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Biblical Voting in the Age of Trump

There are several things fascinating about this Presidential election. As someone who has virtually given up on National politics, for me to say that is not an easy statement. The effect of the Donald Trump phenomenon has influenced far more than just his candidacy for the highest office in our nation. The most important aspect that I have noticed is that Christians, who have traditionally voted Republican, have been forced to deal with an identity crisis. Can they vote for a man like Donald Trump who barely pretends to hold to the true faith?[1]  On the heels of this dilemma, they are questioning the basis for voting and the role their faith has in that decision.  wtrump_0425There is no doubt that Trump has said and done things that are too depraved to be repeated here, but so has Hillary Clinton, his opponent in this race for the White House. Isn’t she the greater evil and therefore Trump would be the better choice, the lesser evil?   Is it acceptable for a Christian to vote for a man like Trump for President? This brings up the case of voting for the lesser of two evils.  I have yet to meet anyone that actually believes Trump is an upstanding man of character. As for me personally, I have never been forced to wrestle with the ethical implications of my vote in any previous elections like I have in this one. This is in large part due to my role as being elected as a Republican Presidential Elector in the State of Texas. I have had to weigh what are the obligations of my personal vote in the ballot box and how do they differ from my representative vote as an Elector for the Electoral College.

Before answering these questions we must first agree on the standard we appeal to, to decide such matters. I firmly believe that the Christian must always turn to the Bible as the revealed Word of God. If the Bible says we ought not to do something, then we ought not to do it. If it commands us to do something, then we had better well do it. This should seem like an obvious statement that doesn’t need to be written, but in the world of politics the obvious sometimes isn’t. The Bible has a lot to say about civil rulers and the standard He holds both them and us to.

Qualifications

What are the qualifications for someone who desires to serve in civil office in the Bible?  There are many passages in scripture that have shaped my understanding of the biblical qualifications for civil office. Here is a brief glance at a few of them.[2]

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me:

He who rules over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God. ~ 2 Sam 23:3

These are the parting words of King David to the children of Israel. He gives them the minimum requirements, as evident by the must, for civil rulers.  Dr. Phillip Kayser summarizes this passage well, “it appears that the absolute minimum is that he be male (‘he”), that he be subject to God’s law (“just”), and that he be a believer who rules in the fear of God. The ‘must’ indicates to me that this is God’s minimum standard.” God spoke through King David, a civil ruler, and gave an authoritative command (imperative) about what type of man a ruler must be. He must fear God and be just according to God’s law. We can also look to the qualifications Moses was given by Jethro for selecting judges that would help him rule on smaller cases.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. ~ Exodus 18:21

These are the same quality of men we see described in 2 Samuel. They are men who fear God and will rule justly according to God’s law.  Moses repeats similar instructions to the Israelites before they are to enter the Promised Land,

Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you. ~ Deut 1:13

Since to be wise starts with fearing the Lord (Prov 1:7), it becomes clear that these are consistent qualifications throughout the Bible. God has given us a standard for our civil rulers.  They are to be men that fear Him and are to rule justly according His law. This has implications for both the rulers and those choosing them.

Interpretative Objections

For those that disagree with this interpretation of scripture these are some common objections I hear most often.  First, “doesn’t that only apply to Old Testament (theocratic) Israel?”  It is a reasonable objection, but there are other passages that make it clear that this was not a one-time standard that only applied to one nation.  Psalm 2 address all nations and kings of the earth.

Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

“Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,

And you perish in the way,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

It is obvious with references to “nations, kings of the earth, and judges of the earth” that the plain reading of this text is the calling of ALL civil leaders to submit to Christ’s law, rule justly, and serve Him or suffer the consequences. Again Dr. Kayser writes “Psalm 2 confirms this view. It prophesies concerning the New Testament era that any Gentile ruler that casts off God’s laws (v. 3), who rejects Christ’s Lordship (vv. 1-9), who fails to serve the Lord with fear (v. 11), and who refuses to ‘kiss the Son’ will have God angry with him and Christ will dash him with His rod of iron (judgment).” Christ has absolute authority over every person, church and nation. All government is upon His shoulders (Isa 9:6) and all civil authority is delegated by and from Him (John 19:11).  Consider all of the pagan nations that God judged for their disobedience and it is evident that God holds all nations and their rulers to His standard of righteousness.

A second objection is to reject that it applies to voting. The basic assumption in this objection is that Israel didn’t vote for their civil leaders therefore 2 Samuel can’t be an absolute binding standard upon voters. I believe the Bible presents a different picture, but before we turn to some examples we must first understand what exactly a vote is. We tend to think of voting only in terms of our personal experiences. However, a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position. To vote doesn’t require any set number of candidates or political parties. It only requires one person making a choice and expressing it in some recognizable action (Ex. ballot, raised hand, or voice).  With that in mind, we find several examples of voting for civil office in the Bible. Here are a few.[3]

We already looked at the passages relevant to Israel’s selection of judges under Moses. “Moreover you shall select from all the people, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exod 18:21) and “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men…” (Deut 1:13).  E.C. Wines writes, “No fact can be plainer, or more certain, than that the judges, instituted at the suggestion of Jethro, were chosen by the suffrages (voting) of all Israel. The direction of Moses to the people, upon that occasion, is very explicit.”[4]

The people clearly voted verbally for Jephthan in the book of Judges:

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.” Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. ~ Judges 11:4-11

Then there is the story of Israel choosing Saul to be their king as recorded from 1 Samuel in chapters 8-11. It concludes with this:

So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. ~ 1 Samuel 11:15

The most famous of kings in the biblical record, David, is another example of a civil ruler being elected. It is noteworthy that David had been anointed by Samuel to be king years before he was willing to take the throne. He refused to take it himself. He waited until the men of Judah came to him. He waited until he was chosen by the people.

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. And David brought up the men who were with him, every man with his household. So they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:2-3

The last example we will look at of the people choosing their leader is King Solomon.

Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the Lord your God.” So all the assembly blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king. And they made sacrifices to the Lord and offered burnt offerings to the Lord on the next day: a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. So they ate and drank before the Lord with great gladness on that day. And they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and anointed him before the Lord to be the leader, and Zadok to be priest. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:20-22

In each of these examples the people chose their leaders in some form or fashion. While the kings of Israel had certainly been anointed by God to serve in those positions that in no way discounts the role the people had in the selection process. For Daniel makes it clear that God always “removes and raises up kings.”[5] The biblical example is that the people are to choose, that is vote, for their civil leaders.

5-saul-attacking-david-guercinoThe third objection to the application of these biblical qualifications for voting is that several of the kings already mentioned did not rule according this standard. In others words, they would say “we can’t look for perfectionism in our candidates because if that is the case Saul, David, and Solomon all failed the test. They were not men who feared God and ruled justly according to His law. If God raised them up to be kings than either a) God broke His own standard or b) the standard isn’t applicable.”

First we have to understand the difference between the revealed will and secret will of God.[6]  God can command His people to vote one way (revealed will) and hold them accountable for that vote. He can also at the same time use their disobedience to raise up an evil king according to His (secret) will.  The fact that God uses people’s voting to bring both good and bad kings to power according to His will is not a contradiction and is perfectly consistent with His nature.  Having said that, I do not think that Israel disobeyed these qualifications in these examples. To fear God and rule justly does not mean to be perfect. If we look at each of these men at the time they were put into office it appears they were all qualified. Saul is said to have “the Spirit of the Lord depart”[7] from him which necessarily means he had the Spirit early on in his administration. David was a “man after God’s own heart, who would do His will.”[8] When Solomon came to power it was said of him that “the Lord his God was with him and exalted him exceedingly.”[9] Each of these men sinned greatly against the Lord during their administration, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t qualified at the time they were chosen.  The qualifications of being godly men who fear the Lord and are able to rule justly does not require perfection.  It only requires what it states. They must have a discernable fear of God and appear to rule in light of that fear.

Pragmatic Objections

I now want to address the three objections to these qualifications that I consider more pragmatic in nature than interpretive.  The first objection is that we don’t have anyone biblically qualified by this standard in the race for President.  “If we are commanded to choose, then we must choose the least evil candidate.”  There is a case to be made that we must do all that we can to stop the greatest evil. However, in that process we must still vote for qualified candidates.  Remember “must” was the term scripture used. We can not use a means that God disapproves of to bring about an end that will please Him.  He doesn’t honor rebellion.  Furthermore, it is just not true that we don’t have anyone qualified.  There are hundreds of people running for President in 2016, many of which meet these qualifications. What people generally mean when they offer this objection is that there isn’t anyone in the Republican or Democratic Parties, and therefore anyone that “has a chance at winning”, that meet these qualifications.  This is absolutely correct that there isn’t anyone in either of those parties that are biblically qualified.  However, I have yet to find anywhere in God’s Word a command for us to only choose men that have a path to victory.

The second objection is that a 3rd party vote is a vote for the Democratic candidate. The presumption in this objection is that Republican candidate deserves our vote and therefore if we do not vote for him, we have essentially withdrawn a vote that belongs to him. If we recall that a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position, then this becomes an illogical statement.  If my choice is candidate X, then my choice doesn’t magically become candidate D by virtue of the fact that I didn’t chose candidate R. If I choose candidate X, then candidate X is my choice and only candidate X.

The third objection is that the righteous thing to do is to stop the greater evil.  First, this assumes that the Democratic Party is the greater evil therefore we must do everything we can to stop Hillary Clinton from winning. I can understand this position for there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton would be an evil President, but would she really be more evil than Trump in policy?  Rather than going to the talking points of the political parties and inside operatives let’s look at the biggest issues that actually matter. If we look at where they stand on the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, murdering of unborn children, undeclared wars, the complete disregard for private property, or our national debt; the only difference between the two is in style and rhetoric.  Where it matters most, they will both pursue the same wicked policies.  Even if I am wrong about their policies, and one is slightly better than the other, it still would not make it an ethically righteous decision to suddenly throw off the qualifications in hope of possibly having a slightly less evil government. Theologians and philosophers refer to this as situational ethics.  Situational ethics says the morally right and wrong thing to do change based on the situation.  The Bible knows nothing of situational ethics, God and His Word do not change. If God tells us we must choose (vote for) a righteous man that fears Him, we are not free to attach an “unless” to the end of that command.  May we boldly proclaim that “God be true and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). We must fear God, not man… or woman!

Conclusion

If civil leaders are expected to rule according this standard and they are judged when they do not (Psalm 2), then what can we expect as voters when we dismiss these qualifications that God has given us? My biggest concern as a Christian is what God expects of me as revealed in the Bible. I have yet to have anyone address these passages in satisfactory way that convinces me otherwise.  It seems clear to me that God both calls me to vote and directs me to only vote for men who fear Him and are just according to God’s law.  He doesn’t expect or allow me to add to his qualifications and seek for perfection. He also doesn’t hold me accountable for all the sins that these qualified men commit once in office.  He does, however, give me clear commands for who is qualified and expects me to be obedient with my calling as a voter.  Therefore, I can not in good conscience vote for Donald Trump for President. The lingering question that remains is: what does that mean for my role as Republican Presidential Elector?  That is the topic for another article.

Art Sisneros


[1] I acknowledge he claims to be a person of faith, but his denial of basic Christian tenets like the need for forgiveness make his claim laughable and believed by nobody.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=80&v=A3l0e6nS9oI

[2] For a more comprehensive list see http://fortifyingthekingdom.com/scriptural-qualifications-for-civic-office/

[3] For a more complete study on this subject I recommend Roots of the American Republic by E.C. Wines

[4] E.C. Wines, Roots of the American Republic, P18

[5] Daniel 2:21

[6] Theologians refer to the revealed/prescriptive will vs. the secret/descriptive will of God. For more information see Appendix I in The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink.  https://books.google.com/books?id=p3OOU3wL9YIC&pg=PA152&lpg=PA152&dq=god%27s+secret+will+vs.+revealed+will&source=bl&ots=l7WglX2zw6&sig=7lTlmHAZurEUeTT5cpU_dEYvMig&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6jLnrsZPQAhVpslQKHS–Dqo4ChDoAQhEMAc#v=onepage&q=god’s%20secret%20will%20vs.%20revealed%20will&f=false

[7] 1 Samuel 16:14

[8] 1 Samuel 13:14, Act 13:22

[9] 2 Chronicles 1:1

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The Light from Asia

While most Americans have their political thoughts focused on the Presidential campaigns, or are trying to forget them by pretending to care about sports they otherwise didn’t know existed before the Olympics, something very big happened over thAhoke weekend. Some 10,000 miles away in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, a Christian church held a conference on politics.  The Christian Faith, Democracy and Prosperous Nation conference was significant for multiple reasons, but the biggest was one of the guest speakers they hosted and the speech that he gave.  Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, affectionately known as Ahok, is the Governor of Jakarta.  What makes Ahok unique is that he is the first ever Christian governor serving in Indonesia.  While there is a lot of background information that is fascinating in how he reached this position, the short version is: God has had favor on him. God has clearly honored the 20+ years of fasting and prayer that the Christian church in Indonesia has been dedicated to.  Not only is Ahok bold in his testimony, but he has proven to govern Jakarta with the wisdom and integrity that prove his faith is what guides him in governing.  He has earned a reputation for being unrelenting in fighting corruption and practical when dealing with the problems facing Jakarta.  I share this as both an encouragement and admonition.  May we rejoice and pray for our brothers in Asia.  May we be prepared for decades of fasting while being ruled by wicked. Below is an excerpt of his speech from an attendee of the event.

Speech given by Ahok:

In being in politics, my Reformed Christian faith is what influenced me. At first I did not know who Calvin was, I only knew about Pastor Stephen Tong. When I was serving as a Representative in the House Parliament in Belitung, I had plenty of opportunity to watch Stephen Tong’s sermons. I also participated in a seminar by him, there, Pastor Tong always said, “After you complete this seminar, you must all return to your own church, ok?”_ I am also not a member of the GRII church.

I read a book by Calvin in 2009, and I compared Calvin’s teachings to Pastor Tong’s, to see if pastor Tong is making stuff up or not. According to Calvin it is most difficult to serve as a public official (civil magistrate), because they are supposed to be a model in the public eye.

Initially, in my heart I did not feel encouraged to go into politics because I am a Chinese descendant in a large Chinese church that the congregation do not like and do not want to be involved in politics.

There is one Bible verse that I hold in governing:

Proverbs 29:4  (NKJV) “The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.”

As a human being, I can falter, and that is why I need God at my side.

In the past, I was offered to be Governor of Babylon by way of bribes, but then my wife said “It’s up to you, do you want to be a disciple of Jesus or a disciple of Barabas?”
At the end, I did not become governor of Babylon, but I did become the Governor of Jakarta.

In 2012, actually, I wanted to return to Babylon. But God showed me His will, I felt several times God strongly showing me what I should do.   One of them when I read the book by Calvin it says, our duty is to become a showcase, showing the transformation of reformation of God to the society, showing the glory of God through our actions and Jakarta is a good showcase in Indonesia, as the capital, Jakarta is a big city, the city is right for God to display His work.

The Bible also speaks about the official task of the civil magistrate is to provide social justice for the people and not social assistance.

I agree when Pastor Tong said that the foundation of a democratic government that is true, is what John Calvin speaks about. Real democracy is applied with the foundation of the law of love and justice from God’s Word.

In the Book by Calvin, when beggars beg for money to the church, they are not given money, but they are sent to work. That is social justice, not social assistance. Social justice means self-responsibility.  People who are lacking must be helped, but we also have to remain firm.

I also once said _ “You who are poor need to realize your position” _. In the “Rusun case” (where Ahok provided government apartment housing to homeless so they don’t live in the streets – a program to clean up the city), if you are caught selling your housing to someone else, it will definitely upset me and you will be expelled from the program, we must be firm. It does not mean that if you are poor and you do not know your place, you demand and blackmail the State for assistance in the name of human rights. Point number 5 of “Pancasila” (the Indonesian Ideology) speaks about social justice, not social assistance. Social assistance will only damage people and make them unproductive.

Paul (in the Bible) also said, “He who does not work, does not eat.”
Democracy without True faith, will be anarchist and chauvinist.

There is this story about my son who was going to face an exam in high school.

I asked, “What subject is the exam tomorrow?”

My son answered, “Bahasa Indonesia” language.

“Then now, you should study Physics instead of Language,” I said.

“Papa, the exam on language, how is it you tell me to study physics?”

“If your teacher did not tell you what subject is the exam tomorrow, what would you study?”

“I will learn everything, language, physics, mathematics, etc. to be ready.”_

“If in school, we always know what the exam is tomorrow so we can prepare and can learn. You can be smart in school, yes. But because we already know what we will face during the exam. Then how can we be smart in life? Life is like an exam, the difference is, we do not know what exam God gives us tomorrow, we do not know what problems we face. Every moment of our life is a test, without knowing what subject. That is why we should be thankful we have the Bible. The Bible is what we have to hold on to prepare for “exams” in life.  That is why I read my Bible every morning, to prepare for life exams.”

Many times God has made it clear His will to me through God’s Word. Spiritual experiences can be in various forms, and each person is different. I used to struggle when finished my bachelor’s degree,  I wanted to be a pastor and further into theological school. But my dad in Belitung was very broke, I am the oldest son . I wrestled and asked the Lord if I should become a minister or a businessman. One day, while at a church youth event, on the event handout, there is a verse written:

1 Timothy 5: 8 (NKJV) “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

After reading it I felt that rhema of God, I immediately decided to return to Belitung to be a businessman. I want to be a businessman whose characteristics is just like a pastor.

*Question and answer session*
Q: Why did you choose the path of political party and not the independent path?

A: I want to mention, I believe in God’s providence.

Through the independent path, if I win, I will immediately become a superhero in Indonesia. If I win this way then I will destroy all political parties. I’ll be the first man in Indonesia who could win an election without political parties. I will be a great man.  Wiranto and Surya Paloh, said to me, “If no party support you, and you win, it is  finished for all political parties.”

Politics is perception. If Ahok can not go forward because of KPU (the election committee), people would say _ “Too bad, if Ahok move forward,  we will have an advanced Jakarta.”  Pillar of our democracy is the political parties. We should correct the way of the political parties and not do away with the political parties.

My vision is in accordance with my Christian faith: my goal is the building up of people (reconstruction of society). I was struggling for this, and this time the Lord answered through President Jokowi. Mr.Jokowi really know me. When I met with him, he asked, “Have you understood the risk of not being selected if you are going through an independent path?”  I answered, “My wife and I believe, if I do not selected, it means this is the end , our task of our service to the community, we end our service honorably.” Then Mr.Jokowi answered with a very smooth, very meaningful way, “Mr. Governor,  my wife had four months of stress when I wanted to be president.”  More or less, what he is saying is, “Don’t listen to your wife in this case.”

Finally I decided to take the path of political parties, and many people were disappointed, they judge I am inconsistent. I also wrestled, like David in the Psalms, I also pray to God in my quiet times.  I said to God, “I’m embarrassed God, just yesterday I confidently said in front of the crowd that I will progress to go through independent path, but now I actually joined a political party.  People are saying I am inconsistent.” And the Lord spoke to me, God answered when I read Isaiah 60. I feel the verses were addressed to me,

Isiah 60:1-4 (NKJV)

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from afar,
And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

I told God, “I feel like I’m buying rice and is exchanged with a potato, Lord ”

But the Lord answered me Isaiah 60:17-22

“Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
Instead of iron I will bring silver,
Instead of wood, bronze,
And instead of stones, iron.
I will also make your officers peace,
And your magistrates righteousness.
18 Violence shall no longer be heard in your land,
Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders;
But you shall call your walls Salvation,
And your gates Praise.

19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the Lord will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
21 Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.
22 A little one shall become a thousand,
And a small one a strong nation.
I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”

I am even more firmly that it is the right thing to go through political party path. Political parties have been willing to support me with my condition and little money etc. By using this path, I just finished a peacemaker. If I use an independent path, going feud between political parties, others will blame other political parties who supported me. God also reminded me to be humble. If I go forward as a candidate by an independent path, then I have a higher position in the public eye compared to other candidates who weresubmitted from political parties. But now, if I go ahead with a political party, then my position is equal to candidates of other political parties, it is fair. God wants to remind me not to rely on my own ability. Now I do not care about people trying to tell me I was being inconsistent, etc., which I believe my purpose of running is according to my Christian faith.  God is the one guiding me.

<End of Ahok speech>


I hope you were encouraged as I  was by these words from Ahok.

Art Sisneros

A Case for God’s Law

In my first post (here), I made the claim that the majority of Christians today make most of their decisions without any serious regard for what God’s Word has to say about it.  I pointed out that most decisions are made on the basis of “community consensus” or “vague principles” that never enter the realm of the specific.  These decisions are made on this basis because the basic ethics and view of the average Christian is flawed.  They are out walking aimlessly about.  They will end up on the path to destruction.  I concluded with the claim that the problem that plagues the average Christian is a neglect of God’s Law.  I suggested that the only solution is the return of obedience to the Law.  This is not what most pastors in this country would suggest.  They might agree with the problem.  I suspect that if you polled 100 different church leaders, you would get 90 different answers to what the solution is.  They would all have one thing in common.  None would utter the word “law” as a part of the solution.  So how can I make such a claim?  Why do I suggest a return to the law as the solution?

First and foremost, it is not I that is making such a claim.  I am only attempting to discover and communicate what God has already revealed to us in His Word.  [Disclaimer: I confess that I have much to learn in this area.  In many ways, this blog is a reflection of my continuing efforts to live the simple life of faithfulness and devotion.  I am by no means an expert.]  That aside, I do not write or claim this on my own authority.  My claim that Biblical Law is the solution to our careless ways of decision-making is based on the authority of my Lord and His infallible Word.  It is reinforced by many heroes of the faith that were far removed from our time and culture.  If we desire to walk on the path that the Lord blesses, then we would be wise to listen to both.  I humbly present to you three reasons why God’s Law still has validity over your life as a Christian.

Duty

First, it is our duty to obey God and his Law.  He is the creator and ultimate authority over all things.  He makes the rules.  As created beings, we are subject to Him and His rules.  We are to obey them simply because they are His rules.  Psalm 95:6 expresses worship for God that is rooted in this Creator-creature relationship.  “Let us worship and bow down; and kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”  We are to obey Him, and all that He has commanded, as a consequence of the nature of this relationship.  He is our Creator.  We are the created.  This is reason enough for us obey all His commands.  A good example of this can be found in the very beginning of time in the garden of Eden.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”[1]  

God gave Adam a command.  He gave Adam a law.   He also gave Adam a punishment for disobedience.  Adam had a duty to obey God’s command.  God didn’t make a deal with Adam.  He didn’t give Adam the option to opt out of this arrangement.  Adam had to accept and obey the terms presented because God commanded it.  It was an act of grace and love that God even offered a reward for obedience.  Adam was obligated to obey because of the nature of this Creator-creature relationship with God.  It was his duty to obey.  Of course, we know the outcome of this testing of Adam.  Let’s just say, Adam hasn’t been invited to come speak at any of our Christian conferences.  He didn’t get the opportunity to make the tour telling of his “garden experience.”  Why???  He died.  “He surely died!”  Adam had a duty to obey.  He had an obligation to obedience.

Lest you think that was a one time requirement, this point is made plain in the book of Deuteronomy.  Repeatedly throughout this book echo the warnings of Chapter 8:19-20,

“And if you forget the LORD your GOD and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.”  

God had made Israel His special people.  He loved them.  He brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt.  He led them to their promised land.  He gave them food (manna) for their journey in the wilderness.  He gave them promised victory in conquering.  He gave them specific instructions on how they were to live.  He gave them His Law.   He also gave them a promise.  If they didn’t obey His commands, they would “surely perish.”  Again there is a duty to obey His Law.   

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God…”[2]

Yes, but that’s the Old Testament right?  Well as Pastor Joseph Morecraft wrote, “Our obligation to obey God is rooted in our creaturehood before our Creator.  However, our obligation is intensified, not lessened, by virtue of our redemption in Christ by grace Having been bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood, we are not our own, therefore we are now to glorify God in the entirety of our lives”[3]  In other words, now that you have been freed from the penalty of God’s judgment, you are not excused from obeying God’s law.  Quite the opposite is true.  You are now expected to obey it, though not perfectly, because you have been bought with a price.  Let us not forget the words of Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[4] It is our duty as Christians to obey the commands of God’s Law.  Although most modern “pastors” may deny this, consider the words of Reformer John Calvin, “Because there is only one Lord and Master who has dominion over our consciences, and because his will is the only principle of all justice, we confess all our life ought to be ruled in accordance with the commandments of his holy law in which contained all perfection of justice and that we ought to have no other rule of good and just living..”[5]  The obligation to obey remains.  Jesus said,

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[6]

Direction

Secondly, the Law of God is a direct reflection of the character of God.  It defines for us what is right vs. wrong, righteous vs. evil, justice vs. injustice, etc.  It gives us some specifics on how to act in a way that honors Him.  It is tells us what is good and what is bad.  It provides us with direction.  “Biblical Law guides our sanctification.  God’s Law offers positive, infallible, and specific directions for Christian living.  He has not left us to our own subjective feelings to determine right and wrong.  The Law is the ‘tracks’ on which sanctification and spiritual growth run.  Do railroad tracks hinder or help a train to reach its destination?  What if a locomotive said, ‘I want to be free to roam as I please.  I want to be free from these tracks for they limit my freedom?’  Without the railroad tracks, a train has no freedom, no movement, no progress.  So it is with the relation between the Law and the Christian.”[7]  Or as Calvin wrote, “The law is the best instrument for enabling believers daily to learn what that will of God is which they are to follow.”[8]  Consider the fact that, God’s law will actually have a role in eternity.  There are different levels of punishment in hell (Luke 12:45-48).  It is determined by the level of rebellion to the Law of God.  Whether we walk in his direction or not has real consequences.  It matters now and forever.

Delight

Lastly, it should be our delight to obey the commandments of the LORD.  David in Psalm 119 gives us insights into how we should feel about God’s Law when he writes,

“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.  Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” [9]

In this Psalm alone, David uses the term “delight” ten times in reference to God’s law or commands.  It is his joy to know, to understand, to keep and to share God’s law.  David cherished it.  He longed for it.  “Oh how I love you law! It is my meditation all the day”[10] was his heart’s cry.  David’s heart was inclined to God’s law because this is the natural effect of receiving the Holy Spirit.  As the prophet Ezekiel explains, God will put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes.[11]  The Holy Spirit had come upon David[12] and wrote the law on his heart.[13]  He delighted in it.  As Greg Bahnsen writes, “The Holy Spirit works in the believer to bring about conformity to the inspired law of God.”[14]  It “does not oppose that law to the slightest degree but, instead, empowers obedience to it.”[15]  The Spirit makes obedience a joyful task.  It turns a duty into a delight.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:2-3   

Another work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer is that it should drive him into heartfelt gratitude for his salvation.  A “believer’s awareness that salvation is by sheer grace and not by the works of the Law and that they are eternally secure in Christ not only provokes intense gratitude in them, but that gratitude stirs them to greater care, greater determination, diligence and perseverance in conforming themselves-inside and outside- to God’s Law as their rule for obedience, for when Christ became their Savior He did not cease to be their Sovereign.”[16]

In other words, the Holy Spirit uses the Law of God to drive us to Christ.  This need of grace then produces gratitude in the believer.  This gratitude then drives the believer to greater obedience to the Law.  It is an amazing ministry of the Spirit that is rarely taught in our churches.  The Holy Spirit can stir in us obedience from the heart that is joyful obedience.  He gives in us new hearts that long to comply with His commands and by so doing He turns the Law of God from a burden into a delight.

Conclusion

It is out of a duty to obedience, a direction for holiness, and a delight within our soul that should drive us to understand and appreciate the Law of God.  If a Christian community has a disregard or apathy for God’s Law, it says more about them then it does about His Law.  I close with a warning for those that consider themselves Christians.  If when you read of the Law of God, you immediately begin to “check out” or dismiss it, you need to honestly re-evaluate the state of your soul before God.  One who does not concern himself with God’s Law is defined in the Bible as a fool.  “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but the babbling fool will come to ruin.”[17]  It is the sign of a rebellious heart and you are fooling no one but yourself.  If, however, you have a heart that longs to please the LORD, but you know you have neglected this area of your life, you are not alone.  Repent and purpose yourself to change.  Pray.  Ask God to help you love His Law.  Read God’s Law.  Connect with fellow Christians who love the Law.  Next post we will begin to examine and apply God’s Law.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Psalm 119:1


[1] Genesis 2:16, 17

[2] Deuteronomy 11:26-28

[3] Joe Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p517

[4] John 14:15

[5] RKS Reid, Calvin: Theological Treatises, p26

[6] Matthew 5:19

[7] Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p625-626

[8] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion,2.7.12

[9] Psalm 119:34,35

[10] Psalm 119:97

[11] Ezekiel 36:27

[12] See 1 Samuel 16:13, Psalm 51:11

[13] Jeremiah 31:33

[14] Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard, p47

[15] Bahnsen, By This Standard, p50

[16] Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p621

[17] Proverbs, 10:8

The Path to Destruction

A Christian is faced with hundreds if not thousands of decisions everyday.  Most are instinctively made with little to no thought.  They are habit decisions and we often don’t even realize we have made them.  Others require a little more attention.  They require a quick pause and an internal evaluation.  In the span of a few seconds the decision is made with little to no pain.  Then there are the rarest of decisions, the really big ones.  These require much of us.  These are ones we can fret over.  These are the ones that we seek counsel in making.  These are the ones we worry about making the “wrong choice.”  In this category are the decisions like whom to marry, jobs to take, whether to move or not, college major, etc.  These are the life changing kinds of decisions.  These are the times when the Christian will finally ask, “what does God want me to do here?”  Here in lies the problem with the American Christian.  I suspect it is the same all over the world.  The average Christian makes most of his decisions without even thinking about it.  He spends little to no time considering what the Word of the Lord has spoken regarding the details of his life.  He lives on autopilot, an autopilot that was set with no regard to where the Lord has destined him to go.  How is the Christian to live his life and make his daily decisions in the light of his salvation? Sadly, this most basic of questions has either been ignored or poorly answered.

The Christian culture in America has failed to answer this question from a thoroughly Biblical basis.  The most common method is an appeal to “community consensus.” The answer to what is right and wrong is defined by the group. The “Christian community” tells us how to feel about abortion, work, marriage, war, politics, money, education, and every other topic under the sun.  A Christian will find a “Christian community” that is most compatible with the ethics that he already holds dear. There is very little change needed in his life.  He is comfortable.  If his life is mostly in line with his “Christian community” then he tends to feel at ease with his Christianity. The problem is that communities can get it wrong, even covenant communities.  Israel did on several occasions.  The history of God’s covenant people is filled with a record of the community doing “evil in the sight of God” or everyone doing “what was right in his own eyes.”  This is the echo throughout the book Judges.  You don’t think that is a problem today?  Christians are engaged in the same activities as their pagan neighbors.  They are encouraged by fellow believers to worship sports, have small families, send their kids to government schools, have debt, and yes someday retire.  Their community has confirmed that these things are Christian.  The problem is if the community does not turn to God’s Word and law it will not provide the right direction.  Our “Christian communities” rejected God’s law long ago.  The path they lead us down leads to rebellion and disobedience.

There is another way that a believer seeks to deal with the question of what should be his guide to his lifestyle and his personal decisions.  He knows he should live for God.  After all, we are talking about a true Christian with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He desires to live a life pleasing to God.  He knows the Bible is the only source of truth and direction.  The problem with this believer is, he does not know how to apply the scriptures to his life.  He wants to live for God, but in the details of his life he doesn’t know how to apply God’s Word to the specific decisions he is faced with.  The sole guide for his ethics is vague Biblical principles that have no teeth on them.  Allow me to give an example.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.[1]  It is indeed the greatest commandment.  The command to “love your neighbor as yourself”[2] is a command that must be taken to heart, for it is “like the first.”  However, these commands are not useful if kept in the realm of generalities or overarching principles.  Yes, these commands are absolutely binding upon all Christian behavior, but to obey them takes more information than is found in these commands alone.  The principle to “love your neighbor” can and has led to all manners of unbiblical behavior.  “Love your neighbor” has been used as a carte blanche for all sorts of sins that the Lord hates (i.e. welfare, socialism, infidelity, penal system, etc.)  Well meaning Christians desire to fulfill the command to “love your neighbor.”  What they do not realize is that these two great commands are a summation of more specific commands found elsewhere in the Bible.  They do not know their Bible.  The details of what it means to “love your neighbor” that have been defined and spelled out in the Old Testament are not consulted.  They are left forming their personal ethics (making daily decisions) on the basis of very broad principles.  They have not seen how God has put teeth on these principles.  It is another path that leads to destruction.

So what is the solution?  We must turn the God’s Word for instruction, divine instruction.  R.J. Rushdoony pointed out that “torah means instruction, authoritative direction.”[3]  Torah is the Hebrew word for law.     

“The Biblical concept of law is broader than the legal codes…It applies to the divine word and instruction in its totality.”[4]

Thus it follows that if we want instructions from God on how we are to live, we must have some understanding and insight into Biblical law.  We must be honest about how we make our decisions.  Do we follow our Christian communities?  Do we follow some great high level commandment without the knowledge of how the Bible fleshes it out?  If we want to live a life that is pleasing to God, we must know what pleases God.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[5]  The Blessed Path is a path of obedience to God and His commands.  Next post we will examine the usefulness of the law in guiding our decisions.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Psalm 119:1


[1] Matthew 22:37

[2] Matthew 22:39

[3] R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p.6.

[4] Ibid, p.6.

[5] John 14:15