Politics and The Church
Returning to Egypt
After being delivered from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites were led into the wildernesses of the Sinai peninsula. They had been given a promise that the land of Canaan would be theirs. All they had to do was to follow faithfully the guide which God had given them. Their guide was a comforting, towering cloud by day which became a pillar of fire by night. The Bible says, "So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long, as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents" (Num. 9:16-18).
Upon occasion, however, God tried Israel's faith in the wilderness. Unfortunately, Israel usually responded by making plans to return to Egypt - not, of course, to be enslaved again, but to rule. They knew the land had been devastated by the plagues which God had sent upon Egypt. They knew that the Egyptian army had been eliminated at the Red Sea. They believed that they could return to Egypt as conquerors. They knew that the Egyptians now feared the God of Israel.
But the cloud would not lead them back to the west. It traveled east - to Canaan's land. God had, in fact, expressly forbidden them ever to return to Egypt (Dt. 17:16). Nevertheless, at times the Israelites wanted to return, no doubt thinking that God would be pleased by their ruling Egypt in his name (as they thought to honor God by building the golden calf in his name. Ex. 32:3-5). Despite all that Moses could do, this is the way many of the Israelites thought.
This, too, is the thinking of some in the Church who now would lead the Church into the Egypt of earthly political involvement, although God has commanded us not to go that way (II Tim. 2:3- 4). Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world." Then what do these misguided leaders hope to accomplish for God by grasping for worldly power? Has the wilderness heat of persecution for righteousness' sake become so severe that they wish to return to Egypt and, so, make earthly life easy for the Church?
Crying out "for Jesus' sake" as they go their own stubborn way makes their rebellion no less evil. If anything it makes it worse, for it deceives the simple among the flock into believing that Jesus may actually approve of such schemes to seize upon earthly power.
Paul said that Israel was baptized in the cloud unto Moses (I Cor. 10: 2), and that we are baptized unto Jesus by the Holy Ghost (I Cor. 12:13). Just as the Israelites had to follow that with which they were baptized in order to obtain the promise, so we must follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost if we will obtain the promise of eternal life (Mt. 24:11-13; Rom. 8:14). And the Holy Ghost is no more leading the bride of Christ to become entangled in politics of earth than the cloud was leading Israel back to Egypt. In fact, it is going in the opposite direction: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3).
The Old Covenant saints had to be concerned with worldly government matters because Israel was a worldly kingdom. But Jesus removed that heavy burden from the backs of those who believe in him. The only sword we are duty-bound to carry now is the "sword of the Spirit."
When Jesus was being arrested in the garden of Gethsemene, Peter, confident that he was doing God a service, pulled out his hidden sword and attacked those who had come to take Jesus. But Jesus told the angry Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Thoughtfully consider, please, this question, Does Jesus' admonition to Peter apply only to swords? Does it not apply to other forms of earthly weaponry? If the Gethsemene scene were repeated today, wouldn't it be more likely that Peter would pull out a gun than a sword? Can we honestly think that Jesus was refusing to allow the Church to use swords but permitting the use of other carnal weapons? Does he have to prohibit by name every weapon that men invent in order for us to get his point? No, in this remark to Peter, our Lord was telling us all that, for the Church, use of earthly weapons would result in death.
If, rather than employ the spiritual power of the gospel, the Church returns to take up the sword of earthly political power, then according to Jesus' own words of warning, the Church is destined to be trampled upon by that same power. It may be that the much-dreaded final persecution of the saints at the close of this age will be only the harvest of evil seed now being sown by the Church. Let us reason together. It is an indisputable fact that the majority of this nation's and the world's citizens are on the "broad way which leads to destruction." If the saints, being in the minority, resort to the earthly weapon of majority rule, common sense - not to mention the Holy Spirit - screams to us the incontrovertible truth that we are bound to be outvoted and defeated, unless, of course, we "water down" the gospel message or downplay its demands in order to persuade those on "the broad way" to join our cause. But in that case, what has actually happened is that we have become one of them, no longer separated from the world for the honor and service of Christ Jesus our Lord. Oh, God forbid that the Church should ever distort or neglect the gospel for the sake of any earthly gain, be it fortune, fame, friendships, or political power.
In ancient Rome, arenas were sometimes used for the gruesome "sport" of Christians futilely fighting with hungry lions. Today, by some of our own leaders, many precious, trusting, believers are being led into another arena - the political arena. Again helplessly outnumbered. Again futilely straining to hold at bay a carnal beast. Again, I fear, only to become a pathetic spectacle. Rather than live by, only to die by the sword, let us rather live by that Word which can know neither death nor fruitlessness. If we would have men to do right, there is no more compelling force than simply being what others ought to be.
We can find great rest and peace in the knowledge in that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Dan. 4:25). God's plan on this earth includes the use of godless, cruel governments and wicked men. God is responsible for every government that exists upon the earth "There is no power but of God," wrote Paul, "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). Therefore, if the Church frets itself and attempts to alter the course of earthly governments by earthly means, is the Church not actually fretting against !he One who ordained those governments? For he alone is responsible for their being! Listen again to Paul: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Rom. 13:1-2).
One brother, who is now one of my dearest friends in Christ, said that before he learned this liberating truth, he carried hatred and fear in his heart for all communists. In his imagination, he pictured their attempted overthrow someday of this nation, and he felt that his "Christian" duty would be, in that event, to kill as many of them as possible before being killed himself. That may be a "Christian" duty, but it is not the will of Jesus. That is why those seeking to do the will of Jesus have abandoned "Christianity". Now, however, this same brother sees himself and the Church much more rightly, as ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, foreigners representing Jesus to all peoples of the earth, proclaiming the soon appearing of a kingdom to end all kingdoms and a king to end all kings. And as ambassadors, unencumbered with the concerns of temporal earthly governments, but serving our Lord in righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Ghost. "For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men" (Rom. 14:18).
Because of their humble submission to the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar, it is probably true that Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were considered by Israel's false prophets to be traitors of their nation. We know that Jeremiah was condemned as a traitor for preaching that the Jews in Jerusalem should surrender to Nebuchadnezzar's army (Jer. 38). And I certainly understand how it now may seem unpatriotic to suggest that saints should not become immersed into the political partisanships of this earth. But I know that no nation on this earth is either sacred or eternal. Until the time when the King of eternity comes to rule the earth with his "rod of iron", earthly kingdoms will both rise and fall, conquer and be conquered, prosper and decay. And in whichever of history's times we live, in whatever place, and under whatever form of government, our only cause is to be Christ, and our only weapons, those which pierce the souls of men, not their flesh.
I am grateful to God for the privilege of living in the United States of America while serving the Lord Jesus. God has graced this land with liberties which are envied by all other nations. Those liberties, however, should be seen as coming only from God, sustained only by God, and when taken away, taken away only by God. If this blessed country should ever be turned over to cruel and godless men, true believers must still act as ambassadors, not rebels, toward those to whom God has given the reigns of government.
The real danger to the Church is not earthly government, it is earthly-mindedness, which involvement in political action and other worldly entanglements promote.
"For they that arc after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:5-6).
Concerning some Of the faith who had strayed into earthly entanglements, Paul lamented: "For many walk, of whom I have told You often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, WHO MIND EARTHLY THINGS."
Precious flock of God, our King is Corning. Our time to reign will come with him. Until then, let us Pray for and submit to the governments which God ordains upon earth, and give ourselves to the work and worship of him whose kingdom is unshakable, whose will is supreme, whose vengeance no sin will escape.