You’ve heard the debates in Parliament over taxation and representation; you’ve seen British troops enforce royal supremacy at the point of a bayonet. Your king, George III, and Parliament have issued a declaration asserting their sovereignty in “all cases whatsoever” in the colonies.
When understood in its own times, the American Revolution was first and foremost a religious event. In fact, not only was it right for colonists to resist British “tyranny,” it would actually be sinful not to pick up guns.
How did they come to this conclusion? They fastened on two arguments.
First, they focused on Parliament’s 1766 Declaratory Act, which stated that Parliament had sovereignty over the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” For clergymen, especially Baptists, this phrase took on the air of blasphemy. These were fighting words not only because they violated principles of representative government but even more because they violated the logic of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) and God’s exclusive claim to sovereignty “in all cases whatsoever.” This king was claiming God’s place and authority!
From the first colonial settlements, Americans were accustomed to constraining all power and granting absolute authority to no mere human being. For Reformed colonists, these ideas were tied up with their historic, covenant theology. At stake was the preservation of their identity as a covenant people. Not only did Parliament’s claims represent tyranny, they also represented idolatry. For colonists to honor those claims would be tantamount to forsaking God and abdicating their national covenant pledge to “have no other gods” before them.
In a classic sermon on the subject of resistance entitled A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission, Boston’s Jonathan Mayhew, a liberal (he favored Unitarianism), took as his text Romans 13:1–6, in which Paul enjoins Christians to “be subject unto the higher powers.”
For centuries, rulers had used this text to discourage resistance and riot. But circumstances had changed, and in the chilling climate of impending Anglo-American conflict, Mayhew asked if there were any limits to this law. He concluded that the law is binding only insofar as government honors its “moral and religious” obligations. When government fails to honor that obligation, or contract, then the duty of submission is likewise nullified. Submission, in other words, is not unlimited.
Rulers, he said, “have no authority from God to do mischief.… It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers.” Far from being sinful, resistance to corrupt ministers and tyrannical rulers is a divine imperative. The greater sin lies in passively sacrificing the covenant for tyranny, that is, in failing to resist.The passage we have today teaches something similar: that the rulers of the nations plot in vain. The Messiah is enthroned above all.
Pray and Read: Psalm 2
Contextual Notes: The word psalm means song and has the connotation of a prophetic song. It speaks of something to come. It is prophecy. Psalm 1 and 2 form the introduction to the entire book of the Psalms. Psalm 1 prophesies the Righteous Man who is to come. Psalm 2 predicts the failure of the nations’ plots to keep that Righteous Man from taking His rightful place as King.
This psalm’s twelve verses divide neatly into 4 groups of 3 stanzas each.
In the first stanza, verses 1-3, the kings of the earth speak rebellion against the Lord and his Messiah.
In the second stanza, verses 4-6, the Lord in heaven establishes his own King on Mount Zion.
In the third stanza, verses 7-9, the Messiah Himself speaks, telling of the Lord’s decree establishing Him as King, granting Him Sonship and authority over the nations.
Then the final stanza, verses 10-12, ends with the kings of the earth warned to submit to the Lord and His Messiah-Son.
There is a tight ABB’A’ construction. The two outside stanzas are on the earth and speak of the rebellious kings of the earth who are warned to submit to the Messiah. The two inside stanzas are in heaven and speak of the enthronement and authority of the Messiah.
Key Truth: David wrote Psalm 2 to teach that Jesus Christ will rule the rebellious nations.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what the Bible teaches about the rule of Christ over the nations.
1. Rebellion is dumb (Psalm 2:1-3)
2. Rebellion is dangerous (Psalm 2:4-6)
3. Rebellion is destructive (Psalm 2:7-9)
4. Rebellion is discouraged (Psalm 2:10-12)
Exposition: Note well,
1. REBELLION IS DUMB (Psalm 2:1-3).
a. Acts 4:25-26
b. Verse 1 points directly to a pre-meditated plot to kill the anointed one, pointing straight to Christ.
c. APPLICATION: When you stand against God’s purposes in your life, in your children’s lives, in your church, you are doing it in vain. It is not smart.
2. REBELLION IS DANGEROUS (Psalm 2:4-6).
a. Psalm 37:13; John 1:49
b. He laughs. He scoffs. He rebukes. He terrifies. He installs His Man on the throne.
c. APPLICATION: Standing against God’s purposes and working to stop or overcome his work is dangerous.
3. REBELLION IS DESTRUCTIVE (Psalm 2:7-9).
a. He rules the rebellious. He dashes the rebellious.
b. The nations which rebel against Him will be possessed by Him.
c. Verse 7: 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 110:1; Acts 13:33-36; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5
d. Verse 8-9: Revelation 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:5
4. REBELLION IS DISCOURAGED (Psalm 2:10-12).
a. The wise thing to do is submit to Him (2:10).
b. The wise thing to do is serve Him (2:11)
c. The wise thing to do is adore Him (2:12)
d. The wise thing to do is take refuge in Him (2:12)
Invitation: The founding fathers’ rallying cry from pulpits across the land was, “No King but Jesus,” and they meant that no human ruler would take what is rightfully Christ’s – the souls of men. Won’t you submit to Him today? Serve Him today? Adore Him today? Take refuge in Him today?
Preached: Sunday, July 6, 2008 at Amis Chapel Baptist Church, Oak Hill, NC