God is Merciful And Long-Suffering

After emperor Domitian’s death the Roman senate decreed to have the persecuted Christians’ goods restored and those that were unjustly expelled from their homes were allowed to return. Apostle John, therefore, returned from the isle of Patmos and became the governor of the churches of Asia.

During this time an event occurred which showed the character of John and provided a lesson to all the Christians.

Eusebius tells this story that was recorded by Clement of Alexandria in his narrative titled “What Rich Man is Saved?”: 

Listen to a story that is no fiction, but a real story, handed down and carefully preserved, about the apostle John. For after the tyrant Domitian was dead, coming from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus John also went, when called, to the neighbouring regions of the Gentiles; in some to appoint bishops, in some to institute entire new churches, in others to appoint to the ministry those that were pointed out by the Holy Ghost.

When he came, therefore, to one of those cities and had in other respects consoled his brethren, he at last turned towards the bishop ordained, and seeing a youth of fine stature, graceful countenance, and ardent mind, he said, “Him I commend to you with all earnestness, in the presence of the church and of Christ.” The bishop having taken him and promised all, he repeated and testified the same thing, and then returned to Ephesus.

The elder [presbyter] taking the youth home that was committed to him, educated, restrained, and cherished him, and at length baptized him. After this, he relaxed exercising his former care and vigilance, as if he had now committed him to a perfect safeguard in the seal of the Lord.

But certain idle, promiscuous fellows, familiar with every kind of wickedness, unhappily attached themselves to him who was prematurely freed from restraint.

At first they led him on by expensive entertainments. Then going out at night to plunder, they took him with them. Next, they encouraged him to something greater, and gradually becoming accustomed to their ways in his enterprising spirit, like an unbridled and powerful steed that has struck out of the right way, biting the curb, he rushed with even greater impulsiveness towards the precipice.

At length renouncing the salvation of God, he contemplated no small offence, but having committed some great crime, since he was now once ruined, he expected to suffer equally with the rest.

Taking, therefore, these same associates, and forming them into a band of robbers, he became their captain, surpassing them all in violence, blood, and cruelty. Time elapsed, and on a certain occasion they sent for John. The apostle, after appointing those other matters for which he came, said, “Come, bishop, return me my deposit, which I and Christ committed to you, in the presence of the church over which you preside.”

The bishop at first, indeed, was confounded, thinking that he was insidiously charged for money which he had not received; and yet he could neither give credit respecting that which he had not, nor yet disbelieve John. But when he said, “I demand the young man, and the soul of a brother,” the old man, groaning heavily and also weeping, said, “He is dead.”

“How, and what death?,” John asked.

“He is dead to God,” he said. “He has turned out wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber; and now, instead of the church, he has beset the mountain with a band like himself.”

The apostle, on hearing this, tore his garment, and beating his head, with great lamentation said, “I left a fine keeper of a brother’s soul! But let a horse now be got ready, and someone to guide me on my way.”

He rode as he was, away from the church, and coming to the country, was taken prisoner by the outguard of the robbers. He neither attempted, however, to flee, nor refused to be taken; but cried out, “For this very purpose am I come; conduct me to your captain.”

He, in the meantime stood waiting, armed as he was. But as he recognised John advancing towards him, overcome with shame he turned about to flee. The apostle, however, pursued him with all his might, forgetful of his age, and crying out, “Why do you run, my son, from me, your father; your defenceless, aged father? Have compassion on me, my son; fear not! You still have hope of life. I will intercede with Christ for you. Should it be necessary, I will cheerfully suffer death for you, as Christ for us. I will give my life for yours.

“Stay; believe that Christ has sent me.”

Hearing this, he at first stopped with downcast looks; then threw away his arms; then trembling, lamented bitterly, and embracing the old man as he came up, attempted to plead for himself with his lamentations, as much as he was able; as if baptized a second time with his own tears, and only concealing his right hand.

But the apostle pledging himself, and solemnly assuring him, that he had found pardon for him in his prayers at the hands of Christ, praying, on his bent knees, and kissing his right hand as cleansed from all iniquity, conducted him back again to the church.

Then earnestly begging with frequent prayers, taking on constant fasts, and softening down his mind with various comforting declarations, he did not leave him, as it is said, until he had restored him to the church; showing a powerful example of true repentance, and a great evidence of a regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.

We can learn a lot from this beautiful account. John was a true follower of Jesus and not only a lip-professing Christian. He strove to walk exactly the way that Jesus did in His earthly life. And Jesus walk was all about forgiveness and doing good to humanity.

Instead of abandoning a brother that was completely overtaken by sin, John hastened to rescue him from the snares of the devil who has fooled him into thinking there’s no more forgiveness of his sins. Instead of seeing a lost sinner, John saw a brother in great danger and need – a brother who was threatened to be lost.

John didn’t care about his own life but was willing to give it up if that would be needed to save the soul of another brother, because Jesus said that there’s no love greater than this – that a brother gives up his life for other brothers.

God is not a tyrant. He doesn’t delight in someone falling away and God doesn’t turn away from those who are trapped by Satan once they are saved. Our Heavenly Father is merciful and long-suffering. He wants no one to be lost. If He even repeatedly urges the wicked to turn to him, how much more those who are believers already and therefore his adopted children!

How does God react when a fallen adopted child of his repents and comes back? We have a parable which I’m quite sure describes exactly this situation. It’s the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32:

A certain man had two sons:

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that fall to me. And he divided unto them his living.

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he longed to fill his belly with the husks that the swine ate; and no man gave them to him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father , I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe ,and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

Jesus also told that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.

If Jesus Himself told to forgive the offending brother not seven times but seventy-times-seven, would not God Himself be in agreement with this advice? Jesus told to scribes and Pharisees that they didn’t understand what mercy was and that God did not want their sacrifice but for them to circumcise their hearts and start loving their brothers and sisters and be compassionate. Blinded by Talmudic Torah interpretations, or should I say, perversions, they remained unable to comprehend the simple teachings of Christ.

However deeply fallen a brother or sister in Christ is, they can be forgiven. If they still have remorse in them, they can genuinely repent and turn to God again. God really doesn’t want anyone to be lost, He in no way delights in anyone perishing! He wants all to be saved.

If you happened to fall from faith, come back, because God is still your father as you were purchased with the blood of Jesus as soon as you believed and became His adopted son or daughter. Come back to your father and busy yourself with prayer, contemplation of His Word and striving to live holy, so that Satan cannot again fool you. Satan will always try to trick you that you lost your salvation so that you don’t repent and turn back to your Heavenly Father. Don’t let Satan deceive you in this way.

We should all follow the loving example of the most blessed apostle John. Instead of judging each other, we should help each other to walk in holiness. We should strive to pull out Christians in Satan’s trap but we should also make sure that Satan doesn’t trap us together with them as he is capable of doing that.

We should follow most important Jesus commandments about love. We should love our brothers and sisters and strive to be in unity with them and not in opposition simply because we disagree with some of their beliefs.

Please pray for those brothers and sisters that you see in sin. Help them if you are strong in Christ but make sure you yourself don’t fall into the same trap. Contribute in some way to the Body of Christ so that it gets stronger and more united.

Apostles continuously entreated churches to be of one heart and one mind, and not to be divided. Today all Christians are totally divided and there’s no love between them. If we stop further splitting into more denominations but instead listen to the apostles and try to do our best to unite the body of Christ with caring for one another and helping one another and praying for one another, I’m sure that God will be very pleased with all of us.

Finally, I feel it’s necessary to repeat that even those who are strong in Christ can still fall because Satan is very cunning. So please always pray that you are protected from Satan’s traps as he will be forever looking for ways to trap the children of God and make them lost.

But if you strive to live in Spirit and not in flesh, and stay away from even the appearance of evil, having no association with darkness in any way, you have a great chance of staying totally safe in this world and being blessed by God.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you all.

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