Give to Caesar What is Caesar’s, and to God What Is God’s (Mark Sermon 61)
September 17, 2023 | Andy Davis
Supremacy of Christ, Government & Authority
Jesus exposed the plot to kill Him through a question on taxation and affirmed it is lawful to support the government, but also it is essential to obey God's commands.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 12 as we continue this incredible journey through the Gospel of Mark. From the beginning of church history, Christians have had an uneasy and challenging relationship with secular government. It was Caesar's governor, Pontius Pilate, who ordered the crucifixion of our Lord, and it was Roman soldiers that nailed Jesus to the cross. But the awestruck Roman centurion who carried out Pilate's orders gave this stunning statement about Jesus as He died. Mark 15:39, "Surely this man was the son of God." Soon afterward, it was a godly Roman centurion, Cornelius, who began the gathering of Gentile converts to Christ by his repentance and faith in Christ, preached by the apostle Peter. The greatest apostle of them all, Paul, was both a Christian and a Roman citizen, and Paul frequently claimed the benefits of Roman citizenship and used the advantages of the Roman Empire, the transportation system, the commerce of the Roman Empire to spread the gospel. Yet in the end, it was the Roman Caesar Nero that ordered Paul's execution.
The New Testament constantly commands willing submission to the government. Yet it was the government that savagely persecuted Christians and murdered Christians for the first three centuries of church history. Then the Emperor Constantine declared himself to be a Christian in the year 312, but that declaration eventually brought a wedding of church and state that it's not hard to argue, was nearly ruinous for the church of Jesus Christ. It required a massive reformation of the church twelve centuries later. In many nations around the world, it is the government that is the bitterest enemy of the gospel, hunting down godly Christians and their pastors, incarcerating them, persecuting, even killing them. Yet in America, there has been for well over 200 years a mostly comfortable relationship between Christianity and secular government, and many godly Christians have had a massive influence in the governmental life of our nation over that history. Because of that, some have even gone so far as to call America a Christian nation because of the pervasive influence of Christianity on our nation's government and history.
However, recently this comfortable relationship between the genuine Christian Church and secular government has begun to decay. It's become clear that our surrounding culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity, and therefore many elected officials that represent those people are bolder and more aggressive and speaking slanderous, even blasphemous words against Christ. Many recent policies are directly contrary to biblical truth and put Christians consistently in a difficult place, in a bind in the workplace. The question stands before us as it has for ages, how exactly should a Christian relate to government?
In our text today, Jesus finds a way to elude a trap that's set for him and begins a significant answer to this deeply divisive issue with the principle that you just heard read. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s." In that one statement, we're not going to find a comprehensive answer to the problem of the relationship between Christians and government, but we're going to take a significant step forward in understanding how Jesus saw both sides of that equation.
I. An Attack Plotted and Executed
We see here in this text, an attack plotted and executed by Jesus' enemies. Look at verse 13, “Later, they, [his enemies] sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words." It is the final week of Jesus' life. We're in Mark's Gospel and there's just one conflict after another, leading up eventually to his condemnation and his execution on the cross. We saw two weeks ago the parable of the wicked tenant farmers that refused to give the owner his due, and the parable that Jesus walked through, culminating in the text that I preached on last week, “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” The Lord has done this and is marvelous in our eyes. We talked about the builders being the leaders of the nation, the movers and shakers, the governing officials there of the Jewish nation.
In verse 12, it says they, these enemies, looked for a way to arrest him because they knew that He had spoken this parable against them, but they were afraid of the crowd. So they left him and went away, but their hatred for Jesus burned hotter than ever before. Their fears of the crowd, however, and of the Romans and losing their position with the Romans was boxing them in. They had to become sly and plot some devious way to trap Jesus so that they could get him killed, which is what they wanted. So they plotted against him. In Matthew's account, Matthew 22:15 it says, "The Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.” They took counsel together, they made some kind of devious plot here.
Now, as you think about it, there'd be two ways of killing Jesus, getting rid of him. They could do it directly themselves by force or they could do it by law, by legal means. If they wanted to dispense with Jesus by legal means, by law, they had a problem because He had to be made a criminal in the eyes of Rome for the Romans would not allow the Jews to execute anyone. They had no authority to put a man to death. The Romans for their part had no interest in Jewish religious controversies at all, so Jesus' claim to be the Son of God, while blasphemous to the Jewish leaders, would've meant nothing to the Romans. They wouldn't have given it the time of day. Jesus had to be made a criminal in the eyes of the state, in the eyes of Rome.
If Jesus was espousing rebellion against Roman rule, now that would be something, and saying in general as somebody who is so popular with the people, "We need to stop paying taxes to Caesar." That would've been of intense interest to the Romans, hence the question about taxation. On the other hand, if Jesus's Jewish enemies had wanted to just kill him directly, just rise up against him and kill him, the problem there was the people. The people loved Jesus for the most part. They held that He was a prophet at least. A number of times, Jesus' enemies wanted to seize Jesus. But even in the texts we have here, they want to arrest him, want to lay hands on him, but they're held back by their fear of the people, so they have to strip his protection away. The Jewish people have to turn on Jesus. Somehow they have to manipulate the crowd so that they turn on Jesus and hate him.
If Jesus espoused that they should pay taxes to Caesar, that would do it for a lot of them. The patriotic Jews among them, not just the zealots but just general rank and file Jews would be deeply offended by this open teaching of submission to Rome and paying taxes to Caesar and all that. Hence, I hope you can see the dark genius of this plot laid. They have him, they think either way.
Now, springing this trap, bringing this trap are some strange bedfellows here, the Pharisees and the Herodians. Matthew 22:16, "The Pharisees sent their disciples." So some young zealous Pharisees are sent, dispatched along with the Herodians. The eyebrows really should go up if you realize who these people are. The Pharisees on the one part are Jesus's most vocal and consistent enemies. Vehement, they're known for their passionate commitment to the laws of Moses and their belief that obedience to the laws of Moses was the means by which they could earn their salvation, favor with God and they thought they did keep the laws of Moses. Now along with this, of course, with their fierce commitment to their Jewish heritage, they hated the Roman occupation, the Roman legions. Some Pharisees were even zealots who were secretly plotting rebellion against Rome, wanting to overthrow the Romans. They would've adamantly, passionately rejected the Messiah teaching that we need to pay taxes to Caesar, would've hated that, the Pharisees. The Herodians on the other hand are disciples or followers of King Herod who was a puppet king of the Romans. He derived his power from Roman rule, that's how he was in power, and all the taxes that were gathered, some of them went to Herod and to the Herodians. They actually benefited from the taxes paid to Rome.
How in the world do these people get together? Ordinarily, they would've hated each other, but there's an old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We see this, you see it in the military , as in World War II. How did the UK and the United States get together with the wicked Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin? They had nothing in common in terms of government, but they had a common enemy: Hitler and the Nazis. So we see this kind of thing, these two groups who are normally enemies, they get together, they represent opposite sides of the question on taxation, but they're both committed to one thing and that's getting rid of Jesus. They hated Jesus so they banded together in their desire to get rid of Jesus.
This is a sinister, dark, devious trap that Jesus is encircled with here and they bring it with some flattery. Look at verse 14, “They come to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know that you're a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men because you pay no attention to who they are, but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.’" This should make you feel sick as you read that, you realize who it's coming from. Flattery is very different than encouragement. I hope you realize that. It's good to encourage other people, it’s bad to flatter them. What's the difference? The difference is your motive, and whether you believe what you're saying or not. Flattery is insincere praise given for selfish reasons.
Years ago I was reading the Aesop's Fables and I came across one of the fables, the fox and the crow. It's a fun story. A wily fox sees an ugly crow sitting up on a branch up high with a coveted piece of cheese in its beak. The fox looks up and persuades the crow that it has the most beautiful singing voice of any bird in the forest and that he would love to hear a single song from its golden throat. Filled with pride, the crow opens its beak and begins to squawk its nasty little song while the precious piece of cheese falls to the ground right into the open mouth of the fox. Moral of the story, don’t trust flatterers. The Book of Proverbs says the same thing. Proverbs 29:5, "Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet." That's exactly what Jesus' enemies are doing here, they're flattering him and spreading a net for his feet.
The thing is the words they used are actually true and for us as believers in Christ, we could walk through them and worship Jesus for these things, but they didn't believe them, for the most part. First of all, Jesus was in fact a man of integrity. Never has there ever been a man so much, a man of integrity, a man absolutely committed to the truth, willing to die for the truth and exactly what he appeared to be. There's no deception, no corruption. He wasn't just true, He was truth incarnate. He didn't say, "I am the way and I teach the truth." He said, "I am the way and I am the truth and I am the life." He is truth incarnate. That's who He was, but they didn't believe this. They actually believed that He was a deceiver, teaching false doctrines. Jesus actually did teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. He perfectly spoke the words of his heavenly Father. No one has ever taught more pure and perfect doctrine than Jesus. He did teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. But again, they didn't believe this. They believed He was a heretic, a false teacher.
"Jesus actually did teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. He perfectly spoke the words of his heavenly Father. No one has ever taught more pure and perfect doctrine than Jesus. He did teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. But again, they didn't believe this. They believed He was a heretic, a false teacher."
The next statement they make, "We know that you aren't swayed by men since you pay no attention to who they are, but you just say your convictions no matter who you're talking to." They actually did believe that, and it actually was true. Jesus wasn't concerned at all with the person He was talking to in terms of any fear He would have. He wasn't afraid of Pontius Pilate, He wasn't afraid of Annas, He wasn't afraid of crowds, He wasn't afraid of anybody ever. He taught what He believed. He didn't look at the individual's face, that’s literally the expression. He wasn't moved by the face, the appearance, the position, it didn't intimidate him at all. Nowadays, politicians are constantly governing by opinion polls. They stick their finger in the wind and try to find out the prevailing opinion, and then they'll make their judgments based on that. Jesus never did that. He had zero fear. He's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He's the judge of all the earth, and He knew it. No fear.
Now, as I said, Jesus' enemies actually did believe this about him and they were counting on it. You understand they're counting on Jesus just saying what He thinks here. They are wanting to trap him in his words so they come, the trap sprung. They say, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t?" He was stuck so they thought. If Jesus says, "No, we should not pay taxes to Caesar,” how long do you think it would've taken them to go tell Pontius Pilate? I mean it would have been later that hour that he would've heard about it. But if on the other hand Jesus says, "We should pay taxes to Caesar." He's surrounded right there in the temple area by hundreds of people that are listening to every word He says. He would've lost a lot of those patriotic Jews right there and then. So either way, it was a trap designed to get Jesus killed.
II. Jesus Exposes Their Hypocrisy
Jesus begins by exposing their hypocrisy. Look at verse 15, “Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’” Now it's one thing to have an instinct about hypocrisy or an instinct about flattery. It's another thing to actually know the motives of another human being's heart and Jesus is omniscient. John 2:25 says, "Jesus doesn't need any testimony about a man because he knows what's in a man.” He knows what's inside someone's heart. It’s like when He spoke to Nathaniel, He knew that Nathaniel was a man of integrity and he was a true Israelite. “How do you know that?” Nathaniel asked. "I saw you while you were under the fig tree.”[ John 1]. Jesus knows people. He knows their hearts because He's omniscient. He understands what they're trying to do and He evades their trap.
Now how in the world is He going to get out of this one? You've already read the text so you know how He gets out of it, but it's really quite remarkable. First of all, fundamental to this whole exchange is that they do not understand who He is. They don't understand who they're dealing with. Like most of you do, I like the amazing person incognito kind of story. I mean the Kyrie Irving, Uncle Drew thing. I mean there are a lot of athletes that do this. Eli Manning dressed up, Chris Bryant, Greg Maddox, you don't know who he is. It's like, "Man, this dude's got a good curve ball." That was Greg Maddox. What did you think? But you didn't know. He thought he was the sound guy. I like those things. Or Joshua Bell, the violinist just incognito there with his Stradivarius in a DC subway kiosk playing some amazing pieces. People just walk by and don't even care. That's Joshua Bell right there. Or there's some of these CEO incognito stories, like there's a TV show about this where you don't know that you're dealing with, the CEO of the whole company, and you find out later who you were dealing with.
Isaiah 53 says, “He [Jesus] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." He was despised and rejected so they underestimated him. They thought, "Hey, we're going to trap him. We're going to kind of triangulate and trap him." They're crossing swords, however, with the mind that created the universe. They're playing chess with the infinite God of the universe. You're not going to trick him. You're not going to trap him. Jesus' death could never be an accident, could never be a trap or a trick. He will say in John 10:18, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." “You're not going to trap me. You're not going to trick me into dying here. I'm going to die because I want to die.”
III. Jesus Evades Their Trap
He wanted to teach principles. He wanted to teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. He wanted to talk about taxation. He's not shrinking back from it. So He uses an object lesson. Look at verse 15, "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." They brought it. They bring in this coin, and He's holding it. You can picture him holding up the coin and then He says, "Whose portrait is this?" He points to the coin. "And whose inscription?" The coin itself would've been odious to any religious Jewish person because it would've had an image of Tiberius Caesar proclaiming him to be God. On the obverse, it would've had a picture of Tiberius Caesar in priestly robes like he was some kind of a high priest. It would've been extremely offensive, a violation of a law against idolatry. Anyway, Jesus' enemies are happy to produce the coin. They think He's about to put his head in his own noose with his own words. "Whose portrait is this?” "Caesar's," they answer. Then He gives his answer, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's?"
Jesus changed the word the Jews used. It’s not that we are to give the tax to Caesar as if it was something that didn't really belong to Caesar, but we're going to give it to him anyway. He changes the word in the Greek, it's “give back”, or “render,” with a sense of give what is truly owed to that individual. That's the word. He actually changes the word. The word “render” in this case is a little awkward for us. It’s not a word we would use commonly, and therefore I think it's good to think of it that way. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar." It means to give back to him what is really his. That's the whole point of the object lesson. Do you see it? If you mint the coin, you're in charge, you run the country and therefore you have that authority, give it back to him. It belongs to him. That's what Jesus is saying, but He doesn't stop there.
He says, "Render to God the things that are God's." It's amazing in the first half, "Render to Caesar." Jesus is vigorously, clearly, no doubt about it, upholding the very government that very soon will execute him and He knows it, and yet there He is upholding the authority of this idolatrous pagan government and the right they have to receive taxes. He upholds it. But that second statement, "Render to God the things that are God's." We'll spend eternity understanding it and doing it.
The reaction to this is that they're astonished when they heard it, they were amazed. [Matthew 22:22] They left them and went away. I would think bad move, be astonished and fall on your face and worship him. How about that? They're impressed, they're amazed, probably a little frustrated, they're not going to be able to do anything with that statement, and they walk away. Instead, they should have loved him and worshiped him and believed in him.
IV. What We Must Render to Caesar
Let's go back and try to understand this. What must we render to Caesar and what must we render to God? How do we understand that? First of all, taxes. I know, I know, but I'm not going to be up here saying you don't need to pay your taxes. You do need to pay your taxes. Jesus says so. We need to pay taxes, and the reason is that you are supporting, you're paying the salaries of God's servants who are governing in the language of Romans 13, "The authorities that exist have been established by God." God set them up, so of course the Son of God is going to uphold them.
Daniel 4:17 says, "The most high is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men." That's Nebuchadnezzar's statement, it's absolutely true. That means that Caesar's power, Rome's power, came from God. It's not an accident. Furthermore, and this would've really stung for patriotic Jews, Caesar's power is just in a line of Gentile overlords that were there as a direct judgment on the Jews for not keeping the law of Moses. That's why the Romans had control of the Promised Land. It's the very thing that God had said through Moses in Deuteronomy He would do. They're getting the Promised Land on condition of their obedience to the laws of God and the laws of Moses. It's the condition. If they do not keep his laws, He's going to use Gentile armies to evict them. It's in the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32. It's a clear prediction that that's what He's going to do. He's going to make them jealous," he said, "by people that are not a people." It's a very clear statement. He's predicted ahead of time what they're going to do.
This is not an accident. It's not something He didn't know. From the Babylonian exile through the Medo-Persians, through the Greeks and now the Romans, it’s been a series of Gentile overlords that were direct judgments by God on the Jews for violating the laws of God. He specifically judged Jews who refused to submit to the Gentiles. Read about it in Ezekiel 17. He's very angry with them that they're not submitting to Babylon. It’s very surprising. I mean do you think those things were taught much among the Zealots and among the Pharisees and all? I don't think those themes were lifted up much, but it was clearly true. Jesus called it the “Times of the Gentiles.”
Ezra knew it. When a small remnant of Jews came back from the exile of Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple, Ezra said these things. Ezra 9:7, "Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings as it is today." That's it. That's why this is happening says Ezra. “But now for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in a sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia, allowing us to return and rebuild the city in the temple.” That's what he's saying. Ezra understood it. The patriotic Jews, the Zealots who wanted to rebel against Rome were forgetting the sins of their fathers and God's just judgment against them.
In addition, they were forgetting the benefits of wise Roman government, and there were many. The Roman conquest of the Mediterranean world brought with it tremendous advantages and unification. They united that part of the world in something called the “Pax Romana,” the “Roman peace." This meant that as long as a conquered country accepted the Roman yoke, accepted Roman rule, they pretty much could live out their whole lives in peace free from warfare. That's a big advantage back then. You're not going to have raiders coming in and taking your crops. The Romans were excellent at long-term stability. They used local leaders and regional kings to keep the peace. They allowed freedom of religion within a certain measure and guaranteed a semblance of justice for the people. They established commerce, roads, a economic system where some people became pretty prosperous in that system. As with any reasonable government, they protected its people from rampant crime, from anarchy, from armed mobs roaming the streets. They brought stability and order and daily peace to life.
And so it is today, the benefits of government today, Romans 13:4 says, "The ruler is God's servant to do you good." 2 verses later, Romans 13:6, "This is also why you pay taxes for the authorities are God's servants who give their full time to governing," and because they give their full time, they need to be paid. That's their salary, so it's right to pay taxes. God's servants and government do you good. They promote peace and public order. They establish and uphold a system of justice. They punish evildoers. They protect people from military threats. They promote health and prosperity by roads, infrastructure, common economy, all of these things. There are many benefits.
By contrast, I think the worst possible situation there could be, I've thought about this, it's debatable whether it's tyranny, dictatorship or anarchy. I think anarchy is worse. It's not like there aren't going to be any people trying to control that situation. You look at, for example, the reign of terror during the French Revolution or you look at Somalia for example, from 1991 to 2006. There was no permanent government in Somalia, it was just anarchy. What would it have been like to live in Somalia in 2000? You couldn't go out of your home really. There’re roving bans of gun-wielding young men that gun you down, steal things from you. It was horrible. There are all kinds of markers of what life was like in Somalia in terms of infant mortality, in terms of disease, in terms of education, literacy, adult literacy rates. All that plummeted, it was horrible.
But we owe to government more than just the payment of taxes. The scripture says there's other things. We owe honor. We owe honor to governing officials. 1 Peter 2:17, "Show proper respect to everyone, love the brotherhood of believers. Fear God, honor the King." There's a certain respect that goes to governing officials. We owe obedience as far as we're able. Romans 13:1. It says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established." The authorities that exist have been established by God.
In our government system, we also, I think, owe wise participation. We're able to take advantage of being, for those of us that are, American citizens, who are able to participate in government, able to vote out officials that we think have policies we disagree with. We're able to debate them, raise up questions, concerns, et cetera. You look at the way Paul behaved nine times in the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is referred to as a citizen of Rome. He had that Roman citizenship card in his back pocket and he's going to pull it out at some key moments, like one time when they were stretching him out to beat him. He says, "Is it lawful for you to beat a Roman citizen who hasn't even been condemned?" The Roman guard at that point pull back and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are we doing here?" Paul used that Roman citizenship card. It was his Roman citizenship and it was his appealing to Caesar, which was his right to do as Roman citizen that enabled him to go to Rome and preach the gospel to Caesar.
For us, it's a matter of voting, participation, jury duty. Also, many godly Christians, as I mentioned at the beginning of my sermon, actively participate as elected officials or participate with government, federal, state and local officials. Throughout history, Christians have used their convictions to be salt and light in those settings. Very much like Daniel in Babylon where he was the third-highest ruler in the kingdom. He's able to do that.
What else do we owe to government? We owe prayer. We need to pray for governing officials. 1 Timothy 2: 1-2, "I urge then first of all that request prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." So pray those things. Go to 1 Timothy 2 whenever some elected official from the President on down, even to local government does something that really irritates you. I would say first and foremost, go to 1 Timothy 2: 1-2, read the text and then pray for them. Pray for them. Paul goes on in the next two verses to imply we should be praying for their salvation. 1 Peter 2: 3-4, "This is good and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth."
Friends, think of it this way. If the tyrant Nebuchadnezzar could be, as I believe, genuinely converted, so that he writes incredible worship to almighty God at the end of Daniel 4, I do expect to see him in heaven. If a guy like that who's running the world, can be converted, God can convert anyone. We pray because God desires all men to be saved and just because they are leading, are leaders, a prime minister, a dictator, whatever, doesn't mean that they can't be converted.
But there are limits, aren't there, to our obedience? There should be limits. When government commands something contrary to the Word of God we need to resist. For example, in the Book of Acts, the governing officials there, the Jewish government, the Sanhedrin, forbad Peter and John from preaching the gospel. "We forbid you from speaking the name of Jesus anymore." Just shortly before that, Jesus had given the Great Commission, right before He ascended to Heaven, to preach the gospel in all the world. So who are you going to listen to? They knew who they were going to listen to. They said, "Judge for yourselves, whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God, for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
A Christian should still do this disobedience with a respectful attitude. I think we see this with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and also Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace were respectful to Nebuchadnezzar still. How do I know that? I mean it's important don't you think for governments to make laws that are enforceable? That's why I say no government can ever make a law against coveting because they can't enforce it. Well, here's the most unenforceable command ever. They're in the fiery furnace, miraculously sustained by the hand of God, and Nebuchadnezzar shouts "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come out.” Suppose they said, "Come and get us." What's he going to do? His soldiers burned to death throwing them in there. It's unenforceable. But that wasn't their attitude. There was nothing immoral about the command to come out. There was something immoral about the command to bow down and worship an idol. You've got to distinguish. It’s the same thing with Daniel in Daniel 6. It was immoral to be commanded not to pray to any God except the emperor. Daniel disobeyed it. He continued to pray to God, and they threw him in the lion's den, but he was still respectful to the emperor.
Romans 13 presents government as a servant of God. Revelation 13 presents government in its final state as a direct servant of Satan. No doubt about it. The dragon is Satan and he's behind the beast from the sea, who is the Antichrist. It's one thing to be demon possessed, what it's like to be Satan possessed?I believe that is the final form of human government on Earth, and in that final form during the reign of the Antichrist, which is that one world government that I believe is coming, all the nations of the earth are going to bow down to this one individual. It's the final form of human government. One of the indicators of submission to that wicked ruler will be the mark of the beast. It’s very plain that if you receive it, you'll spend eternity in hell [Revelation 14]. So none of the elect ,Jesus said, will be deceived and none of the elect will receive the mark of the beast. That's overt rebellion against the world government.
V. What Must We Render to God
What must we render to God? I'm going to table a full discussion of this to three sermons I'm going to preach on the first and greatest commandment, but here's what you owe God. You owe it to him to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to show your love by your total absolute obedience to him. That's what you owe him. You owe him your worship, you owe him your heart, you owe him everything. As a matter of fact, your rendering to Caesar is a subset of what you owe to God. You do it because God's told you to do it. Everything you give to God.
Governing officials need to be careful and not seek to be gods themselves. It's always that temptation, and that's what's going to happen with the Antichrist. He's going to want to be, he's going to demand to be worshiped. This is that tendency where governing officials get filled with themselves and filled with ego and they seek to be worshiped. That is not something we render to Caesar. That's something we give to God alone - worship. Render means to give back as rightful due, ascribe to the Lord, Psalm 29, "Ascribe to the Lord almighty men, ascribe to the Lord the glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name." That's what you owe him. Give him the glory that his name deserves. Then realize if render means give back, everything in the universe is going back to God. From him and through him and to him are all things, everything's getting rendered back to God ultimately.
Therefore, everything that we do, whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God. We Christians can look forward to a perfect government yet to come. We're looking ahead to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Kingdom of Christ described in many places. One of my favorite is this Isaiah 9: 6-7, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders." Think about that. "And he'll be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over its kingdom, establishing and upholding it. From that time on and forever, the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
That was going to be the end of the sermon until this morning. Then I wrote this extra page, and I want to read it to you. I believe many Christians living in America today are intensely disappointed with what's happening with our government, and I share your disappointment. Many Christians have expectations of government that I am worried about, frankly, I'm concerned about it. Those expectations are not being realized. And as they look ahead, they wonder how can we get those expectations realized? So I wanted to just say a few things about the difference between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of Christ. There's just a significant difference between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of Christ.
How do they advance? How do the kingdoms of this world advance? How does the Kingdom of Christ advance? How are they governed? How do the kingdoms of this world, how are they governed, and how is the Kingdom of Christ governed? I mean right now? How do they handle opposition? How do they handle enemies? How do they handle opponents? With the kingdoms of this world, it is the compulsion of the sword. You oppose, you die, ultimately. Whether you're criminal or if you're taking up a sword against the government or an opposing an enemy army, it's the sword, the compulsion of the sword. With the Kingdom of Christ, it's the compulsion of truth and love. That's what we do with our enemies, we love them and we give them the truth.
"With the kingdoms of this world, it is the compulsion of the sword. You oppose, you die, ultimately. …With the Kingdom of Christ, it's the compulsion of truth and love. That's what we do with our enemies, we love them, and we give them the truth."
Therefore, it is force, physical force even, compulsion by force on the one side versus persuasion and love on the other. Or if I could keep it simple, the kingdoms of this world advance, get larger by killing, and the Kingdom of Christ gets larger by its subjects dying. It's very different. Therefore, there are two verses in my mind. John 18:36, "Jesus said to Pilate, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were my servants would fight for me.’" Think about that. That's what it means to have a kingdom of this world. My servants would take up the sword and fight for me. But Jesus said earlier in John 12:24, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit."
That's why I say the kingdom of this world, kingdoms of this world advance by killing and the Kingdom of Christ advances by us being willing to die. Maybe not physically, but you die to yourself, you die to what's best for you, you share the gospel, you're willing to serve. And in some cases, some martyrs actually did lay down their lies. The blood of martyrs was seed for the church, they're willing to die for Christ.
Therefore, I go back to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark as I conclude, Mark 1:15, Jesus said when He began his preaching ministry, "The time is at hand. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel." That's how we enter the Kingdom of Christ, by repenting of our sins and believing the good news that God sent his son to die for us under the wrath of Caesar, under the wrath of the Sanhedrin, to die for us that we might have eternal life. So repent and believe the good news, enter the kingdom, live that life for his glory.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for Jesus's amazing statement here. I don't think we've even begun to scratch the surface of what it means to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." But I pray, oh Lord, that you would just teach us, oh Lord, help us to understand government biblically, help us to fulfill our duties properly, help us to look ultimately to the Kingdom of Christ, while we do not shrink back from influence, salt and light influencing policies as we're able. God give us wisdom for the facing of this hour. We thank you for the gospel. Thank you that Jesus Christ offers full forgiveness of sins by his death and his resurrection. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.