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Presentation 91. Introduction When governments disappoint their people and are responsible for unpopular decisions a great deal of questioning goes.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 91. Introduction When governments disappoint their people and are responsible for unpopular decisions a great deal of questioning goes."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation 91

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3 Introduction When governments disappoint their people and are responsible for unpopular decisions a great deal of questioning goes on. In recent years many in the U.K. have questioned our involvement in the Iraq war. Elsewhere matters of political correctness have caused many to question government policy. This causes some Christians to ask, “What should our relationship be to the government when it makes decisions that we are uncomfortable with?” and also, “What should shape the decision making process of those in authority?” Presentation 91

4 God or Caesar Traditionally the responsibility of the Christian towards the government has been built on Jesus’ teaching: “Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's” Matt. 22v21. The background to this command was a question about taxes: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” Jesus makes our responsibility clear. But what of other areas? What if the commands of God and the commands of government disagree? What if there is a clash of authorities? We look at the discussion between Pilate, the representative of human government, and the Lord Jesus, the representative of divine government for our answer. Presentation 91

5 God or Caesar Pilate asks, “Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” v10. To which Jesus replies, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” This statement does not merely separate the two spheres of authority, Caesar's and God's. It shows that the authority of human government comes from one source, God himself, and so all human authority is clearly delegated authority. Presentation 91

6 All Authority is From God Since all power comes from God, it is to that extent legitimised by him. There are three Greek words that are translated power and Jesus uses the strongest of the three here, ‘exousia’, which means ‘legitimate authority.’ He recognises that Pilate’s authority is from God even if the pronouncements he makes are wrong. Do you see the practical implications? To disrespect authority - elected officials, policemen, and others not only leads to anarchy but disregards God’s principles of government - remember that when you fill out your tax returns! Presentation 91

7 All Authority is From God Suppose a ruler is wicked? Is obedience always necessary? There are limits but we must be careful to render obedience to those in authority, while at the same time doing nothing to contradict the commands of God in Scripture and the moral principles arising from them. This is where the second part of Jesus’ statement applies, for after acknowledging Pilate’s authority, and God as the source of that authority, Jesus went on to speak of sin, saying, “Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” Presentation 91

8 All Authority is From God Implicit here is that a failure on Pilate’s part to responsibly exercise authority constituted sin. Authority is bound by the moral nature of the God from whom it comes. What if authority demands an action that contradicts God’s command? Think of the time when Peter and John were commanded by the religious authorities not to teach others about Jesus. Their response was; “Judge... is it right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.” Acts 4v19-20 Presentation 91

9 All Authority is From God Clearly, Christians are to give precedence to the teaching of scripture and must be willing to suffer the consequences of law-breaking that might result. No government has the right to command the Christian to perform a non-Christian act. In Nazi Germany citizens were commanded to have no dealings with the Jews. They were not to trade with them, help or, befriend them. Some like Rev. Martin Niemӧller defied the government and was imprisoned. He was encouraged to ‘respect’ the government to gain his freedom. "Why remain in jail?" he was asked by a colleague. Niemӧller replied, "Why aren't you in jail?" By his silence, his colleague had indirectly offered support to the Nazi movement. Presentation 91

10 All Authority is From God Today, Christians need to speak out against persecution, racism, corruption, discrimination, and a variety of other evils and refuse to participate in them in any way, even if commanded to do so by the government or, by an employer. While pointing out Pilate's sin, Jesus also spoke of the ‘greater sin’ of the “religious leaders”. Pilate's sinned against conscience - he knew Jesus was innocent - but the Jewish church leaders sinned against God’s revealed law. The greatest danger to God’s work often lies not with the state, but with those who are closest to spiritual things. Others may sin out of ignorance or cowardice but religious people often sin out of arrogance, pride and a rejection of God’s revealed truth. Presentation 91

11 All Authority is From God Pilate, to whom God had delegated authority, did not want to condemn Jesus but fear dictated his behaviour. When confronted with the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, we read that "he was even more afraid"v8. This was a craven fear commonplace in that age; fear of displeasing the gods and so turn ‘fate’ against you! Presentation 91

12 All Authority is From God Secondly, Pilate was afraid of the people. He knew their power and feared they might complain to Caesar and, to use a football metaphor, he was already on a yellow card. Thirdly, and most significantly, Pilate feared Caesar. And with some cause! The suspicious nature of Caesar Tiberius was well known. What if Caesar should disapprove of his handling of this matter? What if word reached Caesar that he had freed a man charged with high treason? Pilate might lose not only his position but his life. He feared man more than God! Presentation 91

13 Fearing God What does it mean to fear God more than man? There are three requirements. First, we must, like Daniel, trust in God’s sovereign control in human affairs. Daniel witnessed the rise and fall of several great empires and saw God’s hand at work in this. This prepared him for the greatest challenge of his life. King Darius was tricked into signing a law that forbad praying to any God except the King on pain of death. Did Daniel dissolve in panic and fear? No! Why? He knew that God was in control. And so he committed his future to God. He was able to resist the unjust human decree because he trusted in God. Presentation 91

14 Fearing God But more than trust is required. Not all choices are so clear and so secondly, we must have a knowledge of Scripture. It is not enough to want to do the right thing! We must know what the right thing is. And for that we need to know God’s word. Even then there are areas where Christians will disagree. That said, without the Bible there are no sure answers at all! Presentation 91

15 Fearing God Some argue that we must trust in conscience. But conscience on its own is an unsure guide. At best, conscience tells us that we should do right when we know the right. But it does not know what is right unless the light of God's truth shines upon it. We can compare conscience to a sundial. Only in the light of the sun is a sundial reliable, but not at night or on a cloudy day? Similarly, the conscience is useful, only when the light of God’s word shines upon it. Presentation 91

16 Fearing God Thirdly, fearing God involves a willingness to surrender everything to him. It is possible to follow our first two steps - to trust in God's sovereignty and to study the Bible - and yet fail to make the right decision because we consider it to be too costly. This is what was wrong with Pilate. He feared he would lose his position and all that he held dear! Presentation 91

17 Fearing God Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer describes survival in the Gulag: “From the moment you go to prison you must put your cosy past firmly behind you... you must say to yourself: 'My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die - now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me, those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious to me.’ Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogator will tremble. Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.” Presentation 91

18 Conclusion Whether intentionally or not, Solzhenitsyn has expressed a great Christian principle. We must be willing to renounce everything if we are Christ's disciples. Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? Lk. 9v Only those who’ve done that, and whose consciences are illuminated by the Word of God and who are convinced of the sovereignty of God in all things, can be true revolutionaries. As storm clouds gather for Christians in the West, and we experience increasingly, a clash of authorities, as we are pressured to surrender Christian values, may God equip us to be a truly revolutionary people. Presentation 91


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