Lord God, our refuge and strength, and the author of all godliness: Be ready to hear the devout prayers of your Church, and grant that what we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From the Word of the Lord
Philippians 3:17 - 21
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before, and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Matthew 22:15 - 22
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Citizenship in Heaven and Earthly Things
The Christian life is two dimensional. We sojourn on Earth but our sight is on heaven. What binds these two aspects of our existence together is the sovereignty of Christ. Paul and Matthew merge in bringing these two themes together and they are to be entwined as we live out our allotted time in the world and anticipate everlasting life in the presence of God.
Christ is the content of both modes of life. He is our Lord in our day to day experience and our eternal expectation. As believers we know him to be the sum of our two-fold reality - the earthly phase and the heavenly eon. There is the sense in our dual-leveled place of abode, one temporary—this transient world, the other timeless—the world to come, that there is a variation in authority. Here, God rules through human appointment to various forms of civil authority. In eternity God will govern directly and immediately in his majestic supremacy, seen, surrounding and sensed. We glean an understanding of this supremacy, historical and heavenly, performed through the Lord Jesus, from evidence indicated in our two passages of Scripture.
Matthew raises the issue of the authority of Caesar representing the civil administration exerted over communities and countries. The dialogue recorded by the apostle rightly describes the function and rights of human administration – service to the citizenry and the collection of enabling taxation. But there also seems to be an implied irony as well. Jesus points out the power of the state and its possession of permission to raise tribute money: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But strictly speaking the authority and levies gained by Caesar are God’s and Caesar is simply a trustee. Compared to the authority of the Lord Jesus, all human power is trifling. The wicked and conspiratorial band of Pharisees and Herodians had no concept of the Owner and Disposer of all things with whom they were deceitfully dealing.
Courteously, Jesus acknowledged Caesar and his borrowed greatness, but in reality and justice he could have laughed at his vaunted pre-eminence and consigned the portrait to scorn. In reality Caesar has nothing that is not God-given. Nonetheless civil government is an ordinance of God, and even citizens of heaven and the children of the King are to render proper submission and obedience in all matters moral and beneficial. Earthly order and peaceful society is a Christian priority. But, indeed, the believer is law abiding because it pleases his Lord to be such. Beyond the role of human authority to command, the people of God perceive duties to be fulfilled in obeisance to the divine will. To give to God what is God’s requires our all.
Paul in the entire spread of his teaching provides a pattern for the life of faith, namely, the thought that determines attitude and action. It is an internal template ingrafted upon the heart and not an external code dictating outward behavior. According to the apostle our minds must rise above exclusively earthly things, even those matters legitimate for this life. To the fore of our mental life, and its expression through the inclination of the affections, should be the glory of the cross. The stream of our understanding of God flows from the supreme revelation of his being and ways from the deep and wide contemplation of the cross of Christ in its intent, meaning and accomplishment. The cross is the cure of our maladies and the confirmation of our blessedness.
It confers upon us citizenship in heaven, and presents to us the Lord Jesus Christ as our heaven-sent Saviour. This humble, lowly, obedient Victim on our behalf is now exalted to the loftiest pinnacle of divine power and authority. He is seated upon the summit of absolute control over all things celestial and all things created – vast cosmos and speck-like planet of our habitation. Here, we await his second scheduled Advent from the Throne above in order to consummate the history of mankind, dissolve our orbiting sphere, and bring a new heaven and a new earth into one. The crowning message of the two apostles is the splendor of the lovely Lord Jesus in total command of absolutely everything, and the co-author with the Father and the Spirit of the utterly indescribably spectacular universal transformation.