Bible verse and the Spirit of Prophecy insight
51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
There are men who have set their minds and will to accomplish evil; in the dark recesses of their hearts they have resolved what crimes they will commit. These men are self-deceived. They have rejected God’s great rule of right, and in its stead have erected a standard of their own, and comparing themselves with this standard they pronounce themselves holy. The Lord will permit them to reveal what is in their hearts, to act out the spirit of the master that controls them. He will let them show their hatred of his law in their treatment of those who are loyal to its requirements. They will be actuated by the same spirit of religious frenzy that goaded on the mob that crucified Christ; church and State will be united in the same corrupt harmony.Ellen G. White – Review and Herald, March 18, 1884, par.10
Present day application
Nowadays, many people turn away from ‘organised religion’ as they see the apostasy of their church leaders. Those leaders often represent the kind of spirit that affected even some of the chosen apostles of Christ. In His divine wisdom, Christ quickly rebuked them and showed them their error. He did not come to destroy, but to save. He would not force, coerce, intimidate or even bribe anyone to accept Him as his/her God and Saviour. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries and even in our times, some who profess to be Christians fall into Satan’s trap of this erroneous religious zeal. Sadly, many of them are sincere and sincerely wrong at the same time.
Ever since Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, which is when the church and state figuratively speaking married each other, there have been plenty of the manifestations of the very spirit that Jesus warned His disciples against. Augustine, one of the Catholic Church fathers, famously wrote in his Letter No 185:
It is indeed better (as no one ever could deny) that men should be led to worship God by teaching, than that they should be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but it does not follow that because the former course produces the better men, therefore those who do not yield to it should be neglected. For many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching, or might follow out in act what they had already learned in word.
It is true that sometimes God will allow pain and suffering in our lives, but it is never done to make us believe, love and obey Him. Imagine your (earthly) father torturing you until you listen, love and obey him… Yet, some seem to think they are doing God a favour when forcing others to obey Him. We know from the scriptures that some will even kill others if they do not have the same religious beliefs as them. Pray for them so that He will reveal their error to them, before they turn their zeal into the kind of zeal Saul had before he became converted. In almost every case, when someone tries to force their view of God on others, it is because they do not truly know Him.
Please, never allow Satan to plant his evil spirit in your heart, especially when someone you know does not share your beliefs. Before you go out to convert anyone, always examine your heart to check if you are of the right spirit, it might turn out it is you who needs to be converted first.
Image from British Library Harley 4375 f. 140