This World is God's World (3) - SPECIAL EDITION
This World is God's World - News and Views from a Christian perspective-
SPECIAL ROYAL EDITION
September 20th 2022
By Rev Peter Ratcliff
QUEEN ELIZABETH II and CHARLES III
For the whole of her seventy year reign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was undoubtedly the most universally respected person in the United Kingdom. People would do well to realise that her life was based on her sense of duty to serve both God and her people. Today most people want rights but have little sense of their duty and responsibility.
What does the passing of our beloved Queen mean for us? The British monarchy is not absolute but the nation is administered by the government. Although the monarch is consulted weekly by the prime minister, the monarch is unable to prevent parliament introducing ungodly laws. Consequently during the last seventy years Britain has lost the death penalty and the Sabbath and has replaced biblical family structure with gender confused anarchy and abortion. In 1952 the nation was already in a low state spiritually with most people having at best only a nominal Christian faith. Nevertheless a vast number of children attended Sabbath schools and religion was taught in schools from a generally Christian perspective. Little remains.
Queen Elizabeth did not speak about politics except to announce what her government had planned for the year ahead. What was more significant was that she gave a short speech on 25th December each year when she generally mentioned something of her faith in Jesus Christ which kept her going even through difficult times.
Generally the Queen spoke only briefly of her sense of duty in serving God and did not preach. Her role in the Church of England as governor does not give her a teaching role.
Britain has sadly lost its champion and will now more fully reflect the godless nation which it has become.
King Charles III, her oldest son, is now king. What will change? In the Queen's Coronation she promised to uphold the Reformed Protestant Religion. It was a great privilege for a nation to have a monarch who made such a vow.
The tragedy is that while all members of both houses of parliament swear or affirm allegiance to the monarch, many taking the vow with a hand on the Bible, their speeches and laws reflect neither her vow nor theirs.
The monarch has long had the title "Defender of the Faith". While this was originally given to British monarchs by the Pope in the early 16th Century, since England and Britain broke from the Pope the title has come to refer to monarchs defending the Protestant Faith.
However, the nation has since given not only toleration to all other religions and none, but has come very close to giving equality. Indeed the claims of homosexual, gender confused and any kind of minority status "rights" very often seem to have priority and legal protection above the Protestant faith.
Protestants have expressed concern that King Charles has promised to be the "Defender of faith" in general. Whatever he meant and whatever his intention, it is hard to see that this will make any material difference as this is already the situation in Britain. It is has been suggested that the Coronation Oath might be changed to support his views but this will not happen. Charles will keep to the old wording. He has declared that his faith is that of the Church of England and therefore is able to take the same vows as his mother and simultaneously continue to defend people of all faiths. Indeed this is effectively what the Queen has done.
Likewise we might wonder how the new king will affect the Church of England. Other than the fact that we had not heard previously of Charles speaking of having a personal Christian faith, we do not expect any significant change. The Church of England is determined to ignore its own 39 Articles of Religion and to ordain not only men but women. The Church of England has a toleration of homosexuality and even so called gender changing among its members and even ministers. Long before this, the Church of England accepted those who hold largely Roman Catholic anti-Protestant doctrine and those who reject the sole authority of the Bible. The Church of England is still fighting within itself about whether to allow same sex marriage. Parliament will be pushing for this and the monarch will have very little if any influence at all.
While Protestant Christians are now found largely outside the shrinking Church of England the danger is that the Roman Catholic Church will gain such an alternative status in Britain that it will either replace or swallow up the Church of England. In theory we have an unwritten constitution but certain documents prevent us from being under the Pope's rule. In practice most of our protections have been trodden underfoot. Nevertheless the people of Britain are generally so secular and independent minded that the idea of a Pope, not to mention a church with such a bad reputation for abuse, having any power, would be quite abhorrent.
Protestant Christians mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II and pray for Charles III. Thankfully while kings of the earth come and go, we serve the King of Kings whose kingdom has no end. "Thy kingdom come" is our prayer and it is certain to be fulfilled. Whatever rulers and authorities are ordained by God, the Protestants of Britain continue, unashamed of Christ. We call upon Britain in her loss to look to the Lord Jesus Christ to save us all from our terrible sins and circumstances. Our national anthem and prayer says, God save the king. The nation says this without understanding the full meaning. Christians pray not only for God to save the king from trouble but to save his soul unto eternity through sincere faith in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
And what of us? Do we press on about our rights or do we say that we have no rights but only a duty to serve God, the Lord being both our helper and our Saviour?
HOW'S YOUR PREACHING? - LESSONS FROM THE QUEEN’S FUNERAL
When I was a child and young man I would often go to church but never really heard the Gospel. Certainly there were Bible readings, Psalms, hymns with biblical wording, a modernised prayer book with mainly biblical wording and very short talks which I now understand were supposed to be sermons.
Sure, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for sin and I wanted to be confirmed. However this never gave me the feeling that I was permanently forgiven and fitted for heaven. I certainly didn't have a testimony of being saved and neither did I behave at all like a godly person. I am sure that, in what I now understand were Liberal and Anglo-catholic churches, I never heard the Gospel.
My point is, I don't think that a sermon like the one at the Queen's funeral would have made any difference. Yes, it was orthodox but it wasn't Gospel preaching.
Rather, what saved me was hearing much longer sermons in a church that was full of faith. The preacher was passionate for the salvation of souls and he desired that, through hearing Christ preached, the newcomers brought to church would come to understand what it was to be saved from sin & hell through faith in the blood & righteousness of Jesus Christ.
The whole ten days from the Queen’s death until her burial has been quite astonishing. One friend commented that the day of the Queen's funeral was as if the whole nation was in church. Yes, that is right, but I feel it was more like the Anglo Catholic Church of my youth than the Gospel Church which brought me to salvation. Yes, it was a million times better than a humanist funeral which would have been utterly depressing and vain.
It is well to have some comment from a Reformed Protestant perspective because the theological aspect of the funeral has, as always, been entirely absent from the media commentary.
First there were the cries of Republicans that this monarch should be the last. Then after the funeral there were headlines such as, “Queen's funeral viewers distracted by 'legend' choir boy giving '150%'” and another headline: “Carrie Johnson blasted for wearing 'inappropriate' dress to Queen's funeral”.
Such comment reflects the low level of British spirituality. We long for days when people would not only join in the sentiment of bereavement but feel the powerful consolidation that only comes from believing the Gospel.
The reactions of Christians to the funeral have been very varied. Our assessment depends on what aspects we are considering.
As our Queen was buried, we did have an essentially Christian funeral and a Christian succession to the throne.
I have a few grumbles. "Kirsty", the BBC TV presenter, spoke of the Queen having her eternal rest at Windsor! That was a serious error. Didn't Kirsty hear the reading in the service from 1 Corinthians 15 that eternity is not to be left as a corpse in a tomb but is to be found as a risen glorified incorruptible body after the general resurrection at the last day? Why will the BBC not have a theologically Protestant correspondent to comment intelligently and informatively? If it was the funeral of someone from another religion, we can be sure that a commentator would have been provided. But we expect nothing good from the atheistic BBC.
Also we had constant reference in the televised commentary to "the altar", as if we were in a Roman Catholic Church. Rather we have the Lord's Table. We have no Mass because the sacrifice of Jesus was finished on the cross. Therefore, we don't pray for the dead. Here it is not only the BBC but the Church of England which is at fault.
And the sermon? We can be thankful for all that Mr Welby said but then we must say, O, just one small thing, he didn't actually preach the Gospel!
With all thanks for all that is good, the question remains, when did an Archbishop ever call people to turn from sin to Christ with faith and repentance to be saved? Certainly we have never heard such.
Nevertheless, it is possible that even with things done the way they were, and with so much not said or not said with much emphasis, some may have found the words said leading them to trust in the death and righteousness of Christ for forgiveness and unto salvation. Afterall, the Holy Spirit may bring other things to remembrance which we previously heard to combine with the things spoken in an inadequate sermon.
But we have a more important point for those of us who are preachers. It is all very well to be critical of Mr Welby, but what about ourselves? Now if we examine ourselves, do we always preach the Gospel in our sermons? Many of us do not. I hear many sermons which focus on Christian holiness and that is a very necessary subject. But would the non Christian would mistakenly think that we are preaching of a works righteousness because we fail to base our exhortations for the holy Christian life only upon a justification by faith in the death of Christ?
Here is a test, in our preaching do we normally mention the death of Jesus, his substitution, his sacrifice, his blood, even when we are preaching mainly to exhort believers to holiness? Do we mention that we can be saved and that we can only be saved through faith in the death of Jesus in our place? If not, we are not much better than the Anglo Catholics, charismatic and mystics.
Let us be sure that we do not miss opportunities to preach the Gospel.
Here's a second test: In the four Gospels, especially the first three, Jesus speaks mainly in parables, Jesus hasn't died until the end, so it is difficult to know what the Gospel is. John 16 is clear that only later will the Apostles have a grip of the teaching and have the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles is also a unique historical account. Only the Epistles give the fullest clearest Gospel teaching. The Gospels and the whole Bible must be understood in the light of the Epistles. To attempt to diminish the doctrine of the Epistles to fit in with the less clear teaching of the four Gospels is a serious error, a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit which Jesus prophesied.
Which brings us to this second test: If Justification is not shown to be by faith alone without works and so by grace so that it may be sure, as Romans 4:16, then the Gospel hasn't been preached. Without this we are left in Anglo (Roman) Catholic charismatic mystical no-man's-land with no assurance and joy.
Here is a third test: Are we aiming in our preaching to bring the congregation to the point where we are rejoicing in Christ crucified and the assurance of sins forgiven and eternal life? If not, I fear that we are not preaching the Gospel and that our preaching is in vain.
So yes, to some extent the Queen's funeral was a bright light in a dark nation. We must now press ahead with the clear message of the Gospel so that our people will be called upon to look unto Christ and be saved.