Evangelism & Preaching (2)
I sometimes think that when I am dead and gone they are going to put on my tombstone: ‘Wayne Johnson. He introduced Rushdoony.’ I have done this on so many occasions, the first several times with great trepidation: “how can I introduce this man who has meant so much to me, in my life through his writings and through his friendship, and his counsel?” I have the pleasure of introducing him on so many occasions it is difficult to find expression for the fondness and admiration without becoming repetitious. And so it is that this time I contacted- sort of like a ‘this is your life’ program I went back and I thought: “Well, I am going to talk about Reverend Rushdoony’s early childhood.”
Now, contrary to popular belief, Reverend Rushdoony was once a child. He was born and raised in the Swedish town of Kingsburg California, now that part is true, be careful from what I say here on out- Kingsburg California, which is south of the city of Fresno. There are things that are south of the city of Fresno. Kingsburg. Now, I don’t know if you have ever been to Kingsburg, it is a decidedly humble town, in fact when the earthquake hit down there near Colagina, a few years ago, it violently shook Kingsburg, and they say it did over $14 million worth of improvements, it’s quite a humble place. But his first word, spoken at the age of one and a half years old, just eighteen months old, little R.J. uttered his first word, which was: “presupposition.”
It is reliably reported that he was somewhat precocious for his age, having little time for most childhood activities, indeed the only way his parents could get him to join in with the soccer games that his little Swedish friends would play was when they had the entire text of the New Testament transcribed in Greek on the soccer ball. He then chased it enthusiastically. Now, if you can picture Reverend Rushdoony at the age of 5, and his beard was not as gray then as it is now, you would see a young man of very serious countenance. I had to speak with many of his schoolteachers and friends who had known him at this time to learn all these facts, it was at the age of five that he first read the works of C.I. Scofield, and was reported to have looked up inquiringly and said: “Naka Terengi Mia Kaon,” which in Armenian means: “Where is the beef?”
That year he wrote his first book entitled, it went by the longer title at that time, it was; The Messianic Character of American Education: a Preschoolers View. Later editions used the shorter title which we have today. He sharpened his debating skills at the tender age of eleven, having many, many debates frequently and heatedly with his aunt Naomi, a notorious freethinker. Indeed, his writings to this day are said to exhibit a decided hostility to auntie-Naomi-anism.
Could we speak this way, except from the deepest affection, for one who has done more to build up the Reformed faith in this age? And in this church in particular there is probably not a family in this church, members here, that aren’t here at least in part because of what R.J. Rushdoony has done, through his ministry and his books, and the things that he has done. I think not. I don’t think that we could speak as closely and as friendly as we do, he means so much to us.
To bring you up to date a bit quickly, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that he is a scholar among scholars, he has more than thirty books. His many careers as missionary, first as a missionary to the Indians. And then in the ministry in pastoring a church. And then at the Chalcedon foundation where he has more particularly spent his time in writing. And then almost a career in itself in the defense of Christian schools and ministries, court trials on the separation of church and state across the country. His latest book, highly recommended, Salvation and Godly Rule, is available here today. We understand that Systematic Theology is near completion. Voluminous works, and there is not a page and a half in all of it, and I even hesitate to say that, that does not speak to us today as clearly and perhaps even more so because he is so perceptive, seeing ahead, than the days they were written.
It is my pleasure as always to introduce to you a great scholar, a tremendous man of faith, and a dear, dear friend to all of us here- the Reverend R.J. Rushdoony.
I have to have this stand because I don’t feel like some of the other speakers, that I should stand on my tiptoes for the better part of an hour. When I get an introduction like that I am always reminded of a story that I think is particularly delightful, and also true, about a rabbi who many generations ago got a very flattering introduction, and before the introducer sat down he tugged at his toga, and he said: “You forgot to tell them also that I am humble!”
Now, a month ago, I spoke about the meaning of the word ‘evangelism,’ and we saw that it comes from Roman Imperial theology. The word ‘emperor’ means one who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, precisely the claim that the New Testament makes concerning Jesus Christ. Not merely a claim, but a declaration! What the early church did, what the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament did, was to take Roman Imperial theology, borrow its language wholesale, and declare: “Here is the true King of kings and Lord of lords, even Jesus Christ! Here is the true evangel, the true gospel!” And they said: “This we declare or preach unto you.”
Now it is precisely that word that is my concern today, ‘preaching’. There are two words in the New Testament which are translated as ‘preaching.’ One of them is a Greek word which we have in English as angel, a messenger. We have it also in the Greek in the form of ‘the message.’ Then another is a word which anyone who has gone to seminary in recent years is very familiar with, ‘kerygma,’ a very loosely used word nowadays, but a very precise one in Scripture. The word which we have in the English as ‘angel’ comes from a Greek word which means ‘to announce,’ ‘to proclaim.’ But much more than that, it is the word, ‘the message,’ which comes from the great source, from the ruler, or from the gods themselves, or from a ruler who is a walking god on earth. It is a great word, it is a governing word, so that to preach it is to declare the word of the king or God for His subjects, a law-word, a binding word. And this is the meaning in the New Testament.
We meet it for example in I John 1:1-3.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s gospel, Paul’s epistle, and John’s gospel, John’s epistle, and John’s Revelation, all begin like a thunderclap, like lightning flashing across the face of the sky! They roll out the words, magnificently and powerfully. The first verse here lingered in the early church as the joyful greeting of the survivors of that band who had actually seen Jesus Christ, seen Him in the flesh. And they echoed these words as they went to church, taken there, these old survivors, by younger people. And as they would see one another, the last of the band of those who had walked with Jesus, those who had known, who had seen that which was from the beginning; the word of life, God incarnate. And they would greet one another saying: “Have you seen?” “We have seen.” “Have you heard?” “We have heard.” “Have you touched?” “We have touched the Lord of life.” And this says John: “I who have heard, who have seen, who have touched, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the emperor of all creation; this life which was manifested, which we have seen and bear witness to, and show unto you, preach unto you. That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you.”
Again the word declare, is to preach. The royal, the ruling, the sovereign and imperial word; this is what I bring, John says, not an opinion. This is the binding word. And just as when the Imperial word went out with the messengers, all who heard it, as they were ordered to come and hear the law-Word of the king, had to stand because the king was speaking. And so in the early church, when the scripture was read everyone stood, because the imperial law-Word of God, God the Son, was being proclaimed.
The other word, ‘kerygma,’ comes from a word meaning ‘herald;’ “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!” The royal, the imperial messenger, a man under authority. Anyone who was a herald, anyone who was a preacher (remember this word comes out of imperial theology) was immune from all controls, because he represented the emperor, and no man’s law, no official could touch him. And this is why the early church insisted and declared that it was immune to all the controls of the empire. Why? Because it was the bearer of the royal word, the law-Word of the King of kings, and no man dare interfere with the imperial word. And the duty of the angel or herald, the messenger, the preacher was simply to present the royal message. He could not negotiate with his hearers. And this is where so much of the church goes astray. They temper the message to the congregation, and the congregation assumes that it is their pastor, their preacher, when he is God’s preacher. He cannot tamper with the message, neither can they.
For the messenger is only the mouthpiece of the emperor. He has no independent power to water down the royal law, the royal decree, the emperor’s word.
The Bible is the word or message of God to man. It is the royal, the ruling Word, which the preacher must proclaim; not his own word, nor man’s word. The preaching, thus, must please God the king, not man. The preacher cannot negotiate the word, he cannot alter it to please man. Arminianism falsifies the royal word, too many preachers compromise it. They come across words and doctrines, and they skip over them, they don’t like them, they feel they are too strong, and the result is falsification. The preacher, the messenger, the herald in imperial theology, cannot tamper with the imperial word.
Not only is preaching a royal proclamation, but in antiquity salvation was an imperial fact. It meant the paternal care of the emperor. Many cultures have reflected this, have shadows of this which was once commonplace in antiquity. To be outside the rule of the emperor or king was to be outside of hope, outside of salvation, not even to be a human being. The Czar was spoken of as ‘the little father.’ The American Indians spoke of the President as ‘the great white father.’ Pale reflections of this old, pagan theology. On the imperial estates of Rome there was cradle to grave security, the beginnings of serfdom; and this was regarded as salvation. According to Sir William Ramsay more than a generation ago:
“The logical issue of the paternal system of government, as we see it fully carried out under the Roman Empire, was the negation of freedom. In its opposition to the Imperial
policy the religion of Christ was the champion of freedom. Such is its spirit in central Asia, where we can best see it, during the second century. Such is its spirit as declared
by Paul to the people of Antioch, Iconium, etc.: “ye were called for freedom,” and “ for freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke
of bondage”! He spoke to nations of slaves, the Phrygians and the Lycaonians, raised in some small degree from the condition of slavery by the Graeco-Roman education,
but liable to slip back again as the Imperial system developed its paternal character thoroughly. The “Salvation” of Jesus and of Paul was freedom: the “ Salvation” of the
Imperial system was serfdom.”
Sir William Ramsay wrote those words as a result of his research in the last century; they were prophetic words. Because since then we have had the same kind of imperial salvation by statism as Rome offered it, cradle to grave security, social security through the state. Salvation by the great white father in Washington. The issue is the same today as then. The imperial theology then set forth imperial salvation, the gospel of welfarism, cradle to grave social security, and the state as God walking on earth, controlling all things.
And the modern state has developed this old and evil gospel, and is again persecuting the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. No compromise is possible between the two religions. What is preaching? It is the proclamation of the law-Word or gospel of the ruler or emperor, and the preacher is under His authority. Preaching sets forth the king’s law, the king’s word. It is the good news that the ruler, the king of kings, provides the solution to all things; His is the word of salvation and victory, of freedom. The question is, whose word is the all sufficient word, the governing word? The Word of the Triune God, or the word of Caesars, then and now?
God’s word cannot be preached in a vacuum, nor can it be proclaimed in abstraction from the world. The gospel is an imperial word, a total word, and it governs every sphere of life and thought. The task of the church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. In the world of antiquity, in the world outside of Christ, time began with the accession of the emperor, and the festivals were his birthday, his date of accession, and the events in his life. So that time began in Rome in the year of Nero, in the year of Trajan. Time began all over again with each emperor, because with each emperor there was a new time of salvation. But the early church altered all this, and time for us is Before Christ, or Anno Domini, the year of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the festivals in our time are the festivals in the life of Christ, His birth, His resurrection. But today, even a recent book by a professor of church history in an ostensibly Christian institution, dates everything “BCE” and “CE,” ‘Before the Common Era,’ and ‘In the Common Era,’ to avoid using the name of Christ. And at a conference of scholars just this past month, a man from an institution that professes to be concerned about the Christian faith, and has an institute for the promotion of Christian studies, spoke of our culture as ‘Latin and Greek.’ Never once mentioned Christianity or Christ, as though it had nothing to do with Western Civilization, and today statist holidays are taking the place of the Christian calendar.
But for us, we date time by the King’s life, by His coming, by the events in His life, because ours is the gospel. By declaring their message to be only true gospel, the apostles proclaimed Jesus Christ as the great emperor: “the only potentate, the king of kings and Lord of lords.” They declared Jesus Christ as the great king, now and forever, throughout all eternity; and the gospel is thus called in scripture again and again ‘the eternal gospel.’ The change from the Old Testament to the New is not a change of the Word, but a change in the people of the Word. Isaiah 40:8 declares: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever…,” and I Peter 1:25 restates this fact. The Bible is from end to end; one word, one gospel, one message. Among the titles of Jesus is the word ‘Christ,’ or ‘Messiah,’ a royal title, an imperial title, one which declares that the whole of creation is His. And with that royal title are coupled titles like; son of David, lion of the house of Judah, the Son of God, setting forth His person and His origin. But so totally was Jesus identified with His office that the Scriptures do not call Him ‘Jesus the Christ’, but ‘Jesus Christ.’ The person and the office are totally identified.
Isaiah proclaims Him to be: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” our justice. Paul declares Him to be: “God blessed for ever.” And again and again we are told in Scripture that God declares unto God the Son: “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” This is Jesus Christ, the emperor, King over kings, Lord over lords, and in His deity, King over all creation. He is the Lord, the sovereign, the ruler, the owner, the determiner. As the scholar Stauffer has said: “The title Kurios came to be identical in meaning with the name of God itself.”
All this means that Jesus Christ is not going to wait to be king in the millennium, or in the new creation, but was King from all eternity, and from His birth and especially from His resurrection, King from eternity and King in time; and the glory of preaching is that this great King, this Emperor, is our King; our covenant Lord. By His incarnation He is also our kinsman-redeemer, our next of kin; so that we are required by Scripture, we are required by our salvation, to feel that it is not our brother or our sister, our children or our parents, our husband or our wife, who are our next of kin, but Jesus Christ. This is what it means for Him to be our Redeemer. And it is His duty and His life to rescue us from sin and death, having made us His next of kin. He is our flesh and blood by virtue of His incarnation. He reestablishes our inheritance which the first Adam forfeited. He tames us and makes us His blessed meek in relationship to Himself, and He promises: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” “For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.” By His cross and by His atonement He demonstrated that He is our next of kin, our King, our Kinsman Redeemer. He pays all the accrued charges against us, he takes upon Himself as our next of kin the death penalty against us, he makes us a new humanity, and as executor of our estate, the great Lamb of God, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, opens up Revelation 5 tells us: the great will, our inheritance. We are made members now in Him, of the royal household, the household of God; the royal family. Wherever the gospel is preached therefore, it will shake the foundations of all the false kingdoms of fallen man. The ungodly peoples and nations will take counsel together, and will conspire against the Lord and His anointed, they seek to overthrow God’s law and become their own savior, but the Gospel of our God tells us:
“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. …Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
What are you asking for? And are you asking? Is it the passion of your life? Remember, John Knox’s son in law, John Welsh, was found more than once in the cold hours of the night, having awakened out of his sleep, wrapped in his shawl, in intense prayer: “Lord, give me Scotland, ere I die.” Men like that gain the possession. Let us pray.
Oh Lord our God, we thank Thee that Thy word is proclaimed to the ends of the earth, that the nations are being shaken, and the kings of the earth summoned to fall down at the feet of the Emperor, to kiss His feet, lest He be angry and they perish in their way. Make us zealous in prayer, oh Lord, that we might be possessors of this inheritance, that we might conquer in His name, that we may with holy boldness go forth as the heralds, the preachers of the king of kings; to claim all things for Him, knowing that Thy promises, wherever the soul of our feet shall tread, that wilt Thou give unto us. Grant us this 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