Sermon #147 Luke Sermons
Title: Of God and Caesar
Text: Luke 20:19-26
Subject: Believers and Government
Date: Sunday Evening — March 27, 2005
Tape # Y-66a
Readings: Merle Hart and Larry Brown
The title of my message tonight is — Of God and Caesar. I want to talk to you about our responsibility as citizens in this land in which we are blessed of God to live and serve him. But there are several important things I want you to see along the way. Our text is Luke 20:19-26. Immediately after our Savior finished giving the parable of the vineyard in verses 9-18, we read, beginning at verse 19…
(Luke 20:19-26) “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. (20) And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. (21) And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: (22) Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? (23) But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? (24) Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. (25) And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. (26) And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.”
I. The first thing I want to show you is the alarming fact that men and women who ultimately perish under the wrath of God often have fleeting moments of what might be called conviction by the Word of God.
So, before we look at our text, go back up to verse 16. AS soon as our Lord declared the impending wrath and judgment of God that was upon them, the Jews were pricked in their consciences because they knew their guilt.
(Luke 20:16) “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”
This ought to be alarming to you who persist in resisting the Holy Ghost. As with these lost, self-righteous, religious men, there are moments in the lives of unregenerate men and women, when they are pricked in their consciences by the law of God and compelled to acknowledge their guilt. But legal fear, the fear of divine judgment is not, in itself Holy Spirit conviction. Legal fear soon passes, as it did with these men.
Holy Spirit conviction is conviction that cannot be resisted and never passes. Holy Spirit conviction only increases. It never fades. Holy Spirit conviction is conviction that involves more than a sense of guilt and the terror of hell, though that certainly is a part of it. Holy Spirit conviction arises not from the terror of the law, but from the good news of the gospel. Holy Spirit conviction is the conviction of God-given faith wrought in the heart by the revelation of Christ in us (Zech. 12:10; 13:1; John 16:8-11).
(Zechariah 12:10) “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
(Zechariah 13:1) “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
(John 16:8-11) “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
Our Merciful Savior
II. Now, look at verses 17 and 18, and adore our great, gracious, and merciful Savior.
(Luke 20:17-18) “And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? (18) Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
What a delightful picture! As soon as our Savior heard their cry of anguish and fear, he looked upon them in tenderness, pointed them to the Scriptures with which they were very familiar, declaring that the Christ of whom they read in the Book of God every sabbath day has come. And looking forward to the day when it would be finished before their eyes, announced that his work was accomplished. — “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?” Then, our merciful Redeemer called these men to fall upon him in true repentance and be broken, saying, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken.”
Before I move on, let me follow my Master’s example. Come, fall on the Foundation Stone, Christ Jesus. He has become the Head of the Corner, God has highly exalted him to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins to poor, needy sinners, because he has finished his work.
· Fall on him, and you shall be broken in repentance.
· Fall on him, and you shall be lifted in forgiveness.
In the same breath, our Savior warned these men that if they persisted in their self-righteousness and unbelief, he would surely fall on them in his wrath and grind them to powder. — “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Flying in the teeth of mercy, these men hardened their hearts, like Pharaoh of old, and refused to trust the Savior. They refused to fall on him in faith, choosing death rather than life. With the Word of God in their hands and the Son of God standing before them, they stood firm as enemies of God’s Christ in their hearts.
· Oh, what aggravated condemnation they stirred against themselves!
· Oh, may God the Holy Spirit save you from such folly and graciously force you now, by irresistible mercy to fall on Christ!
III. Now, let’s look at our text. In verses 19 and 20, we see how utterly enraged self-righteous religionists become when confronted with the claims of Christ.
The claims of Christ will either break you or harden you. When you are confronted with the gospel of God’s free, saving grace in Christ, you will either be broken in repentance or hardened in self-righteousness. You cannot hear the gospel and be neutral. You will either takes sides with God against yourself, or you will take sides with yourself against God. These proud, self-righteous religious men, enraged by the word of the sovereign Christ, words by which they had been exposed to themselves, decided it was time to kill him.
(Luke 20:19-20) “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. (20) And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.”
The old proverb goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” But the fury of a woman scorned is a sweet consolation compared to the rage of men whose righteousness is scorned by God!
The gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ is always offensive to lost religious people. That is the way it was then. And that is the way it is now. The offense of the cross has not ceased (Gal. 5:11). Here is the cause of offence…
· Divine Sovereignty puts us all entirely in God’s hands. That offends man’s pride.
· Total Depravity declares man to be basically evil, not good. That offends man’s righteousness.
· Unconditional Election makes salvation to be a matter wholly determined by the immutable will of God. That offends man’s most treasured god — his will!
· Limited Atonement makes salvation to be merited by and secured by Christ alone. That offends man’s high esteem of his own works.
· Irresistible Grace makes the new birth, repentance, and faith to be the works and gifts of God the Holy Spirit. That offends man’s arrogant sense of power, his high sense of personal divinity.
· Perseverance of the Saints makes salvation, grace, and eternal life entirely dependent upon the work of God. That offends man’s love of his own righteousness.
IV. Those who are our most bitter foes often come against us as a flattering friends rather than enraged enemies (v. 21).
In verse 20 we read that the chief priests and scribes sent out spies who “feigned themselves just men,” who pretended to be honest and sincere. But their purpose was to entrap the Lord Jesus and find a pretentious excuse for having him executed by the Roman government. Read their flattering speech in verse 21.
(Luke 20:21) “And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly.”
What these men stated was completely true, and they knew it was true; but they hated him and his doctrine. — It is not at all unusual for liars to speak truth with lying hearts!
· “Thou teachest rightly.” They acknowledged that what he had just said concerning himself and them was right!
· “Neither acceptest thou the person of any.” — They asserted that our Savior is not blinded by the outward appearance of men.
· “But teachest the way of God truly.”
Their words sounded good and admiring. An ignorant bystander might have thought, “These men are sincerely interested in truth.” But their words were nothing but an outward covering for inward hatred. They were wolves who put on the sheep’s clothing for convenience, under the insane notion of deceiving the Lord of Glory! As the Psalmist put it, their “words were smoother than butter, but war was in their heart.” Their “words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords” (Ps. 55:21).
Let us be warned. If you would be wise, you will pay no attention to flattering tongues. Many have been ruined by the world’s seductive kindness, who stood strong and firm against the world’s persecutions.
(Psalms 12:2) “They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.”
(Proverbs 26:28) “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”
Sweet things cause more sickness than bitter things. The warm, balmy sunshine of a bright summer day is far more likely to make a man shed his protective armor than the freezing blasts of winter. The devil is never so dangerous as when he appears to be our friend. And the world is never so dangerous to our souls as when it smiles and flatters.
There is never a lack of people who profess with their lips to love Christ, while in heart they deny him. There are always some, who “by good words and fair speeches,” will attempt to deceive. God’s servants in every age and in every place have to deal with men like Diotrephes (Rom. 16:18; Prov. 26:23). Mark such men and avoid them. Do not indulge them.
(Proverbs 26:23) “Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.”
(Romans 16:18) “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
V. I cannot fail to show you once more the sweet consolation of God’s overruling providence.
These enraged, self-righteous, religious men pursued their lust with eagerness. They wanted to have the Lord of Glory executed with haste. The Holy Spirit tells us that it was “the same hour.” Yet, the Scriptures teach us that every minute circumstance which attended the crucifixion and death of our blessed Redeemer was performed precisely according to the will of God, according to his own, sovereign, eternal purpose of grace, to accomplish our salvation by the sacrifice of his darling Son (Isa. 53:10; John 19:10-11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).
(Isaiah 53:10) “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
(John 19:10-11) “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? (11) Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”
(Acts 2:23) “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
(Acts 4:27-28) “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, (28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
God and Caesar
VI. In verses 22-26 as our Master, our Lord, and King, and Savior answers the question of these hypocrites concerning paying taxes to Caesar, he teaches us that in all matters of civil law, it is our duty to be obedient to civil government.
(Luke 20:22-26) “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? (23) But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? (24) Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. (25) And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. (26) And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.”
The attempt of these men in the instance here mentioned, was for the purpose of bringing an accusation against him to the Roman government. The Jews at that time were under bondage to Rome; and they utterly hated Caesar and the Romans. The whole nation was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, whom they thought would deliver them from their modern-day Babylonian Captivity.
Yet, in their hatred of the Messiah whom they claimed to love, they hatched their crafty scheme to entrap him. No matter how the Savior answered, they were sure they would snare him with his words.
· If he confessed the authority of the Roman government, they thought he would lose his popularity among the people, whom they feared.
· If he denied the Romans’ right to tribute, they would have hurriedly taken him before Pontius Pilate, to have him condemned.
· These are the men spoken of prophetically in Psalm 22:12.
(Psalms 22:12) “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.”
But our blessed Savior not only foiled their craftiness, he seized the opportunity to teach us what our attitude ought to always be toward civil government. The Holy Spirit gives us the commentary onhis words in Romans 13.
(Romans 13:1-7) “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (2) Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: (4) For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (5) Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (6) For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. (7) Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
I do not approve of many things, indeed, of most things promoted and encouraged by the institutions of government in our country. I am thankful for the nation, love it, and am willing to fight to the death to defend the land and liberty God has given us. But those laws of the land that tend to destroy the very fabric of society, I do not and cannot condone.
However, wherever the laws of the land do not demand that I violate the Word of God, I am and must be obedient to the laws of civil government. We must be obedient to God, regardless of cost or consequence, even when law forbids our obedience (Acts 4:18-20). But, where Caesar does not demand disobedience to Christ, we must render unto Caesar the things that are his.
This is something that I think about and pray about a good, as I am sure you do, particularly as we see the current trend of legislation, promoting...
· Promiscuity of every imaginable measure: — Homosexuality — Fornication — Adultery!
· The Murder of Babies and People Considered No Longer Fit to Live!
What are our responsibilities as believers toward civil government? Our divinely ordained responsibility to our government can be summarized in three words: pay, pray, and obey!
It has been said, “Only two things are sure: death and taxes; and of the two, taxes is the more painful!” There are many who for various reasons, usually religious fanaticism, consider it their duty not to pay taxes. The IRS takes a slightly different view of the matter. Even though the tax code talks about “voluntary compliance,” I personally know some who have wound up in prison because they chose not to pay their taxes. But our concern, our only concern as believers is this. — What does God have to say to us about paying taxes to our government? — “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Someone might say, “But Caesar and the Romans were not like our governmental leaders or our country.” And you are right. Caesar and the Romans were indescribably more abominably wicked (Read Romans 1).
· Idolatry was rampant among the Romans and promoted by the Roman government. — Caesar demanded that men worship him as a god!
· Abortion was as commonplace as breakfast!
· Immorality of every imaginable variety was considered morality, and opposition to it was considered treasonous hatred!
Not only are we to pay our lawful taxes, (I mean by that taxes required by law, not taxes we consider lawful!), our God teaches us to pray for Caesar. In giving instructions for the local church to the young pastor Timothy, Paul wrote…
(1 Timothy 2:1-3) “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (2) For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.”
· “Prayers” are addresses made to our God in the name of Christ.
· The word “supplications” has the idea of praying for God to meet the need of another.
· “Intercessions” are prayers offered with compassion.
· “Giving of Thanks” is the expressed gratitude to God for his good providence in giving us the civil leaders he has ordained as “ministers of God to” us. _ We have precisely the rulers we have because God has made them our rulers to minister to us; and they always minister to us, according to the will of our God, even godless, pagan kings (Ezra 7:27; Pro. 16:1; 21:1).
(Ezra 7:27) “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.”
(Proverbs 16:1) “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.”
(Proverbs 21:1) “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”
The Spirit of God is tells us that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving and thanks” are to be made for “all men,” and particularly “for kings and for all who are in authority.” That means that we are, as believers, to pray for our President, for members of Congress and the Supreme Court, for the governor, for our state senators and assemblyman, for our mayor and council members, irrespective of our opinion of these men and women! They need our prayers.
And, what is more, we need to pray for them. We would be far more useful to our nation if we spent more thought, time and energy praying for our civil rulers than we do carping at them.
Paul said, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” — I remind you, Paul was living under a very oppressive government, the very government that executed of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same government that would arrest, torture, and kill untold thousands of his followers. Yet the word from the Lord is very clear: we are to be subject to the governing authorities. We are to obey the laws of the land, for government has been established by God to keep order. In general, it’s the lawbreakers, not the law-abiders, who have reason to fear the government. We may find much about the government at every level with which we take issue, but without the government, there would be chaos. So, yes, we are to obey. That is the rule, obey the government.
But I would remind you of your school days and what you learned from English grammar. There are rules and there are exceptions to most rules. We learned “i before e except after c.” Then we were told to memorize the exceptions. The exceptions do not negate the rules, but they modify them.
Similarly, there are exceptions to the rule of obeying the government. There are times when disobedience is necessary because we answer to a higher authority. I can think of a three obvious examples in Scripture.
· In Daniel’s day, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the king’s golden image, and were cast into the fiery furnace. God’s people were ordered not to pray to their God.
· Daniel, in violation of the law, worshipped the Lord God, refused to obey the king’s decree, and for that was thrown into the lion’s den.
· In the Book of Acts we are told that believers were ordered not to teach the people in the name of Jesus. — “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
When government orders us to do something that violates a clear command of God, we have no choice but to disobey and then be willing to suffer the consequences for Christ’s sake. But disobedience to government is the exception to the rule. We are not to disobey civil law just because we don’t like the laws imposed, or because think they are ridiculous, or even because we are certain that they are base and vile, as many of our laws are at their core. As long as we are not required to disobey our God, we are to obey those who rule over us, supporting our government and praying for our nation. You and I who believe God ought to be the best citizens of the land.
Let me give you a good reason. — We are citizens of another country and servants of another King.
(1 Peter 2:9-17) “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (11) Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (12) Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (13) Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; (14) Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (15) For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: (16) As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (17) Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” — Give Caesar your taxes and your respect. Give God your heart, your devotion, your faith, your confidence, your praise, your reverence, your life!