Shelby G. Floyd
A subject being hotly debated today is The Constitution of the United States of America. This amazing document has guided our blessed republic for 225 years. This is a record, for republics have been short lived throughout the history of man.
In the summer of 1787 seventy four delegates were invited to Philadelphia to a Congress to attempt to modify or replace the Articles of Confederation that had become inadequate to govern the new nation. In the end only 55 delegates showed up. George Washington left his retirement from under his own vine and fig tree at Mount Vernon, and became the President of the Continental Congress. And on September 17, 1787 the U. S. Constitution was signed by 38 out of the 55 men present.
Before this document was signed the founding fathers had constant debates about each item and how it would affect the liberties of the people and the states. Their constant vigil was to protect the freedoms that had been purchased at such great cost of blood and treasure. Every citizen would do well to read the book, The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution by Brion McClanahan. This would embolden us to speak up and stand up for our constitutional liberties that are under attack today and which we all are in danger of losing because of an uninformed citizenry.
This Constitution including the first 10 amendments that were added later and those that have been added since then, has been the bedrock foundation of all of our freedoms and privileges as citizens of this great republic for over two centuries.
Our second President John Adams wrote these three thoughts about our Constitution:
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
“The church is the moral compass of society.”
“We have no constitution which functions in the absence of a moral people.”
Recently, The Indianapolis Star had an article stating that our country is moving away from religion and morality. This is why that many political leaders and many citizens are moving away from the founding Document of the Constitution. May God help us to have a revival of interest in upholding the Constitution by a revival of religion and morality!
THE NATURE AND USE OF CONSTITUTIONS
Webster defines a constitution to be, “the fundamental principles of a nation, state, or body politic that determines the powers and duties of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people and that together constitute the organic law of the land.” The word constitution also refers to “a written instrument embodying such rules.”
By the same token, the kingdom of God or the church of Christ must be under some type of constitutional arrangement in order to be called a kingdom or church. In one sense, we might say the entire New Testament is the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven. But that does not accurately describe a constitution. A constitution is actually a summary that comprehends all of the laws and institutions within that kingdom. So today we will be looking for a summary of the laws, institutions, responsibilities and privileges of the people of God to be found in the kingdom of God.
IN EVERY AGE GOD HAS PLACED MAN UNDER A CONSTITUTION
The Patriarchal Age
In the patriarchal age that lasted from Adam to Moses—approximately 2500 years, the people were under the constitutional arrangement of the patriarch of each family, clan and tribe. The word patriarch means the father. During this period the fathers carried out the laws and institutions and privileges and responsibilities of each family under God’s instructions given to the fathers at that time.
During this time, we take note that in the beginning in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were placed under a constitutional arrangement. God spoke to them face to face and mouth-to-mouth and gave them the first constitution. It briefly stated their obligations and their privileges to live in the beautiful garden that God had created for man. Their privileges and freedom definitely outweighed their constitutional obligations. They had the freedom to eat of the fruit of every tree that was in the garden, but they also had the responsibility to refrain from eating the tree in the midst of the garden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their greatest privilege and liberty was to eat from the tree of life that would perpetuate their earthly existence.
After they were expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, they and their two sons were still under some kind of constitutional arrangement. In every age of those who worship God by faith we find these three items: an altar, a sacrifice, and a priest. The altar was usually made out of stone, the sacrifice was a lamb etc., and the priest was the patriarch or the father of each family. We see these three items in the worship practiced by Cain and Abel—the altar, the sacrifice and the priest. The Bible says that, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
The Mosaic Age
The next age named The Mosaic Age, which lasted from Moses to Christ—a period of about 1500 years, God communicated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Israel through Moses, of which a constitutional summary is found in the 10 Commandments given on Mount Sinai as recorded in Deuteronomy 5-6. This constitutional arrangement was explained and applied through additional revelations to Moses and Aaron.
The Christian Age
Now in these last days, we live under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven set up by the Lord Jesus Christ whose reign will continue until he comes back again. There are several passages of Scripture that summarizes this Constitution throughout the New Testament. A summary of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven may be found in Matthew 5-7 in the Sermon on the Mount. Also Romans chapter 12 is a good summary of this Constitution. And one of the most beautiful summaries is found in what some have thought to be an early hymn that was sung in the worship of the church. It is recorded in 1 Timothy 3:14-16:
14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
But in this lesson we will speak of a very comprehensive summary of the laws, institutions, responsibilities and privileges of every citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven found in the book of Hebrews 8: 1-13. The first verse says, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum” (Hebrews 8:1 KJV).
CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES OF PRIVILEGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
A constitution is a guarantee to those who are to govern a kingdom or nation. It stipulates the extent of their privileges and responsibilities. It is also a guarantee to every citizen of the extent of their stipulated liberties and responsibilities.
For instance, to every American citizen our Constitution guarantees us the right of the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the freedom to assemble to redress or petition our government. We are also guaranteed in the second amendment the privilege and freedom of keeping and bearing arms in our homes in order to be called out to defend our liberties in a well regulated militia. There are many more guarantees stipulated.
Therefore both those who govern and those who are governed are guaranteed the extent and continuance of all their stipulated privileges and responsibilities. On my Kindle I recently read an excellent book—Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankel—a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He recommended that we not only have the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast to symbolize our freedoms, but he thought it would be a good idea to have a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast to symbolize that under this great republic we also have certain obligations and responsibilities on our part to keep. I think that is a good idea and from what I can find on the Internet, a Statue of Responsibility is already under construction and will be located on some island off the west coast.
But also under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven we are guaranteed the freedom from sin and the privilege to live a joyful life in Christ, free from guilt and with the hope of eternal life. Many other such privileges are guaranteed to the faithful and obedient child of God. We also have the responsibility to be good citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to be faithful and obedient to our great King Jesus Christ. But at this point let us look at some of the constitutional provisions that are stipulated to each of us who have been born again into the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8).
THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Constitutional Summary
A constitution as we have previously indicated is a summary that comprehends all of the laws, institutions, responsibilities and privileges found in any kingdom or body politic.
In like manner, the writer of the book of Hebrews sums up all that he had been writing concerning the Kingdom of Heaven or the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Hebrews 8: 1-5
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
We notice in these verses the three items that we mentioned at the outset that are found in every constitutional arrangement under Almighty God. Those three things are an altar, a sacrifice and a priest. In this summary Jesus Christ is the high priest offering up himself as the ultimate atoning sacrifice on the altar of his own divinity. The book of Hebrews affirms that Jesus Christ in his own person is our Prophet, Priest and King.
A New Constitution (Covenant) Versus The Old Constitution (Covenant)
In the next order of business the author of the book of Hebrews informs us that our constitutional privileges and responsibilities in the kingdom of God will not be exactly the same as those that were under the previous Constitution of the Kingdom of Israel:
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
Under this new constitution Christ has a better Ministry; and he is a better mediator of a better covenant based upon better promises. The Jewish constitution was faulty on man’s part, but the new constitution will correct this weakness. This new constitution will have such privileges and responsibilities guaranteed to every citizen that they will want to continue to be faithful and enjoy the ultimate privilege of living in heaven. What are those constitutional privileges guaranteed to every citizen who has been born into Kingdom of Heaven?
There are four of these mentioned in this Constitutional summary in Hebrews chapter 8:10-12:
1. Under this new constitution God has promised that he will write his law into the minds and hearts of his people:
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
2. Also under this Constitution God has promised and assured each citizen that He will be their God and they will be His people—they will be His and He will be theirs.
… and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
3. God has also assured all of his citizens of having a just knowledge of his will. He will teach them through his Word everything they need to know.
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
Under the old constitution a person was born into God’s family by a physical birth, of and from the womb. Then as the child developed, instruction was given of his constitutional obligations and privileges. Under the new constitution, a person is taught first of his responsibilities and liberties, and then is born into the kingdom of God by a new birth of and from the water and the Spirit—faith and water baptism.
4. And last of all and the best of all, God has promised each citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven that he will be a merciful God and forgive all of their sins and iniquities and banish all guilt and fear from their conscience.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Every citizen in the kingdom of God having been forgiven upon entering that kingdom of all past sins is still in need of the mercy, grace and love of God. This is because we have sinned in the past, and we commit sins in the present. But when we continually have a penitent attitude, the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us of all our sins. This is declared by the apostle John:
1 John 1:5-10
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
These words represent the essence of a sermon I delivered at the Heartland Church of Christ, October 21, 2012, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana, and will suffice until I have the time to transcribe the full sermon. May God help us to be good citizens of the United States of America and the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
Copyright © 2012 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved