‘The Sword and the Keys’ — biblical tensions between state and Church

Pastor Daan Botha presents an elections-inspired teaching at Harvest Christian Church, Port Elizabeth. Part 2 of this talk will be presented at the same venue on April 24.

With elections looming, Daan Botha, a member of the Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leaders Network and a pastor at Harvest Christian Church recently presented the first part of a timely two-part teaching entitled “The Sword and the Keys”.

Emphasising that his message was biblical equipping and not political training, Botha said the sword of authority, in a civil sense, has been given to the state (Romans 13:4), while the keys of the Kingdom of heaven – including the realm of prayer, worship and discipling nations — have been given to the Church by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:19).

He said as believers we live in a tension between our earthly citizenship and our heavenly citizenship – between the sword of the state and the keys of the Kingdom. Or as Jesus implied in John 17, we are in the world but not of it.

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“How do we live in this tension between different passports? Are there circumstances where our citizenship of a nation parts ways with our citizenship of the heavenly Kingdom, where the one has to bow the knee to the other? ” Botha asked his audience at Harvest Christian Church.

He acknowledged that while the state-church tension is a vast subject upon which even angels fear to tread, and which even divides giants of the faith, that the Bible does provide guidance.

For instance, Romans 13:1 says: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but from God; the powers that be are ordained by God”. The Bible urges us to submit to governmental authorities and teaches that if we resist authority, we resist God. God ordained the institution of state and we should respect it, whether it is doing a good job or a bad job, he said.

He said Jesus made a mind-blowing statement to people who thought they were smart enough to set a political trap for him, by asking if they should pay tax to Caesar. Jesus replied, in Matthew 22:21, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” He was making the point that we should obey the government, but we are also answerable to God, who is our highest authority.

Referring to the Old Testament account of Daniel and his friends, which is found in the book of Daniel, he noted that Daniel submitted to the authority of the king of a foreign land and was favoured by the king because of his wisdom. However, Daniel never forgot his loyalty to God and continued to pray to Him even when the King forbade it.

Addressing the realm of authority of the Church, which has been given the keys to advance God’s Kingdom on earth, he said he attended a religious leader’s summit at Rhema Church, Johannesburg, on February 13.

It was a “very sobering and interesting” day, with 600 to 700 leaders representing all the different religions in South Africa gathered in the same hall.

He said CRL Rights Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva warned the gathered leaders that unless they started regulating themselves effectively, the government would step in and regulate them itself.

“However, this is what the society and the government need to understand: you can never ever allow the state to dictate to or control the Church. This is contrary to what the Bible teaches and at this stage it is contrary to what our Constitution holds,” said Botha.

However, referring to reports of scandalous goings-on in churches, such as the recent case of a pastor faking the raising of a man from the dead during a service, he said the Church has a responsibility to treat congregants with respect and dignity. Legitimate church leaders are completely against such irresponsible behaviour, he said.

He said that in His public ministry, Jesus was involved with both preaching the Gospel and with social justice. In Matthew 25 He equated feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, and welcoming strangers as serving Him – and failing to perform such acts of social justice as neglecting Him.

As Christ-followers who are voters we have a responsibility to keep informed about social issues, to care about justice and to speak out if necessary to demand justice in society.

Nobody has a right to tell us who or which party we must vote for in elections, but we should pray for God’s guidance before going to the polls.

We should also remember that there is no perfect political party nor is there any perfect leader or governance other than Jesus.

One Comment

  1. A very positive message in very troubling and dark times.