Posted in Christian Witness, Uncategorized

Six Reasons Every Pastor Should Require Masks and Social Distancing at Church – Reformed Hope

I’ve said it before, navigating pastoral ministry is tricky business. But one thing that you can take to the bank is that requiring masks and social distancing at church is an outstanding pastoral decision. The nice thing is that you don’t really have to think about it. The government and health experts have already done…. (Article by: Chris Hume)
— Read on reformedhope.com/2021/02/16/masks/

Absolutely loved this article!! A perfect satirical rendition of the wacky world in which we live. A must read unless sarcasm is the type of humor you go to great lengths to avoid.

–Dr. Muse (aka Kristafal)

Posted in Worldview Analysis

War and Violence, Peace and Unity: What Do These Four Terms Have to Do With the Christian Worldview?

Since I was little I have been a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings. As a kid I only had access to “The Hobbit,” but when I was in my early twenties I purchased the three volume set entitled “The Lord of the Rings.” Within Tolkien’s writing there are quite a bit of hidden nuggets of truth inserted from a biblical worldview. One clear line of thought that Tolkien grasped that our Post-Modern society would do well to consider, believe and cling to is that governmental powers can be exceedingly evil, because they are being led by evil persons. One of my favorite lines from the Two Towers is a discussion between Theoden king of Rohan and Aragorn rightful king of Gondor on the prospect of joining the war with Sauron, lord of the Dark Tower…the one who wanted to enslave and dominate all creation to his twisted will:

Theoden: I will not risk open war.

Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.1

A Call for Peace and Unity...

In my last post I noted that here in the United States there is a clarion call for peace by many political leaders, media pundits, celebrities and Evangelical Christians2. Take for example popular Pastor Tony Evans statement that he made after signing a call for peace in November of last year:

“I signed this statement because I want to see Christians unified and to bring healing to our nation, to restore love, peace and harmony for all people.”3

Citing Psalm 89:14, which speaks of the “righteousness and justice” as the foundation of God’s throne, Evans then said,

“When a nation and a government hold these standards in esteem as the Lord intends, that nation is strong and for the most part peaceful. But when these two pillars are misused, abused, or destroyed, the nation cannot stand and peace will not exist.”4

Let us just say for the moment that I agree with Pastor Evans statement. When a nation has a mind after God’s thoughts (here in terms of righteousness and justice), then that nation will be strong, it will have peace, and it will stand. But when the opposite is the case “peace will not exist.” But what is the underlying assumption being made? That those things exist to some degree in a nation that murders her offspring, robs from her citizens, calls it blasphemy when one dares condemn what God labels an abomination! How’s that possible?

Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the following terms: war and peace, violence and unity. Which are biblical terms that should be associated with the Christian worldview? Is it ever righteous for a Christian to pursue war and violence, rather than peace and unity? Or, is it the Christian message (i.e., the gospel message) that requires we must always choose peace and unity?

The way some Christian leaders’ talk, I would think that their overarching assumption is that “peace and unity” is always preferable. Now I can understand why the world will cite Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9; ESV throughout

But I struggle deeply within myself when I hear Christians spout platitudes of peace. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire. No one likes conflict. We prefer to live our lives in the shadow of relative ease and comfort. In this way we are akin to the hobbits in the Shire who prefer to eat, drink and be merry without a thought to what is going on in the world around them. Current president of the SBC, J. D. Greer appears to unknowingly reflect this mindset in a blog post he wrote last September entitled, “When Peace and Unity Seem Impossible.”

After noting that we may share different cultural and political perspectives he then says we should,

“…pursue peace, [so that] our love for others is more than just surface-level platitudes…[for] one of the chief causes of disunity is a bunch of people strutting around assuming they’re right about everything. Seeking unity means practicing humility and being open to being wrong and having your perspective changed.”5

As a closer, he then opines,


“These may feel like evil times. Unity may feel impossible. Peace may feel like a pipe dream. But there is a way to love life and pursue peace: Trust like Jesus; respond like Jesus; live like Jesus; love like Jesus.”6

Peace and Unity on what Grounds?…

Noble pursuits I agree, but to what end? More importantly peace and unity based on what? Oh…to be like Jesus…. Because Jesus was always about peace and unity, right? Peace and unity based on what grounds? Peace and unity with who?

Jesus of Nazareth bears many titles that demonstrate the greatness of His Name. One of those titles is “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9.6). But what does the title mean? One thing that it does mean is that He gives His own, peace (cf. John 14.27; 16.33; Luke 24.36).

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Likewise, Jesus calls for unity or oneness as seen in John 17:11, 21, 22. But the question that must be answered is “On what grounds?” Obviously, peace and unity are to be desired if possible, but what is it that makes them a reality?

Sadly vague…

I just want to add at this point that the world loves it when Christian’s speak of these things in a very general, vague way. That way no commitment is being illustrated. No “Right” way of thinking is being demanded. I’m not sure if this type of mindset is to be blamed on the Evangelical’s ignorance of the Old Testament canon or a plain on laziness on their part. For the fact remains that you cannot have peace without first waging war, and you cannot have unity without an established standard of Truth. This is why it is laughable when varying Christian leaders offer these sweet sounding words of “peace and unity” in a bouquet of decaying flowers. Meant to sound sweet to the masses, but rotten to the core in light of truth.

“That’s a pretty bold claim,” you say “saying there can be no peace without war. Can you prove it?” Yes, I believe so. Rather easily, I might add, but first you need to understand that war and violence, like peace and unity are key component of the Christian worldview.

Knowing the Season…

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8

According to Scripture there is a season for everything, including peace and war. One must know the conditions of the season in question, before they can discern which is the appropriate course of action. Since the Fall, in the beginning, creation has been at war. Violence, then has been necessary since the beginning.

“I will put enmity [i.e., hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

This the Creator promised the crafty beast of the field, the serpent. With violence against God and His image bearer did he (the serpent) enter the garden, and from that day forward war and violence would follow. Thus we read in the Psalms from the prophet David,

“Blessed by the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

Psalm 144.1

It is the Lord our God who trains us for war, who teaches us to wage violence in battle against our enemy (enemies). With such knowledge at our fingertips we should not be surprised to read that God, after giving Joshua great victory over his enemies in the land of Canaan, left a remnant in the land to teach the next generation what it was to fight:

“Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.”

Judges 3:1-2

Answers the Critic: “But that was in the Old Testament. That language is archaic. That was a different covenant era. Things are different now under Christ Jesus. God’s people are no longer called to wage war, to exercise violence, but to strive for peace and unity with all creation.”

My response: “Really, where then is this new charge dear son or daughter of man given to us in God’s Word, that I might apply it?”

Our War-Lord7

No the fact is that our own Lord not only demonstrated that we are to, at times, wage war and be violent with forces of evil. Jesus corrects the worldview of His hearers when He unashamedly declares,

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Luke 12:49-53; also see Matthew 10:34-36

What sort of fire is He speaking about? What baptism is He talking about? Jesus had ready the winnowing fork in His hands, so says the prophet John the Baptist (cf. Matt 3.10-12), to separate from each household those that serve God and those that serve the creature. This is the fire that Jesus brought to the earth, a fire of division, a fire of winnowing, a fire of judgment against those who refused to bow the knee to the rightful King over all. In order to finalize this, He waged a battle with Satan where the beast of the field, the serpent of old, struck a death blow at the Lord’s heel, but when the cross was driven into the ground it was there that the enemy’s skull was crushed (Matt 27.33; Mark 15.22; Luke 23.33; John 19.17; also see Psa 7.16). This is the death (baptism) that Jesus was baptized with, striking the final blow against that murder and liar from the beginning (John 8.44).

It is for this cause that we too continue the work of waging war, of extricating violence against all who stand opposed to the Truth of God:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when you obedience is complete.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Linguistic Sensitivities…

I thought it wise at this point to add this little caveat to the reader unless they assume that my rhetoric was calling for physical attacks against the enemies of Christ. The main difference between us and Israel, as they entered into Canaan, was that they were waging war as God’s sword. In this they played the role of the minister of God who does not bear the sword in vain (Rom 13.4). For this reason it was a just war, but the same could not be said of us who bear the Name of Christ. There are moments in life when an act of war or an act of violence are called for; one in particular falls under the heading “self-defense.” But, the Christian mandate is to wage war and violence against sin and an ungodly worldview not to personally attack someone just because they are servants of another.

Furthermore, I think that Christians, leaders or otherwise, that make the claim that Jesus was all about unity and peace and not about offending someone for believing something not based on the Truth of God’s Word have not done an adequate job of reading their Bible’s. Jesus purposefully stood in opposition to those who abused, changed, or thwarted the Word of God. One moment in particular comes to mind when I entertain a discussion on this subject matter with another.

Offering Necessary Offenses…

In Luke 11:37-54 you have Jesus invited to a Pharisees house to dine. In verse 38 we are told that the “Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not wash first before dinner.” This was not a thing about hygiene, but a law kept by those in Israel lest they become ceremonially unclean. The fear was that a person might come in contact with someone or something that might make them unclean and so they washed as a ceremonial ritual to prevent uncleanliness (i.e., impurity or unholiness) before the Lord God.

My experience at this point is that people just focus on the rebuke Jesus offers (see vv. 39-44). But what they should consider is Jesus’ knowledge of the facts before He comes to eat at the Pharisee’s house. He knew their customs and He ignored them. He refused to play along. In a sense He waged war on their traditions and violently opposed them.

I once had a fellow in church tell me, “You should never do anything to offend another…for to do so is a sin.” “Is Jesus a sinner?” I asked. The man was dumbfounded. I then explained this little passage as one of many examples of our Lord purposely causing offense in light of the Truth of God’s Word.

Absurdly Ignorant…

Pastor Evans and the slew of others that joined in the signing of some silly peace accord back in November of last year (it may have been earlier); along with other Evangelical leaders attacking and blaming Trump for what happened in Washington D. C. on January 6th are sorely confused individuals. I would add J. D. Greer to this confused state as well.

Peace and unity are only possible when both sides have an agreed upon standard of truth. Peace and unity are only possible when one side agrees to lay down their weapons of warfare. There is great unrest in this nation and people want some semblance of calm to return, even if it is a false veneer. I get it. But, I also understand that applying the hobbit’s worldview to a world filled with sin, to a nation that bathes in it religiously, is absurdly ignorant.

Peace comes when…

“True peace comes only when those who say Jesus isn’t necessary come to understand that they need Him, when they’re willing to say, ‘Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.’”8

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but peace that is only accomplished when you bow the knee to His gospel call—“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” It is peace offered between God and man, not the offspring of the serpent (who is Satan and his people) and the offspring of the woman (who is Christ and his people).

“For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

2Corinthians 6:14

To argue and to work for peace on any other grounds is to stand in opposition to the One you profess to represent.

ENDNOTES:

1Quotes.net, STANDS4 LLC, 2021, “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Quotes,” Accessed February 15, 2021, https://www.quotes.net/mquote/567

2Some of these calls for peace and unity came before the election results were tallied and others came after what happened on January 6, 2021 at the nation’s capital. Various leaders pointed to Jesus and His gospel and that which is contained within the Word of God (Holy Bible) to challenge voters on both sides of the aisle to move towards peace, healing, and unification. Here are just a few articles to establish my point:

Rev. Mitch Hescox and Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, “Evangelical climate activists call for an end to the violence and chaos,” Evangelical Environmental Network, January 7, 2021, accessed February 15, 2021, http://redgreenandblue.org/2021/01/07/evangelical-climate-activists-call-end-violence-chaos/; Kelsey Dallas, “Religious leaders call for peace amid election turmoil,” Deseret News, modified Jan 15, 2021, accessed February 15, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2021/1/6/22217663/capitol-protests-donald-trump-christian-religion-2020-election-joe-biden-catholic.

3Dwight Widaman, “200 Evangelical leaders sign letter calling for peace following elections,” Metro Voice, November 4, 2020, accessed Feburary 15, 2021, https://metrovoicenews.com/200-evangelical-leaders-sign-letter-calling-for-peace-following-elections/;

4Ibid.

5J. D. Greer, “When Peace and Unity Seem Impossible,” Blog, September 21, 2020, accessed February 21, 2021, https://jdgreear.com/when-peace-and-unity-seem-impossible/.

6Ibid., final paragraph.

7“The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name” (Exod 15.3).

8James B. Jordan & Gary North. The Failure of the American Baptist Culture (Kindle Locations 6371-6372).

Posted in Christian Perspective

Understanding Essentials from a Christian Perspective: In a word…Truth (Watch Your Step)

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about peace and unity. I’ve heard it from various media outlets, political pundits, and some well-meaning evangelical Christians. Normally, I don’t read Christianity today, but I happened to stumble upon an article by Kate Shellnutt the peaked my interest. Its a talk about how Christians need to focus on essentials and not get entangled with that which is not. And so, I was prompted to write the following little article. I hope you enjoy.

I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine that you are somewhat familiar with the following phrase:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”

Rupertus Meldenius, German Lutheran theologian of the early 17th century

What are essentials? How does one determine the difference between an essential and a non-essential? Is it a practical application of the biblical worldview to be charitable “in all things.”

Would you agree that context matters? In a nut shell context means background. In terms of literary study it gives the reader a foundational understanding of what the author’s direction of thought is. And so, without a context everything becomes a pretext; an assumed reality driven by what a person already presupposes to be true.

Since the quoted phrase above is given within a Christian context (background, foundation) I will offer my insight into how I think we should treat this oft repeated mantra in light of proper reasoning.

What are essentials?

The whole counsel of the Word of God. That is to say, everything contained within Scripture provides the believer the necessary prerequisites to be fully trained in living a righteous life (2Tim 3:17; 2Pet 1.3-12). The sort of life that properly mimics God our Father (Eph 5.1-2), Jesus Christ our Lord (1John 2.6), and the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth (John 16.13-14). As Jesus said, His disciples would be defined by God’s Word as it leads them truthfully down the path towards godly sanctification (John 8.31-32; 17.14-18), which is the right and proper way to access the Tree of Life (Rev 22.14-19). In short, what is essential is God’s Truth, His Way, and His Life (John 14.6).

What are Non-Essentials?

No, we are not speaking about the multitude of businesses that we forced to shut their doors, because of some arbitrary standard. That type of foolishness is the fault of our civil governing authorities here in the United States at the local, state and federal levels. I bring this up not just to poke at the jesters we have running our civil institutions today, but to highlight a reasonable conclusion. If something is non-essential rather than essential, then it must have been judged by some non-moving, non-relinquishing standard called Truth.

Anything that falls outside the realm of foundational truths in light of personal conviction is non-essential. For example, a non-essential is eating vegetables rather than meat. Both meat and vegetables (as well as fruit) come from God. It is He that has declared all things good to eat (Gen 9.3;Mark 7.19), but He gives His people freedom to eat what they desire. Such freedom in living under the righteousness of God would fall into the category of non-essentials. Those material practices do not deny the truth, but they fall at different points on the spectrum: eating only vegetation; eating both meat and vegetation; eating only meat.

The only way that one would be allowed to declare it an abuse of “liberty” is when one person harbored in their heart something negative against their neighbor that didn’t think like them. If the vegetarian said to the meat-eater, “Shame on you! You shouldn’t be eating meat since you had to kill one of God’s creatures to provide your meal. It would be better for you to be like me, who is more in line with Adam and Eve in the beginning, than to kill another to satisfy your hunger!” Or, a person from the opposite end of the spectrum saying, “You weak-willed nilly-willy. What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you eat meat? Why do you eat only vegetables? Don’t you know that God has given them both for our consumption? (And then, they go and make a show of it among other members of the body).

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”1

Romans 14:3-4

In such a case, this would be an abuse of the “non-essential liberty cause” and would need to be challenged as a deviation from the Truth of God’s Word; an essential to Christian faith. A call to repentance against such a violation would be necessary.

Some tend to think that “non-essentials…liberty” gives Christians the right to believe whatever they desire about a particular biblical teaching. At this point, I believe you have begun to walk on some very thin ice, unless you carefully define your parameters. Truth is essential. A non-essential offers some leeway within the spectrum that a certain truth may offer, but it does not give to the individual the right to reason however they so choose about a given topic. A good rule of thumb at this point would be to consider the wisdom behind Proverbs 30:5-6,

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar”

(Also see: Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18-19)

As you can see this truth is repeated in the Pentateuch and the book of Revelation. All instances give the reader both encouragement and warning. God does not lie, His word is always true…He is worthy of your (our) trust. However, do not be so presumptuous to add or take away from the meaning that He intends to convey in what He has spoken. Such activity proves that you are worthy of rebuke for lying about what God has said.

A non-essential where one might give liberty may be seen in varying doctrinal standards regarding the sacraments of communion and baptism. How one falls along the line of that particular truth spectrum may differ from individual to individual, congregation to congregation. For example, speaking specifically of communion, one might believe that doing it every time a congregation gathers it is necessary, but others believe it is better to do it a little less in order to prevent one taking it lightly. One church may believe that wine (undiluted) is what should be served, whereas others might believe grape juice is more appropriate since there are members who have struggled with drunkenness in the past. In either case, liberty is to be granted, so long as honoring the Lord is the primary concern.

On the other hand, I would argue that the doctrine of creation is one where liberty should not be allowed. Allowing theistic evolution, turning the days into long ages rather than approx. 24-periods of time, having death before the fall when sin entered in is a clear deviation from the written text. Therefore, I do not believe it should be taught from the pulpit or the classroom (regardless of the level of education) as a possible interpretation. Unless, it is being taught so that students are aware of the inherent error in order to refute it.

Now, you may wonder why I take such a hard stance here. The answer is rather simple: “You cannot come to such conclusions unless you add to the historical creation account in Genesis 1-3.” Therefore, no quarter is to be given.

  • (Note to reader: I should add that I don’t believe that this is a salvation issue, since our salvation comes from faith in Christ alone via the grace of God alone, not our belief of origins. The truth of the matter is that when one becomes a Christian they are a mixed bag of falsehoods, but it is the truth of Jesus that saves. However, as we walk with the Lord in His word the truth is supposed to be setting us free of those falsehoods. Learning to be taught, rebuked, corrected and properly trained in the path of righteousness is the sign of maturity in Christ).

In what way are we to understand “All things charitable?”

Again, we are speaking in context of a Christian worldview (faith-system). To be charitable can mean to be “full of love…and goodwill toward others,” or “merciful or kind in judging others.” Both ways of understanding the term fit nicely in terms of Christian living. We are told by God, whom we love, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and yes, to love even our enemies. In fact, our mode of operation in this life is defined by the apostle Paul in this way,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”

Romans 12:18

That is to say, we are responsible for being as loving, as kind, as respectful, and as peaceful with others as we can. We attempt this as our Christian responsibility, but this by no means that we are at fault when those who we come into contact with deny our attempts at being charitable.

However, there is no way that one can faithfully apply the mantra “in all things charity” when the “in all things” finds itself in opposition to the truth. By the way, opposition to false teachings, false worldviews, false convictions is a form of Christian charity. It is a kindness to save a life. It is a kindness to point out sin. It is a kindness to show people to Christ. This charity is only possible when we are willing to sacrifice our comforts in sharing, standing and fighting for the Truth of God in all areas of life.

Closing Remarks:

All in all, the above quoted phrase sounds nice in theory and it should be practiced when practical within a Christian context, but it is not a blanket statement that can by applied across the board.

My original desire was to write on the following terms: peace, unity, war, violence and disunity. In order to simplify that a bit and just use four of the five words listed, since the way I shall use them will be opposites. That is, war and peace, and unity and violence.

What should a Christian do? Is the ever a time to adopt a violently warring mindset? Or is it better to have peaceful unity? I will discuss those things in an upcoming post….

ENDNOTE:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

Posted in Jesus Christ

In Jesus’ Name: The Terminology of our Warfare

What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name. So they called [Peter and John] and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus…and when they had further threatened them, they let them go…”.1

Acts 4:16-18, 21a

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”

Acts 5:27-29

What just happened?

In both instances above we see that the leadership in Israel (both political and religious forces) have repeatedly attempted to silence the messengers of what could only be described in their eyes as “a domestically extremist terrorist message.” Also known as the gospel [good-news] of the kingdom by those who worship God and His Christ—Jesus of Nazareth.

Obviously when looked at in this fashion we see that at the center of this controversy was two conflicting messages. Both parties claimed to be standing on the side of good (i.e., God). Both parties thought they were doing what was best for the individual, the family, the church, and society as a whole. The apostles of Jesus wanted to infuse the population with what they believed to be the good-news from God, their Father; whereas, the religious/political forces of Israel wanted to silence what they viewed as a dangerous message by a few radical extremists.

And so, what you have is to opposing powers at work. You have those seated in positions of authority (Church and State) charging the citizens under them to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus. As we see in v. 28 they do not want to look like the guilty party: “…you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

But, according to Christ’s apostles (men like Peter and John) they were guilty for taking Jesus’ life, and they darn well knew it! Therefore, the same time the religious/political forces in Israel are charging the apostles with doing wrong for disobeying a direct command from their civil governing authority, the apostles lay the guilt at their leaders feet:

But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than man. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of ins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 5:29-32; cf. Act 4:8-12

What is the Source and Background of this Conflict?

The source of all conflicts when properly whittled down to their foundational base are presuppositional in nature. That is to say, there is a starting point from which all draw wisdom and knowledge for thinking and living in this life. When a conflict ensues it is the underlying beliefs, biases, traditions or assumptions that are the source of the disagreement. Sometimes this disagreement can be a minor thing like, “Who has the best football team?” At other times this disagreement can be much more serious, “Should I obey a law because the State (civil governing authority) requires it, or should I obey God (from which all authority is derived) rather than men who represent the authority of the State?”

At base the argument being held at the moment in the early chapters of the book of Acts is a presuppositional one. Who has the right to give a law? And to whom is obedience owed? Because someone sits in a position of authority, should I obey them? Or should I consider the rightness or wrongness of the law given? Moreover, how do I know what is right or wrong in such circumstances?

The historical context of these passages show that the religious and political forces in power at the time of Jesus of Nazareth conspired together to have Him tried and executed on a Roman cross (cf. Acts 4.23-30). Some tend to think of Jesus as a mere religious figure, but that is not how the biblical record portrays Him, and it is most certainly not how Jesus portrayed Himself. Jesus claimed a level of perfection that no person has a right to claim on his or her own merits. He proclaimed a message of repentance towards His kingship (i.e., the gospel of the kingdom, His kingdom), offering to any who would bow the knee to Him peace and rest and right standing before God. Jesus claimed equality with God at several points during His earthly ministry, and it was this claim before a nightly court that earned Him the death sentence of a blasphemer.

Another finer point that is sometimes glossed over is that those in power at the time understood the implications of Jesus’ message. Something that I hinted at above, and it is something that Peter and the apostles point to in their testimony against those religious/political leaders attempting to silence them, that Jesus is Prince or the Chief ruler over all authorities on this earth (see Acts 2.29-36; Psa 2; Dan 9.25; Rev 1.5).

In short, Jesus is King. He admitted to this to the nightly court and before Pontius Pilate the Roman magistrate who presided over His death (see Matt 26.63-66; John 18.37; cf. Matt 28.18-20).Which is why the leaders in Israel responded the way they did when Pilate asked them if they would have back their king:

“‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar’”

John 19:15b

“We have no king but Caesar,” what an interesting testimony! Here we find the source of the angst against the message being proclaimed by the apostle’s. The disciples of Jesus preached another King. Jesus is not just the savior of men from sin, but from false rule. And these men are claiming and demonstrating this authority over all aspects of creation, from the lame to the civil court (Act 3.6-9; 4.19; 5.29).

What Does the Name of Jesus Represent?

The short answer is “grace and truth” (John 1.14, 17). The full embodiment of God in human form (Col 1.19). The declaration of the “name” of Jesus does not mean merely saying His name, as if giving roll-call. It is the characteristics of the “name” that are important.

To declare Jesus name is to proclaim all that He stood for, all that which His Name embodied. To state Jesus name the way in which the apostles were doing so in the book of Acts where they were being commanded by the powers to be to “be silent!”, is to declare His authority into every aspect of life. Jesus’ life was the embodiment of holiness and love. He was separated from the world because He was not a part of the world.

What was it that separated Him from the world? The Word of God, which is what He prayed would separate (sanctify) His people as they came to know and be discipled by the truth; so that, they might be able to test and adhere to what is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12.2; also see John 8.31-32, 17.17; 1Thess 5.21).

So when the religious and political forces were attempting to silence the apostles, it was because the apostles took the same stand that Jesus did: “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10.35). It was because they were declaring opposition rule: God’s Word over Man’s! It was because they were saying and living as if their were another king named Jesus, who has ultimate authority over the kings of this earth (Acts 17.7).

What Am I Saying?

I want you to understand that when the apostles declare to the civil rule of their day, “We must obey God rather than man” that they mean on every point pursuant in the Holy Bible (Genesis through Revelation). This is not merely a religious declaration by these men, but an “all aspects of life” claim.

A consideration of the current culture…

Which brings us to today’s cultural climate. We are living in the “cancel culture” era, which means leaving behind in its destructive wake everything formerly declared as “good and acceptable and perfect.” Know this, and know it with absolute certainty and conviction, when the world around us—including the realm of civil government—tells us that we must stop declaring this truth or that; or, that we need to stop calling this practice evil and instead realize it is good, or there will be some form of retributive justice levied against you, they are in essence telling you:

“Stop preaching, stop teaching in Jesus’ name!”

A society that calls theft good and private property evil is lying. A society that calls boys, girls and girls, boys and orders the mutilation of their flesh through surgery and hormone therapy is evil. A society that demands the death of the unborn as a way to build wealth, to stay in shape, to allow for sexual promiscuity, or healthcare is a liar. A society that attempts to silence all opposing thoughts, opinions, and teachings as hate-speech is one that does not know its right hand from its left. Christians that side with these issues are no Christian that I have ever heard of. And any teachers or preachers or professors that dare claim that these things be true, when they are blatantly false are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing who deserve to sit in the seat of authority with the rest of the Sanhedrin.

A consideration for living faithfully…

As Bible-believing Christians we need to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We need to be like the apostles in seeking God’s strength to be forever bold in the midst of the coming (and present) persecution:

…when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. They they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Acts 5:40-42

To preach in the Name of Christ is to declare and stand for all that He upheld, which is the entire Law-Word of God (cf. Matt 5.17-19); regardless, of the powers that be. It is a declaration of war against all that is “unholy and unacceptable and imperfect.” In Jesus’ Name is the terminology of our warfare.

ENDNOTE:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).