Christ declared, “My kingdom is not of this world. . . . My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36). Far from setting Himself up as a rival to Caesar, He was saying that the church belongs to a different, higher realm than any earthly government, and therefore she poses no threat to Caesar’s rightful authority. The church’s purpose is not to overthrow or usurp earthly governments. Jesus amplified that point when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
But for his part, Caesar has always tended to view Christ as an adversary and an inconvenience. From Herod and Pontius Pilate until today, earthly governments have always sought to exert control over Christ and His kingdom. Caesar is not content with the things that are Caesar’s; he also wants control over the things that belong to God. So earthly rulers invariably try to seize as much dominance over the church as they can possibly appropriate.
Today’s postmodern politicians are as determined as any government in history to intrude into matters that pertain to Christ. They impose moral standards that are hostile to biblical principles. They use Caesar’s bully pulpit to portray biblical values as a threat to the very existence of humanity. They champion and even subsidize those who want to indoctrinate children with overtly anti-Christian ideologies. They churn out executive orders, regulatory agencies, and arbitrary requirements that would hinder or halt the work of the church.
The COVID years simply made Caesar’s strategy undeniably obvious. Government restrictions required churches to refrain from gathering while casinos and massage parlors were allowed to operate. Officials looked the other way when leftist protestors were given free rein to gather and even riot, but those same officials relentlessly worked to keep churches closed.
Obedience to such frivolous, heavy-handed government control would have required disobedience to Scripture. God clearly commands His people not to forsake their regular assembling for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25). And “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). So we resumed our corporate worship, and that immediately unleashed the wrath of Caesar. Government agencies came after our church with every regulatory projectile they could hurl at us—legal demands, lawsuits, injunctions, and fines. They even threatened to expropriate our parking lot. Thankfully we prevailed in court—mainly, I believe, because the County of Los Angeles was not willing to let their health officials be deposed under oath.
Our triumph in that case came exactly a year before the Frankfurt Declaration was released. While the case was still in litigation, however, we released a statement of our own, titled, “Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church.” What we stated then is in full agreement with the Frankfurt document.
The United States government (and others in the Western world) have already established themselves as enemies of Christ by legalizing abortion; demanding that homosexuality be encouraged and celebrated; refusing to recognize God-given gender distinctions; sanctioning same-sex marriage; and promoting the barbaric, pagan mutilation of children. These overt government-sponsored attacks on long-established moral standards constitute a formal, parliamentary declaration of war against God, His created order, His moral law, and the authority of His Word. Our current government therefore now stands in opposition to God no less than the Baal-worshipers of the Old Testament did. Why would we not expect them to come after people who would put their lives on the line for the cause of God and His Word? There are many signs that sound churches and faithful believers are about to face a wave of harsh persecution.
The exposure of all this is a major problem for churches that have tried to compromise with the world. Some of them will simply deny the truth more openly. (Some are already doing that.) Those who will not compromise in order to mollify Caesar should sign the Frankfurt Declaration.
Christ and Caesar do operate in different realms. The church’s mission is not a partisan political one. There is no political solution to what ails our culture. The church’s mission is to preach the gospel, recover souls from the domain of darkness, and train them to be Christ’s disciples. Christians must not be dissuaded from that task in order to achieve a mere temporal political objective. On the other hand, the more Caesar intrudes into matters that belong to Christ, the more the church must speak out on eternal and spiritual matters that the rest of the world wants to treat as merely “political.” It is not the prerogative of Caesar to rewrite moral standards on matters like abortion, sexual perversion, gender roles, or other matters where Scripture has drawn clear lines. We will continue to speak on such issues, and when government tries to silence the message or punish the messenger, we will not bow.
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20).
Used with permission from John MacArthur.