Christians often find themselves in a struggle of conscience when they consider their relationship to the civil government. The Lord commands us to "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," but what does this involve? We know we must pay our taxes (Rom. 13:7), pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4), and refrain from speaking evil of them (Tit. 3:1,2). In Romans 13:1 we are commanded to obey civil law. John MacArthur said, "I am amazed that in spite of the clarity of this command, many people persist in disobeying it, not only in American society and culture but in others as well. Jesus never taught His people to storm the Bastille, revolt against the king, kill unjust rulers, march on city hall, barricade an administration building on campus, lead a sit-in at the president's office, harass leaders, or violate the law" (The Christian And Civil Government, p. 24).

We must obey all civil laws whether we like them or not. There is only one limitation: if the government commands us to act in way which God has prohibited, we must "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). But what if the government goes to war? Can we fight for our government? Do we have the right to drop bombs on enemy targets? Do we ever have the right to be police officers?

Some brethren have posed these questions in prejudicial terms. I have noticed several articles asking "Can a Christian kill for his government?" This is not the issue. The issue is this: does anyone have the right to be a soldier or a policeman? I am amazed brethren can write articles on marriage and divorce proving God has one law for all mankind. But, when these same brethren write about carnal warfare they appear to argue Christians are under a different law than non-Christians. Consistency takes a back seat.

If it is sinful for a Christian to be a soldier, then it is sinful for anyone to serve in the military. If it is a sin for a Christian to be a police officer, then all police officers are doomed to hell. Yet, God commands the government to punish evildoers (1 Pet. 2:14). The civil government is "God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Rom. 13:4). I have trouble understanding how some can teach the death penalty is commanded by God (and rightly so) and yet believe the man who carries out the sentence is damned by God for obeying this command!

Christians have no right to seek personal vengeance (Rom. 12:19). God has said all vengeance belongs to Him (Rom. 12:19). However, God has delegated "vengeance" to the civil government (Rom. 13:4). Albert Barnes said, "When a magistrate inflicts punishment on the guilty, it is to be regarded as the act of God taking vengeance on him; and on this principle alone is it right for a judge to condemn a man to death. It is not because one man has by nature the right over the life of another, or because society has any right collectively which it does not as individuals; but because God gave life, and because he has chosen to take it away when a crime is committed, by the appointment of magistrates, and not by coming forth himself visibly to execute the laws" (Barnes Notes, Vol. 4, p. 294).

Do Christians have the right to serve in the government as a soldier or a policeman? Let us avoid hypothetical questions and situations and answer the question by appealing to New Testament examples.

John And The Soldiers Multitudes came to hear John the baptist preaching in the wilderness as he prepared men for the kingdom of God. John told the Pharisees and Sadducees to "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Matt. 3:8) and instructed the people to be willing to share (Luke 3:10,11).

The tax collectors ("publicans" in the King James Version) came to be baptized by John and asked what they had to do. John did not instruct these servants of Caesar to leave their jobs, but to be honest in their collections.

Soldiers also inquired to see if they had to meet any special requirements before they could be baptized. John said, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14). Unfortunately, the King James Version translates the Greek verb diaseio with the phrase "do violence to no man." This verb "literally means 'shake violently.' In those days it was a technical, legal term, meaning 'extort money by violence' much like our current slang expression 'shake down'" (Ralph Earle, Word Meanings In The New Testament, p. 58).

What a perfect time for John to tell these soldiers to leave the army; instead, he tells them to be honest and not grumble about their wages. If it is a sin for one to be a soldier, John sure missed it!

Saints In Caesar's Household When Paul closed his letter to the Philippians, he said, "All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22). Who were these people? "Paul sends special greetings from the Christian brothers who are of Caesar's household. It is important to understand this phrase rightly. It does not mean those who are of Caesar's kith and kin. Caesar's household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the world. The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who had charge of the imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the empire, all these were Caesar's household" (William Barclay, The Letters To The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 87).

Those who claim it is sinful to work for the government have a big problem with this verse. The Ethiopian nobleman (Acts 8) is another example of a Christian serving in his government.

Cornelius Have you ever heard someone claim the lifestyle of a soldier is totally incompatible with that of a Christian? It makes me wonder if they have ever read the book of Acts. The first Gentile to obey the gospel was a Roman soldier named Cornelius, "a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:1,2). Peter was sent to this man to tell him the "words" he needed to hear in order to be saved (Acts 10:6,22; 11:14). Read the tenth chapter of Acts. Do you see any "words" about Cornelius having to resign his military commission before he could be saved?

The Philippian Jailer One of the first men in Europe to obey the gospel was the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). Though he served the Roman government and carried a sword, Paul did not have him leave his occupation. The jailer was still on the job after his conversion (Acts 16:35,36).

Paul Used Roman Soldiers When Paul found out forty men were going to ambush him, he used over 470 Roman soldiers as bodyguards (Acts 23:12-23). Paul knew if those who sought his life tried to make good on their threats the soldiers would kill or imprison everyone of them.

Paul told Timothy not to "share in other people's sins" (1 Tim. 5:22). Friend, if it is wrong to be a soldier, it is wrong to use one. If you believe it is sinful to be a policeman, you are a hypocrite if you ever call for one to protect you or your family. These are strong words, but I offer no apology.

Conclusion I've had brethren try to counter these New Testament examples by asking, "Can you picture Christ wearing an army uniform and carrying an M-16?" To be honest, I do find that hard to picture. But, by the same token, I cannot picture my Lord wearing a hard-hat or a football helmet. Does that make it a sin to be coal miner or a football player?

I have never tried to persuade people to join the military. There are things associated with military life not conducive to godly living. But, I do not encourage men to work on off-shore oil wells for the same reason. If your conscience will not allow you to join the military, then stay out. If you are in the military, then be honest in your dealings with others and "be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).

        Worship is a privilege only children of God have.  There are many blessings we receive from faithful attendance in worship.  God has commanded us to assemble regularly to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Hebrews 10:25-27 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation."  When we forsake the assembly of the church, except for sickness or circumstances beyond our control, we are not only disobeying God, but we are robbing ourselves of all the benefits of worship which would have helped us to grow and become spiritually strong.  To forsake worship is to sin willfully.

     By forsaking the assembly, we also endanger our souls because as the above verse says, "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins."  Christ is our only sacrifice for sin.  When people reject their only sacrifice for sin there remains nothing but "a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation."

     When people fall away from the Lord, it is usually not a sudden thing.  They usually start by forsaking the assembly of Wednesday night Bible study.  Then they start missing Sunday evening worship.  Next they stop coming to Sunday morning Bible study; and then finally they stop coming to Sunday morning worship.  This is the usual path of apostasy for most people who fall away.  Oh, some may come back and "visit" several times a year and a few may even attend only the Sunday morning worship with little regularity.  These are described in 2 Peter 2:22 as, "A dog turns to his own vomit again, and a sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."  Some members have turned to their own vomit and are in the pigpen and they can no longer smell the stench.  Let’s not lose our souls by unfaithfulness.

From where did the idea of "contemporary worship" come?  The purpose of contemporary worship is so everyone can have the worship they want and enjoy and not what God has authorized as acceptable.  This is selfish rebelliousness.  That which is called "contemporary" includes much which God has not approved and for which He has no respect.

     Even in the generation following Adam and Eve, Cain offered to God "contemporary worship".  In other words Cain offered to God worship that pleased himself instead of God.  Cain’s worship was contemporary for his time period.  "Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord.  Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.  And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.  And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (Genesis 4:3-5).  Why did the Lord have respect for Abel’s worship but not for Cain’s?  "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous" (Hebrews 11:4).  How did Abel offer his sacrifice by faith when Cain didn’t?  "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).  Since Abel offered his worship by faith, that is by the word of God, his worship was accepted.  Cain’s worship was rejected since it was not according to God’s word.  God has always dictated to man how He is to be worshipped.

     The idea that worship can be changed to suit each generation is outrageous.  In every generation, worship must always be what God has approved in His word.  "It is not in man that walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

     Contemporary worship includes: baby dedications, worship services with denominations, women leading worship, clapping of hands, waving of arms in the air, swaying from side to side while standing, praise teams, also women in the praise teams taking part in the leading, drama groups, singing groups, mechanical instruments of music, burning candles and incense, etc.  Besides all this entertainment during worship, gymnasiums are now being added for everyone’s recreation and enjoyment after worship is over.  Where is God’s authority for all of this?  "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).  To do "all in the name of the Lord Jesus" is to do everything by His authority.  There is no authority from the Lord for many of the things done in contemporary worship.

     Contemporary worship is based on what is popular and pleases people at the time and not on what God has authorized in the Bible.  The various things done during contemporary worship usually have their start in the denominations and then congregations of the Lord’s blood bought church "copy cat" them, just as Israel wanted to be "like all those nations" around them (1 Samuel 8:5).  Contemporary worship will usually change when something else new comes along.  Contemporary worship is designed to please men rather than God.  Paul asks the question, "do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

     If we want to be true worshippers of God, our worship must be in spirit and in truth.  Jesus says, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).  It doesn’t say, "God is Spirit and we can worship Him any way we want".  In contemporary worship people don’t seem to care if God is worshipped in spirit and in truth or not.  "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3).  Contemporary worship is a "feel good" worship mainly concerned with what me, myself, and I want, and not what God has authorized.

     In contemporary worship man does what seems right to him, just as in Israel’s day when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).  When people engage in worship, which God has not authorized, their worship is vain.  Jesus says, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7).  Contemporary worship is vain, since it is after the doctrines of men and not from God.  It is another tool of Satan designed to cause people to lose their soul.

      Can money be taken from "the church treasury" to help provide food, clothing, and shelter for a needy non-Christian or orphan.  The Lord’s church was split asunder over this question in the 1940’s.  But what does the Bible say concerning this question?  Anything that is different than what the Bible says is false doctrine.

     The letter to the Galatians was addressed, "Unto the churches of Galatia" (Galatians 1:2).  What did Paul say to the churches of Galatia?  "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).  The churches of Galatia were commanded, as they had opportunity, to "do good to all men".  All men include Christians and non-Christians.  Doing good to all men includes providing basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter for the needy.

     Let’s turn our attention now to the collection the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Corinth were commanded to make.  "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be not gatherings when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  This collection was being made both in Corinth and Macedonia.  It apparently was a large amount because it required seven men besides Paul and Luke, to safely and securely transport it to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4-5).

     After Paul and the men with him delivered the collection to Jerusalem, Paul was taken captive.  He appeared before Felix, the Roman governor.  Paul in reference to the collection that had been made by the churches in Macedonia and Corinth said, "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings" (Acts 24:17).  Did Paul say the collection was only for Christians?  No, it was to help "my nation", which included both Christians and non-Christians.

     Earlier when this collection was being made in the churches of Macedonia and Corinth, Paul was encouraging the church at Corinth to make sure they would have the collection ready when he got there.  Paul used two chapters, 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 (a total of 39 verses), to exhort them to give liberally and to have the collection ready.  In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 he told of "the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality".  Paul then said in 2 Corinthians 9:2, "I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago".  But Paul was still concerned that the church at Corinth might not have their collection ready when he said in 2 Corinthians 9:4, "Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting".

     Paul in instructing the church at Corinth how to give says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Every man according as he has purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."

     Now let’s notice how Paul said this collection was going to be used.  In 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 we read, "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings to God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men".  Paul stated that their "liberal distribution" was not only made "unto them", that is the needy saints of Jerusalem, but "and unto all men", which includes Christian and non-Christian.  One is going to have to deny what Paul says here if he says the church cannot help supply the basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter "unto all men", which would includes a needy non-Christian or orphan.

The word "denomination" comes from the same root word as denominator in fractions, which means to divide.  Division is sinful.  1 Corinthians 1:10, 13 says, "Now I plead with you…that there be no divisions among you…Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"  The doctrines of men caused division in the first century and they continue to divide today.  The gospel of Christ taught, believed, and obeyed brings unity and eliminates denominationalism.

     There is no salvation in denominationalism.  Salvation is only in the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23) which is His one church (Ephesians 1:22-23).  Galatians 1:7, 9 says, "There are some that trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ…if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."  To get into a denomination one has to leave the teaching of the New Testament and do something different.  Many people are going to be lost because of denominationalism (Matthew 7:22-23).

     Every denomination has prostituted God’s plan of salvation with such things as "faith only" and "once saved always saved".  They have also perverted the worship with instrumental music, speaking in tongues, fake healing, etc.  2 Peter 2:2 says, "And many will follow the destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed."  But we are warned in Colossians 2:18, "Let no man cheat you of your reward."

     Because people want to do things their way 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says, "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they may all be damned who believe not the truth."  We must not fellowship religious denominations in their error.  2 John 10-11 says, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God’s speed: for he that bids him God’s speed is partaker of his evil deeds."  We sin if we fellowship religious denominations by becoming a partaker of their evil deeds.  And as Ephesians 5:11 also says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them."

When We Meet

SUNDAY

9:30 AM....... Bible Classes
10:30 AM..... Worship
6 PM.............Evening Worship

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THURSDAY

6:30 PM...... Bible Class

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Church of Christ

2501 Broadway
Rockford  IL 61108
Preacher:  Maurice Brown
Daytime Phone: (815) 874-9995
 

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ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

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