On Irony

Have you noticed a certain irony in the vaccine mandates? The issue of “bodily autonomy” or “bodily integrity” has come to the forefront. Can the State or an employer demand your submission to a medical procedure, even a vaccine? (In making my case for bodily autonomy, I do not mean the autonomy of the person before God. I mean, the freedom to refuse a medical invasion into their bodies. The requirement to receive a medical treatment for employment, housing, education—to participate in society—autonomy not in the face of God, but of other humans).

The irony is this: since 1973 in the United States and 1969 in Canada, millions of children were denied their bodily autonomy by the medical community, Planned Parenthood, and NGOs. But all involved knew that the killing the “product of conception” is killing a real child. The preborn child is no less a human than a born child or an adult.

Killing an innocent is the ultimate violation of bodily autonomy—there is no consent, certainly no safety—the child has absolutely no opportunity to say, “My body, my choice.” Where is the choice of the preborn? What child would choose to be tortured or burned to death? Does the child voluntarily surrender her organs to labs?

When abortion was legalized in the US, the buzzwords were, “It’s just a blob of flesh,” or “it’s not a human,” “an abortion is just like having a tonsillectomy or an appendectomy.” Where was the scientific community when these false claims were circulating? Certainly, any biologist knew in 1969 and 1973 that these were human babies, not mere blob of flesh. The scientific community let millions of children down and let them die. Many scientists and doctors participated in this lie.

So “my body, my choice” has nearly vanished as a rallying cry for abortion rights. This is good because 1) the phrase was never true. It is obviously a case of the “preborn child’s body, someone else’s choice.” An abortion kills a human. 2) But the phrase is also gone because it is so inconvenient for those who demand state rights over each person’s body. How can, “My body, my choice” help the vaccination cause? It cannot. What has been a battle-cry for the pro-abortion crowd is now unutterable.

So there’s one irony—a decades long demand for bodily autonomy of the mother is now set aside in favour of a demand to submit all to vaccines, even by coercion and force. I don’t have statistics on this, but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of those who demand unrestricted abortions will also demand total restrictions on human liberties, including the liberty to decline a medical procedure.  “My body, my choice” has finally found a home in science, logic, and morality.

But there is even a greater irony here: the demand for the abortions of millions, in the name of bodily autonomy, has brought us to the point where we are fighting for what is lost . . . bodily autonomy!

Yes, we have denied the protection of the body in the womb for so many decades, and God has brought us to this point—where we are finally willing to fight for the protection of the body. This doesn’t apply to non-Christians who are all two happy to surrender their bodies (and yours, and your children’s) to vaccine mandates.

The church, overall, has been complacent in the face of the abortion holocaust. We might make some donations, protest a bit, but we have made little progress. There are, of course, some shining stars. Compare the protesters in Ottawa—they are raging over this issue, and most of them do not even understand that our nation is under the judgement of God. They know deeply that there is a serious problem but are unlikely to identify its source as the idolatrous aspirations of the atheist State. They have lost the rights to their own bodies and can only explain this as Christians.

Because we have permitted abortions, we have surrendered the rights to our bodies. The State can invade the womb, and so it can invade your body too.

Everyone is affected by this war of the State against its people, but it is the church that needs to confess and repent of her sin of complacency. We know why this is happening. When a million people or more didn’t show up to protest abortion, and refuse to leave until it was declared unlawful, we knew how little the church cared. Now it seems that the loss of bodily autonomy for all the born reflects the loss to the unborn.

So what is it, church? Will we be revived and reformed?

Am I Really Preaching the Bible?

A little exercise for men who preach.

It is common for preachers to have much more in their minds when approaching sermon preparation and delivery than they can say. We are often guilty of preaching “the right message from the wrong text.”

I suggest this little exercise for preachers who are preparing a message. (This won’t work for a topical sermon, which is another issue and subject to other criteria). This exercise is for men who are preaching expository sermons.

Imagine your sermon is recorded on audio only. It was edited poorly so that the reading of your sermon text is cut off. The listener has no idea what your text is.

Now consider your sermon: when listening through the average serious message, 35 minutes or so, could the hearer, from your sermon, figure out the passage your sermon is based upon? Does your message arise from the text in such a way that the hearer (at least the Biblically informed hearer) can find the passage, or a parallel passage to your text? Could those who are not familiar with the Bible at least know you are basing it on something, basing your message on something that is missing?

If you must honestly answer “no” to this question, please read on:

The reason this is important is that much of preaching today is assumed to be Biblical because a passage is read before, and then the message commences; and never the twain shall meet! The ideas, concepts, lessons, stories from the sermon itself may be excellent, even Biblical, but are they Biblical from that text?

Expository preaching has been called lazy by some mega-church pastors. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, or I don’t have the gift of gab and can “shoot from the hip” with my stories and illustrations, but I find expository preaching to be the most rewarding and challenging preparation I do.

Whether or not it is the sole cause of Biblical illiteracy in the church, I do find that fewer men are preaching expository sermons. The present day’s urgency pushes us toward passages that somehow seem to answer immediate needs. But are the immediate needs we perceive to be most important the same as those God says is important? Preaching through the Word can be a guard against preaching to immediate crises only, while still addressing those crises. Expository preaching can uncover what lies beneath and prevent us from making the Bible come off as a book of advice-giving fables.

It is an easy thing to look up topics in a topical Bible or a concordance, but it is very hard to gather verses together that don’t violate their own contexts. Thus proof-texting that doesn’t supply valid proof can become the norm.

So listen to your sermon. Does it flow logically from the text? Does the text supply the outline? What is the context—immediate (previous and following chapters or paragraphs) and the context of the book in Biblical history (OT or NT is the most obvious, but there are other contexts); what is the genre of the passage? What is it’s historical context? How is the passage used in the rest of Scripture? What are other passages that parallel the one you are expositing?

A Bible passage is not a diving board from which one takes a great bounce and leap into the unknown pool of our own ideas.

The Great Commission and Romans 13

Most reading this will be familiar with the text of the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15, ESV)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45–47, ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” (Acts 1:8, ESV)

Each of these commissions give essentially the same commands: go, teach, proclaim, witness, make disciples, etc.

I believe that the failure of the church today rests upon a failure to understand and therefore carry out this commission. We have failed to carry out the commands of Christ. Not only so, but we encourage this failure.

Consider Matthew’s version: “make disciples of all nations (ethnē). The word nation is translated “Gentile” when it contrasts “Jew,” or simply “nation.” It is sometimes translated “pagan.” It is correct to see a command for an exclusively Jewish church to preach to the Gentiles. This began to happen in Acts 10.

What has changed, however, from the past centuries to today is that the term nation has come to be understood by Christians to apply only to the individuals within a nation. To disciple the nations was once understood to be both individuals within the nation (for a nation is at its core a collection of individuals), but to the nation as an entity: the nation itself was to be discipled. It was expected that a nation of Christians would express itself as freely submitting to God’s Law.

How does this work? The Gospel teaches a man how to be a godly man, a son, a husband, a father, employee, employer, etc. It teaches a woman how to be a Christian woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a mentor. The Gospel teaches obedience to what it means to be a Christian human in the settings in which God has placed them. The Gospel instructs Christians what it means to be a family. Teaching the nations includes the individuals and groups within those nations.

The Gospel has ordered the church: its task, its authority, structure, organisation; it identifies ministries within the church and how they are to be conducted.

But the Great Commission demands a discipleship of the nations. Just as we are to teach each person to be godly, we are to teach each nation what it means to be a godly nation. This means that there are roles and responsibilities placed by God upon all nations, and all nations are either obedient or disobedient to those roles and responsibilities. God’s Law is the definition of the responsibilities of the individual, and therefore the nation.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given me, Go therefore . . .” Please note:

  1. There is no authority in heaven or on earth that exceeds Christ’s authority. This means that any individual nation is answerable for its laws, morals, collective behaviours to Christ. God’s Law is the standard. This submission, willing or not, is not something that can be refused by a nations. A nation that claims to be secular, atheistic, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Animist—all are under obligation to Christ’s rule. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:3, 14). This is the meaning of Christ’s Ascension. His rule is present. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . .”

  2. The ministry of preaching and teaching of the church is based upon Christ’s authority: go therefore. Because of His authority He has the rights and privileges of a king to order His subjects: the Christians. Christians are commanded to go and make disciples of the nations. Because a nation consists of individuals, nations are discipled when the individuals in that nation are discipled. People become Christians, and when that happens, the nation becomes Christian.
  3. Like individuals, all nations are either covenant keepers or covenant breakers. An individual cannot, before Christ, say, “I don’t believe in Christ, therefore He has no authority over me.” This is, of course, said by many. But this doesn’t make it fact. Likewise ungodly nations cannot vote away the Kingdom of Christ. It is one of the perils of democracy that Christ might lose an election! But He isn’t asking permission to rule, He rules by crown rights.

Discipling the nations resulted what is now known as Christendom. It is not odd that this term is hated by unbelievers, but it is very strange that it is also despised by Christians. A nation that has been discipled has learned how to be a godly nation. It is in these nations that human rights, liberties, freedoms have been developed. This great good has occurred in the nations most under the discipleship of the Gospel and is markedly absent in nations where the Gospel is absent.

Human rights, liberties, and freedoms came through the Gospel-shaping of the nations, and to remove the Gospel is to remove the very foundations of these blessings. Democracies or monarchies can only guarantee rights when the nation is under the discipleship of the Gospel. A nation that has forgotten how to be a godly nation has forgotten how be a free nation, just as a man who has forgotten how to be a godly man has forgotten what it means to be saved.

For this reason, no nation that rejects the authority of Christ can guarantee the rights of its citizens, because those rights were taught to the government by the Gospel. If Christ is not understood to be King, then man is king, and anything is possible. The State forgets its role in the Kingdom of God and attempts to be god. Left to itself, the State establishes itself as a god, an idol.

Forgetting its God-ordained role, the State necessarily creates its own role, which is to expand beyond the authority given by God’s Law. The State takes over the role of family, educator, church, business. The State, not God, determines what is right and wrong, true and false, good and evil. This is seen in countless excursions by the modern State outside its realm of authority:

  1. As the State determines who is and who is not a human, abortion and euthanasia are now determined good, rather than evil. The State, not God, determines this.
  2. As the State determines what it means to be male or female, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, marriage, divorce, and all things of a sexual nature are determined not by God, but by the State. God’s Word is clear regarding which behaviours are sinful and evil, and which are good. God’s curses and eventual judgement will come upon sin.
  3. As the State determines its own authority, it claims ownership over each individual and family. The State, not God, determines the content of education, proper healthcare, welfare, who may and who may not conduct a legitimate business (and what constitutes an essential business!), who may and who may not earn an income—all areas that are not the State’s role or business. It is clear in God’s Word-Law that these are areas of the individual, not the government.

    The state’s claim to ownership of the individual has been made clear in its demand for vaccines in order to fully participate in society. Bodily autonomy, taught in Scripture, is denied.

The nations of Christendom, largely Europe and North America, have been rejecting the discipleship that has made them great. The church in these nations has ceded ground and has moved away from calling the nations to the obedience of God’s Law.

I do not expect unbelievers to agree with me. What I do expect is for Christians to be obedient to Christ. His claim on the world has not been relinquished. Now that the Western church has abandoned its role as teacher (disciple-maker) of the nations, it may seem an impossible task to start again. But start we must.

When Christians deny the authority of Christ over the nations, they are seeking to reverse the Great Commission. The Great Commission is expected by Christ to be successful (Matthew 16:18). This expectation was shared by the early Christians. The result of Christians taking their role as assigned by Christ meant that paganism failed, and Christ’s rule was advanced. Perfectly? No. But the abandonment of the Commission is today a return to paganism.

Today’s Christians, for the most part, have absolutely nothing to say to a judge or parliamentarian, what being a Christian means in those roles. Indeed, many when speaking of their position, claim that they cannot let their Christian commitments and beliefs influence them! Why not? Would the atheist act this way? The Muslim?

It would be a great thing for many Christians to be elected to office, but only if they thought like Christians and refused to set their faith aside! Otherwise, they are wasting their time and are actually working against the commands of Christ.

It is not impossible, by the grace of God, for the church to see this and repent, and begin the long task of discipling the nations once again. At the practical level it means this:

  1. An understanding of the totality of God’s Law over man’s law. A nation’s leaders may only create law that is not contrary to the Law of God. This understanding will place the Christian against the modern nations, and can lead to severe persecution.
  2. A knowledge of God’s Law and Gospel. Christians must know how God’s Law limits the role of the State, and the responsibilities of the individual, family, and church. Each has their own authority.
  3. A refusal to accept State authority over what is not its proper authority: conscience, family, church; education, health, care, etc.
  4. An absolute rejection of the State’s role in determining right and wrong, morals, or truth.
  5. Limiting the role of the State as outlined in Scripture: (Romans 13:1-8).
    1. To be a terror to bad conduct. Bad conduct and good conduct are not determined by the State but are recognised by the State. There is a great difference.
    2. The State is to be the avenger on God’s behalf against evil (vs. 4).
    3. The State is a minister of God.

Now it should be clear that no State or nation that denies the existence of God will do these things, any more than a non-Christian will behave as a Christian. Such nations have become their own gods, deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil. They will incur God’s wrath and judgement, and part of the Christian’s message to them is to flee from that to turn to Christ.

We must return to the full understand of Christ’s Great Commission.