Election Day Sermon Part One
Election Day Sermon, Part One
September 28, 2008 (AM)
There is a long history in this country and among Reformed Presbyterians that dates back to the 1600s. As this history was embodied in the US Constitution it has become known as “the separation of church and state.” Separation of church and state in this longstanding tradition does not mean that God’s spokesmen have nothing to say about the magistrate. Rather, it means that there is but one government in the church, and that government is distinct from the civil government.
In our Westminster Confession of Faith, which embodies the understanding of the assembly of ministers and elders called by the parliament of England in 1643, we read the following:
The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
At another place in the same document we may read,
The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and Sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved.
Later in the same chapter, our forefathers wisely wrote about the situation in which we find ourselves today; i.e. the situation in which the magistrate may not necessarily profess the Christian faith as we do or even profess the Christian faith at all. They wrote,
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: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted.
Our church’s confession does not state that an infidel or even someone of a different understanding may not be our chief magistrate, or president. What it states is that even if his religion differs from ours that there is a just and legal authority that he has from God. When that just and legal authority is used lawfully, the people should obey him. However, beyond the general authority he has to take order over the nation to assure order, peace, and unity, he has no business whatever in ecclesiastical matters. This is the original sense of the separation of church and state.
Later this same principle was set in the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment. Remember that the first amendment is a restriction, not on the power of the church, but on the power of the government. The U.S. constitution does not have the authority to determine or define what the church may or may not do, but speaks only to what the civil government may or may not do. In the first amendment we can read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” I understand that is not the end of the amendment, but consider for a moment that previously in the body of the constitution, the supreme law of the land already stated, “all legislative [law-making] powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” By denying the Congress the authority to make a law respecting establishment of religion, the constitution was denying that authority to any branch of the U.S. government. This “establishment clause” is a recognition on the part of the civil government of what our Westminster forefathers said 150 years previous to the constitution, viz. the church government is distinct from the civil government and the civil government has no authority within the church.
The practice in England had been for the government to license preachers and even churches. In some of our own thirteen colonies that same practice also had prevailed. Thus some of the earliest Presbyterian churches in Virginia and Georgia were called either “Independent” or “Non-conformist” churches. Our own Hanover Presbytery traces its origins to the Non-conformist Presbyterian preacher of colonial days, the Rev. Samuel Davies. Davies preached sermons calling for the men of his county and parish to take up arms against the French and Indians in the French/Indian War. He preached an important sermon upon the death of King George II of England, uncountable sermons on patriotism, the duties of both the magistrate and the people, the curse of cowardice among a people, the signs of the times in blessing and cursing, a fasting sermon on the defeat of General Braddock at Fort DuQuesne [modern-day Pittsburgh], and the fact that God continues sovereign in the affairs of men both civilly and ecclesiastically. One of the young men who listened to the pulpit oratory of Rev. Davies would later cry out in the House of Burgesses “give me liberty or give me death.” Patrick Henry, one of the early patriots of this country, would have been mystified by view that religion should have nothing to say in the political realm.
Our Scottish and Scots-Irish forefathers brought the tradition to this continent of speaking to the affairs of men in war and peace, and in the civil realm of governments and commerce. We follow that long-standing tradition today.
I. The Bible Commends and Commands Christian Involvement In Every Aspect of Society.
Note 2 Samuel 23:3. I shall read the entire passage to you.
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands: but the man that shall touch them must be fenceda with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place.
The words I wish to bring especially to your attention today are those at verse 3, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” The passage does not say he must be a Presbyterian, nor does it say he must even be a Christian for that matter. But he must be just; he must understand and know how to apply the principles of justice. In my opinion, none knows better how to do that than a Christian, but the passage is simply stating the obvious: anything other than ruling in justice is tyranny and no lawful magistracy at all.
The passage does go on, however. While the Scripture does not require that a ruler be a Presbyterian, it does require that he live his life in the fear of God, i.e. in proper submission to the dictates and commandments of God’s just and perfect law. When the law says, “thou shalt not kill,” the magistrate is not ruling in the fear of God when he gives permission to some people to kill others. When the commandment says, “thou shalt not steal,” a just ruler cannot use the authority of government to steal the fruit of their labor from productive citizens. He may do it, but he may not call himself just nor may he claim to be ruling in the fear of God.
This same idea is borne out in many other places in Scripture. The book of Proverbs states emphatically at 29:2, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” The implication is drawn out two verses later, at v. 4 “the king by judgment establisheth the land.” In short, righteousness is an essential ingredient of good government, as are the qualities of truthfulness, mercy, sobriety, impartiality, and justice as we have previously seen.
Theologian, author, and pastor John W. Stott made the point from Christ’s “sermon on the mount:”
To begin with, we Christians should be more courageous, more outspoken in condemning evil. Condemnation is negative, to be sure, but the action of salt is [also] negative. Sometimes standards slip and slide in a community for want [lack] of a clear Christian protest…. Too often evangelical Christians have interpreted their social responsibility in terms of only helping the casualties of a sick society, and have done nothing to change the structures which cause the casualties.
II. So As Scripture Speaks To Every Area of Life, Including the Political, So It Speaks Regarding Those Who Would Rule Over Men Today.
The Bible is not silent on the moral issues that we face in our country today and even goes so far as to insist that we make voting judgments based upon the virtues it extols and the evils it condemns. The Bible addresses at least two issues that are at stake in the upcoming elections of 2008. For Reformed Presbyterians, the Bible’s commands are non-negotiable and inviolable. Doing what God forbids is sin as is leaving undone what God commands. Voting for candidates who stand in direct opposition to the clear commands of Scripture is not an option for Christians. Remaining silent in the face of such moral decay as our nation now faces not only shirks duty, but assures that our children and grandchildren will live under tyrants and despots.
We are not speaking today of mere political theories. We are speaking of matters that affect people, including you, your families, your neighbors, and the entire nations. The Bible calls us to love our neighbors in great measure by doing all that is within our power to bring about government that is a rewarder of them that do well and a terror to the evil-doer. See how the Apostle Paul put these ideas together in Romans chapter 13.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordaineda of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
See how Paul did not reduce the idea of love to a mere maudlin feeling. Rather, we should be subject to the higher powers specifically because they have been ordered (ordained) by God to be a terror not to good works, but to evil works. Paul claimed that the magistrate is, in that sense, the minister or servant of God. He has the authority and the duty to execute wrath, i.e. punishment, on him who does evil. Now our submission to such a one, including tribute, custom, and honor, involves our voting for such a one as well. Otherwise words no longer have meaning. How can we vote for someone we cannot honor? But Paul did not stop there. He claimed that his duty to the magistrate was summarized in loving one another. The evil doing Paul was writing of is defined in terms of killing, theft, adultery, lying, etc. Therefore, we are to love one another by showing honor to those who in turn become a terror to the evil-doer and exercise their positions as ministers of God.
Today one of the most pressing issues facing us a society is whether we will be just and good toward innocent life or whether we will be a nation of murderers. God is quite clear that he hates the shedding of innocent blood. Proverbs 6:16-17 refers to the shedding of innocent blood as an “abomination” to God. Understand that when God says he hates hands that shed innocent blood, he is speaking by way of metonymy, in which it is not merely the ten fingers of the murderer that God hates; it is the murderer himself.
Abortion is the killing of an innocent human life. Abortion is plainly and simply hated by God if Proverbs 6:16-17 means anything. Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood; it is the unjustified destruction of one who has done nothing to deserve death. If you are a Christian, one who chooses to think God’s thoughts, then you must hate the evil of abortion as he does. In Psalm 97:10, the Psalmist cries out to us, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil!” In Psalm 119:104, we read “through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every evil way.” Understanding God’s precepts leads to a hatred for evil.
Our next president will likely have opportunity to influence national policy on the abortion issue. Please do not misunderstand me at this point. It is not my intention this morning to convince you regarding the evil of abortion. If you do not already regard abortion as evil, then you do not see that it is a moral issue. Nobody has a right to kill anybody else. But abortion has been politicized into a so-called “right” so that the act will be protected by the very magistrate who should be a terror to such an evil act. Therefore, while abortion is not a political issue, it has been turned into a political issue by those who wish to commit the act. Until 1973 it had not occurred to anybody with a bit of sense and the ability to read that murder of any kind was a right within the penumbra of the U. S. Constitution. A right to privacy does not include the right to kill, steal, or defraud so long as it is done in private. Most such crimes are committed privately in that sense.
So, this sermon is not designed or intended to convince you of the wrong of abortion. This trumpet blast is designed rather to call your consciences to witness that what you have no right to do, you cannot vote for another to do in your place. If you have no right to steal, you cannot vote for someone else to steal for you. If you have no right to kill, then neither can you rightly and conscientiously vote for another to protect such a so-called right.
But let us examine where the Democratic candidate for president stands on this issue. On his website, Sen. Obama writes concerning what he calls “reproductive choice,” as follows:
Obama has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving a women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade a priority as president. Obama also supports expanded access to contraception, health information and preventive services to reduce unintended pregnancies.
The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) gave Sen. Obama the following scores: In 2005, he received a 100% score for voting with NARAL. In 2006, he received a 100% score for voting with NARAL, and in 2007, he received a 100% score for voting with NARAL. Interestingly, Obama as well as most Abortion advocates refers to the SCOTUS decision “Roe v. Wade” as “established federal law.” The truth, as we saw earlier this morning, is that the constitution states that 100% of all legislative power shall be vested in the congress. The SCOTUS cannot make federal law because it is prohibited by the US Constitution from doing so.
There is yet another issue, once again an issue that is at its heart moral, but which has been politicized by those hoping to have a government that is no longer a terror to the evil-doer: that issue is homosexual behavior and marriage. Homosexual behavior is a perversion of the purposes of human sexuality. The pattern in Scripture is monogamous faithful heterosexual behavior. Anything else, including multiple wives or husbands, same sex wives or husbands, or infidelity of any kind, is detestable to God.
Scripture states at Leviticus 18:22, “thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination.” Later in the same book of the Bible, God stated (Lev. 20:13), “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” This may not be the way many people think today. Nor is it my purpose today to demonstrate the wrong-headedness of homosexual behavior and marriage. My purpose is simply to give you God’s take on the subject. If you want to think God’s thoughts, then you must find God’s thoughts from Scripture. Since God does not change and his word does not change, the fact that our nation and culture has changed is simply an indictment against us. Not all change is progress. And change in which the government is no longer a terror to the evil-doer is actually regress and sin.
Once again, we can judge the candidacy of Sen. Obama by his view of so-called LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender) issues. Senator Obama, on his website, is quite clear about his views.
Obama Supports Complete Repeal of DOMA. Obama believes we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized relationships.
Obama Voted Against a Federal Amendment to Ban Same Sex Marriage. Obama sided with the vast majority of Democrats opposing attempts by the Republican leadership to bring up a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex‐marriage
Obama Opposes “Discriminatory” Constitutional Amendments. Obama “opposes all divisive and discriminatory Constitutional amendments, state or federal.” This includes the proposed amendments in California, Arizona and Florida.
We have seen this morning that whatever else you or I may think, the Bible says that God regards with hatred the taking of innocent life. He also considers it abominable for someone to engage in homosexual behavior and conduct. There is really no middle ground for us on these issues because they are not about political considerations such as boundary lines or how many representatives each state should have in the federal government. These are moral issues and they are issues to which our Scriptures speak. We read earlier in 1 John 2:4, “he that saith, ‘I know him,’ and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” If you claim to know God, to know Christ, and do not keep his commandments, Scripture says you are lying.
So ask yourselves, “how do the positions of Sen. Barack Obama compare to the position of Scripture?” There are some who will tell you that faith is “personal,” by which they really mean “private” or “non-public.” “Go ahead and believe in Jesus,” they will tell you, “just keep him inside the four walls of the church building.” But you cannot do that with the King of kings, nor with his worldview called Christianity. There is not a square inch of all creation over which Christ does not claim legitimate rule to paraphrase Abraham Kuyper.
I urge you therefore, with whatever moral force Scripture has in your life, when you enter the voting booth this year not to vote for Senator Barack Obama or candidates like him who support and encourage the very activities our Lord condemns.
Clearly no one candidate is perfect. If we were to look for a perfect candidate, then we must elect Jesus Christ. But what we must not do is deny that he is now King and Ruler over our votes. We dare not vote as though he were not our Master. We must take our duty to witness to Christ in every area of life seriously by casting our votes in a way that furthers his kingdom rather than hindering it. For that reason, we must vote against the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama.
 Westminster Confession of Faith 30:1, (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications), 119.
 Ibid. 23:3, 100-101.
 Ibid. 23:4, 102-103.
a fenced: Heb. filled
The Holy Bible : King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., 2 Sa 23:1-7 (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).
a ordained: or, ordered