2 Chron.18 “The Prophetic Role of the Church to the State”

Posted on November 27, 2008. Filed under: A Theology of Patriotism |

2 Chron.18 “The Prophetic Role of the Church to the State”

Sunday 10-3-04 PM

Introduction: In our Sun. night sermons we are studying the relationships between the church and the state and between the individual Christian and the State. We have seen that the Christian is a citizen of 2 cities, the City of God and the City of Man, as Jesus said, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s, we have obligations in both realms and this series is an effort at discovering what the Bible tells us about these obligations. We also studied what the government’s obligation is to us; the government is to restrain and punish evildoers and encourage those who do good. Government is established by God. We looked at the concept of the Freedom of Religion, religious liberty and how a free church, one that is neither oppressed nor joined with the state, is the best arrangement. But now we are looking at what the role of the church to the State is.

 First of all we examined the missionary role of the church and saw how the very best thing the church can do for a state is to spread the gospel. The Gospel changes lives and the more people in a state who are converted, the better and stronger that state will be. Last week we looked at the Compassionate role of the church and saw that the church’s various ministries also assist the state in many ways. The church is to assist in feeding the hungry, caring for the elderly, sick and poor, helping in disasters, etc. As the church ministers in these varied ways, doors for the gospel message are also opened. We also saw a little bit of what happens when the government subsidizes bad behaviour; welfare robs people of the dignity of work if they are able bodied.

            Tonight we are going to examine the Prophetic Role of the Church to the State. Before we can do that we have to understand what the role of the prophet was and is. Many people think that the prophet only foretold the future and worked miracles. That was only one aspect of the prophetic ministry. The biggest ministry of the prophet was, and remains, the speaking forth of God’s Word in a timely manner to a people who desperately need to hear it. Speaking God’s Word faithfully to the situations around us is a calling of God upon the church. With that in mind let us examine the Prophetic Role of the Church.

 

I. The State Church and the Prophetic Role

            When the State and Church are joined, do you think that would affect the Church’s prophetic role any? In England the King or Queen gets to appoint the head of the Anglican Church, Her Majesty the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and she also has a unique and special relationship with the Church of Scotland, which is a Free Church. In the Church of England she appoints archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals on the advice of the Prime Minister. The two archbishops and 24 senior bishops sit in the House of Lords, making a major contribution to Parliament’s work.

Now if you are appointed as the archbishop of Canterbury and sit in the House of Lords, there would be some unstated pressure on you at times to maybe protect the Queen when perhaps you ought to speak out against the queen.

            In our story from 2 Chronicles what did the Prophets of Ahab do when asked about going to war? They all told Ahab to “go for God will give it into the king’s hand”. There is clearly a danger of compromising the Word of God if the church is too close to the State.

            But, look at the prophet Nathan in 2Sam.12:7 “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…” Clearly Nathan is a prophet in the State Church of Israel, but he is not appointed by the king so there is some independence. Still a king has the power to execute whom he desires, as in Bathsheba’s husband. So Nathan exhibits some courage and is faithful to his call. But also notice the tact which he used in confronting David. There was a long relationship of trust and confidence between Nathan and David.

            The State Church still has the obligation to speak the word of God faithfully even at the risk of losing its position of power and prestige within the State. But being a state church does automatically mean that the message will be compromised. There are still men of courage and faithfulness within the State church.

            John Knox 1513-1572 Scottish reformer. Born in Scotland, John Knox was ordained as a Catholic priest between 1530 and 1540. He was converted to Christ after he met two Bible-believing Christians, Wishart and Beacon. Wishart was burned at the stake in 1546, and shortly afterwards Knox was arrested by the authorities and made a galley slave for 19 months.   He went to England in 1549 and preached the Bible until the reign of Bloody Mary, during which time he lived in Frankfort, Germany. There he came under the influence of Calvin.  He returned to Scotland after several years in Geneva, and began preaching against the Papal Church. He was arrested under Queen Mary Stuart in 1560 and tried for trea- son, but was acquitted. He spent his remaining years preaching and lecturing in Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Above all others, he was the maker of Protestant Scotland. He preached hellfire and damnation to Queen Mary of Scotland, and also to Bloody Mary, queen of England. Of him it was said, “Here is one who never feared the face of man.”

 

II. The Oppressed Church and the Prophetic Role

            Back to Ahab and Jehoshaphat, we have a prophet by the name of Micaiah who represents the faithful religion of the Jews in the North. He is clearly a minority and is imprisoned for his constant preaching against wicked Ahab. Here we see that the oppressed church still has a prophetic role. Ahab says of Micaiah, “I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.” Micaiah is thrown into prison because of his prophecy.

            With the oppressed church much more courage is required to speak prophetically because you are not just in fear of losing your power and prestige, you are in fear of your very life. Think of John the Baptist in Mk.6. Herod had arrested John for preaching against Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. John was speaking out against the moral failure of the king and eventually was beheaded for it.

            The temptation for the oppressed church is to keep quiet out of fear instead of speaking boldly against evil. But even here, in a lot of cases, the oppressed church may be able to accomplish the main mission of evangelism more effectively by not addressing the ethical and moral issues of the day in the public arena. I think that there may be times when the church is called to be vocal and other times when the church should probably be more subtle.

            Think of Daniel who broke the law and prayed to the Lord as was his custom. He ended up in the lion’s den, yet God defended him. Were there any public protests against the edict to not pray? I don’t think so. Daniel just prayed, he did not protest. But when we read the book of Esther we see God’s people rising up in a very public and violent way to defend themselves against a great injustice, with the blessing of the King!

 

III. The Free Church and the Prophetic Role

            What about our situation as a free church in a free land? Here in America we have a pretty unique situation in world history. We have no state church and no significant state oppression, although there are certainly some small matters of persecution that are growing.

            Clearly we have freedom of the press and free speech in a free market place of ideas in which we can proclaim our message. We have a freedom to proclaim the gospel and a freedom to speak out against the evils of our day. I believe that the prophetic role of the church is strong in today’s society.

            The danger for the church in our environment is that freedom and prosperity can bring with it a spiritual apathy that leads us to not confront our state with the Word from God. Another danger is that in a free market of ideas there will be a plethora of kooks and nuts in the religious realm. Just watch the local access station on TV or some of the TV preachers and you will understand this.

 

IV. The Prophetic Role: Speak God’s Truth

            In the story of Micaiah and Ahab, what I notice is that the true prophet of God is often a lone figure speaking out against what is popular. There were 400 other prophets who Micaiah was disagreeing with. He was swimming upstream, against the current. Let us look now at the job of the prophet and how that relates to the church in our day.

            A. Confront Evil- The prophet is to speak forth the Word of God, Thus saith the Lord. He is to speak the truth of God’s Word to the situation of his day. In other words, the message of the prophet was pointed and relevant. A common message of the prophet was to confront evil and announce the judgment of God against evil.

            In the case of Micaiah, he was announcing judgment against Ahab, Ahab was going to die in the upcoming battle. Jonah was sent to Ninevah to announce God’s impending judgment (which he was all too eager to see) and the people of Ninevah actually repented, thus delaying judgment. Jesus confronted the Pharisees with messages that contained judgment and he pointed out their sins, such as hypocrisy. Nathan and John the Baptist pointed to the Kings’ adultery. Hosea points to a spirit of prostitution present amongst Israel’s spiritual life. 4:1 “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery…bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

            How can the church confront evil today? First and foremost the church needs to practice what it preaches, and always preach the gospel while ministering to the hurts of those around it. But should the church remain silent in the face of evil?

            I believe that the church should confront the evils of our day in a proportional manner. I believe that we should have the courage to say to our society, Thus saith the Lord, and point out where our culture is breaking the 10 commandments.

            In confronting evil however, we must avoid seeming overly negative and unloving. We should be firm and pointed, but also compassionate and loving.

            B. Point to the Truth- If the church is going to confront evil we must also think it through so that we can refute the arguments that support evil and then point to the truths of God that can remedy evil. It is one thing to tell people what is wrong, it is much better to show how to correct the wrong and get on the right path of righteousness. We must present alternatives to the world’s ways of doing things that bring on evil.

            For instance, in our culture right now there is a great debate about allowing homosexuals to marry. This is an urgent crisis that should never have been allowed to get this far. But the church was relatively silent and ineffective years ago during the sexual revolution of the 1950’s-70’s. The church did not fight hard enough against the loosening of the divorce laws. The church did not resist enough against the bad stuff on TV, in the movies and music, etc. The church did not offer up much of a defense to the psychologists who changed homosexuality from a disease to an alternative lifestyle. The church did not promote a biblical view of marriage with the vigor that was needed.

            Confronting evil and pointing to the truth is not a one dimensional battle. It is fought on many fronts and requires eternal vigilance.

            C. Provide Hope- The church should not be known for its negative stands against evil, but should be known as a bastion of love and hope that will stand strong against evil but in a respectful and gracious way. We offer alternatives to the ways of the world both in teaching and in how we live our lives. This hope is centered in the gospel of Gods grace through Jesus’s atoning death on the cross, but this hope is not just for the afterlife, it also affects how we live today. We need to show the world as we confront the world, that there is a better way to live our lives.

            How to Serve as a Prophet: 1)speak out 2)proclaim the gospel 3)write 4)vote 5)call 6)one on one 7)as a group

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