November 7, 2012

Evangelism & Politics

by Nathan Busenitz

keep_calmOn the day after the election, it is helpful to remember that our hope is not found in the government but in the gospel; and that our mission is not political, but evangelistic.

Today’s post concludes our series on Prayer & Politics. First Timothy 2:1–7 gives us three reasons why believers ought to pray for those in authority over them. We have already considered two of those reasons: (1) because prayer reminds us to place our confidence is in God; and (2) because prayer reminds us to keep our conduct righteous and respectful.

3. Prayer reminds us to fulfill our commission to the lost.

When we pray for our governmental leaders, we are reminded that unbelievers need the gospel.

In verses 3–7, Paul says that of pray for those who are in authority:

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

After instructing believers to be a good testimony through the lives that they lead, Paul now transitions to remind his readers of their evangelistic mission in this world.

Here we begin to understand the evangelistic flavor of the prayers that we are called to offer for those in authority over us. We should pray for all people, and especially for our leaders — not only that they would have wisdom to make the right policy decisions — but that God would radically transform their hearts and bring them to a saving knowledge of Himself.

That is a convicting truth to consider, because it is so much easier to protest and complain than to consistently plead with God that He might save those who sit in positions of power in this nation.

That includes praying for the salvation of those who were elected and re-elected in yesterday’s election.

Now, just to clarify, I am not suggesting that submitting to government leaders or praying for their salvation somehow means that Christians in the U.S. should abstain from voting or otherwise exercising their civic duty. As Americans, we are part of a democratic system that gives us the unique opportunity to participate in the direction and affairs of our government. I believe we should steward that opportunity carefully, and that, as Christians, we ought to be a voice for righteousness and biblical morality in the midst of an increasingly unrighteous and immoral society

But it is also helpful to remember that, in spite of America’s democratic process, the ultimate answer to our nation’s problems will never be found through political ends. The gospel alone offers the permanent solution our world needs.

In the words of John MacArthur:

Only the gospel, through the power of the Spirit, can affect real change in society—since it transforms sinners from the inside out. After all, there are no Christian nations, only Christian people. Hence, our commission is to proclaim that gospel faithfully in whatever context God puts us.

That commission, to preach the gospel, was given by the Lord Jesus Himself. In Matthew 28:19, He told His disciples: “Go and make disciples of all the nations . . .”

Thus, we ought to pray for the salvation of the lost, including those in positions of political authority. In so doing, we remind ourselves that the great commission of the church is not a political mandate but a spiritual one — and we also remember our own personal responsibility in that great effort, that we have been called to be ambassadors for Christ within our own spheres of influence.

At the end of an intense election season, it can be easy to forget that our main mission in this world is spiritual, not political.

As Christians, we know the truth. We have the answer for our nation’s problems, the ultimate solution. It is not political, military, economic or educational. It is not about jobs, gas prices, immigration, foreign affairs, or the electoral college.

The gospel transcends politics, and we have been commissioned to take the good news of salvation to lost people who need to hear it, regardless of their political affiliations.

When we pray for our civil leaders, we are reminded of the fact that the reason we are here is to proclaim the mercies of God to a world enslaved in sin. And that’s a helpful thing to remember … especially the day after a national election.

Concluding Our Series

So why should we pray for our political leaders and those in positions of governmental authority?

(1) Because doing so reminds us to place our confidence in God.  He is in control — He is the King above all kings. We don’t need to become anxious or worried because we recognize that the Lord of the church is also the Lord over all.

(2) Prayer also reminds us to keep our conduct righteous and respectful. We are to live in tranquility and peacefulness with all godliness and dignity. Prayer enables us to submit to those in authority over us, because we recognize that they are ultimately placed there by God Himself.

(3) And, third, prayer reminds us to fulfill our commission to the lost. The reality is that unbelievers need the gospel, no matter their political leanings. As Christians, our primary mission is to proclaim the good news of salvation to the lost world around us. The gospel is the only solution for society’s real problem — which is sin. Politics and legislation can affect superficial change, but only the gospel can transform sinners from the inside out.

As we react to what happened yesterday, it is good to remind ourselves that we can keep calm and carry on.

How? By resting in the fact that God is in control; and by remembering that we, no matter what happens in the political realm, we are still called to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, being faithful to proclaim the good news of salvation to the lost world around us.

Our prayer life ought to reflect those realities — as we offer entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all men, and especially for kings and all who are in authority.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Amen…Like many, I am not happy about the results. As I prayed this morning, I got a very great peace. While our country’s direction may be in question, our true citizenship is in God’s Kingdom. That has never been any more secure.
    I view this as a call to action. Our pro-life candidates may have lost, but we can still support life thru pregancy support ctrs. We can support traditional marriage by loving our spouses better. There is no failing of government that can’t be trumped by God through His people.
    I must repent of my desire for a theocractical government. It has been too easy to vote for Godly candidates and, win or lose, feel like I have done my duty. I know that is not my role as a citizen of the Kingdom

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