The apostle Paul knew that warfare was a fitting metaphor for his entire life and ministry—and he urged other Christians to think the same way. He told his protégé, Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). He described his co-laborers as fellow soldiers (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 2). They were engaged side-by-side in a never-ending battle, and Paul never took a rest from it. Thus as he neared the end of his earthly life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
It wasn’t that Paul relished fighting or went looking for trouble. On the contrary, because of his effectiveness as a herald of truth, the enemy sought him out and relentlessly attacked. Paul’s whole life was filled with conflict and persecution—much of it at the hands of Roman officials. His ministry was contemporaneous with the political career of Nero, one of the most brutal and demented men who ever sat on the emperor’s throne. Nero hated everything Paul stood for, and he attempted to wipe out the church in that first generation after Pentecost. He was not alone. Rome’s whole political machinery was dominated by evil men whose official policies were anti-Christian.
You might think, then, that Paul saw the Roman government as the enemy with whom he was at war. But he emphatically stated otherwise: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy was Satan and his demonic minions, not Nero and the Roman Senate.
The apostle’s strategy was therefore nothing like conventional warfare. He wrote, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Notice what Paul describes there is not a war for territory, political status, or material resources. It is an ideological battle. It is a war for the truth, and the goal is liberation of minds and hearts, including the hearts and minds of those evil Roman rulers who were so zealously persecuting the church.
Weapon number one in the apostolic arsenal against evil government policies was prayer—not sabotage, lobbying, boycotts, protests, or other forms of political agitation. Furthermore, what Paul sought from God was not the destruction of Nero and his government, but his well-being, and specifically his salvation. Paul made such prayer a mandate for the whole church: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
This book skillfully unpacks and carefully examines that mandate and its implications. After several decades of failed evangelical attempts to influence culture by political means, here is a better way. It is the biblical answer to the question of what the Church’s duty is with respect to hostile governments and anti-Christian rulers. I’m thankful for the painstaking work David Andersen has done on this project. I know you will be challenged, blessed, and encouraged as you read.