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God, Christians and Government

Greg Strand – November 8, 2012 Leave a comment

In the wake of this presidential election season, one’s optimism or pessimism is often dependent on whether or not the candidate for whom one voted was elected. One has stated that either response is inappropriate for Christians – optimism is naïve; pessimism is atheistic. In contrast to both, the Christian is realistic and hopeful because his or her hope is in the living God (1 Tim. 4:10), not in the rise or fall of political leaders or a political party or any other situation or circumstance.

In this final post focusing on politics during this election week, I refer to a very good word from Sam Storms, who gives a good biblical overview of how Christians ought to think biblically about God and government. He does so in eight theses: “Thinking About the Election from a Biblical Point of View,” Parchment & Pen Blog (November 5, 2012). I include only the main points of this lengthy post; read the whole article so you can see how he supports each point:

  1. Human government is not inherently evil. The structures of authority in any particular political system are not per se wicked. All human governmental authority comes ultimately from the hand of God. Government is used for evil because people are sinful, not because the authority of the ruling party is wicked or should be abolished.
  2. God is absolutely sovereign and authoritative over who rules, where they exercise their power (its boundaries and extent), over whom they have authority, and for how long.
  3. God is not only sovereign in that he decides who shall rule and for how long, but he also can exert omnipotent and irresistible influence over the hearts and minds of kings and rulers and presidents to do what he wants done.
  4. Although we are ultimately citizens of a heavenly kingdom and only secondarily citizens of an earthly state, we are not for that reason exempt from submitting to the laws of the land where we live (1 Peter 2:13-17).
  5. Although we are submissive to the authority of government, Christians have a responsibility as citizens of both heaven and earth to influence for good the government under which they live.
  6. Although Christians are responsible to exert a positive influence on government, nowhere in the NT do we see that Elders in the local church, by virtue of their being Elders, have authority in or responsibility over local, state, or national government decision-making. Elders can certainly hold public office, but they do so as private citizens and not because of their office in the local church. Likewise, nowhere in the NT do we see governmental officials exerting authority over the local church or selecting its officers or dictating what it must believe or how its people must behave.
  7. No government or earthly authority or political party platform ever sent anyone to hell. Politics has no such power. On the other hand, unrepentant pride and immorality and rebellion and unbelief do send people to hell. They have precisely that power. Similarly, no government or earthly authority or political platform can save a single human soul. On the other hand, Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone can.
  8. The confession that “Jesus is Lord” is not simply a declaration of faith and an acknowledgement that He is the Master of our lives individually and as a church. It is also a political statement.

Today is the day after all the national elections. Some will be elated; others will be disappointed; yet others will be apathetic.

As Christians, how do we approach this? How should we understand this? How do we balance living life in this fallen world faithfully while knowing we are heavenly citizens (Phil. 3:20)? How do we live faithfully under an earthly president, all the while knowing we live joyfully under the sovereignty God?

At the end of the day, we must remember and submit to and trust in our good and sovereign God! Marvin Olasky (“Decision Time,” World 27/22 (November 3, 2012), 42-44) captured this reality well.

Sinful humans with all our quirks will decide who controls the White House and Congress. But under a sovereign God, the election is no crapshoot.

With fear and trembling we can report that all of them [those elected to serve in political office] depend on fallen and sinful individuals, with all the quirky reasoning at our command, marking ballots. The consolation in all this is not a little cross on paper but the wooden cross on a hill 2,000 years ago, and the knowledge that Christ died for us in our arrogance and folly and evil inclinations. Faith in democracy, the Founders, and even America itself is insufficient. We need faith in God.

Election Day Prayer

Greg Strand – November 6, 2012 Leave a comment

As Christians, we approach this day with prayer. Al Mohler wrote “A Prayer for America on Election Day” that was posted yesterday. It was actually a post done on November 4, 2008, the day of the last presidential election.

This updated post is an excellent reminder to us to pray along with guidance of what we ought to pray. Christians have a responsibility to vote, acknowledging our earthly citizenship, and to pray, acknowledging our heavenly citizenship.

Here is an abbreviated list of Mohler’s 10 recommended prayer requests:

First, we should pray that God will bless America with leaders better than we deserve.

Second, we should pray that Americans will be motivated to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship, yet also that we will be stripped of an unhealthy and idolatrous confidence in the power of government to save us.

Third, we must pray that Americans will vote by conscience, not merely on the basis of celebrity or emotion.

Fourth, we must pray that Americans will vote to defend the least among us — and especially those who have no vote.

Fifth, we should pray that God will prick the conscience of the nation on issues of morality, righteousness, and respect for marriage as the central institution of human civilization.

Sixth, we should pray that God will protect these candidates and their families.

Seventh, we should pray that the election is conducted with honor, civility, respect, and justice.

Eighth, we must pray that Americans will be prepared to accept the results of the election with respect and kindness.

Ninth, we should pray that this election would lead to even greater opportunities to preach the Gospel, and that the freedom of the church will be respected, honored, and protected.

Tenth, we must pray for the church, praying that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ would be strengthened in the truth, grounded in the faith, and empowered for witness and ministry.

May God grant us mercy and grace as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens — and our responsibilities as Christians.  This world is not our home, but we do bear responsibilities as followers of Christ as we are living here.

 

 

Biblical Truth to Remember on Election Day

Greg Strand – November 5, 2012 3 Comments

Tomorrow those of us living in the United States have the privilege of voting. For Christians, we thank God, first and foremost, that we have been made free by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Jn. 8:32; Eph. 2:8-9). We acknowledge that this makes us citizens of the heavenly city (Col. 3:1-4) while being aliens and strangers here on the earth (Eph. 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:11).

We also acknowledge that we are citizens of an earthly city, one that is passing away (Heb. 11:10-16; 13:14; 2 Pet.3:10-14) . But until that time, we are called to be faithful in that city. In fact, Christians, those who are first and foremost citizens of the heavenly city, are to be some of the best, most faithful citizens in the earthly city. Though we are not to be afraid of speaking and acting against Caesar when our heavenly citizenship is compromised, which means there are times when we must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29), neither are we afraid or reticent to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as that is the structure God has temporarily ordained (cf. the texts below) and our Lord Jesus’ commands (Matt. 22:21; Mk. 12:17; Lk. 20:25).

As an example, though Paul gladly acknowledged he was a Roman citizen and even referred to his citizenship when he was unjustly treated (Acts 16:37-38; 18:25:8, 11), he was not willing to acknowledge any other ultimate king, any other god besides God (1 Cor. 8:5-6). Contrary to the Jews’ claim at Jesus’ crucifixion that “we have no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15), Jesus taught and lived that rendering to God is absolute, which Paul did as well in his imitation of his Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul lived the reality of being “in but not of” the world (cf. Jn. 17), being salt and light here and now to God’s glory (Matt. 5:13-16).

Read, ponder and mediate on these biblical truths that are pertinent to those of us living in the United States, who engage as faithful citizens of an earthly city because we are faithful citizens of a heavenly city. In sum, it is our citizenship in the heavenly city that fills our citizenship in the earthly city with meaning and significance.

Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

1 Timothy 2:1-6

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Peter 2:11-17

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.