Love, Like The Heart, Can Be Terribly Deceptive

Like that ol’ Johnny Lee song, “Looking For Love,” I’m afraid some of us (myself included) have been “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” In Romans 12:9, we are commanded to “love without hypocrisy,” which is immediately followed by the command to be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (12:10a). Thus, three words that can be translated “love” or “affection” are put into play in these two verses:

  • agape, which refers to the love Christians must have for all people, including their enemies,
  • philia, the love one has for friends, and
  • storge, the love one has for family members.

In fact, “kindly affectionate”(philostorge) is a combination of philia and storge. This is the only place this expression is found in the New Testament. It denotes the kindred love of family or humankind, and defines more specifically the character of the “brotherly love” (philidelphia) which it amplifies, so that the exhortation is for us to love our brethren in Christ as if they were members of our own family, clan, or race. For the Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s time, this was no small thing.

Over the years, we have all heard sermons and lessons on the “uniqueness” of agape; namely, how it is a “different” kind of love than philia or storge. It is, we are told, the highest form of love, having more to do with the intellect than those emotions and feelings we frequently associate with love. But is this true? Is this really what the Scriptures teach? I, for one, no longer believe it is. In saying this, it is important to understand that I’m not denying that the three words mentioned are different, or that they may be nuanced toward one aspect of love rather than another. Instead, all that I’m denying is that agape is an entirely different kind for love than are these others. But if we continue to insist on thinking of agape as vastly different from philia and storge, this difference is to be seen in that it alone truly encompasses all aspects of these other two terms, which, when taken together, teach us what it really means to love one another as God truly loved us.

What’s the rub, then? Well, perhaps it’s this: instead of accurately defining the true meanings and nuances of agape, philia, and storge, we’ve actually been engaged in an elaborate exercise of semantical gymnastics designed to make us feel better about ourselves when we claim to “love” our enemies, even when we know we’ve never quite “cared for” them very much at all, or at least not like we care for those in our family, our village, our tribe, our clan, our “race.” So then, is agape really more intellectual than heartfelt? We certainly like to think so. After all, such an interpretation allows us to think we can agapao even our enemies, even though we don’t really have to be very fond of them. Oh really? Let’s take a look at what Thayer’s says about the verb agapao: “1) of persons, 1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” And of the noun agape, Thayer’s says: “1) brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence.” So make no mistake about it, when Romans 12:9a says, “Let love [agape] be without hypocrisy,” and follows it up in 12:10a with “Be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love,” we have a divine commentary on what agape is all about, and it isn’t just some sort of intellectual “I’ve got your best interest at heart, but don’t you think for a moment, you dirty rotten scoundrel, that this has anything to do with the tender affection I’ve reserved for others.” No, no, no, this is not, and never has been, what loving God and each other is all about.

You may be thinking, “What’s he trying to say and what does this have to do with me?” Well, everything! I say it this way, because it truly does have everything to do with you, me, and every other person who claims to be a Christian. For unless, and until, we love everyone, as God does, we are not yet what we were created in Christ Jesus to be. In this regard, it is helpful to note that the “without natural affection” of Romans 1:31 in the KJV is translated “unloving” in the NKJV. The Greek word is astorgos. This informs us that those whom God gives over to a reprobate mind are not able, in such a condition, to render the kind of love of neighbor (and this includes enemies of every sort) God requires of His children. The decision, then, is ours. We can be, with the Lord’s help, what God, the Father, created us in His Son Christ Jesus to be, or we can continued to think and act the way we used to before being redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and born again of His Spirit.

I have not written what I’ve have here to personally shame anyone. Instead, I want to make others aware of something that took me a long time to even begin getting straight. I had, of course, been reading over, around, and through this truth for years before I first heard it articulated in August, 2001, shortly before Anita and I moved back to Kenya, East Africa, and just before 9/11. I couldn’t believe it then, nor for many years afterward. After all, I had bought, “lock, stock, and barrel,” into agape as a uniquely different kind of love than philia or storge. I had preached on it, and had even written various articles on it. I could exegete (sic) John 21:15-18 right up there with the rest of ‘em. But eventually the work of learning could no longer be postponed or delayed, and a crisis of conscience forced me to finally understand that I had bought into an interpretation that had relieved me of my duty to love my neighbor with the concern and tender affection I reserved for my closest loved ones and friends, and this even when he was my enemy. Yes, it is certainly easier (i.e., more “natural”) to love those closest to me with fond, tender affection, always having their best interests foremost in my heart. But just here is the point: THE LORD CALLS ME AND EVERY OTHER CHRISTIAN TO A HIGHER STANDARD. He wants me to love everyone like I love those closest to me. He wants me to love my neighbor, my brother, my enemy, like I love those who are near and dear to me. He wants me to love everyone like He loves me, and this is tenderly and with kindly affection. Is this easy? It is not! Is this now something I’m striving to do? It is, and I can tell you this, I’ve finally begun to understand and experience things I had never before quite understood or experienced.

Wisdom From Above Versus The Wisdom From Below

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas. 3:13-18)

The Politics Of Death: Forty-Three Years And Counting

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that radically altered America’s thinking on the abortion question. The decision, which actually involved two cases (Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton), made abortion a “constitutional right.” It was a day that will live in infamy.

Ever since that black day, those who favor abortion have screamed from the housetops about their “constitutional right” to abortion. But, in truth, there is no constitutional right for such an act. In Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court, instead of interpreting the Constitution, was actually engaged in judicial activism and the creation of law by judicial fiat. This has been affirmed by those on both sides of the issue. John Hart Ely, a Yale professor, and, himself, a proponent of abortion, has described the Court’s decision as “frightening.” According to Ely,

The problem with Roe is not so much that it bungles the question it sets for itself, but rather that it sets a question the Constitution has not made the Court’s business…It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be (Yale Law Journal, 82: 943,947).

Professor John T. Noonan, Jr., who was then professor of law at the University of California (Berkeley), has said,

…none of the existing legislation on abortion conformed to the Court’s criteria. By this basic fact alone [the decision] may stand as the most radical decision ever issued by the Supreme Court (Human Life Review, 1:28, 1975).

Archibald Cox of Watergate-prosecution fame said what should be obvious to all fair-minded men and women:

The decisions plainly… sweep away established law supported by the moral themes dominant in American life for more than a century in favor of what the Court takes to be a wiser view of a question under active debate…My criticism of [the decision] is that the Court failed to establish the legitimacy of the decision… [and] to lift the ruling above the level of political judgment (The Role of the Supreme Court in America, 1976).

Professor Felix Frankfurter, who himself became a Supreme Court Justice, wrote to Franklin Roosevelt in 1937:

People have been taught to believe that when the Supreme Court speaks it is not they who speak but the Constitution, whereas, of course, in so many vital cases, it is they who speak and not the Constitution. And I verily believe that that is what the country needs most to understand (Roosevelt and Frankfurter: Their Correspondence, 1928-1945, p. 383).

It is hard for many people to believe that the highest court in the land is steeped in political activism, exalting their own “think-sos” above the Constitution, but this is exactly the case. That this is unquestionably true was pointed out by Justice W.O. Douglas who recounted that when he came to the Court, Chief Justice Hughes

made a statement to me which at the time was shattering but which over the years turned out to be true: ‘Justice Douglas, you must remember one thing. At the constitutional level…ninety percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections’…I knew that judges had predilections…But I had never been willing to admit to myself that the ‘gut’ reaction of a judge at the level of constitutional adjudications dealing with the vagaries of due process…was the main ingredient of his decision. The admission of it destroyed in my mind some of the reverence for immutable principles” (Zorach v. Clauson, 343, U.S. 306, 314).

When one adds to this the words of former Chief Justice Frederick Moore Vinson, who said, “Nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes,” and the evidence is conclusive that the Supreme Court, instead of interpreting the Constitution, has actually been engaging in its own ongoing “Constitutional Convention.”

It is this humanistic, arbitrary, and sociological outlook concerning the law that has brought us to the current constitutional crises: How is it possible for written or abstract law (viz., the U.S. Constitution), which is based upon certain moral absolutes (i.e., the inalienable rights endowed by our Creator), to be interpreted fairly by those who actually believe there is no adequate base for law except human sentiment? Incidentally, the Congressional rejection of former President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court must be seen in light of this very important issue. Bork was a strict constructionist who had been quite vocal in his rejection of the judicial activism that produced the Roe v. Wade decision. The syndicated columnist James Kilpatrick has written: “We pride ourselves on saying that ‘ours is a government of law, not men,’ but the boast is empty. It is a myth, a shibboleth, a sham. At the level of the Supreme Court, ours is emphatically not a government of abstract law but a government of eight very mortal men and one woman” (Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY, July 15, 1982, p. A15). Those who were instrumental in the rejection of Bork knew that this is true and, consequently, they did not want him to be in a position to overturn Roe v. Wade. Actually, the infamous Roe v. Wade decision was only the implementation of an idea long expressed by those prominent in the law profession; namely, “When it comes to the development of a [body of law] the ultimate question is what do the dominant forces of the community want and do they want it hard enough to disregard whatever inhibitions may stand in the way” (found in a letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to John C.H. Wu, August 26, 1926, published in Harry C. Shriver, ed., Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: His Book Notices and Uncollected Letters and Papers, page 187). How badly did the humanists want the selfish, degrading, and utterly inhumane “right” to abortion? Badly enough to have made it their number one priority in the late sixties and early seventies.

As terrible as abortion is, it was only the opening of “Pandora’s Box.” When it was decided that babies in their mothers’ wombs do not have the right-to-life, the demons of infanticide and euthanasia were also let loose. These are but a few of the moral dilemmas facing modern man. Test-tube babies, embryo transplants, genetic manipulation, eugenics, cryobiology, etc., are more examples of the plethora of technologies that are inundating and sweeping away forever the ethical and moral principles that have made us who we are. Many of the hard, tough decisions we talked about in the early eighties have been made and we are reading about them in our newspapers and seeing and hearing about them on our televisions. Unfortunately, too many of these decisions are being made incorrectly. The Biblically rooted ethical base that has served us so well in the past must be resurrected or our culture, as we have come to know it, will cease to be. The lid to Pandora’s Box cannot be easily put back in place. And even if we are able to do so, I am afraid the phantoms that have been released will continue to haunt and seduce us in the coming years.

The Second Coming And The Resurrection

waiting for the resurrection

There’s a great day coming in which the Lord will return to judge the living and the dead (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 10:42, 17:30; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). The nature of this second coming will be

  1. visible (Acts 1:11),
  2. audible (1 Thess. 4:16),
  3. sudden (Mk. 13:32-37),
  4. final, in that there is no mention of a third coming, and
  5. glorious (2 Thess. 1:7-8).

When this finally occurs, there will be one general resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous (cf. Daniel 12:2; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). At this point, the discarnate spirits of the dead will once again be housed in their bodies, albeit immortal spiritual bodies (1 Cor. 15:44, 53, 54), and will appear at the judgment bar of Christ (Rom. 2:5-6) to give an account of their lives (Rom. 14:10-12), “whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Eccl. 12:14). Those “in Christ” will be vindicated and all others will be condemned. In other words, all true believers will be rewarded with their heavenly home, but all the non-believers and unfaithful, along with Death and Hades, will be cast into Hell, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14). Those who experience this second death will be eternally separated from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:9). Oh, what a terrible place Hell will be. But on the other hand, oh, what a wonderful place the new heavens and new earth will be (2 Pet. 3:13)!

Finally, it must be understood that when the Bible speaks of death in connection with human beings, whether it be physical, spiritual, or eternal, it is always speaking of separation; namely,

  • physical death takes place when the spirit of man separates from his body (Jas. 2:26);
  • spiritual death occurs when man’s sins separate him from God (Isa. 5:9-12; Eph. 2:1,5; Col. 2:13);
  • and eternal death takes place when one is separated eternally from God in Hell (Matt. 10:28; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).

Therefore, in developing a biblical worldview, we must never think of any of the deaths that can be experienced by humans as a “ceasing to exist. Death, for man, is not a ceasing to exist, for Jehovah is the God of the living, not the dead (cf. Mk 12:18-27). In John 11:25, Jesus told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die [physically], he shall live [i.e., be resurrected physically].” But in verse 25, going beyond physical death and resurrection, the Lord said: “And whoever lives [i.e., is spiritually alive] and believes in [i.e., trusts in, relies on, and is of the disposition to obey] Me shall never die [i.e., he will have eternal life].” He ended by asking the question, “Do you believe this?” By faith, we, along with Martha, say, “Yes, Lord, I believe…”

Knowing that God will one day transform our bodies of humiliation into glorified bodies (Php. 3:20-21) so that we will be like Him (1 Jn. 3:2), we are not able to make friends with the enemy — Death (1 Cor.15:26, 53-57). But we are able to face our mortality with the firm confidence that there is abundant and glorious life beyond the grave.

12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:12-19, KJV).

What Happens After Death?

When one considers the Biblical teaching of Luke 16:19-31 and factors into this the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42,43), then he knows there is an intermediate, ethereal place of the dead. By “intermediate” is meant a place of existence between physical life and the resurrection. By “ethereal place” is meant a location other than this plane. By “dead” I mean discarnate or disembodied spirits. The Bible calls this place “Sheol” in the Old Testament and “Hades” in the New Testament. Although the details and circumstances of the NT Testament Hades are much more developed than the OT Sheol, it can be safely said that these are, in essence, one and the same. Although it is true that both of these terms are sometimes used to denote just the grave, they both generally had the broader meaning of the intermediate dwelling place of discarnate spirits.

The Hebrews did not use the term “spirit” to refer to the entities dwelling in Sheol. Instead, they used the term rephaim or “shades.” To conclude, as some do, that the Hebrews did not believe that man’s personality survived beyond the grave because they did not use the term “spirit” is to commit the “fallacy of non sequitur” (i.e., the conclusion does not follow). Instead, the Hebrews usually just used different terms to refer to disembodied spirits. For example, when the witch of Endor spoke of Samuel, who had clearly been dead for some time, she said, “I saw a spirit [elohim] ascending out of the earth” (1 Sam. 28:13). That Samuel was quite comfortable in Sheol or Hades is demonstrated by his question in verse 15, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Furthermore, the historical narrative is clear in pointing out (see v. 19) that Saul and his sons, who were going to die the following day, and therefore go to Sheol/Hades, would join Samuel where he was.

This demonstrates that the Hebrews recognized a continuity of existence between the living and the dead. In other words, even though Samuel is dead, he is still Samuel, not someone or something else. It also demonstrates that the Hebrews did not believe that death was just some sort of suspended animation. Although the occurrence mentioned above is especially unique, Samuel had already experienced death, but nevertheless was able to engage in a number of acts of conscious communication, and all this while his body, which included his brain (but not his mind), remained buried at Ramah (cf. 1 Sam. 28:3). (In further consideration of the Hebrews’ belief in life after death, consider Psalms 16:10, 49:15, and 139:8, and also the teaching found in Acts 23:8 concerning the resurrection.)

Therefore, Sheol/Hades is not, as some suppose, the Gehenna/Hell to which the wicked are condemned, and from which the Lord’s faithful are spared (cf. Matt. 10:28). It is unfortunate that the King James translators decided to render Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus as “Hell.” Sheol/Hades is the dwelling place of the disembodied spirits of the dead, whether good or evil. Those who died in covenant relationship with God are in a comfortable place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22) and “Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). On the other hand, those who died outside covenant relationship with God exist in a place of “torments” (Lk. 16:23) called “Tartarus” (2 Pet. 2:4), if angels, who are spirits, go to the same place that discarnate spirits go. Within the confines of Sheol/Hades is a “great gulf” (megas chasma = “very large void”) that prevents those who occupy either compartment from going to the other side (Lk. 16:26).

What Happens After Death?
A Depiction Of What Happens After Death

When one passes from the state of being alive to the state of being dead, he has arrived in Hades, and although he has yet to experience the judgment, nevertheless, his fate is now sealed. Whether one will eventually spend an eternity in “Heaven” or “Hell” is now a foregone conclusion. In their disembodied state, these discarnate or incorporeal spirits are experiencing either comfort or torment. Someone is tempted to ask, “Are these not already in Heaven or Hell?” Absolutely not! “Well,” he continues, “What’s the difference?” The difference is that Hades is neither Heaven nor Hell. Instead, it is an intermediate place between this world and the next. Man, who is both body and soul, is not complete or whole in Hades. Remember, sin affects the whole man, both body and soul. Spiritual and physical death are both a result of sin. Without the washing away of one’s sins through the blood of Christ, one will spend an eternity, body and soul, in a devil’s Hell (cf. Matt. 10:28, 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev 21:8). On the other hand, redemption also affects the whole man and those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity, both body and soul, in Heaven (cf. Matt. 25:46; Rom. 8:23).

This brings us, quite naturally, to the subject of the resurrection, which will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ. We’ll be discussing this in the next post.

An Homage To Not Just Preaching The Word, But To All Those Hardheaded Preachers Who Faithfully Do It

In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, the apostle Paul charged Timothy to:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (NKJV).

Paul did not say that God’s Word must be accommodated to every new concept that comes along. What he said was “Preach the word.” Consequently, There is something very suspicious about a group of Christians who turn their sail to every wind that blows. Such will be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, [who] in cunning craftiness…lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). Enamored with “Positive Thinking” a la Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Og Mandino, Norman Vincent Peale et al., some have accommodated certain scriptures to the idea of positive thinking. Space does not permit me to list these, but we ought to carefully consider their proof-texts. In doing so, we’ll discover they are nothing more than pretexts for unscriptural teaching. The false concept that “anything the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve,” although it is well accepted in modern parlance, is in fact silliness gone to seed. An even more descriptive term for this doctrine may be found in Paul’s use of the word “rubbish” (NKJV) or “dung” (KJV) to describe the things he considered to be worthless in Philippians 3:8, and no matter how you translate it, skubala is a very strong word.

As Christians, we have been provided with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Consequently, the Christian is called upon to out-live, out-think, and out-die the pagans and secularists around about him. The Christian’s mind, a mind that is renewed, pure, prepared, spiritually sensitive, and self-controlled, is the complete antithesis of a worldly mind (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). What is the key to all this? Simply this: The Christian’s mind does not trust in its own powers, but in the power of God (cf. Pro. 3:5-6). As more and more Christians clamor for “Positive Christianity,” it becomes increasingly more difficult for preachers attempting to preach the whole counsel of God to maintain their integrity. It is much easier to go with the flow of opinions, values and fads of the masses. But thank God for hardheaded preachers who, like the prophets of old, will not bow or bend to the totems of this world. In Ezekial 3:8-9, the prophet, who has been sent by God to address a rebellious people, was told by God:

Behold I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house (NKJV).

Thank God for hardheaded preachers who do not have to test the winds of public sentiment be- fore they decide what they are going to preach. Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “Preach the word!” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “be ready in season and out of season.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who, with God’s help, will save not only themselves, but those that hear them (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

Josiah Holland, who lived in the 19th century, prayed:

God give us men. A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands; men whom the lust of office cannot buy; men who will not lie; men who will stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking; tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty and private thinking.

Real men are, of course, hard to find today. But this has always been the case. It has been reported that in order to emphasize the difficulty of finding a man of integrity in ancient Athens, the Greek philosopher Diogenes lighted a lamp in the daylight and went about the streets of Athens in search of an honest man. But years before this alleged event, Jerusalem could have been saved if one man of integrity could have been found within its walls (cf. Jer. 5:1). Even the apostle Paul recognized the difficulty of finding a real man when he said, “For all seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Php. 2:21).

It is my prayer that God will continue to bless us with hardheaded preachers who won’t shy away from using “great plainness of speech” in their preaching and teaching (2 Cor 3:12). However, it must be remembered that this is a two-way street, for if we ever becomes like those who delight in slaying all God’s plain speakers, even when we can only do it one preacher at a time, then we can be sure that God will eventually send his hardheaded preachers elsewhere. May God bless us all, collectively and individually, as we do His will His way.

“Church And State” And The Lordship Of Jesus Christ

The New Testament depicts church and state as separate entities (Matt. 22:17-21) — both of which are accountable to the One who has been given “all authority…in heaven and on earth” by the Father (Matt 28:18). Not only is Jesus the “head of the church” (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18), but as the book of Revelation points out, He is also the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5). Therefore, both church and state must respect God’s authority, upholding Righteousness and Justice in the process. Failure to do so results in the removal of the candlestick for the church (Rev. 2:5) and the rod of iron for the nation (Rev. 12:5). Although it is true that under the Old Testament the kingdom of Israel was a theocracy (or blend of church and state), under the New Testament there is to be a separation of these two entities.

The role of the church under Christ is presented as one of spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5). On the other hand, Caesar (i.e., the state or civil government) is given a physical sword (viz., the penalty of death) to aid in its physical warfare against evildoers (Rom. 13:4). Unlike Israel of old, the church today is not in the business of taking human life. This is, however, the prerogative of the state (Rom. 13:1-7). But in doing so, the state is not free to arbitrarily and capriciously exercise itself, but must do so consistent with the principle of Righteousness and Justice taught in the Bible. The government is, therefore, duty bound to protect the law-abiding and punish the evildoers. If a government consistently fails to meet its obligation “under God,” which would be evidence it had become a Revelation 13 government, then there can be no real Justice. Under such a government, the law-abiding become the prey of not just evildoers, but the government itself. When this happens, such a government, along with its society, experiences the fiery wrath of the Lord’s righteous indignation (i.e., His judgment).

Christians are to be praying for the government so that it will meet its obligation to maintain order in the society (1 Tim. 2:1-2). In addition, they will dutifully pay their taxes to support the government, and they will always be found obeying the laws of the land as long as such do not breach God’s word. But, and this is most important, the government has no authority to tell the church what to do in spiritual matters. It cannot “under God” tell the church when, or when not, to pray; when to preach or not to preach; when to worship or not to worship. In these matters, the church takes its orders only from Christ, not government. In purely secular matters, the church is obligated to respect and obey the laws of the land. This, however, is the extent of the state’s authority and the church’s obligation to obey. If, and when, the state seeks to dictate to the church spiritually, the church is obligated to engage in holy disobedience (cf. Acts 5:29).
On the other hand, the church, as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) is obligated to preach the truth whenever, wherever, and to whomever it applies. It must do so without respect of persons. This may involve telling Caesar he is wrong on some moral or spiritual issue. The Truth must always be preached without fear or favor (i.e., not “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” [Jude 16]). So although the state is separate from the church, both of these entities have roles to play “under God” — one spiritual, the other physical. As such, the state is no less accountable to the Lord’s principle of Righteousness and Justice than is the church. Truth is, the state is subject to Christ and will answer to His “rod of iron” if its policies are contrary to the Lord’s principles, and this is true whether the state likes it or not. In fact, the degree to which a government finds such things offensive is a good indicator of just how far down the path towards a Revelation 13 government it has traveled.

So, I said all that to say this: If Christians are not being salt and light, they are sinning, and these sins, if unrepented of, will not only damn their souls, but serve to place yet another nail in the nation’s coffin. Remember, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17).