This is Phil Johnson. Welcome to a special edition of Grace to You with John MacArthur. We've interrupted our regular schedule to bring you a message that John preached just a few days ago, titled, Calling Rulers to Repentance.
Now, before the message, a quick timeline will be helpful. Less than two weeks ago, John wrote an open letter to the governor of California out of a desire to honor the Lord Jesus and out of a concern for the governor's spiritual condition. John was motivated to write the letter because of billboards that Governor Newsom had put up in several American states, specifically states with the most restrictive laws against abortion, because the California governor wanted to assure women across the country that they are welcome to come have abortions in California.
But what's worse, the billboards included a quote from Mark chapter 12 with the words of Jesus himself, blasphemously claiming that abortion is a loving procedure and that God endorses it. So John called on his congregation to pray for Governor Newsom, and he wrote the open letter that I mentioned, which called the governor to repentance. And a few days later, John sat down with me for an interview on this matter.
We aired that interview Monday this week. And then the Sunday before last, John preached the message that we aired the first half of yesterday on the program, and we're going to wrap that up today. So with that, follow along now as John MacArthur continues his very timely message, titled, Calling Rulers to Repentance.
Now, as you know, last Sunday at the conclusion of the service, I invited you to pray for the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and I did that purposely because obviously we would love to see him come to Christ. I think probably all of you know that we wrote him a letter, an open letter, since he is very open about advocating the things that dishonor God. We are also open about calling him to faith and repentance, and we have done that.
And there has obviously been an amazing response to that coming from a lot of angles, but for the most part very encouraging to us. But in the light of that, I want to give you a kind of a biblical framework for confronting rulers. Some have questioned why would you do that, and I want to show you how this is the calling of the church, as it has been for God's people throughout redemptive history. The church exists in the world really with one mission, and that is defined for us in the Great Commission. Listen to the words of our Lord Himself, Matthew 28, 19, and 20. The command to His followers is this, "'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all that I commanded you, and behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age.'"
Summing it up, it is to proclaim the gospel, the gospel of forgiveness of sins by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that makes one a disciple who lives in obedience to the commands of God. That is the gospel. That's why the church is in the world. That's what we need to be doing.
That is our whole calling. But there's another text that I want to add, and it's found in 1 Timothy chapter 2, so turn to 1 Timothy chapter 2. Now the context here is salvation. Since God desires salvation, if He desires salvation from all kinds of men, if He desires them to come to the knowledge of the truth, that is why He has provided salvation through the ransom of verse 6, for all provided by Christ Jesus. So the context is salvation. One God and only one, therefore only one true religion. One mediator and only one, the man Christ Jesus, therefore only one Savior.
One ransom for all, the only ransom, and thus one gospel, one way of salvation. Because of God's salvation plan and because God desires all kinds of men in all stratas and nations and tribes and tongues and peoples, as heaven will show in the book of Revelation, we are to pray for the salvation of all men, but especially for those who rule over us because that conversion at that level changes culture dramatically. So when things aren't the way you would like them to be, yes, we recognize sin has consequences. Yes, we recognize divine judgment is operating. But still the promise here is that we should pray for the conversion of rulers because it will change life as we know it. So we need to know that this is God's calling for us. Though it may seem hard, though there are a lot of things we don't like about the people in power over us, we would do an act of disobedience against our calling if we did not pray for our ruler's salvation. And that goes not only for governors, but all rulers all the way to the presidency and across the world.
It's a challenging thing to confront them. Let's go back to the preaching responsibility. You remember the story of John the Baptist, of course. John the Baptist, chapter 3 of Luke, confronted Herod the tetrarch, and John confronts him for his wickedness, which he had done. And John was summarily locked up in prison. You go to Matthew 14, you read the rest of the story, and over this John lost his head. His head was served on a platter to Herod. It cost John his life to be honest with a ruler, to present the truth to a ruler. It cost Jesus his life to present the truth to a ruler. He spoke to Pilate. He spoke to Caiaphas.
Collectively they all came together and had him executed. And then there was Paul. In the ninth chapter of the book of Acts where we have the account of his conversion, there's a comment there that is tied into his calling.
It's a very direct comment. Chapter 9 and verse 15. The Lord said to him, to Ananias after the Damascus Road conversion, the Lord says about Paul, He is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake. He was called to go in front of kings. This has always been God's plan. You can go all the way back and start with Moses turning Pharaoh and come all the way through church history.
In fact, it's only in the modern era that the church has not done this. How sad is that? How sad is that? That's our calling. It doesn't go well.
I understand that. They killed the prophets. They killed John the Baptist. They killed the Lord Jesus. They killed the apostles. They killed the faithful preachers through church history. But it doesn't change the mission or the responsibility. And you might ask, is there any indication that this can be successful? These people become so wretched.
Is there any hope for them? Well, we don't know anything about Sergius Paulus, but he repented. And in the Old Testament, by the way, the king of Nineveh repented.
But let me just give you two illustrations of the fact that it can happen. Open your Bible to Daniel chapter 4, and let me reintroduce you to the king of the universe, as he called himself, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar built a 90-foot high idol of himself overlaid with gold, and demanded that everybody bow down and worship. And when the three Jewish young men wouldn't bow down, he threw them in the fiery furnace.
You know that. The Lord protected them. But he demanded deity. He demanded to be the one worshiped. He was as wretched a man as is imaginable.
Is there any hope for a man like that? Well, you have to hear his own testimony. Look at Daniel chapter 4. This is Nebuchadnezzar's testimony. Nebuchadnezzar, the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth, king of the earth. May your peace abound. This is Nebuchadnezzar signing in. This is from me to you.
In ancient letters, they introduced who the author is at the front. And this is what he said. May your peace abound. It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation."
Whoa. He was the king of the whole universe. Something dramatic happened. Notice his first-person testimony, and you can see it in verse 4, I, Nebuchadnezzar. Verse 5, I saw a dream. And you go through that whole chapter, and he gives this amazing testimony about a dream and about finding Daniel, who interpreted the dream.
And the dream, as you remember, was bad news for him, really bad news. He was told, go down to verse 24, here is the decree of the Most High, verse 25, that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place, be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle, and be drenched with the dew of heaven. And seven periods, seven years will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. In verse 27, therefore, O King, may my advice be pleasing to you, says Daniel. Break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity. Daniel's interpreting the dream, saying it's not looking good for you. Seven years, you're going to have what psychologists call bowanthropy, like lycanthropy.
And this is not going to be some personal selected identity shift. You're going to think you are a cow for seven years. Twelve months later, verse 29, it hadn't come to pass, and Nebuchadnezzar was feeling pretty good about himself as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon. The king reflected and said, Is this not Babylon, the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty."
Pride. While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven years you will be unable really to enter into civilization again. You will live like an animal until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagle's feathers and his nails like bird claws. The humbling, seven years of it. Verse 34, at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, back to the first-person account, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever, for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth, and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, What have You done? At that time my reason returned to me, and my majesty and splendor were restored to me, for the glory of my kingdom and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out. So I was reestablished, and my sovereignty and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways righteous, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride. What an amazing conversion, isn't it? Amazing conversion. There's one more amazing conversion, and that's King Manasseh. In the mid-seventh century, Manasseh, as the story about him provided for us in 2 Kings chapter 21, so turn to it.
We'll just take a few moments looking at it. It's such a powerful story. Second Kings 21, verse 1, Manasseh was 12 years old when he became king, but what does verse 2 say about him? He did evil in the sight of the Lord.
Now that's familiar. If you're reading about the kings of Judah and Israel, you see that he did evil in the sight of the Lord like his fathers, or he did good in the sight of the Lord like his father. They're all basically compared to their father, but not Manasseh. No, he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. You couldn't even use another Jewish king as an illustration of his wretchedness because it was pagan. You can only compare him to the abominations of the Canaanites. And down in verse 11 it says, his abominations were worse than all the Amorites. And the Amorites had at least 16 deities and all unimaginable wretchedness. He couldn't even be compared to any other Jewish king, the most wicked of all kings in the 330-year history of his people.
How do you get that evil, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice, idolatry, polytheism? Verse 3, he can only be compared to the wretched unbelievers because he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed, erected altars for Baal, made an asherah as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He worshiped the sun, moon, stars, planets. He was syncretistic. He placed altars all over the temple, all over the temple courtyard, even in the Holy of Holies.
He filled the streets of Jerusalem with statues. He was the worst of the worst, the most ungodly. The end of the story is in 2 Chronicles 33, 2 Chronicles 33.
It's a surprise ending. 2 Chronicles 33, 10, the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore, the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. He was humiliated just the way Nebuchadnezzar was.
He was chained and marched off on what was a four-month walk to Babylon in humiliation. Verse 12, when he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to him, he was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication.
Did you hear that? Nebuchadnezzar was moved by his supplication, his plea, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
He rebuilt. Down in verse 16, he set up the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it and ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed in the high places, although only to the Lord their God. They were still syncretistic.
There was only one altar. That was in Jerusalem in the temple. They had many, and so it was a syncretism that continued. The rest of the acts of Manasseh, even his prayer to God, his God, I love that, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God, which means there were people talking to him, there were prophets talking to him, calling him to repentance. All of it is part of the record of the kings of Israel. His prayer also, and how God was entreated by him in all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and all the sites on which he built high places, idols, and erected the Asherim and the carved images before he humbled himself.
Behold, they are written in the records of the Hosei. So Manasseh slept with his fathers. Manasseh is the worst.
He's the worst. God humbled him, and he came to believe. You're going to see Manasseh in heaven. One final testimony of one final person in authority. Go back to where we started, 1 Timothy 1. Back to where we started. We were in 1 Timothy 2.
Go back to 1. There was another monumental conversion of someone in authority, and here is his testimony, 1 Timothy 1.12. This is Paul the apostle. "'I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor, yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.'" Forget Nebuchadnezzar, forget Manasseh, I'm the worst. I had authority. I had authority to imprison, to slaughter Christians. I was a persecutor.
I was a violent aggressor. I was a blasphemer. No way could I be in the kingdom, except that God showed me mercy. The grace of our Lord was more than abundant with faith and love found in Christ Jesus, and it is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, not so much for my sake, but so that in me as the foremost sinner, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. What's Paul saying?
You're never too far because Jesus will save those who are the worst of sinners to demonstrate His perfect patience and grace with even the worst. Paul concludes with the doxology, now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever, amen. He is a man of authority, a man with power over life and death, a man representing government power who was saved by grace, and he was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor and an unbeliever, and the Lord saved him.
Why does he do that? Why does he save such wretched people? Because that's how he demonstrates His grace, right?
You're never beyond that possibility. And so that's why in chapter 2 he says, pray, pray, pray for kings and all who are in authority that they may be saved. That's part of our ministry.
Let's pray together. Father, we thank You again for, as we always do, the truth of Your precious Word. The message comes out at the end, as it always does, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, that no one is going to be saved by works. You're saved by grace through faith.
Works isn't going to get you anywhere. But the good news is that even the worst of sinner is not beyond divine grace. They have to hear, and we need to continue to pray. So, Lord, may we be faithful to pray for those in leadership, pray for those in authority, as well as take every opportunity to proclaim the gospel to them and to all others.
Let them know that the ransom has been paid by Christ if they'll repent and put their trust in Him. This is our mission in the world. May the church be faithfully focused on it. We pray for Your glory. Amen. Thanks for tuning in to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm Phil Johnson. We broke from our regular schedule to bring you today's lesson titled, Calling Rulers to Repentance. The content was so timely, we wanted to make sure you heard it as soon as possible. So now to hear this message in its entirety or to watch it on video, you'll find it at GTY.org. We also will send you a free copy of today's message on CD. It might be helpful for passing this sermon along to a friend. All you have to do is ask for the CD.
And for even more help in bringing biblical truth to bear on these morally upside-down times, John has written a booklet called Chaos, Corruption, and the Christian Response. If you'd like a copy of the booklet, just request it, and it's yours. Again, to receive the booklet, the CD, or both with our compliments, contact us today. Our number here is 855-GRACE, and our website GTY.org. And for regular mail, you can use this address, Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Again, we will send you a free copy of the booklet titled, Chaos, Corruption, and the Christian Response, and we'll also send you the sermon that we aired yesterday and today titled, Calling Rulers to Repentance. It's a full-length sermon on a single CD.
Just ask for the free CD and the free booklet when you call us, 855-GRACE, or you can request those at GTY.org. Well, friend, thank you for praying for grace to you. It's a vital ministry to us. And as John MacArthur has exhorted us over the past few days, pray for our government rulers. Pray for your local leaders, for your governor, your senators, your representatives, and for the president. Pray that God would be merciful in their lives and that He may bring many to repentance and to humble faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. We are back to our regular schedule tomorrow, so be here for another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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