Faithlife Sermons

The Image of God and the Image of Caesar

Christians and Government  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:50
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I feel as if I am little late to the party.
There are almost 92 million people who have already cast their vote.
Maybe you are one of those. Maybe you are not.
This section of Matthew occurs in a section where the authorities are trying to trap Jesus. There are four times in this section of Matthew where the authorities are trying to trick Jesus:
They are trying to crush Jesus in a crucible between cultural acceptance, government tolerance, and religious faithfulness. They do the same to me and you.
In this controversy they are trying to trap Jesus between his loyalty to the government and his loyalty to God.
If Jesus questions the government, then he could be imprisoned or killed. If Jesus questions God, then he makes himself into a heretic. The people who are following will abandon Him.
People will try to trap you and me similarly today. On the one hand, they may accuse you of not taking your faith seriously if you vote for someone whose moral conduct is questionable.
On the other hand, they may question your patriotism if you vote for someone whose policies are questionable.
How should you respond? What values should you hold? How should you prioritize your values so that you are responsible before God?
Let me give a brief reminder of what we looked at last week. When we were discussing Baptist principles and their view of the government, one of the points that we emphasized was the conscience. No matter where you land, you have got to know that your conscience is clean. You have got to know that you have not offended God, above all else.
You can only come to that point as you hold a Christian ethic that is formed by prayer, the Word of God, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit to your own heart.
In order to develop this Christian ethic, let’s look at how Jesus handled his questioners.
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Caught Between Two Worlds (15-17)

We often find ourselves caught between the tension of what is and and what is to come. We want ease here. We want security here. We want our problems to be solved here.
And yet, if we get what we want, then we would have no hunger for heaven.
And so we live with tension.
The two groups in this text have felt this tension, too. And they have responded in two different ways:
The Pharisees have rejected any responsibility for the world in which they live. They are so busy trying to “earn the favor” of God, that they have no heart for their fellow human. They have no love for the suffering. No concern for the broken.
The Herodians were so focused on immediate pleasure that they had compromised who they were in order to get what they wanted. They were Jews who had sold out to Herod. They forsook their eternal and future hope for their temporary and immediate comfort.
This was a classic case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Matthew 22:15–17 CSB
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap him by what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
These two groups were not passive in the way that they approached Jesus. Their work to destroy Him was intentional. They met about it. They concocted schemes. The planned. They plotted.
They wanted to capture Jesus between two worlds in order to destroy Him.
We, too, as Christians, find ourselves caught between two worlds.
Our hope is always forward looking. It is longing for Heaven. It is wanting to be in the presence of God.
But we also know that our decision here in this world have real meaning and they have real consequences.
Our children and our grandchildren will pay for our irresponsibility. They will suffer for our mistakes.
It is a difficult to be a balanced and biblical Christian in this society today.
On the one hand, there are those who have no value for Jesus whatsoever. They do not believe Christianity. They have no regard for Jesus.
On the other hand, there are those who consider themselves Christians who are becoming more and more tolerant and embracing of an anti-Christian society.
They confess to be Christians, but they reject the sexual ethic that the Bible teaches. “Homosexuality is a part of the way God created people.”
They argue against the individual liberty to work for prosperity. And yet they want to maintain the individual liberty to choose to abort a baby.
They argue that God is the Creator, and then reject certain people of His Creation because of the color of their skin.
Conservative Christians who truly love Jesus Christ and seek to follow His Word have become the enemy of both the godless atheist and the Bible-less liberal.
If we are not careful, we can respond with anger. And unchecked anger always turns to hate. And hate has no place in the Kingdom of God.
If our main goal is “to win,” then we may end up winning a battle, but will we want what we have won?
It does not no good to win the obedient action of your children if you destroy their heart. It will do us no good to win an election, if we lose our witness.
If we win the wrong battle with the wrong tools, we stand to lose the most important thing—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It will do us no favors to win an election if we lose the Gospel.
And so, though we are caught between two worlds, our loyalty belongs to one Kingdom. And each of us must make a decision about which Kingdom we will serve.

A Decision of Two Kingdoms (18-22)

Charles Dickens captured the tension that we feel when he wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, it was “the best of times and the worst of times.”
It is a tremendous blessing and a terrible curse to bear responsibility within this world.
Though we are caught between two worlds in time, we are to give our ultimate loyalty to one Kingdom. But these two world belong to the one King. So, it is possible for us to belong to worlds and yet be committed to one Kingdom.
So, in an election year, how do we act as responsible citizens without compromising the Gospel? Elections are always about priorities. The question for us—then—is how do we establish our priorities?
For us as Christians, the primary question we must ask is, “To whose voice shall we listen?” Are we to tune our ears to the voices of the world?
If we do, then we will determine truth by polls, pundits, politicians, and the powerful. We will primarily be citizens of the Empire of the World.

Vote for us, conform to our system, pay the taxes, and we will look after you. Paul had scathing words for that position in 1 Thessalonians 5: ‘when they say, “Peace and Security” ’—as the Romans did say to their subject peoples—‘then sudden destruction will overtake them, and there will be no escape.’

But if we determine truth by the voice of God, then we will determine truth by His Word alone. We will be citizens of the Empire of the Spirit.
Jesus tells us how to navigate these waters between two worlds without compromising our loyalty to His Kingdom:
Matthew 22:18–22 CSB
Perceiving their malicious intent, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” They brought him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked them. “Caesar’s,” they said to him. Then he said to them, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Well, according to what we have read in the Bible and how Jesus responded, our priorities are to determine what is of Caesar and what is of God.
Now—I am going to say some rather dangerous things. But don’t check out on me. If you check out too quick you are going to think that I said something that I didn’t say.
Let’s be clear: The Bible does not teach a democracy. There is nowhere in the Bible where it is said “Thou shall establish a democracy.”
As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches us that it is entirely possible to live a true and vibrant Christian life no matter the type of government that we have. Indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven will one day overwhelm ALL kingdoms of this earth:
Psalm 2:1–6 NASB95
Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
So our fruitfulness as Christians is not dependent upon government.
Though the Bible does not teach FOR democracy, neither does it teach AGAINST democracy.
The Bible gives certain principles for government, though it does not establish the style of government.
However, in a fallen world, democracy is the best that we’ve established to allow individuals live out their God-given abilities.
The challenge that we face is determining how we—as Christians—can continue to foster a society that allows people to flourish as the Creation of God without idolizing any system of government.
To put this a different way: what are the priorities that we should have when walking into the voting booth?
Well, put simply, politics revolves around three things:
national security
economic prosperity
human dignity
In order to for us to walk into the voting booth and to vote with a clear conscience, as Christians, our priorities must be the same as Jesus’s priorities.
Jesus solved the trapping of the Pharisees and the Sadducees by appealing to the Kingdom/Government of God in relationship to the kingdom/government of man.
We are a part of both governments—one temporary, the other—eternal. To one we owe our responsibility. To the other, we owe our loyalty.
When he is speaking about the human government, he argues to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
When he is speaking about the Kingdom of God, he argues to “render unto God the things that are God’s.”
This should not be understood to mean that are two separate and distinct governing authorities. “God is in charge of all of that stuff up there and the president is in charge of all of this stuff down here.”
There are two distinct governments—and never the twain shall meet.
Rather, Jesus is arguing for an understanding of priorities.
He asks for a coin. He says, basically, “look at the image on this coin. Look at the inscription on this coin. It has Caesar’s picture. It has Caesar’e writing. So, give it to Caesar. He can have this treasure.”
In other words, these coins are real coins and this government is a real government and we have certain responsibilities with these coins and with these treasures. Pay your taxes. Buy your food. Do your job.
But there is a greater treasure. And it, too, comes back to the *image* and the *inscription*.
The Bible teaches that every single individual is created in the image of God:
Genesis 1:26 CSB
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
Each person by virtue of Creation has the name of their Creator stamped upon their life.
Now, if we are to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. And we are to render to God that which is God’s. And God’s Kingdom is over and above any kingdom of humanity.
Then when we walk into a voting booth, we do not walk in merely as citizens of a democracy. We walk in as citizens of a Kingdom. Therefore, we vote with the principles of the Kingdom in mind over and above the principles of a democracy.
Now I am not saying that we vote for an OT Theocracy. I am saying that we render unto Caesar—our vote, in a democracy—but do we so as those who belong to a Christocracy.
Our primary concern is not the image of Caesar. Our primary concern is the image of God. We vote according to what betters our opportunity to to further the Gospel so that those who are created in God’s image—and that everyone—have the opportunity to be restored to their creator.
Our primary considerations in the voting booth are to be dignity of all human life and the free expression of religious faith.
When we talk about the dignity of human life, we are talking about a few things:
Abortion: That life begins in the womb—and they too—have been created equal. They can no more be put to death than a healthy 3 year old or 30 year old should be put to death.
Euthanasia: That the elderly deserve our respect. They are not a drain on the health care system. It is because of their years of labor that we have a health care system. The Bible teaches us to give honor to those who have gone before us.
Race: The all life has value—no matter their color.
Individual liberty: That every life should have the opportunity to live out their God-imagedness through creating and pursuing in an effort to achieve human flourishing. Government does not exist to GIVE us freedom. It exists to PROTECT our freedom.
Religious freedom: That every person should be able to worship according to their faith and conscience. I don’t want a government that can enforce a religion on me. If the government is able to enforce one religion, than a government can enforce any religion.
So what should you do?
Be informed about the issues. Don’t vote based on the recommendation of your favorite person. (I have always wondered why people think what I care about what Hollywood actors think about politics. Most of them aren’t exactly geniuses living in a real world. For goodness sakes. Quit threatening to go to Australia if you’re not gonna do it. You can afford the one-way ticket).
Pray. There are real issues and real lives at stake. Pray about how should you vote.
Vote. Some say that Christians should not involve themselves in the petty affairs of the world, including the political landscape. Well, there are many arguments against that. But let me name point to two. 1) To deny Christian involvement in the political landscape is to deny the reality of real-world decisions and consequences. God gave us dominion within the world at Creation and part of that dominion is to involve ourselves with governmental affairs that affect real people. 2) The early church and the apostles involved themselves in the political world by being a prophetic voice to the political blowhards. They were thrown to the lions and cut in two and burned on stakes by the government officials because the government officials were offended at their words. Part of our prophetic voice to confront the indignity of this world is to vote with the mind of Christ.
As Jesus stood before the earthly, political court of Pilate, when Pilate asked “What is truth,” Jesus had already given the answer: “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
The truth—as revealed in the pages of Scripture—is that there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will knock over all earthly thrones.
And so the most important historical event that we celebrate is not the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or the writing of the Constitution, or the winning of the Revolutionary War.
Saint Augustine said:
The earthly cities glory in themselves. The heavenly city glories in the Lord. —Augustine
We don’t glory in ourselves. We glory in the Lord.
And so the most important historical event that we celebrate is—not the winning of an earthly battle. It is the day that the spiritual battle was won. It is the day that the Son of God placed His heel upon the head of the Serpent and squashed it.
That is the day that our salvation was purchased. That is the most important historical event that we celebrate. And every other historical event occurs in service to that one event.
And so we vote according to what allows us to celebrate and proclaim that event. And from a human perspective, that boils down to the integrity of human life and the liberty of religious expression.
So I appeal to you: When you go into the voting booth, those should be your primary considerations. Which candidate is going to more ably preserve human life and which candidate is going to allow free and encumbered worship.
It is those two things that allows me to stand here before you today and present the Gospel. I am able to do so because 1) your life has value to me and, more importantly, to God. And 2) We fear neither man nor any created existence when we present the Gospel.
So I ask you—you who are valuable—have you ever surrendered your life—that life has been made in God’s image—have you ever surrendered that life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
It is true, we have physical liberty because of many hard fought battles. But physical liberty apart from spiritual liberty is temporary freedom before eternal torment.
Jesus Christ give you spiritual liberty. He gives you salvation. Have you ever prayed “Oh God. I know that I am a sinner. I am enslaved to my sin. And I am praying for you to set me free. To give me forgiveness. To give me a new life.”
Let us close with a time of prayer for this country
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