Posts Tagged ‘john the Baptist’

It is heartening recently to see some Christian leaders placing themselves in a position of interposition between the people and their evil rulers.

In one example of interposition, Newsmax recently reported that “the Rev. Billy Graham has thrown his support behind embattled Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy and announced plans to stop by the fast food restaurant next Wednesday as part of Mike Huckabee’s “Eat Mor Chikin” promotion.”

In like manner, “Dr. James Dobson is taking a defiant stand on Obamacare and issuing a loud and clear message to President Obama: ‘I WILL NOT pay the surcharge for abortion services. … So come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation.’”

These are encouraging signs and a departure from the prevailing head-in-the-sand mentality that has characterized most evangelical church leadership for much of the past 100 years.

MYTH:  Christian leaders are obligated to obey every edict of the civil magistrate without resistance of any kind, in accordance with Rom. 13:1.

It is the responsibility of church leadership to inform the civil magistrate when his law does not conform to God’s law.  It may also be the responsibility of church leadership to disobey such a law because the church is a separate legal jurisdiction.  The great failing of church leadership in America today is its refusal to proclaim the law of the King of kings to the civil magistrate.

For John the Baptist, announcing Christ’s authority to Rome was as much a part of “preparing the way for the Lord” as was his ministry of baptism (Ps 2:10-12).  Baptism was John’s “priestly” preparation, but he was also announcing to Rome that a new King had arrived and Rome must obey His law:   Mt. 14:4,5 – “For John had been saying to him (Herod), ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.”  That was the kingly preparation.

This would make proclaiming God’s law to local magistrates as much a part of the job description of church leadership, as baptizing new converts.  This kind of interposition is not an option.  That’s the reason early Christians were sent to the lions: they boldly proclaimed, “there is another king, Jesus and His law is supreme.” Rome could care less how much they baptized.

The Failure of Modern Church Leadership

Our civil leadership today at every level is guilty as Rome in defying the law of God.  How does American church leadership respond to this?  From what I’ve seen across the board, it’s pretty much apathy — none of our concern.  Is not that very apathy and rejecting the duty of interposition that has led to our current desperate plight?

The most energetic response the contemporary church can muster at this time of crisis seems to be scheduling the next church picnic or rock concert.  But, throughout the Bible we see church leaders standing before kings and taking the initiative to instruct civil leaders in the law of God.  We may protest that we have no time, but John the Baptist was probably short on time also.

If we don’t start taking God’s law seriously in the matter of interposition how can we avoid His displeasure or judgment of even our worship, just as He smote Uzza in the midst of a very charismatic worship service (I Chr 13:9,10).  “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination” (Pr. 28:9).

One pastor indicated to me that has denomination had made several overtures to the Obama Administration a while back.  There was no response and therefore that fulfills the church’s responsibility.  That was a good start toward interposition, but refusal of the evil “king” to respond to this and many other appeals leads necessarily to the 2nd Biblical step.  That is appeal to the local or lesser magistrate to fulfill his oath-bound duty to position himself between the people and the evil king.  That is the Biblical answer to tyranny, seen many times in the book of Judges (e.g. 3:9; 4:2,3; 6: 6-12).

Failure to do this leaves the congregation and the community exposed to the wrath of God, as was the case with David’s census.  Almost every day we see outrageous assaults on our freedom.  These are doubtless orchestrated gradually by God in mercy to wake us up.

America is under the authority of a man who 1) defies the law of God in the most audacious manner and 2) is intent on using his executive power to enslave the people.  We have economic insanity, strip searches in airports, the government encouraging people to spy on each other in 4,000 WalMart stores, the FCC taking initial steps to neutralize the internet, and much more.

This is all right out of the “1984” playbook.  Or more specifically the “Rules for Radicals” playbook for Communist takeover as taught by Mr. Obama in Chicago.  This is a direct result of an isolationist church that refuses to represent the Kingship of Christ to the civil magistrate.  It is in danger of being thrown out and trodden under foot by men.

The Biblical Doctrine of Local Interposition

The doctrine of interposition is seen throughout the book of Judges and summarized by Calvin in Chapter XX, par. 31, pp. 1518-1519 as follows:

“For if there are now any magistrates of the people, appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings…I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.”

Calvin here denounces failure of leaders to interposition at the local level in the strongest terms.  He is calling for the “magistrates of the people” to refuse obedience to the lawless king and not to “wink” at him as the Nazis blindly followed the orders of Hitler.

Mr. Obama has been advised by the godfather (Soros) to ignore Congress and the courts and impose his will via the agencies.  They are testing our tolerance for tyranny a step at a time.  Would our Puritan forefathers have tolerated this?  Would Patrick Henry or George Washington have tolerated this?  Would John Knox or John the Baptist have tolerated this?

The current strategy of many churches is to raise up future generations who will eventually deal decisively with these problems.  It seems to me we are passing the buck to our grandchildren or great-grandchildren to perform the work of reformation that is staring us in the face.  If we do not take the necessary Biblical action of interposition in the present I think it is more likely that our great granchildren — if any survive — will look back and curse this generation for its passive response to the clear and present danger.

Case Closed:  It is the duty of the lower magistrate, supported by the clergy, to lead the people against a tyrant who refuses to obey the law of God.  How can we expect anything but judgment from God if we refuse this duty?  Like Jonah who fled from Ninevah at first, maybe God will spare us if we turn and carry his law into the heart of our city and warn the rebellious officials.

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If John the Baptist is any kind of model for New Testament church leadership then a lot of Christian leaders have a glaring omission on their resume.

Many, if not most evangelical pastors have a stock answer for sidestepping involvement with the civil magistrate.  They will tell you that they avoid mixing church and state in the pulpit and in their ministry, but encourage members of their flock to get involved in civil government if they are so led.  As for them, they are not so led – but thanks for asking.

MYTH:  The doctrine of separation of church and state means Christian pastors must distance themselves from any involvement with civil leadership.

Most have bought into the Enlightenment doctrine of separation of church and state.  Any slight hint of church influence on matters of state is to be avoided at all costs, as the ACLU is quick to remind everybody.  As we all know, they are not shy about slapping lawsuits on any hapless person who wanders off the reservation.  Although they may chafe on occasion, many churches have been willing to go along to get along with this, the prevailing spirit of the age.

And that works out well for Caesar too – he prefers to pretend he is god rather than acknowledge that he is in any way accountable to God.  Christian pastors are a visual reminder that he might be accountable, so he prefers to avoid them.  In practice, it’s mutual avoidance, not mutual admiration.

Which brings us to a very fundamental question.  What exactly does the Bible say about the subject of political action?  The Bible speaks to every area of life, does it not? — “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work.”   What — even political action?  How can that be a good work?

Well, when you stop and think about it the only political action recorded in the Bible is that which transpires between leaders of church and state.  Search the Bible from cover to cover and there is no door-to-door distribution of brochures, no electioneering, no formal debates, no fundraisers, no elections.  Nor is there anything else that we normally associate with political action in modern America.  What kind of democracy is that anyway?

Instead, when things go awry in the body politic we see Moses in the court of Pharoah, Samuel in the court of Saul, Nathan in the court of David, Elijah in the court of Ahab.  Many other similar examples could be cited in the Old Testament.

Their message was always approximately the same:   “Excuse me Mr. King, but I’ve noticed that we seem to be getting a little bit off the track here in terms of the law of God.  What were you planning on doing to fix that?”

The clerics of the Bible seemed to ignore the doctrine of separation of church and state somewhat with impunity.  Thankfully, the ACLU wasn’t invented until the 20th Century or there could have been problems.

But that was then, this is now.  That was God dealing with His Old Testament earthly people.  Things are different now under the New Covenant with God’s heavenly people.  Aren’t they?  History MythBusters decided to check it out and upon closer investigation found contrary evidence.

John the Baptist was the first major Christian leader we met up with in the pages of the New Testament.  Perhaps he could be considered a prototype.  The Bible records that John the Baptist was sent “to prepare the way of the Lord.”   In some less dramatic sense we reasoned, are not Christian pastors likewise sent “to prepare the way of the Lord” in their own sphere of influence?

Would it not follow that church leaders should look to John the Baptist as an example for what it means “to prepare the way of the Lord?”  What exactly does it mean to “prepare the way of the Lord?”  That was a key question for the investigation.

What’s the first thing that pops to mind when you hear the words, “John the Baptist.”  Well, probably “baptism” right?  We know that John was a baptist (small b, although some of my friends would claim otherwise).

What else do we know about John besides the fact that he was into organic gardening? This brings us to the other hidden dimension of the life of John the Baptist, which History MythBusters uncovered.  This is the secret side of John’s life that is rarely discussed.  After some careful detective work, we found it hidden in plain sight in the gospel of Mark, Chapter Six.

It appears from the record that John the Baptist had somehow gone out of his way to get himself into the court of Herod.  What in the world was John doing in the court of Herod, the local representative of Rome?

It turns out he was proclaiming the crown rights of King Jesus over Rome in very practical terms.  John insisted that Rome was subject to the law of God.  “It is not lawful for you to have this man’s wife,” is the sum and substance of what we were able to glean of John’s message to Herod.

Most Christians know that John the Baptist was in prison at the time of his death when Herodias tricked Herod into killing him.  But why was John the Baptist in prison in the first place, we wondered.

Most Christians assume that he was in prison because Herod was persecuting him for his faith.  If that was your assumption you would be wrong – it was just the opposite.  Herod was trying to protect John and prison was the safest place for him.  Herod’s prison was the 1st Century version of the Hanoi Hilton.

And who was Herod trying to protect John from and why was he trying to protect him?  If you guessed Herodias, you would be correct.  She was not a woman to forget a snub.  But beneath his gruff exterior, Herod had a soft spot for John the Baptist.  How do we know this?  Strange as it seems, John was building a relationship with the tyrant.  They were actually friends.

He certainly had mixed emotions about John.  In the beginning Herod feared John because his exposition of God’s righteous law pricked his conscience.  He was very perplexed by John, but Mark the evangelist reported that he enjoyed listening to him (Mark 6:20).  That was why it grieved Herod when Herodias manipulated him into having John executed.

Case Closed:  In preparing “the way for the Lord” John the Baptist declared His priestly and prophetic ministry in the Jordan  River.  “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” he declared.  When Jesus came up from His baptism, God Himself affirmed His priestly and prophetic ministry:  “This is my beloved Son…. With whom I am well-pleased.”

Only one thing remained for John to do: He had to prepare the way for the Kingly ministry of Christ and that task could only be accomplished in the palace of Herod.  It is clear that he felt a particular burden in this regard.  Pastor, if you have rejected political action and delegated it completely to your congregation, you are neglecting a major line item on your Biblical job description.

Rather than having no responsibility for “political action,” it turns out that Christian pastors are the key players in Biblical political action.   But you are probably thinking, what do I do?   How do I start?  Like anything else it takes practice.  History MythBusters will be exploring the practical aspects of this responsibility in our next case report:

MYTHBUSTERS CASE#3b: The Apolitical Pastor Equipped