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No King But Caesar
With the Easter message fresh on my mind, I am again reminded of what the Jewish leaders said to Pilate when they tried to coerce him to crucify Jesus. They said, “We have no king but Caesar.” Remember, these were the Jewish Pharisees, scribes, elders, priests, and high priests. They prided themselves in being scholars of the Torah. They believed themselves to be the sole interpreters of the Mosaic Law. Yet, the very First Commandment of the Decalogue handed down to Moses is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” But in order to stay in the good graces of the Roman government, they emphatically proclaimed that they recognized no king but Caesar.
Remember, Caesar insisted that everyone recognize him to be, not only king, but God. To be loyal to Rome, one had to acknowledge the deity of Caesar. One could worship any other god that one wanted to, as long as Caesar was acknowledged as Sovereign. Historians famously say that there were as many gods in Rome as people. Rome prided itself in being religiously pluralistic and tolerant. First Century Christians were not persecuted because they worshipped Jesus; they were persecuted because they refused to worship Caesar; they refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Caesar. It was for this reason that early Christians were fed to lions and made sport of in the amphitheaters.
In their desire to use the Roman government to advance their own agenda (crucifying Christ and later His disciples and apostles), the Jewish leaders were quite willing to acknowledge the deity and sovereignty of Caesar–even though doing so was a blatant violation of the First Commandment given by Jehovah to Moses. Is it a little more than interesting that after conducting a secret, illegal trial of Jesus and blaspheming God in declaring Caesar king that they immediately afterward sat down to observe the Passover? No wonder Jesus called them “Hypocrites.”
“What does all of this have to do with modern America?” you ask. Everything!
Anytime a pastor or church uses Romans 13 to teach that Christians should submit to government “no matter what,” they are joining the First Century Jewish leaders in saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” Wittingly or unwittingly, they have made a god out of government. And by doing so, they have violated the First Commandment and blasphemed the God they claim to serve. They are like the Jewish leaders who declared unlimited submission to Caesar then sat down to observe the Passover. These modern pastors and church leaders do the same thing: they declare unlimited submission to government and then go through the exercise of conducting a Christian worship service, complete with songs of praise, recitations of scripture, and collecting tithes and offerings. Are they not as guilty of blasphemy and hypocrisy as were the First Century Jewish leaders?
Another statement that leaped out at me as I rehearsed the Easter story last Sunday was spoken by the Lord Jesus. When questioned by Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36 KJV)
How many times have I heard some We-have-no-king-but-Caesar-type preacher say that Jesus’ words here mean that Christians have no right to resist or fight against evil government? If government passes a law to register your guns, Christians are bound to register their guns. If government passes a law outlawing your guns, Christians are bound to not resist. If government passes a law prohibiting praying, Christians are bound to not pray. If government passes a law authorizing the killing of unborn babies, Christians are bound to not interfere. If government passes a law requiring pastors to conduct marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples, pastors are bound to conduct marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples. If the government orders military chaplains to not pray in Jesus’ name, they must not pray in Jesus’ name. If the President declares a “national emergency” and asks people to surrender their firearms, Christians are bound to surrender their firearms. I suppose these same preachers believe that if the President wanted to pass an Executive Order initiating the ancient law of Prima Nocta (Right Of The First Night), whereby nobles (governing authorities) could sleep with a man’s bride on the night of her wedding, Christians are bound to submit to that order, too?
Yet, the vast majority of these same Christian leaders who say “don’t resist government” are the first ones to lead the cheer for foreign wars of aggression. They are the loudest and most vocal supporters of military action against governments all over the world. They proudly extol and laud acts of war by our nation’s military. They brag about the young men of their churches joining the military and going off to war. And just what is it that military troops do? They commit acts of violence and resistance against foreign governments.
Am I a pacifist? Am I promoting pacifism? Absolutely not! I am a staunch believer in the Natural, God-given right of self-defense. I believe men have an inalienable right to resist and fight against evil government–even if it sometimes means using violence–such as when America’s founders fought our country’s War for Independence. I’m merely trying to point out the hypocrisy of these modern-day preachers and Christians who try to justify their own refusal to even peacefully resist evil government at home but who then turn around and blatantly justify violent acts of resistance against government overseas.
At least the conscientious pacifist is consistent. A true pacifist would refuse to resist any and all government–regardless of how evil that government is. Of course, this would require that such people refuse to join the military, refuse to become a policeman or sheriff’s deputy, and refuse to defend themselves against any act of criminality committed against them or their family. I have known a small handful of such people. And I always encourage them to pray for those of us in America who are not pacifists–and who believe in defending the liberties of all Americans–so that they will have the freedom to practice their pacifism.
And interestingly enough, as the federal government in Washington, D.C., becomes more and more oppressive, more and more Christian leaders are preaching the doctrine of nonresistance. And when they do, they almost always justify themselves by using Jesus’ words referenced above.
However, Jesus’ words actually teach the opposite of nonresistance. Notice He said, “Then would my servants FIGHT.” That Jesus refused to resist His arrest and crucifixion is not to be construed as Him teaching nonresistance as a duty for Christians of all time.
Remember that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son who came to give His life a sacrifice for man’s sin. No other man, before or since, shares Christ’s nature, character, and mission. There is ONE mediator between God and men: the man Christ Jesus. He was born to die; He came to be crucified. No man took His life from Him: He gave it. None of us can claim such a mission or destiny. None of us!
We Christians might not be “of” this world, but we are most certainly “in” it. And Jesus prayed to keep us “in” this world. (John 17:15) We go to work in this world; we pay our bills in this world; we lock our doors at night in this world; we instruct our children to avoid certain locations and situations in this world; we sit on juries in this world; our taxes support policemen and sheriff’s deputies who arrest criminals and protect society in this world; we join “neighborhood watch” groups in this world; and we install burglar alarms in this world. Jesus did none of that. He didn’t even own a home. Are all of these pious-talking non-resistors going to give up their homes and properties because Jesus didn’t own any? Jesus didn’t marry either. So, should Christians not marry because Jesus didn’t? Again, Jesus’ life and mission were unique; no Christian can claim such a duty or purpose.
Furthermore, Jesus plainly instructed His disciples to buy a sword (Luke 22:36). The Roman sword was the most effective and efficient self-defense tool in the world at the time. The Roman sword was the First Century equivalent of the modern-day AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Realize, too, that when Jesus uttered this command, it was against the law for Hebrews to possess a sword of this type. Yes, Jesus commanded His disciples to break the law of man in order to obey the higher Natural Law of God. So much for the argument that Jesus would endorse Obama’s universal background check proposal.
For Franklin Graham and Richard Land–and other evangelical leaders–to support Barack Obama’s attempt to register and restrict the arms of the American people, is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it is blatantly unscriptural. Here is my column regarding the asinine support of universal background checks by Graham and Land: Franklin Graham On The Wrong Side Of The Bible And History
Recall, too, that at the time of His arrest in the garden, Jesus protected Simon Peter’s right to keep and bear arms when He literally knocked the soldiers off their feet with the power of His voice, which allowed Simon and the other armed disciple to leave the garden unmolested and fully armed. Yes, Jesus fully protected the disciples’ right to keep and bear arms in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Readers should also be aware that my new book, co-authored by my constitutional attorney son, Tim, entitled, “To Keep or Not To Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give Up Their Guns,” is at the printers now and will be delivered in the next few weeks. To pre-order this very relevant and powerful book, go to: Keep Your Arms.
Remember, too, that it was Jesus who violently resisted the money changers in the temple, driving them out with the force of whip and fist. This is hardly an act of nonresistance. And it is this same Jesus who will come again in power and glory subduing His enemies with the violence and force of the sword.
Furthermore, if Christ is divine (and all true Christians believe He is), Jehovah of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament are One. There is absolutely no doubt that Jehovah approved of, authorized, and directly ordered the use of violent resistance against myriads of oppressors, dictators, and despots of all kinds. To preach the doctrine of nonresistance, one must ignore the entire Old Testament, not to mention a host of New Testament passages–including Hebrews 11.
At some point, every person on earth has to determine in his or her own mind who is king. Is Christ king, or is Caesar king? This is the spiritual battle that is raging in America’s churches today. And, unfortunately, as did the Jewish leaders at the crucifixion of Jesus, many pastors and church leaders are saying, “We have no king but Caesar.”
As for me and my house, we cast our lots with America’s founders whose battle cry of the Revolutionary War was “No King but Jesus.”
Christian, make up your mind.