Archive for December 2010

Paul’s Roman Citizenship

December 3, 2010

Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned? (A.D. 58; Acts 22:25).

Some believe that passages such as this from the Book of Acts somehow show that Paul was advocating involvement in Gentile politics. However, things are not always as they first appear.

The Nature of the Book of Acts

One must be careful about establishing their doctrine from the Book of Acts. This book was not written by Paul, nor was it written to establish doctrine for the Body of Christ, nor was it designed to be a pattern for our practical living. Instead, Acts is a book that reveals the transitional history of the fall of Israel and the rise of the Body of Christ. To obtain truth for the church, the Body of Christ, one must turn to the epistles of Paul.

What Paul Was NOT Doing

Paul did, on occasion appeal to Roman law, but this can’t remotely be compared with being an active participant in influencing and determining governmental policy. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever tried to reform Caesar or the Roman government.

What Paul Was Doing

To understand what Paul was doing when appealing to Roman law, we need the historical background to understand the passages where Paul brings up the issue of citizenship (A.D. 59; Acts 22-25).

First, let’s realize that all throughout Paul’s earlier 20-year apostolic ministry as recorded in the Book of Acts he is never recorded as having made any such reference to citizenship, even in the face of severe torture. A Roman citizen was protected from such treatment, nevertheless without any apparent appeal from him he received 39 stripes on five different occasions, and was three times beaten with rods (all prior to A.D. 57; II Corinthians 11:24). So why does he suddenly change and make an appeal?

The background of events will provide us with the answer. Paul had for “many years” (Romans 15:23) desired to make a trip to Rome; but he had been “much hindered” (Romans 15:22) because of constant delays caused by persecution from unbelieving Jews. Paul planned to make a trip to Jerusalem to deliver relief that he had been raising for the poor saints there. His plan was then to move on to Rome after that, provided that he is “delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea” (Romans 15:31).

After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome (Spring, A.D. 54; Acts 19:21).

Paul wrote to the saints at Rome to inform them of his plans to come to them.

For I long to see you [the saints in Rome], that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established. … I have been much hindered from coming to you; but now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, when I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey … But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. … When I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come … And I am sure that, when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. … That I may be delivered from them who do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed (Spring, A.D. 58; Romans 1:11; 15:22-32).

While at Jerusalem heavy opposition broke out against him. Seizing upon an opportunity to be delivered from the unbelieving Jews so that he could finally take his ministry to the capitol of the Roman Empire, he simply inquired, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25).

Paul appealed for the civil authorities to act in accordance with the law which bound them. He appealed to the principle of Roman law, an intervention that delivered him from the hands of the Jewish persecution. With his opposition constrained, Paul now only needed a means to get to Rome. He saw this opportunity in by exercising Roman rights to “appeal [his case] to Caesar (A.D.59; Acts 25:11). Relatively, the government saw Paul as a Roman citizen, and Paul related to their treatment of him as such – pressing upon them the standard of their own law – and as a result he was able to make his long-desired trip to Rome under Roman authority.

A Greater Revelation

Now, before we assume that statements found in the Book of Acts have some instruction for the believer to become political, we must first be careful not to anticipate revelation. This is a significant concern when reading the Scriptures. We need to recognize that Paul received an abundance of progressive revelations over his some thirty-year apostleship.

I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord … through the abundance of the revelations (Autumn, A.D. 57; II Corinthians 12:1, 7).

It must be remembered that even if Paul intended to advocate an earthly citizenship in the Book of Acts, later, upon receiving greater revelation from the Lord, he clarified the issue entirely. While in a Roman prison God gave him additional revelation which he recorded to the Philippians. This was a revelation of singleness of mind; and a Roman prison was quite an amazing place for such a celestial revelation.

For our citizenship is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (A.D. 62; Philippians 3:20).

Paul did not write, “one of our citizenships is in heaven,” or “we have another citizenship in heaven,” or “we have two citizenships, one of which is in heaven.” Instead he writes absolutely, and plainly of one singular “citizenship.” From his Roman bondage he boldly and without qualification declares this citizenship to be celestial.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Influencing Governments

December 2, 2010

Christianity actively seeks to influence governments “for Christ.” However, God has not called the believer to “influence” governments. Rather, our sphere of divine influence is on the individual level. It is about personal relationships. We do not bring divine light for the purpose of brightening up the “jurisdiction of darkness,” but to contrast its darkness.

… In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

Take Paul in Rome for instance. He was given by God the opportunity to have influence with Caesar’s relatives. This influence was not an earthly political influence, but a heavenly one – transforming some of them to saints.

All the saints salute you, chiefly they who are of Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22).

Those in the Body of Christ are “neither Jew nor Gentile.” “Gentile” is, of course, translated from the same word Greek word (ethnos) that is also rendered “nations.” Believers are no longer a part of the “nations” (i.e., “neither Jew nor Gentile”), but a “new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17), the “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). For the Body of Christ there is no “us” and “them” of nationalism; we are no longer American or Canadian, Virginian or Pennsylvanian, Northerner or Southerner, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, for we, “from now on, are acquainted with no one according to flesh” (II Corinthians 5:16 CLNT).

Our brother Frank Kujawa fittingly puts it this way:

Galatians 3 tells us that we are “neither Jew nor Gentile …” So what are we? A new creature in Christ. We new creatures no longer draw lines in the sand. All lines are divisions that cause conflicts. Conflicts can wound another emotionally, and ultimately lead to physical wounds, death and wars. A person in conflict is not free.

Think of it this way: Paul tells us that we are no longer Gentiles. During his time a Gentile was any nationality other than a Jew. So, in essence Paul tells us that we are “no longer of any nationality.” Nations and national leaders are for those who do not know the Truth. The Truth has set us free.

Paul’s instructions related to human governments are limited to our attitude and responsibility toward those who are in authority. There is no record of his instruction toward our influencing, changing or revolutionizing nations. Our instructions are:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all who are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Paul was not politically active. Take the issue of slavery for example. We do not have any record of Paul advocating, nor campaigning for its abolition. This was not his agenda. He was not an activist for social and political change. However horrible slavery may have been, and no matter how honorable the cause of abolition may have been, such advocacy was actually below his “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). He had a celestial agenda toward which he pressed, with lesser causes left to lesser callings.

Paul did not lecture governments and leaders on the evils of slavery (or any other cause). Instead, remarkably, he instructed the slaves and their masters directly.

Servants, be obedient to them who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatever good thing any man does, the same he shall receive of the Lord, whether he is bond or free. And, you masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him (Ephesians 6:5-9).

This passage is truly remarkable, when you stop and think about it; and it is only one example of Paul’s focus. Paul was the celestial apostle, writing to a celestial people, about their celestial calling and citizenship. He instructs them concerning the details of living here on foreign soil as ambassadors of their homeland, for truly we have been delivered, from the dominion of darkness” and have been “transferred … into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13), having Him as our “only Potentate” (“Ruler,” Darby Translation, I Timothy 6:14), with “our politics [politeuma] being in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Do not settle for less.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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Zionism

December 1, 2010

You are not My people, and I will not be your God (Hosea 1:9).

Israel was once God’s “head” among the nations (Deuteronomy 28:13); but as she was warned, she is now the “tail” (28:44). Instead of imparting spiritual light to the nations, Israel is now blinded (Romans 11:25). God’s divorce from Israel was prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah (50:1); nationally they are “Lo-Ammi” not His people (Hosea 1:9). Israel fell and lost her divine favored-nation status, being temporarily cast away and scattered.

In God’s current dispensation of grace, “the middle wall of partition” between the Jew and the Gentile has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). There is now, therefore, before God, “no difference between the Jew and the Greek” (Romans 10:12); as “God has concluded them all [all nations including Israel] in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32) and believing Jews and Gentiles are now being “reconciled … to God in one body by the cross” (Ephesians 2:16).

The national vanity of the Gentiles now extends even to the modern-day state of Israel. Zionism is the Jewish practice of nationalism, involving the restoration and support of the Jewish state. There is no spiritual difference between Zionism and the nationalism of any other nation, but sadly many Christians are ignorant of this truth. One does not have to look far to find Christians supporting Zionism. It is not uncommon to see the display of the Israeli flag as some “spiritual” act, or even its display side-by-side with the so-called “Christian flag.” Some Christians actively support Israel, even giving monetarily for the return of Jews to Palestine.

This article should not be construed as anti-Semitic (a prejudice against or hostility towards Jews). Neither the Jews, nor their national state, are intrinsically inferior to that of any other nation; but neither are they above any other nation – having any special national privilege before God as they had before – at this time. Instead, we seek to view them right where God currently has them: where there is “no difference.” For the time being their fall has made them simply one of the nations. Their national status has temporarily been reduced to that of the Gentiles.

Yet make no mistake about it, God is not done with Israel. When He has completed His current work with the church, the Body of Christ, He Himself will restore His “beloved” (Romans 11:28) to her preeminent position as the “head,” and “the nations shall come to [her] light, and kings to the brightness of [her] rising (Isaiah 60:3). What a glorious day that will be for God’s plan with the earth. To be ignorant of this important truth is to be “wise in your own conceits” (Romans 11:25).

However, in the meantime Israel has been reduced to the vanity of the Gentles – which two thousand years of history clearly demonstrates. Support of national Israel has no more or less spiritual value than the support of national Barbados. Leave it to Christians to try to undo what God in His purpose has done. An understanding of the revelation given to Paul would save Christians from such vain zeal.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
© Daily Email Goodies


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