(These notes were prepared based on notes by Rob Mahon for teachers at Hoffmantown Church)Review:
Three weeks ago, before the two-week series by Curtis Brickley on One Nation Under God, we started a discussion about the Christian Citizen. The question that I posed that morning were:
Maybe God used the imperfections of weak or bad leaders and the drive of the liberal left with regard to gay marriage, to bring us to our knees, to actually get Christians to pray about all the evil that is around us and all the bad policy that was being driven by out of the main stream by minorities.
Many Christian people want nothing to do with public life because it seems corrupt and dirty. Yet, is it possible that political life has degenerated because people with strong moral standards have shunned it?
We looked at some Bible verses that may have surprised some of you.
1. God has established the civil authorities:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. --Romans 13:12. We are told to submit to authority:
We looked at several passages from the New Testament where we are told to be subject to our government, not to resist it, do what is good, pray for the leaders and pay taxes. We saw that Paul told us that, as did Peter and even Jesus himself.
The best I can tell, that is were we quit.
Today: - As we study the New Testament and these admonitions to obey our elected leaders, because they are ordained by God, one might see that as an instruction for blind obedience.
3. Not Blind Obedience:
If we study further, I think you will find that we owe obedience, but not blind obedience.
Let’s look at Paul as an example. Paul used his citizenship to object to injustice when he was being mistreated.
Let’s set the scene. Paul and Silas wanted to preach in Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit kept telling them no. Finally Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come there, which they did. After getting over into Macedonia, they traveled to Philipi where they drove an evil spirit out of a slave girl. Her masters were then upset because they could not make money off her any more, so the merchants had Paul and Silas thrown into jail where they were beaten and put into chains. That night while Paul and Silas were singing and praying, there was an earthquake that opened all the jail doors and broke the chains off Paul and Silas.
Remember that this is the time that the jailer was ready to commit suicide, because he knew he would be killed for letting the prisoners escape. Paul stopped him and assured him that no one had escaped. The jailer was converted along with his household and took Paul and Silas home with him.
Let’s pick up the story there.
Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. --Acts 16:35-39Paul did the same thing again later when he was in Jerusalem and had been arrested for teaching about Jesus in the Temple.
The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. --Acts 22:24-29The Apostles understood that Christians sometimes should disobey civil authorities when their mandates contradict the laws of God
In Acts 5, Peter and the Apostles had been performing miracles, which make the Sadducees and the high priest very jealous. So they threw Peter in jail, but an angel let him out and told him to go back to the Temple to teach. When the High Priest found them there again, he said, “I told you not to do that.” To which Peter and the Apostiles replied,
“We must obey God rather than men". --Acts 5:29.
What are some attitudes to avoid toward those in authority?
You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people. --Exodus 22:284. We are not to rebel:
My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change... --Proverbs 24:21Some translations say "don’t join the rebellious".
“Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases.” Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing?” --Ecclesiastes 8:3-45. We should participate in and influence government:
J. I. Packer, a member of the Board of Governors and Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, said, "The more profoundly one is concerned about heaven, the more deeply one cares about God's will being done on earth."
John R. W. Stott, a British preacher and teacher in 1995 said: "What, then, is the biblical basis for social concern? Why should Christians get involved? In the end there are only two possible attitudes which Christians can adopt towards the world: Escape and Engagement ... 'Escape' means turning our backs on the world in rejection, washing our hands of it ... and steeling our hearts against its agonized cries for help. In contrast, 'engagement' means turning our faces towards the world in compassion, getting our hands dirty, sore and worn in its service, and feeling deep within us the stirring of the love of which cannot be contained. ... If we truly love our neighbors, and because of their worth desire to serve them, we shall be concerned for their total welfare, the well-being of their soul, their body and their community. And our concern will lead to practical programmes."
Consider the biblical example of Joseph. He participated and influenced secular government. After being falsely imprisoned in Egypt, I am sure you remember the story of the Pharaoh having dreams which his magicians couldn’t interpret them for him. Then the Pharaoh’s cupbearer told the Pharaoh about the prisoner, Joseph, who had correctly interpreted dreams while the cupbearer was in prison. Then the Pharaoh called for Joseph, who interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams, but Joseph made it clear that it was God who was interpreting the dreams, not him. Joseph then advised the Pharaoh to find a discerning and wise man to be over Egypt to save up the grain for the coming famine.
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” --Genesis 41:39-40This made Joseph the vice Pharaoh. He clearly took a secular political role and position, and by the way executed it perfectly. Joseph show us that being a follower of God does not mean that we can not participate in or influence government. Joseph had great influence.
Look at the example of Daniel. Daniel was a young Jew in captivity under Darius. He excelled in everything and was ultimately elevated to one of three commissioners with authority over the entire land. He participated and influenced.
Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. --Daniel 6:3Daniel was about to be elevated to the head commissioner and to be in charge of the entire land, but this did not set well with the satraps and other commissioners who were competing with him for the head job. So they set Daniel up for a fall, figuratively, into the lion’s den, by creating a situation where Daniel would have to abandon God or be in trouble with Darius. Of course Daniel chose God and met the lions, literally. If you remember the rest of the story, an angel gave the Lions lockjaw and they did not harm Daniel. When Darius checked on him the next morning, he realized that Daniel’s God was the real thing and that the commissioners and satraps who had setup Daniel were the bad guys. So he had them and their wives and children fed to the lions, and this time the lions had a feast.
Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. --Daniel 6:25-28
The point is that Daniel was a devout follower of God, but he also took an active powerful position in the secular government, and he made a big difference, in both spiritual and secular matters.
And we can look at Paul, who handled it in a very different way.
Paul had been preaching in the Temple in Jerusalem, and what he was saying upset the Jewish leaders, so they wanted him out of the way. At the insistence of the Jewish leaders, the Roman commander was about to have Paul scourged to beat the truth out of him about why the Jewish leaders were so upset with him and why he was creating all this disruption.
But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. --Acts 22:25-29Paul found no conflict is asserting his Roman citizenship, a secular condition, as a defense to enable him to be available to continue his spiritual mission. He could be both secular and spiritual.
After this, the Roman commander in Jerusalem decided that he had to spirit Paul out of town before a gang of Jews assassinated Paul, so he sent him to Caesarea where they held a hearing and accused him of being a real pest, literally, than was one of the accusations. Felix wasn’t willing to make any finding and kept him in jail there for two years, hoping that Paul would bribe him to let him go, but it never happened. Then Festus replaced Felix and Festus wanted to get this thing out of the way. Then Paul again asserted his rights as a Roman citizen.
But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. “If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.” --Acts 25:9-12Festus was not sure about what should be done, so he asked King Agrippa to hear the case. King Agrippa held a hearing and Paul gave King Agrippa a detail life history, including his conversion on the road to Damascus. King Agrippa said, "you have almost convinced me to be a Christian".
Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian". And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains". --Acts 26:28-29Because of Paul’s continual assertion of his rights as a Roman citizen, he was ultimately shipped to Rome. Of course he had a little shipwreck on Malta and some excitement on the way, but he ultimately got to Rome.
Again the point is that Paul did not see his Christian citizenship preventing him asserting his secular citizenship.
6. We have Dual Citizenship:
We are both citizens of God’s kingdom and of The United States. So we know what God has to say about the Christian Citizen, but how does that play out in our country? Is there a basis for Christian Citizenship in The United States?
Another way to justify participating in both the spiritual citizenship and the secular citizenship is the fact that our society is based on God-given freedoms and responsibilities.
In 1892 Supreme Court Justice David Brewer writing for the majority in a case said:
"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian ... this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making the affirmation ... We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth ... These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, in 1952 said "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."
Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, in 1954, said:
"I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses ... Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia ... or to the Charter of New England...or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay ... or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut ... the same objective is present ... a Christian land governed by Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people ... I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country."In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington said:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports ... It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government ... Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?"Jesus told us that Christians are to be salt and light in the world, which includes the government.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. --Matthew 5:13-14John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1816, he said in an opinion:
"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty ... of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."In 1917 in an article in Ladies Home Journal, Theodore Roosevelt said:
"In this actual world, a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at, or ignored their Christian duties, is a community on the rapid down-grade."Someone asked in a discussion the other day, with the irrefutable Christian foundation of this country, how have we come to our current sad state of affairs. The answer that rose in discussion is that starting in the 1930's and 1940's, the Christian community became so internally focused that it ignored what was going on around it and decided that secular America, including the government should be ignored. The reality is that Christians defaulted the game by not showing up. The forces trying to secularize this country won be default, because the Christian community did not show up for the game.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, said in a speech designating a National Day of Prayer:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own ... It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."John Adams, the first vice president and the second president of The United Sates said:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion ... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."Daniel Webster, in 1820, said:
"Moral habits ... cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits."At his first Inaugural Address, on April 30, 1789, George Washington said:
"We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained."Our system of government will collapse without a moral basis, the Christian foundation on which it was established and which was assumed to be retained for the life of this country. The length of time that The United States exists is related to the length of time that there is a moral base under it. The questions is how long it takes to self-destruct if the base is not reestablished and whether or not it will be reestablished.
That is basically what Thomas Jefferson, third president and primary author of the Declaration of Independence said and which clearly contradicts what revisionist historians try to sell when they say that Jefferson was not spiritual and wanted a wall of separation between the church and the state.
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."I have read to you before one of my favorites parts of a speech by Benjamin Franklin in 1787 from the deliberation at the Federal Convention when they were drafting the Constitution. He said:
"I've lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it.' I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel."I am going to stop here, on this topic, for now.
Simpson Rebbavarapu, founder and director of Beulah Ministries of India, here working with Hosanna to finalize dramatized audio New Testaments in some of the languages there, will be here to tell us about the spread of Christianity there in India. Dave tells me that he has a great presentation, one that will inspire us.
Two weeks from now:
We will continue and wrap up our study of the Christian Citizen with discussions about: