In the New Testament world, “Lord” was also the title of Caesar, as the one to whom people in the Roman world owed their ultimate allegiance. “Lord” set him apart as a god-like figure in the ancient world.
In the First Century world, one had to affirm ultimate allegiance to Caesar in an outward way. Allegiance was affirmed usually by having a person approach an altar with fiery coals on it and a statue of the Emperor beside it. One would toss a pinch of incense on it and say the words, “Caesar is Lord!” In the Greek, only two words, Kaesar Kyrios. (see “Church” below). Not much, you might think. However, Caesar or a modern nation-state is not our ultimate patron or King. Jesus Christ is! (see “Ploycarp” below).
God requires obedience to his Son, Jesus Christ.
We do not have a Caesar any more, but we have authority figures and structures that permit no rival to authority. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan sets forth the answer to unrest in society—”civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature [can] only be avoided by strong, undivided government.” (see “Leviathan” below) The motto in the picture below is from Job 41:33—On earth there is nothing like him (i.e. the sea monster, or Leviathan). This by extension is applied to government by Hobbs.
This is the frontispiece to Hobbes’ book Leviathan. It depicts government as a King arising from the land as supreme ruler unchallenged by any other power.
Do we not see potential conflict here? Government demands to be our unchallenged Lord. Jesus Christ is inherently Lord and does not admit any rival as first place in our hearts. Two passages in Revelation make this plain.
These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
When any earthly power makes demands contrary to the Word of God, we must conclude with Peter in Acts 5:29—
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.“
We as Christians come into conflict when we do otherwise than obey government, our modern-day Caesar. We cannot conform to Caesar’s will in our lives just to fit into society. If we do not conform, we will suffer—politically, financially, socially, etc. We may have to forfeit our lives.
It is not that we hate our modern day “Caesar.” It’s that we love our Lord Jesus Christ so much more in comparison! We do as government requires so long as government doesn’t demand what God alone deserves. Our God cannot permit divided first love and loyalty!
Exodus 34:14 states this clearly—
“…You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
Our God made us to glorify him and enjoy him, and he cannot share first place in our hearts with another person or thing, other than Himself.
A martyr was asked, whether he did not love his wife and children, who stood weeping by him.
“Love them? Yes,” said he, “if all the world were gold, and at my disposal, I would give it for the satisfaction of living with them, though it were in prison.”
“Yet, in comparison of [my love to] Christ, I love them not.”
(See “Whitecross” below)
Hymn line (Martin Luther “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”)
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
I want to give You first place in my heart—
to find my highest good in You—
the ground of my rest, and
the spring of my being.
Give me a deeper knowledge of Yourself as my
Saviour, Master, Lord, and King.
I have no Master but You,
no law but Your will,
no chief delight but You,
no wealth but what You give me,
no good but that with which You bless me,
no peace but that which You bestow.
All gifts from You I hold in my open palm—
You are my most precious Gift!
You may take things back; give them to another person;
give me other things in their place; but my chief delight is You.
And You I will never give up!
Hold me to Your heart. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
(Adapted from, see “Puritan Prayers” below)
Church, Alfred J. (2017). “The Examination.” Accessed 17 June 2018 from https://www.heritage-history.com/index.php?c=read&author=church&book= lions&story=examination
Leviathan Hobbes Book. (2018). Accessed 18 June 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Leviathan_(Hobbes_book)
Polycarp. (2002-2018) Accessed 15 May 2018 from https://www.polycarp.net/
Puritan Prayers. (17 June 2007). Modern Puritan Prayer I [Blog post]. Accessed 19 May 2018 from https://postmortemism.wordpress.com/category/modern-puritan-prayers/
Whitecross (2016). The Shorter Catechism Illustrated Accessed 15 May 2018 from http://www.shortercatechism.com/resources/whitecross/wsc_wh_026.html
© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved