This is one of the longest words in our languages (and also very hard to say many times fast!).
It, along with its antonym, disestablishmentarianism, is what this post is about.
We live in a time of heightened individualism. Even institutions like the state are now commonly and even brazenly flouted. This tension has been heightened during the pandemic, with some heeding government orders and others protesting or even rebelling against them.
How ought Christians to respond to governments during a pandemic? During church closures?
There is certainly a wide spectrum of opinions on the matter of closures, with some radically wanting to keep things shut and others radically wanting things to open (I’m probably in the middle leaning towards cautious reopening). Wherever your opinion rests, such a reflection raises the question of how Christians should respond to government orders.
Jesus famously, and very helpfully said, in Mt 22:21: give to Caesar [the gov’t] the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s. In other words, there is the kingdom of this world which is ending and the Kingdom of God which has come/ is coming. There are two worlds, two cities; yet Christians live in both and so have a responsibility to God, firstly, but also to authorities whom God has set over us for our good. The general principle is that if the authorities ask anything of us that is contrary to God’s law then we are justified in thoughtfully disobeying; but if they ask us to do something that doesn’t go against God’s law we are called to submit, even when we may not like it. This is the spirit of Ro 13 and 1 Peter 2:13–5.
When it comes to the pandemic and church closures, if only churches were asked to close and not Mosques and Synagogues, then there would be an anti-Christian streak in the order that ought not to be obeyed. However, it is a level playing field with all public gatherings and though my thoughts or your thoughts may be this or that on the subject, whether we find it hard or believe otherwise, the government believes it for our good, it doesn’t contravene God’s law (for we have found creative, though imperfect, ways to fellowship by means of technology) and so we must submit.
But submission, the very word a foul stench in society’s dictionary, ought not to be for the Christian. We are called to gladly submit to God appointed authorities so long as they do not ask of us anything that goes against God’s laws (It is an act of faith/trust): I, as a pastor, submit to Christ; Christians are called to submit to their church elders; wives to husbands; children to fathers and mothers; employees to employers and all to the state; and even to fellow believers. When we are disestablishmentarians our hearts are filled with pride, rebellion, self-centredness, anger… Yet when we joyfully submit in faith to who God has called us to submit to, beginning with Himself, the Spirit produces in us love, peace, contentment and joy.
So whatever and whomever the Lord may be calling us to submit to today, may we do so as Christians cheerfully. And whether it be to governments, employers or churches, may our respect to them and God’s word enhance our reputation to the glory of Christ.
 I’m thinking here of churches that have rebelled against government closure orders. They have lost the respect of civil leaders. When persecution comes for other moral matters, they will not be remembered favourably. However, I pray that as the vast majority of Christians have submitted to these orders, the Lord would use this favourably in our civil leaders eyes when they think about persecuting the respectful and obedient for matters which we cannot agree to their laws, laws that God against God’s laws, that they would think twice and remember how we submitted, for a long time, by forgoing our Lord’s Day and other gatherings, so dear to us, out of obedience to them and our Lord.
This might sound like a very perplexing statement but I believe it is true; allow me to explain.
The Church, made up of baptized believers in Jesus Christ, ought to be an inclusive welcoming community, yet it is at the same time an exclusive, or distinct, body.
Too often Christians fail to appreciate this paradox and opt for one extreme (inclusivity) or the other (exclusivity). Let’s see how this paradox is true, and ought to naturally flow from who we are, taking as our example the teachings of Jesus:
Jesus was inclusive, if by that definition we mean welcoming or not embracing a judgementalism. He didn’t care if the person was the vilest sinner, He sought to be inclusive of everyone, for He had come as the Saviour of the world (in fact He said that He came to save not the “self-righteous” but sinners, Lk 5:32):
Yet, just as Jesus met people where they were, He didn’t desire them to stay there. In fact in the same breadth in which He displayed an inclusive spirit He made some very exclusive statements. His inclusivity serves to build trust for He wants us to exclusively trust in and follow him and there find true inclusion in the exclusive body of Christ, an entry that can only come through trusting in Him alone:
In an age that champion’s unbridled inclusivity this paradox is a paradox indeed.
In an age where Christian writers speak of people needing to “belong before they believe” the call to “believe before you belong” sounds harsh. Yet when it is matched by the inclusive spirit Jesus displayed, the latter loses much of its apparent harshness. We do need to help people feel like they belong, but through that honest welcome, to help them see they must believe if they are to truly belong, belong to Christ and be members of the local body.
That is the paradox of the Church and it is the paradox of her Lord.
*Firstly, let it be said that Job is a book that must be understood in its entirety. It is best to read it all at once even and to recognize that some things—for instance what the friends say—may not be true but serve the book in highlighting what is ultimately true. For a good overview watch this video from the Bible Project.
Was Job real?
Some have suggested that Job never existed, that Job is merely a fictitious story about a man meant to convey eternal truths that are real. If this were the case, Satan’s presence in the story wouldn’t raise so many questions—it would be hypothetical.
However, the rest of the Bible interprets the story as being real. This is the case with Ezekiel (Ezk 14:14) and also James the brother of Jesus (Ja 5:11). So, this doesn’t provide an answer.
It wasn’t Satan but the Satan.
The Hebrew word here means accuser or adversary and is generally used in these ways, not speaking of a person. It could be that this is not Satan but an angel whose role it is to accuse those on earth in the heavenly courtroom—“the accuser.” However the presence of the definitive article, along with other contexts in which it refers to a specific person make it more likely it is to be understood not as a role but a name—THE accuser. Thus, this is Satan as seen in 1 Chr 21:1 and Rev 12:9. That his appearance is out of place and his role fits that of Satan’s generally further supports this.
Did the episode take place in heaven?
Maybe the way around the natural uncomfortableness of seeing God’s arch enemy appear in heaven—a place of holiness—can be resolved by seeing the location of this court as somewhere other than heaven. This is possible. The scene is of a king’s court, where in years past the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of governance were executed through one man, the king. Usually this took place in the throne room of the castle or palace, however, it was also common for there to be an assize, a travelling court throughout the kingdom. Could this be a cosmic assize where the LORD is executing governance in one specific location other than in heaven? After all He is omnipresent.
Two things suggest otherwise. The first is that the courtroom of heaven is the normative location for such events described in the Bible. The second is that when Satan is asked where he has come from his reply is “earth.” This world clearly conveys that the LORD must in fact be holding court in heaven.
Before we decide, two other important details can be noted:
Still, what on earth was Satan doing in heaven? Satan is the head of the rebellion against the LORD. Satan stands for evil and yet Ps 5:4 says “You allow no evil in your presence.” Here lies the dilemma, Satan is there as the epitome of evil, yet God has said this cannot be, yet both are recorded in the Bible—what now?
I would suggest we need to understand “your presence” in the language of the courtroom as meaning—at least one possibility—seriously entertaining. God cannot and will not seriously entertain Satan in his courtroom. He is the Rebel of rebels. He does not belong there as his awkward entrance makes clear. Yet God permits his entrance and between the LORD and his fallen angel a higher battle plays out, one in which God will triumph over Satan through His servant Job. I would suggest this episode may be likened to a good employer who fires a troublesome employee. One day, the employer is having a board meeting or a meeting with supervisors on the workplace floor, and in struts the ex-employee, full of no good. The good employer’s character and wisdom is so great that he is not threatened by this ex-employee who stoops so low. The man is out of place, even permitted to enter by the employers discretion, yet for the manifold declaration of the employers justice and control, he allows even this worthless ex-employee to enter, even scheme, so that in the end it may be shown how utterly foolish he is, and how wonderful the employer is. The employer is not threatened or his goodness impinged and it is clear the incident is not normative.
There are other questions from this passage that remain, but this at least provides an answer to the question “what Satan may have been up to in heaven and how it was possible.”
 We also need to remember this happened quite early in Creation, I dare say things have change a bit since then in the dynamic between heaven and hell. Since Satan is part of the created the role that he presently has has not always been that way, so their relationship could have still been evolving.
 Can Satan, as the prince of this world, influence the weather, I thought that was God’s prerogative?; How is it that God wills Job harm?
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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