The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

“Respect the Authorities”: Specific Counsels 5 and 6

with 5 comments

Manage the expectations and approach the throne

With all this in mind, we must manage the expectations. Those who rule on the earth do not have the answers; they are not our saviors. There seems to be a constant temptation for the people of God to believe that if only we can marshal enough rich and important people, if only we can obtain enough celebrity endorsements, if only we can generate a big enough wave of public opinion, then we can help the church out of its troubles. But such men and women, however well meaning, cannot sustain or prosper the church in the world. Again, it is to look for apples on an orange tree.

Earthly authorities and celebrities are not the answer to the needs and pursuits of the church, any more than the world is its home and destiny. There are certain things that we can and should expect of civil governments, and there may be certain times when the church, through appropriate spokespeople given appropriate opportunities, might remind government of its obligations to God. But human authority and power are not the solution to the church’s problems. The kingdom of God is not yoked to any nation, party, policy, platform, coalition, or organization and will not rise or fall with any kingdom of the earth:

Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, His Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.

Or, singing of the providence of God:

The kingdoms of this world
Lie in its hand;
See how they rise or fall
At its command!
Through sorrow and distress,
Tempestuous storms that rage,
God’s kingdom yet endures
From age to age.

As we wrestle with these things, we need to remember that God does know what He is doing. Even those things that men mean for evil He has intended for good. Kings and kingdoms rise and fall by His divine and all-wise appointment. Even the individual activities of rulers are not outside his control:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes. (Prov. 21:1)

We may look at some of those who have risen to prominence or power, who have abused that platform horribly, and wonder how this can be securing the glory of God or the good of men. Often the answer will simply be that we do not know, and we may never know. Perhaps heaven itself will not make plain the answers to all the questions we may now have.

But we must bow before God. Our hopes for the kingdom of Christ—whether the advance of the gospel or the health of the church itself—hang upon the divine King and not upon mortal men. Ultimately, we are waiting upon Him and waiting for Him.

That being the case, we should approach the throne. Prayer ought to be our first port of call as the church—whether institutionally or individually—in dealing with the civil magistrates. We should pray and give thanks for the rulers and authorities themselves, seeking “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2), able to live as saints without unnecessary difficulties or distractions. We should pray to God for His appointments, that His glory and our peace might be secured. We should pray concerning the Lord’s kingdom, that all God’s purposes would be accomplished for the ingathering of the elect and the building of His church. We should pray for the equipping of the church in all her circumstances, whether at peace or persecuted, not looking to worldly powers nor relying upon worldly means to accomplish kingdom ends. We should pray that the Lord would fill us with His Spirit and give us bold speech, enabling the saints to be witnesses for Christ in every circumstance that we face, not looking to or relying upon worldly means (Acts 4:8, 31). We do not trust in legislation, adjudication, or intimidation to obtain the things we desire for the glory of God and the good of men, but on the proclamation of the truth as it is in Jesus with power from on high. To that end we should remember who is on the throne and call upon Him. We pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

We remember that there is One who sits enthroned above the earth, and He is our God and our King.

 

Excerpted from the book Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness (Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com or Westminster Bookstore or RHB).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 10 July 2015 at 08:29

5 Responses

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  1. Jeremy, I am going to be leading a small group from your book, which I am very excited about having long admired your work. Looking through it briefly I did not see much on the Holy Spirit. There are lots of imperatives but I did not see much on where the power to obey them comes from. Could you address this in a future addition, and if possible say a line or two on this point here?

    David Bee

    Monday 27 July 2015 at 01:55

    • Thanks for this comment, David. I think a more thorough reading would reveal that this topic is more developed than you fear! The primary introductory treatment of this topic is on pages 16-18, and that is then assumed, referenced and developed at various points through the book (examples include pages 36-38, 49, 57-58, the whole chapters on knowing the enemy and fighting the battles, the introduction especially to the chapter on pursuing the mission, and so on). If you have an electronic copy of the book, searching for the words “S/spirit” and “spiritual” will reveal how thoroughly this theme is woven into the volume, specifically in terms of our reliance on the Holy Spirit when dealing with spiritual realities. I hope that this helps to make the book more useful to you.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 27 July 2015 at 07:35

  2. Thank you, Jeremy. Unfortunately I don’t have the ebook to search, but I looked at the places you mentioned (except the two complete chapters in great detail), and did not see it linked very explicitly to ‘power’. For example, saying the Spirit is our compass is quite different from saying it is our powerhouse (if I remember correctly you say much more on this power in your wonderful Life in Christ book). My understanding of the reformed approach to imperatives is that the word ‘spirit-empowered’ is key (am I missing something?). Do you have some advice on emphasizing or clarifying this point so as not to cause confusion? Feel free to not to post this but to respond offline to the email address I provided.

    David Bee

    Monday 27 July 2015 at 13:23

    • No problem, David. You are right to connect the indicatives of Christ’s finished work for us and his ongoing work in us with the imperatives directing our ongoing efforts. This particular book is not intended fully to address that issue, but to offer some appropriate general directives to those who enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ. That I have not majored on that element does not mean that it is being denied; feel free to cross-reference to “Life in Christ” if you wish to make that point more fully. This is a different book with a different emphasis. I hope this is helpful.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 27 July 2015 at 13:35

      • Thank you very much for answering, I appreciate that. That is very helpful. – David

        David Bee

        Monday 27 July 2015 at 20:51


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