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The Lord and Taxes

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2022 6:00 pm

The Lord and Taxes

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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December 11, 2022 6:00 pm

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If you have your Bibles with you, turn with me if you would to Mark chapter 12, and we'll be looking at verses 13 through 17. And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Should we pay them or should we not? But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. They brought one. He said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to him, Caesar's. Jesus said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

And they marveled at him. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning with many concerns on our heart. Lord, we have an opportunity next week to give our mission offering.

And Lord, we have chosen two mission projects today that are very heavy on our heart, ones that we know are doing the will of God and the work of God. And we pray, Father, that you would bless our offering and help us, Lord, that we might give sacrificially, that people away from us that we don't even know might come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Father, we have many that are sick and we pray for them. We pray for Nancy Malone, who is very sick right now and can't swallow, and ask, Lord, that you be with her.

But Jim Belt, Lord, who has some very serious heart problems and they're trying to do back surgery on him next week and are concerned about his heart issues. And pray, Heavenly Father, that you would help the doctors know exactly what to do. And we pray for Jim's life. Father, we pray for Kitty Clay. We praise you for her progress. We pray that you'll continue to be with her moment by moment. We pray with Vicki West as she is still struggling with these seizures. We pray, Father, that you would help her and minister to her and bring healing to her body.

We pray for Angie Buchanan, who's having eye difficulties, some bleeding in her eye, and ask, Father, that you minister to her. Heavenly Father, I am preaching on a subject today that is tough to preach on. It has to do with submission to our government authority. We have lived out our lives in a country that fought for freedom and loved its freedom. Set up a constitution that was supposed to guarantee our freedoms.

As we have watched those freedoms being removed, it has hurt our hearts and angered us. Father, may Jesus' teaching today help us to be godly citizens and truly the salt and light that God's called us to be. We realize that loss of freedoms in America is a direct result of God's judgment against our sin.

Please help us to know when we should submit in godliness and when we should refuse to submit because it violates your will. Give us wisdom and the intestinal fortitude to be Christ-like no matter what. And it's in Jesus' holy and precious name that we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and render unto God the things that are God's. Back in the 1990s, there was a group of liberal theologians who gathered together. And they said what they were going to do is they were going to cut out all the questionable, so-called questionable statements that Jesus made in the scripture.

They call themselves the Jesus Seminar. They said, we're going to take out what we believe Jesus didn't say from the Gospels. And we're going to leave in what we believe that Jesus did say. What did they cut out? They cut out verses like John chapter 14 verse 6 where Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

No man comes to the Father but by me. They cut out every statement that Jesus mentioned hell. They cut out Matthew chapter 16 and verse 24 where Jesus said, anyone that comes to me, let him deny himself, take of his cross daily, and follow me. They cut out Matthew chapter 7 and verse 21 where Jesus said, not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

But this one they kept. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. Why did they want to keep that one in the scripture? Because it was political and because they believed that that would put Jesus on the side that was siding with higher taxes. Folks, liberals may deny the existence of hell. Liberals may mock the exclusivity of the Gospel.

But you can count on this, they love taxes. So this is one of the only verses in all of the scripture that all the members of the Jesus Seminar said, oh yes, this is one that we know Jesus said. These people had the gall to cut this scripture out, that scripture out, another scripture out, and then when they had sufficiently just silenced Jesus and molded him into what they wanted him to be, they said, yes, here's our Bible. It's 90% smaller than the original Bible, but it's a Bible that is non-offensive and politically correct, and they said that's exactly what we want.

Man, what do you do with that? Folks, we are looking at a passage today that I've got six points that I want to share with you from this passage about Jesus and how he teaches us to deal with government. Number one, the thinking of weak, wicked people. Look at verse 13. And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians to trap him in his talk. Now, the parallel passage to this in Luke chapter 20 verse 19 adds a little bit. It says, the scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. Why did the scribes and the chief priests seek to lay hands on Jesus? Because Jesus had just cleansed the temple. Jesus saw what the merchants were doing, that they were overcharging and they were doing horrible things to the people, charging them way too much, even in their exchange rates. He saw what the religious leaders were doing.

They were taking kickbacks from the merchants. He saw that they were taking the house of prayer and turning it into a den of thieves, and Jesus was infuriated. So he cleansed the temple. How did he do that? He went over and he let all the cages open when all the animals went free and the birds flew away. He flipped over the tables of the money exchangers. He took a whip and whipped it over his head and ran the religious leaders and the merchants out of the temple area.

He did all this. And because of that, the religious leaders realized that he had hurt them financially, he had embarrassed them publicly, and they were not going to do anything about that. They wanted to jump on it.

They wanted to deal with it. And so they went sneaking back into the temple. They got into the temple, they started screaming at Jesus.

They said, you had no right to do this. Only the priest has the right to cleanse the temple. Only the priest has that right. And we know you're from the tribe of Judah.

You're not from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, so you can't do this. What did Jesus do? He pointed them to John's baptism.

He pointed them to John's baptism primarily, John's baptism of him. And see, that was the last stage of the ceremonial ordination into the priesthood. Jesus was saying to them, I am not a Levitical priest.

You're right about that. I'm a priest of a higher order. I'm a priest of Melchizedek.

And I am not just a priest, I am the high priest, and I have perfect right to cleanse the temple. Then Jesus told them a parable, a parable that made them look at themselves, for he prophesied to the people that these malicious religious leaders were conspiring to put him to death. So Jesus has put them on public display. These religious leaders were hypocrites, they were thieves, and they were robbers. They were using their religion to make themselves rich. And now they were conspiring to kill the Messiah. So Jesus tears away the fa├žade, he pulls off their mask, and he shows the people of Israel who they really were, that they were selfish, murderous blasphemers. And boy, when Jesus said that, they were upset. They were terribly upset, and it did not sit well.

So what do you do? What do weak, wicked people do when they are exposed? They attack the one that has exposed them, but now they've got a problem, because common people love Jesus, and they know if they are attacking Jesus, the common people may fight against them. So they know they have to do something very sneaky.

All right, this takes us to point two, point two. And that is the plotting of weak, wicked people. Look at verse 14a. And they came and they said to him, Teacher, we know that you're true, and do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances, but to truly teach the way of God.

And Luke's gospel, Luke chapter 20, verse 21, Luke tells us a little more, gives us some important information. He says, so they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something, he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governors. The religious leaders were greatly concerned about how they looked.

They were more concerned about their reputation than they were about their character. So they brought in some spies so they wouldn't have to do it all themselves. And these spies were to come in, they were to check out everything Jesus said, and then see if they could possibly twist his words to really get at him. Spies came, they pretended to be sincere, and they say this to Jesus, Teacher, we know that you preach and teach rightly.

You show no partiality, but truly teach the word of God. What are they doing? They're trying to butter Jesus up with flattery. They're patting him on the back, and they're waiting until his ego just kind of puffs up so then they can get him when he's not really thinking.

They'll give him a question where he has to ask yes or no, and he's going to be in trouble no matter what he says, whether it's a yes or a no. Psalm 55 verse 1 describes the character of these spies. Says this, his speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart.

His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. David wrote those words a thousand years before those spies were born, but he is describing them perfectly. So what was their plot? The Jewish leaders knew that they did not have the authority to put Jesus to death. They knew that the Roman government did have the authority. So if they could get Jesus in trouble with the Roman authority, then the Roman authority could execute Jesus.

All right, point three, the trap. Look at verse 14b. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Should we pay them or should we not? They decided to use politics to trap Jesus. All right, let me ask you something. Can politics get your blood flowing? Can politics make your adrenaline start pumping? Can political stuff anger you?

It's okay, just be honest. Yeah, it can. It can bother us, can't it?

It can bother us horribly. R.C. Sproul said the following. Finally, the Pharisees and Herodians posed their question. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay? In asking this question, they tasked Jesus with settling one of the most controversial issues among the Jews at that time. No nation enjoys being brought under subjection to a conqueror, but having to pay taxes and other forms of tribute to the occupying country is all the more loathsome to the conquered population. Almost every Jew in Israel hated the very thought of paying any tax whatsoever to Caesar, and many of them, in fact, did not pay. Some of the Pharisees believed that the Jews were under a moral obligation not to pay taxes to Caesar, and so, if Jesus were really a godly man, he would not advocate paying taxes to the ungodly conquering government.

So there was a trap. If Jesus said it was okay to pay taxes to Caesar, the people would turn against him. But if he said publicly that no one should pay taxes to Caesar, the religious leaders would hasten to the Roman authorities and say this man is propagating rebellion by advising people not to pay their taxes. The spies knew that taxes was a tough issue to deal with and that people were passionate about it, and there was nobody sitting on the fence about whether or not you wanted to pay higher taxes. The question was purposely divisive. The spies said, well, we'll just force Jesus to choose a political stand, and whichever political stand he makes, then there's going to be a big group that's going to stand against him and hate him.

Listen to how Philip Ryken described this. If Jesus told people to go ahead and pay the tax, many Jews would consider him a traitor to the cause of his people. Remember, they were expecting the Messiah to liberate them from their oppressors, not keep them under Roman rule. If Jesus told people not to resist the empire, the masses would turn against him. He would lose his popular following, and that would be the end of his influence, or so his enemies hoped. If Jesus told people not to pay the tax, however, as the leaders probably hoped, he would be guilty of subverting the Roman government. Then they would be able to haul him in before the governor and accuse him of being an insurrectionist. In fact, this is exactly the strategy that they later tried when they accused Jesus falsely of forbidding people to pay tribute to Caesar. If there was one thing the Romans refused to tolerate, it was any kind of rebellion.

A man who told people not to pay their taxes would be swiftly arrested and summarily punished. So this was a cunningly devised plan. Alright, point four is spiritual warfare. Look at verse 15a. But knowing their hypocrisy, if you read that in Luke's gospel, Luke uses another word, he says, knowing their craftiness.

Look that word up in the Greek, and sometimes it's translated as cunning. And you'll see it in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 in verse 3, when Paul said this, but I'm afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, there's a word, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ. Jesus is seeing now that these religious leaders are thinking in the same way that Satan thinks. They have come up with a diabolical plan that they hope will so trap Jesus that no matter what he says, he's going to be in trouble.

Let me just stop here and say something. As Christians, God has called us not to be flitty or glib or naive. Jesus said that we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Paul said that we are to be wise concerning that which is good and simple concerning that which is evil.

Now how do you do that? You study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. In the 19th Psalm, David wrote some great words to help Christians in their walk with the Lord. And this is what he says, all built around the Word of God. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandments of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant worn, and keeping them, there is great reward.

David said the Word of God will make wise the simple. Go over to Ephesians 6 and read Paul's description there of us putting on the whole armor of God. And Paul has two offensive weapons in our warfare. And what are those weapons?

They're prayer and the Word of God. When Satan came to tempt Jesus, what did he do? He brought the temptation to Jesus. How did Jesus fight him? He didn't reason with him. He didn't argue with him. He fought him with the Word of God and defeated him every single temptation.

Folks, that's important. The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints of the marrow and the discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart. Jesus was able to see right through these men and what they are doing.

Let me ask you, why was he able to do that? Because he was filled with the Word of God. He knew it absolutely perfectly. The Scripture says that Jesus knows all men. He knows all men because the Word of God is truth, and truth is light.

It's like he shines a light right into the heart and knows exactly what's going on with every single one of us. If that's true, and it is, then why don't we turn off the television? Why don't we just turn off the television and spend some time meditating and memorizing Scripture? How important it is. Why don't we keep losing battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil?

It's because either we don't know the Word or we've not learned how to trust the Word. Point five, the plan. Look at verse 15b through 16. He said to them, why put me to the test?

Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. And they brought one. And he said to them, whose likeness inscription is this? They said to him, Caesars. Here's where the religious leaders fouled up. They were asking a yes or no question. Either tax was lawful or it was not. If Jesus said yes, pay your taxes, then they knew what the common people were going to do. They were going to fuss about that and possibly reject Jesus.

So wait a minute. Who is this that's ruling over us? This is Rome.

Rome is horrible. They took over us when they had no right to do that. They are governing over us and they are an oppressive, horrible people. We hate them. They are our enemies.

We don't want to pay taxes to them. I understand how that feels. In 2014, I was working on a sermon on Matthew chapter 8 verse 28. Now we know that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That very week, right in the middle of my working on that sermon, I got just a letter a very intimidating letter from the IRS. They said that I owed them $1,660 in taxes. So I went back to my tax statement for that year, I looked everything up, and I found out that they had not written in my medical and dentist and prescription deductions. I had paid them, but they didn't write it in. They wrote it in the total, but they didn't write it in specifically so the IRS could see that. So I was wrong. I believe in the providence of God.

I don't believe in coincidences. So I believe that the Lord was using that in my life at that time to kind of show me a little bit of how these Jewish people felt about having to deal with tax people. And so I called up the IRS to tell them what the situation was. Lady put me on hold. I was on hold for 45 minutes. She came back and she said, well, this is the wrong department, I'll have to send you another department. And so I went to another department. They put me on hold again.

I waited a long time. They said, well, this is the wrong department, let me send you somewhere else. They sent me somewhere else. Finally, they said, yeah, this is the right department, but our computers just went down.

Call back tomorrow, click. I thought I had just wasted about three hours of my time that I could have been using productively. And so the next day I went to the IRS office. I waited about half a day before they finally would see me.

And then I had to deal with it and it was just unbelievably frustrating. So I understand these Jewish people's frustration with dealing with tax people with paying taxes. If Jesus rebukes the Jewish population for not wanting to pay taxes, they might reject him. But if Jesus said no, don't pay those greedy scoundrels anything and they might take him off and have him executed for being an insurrectionist.

So the religious leaders had asked Jesus a question. Were he was in trouble if he said yes and he was in trouble if he said no? That's like someone asking this question, yes or no?

Have you quit beating your wife yet? You answer yes. Is that good? No. You answer no. Make you look good?

No. And so Jesus understood exactly what they were doing. They were asking him that kind of question. And so what did Jesus do? He answers a question with a question.

Very wise. He said, bring me a coin, a denarius. They brought him a coin. He says, who's inscriptions on it? They look and it's the inscription Caesar.

And they say that. Well, Jesus says, okay, what's that mean? That means you're using Roman money. You're spending Roman money to buy your groceries, to buy animals, to pay your bills, you're living under a Roman government. He says, now what does that say to you?

He's making them think. That takes me to my last point. And my last point, verse 6, is living in two kingdoms. Look at verse 17. Jesus said to them, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and the gods the things that are gods, and they marveled at him. Render unto Caesars the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. The truth of the matter is, some things really do belong to Caesar. When Jesus says, give the government what it deserves, he is assuming there that the government has some legitimate prerogatives. Paul spoke of this in Romans 13.1.

He says, let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Norval Geldenhaus said it this way, in this reply there is no evasion of the question put to him, but a clear and straightforward declaration that they must pay Caesar tribute, and everything due to him as their ruler. Under God's providence, the course of history has been so arranged that they have been brought under Roman domination, and through their free use of Caesar's coins, they have shown that they acknowledge Caesar as their earthly ruler, and therefore they are under the obligation to pay to Caesar what is due to him. To me, what makes this so extraordinary is how oppressive the Roman government was. The Roman government's the one that Paul was under. Nero was the Caesar during Paul's time.

Nero's the one who burned down the city of Rome, blamed it on the Christians, and then had Christians arrested and put to death as if they were the ones who did it. It's that kind of oppressive, horrible, terrible government, and yet Paul tells us that they were to pay taxes, and that it was important to do so. Now, are there times when you should not obey your government?

And the answer to that is yes, there are times. When God commands you to, or when a government commands you to sin, or when a government commands you to dishonor God, then you say no. I think of Peter and John, they were preaching, and the religious leaders, their authorities came to them and said, you can never preach and teach in the name of Jesus again. And Peter said, whether or not you think that's right in the sight of God, you'll have to decide that, but we can promise you this, we will never quit preaching and teaching Jesus.

Now, what about us? We're living in a post-Christian culture. Our government is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and anti-Christian. Our government schools must teach evolution over creation. They teach our children to reject the concept of absolute truth. Everything is relative, they say.

Our kindergarten children are being entertained by drag queens. There must be toleration for everything but Christianity. And yet as Christians, are we to submit to our government authorities? The current administration stands against almost everything I stand for.

They use my tax money to abort babies, and to promote homosexual agendas, and to give money to politicians if they might go out and party. Is that right? Is that a good thing? No, but God has allowed it, because this nation has turned its back on God. And folks, the church has been worldly and prayerless and powerless. Someone asked me the other day, Doug, do you believe that judgment is going to come to America? I said, no, I don't believe judgment is going to come to America. I believe judgment is already here.

And how is it already here? Well, when this nation starts doing what we want to do, rebelling against God, God has taken his hand of restraining grace off of us, let us do what our wicked hearts wanted to do, and that in itself is part of the judgment. Now the judgment is going to get a lot worse, but that is part of the judgment itself. The wokeness, the perversion that we are seeing in our culture is part of God's judgment.

So what should we do? Should we pay taxes in the light of this corrupt administration? Paul, who lived in a much more corrupt society than we do, said yes. In Romans 13, 7, pay to all what is owed to them, taxes to whom taxes are owed and revenue to whom revenue is owed. All right, secondly, we are to pray for our leaders. Paul said, do this even in public worship.

First Timothy 2, 1-2, Paul said, pray prayers of supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving for kings and people of high political position. Thirdly, we're to practice civil obedience. The Augsburg Confession says it this way, the gospel does not introduce any new laws about the civil state, but commands us to obey the existing laws, whether they were formulated by the heathen or by others, in this obedience to practice love. Of course, there are some exceptions to this. We are not obligated to do anything immoral or anything that directly conflicts with the revealed will of God, nor can we ever give up our duty to share the gospel, whatever the government may say. Case in point, exactly what Peter and John said. J.C. Ryle said this, so long as we have liberty to worship God in Christ according to our conscience and to serve Him in the way of His commandments, we may safely submit to many requirements of the state, which in our own private opinion we do not thoroughly approve. The last thing is participation in public life. We need Christians who will run for public office. We need Christians who will run for public office and stand for truth, whether they get maligned and vilified or not. I think of men like Daniel and men like Joseph, who were public officials in a pagan heathen land and yet God used them powerfully.

How do we deal with it? I think the temptation is to fight with worldly weapons, very easy to do that, but I like what David did when he was getting ready to go out and fight Goliath and King Saul came to him and King Saul said, this is what you need to do, David, you need to take my armor here. This big, heavy, thick armor. He said, this will help you, this will protect you, and David says, no, I'll just forget that and I'm just going to go with a slingshot in God. That's my heavenly armor. And did it work?

Oh boy, did it work. Folks, what is our heavenly armor? Our heavenly armor is prayer, it is the word of God, it is surrender, it is obedience to God's word, it is holiness, and it is love. Are we doing that?

If we are, we can expect to see God do some glorious things. In September of 2013, Dr. Douglas Kelly preached from this pulpit to our presbytery and his sermon that day was a sermon on prayer. I'll never forget the message. He ended it with an example of what went on in Germany back in the year 1989, and he was sharing about how the people of God in Germany began to pray that God would break communism in that area, that he would totally break it, and that the Berlin Wall would be knocked down. Now, you might remember President Ronald Reagan, who hated communism, who stood up against the Prime Minister of Russia, and he said, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall. Well, the Christians in Germany did more than that. They went over Gorbachev's head and they went straight to the Lord, and they prayed, and they prayed, and they prayed.

And on November the 9th, 1989, within a matter of hours, the Berlin Wall was knocked completely and totally down. Folks, politics will not change America, but God's people submitted to God's authority and filled with prayer and truth can change America. Our citizenship is in heaven. This world is not our home.

We're just passing through. Amen? Amen.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I thank you that the Bible deals with every problem, every issue that pops up in life. Life seems more complicated now than I've ever known it. We have technology and computer access that I can only dream of as a boy. We have social media that is fast, invasive, and can be extremely detrimental. As your children, help us to learn to not get caught up in things that would hinder us spiritually, but help us to use the technology and social media to propagate the gospel. Lord, we ask forgiveness in areas where we have failed you, and we beg for strength to stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil, for it's in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-11 12:08:43 / 2022-12-11 12:21:33 / 13

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