The state is the great idol of modernity, and so of course Christians have to think through what things are lawful to render to Caesar and what things are not. This week we will consider the nature of our problem—the corruption of the system and the corruptions of those who oppose it. The next installment will address civil resistance in the Bible (Ehud, Gideon, Paul, Peter, David, el al.). But we must also remember civil submission in the Bible, and so passages like Romans 13 will be considered after that. Next, we will review an aspect of this subject infrequently considered, which is the nature of “established authorities” and the meaning of common law. The week after we will address common problems of conscience among Christians—Social Security taxes, registering for the draft, building inspectors, EPA regulations, licenses, and so forth. And last, we will look at the only possible solution to our civil woes, which is the genuine reformation of the Church. Any call for societal transformation must begin in the household of God.
“O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?. . . Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Ps. 94:1-3, 20-22).
The Corrupt System
The Bible does recognize what we might call de facto rule. But the Bible also teaches the concept ofmoral legitimacy. “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Pr. 16:12 : cf. 20:28; 25:5; 29:14). And so where do we stand? Here is just a brief review.
Abortion—since Roe v. Wade, we as a nation have maintained, for a full generation, that the dismemberment of an infant in the womb is morally legitimate. But the Bible says that murder is evil and defiles a land (Ex. 20:13; Num. 35:33- 34), and that the unborn in a just society are to have full legal protection (Ex. 21:22-25).
Moral filth exalted—from pornographic and federally-funded “art,” to twisted sex ed courses, to sodomite “marriages,” to vile behavior tolerated by our leaders, our culture defies God (Rom. 1:28-32 ). And so we as Christians must defy the culture.
Hatred of the truth—from the central lie of our government school systems—that the living God is, at best, irrelevant— to the lying ways in which we handle the law, wanting it to be as slippery as our hearts, we have turned from truth. “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?” (Jer. 8:8-9)
Bogus crusades—because we will not learn our morality from the law of God, we find ourselves inventing our own lists of things to be indignant about, including, but not limited to, tobacco, sexism, wine and beer, climate change, and the history of western Europe. But remember the words of Mark 7:9.
In summary, our modern rulers cannot be dismayed when we deny that they have moral legitimacy, because they want to insist that in the final analysis, there is no such thing a moral legitimacy. And so the preachers of the Word of God can have only one thing to say to such wickedness in high places (Is. 5:20-21).
The Corrupted Opposition
It would be wonderful to be able to say that the corruption in our centers of power has nothing to do with us, but God gives rulers in order to chastise a people. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Pr. 14:34).
The state of the church—how can we expect the civil magistrate to conduct his affairs according to the Word of God when the church won’t conduct her affairs according to the Word of God? Consider the importance of salt in Matt. 5:13-16.
The idol of personal comfort—why do we yell when they want us to pay for the privileges we greedily accept? “I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not hear.’ This has been your manner from your youth, that you did not obey My voice” (Jer. 22:21). If you hear the word of righteousness when you are not afflicted, you do well. Lack of preparedness—when we are finally provoked to action, it is foolish and ill- considered action because of our prior sloth (1 Chr. 12:32). The school of resistance to lawless thrones is the same as the school of submission to the Lordship of Christ within the church. And this school is not a three-week course.
Judgment or Mercy
We serve the living God, the Holy One of Israel. He never changes; His attitude toward sinful nations is always the same. His wrath is visited upon all who defy Him, those who walk along spitting at the very clouds. The only way to flee from God is to flee to God. The only way to flee to God is through His Christ, our Lord Jesus.