By Jeff Ziegler
Galatians 5:1 exhorts the saints of God to stand fast! That is, to stand resolute, and undaunted in the redemptive liberty wrought in Christ, and to not again be entangled in the yoke of religious, legalistic, will-worshiping bondage. In some ways, it may seem odd that saints, having once known the release of the forgiveness of sins, of faith toward God, and of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to their bankrupt account, would then seek to perfect themselves with always sincere, yet, nonetheless self-righteous legalisms. But, due to sin nature, the inherent difficulty of obedience, the attacks of the enemy, and the noxious poison of bitterness, many a saint has fallen prey to the trap of legalistic separatism. That snare portends ill not only to the individual, but also in the decline of The American Republic.
Orthodox depictions of Christianity traditionally hold to an advanced and high regard for both the authority and application of God’s Word. Meaning that the counsel of God’s Law-Word contained in both the Old and New Testaments and interpreted through creedal-confessional confines becomes the chief source of ethics, social interaction, and societal formation. Individually we find our solace, our code of conduct, and the promises of grace, mercy, and provision to act as “our daily bread.” Yet, applying the Word is not always clear or easy. We can and are often blinded by our own sin, our lack of knowledge or inexperience, or the real temptation of a pharisaical, litigious-mind that can never quite understand the inter-workings of grace, and law. The result? A tragic separatism evolves steeped in extra-biblical, extra-confessional morality, and accented by unskilled, childish, and graceless usage of the Word which brings death, rather than life. (II Corinthians 3:1-12). This is true for the individual believer, as well as the family, The Church corporate, and finally in the civil realm.
To best illustrate the difference between an orthodox view of “law-keeping” or the way of righteousness, and the way of man-centered separatism, I will delineate a point-counter point comparison of the two positions as they relate to the main spheres of God-ordained governance.
The Biblical view of man, sin, redemption, the Church catholic, and culture; places its hope in the eventual triumph of the Kingdom of God. This view holds Christ as “the transformer of culture” and therefore is not fearful of the power of sin, nor its manifestation in individuals or institutions. Faith is placed in the power of Christ to redeem sinners, reform men, and change nations. The Law is seen as a beacon of hope, a standard of renovation and blessing that will attract the elect, and even reform the unrepentant to a more peaceful existence.
The separatist, is fundamentally afraid of sin. While there may be an acknowledgment of Church victory in time and history, the separatist tends by his actions, to be inward and perfectionistic in his understanding. Sin, along with its seductive power, is perceived as invincible. Hence, the inclination is toward withdrawal. The separatist views the word of God as an exclusionary tool, rather than an evangelistic light of hope.
The true Christian is confident in the mission of the Church as the embassy of God to sinners. The saints are not afraid to dine with sinners, for they look to their eventual salvation and reformation. The orthodox man sees the Law-Word of God as “power projection” to attract, convert, and restrain sinful men. The Church visible is the trumpet of the gospel. Sinners are called from the highways and byways to hear the Word of God preached. Granted, the unrepentant are not allowed church membership, nor participation in Eucharistic celebration. However, they are to be welcomed to hear and observe the function of the people of God as they worship and administer the sacraments. Only if the unrepentant become seditious or seeks to destroy the church, would they be barred from services. This view sees the Church as an embassy. She actively proclaims the Crown and Covenant of Christ in every sphere of life.
Separatists are very uncomfortable with what they deem “mixture.” The Church for them is exclusive to those already redeemed. This is certainly true regarding formal membership, but the separatist extends this exclusivity to church attendance as well. Hence, the separatist is frightened by sinners defiling the sanctuary. In this sense, separatists are less like the Church and more like John Wesley’s “Holy Club.” This model regards the Church as a monastery endeavoring to evade evil rather than confronting and vanquishing it!
Mature Christians understand that both the Church and the state are established by God as separate institutions, that are not to undermine, nor interfere with each other’s jurisdictional duties. They are separate from each other but are not separate from God. The Church is given the “power of the keys” to bind into fellowship and instruct its members, and when necessary sanction and excommunicate the unrepentant. The state is given the “power of the sword” to promote and reward righteousness, and to punish and restrain wickedness. Therefore, the Church and the state held in juxtaposition, are to be viewed as augmentations one to the other, in the honoring of Christ and His Crown.
It is also important to note the particular Scottish notion of church polity that led to a revival of both the prophetic (contemporaneous application of Biblical Law) and the Levitical (instructional) role of the Church. The prophetic role is especially important to the notion of political activism. Scottish firebrand John Knox the father of Presbyterianism, insisted that if the circumstances were right, Christians had both the right and the obligation to revolt against an evil and tyrannical monarch. Previously, with the entrenched insidious doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings,” the idea of revolt was considered sin. Knox’s notion of political resistance related to his belief in corporate resistance to sin. Knox, with firm understanding of God’s sovereignty, argued that a nation, because of the covenant obligation to live according to God’s law, incurred corporate guilt for tolerating evil and tyranny in the civil realm.
The prophetic lessons of Knox and Scottish Presbyterianism were not lost on future generations. In fact such was the force and vitality of this fiery brand of Calvinism on the American colonies, their fight for independence was viewed in England as “The Presbyterian Revolt.”
Separatists and Legalists reject the lessons of civil responsibility and instead withdraw from politics in that it is characterized as “dirty and sinful.” There is little confidence in the power of God to restrain the wicked, and thus, they strive to sequester themselves, and retire. In the course of their disengagement, they cede the ground to the very thing they feared, chiefly wickedness! At the same time, very little grace is given by legalists to their own brothers and sisters who are activistic in the political realm. They avoid practical debate in favor of destructive criticism. They cynically work sedition behind the scenes, or prey on weaker brethren ensnaring them with their closed-loop thinking that holds retreat in esteem and mocks the vision of victory in the civil realm as naive.
As we approach Obama’s Fascistic eighth month in office, I call upon our readers to reenter the civil fray with confidence in who we are as the Church of God! Not with the failed message of nativistic by-gone nostalgia on our lips, but instead the trumpet of our revolutionary forebears! Christ’s Crown and Covenant is the supreme mandate that cannot and will not fail. It is our responsibility to both work and fight to raise this ensign again. Raise it in your town councils and newspapers. Organize around it at the precinct level. Shout it aloud in your county government. Stand for it at your state capitol and with it lifted high upon the battle scarred standard, storm the ramparts of Federal power. This is the clarion call of the saints who hold Christ as transformer of culture and trust His word as alive, binding and efficacious! Separatists need not apply!