Recently, I preached a conference session detailing how the sufficiency of Scripture impacts the public square (which you can find here). This particular topic has been a matter of some debate for the last several years culminating in a wide diversity of conversations over subjects like COVID shutdowns, abortion, the duty of governing authorities, social justice, critical theory, and Christian Nationalism. My objective was to begin to outline an approach to culture that is rooted in the text of the Word of God. Piggybacking off that point today, I want to elaborate on this subject to assist Christians in living biblically in the life of the public square.
One of the key points to consider in any matter of theological study is to come again and again to the core doctrinal beliefs we hold rooted in God’s Word. In a windstorm filled with all kinds of debris, we find clarity of vision in Scripture which cannot be obtained anywhere else. It seems to me that the point of public theology is to understand how to rightly glorify God with our actions in public life. We are studying how God wants us to live not merely in private, but in every realm of life including the cultural realm. Our core guiding commitment as Christians is that Christ Jesus is the Lord who is the only way of salvation and He has spoken to us authoritatively in His written Word. Paul spoke of the sufficiency of that Word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 saying:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Scripture is not only sufficient to equip us for church life or family life, it is sufficient to equip us for every good work. Would Paul know anything about matters of public life? Of course! This is the man who went to the Areopagus in Acts 17 and contended for the faith against the pagan elites of his day. He stood before Governor Felix and unashamedly anchored his message in the teaching of the Word of God (Acts 24:14-15). While standing before King Agrippa Paul boldly tied his life’s work for Christ to Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament (Acts 26:22-23). Paul’s ministry shows the reality that he believed the Scripture was not simply for the church house, rather it was for all of life. Even when standing before the leaders of his day he was holding firm to the teaching of the Bible as the standard.
The Sure Anchor
This stance on biblical sufficiency is not only seen in Paul’s ministry, it is also seen in the life of John the Baptist. Matthew 14:3-4 says:
“For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’” -Matthew 14:3-4
Note well the specific language used by John, “It is not lawful” demonstrating he was anchoring his declaration in the revealed law of God found in Scripture. Herodias was marrying her own father’s brother which would have violated the incest laws of the Old Testament. Both John and Paul unequivocally grounded their public witness in the written Word.
The text which really gets at the heartbeat of understanding our duty as the church is Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus commissions us:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” -Matthew 28:18-20
The specific background for Jesus charging His followers to go get the nations by His power is the Old Testament. Texts like Isaiah 42:4 which foreshadow His work:
“He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” -Isaiah 42:4
How will the Messiah bring about justice? Christ brings the nations to Himself by the power of His Gospel saving lost souls and the declaration of His law/Word. In other words, it is by the heralding of the salvific message of Christ and the preaching of the full counsel of the Word of God. The very call for the public witness of the church is to stand on the entirety of Scripture for that is how the Messiah conquers, by the power of His Spirit working through His Word. This is the only sure anchor for us in our work as the church!
We see over the course of Scripture a consistency as it pertains to holding firm to the Word of God in the public sphere. Our goal in the current moment then is to think in a distinctly biblical fashion concerning every area of life. When confronting political leaders in our day, we must do so with the Word of God. If we are trying to discuss cultural issues and hot-button topics, it is vital for us to stand unflinchingly on the authority of Scripture. Much of the controversy going on right now in evangelical circles over the last several years simply comes down to understanding and applying the sufficiency of the Word of God to all of life. Many of these conversations are actually pushing Christians forward sharpening one another, while others are more trivial and sarcastic while adding nothing of substance. My point in this post is to assert the reality of consistency. We are Christians and we are called to think and live in a way that distinctly honors Christ as Lord in every area of life by obeying His Holy Word. If we can simply agree on that point, then we begin to push one another forward into understanding deeper application as we strive toward a common goal of seeking the glory of Christ the King!