Church Petitions & Political Activism

Acts 12:1-4
       Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also…And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): When Herod had imprisoned Peter, the church assembled together to obtain his enlargement―but what did they do? Did they draw up a petition, and address it to the king, signed with their names? No―they applied at once not to the servant, but to the Master; they applied to One who had Herod completely under His check: Prayer was made, without ceasing, of the church unto God for him, verse 5. And what was the consequence? What were bars and fetters to God? When Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It is the privilege of Englishmen, that they can always send a petition to Parliament; and it is the privilege of a believer, that he can always send a petition to the throne of God.

EDMUND CALAMY (1600-1666): There is nothing done in the lower house of Parliament on earth, but what is first decreed in the higher house in heaven. All the lesser wheels are ordered and overruled by the upper.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Oh, then, be thou a praying man on earth; yea, take courage to pray. Think thus with thyself—I go to God, to God, before whose throne the Lord Jesus is ready to hand my petitions to Him.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I see no record whatsoever of the apostles meeting together in council to draw up a number of resolutions to send to a town council, or a county council, or a parliament, or a prime minister, or an emperor, or anybody else―not a word. They simply didn’t do it.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): God will not have His kingdom, either in the heart or in the world, maintained by carnal policy.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There are those who say that the Christian should act as salt in the earth by means of the Church’s making pronouncements about the general situation of the world, about political, economic and international affairs and other such subjects…Now, as I see it, that is most serious misunderstanding of scriptural teaching. I would challenge anybody to show me such teaching in the New Testament. “Ah,” they say, “But you get it in the prophets of the Old Testament.” Yes; but the answer is that in the Old Testament the Church was the nation of Israel, and there was no distinction between Church and state…But the Church in the New Testament is not identified with any nation or nations. The result is that you never find the apostle Paul or any other apostle commenting upon the government of the Roman Empire; you never find them sending up resolutions to the Imperial Court to do this or not to do that. No; that is never found in the Church as displayed in the New Testament…
      As Christians we are citizens of a country, and it is our business to play our part as citizens, and thereby act as salt indirectly in innumerable respects. But that is a very different thing from the Church’s doing so. Someone may ask, “Why do you draw this distinction?” Let me answer that question. The primary task of the Church is to evangelize and to preach the gospel―the moment a Church begins to intervene in these political, social and economic matters, therefore, she is hampering and hindering herself in her God-appointed task of evangelism.

C. H. SPURGEON: A church exists only for the Lord Jesus to accomplish His ends and purposes among the sons of men. Never may this be forgotten. I am persuaded that if any church desires to be much honoured of the Lord in these days, both as to internal happiness and external usefulness, it will find that the nearest way to its desire is to be wholly consecrated to the Lord. The church is not formed to be a social club, to produce society for itself; not to be a political association, to be a power in politics; not even to be a religious confederacy, promoting its own opinions.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The Lord Jesus has left us an example that we should follow His steps, but we search the records of His earthly life in vain to discover any mention of Him taking any part in the politics of Palestine in His day.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Our Lord was there spending most of His time up in Galilee preaching to a crowd of very poor and very humble people. He didn’t spend the whole of His time up in Jerusalem. He didn’t spend His time in addressing the Sanhedrin. He didn’t spend his time in drawing up resolutions to be sent to the emperor at Rome to right this political injustice or to put that social wrong right―not a word of it, nothing―He never did it all. He didn’t seem to be concerned about these great things that were happening in the world at that very time. What does He do? Well, He preaches to a handful of simple, ordinary, apparently illiterate poor people―and as you go on and watch His followers in the book of the Acts of the Apostles―what did they do? They preached to the individuals who were in front of them…they spoke to them about their souls, about their condition, about their position.

C. H. SPURGEON: The reason for a church being a church lies in mutual edification and in the conversion of sinners; and if these two ends are not really answered by a church, it is a mere name, a hindrance, an evil, a nuisance…Churches which fail of their high vocation shall be cast forth as salt that has lost its savour.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I think it is true to say that during the last fifty years the Christian Church has paid more direct attention to politics and to social and economic questions than in the whole of the previous hundred years. We have had all this talk about the social application of Christianity. Pronouncements have been made and resolutions have been sent from Church Assemblies and the General Assemblies of the various denominations to the governments. We have all been so tremendously interested in the practical application. No-one can dispute it. And the result is that we are living in a society which is much more immoral than it was fifty years ago, in which vice and law-breaking and lawlessness are rampant.

HENRY FOSTER (1760-1844): The times are awful. In such times Scripture characters fasted and prayed. The old Puritans did so. I have not. Yet I think we ought to.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Sinning times have ever been the saint’s praying times: this sent Ezra with a heavy heart to confess the sin of his people (Ezra 9). And Jeremiah tells the wicked of his degenerate age that his “soul should weep in secret places for their pride,” Jeremiah 13:17.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Tears and prayers are our weaponry.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Many churches these days make a new member sign a pledge of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Now I do not believe in pledges of any sort―but there are times when I almost feel like advocating that all members should sign another pledge, and that is a pledge of total abstinence from politics―for I believe that it is causing greater harm in our churches in these days than almost anything else. If we must send resolutions to Parliament, I propose that we send this one, drafted by the gentle mind of St. John: He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 

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