Difference between revisions of "Part Five: The Congress of Living Stones"

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And yet that theory is shared by most commentators. For example, Patrick Gill adopts that theory side by side, even, with a verse that refutes it:  
And yet that theory is shared by most commentators. For example, Patrick Gill adopts that theory side by side, even, with a verse that refutes it:  
<blockquote>“...''but against principalities, against powers;'' '''by whom are meant not civil magistrates, or the Roman governors, though these are sometimes so called, Titus 3:1,''' and may be said to be the rulers of the darkness of this world, or of the dark Heathen world, and were in high places, and were of wicked and malicious spirits, against the people of Christ....”<blockquote>
<blockquote>“...''but against principalities, against powers;'' '''by whom are meant not civil magistrates, or the Roman governors, though these are sometimes so called, Titus 3:1,''' and may be said to be the rulers of the darkness of this world, or of the dark Heathen world, and were in high places, and were of wicked and malicious spirits, against the people of Christ....”</blockquote>
==“Principalities and Powers.”==
==“Principalities and Powers.”==

Revision as of 02:35, 1 March 2020

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To this point in this study, the concept of Jesus’ εκκλεσιαν as a Congregation much like a Congress taking on all the evil power of world tyrannies has been based on little more Scripture than the passage known to Christians as Peter’s Confession.

That a lot of tradition-assaulting interpretation to pile on one poor innocent passage. Doesn’t the whole rest of the Bible say churches should never get involved in politics because Jesus never got involved in politics, we are supposed to obey government not change it, we are supposed to separate ourselves from the world, politics is controversial – which is divisive, our war is not with flesh and blood, we should not preach against sin because we don’t want to offend sinners and keep them from coming to church to hear (what’s left of) the Gospel, and churches would lose their tax exemption?

Honestly, is there any other verse in the Bible that supports an interpretation of the battle between the Gates of Hell and the εκκλεσιαν as occurring, even at any time at all, in political forums?

Is there any other verse in the Bible that supports a vision of Fellowship in which participants have all the robust freedom of speech, and an equal voice and vote for all, that members of Congress have?

It is time to review several other corroborating Scriptures.

Daniel 2.

Let’s begin with an epic comparison of the prophecy of Daniel about a “Stone cut without hands” with its fulfillment in Jesus’ εκκλεσιαν composed of “lively stones” grinding the tyranny that had poisoned every human relationship into the dustbin of history.

Hell’s “Gates” describe tyrannical politics. Not politics as experienced by Americans, with freedoms of speech, religion, and a vote for all, but dictators so secure in their tyranny that they could pass on their ruthless, destructive power over others to their children. Hell’s Gates represent men conquering, enslaving, torturing, destroying, and demanding to be loved and worshiped, which was the only form of government through the time of Jesus and is still the form of government in a third of the world.

Hells Gates poisoned not just the interaction between government and citizens, but every other human relationship: husbands and wives, parents and children, priests and worshipers, masters and slaves, neighbors and strangers.

The stinking, ugly, cruel reality described by Hell’s Gates is as well described by the statue of world empires in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreted in Daniel 2.

Daniel 2:37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. 39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. 41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

εκκλεσιαν describes free men reasoning, planning, deciding, worshiping, governing together, as equals, with an equal voice and vote for all. That is what Greeks meant by the word. Christians added men and women reasoning, governing, giving, loving, and serving together, creating bonds of fellowship stronger than the fear of tyrants.

εκκλεσιαν represents the fragrance of Eternal Life. It began as the form of government over every human relationship, from the interaction between husbands and wives, parents and children, elders and church members, employers and employees, and everyone to each other, to the interaction between citizens and their government (the relationships addressed in 1 Peter 2:13 to the end). As εκκλεσιαν healed whole societies, infusing love and service into marriages, families, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, the whole economy, and governments, not all at once by over long stubborn centuries, cruel monarchies crumbled into the dustbin of history to the point that today, although tyranny still rules a third of the world, it is rarely secure enough to pass power to children. The fragrant, beautiful reality described by εκκλεσιαν is as well described by the Stone Cut Without Hands in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreted in Daniel 2.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Here is where Jesus articulated in more detail how His εκκλεσιαν would displace tyranny across the planet:

Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

Service. Luke 22:26.

It took a long time for Jesus’ principles to evolve into the essential qualities of the most powerful, prosperous nation in world history since the time of Moses, but today American leaders are called “public servants”, and that description honestly identifies what is different about American leaders than the dictators of the past.

Businessmen in America are not admired for their wealth as they were in the past, but for their service. Who knew that service was the key to wealth? Jesus said it in places like Luke 6:38, but who would have believed it? Americans barely believe it today, even with the demonstration all around us.

The correlation is striking between Daniel’s prophecy to Nebuchadnezzar of all the world’s tyrannical political systems displaced by a “stone cut without hands”, Jesus’ prophecy to Peter of the politics of Hell unable to prevail against the congregation/Congress which He would build upon a Rock which Peter later called “living stones”, and Jesus’ instructions to his proud disciples to displace the arrogant drive to climb over others to “greatness” with humble service to others – an instruction followed by instructions to love others even to the extent of giving our own lives for others (John 15:13), to love even our enemies that much (Matthew 5:43-48), and to preach this “Gospel” to the whole world (Mark 16:15), a Gospel founded on !

These three descriptions must be of the same reality, since all three are about a movement that will fill the whole world throughout history, and all three claim to be about the same world.

All three are about an impact on political systems. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue of history’s world empires is being crushed to powder and blown away into nightmarish memory. Hell’s Gates have not been able to prevail against us. The very motivation to even want to rule over others is being displaced, across the whole world, with love-inspired sacrificial service.

All three are not just about the end of an evil political system of slavery, but with its displacement with a Heaven-blessed political system of freedom – a new kind of political system. Nebuchadnezzar’s empires are displaced with a stone that grows to fill the whole earth. Hell’s political Gates are neutralized by an εκκλεσιαν built not by ordinary human hands but by Jesus Christ. The drive to climb over others to “success” and “greatness” that Jesus describes as the essence of political systems of that time is displaced by love and service.

“Politics” is simply a name for the the process by which citizens interact on a national level. When politics are “dirty”, the solution is to clean it up, not to eliminate citizen interaction on a national level. The solution is certainly not for Christians to pay no attention to it, leaving the devil to administer it unhindered. A society without politics is as easy to imagine as a society without parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees, or church leaders and church members. All these human relationships are created by God for the benefit of man, as 1 Peter 2:13 says. (1 Peter 2:13 is addressed later.)

Something gravely misunderstood throughout Christendom is that not all politics are of Hell. This is underscored by the fact that Jesus specified “the gates of Hell”, indicating that there were “gates” which were not of Hell.

“Preach the Gospel...into all the world”, Mark 16:15.

This shows God’s interest in having what He says about government preached to government. How can we say it is on our agenda to “preach the Gospel...into all the world” while we leave an entire major category of human relationships – how people interact on a national level – unwitnessed to, and not only that but we forbid those who would, from doing it on church premises or using church resources?

Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith”

is a list of Bible heroes who were examples of faith to us. They were all either political leaders themselves or they got in the Bible for their interaction with political leaders. See “God’s Political Heroes”.

Phillippians 1:12-14, the Joy of Lobbying.

Paul was thrilled that he was able to witness to everyone in Caesar’s palace.

Philippians 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Jesus’ witness to the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod.

The majority of Jesus’ reported teachings were interactions with the local government of Palestine – the priests of the Sanhedrin, and much Bible attention is given to His interactions with Pilate and Herod as well as the Sanhedrin. See “How Jesus Changed Government”.


“We wrestle not against flesh and blood.”

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“So there. Politicians are flesh and blood”, you say. “So we shouldn’t be involved with them. We shouldn’t oppose them. We should just obey them.

“Not just sometimes, but we should obey ‘every ordinance of man’, 1 Peter 2:13 says. We don’t have to obey God’s laws because we are saved by grace not by works, but we must obey every law of men. Even the laws of wicked men. Translators and commentators mostly agree ‘flesh and blood’ means ‘humans’. That is, we do not wrestle humans.”

But the verse doesn’t say our struggle is not with humans. Just that our wrestling opponent is not human flesh and blood bodies. But humans are more than flesh and blood.

The verse simply says our battle is not physical. We do not fight bodies, with our bodies. Our battle is spiritual. But we very definitely wrestle with the souls, hearts, and thoughts of humans.

This is a general principle. There are exceptions. Jesus wanted His apostles to carry swords after He left them, Luke 22:36-38. “There is a time of war”, Ecclesiastes 3:8. But ordinarily, the Bible uses the terminology of war as metaphors of very real, very deadly battles, even physically deadly battles at times, but in which we do not fight physically.

But it is with humans that we are at “war”.

The “principalities and powers” Christians oppose certainly have support from the unseen, but it is with physical humans that we consciously and verbally interact. We communicate with humans. Not demons. Ours is not a physical battle but a battle of ideas, of principles, of love, of wisdom.

We indeed battle humans possessed by demons, but we do not normally see demons, and it was a capital crime under Moses to communicate with them. We communicate with humans. Humans fight, torture, molest our bodies but we fight the myths, the hate, the lies, the shortcuts around the challenges of life, that bind their souls.

Certainly we are opposed not only by possessed humans but by the demons who possess them, and prayer to God is part of our wrestling with them. But prayer without physical action is not prayer, according to the one example given in James 2:15-17. Our prayer is made real prayer, James teaches, by giving relief to “the least of these my brethren” in the words of Matthew 25. We rescue those being led away to slaughter, in the words of Proverbs 24:10-12.

To theorize that we should not communicate with evil humans running our government because this verse says our battle is with demons is an excuse from Hell for keeping our light under our bushel and bottling up the Gospel in our Sunday Schools.

And yet that theory is shared by most commentators. For example, Patrick Gill adopts that theory side by side, even, with a verse that refutes it:

“...but against principalities, against powers; by whom are meant not civil magistrates, or the Roman governors, though these are sometimes so called, Titus 3:1, and may be said to be the rulers of the darkness of this world, or of the dark Heathen world, and were in high places, and were of wicked and malicious spirits, against the people of Christ....”

“Principalities and Powers.”

Why must we assume “principalities” and “powers” could not possibly mean human governments in Ephesians 6:12, even though the words have to mean human governments in Titus 3:1 and Romans 13:1?

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

At least I hope Paul wasn’t asking us to be subject to demons!

“Principalities and powers” obviously mean human government, in the context of Titus 3:1 and Romans 13:1. It cannot mean demonic powers in that context. That biblical pressure to interpret “principalities and powers” as human government in two out of three passages should make us suspicious of an assumption that it cannot possibly mean human governments in the third passage.

Bible commentator Adam Clarke summarizes the view of most Bible commentators that Ephesians 6:12 is not about wrestling humans, either bodies or ideas, but is about wrestling demons:

Bible Commentator Adam Clarke: But commentators in general...think that by principalities, etc., we are to understand different orders of evil spirits, who are all employed under the devil, their great head, to prevent the spread of the Gospel in the world, and to destroy the souls of mankind.
The spiritual wickedness are supposed to be the angels which kept not their first estate; who fell from the heavenly places but are ever longing after and striving to regain them; and which have their station in the regions of the air. “Perhaps,” says Mr. Wesley, “the principalities and powers remain mostly in the citadel of their kingdom of darkness; but there are other spirits which range abroad, to whom the provinces of the world are committed; the darkness is chiefly spiritual darkness which prevails during the present state of things, and the wicked spirits are those which continually oppose faith, love, and holiness, either by force or fraud; and labor to infuse unbelief, pride, idolatry, malice, envy, anger, and hatred.” Some translate the words εν τοις επουρανιοις, about heavenly things; that is: We contend with these fallen spirits for the heavenly things which are promised to us; and we strive against them, that we may not be deprived of those we have.

It is interesting that Clarke also reports the find of a commentator who shows a strong connection between the “the rulers of the darkness of this world” and the Sanhedrin, the human rulers of Jerusalem.

First, another look at Ephesians 6:12, then Clarke’s connection to Jerusalem:

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Now the connection:

Adam Clarke: By the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, he thinks false teachers [in churches, which might be characterized as stairways to Heaven], who endeavored to corrupt Christianity, are meant; such as those mentioned by St. John, 1 John 2:19: They went out from us, but they were not of us, etc. And he thinks the meaning may be extended to all corrupters of Christianity in all succeeding ages. He shows also that the Jews called their own city שר של עולם sar shel olam, κοσμοκρατωρ, the ruler of the world; and proves that David’s words, Psalm 2:2, The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, are applied by the apostles, Acts 4:26, to the Jewish rulers, αρχοντες, who persecuted Peter and John for preaching Christ crucified.

In other words, Clarke means, the Sanhedrin arrogantly called themselves “the rulers of the world”, but Paul, a refugee of the darkness there, called them “the rulers of the darkness of this world”.

There is another difference between the passages: we must both “be subject to” and “wrestle against” these same powers.

We must “be subject to principalities and powers”, Titus 3:1. “...subject unto the higher powers”, Romans 13:1. “...the powers that be are ordained of God.” Yet we “wrestle...against principalities, against powers”, Ephesians 6:12, against “wickedness in high places”. What does God mean by “being subject to” human authority, yet at the same time “wrestling” with human authority?

1 Peter 2:13-16

offers an explanation. It addresses the same principle as these three verses, but specifies details only implied in these three verses. The Greek words in 1 Peter do not indicate that we are to slavishly, mindlessly obey every last petty regulation any bureaucrat can make up – Jesus certainly didn’t, nor did Peter himself in Acts 5:29 – but rather it is the human relationship created by God that we are to obey, and try to restore to God’s model. Bible heroes demonstrate how that is possible: if the ruler is far from God’s model, we witness to the ruler about what he should be doing better, even if that requires a terrible personal cost, all the while we obey insofar as the ruler’s laws are in harmony with God’s model.

But that sure isn’t what you read in the KJV translation.

Here is the passage:

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

That translation sure makes me look wrong, doesn’t it? King James certainly loved this verse. And not just King James! Unqualified obedience to the laws of men, no matter how tyrannical, is the message of most modern translations: “every ordinance of man” ASV, “all the laws of men” BBE, “all human authorities” CEV, “serve the people who have authority in this world” ERV, “all manner ordinance of man” Geneva, “every human authority” GNB, TLV and ISV, “the authority of human governments” GW.

But wait, what happened to JUB “be subject to every human ordinance that is of the Lord”!!! That certainly allows elbow room for civil disobedience! That takes account of Acts 5:29, where Peter told the Sanhedrin, “We ought to obey God rather than man!”

And look at TS2009 “Be subject to every institution of man”. Hmmm. Not necessarily the humans running those institutions? And YLT, “Be subject, then, to every human creation....”

The Greek: ῾Υποτάγητε οὖν πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει διὰ τὸν Κύριον· εἴτε βασιλεῖ, ὡς ὑπερέχοντι,

Literally: ῾ Υποτάγητε (place yourselves under) οὖν (therefore) πάσῃ (every) ἀνθρωπίνῃ (for humans – common to man – adjective – dative: refers to the person to whom something is given or for whom something is done) κτίσει (God-designed social structure) διὰ (through – created by – denotes the channel of the act) τὸν (the) Κύριον· (Lord, God, Master) εἴτε (both – a conjunction of addition – starting with) βασιλεῖ (sovereign) ὡς (as) ὑπερέχοντι, (above; superior)

That is, “Arrange all your authority relationships the way God designed them to be arranged when He gave them for the benefit of all mankind. Starting with...” (The rest of Peter’s letter is a vision for every human authority relationship, beginning with government/citizen. After that are employer/employee, 2:18-25; husband/wife, 3:1-7; bishop/Christian, 5:1-4; elder/younger, 5:5; and in conclusion, everyone should be subject to each other, 5:5-6.)

A bit more technical detail: The verse begins with ῾Υποτάγητε [hupotagehte] which KJV translates “Submit yourselves” while I translate “arrange”. This is from the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon:

A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”

All the translations on my computer say we are to religiously obey man-made κτισει. [ktisei] That is, rules. Human “ordinances”. Laws. Authorities. But the Greek word κτίσει isn’t about anything man-made at all. It is about what God creates.

Here are the translations, followed by definitions of the Greek word:

We are to obey “every human authority”, GNB, ISV, TLV, “every ordinance of man”, ASV, KJV, “Keep all the laws of men”, BBE, “all human authorities”, CEV, “the people who have authority”, ERV, “all manner ordinance of man”, Geneva, “every human ordinance that is of the Lord”, JUB, “every institution of man”, TS2009, “every human creation”, YLT, “Place yourselves under the authority of human governments”, GW.

Here are the κτίσει definitions:

κτισει 1. LN 42.35 creation, exclusively God’s work (Mk 13:19; Mk 16:15 v.r.); 2. LN 42.38 creature, that which has been created (Ro 1:25); 3. LN 1.4 universe, the totality of what was created (Ro 8:20); 4. LN 42.39 institution, human social structure (1Pe 2:13),... Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek [DBL Greek] (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

DBL Greek's #4 definition doesn’t quite say “government” but rather “human social structure”, and 1 Peter 2:13 is the only verse where κτίσει is seen as coming even that close to referring to government. Notice this wording is carefully neutral about whether we are to obey this “human social structure” as God designed it or as humans corrupt it. I contend that here, too, the emphasis is on what God created. Jesus gave unto Caesar as well as to Caesar's local officers, the Sanhedrin, all the honor and obedience God thought they deserved; certainly not all that Caesar and the Sanhedrin thought they deserved!

Further evidence that “Human social structure” is a more correct translation than “ordinances”, “laws”, or “government authority”, is that verse 13 is an introduction not just to a teaching about the government/citizen relationship in verse 14, but to several other human relationships which are the remainder of Peter’s letter.

Another definition of κτισει:

Theological dictionary of the New Testament. [TDNT] In the NT κτίζω and derivatives are used only of God’s creation. κτίζω, “to create”; κτίστης, “creator,” occurs only at 1 Pt. 4:19, since the NT, like the Heb. and older parts of the LXX, prefers a part. to the noun (R. 1:25; Col. 3:10; Eph. 3:9; cf. Lk. 11:40; Ac. 4:24; 17:24; R. 9:20; Hb. 3:2) or uses a relative clause (Rev. 10:6; cf. Ac. 14:15). κτίσμα, “creature,” the individual creature, 1 Tm. 4:4; Jm. 1:18; Rev. 5:13; 8:9; κτίσις a. “creation” as an act, R. 1:20; b. the “creature,” R. 8:39; 2 C. 5:17; Gl. 6:15 (7); Col. 1:15; Hb. 4:13; 1 Pt. 2:13 (→ 1034); c. “creation,” i.e., the totality of all created things as a comprehensive term, Hb. 9:11: οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως; Rev. 3:14; cf. also Mk. 10:6; 13:19; 2 Pt. 3:4: ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως. Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Eds.). (1964–). Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 3, p. 1028). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

The Holy Spirit Gift of “Governments”

The importance of shining Light on Politics is underscored also by one of the Holy Spirit Gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12: “governments”. Verse 34. Literally, a ship’s pilot. The Greek word is κυβερνησεις which in English letters spells “kuberneseis”, which America alliterates into “gubernatorial”, our word for the election of a state Governor.

This connection with politics is traditionally dismissed as merely authorizing a church to have an “administrator”. But where in the Bible do we find an example of a church administrator? The Bible is full of examples of saints heavily involved in politics, while lacking in even one example of a church administrator.

It is assumed that this gift is given for operation strictly within the walls of the church. But which other Gift of the Spirit was provided only to minister to church members and not to the entire community?

Should we dare to look within the Bible for examples that most closely match what this word “governments” portrays, we would not be able to avoid noting the interaction with government by Jesus, His apostles, Paul, every Example of Faith in Hebrews 11, and virtually every leading Biblical figure.

Just as some of our Examples of Faith were government leaders themselves while others were witnesses to government leaders, (the word Americans have for witnessing to government is to “lobby” government; to be a “lobbyist”) the word “governments” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 is broad enough to authorize both those who become part of the government themselves and those who “lobby” government.

Although κυβερνησεις [“governments” in 1 Corinthians 12:28] is listed no other time in the New Testament, it is used in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) in Proverbs four times, to describe the wisdom available from a large body of people who reason with one another.

Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel (κυβερνησις) is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Proverbs 20:18 Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
Proverbs 24:6 For by wise counsel (κυβερνησεως) thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: (κυβερνησιν)

This perfectly matches the description of a Christian assembly in 1 Corinthians 14, the Bible’s most detailed format of a Christian assembly. Where all are blessed with freedom of speech, the whole assembly benefits from all 100% of the available brainpower, instead of only 1% of the available brainpower, for example, that is available when 99 people listen to a sermon. Put another way, a forum of that size enjoys 100 times as much wisdom as a congregation of 100 listening to a sermon.

But the use of the word in Proverbs is to “establish purposes”. That is, to set goals and strategize how, working together, to reach them. Does this describe American churches? Do American worship services have goals, that are met by people reasoning with each other? Do America’s Christian assemblies strategize together how to wage war against the “Gates of Hell”?

So is the Gift of Governments the Gift of getting people together to reason with each other how best to conduct spiritual warfare against the Darkness outside?

The Bible has many metaphors of war. We must be heavily armed with truth, righteousness, the Gospel of Peace, faith, Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10-18.

In war, foot soldiers are the closest to the front, not the farthest. They don’t sit and listen to their officers shoot. Much less do they sit in safe barracks and listen to officers talk about shooting, while neither officers nor soldiers do any shooting or risk taking.

The Gift of Governments is listed as a Holy Spirit Gift in 1 Corinthians 12. Not listed in the chapter, or anywhere else in the Bible, is the Holy Spirit Gift of Sermons. It should be clear to any honest inquirer that the Bible lists no Holy Spirit Gift of giving an uninterruptible sermon. There is no instance in the Bible of an uninterruptible sermon.

“Teaching” is listed, but nowhere in the Bible suggests uninterruptible lectures are a Biblical teaching technique, while modern research shows that uninterruptible lectures are grossly inefficient, with retention rates after a week of about 5%, the same as for sermons. See Sermons Don't Work. “Preaching” is listed, but the Bible never associates this word with an uninterruptible sermon, while Greek literature includes extensive descriptions of “preachers” as people who negotiate continually, reasoning with people. See Preachers in the Bible did not do Sermons.

We fight arguments. We take captive thoughts

We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does. The weapons we use in our fight are not made by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God. With them we destroy people’s defenses, that is, their arguments and all their intellectual arrogance that oppose the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3, ERV version. Verses 4-5, God’s Word translation. )

How can a church say it is on board with God’s vision of “taking every thought captive”, of destroying all the arrogant intellectual arguments against God, when the church doesn’t even allow members to inform each other, on church property or church communication channels, about what those arguments and thoughts are that are creeping through our laws, our news, our entertainment, our schools, subverting our children and shredding marriage and family bonds?

Which of these spiritual threats are not entwined with government? So we call it “politics”, which is “controversial”, so our concession is to allow an occasional pastor to preach an occasional sermon about it that gives Darkness a glancing blow, but those in the church who are much better informed about the devil’s arguments and how to refute them in detail, out in those forums where voters decide whether to pattern our laws after the principles of Heaven or of Hell, are allowed far less opportunity to share what they know.

How can you “take a thought captive” that you can’t even follow?

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Yet this very same passage is often quoted as a theological argument for remaining wilfully, blissfully ignorant of these ideological poisons closing in on Christian consciousness in between church meetings. The KJV translation says “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal”. Politics is “carnal”, we are told, not spiritual apparently, so we should bury our head in the sand so we can’t see what it is doing to us, our families, our children, our churches, and most especially, our nation.

The GW translation does not permit this retreat from reality. But even in the King James Version, only verse 3 and the first half of verse 4 can be imagined as advice to be apathetic about politics. After that, “pulling down strongholds” in the governments of the world certainly sounds like a higher Christian priority than, for example, superbowl mania.

“High things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God” sounds like a perfect description of the worst of politics, which informed voters and lobbyists have the power to marginalize. “Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” is what should be the work of Christian activists, but unfortunately Christian activists, driven from their churches to put feet to their pastors’ sermons about government-supported evils, seldom mention Jesus, and more seldom quote Jesus, in support of their political positions, in those public forums where voters decide whether to fashion our laws after the principles of Heaven or of Hell. This must change.

“My Kingdom is not of this world...I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. ”

John 18:33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

“My kingdom is not of this world”, Jesus is quoted as saying, but politics is of this world, so Christians should not “fight” at the ballot box or by informing voters but should leave politics in the Dark. So the thinking goes, which needs to be taken captive to the Truth. “My kingdom is not of this world” doesn’t mean Jesus does not, after all, hold a bridle on every thought and action, the weather, the Sun, and the wobble of every atom. And yet His government does not enslave people, turning people into robots, which was the goal of the “kingdoms of this world” in Jesus’ time. Jesus came not to enslave, but to “witness unto the truth”, including, as an example to us, to Pilate. Jesus “fought”, very hard, and at tremendous cost, including great physical cost, but His sword was not steel. It was Truth. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” But our weapons are real, and they are unstoppable. Swords of steel can’t stop them. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood”. It is not the body that we strike down, but the lies enslaving the body, in order to set the mind, heart, and body free. The fact that we wrestle not against flesh and blood does not mean we do not wrestle. The fact that our weapons are not carnal does not mean we have no weapons. The fact that our allegiance is not to a “kingdom of this world” does not mean our mission in life is to bury our heads in the sand so that the Light we are given has no impact on this world!

Bible Commentator Albert Barnes on John 18:37: Jesus does not here affirm that he was born to reign, or that this was the design of his coming; but it was to bear witness to and to exhibit the truth. By this he showed what was the nature of his kingdom. It was not to assert power; not to collect armies; not to subdue nations in battle. It was simply to present truth to men, and to exercise dominion only by the truth. Hence, the only power put forth in restraining the wicked, in convincing the sinner, in converting the heart, in guiding and leading his people, and in sanctifying them, is that which is produced by applying truth to the mind. Men are not forced or compelled to be Christians. They are made to see that they are sinners, that God is merciful, that they need a Redeemer, and that the Lord Jesus is fitted to their case, and yield themselves then wholly to his reign. This is all the power ever used in the kingdom of Christ, and no men in his church have a right to use any other. Alas! how little have persecutors remembered this! And how often, under the pretence of great regard for the kingdom of Jesus, have bigots attempted by force and flames to make all men think as they do! We see here the importance which Jesus attached to truth. It was his sole business in coming into the world. He had no other end than to establish it. We therefore should value it, and seek for it as for hid treasures, Proverbs 23:23.

Jesus acknowledges to Pilate that He has a “kingdom”, and Revelation 17:14 and 19:16 name Him “King of kings”. But He refused to reign the way Pilate and Caesar did, when Satan offered Jesus the chance in Matthew 4 and when the multitudes offered him the chance in John 6.

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. John 6:14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. Albert Barnes on John 6:15: Men often attempt to dictate to God, and suppose that they understand what is right better than he does. They are fond of pomp and power, but Jesus sought retirement, and evinced profound humility. Though he had claims to the honor and gratitude of the nation, yet he sought it not in this way; nor did it evince a proper spirit in his followers when they sought to advance him to a place of external splendor and regal authority.

Satan’s offer may be logically dismissed because of Satan’s condition: that Jesus “fall down and worship me”. But Satan did not create that condition. In 1 Samuel 8 God had characterized the people’s demand to have their own king rather than the freedom they had until then, as their rejection of God as their king over them.

1 Samuel 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

This is another way of stating what Satan did in Matthew 4: that the kind of monarchy that dominated world government then could be characterized as run by men who could never harden their hearts enough to seize the liberties of their countrymen and rule as dictators, without falling down and worshiping Satan. Prior to their demand for a monarchy, Israel had elected their own leaders.

Deuteronomy 1:13 Choose for yourselves wise and discerning men, known to your tribes, and appoint them as your leaders. (ISV)

A form of government in which people elect their leaders, in other words, is the form of government which God, in 1 Samuel 8, equated with God reigning over His people. America’s Founding Father Thomas Paine referenced this Biblical truth when he equated American freedom with government by God:

“But where, says some, is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain....let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW (of God) IS KING.” —Thomas Paine, “Common Sense”, (1776)

Another perspective of God’s statement in 1 Samuel 8 is that the kind of worship God wants from us includes support for a political system that leaves us free. Jesus spelled out the new kind of greatness He came to institute, in which he explicitly rejected monarchy as the world had experienced it. He said greatness, among His people, is measured not by one’s dictatorial power over others, but by one’s service to others.

Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

This was a concept quite foreign to the culture of Jesus’ time, but it so defines our freedom today that we take it for granted. The Service Principle sprouted as the defining difference of what we call “Western Civilization”, whose culmination, at this point in history, is the United States of America – although much spiritual growth remains ahead. “My kingdom is not of this world”, Jesus told Pilate. The Greek word “kosmos”, κοσμος, figuratively means the world, or the cosmos, but the literal direct meaning is “orderly arrangement”. Jesus did not come to serve in the hierarchy that Satan had set up. He came to smash that whole arrangement, illustrated in Daniel 2 as a growing stone smashing the human/satanic world empires that had tyrannized the whole civilized world. He came to found a new arrangement based on service. Our mission is to help Jesus smash the last remaining boulders left of the Rock of the Gods, representing human empires, men climbing over each other to terrify and enslave each other to achieve their perverted version of “greatness”. A third of our world remains nearly as pagan as the whole world did in Jesus’ time, but boulders remain here too. Of what nature? Freedom is relative. Tyranny is relative. To the extent people decide together every detail of how they should be governed, they are free. To the extent other people decide for them, they are slaves. “Big government” is a term meaning a government whose power over citizens veers towards dictatorship. To the extent Christians bury their political heads in the sand, the vacuum of decision making that creates requires government to grow bigger, more tyrannical, leaving God less to rule over. A vote for a candidate promising more “free stuff” from government is a vote against leaving God in charge. In all human relationships, including government/citizens, there is a place for coercion when needed: parents punish children, churches expel dividers, government police arrest criminals. The more godly a government is, the more its rules are designed to serve the best interests of everybody, which makes compliance with rules mostly voluntary, requiring a minimum of enforcement – which is reserved for those who are mostly hurting themselves more than they are hurting others. Jesus told Pilate that if Jesus’ “kingdom” were “of this world”, then His servants would fight Pilate’s troops, killing as many as necessary to set Jesus free. This is another clue to the manner of Jesus’ “kingdom” as began, and as it will become when fully mature: not a reign of terror. Not rule by coercion, except for the coercion of the minority of criminals who violate the laws chosen by the majority. His rule was not secured by “swordpoint conversions”. He had not even come to the earth with the usual trappings of the absolute power which was His any time he wanted it. No armed retinue. No lightning bolts flying out from His fingers. No calling down fire from Heaven to consume His enemies, a possibility explicitly rejected by Jesus in Luke 9:54-56 and which will actually be a trademark of Antichrist in Revelation 13:13.

Luke 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. Revelation 13:11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

Jesus created the Heavens and Earth and made them “good”. He created Paradise for man, which man rejected, and most men reject Heaven too. But Jesus doesn’t drag anyone into Heaven, because then Heaven would be a prison. He longs for man to accept His offer by choice. And if a whole population chooses against good, and would rather kill whoever offers good, well, better the loss of an occasional messenger than the loss of a whole population which might still have a few hearts not to hard to respond to the human sacrifice freely offered for them.