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Kingdom of God 5

by Bryant Evans on July 29, 2020

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Hebrews 11:13-16

We’ve previously explored the nature of human governments. Human authority exists, by God’s decree, alongside God’s kingdom. The common and the divine work side by side to provide for our needs. Divine ordinances do not regulate speed limits; instead, they point to the earthly and command obedience. Most governments of men do not reciprocate. They do not point heavenward and command obedience to God. And that causes friction.

The Christian lives in two worlds. That works well as long as rulers respect the superiority of the kingdom of God. The second-century Christian Justin Martyr wrote to Emperor Antonius Pius, demanding that the government fairly treat Christians. He penned: “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless.” (Justin Martyr, 1st apology, Chapter 1). He is calling for the civil authorities to respect truth and reject falsehoods as the government investigates Christianity. Justin wrote a second Apology addressed to the Roman Senate, begging for a truthful investigation of the church. His pleas fell upon hardened hearts. He and several followers were scourged and beheaded because they refused to bow to Roman pagan gods. Government had overstepped her bounds.

There is no inherent conflict between the divine and the common. Earthly governments can co-exist with the church, provided the all acknowledge the superiority of the church. Jesus said as much in Matthew 22:21, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” His apostles affirmed the primacy of the kingdom of God in Acts 5:29. The apostles were under arrest for preaching the Gospel. “We must obey God rather than men,” was the reply of Peter and the apostles. Service to the Lord comes before obedience to human government.

Earthly governments can co-exist with the church, provided all acknowledge the superiority of the church. Click To Tweet

 The incredibly difficult question today is when a Christian may disobey the laws of men. The Bible offers plenty of examples.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a false god (Daniel 3). Daniel was commanded not to pray but did anyway (Daniel 6). We observe that all of the apostles, except wicked Judas, were persecuted and mostly died because they would not stop teaching of Jesus. John was on the prison isle of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

There are accounts where God’s people did not revolt but only paused. Kings commanded Ezra cease working on the rebuilding of the Temple, a task commanded by God. The people did not disobey the king! Instead, they paused and pursued successful challenges to the order to cease work (Ezra 4,5,6).

The question of when a Christian may reject the laws of man is thorny. Next week, we will offer principles for making such a decision.

The Kingdom of God – Part 5

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Hebrews 11:13-16

We’ve previously explored the nature of human governments. Human authority exists, by God’s decree, alongside God’s kingdom. The common and the divine work side by side to provide for our needs. Divine ordinances do not regulate speed limits; instead, they point to the earthly and command obedience. Most governments of men do not reciprocate. They do not point heavenward and command obedience to God. And that causes friction.

The Christian lives in two worlds. That works well as long as rulers respect the superiority of the kingdom of God. The second-century Christian Justin Martyr wrote to Emperor Antonius Pius, demanding that the government fairly treat Christians. He penned: “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless.” (Justin Martyr, 1st apology, Chapter 1). He is calling for the civil authorities to respect truth and reject falsehoods as the government investigates Christianity. Justin wrote a second Apology addressed to the Roman Senate, begging for a truthful investigation of the church. His pleas fell upon hardened hearts. He and several followers were scourged and beheaded because they refused to bow to Roman pagan gods. Government had overstepped her bounds.

There is no inherent conflict between the divine and the common. Earthly governments can co-exist with the church, provided the all acknowledge the superiority of the church. Jesus said as much in Matthew 22:21, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” His apostles affirmed the primacy of the kingdom of God in Acts 5:29. The apostles were under arrest for preaching the Gospel. “We must obey God rather than men,” was the reply of Peter and the apostles. Service to the Lord comes before obedience to human government.

 The incredibly difficult question today is when a Christian may disobey the laws of men. The Bible offers plenty of examples.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a false god (Daniel 3). Daniel was commanded not to pray but did anyway (Daniel 6). We observe that all of the apostles, except wicked Judas, were persecuted and mostly died because they would not stop teaching of Jesus. John was on the prison isle of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

There are accounts where God’s people did not revolt but only paused. Kings commanded Ezra cease working on the rebuilding of the Temple, a task commanded by God. The people did not disobey the king! Instead, they paused and pursued successful challenges to the order to cease work (Ezra 4,5,6).

The question of when a Christian may reject the laws of man is thorny. Next week, we will offer principles for making such a decision.

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