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November 24, 2008 / beidson

The Preeminence of Preaching Over Politics

The past year has given all of us reasons to meditate on the necessity of a just government, one whichbible3 governs fairly and effectively, protecting the peace of good citizens and punishing violators of that peace in proportion to their offense.  We’ve also had the privilege to hear candidates speak to these matters.  And we had the even greater privilege of casting important votes for the candidates we felt best understood and practiced good government.

However, in all of this, I was reminded of why politics, as exciting and influential as they may be, are subordinate to preaching.  Regardless of what President sits in the Oval Office, the Scriptures demand an even greater audience to the man who stands behind the pulpit.  Here are a few thoughts on the preeminence of preaching over politics:

  1. The sword of the Spirit is greater than the sword of the State. That is, the Bible has a greater authority than does earthly government.  Whereas earthly governments have coercive power over people, the Scriptures have convicting power over people.  Government may use its power to force people into submission, to hold back evil.  But those who preach the Word wield an even greater sword, one that is able to pierce the hardened hearts of convicted sinners, and move them to willful obedience to God’s law, something the State could never do by mere physical force.
  2. The preacher speaks with a greater authority than the politician. Based on the previous point, we know that when the preacher declares “Thus saith the Lord” he is speaking with an authority unparalleled by any earthly power.  The politician may effect change by his words and authority, but he cannot effect the kind of change that can make a dead man live.  The gospel is the power of God to salvation.  Only this message can bring lasting change because it comes with the authority of a crucified, resurrected King.
  3. Politicians cannot be truly optimistic about the future–preachers can be. No President or national leader knows the consequences of his or her actions in an ultimate sense; the domino effect is unpredictable, and politicians must rely on the cooperation of others in order to keep peace and prosperity.  There is no promise that we are secure from a nuclear attack or economic disaster.  One man cannot guarantee our freedom.  We will always have enemies, despite our best diplomatic efforts.  However, the preacher proclaims a liberty that is guaranteed, purchased by the blood of a cosmic Redeemer, independent of any international cooperation.  Through Christ, God’s enemies may become his friends, if they cast themselves on his mercy and grace and cling to him alone for salvation.  Christ alone is sufficient.  His Word to us is firm and fixed, and we may be sure that his promises will come to pass.  Though others may fret over what is to come, those who are trusting in Christ can be confident in the face of an uncertain future, because we are certain that God is sovereign.
  4. Politics are temporal–the gospel is eternal. Human government is a vapor; it is meant for a season.  Conversely, the reign of Christ will be everlasting.  In light of Christ’s present and future reign, earthly government can be seen for what it really is: tiny and temporary, a momentary part of God’s eternal purposes.  So when politicians speak, we must understand that their words are just as sure to pass away as their own bodies will one day.  But the man who preaches the gospel knows that though he will surely die, the Word of God will never fail–it stands forever.
  5. Politics cannot be transcendent unless they appeal to a greater message, which is the gospel. Whether we are talking about human dignity and civil rights or an efficient and rewarding economy, politics must appeal to a higher authority when appealing to the national conscience.  There is no way to unify such a diverse population without appealing to ideals that transcend our differences.  Anytime a politician seeks to transcend these differences, he must acknowledge that there is a greater good toward which we all must work.  And this greater good finds its meaning in the gospel, though Christ himself is not usually acknowledged.  This is because any hope that men have is rooted in the law that God has written on our hearts, whether we acknowledge or not.  This is to say, we only know of transcendence because God has made us in his image and has burdened our consciences with a moral law, which serves to give witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, and will serve to judge those who finally reject the gospel of Christ.  We would not have fought for the end of slavery and racism were it not for God’s moral law.  We could not hope for a productive economy unless we had some idea of ethical business practices.  These ideas and hopes come from our Creator, who does all things so that we might see how great he is.  Preaching points to God’s greatness in a way that politics cannot.  Preachers may appeal directly to the consciences of people by explaining to them the context of creation, the reason for suffering and evil, and the hope that God is both just and the justifier of those who hope in Christ.  The preacher’s words pronounce both a judgment and a blessing, depending on the faithlessness or faithfulness of the one who hears.
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