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From TeachingtheWord's Bible Knowledgebase

Scripture and the Church


Is It Christians' Job
to "Reclaim the Culture for Christ"?

by Dr. Paul M. Elliott

 

Part 1 of a series.

It is not the job of Christians to "reclaim" this present world's cultures. Christianity is the culture of a people who are no longer at home in this present evil world destined for destruction. They are citizens of the world to come.

June 2016 – As we approach another election in the United States, some in the evangelical community are speaking of this event as "a major opportunity for a significant step forward in reclaiming the culture for Christ." Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has established a "religious advisory board" composed of leading evangelical figures, including these:

- Former Congresswoman and tea-party presidential candidate Michele Bachman

- Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, health-and-wealth prosperity preachers

- James Dobson, formerly of Focus on the Family

- Jerry Falwell, Jr. - President, Liberty University

- Jack Graham - Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church

- Harry Jackson - Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church

- Robert Jeffress - Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas

- David Jeremiah - Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church

- Richard Land – President, Southern Evangelical Seminary

- Ralph Reed - Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition

- Paula White, the twice-divorced and thrice-married senior pastor
  (so-called) of New Destiny Christian Center near Orlando, Florida

Falwell, Graham, Jackson, Jeffress, Jeremiah, and Land are leading Southern Baptists.

Many are actually expressing the hope that this group will, through Trump, somehow change the spiritual course of the nation.

But is it Christians' or the church's job to "reclaim the culture"? Does the Bible mandate such a commission? Can these kinds of efforts accomplish such a thing? We find the answer in many places in the Word of God, and it is consistently "No". This truth is set before us in a most striking way in Paul's epistle to Colossians.

A John 14:6 Outline

I believe it is no accident that the outline of the book of Colossians reflects one of the great statements the Lord Jesus Christ made about Himself. In John 14:6, Jesus said to His disciples, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me."

This is precisely the pattern we find in Paul's letter. In Colossians chapter one, Paul declares the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Way to eternal life. It is only by His person and work that men can be delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into Christ's kingdom (1:13).

In Colossians chapter two, the Apostle Paul declares that Jesus Christ is the Truth – the only Truth, in contrast and opposition to three particular spiritual forces that we find arrayed against the truth of God and the people of God throughout all ages of  this present world. The Colossian believers faced these forces in the first century, and present-day Christians still face them: worldly philosophy, legalism, and man-made doctrines. These evils, and the men who promote them, will continue to the end, and "grow worse and worse" (2 Timothy 3:13).

In Colossians chapters 3 and 4, the Apostle Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the Life. Jesus has delivered those who believe on Him into newness of life, both in this present world and in the world to come. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit commands us through Paul,

If [or since] then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Dead to This World, Alive to Christ

"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Why are we to do that? What great fact demands this of us? It is, the Apostle Paul tells us, the momentous fact that "you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

The believer who has been raised with Christ is dead to sin, to this present world, and to its cultures. The Christian is alive in Christ for the purpose of living to please Him in this present evil world, and for the purpose of living with Him in the New Heavens and the New Earth. "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

In chapters 3 and 4, Paul tells the Colossian church how to think and to live in the light of these cosmic truths. These truths have to do with our living for Christ in cultures that are cursed and perishing.

On the authority of Scripture, this is the truth: The assertion that Christians must be on a quest to reclaim this world's cultures is a false teaching. God's purpose in redeeming a people for Himself is not the renovation or the improvement of this present world, or to "reclaim" the cultures of this world.

God Will Do the Renovating

Dear friends, Christians cannot reclaim that which was never theirs in the first place. This present world is under God's curse. In 2 Peter 3 beginning at verse 10, we are told that this present earth is not going to be renovated by the arm of flesh. It is going to be destroyed by God's consuming fire. The day is coming when God will purge this world of all of the remnants of sin and of the curse. He will usher in New Heavens and a New Earth.

The original language of the New Testament tells us that the New Heavens and New Earth will not be entirely new – not new in time, but new in quality. God will restore and renew His creation that Satan sought to destroy. He will not permit Satan to have that victory.

This present creation, renovated and restored by God, purged by fire of all traces of the curse of sin, will be given an even greater glory than it had originally. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will live and reign in it with Christ forever.

Christ's True Commission

Never once did the Lord Jesus, or any of the apostles, ever say to Christians, "Go and reclaim the culture." 1 John 5:19 tells us that while "we are of God…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." Galatians 1:4 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever."

The commission that the Lord Jesus has given to us is not to reclaim the world's cultures, but to be used of Him in saving a people for the world to come. Go and preach the Gospel, Jesus said. Tell people how to be saved from this present evil world so that they may not perish in Hell, but may have life in the world to come. And teach them how to live life in this present world as citizens of that world to come (Philippians 3:20).

This is why any emphasis on the renovation of this present world by Christians, or on supposedly reclaiming the cultures of this present world, is a wrong emphasis: It is un-Biblical. God's plan is not to redeem the cultures of this present sinful world. God's plan is a new creation, New Heavens and New Earth, in which righteousness will dwell forever - the culture of the world to come.

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening [Greek speudontas, perhaps better translated "earnestly desiring"] the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for New Heavens and a New Earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13)

Next: Christianity - The Culture of the World to Come

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