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Render Unto Caesar

Until Jesus returns to reign and rule over all things to the glory of the Father, Christians will find themselves living under two different forms and expressions of authority. Jesus addressed this head on saying:

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 ESV)

Notice that he didn’t say: “Render unto me the things previously rendered unto Caesar.”

He did not say that because it was not yet time for him to begin ruling on the earth as the fully consummated King over all creation. That reality lies in the future.

And so, Christians must always be thinking about where to draw the lines. Where does the reach of Caesar stop? What do we do when allegiances collide? These are hard questions to answer and difficult lines to draw.

I will offer two words of guidance as a Bible reader and a pastor:

1. Beware of those who would shove Caesar into a box so small as to be practically irrelevant.

The Magistrate has a role and a sphere given to him or her from Almighty God. The Apostle Paul says:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1–7 ESV)

There is a lot of disrespectful rhetoric out there in the church that is being justified because it seeks “the glory of Christ” over all things. Caesar is mocked because CHRIST IS KING! But that is to reject what Jesus himself says in this passage.

Give to Caesar his due.

Jesus was not a political Zealot.

Jesus is working a very slow and patient plan.

In this phase of the operation he invites all to become citizens of a coming Kingdom. When thee Kingdom comes, he will take his throne and rule over all things with a rod of iron.

But that is in the future.

For now, our job is to live peaceably and respectfully under Caesar seeking the conversion of all people to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So beware of those who want to steal all the honour, respect and authority that we are supposed to give to Caesar and to give it NOW to Jesus Christ. That sounds noble, but it isn’t. It is actually disobedience to Jesus Christ, as per this passage.

2. Beware of placing too much trust in human authority – even that of professing Christians

As a reader of the Old Testament I have grown disenchanted with human authority – even when those human authorities love the Lord and have a deep and sincere respect for the law of God.

See King David.

Who loved the law more than David? And yet he raped his neighbour and murdered her husband. What does that imply?

It says to me that we need Jesus!

The law is fine – more than fine – the law is wonderful! But in the hands of anyone not named Jesus it will still lead to tyranny, abuse and injustice. Therefore, my ultimate hope is not the imposition of biblical law by human beings who love and study the law – rather my ultimate hope is for the return and reign of Jesus Christ. He loves the law. He obeyed the law. He fulfilled the law. He embodies the law – and therefore only he can be entrusted to impose the law and to apply the law over all creation.

What a day, glorious day, that will be!

Come Lord Jesus!

Pastor Paul Carter

To listen to the most recent episodes of Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. To access the entire library of available episodes see here. You can also download the Into The Word app on iTunes or on Google Play.