John MacArthur: Politics, Activism, and the Gospel

This is an excellent and timely message by John MacArthur. I came across it tonight posted by Greg at SermonIndex, and also at Pulpit Magazine:

With the nation focused on the November elections, we thought a post on politics might be appropriate. The point of this article is not that we should abstain from any participation in the political process, but rather that we must keep our priorities straight as Christians. After all, the gospel, not politics, is the only true solution to our nation’s moral crisis.

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture.

The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society.

But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization.

Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with.

To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word.

Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.


“Ironically, we turn to the state to enforce the values we can’t seem to advance in our own churches. We’re rightly concerned about our collapsing families, internet pornography, decadent movies and music, and the weakening of sexual morality. But we often can’t seem to prevent the encroachment of these problems in our own Christian families and congregations. As if in response, we keep trying to change our nation’s laws” – Christianity Today, Union University professor David P. Gushee excoriates politicking by Christian conservatives

14 comments on “John MacArthur: Politics, Activism, and the Gospel

  1. That is a great article and I think he has hit the nail on the head. I wish all of the evangelical church could get a grasp on this reality.

  2. cheryl, I agree
    Great article, I even asked the some questions on the Palin Abuse comments.

    Thank you John MacArthur, Great wake call!

    Lord knows my prayer for this election, leaders and our enemies. who knows maybe some of them may even recieve Christ Jesus.

  3. […] video collection Paul Washer – Those In Christ Are Beloved!  341 views 19 Sep 08 Let Me Tell You…  1846views 30 Jul 08 The Voice of Truth  […]

  4. Lord knows my prayer for this election, leaders and our enemies. who knows maybe some of them may even receive Christ Jesus.

    crpappas, amen!

    This message was right on target, or as you pointed out Cheryl, MacArthur hit the nail on the head..

    So much in this spoke to my heart–all of it in fact, but it was this which summed up for me the greatest danger which has resulted in the Evangelical political movement of the last 30- years:

    To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    And this:

    Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

  5. I love McArthur. He can usually gracefully sum up the state of the church. This was fantastic!

  6. Instead of worrying over the nation’s laws, we should look to ourselves and our own families. Are we living right? I read that Christians have the same rates of abortion, divorce, porn addiction, etc. as the secular population. Perhaps if we had a far lower rate of divorce, etc, people would notice the benefits of truely trying to live a holy life. Sadly, I am afraid that many in the secular world regard Evangelical Christians as hypocrits. I know that no one is perfect. But it is so important that Christ’s name not be associated, or synonimous, with hypocisy.

  7. I just can’t wait until this is over. I have been getting people that I don’t even know who are sending blanket e-mails about politics. For instance, my father in law will send something out to his umpteen billion friends who happen to be from all political walks of life…and every time they reply to him…they foreward their response to everyone on his list. This has been going on for months. Of course, I don’t have a horse in the race…so it gets really annoying…I had 5 today alone!

  8. MacArthur nails it.

    Everytime I hear a hyper-evangelical Christian try to convince me that we must have the right politicians in ofice in order for God to move, I always refer them to Acts 26:28

    Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

    Reading the same Bible the hyper-evangelical’s want to ‘restore’, and looking at this based on “hyper-evangelical logic”; you would have to consider the Apostle Paul and the first church to be a huge failure because they could not overthrow the ‘oppressive government’ and usher forth a Christianized theocracy.

    It doesn’t matter who is in government. It matters how we live as Christians.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m beginning to like John Macarthur more and more as I read his stuff. I never really gave the guy a chance.


  10. John MacArthur gets right at the heart of the issue. I really appreciate his uncompromising teaching. (This the second article of his I have read today. The other was “Discernment: Spiritual Survival for a Church in Crisis” at http://www.gty.org/Resources/positions/116.)

    Thank you for posting this piece.

  11. http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4908453

    Sorry, not the link above, but this one on Rod Parsley

  12. Oh Lord, please do not get me started on Rod Parsley.

  13. Somebody send a copy of this to Sarah Palin…

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