The Belly-gods of Babylon

The “Belly-gods” of Babylon

CHAPTER 5 – THE KINGDOM OF GOD “. . . whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things . . . brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Phil. 3:19; Rom. 16:17-18). Doug, isn’t there something you can write about during the world’s pandemic, cries for justice, rioting, global manipulation and plain hatred among peoples—how about some love, brother? Consequently, it may seem rather odd to interject into this “Kingdom of God equation” an insertion this inflammatory. Why not “make for peace?” After all, can’t we who desire oneness expressed in the Body of Christ – His Ekklesia – simply stress the positive, and avoid the negative? After all, aren’t we all within the blessed Commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12); I mean, really, “whose god is their belly” doesn’t ring with blessed affirmation; in fact, it’s offensive, to say the least? Besides, I really liked Paul’s final “meeting and greeting” all the brothers and sisters in Romans 16:3-16; then he has to inject noting and avoiding these “BELLY-GODS” prior to crushing Satan’s head? That’s like having a major speed bump just before the finish line at the Indy-500! Really, why didn’t Paul just end his amazing dissertation of Romans with: “To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Rom. 16:27)? That would have left us all in a sort of delirious euphoric spat of glory with some 36 brethren enjoying the oneness of the Body of Christ by Paul’s injunction to go about meeting and greeting various kinds of Roman saints—Latin Roman citizens, Greeks, Jews and Barbarians of all sorts enjoying the Kingdom of God which is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Instead, Paul’s got to bring up these “belly gods” which sounds vaguely similar to “demigods” (pun intended). Insofar as “of Babylon” relates to this entitlement – just remember, the Book is quite frank when it comes to the Holy City, Jerusalem vs. Babylon the Great. We’re either building with gold, silver and precious stone the New Jerusalem or we are building that Great City, Babylon, pending ultimate judgment . . . either building within the Kingdom of God or the Domain of Darkness. Don’t try to tell me there’s a whole lot of “middle ground” known as the “vast gray zone” of relativity. Sorry, doesn’t exist except in the altruistic progressive world of “a little of this and a little of that” – indeed, this “business” of Jesus suggesting, rather decisively: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16) is a little extreme for moderates among us! Consequently, BELLY GODS of BABYLON is more than apropos. As we more closely examine what on the surface appears to be a radical departure to Paul’s upbeat injunction found in Romans 16:3-16 (and, by the way, it was not an “optional meeting and greeting” series of “say hi” to so-and-so for me, Paul, but a clear directive of practicing all of Romans chapters 9-16 dealing with the matter of the oneness of God’s people which concerned Paul) . . . I think we will find this perpendicular intersect into the record most meaningful. Meaningful on a number of levels—but primarily having to do with issues relative to the separation between ministry and ekklesia . . . let me explain. MINISTRY vs. EKKLESIA & THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD As with any Kingdom (capitalized to add greater emphasis upon the Kingdom of God juxtaposed to the “kingdom (dominion) of darkness” (“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son” – BSB – Col. 1:13) there are sundry forms of administration within the greater polity. Our Lord took occasion to explain how that might work—and, no, He did not defer to point out there most definitely within His Kingdom were such differentiation—“for if we endure, we shall also REIGN with Him . . . If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12) – not our salvation (2 Tim. 2:11) but to reign with Him in His Kingdom.” Now, please carefully listen to Jesus’ exchange with the mother of Zebedee’s sons: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And he said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your KINGDOM.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.’ And when they heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 24:20-28). When Jesus virtually rebuked Peter for taking up the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane in slicing off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, He said: “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:10-11). Later in John 18:36, before Pilate, we read of this exchange: “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the KING of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My KINGDOM were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a KING then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a KING. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’” (John 18:33-37). All this to point out the Kingdom parameters described by Jesus do have elements of what appears to be hierarchy—but confined within His humanity, Jesus left such “positions” up to the Father . . . in other words, He didn’t deny such “rank” within His Kingdom but He drew a most blatant differentiation between the “nature” of His Kingdom and that of the “kingdoms of this world” insofar as administration concerns. For one, there would be in the here and now no jockeying for position, no fleshly competition akin to that taking place among the rulers of this present age. That may be anticipated among the Gentiles, the Nations, but NOT ON MY WATCH, not in His Kingdom! Those who are “great” in this world “lord it over” others—but you brothers are NOT “lords” but servants who shall serve others in My Kingdom just as I have come not to be served but to serve! Furthermore, Jesus did not deny He was the King of Israel (John 1:49) . . . “You say rightly that I am a KING . . . For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37) but this King had no intention that His soldiers would fight by slicing off ears as the Gentiles are wont to do. All jockeying for position, all lording it over, all “taking the Kingdom by force” would have no part in the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. Now, what does this “Kingdom Attitude” have to do with Romans 16 and Philippians 3 insofar as “belly gods”? Much in every way . . . let us continue. First of all, it’s obvious that these “belly gods” would likely find common cause and ideological compatibility with those “among us” (unfortunately) who seek to “lord it over” and/or who have adopted those practices where they “set their mind on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19)—from slicing off ears with the sword to jockeying for prestigious positions. The highly competitive nature found within the “dominion of darkness” is blatantly amplified by Lucifer’s own 5-fold declaration in his rebellion against the Most High God, to wit: Isaiah 14:13-14 For you [Lucifer] have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation In the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Well, now, that seems to be rather overt—readily exposed by arrogantly challenging the Creator—whereas in the “real world” of religious posturing, things are far more subtle . . . let’s say, Lucifer, coming as an “angel of light” as he is wont to do, deigns to, shall we say, cover his tracks in his snake-like maneuvering? Let’s not be coy here. Satan, as a thief, has come to “steal and kill and to destroy” (John 10:10) but, again, his deception and clear dissuasion are far more subtle, in the main, when it comes to “deceiving even the very elect” (Matt. 24:24). Paul realizes this in his statement where he describes babes “tossed and carried about by every wind of that teaching which is in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error” (Darby Version, Eph. 4:14). Don’t kid yourself . . . it is the very ELECT, the People of God, who are the most vulnerable to Lucifer’s irrepressible quest to hoodwink the brethren! Once this plotter of evil creates his “systematized error” for God’s people (and that’s for whom it is designed), it is virtually impossible (not completely so) to extricate the saints from such “sleight of men” – such “unprincipled cunning.” Entire “religious systems” have been created by “religious leadership” to imprison God’s people . . . normally, yea, virtually most times, in following a man or woman who has cleverly devised their doctrine so that it becomes “systematized error.” Once you find yourself within their maze, you are beholden, eventually, not just to the “minister” (yes, “minister” no less) but to the “error of his ways” – to the “system” or “doctrine” which has enraptured you wherein the “systematized error” becomes all-pervasive, reinforced, of course, by the leader’s or “teachers” of that system. And, what does that “system of error” look like? What are its main characteristics? They’re subtle, no doubt, but all bear certain hallmarks. For one – they tend to be FAT: “Whose god is their belly!” Shockingly disgusting disclosure, right? . . . but readily observable by the naked eye. To deny there are not certain gifted members of the Body of Christ (and make no doubt here—we are talking about ourselves . . . those of us who grapple for authority within the Body of Christ . . . who seek to disguise their efforts in a “cloak of maliciousness” rather than a garb of service to the saints) is to deny the very Word of God which declares as much: “‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ . . . For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’” (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4) . . . And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for edifying the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12) Yes, we are all members one of another when it comes to the Ekklesia (1 Cor. 11-14); but in counter distinction to “each one has” and “one by one” (1 Cor. 14) when we all come together, the Head of the Body has given to us certain gifted ones whose main task is to equip the saints for them (the saints) to do the work of the ministry themselves—in other words, the Evangelists should be training evangelists to do the work of an evangelist; a prophet should be equipping saints in the prophetic, etc. We, I, have written extensively on the “separation of powers” (if you would) between the “saints in general assembly” and ministry. Examples abound—for one, the Ekklesia is altogether participatory and engaging, whereas “ministry” is not all that participatory. You might say the one has a gathering of equals, but the other has a platform on which to “perform” as a minister of the Kingdom. The prickly issue here, however, is when the Ekklesia smothers ministry, or the “minister” restricts the Ekklesia’s full participation—therein lies the rub – and that’s what leads us in this discussion of “whose god is their belly!” First of all, when the doctor once told me: “Krieger, based on these measurements and facts—you fit into the category of being MORBIDLY OBESE!” Naturally, I resented that offensive remark – I mean, calling me “morbidly obese” is not the most complimentary description I wanted to hear! Next, the good doctor asked: “So, what are YOU going to do about it?” Well, one thing, is to AVOID lots of food. Let’s not be complicated about this - as the good doctor once advised the patient undergoing severe psychological depression: STOP IT! Therefore, as we approach Romans 16:17-18, and its complimentary text found in Philippines 3:17-21, yes, we have plenty of positive input from Paul – but, again, don’t kid yourself, he is keenly aware of those munching off the saints and feeding their own frenzy with delicacies and morsels fit for another god—THE GOD OF THIS AGE (2 Cor. 4:4) who not only blinds the minds of those who believe not but is, as well, “waiting in wait to deceive even the very elect!” (Eph. 4:14). MINISTRIES GONE THE WAY OF “EARTHLY THINGS” “. . . they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (Phil. 3:19). “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause division and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and AVOID THEM. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). Interesting, isn’t it, how “earthly things” are connected to “division and offenses, contrary to the doctrine” Paul taught. We know from the biblical record Paul wrote his letter to the Romans from Corinth cir. 56 AD and that his letter to the Philippines was written from his Roman imprisonment cir. 61 AD; therefore, the lingua-familiarity between these two portions in Romans and Philippians. Once one can distinguish – CLEARLY distinguish – between the Ekklesia/ Congregation/ Assembly of the saints and ministry (i.e., those gifted brethren who minister within the context of Ephesians 4:11-13 wherein “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” – then one can readily examine how Romans 16 and Philippians 3 regarding the “BELLY GODS OF BABYLON” play out! True ministry is for THE BODY OF CHRIST. Gifted ministers, allocated by the Head of the Body, are called to equip others within the Body to edify the Body of Christ—yes, build up the Body of Christ so that they (the ones being equipped) in turn would minister to the Body of Christ. What does that look like? It looks like if they are truly doing their “work of ministry” it will lead those to whom they minister to the “unity of the faith” – hence, to “the knowledge of the Son of God” – IT’S ALL ABOUT CHRIST! Christ is our unity of the faith – it’s knowledge about the Son of God that brings about the unity within the Body of Christ! Moreover, if one’s claim is a genuine, approved minister gifted by the Head of the Body—then all those to whom ministry is given – equipping – edifying – goes in one direction: A PERFECT MAN – THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST. Such ministries are NOT consuming the saints—no, no, no—they are perfecting the saints unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Their singular goal is the UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST! Jesus said, based upon the revelation given by the Father to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that He would build His Ekklesia . . . “the knowledge of the Son of God . . . unto a Perfect Man” – I think you get the connection. Human bellies are interesting in that they are made for consumption, but Jesus comes along and declares using the same Greek word (Strong’s G#2836 – κοιλία- koilia . . . “When translated ‘belly’ it represents the whole belly, the entire cavity, the upper [i.e. stomach] and the lower belly being distinguished”): “‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly (κοιλία ) will flow rivers of living water’. . . But this He spoke concerning the Spirit” (John 7:38-39). Th