Political Correctness and the First Commandment

Political correctness takes many forms in our day and age, but ultimately it is a threat to biblical Christianity, and something we must oppose if we would place God first in our lives.  This message deals with three specific ways in which American political correctness is opposed to Christianity: sexuality, marriage and the family, and in its opposition to the gospel by proclaiming that there are many ways of salvation, as opposed to the biblical doctrine that salvation is provided only for those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In these ways, at least, it is my conviction that we cannot be politically correct and be Christians at the same time.

Why should he be so consumed with this fiery passion to preach the Gospel even in Rome, the center of the heathen world?  Verse 16 provides the answer, and furnishes us with words that have fired the hearts of ministers and private Christians throughout the ages with courage for the work of serving God.  Paul declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”  And, indeed, as he unfolds the mysteries of the Gospel in the following pages, one should certainly agree that there is not the slightest reason in the world for any person who is a partaker of the benefits of the Gospel to be ashamed of it.  Yea, rather, those who are ashamed of that glorious message have clearly not fully embraced it into their hearts.  I confess that weakness and cowardice, or perhaps distrust of ourselves and our own knowledge, may sometimes cause us to wilt when pressure is placed upon us by the world.  Nevertheless, when our faith stands not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God, we may boldly say that, however fiercely the world may mock or persecute us, we are not ashamed of this belief.  Our Lord Jesus Christ warned that whosoever should be ashamed of Him in this adulterous and sinful generation, of that man would He be ashamed when He came with the glory of His Father and with the holy angels.  And is not Christ Himself, His person and His work, the very Gospel itself?  This one person, both God and man, is the good news.  It is in Him that God is propitious towards sinners.  If we are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, then we are ashamed of Christ Himself, and thus place ourselves in eternal peril.  God give us grace that we never be ashamed of Him, Who was so far from being ashamed of that He even endured the agonizing and humiliating death of the cross in our stead!

But this idea of “I am not ashamed” may also be stated positively, as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was so fond of pointing out.  It could be understood as saying, “I am very proud of the Gospel.”  I do not like to even use the term pride with a positive connotation, since it is never used positively in the scriptures.  Nevertheless, if ever there were a place to use that word in a good sense, this would be it.  We ought not only to arise to the confidence where we can say that we are not ashamed of the Gospel, but we should be ready to boast in it, for it is our only ground of hope for acceptance before the judgment of God.  Let the world be proud of its accomplishments, its beauty, its power, its glory.  The Christian should glory only in the Lord, and what He has done for the salvation of his soul.  We have nothing but what we have received, but what we have received is of more value and is far more enduring than the world’s proudest possessions and accomplishments.  “Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord.”  Only when we understand the Gospel as Paul preached it will we come to the point where Christ and His work is our only ground of boasting.

 

The Hampton Roads Conference

For anybody interested in the “Southern side of history,” I cannot recommend too highly the Abbeville Institute web site.  It is filled with nothing but articles about the South, Southern history, Southern heritage, the Southern view of the war, and the place of the South in American culture.  They are in the forefront of the intellectual defense of the Southern role in the war and the Southern way of life.

The above article is about the Hampton Roads Conference, which occurred in the final months of the war.  Abraham Lincoln and some of his cabinet met with Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens and some other government officials to discuss the possibility of a peace.  The article proves that there was one sticking point which led to the failure of the conference, but it was not slavery.  Lincoln and the Federal government were prepared to forego the 13th Amendment and leave slavery in the hands of the courts, if the Southern states would return to the Union.  The real issue was Southern independence: Jefferson Davis had instructed his delegates that under no conditions was the independence of the South to be compromised, and thus the conference failed.  If the war had been merely to preserve slavery, the South could have returned to the Union at almost any point after secession, with guarantees to protect their “peculiar institution.”  That they did not shows that, rather than slavery, they were fighting to defend exactly what they publicly proclaimed: states’ rights and independence from the tyrannical control of Washington, D.C.

The apostle had hoped many times previously to travel to Rome, but had been hindered hitherto by various providences, and perhaps also by the opposition of Satan.  He wanted the Romans to know his failure to visit them arose not from any lack of care or desire, but through those hindrances which are all under the providential government of our sovereign God.  His hope in coming was that he might have some fruit of conversions and edification of the saints among them, even as God had granted him among the other Gentiles.  Paul was never a man to go on a long journey for purposes of rest and relaxation, but he always bore in mind that principle enunciated by our Lord Jesus, that the Father is glorified when we go forth and bear much fruit.  We should always keep this in mind, wherever the Lord’s providences may send us.  Even if perchance we are on vacation somewhere for personal enjoyment and relaxation, we should always bear in mind that we are Christ’s servants, and be looking for opportunities to glorify Him by our good works.

Paul now begins to explain why he had such fervent desires to appear in Rome and see fruit blooming among the believers there, and he uses this explanation as a means of leading into the great theme of his epistle.  He declares that he considered himself a debtor to all, yea, even all variety of men in the Gentile world.  He owed a debt of obligation to the wise and learned Greeks, and likewise to the ignorant and foolish Barbarians.  Whether educated or uneducated, philosopher or simple laborer or even slave, the apostle felt a compelling obligation to preach the Gospel to all.  He could never forget that he had been ordained by Christ to preach the Gospel to the Gentile world.  Because of this order from on high, he considered himself indebted to all the Gentile world, to reach as many of the heathens with the Gospel as he possibly could.  By this time he had already been over many parts of the expansive Roman empire, preaching the good news of forgiveness through Christ’s death and life through His resurrection wherever he found sinners willing to listen.  Now, he had hopes that God would soon clear the way for him to appear in Rome.  He was not abashed to appear even in the very center of heathen power and proclaim the good news of justification through Jesus Christ, the despised and crucified teacher from Nazareth.  And now he launches into his explanation and defense of that message which he preached, his introductory remarks and observations being past, and being anxious that, even before he should appear in person, the Roman believers should be well aware of the doctrines which he taught in all places whither the Lord sent him.

Paul wishes the Romans to know that, although he has never met them in the flesh, he faithfully importunes the throne of God on their behalf.  He calls God for a witness, that God Whom he served in the Gospel of His Son, that he never ceased to make mention of the Roman church in his prayers.  This is an excellent demonstration of the true fellowship and community of spirit that ought to exist among the Lord’s people.  It is certainly true that we ought to be fervently praying for those brethren and churches which we personally know.  It is easier for us to pray with knowledge and with more fervency of spirit when we know the particular individuals and congregations, and the difficulties that they are facing.  Nevertheless, our spirit of intercession should be broad enough that, wherever we know there are faithful ministers and sound Gospel churches, we ought to uphold them in our prayers.

Ancient-Rome

Paul had a specific request in mind, namely, that he may be able to come and visit the Roman church.  No doubt he was mindful of the Lord’s injunction shortly before He ascended to glory, that the Gospel should be preached to Jerusalem and all Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Accordingly, the word of life had first been preached in Jerusalem and the outlying areas, and by this time had already been carried to Rome.  Yet, it appears that Paul, and probably none of the other apostles, had as yet been there.  Very likely some of the converts from the day of Pentecost had carried back the good news of the resurrection of Christ to Rome with them and established the first churches there in that great city on the banks of the Tiber.  Nevertheless, the great apostle longed to go there himself, in order to impart to the Romans some spiritual gift.  He may here intend some of the miraculous gifts of that early church age, which were often communicated through the laying on of the apostles’ hands.  It is also possible that he simply intends that through his preaching and fellowship the Lord would bestow a blessing upon them.  Ultimately, his hope and prayer was that both parties might be encouraged and established in the faith when they at long last met face to face.

From this passage we may easily draw the deduction that this epistle was penned before Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, from which he was subsequently put on trial and sent to Rome to appear before Caesar (Acts chapters 21-28).  It appears that at this point in his life Paul simply hoped to make Rome another stop on one of his many missionary journeys.  As the scripture relates, even the greatest of saints were not privy to the secret counsels of God, and often He answered their prayers (and ours) by means which we never should have chosen.  Paul’s prayer and desire to appear in Rome and meet the Christians there was indeed answered and accomplished, but only after his arrest, beating, imprisonment, and shipwreck.  “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”

 

Having offered this excellent benediction to the Roman believers, Paul proceeds to utter his thankfulness for their widely known faith.  It should not escape observation that he thanks God “through Jesus Christ.”  This is the common way in which believers are taught to pray.  Christ taught us to address “our Father which is in heaven,” and shortly before His death He directed His disciples to ask in His name.  Therefore, though it is not improper upon certain occasions to address Christ directly, as Stephen did upon his martyrdom, and as Paul did in I Timothy 1:12 while recollecting with awe his calling to the ministry, our common course of praying should be to address God the Father through the merits of our great Intercessor Jesus Christ.  Nor is the Holy Spirit to be left out of the process of prayer, for it is only by His influence and gracious assistance that we can pray properly.  Thus Jude directed us to pray “in the Holy Ghost.”

Paul’s object of thankfulness at this time was the faith of the Roman believers.  He himself had not as yet visited Rome, and it is a question as to who carried the Gospel message there and first started the Roman church.  We need not solve that question, but it is evident that by this time, probably around A.D. 60, the entire Christian community in all places had heard glowing reports of the great faith of the believers in Rome.  Paul uses the vast term “whole world” here, a term which our Arminian brethren commonly like to insist must without question refer to every single person living on the planet.  Clearly, this is a case which explodes their theory, for nothing can be more evident than that people living in China or the jungles of Africa were completely uninformed as the faith of the Roman believers.  Here, as in other places where this phrase is used, the context must govern our explanation of the term.  The context here certainly would convince us that the “whole world” refers to the Christian world, or the churches in all places where the Gospel had been preached.

 

This whole blessed idea of calling is brought up again in verse 7, where Paul distinctly enunciates the people to whom he is writing: “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…”  Of course, this is one of those countless places in the New Testament where “all” cannot be taken in the broadest sense.  He does not refer to every single inhabitant of the city of Rome, for surely the majority of them were still pagan.  He is referring to all the Christians in the church, or churches, of Rome.  In fact, we might say that the following phrase “called to be saints” modifies the “all” of the previous clause.  It is to the inhabitants of Rome who have been called by God out of heathen darkness into the glorious light of Christ to be His saints that the apostle has taken pen in hand to address this great epistle.  We might incidentally here make note of the fact that “saint” is not some exalted Christian who lived above the realm of the ordinary faithful, as the papacy teaches, but it is a name which may commonly be applied to every person who is redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

KJV_Romans_1-7

To these brethren in Rome, Paul wishes his apostolic benediction of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Such words as these are so common in the apostolic writings that we are often tempted to skim over them without thought, but in truth they contain a summary of everything that we ought to be praying for ourselves and for our fellow believers.  Never a moment passes that we do not stand in need of the abiding grace of God, for it is only the presence of that grace which keeps us from falling.  A continuing sense of the grace of God which sent Christ into the world to be the redeemer of sinful men is most necessary to keep up the spirit of the believer, and to motivate him to true holiness in heart and life.  Concomitant with that grace is the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.  It is not the transitory peace that the world gives when the sea of our life is untroubled, our larders full, our wives happy, and our children obedient.  This peace vanishes the moment we face poverty and our family turns against us.  But the peace of God, if it has truly come from God, can abide the hottest fires of trial a man may experience upon this earth.  It is only lost when we turn our eyes away from the grace of God revealed in Christ.  But it is God the Father and His eternal and co-equal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ Who must keep the fires of grace burning bright, in order that we fail not.  Our reliance is upon Him, not only for our salvation in eternity, but also for the blessings and benefits which sustain our bodies and souls day by day.  Nothing places us in greater peril than the withdrawal, even a temporary withdrawal, of His gracious hand.

 

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