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Archive for October, 2020

Issues – Government

 Partake - Issues



In the UK, when we have a General Election, that is where people vote for their political representatives. After al the votes are counted there will be a government elected! This of course, is not unique to the UK! All people all over the world live under some from of leadership or government.  That government may be democratically elected, a monarchy or even an oppressive dictatorship. 

Whatever kind of government we find ourselves with, we have one!  If there was not a government in place, as hard as it is to imagine, total chaos would reign and people would just do whatever pleases them, regardless of consequences and regardless of other people.  Therefore, regardless of whatever government we live under, what does the Bible say should be our reaction and attitude to the government. 

By government, I mean all levels of government and authority – from local authority to federal government. 

But first of all, lets look at what the Bible has to say about the function of human government, before going on to look at our responsibility to Government and our community.

The Function of Human Government

Paul writing in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”

Here Paul indicates that there are at least three functions of a human government: protection, punishment and promotion.

  • Protection: From the moment Adam sinned, it was plainly obvious that human civilizations would need some form of restraint and law, in order to protect their citizens – form themselves and others.  We see this clearly in Acts 21, where the Roman soldiers step in to save Paul from being killed by other people in Jerusalem. 
  • Punishment: Paul stipulates that duly appointed government officials and servants are to be considered as servants of God (even if they don’t believe in God!) 
  • Promotion: Human government, as thought by Paul, was to promote the broad-spectrum welfare of all the community and not just select groups, where its laws are in effect.


Christian Response to Human Government


Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 writes: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour,

The Apostle Peter goes further when writing in 1 Peter 2v13-17 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

From these passages of Scripture we see that it is clearly impossible to be simultaneously a solid Christian and a poor citizen.  As Christians we have responsibilities to our government.

  • Firstly we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that God ordains the Government. We see that from Paul’s writing in Romans 13 and Paul was writing when the Emperor Nero was in power and systematically persecuting and torturing Christians!  We also see this thinking in the passage from 1 Peter. There is no authority except as given by God.  Even to the most sadistic, dictatorial or atheist governments – they have power only because God has allowed them.  So we are to obey our government!  But it is not to be slavish obedience regardless of what laws are decreed! No!   The exception to this is where obedience to the Government would require the Christian to actively or passively disobey God.  For we read in Acts 4v18-20 that the believer is to live in obedience to God rather than man.
  • Secondly, as much as we probably hate to, we are commanded to pay taxes to the government!  For by doing so, the government can set about ensuring, for example, that the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community are cared for and protected!
  • Thirdly, and quite possibly, most importantly, Christians are to pray for their leaders, governments and those in authority!  Both Peter and Paul command and recommend it!  To pray for them is to love them and it is also a way for God to shine into the lives of people.  One of the things we are to pray for, is that the government governs righteously, honourably, honestly and with integrity. The Christian, as a citizen, is free to be law-abiding, conscious that they are under submission to Almighty God. It also means giving respect to all members of society from the lowest to the highest!  As Christians, we are to submit ourselves to our Government and be living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This may indeed win some for God, win the recognition of their government as well as influencing Government policy and law.  Whatever government you find yourself under, pray for your leaders even if you thoroughly disagree with some or all of their actions.  They are in power, only because our God has allowed them.  They will answer to Him one day for what they have done with the power given to them by God alone.  God is in control, and He is on the ultimate throne and is the definitive power!


Community Responsibility

But just as we have responsibility to our Government, we also have a responsibility for those in our community – both local and global.  We are also to work for social justice and be involved in social action – that’s part of our loving of other people.  The oppression and persecution of people is to be anathema to us as Christians, just as it is to our God!  Where a minority is maltreated and discriminated we should be at the forefront of demanding justice for all!  We are to be promoting civil rights and using all aspects of the law to do so.  We are to be working to ensure the poorest members of our community, both local and global, are cared for and the oppressed freed! In your country, this could mean peaceful demonstrations and interacting with your political representatives! 

Look at some of the great reformers or social activists of the past: Wilberforce helping to abolish slavery; or Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront of ending segregation and racism.  May each one of us, on both a local and international scale, play some small part in ending prejudice, suffering, racism, poverty, bigotry, abuse, oppression and other injustices. 

As John Stott once said: “The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility… is simple uncomplicated compassion.  Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.”

As Jesus of Nazareth once said: “Love God and love other people.”

Some questions to help your thinking!

  1. In what way can I influence and encourage my government to promote justice, free the oppressed and take care of the poor?
  2. How can I help my government authorities to protect, punish and promote?
  3. When was the last time I actively prayed for those in authority over me, whether Christian or secular? Thank you.

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Church Begins – 10. Final Journey Completed


10. Church Begins – Final Journey Completed

Acts 27v39 – 28v30

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Acts 27v39 – 28v6 When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it.  Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach.  But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves. The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship.

So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land. When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live.” However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn’t harmed.  But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Along the journey, eventually the ship arrived at Malta.  Everybody was safe and secure, but tired and bedraggled (Acts 27v39-44). The Roman centurion did not want to kill the prisoners he was guarding, because he wanted to keep Paul alive (Acts 27v24, 43). This group of people stayed in Malta for three months and all we know of their stay in Malta, is two quite remarkable events.


Church Begins – 8. Forward in Unity


8. Church Begins – Forward in Unity

Acts 15v13-35

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James, the brother of Jesus and writer of the epistle of James, was not an apostle. He delivered the coup-de-grace to the Judaism argument with a direct appeal to the Word of God. God had already spoken on the matter! Quoting Amos 9v11-12, James reminded them that the prophet had declared that ‘David’s fallen tent‘ was be restored and that this would involve the in gathering of all the Gentiles who bear the Lord’s name’ (Acts 15v16-18). This is fulfilled, James says, in all that Peter had described (Acts 15:14). The church of Jesus Christ was all along intended to encompass both Jew and Gentile and, one by one without discrimination, they are brought to the same faith by the same Lord. The gospel is for all nations. This, James showed, was ‘the mind of God”, in the Scripture’.

1. Deliverance Proposed The Lord’s brother then proposed the motion that was to become the finding of the Jerusalem Council. This consisted of two main parts: The first was the definitive doctrinal answer to the Judaizers, which stands for all time: ‘We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God’ (Acts 15v19).

This verse is often passed over as a mere introit to the verses that follow, but it ought to be seen as standing on its own. It told the Judaizing party in the gentlest possible way – if they thought through all they had heard – that what they were asking for was not the Lord’s will for the church, but was, indeed, even contrary to the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ and wonderful doctrine of being put right with God by faith alone. If ever them was a soft answer that would turn away potential anger, this was it. ‘We should not make it difficult,’ is an example of affirming a basic doctrine in a very practical way.

The doctrine had been clearly stated by the previous speakers. There was no need for a bare restatement. There was need, however, to persuade people of its practical significance. And, at the same time, those whose views were being rejected needed to know that they were not being personally rejected, but were still warmly embraced within the fellowship of the Lord’s people. They were believers and they had laid their views before the whole church in an orderly manner. Having received the considered judgement of the church, they could be expected to receive it with due submission in the Lord. They were certainly not to be made to feel that they had been foolish or were no longer welcome.

This is surely a model for resolving doctrinal and practical controversy today. Too often, church debates degenerate into fights and lead to unnecessary and ungodly division. The maintenance or truth never requires discourtesy or unpleasantness on the part of its advocates, even if those who oppose it are strident and contentious (2 Timothy 2v25). James deftly set the denial of any requirement of legal observances for salvation (the other side of which was the affirmation of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ, in terms of not putting difficulties (that is unbiblical ones) in the way of Gentile converts being received into the membership of the church.

2. Unity Proposed The second part is a practical four-point proposal (Acts 15v20) designed to foster unity in the church. They proposed asking the Gentile Christians to take particular care to distance themselves from their former manner of life. This was also, no doubt, designed to allay the fears of Jewish Christians, whose sense of what constituted a God honouring lifestyle was formed by the regulations of the law of Moses. They needed to know that Gentile Christians were not adrift from practical godliness as properly defined by God’s Word. James therefore addressed specific practical issues, where the teaching of the Scriptures – still confined to the Old Testament – challenged the accepted norms of Gentile behaviour and called for a conscientious application of biblical principles.

2a. Leave Alone First, they should ‘abstain from food polluted by idols’ (Daniel 1v8; Malachiv1:7-12). This had been offered at pagan temples as sacrifices to the gods and the surplus sold in the market. The question here was not primarily one of diet – that is dealt with in the third and fourth points – but concerned association with the milieu from which the food had come. Questions of conscience later arose in Corinth on this very point. These were addressed by Paul, who made it clear that while there was no essential problem with eating this meat, there ought to be sensitivity to the tender consciences of those who, having come out of paganism, regarded consuming it as a sinful complicity with paganism (1 Corinthians 8v1-13; 10v14-33). Second, they should abstain from ‘sexual immorality’ (Leviticus 18; Matthew 5v27-30). The Gentile world, like that of television movies and sitcoms today, treated promiscuous sexual relations as acceptable and part of normal behaviour. This was sin then and it remains sin to this day. Third, they should not eat of ‘the meat of strangled animals’. This is a reference to meat from which the blood had not been completely strained (Leviticus 7v22-27).’

Lastly, they should eat no ‘blood’ (Genesis 9v4; Leviticus 17v10-12; 19v26). This was the basis for the preceding point. Blood was symbolic of life and was to be reserved for sacrifice to the Lord, thus underscoring his role as the giver of life. None of these, as John Owen points out, was a new imposition on the practice of the churches.’ All were clearly taught in Scripture, even if all but the second were elements of old covenant piety that would eventually pass away when the full revelation of the New Testament was completed. The purpose of reiterating them here was to encourage a discerning sensitivity to practical godliness in a Gentile social-cultural milieu and a Jewish Christian ecclesiastical context. Gentiles were to examine critically their old habits and give no cause to anyone to accuse them of their old sins. They were also encouraged to be graciously accommodating to Jewish dietary sensitivities. For their part, Jewish believers needed to understand that Gentiles were not to be required to observe the Mosaic ceremonial law, now that the Messiah had come and published the gospel of sovereign grace in all its fullness.

The decision was made to adopt James’ proposal and send a letter with a deputation to all the churches in ‘Antioch, Syria and Cilicia’ (Acts 15v22-29). This conveyed the verdict of the council. Today it still vibrates with lively applicability.

2b. Grace Alone First of all, the men who insisted on circumcision and the law were declared to be ‘without the church’s authorisation’ for their disturbing teaching. This almost unobtrusive dismissal underscores the solidity with which the church knew its doctrine. From the beginning, the apostles clearly taught that salvation was by the free and sovereign grace of God through faith in Christ and not through man’s best efforts to keep tile law and impress God with self generated good works. Jerusalem held that line and closed the door to works-righteousness- Good works have a vital place in the Christian life, to be sure. They are, however, not the root, but the fruit of salvation, prepared by God in advance for us to do (Ephesians. 2v10).

2c. Spirit Alone They emphasised that the decision ‘seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to [the church I’ (Acts 15v28). Here is the purpose and the role of the church in the guidance and discipline of God’s people. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 14v26; 16v13). All decisions in churches, as well as in the individual Christian’s life, ought to fulfil this condition. Not only does it tell us what God does with his church, but it defines the goal and prayer of the church. If what we do only seems good to us, without the evident leading of the Spirit, then we are simply not doing the Lord’s work.

2d. Standing Alone The council’s four ‘requirements’ – one permanent (sexual immorality), the others transitional and temporary, highlight the necessity and the blessing of the separated life for Christians: ‘You will do well to avoid these things’ (Acts 15v29).  Christians must bear a decisive testimony to the society in which they are located – a testimony which shows the righteousness of God before the world.

The result in the mission churches was encouragement and continued blessing through the ministries of Judas, Silas Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15v30-35). The burden of Judaistic legalism was lifted. The Gospel of Jesus Christ ‘s was lifted up before the Gentiles and the Holy Spirit continued to accompany the preaching of the Word with power, so that more and more people were being saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

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Church Begins – 6. Sent


6. Church Begins – Paul is sent

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Acts 9:10-31 “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.” 9:11 The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, 9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. 9:14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

9:17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 9:20 Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God. 9:21 All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!”

9:22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 9:23 When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 9:24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 9:25 but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 9:26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.

9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 He was with them entering into Jerusalem, 9:29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 9:31 So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Transformed: From the conversion of Paul, we go to the consequences of his conversion. The first consequence we maybe aware of is that he changed his name: changed from Saul of Tarsus to Paul of Tarsus – we read that in Acts 13! Paul’s conversion was a total transformation. His attitudes, character & relationships with God, fellow believers and the unbelieving world were utterly transformed.

A changed life is the ultimate proof, that conversion is real and the Holy Spirit is working. Now that through Jesus and his cross, Paul had been put right with God, Paul, as with all believers, enjoyed direct access to the Father, as the Spirit witnessed with his spirit that he was the Father’s child (Romans 8:16). Perhaps his prayers were for forgiveness of sins of self-righteousness & cruel persecution of Jesus & the church. And no doubt they contained worship. The mouth that breathed murderous threats against Jesus like a roaring lion, was now breathing prayers & praises to God like bleating lamb. Paul’s life was changed from self-righteousness to righteousness through Jesus. The evidence of this was a change in the way he lived his life.


Church Begins – 4. Organized


4.  Church Begins – Let’s Get Organized

Today we go back to the beginning of Acts 6.  So far in the book of Acts, we can see that the Church has come under attack by the world (through persecution) and satan (through deceit & moral compromise). A new crisis has appeared.  Unable to destroy the church by way of persecution and deceit, satan now tries to create a split in the church by getting believers to argue and fight with each other.  If satan had succeeded in creating an implosion within this church, the only church in existence at the time, then the effects could have been devastating. 

I have had people tell me they want a church without any form of organizational structure.  If a church has no organizational and leadership structure then it will soon have chaos instead of harmony, and will collapse rather than grow.  Of course, some leaders are corrupt or make wrong decisions as we have seen already, but Godly leaders will not be corrupt and as we shall see, make decisions that are wise and based on prayer and spiritual insights. So, what was the problem, what was the solution and what happened after it was resolved?



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