Declaring Christ With Boldness
Pressing on the minds of many Christians today is striving to understand how we should relate to civil authorities. Believers throughout history have wrestled with this question amidst all kinds of circumstances. During some seasons, believers have thrived amongst civil authorities who desire to be faithful in their duty as servants of God. In other periods, the brutality of evil men has been on full display wreaking devastation. Today, some believers assert we should have nothing to do with the public square. Others believe we should simply seek out some sort of “neutral position” whereby we are not advocating for principles based upon the Scripture. The list of political positions held within what is broadly known as evangelical circles is quite extensive. Yet, John MacArthur just provided us with a point and case example of what it looks like for believers to engage with political officials who have become corrupt.
It is difficult to imagine two individuals who differ more in their beliefs than John MacArthur and Governor Gavin Newsom. The California Governor is well known for his repeated advocation of abortion, support of the LGBTQ agenda, and his strict lockdown measures during the COVID saga. If anyone fits the definition of a very radical progressive leftist, it is Gavin Newsom. On the other side of this stance is the 83-year-old John MacArthur. He started pastoring at Grace Community Church in February of 1969, about a year and a half after Governor Newsom was born. MacArthur has fought battles for the sake of the Gospel in the face of Catholicism, Easy-believism, the Word of Faith/radical charismatic movement, social justice, cultural Marxism, and a wide host of other issues. He is no stranger to theological battles. Yet, in 2020, Pastor MacArthur was marked for his stance in defying the unjust mandates of the government surrounding COVID. Now, he has again entered the scene calling on Governor Newsom to repent, place faith in Christ, and discharge his duty before God. It is in a letter penned by MacArthur and Grace Community Church that we see many lessons as to how we can be faithful in the public square.
The Unadulterated Standard
I am incredibly grateful for John MacArthur and his steadfastness to Christ over the decades. One of the areas where MacArthur has spent much of his time is in defending the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Word of God. His letter to Newsom overflows from these foundational convictions about Scripture. He starts by saying:
“Sir, Almighty God says in His Word, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (Proverbs 14:3). Scripture also teaches that it is the chief duty of any civic leader to reward those who do well and to punish evildoers (Romans 13:1–7). You have not only failed in that responsibility; you routinely turn it on its head, rewarding evildoers and punishing the righteous.”1
MacArthur starts his entire argument on the authority of God speaking in His Word. That Word is authoritative not only within the church walls, but outside of it. Scripture has something to say to the civil magistrate instructing them in their duties before the Living God. It is rightly demonstrated that Newsom has turned the biblical mandate on its head by rewarding evil and punishing those who act righteously. Friends, we learn here by MacArthur’s example that we must speak authoritatively on the basis of Scripture. Many today cry for us to bring Christ into the political square, then they go out advocating for Marx in the name of Christianity. They are “religiously devoted” in the church halls, but their doctrine in the public square is defined by the spirit of the age. MacArthur is exemplifying something distinct, he is clearly showing us the need to hold to Scripture in every realm.
The Call To Repentance
Moving forward a bit in the letter, MacArthur states:
“In mid-September, you revealed to the entire nation how thoroughly rebellious against God you are when you sponsored billboards across America promoting the slaughter of children, whom He creates in the womb (Psalm 139:13–16; Isaiah 45:9–12). You further compounded the wickedness of that murderous campaign with a reprehensible act of gross blasphemy, quoting the very words of Jesus from Mark 12:31 as if you could somehow twist His meaning and arrogate His name in favor of butchering unborn infants. You used the name and the words of Christ to promote the credo of Molech (Leviticus 20:1–5). It would be hard to imagine a greater sacrilege.”
Notice how Pastor MacArthur gets to the direct point of the matter. He does not just simply leave the issue in abstract terms by telling Newsom he is advocating evil. No, he dives down and gets specific to address the issue of abortion, among others. From that point, he calls Newsom to repent:
“My concern, Governor Newsom, is that your own soul lies in grave, eternal peril. ‘Each one of us will give an account of himself to God’ (Romans 14:12). One day, not very long from now, you will face that reality. Nothing is more certain. ‘It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27). You will stand in the presence of the Holy God who created you, who is your Judge, and He will demand that you give an account for how you have flouted His authority in your governing, and how you have twisted His own Holy Word to rationalize it. As you look over the precipice of eternity, what will your answer be? When you look ahead of you and see that nothing awaits you but eternal misery—the just punishment for your sins—what will all the clever rationalizations and political talking points avail for you then? And by then it will be too late for any remedy or redemption. ‘It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10:31).”
My plea to you, Sir, is that you would not let it come to that—that you would not go to that day of judgment apart from receiving forgiveness and righteousness through faith in Christ alone. In Psalm 50, after rebuking the wicked for uttering God’s words in a profane way, Scripture makes this promise: ‘Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies Me; and he who orders his way, I shall show the salvation of God’ (vv. 22–23).”
“So there is salvation for those who repent. Christ purchased full redemption for all who will turn from wickedness, forsake their evil thoughts and actions, and trust fully in Him as Lord and Savior.”
This is the exact model of biblical clarity we need in the public square today as believers. An unadulterated declaration of truth, the exact specification of sin, an assertion of God’s authority, and a heralding of the need for repentance. The concern that MacArthur has for Governor Newsome’s soul is truly incredible. My friends, this is the way faithful Christians in the public square have conducted themselves. I am not just referencing the early church and the Apostles. We could go all the way back to Old Testament believers like Daniel who entered the lion’s den for his allegiance to God. Or we could think of Moses and his dealings with the tyrant Pharoah. I am thankful Pastor MacArthur has penned such a faithful letter to Governor Newsom. My prayer is that Newsom will come to repentance and faith in Christ, then conduct his role according to the authority of Scripture. May we be steadfast in our public witness upholding the authority of Christ the King!
1 All quotes from MacArthur’s letter can be found here: https://www.gty.org/media/PDF/Open%20Letter%20to%20Gavin%20Newsom%20IJZ.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1aFTlST9P_q79FqeKgRQrZF7dXFatlOInU3m_baNWa5Y08EirDhu40Ojw
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