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Kingdom living means you will be political

In 1937, a graduate of New Brunswick Bible Theological Seminary and Reformed ordained missionary Samuel Marinus Zwemer (1867-1952) made an essential statement. "Unless Jesus Chris is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all." [1] This statement challenged professing Christians that lives and worldviews are to come under the reality of Christ's sovereign rule. Zwemer was one of many people to make such a substantial challenge. The challenge is that God is indeed Sovereign; he indeed has providence over all that takes place. Take this to the logical end, all people, cities, governments and believers' interaction within these spheres is under God's complete control. Theologian R.C Sproul (1939-2017) used a reference in one of his lectures, making its way into his book Chosen by God, stated that,

I like to explain it this way: if there is one molecule in the universe running loose, outside of the control of God's sovereignty, what I like to call "one maverick molecule," then the practical implication for us as Christians is that we have no guarantee whatsoever that any future promise God has made to His people will come to pass.[2]

These two opinions are rightly in line with Holy Scripture. No better quick reference would be that of Colossians 1:13-29 known as the Incomparable Christ, or the Supremacy of Christ verses. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes this in verse 16,

for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him[3]

We see Christ is over all thrones, all dominions, rulers and authorities. Cementing the truth that Jesus is indeed Lord of all overall. There is not one rouge molecule in the entire universe. In this sovereign providence over the earth, God has ordained governments and how they function (See Romans Sermons here for more). Governments do not usurp God's rule; they were ordained to rule under God's sovereignty. We know, however, that all are sinners, and sinners fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This is why we see corrupt rulers, tyranny, and dictatorships around the globe. They are operating outside their ordained sphere. Abraham Kuyper (1837- 1920), founder of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1901-1905), addresses this issue with his paper on Sphere Sovereignty, A Public Address delivered at the Inauguration of the Free University, October 20, 1880. In Short, Government, Education, and Family all have specific spheres, and God ordains each operate within those spheres. When this is taking place, all is well. When it is not - it needs to be addressed.

Over the last several years, there has been much debate in the Christian church regarding pastors who have made public stands regarding such spheres being crossed. Most of the issues appear more one-sided—concerns over pastors calling our government officials for overstepping their authority. Education centres are taking on policies and curricula that overstep the child's parental rights, among other things. Issues of church officers demanding medical procedures to attend a corporate worship service or elders locking doors were considered the loudest voice. It seemed more professing believers were angry at pastors doing such a thing and applauding the others who forced medical procedures for corporate worship or locked the doors preventing corporate worship altogether.

Since Colossians 1:13-19 affirms that all things belong to Christ, confirming that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that every molecule is subject to His sovereignty, should Christians be engaged with all aspects of society? Should there be rebukes of the government, schools, social clubs and societies? Does the Christian have a moral and Scriptural responsibility to do so? The answer is a clear yes.

First, let us look at the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:16-20

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."[4]

Here, Jesus confirms that he has all authority. Here, the nominative singular feminine noun ἐξουσία is used. It means authority over all domains or spheres of influence. Taking us back to Colossians 1:13-29 and confirmed by Jesus' own words - that this authority is heavenly and earthly. Not one day or soon to come but now. All governments, countries and principalities are under this authority. The command's thrust is not the going but in the discipleship process. Make disciples. There is no segregation here. The command is not somehow removed from those in the office such as magistrates or the educational systems - no, it is to all ethnos - all nations, teaching them to Observe all that Christ commands. The present active infinitive verb τηρέω is not just people to be Christian. It is more than simply making converts. The direction is to teach people to conform and practise the decrees of Christ. Again, this does not exclude those in specific spheres - as Christ is Lord of all - all levels are engaged with evangelism and discipleship making.

Second, let us look at some accounts where Scripture shows it is right and normal for a Christian to engage in their culture, society and, more specifically, with politicians over matters that violate Scripture.

1. Jesus' Passion. In John 18:36, Jesus clearly to Pilate that He is King, in direct defiance to Caesars' governor. When challenged, Jesus again confirms He is a king (v37). Interestingly, in John 19:11, Jesus tells Pilate he would have no authority unless it were given from above. This is indeed political. Jesus is putting Pilate in his place and reminding Pilate who is actually in charge.

2. John the Baptizer. John's ministry starts in the wilderness. John 1:7 shows his ministry focus - to testify about the Light so that all might believe through him. One must remember the way politics worked in Bible times. Though Rome was the occupying ruler, there was still theocratic governance by the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin was not just a religious group of Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, and they ensured the Law (Mosaic and otherwise) was being fulfilled. John needs to address these men the way many claim rulers are to be addressed today. He used such terms as "Brood of vipers" (Mathew 3:7). Granted, sarcastic rhetoric was typical in the ancient world when opposing sides met, but it is direct. If this were not enough, John was beheaded for rebuking Herod (political power) over his adultery because he took his brother's wife (Matthew 14:1-12).

3. The death of Stephen. Remembering the power and positions of the Sanhedrin, what happens with Stephen is interesting. Standing before the rulers, he gives them a history lesson. Thus confirming that the message he preaches is authentic. Then at the end of chapter seven makes a strong statement,

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."[5]

Here Stephen charged them to be polluted and cruel rulers carried along by superstition rather than God's word (See Calvin Commentary. Acts of the Apostles Volume 1, page 305).

4. Let us move back to chapter four in the Book of Acts. After the rulers charged the Apostle Peter and John to say nothing more in the name of Jesus, "But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." [6]

5. To close this list, there is a need to look at the verses which show Jesus denying rulers. He tells the people that the Pharisees tie up heavy burdens that are hard to bear and lay them on people's shoulders (a rebuke found in Matthew 23). He references the leaders as hypocrites in Luke 18:10-14 and Luke 20:46-47. We also see the Apostles following suit in the example that Christ gave.

So what does this all mean for us as believers? It means that we are to be engaged. Christianity has never been about sitting on the sidelines. It has always been about Kingdom living, obedient proclamation of the Gospel and discipleship. Throughout history, there have been times when the governing authorities have shown favour to believers. However, for the most part, there has been opposition. Let us remember what the Apostle John said,

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.[7]

This means the antichrist is working now. He is blinding the eyes of the unbelieving ( 2 For 4:4). Of course, the government, the education centres and society want to shut us down. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). Listening to pastors express one need to "stay in their lane," or "Romans 13 says," arguments will not suffice. The days are dark, and with the rise of the LGBTQ, Political, CRT, Social Justice and other cultural interference, if there are no voices -there is only rebellion.

So since Jesus Christ is Lord of All, and since He is sovereign over everything, and since Scripture clearly shows there will be times a believer will go toe to toe with officials, it is time to wake up. It is time to count the costs, pick up our crosses and preach Christ. To engage in our education systems, to hold the government accountable and leave the results with God.