Church and Government

by Bryant Evans on February 1, 2015

3D_Judges_Gavel (1)It’s time to talk about the church and government. It seems we are confusing the two. As a result, many Christians are wringing their hands over a federal judge who decided to mandate same-sex marriage in Alabama. There are some facts we should keep in mind.

The Church and Government Are Not the Same

While both are from God and even though Christians are subject to both, the church and government are not identical. Each has responsibilities which complement each other but are unique. For example, government has no responsibility for evangelism and the church has no responsibility for policing citizens.

Neither Sin nor Righteousness Can Be Legislated.

One of our greatest failures is the idea that we can make people holy through legislation. We cannot.

 We have argued elsewhere that morality must be based in God. We may extend that to argue that such God-based morality is the foundation of many of laws in the past.

Today, government is populated by throngs of godless men and women who no longer stand on Biblical morality. To them, there is no moral anchor for their actions. The single determining factor is personal desire. Whatever most people want is what they will get. The danger of this populist approach to right and wrong is that anything becomes legally possible.

It is the populist approach that gave us abortion on demand and now homosexual marriage. One can only speculate at what future wickedness will be condoned and even supported by our government. We should not be surprised that evil is slowly consuming both our culture and government.

Christians must be the Conscience of Culture

What then is the role of the Christian in our country? Christians desire that all live righteously. That is the will of Christ and is appropriately the will of his followers. Jesus said that his followers should be both salt and light (). Jesus did not say that his people were to be politicians. It may be that Christians can affect the world through political activism and participation, but they must never confuse their Christianity with their politics.

Philip Yancey, in Vanishing Grace wrote, “The church works best as a separate force, a conscience to society that keeps itself at arm’s length from the state.” I think he has a fine point. Our task is not to run the state but to prod the state into Godly conduct. Sometimes our saltiness is successful. Sometimes our light is seen. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.

Our true battle is not in the smoke-filled back rooms of government. Our battle is in the hearts and minds of individuals.

Christians Live and Thrive Despite Government

I wonder if we think we are saved by government. Do we think the church needs government? The church does not need government. Every time the church gets close with the state the church loses. The one time the church actually merged with government we ended up with the Crusades.

But consider the original Christians. The church began with opposition from both the Jewish and Roman governments. Jesus, as Lord of the church and its founder, was crucified by the Romans at the insistence of the Jews. The Jewish persecution of the church began immediately with, at a minimum, the permission of Rome. Later, as Christianity spread far beyond Judea and Galilee, Rome took up the persecution under such infamous leaders as Nero and Domitian.

It was in the pressure cooker of governmental assault that Christianity grew rapidly.

It was also in this environment that Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities” (). Earlier, Jesus noted the separation between the church and government when he answered his critics by saying, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (). The Christian walks two paths, that of the heavenly way and that of state citizen. For almost all Americans, these current rulings approving sinful acts have no direct impact on how they live or worship. It may anger us, sadden us, disappoint us or sicken us, but these laws do not require us to sin or violate our faith.

But It’s an Abomination!

True enough, homosexuality is an abomination. The Bible is clear in . But other sins are also abominations, i.e. dishonesty in business (), idolatry (), a devious person (), haughtiness, a lying tongue, shedding innocent blood, devising wicked plans, those that practice evil generally, a false witness and one who causes discord among brethren ().

There are many sins that are not illegal. In fact, among the 10 Commandments, only two are actually illegal (killing and stealing). The point is simple: any sin offends God and is an abomination to him. But government is not the church and has never made most sins illegal. In our country today it is perfectly legal to engage in adultery or fornication. It is allowed to lie or shade the truth. It is legal to covet anything and everything your neighbor has. One may worship idols and even offer animal sacrifices to those idols and not be guilty of a crime.

Brethren, we live in a broken, corrupt world where Satan, our adversary, rules (, ).

It Will Get Worse

It is not a happy thought, but our world will continue to grow darker (). Most will be lost ().

In my lifetime, these teachings have been proving again and again. Abortion on demand takes millions of innocent lives annually, fornication and adultery are commonplace. Honesty is almost unheard of, homosexuality is accepted and glorified, morality has fled from the public square. I do not like where our world has gone, yet I live here and will glorify God as long as I can.

Being Salty

Jesus told us to be the salt of the earth (). But where do we sprinkle that salt? If I buy a hamburger and fries I might sprinkle salt on the fries but not in my Mountain Dew. Likewise, let us sprinkle our salt where it is most needed and most effective.

You are most effective when touching the hearts of someone you know. A one-on-one relationship makes all the difference. Writing letters to Congressmen and Senators is easy and requires no investment, but impacting the life of a living being person you know is hard.

If tomorrow we awoke to find that Congress had passed, and the President had signed, a bill to make all sin illegal, would it change anything? Would sin decrease? Would all 320 million Americans suddenly be saved? No!

Reforming government is a distraction. You cannot bring America to Christ. You bring individuals to Christ. You bring your spouse, your children, your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, co-workers, neighbors and fellow students to Christ. We are not saved as a nation but as individual souls in need of a savior.

When I look at Jesus and his apostles I never once see them arguing for some candidate or petitioning for a law to end some sin. But I do see Jesus interacting with a Sanhedrin leader (ff). I see Paul one-on-one with a Centurion (ff), a Roman proconsul () and I see him before a King (). The gospel is shared with individuals, not governments.

I, like you, am saddened when I see those who glorify sin win any battle. But I know that my task is to evangelize, not to govern. My Lord is enthroned in glory (; ) and is victorious. Do not be discouraged by battles lost in Satan’s world. Know that there is ultimate victory in Christ!

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at preachersstudyblog.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

 

 

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14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

13:1 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. (ESV)

21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (ESV)

22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (ESV)

16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. (ESV)

15 “‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’

Deuteronomy 32:16

16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominations they provoked him to anger. (ESV)

32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence. (ESV)

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. (ESV)

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV)

in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (ESV)

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

2 Timothy 3:13

13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (ESV)

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

Matthew 7:14

14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (ESV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (ESV)

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (ESV)

10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, (ESV)

12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (ESV)

26:1 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: (ESV)

55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (ESV)

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (ESV)

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