Archive for the ‘idolatry’ Tag

Flee Idolatry to True Freedom   Leave a comment

Either consciously or subconsciously, many of us prefer to take the easy way out. Instead of working to bless God and others, we choose a selfish prison of our own making. Instead of giving God the worship that He alone deserves, we worship ourselves. Instead of serving others, we seek our own good. When this takes place there is community jeopardy.

Live to Glorify God

Image result for image of idolatryIn the section we’re studying today, 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1, Paul concluded a three-chapter discussion on the freedom that God has given Christians. The passage falls into two major sections. In 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 there is a stern warning and in 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 there is emphathic counsel on how to use our freedom to God’s glory, for the good of other people. Paul understood that true freedom is putting God and others first.

FLEE IDOLATRY

So thenmy dear friendsflee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:14

Remember that this section follows after a discussion of temptation. We should be careful to remember that the Bible was not written as a series of chapters and verses, but, in the case of 1 Corinthians, a letter from a man who knew his audience well. When Paul followed up his discussion of temptation with the command to “Free Idolatry” it’s not a suggestion. Idolatry is sin because God is the only true God, and He is a jealous lover Who will not share our affections with anyone or anything else. God is still the God Who told the Israelites to have no other gods before Him. Thus, Paul began with a straightforward command: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” The word “therefore” concludes the previous discussion in 1 Corinthians 8:1-10:13 and moves toward a conclusion. Notice Paul called his readers “my beloved,” even though they are practicing idolatry? We don’t usually feel loving toward students who vex us, but Paul loved the saints of Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 1:2). Thus, he wanted to remind his readers how precious they were to him even when he spoke harshly to them.

Image result for image of idolatryOur pastor recently said he feels a shred of guilt whenever he preaches on particularly challenging portions of God’s word. His flesh is weak and sinful just like ours, so he wants to cut people slack and be gracious. Even pastors want to be liked and to make people feel good about themselves. Whatever we might prefer, the Bible doesn’t spin things like we do.

Soft preaching produces hard people and hard preaching produces soft people.” I like this! Therefore, the most loving thing that I can do is to affirm you in Christ, yet, drill us all between the eyes when necessary. (Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hll Church, Ballard, WA)

The command in 1 Corinthians 10:14 is to “flee” idolatry (see also 1 Corinthians 10:7). “Idolatry” in the Old Testament was the image and worship of pagan gods. We’re still idolaters in the 21st century,  but we’re just more sophisticated idolaters. Our idols appear more innocent since they are people, possessions, work, and leisure. If anyone or anything besides God gets our best thoughts, feelings, and energy we’re idolaters.

Identifying Idolatry:

  • Do you know sports or the entertainment industry better than your Bible? That information will mean nothing in eternity.
  • Do you spend more time at your hobbies than you do serving Christ? You will have to answer for why Christ and His church meant so little to you during your brief sojourn on earth.
  • Do you spend more time surfing the web than you do with people? (Whoa, I am personally guilty here!). You will have neglected eternal souls that you could have impacted.
  • Are you so driven to succeed in your job that you don’t have time to stop and pray? You will never be satisfied.
  • Are you bent on making just a little more money for yourself and your family? We all need money to live, but if you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.

 

I am speaking to thoughtful peopleConsider what I say.  1 Corinthians 10:15

Image result for image of idolatryPaul was an apostle of Christ, yet he admonished these sinning saints to judge his words for themselves (see also 1 Corinthians 14:39-40). If this was true 2,000 years ago in Corinth, this is certainly true for us today. God has called you and me to study the Scriptures for ourselves. He expects that we will be wise and discerning because the Holy Spirit lives inside of those who have trusted in Christ.

Paul asked seven rhetorical questions, inviting the Corinthians to carefully consider his words.

Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one bodyfor we all share the one bread. Look at the people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 1 Corinthians 10:16-18

First, Paul used the Lord’s Supper and Israel’s sacrificial meals as an analogy to demonstrate that God’s people have always had one God. He used this to warn the Israelites against idolatry, informing them and us that any kind of idolatrous involvement contradicts our identity in Jesus Christ. The communion table is a symbol of our relationship with Jesus Christ, Who is the very source of our spiritual life and our unity as brothers and sisters in His body. When we partake together of the elements at the communion table, it involves a sharing (koinonia) with the Lord Jesus and also with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Similarly, as ancient Israel worshipped with sacrificial meals in the temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 14:22-27), they communed with the Lord through the forgiveness associated with those animal sacrifices. Both believing Jews under the old covenant and followers of Jesus Christ under the new covenant are defined in terms of spiritual identity by what they eat together. Those meals aren’t just religious rituals…they are a picture of their relationship with the Lord of the universe. Symbolically, when we come to the Lord’s table, we are saying Jesus is our source of life and strength. This sacred meal defines who we are in Jesus Christ – dead to sin by the power of His resurrection.

Am I saying that idols or food sacrificed to them amount to anything? NoI mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to GodI do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demonsYou cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 19-21

Idolatry conflicts with our identity in Christ and so incurs the wrath of God. No Christian can participate in demon activity with impunity. Christianity cannot be a mere religious hobby to us. No Christian can dip his flag or lower his colors by accommodating what he believes to another religion. We cannot inject other religious beliefs into that relationship. Compromise of truth and credence to other religions always weakens our faith. If we compromise truth to “get along with the world”, we might want to ask ourselves if we’re even saved. I’m not saying you’re not saved. I’m saying you should examine your cozy relationship with the world and ask yourself “Does this actually align with what God has required?” and if it doesn’t, to get right with God even if that makes you out of kilter with the world. Remember that we follow a Savior that the world crucified. Being out of kilter with it doesn’t look so bad when you view it from that perspective.

Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we really stronger than he is? 1 Corinthians 10:22

Image result for image of an american flag and soldierIn the Old Testament, marriage was often used as a metaphor to describe the Israelites’ relationship with the Lord in the context of their flirting with idols. Idolatry was equivalent to the Israelites’ prostituting themselves to another, foreign lover, and as a result the Lord became jealous. This is to be expected. If your spouse said he or she had another love interest, you would see red and pour out your wrath. Similarly, any form of idolatrous involvement provokes the jealousy of God. All through the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as a “jealous God.” His jealousy is not like ours. It’s totally consistent with His character. It’s also completely committed to what’s best for us. God’s jealousy comes from His loving ownership of us. He loves us too much for us to get away with whatever rebellion or idolatry we’re pursuing. He will intervene; He will crash into our life and it will be painful. He will do whatever it takes to get our attention, because the answer to the question is, we are not stronger than He is. No matter what the rebellion is or how entrenched it is, He is more powerful!

Do you think this lesson was intolerant? You’re right and I will not apologize for that. God requires us to be zealous for Him. You and I should be righteously zealous for God’s name and reputation. We should be zealous for God’s people—both those who are already His and those who are not yet in the family. When Paul was preparing to establish the church at Corinth, God gave him a very encouraging word: “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Well, there weren’t any Christians there yet. What God meant is that there were many who were destined to become Christians, but they needed to be evangelized. Do we have a passion for souls? Do we have a passion for making disciples? Do we have a zeal for serving God’s people? True freedom is putting God and others first.

Then, too, you and I should be zealous for God’s house, which in the New Testament is His church … not the building, but the congregation. Do you remember what Jesus said, “Zeal for Your house will consume me?” (John 2:17; Psalms 69:9) How do you rate in this area? In every church there are those whose zeal has waned and even evaporated. For many American Christians it might well be said, “Zeal for my job has consumed me,” or “Zeal for sports has consumed me,” or “Zeal for my family has consumed me,” rather than zeal for God’s house. May we focus our zeal on that which will last for eternity, when the rest of these things are burnt up on Judgment Day. True freedom is putting God and others first.

Freedom In Christ   2 comments

True Biblical Christians do not think we are good. We think God can do good through us.

That’s an important distinction. Salvation doesn’t mean we’ve become good, but that we have become conduits of God’s goodness. “The container never becomes the contents,” Jacques Ellul wrote. “The entire Bible constantly iterates that nothing has changed intrinsically or ontologically in this person who has been enlightened by the revelation. He is saved. He is justified. He is sanctified, but he is still himself.” (To Will and To Do. pg. 210)

Becoming Christians may have turned on the light for us, but as we’ve never seen the furniture before, we are still incapable of recognizing it. Concepts of good and evil do not come to us naturally.

And this is where Christianity has often gone off the rails. Jesus was perfect, He lived a sinless life. We are to look toward Him as an example in how to live our lives. But He is merely our example. We did not become Him.

Paul’s explanation of Christian behavior is that of “the manifestation of the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies” (2Corinthians 4:10,11); not by any human imitation of Christ’s behavioral goodness. Christian living is not “monkey see, monkey do,” the apeing of reproduced external behavior. The character of God’s goodness manifested in our behavior. “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

To whatever degree we express behavioral goodness it is not by or through our own effort. Jesus said: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that manifests the character of God. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing good. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that glorifies God. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that qualifies as Christian behavior.

Do you hear me, Christians?

Goodness is known and activated only by God’s grace, which is God’s activity consistent with His character. By His grace, God reveals Himself and His intent to us in a personal and intimate way, informed by the Bible and accountable to the congregation, but stemming from our “sitting under” His instruction in the obedience of faith.

As Christians we must continue to be available and receptive in faith to the expression of God’s goodness in our behavior. “He who began to good word in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The “good work” is not perfection in conforming to a “standard of goodness” or mustering up good behavior, but in letting God use us to accomplish His work.

Jesus allows us the freedom to express His goodness in our lifestyle. Such expressions are not forced upon Christians. We still have freedom of choice. And freedom comes in “flavors”. Often, we think of freedom in Christ as a freedom from something — sin, death, immorality, but there is also freedom to God’s intent. Some people fear a lack of moral code as a lapse into lawlessness, but if God be our guide, there is no way we can stumble.

Jesus wants to express His character of goodness in consistent, practical Christian behavior. We don’t want to be so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good. God is a practical Deity and Christian living has to do with expressing God’s goodness in all of our interpersonal relationships — husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, friends, acquaintances, and the general public.

Paul warned “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). I know some anarchist-type Christians who advocate against moralism and repudiate all behavioral considerations and preaching. They’ll tolerate any behavior in the name of “freedom”. That may be a valid secular backlash against moralism, but it will lead to social chaos apart from the recognition of God’s grace expressed as goodness.

Sin is still sin and it is not derived from God. It does not express the character of God, but is derived from Satan (1John 3:8).

So what does freedom in Christ look like?

What Morality Is   2 comments

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of these things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. pg. 130.)

No one has ever become “good” or “righteous” on the basis of morally proper behavior. Morality is Satan’s big laugh on mankind.

Morality is a result of the fall of man into sin. Morality is a lie, based on the falsehood of independent-self, autonomous man. Morality is sinful. Sin is anything not derived from God. Morality is sinful because it advocates the autonomy of goodness and fails to understand the spiritual nature of all human behavior.

“Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and morality is not based on faith. Therefore it is sinful.

Morality is humanistic. Humanism is based on the thesis of the autonomous self-potential of mankind, first introduced in the Garden. Morality is humanistic because “goodness” is alleged to be knowable by oneself and do-able by oneself apart from God.

Morality is psychological manipulation. Behavioristic psychology attempts to manipulate human behavior in “behavior modification,” failing to understand the spiritual source of all behavior. The social moralists employ such behavioristic psychological manipulation to keep their particular “society” in check and functioning in accord with their self-oriented objectives.

Morality is offensive to God. God hates autonomous morality! It is contrary to His intent for mankind. Isaiah graphically stated that “all our righteous deeds are as a filthy rag” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul described his religious and moral efforts as but “rubbish” or “dung” (KJV) in Philippians 3:8. Morality is offensive to God.

Morality is “another gospel.” When Paul wrote to the Galatians warning them of the religionists who were trying to add moralistic requirements to the simple gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, he indicated that they were bringing “another gospel” which was “no gospel” at all since it was devoid of any “good news.” History is replete with moral supplements becoming part and parcel of so-called “Christian religion.” Whenever morality is introduced it supplants the singular sufficiency of Jesus Christ and constitutes “another gospel.”

Morality is “salvation by works.”  Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). Salvation is always enacted by the dynamic of God’s saving work in the provision of His grace. Salvation begins in conversion, but the continuing dynamic of the “saving life” of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10) makes us safe from satanic misuse, abuse and dysfunction in order to restore us to the functional use God intended by His grace activity in the Christian. Morality says we don’t need salvation or a relationship with Christ. We simply need to be “good” according to how our society defines “goodness” this century.

Morality is legalism. Morality sets up a code of acceptable conduct, rules and regulations of right and wrong that form an independent, external law, to which all subjects are expected to conform. Striving to conform to the law is thus the moralistic objective of “obedience.” Moralistic, legalistic “obedience to the law” is far removed from the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5) that listens under God’s Spirit and is obedient to Life.

Morality is deadly. Legalism lacks the vibrancy and vitality of divine life. Paul wrote in II Cor. 3:6, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The “letter of the law” on which morality rests is deadly! It kills all expression of God’s life in man, as man works himself to death!

Morality is devastating and destructive. Incapable of ever measuring up to the moral requirements, man is increasingly frustrated, unhappy and grieved.  It binds a person, making them slaves to law, convention and social approval. To the Galatians Paul explained, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;…do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Morality destroys the freedom to be and do whatever God wants to be and do in us. The rigid chains of moral inflexibility allow for no novelty, newness, no spontaneity of fresh expression of the Spirit.The Pharisees engaged in their perpetual pretense of piety. Though their moralistic attempts are often called “self-righteousness,” in reality they had a pseudo-righteousness, no righteousness at all, just sin! Jesus detested, opposed and exposed the Pharisaical morality.

“Ethical behavior by itself can too easily entrench a man in self-righteousness. He has joined the Pharisee, praying with himself to a god who is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I thank thee that I am not as other men are.’ …No mortal man can win by self-effort what in the nature of things must always be a gift.” Frank Lake, Clinical Theology. New York: Crossroad. 1986. pg. 168.

Morality is fraudulent. It can never deliver what it promises. It does not achieve the results it is designed to achieve. Paul explained in Colossians 2:23 that morality is of “no value against fleshly indulgence.” Those patterned propensities of selfishness and sinfulness in the desires of our soul will never be dealt with, or overcome by, moral suppressionism or by moral striving to overcome. Morality is a contrived substitute for Christian living. As a posturing pretext of living a “good Christian life,” morality plays the part of an impostor. Instead of disallowing our selfish expressions by allowing the life of Jesus Christ to be lived out through us, morality masquerades self-oriented conformity as “spiritual behavior.” It’s hypocrisy!

Morality is idolatry that reduces God to a moral ideal, an ethical standard and a behavioral formula that becomes an ideological idol constructed and carved in the human mind, which the moralist then submits to rather than God.

“Seeking to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, and by conformity to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society which you have chose, and in which you hope to be found ‘acceptable.’ You will in this way perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the ‘flesh,’ and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring ‘Christianity’ more than Christ.” (Ian W. Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness. pg. 43.)
Morality is a religious inevitability. Wherever you find religion you will find morality. They are always “coupled” together. Why? Because religion is a man-made social organization that requires morality standards to give it external form, to give it a reason for existing, to cement loyalty and conformity, and to keep the guilt payments coming in. As people perceive their inability to please and appease God by their inadequate moral behavior, they seek to buy off their sin in “indulgences.”

Morality is also a worldly necessity. In the society of the “world,” populated by fallen mankind, morality is necessitated to keep the chaos of selfishness and sinfulness “in check,” if even temporarily.

Morality is also relative. Human, social, worldly and religious morality is never properly related to the absoluteness of God’s character of goodness, and to the absolutely only expression of God’s goodness by derivation from God by God’s grace. Morality is relative to the intents and desires of the prevailing authorities in the particular society over which they have manipulative control, albeit governmental or ecclessiastical. Morality is relative to the majority of the individuals in that society willing to accept the moral standards, either under threat of punishment or by democratic concensus of what is “good” and/or “evil” with an individual accountability to the so-called “good” of the whole. Morality is relative to the limitations of fallen man in keeping such moral conditions, due to the selfishness and sinfulness of the “flesh.”

Morality is antithetical to Christianity. Morality always attempts to establish “goodness” apart from God alone, and its availability to man by the indwelling of Jesus Christ alone. Morality denies the derived existence of good in the character of God. Morality denies the derived knowledge of good by the revelation of God. Morality denies the derived expression of good by the grace of God. Morality precludes the primary assertion of the Christian gospel, that the availability for the expression of God’s goodness in man is only by the presence and empowering of the Spirit of Christ in man, received by faith in regeneration and sanctification.

“Morality…necessarily collides with God’s decision brought to pass in Jesus Christ, which locates the life and truth of man out beyond anything that man can formulate, know and live.” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. pg. 71.

Christianity is not morality. In many ways, it is the anti-morality.

Morality Is Not Good   Leave a comment

Morality and ethics always seem to employ references to good and evil, right and wrong conduct. We don’t stop to consider how these designations are determined and evaluated. What determines what is “good” or “right”? Do goodness or righteousness exist in and of themselves? Is there such a thing as “autonomous goodness,” a secular “godless” ethical standard, or the “autonomy of morality?” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. pg. 30).

Christianity – true Biblical Christianity — asserts that God alone is autonomous, independent and self-existent. Everything and everyone else is dependent and derivative. To believe otherwise is idolatry. Only God is Good. Christianity denies an independent, autonomous self-existent “good.” There is no “naural goodness” that becomes the basis of a “natural morality” within a “natural theology”.

“There is none good, no not one” Romans 3:12

“No one is good, except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

Any attempt to self-define “good” by human standards is an attempt to replace God as the standard-bearer for Christian behavior. It’s idolatry to think that we can define “good” from our own perspective. We end up calling “evil good and good evil” and making ourselves “wise in [our] own eyes, and clever in [our] own sight.” (Isaiah 5:20-21). “Good” is knowable only as God reveals Himself and do-able only as the character of God is activated and expressed in human behavior. Good intentions aside, moralists who allege to lead us in the common good for moralities and ethics invariably based their systems on their fallen and self-serving motivations.

We do remember the Fall, right?

No human is good. Creation is bent and we are the most bent of it.

God as the source and definition of good is asserted through out Scripture and the lack of goodness of human beings is also quite clearly proclaimed. There is no genuine, absolute “good” apart from God.

God has revealed Himself and thus revealed His character of goodness. Human beings may not recognize that because we’re not good. We can only really know what good is by knowing God through Jesus Christ. That word “know” means in a personal and intimate sense, a dynamic personal revelation of God informed by the Bible and accountable to other believers, but revealed by the Holy Spirit. We can live out God’s goodness only as the character of God is dynamically generated and actuated by God’s grace because only God can actively express His goodness. The active expression of genuine goodness is Christian behavior is always derived from God. “The one who does good is of God.” (3John 11). The phrase “of God” comes from theos, meaning source or origin coming from God. In other words, the one who manifests goodness derives what he does out of God.”

God is Good; the goodness of man is relative to God’s work in our lives. We must not attribute an attribute of God (goodness) to ourselves, another person, an object, an idea or an activity, for in so doing we deify that creation and make it an idol.

Good can only be defined by the character of God since He is the source and essense of all good. English is such a sloppy language that we use the same word for describe vastly different concepts. We don’t mean good in the same way as we mean beneficial, advantageous, profitable, wholesome, acceptable, or ethically useful. God is not “good” because He conforms to a moral standard encoded by a flawed human society. God is not “good” because He does good.There is no standard higher than Him. He is the definition and the source of “good”. He does what He does because He is who He is. All good done is done by the God who is good.

… Including the “good” you want to take credit for doing.

Ignorance of Our Nation   1 comment

What is the appropriate application of Romans 13 in a self-governed society?

When the American colonies revolted against King George, we were technically in violation of Romans 13. None of us alive today participated in that conflict, but we are the recipients of the liberty that was won through it. Our country was founded on the principle of civil disobedience in the face of tyranny, yet we who are the heirs of the liberty that was won in the conflict want to deny ourselves the option of using it now.

Why? Who are the civil authorities in the United States of America? Don’t we the people choose them and aren’t they supposed to represent us and our ideals, not their own interests? Yet when these “representatives” begin to usurp our authority and tell us how to live, we pull out Romans 13 like a magic shield that says we must submit to government in all guises — even to an illegitimate government that should not exist according to our founding documents.

We the people, including Christians, are the government of the United States. We are the sovereign authority of the nation — the king, if you will (though I think more regents of the True King, Jesus Christ). Read the Constitution and note the first sentence, if you doubt me. Moreover, the states are meant to direct the federal government, not the other way around.

This is a completely different situation from what Paul was writing to the Roman Christians who lived under a dictator. The emperor was THE higher power and as long as he ruled justly and did not command Christians to violate God’s law, Christians were bound to submit to him. They had no say because they chose to live in a society that did not permit mere citizens to have a say.

In the United States, however, we are a Constitutional Republic which was explicitly founded upon Biblical principles. Romans 13 cannot apply in exactly the same way as it did to the Roman Christians because the PEOPLE of the United States are THE higher power. We are supposed to be self-governed by God’s law, which means we are bound to disobey laws and statutes that interfere with our submission to the Creator. The Founders believed “There is no king but Jesus”. Any other attitude but this is nothing short of idolatry.

What is the Legitimate Function of Government?   1 comment

“For he is God’s minster to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minster, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)

The only legitimate function of the civil magistrate is to protect society. Reasonably, this would be achieved by executing God’s wrath on evildoers — what we would call criminals, who pose an internal threat to society — and by repelling attack and invasion by foreign aggressors, which are external threats to society.

Yes, this has a secular counterpart — the oath of office that vows to protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.

Beyond these duties, Romans 13 cannot be used to grant the civil magistrate further authority. Christians have a duty to respond with submission to the magistrate who faithfully exercises those duties and to provide material aid (taxes and personal actions) that finance these legitimate functions of government. Beyond that, Christians are to show due respect to officials as we are to show due respect to our fellow citizens.

Some Greek scholars suggest that Romans 13 is a prescriptive passage. It speaks of what “higher powers” are supposed to be, no t what they are intrinsically. As God’s minister, the civil official is obligated to obey God’s law and to property apply it to society. Conversely, if an official becomes “a terror to good works” (verse 3), and rewards evil rather than punishing it, he then “bears the sword in vain”. He is no longer “God’s minister to you for good” and it becomes the duty of Christians to  resist his unlawful rule as we would resist the rule of Satan.

Yes, God may deliver His people over to an oppressive civil magistrate as chastisement for sin, but we are not obligated to deliver ourselves and our consciences over to that which is contrary to God’s word. To say that the laws of the civil government are unequivocally the “ordinances of God” is blasphemous because sometimes those civil laws are evil. The magistrate ceases to be God’s minister when his rule contradicts God’s law.

The question is — how far does the Christian obligation to resist go under circumstances where the coercive power of the state has been used to violate God’s commands?

Ending Individualism   Leave a comment

Individualism is a danger for large governments that require conformity and docility. When Constantine made his political calculation that faithful Christianity legalized could provide stability to the Roman Empire, he apparently didn’t foresee a future where his successor thought nominal Christianity could provide conformity throughout the Empire.

By requiring everyone to become Christian so as to partake of the benefits of the empire, Theodosius failed to grasp the history of Christianity. Christian conversion is individual. We stand before God alone, without father or mother, country or culture. God forgives our individual sins, not our group sins.

Theodosius linked the Roman Empire to the “catholic” (or universal) church and required it to be something God had never intended it to be — an all-encompassing arbitrator of men’s souls. Instead of faith in God, the Roman Catholic Church now offered membership in the Roman Empire. When Rome fell, the Roman Catholic Church was really the only authority left in Western Europe while the individual kingdoms sorted themselves out. The Church had to bring order to society.

And it did … by means of teaching Christians that being obedient was God-ordained. Good Christians didn’t question the authorities, didn’t assert their individuality or rebel against cruel or inhumane governments.

And, thus the Roman Catholic Church, comprised by this time of the younger brothers of nobility, created the divine right of kings and the idolatry of government worship.

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