The foremost need of public servants is to know Christ. This need is why Capitol Ministries is focused on changing hearts by sharing the gospel. Good legislation is important, but men and women can hardly be expected to make policies in accordance with sound, biblically based principles if they are at odds with the Author of Scripture. Only the gospel has the efficacy to change a heart. We believe that foremost in the capital community is the objective of evangelizing and discipling political leaders. We need more disciplers!
Consider whether there is a biblical basis or calling to minister to political leaders. If so, how important is this pursuit in the mind of God? I think you may be in for a surprise.
Read on, my friend.
There is a biblical mandate that addresses whether modern missions include public servants! This study is intended to reveal that truth as it runs throughout the Bible—and to help us to build a conviction regarding this certainty.
This study should fascinate public servants! Insomuch as political leaders are essential to the Great Commission, it follows that we must be heavily involved in its fulfillment! The best way to reach other public servants with the gospel of Jesus Christ is through evangelistic efforts! So let’s explore and closely examine this biblical mandate to reach political leaders with the gospel.
II. EXPLORING THE MANDATE
The following three portions of the New Testament (NT) provide the best initial understanding of this missiological emphasis that runs throughout the Word of God.
A. 1 TIMOTHY 2:1–4
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Not only does the Apostle Paul urge Timothy to pray evangelistically for all men in general, but specifically for kings and all who are in authority. Very importantly, verse 1 begins, I urge. These English words come from the original Greek language. Parakalo is a compound word comprised of the preposition para and the verb kaleo. Para means “to come alongside” while kaleo means “to call.” Together, parakalo is an emphatic verb in the first-person singular that means “to call alongside.” I urge [you, Timothy].
Paul heightens this command with first of all, or protos (in Greek) to indicate its priority. Protos is used to signify “first in priority” rather than sequence. In other words, Paul wanted Timothy to join him in praying evangelistically for kings and those in authority. (Verse 4 indicates the aforementioned command to pray is to be taken in the context of evangelism.)
The command of these verses is not an afterthought in Paul’s mind. Concern for political leaders was an emphasis that ran throughout his ministry and was born in his Damascus Road conversion. Notice this significance in the following Acts 9:15 passage:
B. ACTS 9:15
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.”
From the inception of Paul’s calling, the Lord revealed to Ananias that Paul would be His “chosen instrument…to bear [His] name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Ananias was Jesus’ surrogate messenger to Paul, who, at that time, was known as Saul.
It is important to note that kings were one of the specific people groups that God called Paul to evangelize.
Many cities in the Roman Empire had not heard the gospel. So, a question for the curious should be asked: how did Paul decide where he would next travel? Certainly, many factors needed to be considered, but one of those was the presence of political leaders. The list that follows shows that his calling informed his travels, i.e., what cities he would include to establish churches. Understanding this connection is very important. The vast majority of cities Paul chose to visit stemmed from his Acts 9:15 calling. Note that those cities were capital cities in the Roman Empire.
• Paphos was the capital city of Cyprus.
• Perga was the capital city of Pamphylia.
• Pisidian Antioch was the capital city of So. Galatia.
• Iconium was the capital city of Lyconia.
• Thessalonica was the capital city of Macedonia.
• Athens was the capital city of modern Greece.
• Corinth was the capital city of Achaia.
• Ephesus was the capital city of proconsular Asia.
Paul ministered to both Jews and Gentiles, but it is important not to overlook the fact that Paul was also called to be a missionary to evangelize kings in this passage. For that reason, he went to these capital cities—as we shall see next.
C. THE BOOK OF ACTS
In that regard:
Of the thirteen individual conversions recorded by author Luke in the book of Acts, seven are politically related people.
This emphasis of reaching governing leaders is vividly illustrated in the 28-chapter narrative. It is insightful to note that Luke is writing Acts for Theophilus (cf. Acts 1:1), in that he calls him most excellent (Luke 1:3), a title used to address governors (cf. Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). Possibly Luke is writing this account, as well as the gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 1:3), for the purpose of persuading one government leader to come to faith in Christ. This explanation would disclose why over one-half of the individual conversion accounts recorded in the book of Acts involve politically related people. Luke’s purpose could be either to relate to Theophilus that other governmental leaders have come to Christ, or to illustrate the fulfillment of Paul’s call in Acts 9:15, if not both. Note the common vocation among the following conversions:
• The Ethiopian eunuch was the treasurer of Candice, the queen of Ethiopia (8:27).
• Cornelius the centurion was a military leader of 100 men (10:17).
• Blastus was the king’s chamberlain (12:20).
• Sergius Paulus was a Roman provincial governor (13:7).
• The Philippian jailer was a government official (16:27).
• Dionysius was the Areopagite judge (17:34).
• Publius was the governor of Malta (28:7).
Paul’s Acts 9:15 calling gives insight as to why he desired to visit Rome, and subsequently, even travel as far as Spain. In Acts 23:11b the Lord revealed to Paul that he must testify of Him in Rome:
“Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”
The apostle longed to fellowship with the church in Rome (cf. Romans 1:10– 12), but he had at least one other reason for making the voyage: evangelism. This intention is evident from Acts 27:24 where the Lord adds that Paul “must stand before Caesar.” Therefore, out of obedience to his calling, Paul was compelled to take the gospel to Caesar. History evidences that Caesar did not get saved, but Philippians 4:22 indicates that Paul had been used by God in a powerful way in the emperor’s palace:
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
Paul was a man governed by the vivid memory of his conversion as recorded in Acts 9—and the specificity of his calling to reach the leaders of the world with the gospel.
As a political leader, you are specifically qualified to follow in Paul’s calling.
Assuming Paul’s mission to Spain somehow aligned with his calling is reasonable, and it did. Spain was a mineral-rich colony on the westernmost extent of the Empire. A population of Jews and Gentiles who hadn’t heard the gospel were living there.
Did Spain have a contingency of political leaders? Yes. The orator Quintilian, the writer Martial, and the statesman Seneca resided there. The Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian were born in Spain as well. According to Clement of Rome (writing in AD 95), Paul reached Spain and “gave his testimony before the rulers.”1
The apostle labored to reach political leaders with the gospel. His deep concern for their salvation perhaps explains why he gave such an emphatic mandate to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1–4. They serve as bookends to the emphasis in and of the ministry life of Paul. To recap, Paul instructed Timothy to pray for the salvation of Rome’s political leaders. The same principle applies for all believers today: Christians should desire to see their political leaders come to know Christ. In fact:
From Genesis to Revelation, God’s people pursue an evangelistic ministry to political leaders in foreign nations.
This consuming evangelistic zeal encompassed Paul’s life after his Damascus Road conversion. The same emphasis exists throughout in Scripture.
III. EXPANDING THE MANDATE
In addition to the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter also exemplified this emphasis of ministry in the New Testament. Moving forward from the Church Age and after its close, tribulation saints will have a ministry to unbelieving kings.
Looking the other way in the Bible, the Old Testament (OT) nation of Israel, God’s chosen people under the old covenant, was meant to be a beacon—a representative of Yahweh’s glory, shining forth unto all the Gentile nations of the world. And in this regard, even more specifically, the nation Israel was meant by God to testify of Him to the political leaders in those Gentile nations! This mandate can be seen in some select passages that follow.
The ministry of reaching political leaders runs prominently throughout all of Scripture. Summarily states one of God’s choice servants in this regard, I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed (Psalm 119:46).
IV. EXEMPLIFYING THE MANDATE
The proposition that today a mandate is missing in modern missions, namely, reaching political leaders as a first priority, can be demonstrated from the following epochs of biblical revelation. These passages indicate an historic thread of emphasis near to the heart of God that is woefully underemphasized in today’s Christian missiology.
A. THE MINISTRY OF OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL
God promised Abraham he would one day receive land, have numerous descendants, and be blessed by Him (cf. Genesis 12:1–3). Four centuries passed as Abraham’s descendants grew from one family into 12 tribes and finally into the nation Israel. The Lord called them out of the world to be His “own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5–6). Extrinsically, Israel was called to proclaim the excellencies of God to all the surrounding nations.
God intended for His people to become a light to the Gentile nations in a general sense; and more specifically, He expected His people to be a light to the leaders of those nations. Isaiah 60:3 states in this regard:
“Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Isaiah 49:6–7 along with 62:1–2 suggest the same type of ministry for Israel. The Lord expected Gentile leaders to take notice of His chosen people—a nation uniquely set apart for His purposes. Yet the only way this regard would happen is if Israel pursued some form of evangelistic ministry to them. However, in an overall historical sense:
Israel failed in her ministry to the foreign nations and their leaders. However, the Old Testament does provide several examples where God’s people obeyed.
One illustration of Israel’s obedience to Yahweh’s calling to reach political leaders takes place during the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Israel during the reign of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 10:1–9). The queen had traveled 1,400 miles to see the splendorous city of Jerusalem, and she would not leave disappointed. 1 Kings 10:5 (ESV) says that because of the visit, there was no more breath in her. (“No more breath in her” is an OT phrase similar to saying today, “She was simply blown away!”). The queen was amazed and overwhelmed and proceeded, as a result, to praise the Lord (cf. 1 Kings 10:9). Luke 11:31 implies that during this time, she was converted. The point is plain to see: at this time in Solomon’s life, his testimony proved compelling as he evangelized this foreign leader.
A second illustration of Israel’s obedience to her calling to reach political leaders from Gentile nations happened when Solomon finished the temple. He gave thanks to God. During his thanksgiving prayer, he reminded Israel that the Lord blessed them for a purpose: so “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else” (1 Kings 8:60). The temple itself even included a court for the Gentiles to worship Yahweh in keeping with the purpose of proclaiming God to the nations. As the nations saw Israel’s light, the hope was, that like the Queen of Sheba, the people would come from afar, led by their kings, to worship the God of Israel. States Isaiah 60:11 in this regard:
“Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed day or night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.”
The thanksgiving prayer over the temple also illustrates that God wanted Israel to be magnetically attractive to Gentile nations and their leaders.
This idea is further illustrated, yet again in another way by the prophetic ministry of Jonah. Though a reluctant Jewish minister, Jonah eventually went (in a “whale” of a roundabout way) to the Gentile city of Nineveh and called upon its citizens to repent of their wickedness. Many listened, and soon Jonah had the opportunity to call the king to repentance. He also listened and then ordered the entire city to follow suit in a very profound passage of Scripture (cf. Jonah 3:3–9).
Summarily, as illustrated by the three previous passages, Israel possessed a great calling to reach the nations of the world with Yahweh’s glory—and an important aspect of that was to reach the leaders of those Gentile nations.
B. THE MINISTRY OF JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES
In addition to the previously seen mission illustrated by Paul and the three examples within Old Testament Israel, when Jesus commissioned His twelve disciples, He told them they would be “brought before governors and kings for My sake as a testimony to them…” (Matthew 10:18). Accordingly, He sent out His disciples with a charge to evangelize political leaders.
C. THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLES
As a crescendo to the various politically related conversions in the book of Acts as already mentioned, remember that Paul sought to minister to Caesar and his household by visiting Rome. And in magnum-opus fashion, he desired to visit Spain to preach the gospel to leaders residing there (cf. Romans 15:23–24). Therefore, Paul’s subsequent charge to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1–4) and Titus (Titus 3:1) underscore the importance of carrying forth this mandate today in the Church Age.
Paul, however, was not the only apostle embedded with a passion to minister to kings; Peter had the same aspirations, albeit evidenced not quite as directly.
In 1 Peter 2:12b, Peter exhorted his audience to live exemplary lives among the Gentiles for one purpose: that they may glorify God in the day of visitation. This Petrine language is Peter’s way of saying that he desired that the Gentiles with whom they came in contact to be saved; he wanted to see Gentiles come to know Christ. He knew that poor conduct in the church would lead to a poor testimony in the community and that such would stand in the way, i.e., such poor conduct would ruin their testimony.
Interestingly, verses 13 and 14 of 1 Peter 2, expand upon this idea with respect and specificity to political leaders. Simply and summarily stated, evangelism to Gentile kings and governors will only be effective to the degree that believers humbly submit themselves to them and the laws they enact (so long as they are not patently unbiblical, of course).
Submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as one in authority, or to governors as sent by him.…
So 1 Peter 2:13–14 is set in the context that the reason for such submission to lawmakers is for the main purpose of being a good witness to them. This insight is usually not gleaned from this text; nonetheless, this observation is important to the thesis of this Bible study.
D. THE MINISTRY OF TRIBULATION SAINTS
During the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13, Jesus taught on events that would unfold during the tribulation. Wars will erupt, natural disasters will occur, and persecution will be common for Christ’s followers. Mark 13:9 concludes this description by adding:
“But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.”
I hope we are raptured before this event, my friend, and if we are—and I believe that followers of Christ will be raptured before then—this Scripture speaks of those who come to Christ during the tribulation, and that they will be the witnesses to governing leaders.
It is interesting that among the limited details Jesus provided regarding the tribulation, He made specific mention of evangelizing political leaders.
What a worthy point to make! Mark 13:9 states that believers “will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.” Thus, the thread of ministry to those in the political arena continues even during this future epoch of great upheaval.
E. THE MINISTRY OF MILLENNIAL SAINTS
After Christ’s Second Coming, God’s people will no longer minister to kings for they will become kings themselves (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10, 20:4, 6). Those who have been redeemed will be given the privilege to rule on earth. When Christ returns and His kingdom has come, He will grant believers the governing positions similar to those who hold them today. Believers will then rule with perfection under the authority of the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15). The perfect political leadership by Christ and His called-out ones is a characteristic lacking in all the prior political leaders in today’s fallen world (cf. Genesis 3). Praise God for the future day!
The type of ministry will change—from one of pursuing to one of being—but God’s keen interest in governmental leaders will nonetheless remain intact even during the millennial kingdom.
V. ENGAGING THE MANDATE
The Great Commission includes a specific, and I believe strategic element of emphasis of reaching political leaders throughout the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This insight becomes quite evident and important from the passages examined in this study. Capitol Ministries is a missional response to this mandate. We welcome your partnership in this God-specified calling! Are you pursuing what is foremost important—protos—relative to the fulfillment of the Great Commission?
1. Kirsopp Lake, The Apostolic Fathers (London: William Heinemann,1919), 17.