Christians Turn the World Upside Down
“And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;” Acts 17:6 (KJV) Who were these men? They were a group of Christians who spread the “good news” with Paul and Silas—a small group. In fact, it was a small enough group that the Jews went looking for them all at Jason’s home. Granted, Jason’s house could have been rather sizeable. But taking into consideration the size of Ancient Rome, it was still a considerably small group of Christians.
So, how were they turning the world upside down? To begin with, they were reasoning with others about how Jesus Christ is the Lord—proclaiming the truth. Secondly, because the Holy Spirit was dwelling within them, Christ was governing in and through them. Therefore, their hearts were bursting with new life in Christ because they were now walking in the New Covenant. But it wasn’t always this way . . .
Jesus is the Focal Point of His-Story
First, we must begin with the Foundation—Jesus Christ. For all of history is His-Story. Needless to say, within His-story are individuals who lived prior to and after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Messiah. Interestingly, God governed individuals differently prior to and after Jesus’ ministry on earth. The way in which He governs individuals is reflected in the history of nations. Additionally, God gives blessings or curses by means of warnings so that individuals and nations may choose wisely how to be governed.
How God Governed Individuals in the Old Testament
To begin with, in the Old Testament times, believers looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Prior to Christ’s first coming, individuals were ruled externally—the hand written ordinances were given to them as a witness against them and placed by the side of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ten Commandments were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant—these commandments are written on the hearts of True believers. So, the Old Covenant Law was written on stony tablets to govern individuals externally.
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33 (KJV)
How God Governs Individuals Since the New Testament
During Christ’s ministry on earth, individuals had the opportunity to learn from Him and walk with Him as He dwelt among them. For individuals who repent of their sins and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, they become governed internally. What is the effect? New Covenant Law is written on hearts to govern them internally.
““This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”’ Hebrews 10:16 (ESV)
In particular, this happens as individuals repent and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift brought Christian self-government—Christ governing in an through individuals—to the individual. It astonished the world.
For in those days, Oriental Despotism ruled the day—it was a rule of the few over the many. As previously mentioned, God gives warnings to individuals and nations if they choose a pagan form of government rather than God’s form of government.
We see the beginnings of this in 1 Samuel 8 when Ancient Israel wants a king like the pagan nations have. While God was governing Ancient Israel externally, He was doing this in a way that was working on their hearts. We see this clearly when we look at the ceremonial laws, which were to teach them about Christ. Also, it’s evident when we look at the civil laws He put in place to teach them how to live among each other according to His design and pleasure.
However, despite the warnings that God gave them through the Prophet Samuel, they wanted to be governed from the top-down. Of note, this top-down government with an earthly king had nothing to do with governing their hearts—the earthly king had no concern for shaping them more into the character of Christ.
Their Hearts Already Strayed
Samuel asked the Lord for direction about this when the people approached him about it. God told him to listen to what the people wanted because internally they had already rejected God as their King. By this, we mean that they didn’t want to rely on God. In His gracious and loving way, He had Samuel give them a warning concerning an earthly king to “take care of them.” Instead of heeding the warning they chose despotism. In other words, they chose to live under the arbitrary, unlimited, and uncontrolled authority of an earthly king.
Christ Changed Things
Fast forward to Christ’s ministry on earth, and we learn that individuals living in the New Testament times grasped the understanding of God’s laws being written on their hearts. In John 8:32, we read that they “would know the truth and that the truth would set them free.” Despite being under an earthly king’s rule in civil government and ruled by the flesh, they were able to live freely by the internal government given by Christ their King. Instead of wrestling both with worldly and heavenly laws, they were free internally to live according to Christ by His power. This change within them allowed for them to live at peace with God despite Caesar’s laws—ones that were contrary to God’s laws—that is His Ten Commandments. Given these points, we learn in Acts 17:6 that Christians became known for turning the world upside down by practicing Christian self-government.
Romans 13 is often debated among Christians. But when we study:
- nation-making and its cause-to-effect
- when we understand about Christ governing in and through us
- and history of the Protestant Reformation (Think Reformation Day and the Bible in English) and its cause-to-effect
then we can better understand its principles.
That all aside, Romans 13 teaches that civil government is necessary and has its place. Firstly, it’s important to note that this passage of Scripture is referring to righteous governing authorities. To be sure, this is what is meant by rulers being “a minister of God to you.”
Let’s pause a moment to be certain that we understand the Biblical definition of righteous:
“RIGHTEOUS, adjective ri’chus. 1. Just; accordant to the divine law. 2. Just; equitable; merited.”
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language
Secondly, rulers aren’t to cause fear for good behavior; they’re to cause fear for those who practice evil. To be clear, God defines what good behavior is—He shows us in His Natural Law and in His Revealed Law in the Scriptures. Therefore, rulers are to rule rightly and individuals practicing Christian self-government should have nothing to fear. This is evidently referring to the Ten Commandments and the Two Greatest Commandments in Romans 13:7-10—love God and love others.
A Dichotomy on Government
Pulling back from these details, we see a dichotomy: 1) God’s cause was external with the effect being internal; 2) The earthly king’s cause was external with no effect on the internal but rather oppressive rule over the individual. What a comparison to what we’re experiencing today in America—whether directly or indirectly!
America Isn’t Under Oriental Despotism
May America never be under Oriental Despotism. Understandably, with all that is currently going on due to this “Rona” stuff it makes one wonder: Are Christians the Losers in History? I say we’re not.
That all said, we do have the responsibility to govern and be stewards of our nation. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to listen to this interview with Dr. Marshall Foster: Celebrating 400 Years of Freedom, the Landing of the Pilgrims! The Mayflower Compact—Nov 11, 1620.
I’ll say this though, because of the internal government of Christ flowing in and through us, it has an outer working in even the civil sphere when applied. As such, we’ve been given a Constitutional Federal Representative Republic. Again, the Protestant Reformation birthed America and our civil liberties based on Biblical principles and with it’s checks and balances. Let us restore and keep it for generations to come. Let’s get back to our first principles and continue turning the world “upside down”!