The Subject assigned has to do with the question of “Our influence (as Christians) on the World in the Last Times—how and to what extent.”
A. The word “influence” evidently was chosen with some care. The topic was worded this way rather than “Our life in the world, as Christians,” or “Our witness in the World.”
1. Before we embark on any discussion it might be well to get some response from the group members about what they understand by “influencing our society (or world) and whether they feel we are not doing enough as Christians. Also, things they have questions about in this area.
2. We speak of a calling to witness to those about us, seldom is the word “influence” used. What difference would there be between the two? What would the relationship (connection) between these things be?
B. Many today speak of our calling to influence the world as Christians. What most have in mind is that we make the world more “Christian”, that is, more moral and Biblically centered. What they have in mind is establishing a Kingdom of Christ with peace and prosperity and justice on this earth with Christians playing a lead role in all facets of life. Some envision a future Millennial Kingdom brought about suddenly at Christ’s return to earthly Jerusalem. Others say that such waiting is too passive, so they speak in terms changing the world by means of the Church preaching a Social Gospel, and others speak in terms of “Redeeming Culture.” Our question in connection with this “Kingdom of God on earth” idea has always been; where do the Apostles point the church in this direction? What Scripture proof is there of the early NT church denouncing this or that government policy, overturning what was in place, and trying to replace it with their own? (If someone has questions about some NT passage this should be discussed.)
C. Before we discuss the Social Gospel and Redeeming Culture, some matters of the Biblical perspective could be briefly discussed.
1. II Cor. 6:14-17 speaks of our calling to be separate and warns against being unequally yoked with unbelievers. This raises questions.
First – What does “being separate” mean? (Isolated to some extent and disinterested perhaps?) How are we to be separate and show it?
Second – How is being “Separate” in the Biblical way going to affect the Christian ability to influence the world in any meaningful way?
2. Also, there is the whole book of the Revelation, with all of its judgments, visions and warnings of Satan’s evil designs, and God’s over-riding purpose. (Perhaps discussion of this could wait until the end and be discussed if time permits.) Still, what is interesting is that in the last chapter (Rev. 22:7) you read, “Behold I come quickly: Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
Note – The text does not say simply – “he that believeth the sayings” of the prophecy of the Revelation, but he that “keepeth”. By this the Apostle evidently meant that believers were to live in accordance with the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. How does one do that? (Quite possibly the second Speech will shed some light on this.)
Related questions are – What are some of the dangers threatening this proper “keeping” by Christians throughout the ages and especially in our own day (and perhaps special dangers to young people)? What are the saints to be looking for and watching out for? What is the witness to which the Apostle is calling the believers?
II. The Issue Addressed – Christian Involvement in Social Issues.
A. Today we hear much about the Social Gospel. It is severely criticized in our circles (and by others).
1. What do you understand by the “Social Gospel”? (examples of what is promoted and what is the goal of those who preach it).
2. We criticize it. Why? What is wrong with it? If it isn’t true love for the neighbor, what is? What is the Church’s calling?
3. What difference do you see between preaching against Abortion and Labor Union Membership and opposing from the pulpit such things as poverty, slavery, apartheid and military warfare?
B. Others speak of Redeeming Culture.
1. What do you understand them to mean by this? What is their goal?
2. We are to “redeem time”, but that is different than redeeming culture, is it not? What is the difference?
3. At this point perhaps it would be profitable to discuss what is called Christian Rock. They are redeeming music they say. What justification is given for its use, and what is your response?
C. Personal Involvement
1. Some may argue that since the Church is not to preach a Social Gospel, Christians ought not to become involved in social issues. Is this a valid conclusion? Why or why not?
2. The laws are becoming more and more lenient towards immoral, ungodly behavior, and more suppressive of historical Christian stands. There is the horror of abortion, legislation stating that teenagers may obtain abortions without parental knowledge or consent, laws protecting pornography (using taxpayers money), laws that infringe upon the right of schools (and churches) from hiring whom they will, etc. Petitions are being circulated to compel congressmen to reconsider evil laws or to remove unworthy judges, etc.
The question is – how ought we to respond? We can preach against these things in church, but that does not make our godly stand known in the world. Should we not become actively involved in opposing these things? Why or why not? If so, to what extent?
Should it be relegated to silent indignation? Should it involve personal correspondence to Congressmen? Is group “pressure” permissible, as in one letter signed by a number of fellow believers?
What about signing a petition with others not of our faith (begun perhaps by a good Baptist neighbor)? Is it permissible to join with unbelieving neighbors in some just cause against some objectionable evil (as a pornographic shop in the area) without compromising one’s difference with them in other areas?
3. A specific case – There is the issue of the Anti-abortion movement led by the Right-to-Life group. If you have read recent Beacon Lights you will know there is debate about the extent to which Christians may be involved.
a. How should we view this organization? To what extent support them?
b. What considerations should come into the picture? For instance, considering that unbelievers are involved (Roman Catholic priests), is it something we can take an active part in?
III. Considering Purpose and Motive
A. The question arises concerning our intention and expectation in these matters.
We believe that Scripture teaches that in the end wickedness will win out in society. It is foretold. All these things must come to pass before Christ returns.
Can you think of any good reasons for writing to congressmen and speaking against ungodly laws other than expecting to change the direction of our society?
B. If one writes to congressmen to voice objections to pending legislation what ought be brought to his/her attention?
C. If there is one great fault in today’s “Christianity” it is that there is complete disregard for what Scripture calls “heavenly mindedness”. What do you understand by this? How does this influence our view of our present calling in life? What affect on others?