February 16, 2015

Let’s Talk About The Holy Spirit!

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
(John 7:37-39)
 
Dr. Rick Flanders
It is a wonderful fact that Jesus Christ has blessed those He has saved with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, Who has come to meet all of our needs and to work through us to meet the needs of the world!  What a wonderful truth, and what an amazing blessing!  He is figuratively described as a well of living water springing up to satisfy our inner thirst forever, and gushing out with rivers to satisfy the thirst of others!  Let us not lose our grip on this wonderful metaphor and the truth it pictures.

According to the writer (the apostle John), the book of John was written to convince the reader that “Jesus is the Christ” (see chapter 20, verse 31) so that he “might have life through His name.”  Jesus came to give us Life, His Life!  This is why the book introduces us to Jesus and His claims, and then presents proofs to back up those claims.  The purpose of it all is that those who read this remarkable book “might have life” in Him.  The life that is offered is the life of Jesus Himself (see this in John 1:4; 6:32-35; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6)! It is described as “everlasting life” (3:14-16; 4:13-14; 5:24, 39-40; 6:27, 47) and those who receive it are able to live “more abundantly” (10:10).  The adjectives “everlasting” and “eternal” which often describe this “life” in the book of John refer more to the quality of the life He came to give us than to the quantity of it (its length).  Those who receive His life can live “more abundantly,” and enjoy an existence on earth more fulfilling, successful, peaceful, and joyful than any other way of life!  We find the theme of the abundant life first in chapter 4, where a spiritually thirsty woman is told that Jesus will give her “living water” if she would just ask for it (verse 10).  Jesus explains this metaphor with these powerful words.

“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:14)

The symbol of living water becoming a well inside the one who drinks it is expanded in chapter 7, where we read of “rivers of living water” flowing out from the believers inner self (verses 37 and 38).  The living water not only satisfies the needs of the believer, but also meets the needs of those around him.  Then it is explained that this stunning metaphor speaks of “the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (verse 39).  The Holy Spirit is given in the gift of eternal life, and the ministry of the Spirit is essential and basic to the abundant life that Jesus gives.  Of course, the Spirit (Who is God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity) came to abide in believers on the great day of Pentecost as the New Testament Age began.  His presence and power in our lives is the chief distinction between the life of Old Testament believers and the daily life of New Testament believers who have learned to live abundantly.  What a wonderful thing it is to have the Spirit of God actually living inside us!  How many blessings surrendered Christians enjoy because of Him (look over the words of Jesus about Spirit-filled living in John 14:15-21, 25-27; 15:26-27; and 16:7-14)!

But sadly, for decades now, teaching and preaching about the Holy Spirit has diminished in most fundamentalist pulpits.  In some pulpits it has almost died out.  After a hundred years of neglecting Him, whole segments of Bible-believing Christendom are now saying foolish things about the ministry of the Spirit, warning us not to speak much about Him, or to give Him much attention.  We can be thankful that more and more preachers are remembering the many reasons for us to renew our interest in the Person and work of the Spirit, and to correct the problems that have been created through our neglect of Him.  It will be a healthy part of the work of revival in our midst to start talking about the Holy Spirit.  Here are some of the reasons why.

1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN SOME SENSE THE KEY TO VITALITY AMONG CHRISTIANS.
Remember that the Spirit was given to bring us life.  Many, many churches these days can be characterized as virtually lifeless in spite of the fact that the members have eternal life, and God Himself lives within them!  This seems to be especially true of churches that cling to the honorable label of “fundamentalist,” even though the early fundamentalist churches were far from dead.  The eighth chapter of Romans is a section of scripture that can point us to the reason why our churches are dying.  The Holy Spirit is given great prominence in this important chapter, as even a quick scan of the verses will demonstrate.  He is mentioned nineteen times in Romans 8, which is part of the segment of the book about deliverance from the power of sin.  In this chapter, He is called “the Spirit of life.”

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
(Verse 2)

In the experience of Christians the influence of the Spirit of life is what gives us life and overcomes the influences of death.  And He is in conflict with the impulses of our “flesh,” which means the moral depravity inherent in human nature because of the fall of man.  This conflict was highlighted back in chapter 7, where we learn that our “carnal (fleshly)” selves are “sold under sin” (verses 14-20).  Our “members” (the parts of our bodies) are dominated by “the law of sin” so that the physical body of a believer can be called “the body of this death” (verses 21-24).  Yet Jesus Christ has delivered the believer from his sinful self by the salvation He bought for us on the cross and by the Holy Spirit He gave us when we believed (Romans 7:25-8:4).  So now, according to Romans 8:12-16, we are no longer “debtors…to the flesh, to live after the flesh,” but are called upon “through the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body.”

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
(Verse 6)

It is the Spirit that quickens the revived believer, and gives him the “spark” we have all seen in those who catch fire for God.  When we neglect the Holy Spirit in our life and work, we are left with the flesh.  And fleshly living is death.  Only by the Spirit of life do we experience the life of Jesus in our daily walk and in our church.  The retreat from solid teaching about the Spirit that came in reaction to false teaching about the Spirit (Pentecostalism) has enveloped the lives and ministries of many good people in the death of carnality.  We must come back to conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit for His power and enabling if we are to survive!  We will enliven our dying churches if we get back to walking and working in the Spirit of life!

2. THE LORD JESUS GAVE THE SPIRIT A CENTRAL ROLE IN CHRISTIAN LIVING.
The night before He died, the Lord taught His disciples the principles of New Testament living.  The talk He gave them, beginning with the washing of their feet in the upper room and followed by a prayer they heard Him pray, is recorded for all of us is John, chapters 13 through 17.  Many have called it “The Upper Room Discourse” because it began in the famous “upper room.”  In this talk, He told them He was going away, but exhorted them not to be troubled over it.  When He would leave them, He would be going to the Father to begin the work of interceding for us, which would open the door to phenomenal privileges in prayer (14:12-14).  He would also be sending them His Replacement, “another Comforter” (14:15-17), who would live in them and would never leave them.  This is the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Because of the mystery of the Triune God, when the Spirit lives in a man, the Father and Son also live in Him, and many phenomenal benefits result (14:18-27).  The ministry of the Holy Spirit in and to and through the Christian is presented as key to the victorious, liberated life that Jesus had promised them and us (John 8:12, 31-32, 34-36; 10:10).  As a matter of fact, in the five chapters that give us the Upper Room Discourse, three of them are devoted to teaching about the Holy Spirit (John 14, 15, and 16).

Some have misinterpreted one of the statements Jesus made about the Spirit in this section to mean that the Spirit does not talk about Himself but only about the other Persons of the Godhead.  That misunderstood and misapplied statement is in John 16:12-14.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
The phrase “he shall not speak of himself” has been misapplied to mean that He doesn’t talk about Himself.  Of course, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit, Who is the true Author of all scripture (Second Peter 1:20-21), says a whole lot about Himself, from Genesis 1:2 to Revelation 22:17, including the statements in John 16!  The mistake in interpreting this verse is in taking “of himself” as meaning “about himself.”  The actual meaning of the word, both in the Greek and in the English of John 16:13, is “from” instead of “about.”  Can you see this in the passage?  The Holy Spirit would be speaking, not from Himself alone, but from the entire Trinity of God.

The teaching here is that the Holy Spirit was going to give us in the New Testament scriptures truth that would proceed from the Father and the Son through the Him.  That is the meaning of the verse.  It does not say that the Spirit is reluctant to speak about Himself, nor does it imply that we should be reluctant to talk about Him.  It means that He doesn’t speak from Himself.

We have learned, especially in John 13 through 17, that the Lord Jesus taught us to live the Christian life with the help (“Comforter” means “Helper”) of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore it is important that we talk about Him.  Ignoring the Comforter in our sermons and lessons has wrecked many lives and ministries.  We must make up for lost time and go back to the emphasis on Spirit-filled living that our forefathers had.  Baptist pastor A. J. Gordon of the late 19th century spoke and wrote much about the ministry of the Spirit, and we must start reading him again.  Fundamentalist giant W.B. Riley believed and preached the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit.  The books that great Baptist F.B. Meyer left us are full of uplifting references to the Spirit.  Fundamentalist leader R. A. Torrey wrote many good books that will get us back to the right relationship with the heavenly Dove, and we ought to dust them off and read them again.  We must start talking and learning about the Holy Spirit as godly generations before us did!

3. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO TREAT THE SPIRIT AS LESS THAN GOD.
The Holy Spirit is God, you know.  It has been the false teachers that have relegated Him to some lower identification.  When normally orthodox teachers seem to reduce Him to a force or a power or an influence behind the scenes, they do not do the Spirit justice nor treat Him as deity in the way that the scriptures do.  He is the Creator Who was active in the creation of heaven and earth as were the Father and the Son (Genesis 1:1-2).  He is the other Comforter, like Jesus the Son, who came in a sense to replace the personal presence of Jesus with believers when Christ went back to the Father, and when He is in us, so is the Father and the Son (John 14:18-23).  The apostles dealt with Him as God in the spreading of the Gospel and the function of the first churches (read Acts 2:14-18; 4:29-31; 5:1-11; 8:29-35; and 13:1-4).  He appears in the visions of the apostle John with the Father and the Son (Revelation 1:4-6; 4:2-11) and is worshipped with Them.  He is honored in the baptismal formula equally with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:18-19).  He leads the children of God and is to be followed by them as Lord (Romans 8:14-16 and Second Corinthians 3:17).  He intercedes for them before the Father as does the Son of God (Romans 8:26-27).  He gave us the very Words of God (Second Peter 1:20-21), which are His Words.  He is a divine Person, with the heart and will and mind of Deity (Romans 8:27, Romans 15:30, First Corinthians 12:11).  As God, He possesses all the divine attributes (Psalm 139:7-10, First Corinthians 2:9-10, Hebrews 9:14).  Therefore we ought to give Him all the reverence and obedience and trust that we owe to God.  To do less is nearly blasphemous and heretical.

4. THE NEW TESTAMENT VIEWS THE SPIRIT AS WORKING IN HARMONY WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON.
The Persons of the Trinity are not in competition; They are in perfect cooperation, and are never jealous for attention in conflict with the Others.

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”  [Serving the Son in the Spirit is acceptable to the Father]
(Romans 14:17-18)

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”

[The gifts of ministry are the works of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus, and God the Father]
(First Corinthians 12:4-6)

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”

[We are to pray to the Father, Who is the God of the Son, for the enlightenment of the Spirit]
(Ephesians 1:15-17)

There are many passages in the New Testament scriptures like these that present the works of God among us as cooperative actions of Father, Son, and Spirit equally.  Look up passages such as Second Corinthians 13:14, Galatians 4:4-6, Ephesians 2:13-22, and Titus 3:4-7 for examples.  In the rituals of the Temple in the Old Testament, which typify the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the use of oil (which stands for the Holy Spirit) plays an essential role (read Exodus 29, 30, and 40, to get an idea), indicating again the importance of the Spirit to the work of the Trinity.  It is vital to understanding God the Father and God the Son for Christians to learn about the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit glorifies the Son, we find in John 16:14, and He is sent both by the Father and by the Son as our Comforter, according to John 14:26 and 15:26.  We cannot divorce the Person and work of the Spirit from the Persons and works of the Father and the Son.  To neglect or minimize the Holy Spirit will be to neglect and devalue the other two Persons of God.

5. REVIVALS ALL INVOLVE THE RESTORING OF THE SPIRIT TO HIS PROPER PLACE IN CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WORK.
All New Testament revivals have come about through the work of the Holy Spirit.  One such revival is described by the Bible in these terms:

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
(Acts 4:31)

Normal New Testament Christianity is Spirit-filled Christianity, and every great revival has involved new interest and faith in the Holy Spirit.  It’s the way in works.   We pray to the Father in the name of the Son with the help of the Spirit.  We honor the Father by abiding in Christ and being filled with the Spirit.  This is the norm, and the goal to which revival takes us.  Therefore we must speak and teach and learn about the Holy Spirit if we want revival.


It is indeed high time for renewed focus on the ministry of the Spirit because so many have neglected Him so long.  Because of the spread of false teachings about the Spirit, it is important that the truth be told about Him again.  The essential role He has in our lives and in our work must be emphasized, and the thoughtless and scriptural arguments against doing so cast aside.  He is not less than Almighty God, and He is not to be slighted or diminished in our thoughts.  Let the people of God again turn wholeheartedly to their Comforter for the help and power we need to turn the multitudes to our Savior.


Dr. Rick Flanders

January 26, 2015

Dr. Clay Nuttall, Abusing the Bride

Often, when people are pressing a particular opinion or personal belief, they tend to spend their energy on simply making statements.  In doing this, they fail to ask enough questions of the text.  I have just finished reading a number of theological articles that make their argument by limiting their conclusions to texts that support their presuppositions.  Some of these subjects are intertwined, so we will enter this discussion by asking, “What think ye of the Bride of Christ?”

Believe it or not, there are those who maintain that there is no such thing.  The Old Testament writers recorded that they saw Israel as the wife of God.  Hosea is a good illustration of this.  Paul clearly identifies the Body of Christ as the Bride of Christ.  These two identifications are eternal.  One has to wonder why the clear, plain statements of scripture are not sufficient.  The answer, of course, is that if you have two different interpretations, you can be sure that one - or both - is not using the same system of interpretation.  The one biblical hermeneutic is mathematical in that when it is used faithfully, you will always end up with the same answer.  I have also noticed that variant conclusions nearly always flow from similar historical theological systems.  This can be accurately illustrated by the way people deal with the issue of the Bride of Christ.

TO THE BRIDE ALONE

God gave us the earthly illustration of marriage, the bride, and the bridegroom so we can understand this heavenly truth.  It is like the discussion in Hebrews 9 where the earthly tabernacle is a picture of the heavenly one.  It is why God shared His name “Father” with men on earth so we can be a picture of the Heavenly Father and communicate the depth of meaning involved.

Every bride has things ascribed to her that no one else can claim.  Failure to recognize this is tragic, and we are not to violate the sanctity of the bride.  There is a theological theory called “Replacement,” which simply says that Israel is replaced by the church.  It is interesting to note that those who hold this philosophical idea are all tainted by the same hermeneutical aberration.  The plain, consistent statements of scripture make it clear that God’s plan for Israel is definitely different from His plan for the church.  While they hold some things in common, it is still a fact that similarities are not equals.

The real threat is not in the theological movements that feel the need to invent such error, but rather comes from those who are “on the fence” on these issues.  Instead of a total rejection of the distinction between Israel and the church, these folks pick at the distinctions of the church one by one.  While there are transition periods, the major turning point is Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so He did not come in presence at Pentecost; He came in special ministry - or special presence, if you prefer.

There were things that happened at Pentecost that had never taken place before that time, and they are distinctive to the Bride.  On this day, the first believer was baptized into the body of Christ; the first believer became continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the first believer was sealed by the Spirit and was perhaps the first believer ever born of the Spirit.  To assign any of these distinctive things to anyone other than the church is to chip away at the whole and ultimately move toward total “Replacement.”  The special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the bride does nothing to harm God’s plan for Old Testament saints, and it assures a special place for the Bride of Christ.  Let me note that all these little threats also depend upon a hermeneutical system that has been invented by major theological movements.

There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and that hermeneutic produces a theology that is biblical.  There is no such thing as a “dispensational hermeneutic.”  No one has a right to invent his own hermeneutic and then use it to invent variations in his own belief system.

WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH

The Bride is not a puzzle; it is a unit.  Everyone related to the Bridegroom is saved the same way.  While our fellowship on earth with Christ may vary because of what we choose, the Bride is one.  At the catching away of the church, the Bride is complete.  At the judgment seat of Christ, different rewards are awarded to different believers.  There are no “penalties” handed out, no second-class believers, nor flaws in the Bride.  If there is any negative at all, it might be that some may not receive a reward.  Once the BEMA is past, there are no purgatories or blemished believers; the Bride of Christ is whole and pure.  This is the work of God and not of man.  Christ loves the Bride through all of it, and the actions of life are left behind at the judgment.  Christ presents to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The plain, clear, consistent statements of the text leave us with no doubt; the Bride is whole.  It is pure, down to the last believer, because this is about God, not man.  Christ does not cast away His wife or any member.  He does not divorce some believers.  If He did, it would be His failure…and that is impossible.  So, how do people ascribe impurity to the Bride of Christ?  First, they are obligated to do this because they have adopted a flawed theological hermeneutic from a flawed theological construct and flawed theological movement.  Secondly, they have failed to obey a hermeneutical maxim; and so they go to texts that have nothing to do with the church and in doing so, they borrow someone else’s grief.

I do not condemn these failed theologians, but the truth is that to abuse the Bride of Christ is no light matter.


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address, shepherdstaff2@juno.com or ShepherdStaff 

January 21, 2015

American Sniper: A Fighting Marine’s Response to the Critics

Last weekend the movie American Sniper, the story of US Navy SEAL Christopher Scott Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) opened in theatres across the nation. In recent days negative comments have been directed toward the movie coming from certain Hollywood elites. Some have responsed to the critics.  I think my son, Peter, (USMC Cpl. Infantry, 2010-2014) pictured below, has said very well what many veterans and/or American patriots might believe is an appropriate response to critics of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and by extension criticism of all US military personnel past, present and yet to come to our nation’s defense. From Peter's FaceBook he wrote,


Upper Gershak Valley, Afghanistan 2011
I have yet to see American Sniper, and probably won’t see it, but if anyone has a problem with Chris Kyle, if you think he was some kind of sociopath or racist, I have an offer for you. Send me your address and I’ll FedEx you my size 10.5 Belleville boots that saw two deployments to Afghanistan. Go ahead and put them on, lace them up, and take a stroll for a mile or so. Maybe you’ll see things a little differently.

In other words, or if that metaphor went over your head, you have no right to judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his boots, especially when you’ve never left the comfort and safety of the blanket of protection that other, better men than you have provided. You don’t know why men volunteer to go to war; you don’t know all that they did, or how the things they did make them feel. You haven’t seen the savagery and barbarism that they’ve witnessed. And before you rant about the atrocities done to Iraqis and Afghans at the hands of Americans (unfortunately, such has happened), perhaps you should do a little research into what the Taliban and Al Qaeda have done to their own people. They are not “freedom fighters;” freedom fighters don’t hide behind their women, and send children out as suicide bombers. Their cause and their actions are as ignoble as you purport the American cause to be. In my short time as a United States Marine, the only civilian casualties I witnessed had been killed or wounded by the Taliban, not coalition forces.


Combat action: Taliban ambush (26/6/11)
Simply put, if you’ve never been to war, your opinion on war and its fighters counts for precisely nothing. You can have your opinion, sure. It’s a free country. But know that it is an ill-informed, ignorant opinion because you have no experience in the matter. Chris Kyle was not perfect, and he surely had his faults. But he was a genuine American hero, and I will defend him no matter what because when our nation was at war, he stepped forward to serve. And if it wasn’t for the millions of men and women who, like Chris Kyle, volunteered to fight, millions of others would have been conscripted and forced to fight anyway. For that, you owe him nothing less than your respect. Now carry on.


Peter was decorated for heroism in combat during his first deployment to Afghanistan (2011).  Presently he is a full-time student at Purdue University.  His younger brother, Jonathan, is in the US Navy, petty officer 2nd class, MM(N)3, aboard the nuclear submarine USS Topeka (SSN-754).

January 19, 2015

What Christians Want From the President

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (First Timothy 2:1-4)


In these turbulent days that bring the year 2014 to a conclusion in the United States, Christians, as they usually do, have a lot of influence over how issues are decided.  The surprising reversals in the November elections came in part from strong Christian participation.  As salt and light, American Christians are bringing new strength to the movements in their country to defend life, marriage, and the rule of law.  Yet these days have also brought dangerous confusion to the minds of many as to just what God’s people want, or should want, from their government, and specifically from their President.  Both believers and unbelievers alike have reason to find out what the Bible says about this, and thankfully there is a passage in the New Testament that gives us a definitive answer.

The early followers of Jesus Christ had great interest in politics and government.  They had little say in what their rulers would do (since the republican form of government was not being followed in any real way during the first century), but they definitely had an interest in it.  Jesus predicted that they would be “brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake (Luke 21:12),” and they were.  It was said that the great apostle Paul was “a chosen vessel to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15),” and he was.  Paul and many others ended up on trial before rulers and magistrates, and many died in the custody of civil authorities.  In scripture, Christians are told to “be subject unto the higher powers…not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” (Romans 13:1-7).  The Word of God tells us, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well…Fear God. Honour the king” (First Peter 2:13-17).  The apostle guided by the Holy Spirit tells us in the First Epistle to Timothy how to pray for those in government.  And what he tells us to ask God for them is a little surprising.

We are to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (First Timothy 2:2).  We are not asking the government to help us, to support us, to adopt our convictions, or to wave our flag.  Christians would love to have God-fearing leaders, as we can see in Proverbs 28:2-5, 15-16, and 29:2, 4, and 14.  Certainly First Timothy 2:1-6 encourages every believer to pray for the personal salvation of our authorities, including President Obama.  But the main concern in our prayer for our rulers is simply that they leave us alone!

We only ask that we not be harassed as long as we live “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  This is what the earnest Christians that preached the Word in the newly independent states that became our nation were asking of the framers of our Constitution.  They begged that a Bill of Rights be added to the original document guaranteeing that the new government would stay out of the important affairs of its decent citizens.  The main body of the Constitution gives the power to make laws into the hands of a “Congress” of the peoples’ representatives (Article I) in order to restrain the President or anyone else in the federal government from becoming tyrannical.

Although the civil authority of the Roman rulers was not particularly limited, the Christians prayed that they would restrain themselves.  And although believers in Christ were prepared to submit to unfair and oppressive measures decreed by their rulers, and to respect and honor their persecutors, they were praying that those in government would leave them alone.  That was their main desire.

They were not looking for federal aid to faith-based initiatives.  If a ministry is based on faith in God, why would it need federal aid?  No, the Christians want to see the government restrained and limited and out of their business.  To a Bible-believer, the business of government is to condemn and punish evildoers and not to solve the other problems of society.  If Christians can be free, they can use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to solve social problems.

Those who will take the time to read the first chapter of this Bible book (First Timothy 1) will see the contrast it gives between the Law and the Gospel.  As in other passages of scripture, we learn that the Law (both the Law of God and the law of man) can only condemn people (see verses 9-10).  It can’t really solve their problems.  The Law of God shows a man his real problem—sin—but it cannot take away his sin. Knowing what the rules are doesn’t give anyone the power to keep the rules.  The Law has no power to change us. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can save a man from his sins and change his life (see verses 11-17).

“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God,…Christ Jesus our Lord…hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Because of the limitations of Law, the government cannot solve the great social problems: immorality, divorce, prejudice, greed, poverty, hatred, violence, hunger, ignorance, suicide, addiction, insanity.  Fundamentally these are sin problems, and only Christ can take away sin.  The Gospel of Christ must be preached and believed, and only Christians can preach the Gospel of Christ (note First Timothy 2:5-7).  It’s not the government’s job.  So Christians are praying that the government will leave them alone so that they can do their all-important work.

Every unnecessary expansion of government power works against the spread of the Gospel.  Even high taxes, which Christians will pay (Mark 12:14-17, Romans 13:3-6), restrict the work of the Lord by removing from the economy billions which Christians could use for church and mission work.  Deliberate efforts by the tax-collectors (such as we have been deeply disturbed to discover) to use tax exemptions to oppress Christian organizations clearly put the powers of government against the Cause of Christ.  The diminishing of the Congress in recent years threatens everybody’s freedom, and principally that of those who are spreading the Gospel.  Our forefathers guaranteed that law-making authority would be reserved to Congress, where the people are represented, but the practice of Presidents who have gone to war without Congress declaring war, operated government without submitting budgets to Congress, and made laws by executive decrees not subject to Congress has threatened everybody’s freedom and served to make our chief executive more and more like a king.  Christians do not want this to happen.  If we must serve the Lord under the oppressive rule of a too-powerful government led by a tyrant, we will, but it is not what we hope for.

Let the followers of Jesus Christ in this time work and pray for limited government, as our spiritual fathers did, and let us re-dedicate our lives and efforts to the spread of the Gospel.  This work is the main reason we have a right to ask the Lord for freedom.  It is not the freedom to get rich, to do wrong, to stir trouble, or to control others that we seek.  We just want to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  Let believers believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to every human trouble.  In the times of great revival in the past, the churches have stepped up to meet society’s deepest needs, and have succeeded in meeting them.


Dr. Rick Flanders