The first use of the word aletheia is actually used by the Pharisees in one of their tests of Jesus:
“Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?’ But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, ‘Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.’ So they brought it. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at Him.” (Mark 12:13-17)
The Pharisees’ use of the word truth and what they said about Jesus’ teachings were accurate but they obviously did not believe it. That being said, the fact that they used the word aletheia shows they were attributing absolute truth to the way of God, albeit not living it.
The brilliance of Jesus’ answer is not in its cleverness but in its obviousness. The Jews were already paying taxes unto Caesar. The image on the silver denarius was that of Caesar Tiberius, a somewhat harmless Caesar as far as Caesar’s go. That being said, the Pharisees hated the jackboot of the Roman Empire and to act as though they were good Roman citizens was the height of hypocrisy. It was only topped by their tribute to Jesus.
We are expected to be dutiful citizens as long as it is not contrary to God’s laws. That is another complete lesson for another time, but suffice it to say that I can think of no Jew who wanted to throw off the taxation burden of the Roman Empire than a small businessman such as Peter the fisherman. And yet he was able to write these words:
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:11-17)
This passage and Romans 13 should not be used as an excuse to not oppose a godless government or lick the boot of those in power as some of our emaciated, pathetic pastors we see today. The brilliance of our government system is that we the people have the right to elect godly men and women to represent us. Some would say that the passage from Peter does not specify the type of government were are to submit to, but the totality of the Bible teaches God approves only of a just and righteous government. He uses the unjust tyrants to punish His people when they depart from His holy precepts.
It is also important to remember that Jesus’ mission was not to set the citizens free of Roman rule, but to set the captives free from the penalty of sin. Here’s Matthew Henry’s take on our passage from Mark 12:
Christ did not interpose as a judge in matters of this nature, for His kingdom is not of this world, but he enjoins peaceable subjection to the powers that be. His adversaries were reproved, and His disciples were taught that the Christian religion is no enemy to civil government. Christ is, and will be, the wonder, not only of His friends, but of his enemies. They admire His wisdom, but will not be guided by it; His power, but will not submit to it.
Therein lies the issue and Jesus’ main teaching point. We submit to government, no matter how wicked it is, when at times we should stand in the gap for the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we claim the mantle of Christ and its inherent power, and yet never submit to it nor employ it to oppose godless government.
As I have said many times before, too many Christians—among them leaders of parachurch lobbyist organizations—submit to the G-O-P instead of submitting to G-O-D, no matter the godlessness of the former. The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church of this type of corruption:
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24)
For far too long elected officials have walked in the futility of their minds and we the people continue to reward this by reelecting them or electing more like them. Paul reminds us that the truth, aletheia truth, is found in Jesus.
Would to God we as a Church come to finally realize, rest in, and restore our nation in that truth.
I pray you have a great weekend. Pray for America. Pray that we will bless God with our lives. And please remember to go to church on Sunday.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers
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