John MacArthur makes some very timely points in his opening remarks regarding chapt. 13, such as the following quote:
“Some evangelical pastors and other church leaders have turned from emphasizing the gospel to emphasizing politics, from emphasizing the Word of God to emphasizing coalitions to ‘impact culture.’ Some Christians expect the government to be not only the church’s ally but its primary partner. But the state is temporal and affects only things that are temporal. It is a foolish and wasteful stewardship that devotes a great deal of time to try to bring better morality—which at best is transient—but little time bringing them the gospel, which offers eternal life.
“It really does not matter whether people go to hell as policemen or prostitutes, judges or criminals, pro-life or pro-abortion. The moral will persist with the immoral. Our task is the proclamation of the gospel. Neglecting it is the spiritual equivalent of a skilled heart surgeon abandoning his profession to become a make-up artist, spending his time making people look better rather than saving lives. The mission of the church is not to change society—although that is often a beneficial by-product of faithful ministry and living—but to worship and serve the Lord and to bring others to saving faith in Him.” (Mac commentary on Romans, book 2, p. 208)
One of the subtle tricks of the enemy, Satan, is to lead us down rabbit trails. The trails may look important and beneficial to help people, but unless what we are doing will help people find Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, it makes no eternal difference to make life or society better. Without Christ they are all going to perish forever—every last one of them—and we cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked or confused. We believers are here on earth to bring people to Christ and help them grow in Him. Everything else should be a means to that end. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven, (Matt. 5:16).
Jesus said to all disciples of every age, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, (Mark 16:15).
Human governments do have a societal function, but it does not include teaming up with evangelicals to “save the world.” As we will see in our coming studies, the function of government is to protect the lives and interests of those who do good and to punish those who do evil. The government, no matter how moral, cannot save anyone, just as the Law cannot save anyone.
“But even the absolute best of human governments do not participate in the work of the kingdom, and the worst of human societal systems cannot hinder the power of the Word and the Spirit. God instituted civil authority for an entirely different, temporal, and transient purpose.” (Mac p. 208)
It is not that believers are to refrain from being involved in government to affect it for good; just the opposite. We should vote for the best candidates and support the change of bad laws for good ones. That’s part of doing good in our society (cf. Gal 6:10; Titus 3:1-2).
And, as the Lord leads, Christians should run for office to affect the government for good for all society. Biblical examples like Joseph and Daniel filled leadership capacities in ungodly governments in extraordinary ways. But they did not try to “convert” the government or the masses by passing new laws or re-shaping things from the outside in. Real Scriptural change always comes from the inside out.
“After Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, He did not advise him to leave the army (see Matt. 8:5-13). After Zaccheus was converted, he did not leave his civil profession but became an honest tax collector (see Luke 19:1-10). Cornelius, another Roman centurion, was saved through the ministry of Peter and continued to serve in the army (see Acts 10). And there is no reason to believe that the proconsul Sergius Paulus did not remain in his high civil office after he was saved (see Acts 13:4-12),” (Mac p. 209).
Mac observes further, “At issue is the matter of priority, of realizing that even the greatest earthly good we may be able to accomplish in the temporal world pales beside what the Lord is able to accomplish through us in the spiritual work of His kingdom…the church is called to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of social activists. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, Peter reminds us, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, (1 Peter 2:9).” (Mac p. 209).
Lord willing, next time we will conclude with the opening to the thirteenth chapter. Until then, God’s blessings of salvation and growth in Christ on all…mike.