Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Three Outposts, Your Mission: Study 5

Third Outpost: The State (Civil Governance)

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, We thank You that unto this time You have granted us peace and graciously spared us from war and foreign dominion. We pray, graciously let us continue to live in Your fear according to Your will, giving no cause for wars or other punishment; govern and direct our leaders, that they may not hinder the obedience due to You, but maintain righteousness, that we may enjoy happiness and blessing under their government; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Review the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer as well as the Meaning and “What is meant by daily bread?”
A very popular American false doctrine was authored by Thomas Paine in his book Common Sense. He wrote “society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.”

But God calls civil governance “good” even though the people holding positions of authority are sinners, some believers, most unbelievers—and even if an evil tyrant is the head of government he is still to be revered as God's servant, prayed for, and obeyed (for example, Consider Daniel, or God's use of the Medes Isaiah 13:17-22, His use of Assyria to punish Israel Isaiah 9:8-10:20, and many many more examples)

The State, also called Civil Government, was the third outpost established by God in this sinful world. Though civil government is filled by corrupt sinful men,
and though the government itself may be corrupt and evil, the State is a good gift given by God for the purpose of serving His Christ and His Church.

Why did God establish the Governmental estate?
Read I Peter 2:13-14: God established civil government as His authority for the purpose of curbing and punishing evil and for promoting good in accordance with Natural Law.

Read Romans 13:1-7: For this purpose the civil state, which is God's authority, collects taxes, punishes evil even with death, and rewards public good.

How did God establish the Governmental estate?
Genesis 4: When the first family was broken by Cain murdering Abel God prohibited others from putting him to death. Even so, Cain and his family were exiled from the Godly family of Adam.

Genesis 9:5-7: After that first world was destroyed by flood, God gave humans the responsibility of punishing evil even to the point of death.

Read the Table of Duties
Civil Government

Now, remember the Thomas Paine quotation from earlier? Consider how his false doctrine that government is a necessary evil contrasts with the passages you have just reviewed.

We can also be sure Thomas Paine's teaching was false based on his own statement of faith. In his book The Age of Reason he stated
The opinions I have advanced ... are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God

What are the responsibilities of the Governmental estate?
Government is not a necessary evil, but a good gift of God's providence. The Governmental Estate exercises the sword to enforce civic morality, to curb evil and to reward civic virtue. It extends beyond individual families. It is governed by Natural Law.

Read Romans 13:1-7

Read Martin Luther's Large Catechism the Fourth Commandment
134-137, and 141-142

The Governmental Estate embraces not only the rule over and curbing of wickedness but is also an estate where Christians serve those outside their congregations and families.

The taxman is an agent of the government. He is God's servant. Romans 13: 6-7 speak directly of our duty before God.

The Civil Estate is not the Church. It does not select rulers or officers according to any rules of the Church in Scripture. In what ever way civil rule is established, God's Word says that as wherever the Civil Estate does not coerce us to go against Scripture, we should submit. Whether our government is a dictatorship, feudal estate, republic, hegemony, or anything else submitting to civic authority is submitting to God. This becomes an opportunity to trust God in spite of what our eyes and reason tells us.

What if the Government is doing evil?
Consider the evening Jesus was arrested and his trial.

Matthew 26-27:31, Mark 14-15:20, Luke 22-23:25, John 18-19:16

How did Jesus treat the civic authorities, Pontius Pilate, Herod, the soldiers. None of the disciples saw the good that God was doing through the government. But Christ did trust His Father's will through the civil government that God's good and gracious will would be done through them.

Read John 19:7-16. Read also Isaiah 53:10: We confess in the Creed the words of Scripture that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” When Pilate gave the verdict that Jesus was to be crucified, who gave Pilate that authority? In other words, “Who passed the judgment against Jesus Christ that He should be crucified?”

To all appearances that judgment was unjust—it was carried out by a sinful unbeliever at the pressing of a rebellious and unbelieving crowd against an innocent man. What good came from this judgment?

Persecution by evil government.
Some governments are themselves bent on evil. In these cases a Christian may face the danger of punishment simply because of his or her faith in Christ.

Exodus 1-2:10 records the king of Egypt ordering that all male Hebrew children born should be killed. (incidentally, recall that the same happened not just at the birth of Moses but also at the birth of Christ in Matthew 2) The Hebrew midwives “however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” The king then ordered all Hebrew boys to be thrown into the Nile, but the mother of Moses put him into the Nile in a basket trusting to God's providence. What good did God work through His providence in this evil government?

Peter and the apostles were arrested (Acts 5:17-42) by the authorities in Jerusalem. Making their bold confession “We must obey God rather than men!” At that time, in His providence God had them released. Peter would later be arrested again and again. Finally he was crucified by the Romans on account of his faith fulfilling the words Christ spoke to him in John 21:19.

Acts 8 Stephen was brought before the ruling council gave his testimony and prayed for those executing the sentence of his death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

There are many more examples throughout the text of the Bible, like Sampson, Naboth, Elisha, Jeremiah, the believers in Jerusalem at the time it was first destroyed under Nebuchadnezzar (see especially Lamentations 3), the Apostles James, John, and Paul.

Persecution of Christianity in the last 100 years is at an all time high world-wide. Under governments like Nazi Germany, Ottoman Turkey, the Soviet Union, the Khmer Rouge, Islam, and others more than 45 million Christians were killed in the last 100 years.

Read Psalm 116:15; Revelation 12:11; these are just a few of the many passages which speak about the value of being willing to give up this sinful life holding on to the faith of eternal redemption in Christ. Then see the promise in John 11:21-27.

Civil Government is a gift of God for the benefit of His Christ and His Church even when we cannot see clearly what the end might be.

Issues of Church and State will be covered in Study 8.

Issues of Home and State will be covered in Study 7.

Prayer: O almighty, eternal God: we confess that we are poor sinners and cannot answer one time out of a thousand, when You contend with us; but with all our hearts we thank You, that You have taken all our guilt from us and laid it upon Your dear Son Jesus Christ, and made Him to atone for it. We pray, graciously sustain us in faith, and so govern us by Your Holy Spirit , that we may live according to Your will, in neighborly love, service and helpfulness, and not give way to wrath or revenge, that we may not incur Your wrath, but always find in You a gracious Father; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.