The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Relying on Saul’s Armor

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Rome saw the connection between religion and the social order, and Christianity posed a threat to the old-time Roman religion because it did not make politics the sole agent of change. Israel’s past, however, was replete with visions of political salvation. Early in her history, God allowed Israel to experience what it would be like in a wholesale rejection of Jehovah (1 Sam. 8). The people were under the delusion that their problems were political in need of a political solution. Ultimately, however, the nation had made a religious decision. By choosing Saul, they had rejected Jehovah. The Israelites wanted a better world, and politics was considered the road to that “Great Society.” Great societies are possible,[1] but they are dependent upon God’s methodology. Instead, Israel made the State the catalyst for change. This was a grave error, and unfortunately, it’s an error that is too often repeated. The State is God’s minister, not the world’s master.

The Church must reject making politics or the State ultimate and sacred. It must renounce political weapons in favor of the armor of Ephesians 6:10–20. This passage shows us both the weapons of the Church and, by contrast, those of the world. The stated weapons of the Church are truth, justice, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. For each of these the world has its demonic distortion.[2]

While our weapons are spiritual, the war is manifested and fought in this world. There will not be any need of armor in heaven, because there will be no enemies to fight. While we do not fight against flesh and blood, flesh and blood are energized by “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). These spiritual weapons are designed to be used in this world against real foes. Internal defilement, energized by “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience,” has an effect on other people who live in this world. “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20–23). It’s plain to see that these defilements affect other people. While the man spewing forth this evil is defiled, fornication, murder, theft, and adultery are sins that harm others.

All too often the Christian has laid down his spiritual armor in favor of Saul’s armor: Political solutions to spiritual problems. This is no less the case with social reforms. Israel failed to learn the lesson that civil government is simply one government among many as “a minister of God” (Rom. 13:4). She eventually found herself in the midst of an Empire built on the conviction that the Emperor was a god. Caesar was called dominus et deus, “lord and god,” a rival to the King of kings. The Roman “Emperor was worshipped as a manifest god and saviour by all his subjects,” and “the society of the Empire became a quasi-religious society” that in time could not sustain the Emperor or the Empire.[3] Like Egypt and Babylon before it, Rome would not tolerate any religious competition. All allegiance must be paid to the king who was the earthly representative of the gods and their earthly representatives.

The God of Scripture is equally demanding, but He has a legitimate claim to all worship and loyalty. The struggles between the universal church and localized political empires attempting to extend their borders through military conquest “were struggles between rival spiritual societies and, as such, a confrontation of rival theologies.”[4]

While the ancient political empire has been replaced by other numerous “quasi-religious” societies, none has matched Rome in its breadth and depth. Every facet of life was affected by the Roman religious and political dogma. All attempts at resurrecting the empire idea will fail because the Church has become the new community, the new empire, that has permeated and weakened all attempts at political empire building.

In its conception of the church as a single, organic society which transcended and included “all earlier distinctions, whether of Jew and Gentile, or of Greek and barbarian, or of bond and free,” Christianity represented its own ideal of a universal society permeated by the personal spirit of God. The “political world-society . . . possessed a universality which answered to the aspiring and universal genius of the early church.” In effect and, to be sure, with much searching, struggle and compromise, Christianity moved into the shell of the empire. The church “became a world-society co-extensive with the world-empire” and “Christianity became both a city of God in conception and an organized universal society in action.”[5]

When the Roman society vanished, Christian civilization, the kingdom of God, remained. If the Roman Empire is history, we can assume that all attempts at empire building will meet a similar fate.[6] Time and truth are on the side of God’s kingdom. Rome lost. Christendom won and continues to extend its boundaries further than Rome ever could have imagined.

Endnotes:

[1] This does not mean a utopia. See Krishan Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1987).
[2] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 112.
[3] Ernest Barker, “Christianity and Nationalism,” Church, State, and Education (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, [1927] 1957), 131. Quoted in Sidney E. Mead, The Nation with the Soul of a Church (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1975), 49.
[4] Mead, The Nation with the Soul of a Church, 51.
[5] Mead, The Nation with the Soul of a Church, 49-50.
[6] Dispensationalism teaches that the Bible predicts a revived Roman Empire ruled by antichrist. For a refutation of this view, see Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, GA: American Vision [1991] 1993).

 

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