Session 4: What Does the New Testament Say About Government?

Secret Church 20: God, Government, and the Gospel

Session 4: What Does the New Testament Say About Government?

In this session of Secret Church 20, Pastor David Platt provides a biblical overview of the New Testament’s teachings on government. He looks at the biblical truths that we learn from the New Testament—the Gospels, Acts, and the Letters—about Jesus and government and about how followers of Jesus should view, respond to, and participate in government in light of who he is, all he has done, and all he is going to do.

  1. Biblical Truths in the New Testament
  2. The Gospels
  3. Acts
  4. The Letters

We’ve looked at forty truths in the Old Testament and have 24 to see from the New Testament. Let’s jump right in, starting in the Gospels. What does the New Testament teach us about God, government, and the gospel?

Biblical Truths: Gospels

41. Jesus is the promised perfect King, God’s Son, sent from the line of David to redeem God’s people from sin and reign over all peoples with justice.

The New Testament opens with the announcement that Jesus is the promised perfect King, God’s Son sent from the line of David to redeem God’s people from sin and reign over all peoples with justice.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33)

The perfect King is here.

  • Jesus came from the seed of David.
  • Jesus came as the Son of God.
  • Jesus redeems God’s people from sin.
    • Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:29–36)
  • Jesus reigns over all peoples with justice. We see this all over the Gospels. Look at this passage referencing all the Gentiles who were called by His name:
    • And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:12–18)
  • Jesus deserves praise from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He is the Leader for Whom all history has longed and around Whom all history revolves.
    • Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:1–10)

42. Jesus was opposed by unjust government.

From His birth…

  • Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”… Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:1–8, 13– 18)
  • Herod pretended kindness.
  • Herod intended murder.

To His eventual death…

  • Before Jewish authorities.
    • So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:12–14)
    • And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. (Mark 14:53–56)
    • And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. (Mark 15:1)
  • Before Roman authorities.
    • And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15:2–5)
    • When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:6–7)
    • And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. (Luke 23:11–12)
    • And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Mark 15:12–15)

43. Followers of Jesus will be opposed by unjust government.

From the time He was born until the moment He died, and after His death for that matter, Jesus was opposed by the government. He told His followers the same would be true for them. Listen to these instructions from Jesus:

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:16–23)

This is language straight from Jesus to His followers.

  • We will be betrayed.
  • We will be hated. People say, “If we just love like Jesus, the world will love Christians.” That’s not true. The more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us because the world hated Him.
    • If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18–19)
  • We will be persecuted.
    • Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12)
  • Some will be killed. John the Baptist, Stephen and James the brother of Jesus are clear examples of this:
    • At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:1– 12)
    • Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 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. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54–60)
    • He killed James the brother of John with the sword… (Acts 12:2)
    • When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. (Revelation 6:9–11)

Don’t miss the reality we’re seeing here. The danger of our lives increases according to the depth of our identification with Jesus. To everyone who wants a safe, carefree life away from danger, stay away from Jesus. That’s the whole point of what we’re seeing here. This is how the world responds to Christ. So when He becomes more and more and more our life, then the world will respond to us more and more and more the way the world responded to Him. So how do you avoid being betrayed, hated and persecuted? Don’t become like Jesus. I think many professing Christians are prone to sit back and settle for routine, comfortable Christianity because it’s safe. The world likes us there. As long as we live like everybody else, go to church on Sunday, keep our faith to ourselves, we will face little risk in this world.

The problem is we will know so little of Jesus. That’s how so much of Christianity looks in so many parts of the country where I live, as well as all parts of the world. But when we know Christ, when we’re becoming like Christ, when we’re proclaiming Christ, the reality is things will get harder for us. The more Christ is manifested in our lives, families and churches, the harder it will be in the world because we’ll be identifying with Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 10: “If they treat me this way, they will treat you this way.”

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:24–25)

How much do we really want to be like Jesus? The more we look like Him and the more our lives are identified with Him, the more our lives will not stay and same. It’s will not be easy; it will be dangerous. That’s what Jesus says in His word—not what I’m saying. So how much do you want to be like Jesus, knowing that followers of Jesus will be opposed by unjust government in this world? For persecuted brothers and sisters who are listening to this, be encouraged that Jesus is with you. As you are becoming more and more like Him, you are experiencing exactly what Jesus has said would be a reality. When that opposition comes, we see this next truth.

44. What Does the New Testament Say About Government? Followers of Jesus sometimes stay amidst persecution and sometimes flee from persecution.

Jesus told His disciples…

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23)

Here’s a point when Jesus withdrew in light of danger from Herod. At the same time, Jesus later entered Jerusalem with the full knowledge of crucifixion that was coming.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. (Luke 9:7–10)

So how do Christians respond when persecution comes? Do they stay or do they flee? We see both pictures throughout Scripture.

  • Moses fled from Pharaoh .. and Moses stayed to confront Pharaoh.
    • When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:15)
    • Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 5:1)
  • David fled…and David stayed.
    • So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. (1 Samuel 19:12)
    • Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. (1 Samuel 24:8)
  • Jeremiah fled…and Jeremiah stayed.
    • Now when the Chaldean army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh’s army, Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people. (Jeremiah 37:11–12)
    • Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.” (Jeremiah 38:17)
  • Paul fled…and Paul stayed. He escaped from Damascus, then stayed in Corinth.
    • At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32–33)
    • And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:9–11)

Here’s one more of the few quotes I’ve included. John Bunyan himself was in prison for preaching the gospel.

“There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly.” – John Bunyan

So how do we decide to stay or go according to Scripture? I think these verses are very helpful here:

  • Our highest priority is always love for God. Jesus said, “Love Me more than anyone or anything else in this world, to the point where you’re willing to lose your life.”
    • Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34–39)
  • Our holy purpose is to proclaim the gospel, acknowledging Him before men no matter what that costs. That’s what we want to do—proclaim the gospel. We want to discern how we can best love God and proclaim the gospel.
    • So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32–33)
    • “Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it is in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth.” – John Bunyan

And anything but a denial of the gospel. We’ll talk about that more in a few minutes.

So Christians facing persecution consider how they can best love God, proclaiming the gospel with this…

  • His hopeful promise: Your eternity is guaranteed. As Jesus is sending His disciples out into danger, He says to them…
    • So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26–31)

Jesus knows His followers will be tempted to fear what man can do to them, so Jesus says, “Man is not who you need to be afraid of; be afraid of God. He’s your ultimate Judge; He holds your soul in His hand. Men don’t do that; God does.”

This is kind of a weird way to encourage your disciples. Jesus is literally saying, “Don’t be afraid of men; the worst thing they can do is kill you.” Really? You might think, “Okay, if I go to this place, I’m going to be killed,” but Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. All they can do is kill you.” Does that sound comforting to you? That’s only comforting to you if your life has already died with Christ and you’re so focused on eternity that nothing man can do to you even matters.

It was saints of old who feared man so little because they feared God so much. May that be true of our lives! When you fear God alone, you can stand boldly in front of another person you’re scared of to share the gospel. If you can boldly stand in the face of someone who could take your life, thinking, “The worse they can do is kill me,” that would actually be gain. That’s a radical way to live.

So followers of Jesus do whatever Jesus tells them to do, which sometimes means staying in the midst of persecution or sometimes means fleeing from persecution.

45. As citizens of a government, followers of Jesus have two guiding commands: love God supremely, and love others selflessly.

This is what Jesus has outlined for all of our lives.

  • But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34–40)
  • Undivided love for God.
    • If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
  • Unselfish love for others. Jesus follows up a conversation about those commands with the story of the good Samaritan, a picture of a Samaritan man who took in someone who was hurting, cared for him, sacrificed for him, provided for him, and paid for everything he needed without question.
    • And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25–37)

Have you ever cared for someone like that? Have you ever seen someone in need and cared for them, doing everything you could to get what they needed without question? I’m guessing most of us have done that somehow and that somebody is you. When you or I have not been well, we go over the top to make sure we are cared for, provided for and taken care of. Jesus is saying, “Love strangers like that; love enemies like you love yourself.” So this is a love for God that is totally undivided and a love for others that is totally unselfish.

  • A compelling love..
    • We love neighbors in need, not because we feel guilty, but because of the gospel.
    • We love neighbors in need because of the gospel because we know we are in need all the time and God is gracious to us. So we care for others in need. Why? Because we are in need and God cares for us.
  • A comprehensive love…
    • Mercy does not restrict who is loved. Clearly part of the point of the Good Samaritan story is that the religious leaders were looking to restrict who their neighbor might be, including the guy who was asking Jesus, “Who do we have to love?” You can almost hear the typical American respond, “Come on, Jesus, let’s reasonable. We know we are to help the unfortunate, but how far do we have to go? Do we pour ourselves out for anybody? Just the people around me, right? Not every Christian getting involved with hurting, needy people. That’s not for all of us; isn’t that the government’s job anyway?” No. Jesus said mercy does not restrict who you love. This is not a story about determining who your neighbor is; this is a story about defining what it means to be a neighbor to people in need, loving them as yourself.
    • Mercy does not restrict how much one is loved.
  • A costly love…
    • That takes great risks.
    • That leads to great reward.

The Good Samaritan demonstrated compelling, comprehensive, and costly love. Is that the way love looks in our lives? As citizens of a government, followers of Jesus have two guiding commands: love God supremely and love others selflessly. This kind of love should mark our lives.

46. Followers of Jesus support governmental authority under God’s authority.

This is one of the most significant teachings from Jesus on government specifically.

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:13–17)

So here’s where I’ve put in another diagram in your study guide, courtesy of Jonathan Leeman. When most people read this passage, or the parallel version of it in Matthew 22, they picture these top two circles in this diagram Jesus is teaching that if you have Caesar’s things over on one side—things that belong to government or politics—then you have God’s things over on the other side that pertain to faith and worship. So it’s almost like separation of church and state. You have the domain of government; you have the domain of God. While Jesus is definitely acknowledging some differences in these domains and the distinctions in them, I don’t think that is the best way to picture it.

Think about what we’ve already seen. All governance belongs to whom? God, right? So there’s no domain outside of His governance. Besides, when you think about what Jesus is saying in Mark 12, it’s really breathtaking, because that coin belonged to Caesar. Why? Because it had Caesar’s image and inscription on it, so Jesus said it belonged to Caesar. So where is God’s image or inscription? On every human being, based on what we’ve seen in Scripture. So Jesus is reiterating the basic reality from the beginning of the Bible that all things, including all people, ultimately belong to God.

The diagrams and images used in this Study Guide are adapted from Jonathan Leeman’s course titled “Christians and Government” at

So maybe a better way to picture this would be to put God’s things in a larger circle, then Caesar’s things in a smaller circle that is inside the larger circle. After all, Caesar himself ultimately belongs to God. So put this together with some practical implications of Jesus teaching that we are to give government appropriate support.

We give government appropriate support.

  •  Caesar’s image is on a coin, so it belongs to him.
  • With His words, Jesus rejects political passivity.
  • In other words, followers of Jesus pay taxes. Jesus teaches that we are not to ignore government; we are not to absolve ourselves of responsibilities to government. Jesus reinforces that in this next passage:
    • When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matthew 17:24–27)

It’s good, right and even required for followers of Jesus to give appropriate support to government. At the same time…

  • God’s image is on our lives, so we ultimately belong to Him.
    • With His words, Jesus rejects political primacy. He rejects any ultimate allegiance to a government that could be Caesar or anyone else.
    • In other words, followers of Jesus praise God alone as supreme.
  • We keep government in proper perspective. According to Jesus…
    • Even pagan nations are legitimate nations. So the Roman Empire, as we see throughout the New Testament, was a threat to the church. Caesar himself claimed god-like status, yet remarkably Jesus acknowledges delegated authority in that government and tells His followers to pay taxes to it.
  • Every follower of Jesus is international, meaning…
    • We do not all support the same nation in this world. Notice that Jesus is not doing in the New Testament what we saw throughout the Old Testament. Jesus is not requiring obedience to a particular government or nation or people, like the nation of Israel. Jesus is calling followers to give appropriate support to whatever nation or state in which they find themselves. So followers of Jesus support different nations in the world, depending on where we live, where our citizenship lies. We give appropriate support to the government of our nation, even pagan, godless governments, knowing that…
    • None of us ultimately belongs to a nation in this world because all government exists under God, as do we. Our primary allegiance is never to our government; our primary allegiance is always to God.

47. What Does the New Testament Say About Government and how The kingdom of Jesus is radically different from the kingdoms of this world.

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” (Luke 23:2–3)

The claim of Jesus’ Kingdom is clear:

  • He alone is Lord. We see this at the end of John’s Gospel and the very beginning of the book of Acts. The core confession of every Christian is that Jesus is Lord.
    • From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)
    • They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
    • Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
    • Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)

Now think with me about the radical difference between Jesus’ Kingdom and the kingdoms of this world.

The basis for Jesus’ Kingdom:

  • Is not the authority of an earthly leader.
  • Is the sovereignty of the heavenly Lord. Jesus tell Pilate that any authority he has is not earned but given to him by God. So the basis for authority is completely different.
    • So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10–11)

The road to Jesus’ Kingdom is totally different.

  • It is paved by faith, not by force. The crowds wanted to force Jesus to become King, but He constantly resisted their efforts. He insisted on faith as the means by which people enter into His Kingdom, not force.
    • Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:15)
  • It is marked by humility, not hostility, which His disciples needed to learn here:
    • When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:51–58)

Notice two more radical differences for the citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom:

  • They are not those who fight with the sword.
  • They are those who have faith in the truth.
    • Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36–37)
  • The inauguration of Jesus’ Kingdom is radically different.
    • It was not when He gets elected.
    • It was when He gets executed.
      • … and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29)

When was Jesus crowned King? Jesus was crowned in His suffering and death for our sin, which led to His resurrection from the grave. Needless to say, Jesus is a very different King and His Kingdom is radically different from the kingdoms of this world.

Biblical Truths: Acts

48. The proclamation of the gospel is the proclamation of a King and His Kingdom.

This is what we see from the very beginning of Acts, with Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:1–5)

Jesus was clearly not instituting a kingdom for one nation. Jesus was inaugurating a Kingdom for all nations. “Go make this good news be why there are witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • The gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus’ disciples would proclaim is that:
    • The King has come and conquered death for all!
    • The King is coming back to rule as Lord over all!

We’ll actually come back to this in a few minutes with Acts 1. As you read these passages in Acts, notice how the story of Acts revolves around the spread of good news about the Kingdom. Then we have Paul’s conversation with the elders in Ephesus (Acts 20) followed b when Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28). Then look how the book of Acts ends, proclaiming the King and His Kingdom will return

  • But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12)
  • And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)
  • And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. (Acts 20:25)
  • When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Acts 28:23)
  • He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30–31)

49. What Does the New Testament Say About Government and how the Proclaimers of the gospel are empowered by the Spirit of the King for the spread of His Kingdom.

The book of Acts is the story of ordinary people. Think of people like Peter and John, of women who stood faithfully with Jesus. You might think these were extraordinary people. That’s not what you would have said if you would have known them in the first century.

Look at Acts 4:13 describing Peter and John. It says these were uneducated, common men, meaning if you were starting a world-changing movement, these were not the group of guys you would have chosen.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. (Acts 4:13)

They were commoners, ordinary people, as well as ordinary sinners…

  • Saved by grace. Think about Peter preaching the first Christian sermon when 3,000+ people came to Christ and were baptized. He was not the likeliest candidate for that job. Look back in the Gospels and notice the last time we saw Peter in relationship with Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). He was denying that he even knew Jesus. But now a few chapters later in the Bible, he’s standing up and proclaiming Jesus. Why? Because of the grace of God in his life. What makes the church the church is not the gifts of an extraordinary few; what makes the church the church is the grace of an extraordinary God.
    • “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:36–41)
    • Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54–62)

We are all sinners in need of grace from an extraordinary God. All of us ordinary, common sinners are saved by grace and…

Desperate for God. When we read Acts 1-2, I think we’re tempted to miss the wonder of these scenes. A pastor friend of mine helped me see that these are some of the most humorous stories in the whole Bible. Picture Jesus saying, “’You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth.’And when Jesus had said these things…” Now let’s think about what these things are. We just read in verse three that He’s been telling them all about the Kingdom of God, now He just said they were His witnesses and would proclaim His Kingdom all over the earth.

So imagine this scene: Jesus was gathered with His disciples on this mountain outside Jerusalem. They were still overwhelmed, having seen Him die and rise from the dead. They were pretty excited; the gang was back together and they were rolling again. Jesus said, “Alright guys, here’s the plan. We’re going to start back in Jerusalem…” Okay, what just happened in Jerusalem? They just killed Jesus there. As a follower of Jesus, the last place you want to go is Jerusalem right now; they hate you there. So Jesus said, “That’s where we’re going to start, but that’s not where we’re going to stop. We’re going from there to Judea and Samaria.” Now when we hear that, if we’re Jesus’ disciples, we think, “But we hate the Samaritans.”

Jesus said, “Here’s the plan guys. We’re going to start where they hate you; then we’re going where you hate them. Then we’re going to places in the world you don’t even know exist…to the ends of the earth. Places you don’t even know how to get to.” Then as soon as Jesus said that, all of a sudden He started floating up to heaven. Not levitation a few inches off the ground; we’re talking flying up into the sky and a cloud took Him. That’s unusual!

What are you doing if you’re one of these disciples? You’re looking up in the sky (verse ten), then these two men show up in white robes. Imagine that! Put yourself in these disciples’ shoes. You’re dumbfounded, looking into the sky because a man just disappeared into a cloud, then all of a sudden two dudes show up out of nowhere. What do you do then? “How did you get here?” “Well, I’ll tell you how. Jesus gave His plan to His disciples, took a flight straight up to the right hand of the Father, sat down, got comfortable, looked down, saw 120 people looking up into the clouds. Then He said to us, ‘Go down there and tell them to do what I told them to do.’” You say, “You’re making that up.” They reply, “No, we’re not.”

Read verse 11. These two men said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” What kind of question is that? “Well, we’re looking into heaven because we just saw Jesus go up and disappear. We’re kind of curious to see what’s going to happen next. By the way, while you’re asking questions, who in the world are you? Where did you guys come from?” The angels say, “Oh, He’s coming back. This Jesus Who was taken up into heaven will come in the same way you saw Him go up.”

Do you know what they did after that? They did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They went into Jerusalem, gathered in an upper room and started praying. Verse 14 tells us they devoted themselves to prayer. They were not devoting themselves to strategizing or white boarding. They were devoting themselves to prayer—common, uneducated, ordinary men and women who had just been given a charge to change the world and they are desperate for God. Do you see it church? This is who God has called us to be—an ordinary group of men and women, common people. Our uniting attribute is that we’ve been saved by God’s grace and brought together for a task that is so much bigger than any of us, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. This is a task so much greater than any one of us. We’ve been called to come together as people who are absolutely desperate for God. Are we desperate like this? Do we see our need? Do we see the greatness of what God has called us to and our need for His Spirit to empower us to do it?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he [Jesus] had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:8– 14)

With extraordinary power. We see here ordinary people with extraordinary power. Then in Acts 2, it gets even crazier. They’re sitting in this room, suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind fills the entire house where they’re sitting, like hurricane-force winds. That’s the sound they’re talking about here. All of a sudden, divided tongues of fire appear. What’s happening? Just imagine someone sitting next to you on the couch with a tongue of fire on his head. What does that look like? What do you do? Do you try to blow it out?

So tongues of fire are resting on each of them and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus had promised, “You will be My witnesses.” So they all are filled with the Holy Spirit and start to speak in other languages—tongues—as the Spirit gave them utterance.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)

I wish we had time to dive into this more in depth, but look at Acts 2, compare it with Exodus 19 and you’ll see the powerful picture of the Spirit of God coming down on His people. All that was promised in the new covenant is becoming a reality. He is giving them grace to live out the Christian life from the inside out. Better than Jesus beside a few of us, Jesus is now inside all of us. This is the whole reality we’re seeing here in Acts 2. We are now empowered by the Holy Spirit to:

  • Obey God’s Word.
    • On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so – 118 – that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish.” (Exodus 19:16–21)
    • And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)
    • And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. (Exodus 32:28)
    • Better than Jesus beside a few of us, Jesus is inside each of us who are His followers! He’s inside. Jesus lives in you. Jesus lives in me. His power is at work so we can walk in His Word and proclaim His Word.
  • To share God’s Word, which is exactly what Jesus said at the end of Luke 24, that His followers will proclaim the good news among the nations. This is what we saw in Acts 1; it’s what we see playing out in Acts 2 as Peter preaches the gospel. He quotes from Joel 2 about prophets and how God’s people will all have the Spirit on them to make His good news known wherever they go.
    • Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45–49)
    • And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28–29)
    • And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17–18)
    • Every single follower of Jesus has the privilege of speaking for God! The Spirit of God is in you so that you can speak the greatest news in the world to other people, then their lives can be changed for all of eternity. This is awesome. Proclaimers of the gospel are empowered by the Spirit of the King for the spread of His Kingdom. That includes every single one of us who are followers of Jesus, every single Christian empowered by the Spirit of the King of kings for the spread of His Kingdom in the world. It just keeps getting better!
      • And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

50. The proclamation of the gospel creates a unique political community called the church.

So 3,000 people come to Christ and the church is born at the end of Acts 2. We see here an awesome picture describing a community of people. By a political community, I do not mean it is government owned. Remember the definition of politics: “A unit that organizes people, resources, power, decision making and decision implementing in defined ways.”

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41–47)

So the church is a political community, united by God’s grace, celebrating that grace through baptism— the means by which people profess faith in Christ. The church authenticates faith in Christ through baptism, so the church has the responsibility to say, “These are people who have repented and believed in Christ; these are members of the body of Christ.” The church does that, not the government. You’re not born into this political community; you’re bought by grace into this community. The church is a political community that is…

  • United by God’s grace.
    • People profess faith in Christ through baptism.
    • The church authenticates faith in Christ through baptism.
  • Devoted to God’s Word. Every time the Word of God is mentioned in Acts, we have listed it here. I wish we could go through this together. Just read through these and you will be so encouraged to see the community of followers of Christ.
    • So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
    • But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
    • And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness… (Acts 4:29)
    • And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
    • And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2–4)
    • And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
    • Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
    • Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John… (Acts 8:14)
    • Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. (Acts 8:25)
    • While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (Acts 10:44)
    • Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. (Acts 11:1)
    • Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. (Acts 11:19)
    • But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
    • When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. (Acts 13:5)
    • He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:7)
    • The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. (Acts 13:44)
    • And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
    • And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
    • And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:49)
    • And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia… (Acts 14:25)
    • But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:35–36)
    • And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. (Acts 16:32)
    • Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
    • When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:5)
    • And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:11)
    • This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:10)
    • So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20)

The church is gathered and united around God’s Word. The church is a political community, shaped and directed by the Word of God, united by the grace of God, existing to spread God’s Word in the world as we are…

  • Committed to caring for one another. These people were selling their possessions. There was not a needy person among them as they were caring for each other sacrificially.
    • Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32–37)
  • Gathering for worship regularly.
  • Interceding in prayer continually.
  • Bearing the name of Christ, working miracles in His name, and proclaiming His name.
    • But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6)
    • And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
  • Spreading the gospel of Christ.
    • And more than ever believers were added to the Lord… (Acts 5:14)

So the proclamation of the gospel creates a unique political community called the church. Not just unique but extremely significant.

51. The proclamation of the gospel may require disobedience to a government.

In Acts 4, when the early church was beginning to experience persecution, they were told this:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:13–20)

In other words, “We’re not stopping.” And they didn’t stop, so they were arrested as we see in this passage. Notice what they tell their government leaders.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:27–32)

So what do we learn from this? Notice the only thing these rulers had against the Christians was their proclamation of the gospel; otherwise they were blameless.

  • Followers of Jesus walk in holy purity.
  • Followers of Jesus witness with humble audacity. We cannot but speak of what we’ve seen and heard, knowing the proclamation of the gospel may require disobedience to government.

52. The aim of persecution from the government is to silence the gospel, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

This truth is really important to realize. We see in what we just read that governing authorities were trying to silence the gospel. The same is true around the world today. As long as we are followers of Christ and stay silent with the gospel, we will not experience danger. Persecution comes when we speak the gospel; persecution follows proclamation. The aim of persecution is to silence proclamation, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

Look at Acts 7 and the story of when Stephen was martyred for proclaiming the gospel.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 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. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54–60)

Right after that, in Acts 8, they were scattered and went about preaching the Word. So follow this: God used the suffering of Stephen to scatter the church and the gospel goes to places it had never gone before, directly as a result of Stephen’s death. The gospel was spreading, not in spite of persecution, but because of persecution.

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1–4)

Think about this! Satan strikes down one of God’s choicest servants, Stephen, thinking, “Hey, I’m winning now.” In the very next verse, everybody scatters and preaches the gospel in Judea and Samaria. “Take that, Satan!” Even better, look where they scattered according to Acts 11.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19–26)

The church in Antioch became the base for sending missionaries throughout the Roman Empire. And guess who the first two missionaries were? Paul and Barnabas. He’s called Saul here and we remember him from Stephen’s story. He was the one overseeing Stephen’s execution. So follow this. Saul leads the persecution of Stephen, which leads to the scattering of believers, which leads to the founding of the church in Antioch, which becomes the church that sends out Saul himself on a global mission. You cannot write a script any better than this. Saul inadvertently starts the church that one day sends him out as a missionary to the ends of the earth.

As persecution comes, the church prays. The church prays in Acts 4 to the One Who governs the world, the One Who is faithful to His Word.

  • Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1–3)
  • The gospel spreads not in spite of persecution, but because of persecution.
    • When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23–31)

We pray for honor for Christ the King and boldness for citizens of His Kingdom.

  • We pray to…
    • The One Who governs the world.
    • The One Who is faithful to His Word.
  • We pray for…
  • Honor for Christ the King.
  • Boldness for citizens of His Kingdom.

Lord, enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness and confidence.

  • Strategies to stop the church ultimately serve to spread the church. This is why Acts 5:41 says this of the early persecuted Christians:
    • Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:41–42)

I love this next verse that begins with Peter in prison, then by the end God had miraculously delivered him from prison. Notice how the chapter closes in 12:24.

  • So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)
  • But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
  • He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30–31)

Notice the last two words in Acts, “without hindrance.” This is actually one word in the original language of the New Testament meaning unhindered, which is the story of the spread of the gospel in the book of Acts. It is unhindered. You cannot stop this gospel from going to the ends of the earth.

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution, whom God has called to go into hard places. This gospel cannot be stopped. Those who seek to stop the church will ultimately serve to spread the church. The aim of persecution from the government is to silence the gospel, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

53. The proclamation of the gospel poses a threat to idolatrous, immoral and/or unjust practices.

We see all kinds of examples of this in the book of Acts. A demon-possessed slave girl was used by her owners for fortune telling, but she trusted in Christ and her owners could no longer make money off of her so they were not happy. Paul and Silas ended up being beaten and thrown into prison, because preaching the gospel was ruining the slave-holding business.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:16–24)

A mob breaks out in this passage in reaction to Paul preaching that Jesus is King.

But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. (Acts 17:5–8)

In Acts 19, people who were practicing magic came to Christ. They stopped their trade and burned their magic books.

Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:18–20)

Later in Acts 19, silversmiths and craftsmen who constructed idols stirred up the crowd because they were concerned they would lose business with people believing in Jesus.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. (Acts 19:23–29)

  • Such situations require wisdom in the moment regarding how to respond, what to say and what to do.
  • Such situations require perseverance over time, meaning idolatrous, immoral, unjust practices are not going to go away overnight or without a lot of resistance.

So go in wise with eyes wide open, realizing the proclamation of the good news of God’s Kingdom will pose a clear threat to idolatrous, immoral and/or unjust practices.

54. God calls leaders in His church to teach all of His Word, regardless of the risk.

Look at Acts 20 where Paul tells pastors and elders in the Ephesus church that he proclaims the whole council of God at great cost. He considered his life as nothing to himself.

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:22– 32)

So pastors and churches, we are responsible for addressing all of God’s Word, not picking and choosing, including how it affects our lives in this world.

  • Because of what’s at stake.
    • Paul talks here about being innocent of people’s blood. He’s using language from Ezekiel 33 when Ezekiel was prophesying, speaking about judgment that God would bring upon His people. He uses the imagery of a watchman, basically saying, “You know some good news that can save somebody. If you tell that person the good news and they reject it, then you are innocent of that person’s blood. But if you know the good news that can save somebody and you don’t share it with them and then something happens to them, then you are guilty of that person’s blood.” That’s what Paul is saying here. He knows this news that determines people’s eternity and he’s innocent of their blood, meaning he has not held back from making this news known to them.
      • The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:1–9)

We live in a world where so many people have little to no knowledge of the gospel—the greatest news in the world, news that can save them. So are we going to be watchmen, taking the gospel to them or are we going to sit back and ignore billions of people who never even heard His name? May it not be so. May we not be guilty of their blood because of what’s at stake and…

  • Because of Who is Lord. Paul knows God is the Lord; Jesus is the King.
  • Because of threats among us, from inside the church and from outside the church.
  • Because of needs around us.

So God calls leaders in His church to teach all of His Word. God calls the people who have His Word to make it known, regardless of the risk.

55. God uses citizens, citizenship, rulers, systems, and structures of government for the spread of the gospel.

From the book of Acts, this is basically a way of summarizing how we see God using various facets of government for the spread of the gospel

  • God uses civil authorities…
    • But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. (Acts 16:35–39a)
  • God used courts in Corinth to set precedents for the spread of the gospel far beyond Corinth.
    • And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. (Acts 18:8–16)
  • God used trade over land. I love Acts 19. Ephesus was the center of trade and Paul taught there for two years. Notice the last sentence here, which is quite a statement. All the residents of Asia hear the Word of the Lord—that’s a lot of people. How is that possible? Paul was in one place; he did not travel throughout Asia. Instead, he preached in the center of trade, then the gospel spread throughout Asia because of trade emanating from Ephesus.
    • And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8– 10)
  • God used travel by sea, which eventually took Paul to Rome in chains—not the way he planned—on a boat that we read about at the end of the book of Acts.
    • But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” (Acts 25:10–12)

So God is ultimately accomplishing His purposes through human systems of government, even unjust government, for the spread of the gospel.

Biblical Truths: Letters

Okay, this is the last section for Biblical Truth with nine truths yet to cover. I begin this section with Romans 10:9, followed by another quote.

  • Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
  • “It is often supposed that Paul’s only political comment is Romans 13:1–7, where he states that God has ordained ‘the powers that be’; but this just shows how far our traditions have taken us away from reality. There is no space to explore this in detail, but in almost every letter Paul demonstrates that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not; that the ‘gospel’ of Jesus upstages the ‘gospel’ of Caesar; that the true salvation is achieved through Jesus, not Caesar; that the world needs God’s justice, not Roman justice; and with great irony, that the cross, a hated symbol of Roman rule, had been transformed into the life-giving symbol of God’s self-giving love. Paul’s central arguments constitute a massive outflanking movement against the imperial rhetoric of his day (emperor-worship was the fastest-growing religion of the time).” – N.T. Wright

So basically, the proclamation of the gospel in and of itself was a political statement about a King and His Kingdom that in a sense threatened political systems, structures, and leaders that were set up against Jesus as King. So that’s throughout the New Testament letters.

56. The local church is a political outpost of God’s Kingdom designed for the spread of God’s gospel and the display of God’s glory.

That’s a loaded statement so let me unpack it.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8–10)

In the New Testament letters, we see not just a description of the church, but a multi-faceted theological definition of the church.

  • The local church is a political outpost of God’s Kingdom…
    • A gathering of Kingdom citizens.
      • To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours… (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • An earthly assembly of a heavenly reality.
    • But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22–24)
  • A royal nation under God. This passage looks very similar to language we already read from Exodus 19. The church is described as a new nation of God’s people.
    • But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10)
  • A congregation of sojourners, exiles, and aliens in this world.
    • Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
    • 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)

That’s what I mean by a political outpost of the heavenly Kingdom. The church is the representation of a Kingdom that is not part of this world. But in this world, the church is a community of people…

  • Designed for the spread of God’s gospel. Christians are members of the church and…
    • Ambassadors of the King, representing Him as King on earth.
      • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (2 Corinthians 5:17–6:1)
  • Proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom.
    • To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18b–20)

The local church is a political outpost of God’s Kingdom designed for the spread of God’s gospel and…

  • And the display of God’s glory. If you want to see a place and people ruled where Jesus rules as King, look at these people. Yes, there are real differences between people, but they are all united together with identity in Christ.
    • Through a diversity of members.
      • For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4–5)
      • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
    • Brought together as one body. Much of the book of Ephesians is about this. The church is a powerful picture of a unique community that is defined, not by ethnicity, not by color, not by age, not by preference, not by tradition, not by opinion. It’s a community defined by Jesus and His blood.
      • Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing – 136 – wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11–22)

The local church is a political outpost of God’s Kingdom designed for the spread of God’s gospel and the display of God’s glory. You want to see a people who are submitting to Jesus as King, that’s what the church is.

57. Christians have dual citizenship: we are temporary citizens on earth with eternal citizenship in heaven.

Christians in Philippi were continually prone to put their pride in their citizenship status in a Roman colony. Paul writes to them, “No. Let your life be worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27–30)
  • We want our temporary citizenship on earth to be worthy of the gospel.
    • With Christ, not our country, as our life.
      • For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
    • We live worthy of the gospel…
      • Standing side by side as the church, not with our political party. That’s the language we see in Philippians 1:27—standing firm with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Paul seems very intent in this letter to make sure Christians see Christ is their life and the church is their primary community.
      • Striving and suffering together for the gospel, which is what matters most.
        • But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20–21)
      • We want our citizenship in heaven to be our fundamental identity, which totally transforms the way you live. We press on toward Christ; He’s the One we’re living for.
        • Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12–16)
      • The twofold prize for which we live:
        • The completion of our salvation.
          • We live to look like Jesus. We want to know Christ and become like Christ in every way.
            • But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7–11)
        • The crown of others’ salvation. Paul uses crown language in these verses, talking about living so that others will know and love Jesus.
          • Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
          • What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)
          • For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20)
        • We live so others love Jesus.
          • To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

So this is life for Christians on earth—dual citizenship, two passports. We live as temporary citizens on this earth in a manner worthy of the gospel, as well as ultimate citizens of heaven, which means we are longing for the completion of our salvation and living for the sake of others’ salvation.

58. Christians are submissive citizens of government and free servants of God.

This will take us to two of the most prominent passages in the New Testament, specifically on government. Let’s read both passages because they are both important.

  • 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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1–7)
  • Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13–17)

Wow! Christians are submissive citizens of government. So this is why I framed this truth this way:

  • From the start of this passage in 1 Peter, it is clear that we are to subject ourselves to human institutions and the authority they have in our lives. Particularly to empires and governors who are over us. This is God’s will, the Bible says. The key word there is submissive. We are to submit—to subject ourselves willingly—to the government around us. This is an astonishing command—and it is a command. Peter is writing this letter to Christians, either during the time of Emperor Claudius, or probably more likely Nero; both of whom were totally ungodly, even setting themselves up as gods. Nero was persecuting and killing Christians. And Peter says, “Be subject to the emperor as supreme and to governors sent by him. And do this for the Lord’s sake; this is the will of God.” Peter is echoing exactly what Jesus taught that we read about in Mark 12 about taxes: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We are submission citizens of government who render to government what government is due, according to the will of God Himself. In Romans 13, Paul opens with almost the same statement that Peter uses, saying, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…” because God has set them up as an authority for a purpose. And that purpose is evident in both Romans and 1 Peter.

The purpose of government, according to God, can be summarized in two points:

  • Government is given by God to restrain evil. Emperors and governors, Paul said, are sent by God to punish those who do evil. Romans 13 states that government is the servant of God and avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
  • Government is given by God to promote good; to praise those who do good. We just looked at 1 Peter 2:14. Romans 13 talks about government given by God to promote good for her people.

Now all of that obviously leads to the question: If the Bible teaches we are to be submissive citizens of the government, then how do you do that when the government does not do that which God has designed?

How do you live as a submission citizen of a government that is not restraining evil and is not promoting good? How do you live when you see a government doing the opposite—promoting evil and restraining good? These are the questions that our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world wrestle with all the time. These are questions, in different degrees, that Americans find themselves wrestling with, too.

What is so astonishing in these passages is that Paul and Peter are writing these letters amidst an openly decadent Roman empire, filled with idolatry and immorality of all kinds—the abuse of women, infanticide with children, persecution of Christians. Paul and Peter were both killed for their faith in Christ, yet both of them are saying be submissive citizens of government. How do you live like that?

That leads to the second part of this truth: Christians are submissive citizens of government and free servants of God.

Live as people who are free… (1 Peter 2:16)

He’s not talking about political freedom; he’s talking about spiritual freedom; he’s talking about how Christians have been freed from the power and penalty of sin. This freedom makes us servants of God. Now free servants might sound like an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, but it’s not. How is that possible? Because of the death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, all those who place their faith in Him are free from the bondage of sin to live the life God has created you to live. With that freedom in Christ comes much responsibility for the Christian in whatever country he or she lives.

So follow this. We use our freedom in Christ to model good lives by doing good and putting to silence the ignorance of foolish people, living as people who are free, not using your freedom as a coverup for evil, but living as servants of God. As a result of what God has done in our lives through Jesus, we are free servants of His to live, not as evil, but as good. When he talks about silencing the ignorance of foolish people, he’s talking about silencing slanderous attacks against Christians by non-Christians in the culture around them. Peter is zealous.

In Matthew 5:13-16 way, Christians are to be salt and light in the culture around us, so non-Christians see their good deeds and glorify God in heaven.

  • We use our freedom in Christ, not in an evil and selfish way, but in a humble and selfless way.
  • We are to model the goodness of Christ in submission to the governing authorities over us through…
    • Holy lives.
      • Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self–condemned. (Titus 3:1–11)
    • Honorable speech.
      • With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:9)
    • Hard work.
      • Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:9–12)
  • We use our freedom in Christ to model good lives and to show God’s love. Peter closes the whole passage with four short commands:
    • We honor everyone, especially our leaders.
    • We love the brotherhood, by caring for the church.
    • We fear God.
    • We honor the emperor.
      • But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14–17)

So how do we live? We honor everyone, especially our leaders. Notice that honor starts and ends the verse, saying to honor all these people. We are to show respect, attribute dignity, assign value to everyone, even non-Christians who disagree or oppose the church. Honor them; they are made in God’s image and are worthy of respect. The Word of God is why we honor babies in the womb, people of different ethnicities, the poor, the oppressed, immigrants who have made their home in our country, children and parents at our borders, on and on and on. We honor everyone; this is what God’s Word tells us to do. I’m not advocating particular policies or positions here; there’s room for much discussion among followers of Christ on these issues. We’ll talk about that later. But at our core as followers of Christ, we are concerned about showing God’s love by honoring all people.

Did you catch how Peter closes this section? Honor the emperor. It’s like Peter is saying specifically the emperor; honor this man who has set himself up as god over you and leads the government that is persecuting you. He’s a man made in the image of God; he is worthy of your honor. What a word we need to hear! The Bible beckons us to honor our president and government leaders. But the way we speak about them and we pray for them. Some have a hard time honoring certain leaders, but brothers and sisters, the Bible does not give us a choice. This is a command. If Nero was worthy of honor in the first century, then our president and other leaders are worthy of honor in the twenty-first century. This obviously does not mean that you agree with everything that our government leaders do and support everything on their agenda, but it does mean you recognize they were created in the image of God, that God loves them and desires them to know Him. They will one day stand before God as their Judge, so we are to intercede for them regularly and speak about them with honor. We honor everyone, especially our leaders. This is what Scripture says.

Second, we care for the church by loving the brotherhood. Picture the family of God. We fear God which is the key to all of this. The Bible is clear: you don’t fear the emperor, you don’t fear governors, you don’t fear men; you do fear God. This is huge because at the close of this passage, we realize that even submission to the government, as important as that is, must ultimately be done in the context of fear before God. We read that in 1 Timothy 2:14 and see very clearly that governing authorities, including the emperor, do not hold absolute sway in our lives; only God possesses that kind of authority. Peter is clearly not advocating submission of government, regardless of what government says, because believers are in Christ first and foremost. Above everything else, we are servants of God.

So think about the language in this passage. Verse 13 says we do this for the Lord’s sake. We’re to obey the will of God according to verse 15. So if a government prescribes something that is evil, then the Christian is not obligated to do that. Why not? Because the Christian ultimately fears God. Certainly Peter is not advocating committing sin for the Lord’s sake, or advocating sin because it’s the will of God. So if a government sits back in a similar way and allows evil, the Christian is obligated to do good because we fear God. In the words of Micah 6:8, we do justice, love mercy, plus work on behalf of the poor, weak and oppressed. This is one of the lessons we must learn as the church—from slavery to Jim Crow laws in our country. We know it was not right for Christians to be passive about slavery or Jim Crow. The Bible was beckoning them to work for the good of African-Americans, so today we’re required in the words of Micah 6:8 to work for good, do justice, love mercy, particularly for those of us who live in a representative democracy where we all have a part to play in how our government works. We use our freedom in Christ to show the love of Christ.

Put this all together. Submissive citizens of a government, inclined to submit to governing authorities, want to submit to them because they are set up by God for our good. And we are free servants of God, free from sin, in order to model God’s love and how to live good lives in the world.

So what do we do in circumstances when the will of God and the will of government are in opposition to one another? When the government is commanding or requiring or prescribing believers to sin? Or the government is not protecting or promoting the good of people? The Bible is telling us that as followers of Christ, we honor our government and its leaders, yet ultimately we obey God. Why? Because we fear God more than we fear government. Christians are submissive citizens of government and free servants of God.

59. Christians honor Christ by uniting around His Word and refusing to divide over non-essential differences in the world, including non-essential political differences.

This is straight from Romans 14-15 where Paul addresses divisions in the church over differences of conscience. In between the two verses below, he is basically answering how the church holds together when some members are so different from each other. The answer is not having different churches. The issues he addresses here deal with food: what they were allowed to eat, what days people thought they could or could not eat or what days they should or should not celebrate. There was division, largely between Jewish and Gentile lines.

  • As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1)
  • May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6)

Paul does not say, “Okay then, have a church for the carnivores over here and the vegetarians over there. Or have a church for the Jews over here and the Gentiles over there.” That probably would have been easier but it’s not what the Bible says to do. The Bible says don’t create a church that’s comfortable just for one type of people, but love, serve and care for one another. Even when members are very different from each other, the church works hard to build unity around Jesus. So how do you do that? I wish we could do an exhaustive study on these two chapters, but here’s the basic answer:

  • When God’s Word speaks clearly and essentially about an issue, obey the Word. So just like we talked about closed-hands things in God’s Word, we don’t compromise on those things. We obey God’s Word; we live out our faith according to what God has spoken. The challenge is what to do when you don’t have a clear word from God in the Bible that’s essential for Christian brotherhood and sisterhood in the church. That rises to that level.
    • For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23c)
  • When God’s Word does not speak clearly and essentially about an issue, do what you believe best honors Jesus. Basically you are free to do what you believe best honors Jesus, according to His Word and according to the leadership of His Spirit in your life. The Bible even says to have strong convictions about what you’re doing. So don’t even say, “Don’t worry about it; it’s not a big deal.” No, be fully convinced in your mind when you look at the language in Romans 14. But as you’re fully convinced in your mind, realize that there are other Bible-believing, gospelembracing followers of Jesus who may have different convictions along those lines.
    • One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:5–8)
  • When others in the church have different convictions on decisions that are not clearly and essentially addressed in God’s Word, love them. With brotherly affection, love them.
    • Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. (Romans 12:9–10)
    • For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15)
    • Listen to and respect others’ convictions. Realize they are followers of Jesus who think differently than you and it’s loving to listen to them, respecting the reality that they think differently from you. We are not talking about issues that are clearly and essentially spelled out in God’s Word; we’re talking about things that are less clear, unclear or non-essential.
      • Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… (James 1:19)
      • I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3)
    • Refuse to disparage or quarrel with one another. Don’t despise each other; don’t destroy each other.
      • As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1)
      • Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? (Romans 14:10)
      • For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. (Romans 14:15)
    • Build your relationships with others on what is clear and essential in God’s Word. Keep the focus there. Look for opportunities to foster peace and mutual upbuilding.
      • So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
    • Look for opportunities to please others in the church who have different convictions than you. When you have a brother or sister who disagrees with you about how to approach this or that issue, look for opportunities to please them. Look for opportunities to yield to them. If your brother doesn’t think he should eat a certain kind of meat, but you think you should, then put aside the meat. When you’re with your brother, do what is pleasing to him; do what is good for him.
      • We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Romans 15:1–3)
  • Christians live in Christ-bought harmony.
    • May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5–7)
  • Christians live with God-glorifying hope that one day our unity will be perfect. I sure look forward to the day when we will all have it right, but until that day we don’t have it all right. So we welcome one another, working in harmony with each other and with our hope fixed together on Christ.
    •  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Christians honor Christ by uniting around His Word and refusing to divide over non-essential differences in the world, including non-essential political differences.

60. When appropriate, Christians wisely settle various disputes with one another as the church.

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! (1 Corinthians 6:1–8)

The overall problem in this passage is that…

  • Christians were denying the wisdom they had in the church by rushing to court when they should have been rushing to one another.
  • Christians were destroying the witness they had in the world in the process, by no solving their disputes with each.
  • Christians were disobeying the will of God in the gospel to love one another as Christ loves us.
    • We sacrifice our rights to show the love of Christ to another is the essence of the gospel.
      • …and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:12–13)
      • But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (Matthew 5:39–40)
      • See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
    • We strive for reconciliation with one another in Christ.
      • Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:16–18)

The general principles here are twofold.

  • Christians are subject to governing authorities for our good. This means there are some things we should run to the courts or government with. Think about anyone who has experienced or is in danger of experiencing abuse at the hands of someone else. Proper authorities of the government should be notified and involved immediately. If there is every any question, involving authorities should always be the default in situations like that. Don’t read 1 Corinthians 6 and think, “Okay, we don’t ever go to government.” No.
  • When appropriate, Christians settle disputes among themselves. When other authorities do not need to be involved in minor issues, Christians wisely settle various disputes with one another as the church instead of running to government.

61. What Does the New Testament Say About Government? God holds people, not government, ultimately responsible for nurturing marriages and raising children.

This comes primarily from the following passage:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22–33)

  • God holds husbands responsible for loving their wives sacrificially.
  • God holds wives responsible for respecting their husbands submissively.
    • Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1–4)
  • God holds children responsible for honoring their parents obediently.
  • God holds parents responsible for raising their children lovingly.

Put all that together and we see that God delegates the responsibility for nurturing marriages and raising children to families, not government. Now with that said, government exists to promote, protect and provide for the good of people and families. A good function of government under God is to carry out their God-given responsibilities.

62. God commands His people to pray for all people, particularly for government leaders.

This passage is clear. We also looked at this under truth #59.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1–6)

Who do we pray for?

  • Every kind of person.
  • Leaders in high positions. Pray for kings; honor all positions. We’re been commanded by God to pray for them.

What do we pray for?

  • The promotion of peace.
  • The spread of salvation.
    • God desires the salvation of all peoples.
      • The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
      • Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)
    • God deserves the honor of all peoples.
      • Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:21–22)
    • Jesus died for the rescue of all peoples.
      • And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)

So the overall picture here in 1 Timothy 2 is powerful. It connects so much of what we’ve already seen.

  • Government exists to do justice in such a way that the church is able to live in godliness while spreading the gospel. So we are to live peaceful and godly lives while honoring God.
  • By God’s design, the progress of the gospel in the world is dependent on the prayers of God’s people in the church. In other words, as we pray for leaders and all peoples to come to know Christ, we are participating with God in the accomplishment of His purposes in the world. This passage teaches us God’s Kingdom will come about as a result of the prayers of God’s people.
    • When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1–5)

63. Governments in this world are exceedingly imperfect and will all pass away.

These last two truths come from the book of Revelation which is so applicable. It was written to encourage Christians in the first century who were facing persecution and tempted to compromise their faith.

  • Remember…
    • The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1–3)
    • And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (Revelation 22:7)
  • The book of Revelation is not intended to promote hopeless speculation about times and events in the future.
  • The book of Revelation is intended to fuel hopeful obedience amidst trials and temptations in the present.
    • Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (Revelation 17:1–6)

I wish we had time to do a more exhaustive study of Revelation 17-18, but I will just summarize it here with this simple outline.

Two main characters:

  • An attractive woman who symbolizes worldly seduction, worldly ways.
    • A picture of infidelity.
    • A picture of idolatry.
    • A picture of immorality. And she is sitting on…
  • A beast that symbolizes worldly persecution. This imagery goes back to Revelation 13.
    • This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. (Revelation 17:9–13) 
    • A picture of government acting as a god.
      • Functioning as divine authority. 
      • Instead of under divine authority the way God designed it to be. 
    • A picture of mighty empires and ungodly leaders. Basically, the social and economic ways of the world working in tandem with the state and political structures in the world in ways that are adversarial toward God and His people.

Two main actions take place: 

  • The woman is devoured by the beast. 
  • The woman disappears from the earth. In chapter 18, we see Babylon fall and the smoke of her burning.

Two primary takeaways:

  • The kingdoms of this world are full of deceptive attractions.
    • Sensual pleasures.
      • For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living. (Revelation 18:3)
    • Material possessions.
      • Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! (Revelation 18:16) 
    • The promise of satisfaction.
      • As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” (Revelation 18:7)
    • The hope of security. 
    • The insatiable lust for power.
    • The subtle lure of pride; the way she glorified herself.

We see this picture here of a world that plays on these things and appeals to these things. The world is full of deceptive attractions. The kingdoms of this world are headed to a definite conclusion. This is the somber scene we read about here.

And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” (Revelation 18:9–24)

  • The kingdoms of this world will be destroyed completely.
  • They will be destroyed suddenly. All their wealth will be laid waste in a single hour.
  • They will be destroyed eternally when judgment comes.

The pleasures and kingdoms of this world will perish forever according to verse 14, never to be found again. See this, learn this, realize this: governments in this world are exceedingly imperfect. They will all pass away. Don’t put your hope in them. Don’t rest your faith in them.

64. What Does the New Testament Say About Government and The perfect government of God is coming to this world and it will last forever.

So right after Revelation 17-18, we read in Revelation 19 that salvation, glory, and power belong to our God! We also read about the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ in Revelation 11. 

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…” (Revelation 19:1) 

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Revelation 11:15–18)

The perfect government of God is coming into this world and for all who turn away from Jesus, His justice will mean:

  • An eternity of never-ending judgment in hell. We’ve already talked about Revelation 20 and the lake of fire. 
    • Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11–15)

For all who trust in Jesus, His justice will mean: 

  • An eternity of ever-increasing joy in heaven. 
    • Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:1–7)
    • God the Father will be with us in this new heaven and new earth. 
      • Seated on the throne of the universe, dwelling in unapproachable light, surrounded by unending praise, holy above all, with power over all, eternally existent and infinitely glorious, supreme above all things, the Sustainer of all things and Sovereign over all things.
    • God the Son… 
      • The conquering Savior Who redeems, the cosmic Lord Who rules, and the consummate King Who will reign forever, Whose worth is undisputed, Whose work is unforgettable, and Whose worship is universal. 
    • God the Spirit…
      • The omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent One Who enacts judgment and enables salvation for all.

This God will be with us and we will be with God.

  • Death will be replaced by life; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness or separation. 
  • Night will be replaced by light. 
  • Corruption will be replaced by purity.
  • Curse will be replaced by blessing.
  • Our bodies will be resurrected, creation will be restored and we will reign with Him in His government forever and ever. We will see His face.
    • Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1–5)

The perfect government of God is coming to this world and it will last forever! I so want to be standing with you right now—with tens of thousands of you—just lifting our hands in worship. I hope this is happening in our hearts, in all the places where we’re gathered. So we’ve looked at sixty-four truths about God and government, from cover to cover in Scripture. Here’s a summary of just the truths condensed on the next two pages as a handy reference. 





Session 4 Discussion Questions

(Gospel, Acts, Letters)

1. How has Jesus displayed His perfect and just kingship?

2. Why is the world’s hatred of the church inevitable?

3. According to this teaching session, how does the danger of our life increase according to the depth of our identification with Jesus?

4. Should we stay or flee amidst persecution? Give some biblical examples of each of these responses to persecution.

5. What are some specific ways Jesus’ kingdom is radically different from the kingdoms of this world?

6. Why is understanding the work of the Spirit essential for the church?

7. What does the book of Acts teach us about obedience to God in the face of government opposition? When are Christians required to disobey government?

8. How does God use citizens, citizenships, rulers, systems, and structures of government for the spread of the gospel?

9. What does it mean for Christians to have dual citizenship?

10. Why are Christians commanded to pray for all people, including the government?


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