Surviving the Madness

2 Timothy 3:1-5 CSB

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. [2] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, [4] traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.

The doctrine of civil obedience is but part of the broader teaching of Scripture on subjection to constituted authority. Angelic beings are subject to Christ (1 Pet. 3:22); believers are subject to one another (1 Pet. 5:5); the church is subject to Christ (Eph. 5:24); the Son shall be subject to the Father (1 Cor. 15:28); servants are subject to their masters (1 Pet. 2:18); children are under their parents (1 Tim. 3:4); wives are subject to their husbands (Col. 3:18); young people are to be subject to their elders (1 Pet. 5:5); church members are to be governed by their leaders (Heb. 13:7, 17); and believers are to be subject to their government. It is part of a total doctrine of obedience.

One cannot deny the fact that the various areas in which authority is established are interrelated in the Scriptures. Therefore, a breakdown in one area will mean failures in others, and this is precisely what is happening in our contemporary society. Civil disobedience, ecclesiastical disobedience, and disobedience in the home are interrelated. Since this is true, the Christian should demonstrate orderliness within the various spheres to which he is related. When he is under authority, he should submit obediently; when he is in power, he should lead with justice. It is nothing short of hypocrisy for Christians to decry public acts of disobedience while perpetuating private ones.

The world seems to be plunging rapidly down the path of increasing lawlessness in many areas. Where will it all end? The Bible answers that question plainly and vividly in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Eighteen characteristics of the hard times of the last days are listed, and many reflect lawlessness. Blasphemy is lawlessness against God; disobedience to parents is lawlessness in the family; without natural affection is lawlessness against one’s own body; truce-breaking is lawlessness with others; fierceness means being untamed, which speaks for itself; despisers of those that are good refers to lawlessness in respect to the established order; heady means reckless, and so it goes. No city, no country, no class, no institution is exempt from this rampant lawlessness.

I can think of no situation into which a dictator could more easily move than this state of lawlessness. Perhaps you read the book or saw the telecast of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The pieces of that picture should never have fit together. There was the unknown fanatic who was disliked and distrusted by almost everyone except his small band of followers; there were intelligent, civilized, and cultured people who should have seen what was happening; and a democratic government should have prevented a takeover. The pieces would not have fit together except for one ingredient present in the situation, and that was lawlessness. In the wake of lawlessness, Hitler was swept to power. The impossible happened, and the law of a lawless dictator replaced the lawless situation. And this is precisely what will happen on a worldwide scale before long. Our day’s lawlessness is ripening the world for a takeover by some who will promise to bring order, even by the use of force, out of this chaos. Such a one will arise, and, paradoxically, he is called the lawless one (2 Thess. 2:8). History will repeat itself, only the next time on a much larger scale. Christians today must be certain that they do not contribute to this climate of lawlessness in any sphere of life.

Is not the Christian to take leadership in trying to correct society’s ills, and will not this responsibility sometimes involve and justify acts of civil disobedience? Indeed, the believer has a social duty; in a word, that responsibility is to do good to all men and especially to other believers. But he also has a civic responsibility, which is to be an obedient citizen. If the government under which he lives allows for means of legitimate protest and change, he surely may use them. But taking the law into one’s own hands finds no support in the Scriptures. The only exception seems to be if the government forbids his worshiping God. To serve Caesar and even fight for him, the Christian must do; to worship Caesar, he must not do. It is instructive to remember that the New Testament writers did not crusade against one of the worst social ills of their day—slavery. Paul advised Christians slaves not to let it matter to them (1 Cor. 7:22). He did not encourage them to become martyrs in the cause of liberation. Indeed, even when writing to a Christian master about a runaway slave who had become a believer, he only suggests that he be taken back and not be punished. He never hints that the master should free his slaves because it was the Christian thing to do (Philem. 17).

The Christian’s primary responsibilities are evangelism and godly living. Through witnessing, he changes men; through righteous living, he affects society; through private and public obedience, he honors God. 

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