The Answer: A Resounding Yes!
18 “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” – Act 4:18-20 NKJV
The “they” in the above passage is the council of the Sanhedrin, the Jew’s national ruling body and supreme court. Followers of Christ should obey governmental authority (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17, but when government decrees are clearly contrary to God’s Word, God must be obeyed (Exodus 1:15-17; Daniel 6:4-10).
The following is from David Barton, general editor of the Founders’ Bible:
“Freedom is never so precious as when you realize you no longer have it. Justice is never so important as it is when you seek it, and it cannot be found. It may never seem so remarkable as when it is in the hands of someone more powerful than you. What then? Because so many of us have grown up at a time in which the foundations of freedom and justice have already been laid, and our right and privileges have long been established and regularly enjoyed, we may not have a true sense of appreciation for just how amazing they are, and where they came from. To a large degree today, we take our freedom and the ability to secure justice for granted. But for most people in the past and many still today, such luxuries were and are not common.” page 965
You can understand after reading that short paragraph why I am convicted and motivated when I read the Founders Bible. As I read this, I remembered what the Apostle Peter said about not squandering our freedom in Christ— “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God and respect the king” – 1 Peter 2:16, 17
The Separation of Church and State
Do we really understand what it means?
15 “His (King Uzziah) fame spread far and wide, for the LORD gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful. 16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the LORD his God by entering the sanctuary of the LORD’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” – 2 Chronicles 26:15-16 NLT
Germane to the biblical principle of confrontation is a proper understanding of the concept of “Separation of Church and State.” This phrase has been invoked in over four thousand legal cases in recent decades. It also has been cited as the reason for the removal of Nativity scenes from public parks, Ten Commandment displays from courtrooms, public prayer from school events, religious symbols from city seals, as well as the prohibition of several types of popular religious expressions. What is equally sobering is that Christian pastors and Bible teachers have used the passage in 2 Chronicles 26 to support the notion that Christianity in general and, therefore, Christians in particular should not participate in any expression of the political process, let alone enter the arena of confrontation of these government authorities. If this is not overtly stated it is implied by the sheer silence and avoidance of this subject. It seems we have abdicated a major role and impact on influencing our culture for Christ.
If we, as Christ followers, who have the knowledge, wisdom and specific ways to solve diverse challenges in our society, why would we not be salt and light to the whole society? If the Bible, both OT and NT, addresses all of life, which it does (2 Timothy 3:16,17); and we have the Spirit who gives discernment in all matters of life (1 Corinthians 2:15) we ought to be addressing every aspect of our society with the Truth of God’s wisdom. Why would we not address the branches of Government, role of judges and the role of a king or in our case the president? Why would we not include a Biblical assessment of each of the political parties and what they stand for? I will address this in a following article. Why not clarify the Biblical right to a just trial (John 7:51)?
Why would we be so adverse in talking about righteous people running for the positions in our government? Because of our silence from the evangelical pulpits over the years in America we have lost thousands upon thousands of aspiring righteous youth from considering a role in government. How sad!
The fundamental understanding of 2 Chronicles is warning against the encroachment of Government into the religious domain… not the opposite.
The entire history of the separation doctrine had been to prevent the State from meddling with, interfering against, or controlling the Church’s beliefs and religious expressions. Consequently, the separation doctrine was never used to secularize the public square but, on the contrary, it existed to protect rather than remove voluntary public religious practices.
Today in July, August and September of 2020, because of the Coronavirus many state authorities have sanctioned the church’s freedom of expression manifested in prohibiting church attendance, singing, and even in some cases shutting down small group gatherings. All of these restrictions are under the justification that gatherings will spread the virus. The famous Pastor, John MacArthur, has come out and declared that Christ is the head of the Church not Caesar. Grace Community Church has been threatened with repercussions such as fines and even possible arrest for not complying with the States restrictions for public gatherings.
However, there is no such restrictions on “peaceful demonstrations” or the riots and destruction caused by the gathered masses of anarchists destroying our cities. The double standard and criminalization of Christians and Christian organizations is in operation.
I believe MacArthur and several other churches in California are starting the necessary confrontation that we will need to take to overcome the beginnings of open persecution.
2 Chronicles 26 has even been misapplied and in some cases been used to justify that Christians should not vote or participate in the political process. At the least it has fostered a laissez-faire attitude towards voting as indicated by the poor turn-out of Christian voters.
Christians! Get your Christian friends to get out and vote for the party that is closest to what the Bible teaches!
Some Biblical Direction
By reading the next several verses we get a clue as to what we need to do, and probably sooner than we think. Read closely the following verses and list some of the actions Azariah took that we could do today in 2020. Also jot down some of the kick-back Azariah received.
17 “Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the LORD, all brave men. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The LORD God will not honor you for this!” 19 Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the LORD’s Temple, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead.” – 2 Chronicles 26:17-19 NLT
I have provided one step to get you going!
List your five or six actions:
1. The brave priests, clergy and pastors ought to confront the political authorities today in their state saying something like this, “Mayor/Governor you do not have a right to legislate the morality of church practices. Please lift your restraints as we will use common sense to practice good safety.”
Faithful friends in Christ, we are in a new era. There is a time to pray, which we should never stop doing, but for sure this is a time for action. As followers of Christ the unintended consequence of being marginalized with our voice in the public arena, and in the broader culture, will only increase the difficulties of living out our Faith in security and peace.
Confrontation is in our immediate future or acquiescence will be our lot, and then subjugation. I suggest that you purchase The Founders’ Bible, general editor, David Barton and read a most informative article titled: “Rebellion or Rightful Overthrow?” on pages 1763-1771. He does a masterful explanation of Romans 13:1-7 with biblical accuracy and historical context.
He traces the challenges many past Christ followers faced with Autocracies, (a political system governed by a single individual), in which Reformation adherents who disagreed with the “authorities” positions were given public executions, brutal tortures, and barbaric persecutions. Biblical followers across Europe faced similarly murderous opposition from their own professing Christian monarchs. As a result, great Reformation leaders such as Frenchman, John Calvin, German Martin Luther, Swiss Huldreich Zwingli, and numerous others wrote much on the subject of civil disobedience and resistance to tyrannical civil authority. It seemed that every generation of Englishmen was faced with the question of how to respond to Christian and secular leaders persecuting them, or requiring them to adopt practices that violated biblical principles they firmly embraced and were against their biblical consciences.
Please remember that nearly all the negative incidents in world history with regard to Christianity were associated when Christianity was controlled by the state. By the way, this is a great apologetic for Christianity.
Our past Christian leaders faced unimaginable difficultly and often fatal circumstances as they faced the onslaught of kings, governments and tyranny that would make our little “marginalization” look puny. Clearly, then, the historical biblical understanding of Romans 13 is crucial to understand. Many Bible teachers find it easy to justify quiet submission and even referencing the past Roman Totalitarian system, but they do so from the comfort and safety of their studies or church buildings. But when we are actually living in times of Christians being criminalized and persecuted, things change rapidly. It is a temptation to isolate Romans 13 from the rest of the Bible’s teachings and examples of godly people who defied the pagan governments.
Numerous heroes in the Bible were accorded praiseworthy recognition not despite, but rather because of their civil disobedience against dictatorial regimes and leaders. Godly people like Moses (Exodus 6:10-13; and Hebrews 11:24); Rahab (Joshua 2; and Heb.11:31); Gideon (Judges 6:14; and Hebrews 11:32-34); Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, (Daniel 3; 6:10, 13); the Hebrew Midwives (Exodus 1:15-22) and the Apostles including Peter and John (Acts 4, 5). These are just some of the brave true and heroes for the cause of righteousness.
I love Hebrews 11:32, 33—“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,…”
Some of these great Christian teachers who expound on Romans 13 are my favorite bible expositors and I use and will continue to use their commentaries as I have such great respect for them. They are revered and rightly so within their Christian ministries. However, they like me, are a product of our times and we are all subject to being influenced by our culture. This is one of my major concerns about myself and my teaching—am I being accurate to the text and right in the application to our culture (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)?
Get ready my friends— times are changing, and we are in for a turbulent ride because of our Faith.
When the British tyranny toward America began to increase preceding the Revolution, the theological debates were once again renewed—could Christian or non-Christian rulers prohibit other Christians from following what they believed to be clear scriptural teachings? In the case of Americans, a number of God-given inalienable rights had come under attack, including freedom of worship and rights of conscience. Does that sound familiar today in 2020?
Below are the five stages leading to Persecution. I believe we are experiencing the 4th stage of “criminalizing the targeted group”. As an aside, I can talk brave but when it comes to actual reality, I am not so brave☹— BUT I purpose to be strong, resolute, and courageous. There is a reason our framers said the best protected country is a country of armed militia. Alexander Hamilton, writing in the Federalist Papers, called a well-regulated militia, “the most natural defense of a free country.”
The militia is the general populist armed to protect themselves, their families and their God-given rights—can you believe I am even talking like this?
The Five Stages of Religious Persecution
I. Stereotyping the targeted group – To stereotype means to repeat without variation, to take a quality or observation of a limited number and generalize it to describe the whole group.
As the 1960’s and 1970’s progressed, Bible-believing Christians were often caricatured in the media as “Bible thumpers,” simpletons, haters of science, hypocrites, and as self-righteous, old-fashioned, or backwards.
To be sure, not everyone engages in this stereotyping to the same degree, but those are the basic refrains. And the general climate of this sort of stereotyping sets the foundation for the next stage.
II. Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct – As the stereotyping grew in intensity, Christians who did not toe the line in the cultural revolution were described as close-minded, harmful to human dignity and freedom, intolerant, hateful, bigoted, unfair, homophobic, and reactionary.
The history of the Christian Church is also described myopically as little more than a litany of bad and repressive behaviors as we conducted crusades and inquisitions, and hated Galileo and all of science. Never mind that there might be a little more to the story: that the Church founded universities and hospitals, was a patron of the arts, and proclaimed the Good News of Christ that brought order and civilization to divided and barbaric times in the aftermath of the Roman Empire. The critics won’t hear any of that, or if they do, will give the credit to anyone or anything except the Church and the Faith.
In writing this, I would fully expect a bevy of comments saying,in effect, that this is exactly what we as Christians are. This vilification reinforced in our educational institutions, the marketplace, social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, and even the sports world has fueled the flames.
As with any large group, individual Christians will manifest some negative traits, but stereotyping, vilifying, and indiscriminately presuming the negative traits of a few to be common to all is unjust.
III. Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society– Having established the (false) premise that the Church and the Faith are very bad and even harmful to human dignity and freedom, the critics proceed in the next stage to relegate the role of the Church to the margins of society.
To many in secularized culture, religion is seen as something that must go. They will let us have our praise songs, Bible Studies, Sunday teachings from the pulpit as long as it is kept within the four walls of our churches. They believe wholeheartedly, however, that the Faith must be banished from the public square. Even under the fear of the spread of the Coronavirus today in August 2020 the state is mandating that there will be no singing in our church buildings.
In this stage it becomes increasingly unacceptable and intolerable that anyone should mention God, pray publicly, or in any way bring his or her Christian faith to bear on matters of public policy. Nativity sets must go; out with Christmas trees. Even the colors red and green during the “Holiday Season” are forbidden in many public schools!
Do not even think of mentioning Jesus Christ or of publicly thanking Him in your valedictory address; you could very well have a judge forbid you to do so under penalty of law.
The LGBT and the gender blending clubs are welcome to set up shop and pass out rainbow-colored condoms at the local high school, but Christians had better hit the road; no Bibles or pamphlets can be seen in the light of day anywhere in the school building … separation of Church and State, you know…
The male teacher who decides he is now a woman can change sexes, wear nylons with breast implants, lipstick and make up, and now MUST be accepted and embraced. Even for May Day events, a gay guy can have a gay escort and can be applauded with a standing ovation led by the facility at West Linn High School in Oregon, as the couple steps off the stage. But to have a prayer group gather around the flagpole is met with overt resistance.
Yes, marginalization and now criminalization is on the increase.
IV. Criminalizing the targeted group or its works
But even prior to this egregious attempt to violate our religious liberty there have been many other times we have had to go to court to fight for our right to practice our faith openly. An increasing amount of litigation is being directed against the Church and other Christians for daring to live out our faith.
Some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information about or referrals for abortion and to provide “emergency contraception” (i.e., the abortifacient known as the “morning-after pill”). Several branches of Catholic and Christian Charities have been de-certified from doing adoption work because they will not place children with gay couples. In 2009, the State of Connecticut sought to regulate the structure, organization, and running of certain Catholic parishes. Recently a number of Christian valedictorians in various states have suffered legal injunctions when it was discovered that they planned to mention God and/or Jesus Christ in their addresses.
Many of these attempts to criminalize the faith have been successfully rebuffed in the courts, but the number and frequency of the lawsuits, and the time and cost involved with fighting them impose a huge burden. It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior is a growth sector in this culture and it signals the beginning of the steady erosion of religious liberty.
Many indeed feel quite righteous, quite politically correct in their work to separate the practice of the Faith from the public square.
V. Persecuting the targeted group outright – If current trends continue, Christians, especially religious leaders, except for those who acquiesce to the culture, may not be far from facing heavy fines and/or incarceration.
Already in Canada and in parts of Europe, Catholic and Protestant clergy and Pastors have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching against doctrine on homosexual activity. I personally know a Pastor in Canada that was wary of teaching Romans 1 because of such a threat.
In this country there are greater provisions for free speech, but as we have seen, there is a steady erosion of our religious liberty and many Christian Churches and Catholic parishes are very familiar with having to spend long periods in court defending basic religious liberty. The trajectory points to suffering, lawsuits, fines, and ultimately jail.
Unlikely you say? Alarmist? Well, stages one through four are pretty well in place. One may wish to “whistle past the graveyard,” but it looks like we’re pretty well set and starting stage five. You decide.
So, What Do We Do?
#1 Be Strong and Courageous: Enlist strong faithful followers of Christ around you. This is not the time to enlist institutionalized and feminized people that only profess Christ.
#2 Once again get your biblically based Christian friends to vote for the party and the individual that comes closest to what the Bible teaches.
#3 Write articles or biblical teachings about the current issues facing us today. If you are not writing articles, keep referring people to good substantive websites like pragerU.com.
#4 Encourage church leaders to ban together and form a force of hundreds of people and churches to stand up for our constitutional rights and religious liberties.