Evangelism & Preaching (1)
Our first speaker today is known to many, if not most of you, his many books have been used of God to bring countless thousands to a knowledge of the Reformed and Biblical faith; one book alone, The Messianic Character of American Education virtually launched the Christian school movement as we know it today. He has been called upon as an expert witness in countless church trials to defend the churches and schools of God’s kingdom against the unconstitutional and unbiblical attempts of the humanist state to destroy the religious liberties of God’s people, won at so dear a price. His name is Rousas Rushdoony.
I shall never forget the first time that I was given one of his books. I was a student at Purdue University. I recall I was fascinated by that name, ‘Rush-doony.’ I thought perhaps he was Dutch most of the Reformed theologians in the books that I read, they were all Dutch, and they were all names that I was unfamiliar with. I recall I asked a Dutch Reformed friend of mine, I said: “What does Rushdoony mean?” and he shook his head, and he said: “I don’t know, I have been trying to figure him out for years.” Later I learned that he was an Armenian, although not an Arminian.
Now, I was raised a Southern Baptist, so I must tell you that I struggled, and I struggled, and I struggled with Reverend Rushdoony’s books and the doctrines of grace. I liken myself maybe to that famous sea captain who had been given command, I heard this story once, and I seemed so appropriate, there was a famous sea captain who had been given command of the greatest battleship ever built. And the day of the maiden voyage of that truly monstrous juggernaut, the first mate turned to the captain on the bridge and said: “Captain, out through the fog there we see the light of a small ship, sir, dead ahead in the fog; shall we steer twenty degrees to the north?” and the captain, who I would fancy myself to be in this story, said: “No, no, this is the greatest battleship, the greatest ship that has ever sailed, you radio ahead to that other little ship there and you tell him to go twenty degrees to the south.” And the radio message came back, and it said, “No, you go twenty degrees to the north.” And the captain, very stern and upset at this, because this was indeed the greatest battleship that had ever sailed, and he said: “You radio back and you tell him that I am the captain of the greatest and mightiest ship that has ever sailed these seas, and he is to go twenty degrees to the south.” And the radio message came back, and it said: “I am the keeper of the lighthouse, you go twenty degrees to the north.”
So it is my pleasure to introduce to you today one of the keepers of God’s lighthouse, Reverend Rushdoony. He has meant a great deal in my life, and usually when I disagree it is just a matter of time before I come to see that the position which he takes is the one that is most consistent with God’s Infallible, holy, Inspired Word. That is the standard that this church uses, the standard of God’s infallible word, it is the standard which Dr. Rushdoony teaches, and because of that we welcome Him this day, because of His commitment to the Biblical faith. Please welcome Reverend R.J. Rushdoony.
The word ‘evangelism’ has a very interesting meaning and history. It comes from the Greek, ‘evangelion’. It is translated usually in the New Testament as ‘gospel’. Its meaning in the Greek is ‘the reward brought by a messenger bringing new of victory.’ It also meant ‘the good news of victory.’ So it can be translated also as ‘good news,’ or ‘gospel.’
The ‘evangel,’ as it was used in the days of the New Testament, was seen as a gift from the gods. As a result, whenever there was an evangel proclaimed, there had to be sacrifices of gratitude expressed, and offered to the gods. For example, in 9 BC, there was a decree in the province of Asia, as well as throughout Europe, but we have a copy of the one that went to the province of Asia, celebrating the consolidation of the power of Augustus Caesar. As a result of that decree, it was said that his birthdate, the 23rd of September, should be the beginning of the civil year, or New Year’s Day, and it was declared that September the 23rd, 9 B.C., was: “The beginning of everything.” The beginning of everything. This is the meaning of the word ‘Evangel’ or Gospel. All life is to be reordered, because that good news of victory has come. All life was then to be reordered in terms of Caesar and his accession to power.
The word ‘evangel’ or gospel was basic to the imperial cult; it meant peace, prosperity and order were ensured because the emperor was on the throne. Now, the fact that this word is used by the New Testament cannot be underestimated. We can compare it to this; if a church, instead of calling itself a church, said: “We will borrow from the Federal government the title of ‘Internal Revenue Service’ and call ourselves: ‘The Hope Internal Revenue Service of Sacramento,’ that would be a rather startling and audacious act. Similarly, for the church to appropriate unto itself the language of imperial theology, with a very key word, ‘evangelion’, gospel, evangel; is significant.
The third word of the Greek text of the first verse of Mark’s gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” is precisely this word. The four evangelists are so named because they give to us in the Gospels the news of Christ’s victory. They declare who is the true emperor.
There was also a reward, you remember, in the Evangel, for the messenger bringing the gift. Thus, our Lord says in Matthew 10:7-10:
“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
What does this mean? First, God, by His Spirit had the apostles appropriate the imperial theology, because the true gospel of victory is the beginning of everything. And the beginning of everything is not Caesar or politics, it is Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior. Thus, the use of the word ‘evangel’, gospel, was a direct affront and challenge to the Roman Imperial theology, and to Rome. If Christ’s gospel is the victory, then Rome’s is a fraud; then Washington’s and Moscow’s are frauds. Then the social gospel and modern statism in every form constitute frauds.
The issue then is: “Who is the Lord?” The early church, by appropriating imperial theology, at this point and many others, declared war on Rome. John tells us this, we are told in I John 5:4-5
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
What is John doing? He is defining, the gospel, the evangel, and he is saying: “This is the victory, not what Rome is talking about.” And who is it that is a conqueror who overcomes the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? A more direct contradiction of the imperial faith would be difficult to make. Nothing, nothing is more absurd than the common opinion on the part of all too many scholars that the New Testament is a non-political document. From beginning to end it is a radical attack on the imperial theology of Rome, it is an affirmation of a very different gospel, and a different Lord.
Rome could not long allow such a challenge to go unanswered, and its answer was repression. Luke tells us, by the way, in the incident, where the leaders of the people came to our Lord to ask Him: “Is it lawful to render tribute unto Caesar?” that they brought with them spies or agents of Rome, to nail this man who said that He was bringing the gospel, this person who was proclaimed to be Lord, which means in modern language ‘sovereign.’ The basic claim of the Roman Empire was that: “Caesar is Lord.” The issue before which Christians had to answer was: “Who is the Lord? Come forward to an imperial insignia, and there affirm that Caesar is Lord, or die.” The New Testament appropriated the imperial theology for Jesus Christ.
Second, the Lord sends His disciples forth with no support. They are not to support themselves, they are forbidden to do so; they are not so much as to take an extra pair of shoes. Why? The workman, He says, is worthy of his meat. Here again resounds the imperial note. Those who ruled for Caesar had to be supported by taxes, they did not provide for themselves; and the Christians were to summon God’s people to tithe, to tax themselves, for the true emperor, Jesus Christ. St. Paul, who supported himself, asserted all the same that he was entitled to tax the churches for support, but he had his reasons for choosing not to do so.
Third, the New Testament ascribes to Jesus what was claimed for the Caesars; imperial authority. What is an emperor? He is a king over other kings. What does the New Testament tell us about Jesus? Again and again, Paul and John tell us for example, that He is the: “..only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Jesus was crucified by Rome for less. The charge on the cross, all four evangelists tell us was: “King of the Jews.” And now the church audaciously declares: “He is King of kings, and Lord of lords; the only potentate.”
Then fourth, an evangel proclaims the beginning of everything. When an emperor took the throne, the dating of time began again with his reign, because it was a new beginning, and there was a new life, it was the beginning of everything, so read the imperial rescripts. But the evangel proclaims that the beginning of everything is in Christ, not in Caesar. I said that Romans dated time from the birthday of the Emperor and the year of his accession, and we date time, Roman fashion, from the birth of our Emperor: A.D., Anno Domini, the year of our Lord, 1984. We date everything in terms of our emperor, who is the emperor and therefore the great judge of all things. He, not Caesar. We read in Revelation:
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
The emperors of Rome were proclaimed to be the beginning of everything, the alpha, the alpha of everything, by their own statements; and here the gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the alpha and the omega, He is more. The Bible is subversive literature from the standpoint of statism, then and now.
Then fifth, the Roman gospel of salvation asserted the total power of the emperor from birth till death, cradle to grave, over all people and all things. Christ’s gospel declares that we are to command all nations, and summon them to obedience to Him. The whole world must be brought into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. All nations, all churches, schools, vocations, arts, sciences, and all things else must serve Him. Biblical theology is imperial theology because God is God, nothing can exist apart from Him. We have a gospel for all time, all peoples, all history, all tribes, tongues, and nations. No area and no institution is outside the need for the gospel: “…for He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” The gospel, the good news of victory, is that the king and creator of all things is our covenant Lord and our Redeemer. Scripture declares of our Lord:
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.”
“His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”
This is our calling, to fill the whole earth with His glory, and hence, this being the evangel, we can consider the Reformed faith an ‘evangelism.’ And when we do we must stress the fact of the Reformed faith, not necessarily Reformed churches, because there is often a difference. The sad fact is that churches too often identify themselves with their past, not with Christ, with a form of government, not with the Lord. And churches are named more often in terms of their form of government; Congregational, Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, and so on, as though the form were everything, rather than Christ. When we look at the Reformed faith as we meet it in John Calvin, we see first that he brought into focus God’s sovereignty and predestination, God’s total jurisdiction over the total life of man, and over the world. Calvinism is a systematically, thoroughly, Biblical faith. As Latourette in his book on the history of missions declared: “Calvinism tended to instill a deep conviction of personal vocation and responsibility, and to stimulate men to high and moral endeavor.” And why not? The Reformed faith says that God is sovereign, and all things must be under God and His word, and all are to be brought into His kingdom and dominion.
Then, second, the Reformed faith stresses the doctrine of vocation, or of calling. The dominion mandate was seen by Calvin as applicable not only to Adam, but to all his posterity, renewed in the last Adam, Jesus Christ. Calvin also said, by the way, that man was rich before he was born, and we are to move forward in the richness of that, our heritage, to be called the sons of God. All things are to be brought into captivity to Christ. We must summon the world, and men and nations, and we must bring them into captivity to Christ, and this includes areas of the world of technology. Did you know that right now there are one or more stations every day being bought by Christians? Consider the fact that two of the speakers this day will be men who are in radio work. This is an exercise of dominion, and of the dominion mandate for evangelism. And the word is going out through the work of these two men into the far corners of the earth, and a mighty movement is underway as a result of the work of one of them in Africa.
This is what we are called to do. This is evangelism. Calvin said concerning Isaiah 45:22 “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” That: “God invites the whole world to the hope of salvation.” And rightly so! The Great Commission summons us to bring all nations to Christ and to the obedience of faith; in terms of this the combination of the gospel commission and the dominion mandate, Calvinists refuse to be Erastians. They were not servile, they refused to bow down to the Caesars of this world; and they moved to conquer in Switzerland, in France, in Scotland, in England, in the Netherlands, and in the American colonies. And now that the Reformed faith is reviving again, let the nations of this world fear and tremble, because God’s army is again on the march!
We must recognize then, the dominion mandate is inescapably tied to the evangelism commission, and in the history of missions the Reformed churches have had a most notable role, and the missionary outreach of the church has been strongest when the Reformed faith has been strongest, and as a result we must move in those terms.
Years ago, when I was very young, I still feel young, I read a book by a man, Reinhold Niebuhr, whose thinking by and large I dislike intensely. But at this one point in his first book, Niebuhr put his finger on a key factor. Writing in 1929, he said:
“The church is like the Red Cross service in war time, it keeps life from degenerating into a consistent inhumanity. But it does not materially alter the fact of the struggle itself. The Red Cross neither wins the war, nor abolishes it.”
When the church functions like the Red Cross, it is irrelevant to the basic issues of history, it is on the sidelines, it is a non-combatant. But we are called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ – think of all the imagery of military duty in the Scriptures. And think of how so many of the great old hymns speak of the church as a mighty army, “Soldiers of Christ Arise.” We are not a Red Cross, we are an army, with a mandate to conquer, until all things are put under Christ’s feet, who is as Calvin said: “The lawful heir of heaven and earth.” And in Him the faithful recover what they had lost in Adam, said Calvin, although not in its fullness until the new creation.
As we bring ourselves under Christ’s dominion, we must bring all things else under His rule. Dominion is a summons to evangelism, and evangelism is a summons to dominion, the two are tied together. We must therefore work to bring men, women and children, under Christ and His dominion; into a saving knowledge of Him. We must work to bring the arts and the sciences, and various callings under Christ. I think it is foolishness to sit back and wail about the garbage on television, and put ourselves in the role merely of negation. We need to command television for Christ, radio for Christ.
These things are possible, and we can transmit sound and pictures at a distance, because of the order of God’s universe – because God in His predestination and wisdom, so ordered all things, that such things are possible, and far more than we have yet invented or imagined. And I believe we are on the very threshold of a tremendous growth in technology, and what we need to do is to welcome it as a means of furthering evangelism and dominion. Technology offers us more ways to accomplish our calling in Christ. The possibilities for worldwide evangelism have never been greater. The fountain of inventions is only tapped, and there are new prospects in communication. We need to reclaim education as we have begun to do with Christian schools – that is evangelism, to reclaim the media – that is evangelism- and every other area of life and thought. The great victories for us lie ahead. “For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, Thou hast called us to be more than conquerors in Christ. Make us ever mindful that we have been called to serve the King of kings, that ours is the good news of victory, that we have been called to victory, ordained for victory, and dare not settle for anything less. Send us forth, that the whole world might be won for Christ, and the whole world may rejoice in His victory. Bless us to this purpose we beseech Thee, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder