Summary: Election sermons were common, even expected, in early America. This is a 21st century election sermon. Here we explore, not party politics, but principles of politics from the word of God.
Mixing Politics and Religion
Politics is the process by which we establish government. The word "politics" is derived from two words. The first, "poly", is a Latin word meaning many. The second, "tics", describes blood-sucking creatures. I’m kidding, of course, but -
In my many years of “hanging around” churches, I have noticed that there is one subject that seems to be off-limits. That subject is government. People sometimes still - wrongly - say that one should not mix politics and religion. When was the last time you heard a sermon on government? Have you heard a Bible school lesson lately on the matter of government?
This has not always been the case - - far from it!
Not so long ago, it was common, it was expected, that as an election approached, the minister should preach on government. Entrusted, as we have been, with electing our officials, churches thought it necessary that church members should be periodically reminded of God’s will for government.
I have a volume titled Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. (It is, by the way, published by Liberty Press of Indianapolis, Indiana. That publisher is a valuable historical resource for any good Christian American.) To whittle this volume down to a manageable size of only about 1500 pages, the editor had cut out hundreds of sermons that had been put into print. This volume contains sermons such as “Civil Magistrates Must Be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God”; “Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers”; “The Bible and the Sword”; “Divine Judgments Upon Tyrants”; and “A Sermon for the day of General Election.”
Just from these titles you can see that the subject of government has not always been off-limits in the church. The fact is that God has a plan for good government, and that plan is fairly clear if we apply ourselves to the scriptures to search it out.
Here we are in a general election year. What better time for an “election sermon”?
We are going to explore God’s plan for good government. Because of the neglect in this area, some of this might seem a bit surprising to many of you. I think we sometimes are a little too comfortable with our ignorance about this matter, so if what I say today really makes you angry - - great!
Maybe part of the reason why this topic has been off-limits has been because preachers were afraid they might make someone angry. I have always thought that if you never make anyone angry, you’re probably not speaking the whole truth. So ready or not, here we go . . .
I. Good Government Is God-Authorized Government
God has a rather nasty but necessary role for government.
That role is stated in Romans 12 and 13. You can get the picture by reading Rom. 12:19 and 13:4 & 5:
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord . . . For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Under the Mosaic Law, someone who had done harm to a person was to be hunted down by the victim’s next-of-kin. Revenge was personal. According to the Apostle Paul, this situation is changed.
It is not the will of God that we take personal revenge on those who harm us. Instead, God has ordained that rulers, that is, government, be the agency of His wrath. Government is intended by God to be a wrathful, punishing, agency for those who inflict harm upon other people.
The need for all this stems from the fact that we live in a world corrupted by sin. While we all suffer from this corruption, even if we are believers, some give themselves over to it more than do others.
Imagine a world where there were no immediate negative consequences imposed for murder, rape, or theft. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. Just think of the Los Angles riot of the early 90s. Paul make this clear when he says in 1 Tim 2:2 that we should pray for “all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Solomon makes the same point in the negative in Ecclesiastes 8:11: “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.”