Being the Church: The Best Way to Contribute to Political Life

The Church & Politics  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A Lesson From Redemptive History

The first citizens
Genesis 1:26–28 ESV
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Adam and Eve were to exercise their citizenship by ruling the garden together.
They were to be fruitful and multiply, subdue and fill the earth.
They were to rule the earth with righteousness, that is, as God’s appointed rulers and by God’s appointed means.
Fulfilling these responsibilities would display the fact that they were created in the image of God.
Later, Adam and Eve failed to rule by instead of representing God’s reign, they pursued their own interests. This failure resulted in God removing them from His holy place.
2. The first patriarch
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God calls Abraham to fulfill what Adam did not.
God called Adam to be fruitful and multiply, but promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation (multiply) and will bless all the families of the earth through him.
3. The first covenant community
Exodus 19:5–6 ESV
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
God identified a nation, Israel, as His covenant people and gave them His law.
He promised His people that if they obeyed His law, they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
This was God’s commitment to His people that would mark them out as a model community (political and otherwise) where God dwelled as He did in the garden of Eden.
They would be priests and kings as Adam and Eve were supposed to be, ruling and consecrated to God.
They would also reveal God’s justice and righteousness to the other nations as Abraham was supposed to.
But like Adam, Eve, and Abraham, Israel did not fix their eyes and hearts on God. They failed to worship Him as the one true God and thereby failed to convey God’s righteousness to the world.
The consequences of Israel’s disobedience was exile.
4. Promises to the exiled
Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV)
Jeremiah 31:31–34 ESV
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
I will be there God and they shall be my people
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts
I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more

The Lesson

The ingredients of an ideal political society are
The right ruler
The alignment of the citizens’ desires with the rule of the ruler
The just standing of the citizens before the ruler
All put together: no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me.
About the just standing of he citizens before the ruler:
The basis of anyone’s just standing before God is forgiveness. In other words, to be part of the New Covenant Community, reception of forgiveness of sin must take place.
This however, is not how it works in America or any other nation. Typically, citizenship is granted through birth or merit. In order to be considered a upstanding citizen, one must be born into a nation and obey the law.
All people however, are born in sin and fail to behave in accordance with the law of God. This explains why there is strife, factions and war in the history of human politics. People have lived under the delusion of self-rule and self-justification, and because this lie continues so does discrimination, the marginalization of some, the unjust favoring of others and all other forms of corruption.
Self-rule is rebellion against God, and will always lead to efforts to dominate others to preserve the rule.
It is not until we acknowledge that our self-rule continues the destructive cycle of unrest in the world, and that the only hope we have is to be forgiven and ruled by our Creator, that we will be in a position to contribute to the true and lasting improvement of society.
To put it another way, only the person who knows that he or she has been an enemy of God, but has received a gracious pardon, can then turn and truly forgive other sinners and no longer lord it over them. Only the person who knows that his or her standing in the community wasn’t earned, but was granted, can live at peace with others.
The local church is an assembly of forgiven people, who know that their forgiveness by her ruler was not earned or deserved and is therefore the most likely community from which we can expect people to come who will promote a good, peaceful and fruitful society.

A Model Society

Matthew 5:21–22 ESV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
The church does not hate, discriminate or murder, but seek reconciliation.
Matthew 5:27–28 ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The church does not exploit or use others for their own gain.
Matthew 5:31–32 ESV
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
The church are committed to honoring God’s ordained structure of the family which is fundamental to a flourishing society.
Matthew 5:33 ESV
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
Matthew 5:37 ESV
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
The church is committed to speaking the truth on all occasions.
Matthew 5:43–45 ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
The church loves her enemies.

The Lesson

This way of living is predicated on the gospel.
Consider Matthew 5:3-11
The kingdom of heaven is given to a people who are poor in spirit
who mourn the sin of the world
who are meek
who hunger and thirst for righteousness
All of this to make clear that those who fit this description desire to be done with sin. They are poor in spirit because they know they are sinners and possess no power to overcome their sin in their own strength.
Consider Philippians 2
The church is called to do nothing from selfish ambition and, in humility, value others above yourselves (v. 3)
Then Paul makes the gospel clear (v. 6-11)
Then this gospel people are called to live out the gospel in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation (v. 12-16)
How does this principle that fruitful living is predicated on believing the gospel impact the issues?
The church agrees that abortion is wrong because the bible makes clear that what is inside a woman when she is pregnant is a person from the moment of conception, and all people, born or unborn, are made in the image of God.
The church should desire that abortion is stopped and pray to that end. It is appropriate to participate in pro-life marches, seek to minister to women considering abortion outside of Planned Parenthood and other facilities that provide abortion and support crisis pregnancy centers.
The church should feel free to engage the political process to seek the end of abortion by supporting bills and candidates that align with this effort.
But if the church is committed to this effort, we must begin by obeying Paul’s words in Ephesians 5, where wives are called to submit to their husbands and husbands are called to love their wives as their own bodies. Parents must be committed to raising their children to obey them out of a desire that they would grow up to be men and women who love Christ.
And if we are to seek to order our lives and families according to the bible’s prescription for fruitful living, which is essential to a healthy political society, then we must be transformed by the gospel and so must everyone else.

Our Contributing Factor

The church’s declaration of the new covenant community to the nations.
Matthew 16:19 ESV
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the others apostles to bind on earth what will be bound in heaven and to loose on earth what will be loosed in heaven.
This does not mean that they were able to save anyone, but it does mean that the they possessed the authority to declare what is a right gospel confession.
And this authority was passed onto the church
Matthew 18:18 ESV
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus spoke these words as He outlined the process of church discipline, which is one way the church exercises the keys of the kingdom.
The church continues to exercise the keys of the kingdom through baptism, the Lords Supper and obeying the commands of Christ
Matthew 28:16–20 ESV
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The church is the model political society, but we impact the society at large by exercising the keys were given by our Lord. We declare the gospel of Christ and seek to make disciples who will follow Him and live gospel-centered lives.
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