Aeneas, Anarchy, and America #1

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Introduction:

This short series of messages can be considered as what used to be called “artillery sermons.” The custom (and the name) began in England in the first half of the 17th century, where military groups invited ministers to come and preach to them. In our colonial period, ministers used to preach such sermons prior to elections, in order to instruct and exhort their people in the duties of a Christian citizen. This kind of instruction is always most necessary, for politics is always complicated. But it is especially needed in this particular pig’s breakfast of an election cycle.plant-from-bible

The Text:

“And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named AEneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:32–35).

Summary of the Text:

Many miracles are recorded in the book of Acts, and usually the people who are the recipients of the miraculous power are unnamed (Acts 5:12-16; 19:11-12). On the occasions when the recipient is named, they are part of the Christian community, like Tabitha (9:36-41) or Eutychus (20:9-12), or an opponent of the gospel like Elymas (13:6-11), or both, like Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10). In short, this incident with Aeneas really stands out, particularly because of the use of his name.

Aeneas was the name of the legendary founder of Rome. The Aeneid, a book exalting him, and Caesar Augustus through him, was written somewhere between 29 and 19 B.C. This was (roughly) just fifty years prior to this incident in Lydda. The immediate successor to Augustus was Tiberius, and he was still reigning during this incident. So try to read it like this—“And there he found a certain man named George Washington, who had been a paralytic for 8 years . . .” And imagine those words being written just fifty years after George Washington’s death, which would be in 1849. Would any of you think that something was up? Of course you would, but you wouldn’t be so foolish as to think it was referring to “the same person.” But you would certainly think a point was being made.

This is a deft Lucan jab at the pride and insolence of Rome. This was the empire that could treat the Mediterranean as an internal lake, and which was the glory of that world. And the apostle Peter—who would later be crucified upside down by Rome—came along and raised the crippled Aeneas to full health. What you have in this incident is a glorious foreshadowing of the next four hundred years. The paralysis of Rome was not yet evident to everyone, but it soon enough would be.

Politics Is Personal:

Policies don’t develop themselves, and people don’t give themselves to disembodied causes. Leadership is always personal. Kingship is personal. This being the case, always beware of “the tactical vote.” We are not moving inanimate chess pieces around on an impersonal political board. And this is why your two candidates really need to be “Sackcloth & Ashes 2016.”

“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: For the throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12).

If it is not righteous, then you are not establishing anything. If it is not righteous, you are not saving anything. A throne is not established by the lesser of two evils.

No Other Name:

Now pagan politics and Christian theology necessarily collide because they are two rival plans of salvation. Here is something that Peter once said after having had healed an earlier cripple.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Why is this important? This statement by Peter is a challenge to the saving authority of Rome.

Who was Caesar Augustus? Why does Luke bring him into the Christmas story (Luke 2:1)? Much more was involved in all of this than a simple indication of chronology. Octavius as a young man had been adopted by Julius Caesar, and he was the heir apparent. By the birth of Jesus he was the long-established emperor. In fact, as early as 40 B.C. a blasphemous coin had been struck in Gaul which showed the two-headed god Janus. Julius was on one side and Octavius was on the other, with an inscription that said, “The divine Caesar—and the Son of God.” In addition, there was an Egyptian inscription which said that Octavius was a marvelous star, “shining with the brilliance of the great heavenly Savior.” Then, in 17 B.C. when a strange star appeared in the heavens, Augustus commanded a twelve-day Advent celebration, as a ceremonial embrace of Virgil’s statement: “The turning point of the ages has come!” During the reign of Augustus, the cult of explicit emperor worship took firm root, especially in Asia Minor. This region was to become the center of persecution of Christians—and for precisely this reason.

Even his assumed name for his rule indicates the problem. The ruling title Augustus was taken up by him, and the name means “worthy of reverence and worship.” He was, in short, homo imperiosus—imperial man, “full of command.” Caesar Augustus was simply the last in a long line of ancient men who believed in humanistic empire. But God was sending another kind of emperor, and another kind of empire entirely. God sent another way of salvation. (For more, see Christ and the Caesars by Stauffer)

Jesus Christ Makes Thee Whole:

Whatever you do, however you vote, you must vote against secularism. In other words, you must repudiate in your heart and mind the notion that religious neutrality in the public square is even a remote possibility. Your reasoning must be something like this: “Because secularism is utterly bankrupt, and because my responsibility as a Christian citizen is to hasten the day when that is evident to all, I will do ‘thus and such.’” There will be more on what ‘thus and such’ might look like later in this series. But if that is your pursuit, then you answer to God in how you conduct it. If it is not your pursuit, then it needs to be.

Peter healed Aeneas in the name of Jesus. There is no salvation apart from a Savior. There is no healing apart from a healer. There is no deliverance apart from a deliverer. And so—as should be plain—all we have to do to make sure Aeneas remains on his mat is . . . nothing. If we want him to walk again apart from the name of Jesus, we are longing for something that cannot be. The pretensions of humanistic man are not just impotent, but they are also—as politics in our era make plain—ridiculous.

It is Christ or chaos, Christ or nothing, Christ or the abyss.

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John Callaghan
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John Callaghan

“For his Religion, it was fit To match his learning and his wit; ‘Twas Presbyterian true blue; For he was of that stubborn crew Of errant saints, whom all men grant To be the true Church Militant; Such as do build their faith upon The holy text of pike and gun; Decide all controversies by Infallible artillery;” – Samuel Butler, Hudibras I had thought that Butler was just straining for a rhyme there with that last word, but perhaps he had in mind those sermons. The beginning of his satirical poem might fit our day too: “When civil dudgeon first… Read more »

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

I was always partial to Byron:

Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That the apostles would have done as they did.

Ilíon
Member

Aeneas was the name of the legendary founder of Rome.

No, Aeneas was the name of the legendary ancestor of the legendary founder of Rome. Aeneas might be considered the legendary “founder” of the Latin people, but not of the city of Rome itself.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Romulus and Remus, right? I always cracked up at a New Yorker cartoon that showed poor little Romulus and Remus being suckled by the wolf. The caption said, “It’s always the kids who suffer.”

Ilíon
Member

Yes. Romulus got the credit, and the naming rights. But, by legend, it was the two of them who founded the city, before Romulus killed Remus.

John Carnahan
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John Carnahan

Doug explained beyond the sermon notes that R&R got credit for founding the city and Aeneas the “Romans.”

Jennie
Member

“Because secularism is utterly bankrupt, and because my responsibility as a Christian citizen is to hasten the day when that is evident to all, I will do ‘thus and such.’” Good grief. Are you advocating we vote for Hillary? ;) I don’t think that secularism’s bankruptcy will be evident to secularists until they’re dead. They have suppressed the Truth because of their unrighteousness. Should they see that this particular form of secularism has failed, they will look for another false -ism to suit their needs. Anything but Christ, unless our Father changes their hearts and we Christians grow a backbone… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

What I often wonder is how Christians can do this. Sometimes the public display of a backbone is counterproductive if it is seen merely as muscle flexing (a mixed metaphor, but you know what I mean). Secularists are prone to see Christians not as having something wonderful to offer them, but as killjoys intent on destroying their freedom. Nagging and scolding feed into this. I am sure that every Kevin Swanson article about the demonic possession of Mark Twain makes secularists more determined than ever to keep his particular type of Christian from getting on a school board. And I… Read more »

Jennie
Member

It’s difficult. If Christians walk in a way pleasing to God, they will be hated by secularists. Scripture attests to that. Therefore, step one is to stop caring whether what we do is pleasing to the world. As soon as we worry about the optics, we have stepped out of the light. As Pastor Doug and others have pointed out, there is no neutral ground. Speaking the truth of the dangers of a sinful life is going to sound like condemnation because it is. The condemnation comes not from us though. God has said who has a part in the… Read more »

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

I meant of Christians in general, not me in particular. I think that we have to find the right balance, and to care about public opinion in the right way. We should care in the sense that if we are Christ’s ambassadors, we must show His merciful love as well as His judgment. If we are seen us unloving and full of condemnation, we will not bring many people to Christ. On the other hand, we can’t be worldly in the hope of making the world like us. One thing that troubles me is the tendency among some Christians to… Read more »

Christopher
Member

“If we are seen us unloving and full of condemnation, we will not bring many people to Christ.”

 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:35

Our concern should be following Christ, Jonah wasn’t balanced and loving to Ninevah but they repented.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

That is true. But has what we are doing actually worked? Is yelling at people bringing in converts by the score? As we say we want to transform the culture, are we presenting ourselves as other than scolds? Does the typical secularist notice our love for them or only our anger? Does he see the Christian the way people used to see the Puritans–as people who want to change the culture in order to make sure that nobody is indulging in illicit pleasure? Were most of us converted by moral outrage, or by coaxing and persuasion based on love for… Read more »

Christopher
Member

“But has what we are doing actually worked?”

Did it work when the prophets called Isreal to repentance?

I don’t expect yelling at people to get someone anything other than a sore thoat. I’m not concerned with loving the typical secularist, but rather the secularists I personaly encounter.

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

That is a good distinction. It is easier to love in the abstract than the concrete!

Matt
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Matt

No it doesn’t work, but pointing this out and suggesting a tactical review will usually get you accused of “concern trolling” or the like. In fact, many Christians of the more right-wing bent seem to take it as a point of pride that nothing they do has any practical effect, likening themselves to biblical prophets in the process. It’s entirely true that Christians are seen as having no positive vision for life in the 21st century, instead relying on unthinking deference to tradition and vague ancestor worship.

Kingdom Ambassador
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If Yahweh is the only lawgiver, per Isaiah 33:22 and James 4:12, then anyone promoting any law inimical to His is an anarchist. This includes those who promote the biblically seditious Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Paladin
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Paladin

Election sermons were the NORM… but remember those were ancient times for silly fools who believed in an invisible sky monkey – todays people believe in THEMSELVES and thus we rest in humanistic endeavors because we are way wiser than a God who knows NOT how to design his supposed Creation. – That’s the world, they believe that without ANY EVIDENCE – and laugh at christians who HAVE Evidences because PRIDE of their hearts replaced the Seat of Governance.