Apr 19th, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 74 of The Berean Manifesto brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill, and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about illiterate idiots.
With the advent of Covid-19 the world saw governmental encroachments on personal freedoms that brings to mind the Silver Purchase Act of 1934 or Lincoln’s sweeping restrictions of constitutional rights during the civil war. It hasn’t gotten quite that bad, but there are those who have tried to frame our current state as something far worse than it is.
Despite the voice of wisdom crying out in the streets, some churches have continued to have face to face public services. While others have filed lawsuits against their local governments for dictating that church services should only take place online. For Christians, through scripture, we foresee a day when our faith will be outlawed by one worldwide government. The dilemma, the question that has always been lingering in the back of our minds is, where to draw a line in the sand. We’re inspired by the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow down to the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. We steel our faith with the story of Daniel continuing to pray three times a day when that same king declared that no one could pray to any God other than the king. The problem with drawing strength from these stories is that the heroes miraculously survived. Making that strength drawn from these stories false, a false strength, and as children that was fine. Baby steps to building true faith. As adults, we need to, borrowing from 1 Corinthians 13:11, think like adults and put away childish things.
John the Baptist, was beheaded for standing up for his faith. Stephen, was stoned to death for standing up for his faith. James, was executed for standing up for his faith. Philip, was stoned for standing up for his faith. Barnabas, was burned alive for standing up for his faith. Mark, dragged to death for standing up for his faith. Peter, was crucified upside down for standing up for his faith. Paul, beheaded for standing up for his faith. Silas, scourged and them executed for standing up for his faith. Andrew, was crucified. Bartholomew, was tortured and beheaded. Thomas, was tortured and thrown in a fiery furnace where unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he did burn to death. Luke, was hung. Timothy, was stoned to death. All of these fathers of our faith, those who founded, wrote, shaped, and blazed the trail of what we know of as Christianity all died horrible deaths while standing up for The Faith. So at what point, do we declare a governmental edict to be a breach of Christian ethics?
We have to bear in mind Romans 13:1-5 CSB says, “ Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.  So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval.  For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.  Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience.”
This passage flies in the face of the ideal of democratic supremacy that most of the world has subscribed to. No, that’s underselling it. This passage directly exposes the idolatry of everything that the religion of nationalism and its denomination of anti-nationalism hold sacred. The adherents to this religion take offense to the implications of this passage in that it not only means that God alone, without any help from them, chooses who presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings are, but it also means that God was responsible for the placement in authority of the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. It also means that whoever is in governmental authority over you, right now, was placed there by God and no number of memes undermining them or their policies on social media are ever justified.
The answer then is that the time to declare a governmental edict to be a breach of Christian ethics is when the encroachment is worth dying over. The world will call you crazy, the world will call you an idiot, but you’ll be in good company. In Acts 4 Peter and John are on trial for preaching about the resurrection of Jesus and healing a disabled man. In verse 13 it says, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (*Sarcasm Alert*) Don’t you love how elegant Bible translations phrase things sometimes? (*Alert Concluded*) That phrase, “uneducated and untrained men,” is actually more literally stated as, “illiterate idiots.” When they observed the boldness of these illiterate idiots they were amazed and recognized they had been with Jesus. Amazed because there was no theological or logical flaw to be found in their argument.
Jesus surrounded himself with illiterate idiots for the same reason that God didn’t remove the thorn in Paul’s side. 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 CSB says, “ For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me,  especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself.  Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
As Christians, we are never stronger than when we are moving in ways that require full faith and reliance on the strength of Christ. Never stronger than when we are forced to rely fully on God for every breath. Most of you within the reach of this podcast, have never known a life where you had to fully rely on God. The current discomfort you find yourself in will pass.
If push comes to shove and all your religious rights are restricted or completely prohibited, be the illiterate idiot, lean into the Spirit, be encouraged by Galatians 5:22-23 CSB. It says, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”