Dear Beloved at KCPC,
Here are some of my thoughts about what matters most about our hearts and our actions as a congregation during this political season. Please take time to prayerfully reflect on these things with Holy Scripture. And pray…pray continually (Eph. 6:18-20)…watch and pray! Remember the end is at hand, and you are a steward of all of God’s resources, so be self-controlled and sober-minded (Matt. 25:14-30)!
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7).
Pray for Our Leaders: Pray as we are commanded to do for our land and our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17): “[Pray that as Christians]…we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2)
Pray that We Have the Right Priorities and a Biblical Understanding of Christ’s Kingdom in This Present Age: Pray more than you put your trust in a candidate, election, and/or a political process (1 Pet. 4:7; Matt. 26:41). Remember how our Lord Jesus Christ, though He was God in the flesh, and ruler over all, prayed reverently and intensely with loud cries and tears–and God heard Him, though His kingdom was not of this world (Heb. 5:7-8; John 18:36; cf. Mark 1:35). Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Pray that all Christians will prepare for potential persecution. It could come at any time. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; cf. Rom. 8:34-39). Remember how the saints prayed to God when persecuted as they suffered in Christ, and God granted them boldness: “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:24-31).
Pray that We Will Be Faithful Stewards by Doing Right from a Pure Heart: Pray that you will do what’s right in your heart before God to the best of your ability (1 Tim. 1:5). You are a steward of the resources, gifts, grace, possessions, and power that God has given to you. Be faithful (Matt. 25:14-30). Do all to honor God and to be a “good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
Pray for Wisdom and Discernment (James 1:5; Prov. 3:5-6). “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). “So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” (Phil. 1:9-10).
Pray Against Fears: Pray that you will not fear though the earth gives way, because your refuge is God himself, and He is your hope and portion who is preparing a heavenly home for you (Psalm 46). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved…” (Psa. 46:1-5).
Trust in God
God is the Glorious and Sovereign Ruler over All: Remember that God is sovereign king and supreme ruler over all (Acts 4:24ff; Rev. 6:10; Rom. 13:1-3). “[God is] the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:15). This universe is ultimately God’s Kingdom and world; he rules over all. Jesus Christ is the enthroned King at God’s right hand who has received a Kingdom that will never end (Dan. 7:13-14; Phil. 2:9-11).
Believers are to Fear God and Honor the King: Remember that all leaders are those who have been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1), and we are to be honorably subject to them (Rom. 13:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:13-14; unless they forbid us from doing something God has commanded, then “we must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29). Holy Scripture teaches us as believers to “…Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17b). The Apostle Peter was martyred by this emperor that he said to honor. He knew that this ruler was a representative of fallen and sinfully wicked “Babylon” (the anti-Zion), but nevertheless Christians were to submit to him in fearing God (1 Pet. 5:13; cf. Rev. 18). The Apostle Paul who was also martyred by this emperor said: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1).
All History is the Outworking of God’s Decree: Remember that even though we have a privilege to vote, ultimately the choice of candidate and the direction of one’s country is because of the sovereign decree of God in its outworking (Isa. 45:1). Our forefathers prayed confidently during difficult times, trusting in God’s sovereignty: “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’-for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:25-28; cf. WCF, Chap. 3).
Fatherly Discipline Makes Us Holy: Even if the government leader brings or allows persecution against Christians, remember that this is the “normal” discipline of a good and kind Heavenly Father who knows how to make His children holy through suffering and persecution (Heb. 12:4-14; Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:18-25; Phil. 1:29; cf. Heb. 5:7-8). “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:17). Jesus told us to expect chaos, mayhem, and wars and rumors of wars until His return (Matt. 24; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-7). When we get something other than persecution and tribulation, let us be glad and thankful, but let us not think this is normal. Let us be concerned when all men think well of Christians! Our Lord said: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
God is the Judge of All Mankind: Remember and take heart that God will hold all men accountable for their stewardship of government. God will judge all men, especially all leaders and stewards of power in the government, by the man Christ Jesus (Acts 17:31). There will be a Day of Judgment and reckoning when God will right all wrongs (Matt. 25:31-46). Remember to trust God to make things right: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21). Being confident of God’s Judgment can make us gentle before opposition and in persecution as our Lord Jesus Christ.
Put Your Trust in God: Do not put your ultimate trust in men, or political processes, or in political parties, but put your trust in God alone: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? …This I know, that God is for me…In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3b-4, 10-11; cf. Psa. 20:7; Isa. 31:1).
Study Our Confession of Faith: Read or re-read our confession of faith, chapter 23: “On the Civil Magistrate” with scripture references (see at end of this paper). Remember, we are part of a confessional body, and we seek to be “reformed and reforming catholics” (professing, confession members of the one, holy, apostolic church made up of every tribe, tongue, people, and language), confessing our faith together with all the saints both living and dead. What do we “reformed and reforming catholics” believe about politics, involvement in politics, and cultural action? We can gain much wisdom more from our forefathers’ wisdom that transcends our time and cultural-political moment, and learn from their understanding and application of Holy Scripture. Studying our faithful confession is time better spent than worrying, talking fearfully, and constantly inundating oneself with news feeds. Sit quietly before God with your Bible (Psa. 62:1, 5), and pray for some wisdom “from the past” to help you to make the best decisions for today! “Get wisdom!” (Prov. 4:5-7).
Align Your Priorities and Know Your Privileges
Remember that you are citizens of two kingdoms, never confuse the two, and always place the status of the heavenly one above the other (Phil. 3:20-21; cf. Eph. 2:19). You are a pilgrim people, God’s own possession, the blessed only nation under God, but you ultimately await a heavenly home (Heb. 11:13-16). “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:9-11). The Church alone is the only holy nation under God and it is made up of all kinds of peoples, languages, countries, citizens and lands. Our patriotism must be noble, but never idolatrous. We can be patriotic for our own country without putting something good and noble like patriotism to be an ultimate thing that idolatrously confuses our identities and priorities (This can become demonic, see C. S. Lewis’s, ‘The Abolition of Man’).
Though you are a pilgrim in exile waiting a Heavenly country, you nevertheless can do much good by faith in your community and country as citizens (Jeremiah 29:4-11). “[In exile, awaiting your homecoming] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Note how the Apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship for the peaceful and wise furtherance of the Gospel throughout the Book of Acts (Acts 21-28). Pray to be useful, especially as you are privileged to vote as citizens.
Don’t allow your political passions to eclipse your gospel gentleness; you are called first and foremost to be an obedient Christian to adorn the Gospel (1 Pet. 2:15; Titus 2:14; Matt. 5:16). “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…” (1 Tim. 6:13).
Which Candidate Should I Choose? Some Questions for Thought…
• Which candidate seems to have the most image of God remaining in them? Mankind is made in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:6; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10; cf. WCF, 6). God’s image is the beauty of His righteousness and holiness placed in mankind. Through sin, God’s image in man has been terribly defaced and marred by sin, but it is not completely gone in all, though mankind is depraved (read Romans 1-3 for this perfect balance). Consider how much are the image of God remains in the person you have the privilege to vote for. What believers must love about even the unbelieving sinner is that they have some remnant of the image of God in them (James 3:9).
• Which candidate is truthful to some degree displaying some consistency with God’s righteousness revealed in His Holy Law?
• Which candidate would most likely be a “nursing father” (Isa. 49:23), to protect the Church of Jesus Christ and enable freedom for the furtherance of the Gospel, who will most likely allow the officers of the church of Jesus Christ who hold the keys of the kingdom to go about the edification and discipline of its people through word and sacraments, who will most likely justly punish evil-doers, and uphold God’s law to some degree? (1 Pet. 2:13-17). Which candidate might do this?
• Which candidate seems to have a working conscience, acknowledging to some degree the righteousness of God written on their hearts? (Rom. 2:13-15). Remember that though unbelievers cannot in any way merit righteousness through God’s Law, nevertheless, it is better for them to seek to keep it obediently than for them to disobey and incur more of God’s wrath and judgment (see WCF, chap. 19.6).
• Which candidate would be least likely to blaspheme to true and living triune God, and would to some degree rule with a fear of God’s judgment? (2 Sam. 23:3).
Westminster Confession of Faith, On the Civil Magistrate, Chap. 23.1
WCF 23.1 God the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good; and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.(1) (1)Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13,14.
WCF 23.2 It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto:(1) in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth;(2) so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.(3) (1)Prov. 8:15,16; Rom. 13:1,2,4. (2)Ps. 2:10,11,12; 1 Tim. 2:2; Ps. 82:3,4; 2 Sam. 23:3; 1 Pet. 2:13. (3)Luke 3:14; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 8:9,10; Acts 10:1,2; Rev. 17:14,16.
[American Edition] Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments;(1) or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven;(2) or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith.(3) Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.(4) And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.(5) It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever; and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.(6) (1)2 Chron. 26:18 (2)Matt. 16:19; 1 Cor. 4:1,2 (3)John 18:36; Mal. 2:7; Acts 5:29 (4)Isa. 49:23 (5)Ps. 105:15; Acts 18:14-16 (6)2 Sam. 23:3; 1 Tim. 2:1; Rom. 13:4
WCF 23.4 It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates,(1) to honour their persons,(2) to pay them tribute or other dues,(3) to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience sake.(4) Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them:(5) from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted,(6) much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.(7) (1)1 Tim. 2:1,2 (2)1 Pet. 2:17 (3)Rom. 13:6,7 (4)Rom. 13:5; Tit. 3:1 (5)1 Pet. 2:13,14,16 (6)Rom. 13:1; 1 Kings 2:35; Acts 25:9,10,11; 2 Pet. 2:1,10,11; Jude 8-11 (7)2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:15-17