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Matthew

22:15-22

 

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

(ESV)

 

Both Kingdoms

Thursday of Advent 2

12 December 2013

Lutherans have always taught a distinction between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of this world (Jn 18:36; Mt 22:21). Both kingdoms are God's possession and creation. But they are ruled in completely different ways. The kingdom of this world is ruled by law. The kingdom of Christ is cared for and ruled by Christ through the word of the gospel. Even though both kingdoms are God's and may interpenetrate each other, the two kingdoms have quite different goals. The kingdom of the world is intended by God to keep order and civil peace and tranquility. In the kingdom of Christ, there is tranquility for conscience and peace in the presence of God. This peace is worked by the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross. The King offers Himself for the citizens of His kingdom. He rules not by the consent of the people, but consents to rule by offering Himself unto death for the people.

 

Each kingdom must be maintained. In the sixteenth century, there were a cadre of radical reformers who so confused the two kingdoms that they refused to believe that Christians could or should act as citizens in the kingdom of the world. They thought that one could not be a Christian; a citizen in the kingdom of Christ and also participate in the orders of creation in the kingdom of this world. These radicals, called Anabaptists, went so far as to recommend that people abandon their families so that they would not be entangled by the covenants and promises of this world. They also denied that Christians could serve as government officials or judges in the courts of justice.

 

Today, American Evangelicals have turned the Anabaptist view on its head, by attempting to turn the kingdom of this world into God's kingdom. In other words, they have attempted to trump Caesar's law. However, the only way to trump law is with law. Votes, campaigns, majorities, and petition drives become the church's weapons against the government. The church jettisons the gospel to gain the power to coerce Caesar with the law. A gospel-less church is not worth the name. Both the sixteenth-century Anabaptists and modern Evangelicals have attempted to dissolve the difference between the two kingdoms; the Anabaptists by denying Christians any involvement in the things of this world and the Evangelicals by trying to hijack the world away from Caesar.

 

When I was a college student, I was in a Latin seminar with one other student. The professor had the reputation, which was in part deserved, for being the toughest and most uncompromising teacher on the campus. This made the need for complete preparation quite evident. Unfortunately, my classmate often failed to be prepared to translate. Terrifyingly, that left all the work to me. One Monday morning, my classmate arrived again unprepared. The professor had had enough. He quizzed my classmate about his reason for coming unprepared. He replied, "I am sorry, Professor, I spent the weekend at the Law Quadrangle on the campus of the University of Michigan witnessing for Christ." The professor said, "Michael, are you a student? If so, you must act like a student. That is your vocation right now. You must do that first. Will you do that for me?" The point is that the student should do his work of learning and studying. He could be a Christian student rendering unto God what belongs to God, rendering unto Caesar the things of Caesar. Both kingdoms have their place in our lives.

 

Augsburg Confession

 

"Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God. They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to execute legal contracts, to own property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage (Rm 13; 1Co 7:2).

 

"Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these political offices to Christians. They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but place it in forsaking political offices. For the gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart (Rm 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. The gospel very much requires that they be preserved as God's ordinances and that love be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore, it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws. The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)."

 

  Augsburg Confession, 16

 

Prayer

Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

For Wayne Galler, that the Lord Jesus would give him strength and a full recovery according to His good and gracious will

 

For all magistrates and government ministers, that they might serve the common good faithfully

 

For marital harmony and concord, that the Lord of the church would be with married couples giving them strength to serve and honor one another

Art: WEYDEN, Rogier van der  Annunciation Triptych  (c. 1440)

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