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Mark Galli’s article of the 20th December in Christianity Today calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump on so called moral grounds was neither courageous nor biblical. In fact, it displayed a remarkable ignorance of the relationship between the Church and the State, as put forth by the New Testament scriptures.
There are two passages in the New Testament that outline the context in which we are to relate to national political leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers and even Dictators. The first is 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and the second is Romans 13:1-5. The latter is infrequently referred to by most preachers and magazines because it contradicts much of their thinking and debunks their social justice gospel that has infiltrated much of the Church in our day. Both passages are very important because they harmonize and enable us to avoid the trap into which Galli has fallen.
The passage in the book of Romans reads as follows:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority
except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore
whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror
to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what
is good and you will have praise from the same.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does
not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath
on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of
wrath but also for conscience sake.”
It is important to note that this passage was written by Paul in reference to the Roman Empire and the Caesars who governed it. They were ruthless, cruel tyrants and certainly by biblical standards had no “moral values” and yet Paul asserts that:
1. They are appointed by God.
2. Wield their authority only at God’s pleasure….and,
3. Are in fact the ministers of God.
Consequently, Christians are to obey them, do what is good in their sight and by so doing honor God. That is, to resist them is to resist God and it is for this reason that he calls them to submit for conscience sake. These rulers were evil, they laid waste the Church in every corner of the Empire and Paul did not call for Caesar’s impeachment!!! In fact, just the opposite, because he knew that in the end by love and good works the Church would triumph, and it did. Actually, in comparison to the leaders of Rome Donald Trump is a saint!
Also, the national or political leader is referred to by Paul as one raised up by God and as the minister of God. In what sense then is Donald Trump the minister of God? Definitely not in a saved or redeemed sense but, in the sense, that he is a secular ruler like Caesars of old. We, as Christians do not vote for a Pastor, Priest or Reverend to become President but for a leader who best expresses our values and who will provide space and opportunity for the Church to preach the gospel to the nation in which it resides. Some of the greatest leaders of our times were not Christian, including Winston Churchill. He embraced Christian values but was something of a drunkard and a political opportunist, as he flipped flopped between political parties and as Lord of the Admiralty was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Anzac troops at Gallipoli in the First World War. To add insult to injury, he was the master of insult and in this regard out did Donald Trump’s Tweets by far. Churchill was despised and rejected by almost all of the political elite, just as Trump is, and yet God raised him up, gave him authority and, as a minister of God most high, he saved Britain from the tyranny of Nazism. Today he is celebrated as the Greatest Britton and millions wept at his funeral including my father. Did anyone call for his impeachment on moral grounds in Britain’s darkest hour? The answer actually is yes, and history has now judged them to be fools!
It is then important to note that for Paul, the Church is to submit to the governing authority by prayer, good works, suffering and proclamation in the knowledge that God who sees will change the governing authority and in the end enable such an authority to make space for the Church to preach the saving message of the cross. This is why we submit for conscience sake because the message we have of eternal life in Jesus is more important than anything else and calling for Trump’s impeachment, as Mark Galli did, was in every way naïve and a contradiction of scripture.
In addition, it is to be noted that Donald Trump has done more to encourage and support the mission of the Church in America than any other President in recent years. He has supported Christian values, stood against abortion, rolled back the Johnson Law and has encouraged all Christians everywhere to come out from hiding and own their faith. So, the high biblical goal that Paul sets for leaders has been fulfilled in Donald Trump; and yes, hopefully by the grace of God he too one day will embrace the Savior sent from heaven to deliver us. For this too we should and must pray but to call for his impeachment is a contradiction of scripture.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul affirms all of this when he writes:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men, for Kings and all who are in
authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness
and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our
Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge
of the truth.”
So, once again it is the first priority of the Church to pray for leaders and rulers because in doing so there is the expectation that God will change them and inspire them to bring order, stability, peace and quiet to a nation so that the Church may freely preach the Gospel. For the Apostle Paul the preaching of the Gospel was the greatest priority for a Christian and he considered even his sufferings to be working toward that end (Philippians 1:12). It is not our first responsibility to antagonize leaders by calling for their impeachment. This is counter productive to our great calling to fulfill the Great Commission. Again, can any of you demonstrate from scripture where Paul called for the impeachment of Caesar, a more wicked and cruel despot than Donald Trump will ever be? He was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 16:37) and could have done so but he didn’t. Rather, he called the Church to a higher office and eventually by it he penetrated Caesar’s Household (Philippians 1:12-14) and finally the Christian Gospel triumphed over Rome and got a foothold in Europe and we have greatly benefited by it and are indebted to him for it. Mark Galli would have done well, in the light of his retirement, to call the Church in America to prayer and intercession for the President but he didn’t and rather opted to bring division to the people of God and to play into the arms of those who, if assuming power one day, will continue the immoral behavior of murdering babies in the womb! It is not surprising that these were the first people to receive his editorial with glee.
For Paul the Church’s relationship with the State was governed by one thing only; that everything should be made subservient to the Church’s right to freely preach the Gospel. The right to preach the death, burial and resurrection of Christ was outside of the governing authority’s jurisdiction and consequently, if the state moved to curtail or prohibit this right, it had to be reasoned with (Acts 26:1-23) and even resisted and was (Acts 5:26-32). For this right the early Church leaders were prepared to die, and they did!
They well knew that it was not the “Social Gospel” or the “Social justice Gospel” or the “Prosperity Gospel” that saved people from their sins and gave them the gift of eternal life but only the Gospel that faithfully proclaims what Jesus did for the world on the cross. Evil cannot be out-smarted, out-thought or overcome by well thought out programs of one sort or another. No, it can only be overcome by the spilt blood of Jesus and having the right to preach this message governs our interactions with the State. Mark Galli could have re-enforced this, but he didn’t, opting rather to inject himself into the political squabbles of impeachment.