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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:God's Role For Government!
Text:BC 36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Preached:2008-10-05
Added:2009-05-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH XXXVI

(Reading: Romans 13:1-7; Luke 20:20-26)

 

God’s Role For Government!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     We come in Article XXXVI to the most contentious of all the Articles in the Belgic Confession of Faith.

          This has been the most debated and disputed part of this whole Confession.

         

     You see, in the past many Reformed people have said that here Guido de Bres goes too far.

          One of them even wrote that with this Article the Church “has overstepped the boundaries of its prophetic authority.”

              According to them an article on the government doesn’t belong in the Confession.

 

     Added to this there are also the wide differences over the Church’s relationship to the state within the wider world of Christendom.

          The Church of Rome insisted that civil government must be completely subject to the Church.

              And didn’t the Popes in the period before and during the Reformation show that power!

 

     The Lutherans gave the civil government the authority over the Church.

          Indeed, hadn’t local civil government been the key to Luther’s own survival early on?

    

     Then there is the very opposite extreme of those who retreated from any interaction with civil government.

          They are seen most vividly in their descendants today in the Amish of Northern America.

              Locally we have the Exclusive Brethren who have a similar belief, though their prophet has had a change of mind of late!

 

     What the Reformed churches confess in this Article, however, is simply what Scripture itself declares.

          We have seen that in our scripture readings, particularly Romans 13 verse 1 till 7.

              There it’s clear we have a relationship to the state.

                   And it’s also clear what place the state should have in the Christian’s life.

 

     So let’s open up God’s Word on this vital area of our lives.

          It’s only … weeks away from a general election, you know!

              As if you didn’t know!

 

     In the first place, then, we consider GOD’S RULE FOR GOVERNMENT CIVICLY.

          This is what the first paragraph is all about.

 

     It is clear here that good government is a gift of God and it must be received as such.

          Article XXXVI declares that He “has appointed kings, princes, and magistrates.”

              We read that in Romans 13 verse 1.

     There the apostle wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

          “The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

 

     It is what Paul confirms in Titus 3 verse 1.

          And elsewhere we find the apostle Peter addresses the same in 1st Peter 2.

              The verses 13 and 14 there say, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

 

     Of course, these men learnt it from the Master.

          Christ commanded that we respect the secular government over us.

              Even in a time where the ruling authority, the Roman Emperor, could be terribly brutal, He says in Luke 20 verse 25, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 

     The Lord addressed those of that time who were revolutionary zealots.

          He told them God’s Word – His Word.

             

     Our Confession did the same in the time of Guido de Bres.

          For this statement refutes those Anabaptists who would have nothing to do with secular government.

              And those Anabaptists weren’t called Revolutionary Anabaptists for no reason.

                   They were extremists who were doing what they could to completely overthrow the existing law and order.

 

     The Reformers wanted to be clear that being scriptural was accepting law and order.

          And they wanted that to be clear to the Roman Catholic government, who tried to tar them with the same brush as those Anabaptists, that they were definitely the most faithful subjects to authority.

         

     It’s very apt that in the 19th century the Reformed Political Party in the Netherlands called itself ‘The Anti-Revolutionary Party’.

          Remember, that was the time just after the French Revolution.

              Then everything had been turned on its head in France and elsewhere in Europe.

     And, so, like the Reformers of the 16th century, and the apostles in the early church, they stood for what the Bible clearly states about the place of secular government.

          Those ruling over us are there, as the first paragraph goes, so that “the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency.”

 

     Congregation, we only need to think here of those places where there is no effective government – or where there’s bad government.

          Who would want to live in Zimbabwe or Somalia at this point in time?

              So how thankful are we for what we’ve got here?

                   Not always – are we?

 

     There is also a reference to capital punishment here.

          Mentioning the sword clearly indicates that in terms of justice the government definitely has a role.

              We confess God has put them here to punish the wrongdoer.

     And that includes us, if we break the law.

          It’s no use blaming the nanny State if you’ve just been caught breaking the speed limit, or driving an unroadworthy vehicle!

              Roman 13 verse 2 says you’re the one rebelling against authority.

                   And, just think, Paul wrote that when Nero was the Emperor!

 

     And, then, government is there to protect those who do well.

          You should not be worried if you are doing the right thing.

              But if the government does the wrong thing by persecuting those doing the right thing they need to realise there is a ruler over them!

 

     Perhaps this is the most devastating damage being done by secular humanism.

          Because they take away any sense of authority and accountability, people aren’t afraid any more.

              So we have many more who are actively doing evil.

                   And while their short-term answer is in more laws and police and security, long-term we’re heading for anarchy.

 

     This is where our second aspect comes in.

          It’s the answer to that.

              For now we see what the second paragraph describes.

                   This is about GOD’S ROLE FOR GOVERNMENT SPIRITUALLY.

 

     In speaking of those governing in society, we confess that their task is not only to care “for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry.”

          This is so “the kingdom of God may thus be promoted.”

                       

     The original version was much more strongly worded, as we see in the footnote (on page 89).

          There it seems that the state is told that it must be hand-in-hand with the church in actively pushing the Christian faith.

              In fact, it has even been understood as saying that the state must organise the Church and perform “the sacred ministry.”

 

     There have been instances of this throughout history.

          Whether it’s the Acts of Parliament that legislate for the Church of England or the Church of Scotland, or the times that Kings called Councils of the Church, there has been occasions when this has appeared to be the case.

 

     The true meaning here, though, is the government’s role in the protection of the Church, so it is safeguarded and given room.

          This is confirmed by the words that “they must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere.”

              So, then, the reference in the original to the government destroying idolatry is not about obliterating worshippers of idols but rather removing idolatry from the public sphere.

     That means, unlike what is happening in modern society with the promotion of all kinds of native paganism, the Ten Commandments are given pride of place.

          Then prayers in Christ’s Name are the order of the day!

 

     So the government doesn’t bind people’s consciences.

          It is no Islamic state that demands all of its citizens must be Muslim or else suffer constantly under its law.

              Instead, it may not allow public practice of idolatry and false worship.

     Because to do so would be to open the door to the kingdom of the antichrist.

          And how much haven’t we seen exactly that happen in this once strongly Christian nation!

 

     Isaiah 49 verse 23 expresses this same thought.

          When Israel would return to the Lord and be a true witness to the nations, the prophet says that, “Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.

              “They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.

                   “Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

 

     You see, this doesn’t only mean that kings will join Christ’s congregation.

          It also means they will also use their authority and power to promote the growth of the congregation and protect it.

 

     Congregation, there is no such thing as a “neutral state”.

          Much as some may claim the state has to keep out of religion, it is that very State which will soon enough become the most aggressively atheistic State which tolerates unbelief but nothing else.

              And then because that State has had a huge spiritual vacuum, soon enough they’ll be believing anything at all!

                   A la New Zealand of 2008!

 

     This is why we have the silly situation of a Christmas with no Christ – or any mention of the nativity.

          This is where Easter become taken over by pagan rabbits and eggs.

 

     It’s interesting that government to the degree we experience today is not found in Scripture.

          You don’t read about ‘the State’ but about Magistrates and Governors.

              Essentially government in 1st century Palestine was justice and building roads.

                   Two things many would say government is definitely not doing today!

 

     Congregation, modern government owes a huge debt to Christianity.

          The historian Arnold Toynbee said that democracy is a leaf torn from Christianity.

              Mind you, it has been largely emptied of meaning by being divorced from its Christian context.

     Western democracies need nothing more than to rediscover the true meaning of governmental authority, of freedom, and righteousness.

          In other words, they need to rediscover the true meaning of themselves.

              Because it’s in this Book!

                   And it’s as we get passionate about its beliefs that we get not the government we deserve but the government that’s here to serve!

 

     In this way we also come to our third aspect.

          For in the third place we note, GOD’S ROLE FOR GOVERNMENT PERSONALLY.

 

     In the third and fourth paragraphs this Article becomes very personal for us.

          For this is about our attitude to the State.

 

     We heard earlier that the Church of Rome subjected the civil government completely to the Church.

          We also heard that Lutherans give the civil government authority over the Church.

              Scripture, though, says that neither should be the case.

     God instituted both Church and State.

          Each has its own special task – it’s own sphere of sovereignty.

              The Church has the work of governing the Church, the practice of worship, and the preaching of the Gospel.

     The State has its work in public life.

          It is to establish and maintain law and order according to the Word of God.

              

     This means the government has to protect the Church in carrying out its work in public life.    

          Certainly we should be reminding our elected representatives of our Christian heritage and the freedoms that gives us.

              Freedoms which no other type of government in this world give us.

     And where the State acts against Scripture we must strongly protest.

          The anti-smacking referendum is one example of this.

              For there we stand up for the God-given responsibility of parents to raise their children in His ways.

 

     But you must also “subject” yourself to those in authority.

          You have to pay the taxes you owe, you must show due honour and respect to them, and you have to obey them in everything which doesn’t go against God’s Word.

              Quite a big ask!

 

     And, then, on top of all that you must pray for them.

          This has to be from our pulpits first of all.

              The apostle Paul wrote this to Timothy in his first letter to him, chapter 2.

     As he addressed there the most vital area of public worship he begins with prayer.

          In verse 1 he says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.”

              And then straightaway he writes, “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.”

 

     Did this mean that such prayer would bring godly rulers?

          Not necessarily, but it did mean you were found looking to the Lord in prayer.

              You’re not being caught in anxious despair and frustration about the rulers of the land.

              

     Early on in my ministry I was encouraged to make prayer to those over us in government a regular priority.

          Which I have.

              In fact, people have commented to me how they have been challenged and encouraged by the prayer for our Queen, her family, her Governor-General, and all those in elected offices.

                   Because that goes down all the way to city councillors and Community Boards!

 

     We also need to pray for our government in our families.

          Our children must learn the place of civil authority and so properly respect it.

              If we are being positive with them they will become good citizens too.

 

     This is why the last paragraph is here.

          While it may seem quite negative, it is very positive about the government God has put over us.

 

     Here it’s good to note a few things.

          You see, when this paragraph speaks of detesting the Anabaptists it doesn’t mean we hate them personally.

              This is addressing the teaching of the Anabaptists and anyone else who is seditious.

     “Seditious” describes any action or speech urging rebellion against the authority of a state or ruler.

          Guy Fawkes is one example from the past.

              And the 1960’s and 1970’s provided further examples with the radical student protest movements.

 

     This is where the World Council of Churches has clearly overstepped the mark.

          In the past they have given much financial and practical support to revolutionary movements.

              They helped Robert Mugabe and the ANC in South Africa.

 

     This last paragraph, though, has a particular relevance for the time it was written.

          Then the events at Munster and similar occurrences were very much in the public mind.

              For in 1534 there was a peasant revolt in that small German town.

     Under the leadership of two Revolutionary Anabaptists, refugees in that city took control of it.

          One of those men claimed to be King David and so naturally had a number of wives.

              And there were many other extreme actions there, including the persecution of those who did not share their views.

                   In the end, the neighbouring states – Protestant and Roman Catholic - defeated them and re-established the rule of the bishop.

 

     It was very much bad press for the Anabaptists.

          Because most did not share the views of those in Munster.

              And especially after the influence of Menno Simons became dominant later their descendants today are quite different.

                   While you get the extremes, the David Koreshs’ with their Waco compounds, the vast majority of Anabaptists are law-abiding.

 

     Yet the last paragraph is an apt warning.

          We can easily become so taken up with anti-government feeling that we become quite unbiblical.

              Then the views of particular men become popular and not God’s Word.

 

     Certainly we must pray for revival in our nation.

          We have to pray that godly men and women may be placed over us by the Lord.

              But until that day we must show ourselves to be open to being used by God that way.

     We have to keep praying and working.

          We have to be good citizens.

 

     In the words of 1st Peter 2 verse 12, let’s live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong, they will see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He returns.

          Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O King of kings and Lord of lords, we lay before You now those rulers You have placed over us.

          We pray for our Queen Elizabeth, her royal family, her Governor-General, and all those over us in elected government.

              We pray that they will rule according to Your Word.

                   And if they don’t, Lord, we pray that You will turn them to that Word, also through converting them.

 

     We pray that we will be good citizens so that through us the Christian faith will be honoured, even if they attack us.

          May Your Church be promoted, and so may men and women everywhere come to faith in the only Saviour.

              In His Name, the Name of Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

         




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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