How the Arrogance of Professing Christians is Enabling the Wicked (Part 3)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)
In this series of posts we have been seeing that many if not most Christian churches today are failing to distinguish between law and gospel. Specifically, they are treating EVERY sinner in the same way, giving them all the promises of the gospel. Salvation. Forgiveness of sins. Justification. Heaven. The whole package. But all sinners are not the same. The woman at the well and the Pharisees were not the same. Jesus did not treat them the same. We saw last time that Jesus spoke to the wicked in parables, only giving the light of His truth to those who were repentant and believing:
For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Matthew 13:12)
In this post, I want to press the case for law and gospel home once more before moving on to consider other ways in which the arrogance of professing Christians is enabling the wicked and dealing injustice to victims. To do this, I want to turn your attention to the Scripture quoted above, the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
All authority is from God (Jesus reminded Pilate of this). The authority of civil government is from God. Kings, governors, legislatures, the President, the Prime Minister, police departments, courts, all are instituted and established by God. So much so that if we resist them as they function within their God-given authority, we are opposing God Himself.
Now, Paul tells us that “rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Yes, rulers have often abused their role and become a terror to the good, justifying the wicked. But that issue we leave for another time. Here, we want to emphasize that GOD has instituted rulers to strike fear into the wicked and to bless and protect the righteous. The king, the law of the land, is God’s servant. In fact, the civil authorities “bear the sword” as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
And here is my point. The establishment of civil government and the role given to it by God tells us about the very character and being of God. God has established the church, the body of Christ, and commissioned her to go into the world and preach the glad tidings of the gospel (and to move on minus the dust on our shoes where that gospel is rejected, thus giving them law). But God has also established civil authorities to deal with the wicked. To those who defy Him, to those who oppress and rob and murder the innocent, God prescribes the sword. And all this brings us right back round to law and gospel. Law for the wicked abuser. Gospel for the penitent.
When I was a police officer, every workday for 12 years I put on my uniform, my badge, slid my nightstick (I still have it) into its ring on my belt, and holstered my .357 magnum loaded with 158 grain semi-jacketed hollow points. I had authority. It wasn’t mine. It came ultimately from God. People didn’t have to pull over when the blue lights came on just because Jeff lit them up. No. I represented the County of Multnomah, State of Oregon. I represented the civil authorities. Largely, my mission was to find wrongdoers and apply the law to them. I only had to use my revolver once, and that was to shoot out a bad guy’s tire to stop him from getting away (turns out he was armed, but that’s a whole other story). I didn’t get arrested for shooting his tire. Because I had, ultimately, God’s authority to shoot it. And to shoot him if necessary.
Now, here is my big, ongoing, source of outrage at what I see going on in the church today. THE BAD GUYS ARE BEING GIVEN GOSPEL, NOT LAW!! But do you see it? GOD has established both law and gospel. The thing reflects the very essence of who God is in His person. God is holy, holy, holy. And God is love. God is righteous. God’s wrath is set upon the wicked. That is why there is HELL. God is also love. God is compassionate and merciful and longsuffering. But God does not give the promise of forgiveness and salvation and mercy to the wicked, unrepentant man. He gives such a man the Law. What do you think of a judge who pronounces the wicked man, innocent? Or the innocent, guilty? We are outraged by INjustice. But the church today, pastors, church leaders, “Christian” counselors, individuals who profess to be Christians, consistently let the wicked off by telling them how much God loves them, when in fact God would have us apply the divine nightstick of Mt. Sinai’s law to such a person. Let me give you an example of applying law:
Bob, you are a wicked man. You have paraded yourself as the finest of Christians for the last 30 years, yet all the while you have been abusing your wife and children. Bob, God’s holy wrath is set upon you. You have blasphemed God’s name by your hypocrisy, you are a murderer, you are a thief, you are a liar. God’s law pronounces you cursed, and if you were to die today, you would surely end in hell. Bob, go out from among us. And here is a Scripture for you to take with you as you go (I singularized some pronouns to make specific application to Bob):
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourself; make yourself clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:13-20)
See it? Law for Bob. Yes, there is a reminder that true repentance learned and practiced will result in a cleansing of Bob’s soul. But the emphasis is upon the Law, because Bob is not repentant. Bob is a longtime practitioner of darkness. If Bob continues to refuse and rebel, he will be eaten by the sword, devoured by the Word of the Lord.
Is that clear? Do you grasp this? This means, among other things, that if you are reading a book or listening to a counselor or a preacher or a friend, and they are telling you that Bob just needs the promise of his sin being made white as snow because no matter how great a sinner he is, God sure loves him, and that this message should be your goal and the goal of the church — to tell Bob that God has GOOD news for him — then I can confidently advise you to walk right away from such a person as far as listening to their advice about abuse.
What I am saying is that the church today is looking at Isaiah 1:13-20, cutting and deleting ALL of it except, “Come now, Bob (arm around Bob’s shoulder), come now, let us reason together Bob. The Lord says to you right now that though your sins are like scarlet and red like crimson (ie, Bob has the blood of his victim on his hands), God wants to forgive you and wash you of all your guilt so that you are white as snow, and pure as wool. Bob, doesn’t that message just grab your heart?” (Cue tears here)
I ask again, do you see it? God’s word is being gutted by these enablers of evil, and victims are being further oppressed. God, in fact, has BAD news for Bob. And WE are the ones commissioned to announce it to him.
“Lord, here am I. Send me!”
[Go to Part 2 of this series]