Those In Authority Ministers of God—Continued
I here affirm that every man, woman, and child who is not enlightened by the grace of God is an anarchist, a rebel at heart! Paul says, “Let every soul be subject to the powers that be;” every individual “soul,” put your soul, your affections, your joys and sorrows in subjection to the powers that be! He does not simply say that you must be subjected, but let every soul subject himself. That can only be done by grace! We feel that very, very much when we read I Peter 2:13-21. Peter knew what it meant to be thrown into prison. He had stood before the Sanhedrin and had said, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts 5:29. He said this when they forbade him to preach any longer in the name of Jesus. This same Peter writes in I Peter 2:13, ff. as follows: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. AS free, and not using your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” And notice this: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. . . . . For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
So those in authority must be obeyed!
Of course, you understand that such obedience is more than that which could possibly spring from the fountain of natural light. The Canons of Dordt, III, IV, Art. 4, we read about the natural light the unbeliever has. Subjecting one’s self to authority for God’s sake is not possible by so-called “common grace.” It is not possible by anyone who has merely the light of nature. We read here in Art. 4: “There remain, however, in man since the fall the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an external orderly deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”
This we can apply to all the rulers of this world, who are not Christians—yea, to your and my sinful heart and nature! We do not speak here of the bowing before authorities by virtue of the light of nature, or by virtue of some innate goodness, or because of some high and lofty “Americanism.” Paul is speaking here of those who can be addressed by the mercies of God! We speak here of those whom God has picked up from the miry clay and has taken away all our disobedience, and has put his law in our hearts, thus having a new obedience, a new commandment through the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ. This is thus inscribed in our hearts so that it will never be erased, nay, not unto all eternity.
Thus we shall be perfect citizens under the scepter of the LORD of lords, and the KING of kings.
That is our first proposition.
The Gospel-Ministry and Those In Authority
My second proposition I find taught by the Apostle to the Gentiles in I Timothy 2:1-7. It is: the Gospel ministry is, in Scripture, ever most closely associated with those in authority. In I Timothy 2:1-7 they are joined very closely. A little survey of this passage will demonstrate this.
We, in the past, have become acquainted with this passage in I Timothy 2:1-7, particularly in our battle with those who teach that God wills j to save all men, every man; who teach that it is the good-pleasure of God that Christ, would die for every man, woman, and child that comes from Adam. And we know that the Christian Reformed Churches, as well as their spokesmen, have quoted this passage to show that the Scriptures here teach a well-meant offer of salvation to all men, or at least a favorable attitude of God to all men! And this favorable attitude indicates that God has the intention of somehow making all the objects of his common favor. Thus we became acquainted with this passage in a negative and in a rather polemical situation in our handling of the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. However, we must bear in mind that that does not exhaust what Paul has to say here. Paul has something positive to teach us concerning prayer!
We must notice what this positive instruction of the Word is.
Paul is not speaking here, first of all, against certain heresies, but is teaching us in this passage concerning the manner of our prayers for all men and for kings and all who are in authority in the dispensation of the ministry of the Gospel—all for the Gentiles.
We must listen very, very carefully to what he teaches us here. He teaches us in this passage that it is well-pleasing to God that we pray for all men and for kings. Writes he, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wall have all men saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth.” That God is here denominated “Savior” does not refer to him simply as the creator and the ruler of the world, but refers to him as he is the “Savior” in our Lord Jesus Christ; for I Timothy 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.” God is here the Savior in the Mediator, as he saves us from our sins. We have a similar passage in Chapter 4:10, “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those who believe.” In other words, we live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, the acceptable year of the Lord, in which the over-all truth and anchor point is that there is one God, Savior, one mediator of God and men.
Notice further that Paul emphatically teaches here that in this dispensation that he has been made a preacher, a herald (keerux),—a preacher of the Gospel amongst the Gentiles. He affirms this with an oath: I lie not! God will use Paul’s ministry to gather the church, the elect from the Gentiles, that they might be brought to the knowledge of the truth, as he writes, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity,” vs. 7.
Lastly, in this connection, let us notice, that both Paul as a preacher and all men, kings and all who are in authority, are in the hands of God, the one God through Jesus Christ. He is supreme! Otherwise we could not pray, if he did not have the entire situation in his hand! All is in his control!
We ought to notice, furthermore, that it is definitely themotive of the preaching of the Gospel that is controlling in history. We do not agree with the late Dr. Kuyper, who in his Stone Lectures develops the thesis that the course of the history of the world must be traced over old Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Macedonia, Rome, Islam, and Western Europe from the days of Charles the Great, which is then called the world of “Calvinism.” We do not agree with this Weltunschauung, that life-and-worldview of Kuyper. Not at all! We hold that we must say: church history is world history! The history of the world is, rightly considered, the history of the church. We see this very clearly in the Ante-Diluvian period as recorded in the book of Genesis, where the generation of Cain in their culture perishes and leaves the scene of time and history, while the generations of Seth continue over Noah, Abraham, David, Christ. That is where we see the genealogy. There is really only one genealogy in the Bible; it is the genealogy of the birth of Jesus Christ. That genealogy ends when he is born. He is the last Adam, the fulfillment of history. World history, we repeat, is church history.
In the New Testament we meet with the same presentation concerning the history of the world as being church history! Christ says to his disciples, “Unto me is given all power in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:18, 19. And the Lord Jesus adds his comforting promise, “And lo I am with you always (all the days), even to the end of the world.” John, according to Rev. 5, weeps much when he sees that there is no one worthy to open the scroll which is on the right hand of Him that sitteth on the throne. There was none found in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth who is worthy. Then he is comforted: “Weep no more! Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David hath overcome in order that he might open the scroll and the seven seals.” And when the Lamb breaks the first seal, a voice from the throne says, “Go forth!” And the four horse-men ride through history: the white horse, the red horse, the black horse, and the pale horse. Each horse has a rider. Thus also inZechariah 1 the four horses and their riders are under the myrtle trees. But notice: the white horse in each case goes up in the lead; it is the controlling motive in history. It is the Gospel-course of our Lord Jesus Christ as he goes forth conquering and to conquer, gathering the church, chosen to everlasting life, from the beginning of the world to the end of time out of the entire human race, from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation! When the church is gathered, then shall be the end! And since the white horse leads, goes out first, all the other horses follow and are subservient to the white horse. All of history centers around the church and the Gospel-preaching through which the Holy Spirit works faith. For this reason peace must be taken from the earth, according to Zechariah, that Jerusalem may be saved and glorified.
The center of all things in history is the peace of Jerusalem!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
I would still like to mention a few particulars concerning the text in I Tim. 2:1-7, more specifically concerning the term “all men” and “for kings”, and that it means that we pray for them. In the first place, I call your attention to the fact that in the text here “all men” does not mean “every man.” Also the term “whole world” never means “every” man; all men never means every man. “All” in Scripture often refers to “all kinds.” We read in Matthew 4:23 “. . . and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Here the KJV has translated “all diseases” by “all manner of diseases.” Correctly so. This is interpretation on the part of the KJV, but it is correctly giving the sense of “all.” In Luke 11:42 we read that Jesus chides the Pharisees that they “tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs.” This does not mean that they tithed all the herbs under the sun, but all kinds of herbs, including every genus and species of herbs. Thus we read too inEphesians 1:3, “Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places,” which certainly must mean every kind of spiritual blessing. This must refer to the blessings of redemption, of justification and sanctification and glorification in Christ Jesus in all the church, the blessings of his elective love: all kinds of spiritual blessings. And, again, in I Cor. 10:25 Paul enjoins the church to buy all that is in the shambles. This certainly does not mean that they must buy out the owner of the shambles, but rather that every kind of merchandise sold in the shambles was permissible to be bought. They need not count anything unclean, even if it had been offered to idols. Nothing in the shambles is to be considered taboo!
This, of course, has implication for the “all men” for whom we are enjoined to pray, including kings and all who are in authority.
(to be continued)