February 06, 2023 Samuel Lindsay

A Stone Cut without Hands

A Stone Cut without Hands

You don't have to read very widely in Christian circles until you come across some wild theory about how Emperor Constantine meddled in the church and supposedly even paganised true Christianity.

Emperor Constantine is an intruiging figure, not only because he professed to be a Christian but because he was a Ceasar of the Roman empire in the 300s A.D. This empire had been throuroughly pagan, worshiping a pantheon of gods. They had been antagonistic, and sometimes outright genocidal towards Christians.

Under Constatine Christians were given the legal right to practice their faith (although under God they had the right all along!). He also passed various laws that helped Christians specifically. This began a new era of establishment and acceptance of Christ in the empire. Christianity would eventually become not only permissable, but the official state religion!

Many have pondered the authenticity of Constantine's profession of faith, in part becuase he was apparently involved in some worship of other gods. He played the politician, with his public persona not going too far one way or another.

From the hindsight of history it is easy to find fault, but it is worth remembering Constantine was a mere human like any one else. Like anyone with authority, sometimes he made mistakes in the way he used that authority. But like all our mistakes, God can use them for good. I'm not excusing his mistakes, but just noting that they are not barriers to God's plans and purposes.

And that's where it is worth stopping and taking astep back. What we saw under Constantine was tangible evidence of Christ taking over. Not with swords and chariots, but by the Holy Spirit in hearts. We saw the spread of a kingdom inside a kingdom. It was a kingdom made without hands that was taking over the world. God's purposes prevail.

Christ's church was not held back by all the vitriol and hate that the Romans poured out on them over the centuries. Just like He does in people, God changed that empire from the inside out. He takes flawed people and nations of people, and redeems them.

Yes, there are always teething issues when Christ meets our cultures (just read Acts and all the NT letters!), but Christ will overcome the issues. He can sanctify even the most godless and wicked people, and redeem the most vile cultures.

As we look back through the pages of history, we regularly see people and cultures that used to be opposed to Christ being changed. Examples include Christmas and Easter becoming the high points of the church calendar, replacing whatever pagan celebrations came before.

Christ is at work in and through history to build his kingdom and the things that look like barriers or mistakes to us, are no big deal to God. Like the stone of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, God's can break down empires and fill the whole world with His kingdom.

God changed the thouroughly pagan Roman empire from the inside out, and he can do the same with our partly-pagan Australia. It may look insurmountable to us, but Christ is king, and when his time is right he will prevail over the wickedness, rebelion and apathy growing inside this nation.

Who knows, maybe we need a Constantine-like figure, a flawed person who will be the evidence of Christ at work in hearts and nations? But long before Constantine there were countless Roman Christians who lived out their lives in suffering and obscurity, perhaps that is our lot in this time? Whatever the case, you need not despair. Trust God and Carry On.

"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold." (Da 2:44–45).

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Ti 2:1–2).

"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, ... And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.(excerpts from Rev 21:10–26).

Samuel Lindsay