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. (Romans 13:1-4)
In his commentary on Romans 13:1, John Calvin writes that
There are indeed always some tumultuous spirits who believe that the kingdom of Christ cannot be sufficiently elevated, unless all earthly powers be abolished, and that they cannot enjoy the liberty given by him, except they shake off every yoke of human subjection. Continue reading How We Relate to Government
Every year on January 1st, teenagers around the country resolve to try harder in school, eat better, exercise more, get a job, save money, or be less distracted by the opposite sex. And every year on January 2nd, those same teenagers decide that it’s easier to just do nothing, and their resolutions are forgotten more quickly than information after a test is handed in.
As Christians, instead of setting goals that deal only with surface issues and are dependent on our own efforts, we should think like Paul, who wrote in Philippians 3, “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” (vv. 12-14). Paul wasn’t pressing on toward a healthy diet, a 4.0 GPA, or a PR in track. He wasn’t forgetting last marking period to press on in this one. Rather, he was counting everything except Jesus as loss (v. 8) and straining (because it’s not easy!) to become like Jesus in his life and in his death (v. 8-9) that he might gain Christ (v. 8) and the resurrection from the dead (v. 11). And he was doing it all as a response to what Jesus had done for him (v. 12). Paul’s goal wasn’t focused on self-improvement or motivated by pride; it was focused on Christ-likeness and motivated by reciprocating the love that he had been shown. He went on to say, “Let those of us who are mature think this way,” (v. 15) and, “join in imitating me” (v. 17). This isn’t something that only super-saints like Paul are called to do. It is to be every Christian’s goal. Every year. Every marking period. Every day. Continue reading A Resolution Worth Keeping
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 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. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Paul packs so much into these few verses that it’s a little overwhelming to try and tackle it all so let me just make a few observations on how this all relates to evangelism. Continue reading Ministers of Reconciliation
1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
(1 Corinthians 7:1-9)
We often think of ancient Greece as a bastion of culture and the birth place of Western civilization, but in reality, the Greeks were really messed up, especially when it came to sex. At various times and in different city-states, men were allowed (even expected) to have sexual relationships with adolescent boys in exchange for educating them, soldiers were encouraged to have homosexual relationships with each other under the belief that one would fight harder if on the same battlefield as his lover, and women were made into temple prostitutes where men would sleep with them to “worship” their gods. As sexually depraved as our culture has become, Greece was probably still much worse.
By the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians, at least 2 incorrect views of sex had started to infiltrate the church at Corinth, a city known for its sexual immorality: Continue reading Marriage, Singleness, & Sex
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.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)
If there was any dispute between 2 people that could have threatened the strength and unity of any number of churches in the book of Acts, this was it. Paul and Barnabas had completed a successful missionary journey and were about to head off on another, but their history was so much deeper than just being co-workers. Continue reading When Church Leaders Disagree
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)
In his pamphlet Common Sense, published in the midst of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote that “government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” I’m sure we can all think of examples that prove this to be true. We read of politicians using public buildings and funds to carry on extramarital affairs. We see local police departments using their authority to raise revenue rather than to keep the public safe. Our representatives pass laws that benefit powerful special interest groups but endanger freedom and fly in the face of biblical ideals. Our government gave $1.4 billion of aid last year to countries that own U.S. debt (basically we give free money to countries that lend it right back to us for interest). Continue reading Why We Submit to Government
This year has been a trying one for me, mostly because I was more unhappy at work than I have ever been. Men find meaning and fulfillment in work (sometimes to unhealthy and unbiblical extents), and no longer being able to find it in what I was doing was a strike at the core of my identity. Because of this I was contemplating a new career, something that is stressful enough when you’re 19, but is even more so at 29, with a wife and son to support, and a 1/2 finished master’s program that would be wasted with the change. That combined with busyness of family life and ministry at church left me in a constant state of worry, agitation and stress.
One of the Scripture passages that I’ve always used to help me during such times is Philippians 4:6-7:
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I can still remember sitting outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow repeating those verses over and over in my head while my wife (then, fiancee) was being interviewed for a visa to come to the United States. And again in the DHS offices in Newark as we waited for her citizenship test and interview. Or a few weeks ago in Louisiana as we awaited news on our son, who had been taken to the hospital in New Jersey. Continue reading Be Reasonable
The thing that stands out to me in 2 Corinthians 4 is verse 13: “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,’ we also believe, therefore we also speak”. This to me encompasses the motivation to evangelize, be involved in missions, and any other effort to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The effect of grace on our lives, the change brought about by faith, should be so great that we are naturally inclined to tell others about it. We believe, therefore we speak. The more I delve into the Scriptures, the more I come to the realization that the ordinances and purposes of our faith (baptism, communion, prayer, missions, evangelism, worship, etc.) are not tasks to be fulfilled, but rather responses to what God has already done for us. They should be the natural inclination of a spirit that has been saved from the pit of destruction and the miry clay (Psalm 40:2). We tend to treat these things as a check list that we robotically complete and then check off so as to say to God, “See, I’ve done all that You have asked of me.” The correct mindset, however, is not that we have to do these things, but that we want to do them. They are responses to the awesome works that God has done, both generally for all mankind (Creation, the redemptive work of Christ), and specifically in my life (my personal salvation and sanctification). “We also believe, therefore we also speak.” Continue reading Motivated Evangelism