Friday, March 25, 2016

LENT WAS FOR JESUS, NOT ME



If you look at most Christian definitions of Lent, a liturgical calendar event in the Catholic and Protestant churches (now adopted in the last two decades by a variety of non-Protestant, Evangelical churches), you will learn that Lent is based on the forty days our Lord spent in the desert-wilderness, fasting and being tempted by the Evil One before beginning his public ministry. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is forty-six days before Easter (because the six Sundays are not included seeing the sacred meal is observed) and ends on Maunday (Holy) Thursday, which is the beginning of the Paschal, Easter or Holy Triduum which refers to the three days of Christ in his suffering, burial and resurrection.

Chronologically speaking, the forty days of Christ’s temptation and the three days of Christ’s suffering, death, burial and resurrection are spaced by about three years with the first event at the beginning of his ministry and the latter, at the end. However, that is not the way the church calendar is constructed. It was not built with chronology as its central aim, though most of it is chronological. Rather, it was constituted with respect to days and seasons. And with respect to the Lenten season, at least as the church calendar intends, it is to be a period of personal and collective reflection and repentance by God's children as well as the removal of a selected number of temporal things which might distract one from greater spiritual concentration.

And while readers might want to learn a bit more about the history and development of the Christian church calendar, this essay, being so brief and single-minded, won’t be elaborating on that issue, maybe another time. However, as part of the Christian or church calendar, I do want to comment on Lent.

Our Lord’s Forty Days


Many people believe that our Lord’s forty days in the desert-wilderness was to produce some form of super-spirituality which was derived, in part, from his self-denial in fasting in order to overcome the temptations of Satan. I do not believe this is the case.

The objective of our Lord being driven into the wilderness was not for the self-denial of fasting in order to produce some hyper-spiritual state but upon defeating the Devil, Satan, the Evil One thereby, providing the means of salvation for all who believe.

But this does beg the question, why fast, then? I will get to that in a moment.

The Scriptures reveal that Christ came to do “the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38) and to “seek and saved that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). These are not the only things spoken regarding the objectives of Christ but these other things generally fall under these two main objectives.

As part and parcel of seeking and saving those who were lost and doing the will of the Father by suffering the death on a cross, we also have the other side of the cross, so to speak, with its objective of defeating the Evil One in his war against God and satisfying or propitiating the justice of God.

John states in 1 John 3:8c (NASB):

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
I am convinced that the forty days in the desert, where Christ was to endure the most starkly impoverished conditions one can be placed into and during which the Savior faced the temptations of the evil one, were not the design of God but by Satan. Before I go further, come with me for a moment.

Job

The book of Job is a shadow of things to come. That is not its sole purpose but that is a major theme. Now, let’s take a peek at some of the realities which went into creating a shadow of things to come:
1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east…6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 12 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.

13 Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 He said,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

This narrative is important not only in understanding God and Job but Satan, our Adversary, as well. Do you see the shadowy parallel of our Lord’s suffering? Both Job, the shadow or type and Christ, the realization, did not seek out suffering nor designed such suffering for themselves but had to endure it as crafted and administered from Satan and permitted and used by God.

I am convinced, though I will not offer it with the dogmatism of other doctrines, that all of the elements with their details of our Lord’s suffering in those forty days and even during the passion, were as a result of a similar appeal to God by Satan to permit this so that the Evil one could cause Christ, the God-man, to sin thereby, enabling Satan to finally provide evidence in heaven’s court that he, Satan, was right and God was wrong in his judgment against Satan when he fell, along with removing his sentence of eternal damnation and all of this culminating with the Evil One taking his place over God. Of course, Biblical history records the Evil One’s failure and our Lord’s victory on our behalf. Hallelujah.

Christ’s Fasting and Temptation in the Desert


Christ’s being compelled by the Holy Spirit into the desert was done so precisely for this temptation. In earthly terms, this was a set-up. From Satan’s viewpoint (high IQ. without wisdom and divine illumination often results in diabolicalism) he was going to have Christ where he wanted him, isolated and at his weakest moment which brings me to his fasting.

Some people mistakenly believe fasting is a form or means of spiritual strengthening, it isn’t. Fasting is a form of weakening particularly when one does not eat for forty days. Our Lord weakened himself and became critically vulnerable in his human condition. Mark 1:12-13 records (I use Mark's account to enlarge the vulnerability of the situation with wild animals while Matthew and Luke mention his not eating):

12 The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, enduring temptations from Satan. He was with wild animals, and angels were ministering to his needs
As I said, some believe that this fasting was to induce a super-spiritual state. However sincere this belief is, spirituality does not come through the denial of food for the flesh or any other system of human self-denial, it simply makes us weak, physically, which can and does have an influence on us mentally, at times, unless, of course, you are in continuous fellowship with God through the constant filling of the Spirit, which Christ always was and which we sometimes are not.

Super-spirituality, if we are to use this concept, can only come through yielding to God’s Spirit and Christ could not get any more spiritual in the first place otherwise we would have to assert that there was a *deficiency in him as he entered the desert! This is why I postulate that even the fasting was not for any spiritual exercise, rather as part of the conditions Satan insisted upon in the appeal, which I believe, Satan made to God as he did with Job, before his testing.


(*After thinking about this, it may not carry quite the weight I imagined when I included it in the post. I say that because we do learn that Christ did grow in wisdom and stature - Luke 2:52, so there is an increasing of the God-man with respect to his humanity, in his life. However, my arguments do not rise and fall on this observation and as well, Christ's fellowship with the Father through the Spirit was always constant and is somewhat different than his learning but still, I concede it is not a strong observation on my part but again, read further and you will understand it is not consequential in my theological proposition on the matter.)

Genuine Suffering vs. Self-Prescribed Suffering, Games with God


When we come upon the ministry of our Lord and beyond that, into the lives of the Apostles, there is something unlike the concept of Lent, in their lives. Lent involves self-prescribed suffering and may times what can be classified as trivial or gimmick suffering such as the denial of chocolate, alcohol (for Christians who use this), forms of entertainment and various hobbies and so on as well as prescribed prayer time beyond one’s normal prayers (how prayer can be prescribed in the context of suffering I will never know). In the lives of Christ and his Apostles, while we see suffering, we do not see it self-prescribed and certainly not as some condition for super-spirituality and doubtless not in forms such as denying one’s self chocolate or Facebook.

Frankly, I find such ideas comical and ultimately these are not much more than games with God. We construct our own Lent and offer it to God. Hmmm…sound familiar? Cain anyone?

God is clear, if we are to share in the glory of Christ at our resurrection, we are to share in his sufferings (2 Cor. 1:7;12:10, Phil. 3:10, Rom. 8:17). But that suffering is presented, always, in the context of it being as a result of serving Christ, for his causes, as we live for him in this world, not self-prescribed suffering.

So are you saying Lent is wrong?

Undoubtedly it would be foolish to argue against Scripture. God is clear that one man may regard one day as more sacred or holy and others may find them all as such (Romans 14:4). Possibly, it ultimately comes down to me being the second man.

However, while it is not for me to judge what days one wishes to observe as holy before God and others as not, it is up to me to examine their practices and even more, the theology, behind such claims as I may observe and present them and that is just what I hope to have accomplished here.

Conclusion 


Christ came to do what I cannot. I do not practice Lent for the same reason I do not practice suffering on a cross. That was our Lord’s suffering, on our behalf. I cannot do that nor am I called to do that anywhere in Scripture. I am called, however, to walk in the results of all of that. 

Now, I suppose I could observe the forty days of our Lord’s suffering as a special season in memorial fashion, as the church does during Easter where there is an elevated memorial because this is the time of the year our Lord died on the cross and won our victory but all of this ignores something bigger and much more obvious.

The Christian life stems from or is a product of all that our Lord endured but as well, is all day, every day. While most Christians have chosen to worship corporately on Sunday, Sunday is not elevated as special because we live more for Christ on that day. We are to live for him, always, and suffer for him, always. God is quite able to ordain to permit suffering to come into our lives as a result of living for Christ. Possibly, most of our problem is we want our suffering, not the kind which comes from a life devoted to Christ.

God’s Word promises that if we serve our Lord we will suffer. Go serve the Lord and God will fulfill his promise; there’s your Lent, it’s all day, every day.

Monday, March 7, 2016

THE CHRISTIAN AND FIREARMS: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF-DEFENSE AND SUFFERING FOR CHRIST - A STUDY OF THE LEFT AND RIGHT KINGDOMS AND THEIR DIVINE INSTITUTIONS



Part Three 
Part One
Part Two

The Divine Institution of Self

When we *stand before God, believer and non-believer, we will account as to God as an institution, all by ourselves . That is to say, no one will answer for us, we will answer for ourselves. We will not have allies who will account, in part, for our individual decisions. While it is true God will also judge collaborative institutional endeavors such as marriage, family and civil governments, still, even the individual choices in those contexts will suffer a judgment along with their corporate judgment. God will not miss a thing.


(*the Christian to be judged and rewarded for his/her works on behalf of serving Christ seeing that the believer was justified by believing the gospel, the other, the non-believer, is to be judged according to his rejection of the salvation offered in Christ and own attempt to merit justification which will result in his/her unending sentence in what the Bible describes as a lake of fire. Cor. 5:10, Bema Seat, Rev. 20:11-15, Great White Throne)

The authority structure of self - The self or individual is his or her own authority structure. Each person has been given rights, duties and privileges by God for a number of things as a unique person and this is true for believers and non-believers. Person-hood is not, by the way, merely an abstract psychological phenomenon but a real institution established by God. As already covered in parts one and two and with specific attention to the Christian, one cannot exercise the office of the believer-priest and exercise their conscience before God, alone, on matters of liberty, if the self and/or person-hood was not a real thing and instituted by God. Its reality is self-evident or prima facie, before we even encounter reinforcement for this truth in the Scriptures.

This is not just true for the believer but for all mankind. The divine institution of self or the individual was created as the basic building block or single atom of society. No person, believer or non-believer, could be responsible to God for his/her choices in life if he/her, the individual, were not a real divine institution.

Through this single building block we derive the next divine institution that is formed when two selves come together as husband and wife which is marriage and which is given to us by God without compromise to certain unalterable rights, duties and privileges of the self (that is, while a new institution is formed, the preceding divine institution of the self for both marriage partners is not dissolved though it does accept the new context of the marriage institution of which they are part which means a willingness via the contractual pledge to cooperate beyond the interests of the divine institution of the self). And from marriage comes family from which we further get communities and agreed upon alliances and social protocols to form a civic government. And all of these are legitimate divine institutions for all mankind. This is precisely how God designed humanity to exist, from individual to national governments.

The Objective of the Left and Right Kingdoms and the Divine Institutions


The ultimate goal of these left kingdom divine institutions, again, is man’s perpetuity. Via left kingdom governments/divine institutions God intends to perpetuate man socially and via the right kingdom or spiritual kingdom, God provides the information of the gospel and subsequent doctrine for spiritual growth which furnishes the means of man’s eternal perpetuity and growth, in Christ. One is for temporal perpetuity and the other for eternal perpetuity, both having in view man’s protection and prosperity.

And with respect to gender and the left kingdom, this is why a man is generally viewed as a protector and provider and a woman a nurturer. It simply is by design by God for man's perpetuity, not as a construct to demean or denigrate or elevate above the other one sex or the other because of their special properties and/or roles. Rather, this points to the genuis and great love of God in his creation design.


This is why governments do not interfere with individual marriages but seek to construct and enforce a civil arrangement which protects social alliances that are formed by mutual contract for the benefit of that society’s members. This is how God designed and instituted man to survive, live and thrive. Civil government was intended as the friend of marriage, not its enemy or disrupting influence.

Finally, this is the reasons the church is charged with being the protector and provider of that which spiritual nourishes and guards against error. They are that which God established for those ends and are not, nor should act as, the nemesis of the divine institutions in the left kingdom of the self, marriage, family or civil government.

Self-Defense in the Bible and Suffering for the Cause of Christ

And so I have laid out for you two contexts, the left and right kingdoms. Do you recall, earlier, I emphasized the importance of context when dealing with the issue of the use of weapons for self-defense? There can be no more perilous thing to a Christian than to handle theology without context. And I believe this is precisely the problem.

While I wish I could have made this essay short and sweet, it was necessary to provide a foundation for what I believe will be a difficult to impeach conclusion. And central to this is the difference between the kinds of suffering a person experiences in life, especially the Christian.

The biggest mistake. The most common misconception I see with Christians (I include John Piper, here) is that they believe they are always operating in the context of the right kingdom. While it is true we, believers, are to be filled with God’s Spirit at all times, that does not mean we are, by default, always functioning in the context of the right kingdom.

Left Kingdom Contexts:


Voting - A Christian citizen who goes to vote in a civil election is not engaging in a right kingdom context rather, in a left kingdom context. The person for whom they are voting may be spiritually as dead as driftwood but for whatever reasons, that candidate understands essential divine principles of civil government which maximizes freedom and liberty thus, the Christian votes for that person.

Yes, the Christian is Spirit-filled and yes, the Christian is informed by the wisdom of the Scriptures even on that civil voting matter but no, he is not operating in the right kingdom nor with right kingdom protocols in view but with left kingdom values (which is why a man or woman’s salvation is moot in civil government, it is their view of government policy which maximizes freedom, liberty and justice which matters). And so, when the Christian voter votes, he/she does so as a representative participant in the left kingdom with left kingdom protocols in mind, Biblical though they be. This means he or she is acting in an anthropologically based, not spiritually based, context.

Marriage - When a man and woman marry they are not operating in a spiritual or right kingdom context rather, in a left kingdom one. Understand, marriage is not, I repeat, not a spiritual institution, it is a left kingdom and anthropologically based institution. It is for all humans, saved and unsaved. If it were a spiritual institution, unsaved people could not legitimately be married seeing that they are not alive, spiritually. The Bible, nowhere, teaches this. I digress.

So,when a man and woman marry they do so based on a number of factors, usually personal attraction and compatibility, i.e., human or anthropological properties. They choose to marry as representatives of the divine institution of the self or individual and then, via whatever social ratification has been established by their civil or government authorities (again, left kingdom), they legalize their marriage contract. And the contract, while accepted by God, is still enforced via left kingdom government and terminated upon death hence, marriage is purely left kingdom and anthropologically based, even though it is a reflection of Christ and his bride.

Yes, Christians are to be Spirit-filled and yes, we should marry other believers, but still, just as in the above scenario, when we marry we are operating in the left kingdom, a government of the world which is terminal. No one dies and enters heaven or awaiting judgment as an unredeemed person, still bound by their earthly left kingdom marital contract. That is relegated to human history. The Bible is clear on that which is why, when someone dies, the surviving spouse is freed to marry.

Right Kingdom Context.:


When we share the gospel with others, we are operating in and on behalf of the right kingdom or the spiritual kingdom. We are now no longer representatives of our family, the state or our selves as a citizen of the state which are all anthropological and left kingdom contexts. We are now in a right kingdom context. I do not feel the need to explain this further since it seems indisputable to most.

So with these examples I bring us to the difference between the contexts of suffering for Christ and that of self-defense.

Self-Defense

Example 1 - Luke chapter 3 records the ministry of prophet called, John the Baptizer. John rebuked the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders who appealed to calls of repentance with their ancestry to Abraham. He demanded true demonstrations of their repentance, not their offering of a righteous lineage. While this was going on, someone in the crowd asked what they were to do and among those asking John were some soldiers, men of war and those who killed in self-defense, if not for other reasons, but categorically representatives of the left kingdom on a national scale. Here is the text from Luke 3:14 (NASB):

14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
Notice what is glaringly absent in John’s answer that these soldiers demonstrate proof of genuine repentance - a demand or reqrequirement of their abandonment of national defense and/or self-defense. Why? Because it is a valid function of both the state and individual.

This does not mean John condoned any and all campaigns by the state which involved killing but does affirm that the vocation of soldiering was legitimate. Even more interesting is that these were likely Roman soldiers of the Roman Empire.

Example 2 – During the theocracy of Israel, all of its citizens (if we are to accept John Piper’s argument that God's people are representatives of God at all times) were, in fact, the people of God and always representing him. Yet, we find over and over in the theocratic codes, the right to self-defense.

Nehemiah offers a rather poignant illustration of the recognition by God that while we may be his representatives, our context is not always a default, right kingdom one. Nehemiah 4:14 specifically says, "...fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." 

 
Suffering for the Cause of Christ


Think about the Apostle Paul and his sufferings. What was the context of that suffering? When he spoke of his suffering it was for the cause of Christ or as a representative of the kingdom on the right.

Take as an example his reference in 2 Timothy 4:14 where he mentions a man named Alexander, a Copper-smith, who did Paul great harm. As a representative of Christ, Paul understood he was to endure such suffering as participating in the sufferings of Christ (Romans 8:36, Philippians 1:29) and that Christ would repay him, which is precisely the point and context of the issue at hand.

1 Peter states rather plainly, that “if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed." Peter understands the difference between suffering “as a Christian” or because of their Christian identity as opposed to suffering in an anthropological or left kingdom context such as a little brother being picked on by a big brother where we learn to defend ourselves, which is not the context of a Christian, or suffering as a citizen in a dangerous environment where we must protect our God-given right to live and provide for ourselves and family which is not in the context of a Christian but as a member of the human race and a nation or state, i.e., left kingdom.

Peter is not confused between the two contexts, one is suffering for the cause of Christ, a right kingdom suffering which is ruled and reigned over by Christ. The other is a worldly suffering over which God has given worldly kingdoms and authorities, rule and reign and one of those authorities is the self, which governs and protects the self hence, self-defense.

A few more passages worth referencing which qualify suffering as a representative of Christ:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:10
  • Matthew 19:29
  • Matthew 10:39 (I find this one ironic)
  • 1 Peter 3:14
  • 2 Corinthians 1:
A Further Consideration

An interesting scenario occurs in Paul’s life in which he understands the sometimes simultaneous nature of being a representative of both the right and left kingdoms while maintaining the integrity of both contexts and their distinct protocols. I refer, of course, to his appeal to be brought before Caesar in Rome and away from the influence of the Jews to whom the lower court and its magistrate was doing a favor in their desire to abuse and possibly execute Paul for the work of the gospel.

He is shrewd to say the least. He is ready to die for Christ’s sake but uses all valid options available to him to possibly escape such a judgment. He employs the mechanism of his Roman citizenship to secure his removal from this provincial bunch who wish to falsely accuse him and have him sentenced to death.

It is something to think about, even with regard to suffering for Christ. There are times that, while we may not retaliate in self-defense if we are suffering for the cause of Christ, it does not always mean we simply have to stand there and take it. We can run, we can use police protection and so forth.

Concluding Thoughts

A blog post on a subject like this is difficult. There is so much neglected groundwork where discussions take place so I determined that if I was going to treat the issue I would address its foundation which I believe is absent in many discussions or simply presumed by those arguing while, in reality, are very different with each person.

I cannot answer for you nor prescribe to you what to do, specifically, in every situation. That would be wrong, dangerous and reckless. But what I must do is provide as broad, but clearly defined, basis for you to formulate a personal theology of self-defense and suffering for Christ as possible so that your decisions are not naïve or simply the result of an admired and respected theological personality who has prescribed to you specific actions which may not be applicable.

Yes, understanding the difference between the right and left kingdoms takes some time and further, learning the contexts of each divine institution with their specific parameters, authority structure (which includes limitations on its reach) and the scope and intent of those divine institutions takes more time along with considerable mental and spiritual energy.

Further, learning to navigate not only between such contexts but being in a number of them, simultaneously, while preserving their integrity and boundaries, does demand the most of us as Christians. And a fully vetted view of these matters will not come in a day, a week or a year, but you will grasp this the more you think about it and apply it and over time come to some lifelong and certain conclusions, bedrock conclusions, for your faith.

So while it may take a great deal of thinking and chewing and testing, I am convinced the result will be gloriously emancipating. Understanding what context you are in and which Scriptures do and do not apply, both when and where, frees you to live in every context to its fullest, whether as an Christian individual, spouse, parent or citizen in the left kingdom, or as a believer in Christ who is exercising his or her priesthood in the right kingdom.

May God add to your enlightenment.

Friday, March 4, 2016

THE CHRISTIAN AND FIREARMS: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF-DEFENSE AND SUFFERING FOR CHRIST - A STUDY OF THE LEFT AND RIGHT KINGDOMS AND THEIR DIVINE INSTITUTIONS

Part Two
Part One

The Spiritual Construct of the Right Kingdom and the Anthropological Construct of the Left Kingdom

The Right Kingdom or Spiritual Kingdom – The spiritual kingdom or right kingdom is also rightly called “the church”. It citizens consist of those who share one essential property, namely that of being born again. When a person is born again, which comes through believing the gospel or exercising faith in the gospel that they may be justified before God, that person is made alive with Christ and made part of a new race which is termed a new spiritual species (Eph. 2:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17). In fact, rather emphatically Peter states in his first epistle (ESV parenthesis mine):
 
2:9 But you are a chosen race (γένος - genos), a royal priesthood, a holy nation (ἔθνος - ethnos), a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
A person’s membership into the kingdom on the right is based on his/her new spiritual person and its identification. The Christian’s spiritual identification is the result of their being spiritually regenerated (Titus 3:5) and now sharing the spiritual DNA of Christ. Further, beyond their relationship with God is their relationship with fellow members of this spiritual kingdom, which is based on these same spiritual properties.

This is why people who are not brother and sister in the right kingdom, the church, are able to now call one another brother and sister in the body of Christ. It is not because they have had their human or anthropological properties of family, race, ethnicity, gender or culture reconciled, changed or even nullified, but because they have been made new, spiritually speaking, not anthropologically speaking, where they have been reconciled to God through Christ, made alive spiritually and now walk with him in fellowship thus, are reconciled to one another, via Christ (1 John 1:7).

The right or spiritual kingdom is not based on anthropological properties rather, on the spiritual property of being a new spiritual species which is our basis for relating both to God and to one another, as we operate in the context of the spiritual kingdom. And context is the key.

To contrast this, which is where we are headed next, is how we relate to one another outside of the spiritual kingdom and in anthropological contexts or in the left kingdom which has to do with the governments of the world. In this kingdom, the left kingdom or the kingdoms of the world, we relate with respect to human properties, not spiritual ones and this will be of significance to my arguments and conclusions.

The Left Kingdom or Governments of the World – To become a citizen of a government in the left kingdom, God has set up valid boundaries or protocols. None of these are spiritual in nature. They are all anthropological in nature and you are ushered into any number of them merely by being born a human being.

That is to say, unlike the kingdom on the right, the church, which limits its citizenship or 1membership to those who are alive spiritually via the new birth, the kingdom on the left is not designed nor intended by God to determine membership based on spiritual properties but on human properties. All humans are members of the left kingdom with their subordinate governments by virtue of anthropological properties. The left kingdom is not a spiritual construct like the right kingdom thus, membership and participation in the left kingdom and its divine institutions was designed by God for all humans and none of these are spiritual constructs like the body of Christ, his church, i.e., the spiritual kingdom. 


1with regard to locally formed visible assemblies, Christ will divide the wheat from the tares later hence, the church operates on the presumption of one’s claim of faith and willingness to cooperate with the requirements of a local church to be a member though clearly not all members of the visible and temporal formation of local assemblies of God’s people are, in fact, real members of Christ’s body

(*I realize I may be guilty of being a bit redundant but grasping the basic biblical principle(s) for the division between the two kingdoms is critical to understanding the implications and subsequent theological application from which conclusions on this matter are derived.)

(**For this essay I am by-passing the temporary hybrid theocracy of Israel in which there was both anthropological and spiritual membership. Its unique status, while recognized as real in the past, is also now not operating as a valid divine institution of God, of which most Protestant, Evangelical or Fundamentalist schools of theology agree. However, I did want to note its existence in the past).


The Lesser-sized Governments of the Divine Institutions God placed in the Left Kingdom - Luther and those that followed tended to focus on national and state governments in the development of their doctrinal arguments regarding the kingdom on the left. In this case, however, I have decided to expand the consideration of the left kingdom or governments of the world to include the lesser-sized governments of the divine institutions which operate, by divine intent, in the left kingdom. Therefore, my primary taxonomy for the divine institutions given to us by God which function in the kingdom on the left are (I will elaborate on this in a bit):

  • The government of the self or individual
  • The government of marriage
  • The government of family
  • Civil Establishmentarianism – the formation of civil government which includes tribes, villages, hamlets, towns, cities, counties, states and nations and so o
Why is this sub-set in the taxonomy of the left kingdom so pertinent? I do so because it is a valid and critical theological construct which Piper and others neglect in their treatment of the issue but as well, this is essentially where the problem actually lies, in that of personal and practical applications of God’s Word regarding the personal use of weapons for self-defense and not national self-defense so much (I say “so pertinent” because I am addressing Piper’s problematic claims but let me be clear, national pacifism also is in view here and is just as in error though from what I gather, John Piper does not support national pacifism).

Divine Institutions and the Two Kingdoms

The theological category of divine institutions is a familiar one with many Evangelicals. However, their incorporation into Luther’s large schematics of a left and right kingdom (which I find to be a very appropriate construct with regard to the Bible’s presentation of God’s design and intent of world governments and the church or spiritual government) have not been amalgamated by many and prescribed in the manner in which I am providing. I believe my readers will discover this theological blueprint to be a persuasive construct, both theologically and practically, on this this issue and many more related ones.

The Structure of the Right Kingdom – While Luther used the spiritual kingdom and the church synonymously, I want to take time to refine this a bit and give notice to what might be a weighty nuance though, on the whole, still adopting the right or spiritual kingdom and left or worldly government kingdom paradigm.

The right kingdom or the spiritual kingdom is either the church or overseen by the church under Christ’s headship in which our Savior placed two offices for governing, the presbyter (often qualified per Ephesians 5 as Pastor-teachers) and the deacon. But how a taxonomy might be theologically structured requires the observation of another office in the church, instituted by God, which is not one related to church governing rather, one of spiritual self-governance which is the office of the believer-priest.

The problem with the spiritual kingdom and the church being treated as completely synonymous with one another is first, do we mean church as in God's called out people through all the ages or the New Testament church with its unique protocols for this age? 


As well, as part of the church and/or spiritual kingdom, the individual believer-priest does not perform all of his/her functions under the authority or in the context of the church, though one might say under its auspices which means that the believer-priest, while directly attached to a formalized body of believers (the divine institution of the church) is not always answerable to the church for all of their spiritual exercises though is taught, reproved, corrected and trained via ecclesiastical indoctrination (2 Tim 3:16). And while this part of my essay is not really directly germane to the thesis, it is relevant in understanding divine structures and purposes therefore, I am taking a bit more time to address this.

The believer-priest’s conscience before God is at liberty to make many choices to whom the believer-priest answers only to God thus, he/she is not always in the context of the church but always in the context of the kingdom on the right or the spiritual kingdom. This is reflected in Romans 14:20-23 with the Christian’s conscience accounting exclusively to God on matters of liberty. And here is but one example of many. 

From this, ultimately I have formulated two theological constructs regarding the right kingdom or the spiritual kingdom:

1. Right Kingdom/Spiritual Kingdom and its divine institutions (preferred)

A. The divine institution of the New Testament church with its two divinely ordained offices for governing, the presbyter or Pastor/Teacher - first - and Deacon - second, with proprietary gifting for the former and specific divine qualifications and objectives for both (1 Tim 3:1-13)

B. The priesthood of the individual which is under the authority of the divine institution of the church though, some matters are private and exercised outside of the authoritative reach of the church, answerable directly to God, alone.
2. Right Kingdom/Spiritual Kingdom also known as the divine institution called the church
A. The governing offices the NT church are the presbyter or Pastor/Teacher - first - and Deacon - second, with proprietary gifting for the former and specific divine qualifications and objectives for both (1 Tim 3:1-13)

B. The priesthood of the individual which is under the authority of the divine institution of the church though, some matters are private and exercised outside of the authoritative reach of the church, answerable directly to God, alone.
There is no indisputable way to construct a perfect taxonomy but the overriding point is that the right kingdom or the spiritual kingdom which is manifested via the church is specific but limited in its authoritative intent and reach such as membership, the propagation of the gospel and teaching doctrine in order to lead believer-priests into full-knowledge and wisdom and ultimately, God pleasing practices of the highest order (Phil. 1:10, Rom. 12:1-2).

And membership into this kingdom, the spiritual kingdom which comes via a singular spiritual property common to all its citizens - that of spiritual rebirth which comes through faith in the gospel - will be contrasted with membership into the left kingdom or governments of the world which is determined by various anthropological properties such as gender, place of birth, sworn oaths and human genetics and so on, it just depends on the context.

The Structure of Left Kingdom – The left kingdom is the expression used to denote the various governments of the world. To the new believer some of this may be difficult because he/she may run into the theocracy of Israel in the Old Testament and imagine this is how today’s governments around the world are to operate, especially ones which have a Biblical influence in their founding and the predominant culture identifies as Christian.

The answer to that is, no.

Israel was just that, a theocracy. They received direct revelation from God through which God, himself, prescribed specific protocols for both their spiritual and civil governments. This form of establishment was voided by God upon the establishment of the New Testament church.

Matthew 27:51 records God’s signifying his termination of the theocracy by the rending of the Temple veil and then, through processional revelation and establishment through the Apostles, shows that the kingdom of God is now to be expressed as a spiritual kingdom via the church or the body of Christ, whose individual members are its Temple (1 Cor. 3:16) both individually and collectively and who are now called a chosen nation, a royal priesthood and a holy nation (2 Peter 2:9), no longer qualified by any anthropological or geological properties as Israel was, but by being born again, made alive with Christ through faith in the gospel.

While it is true that Israel was both a civil and spiritual kingdom, it was the only one of its kind in human history. However, God established it with a limited scope and intent with respect to many of its properties. And as almost every Evangelical Bible teacher agrees, there is no more theocracy with its special form of civil government and Levitical priesthood, or combination left/right kingdom.

So, does this mean God has left no instruction, no guidance and no moorings for the governments of the world?

Again, no.

Both Paul, in Romans 13 and Peter, in each of his epistles, writing under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, recognize the validity of civil government as being divinely instituted along with citing some specific divine goals of civil government. These are divine objectives intended by God for the role of civil establishment. However, unlike the theocracy of Israel where there was a very specifically prescribed form of government, the New Testament reveals that God has no prescribed form of government for the nations, only the rights, duties and privileges of establishment or government which are referred to by the Apostles. I realize the issue of what kind of governments might be premium in enabling a nation to carry out God’s intent of securing freedoms, liberties and justice for its people but this isn’t my aim, here, nor am I going any further on that. My elaboration was simply to point out God has not just instituted the church but as well, civil government, they simply operate on different protocols from God.

Therefore, I want to enlarge the microscope a bit so we can magnify the picture and reduce our focus on lesser-sized but equally divinely instituted forms of government which, just like civil government or establishmentarianism, present to all members of humanity, rights, duties and privileges from God. And by divine design, membership into of these forms of government have nothing to do with spiritual properties rather, anthropological properties.

Here is my construct for the left kingdom or governments of the world as instituted by God and I only have one taxonomy as opposed to two with the spiritual or right kingdom:

Left Kingdom or Governments of the World (as instituted by God)

A. The individual or self
B. Marriage
C. Family
D. Civil government
The very first category is the one on which I will be elaborating the most. First, because it is often overlooked by those who treat the topic of divine institutions and secondly, because categorically, it is the very issue at hand regarding self-defense and its legitimacy as a Christian. Also, I am going to assume that readers recognize and affirm marriage, family and civil government as valid divine institutions created by God for all mankind intended as the mechanism primarily for man’s social perpetuity with his protection and prosperity largely in view.