Christ the Example
By Frank J. Manasseri
JESUS the CHRIST came into the world to bring men to the true knowledge of God; for “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) He came to reveal to men the Kingdom of God, to enunciate its principles, manifest its spirit, and to reveal its character. Of it He said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) His apostles declared, “The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”(Romans 14:17)
“My kingdom is not of this world.”
Every kingdom, every state, every government of men, is altogether of this world and of this world alone. How then can anybody be of any earthly kingdom or state and of the kingdom of God at the same time? Those who are genuinely born again are now citizens of the Kingdom of God which is composed of those who are “chosen out of the world.” Those who are of the state are of this world, because the state is altogether and only of this world.
And, indeed, were not “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” offered to Jesus for His very own while He was being tempted in the wilderness? Why then did He not take them and rule over them and convert them and thus save them?
He could not, because to have taken them would have been to recognize “the god of this world,” by whom they were offered. (Luke 4:5-8) And as always, the kingdom of this world is offered only by Satan; and all who are Christ’s will refuse it, as did our Example, and as did Moses, a chosen forerunner and Old Testament type of Christ.
Christ was and is the embodiment of all true Christianity. Therefore, in the Word of Christ, in the very principles of the cause of Christ, there is taught the separation of Truth and state as complete and as wide as is the separation between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. And this is as complete and as wide as is the separation between God’s ways and the world’s way of living.
Accordingly, Christ says in another place, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). Caesar was the head of the Roman Empire, the personification of the world’s power and in that Roman world-system it was claimed that whatsoever was Caesar’s, was God’s; because to all the people of that world system Caesar was God. He was set before the people as God; the people were required to worship him as God; incense was offered to his image as to God. In that system the state was divine, and Caesar was the state. Therefore that system was essentially a union of religion and the state.
In view of this, when Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” He denied to Caesar, and so to the state, every attribute, or claim of divinity. He showed that another than Caesar is truly God. Thus He entirely separated Caesar and God! He entirely separated between the things which are due to Caesar and those which are due to God. The things that are due to Caesar are not to be rendered to God. The things due to God are not to be rendered to Caesar. These are two distinct realms, two distinct personages, and two distinct fields of duty.
Therefore, in these words Jesus taught as plainly as it is possible to do, the complete separation of Truth and the state. No state can ever rightly require anything that is due to God; and when it is required by the state, it is not to be rendered.
Again: Jesus is the Example whom God has set to be the guide to every person in this world. Jesus of Nazareth is to be followed in every step that can be taken in the right way. Any step taken by anybody in a way in which the Lord Jesus did not go is taken in the wrong way. He hath left us “an example, that ye should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21). Whosoever saith that he “abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” (1 John 2:6) Jesus never, in any manner or to any degree, took any part in political functions or in any affairs of the state. Jesus was then, and is forever, the embodiment of Truth. Therefore, in His whole life’s conduct of absolute separation from everything political, from all affairs of the state, there is taught to all the world, and especially to all believers in Him, the complete separation of the Truth of Christ, and of all who hold it, from everything political and from all affairs of the state.
So faithfully did He hold to that principle that when a man asked Him only, “Speak to my brother, that he divides the inheritance with me,” He refused, with the words, “Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” Then He said to them all, “Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:13-15) If only all who have professed to be His followers had held distant from all affairs of politics and state, how vastly different would have been the history of the Christian era! What a blessing it would have been to the world and one can now only guess what floods of misery and woe mankind would have been spared!
And why was it that Jesus thus persistently kept detached from all affairs of politics and the state? Was it because all things political, judicial, and governmental were conducted with such perfect propriety, and with such evident justice, that there was no place for anything better, no room for improvement such as even He might suggest? Not by any means. Never was there more political corruption, greater perversion of justice, and essential all-pervasive evil of administration, than at the time of the Roman Empire. Why, then, did not Jesus call for “Municipal Reform?” Why did He not organize a “Law and Order League”? Why did He not disguise Himself and make tours of the dives and the gambling-dens, and entrap victims into violations of the law? And why did He not employ other spies to do the same, in order to get against the representatives of the law evidence of maladministration by which to arraign them and to compel them to enforce the law? Thus, He could reform the city, regenerate society, and save the state, and so establish the Kingdom of God? Why? The people were ready to do anything of that kind that might be suggested. The Zealots of the period were ready to cooperate with Him in any such work of “reform.” The people were so forward and so earnest that they would have actually taken Him by force and made Him King, which they endeavored to do had He not withdrawn Himself from them. (John 6:15) Why then did He refuse?
The answer to all this is, because He was Christ (The Messiah), the Savior of the world. He had come to help men, not to oppress them; had come to save men, not to destroy them.
“The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,–extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Savior attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart. Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12, 13. Here is the only power that can work the uplifting of mankind. And the human agency for the accomplishment of this work is the teaching and practicing of the word of God.”
“Desire of Ages”, Ellen G. White chap. 55, par. 12, page 510,511.
Now Christ is the true example set by God for every soul in this world to follow. The conduct of Christ is True Christianity and conforming to that example is the conduct each individual believer should emulate. This alone is Christianity in the world. The conduct of Christ, the example, was totally separate in all things from politics and the affairs of the state. Christianity, therefore, is the total separation of the believer in Christ from politics and all the affairs of the state, the total separation of Truth and the state in the individual believer.
Accordingly, Jesus said to His disciples forever, “Ye are not of the world but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19) And to His Father He said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16). The ideal is that every Christian in this world must be in the world as Christ was in the world. “As He is, so are we in the world.” (1 John 4:17) “It is enough for the disciple that he is as his Master.” (Matthew 10:25) The Master was always, and in all things, and by fixed design, completely separated from all affairs of politics and the state. And it is forever enough “that the disciple be as his Master.”
The following passage is taken from a sermon by the late Thomas Hewlings Stockton (Chaplain for US Congress 1833) presents infinity of truth, and is worthy to stand forever in letters ablaze with eternal glory:
“There was one sacrifice too great for Christ to make. He was willing to leave the throne of the universe for the manger of Bethlehem; willing to grow up as the son of a poor carpenter; willing to be called the friend of publicans and sinners; willing to be watched with jealous eyes, and slandered by lying tongues, and hated by murderous hearts, and betrayed by friendly hands, and denied by pledged lips, and rejected by apostate priests and a deluded populace and cowardly princes; willing to be sentenced to the cross, and to carry the cross, and be nailed to the cross, and bleed and groan and thirst and die on the cross. But He was not willing to wear an earthly crown or robe, or wield an earthly scepter, or exercise earthly rule. That would have been too great a sacrifice. He did, indeed, endure the crown of thorns and the cast-off purple and the reed, and the cry, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ But this was merely because He preferred the mockery to the reality; so pouring infinite contempt on the one, not only by rejecting it in the beginning of His ministry, but also by accepting the other at its close.”
This is the Christianity of Jesus Christ, as respects the great question of TRUTH and the state. As in all instruction from God from the beginning of creation down, it calls always for the complete separation of Truth and state in all things and in all people, in order that the Christian may enjoy infinitely higher things that were ordained by God for them to live in.
There is a Kingdom of God ethic which Jesus of Nazareth taught and modeled during His earthly ministry to His followers. Jesus was showing and teaching His disciples the “How” of living this Kingdom of God. Thus Jesus the Messiah was our living example of how a man should live in God’s Kingdom. In what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer Christ taught His disciples how to pray in the Kingdom of God.
Then during the forty days after His resurrection from the dead He taught His disciples the things concerning the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Therefore He not only modeled this Kingdom life before their very eyes, He also taught them about the things of the Kingdom of God.
In the book of Acts as Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, His disciples asked Him if He was going to restore the Kingdom back to Israel. This seemed to be a logic question for them to ask as He had just completed a forty day exposition of the things concerning the Kingdom of God to them.
The Lord’s answer was for them to go to Jerusalem and wait for this promise of the Father which would empower by with the outpouring of Holy Spirit.