2010 Ligonier Regional Conference - Session 2 - Robert Godfrey
In this second session from Ligonier Ministries’ 2010 Regional Conference in Washington, D.C., Dr. Robert Godfrey addressed the topic of “Christ, Kingdom, & Culture.” Robert Godfrey is President and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California, serves on the board of directors for Ligonier Ministries, and is one of Ligonier’s teaching fellows.
As Christians, we have a dual citizenship, and we must have a clear sense of what that means and its implications for how we are to live and function. We are part of this world and yet Jesus says we are not of this world. So what does it mean to be dual citizens?
Dr. Godfrey turned to Matthew 22:15-22 to look at the duality of our existence. In the gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus presented as the one, true King. In this passage, the Pharisees, angered by his claim to be King, plot to entangle Him by asking questions. They are not coming to Him with sincere questions. These are agents of the devil coming to destroy Him.
In asking about whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, (vs. 17), the Pharisees know that Jesus holds dual citizenship in both Jerusalem and Rome. If He answers “Yes,” He offends the Jewish people. If He answers “No,” the Romans might arrest Him. However, Jesus is smarter than they are (vs. 18). Knowing the Pharisees to be very learned in the law and thus in the second commandment, He addresses their hypocrisy in carrying denarii with an inscription and the likeness of Caesar. Is this not a violation of the second commandment? How can they proceed in carrying around an idol?
Jesus responds, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vs. 21). With this answer, Jesus is not establishing a duality for us. There is nothing in this life that does not belong to God. When you give to God what belongs to Him, there is nothing left over for Caesar. That’s the point Jesus is trying to make: idolatry comes in many different forms. There is nothing in our lives that does not belong in some way to God. Ephesians 5:15 reminds us we need to look carefully at how we live, and we must be careful about carrying our convictions into the world. It is easier to be opposed to sins of which we are not tempted than to sins to which we are susceptible. All we do belongs to God, and we must be faithful in that.
After His response, His enemies are silenced but then Jesus has a question for them: What do you think about the Son of Christ? Who’s Son is He? Christ wraps Himself in Psalm 110, a Psalm that should help us think about our dual citizenship. It reminds us that the Messiah is seated in heavenly glory at the Father’s right hand. All things are in subjection to Him, and we are never to lose heart about that great truth.
It’s easy to be tempted to think that we could do things better, but we must have confidence that Jesus knows what He’s doing. The Kingdom of God was not introduced in glory but in the suffering of our Lord on the cross. First comes suffering, later comes glory. We have to wait with patience and endurance. We must wait in the calling that God has given us, but we must never let that compromise our calling to be citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.