About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Challenge Of Duel Citizenship

As Christians, we are citizens of the nation in which we live, as well as citizens of the Kingdom of God .  The apostle Paul made mention of our heavenly citizenship in Philippians 3:20.


"But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,"


Our duel citizenship sometimes presents us with a perplexing challenge, as seems to be the case today when governments are mandating churches to shut down their meetings during the Covid 19 crisis.  Do churches comply with government or do they comply with the Bible's encouragement to gather together?  Here is what Romans 13:1 says.    


"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers [government].   For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."


On the other hand, here is what Acts 5:29 says.   


"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'"


After reading the above verses, whom do we obey?  Submission to the state as taught in the New Testament is a much larger issue than I can address here.  I refer you to how Paul dealt with this issue because I believe he represented New Testament thinking concerning this matter. 


Paul's life demonstrates that he did submit to the state as much as he could, even when the state was an oppressive dictatorship.  One time he spoke a few nasty words to a Jewish leader.  Once discovering the leader was the high priest, out of respectful submission, he immediately apologized.  Acts 23:5 reads:


"Paul replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'"


If Paul was forced to choose between obeying Jesus or the state, he chose Jesus and willingly accepted being punished for his civil disobedience.  Acts 25:11 reads:


"If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. "


Paul was executed by Nero's regime around 64 AD.  If he had been willing to comply with the state he might have escaped death, but he didn't.  He followed his own teaching.  In submission to the states, he willingly accepted his head being sliced from his shoulders as the consequence of his civil disobedience. 


When it comes to the first principles of our faith, we, like Paul, obey God rather than the state and willingly accept the consequences for our civil disobedience.  On all secondary issues of faith, including not gathering together in person, we obey government.  We cease to gather in order to maintain a positive Christian testimony to the state and its population.  We do so out of love for those we want to lead to Jesus.  If our gatherings help spread the virus, as some have, we destroy the very witness for Jesus we claim to be.   


Post Script

Shutting down church meetings is an easy one to figure out.  There will be, however, more difficult issues to figure out in the years, or months, ahead that will put the pressure on us.  Even now, some people are proposing that you can only make a purchase from a store once a week.  To prove your one purchase you must use a designated credit or debit card.  That's getting intrusive, but if you are a Prophetic Futurist, that is the beginning of how you see this age ending.     


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