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Jesus is Lord -- Personal & Political

F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Audio Version

1/10/23 Trinity 18
Prov. 2:1-9; Ps. 110; 1 Cor. 1:4-8; Mt. 22:34-46

The early Christians, when they baptized someone, needed some statement of belief to explain what the baptism was about, and they needed some principle of commitment to be assented to by the candidate. The first Christians began with those three words: “Jesus is Lord...” Baptism was, and is, the committing of a person to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who, as Lord, could be the forgiver if his sins.

In I Timothy and twice in the Book of Revelation, we hear the phrase, “King of kings and Lord of lords...” ascribed to the Christ who was returning to claim His kingdom on earth. A kingdom is a public and political entity,not a private affair.

The phrase, “King of kings...” was used in the Old Testament of even pagan kings who had conquered other kings, but who had been given the ability to do that by God Himself. It was God, implicitly, who was King over all kings, anywhere, any time. The Old Testament writers understood the sovereignty of God.

   

Psalm 110 was the most quoted psalm in the Bible by early Christians. And the key verses were verse 1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” which Jesus uses in the Gospel to present that conundrum to the lawyers about whether the Messiah could be the son of David. And, verse 4, “The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek...” These were verses quoted to indicate Old Testament support for the divinity of the Messiah, and thus His lordship over all things.

In our 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we pray in Morning Prayer for the president of the United States and all others in authority, “that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way.” And, “make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear...” And, the same of the Queen of England, “that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way...” The obedience of politicians to God.

Then likewise in Evening Prayer, for all governors, “that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thine honor and glory; and that we and all the people, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honor them...”

I grew up in the Episcopal Church with that prayer book, and used it in my ministry until 1979 when the “new and improved” version came out. The new wisdom did not see the point in keeping those words which I just read. I was concerned about those missing words, and kept on preaching the sovereignty of God in all matters, including politics. I did not yet realize the subversion of the Christian faith which was being slyly, deliberately, and dishonestly imposed by our own leaders upon the people of God.

We need to understand what has happened to us, why, and by whom.

We, the people of God, had allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by persons who knew they could not present their case openly in the public arena, and so, for example, through government control of our schools they dishonestly taught us that America had been founded as a secular nation.

   

The United States Supreme Court in 1962, in their Engel v. Vitale decision, were as sly, deliberate, and dishonest as some of our spiritual leadership, inventing their own history and constitutional law. They declared that prayer in schools was unconstitutional and therefore forbidden. They did not care about prayer. They cared about sovereignty. They wanted it, and persuaded we, the people, to let them remove it from God and give it to themselves. They did not put it that honestly, of course, they never would have gotten away with it. The both unconstitutional and unGodly thing was not prayer in schools, it was government in schools. Control of education is totally contradictory to the separation and dispersion of powers principles.

   

Now, I challenge you to read those passages in our Book of Common Prayer, and the relevant passages all through the Bible, to see if you can come to the conclusion that “Jesus is Lord” is not a political statement, and does not mean Lord over civil government. Just who are all those kings and lords over whom Jesus is asserted to be King and Lord?

The early Christians perfectly well understood what “Jesus is Lord...” meant, and often paid with their lives to stand up for it. They meant (as Caesar also clearly understood) that Jesus was Lord over Caesar and over all other civil and military officers. He did not like it, but he understood what they meant. And he considered them subversives.  That is why he persecuted them. 

There is a legitimate separation between Church and State, but there is no separation of God from State. God owns the whole creation, and therefore owns the State and Church, lock, stock, and barrel.

The early Christians staked their lives on the Lordship of Jesus. Why are we today so silent about it? The silence of Christians today on this issue has nothing at all to do with Biblical theology, nothing to do with either Reformed, Anglican, Orthodox, or Catholic theology. So, from where is coming? Is it not coming from the secularization of we Christians ourselves, and from our privatization of our religion? We have, to sufficient degree, accepted the secularization of our society and the privatization of our religion so that we are embarrassed and frightened to say out loud, “Jesus is Lord...”

   

Why is this so important? Why do I make such a fuss about it?

The first reason is that the Bible tells us that God is absolute sovereign over all things. There is nothing at all either we or the politicians can do about that. That is a fact of life. By our own silence, we are standing in defiance of the law of God. That is reason enough to make a fuss about it.

But further, there are drastic consequences for our failure to stand with God to proclaim His sovereignty.

Civil and military government are about the use of coercive force. We make laws to enforce or forbid something. And that law will be backed up by physical force. Everything civil government does, it does, as it were, at gunpoint. George Washington said, Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force;
like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”

That is why our founding fathers gave us a government specifically limited in scope and strength, a government with authority and power separated on the federal level, and dispersed among the various levels, local and state. The upper levels are to keep hands off things given to the lower levels, so the lower levels become protective buffers between the individual citizens and the most dangerous level at the federal top.

The whole history of paganism, and more recently, secularism has been the history of “might makes right”. It has been only Biblical religion, the Biblical God, which has given us principles to bring us to a government of, by, and for the people. No secular or pagan nation has ever been able to keep that kind of freedom for its people. Both secular and pagan governments will drift, probably sooner rather than later, into centralization and tyranny. The people will become slaves on a government plantation.

Is that not precisely the message of God to the Hebrews when they insisted on having a king? Did not God warn them (I Sam. 8) that the king, the central governor, would “...take your sons..., take your daughters... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.   And in that day you will cry out because of your king, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Awful and fearful words. But those are God’s words.

Only under the law and grace of God can government be tamed and kept as the servant of the people rather than their tyrant. The king was supposed to have a copy of the law so that he would know how to reign properly, but, of course, the king immediately had other plans, and went his own direction. Immediately.

The Hebrews eventually lost their national sovereignty to foreigners because they would not honor the sovereignty of God. We stand in exactly that danger. If we do not return to God, we will lose our sovereignty, become slaves of our own government, and maybe of other nations, economically if not politically. Maybe both.

The founding fathers who wanted Godly freedom understood that. But so did those secular folks who wanted to centralize government – so as to control the people. Secularization is a part of Satan’s war against the people of God. And we Christians were ignorant enough and cowardly enough to let them get away with it. Up through the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and 80’s, I was right there with them. It was not until about 1992 that I had an electrifying enlightenment when I discovered that America had been founded as a Christian, not a secular, nation.

Will God answer us if we cry out against our own present federal government which has an anti-Christ administration in open rebellion against God?

This is primarily a spiritual conflict, not a secularized political conflict. And we Christians are, for the most part, sitting on our hands. We Christians, probably all over the world, are letting our governments trash His sovereignty, and His law and grace. Can God possibly be pleased with us???

What would any one of the prophets say here today? They would be excoriating us Christians for our ignorance, sloth, laziness, and cowardice, just as they did the Hebrews. How can we possibly be ignorant? We have had over two thousand years of history between us and them. Have we learned nothing at all? Have we learned that the prophets were wrong? Mistaken? If so, why do we bother to read and study them?

And if they are right, why are we not repenting like they called their own people to do? Why are we not busily studying and training ourselves in the Bible and theology and evangelism so that we can present to the world the sovereignty of God over all things, the judge and forgiver of sins?

That kind of teaching and evangelism must be built on a foundation of personal salvation with hearts and minds dedicated to the truth of God. But that witness is the task of the whole Church today just as it was the task of the Hebrew leadership – prophets, priests, kings, and their people.

   

Our Gospel lesson brings us to the center issue, an event which (though seldom noticed) changed the whole course of human history – Jesus telling us the meaning of the law. It was, of course, foreshadowed in the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. But Jesus brought a new clarity and authority to the matter, forever uniting law and grace.

Jesus is asked by one of the manipulative lawyers, “What is the meaning of the law?” Jesus replied with what we know as the two Great Commandments, not just one. They were both quotations from the Old Testament. The two were already linked, as shown by Luke 10:25 ff., but they were not known, so far as I am aware, as the “two Great Commandments”. They became so by this dictum of Jesus.

This juxtaposition of the highest and second highest laws resolved that great problem of the supposed conflict between law and grace. Here was the second highest law in the whole of creation commanding us to love one another, to be graceful to one another, to do the good things which promote life and relationship for one another. We are by law to be graceful. Law and grace were wedded – since eternity in God, but now clearly for all of us to see.

That is why Jesus could say that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. If that is true of the Sabbath, then it is true for the whole of the law. Laws are important only as they benefit mankind. The law is for our benefit – not for our control and slavery. And how could it possibly be any more for our benefit than to command that we love one another, that we take care of one another, watch out for one another. How could it be any more for our benefit than to command us to be Godly friends with one another?

Those two laws govern not only our personal relationships, they govern the whole of creation, including civil and military law.  Any law which violates our national constitution is, in America, no law at all and has no authority in America, just so, any law which violates God's laws of love is no law at all, and has no authority in God’s world.

   

One of the great blessings of these two highest laws is that God requires of Himself the same love that He requires of us. A big difference is that God actually follows His own principles of relationship. He really does love us, He really does do all things for our benefit – including strong discipline for us.

But to receive the fullness of that benefit, we must ourselves be obedient, we must ourselves become loving persons, devoted friends of God and one another. That is the nature of relationships – one receives the greatest benefit the more one invests himself into the relationship. Apart from the grace of God, apart from God’s sustaining and directing love, that would not be true. When we are betrayed in our relationships, we are still upheld by the Hand of God and directed by His voice. Our lives are safe in Him – hidden in Christ, even in conflict and betrayal.

So, “Jesus is Lord” governs both our personal obedience and our corporate, political obedience.

   

What is in this for us? What does this mean for St. Luke’s Church? We are a part of those who long ago received the power of the Holy Spirit, to witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the world. How do we put that to work in our own situation? In Orange County?

We all have different skills and natural inclinations. God knows that and He knows how we can invest our talents for Him, so that when He returns on that Last Day, He will find that we have earned good interest for Him on our investment. He does not take kindly to burying the talents which He has entrusted to our care. We must discern what those talents are and put them to work for Him. As we have willing hearts, He will provide and point us to the opportunities and the means.

We must learn, very importantly, what it means to be made in the Image of God, how to model both the sovereignty of God and the power of being which God gives to us at our own Pentecost.

God has given us a worldview and a Gospel which can be put into the public arena with full confidence that God will uphold His part of the picture. We must learn, through our own deep repentance and prayer what our part is, and then pursue that with all the unity and diligence of the sons and daughters of God.

Prophets were a hopeful people, not hopeless, but they were realists. They knew that without God we are in a hopeless situation, as they described. But this is a winnable war. With obedience to God, there is eternal hope.

I will ask that we each devote ourselves at least fifteen minutes per day to prayer and Bible reading about our mission as St. Luke’s, and that we report back weekly as we hear the Lord saying something to ourselves personally and to the parish. Spiritual renewal is the fruit of prayer, repentance, and working together in love – under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

   

Lord, we live in a time of disintegration, and yet with signs of spiritual renewal beginning to show. Give us that bold obedience which will make us witnesses for Your loving sovereignty over all things; in Jesus name, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen. 

Audio Version

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Date Posted - 10/23/2011   -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012