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We continue our series on Christian maturity and the pursuit of excellence, and we turn to what the Bible teaches about political maturity. In the midst of the mud-slinging of much political discourse, it can be easy to lose sight of basic Biblical principles, much less, long term goals. Apathy, perfectionism, and compromise are all enemies of political maturity. Central to mature thinking, planning, and acting politically is understanding the Lordship of Christ over all, and the different jurisdictions he has assigned to different authorities.
“… Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told Him by certain which said, ‘Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee.’ And He answered and said unto them, ‘My mother and My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it’” (Lk. 8:19-21).
NATIONS AND FAMILIES
The Bible teaches that nations are the natural extension of families multiplying. It frequently refers to nations as the “families of the earth” (e.g. Gen. 28:14, Ps. 22:27, Zech. 14:17). In Eph. 3:15, Paul writes, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” The word translated as “family” in Greek is patria, which is derived from the root word pater, which means “father,” but it can also refer to a much larger sociopolitical group such as an entire nation of people. Patria is where we get the words “patriot” and “patriotism” and the notion of right love and loyalty to one’s nation. This family-nation connection is true biologically, but Paul is clearly insisting that it goes deeper and broader than that, since every family is named after God the Father. And this is precisely what God began to teach His people early on through the gift of His covenant. To Abraham, God said, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee” (Gen. 17:4-5). While biological conception was always an important part of the growth and expansion of families/nations, from this very moment, God also instituted circumcision, in effect saying, but do not think of this covenant as a purely physical/blood relationship. Abraham’s entire household, including his male servants, were circumcised, Israel went up out of Egypt as a “mixed multitude” (Ex. 12:38), and Paul goes to great lengths to insist that this covenant was by faith not by the power of the flesh (Rom. 4:16-21). “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7ff). God has always taught His people that water is thicker than blood.
JESUS, LORD OF ALL NATIONS
All of this means that the Bible views the governments of the family, church, and state, as different sorts of families, nations, or covenants. While we have already seen this with families and nations, the Church also has “fathers” (cf. 1 Cor. 4:15) and is called the “household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), “the household of God” (Eph. 2:19, 1 Tim. 3:15, 1 Pet. 4:17) as well as a “holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9) in which Christians have a citizenship (Phil. 3:20). And this brings us full circle to the words of Christ: “‘My mother and My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it’” (Lk. 8:21). The point is not merely one about biological family (although it includes that); it’s far more expansive, including all of our “mothers and brothers,” in our families, churches, and nations – all natural loves and kindred are subject to God’s word. When Jesus rose from the dead, He said, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me, therefore go and disciple the nations…” (Mt. 28:18ff). Jesus is Lord of the nations: Lord of family-nations, church-nations, and country-nations. In the ordinary course of things, there are spiritual and physical relations and loves, similarities and differences running through all of these nations, including language, culture, belief, tribes, practice, land, work, marriage, children, history, symbols, and more. But only allegiance and obedience to the Father who is over all and in all can rank and sort these allegiances rightly (Eph. 4:6). How do you build a family, a church, or a nation? By hearing and obeying the Word of God.
HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?
Family: The marriage covenant is the core of this governmental jurisdiction, and it constantly pictures the Covenant of Grace in which Christ is Head of the Church (Eph. 5:22ff). As Lord of the family-nation, Jesus assigns the tasks of education, health, and welfare to this jurisdiction (Eph. 5-6). This includes care for elderly parents or other needy relatives (Mk. 7:11), the first line of defense for orphans and widows and similar needs, and a man that does not provide for his own household is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:1ff). Our fundamental allegiance to Jesus sometimes does mean losing or straining family relationships where there is a refusal to hear God’s word and obey. But the gospel turns the hearts of fathers and children (Mal. 4:6).
Church: The church has been given the keys of the Kingdom by Jesus Christ and is commissioned to preach the gospel to every nation, teaching them to obey the entire Word of God, calling the saints together for worship, admitting disciples through baptism to the Table, and barring those from fellowship who do not obey Christ (Mt. 16:17-19, 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 2 Thess. 3:14-15). The church proclaims the water of the Word – which is the Word of the New Covenant in the shed blood of Christ that cleanses families and nations from their animosities and feuds. But the church is not partisan to any other government. It teaches all men to honor all of their fathers (at every level), and so it teaches true family loyalty and patriotism in Christ. A patriot honors his fathers. But the church is a completely independent government from all other governments. This is why it is unseemly and confused (at best) and idolatrous (at worst) for churches to conduct worship services that confuse national identity with Christian identity.
State: The civil magistrate has been given the sword by Christ to punish criminals and keep good public order (Rom. 13:4). Civil magistrates receive their power from God and are established to praise the good and be a terror to those who do evil (Rom. 13:3). Just as God establishes the authority, He also establishes the standards and the definitions. A magistrate who ignores or openly defies the One from whom he receives his authority is cutting off the branch he stands on. Magistrates are true “foster fathers” (Is. 49:23) who hear the word of God and obey it in their offices, laws, and judgments. And those nations that keep covenant with the Lord of the nations will bring their glory and honor all the way into Heaven (Rev. 21:24). But all dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, and idolaters will be shut out (Rev. 22:15). So it is right and good to ask God to cast down all evil, to thank Him for the true glory He has given to our nation and celebrate it, and ask Him to grow and safeguard it all the way to Heaven.
In these annual “state of the church” messages, we sometimes address our local circumstances here in Christ Church. At other times the message has addressed our national condition. This year, it is (I believe) necessary to do both as the situations are unusually intertwined.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty and turmoil, and in such times, men turn naturally to their gods. In the case of many Americans, jack-secularists, they have resorted to long-neglected temples, only to find that their gods have toppled over like Dagon. They are therefore governed by fear and anger, both right and left. We are not in their position, and so whatever we do, we must not copy or imitate them.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Although we have been born again, although we are new creatures in Christ, and although we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, we still nevertheless have physical bodies that we walk around in. We remain embodied beings. But though we walk around in the flesh, we do not conduct our warfare that way. We wage war, but we do not wage war according to the flesh (v. 3). Paul says that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but what he contrasts this with is revelatory. His first comparison is not carnal over against spiritual, but rather carnal over against mighty (v. 4). Carnal weapons are not strong enough to do what is going to be done, which is to cast down imaginations and every lofty, proud thing, and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (v. 5). In order for them to topple statues of generals from a century or two ago, all they need are some cables and a winch. In order to topple principalities and powers, you need something more.
So what Paul has in mind here is not the kind of echo chamber rhetoric that you see on partisan political web sites. “Watch so-and-so drop a bomb on old what’s-his-face. Click here to watch Sen. Taxit own the libs!” He is not talking about casting down devilish imaginations in his head. He is talking about bringing the intellectual world to heel, bringing them to an actual obedience to the Lord Jesus.
PREPARING FOR ONE KIND OF CONFLICT
In the year 2020, Americans bought a record-high 17 million guns. This was on top of all the guns already owned, which is somewhere between 350 and 400 million. For every one hundred Americans, there are about 120 guns. And if you go out there in order to buy some 9mm ammo, good luck. The shelves for 9mm ammo look like the shelves for milk in a socialist country.
Now I only bring this up to note two things. The first is to point to the level of uncertainty in the general population. They should be ripe for hearing a sure word—a word of traction in slippery times. We should make a point of speaking that word.
The second reason is to use it for an illustration—simply to point out that unfortunately the sons of this world are more shrewd than the children of light (Luke 16:8). The worldlings look at their resources, and they make a point to stock up. They at least know they are supposed to do something. But many Christians don’t look at their resources, don’t anticipate the costs of spiritual warfare, and they don’t stock up.
A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW AMMO BOX
If you are concerned about the state of our nation, you ought to be. If that concern has affected you to the point of wanting to prepare yourself in order to protect your family spiritually, then you are thinking wisely. So what can you do? What kind of spiritual 9MM ammo can you stockpile? What should you concentrate on? We don’t know what is going to happen, but I do know that if you start laying up these things, you will be better prepared for whatever comes, regardless of what comes.
- Worship—“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve [worship] God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). This is the central thing.
- Honesty about sin—“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). If you are not right with God, you will have real troubles in any real troubles.
- Marriage—“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Eccl. 9:9). In other words, love your wife with holy abandon.
- Music—“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22:3). And the psalms are the arsenal and hymnal of God.
- Hospitality/community—“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:12–13). Notice how the fact of tribulation does not negate the need for hospitality.
- Christian Education—“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This is a critical component of what we are up to.
- Debt-free—“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7; cf. Rom. 13:8). Your central encumbrance should be the encumbrance of love.
- Joviality, cheerfulness, laughter—“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Our weapons are not carnal, but being joyful, are mighty.
- Family dinners/sabbath—“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7). Church is where your instruction is packed. The family table is where it is unpacked.
- Study/read—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). First, read the Word. Second, read a book.
- Work—“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13). In context, this is talking about the work of ministry, but it is a principle that all the people are to imitate.
- Stories—“Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.” (Joel 1:3). Joel is talking about a cautionary tale, but there are great, inspirational tales as well. All the stories.
And you know there is more than this. But there is certainly not less. And the first item—worship of the Father, in the name of Christ, in the power of the Spirit—is the box that will hold all these bullets together.
God has established four governments among men: self-government, family government, church government, and civil government. Christians must love and honor these authorities, and these authorities must love and honor the God who gave them.