Friday, October 24, 2014



Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family and from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3.

We have already looked a little at family trees. We looked at Abraham’s Family Tree in particular. We also looked about his Family Trek. And we concluded that, though it is nice to know where you’ve come from, it’s even better to know where you are going.

In the following we pick up the story of the life of Abraham in a place called Haran. Abraham and some of his family stopped there on the way to the Land of Promise. We’re told in Genesis 11:32 that Abraham’s dad, Terah, died there at Haran. Listen to what Stephen said before they stoned him (as recorded in Acts 7:2ff.), “Men and brethren and fathers listen; the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he called out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He [i.e., the Lord] moved him to this land in which you now dwell.”

So, with these words in mind, we should take note of two things: a) Abraham was called by God while in Ur of the Chaldees and not in the place called Haran. And b) The God of glory appeared to Abraham and not to his father Terah. So, what are we to make of the words in Genesis 11:31, “And Terah took his son Abram let all they went with them from Ur of the Chaldeans”? Well, we are to take it that Moses, the writer of this passage, is giving Terah respect of place. Terah was Abraham’s father and Scripture says, “Honor your father and mother.” So, even though it was Abraham who was called by God, his father gets a mention out of respect because he went too.

So, we ask the question, Whence come they? And whither dost they goest? Or to put that into modern idiom, Where have they come from and where are they going? Well, they’ve come from a place called Ur which is in south-eastern Mesopotamia and now they are in Haran which is in North-west Mesopotamia. And they are on their way to the land the God of glory has promised to show Abraham. They have travelled up between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. They have gone through what would now be Iraq. And if you still don’t know where I mean then think about Damascus. You’ll have heard about Paul on the road to Damascus? Well, Damascus is nowhere near Haran! However, if Paul had kept going when he was walking north to Damascus he would have come to Haran eventually.

So, Abraham and his cortege, or caravan, were traversing what is known as the “Fertile Crescent.” They could have gone straight from Ur to Canaan but this would have meant going across the desert. And if you’ve ever watched any movies about the French Foreign Legion you’ll know that the desert is a tough thing to cross. So it’s better to take the long way round rather than dying of thirst in the sands of the desert! That is, supposing it was a desert in those days as it is now.

The thing that makes the story of the life of Abraham most remarkable is that Abraham did all if is on a promise. When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans all he had to go on was a bunch of promises. Oh sure, it was the God of glory who appeared to him and had given him these promises. But how did Abraham know that the Word of the LORD was true and could be trusted? Faith! That’s why Abraham is the father of the faithful – faith!

The general gist of what we’ll be looking at in the following is this, Take God at His Word because He is more than able to deliver what He has promised! We’ll focus in a general way on three things which up ahead will be elaborated on. Those three things are: the Promise, the Progeny and the Property.

The Promise
“Now the LORD had said to Abram” Genesis 12:1. What follows is the promise, which consisted of land, offspring, blessing, a great name, God’s protection, and a blessing for all the families of the earth. However, before we get into all of that, notice the tense, “The LORD had said to Abram.” So here he is in Haran. His father has just died. Perhaps that’s why they stopped at Haran. Maybe Terah was ill, (though it looks like Abram lived in Haran some fifteen years). Anyway, Terah died there and now Abraham and his living rellies were leaving. They were heading toward this land that the LORD said He would show Abram.

Even though he’s just lost his father, Abraham doesn’t decide to turn back. It might have been tempting to return with his father’s body to Ur for burial. But more than that, what was Abraham’s father doing in Haran anyway? Didn’t the Lord say to Abraham before he left Ur, “Get out of your country, from your kindred and your father’s house, to a land I will show you”? So what’s Abraham playing at, taking the “old man” with him? He was supposed to leave his kindred behind, wasn’t he? But what would happen if you told your family that you had met the God of glory? What would happen if you told them about the promises of God?

I know a man whose daughter showed him the promises the God of glory has made in His Word. Some Christians had been teaching the Bible to this girl who was young at the time. She asked dad if he could help her understand the Word of God. He didn’t know that much about the Bible. So she showed him a few things! It wasn’t long before he was on the road to the “Land of Promise” with his daughter. In fact he became a Presbyterian minister and tells everyone who’ll listen about the promises of God.

However, Abraham didn’t hear the Gospel from the pages of the Bible. There was no Bible back then as we know it. No! The God of glory Himself preached the Gospel to Abraham! The message of salvation is found even in the words of the text before us. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says about this, “And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’” Galatians 3:8.

Abraham then, heard the good news message from the God of glory who appeared to him while in Ur of the Chaldeans. Therefore, it’s not hard to see that Abraham is repenting and believing in the gospel. He’s turning his back on his country, which country according to Jeremiah 50, was full of idols! In fact the chief city of Mesopotamia, Babylon, is a symbol of idolatry throughout the Bible. In the Book of Revelation John names it “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth” Revelation 17:5.

God by His grace called Abraham out of that place. Abraham obeyed. And don’t think Abraham was some kind of goody-two-shoes. He was just as bad as the rest of them (until his conversion by the grace of God). For Joshua 24:2-3 says, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River [Euphrates] in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan.’”

So we see that there was nothing about Abraham that would make God want to choose him over anyone else in Mesopotamia. It was God Himself who TOOK Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans. And it was God Himself who LED him to Canaan just as He promised. However, we don’t see Abraham being dragged kicking and screaming! But rather we see that he turned his back on his wicked ways when he heard the Gospel. He believed what God had promised. Therefore Abraham, like us, was justified by faith in the promise i.e., the Word of God. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans puts it like this, “[Abraham was] fully convinced that what [i.e., God] had promised He was also able to perform” Romans 4:21. He took God at His Word because he believed that He was more than able to deliver what He had promised.

And what was the substance of this great promise of God to Abraham? Well, like all good Trinitarians we can express this one great promise in a threefold manner! In fact I’ll let someone else express it for us. The Dutch theologian Geerhardus Vos says it like this,

The objective action of God was for the patriarchs interlinked with three great promises. These were first the chosen family would be made into a great nation; secondly, that the land of Canaan would be their possession; thirdly, that they were to become a blessing for all people.[1]

So, it’s not hard to see these three great promises in the verses before us regarding Abraham. The great nation is mentioned. The land is mentioned. And so is the fact that Abraham will be a blessing for all people. Up ahead we’ll see each of these great promises develop as we follow the life of Abraham. But let me just mention in passing, always remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20. “All the promises of God in Him [i.e., Jesus Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen.” Like the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome” so all gospel promises lead to Christ.

When the God of Glory appeared to Abraham with the gospel, He promised him that He would make him a great nation. When Abraham heard this he had no children. He was seventy five years old when he left Haran. His wife Sarai was sixty five years old and was unable to bear children. Have you ever noticed the Bible never beats about the bush? “Sarai was barren” Genesis 11:30. But even though Abraham was perfectly aware of his wife’s condition, it didn’t stop him from believing the gospel of God.

Abraham believed God when He said he would become a blessing for all people. God had said to Abraham that He would bless him. Now if that’s not good news then I don’t know what is! The God of glory appeared to Abraham and said, “I’m going to bless you! Not only am I going to bless you but I’m going to make you a blessing for all people! I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” Who is going to curse Abraham? Well, it’s certainly not going to be God. Otherwise God would have to break His promise to Abraham!

Abraham most definitely knew, one way or another, the promise made in the garden after the Fall. Remember Genesis 3:15, the embryonic gospel, in the words of the LORD, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Let me quote from a theologian I trust and respect. RL Dabney says,

To appreciate correctly the amount of gospel light possessed in the patriarchal, and even the Mosaic ages, we must bear in mind a thing often overlooked, that the human race had just enjoyed, in Adam, personal communication with God in fullest theophanies [a theophany is literally a God-appearance], which Adam, by the faculties of his perfect manhood, and other patriarchs, through their longevity, were admirably qualified to transmit well. Adam was contemporary with Methuselah 243 years, Methuselah with Noah 600 years (dying in the year of the flood) and Noah with Abram 58 years. Thus Abraham received the revelations of paradise through only two transmissions![2]

So, according to Dabney, Abraham had a prior and probably an accurate knowledge of the Gospel. However, if he did, he didn’t believe it until the God of glory applied it to him personally, which is not a lot different to the Christian today. In fact it’s the same!

I remember meeting a woman in North Queensland who claimed she never heard the Gospel in church when she lived in Brisbane. She moved up north, went to church, heard the Gospel and believed it! But I know for a fact she heard the Gospel many times in the church in Brisbane, because I know that her minister was a faithful preacher of the gospel if there ever was one. But unless the God of glory appears to you with the gospel, we can preach the gospel till we’re blue in the face but you won’t hear or believe it. It’s only when God causes the “penny to drop” that you begin to really understand. But Abraham began to believe when the God of glory appeared with the Gospel to him.

Just as Adam and Eve were promised a Seed that would bruise the serpent’s head, so Abraham was promised that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. And, as mentioned before, all the Gospel promises lead to Christ! That well-known passage, Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as to one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Let me just say that before the Flood there were two great families on the earth: The Family of Cain and the Family of Seth. Whereas the Family of Cain was the seed of the serpent, Seth, from whom Abraham is descended, is of the Seed of the Woman.

The God of Glory is about to form a great nation — now after the flood. He has chosen Abraham to be this nation’s father. There have only ever been two types of peoples on the earth then, what John in I John 3:10 calls, “The children of God and the children of the devil.” God, in Abraham is about to begin the process of making a new nation, a nation that will be set apart from the other nations. And He is doing this in order to fulfil His gospel promises, i.e., His redemptive plan.

By the time the promised Seed came there were two distinct peoples in terms of the Bible, viz., Jew and Gentile (more accurately the Ethnoi, i.e., the ethnics). And, there was a wall of partition that God had placed between them, which we can read all about all through the Bible. But for now, as we move on to our third and final point, with regard to progeny, Abraham is “Father of all those who believe” Romans 4:11. And, as Paul says to the Galatians, “Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” Galatians 3:7.

So we see then that even today there are only two types of people, just as there always has been since the Fall, i.e., the church and the world, or, in other words, there are Christians and there are non-Christians. And, as it was with Old Testament so it is in the New Testament, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” Romans 9:6b, which is to say that not everyone who claims to be Christian really is!

Where is this great nation of Old Testament people going to live? A great nation would need somewhere to live, wouldn’t it? So the LORD has promised Abraham property. But where is this great nation going to live? “[In] a land that I will show you [Abraham].” Genesis 12:1.

Now, in light of the fact that God has promised that the family of Abraham was going become a blessing for all the families of the earth. And in light of the fact that God has promised that Abraham and his family would become a great nation. And in light of the fact that the LORD is going to show Abraham some land, three questions necessarily arise,

a)      How much of a blessing will Abraham be to all the families of the earth?

b)      How great a great nation will Abraham and family be? And,

c)      How large and how great is this land that the LORD is going to show Abraham?

Well, one of the benefits of living some four thousand years after Abraham is that we can look in the rear-view mirror and see where we’ve come from.

Abraham, well he was looking at everything away in the faraway distant future, wasn’t he? As he set out on the long march from Ur, he was just looking at some mountains shrouded in mist in the far off and hazy distance. The writer to the Hebrews says it like this, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going” Hebrews 11:8. All he had were promises! promises! promises! But he took God at His Word. He believed that God was more than able to deliver what He has promised!

History, even redemptive history as recorded in the Bible has proven the faithfulness of God. God fulfils His promises. He keeps His Word, including the Word He spoke to Abraham, the Word, the Gospel He speaks to all who believe as did father Abraham.

The LORD was going to show Abraham a land. How large and how great was this land, this property? Was it just the land of Canaan? Was that the extent of it? That’s what the Jews at the time of Christ seemed to believe, wasn’t it? That’s what today’s Jews believe. They believe that the land of Israel is theirs because they claim Abraham as their father. They claim Abraham as their father yet they refuse to come to Abraham’s greatest Son, Jesus Christ. They refuse the blessing of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

The Jews today have rebuilt the partition between Jew and Gentile. That partition was removed by the Seed of the LORD promised Abraham, even Jesus Christ, “For he Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” Ephesians 2:14.

As mentioned above, before the Flood there were two great families, a Godly line and a devilish line. After the Flood the LORD made anew Godly line which began with Abraham. This Godly line became a nation with Abraham’s grandson whose name the LORD changed from Jacob to Israel. For a time there was the Israel of God and there was the nations under the influence of the Devil. Now, there is the Church on earth made up of people from all nations and there is the world, comprising of people from all nations. Thus there are two great families on the earth. One is the family of God and the other is the family of the Devil.

The Jews today have aligned themselves with the family of the Devil. However, the grace of God is in the fact that if any should repent, like all other nations, then they can be grafted back into Abraham’s family tree. Think about it, when Christ came to earth the borders of Canaan, the Promised Land were opened from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. The command of the Promised Seed to Israel was, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I have commended you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

And, just to show His Church, i.e., the new Israel of God, that He meant what He said, the LORD had His Temple at Jerusalem destroyed, just as He promised (Matthew 24:2). Then He scattered His people, i.e., His Church made up of Jew and Gentile to the four corners.

As we begin to tie it all together, all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham. How? Well, what does Romans 10:17 say? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” So, all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham by eventually hearing and in turn becoming, by the grace of God, obedient to the Gospel, just as Abraham heard and obeyed the Gospel in his day. God blessed him and removed his sin and transgressions from him in Christ who became as one who is cursed for all believers.

The promise God gave to Abraham was one of progeny, even a great nation. The promise included the Seed of the Woman, i.e., Jesus Christ, who would redeem Abraham’s great nation, i.e., a nation of believers including you and me. To have your sin and transgressions removed is blessing enough, yet the blessings of God continue to grow like a mustard seed. A mustard seed starts off small and grows and grows into a huge tree by comparison. So all the blessings grow for all the families of the earth. So does the great nation that came from Abraham grow, even the Church, the true Israel of God.

And so also does the Promised Land grow. How large and how great is the Promised Land, the property? Well, Canaan was just a token, a deposit! David, in Psalm 37:22 says, “For those who are blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those who are cursed by Him shall be cut off.” Verse 11 of this Psalm says, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Jesus Christ says in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The Holy Spirit through His Apostle says that Abraham is the “Heir of the world.” Romans 4:13. All who belong to the Family of Abraham, even the Church of believers, will inherit the earth, the city which has foundations. Whose builder and maker is God, even Heaven and Earth.

            Remember that God is more than able to deliver all that He promises, be they promise, progeny or property or whatever. Nations in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and obeyed are blessed along with Abraham.  Whenever a person repents and believes the Gospel he/she becomes a member of Abraham’s family. And with Abraham will inherit the world and will be blessed with every blessing in heavenly places in Christ.

[1] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, p. 80.
[2] Robert Lewis Dabney, Systematic Theology, p. 445.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dear Dorothy

(For my beautiful wife on her birthday)

Dear Dorothy

This is not a love letter. This is merely a letter from a husband to his beautiful wife upon her temporary absence from his side. You told me that your name meant ‘gift of God.’ You are our God’s gift to me. What did I do to deserve such a wonderful present as you? I don’t even deserve the outer wrapping that contains you. My mother saw something special in you. Mind you, she always looked at the soul. She wanted you for me. So I looked again at you, this time deeper. Like diving into the deep blue sky through a mountain telescope I peered into your innermost being, through the windows of your soul. That’s when I wanted you to be mine too. I saw you as my other half, my ‘better half.’ I needed you for me to become complete. Two halves make a whole. We share a rib.

“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’ … And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18; 21-24)

I didn’t know I was alone until I met you. How lonely it is without you, like a tree without leaves is naked, like a river without water is dry. I await your arrival, like winter waits for spring. The months are as long as winter shadows. When will my mountain snows melt? When will your infectious laughter bubble forth from my side again? My tears taste salty when they run down my face, tears of missing you.

Your nose crinkles when you smile. Your smile is what captivated me when we first met. Your laughter took me prisoner. You brought lasting joy to my life, the joy of a kindred soul. Yet one word from your soft lips very easily brings me pain. It hurts me when I displease you. When I hurt you I hurt myself, like hitting my thumb with a hammer.

Your eyes are mystery to me. They can be so black, dark, mysterious, yet next time I look, so bright, so clear, so open. With a look you are able to remove my cloak of pride, like a blade of grass pops a child’s soapy bubble. I’m so tied to you. You deflate me. But you puff me up again. You are the very air I breathe, my lungs. My sweetness, I’m gasping for air! I miss hearing you breathe by my side. Through the night the silence scares me. I want to hold you. Caress you. I want to be complete again. I want to breathe…

Pray that the LORD God, our Lord, would be pleased to reunite us quickly. For I very much miss the gift He has given me, now sitting on a ‘silver’ platter. Twenty-five years has not dulled their gladdening sound. For my heartstrings still tug at the wedding bells in my mind every time I think of you. Love, Neil.
(Excerpted from my e-book "Disembark the Ark & Other Contemplations)

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Job says that God “drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters” Job 26:10a. From the viewer’s perspective horizons always remain distant. A ship on an ocean is simply a point at the centre of a circle. If you were to sail towards the horizon it would always remain at the same distance from you. Thus like beauty, horizons are in the eye of the beholder. Job also says that God “hangs the earth on nothing” Job 26:7b. Therefore, when earth is the centre of the circle outer space always remains on the horizon. Isaiah says that God “sits above the circle [or sphere] of the earth” Isaiah 40:22a. Therefore, God is beyond the horizon. However, James says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4:8a. How are we as individuals and how is earth as a planet supposed to draw near to God if He remains beyond the horizon? Well, it is possible because of the nature of God.

Omnipresence is one of the Triune God’s incommunicable attributes. Therefore, it is hard to communicate or demonstrate what this means! Looking horizontally out to sea or up at the sky from a ship’s deck during a clear day might illustrate something of this. Horizons are all around you. They are everywhere (i.e., omni-present) as far as your eye can see. As the ship sails towards the horizon and as the earth ‘sails’ through space the horizon remains equidistant to you the viewer. However, the difference between the Omnipresent God and the horizon is that God is a Person and is therefore personal. Actually He is three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are one God. This means that God can be present at the centre of the circle and be on the horizon at the same time! As Jesus was being baptised the Father was in Heaven and the Spirit, like a dove, was descending on Him as He stood on earth, yet God was still everywhere at once. (Luke 3:21-22). Omnipresence may be described as everywhere-at-onceness!

It was the Person of the Son who clothed Himself in human garb, i.e., ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John 1:14. After His resurrection, with His humanity fully intact, He ascended back to where He was before as God. (John 3:13; Ephesians 4:9-10). From there He and the Father sent the Spirit to dwell among us and in us. (John 15:26; 16:7; Romans 8:11). Thus, if you are trying to draw near to the Triune God not only is He on your horizon but He is also with you at the centre of the circle! This is why Christopher Columbus could say in his diary after his sailing-trip discovery of the New World, ‘It was the Lord who put it into my mind … I could feel His hand upon me … There is no question the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me with rays of marvellous illumination from the Scriptures … No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The Gospel must still be preached to so many lands in such a short time. This is what convinces me.’

You and I might not be Columbus discovering the New World, but, if, like him, you are looking unto Jesus then you are no longer adrift at sea with the horizon remaining ever distant. Christ is with you and never will He leave you or forsake you as you sail towards the New Heavens and New Earth. (Psalm 23:4; Hebrews 13:5; Revelation 21:1).


Sunday, October 5, 2014



“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness...” Psalm 24:1a.


The following numbered headings and accompanying comments have been designed to initiate (and hopefully stimulate) discussion among Christians on the question of taxes and taxation. The footnotes are given simply to include the thoughts and opinions of some fairly well-known Christians and Christian documents on some of the matters raised.

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness...” (Psa. 24:1a). Since God owns everything it is He who ought to be honoured for any (material) increase we receive. Therefore God’s Word needs to be searched and consulted if Christians and Christianised societies (e.g., Western nations) are ever to be obedient to our God in such matters as tax and taxation. So, “To the law and to the testimony!”

1. Is government taxation lawful?

A question very much like this was asked of Jesus. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (We believe the tax referred to here was a Poll Tax upon the head of every male over the age of twenty years). Jesus replied, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22:21. Therefore according to Jesus government taxation is lawful. David Chilton says,

The Bible does, of course, allow for some government taxation, but not much. The specific form of taxation (head tax, income tax, or whatever) is relatively unimportant, and is not set forth in Scripture; what is important is the rate of taxation, which determines the size of the state. As an absolute, outside limit, any tax of ten percent or more is specifically regarded by Scripture as tyranny – an attempt by rulers to be like God, extracting a ‘tithe’ (1 Samuel 8:15, 17). [1]

2. Is government itself lawful?

Again, Jesus in His “Render therefore to Caesar” answer legitimatised Civil Government, including government of a non-Christian kind. His Apostle who also lived under a pagan Roman government says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no governing authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” Romans 13:1. Government or Civil Magistracy is therefore lawful because it is God appointed.
The reason God has appointed the Magistrate is for the promotion of the doing of good works and the punishment of those who practice evil. The Apostle goes on to say, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due, taxes to whom taxes are due.” (Romans 13:6-7a).
The compilers of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith (which is subscribed to by today’s Presbyterian Elders, whether Teaching Elders or Ruling Elders) are given the exalted title of the Westminster Divines, and these men say in the Confession,

It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him, from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted.[2]

3. Separation of Church and State?

Does Jesus’ statement about giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s suggest that paying taxes to the State has nothing to do with obedience to God? In other words, does Jesus here view the State as secular (as in having nothing to do with God? Of course not!
The once upon a time Prime Minister of the Netherlands Abraham Kuyper Snr. says,

The sphere of the state itself stands under the majesty of the Lord. In that sphere there an independent responsibility to God is to be maintained. The sphere of the state is not profane. But both church and state must, each in its own sphere, obey God and serve His honour. [3]

The State is God’s minister in the civil affairs of men, but not in ecclesiastical affairs (though it should also obediently promote the church’s wellbeing by such things as tax-exemptions etc.) The word “separate” is too strong a word and has led to the idea of the separation of State and God! Therefore, though Church and State must remain distinct (rather than “separate”!) as functioning entities they both are components of one nation under God.
RJ Rushdoony says,

The nature of Israel’s civil order [i.e., as per the Bible is that] God as King of Israel ruled from His throne room in the tabernacle, and to Him were the taxes brought. Because of the common error of viewing the tabernacle as an exclusively or essentially “religious,” i.e., ecclesiastical center, there is a failure to recognize that it was indeed a religious, civil center. In terms of Biblical law, the state, home, school, and every other agency must be no less religious than the church. The sanctuary was thus the civil center of Israel and no less religious for that fact.[4]

4. Are Both Church and State Appointed By God?

Magistrates and Governors are appointed by God for the good of society.[5] The Apostle Paul says to Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.” (Titus 3:1). Jesus says, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18b. Therefore, since both Church and State have been appointed or established by God, and are under His authority, one would expect these bodies therefore to “reflect” something of the Godhead. Hence we see Church and State members paying tributes (i.e., tithes and taxes). These bodies in turn look after the peace and welfare of the many. Nigel Lee says,

The Church-of-the-future will need to set out, also in the various inter-relationships of human society — the full implications of the Father's paternity, the Son's filiation, and the Spirit's procession. For the Church needs to distinguish the various personal attributes of the Deity ontically (within Himself) — from their application economically (within man's world).[6]

 Since both are God ordained, our con-tributing tithes and taxes to Church and State is simply part of our religious obedience to the triune God.

5. Is there a “principle” of taxation to be derived from intra-Trinitarian dealings?

God is Triune. He is the One and the Many. Nigel Lee says,

The Three Persons within God Triune Himself, interpenetrate and overlap one another — which is quite what one would expect creatures of God Triune to do. Indeed, this is what Rev. Prof. Dr. Cornelius Van Til meant by “the one and the many.” 1 Cor. 12:12-20.[7]

Therefore, as such, each Member of the Trinity con-tributes (voluntarily) from His own distinct property, to the Godhead. Therefore, “the Many” – each from His own increase and abundance – “pay tribute” to “the One”. These “tributes” include Fatherliness, Sonship, and love, honour, respect, and gratitude, etc., for each of the Others. Thus the eternal peace, and the eternal welfare, of the many is perpetually maintained and sustained by the “One” through the (voluntary) con-tribution of the “Many.”

6. How Much Tax Should We Pay?

Neither Church nor State is God. God alone is God. Therefore, we ought voluntarily to contribute our tithes and taxes because we want to be obedient to God in both these spheres. RC Sproul Jnr. says,

Old Testament Israel had a system of not one tithe, but three. The first tithe went to the Levites… [who] were not just official priests, they were also teachers, musicians, judges, and physicians. Most of the tithe, in fact, went to those who were not priests. This illustrates a principle for today: all of our tithe need not go directly to the church; other institutions need our financial support too. It may go to a Christian educational organization, a Christian hospital, or Christian missions… The second tithe… was used for a yearly festival gathering…Deut. 14:26… The third tithe was not annual, but was offered in the third and sixth years of every seven-year-cycle…known as the poor tithe…Deut. 14:20-29).[8]

Therefore the foundational reason for all our giving must be the glory of God.
The Bible early records men giving of their increase to God. Cain and Abel (voluntarily) brought offerings of their increase to God (Genesis 4:3&4). How much? We do not know. Abraham gave a tithe of all his increase of goods to Melchizedek the king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:20). Melchizedek was a Priest of God and the ruler of (the State) of Salem. Therefore, (though this is rather embryonic) Abraham (voluntarily) gave a tenth of his increase to both religious spheres of Church and State.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob demonstrates also a willingness to pay at least ten percent of all his increase to God (Genesis 28:22). It should be noted that Jacob’s ten percent was commensurate with the increase of his goods as God prospered him. Taking, then, Abraham and Jacob as setting the Biblical precedent for (voluntary) giving, a maximum of ten percent of our income would be the fair contribution.

7. On What Should We be Required to Pay Tax?

We are to tithe and pay tax to God out of our increase, which is to say that we ought also to pay government income tax. If we pay the State income tax, then, our tithe to the Church must come from our net earnings, not our gross. Surely then, Church tithes should be tax-exempt! State taxes, like Church tithes, ought to be based only on income. Property tax is not a Biblical norm. RJ Rushdoony says,

In the biblical law, the state has no right of eminent domain, and no right to tax the land. “It was impossible to dispossess men of their inheritance under the law of the Lord as no taxes were levied against land.” The tithe was God’s tax, not a gift to God. The state was limited to a tax resembling the tithe, a tax on increase, not on the land itself.[9]

Neither is the Goods and Services Tax the Biblical norm! However, Poll Taxes or Head Taxes are always Biblical (but are certainly not always popular!)

8. Summary and Conclusion

  • God’s Word must be the blueprint for all taxes and taxation.
  • Jesus Christ says that we are to “render unto Caesar”. Therefore, we ought to pay taxes.
  • Governments or Civil Authorities are “lawful” because they are appointed by God.
  • Though Church and State are separate, both are to be honoured as legitimate spheres of Christian religion.
  • The ‘principle’ of taxation may be derived from studying the Doctrine of the Trinity.
  • The ‘principle’ of paying ten percent of our income is Biblical.
  • Our tithes and taxes are to be paid only from our increase, i.e., income, but not on our property.
Much more could have been written above. However, it is hoped that the Christian’s “whistle has been sufficiently whetted” so that he/she will now have a greater desire to search the Scriptures to see what more has been revealed therein about taxes and taxation.

For further study see, for example:

Money, goods or labour paid to a government as:

  • Derived from people’s possessions: 1 Sam. 8:10-18;
  • Derived from the poor: Amos 5:11.
  • Paid by forced labour: Deut. 20:11.
  • Paid by foreigners: 1 Chron. 22:2.
  • Paid by all people: 2 Sam. 8:6&14.
  • Paid by forced labour: 1 Kings 5:13-17.
  • Paid by all except Levites: Ezra 7:24.
  • Paid by Christians: Rom. 13:6,7.

  • Used for Sanctuary: Exo. 30:11-16.
  • Used for the king’s household: 1 Kings 4:7-19.

[1] David Chilton, Productive Christians, p. 42.
[2] Westminster Confession of Faith XXIII:IV
[3] Abraham Kuyper, Christianity As A Life-System, p. 37
[4] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. I, p. 281.
[5] Abraham Kuper Snr. says, “God has instituted the magistrates by reason of sin.” ibid. p. 28
[6] Francis Nigel Lee, God Triune In the Beginning – And For the 21st Century, p. 3.
[8] RC Sproul Jnr., Dollar Signs of the Times, p. 108.
[9] RJ Rushdoony, The Politics of Pity, p. 326.

Saturday, October 4, 2014



13 ‘Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 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? 15 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. 16 So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”17 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.

Speaking of taxes, taxes have been around as long as governments. Now, the reasonable man doesn’t mind paying his fair-share of tax. I mean, we all like to drive on decent roads. We all like to have our garbage picked up and dumped for us. We like to have the shores of our great nation defended against would-be invaders. Taxes are a necessary part of life for any ordered civilization.

We see that things were no different 2,000 years ago in Palestine. The people at the time of Jesus, like us, had to pay taxes. We see (above in Mark 12:13-17) some sneaky people try to trick Jesus on the subject of taxes. Let me explain to you who these tricksters are. They are Pharisees and Herodians. They were sent by the chief priests, scribes, and elders mentioned back in Mark 11:27.

Now, before we get going, let’s note that the Pharisees and Herodians disliked each other, intensely! However, here they are together, conspiring against a common enemy - Jesus Christ. Most of us know the Pharisees as the hyper-legalistic religious sect which was dominating Israel at the time of Jesus. They were the ultra-nationalists of Israel, and they disliked intensely the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Herodians? Well, we don’t know a great deal about the Herodians. The Herodians probably got their name from Herod the Great, who had received governorship of the kingdom of Judea by appointment of the Romans. The Herodians seem to have been affiliated with the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were the religious liberals of the day. The Herodians seem to be something like the political wing of the Sadducee sect. Albert Barnes says, “The Herodians and the Sadducees seem on most questions to be united.” p. 104. But here they are, the Pharisees who didn’t favor Caesar, and the Herodians who did favor Caesar, in cahoots one with the other. So they toddle off to confront Jesus with a question about paying taxes.

Poll Tax
Every adult male in the whole of Judea had to pay a poll-tax. According to the historians this poll-tax came in around 6 AD after Archelaus was deposed. Archelaus, who was the son of Herod, gets a mention in Matthew 2:22. Archelaus became ruler upon the death of his father Herod, but the Romans deposed him for misgovernment in 6 AD. Anyway, that’s when this poll-tax or head-tax was introduced. So, the people of Judea had seen these taxes for some twenty-odd years.

Now, a number of years ago the British Government brought in a poll-tax in Scotland. After it was implemented in Scotland for about a year, the government introduced it into England. There were riots in the English streets! So the government of the day got the message and scrapped it. But not so with the Roman Government in Palestine. But anyhow, it’s a poll-tax that’s being referred to here in our text. RJ Rushdoony says, “The Herodians favored the Roman tax and the Herodian dynasty, which they regarded as preferable to direct Roman rule.” (Inst. Vol.1 p. 718).

The Herodians then, generally speaking, are pro-Roman government whereas the Pharisees are anti-Roman Government. So, united and slimy they slide, slither and sidle up to Jesus & try to butter Him up. They patronize Jesus by telling Him that He teaches rightly, teaching the truth of God, (Mark 12:14). They told Him that He doesn’t show personal favoritism, either to the Pharisees or the Herodians. So, after they think they’ve done a good job of greasing Jesus up, they then slip the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

You can see what they’re trying to do here? They don’t want to give Jesus any room to maneuver. “Is it right to pay the poll-tax - Yes or No?” So, keep in mind that you’ve got Pharisees and Herodians here. If Jesus said “Yes!” He’d appear to be siding with the Herodians and against His own people. And the Pharisees would immediately make sure everyone knew. And if Jesus said “No!” then the Herodians would make sure the Romans knew.

Is He going to show favoritism to the Pharisees and their cause or the Herodians and their cause? So, you can see the slight-of-hand going on here, can’t you? Well, so could Jesus! Say “Yes” and He would be accused of showing personal favoritism toward the Herodians. Say “No” and He’d be accused of showing personal favoritism toward the Pharisees. But as the Proverb says, “Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird” 1:17.

Jesus being Jesus saw right through their little scheme. Let me paint into the picture a little more of the historical background of what’s going down here. The question they asked is this, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Now, I want to pick up on that word “lawful” – is it “lawful” or “right” as the NIV would have it. The same Greek word is used by the Pharisees, e.g., in Luke 6:1. There, Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grain field on the Sabbath. They were picking heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands as they walked. Some Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not LAWFUL on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees, as you know, had their own view of what was lawful, of what was right and wrong. They were forever distorting the Law of God, the measure of all that is right and wrong.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” is one long correction of the Pharisees’ mutilation of right and wrong. But here they are again, teamed up with the Herodians, trying to trick Jesus. And they believe that the poll-tax is wrong, unlawful. They see it as a form of slavery! Therefore if Jesus says it is lawful, they will instantly declare Him as the enemy of Israel!

There was a time when the people physically revolted against this tax. Luke in Acts 5:37 records these words in which Gamaliel, a Pharisee, says, “Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, [in the days of the taxing, KJV] and drew away many people after him.” Judas of Galilee led a revolt against the Romans in 6 or 7 AD. The revolt against the Romans took place shortly after the poll-tax was introduced. And, according to Josephus the Historian, Judas of Galilee died in this revolt. According to Josephus, Judas of Galilee vehemently proclaimed, “Taxation is no better than downright slavery!” He saw this poll-tax as nothing less than treason against God! So, that’s where the Pharisees are coming from in asking Jesus, “Is it lawful?” They’re of the opinion of Judas of Galilee that it’s most UN-lawful. And, of course, the Herodians were of the opinion that the poll-tax was lawful. So, who is right? The religious Legalists or the religious Liberals?

Now, just before we study the brilliant answer Jesus gave to that question, let’s paint in some more detail into the backdrop. What you have here in the text is more similar to Australia today than first meets the eye. The people of God, Israel, the Church, our Christian forefathers were then living among pagans. The non-Christians had the upper-hand in all the realms of government. And if there was any Church representation on a government level, it was the Herodian/Sadducees, the religious (theological) liberals who were doing the representing. Is it any different today with the Church in Australia? Isn’t it always the religious liberals with all their purple robes and gold crosses who represent the Church to the government? And where are the religious legalists today? Well, they’re usually off forming their own exclusive denomination somewhere! And usually, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, they tend to view any Christian entering politics as siding with the enemy.  In other words, they view the Government of the land and everything to do with it, even taxes as the enemy!

Now, with all this in mind, the question before us this morning becomes three-dimensional. To draw three dimensions on a piece of paper you need the length, breadth and height of the object. The object lesson we’re trying to draw is about paying taxes. The Herodians, the religious liberals of Jesus’ day, and the legalistic Pharisees argued over the length and breadth of the poll-tax. The Herodians had the extremely broad view and the Pharisees had the extremely narrow view. The Herodians had the length way too long and the Pharisees had the breadth far too narrow. But Jesus, Wisdom Incarnate, draws a three-dimensional picture for them. And He does this by bringing into the equation the missing point of reference, i.e., God! How did He do it? Well, He asks them to show Him a denarius, the coin used to pay the poll-tax. Then He gets them to have a look at it, “Whose image, whose “icon” is this?” Mark 12: 16. “And whose signature, whose “epigraph” inscription is on it? They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s’” Then Jesus gives them His brilliant answer, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Or in the NMV, i.e., the Neil McKinlay Version, “Pay Caesar the Poll-Tax AND Pay God the Soul-Tax!”

So Jesus, contrary to the opinion of the Pharisees stated that it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. But He shows them that not only is there a tax on their head, but also on their soul! So let’s move on to our second point as I explain the soul tax.

Soul Tax
Jesus answered the question, ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?’ in the affirmative. I hope you can all see that, for it’s very important that you see it. Taxes, and we’re talking about “lawful” taxes, are a necessary part of life. It’s the teaching of Jesus, which is the teaching of Scripture. E.g., after explaining what the Civil Government is for, Paul the Apostle says in Romans 13:6-7, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they [ie, the government] are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due...” etc. So then, we’ve to render to all their due. We’ve to render Caesar, or the Civil Government of our day, their due. And also we’ve to render to God His due.

Now, some people have a great amount of difficulty seeing the connection between rendering unto Caesar and rendering unto God. We have concluded in light of the Scriptural teaching of Jesus that paying taxes are lawful. That even paying taxes to the pagan Roman Government was lawful, it was right. Therefore, to not pay taxes, as in being a tax-dodger would be unlawful, would be wrong. It would make you a law-breaker.

I know someone who refused to pay the Government Poll-tax when it was brought in for that year in Scotland. He was even willing to go to jail on principle. However, he subsequently decided to pay back to the Government every penny he owed. Why? Because he loves paying taxes? Who does? He’s paid back every penny because of the grace of God. You see, God by His grace and mercy had converted him since that time. So, he wanted to gratefully serve his Saviour by being obedient to Him, even in paying taxes!

Can’t you see that paying taxes is being obedient to God? Or are you one of those who detaches God from the world? Do you think that this world belongs to Satan and so do all Governments on earth? Well, why would Jesus tell you to pay your taxes to the Devil and his Government minions? No, you need to see that all Government bodies on earth are as accountable to God as are you & I! Romans 13:1-2, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

Caesar was only a man, the figurehead of the Roman Government in Jesus’ day. It was his image, his “icon” that was on the coin used for the poll-tax. And the idea that Jesus was conveying was, that since Caesar’s image and signature was on the tax-coin, the coin BELONGED to him. It’s like when we were kids, if you saw a coin on the ground and said, “That’s mine!” someone was sure to say, “Is your name on it?” And if your name wasn’t on it, you might have a fight over whose money it was! (Of course technically the money belonged to whoever had lost it. I merely illustrate a point.) However, Caesar’s image and signature was on the Roman money, so it belonged to Caesar.

Now then, as we recap a little, we’ve seen that the Herodians and Pharisees tried to trick Jesus. But Jesus sprung their plot by use of a silver coin with Caesar’s image and signature on it. Jesus told them, because it had Caesar’s image and signature on it, it therefore belonged to Caesar. Hence the words, “Render to Caesar the things that ARE Caesar’s. And we’ve seen then, that this is the lawful thing to do. Therefore paying taxes is right!

So, as we begin to tie things together: Let me ask you, What is man? Who or what are you and I? What does Jesus and the Scriptures teach about you and me? Whose image are we, and whose inscription is on us? We understand the Poll-tax, but what about the Soul-tax, have we really understood it? Have we really comprehended what it means to Render to God the things that are God’s? Well, you need to understand that God owns you, God owns me, for He made us, He minted us! And the tax that He demands of you and me is that you love the LORD our God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

Now, the mad and crazy and bizarre thing about this, is that there are people willing to go to prison forever, and suffer the torments of hell forever, rather than pay the Soul-tax! And, they want to do so as a matter of principle! They claim that God has no right to make any demands of them! They claim that it is no right, that it’s unlawful to do so! Therefore they withhold their Soul-tax from God whose image they are. Some even want to form God in their own image. That’s why there’s any number of false gods around the world.

Some have formed a god they can treat as non-existent! However, the God who has revealed Himself propositionally in Scripture, the God who has revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ may demand His Soul-tax of you this very day, and how are you going to make payment? Are you going to try to fob Him off with an old, bent, twisted, distorted and tarnished coin? I’m talking about you and me!

The image of God is so unrecognizable and the signature so illegible, that you and I are no longer legal tender in God’s eyes. We’re only fit to be melted down as so much scrap metal! But God by His grace and mercy, by His kindness has given us the necessary and required currency. He’s given us what we need to escape the great melt-down on the Last Day that Peter speaks of. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

The Soul-tax God demands of you is a perfect life, where every single thought, word and deed throughout your whole life from womb to tomb was unblemished! For this perfect life would be a reflection of the God who made you. For that’s what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbour as yourself. It’s to reflect the Triune God. There’s only ever been one Person who has done this since the Fall of man. And, if you don’t already know Him, God is offering Him to you.

Will you give up your Soul-tax evasion and receive the gift God is offering? God is offering you free of charge the Soul-tax that He demands of you! He is offering you His perfect Son who is the perfect, the express image of God. Jesus Christ has the signature, the name of God written on Him. He is the only legal tender in heaven. And the way to receive this gift of God is to recognize how tarnished you are as the image of God. Your thoughts are blemished, your words are stained, and your deeds are as filthy rags. Don’t insult God by thinking you can offer yourself as the Soul-Tax payment. Acknowledge to God that you are illegal tender in His eyes.

If you haven’t already, accept then, the gift He has offered. Believe in Jesus Christ to save you. Trust in Jesus Christ alone as your Soul-Tax payment. If you do this, or if you have done this, then God will welcome you into heaven. He will welcome you when He calls on you to make that final payment! But meanwhile, show your gratitude to God, do what your Savior says – even when paying taxes! “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Father we thank You that Your Word, the Scriptures show us up as we are in our sinful state to be illegal tender for heaven.  LORD we know that You won’t be fobbed off by any of our imperfect & sinful lives.  We saw how the Herodians & the Pharisees thought they could fool Jesus.  But LORD, You know the hearts of men.  It must grieve You to see how distorted Your image, even Man has become through sin.  Forgive us our sins.  Help us to trust only in Jesus Christ alone as revealed in Scripture for salvation.  Help us to honor Him in our daily lives. In the precious name of Jesus we ask it. Amen.