Category Archives: Issues

Do “No King but Jesus,” and “Honor the king” Contradict?

Flowers, a black and white union jack, and a picture of Queen Elizabeth II left outside of Buckingham Palace. Do “no king but Jesus,” and “honor the king” contradict?
Flowers left outside Buckingham Palace by mourners after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Is showing such honor wrong? Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

As Christians, we recognize Jesus Christ as our King. Yet, undeniably, Peter instructed his readers to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17), meaning their earthly king. Paul also clearly taught that we should honor and pray for all in authority, including kings (1 Timothy 2:1-2; see also Titus 3:1 and Romans 13:1-8). As citizens of heaven, where Jesus only is our King (Philippians 3:20; Revelation 17:14; 19:16), what are we to make of this? Do “No king but Jesus,” and “Honor the king” contradict?

I’m writing this on 10 September 2022, two days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. I was stirred to this article by reading some of the most appalling verbal attacks by professing Christians against other Christians I have ever seen on social media. Almost invariably, these assaults were launched by Americans who have long identified themselves on social media as Christians. Those on the receiving end of these barrages were usually British Christians who had in any way posted something that showed respect or a sense of loss for their late Queen.

Most of the verbal onslaughts centered on the idea that, since Christians have Jesus only as King, anything that hints of accepting that Elizabeth was Queen or that Charles is King is a denial of Jesus Christ. These Americans take any show of respect for the Monarchy as outright heresy, and irrefutable evidence of the person as having never been a Christian.

Is recognizing someone as the king or queen of your land a heresy? Does the Bible teach that honoring or not honoring the king or queen is evidence of conversion? Or, does the Bible give us another sign that identifies us as Jesus’ disciples?

No King but Jesus: Jesus and Pilate

As Roman governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate represented Caesar (at the time, Tiberius), and thus he exercised the power of the Roman state. When Jesus was arrested, He was brought before Pilate. Put in briefest summary, their conversation went this way: Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33). After asking Pilate where he got this idea, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…. my Kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). To clarify Jesus’ position, Pilate again asked Him, “Are you a king then?” And “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” As a result, Pilate told the Jews, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38).

Why did Pilate reach that conclusion? Because he realized that Jesus wasn’t claiming to be an earthly king, and therefore wasn’t a threat to Caesar. And he was right. To this day, the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of heaven both stand in this world. The kingdom of the world is of the world, and the kingdom of heaven is not of the world but of heaven. Yet, both are in the world. But Jesus had one more thing to say to Pilate.

Honor the King: Pilate’s Power

After Pilate asked Jesus where He was from, Jesus didn’t answer him (John 19:9).

Pilate therefore said to him, “Aren’t you speaking to me? Don’t you know that I have power to release you, and have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power at all against me, unless it were given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered me to you has greater sin.”

John 19:10-11

Jesus was saying that the authority of Pilate, and, therefore even the authority of Caesar, came from God. In other words, although there are today two sorts of kingdoms on the earth—the heavenly kingdom of God and the earthly kingdom of kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers and so forth, they are both under the power of God. They should not be confused or conflated, but we should respect both.

As Christians, we know that we are not of this world; our kingdom is the kingdom of God. Our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are not really under the authority and laws of man’s earthly governments. Yet, the Bible tells us to submit to the laws of the land in which we live.

The Children of God Are Free

After Peter impetuously told the Jewish collectors of the didrachma temple tax that Jesus paid the tax, Jesus used the occasion to teach him and us a lesson (Matthew 17:24-25). He got Peter to see that the children are exempt (Matthew 17:26), but to avoid causing anyone to stumble, He and Peter would pay the tax anyway (Matthew 17:27).

The word “exempt” or “free,” depending on the translation, is eleutheros. It’s the same word Jesus used when He said, “If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). It is the same word Paul used in teaching that if a woman’s husband dies, she is free from the law (Romans 7:3), using this as an analogy of our freedom from the law. And, it is the same word Paul used in saying, “So then, brothers, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:31), when teaching that we are not under the law.

Absolutely, brethren, we believers are the children of God and are, therefore, free from the law, including—since its authority ultimately comes from our Father—the laws of the land. But I wouldn’t advise trying to tell that to a policeman!

Honor, Respect, and Love

In fact, we should obey the laws of the land because, while we aren’t under obligation, others would see our disobedience as a bad example and might become offended towards Christianity or stumble. Or, as Paul put it, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are expedient. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be brought under the power of anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12), and, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are profitable. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own, but each one his neighbor’s good” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24; see also the principle of Romans 14).

Even if someone thinks it is a weakness to honor a monarch, the Bible tells us to be considerate of our weak brethren. Anyone who rails against someone for being weak and honoring the Queen or the King sins “against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, [sins] against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12). On the other hand, honoring the Queen or King is not weakness, but obedience to Scripture.

Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment…. Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.

Romans 13:1-2, 7

And,

Remind them to be in subjection to rulers and to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all humility toward all men.

Titus 3:1-2

Peter spells it out clearly:

Therefore subject yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evildoers and for praise to those who do well. For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

1 Peter 2:13-17

Yes, brethren, the New Testament specifically tells us to “honor the king.” This instruction isn’t even tied to how good the king is. At the time Peter wrote, the emperor was Nero, one of the most debauched leaders imaginable. Nero killed his mother and turned Christians into human torches. Yet, Peter says, “Honor the king.”

“No King but Jesus” and “Honor the king” Are Not Contradictions

If Christians show honor to a king, queen, or some other leader, they are obeying the Word of God. Then, how dare those who claim to be Christians act directly contrary to such a clear admonition, and violate the love we are to have for our brethren, to throw their brethren’s obedience to Scripture in their teeth?

By what right do they judge others who are following this Scriptural teaching? How shameful that they mock dignitaries and slander and hurt the sensibilities of brethren who have chosen to honor and mourn the woman who served them as Queen for seventy years.

Putting a leader, a politician, a political party, or a nation ahead of Jesus Christ and His teachings is idolatry. Certainly, we’ve seen this idolatry in recent years as many Christians ran after a man or a political party while abandoning core Christian values such as love, grace, and mercy. But honoring or showing respect as the Bible instructs is not idolatry.

What these “Christians” forget is that the identifying sign of Christians is love for one another, and that Scripture specifically tells us to honor the king and others in positions of civil authority.

These people have insulted the leaders of a nation—in fact, a group of nations. They have also injured the hearts of the people of those nations, including believing Christians. But what I sincerely hope has not happened is that they may have given the impression to “these little ones” who believe in Jesus that Christians are loud-mouthed, loveless, braggarts braying like jackasses against dignities and having no compassion on those who mourn. This may have caused some to stumble. If so, of those who cause this, Jesus says, “it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

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The Love of Money: A Hallmark of Our Times

A composite of two images. Top: A heap of gold ingots and coins. Bottom: The barefoot legs of a homeless person lying on a concrete bench. Such disparity illustrates that the love of money is a hallmark of our times.
We’re living in a time of vast wealth inequality characterized by economic instability and the decline of democracy. The short-sighted love of money by the super wealthy has created numerous crisis points that could suddenly flare into disaster. What is our place as Christians in this situation? Top: Pexels. Bottom: Tomas Castelazo on Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0).

In “The Love of Money Is a Root of All Kinds of Evil,” we saw what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the love of money. We also reviewed how the first-century saints avoided this root of evil by loving each other instead. Now, let’s look at the love of money as the hallmark of our times and the driving force of the world’s economy.

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Peter Ditzel

The question of a young Earth creation and an old universe is illustrated by this composite image of Earth's orbital horizon and another galaxy. Image by Lumina Obscura from Pixabay
The Bible and science have long seemed to be at odds over the age of the Earth and the Universe. Some proposed “solutions” weaken the veracity of either the Bible or science or both. But what if there’s an answer to the dilemma that compromises neither, and it’s been staring at us from the pages of the Bible all along?
Image by Lumina Obscura from Pixabay

Did God create the universe only a few thousand years ago, or is the universe billions of years old? When we couple the Creation account in Genesis with biblical genealogies, we find that God created all things in six days a few thousand years ago. The universe is young. But you might be surprised to learn the Creation account also reveals that the universe is old. Let me explain how the Bible reveals the universe is both young and old.

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Peter Ditzel

In Part One, we saw that the events of 2020 exposed the immense apostasy of American Conservative Christianity and how easy it was for professing Christians to fall into the apostasy through politics. Now, let’s look at some more ways that God used 2020 to expose the apostasy.

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2020 in Hindsight: The Apostasy, Part One

Peter Ditzel

Looking at 2020 in hindsight reveals apostasy in American Christianity. This picture shows the Adoration of the Golden Calf, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1634. The worship of the golden calf was an apostasy.
Israel worshipped the golden calf when the people became faithless waiting for Moses. This was apostasy, and it was typological of the apostasy that will occur before the return of Christ. In 2020, God exposed an immense apostasy in American Christianity. It is too soon to say whether it portends the end-time apostasy. Adoration of the Golden Calf, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1634

We’ve all heard the expression, “Hindsight is 2020.” The past year was unquestionably one of the most alarming and catastrophic years in memory, so it would seem to be a good thing to look back on the year and see what God has been showing us. That’s right, God, who “declare[s] the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), and, who in the Person of the Son, upholds “all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), perfectly determined and controlled 2020 to be exactly what it was. And you can be sure that He did it all with purposes in mind. One of those purposes is particularly important for Christians, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this article.

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What is God doing in this trouble? This painting of Lot Fleeing from Sodom by Benjamin West shows that God causes calamity.
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There’s no escaping the fact that we’ve entered troubled and troubling times. How should we respond to this year’s salvo of calamities and bad news? Christians rightly turn to God and ask whether He’s causing the trials we’ve had this year. If He has, Why? Why is God bringing calamity upon us? What is God doing in this trouble? I don’t claim to be a prophet, but I believe that the Bible gives us some possible answers to these questions.

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A Brief Rebuttal to Churches that Continue to Meet During the Pandemic

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Image by rise-a-mui from Pixabay

I have to admit that I’m surprised. I didn’t expect churches would continue to meet as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. But the issue has even grown and become very divisive. I wrote my opinion on the subject here: “Love Your Neighbor in the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Briefly, my position is that, because of the high risk for spreading a deadly contagion, showing love to our neighbor means that we must not meet. We are also to obey the civil authorities (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1), and these authorities are telling us to stay home. Yet, some pastors stubbornly refuse to close their churches. So, I want to briefly give a rebuttal to the churches that continue to meet during the pandemic.

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Love Your Neighbor in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Peter Ditzel

How not to love your neighbor. A picture of empty meat bins.
Empty meat bins in my local Walmart Supercenter. The shortages we’ve been experiencing aren’t due to a lack of supply. They’re happening because people are buying more than they need and hoarding.

I’m confident that all of you know that, as the born-again children of God, we’re to display the love of God to our brethren, to our neighbors, and even to our enemies. Love should be the hallmark of our lives. That’s beyond question. I don’t need to list the myriad Bible passages that tell us this. But what is questionable is this: During this coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic—circumstances that most of us have never before encountered—how can we best show love to others? When things change so radically and so quickly, there may be things that we’ve been doing all along that may now be blunders; they may even be harmful. And there may be ways to show love that we wouldn’t normally think of.

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Christian Humanism: Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood Church

Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1523. Oil and tempera on wood, National Gallery, London, on loan from Longford Castle. By Hans Holbein the Younger in 1523.
Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) was an influential Christian humanist. Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1523.

Peter Ditzel

There’s a good chance that, if Christian humanism isn’t already playing at your neighborhood church, it soon will be. Christian humanism isn’t just one in a long list of heresies that have been bombarding Christianity lately; its doctrines are central to many of the others. Knowing how Christian humanism differs from the true Gospel will help us to root it out and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

We’re probably familiar with the secular brand of humanism for its rejection of God and faith, and its emphasis on finding truth, defining morality, and wanting to build a better world entirely through human effort. Secular humanism is easy to mark as an enemy of the Gospel. But Christian humanism, because it does not outright reject God and faith, makes itself harder to discern. This brands Christian humanism a more dangerous adversary than its secular cousin. But the two are linked.

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by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a woman tearing at her Bible with the overlaid words, Should we rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?
If the Old Testament tells us “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus says, “But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil,” does that mean the Old Testament is wrong? If Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Old, does that mean that we should rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?

I want to warn you against neo-Marcionism. Some preachers and writers either now promote or are just on the verge of blindly rushing into this dangerous belief. Around the middle of the second century AD, Marcion of Sinope began spreading his belief system that came to be known as Marcionism. One of his central teachings was the claim that the God of the Old Testament couldn’t be the God of the New Testament. The God of the New Testament sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. The Old Testament God was a legalistic God of retribution. Marcion’s solution to this seeming contradiction was to reject the Old Testament from the Christian canon.