Jesus Christ came into the world to bring to men the true knowledge of God; for "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). He came to reveal to men the kingdom of God, -- to enunciate its principles, to manifest its spirit, to reveal its character. Of it He said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). "Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). And His apostles declared, "The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17).
"My kingdom is not of this world." Every kingdom, every State, every government of men, is altogether of this world and of this world alone. How then can anybody be of any earthly kingdom or State and of the kingdom of God at the same time? Those who are of the church are of the kingdom of God, because the church is the church of God, and not of this world -- it is composed of those who are "chosen out of the world." Those who are of the State are of this world, because the State is altogether and only of this world.
And, indeed, were not "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" offered to Jesus for His very own? Why did He not take them and rule over them and convert them and thus save them -- He could not, because to have taken them would have been to recognize "the god of this world," by whom they were offered. (Luke 4:5-8). And so, the kingdom of this world is offered ever only by Satan; and all who are Christ's will refuse it, as did our Example, and as did Moses, His chosen forerunner and type.
Christ was and is the embodiment of the church and of all Christianity. Therefore, and thus, in the Word of Christ, in the very principles of the cause of Christ, there is taught the separation of Church -- of Christianity -- and State as complete and as wide as in the separation between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world; and that is as complete and as wide as is the separation between God and this world.
Accordingly, Christ says in another place, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21). In that time the head of the Roman Empire, the personification of the world's power, was Caesar. And in that Roman world-system it was claimed that whatsoever was Caesar's was God's; because to all the people of that world-system Caesar was God. He was set before the people as God; the people were required to worship him as God; incense was offered to his image as to God. In that system the State was divine, and Caesar was the State. Therefore that system was essentially a union of religion and the State.
In view of this, when Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's," He denied to Caesar, and so to the State, every attribute, or even claim, of divinity. He showed that another than Caesar is God. Thus He entirely separated Caesar and God. He entirely separated between the things which are due to Caesar and those which are due to God. The things that are due to Caesar are not to be rendered to God. The things due to God are not to be rendered to Caesar. These are two distinct realms, two distinct personages, and two distinct fields of duty. Therefore, in these words Jesus taught as plainly as it is possible to do, the complete separation of religion and the State; that no State can ever rightly require anything that is due to God; and that when it is required by the State, it is not to be rendered.
Again: Jesus is the Example whom God has set to be the Guide to every person in this world in every step that can be taken in the right way. Any step taken by anybody in a way in which the Lord Jesus did not go is taken in the wrong way. He hath left us "an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Whosoever saith that he "abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). And Jesus never, in any manner nor to any degree, took any part in political matters nor in any affairs of the State.
Jesus was then, and is forever, the embodiment of true religion. Therefore, in His whole life's conduct of absolute separation from everything political, from all affairs of the State, there is taught to all the world, and especially to all believers in Him, the complete separation of the religion of Christ, and of all who hold it, from everything political and from all affairs of the State.
So faithfully did He hold to that principle that when a man asked Him only, "Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me," He refused, with the words, "Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?" and then said to them all, "Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:13-15). Oh, if only all who have professed to be His followers had held aloof from all affairs of politics and the State, how vastly different would have been the history of the Christian era! What a blessing it would have been to the world! What floods of misery and woe mankind would have been spared!
And why was it that Jesus thus persistently kept aloof from all affairs of politics and the State? Was it because all things political, judicial, and governmental were conducted with such perfect propriety, and with such evident justice, that there was no place for anything better, no room for improvement such as even He might suggest? -- Not by any means. Never was there more political corruption, greater perversion of justice, and essential all-pervasive evil of administration, than at that time.
Why, then, did not Jesus call for "municipal reform"? Why did He not organize a "Law and Order League"? Why did He not disguise Himself and make tours of the dives and the gambling-dens, and entrap victims into violation of the law? And why did He not employ other spies to do the same, in order to get against the representatives of the law evidence of maladministration by which to arraign them and to compel them to enforce the law, and thus reform the city, regenerate society, and save the State, and so establish the kingdom of God? Why? The people were ready to do anything of that kind that might be suggested. They were ready to cooperate with Him in any such work of "reform." Indeed, the people were so forward and so earnest in the matter that they would have actually taken Him by force and made Him King, had He not withdrawn Himself from them. (John 6:15). Why, then, did He refuse?
The answer to all this is, Because He was Christ, the Saviour of the world, and had come to help men, not to oppress them; had come to save men, not to destroy them. "The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses -- extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our Example kept aloof from earthly governments --not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually and must regenerate the heart.
"Not by the decisions of courts, or councils, or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established; but by the implanting of Christ's nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit. 'As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' Here is the only power that can work the uplifting of mankind. And the human agency for the accomplishment of this work is the teaching and practising of the Word of God" (Desire of Ages, chap. 55, par. 12).
Now Christ is the true Example set by God for every soul in this world to follow. The conduct of Christ is Christianity. Conformity to that Example in the conduct of the individual believer -- this and this alone is Christianity in the world. The conduct of Christ, the Example, was totally separate in all things from politics and the affairs of the State. Christianity, therefore, is the total separation of the believer in Christ from politics and all the affairs of the State, the total separation of religion and the State in the individual believer.
Accordingly, Jesus said to His disciples forever, "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world" (John 15:19). And to His Father He said of His disciples forever, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:16). Every Christian in this world, then, must be in the world as Christ was in the world. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master" (Matt. 10:25). The Master was always, and in all things, and by fixed design, completely separated from all affairs of politics and the State. And it is forever enough "that the disciple be as his Master."
The following passage from a sermon by the late Thomas Hewlings Stockton presents an infinity of truth, and is worthy to stand forever in letters ablaze with eternal glory:--
"There was one sacrifice too great for Christ to make. He was willing to leave the throne of the universe for the manager of Bethlehem; willing to grow up as the son of a poor carpenter; willing to be called the friend of publicans and sinners; willing to be watched with jealous eyes, and slandered by lying tongues, and hated by murderous hearts, and betrayed by friendly hands, and denied by pledged lips, and rejected by apostate priests and a deluded populace and cowardly princes; willing to be sentenced to the cross, and to carry the cross, and be nailed to the cross, and bleed and groan and thirst and die on the cross. But he was not willing to wear an earthly crown or robe, or wield an earthly scepter, or exercise earthly rule. That would have been too great a sacrifice. He did, indeed, endure the crown of thorns and the cast-off purple and the reed, and the cry, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' But this was merely because he preferred the mockery to the reality; so pouring infinite contempt on the one, not only by rejecting it in the beginning of his ministry, but also by accepting the other at its close."
This is the Christianity of Jesus Christ, as respects the great question of religion and the State. And, as in all the instruction from God from the beginning of creation down, it calls always for the complete separation of religion and the State in all things and in all people, in order that the Christian may enjoy infinitely higher things.