Word from the Center Digest: Friday, May 24, 2019
Publicly, Loudly, and Boldly: Proclaiming the Truth of JesusChrist
by Rev. David Ramirez
Error is never content with toleration. Falsehood is never content with equality. The lies of this world always seek dominance over the truth of Jesus Christ.
Cain murdered Abel (Gen. 4). Esau plotted to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41). The evil queen Jezebel sought to destroy the worship of the Lord and kill Elijah (1 Kings 18-19). Haman attempted to wipe out the Jews in the Persian Empire (Esther 3-9).
Violent resistance to the Gospel also plagued the Church in the New Testament. In the book of Acts we read how the Jews who had rejected Christ persecuted the Church. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54-60). Saul arrested and imprisoned many Christians before his conversion (Acts 8-9). Unbelieving Jews throughout the Roman Empire whipped up the civil authorities against believers (Acts 14).
This should not surprise us as Christians! Jesus told His disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Jesus was indeed reviled, persecuted and rejected. As St. John wrote, “He came to his own,and his own peopledid not receive him” (John 1:11).
Where Christianity has been persecuted or declared illegal, the Church has followed the example of the apostles who refused to be silenced by the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem, saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). God Himself instituted civil government. Civil authorities are to be servants of God who punish evil conduct and support that which is good for those over which they have authority (Rom. 13:1-7). Therefore, no earthly government has the right or authority to forbid the preaching of the Gospel since their authority comes from God and there is nothing better for a land and a people than the salvation of their souls. The apostles defied the command to stop preaching because they knew that they were proclaiming the truth, and said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:30-32).
Praise be to God that the United States of America have historically tolerated the preaching of the Gospel by long-standing laws and customs. Though religious liberty is not mandated in the Bible, we should see it as an important part of our appeal to federal and state governments to tolerate the Lutheran Church. We should hold civil authorities to their word that they, in the very least, will not hinder the proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ.
As members of LCMS congregations, it is important for us to remember that God calls us to be faithful and active citizens, reminding those who hold public office that they, whether they know it or not, are God’s servants (Rom. 13:4). However, it is also vital for us as the Church to recognize that the Lord rebukes and judges the civil rulers of our land through the ministry of the Word. Martin Luther wrote in his Commentary on Psalm 82, “This first verse [of Psalm 82] teaches that to rebuke rulers is not seditious, provided that it is done in the way here described: namely, by the office to which God has committed that duty, and through God’s Word, spoken publicly, loudly, and boldly” (emphasis added; AE 13: 50).
Luther understood that a prophet must preach God’s Word to the king as Joseph (Gen. 41), Moses (Ex. 7-12), Nathan (2 Sam. 12), Daniel (Dan. 2, 4-6), and John the Baptist (Mt. 14) all did. May the Lord grant us such preachers in our day and faithful laymen who stand firmly on God’s Word so that our nation may follow the Lord and receive His blessings.
The Rev. David Ramirez is pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Union Grove, Wisc., and is currently completing a Master of Sacred Theology in historical theology. His thesis focuses on Martin Luther and religious liberty.
Download “Protecting Your Ministry,” a booklet that providesdetailed information on the legal issues impacting churches, schools, universities, seminaries, and organizations.
Click here to listen to Pastor David Schultz share a lively discussion with LCMS Texas District President Michael Newman and the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty on the role of religion in governance and support for those working to protect religious liberty.
“What shall we do? Continue to pray. Learn. Educate others. Speak up. Defend. Participate. Raise up our youth to speak out. Our Lutheran Confessions say public redress is a good work of God. St. Paul appealed to Caesar. We, too, will make our legal appeals for religious freedom, referring to the Bill of Rights. We must also act very wisely to protect the church from attack.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod