The question of the separation of Church and State came up and I thought it would be a perfect topic to explore, since it has a huge bearing on the state of the Church has it has existed throughout history.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)
This does not specifically address direct matters of the flesh like sexual matters or gluttony, but things in the world and pursuits of the world. This can include the accumulation of things, status and favor in the world, money, and the like. The love of the world puts the glory of God and service to Him aside in favor of other things. The answer that we are given is to flee such things. Ecclesiastes serves to further reinforce this answer.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:10)
But there are temptations and fallacies in the minds of people that will cause them to be drawn into such things. These have been both obvious and not so obvious. As this relates to the issue of Church and State, there are a number of good Scriptural examples of which to go by. Unfortunately, the Church has fallen repeatedly and has chosen not to go by these examples that have been given in Scripture and in history.
Follow the Will of The Lord, Not The Will of Men
One of the common mistakes has been to follow after the dictates of men and not after God. There are a number of examples at all levels of authority, but the chief of which is that somehow people are swayed to depart from the Lord by the dictates of governing authorities. It is true that Scripture dictates following the government and not being trouble-makers, for the government officials are those who have been set in authority in those places by the wish of God:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
There was a tendency to use Christianity as an occasion to rebel against the governments, which is why these things were written. But as people in churches are fond to do, they do not present a complete picture of such things. This is especially unfortunate since such things in the hands of worldly authority will be the cause of persecutions.
The reality is that Christians are to follow after God first and foremost, and any service to government comes out of righteous outgrowth of such things. The obligation is clearly planted to refuse obeying authority when that authority disobeys Godly will. We are given examples in both Daniel and his three friends. We are also given examples in Peter and John, who were brought before the governing authority after healing the lame man (Acts 3:2) and preaching the name of Jesus:
But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:17-20)
Do they cease from building the Church or furthering Jesus? We are told that they prayed at the end of Acts 4 and we get the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) Then we are told the answer:
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) (Acts 5:12-14)
They were then put into prison and then the angel of the Lord released them with the direction to preach some more, which they did. They were eventually brought back:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:27-29)
You will recognize the by-line of this blog at the end of this quote. The same Peter who wrote the text above, also said to obey God rather than men in the face of a governing authority. Unfortunately, when the hard times come, so many will be astray as they already are, choosing to obey the world instead of obeying God, especially in the face of consequences as the apostles will be facing down. It will take a solid faith to follow after God at the expense of all in the world. Churchianity at large has already failed this test.
Do Not Be Enticed Away By The World’s Benefits
One of the other common mistakes is to be enticed away to desire to be just like the world or have benefits in the world. This has happened in the Church numerous times throughout history as well as to the Israelites. Rather than to hold the Lord as King, and to follow out His patterns fully within His people, those in the Church have chosen to desire after things in the world and follow after the world:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
These favors the world hands the people of Christ or these desires for the people of Christ to be like the world and follow after the world (not holy or set apart for Christ) have always come with costs. The costs are always extreme in the face of the Lord. The best known example of such things we have in Scripture is the one before Samuel and the Israelites:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. (1 Samuel 8:4-8)
They had a king, and that is the Lord. But they wanted a man to stand before them as the other nations had. They looked at something in the world (for they were to be set apart for the Lord, too), and desired it more than they desired the Lord. They desired to be like the world and loved the world more than they loved God (back to 1 John 2:15-17), so they didn’t have the love of the Father within them. The Lord had Samuel explain to them what it would be like to have a king (which was fulfilled under Solomon), but the people responded:
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. (1 Samuel 8:19-20)
They were saying they would rather be the world’s than the Lord’s. They looked back to Egypt instead of looking ahead to the Lord’s promise. This is nothing different than what the Church has done many times throughout history. Instead of recognizing the true Church is the people of God who were called out (ekklesia), the true Church has been replaced by buildings because they wanted to be like the other pagan religions. Instead of recognizing the priesthood of all believers, men have been set before other men just like the world. The world was definitely fond to help mold the Church in its image and not in God’s image, but it is definitely the people that have been complicit in such matters all throughout the history of Christianity time and time again. It can definitely be easy to take Christ’s words and explain this:
They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:21)
Many things that are God’s have unfortunately been rendered unto Caesar willingly by those who proclaim the name of Christ. Marriage is a prime example among many others. In the end the people and the church in question just becomes a State church that serves the interest of the governing authority and not Christ, which is what is addressed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
(when I talked about having lots of research to go through, I meant it (about 425MB worth). I’ll pick up on this topic again when I get the chance to go through all this stuff.)