I was listening to a sermon from John MacArthur, delivered this past February 2015, apparently to a group of law enforcement officers. It’s called How God Restrains Evil in Society. To sum up the main points, there are four ways God restrains evil:
1. The conscience. Everyone has the law written on their heats. “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15). This means that intrinsically, people intuit right from wrong. Their conscience tells them when they’ve drifted into the ‘wrong’ side of the street.
2. The Family.
While conscience is a personal restraint, family is a relational restraint. Family is the building block of society. Family is the building block of civilization. God has established the family to be a loving, truthful, exemplary place that restrains evil in the next generation.
3. The Civil Authority (including law enforcement).
This is a societal restraint. Biblically, the prime duty of civil authority – if you look at the Bible, the Old Testament and New Testament – it’s not charity, it’s not economics. The primary duty of civil authority is the moral well-being of its citizens. It is restraining sinners and rewarding those who do good so that we can be civilized; enjoy a measure of peace and joy in life and God’s creation.
4. The Holy Spirit through the church
The final restraint is the church; the church. That is a spiritual restraint. And when I talk about the church, I’m talking about the organized church because there are a lot of false churches and a lot of phony religion as you all know very well. I’m talking about true Christians, true believers. What makes us a restraint is because God has done a work in us that is internal. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
A little side trip regarding the Holy Spirit as Restrainer-
The Holy Spirit of God is the only Person with sufficient (supernatural) power to do this restraining. … How does He do it? Through Christians, whom He indwells and through whom He works in society to hold back the swelling tide of lawless living. How will He be taken out of the way? When the church leaves the earth in the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique lawlessness-restraining ministry through God’s people will be removed (cf. Gen. 6:3). The removal of the Restrainer at the time of the Rapture must obviously precede the day of the Lord. Paul’s reasoning is thus a strong argument for the pretribulational Rapture: the Thessalonians were not in the Great Tribulation because the Rapture had not yet occurred.
Constable, T. L. (1985). 2 Thessalonians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 719). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
It is so saddening to see the restraints lift. In each case I believe it is plain to see that sin is advancing beyond the previous beachheads.
1. The Conscience
There is force and fervor in the declarations of the individual who suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, searing their conscience. Gay pride, (a monstrous reversal where sodomy was against the law until recently but is now celebrated ‘proudly’) polygamous marriage, (“what’s one more? It doesn’t change the definition of marriage”) child molestation (“it’s how I show love”), pornography (“it doesn’t hurt anyone”) are but a few examples of how the sinner is attempting to normalize sin to the expense of their conscience- and eternal destiny.
2. The Family
As for the family, we saw a stark example of a mom restraining sin in her son this week. In Baltimore as the riots were ongoing over the muddy circumstances of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, a mom spotted her son throwing bricks with the rioters and she marched in and smacked him down and boxed his ears and took him by the proverbial earlobe to home.
Parents have authority that a badge cannot confer. Son realized the person who knows him best, and is more interested than anyone else in his well-being, was right. So he submitted to her superior authority. Crime, conviction and punishment all happened without the criminal justice system getting involved.
What’s interesting is the fact that so many people are hailing the Baltimore mom for…doing her job. This is because society infrequently sees strong parenting, or parenting with authority. Parents long ago capitulated their jurisdiction and ceded their ground to the children. It’s most exhibited in the parent who constantly asks their child for permission to do such and such. “Do you want to go home now?” “Can you please put down the screwdriver?” “Do you need a nap?” The questions should be “Why are we thrilled a mom hunted down her son and prevented him from wrong doing? Where is his dad? Why did the mom have to wade into a dangerous situation to extract her son? And…where were all the other parents of the teens out there in the riot and why didn’t they come get their kids?
3. Civil Authority
I believe anyone who has eyes can see the difficulty in being a law enforcement officer in these days. The law is little regarded and sinful behavior is increasing. Flash mobs (pleasant public pop-up groups of people who sing in harmony to surprised and happy spectators) have shifted to angry mobs lobbing bricks and beating police. The Baltimore Police lost control and were overwhelmed with the fierceness of the reaction to Freddie Gray’s death, circumstances which are still being investigated by the way.
But in very recent years the Baltimore incident is not alone in showing the suddenness of fierce rioting and police losing control. London (2011), Vancouver (2011), Egypt (2012), Ferguson MO (2014) are all top-of-the mind examples of rioting where civil authority was not strong enough to restrain sin, i.e. where police lost control.
Communities are responding with ever-increasing heavy-handed tactics. Rolling out the SWAT team as a first-pass instead of a last resort for example. Purchasing military-grade equipment, is another example. Showy drills and practices is yet another example of the show of force the civil authority is forced to make in response to increasing lawlessness of both the legal and spiritual kind.
There is some push-back to the military intrusiveness into civil authority. One Texas town was concerned enough with troops drilling with military grade equipment they sent the State Guard to monitor them so martial law would not be instilled.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor federal troops as they conduct Jade Helm 15 military exercises later this year that some fear are a prelude to declaring martial law. … Operation Jade Helm 15 is a massive training exercise involving 1,200 special operations troops operating clandestinely in several southwest states, including Texas, which, for the duration of the exercise, has been designated a hostile country.
The Governor is being made fun of and called paranoid, but martial law was put in place in Boston after the terrorist bombing at the Marathon, and again in Baltimore as the riots erupted. The problem is not martial law, when it’s temporary until a riot or terrorist situation is under control. It’s forgetting to lift martial law afterwards.
Not many towns like the one in Texas resist the heavier handed displays of force to combat rising lawlessness. It’s a circle the drain situation because the more citizens disobey the law the fiercer the law enforcement gets, the harder the lawless ones push, and so on. The bottom line is that civil authority such as laws, police, and jails are beachheads that have been penentrated and are presently being overrun.
4. The church
This is a sad one too. It is ‘organized religion’ that is the restrainer at present (energized by the Spirit) but organized religion is under attack- from inside. “Christians” decry organized religion and want only a “relationship with Jesus”, but the Church is a restraining force Jesus instituted for the benefit of society through one-on-one evangelizing and for making disciples. Change occurs on the inside of a person by Jesus making a new creation. The soul-by-soul salvation and protection and growth of the new babes in Christ takes place in the church through the mechanism of organized religion. When religion is organized it is easier to submit to those in authority because you actually know who they are. It is easier for the pastor to hold those who are part of the organization accountable because he actually knows who they are. But many liberals want to do away with the organized religion part, making ‘Jesus followers’ like free-floating amoebas occasionally bumping into one another and then drifting around in a primordial soup of feel good platitudes that passes for purity.
This attitude is a direct attack on the force that Christians have in restraining sin. Combine that attack with apostasy and many tares infiltrating the church and you have a visible ‘church’ that can’t, won’t, or doesn’t know how to restrain sin.
One example of this is the decree that famous pastors have signed announcing they will not follow the law if the Supreme Court institutes gay marriage for all the land. Many, many of the signatories are not of the faith. Signatories include Orthodox priests, Catholic priests, James Robison, Rick Joyner, Rod Parsley, Sid Roth, John Hagee, Franklin Graham, Johnathan Cahn, female pastors, self-styled prophets, false; all of them. It is nice to politically stand for marriage but it is not biblical to partner with darkness to do it. We change people from the inside by giving the Gospel and the Spirit birthing them again.
Yet the world is reporting that the ‘church’ and ‘pastors’ are objecting to the pending decision by SCOTUS. Yet those above are not the church. They are tares. Sin isn’t being restrained, not with that crowd.
If these 4 vanguards of sin-restraint, (conscience, family, civil authority and the church) are weakening to such a degree, how much closer would the rapture be when the Church is totally taken out of the way and he who has been restrained (antichrist) is let loose? How long until the man of sin is released onto a world that wants to ‘be free’? How long until no one will tell anyone else that what they are doing is wrong, and which offends a holy God? Sinners, be careful what you ask for.
As for us, we continue to be holy as He is holy, relying on the Spirit to continue in the faith. Shine brightly, the light of holiness and purity will be a beacon to those who are either being drawn to Him or are being repelled and want to shield their eyes.
What should we do in these times? Protect our restraining mechanisms.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
2. The Family
The strong, biblical family is a stepping stone to keeping the church pure-
For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:5).
3. Civil Authority.
Rome was a brutal and evil empire in many respects. The first century saints were told to submit to it. (1 Peter 2:12, Romans 13:5). We do the same. Unless we are forced by law to directly contradict God’s law, we submit to civil authority. And don’t let your kids throw bricks at police.
4. The Church
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)
Keep the church pure by being pure yourself. Also, respect doctrine and keep it pure. Speak up in humility when errant doctrine infiltrates your church. And pastors, practice rightly biblical church discipline so the church will remain strong. We need the church to restrain sin in the world. Pray.