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Submission to Civil Authority, Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2024 4:00 am

Submission to Civil Authority, Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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June 18, 2024 4:00 am

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We approach the massive institutions of men, we approach their flawed and demonic reason, we approach their lofty pride which is exalted against the knowledge of God, we approach all the systems of men and we can tear them all down and we do it with weapons that are spiritual. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. The Bible says that Christians are strangers and pilgrims on earth, citizens of an eternal heavenly kingdom, but while we wait eagerly for our glorious future, we're called to be active in this world, to be witnesses for Christ in our neighborhoods and in our nations.

The question is, how do you do that? Live like a citizen of God's kingdom and still obey your political leaders, particularly when they reject biblical principles. John MacArthur tackles that controversial issue today, continuing his current study titled, Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land. So follow along now as John begins today's lesson. Let me encourage you to open your Bible, if you will, right now to 1 Peter chapter 2. First Peter chapter 2, and I want us to look together at verses 13 through 17.

First Peter 2, 13 through 17. Peter writes, Submit yourselves, for the Lord's sake, to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God.

Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Now this great text of Scripture basically has at its heart the statement in verse 15, that it is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. The point of the whole section of exhortation is that we as Christians are to live in such a way that by our exemplary lives we stop the mouths of those who criticize our faith.

We are to live a life that is above criticism, a life that is above reproach, a life that is above shame. How you live as a Christian is the greatest apologetic for the evidence of the transforming power of the gospel. There is really no greater way for people to see the transforming power of the gospel than to see the life of a transformed person.

It then is the greatest apologetic. It is the foundation of all of our witness. The powerful witness comes when a person gives someone the gospel who has already laid a foundation of having shown that person a transformed life. Peter here then is saying that it's essential that you live your lives in such a way that your testimony becomes believable. We are to live in such a way that in spite of all of the false accusations and all of the hatred and all of the hostility, we might still turn the hearts of people to Christ by the evident transformation of our lives.

So what Peter really has in mind here, if I may remind you of what I said last time, is a two-fold reason for this. And basically the underlying thing is he wants to silence the critics and bring them to faith in Christ. It's evangelistic. It is an evangelistic purpose. Now let's look at the text.

The first point is the command. The second point is the motive. The second point is the motive. And he says it as clearly as it could be said, submit yourselves for the Lord's sake. Why are we doing this? Because of the Lord, literally. Because of the Lord.

For the Lord's sake. Because it is the way you honor Him. It is the way you respond to Him. How is that?

Well, I can give you a couple of ways. First of all, to submit yourselves for the Lord's sake means to submit yourself because He demands it. So you are doing it in obedience to Him. It is to obey Him. Since there is no authority except God and those authorities which exist are all established by God, that when you respond submissively to the authority, you are doing it for the sake of the Lord who instituted the authority. When a leader in the society says do this, you do it. When the police say get up and move over here, you get up and move over there because that is what the Bible tells you to do.

Why do you do it? Because of the Lord. Because of the Lord, why? Because the Lord has called us to obey the authorities because the authorities are ordained by God and it is a matter of obedience. It is a matter of obedience.

It is simply that. We are obeying what God has said for us to do. And somebody comes along and says, well, how are we going to accomplish our goal if we obey the police? Are we so foolish as to believe that if we disobey the police which disobeys the word of God, we can accomplish something for the kingdom of God? What kind of weapons do we want to use? Carnal ones.

But you see, typically we fall weakly into those kinds of things. Listen to Jeremiah 24, 4, Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, Thus says the Lord God of Israel, Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them into this land again, and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them a heart to know me, for I am the Lord, and they will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with their whole heart. In other words, God says, in spite of you being in the land of the Chaldeans, where we understand they buried live babies in walls in jars when they built new buildings, in that kind of pagan culture, which had all kinds of bad situations, He says, As long as you're there, don't you ever forget why you're there, and don't you ever forget My hand is upon you, and I will restore you to the place where I want you to be.

I'm in charge of you. You do not accomplish in society anything for God when you violate what God has designed for your conduct in society. That is to stoop to the wrong methodology. That is, the end justifies the means, and the end can never be attained. For it is God who is in control. So responding submissively to the authority is responding to God's ordained rule. Robert Culver writing in his book, a very helpful book on a biblical view of civil government, says, God alone has sovereign rights. Democratic theory is no less unscriptural than divine right monarchy. By whatever means, men come to positions of rulership. By dynastic descent, aristocratic family connection, plutocratic material resources, or by democratic election, there is no power but of God. Furthermore, civil government is an instrument, not an end. Men are proximate ends, but only God is ultimate end. The state owns neither its citizens nor their properties, minds, bodies, or children.

All of these belong to their Creator God, who has never given to the state rights of eminent domain. What I want you to understand is that God controls and owns it all, and what we want to do is recognize that and recognize that He has ordained government to keep the peace in society, and He has commanded us to submit to that. And you do not accomplish the divine end by violating the divine law. There's a second reason why I believe, or a second motive why I believe we are to submit, and that is not only to obey the Lord, but to imitate the Lord. Not only to obey Him, but to imitate Him. Would you notice, please, in verse 21, it says of this same text, 1 Peter 2, that Christ left us an example.

And then in verse 23, it shows us what that example was. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. While He was suffering, He uttered no threats. He just kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Jesus, when He was on earth, was murdered by the coming together of two authorities, the Jewish authority and the Roman authority. He lived under their unjust and unrighteous rule for His life, yet He never attacked the government. He never attacked the rulers. He never attacked those in authority. He never led a protest. He never led civil disobedience. He never led a demonstration against Roman abuses. He never led a demonstration against the sins of Jewish leaders. He never led a demonstration against the sins of Gentile leaders.

He never even protested when they violated every law of justice in His own trial. He spoke only of the kingdom of God. He called sinners to repent, come to Him, and enter His kingdom. And He simply kept entrusting Himself to the God who judges righteously, and He knew God would do right because God was sovereign and the whole world was in His control. He spoke only of the kingdom, as I said, and He called sinners into it.

He never got Himself involved in any of the earthly activities. He was no threat to Rome's government, though they accused Him of it, and the false charge of that accusation became the reason by which He was executed. So, when Peter says, submit yourselves because of the Lord, it is because we are to obey Him and because we are to imitate Him. Thirdly, we want to do it in order to glorify Him, because He is honored. He is honored when He is seen as the source of virtuous, gracious, peacemaking people. That honors Him.

That honors Him. Robert Haldane many years ago wrote that the people of God ought to consider resistance to the government under which they live is a very awful crime, a very awful crime, because it detracts from the glory of Christ. It shows Christians in anger, hostility, rebellion. That's not honoring to God. To see us in peace, in graciousness, in kindness, does honor God. To see us in virtue, obedience, submissiveness, humility, that honors our Christ. Frankly, I believe it is sad to see Christians who set the example of public civil disobedience, Christians who set the example of the violation of law, Christians who harass the police, because if we are the righteous, then what will the unrighteous feel that they should do? If we are the virtuous of society, if we are the righteous who serve the God who ordained government, how can we defy the very God and the very government He has ordained? And if we set the example who are the righteous, then what will the unrighteous do? Look at Romans 13 again, verse 5.

Paul further explains Peter's point. He says, Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection. It is necessary. This is not optional. This is not optional. It is necessary. It is necessary. Look at this. Not only because of wrath.

Now wait a minute. What do you mean because of wrath? For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you'll have praise from the same. For it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword for nothing. For it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. The police, that's what he's talking about, those who bear the sword, those who are the authority, are ministers of God who avenge for God. So, he says, it is necessary to be in subjection because of wrath.

You could feel the vengeance of a God-ordained institution. Boy, that's an amazing statement. When the police do what they do to uphold law and order, they are the ministers of God. It doesn't mean they don't abuse that sometimes.

They do. It doesn't mean they're personally Christians or personally more moral than anybody else. It means that their function, their function as an agency within human life and human society is to fulfill a God-ordained role of keeping order. And if a person obeys him, does what is good, he has no reason to fear. But if he rebels in protest, then he has every reason to fear because of wrath because God has made them ministers to avenge those for God who violate the order which he has established. So, if you rebel, you should be afraid.

Then secondly, would you notice what he says? It is necessary not only because you can be punished if you violate it, but for conscience sake. This seems to me a more positive motivation. You do it not only because you're afraid of what might happen if you don't do it and understand they have a right to bring to bear wrath upon those who violate the law, but you do it for the sake of conscience.

What does that mean? Just because it's right. Just because it's right. So, our submission to authority is not only to be regulated by the fear of punishment and the fear of the wrath of God and man, but because it's right. So, for the Lord's sake, we submit to obey Him, to imitate Him, and to honor Him. I will never forget George Evans saying to me when we talked about that, what do the Russian Christians do to protest Russian government doing things that they don't believe are right?

He says we have a basic unwritten law that everyone lives by in the church in Russia, and that is that if any Christian is ever arrested, he will be arrested for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing less. Not for protesting something else. But you say, what about when we feel that the government is wrong? What about when we feel it's wrong?

What if it oversteps its bounds? And what if it commands us to do what God commands us not to do? Or what if it commands us not to do what God commands us to do? In that case, we have a very clear word of scripture. Remember the early church, Acts 4 and Acts 5? They said don't preach.

And what was Peter's response? You judge whether we ought to obey God or man. When the government asks you to do the opposite of what God asks you to do, you have no choice but to violate the government and then to comply with whatever they ask and bear your punishment. If the government said you're not allowed to preach, I'd preach anyway and suffer the consequences. If they came to arrest me, I wouldn't lie down in the street.

I'd go with them. I'd accept whatever God had brought about. Do you realize Paul never resisted arrest? Never. They put him in stocks. You think they had to wrestle him in? You think they had to have three guys carrying him, dragging him because he was lying limp on the dirt?

No. He went and he put his hands in his stocks and he sang and God shook the whole earth and they had a revival. A lot of people got saved. The church started and he walked out of the jail. See, the weapons of his warfare weren't carnal. He didn't need to lie in the dirt. He knew who he served and he knew how you deal with those issues and the power of God, not the manipulation of men.

You say, well, that's easy. When they command you to do something, the Bible commands you not to do or vice versa. Then you do what God says and you take the consequence.

That's right. But what about when the government allows things that we think are wrong? The government may allow a lot of things we think are wrong and a lot of governments allow a lot more things than our government allows. That's pretty normal stuff. You think the Roman government allowed some things the church thought was wrong?

Yeah. Like a whole long list of things like murder of children, abuse of women, slavery, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. What does the church do? Do we protest? Do we sit in? Do we demonstrate? Do we disobey the law? Let me take you now to 2 Corinthians chapter 10 and we're going to wrap this up at this point and we'll carry the rest of the text next time. But I want you to listen to this. 2 Corinthians chapter 10.

This is very, very important. Verse 3, for though we walk in the flesh, that means we're human, we're here, this is us, we're in this world, we do not war according to the flesh. Now listen, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. How you doing that, Paul?

Look what he says here. Verse 4, the weapons, that word in Greek means instruments of war. This is spiritual war. We are not wrestling flesh and blood.

Do you understand that? We are fighting on a spiritual level. The instruments of war, I love this phrase. The instruments of war are not of the flesh. We can't use human means. We can't stoop to the level that the world uses. But our weapons, he says in verse 4, are divinely powerful.

Can I give you the simple, literal meaning? Powered by God. Powered by God. Yeah, you say, how effective are they? Oh, they're good for the destruction of fortresses. What are the fortresses? The massive strongholds of sin, the massive strongholds of Satan, the massive strongholds of demons. What's the word destruction mean?

It means to tear down, pull down. The weapons of our warfare are strong enough to rip down the massive strongholds that have been built by sin. Then he says, they are able to destroy speculations. What is speculations?

Human reason. It will tear down massive strongholds of sin. It will tear down human reason and speculation. Furthermore, it says, it will tear down and destroy every lofty thing, every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. The towers of men's thoughts. The towers of men's planning. It's picturing an army moving against the city and just tearing it down. Just tearing the whole thing down. And the weapons are all spiritual. They're all powered by God. And then he says, and we are taking every thought captive.

That word in its original meaning was really vivid. It pictures a guy walking into the city with a soldier behind him with a spear up under his chin or in his back, bringing in the captive. We approach the massive institutions of men. We approach their flawed and demonic reason. We approach their lofty pride which is exalted against the knowledge of God. We approach all the systems of men and we can tear them all down and we do it with weapons that are spiritual. We do it with weapons that are spiritual. Would you please notice every lofty thing, every thought is a comprehensive warfare and we can make them bow to Christ. We can take them captive to the obedience of Christ. How do we do it? Beloved, what are the weapons of our warfare?

Do I need to remind you? Ephesians 6, take unto you the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. I think we need to preach the Word of God with power and conviction. We need to be all about using the Word of God.

That's a spiritual weapon and that never returns void. Ephesians 6, what is our other spiritual weapon? Look at 1 Timothy chapter 2.

We don't have a lot of weapons, they're just powerful. Number one is the word. Number two is in verse 1 of 1 Timothy 2. First of all, then I urge that in treaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all men for kings and all that were in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

How are we going to do that? Prayer. Prayer is what brings that glorious gospel that Jesus Christ is the mediator who gave Himself a ransom for all and turns their hearts. And then He says, for this I was appointed a preacher.

Simply, folks, our weapons are the Word and prayer. You're not too surprised by that, are you? You say, was there a world like ours? Yeah, Nero was in power. He came into power in 54 AD at the age of 17. He was a maniacal homosexual and had all kinds of problems, as you know, murderous to say the least.

Fourteen years later, at the age of 31, he committed suicide. It was during his reign that Peter was martyred. And yet it's Peter who will die under Nero, who says, submit yourselves for the Lord's sake. That's the command.

That's the motive. And again, I say to you, I don't believe for one minute you can use carnal weapons to fight the spiritual war. Again, the weapons are the Word and prayer, an aggressive proclamation of the Word of God.

I wish thousands of people would go marching through the cities of America preaching the Word of God. Be the church. Live on a spiritual level.

Apply its spiritual weapons to a spiritual warfare. Let's bow together. Father, I just ask that in this time of prayer, you'll help us to refresh our commitment to you, to be the kind of people you want us to be. Help us, Lord, to be faithful in prayer and diligent prayer. Help us to be faithful proclaimers of the truth that we may see this society change because the people are transformed through the power of the Gospel. Help us, Lord, to be what you want us to be. Pray for those in authority over you and proclaim the Gospel to those around you. Practical takeaways from today's Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. His current study is titled, Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land. Well, with the theme of government in mind, and in light of the primary elections that have been held across the United States already this year, leading up to the general election in November, John, we received a question on our Q&A phone line that I'd like you to hear and respond to. We'll play it now. Yes, my name is Michael, and I wanted to ask you, is it important who wins the presidential election and which party holds the majority in Congress, how is that going to impact the Kingdom of God and His work, and is it really important for Christians to focus on who wins the elections?

Thank you. Michael, that's a very good question and one that gets asked a lot. Let me answer with a very straightforward answer. Whoever becomes the President of the United States, or whoever controls Congress, has no effect on the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.

If it were of this world, my servants would fight. The Kingdom of God has moved forward in the divine sovereign power of God through every conceivable and inconceivable kind of governmental structure. And when you look back at history, it's really pretty amazing.

You can look at the land of Japan. For a hundred years, they had massive missionary influx. There were, at one point in the 19th century, in the 20th century, there were 250, at least, different mission boards operating in Japan. Today, the church in Japan is minuscule, virtually non-existent. In China, Christianity was shut out. It was completely against the law, with the exception of some staged kind of churches. And today, there are tens of millions of Christians in China. I've been through Western Europe, and I've preached in Western Europe, and the church is virtually dead. And it had freedom there, the land of the Reformation.

In Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc, where I've been many, many times, the church is alive, and there are millions of believers who came to faith in a time of communistic dominance. Should we vote? Sure. Should we vote for those that are closest to biblical values and morals? Yes.

But does it affect God's purpose, and does it somehow change the nature of the Kingdom? No. Well, John, and friend, if you, like Michael, have a Bible-related question for John, let me encourage you to call our Q&A line at 661-295-6288. You can call, leave a message with your question, and you may hear it on a future broadcast.

Get in touch today! That Q&A line number again, 661-295-6288. Leave a message with your question about any Bible-related topic.

Perhaps you're curious about the biblical roles for men and women, or the end times, or what God says about church leadership. Any question like that, call us with it now, 661-295-6288. And thanks for remembering that it's the support of friends like you that helps keep this broadcast on the air. To partner with us in taking God's word to men and women hungry for biblical truth, you can mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace To You, Post Office Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. You can also express your support online at or when you call us at 800-55-GRACE. And that number translates to 800-5547223. Now on behalf of John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day, and be back tomorrow to consider how far beyond the ballot box you should take your protests with the government. John shows you what Scripture says about submitting to civil authority as he continues his study, singing the Lord's song in a strange land. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-18 05:23:25 / 2024-06-18 05:33:46 / 10

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