused to enter but vigorous, violent, forceful people stepped out in faith, they broke with their Judaistic tradition they bore their crosses and took possession of the reign of God, and enthroned Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.

2.2 Those who press into glory

Well there is another way to explain those who vigorously, aggressively and forcefully enter into the Kingdom. It is not only because they understand repentance and the wrath of God, but they also understand the privilege of being under the rule of God in the Kingdom. They want to be in the Kingdom with all their might and nothing will stop them.

It is amazing when people value something how violent they can become. I remember years ago I was in Singapore and the crowds were gathered at the entrance of a shopping mall. I thought there must be a sale on because when those doors opened people were trampling each other to get in. I think about 10 people went through the door side by side that should have taken no more than 4. I soon discovered that there was some American Rock star in town that was going to sign CD’s there and greet people.

How serious are we to enter the Kingdom. Are we willing to press in violently? Are you fighting to get in at the door?

Now when we say that they violently enter or press into the Kingdom, we need to ask ourselves if this is a legitimate way to approach our theology. Are we saying that to enter the Kingdom one must become violent? Is it not that it is by grace we are saved through faith and not at all based on our effort? Is it not all a work of God, from beginning to end? Yes it is. It is by grace alone through faith alone which is a gift of God and that will never change.

I love the way Spurgeon puts it:  “When God has begun the work in the soul, the constant effect of God’s work in us is to set us working. Where God’s Spirit is really striving with us we shall begin to strive too. This is just a test by which we may distinguish between men who have received the Spirit of God and those who have not.  Those who have received the Spirit are violent men, they have a violent anxiety to be saved, and they violently strive that they may enter in at the straight gate, while they know that seeking to enter in is not enough for many shall seek to enter in but shall not be able.”

So we have to press in. According to Matthew 7 the gate that we enter in is the narrow gate, and there must therefore be striving and effort to get in through the narrow gate. Luke 13:23-24 (ESV) 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” To enter requires effort and the demands are great. It requires in one text taking up our cross denying ourselves to follow Jesus. In another text it is clear that we need to strive so hard with such a great love for the kingdom that it will look like we hate our fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and even our own lives to enter in. In another section it requires selling everything we have and then to follow Jesus.

Is this not what the Christ talks about in Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” You see, entrance into the kingdom requires earnest endeavour, untiring energy, and utmost exertion. Because Satan is mighty and his demons are powerful and sin holds us. God can break that and our hearts respond.

Now by the way, you have often heard people say that it is only weaklings that become Christians. If that is true then all the main men are going to be in hell. William Hendrickson a commentator that I have enjoyed over the years summarized it well.

  1. He says that the kingdom is not for weaklings, the kingdom is not for waverers or compromisers, it is not for Balaams that we read about in 2 Peter 2:15 (ESV) "Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing”.
  2. It is not for rich young rulers like the one we read about in Matthew 19:22 (ESV)
    “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” If you love worldly possessions more than God you will not enter. You will rather violently pursue riches as if your life depends on it.
  3. The Kingdom of God is not for those who first want to go home and collect their inheritance of say good-bye to father and mother.
  4. It is not for the Demas’s of this world that we read about in 2 Timothy 4:10 (ESV)
    “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”
  5. The kingdom is not for deferred prayers or unfulfilled promises or broken resolutions, or hesitant testimonies; the kingdom is for hard, sturdy hearted folks like Joseph and Nathan and Elijah and Daniel and his three friends and Mordecai and Stephen and Deborah and Esther and Lydia and Ruth and Paul. It's for men and women who are willing to enter it and affirm the Lordship of Christ.

Becoming a Christian means you step out against the flow, you go against the grain. It's a sense of violently pressing in, breaking the bands of your own sin and self. Just a reminder of verse 13 that says: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." They all said The Messiah's coming, the Messiah's coming, the Messiah is coming. And then John arrives on the scene and says: “He is here” and since that moment the kingdom is moving violently through the godless, human system, and eager, vigorous people are pressing into it. Why? Because this is the climax, everything has built up to John.

Point 3. The implications for us.

Do we understand the implications for us? Matthew 11:15 (ESV) says: “ He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Even with John's powerful culmination of Old Testament history, even with this marvellous privileged calling and with his personal character, not everybody believed and not everybody appreciated him. Not everybody understood the significance of this man so the Lord adds a warning and Now, Jesus adds that warning to you: "He that ears to hear, let him hear."

If you are not a Christian here today.

  1. Do you seriously understand the wrath of God as proclaimed by John? What a privilege to have been granted ears to hear. Do you realize that what you have heard today is not just what Christ said about John, but throughout the sermon you have heard the gospel? God’s Word speaks to us today and it says to us that the only way to escape this wrath is through salvation? The Bible says: “Today when you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” There is a general call that comes to us through the preaching of God’s Word and the call is to repent of your sins and to believe in the Lord Jesus. This requires that you will believe Jesus and all that He said and did. It requires that you will believe that you have in yourself nothing to redeem you. But, as you experience the convicting work of the Spirit of God in your life, are you as Spurgeon said, now working with holy violence to make sure you obtain it, knowing that it is all from God from the beginning to the end.
  2. Are you willing to sell everything to buy the field or the pearl? Jesus is saying, if John is the forerunner then I am the King. And if I am the King, the Kingdom is being offered. And that puts you in the place of making a choice. Don't refuse it. There's a two‑fold offer of the Kingdom: receive the Messiah into your heart and if you as a nation receive Me, I'll bring the Kingdom to earth, the millennial kingdom. The Jews were offered both. The nation did not receive the Messiah. A few received the King into their hearts and so there was a kingdom in the heart. There yet waits to be a Kingdom on the earth.
  3. Do we hear and understand about the life that Christ offers to us? You see, it is not all just about violently getting in; it is about violently living in the Kingdom. Do you understand the privilege of being clothed with the righteousness of Christ and therefore you will violently pursue righteousness. There is a determination to get in, but at the same time there has to be a determination to stay in.
  4. Are we resting in the completed work of Christ? Martin Lloyd Jones highlights this well in his book ‘the Heart of the Gospel’. I just don’t have time to unpack this thought. Simply, what he does unpack is that believers are violent or vigorous to get in, violent or vigorous to stay in, but at the same time they are people at rest in the completed work of Christ. You don’t find the pearl of great price or the treasure in the field and as soon as you have it you ignore it. No you take it out and you look at it and clean it, admire it and treasure it because it cost much to get it.
  5. Are you violently in love with Christ? You don’t love Him just a little, you love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. Spurgeon again says that He shall endeavour to raise in his hearers a holy violence; otherwise the gates of heaven will be shut in their teeth. Do you love Christ more than anything else? Do you love Him with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength? When you see a Christian that yawns at the privilege of worship, that …. You see someone who is not violent at all and who does not love Christ with all. Spurgeon says that a Christian who is violent listens with both ears and watches with both eyes and has intent desire that they may find Christ in worship.

In closing, We cannot sleep-walk into the Kingdom and we cannot sleep-walk in the Kingdom. We cannot idle into the Kingdom; entrance into the Kingdom requires earnest endeavour, untiring energy and utmost exertion. It takes vigorous men to overcome Satan and to take possession of the Kingdom. Spurgeon said the following which I like: “Never conceive that any one of the evils of your nature is so dead that it cannot have a resurrection, Strive against every form of sin, every thoughts of sin, every carnal tendency, every evil passion, but when you have striven most, never count your victory to be complete, until your feet are within the pearly gate.”

Can we say with the believers in Romania at least with those who years ago under the persecution ended their prayers with the words, ‘whatever it may cost’? True violent Christians don’t kill for their faith, but they are willing to die for their faith. So the Kingdom is not for weaklings, waverers or compromisers, no it is a Kingdom for violent people, for Matthew 11:12 (ESV) says: "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”


Logos Community Church:- 16 September 2012