1Timothy 2:1-3 “Freedom of Religion”
1Timothy 2:1-3 “Freedom of Religion”
Sunday 8-29-04 pm
Introduction: In studying the theme of the Christian and the Political Process we have seen that it is God who has ordained government, but that there is a division between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. We have obligations in both realms, and, as Jesus said, give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Government has some God-given obligations to carry out, to promote the good and punish the evil, and we in turn have certain obligations to government- we are to pay our taxes, obey the laws, respect our leaders and pray for them. Because of the unique aspects of the American constitution, what the Bible says about the responsibilities of those who govern also applies to the average citizen since we live in a land that is ruled by the consent of the governed.
Tonight we will discuss a theme that we really introduced in this morning’s sermon. When planning my sermon series I really did not plan for how the series in Exodus would relate to the evening series on Christians and the Political Process. I do find it interesting how much Exodus has to say on the subject. But tonight we need to examine if the Bible says anything in regards to religious liberty or freedom of religion. This is a very large topic and I can only give a brief introduction to it tonight. The main idea is this: I believe that the Bible promotes religious liberty in a very unique way that emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart, placing the salvation of the human soul as being beyond the power of the state; therefore there must be freedom of religion instead of coercion. I am going to derive my theory of religious liberty from my doctrine of salvation.
I. How Are We Saved?
1. Salvation is of the Lord. Psal.3.8; 62.1; Acts4.12;
2. John3.3-8 There is a part of our salvation that comes to us powerfully by God, beyond our control. John 6.44.
3. Yet we experience salvation as a decision, a choice. In fact Jesus also speaks of this choice numerous times. John 1.12-13 we receive Him but we are born not of human decision, but born of God. Mark 1:15, 17. There is a command to repent and believe, to lay aside and to follow.
4. The pure Gospel is a gospel of salvation by grace through faith at the personal level, not works, nor compulsion. John 3.16; Rom.10.9-13; Eph.2:8-9
II. How is the gospel to be communicated?
Luke9:1-6; Matt.28:19-20; John 4; John 18 he reasons with Pilate. Acts- Paul’s mission trips, he preached and reasoned.
The gospel is nowhere proclaimed by the sword, government sanction, or through any power other than the power of the HS.
Other world religions have a tendency to spread religion through the power of the state and the sword. Even in Christianity’s history there was a time of using the power of the state to spread the faith. When the Roman Emperor Constantine was saved he began to force Christianity on his subjects and to conquer in the sign of the cross. This was an unbiblical development. Many people want to point to the crusades as the lowest point in the history of Christianity and they are used even today to show how violent and depraved Christianity is- but the crusades happened a thousand years ago! And furthermore, the crusades were a response to the militant spread of Islam. The crusades were a response to aggression by the muslim lands who were spreading Islam by the sword.
The Koran explicitly teaches that they are to spread their faith through the sword if by preaching they fail. Violence is at the root of Islam’s teachings in the Koran. At the root of the Christian faith we rely on preaching the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t convert anybody, either the HS converts them or they remain unconverted. We use scripture, reason and godly behaviour to convert, not the sword.
III. How Does This Relate To freedom of Religion?
In 1Tim2.1-4 Paul is urging the people to pray for kings and such so that, for the purpose of, being able to live our lives peacefully in godliness which promotes the salvation of men.
In Paul’s various trials, arrests and riots, he occasionally relied on his Roman citizenship to secure his freedom. When arrested in Jerusalem, he eventually appealed to Caesar when, after 2 years of unjust imprisonment, and in the face of a plot by the Jews to assassinate him, he made his case before Festus. Acts 25.12, in 26.32 King Agrippa told Festus that Paul should have been set free, thus admitting he had been imprisoned wrongly for over 2 yrs.
We know that Paul went on to Rome and made his case before Caesar and was, we believe set free to conduct a fourth mission trip to Spain. He was again arrested and to be tried before Nero who was by this time quite the madman and was beheaded in about AD 66.
Paul therefore, by his prayers, his ministry in practice, and his theology clearly points us to the principle of religious liberty.
When you combine these principles with what we have already learned about it being the duty of government to promote the good and restrain evil, and that Christian citizens are included in the political process by our unique history and form of government, we see that God’s Word seems to teach implicitly that religious freedom is a good thing and should be sought after, prayed for, and taken advantage of, for the spreading of the gospel. Our very theology demands that religious coercion be considered evil.
To lose our religious liberty would be a great loss. Yet I fear we are on that very pathway in this country. We may revisit this subject later and include some history of America and of Baptists who are champions of religious history.
Tradition tells of a chime that changed the world on July 8, 1776, with the Liberty Bell ringing out from the tower of Independence Hall summoning citizens to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.
The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges.
Penn’s charter, Pennsylvania‘s original Constitution, speaks of the rights and freedoms valued by people the world over. Particularly forward thinking were Penn’s ideas on religious freedom, his liberal stance on Native American rights, and his inclusion of citizens in enacting laws.
As it was to commemorate the Charter’s golden anniversary, the quotation “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” from Leviticus 25:10, was particularly apt. For the line in the Bible immediately preceding “proclaim liberty” is, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.” What better way to pay homage to Penn and hallow the 50th year than with a bell proclaiming liberty?
Notes from a Sunday night sermon 4 yrs ago. This needs further study and development.