Over the past fifty years or so I have watched how England and the western nations in general have embarked on a steady slide of self-destruction and disintegration. It is undeniable that this dismal state of affairs has been brought about by a rejection and piece by piece dismantling of the Christian heritage that has shaped these countries for centuries, in Britain, in Europe, and in North America.
Certainly, England has a godly heritage to look back upon, one she now despises. In Puritan England, godly preachers regularly addressed members of Parliament from the pulpit of St. Margaret’s. At one point, both Houses of Parliament agreed to a monthly Fast which everyone throughout the land was expected to observe and it was only brought to an end by the reprobate king Charles, who paid a high price indeed for his treachery. On a Fast Day nothing was to be sold, eaten or drunk, no tool used, no wheel was to turn until the preachers had delivered their sermons. It is difficult to imagine such a thing today, when the even Lord’s Day itself is now trampled upon by everyone. Those seeking to observe it can lose their jobs or even be denied employment, and all within the ‘law’. All that is godly is everywhere debunked and the results of wicked and godless behaviour and the blame for the consequences placed elsewhere, even upon the cure. The sick man cries: it is the medicine that has brought about my ruin!
In the USA, it has been observed that many parts of Ohio’s old steel towns have reduced the landscape to something like a scene from one of Mel Gibson’s Mad Max films. What has happened to the once thriving city of Detroit can have escaped the notice of few following world events. Twenty-five percent of all the city’s residential lots lie vacant. It is estimated that something exceeding twenty thousand feral dogs roam the streets, to which the fifty-nine Detroit postmen bitten by them in 2009 will testify. Michigan Central Station lies in ruins as do many more of the magnificent architectural masterpieces that once graced the city. Once the city had the highest income per capita anywhere in the world, now it has amassed billions of dollars of debt and default is inevitable. We can blame the union mafia that has enriched itself at the expense of the ordinary hard-working high wage- earners of the city. We can blame the race hucksters who have literally fanned the flames of racial hatred that culminated in the burning of the city in 1968, something from which it never really recovered. We can blame the series of unashamedly corrupt mayors and city officials whose antics go beyond provoking anger, reducing them in the eyes of many to a laughing stock. How is this related to a rejection of America’s Christian heritage? We do not have to look very far. Coleman Young served five terms as mayor of the city from 1975 to 1994. He was a champion of public immorality and commented: “People who go around solemn-faced and quoting the Bible are full of sh--.” What can we add to that? Thirty-five cities across America from coast to coast have filed for bankruptcy in the last three years.
It is not better here in the UK, lest we be tempted to rub our hands in a fit of Schadenfreude. Our National Health Service is a shambles where patients die by the score unnecessarily, punctuated here and there by brave souls who soldier on in a system pitted against them. We live within the Mid-Staffs Health Trust area at the centre of the recent horrendous scandal at Stafford Hospital that successive governments would so much like to have hidden and for which no one has yet been held properly accountable. The City of London is ridden with legalized fraud and larceny on an unbelievable scale. Recent compensation payouts for fraud, bank collapses, all are but symptomatic of inherent and widespread corruption and dishonesty. The pound sterling is little more than ‘funny money’. Once we had a single legal system where you could not be tried twice for the same offence; you could not be arrested and held without charge or denied a lawyer. All that has now gone. Freedom of speech and of the press, as well as religious toleration are rapidly disappearing. Street preachers are regularly arrested by the police and you can be imprisoned for simply voicing political opinions or religious dissent. The attitude to all things Christian by many Britons is likely to be something similar to that of Coleman Young. We should not then be surprised at the disintegration now underway.
The spread of error and false teaching has turned the professing Church everywhere into an enemy rather than a propagator of the Gospel. An apostate Church is a counterfeit Church and not a real Church at all. It may be some kind of religious association or society, but is can never be a Church. Strictly speaking, the expression ‘apostate Church’ is self-contradictory. When a Church has abandoned its confession of biblical faith it has destroyed itself. Virtually every aspect of the Kingdom of God will have its worldly, godless equivalent, still answerable to God, but not the Church. Where there is no justification by faith, no regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, there is no Church.
We must insist that there is no grace of any kind in this sinful world apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the source of all blessing and is the only Saviour of the world. His one grace of conserving and renewing operates in this twofold manner throughout all of human life on earth and life is emphatically not divided into two spheres, the spiritual and the temporal. The Christian believer does not live at peace and harmony with all men in one common sphere, whilst at the same time living in another in which he is separated from the rest of mankind. There is a dividing line but it lies between the sin God restrains and that which He forgives, between light and darkness.
However, we should not despair. In order that His Kingdom may come, that Christ may rule over all, God restrains sin by His conserving grace. Further to this, His renewing grace is effective wherever sin is forgiven. The conserving grace of God in Christ preserves the temporal world by limiting the consequences of the destructive power of sin. Our life in this world, family, the State, marriage relationships are preserved, even in the absence of saving, regenerating grace. Even when men deny God, His goodness enables them to perform civil good, to be kind and love each other. It works even within an apostate and godless culture.
God’s regenerating or renewing grace is that work of God in Christ by which He radically changes the life of a sinner and places him in Christ, renewing the whole life. The Church has been instituted by regenerating grace. It is made up solely of those reached by God’s a special or particular work of His grace. Christ by His Spirit organizes a new societal relationship in the Church which becomes His temporal instrument for the power of His Word. The Church of Christ is a community of faith in which its members although they may differ in nationality, age, knowledge, sex, class, profession, all share this common faith in Christ. The power of the Word of God is a power of faith. It can know no limits. Here is found the power of Christ who rules His people through the Word and through His Spirit. Christ demands of all His people, and indeed of all men, that we subject ourselves to His Word without reservation in faith. Those who refuse to live by God’s Word shall be judged by it.
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). These words of the Lord Jesus were among the last spoken to His disciples immediately before His ascension into heaven and His exaltation. The disciples were given this commission that would valid until the end of the world because His presence with us for the successful realisation of this commission would also remain to the end. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”, so “Go ye therefore”. All power, all authority is given unto me, therefore you are to go. “Ye”is singular, the implication being that this is a commission in which we all as believers have a role to play. All power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. He is Lord of all lords, the King of all kings, ruler of all things in heaven and on earth. Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, at this very moment in time possesses absolute sovereign authority. For this reason we are to go. Our Lord and Saviour is at presently absent, but He says we are to occupy until He comes, until He returns (Luke 19:13). We are to ‘take up residence’, ‘take possession’ until that moment when He returns from the far country and He will take up the position that is His by right.
The Lord Jesus has the power such as that of no one else. No one has power within Himself, but only Christ. If men have any power or authority, they can only be partial because Christ alone has all power. It can only be delegated sovereignty because all power is ultimately His power. If they squander abuse or misuse the power He has given, He will require an answer even as the nobleman from the ten servants. It is common for humanists to suppose that parents receive authority over their children from the State. The truth is they receive it, believers or unbelievers, from Christ. He holds all power there is and dispenses it. Democrats suppose that government receives its authority from the will of the people, but it receives it ultimately from Christ. Paul writes, “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” (Romans 13:1). Nothing happening on earth does so in a vacuum, Christ Jesus has all power. Totalitarian rule, even in part, and the assumption of an inherent all-inclusive human authority to make laws and intervene in every detail of our lives is a certain mark of a reprobate and godless generation.
The power of the Gospel is not restricted to redemption of individual souls, although it is most certainly central, but extends to the whole of creation (see Acts 3:21 & Romans 8:22). The whole of creation awaits redemption. When Christ cleanses our hearts from sin at the same time He changes the whole direction of our life. Christ’s power is comprehensive, all power is His and all delegated power is to be used in the service of God. Christ saves all of our life and makes us new in every part, not just in our spiritual lives.
God has put enmity between the seed of the woman, Christ and all those in Him, and the seed of the serpent, those who persist in apostasy and rebellion against God (Genesis 3:13). There is an on-going war everywhere in every crevice of our existence between the ‘children of light’ and the ‘children of darkness’. There is no place in human life and experience where this warfare is not going on. There can be no truce, no reconciliation, no co-operation of any kind between Christ and Belial. The separation is absolute, there can be no compromise. This antithesis is observable throughout human history. Through regeneration we receive a new heart and a new consciousness becoming new creatures in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, our minds are enlightened by the Holy Spirit to understand what He has revealed in Scriptures. There are only two types of people in the world: believers and unbelievers, those who are obedient and those disobedient. This means that our whole approach to life as believers will be completely different to that of unbelievers: the way we do our work; bring up our children; spend our resources; think about everything in life. This line, this division is a blessing from God. It keeps His creation from perishing. To deny that such a separation exists is to deny Christ, His work, and His plan of redemption.