The Bible as a Political Text

The world has many celebrated political texts which illuminate various political perspectives. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a political treatise in story form. His “1984” is similarly charged with political messages. Hitler had his Mein Kampf. Marx relied on Darwin’s Origin of Species. Mao had his Little Red Book. Political texts come from the Greeks and Romans, along with many writings from before and since.

The Political Bible

But have you ever considered the Bible as a Political Text? I had never given the matter any thought until recently. I had unconsciously ascribed the Bible to the “Religion” Category. Many people who oppose the Bible are keen to promote it as nothing more than a book of religious sentiment. Sadly, unthinking Christians (and I include myself in this category) have allowed unbelievers to tell us how we can use the book God gave us.

Consider the Evidence

The Bible is the book from which a whole nation was governed for thousands of years. Did you get that word ‘governed’? The Bible supervised the Jewish nation through the stages of personal sovereignty, communal governance, prophetic leadership, judges, kings, priests and messianic ministry.

The Bible prescribes personal responsibility, communal accountability, leadership jurisdiction, limitations of power, prescribed punishments for crimes, payments of levies, interplay of priest and civic leaders, court procedures and so on.

And not only are these things discussed in practice and theory, they are demonstrated in the accounts of people’s lives.

Living in a Political World

Daniel and his three friends lived under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar and successfully confronted that king’s authority, relying on the principles given in the Bible.

Moses confronted the political power of Pharaoh, doing most of his business with that world ruler in Pharaoh’s own court.

Abraham dealt directly with the Abimelech (Canaanite leader) of his day, and so too did Isaac.

Jesus Christ was tried and crucified in the Roman courts and the Apostle Paul made many appearances before Roman appointed rulers.

The people of the Bible interacted with political powers and relied on the teachings of the Bible to empower them and to determine how they stood before those kings.

Some Amazing Political Statements

Consider this quick pick of hot political statements straight from the pages of the Bible.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” Jesus Christ, Mark 12:17

“Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.” Jesus Christ, John 19:11

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” 1Peter 2:17

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
Have Another Look

I trust that these few examples are enough to fire up your interest in the Bible as a Political Text. You just might be amazed at the political wisdom and the personal authority you can operate by, once you see what the Bible is really saying.

Felix Neff Spends Himself in the High Alps

This is the day that … Felix Neff was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1798. His father died when he was young and his mother denied him expressions of motherly affection, hoping to increase his manliness. She was a deist, having no interest in worship of God, yet her son displayed a ready keenness for worship and faith.

Despite his religious interests and attendance he was not converted until he read Honey from the Rock by Thomas Willcock. He was struck by the fact that he could bring nothing to God and yet receive everything from Him. He wrote in the book, “Felix Neff has found peace here on these two pages”.

He went on to various forms of ministry, but his serious approach to religion did not go down well with those more given to wordliness. After 2 years of ministry in France, facing various oppositions, he, at the age of 24, was ready to commence his remarkable ministry in the French Alps.

He appreciated the chance to minister where he did not have to confront the shallow state of other ministers.

From village to village he travelled – “in dead of winter through drifts, the thunder of avalanches alone awakening the alpine stillness.  In four years he did not sleep five nights successively in the same place.  His stomach was destroyed by poor food and the irregularity of meal times.  He was always alone …” (A Book of Protestant Saints, by E. Gordon, page 201).

But he persevered.  He saw a “marked improvement in the moral life of the people” as they responded to his Christian teaching.  He introduced irrigation, taught better methods of potato culture, worked alongside the men of the village, helped build school houses – and even founded a teachers’ training college.

He became known as “the Apostle of the High Alps” of France. He described the conditions of the people thus. “The work of an evangelist in High Alps greatly resembles that of a missionary among the savages; the almost equal degree of uncivilization that prevails among them both, being a great obstacle to missionary labours. Among the valleys, under my charge, that of Freyssinieres is the most backward. Architecture, agriculture, education of every sort is in its very earliest infancy.”

However he did see revival there. “All the people seemed to give themselves up to reading, meditation and prayer; the young people especially seemed animated by a holy spirit; a heavenly flame appeared to have communicated itself from one to another. I had scarcely thirty hours’ rest during the week.”

And on his deathbed he wrote his final letter:  “I ascend to our Father in entire peace.  Victory!  Victory!  Through Jesus Christ.”

Felix Neff died at the age of 31.

Neff is called by some the David Brainerd of the High Alps. He had much in common with Brainerd. Both laboured in primitive conditions. Both were young. Both came to their field of labour under a cloud of misrepresentation. Both were highly self-sacrificing. Both remained unmarried. Both died at an early age from over-exertion under conditions of extreme hardship. Both experienced a work of reviving grace. Both were men of prayer.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

George Blaurock Initiates Re-Baptism

This is the day that … George Blaurock was burned to death, in 1529.

Blaurock was born Jörg vom Hause Jakob, in 1492 in Bonaduz, a village in Grisons, Switzerland.

An ex-Roman Catholic priest, he had been converted to Protestantism when he was about 34 years of age.

That same year Conrad Grebel debated Ulrich Zwingli on the issue of infant baptism. Both were Protestant, but Grebel had become convinced that baptism was for believers only. Zwingli held to the belief that children of Christians were to be baptised as infants, on the same basis that the Old Testament required circumcision. Nothing was resolved by the debate.

Blaurock (so named because of a blue coat he wore on one occasion) went to Zurich to consult with Zwingli, but was disappointed in him. He then met with Grebel and Felix Manz and resonated with their commitment to Biblical truth.

Blaurock was already married at this time, so it appears that he had already abandoned the non-biblical practices of the Catholic church.

In a meeting in which the small group discoursed on their commitment to Biblical practice, rather than church tradition, they were deeply moved by this new conviction and Blaurock asked to be baptised as a believer, as the New Testament recorded. Once George was baptised the others asked him to baptize them.

Thus George Blaurock not only became an associate of Grebel but instigated the practice of re-baptism, becoming a vigorous preacher in the newly formed Anabaptist movement. At the time this rebaptism was performed by pouring, rather than total immersion.

There followed “tireless evangelism” around Switzerland, and clashes with the followers of Zwingli. Eventually Blaurock was arrested (on 8 October, 1525), escaped (on 21 March, 1526), re-arrested (in December, 1526) and sentenced to death (on 5 January, 1527). This sentence was, however, altered to a public flogging and exile from Zurich.

He maintained most of his ministry by dodging those who opposed him, preaching in a variety of places and using remote locations. His itinerant preaching ministry continued until he was arrested again in August, 1529. Death came at the age of 38.

A German historian identified Blaurock’s ideals as “freedom of religion, liberty of conscience, (and) the equality of all citizens before the law”. He also composed hymns which have endured in German worship to this day.

Georg Blaurock was one of the noblest martyrs of the Christian Church. For the brotherhood he helped to found he cheerfully sacrificed everything, honor and respect, freedom and comfort, property and goods, wife and child, body and life for the sake of his Lord and Saviour. Under the sign of adult baptism he gave the brotherhood its actual reason for existence in the world.

It was Blaurock’s falling away from the Catholic priesthood and from the Catholic Church, with his repudiation of the Mass, the confessional, and the adoration of Mary that marked him as a criminal worthy of death.

His biographer writes: “George Blaurock was a pioneer evangelist. His methods were sometimes crude and his remarks impolite. But he was sincere, untiring and courageous in spreading the gospel as he understood it. He was the apostle of the Anabaptists to the common people.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Receiving the Prophet

If you had a tap which could pour good things into your life, would you close the tap? No-one would do that! You’d be stupid to block a pipe that brought you good things. You’d be an idiot to turn off a tap that brought liquid gold into your hands.

But people do that very thing all the time. People shut down the supply of good things God has for them, without the slightest hesitation. They even do it with arrogance of heart, feeling good about it.

Don’t look at me like that! If you’ve been reading these posts long enough you’ll know that I don’t make such assertions without a valid point behind it. So, put off your scepticism and let me poke a pointy stick at your heart.

The Spiritual Spout

God’s tap or supply line into our lives is often through an anointed person who comes as God’s agent. In fact the church is established on a set of such anointed and appointed people. The Apostle Paul listed five specific types of ministry person in the church: apostle; prophet; teacher; evangelist; and pastor. These people are described as “gifts” to the church. So individuals are picked up by God, given a specific ministry task by God, and then sent into the church world as God’s gift to the Christians.

“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Ephesians 4:8

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” Ephesians 4:11 [Christians refer to these as either the ‘ascension ministries’ – because verse 8 mentions Christ’s ascension – or the ‘5 Fold Ministries’, because there are five of them]

These men are simply that. They are human. Their mission is divine, but they are only human. This means they will bring their human limitations into their role and tasks. They will be subject to the same foibles and issues which are common to everyone else, such as pride, fear, insecurity, error, reactions, ambition, greed, forgetfulness, foolishness, and so on.

So God’s spiritual spout is often a clunky pipe that we have no difficulty finding fault with. And that sets us up for turning off the tap.

Limiting the Flow

We measure out the level of flow from God’s taps. We either open or close the tap, based on how we receive the person who God sends along as His gift to us. When we welcome a prophet, as a prophet, we have the tap wide open and we receive all that the prophet has to give us. When, on the other hand, we become offended by the prophet’s manner, speech, message, or whatever, we may choose to not accept the prophet as a prophet. We may rather choose to see him as the limited human that he is. We could be justified in finding fault with the prophet’s humanity. But we may also pay a price by our choice to limit the flow. Note the warning given by Jesus

“He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.” Matthew 10:41

When you choose not to receive the prophet as a prophet, but just as a man, you get a lesser input than the prophet’s input would have been.

Biblical Example

A blind man, named Bartimaeus [bar = son, so he was the son of Timaeus], heard that Jesus was passing by so he called out to get healed. The result was a miracle of healing as his sight was fully restored. What I want you to note in this situation is that Bartimaeus opened the pipe to receive his healing, while everyone else walked along without a miracle.

“And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passes by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, you Son of David, have mercy on me.” Luke 18:36-38

Note that the crowd called Jesus by his human designation, as “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus was from Nazareth, where he grew up with his family. This was an accurate title and description. But it was also a limiting title and description. Jesus is much more than a man who grew up in Nazareth.

Jesus came as the Son of God, in human form and as the fulfilment of the promise that a descendent of King David would come with power and rule on God’s behalf. Bartimaeus had faith that Jesus of Nazareth was that descendent of King David, so he called him “Son of David”. By doing this the blind man was opening the pipe – he was receiving Jesus as a prophet and a man of God, not just a bloke from Nazareth.

If Bartimaeus had respected Jesus as a good teacher and a wonderful man from Nazareth, he would not have been miraculously healed. He received the “prophet’s reward” only because he received Jesus as a prophet.

What About You?

If you had a tap which could pour good things into your life, would you close the tap?

If God had people around you who were called of God as His servants, would you receive from them? Do you receive from those who God has called? Do you respect them and honour them as God’s servants? Or are you more distracted by their human failings and the fact that they don’t completely fit your requirements?

Do you receive your mum and dad as the people God gave you to honour? Do you respect and honour the minister of your church? When you hear of people who are being mightily used by God, do you find fault with them or do you thank God that a pipe of blessing has been opened up?

You may already have missed out on amazing graces from God, just by your opinionated attitudes about the humans who God has chosen to use. God may even specifically send some rather human people along, just to challenge your pride and force you to humble yourself in order to get a blessing. Remember that God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud. If you are too proud to honour your father or to receive from the servants of the Lord, then you are the one who is turning off the tap and closing the spout where the blessing comes out.