Big Idea: The Conflict of the Kingdom of Man with the Kingdom of Christ
Intro: Well Morning Friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are continuing our sermon series; “Life, Liberty and the glory of God.” Particularly this sermon series is thinking about how Christian FREEDOMS are rapidly disappearing in the world and I want us to think about how Christians respond to these changes in a resolute, strong and yet also godly and wise way.
Now as we begin – let me share a few more crazy stories about the loss of freedom. (Slide 2). The man you now see on your screen is named Martin Iles. He is a Christian lawyer and the head of the Australian Christian Lobby. He advocates for religious freedom in the laws and politics of Australia.
Anyway, Martin Iles does a segment on YouTube every week called “The Truth of it” where he discusses various world events from a biblical perspective. He is a well informed and provactive Christian speaker. Anyway, “The Truth of It” has been so popular that Martin Iles started doing live talks to thousands of people in various venues around Australia. He talks openly about the Christian worldview and the crazy things that are now happening in our country. But the week before he was meant to start his tour in Western Australia, “The Perth Theatre Trust” which is run by the West Australian Government tried to cancel his events. They issued this statement (Slide 4).
What the?! This is the Australian Christian Lobby Group. They represent Christians in politicsand the Western Australian Government is trying to deny their voice. THIS IS CANCEL CULTURE gone mad. Now in response to this stupidity the Australian Christian Lobbyasked the Western Australian Government whether they would like to try out their official position in an Australian court of law and Premier Mark McGowan decided to back down. Thankfully the Christians won that battle for freedom. But be assured more are coming. The Christian voice is now being ridiculed and cancelled. But it’s not only us…
The Lesbian Association of Tasmania recently lost their battle for freedom. In Tasmanialesbians are no longer allowed to preclude transgender men who identify as lesbian – from lesbian events. Yes, you heard me correctly. Let me show you what was reported in the Australian on the 18th July 2021 (Slide 5) Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination commissioner Sarah Bolt has ruled lesbian events that exclude trans-women carry a “significant risk” of breaching legislation … Ms Bolt refused to grant an exemption to allow the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance to exclude “biological men” from lesbian events.‘ Jessica Hoyle, who submitted the application to Tasmania for the exemption says; (Slide 6) “Many lesbians feel uncomfortable having transgenders in their spaces, because they are not female; they are biological males. “We are forced to have them in our groups but none of us want to date them.”
Friends, I think the Bible is clear about human sexuality. But at this point, I want to side with lesbian women in Tasmania for the sake of freedom. For centuries – freedom of association – has been a fundamental liberty. So what on earth is going on?
Point 1: God’s People belong to the Kingdom of Freedom
Show: Gal.5:21-26 (READ)
Explain: Well just like Jesus said (last week in John 8), Paul is also saying there are two kingdoms – A) one full of slaves and B) one full of free people. So, Paul uses the Old Testament story about Issac and Ishmael (basically as an illustration or simile) to explain that there are two parallel kingdoms in this world.
Most of you will know the story about Abraham and his two sons Isaac and Ishmael. God told Abraham; “I’m going to create my kingdom through you and your offspring.” But Abraham and Sarah were not fertile. So Abraham decided to help God grow His kingdom through natural means by having sex with his slave Hagar. This resulted in a child called Ishmael who was born into this world as a slave. But then Abraham had a second child called Isaac with his wife Sarah. Isaac’s birth was miraculous. He was born as a result of God’s gospel promise and he was born free. Paul’s point is that God’s kingdom is not grown through natural means, or even through the imposition of Jewish laws on Gentiles. God’s kingdom is growing miraculously through people believing in God’s gospel promises.
Basically, Paul is explaining what Jesus explained last week in John 8. Remember this slide? (Slide 7). The kingdom of God grows through the preaching of the gospel. Now if you thinkall the way back to Jesus the Kingdom of God began very, very small. A) The kingdom of manwas this BIG and the kingdom of God was this BIG.
Illustrate: About 20 years ago – a sociologist named RODNEY STARK wrote a book about the growth of the early church. In 30 AD, the Roman Empire was about 65 million people (ENTER). And Acts 1 tells us, the total number of Christians in the Kingdom of God was 120 people (ENTER). Now that’s a tiny percentage of the Roman Empire. At this point the Kingdom of Man didn’t even know that the kingdom of God was growing in their midst.
So the Roman state made DECISIONS and PASSED LAWS without ever thinking about the church. Although they allowed the Jews some freedoms. Church-State relations was zero. But as we read the book of Acts we see the Kingdom of God starts to grow. Sociologist RODNEY STARK studied early church growth and released a book about 20 years ago. His work is well regarded by historians. (E) By 150AD – 40,000 Christians. (E) By 200AD – 220,000; (E) 250AD – 1.2m; (E) 300AD – 6.3m; (E) by 350AD – 34 million Christians. Now all the Christians are doing to have this exponential growth is share the gospel, looking after each other and not have abortions.
Now as the church grew, the Roman state started to see the church as a bit of a threat – so they started throwing Christians to the lions and persecuting them. THE STATE passed laws to hinder the growth of the church. First, in NERO’S day 64AD, then more under DOMITIAN in 90AD and then lots under TRAJAN, around 110-150AD. (ENTER) But in 165AD a plague swept through the Roman empire and 1/3 of the people died. Now this effected the Christian population too. But Rodeny Stark worked out Christians generally looked after their sick better than the Roman Empire, so the church didn’t suffer as big a loss.
Now after the plague the Roman Empire got more cunning. They now saw the church as a real threat – so they passed all sorts of laws more or less making Christianity illegal. From 250-300AD under the Emperors DECIUS, VALERIAN and DIOCLETIAN you are talking about fully sanctioned state genocide. During this time many Christians committed apostasy to avoid death. (ENTER) But in this midts of this another plague hit Rome in 251AD and again 1/3 people died. Again there were bigger casualties in the kingdom of men, than in the kingdom of God. (ENTER) So by 350AD – there was only about 60-62m in the whole Roman Empire. Over 300 hundred years the population actually went backwards. But now (ENTER)there were 34 million Christians in the Kingdom of God.
Now I’m not sure all those people would have been “born again Christians”. (ENTER) But nonetheless 56% of the Roman Empire identified as Christian. So the Emperor Constantinesuddenly had an epiphany and became a Christian. Lots of people question whether Constantine really was a Christian or just a politician. But in 313AD, Constantine passed a law issuing freedom of religion for everyone in the Empire (Slide 8).
APPLY: Friends, this was 1) the end of persecution and (for better and worse) 2) the beginning of close church-state relations. Now about this same time a famous Bishop named Augustine wrote this book – “The City of God.” (Hold Up) Now in this book Augustine explains the two parallel kingdoms. He talks about the City of God made up of people born of the Spirit and the city of man made up of people naturally born. He explains exactly what I’ve been teaching you that last two weeks. Now some people say Augustine was teaching the separation of church and state. American politicians who follow JEFFERSON’S “wall of separation between church and state” – try to attribute the original idea to Augustine. But it’s not really true. Augustine simply explains the theological reality that there are two distinct kingdoms. He doesn’t argue for them to be closely aligned, nor for them to be separated.
Instead Augustine tells Christian Emperors who believe in Jesus that their job is to create such a peaceful, free and positive society that it helps the City of God, to do evangelism and share the gospel. And, in the western world this became the basis for positive church-state relations. But this should NOT be considered normal. What’s normal, is persecution…
Point 2: God’s People will normally be Persecuted by the Kingdom of Men
Show: Gal.4:28-29 (READ)
Explain: Please notice, that Paul talks about PERSECUTION. Children born of the flesh, will normally PERSECUTE children born of the Holy Spirit. Now the reason the Kingdom of men is inclined to persecute the Kingdom of God is because we have two different fathers. The Kingdom of men is governed by Satan the father of lies, while the Kingdom of God is governed by Jesus, the prince of truth. We also have different worldviews, different values and different priorities – that often leads to misunderstanding. But the biggest reason for persecution is probably evangelism. When the church does evangelism – we tell the world that forgiveness and eternal life is ONLY available in Jesus.
(GOSPEL) The Bible says everyone in the world has sinned against God and deserves condemnation. We all face God’s judgment for sin. But God sent Jesus into the world to take the punishment for us. When Jesus died on the cross he accepted the penalty for the sin of his people. That means, that if Jesus is your King, your sin is already paid for. But if Jesus is not your king – one day soon – you’ll have to pay for your sin yourself. The Bible says (Slide 13). Now that is true. If you are listening today and you are not yet a Christian, please accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. Ask God to forgive you and start obeying the Bible. But lots of people don’t want to hear it. So when Christians share the gospel the kingdom of men often tries to silence us.
But ever since CONSTANTINE and AUGUSTINE – the Christian church has pretty much enjoyed the protection of the state. In fact, on many occassions the Roman Catholic church even controlled state. Now at times, when the CHURCH was that powerful it was really bad and instead of the world persecuting the church, the church persecuted the world. (Some of that was really an evil abuse of power). But generally speaking the western church has been protected by the state since the days of Constantine. But let me remind you again – everything started to change in the Enlightenment of the 1700-1800’s.
Remember Fredick Nietsche wrote “we’ve killed God, what now?” Well, the WHAT NOW included a systematic, intellectual attack on the church. The church didn’t realise it. But the leading philosophers knew that if the great intellectual experiment of the Enlightenment was to take place the church had to be silenced. THE PROBLEM was the Christian worldview – was so ingrained in western culture – that philosophers couldn’t get any traction with their new radical ideas. Everyone, in Europe and America was so Christianized that they basically rejected anything that contradicted the Christian worldview.
So John Stuart Mill probably the most influential liberal thinker in the C19th and 20th called (Slide 14) the Christian worldview as “the tyranny of the majority”. Mill is the guy who argued the purpose of life is to be happy. But everyone knew the purpose of life is to glorify God. So, Mill argued that secular philosophers and academics had to take over the universities, the schools and public positions of society to white-ant the Christian worldview. English academic Maurice Cowling who did an extensive study on John Stuart Mill – calls these public intellectuals – CLERISY. Just as the clergy of the church created the Christian worldview that dominated society, so Mill’s secular clerisy had to ingrain the secular worldview into culture so that people would support the radical changes that come with God being dead. Now you may not realise it – but since the Enlightenment many public intellectuals have been following Mill’s manual for cultural change down to the letter. Christian worldview displacement by intentional white-anting.
Now almost exactly the same time (ENTER) KARL MARX the father of socialism called Christianity – “the opiate of the people.” Marx believed Christianity kept the world in a drugged-up stupor that was also preventing the grand experiment of the Enlightenment. Marx believed the Christian worldview, 1) including submission to those in authority, 2) the protestant work ethic and 3) teaching about contentment created the whole liberal capitalistic system that allowed the wealthy (the bourgeosis) to exploit the common man (the proletariet).
So instead of Mills gentle displacement of Christianity Marx proposed revolution. The whole Christian capitalistic system had to be overthrown. So, in some quarters like Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia, socialism and communism shut down the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches as part of their overthrow of western liberal practice. Socialism believes that not only does capitalism have to go, but the opiate of Christianity that supports capitalism has to go too.
So since, the Enlightenment – the church has been white-anted often by people pretending to be our friends and also directly by people who consider us a dangerous drug. And we need to realise that in some ways Mill and Marx agenda is becoming a reality. What does the world look like 1) when God is dead and 2) you snuff out the Christian worldview? Has the grand experiment of the Enlightenment produced something better or worse?
Point 3: Christians need some Separation from the Kingdom of Men
Show: Gal.5:30-31 (READ)
Explain: Notice the words “get rid of the slave woman’s son.” Originally these words were found on Sarah’s lips as she pleaded with Abraham to send Hagar away. Get rid of her. But shortly, thereafter God told Abraham to do exactly what Sarah requested. God told Abraham to put some distance between those who were God’s people and those who were not God’s people.
Again, we find the same words “GET RID” in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua when God tells the Israelites to get rid of the Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites and Hittites in the Promised Land. God actually tells the Israelites to put some distance between themselves and the people of the world – BOTH A) to maintain their holiness and B) to avoid persecution. And here, in Galatians in a context of increasing persecution Paul tells the church to put a little distance between themselves and the people of the world.
Apply: Friends, I don’t think the Bible actually teaches 1) a separation of church and state, nor 2) a close alliance between church and state. Those who believe in a close association between church and state have usually had a good relationship with the state, and those who believein a complete separation of church and state have usually experienced persecution from the state. This was certainly the case for the Puritans and anaBaptists who fled church-state sanctioned persecution by the Anglicans and fled to America. So I think the American philosophy of strong separation of church and state is born of bad experience in Europe, as much as it is born of biblical theology. But I think there have been times when 1) the church has benefitted from close relationship with the state and I think there are times when 2)the church has really been corrupted by a close association with the state.
And yet, the Bible is clear that the church, or the Kingdom of God in some ways NEEDS TO BE SEPARATE from the Kingdom of Man for the sake of holiness, and gospel truth and even protection from persecution. Now in the east where 1) churches have been directly attacked as THE OPIATE OF THE PEOPLE – whether Russian, Chinese or North Korean socialism – I think that the persecution is often so direct that the church naturally and quickly withdraws. They go into hiding, keep their holiness and quietly get one with preaching Jesus and brining people into the underground church. But in the west where the attack of John Stuart Mill’s liberalism has been white-anting the Christian worldview so much – little by little – that we don’t separate even when we should for the sake of holiness. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling water – the whiteanting happens so slowly and gradually through all the institutions and systems around us – that we just wake up one day and discover none of us are really Christians anymore.
Friends, there is a time when the church has to separate from the kingdom of men – BOTHfor the sake of holiness and self-preservation. And in the western world – I think that time is getting close.
The Bible says we shouldn’t expect a tight cozy relationship with the state. We should expectPERSECUTION. And as persecution and injustice rises there will be a need to separate ourselves more and more from the state. And what’s going to be hard is that as Christians we will all probably have different points where we feel the need to oppose and disobey secular, state laws. At what point does it become right to disobey the state? It will be a wisdom decision. 1) Those who choose to disobey state laws earlier than others will be viewed by some as being disobedient, rebellious Christians. 2) While those who continue to obey the state longer and longer (as religious freedom is denied) may be viewed by others – as sell-outs and apostasizers of Christ. I suspect that one of the hardest tasks before us will be keeping our Christian unity – even over things like vaccine passports (PAUSE). I get the pragmatics. But under the current circumstances think they are really, really dangerous AND I think the Diocese is starting to agree with me. But I’m sure other Christians will think very differently.
So how do we MAINTAIN our unity, SUBMIT to the governing authorities where appropriate and yet not stay on the train of secular culture so long that we all COMMIT APOSTASY in the process?