How to Live as a Citizen of Two Kingdoms – Jesus and Paul are our Examples
How sad and ironic that Paul was a better citizen of Rome and Jerusalem than the Roman leaders were of Rome and the Jewish leaders were for God. 27 “But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.” (Acts 24:27) (Felix –compromise and injustice for the sake of political gain.)
Acts 25:8-10: “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know.”
Yet Paul spoke boldly about the “other” Kingdom and King Jesus. We see 1 Peter 3:15-16 clearly lived out by Paul: “But in your hearts set apart Christ (not Caesar) as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (Paul does this so well in these three chapters). But do this with gentleness and respect (note how respectful Paul was in his defense; yet boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus), 16 keeping a clear conscience (see 24:16 and how Paul’s life backed this up), so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Acts 24:3-9: The Jews begin their accusations using a hired attorney flattering Felix the governor: “Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing. 5 For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge him according to our own Law (not true they were beating Paul to death unlawfully). 7 But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands (just the opposite of what really happened), 8 ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so (meaning they joined in on the lies against Paul).” The Jewish leaders spoke maliciously about Paul using lies and slander against him but Paul had lived such an exemplary life both as a Jew and as a Roman citizen that the charges did not stick.
Acts 24:10-16: “When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, 11 since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. 13 Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” The Jews were trying to convince Felix that Paul was a disturber of the peace and Felix and other Roman leaders were charged to keep peace at the expense of their jobs and even their lives. But Paul practiced what he preached about being a good citizen in this world while at the same time telling others about the invisible but real kingdom of God.
In the following Scriptures note how Paul and Jesus speak to both the temporal realm and the eternal realm.
The example of Paul – “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. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience (a spiritual and eternal reason to submit to God’s ordained authorities). 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Rom.13:1-7)
“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (Col. 3:22-25)
“Now the overseer (church leader) must be above reproach, 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders (unbelievers), so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Tim. 3:2, 7)
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
The example of Jesus – “And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them.” (Luke 2:50-51) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1)
“Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:36-37)
“Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:10-11)
Finally, being a good citizen of any country, Rome then or America today, does not exempt us from proclaiming the gospel with our lips not just our lives. Our ultimate allegiance is to King Jesus and He commanded us to preach the gospel to all nations. (Matt. 28:18-20) And He said proclaim the gospel not just live the gospel. In this account we see Paul speak boldly of the resurrection of Jesus and the judgment of God to kings and leaders here in the high places of government and he spoke it to people at all levels of society: “There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” (24:15-16)
We must keep the main thing the main thing and that is not to change a temporal government but to change the eternal destiny of individual people who are headed to a Christless eternity unless they, like Paul, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be born again. “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Chuck Colson, a successful and prominent lawyer and member of Nixon’s cabinet, was not ashamed to tell the world that he was born-again, the title of his first book. Again, we do not do this with pride, but with great humility and respect for the people with whom we share it for “all (including us) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all need a Savior: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
How does the doctrine of the resurrection affect your daily walk with Jesus? How does it affect the truthfulness of our message?
What words speak of the temporal realm and the eternal realm in each of these passages and what is the significance of both?
Luke 2:50-51 and Ephesians 6:1
John 18:36-37 and 19:10-11
1 Timothy 3:2, 7
1 Timothy 2:1-4
What is the “main thing” and how does that apply to being a citizen of heaven?