Faith That Works: Worshiping God or Caesar?”

by Viktor Kostov, PhD  ~  February 26, 2013

Viktor Kostov, PhD is a missiologist and attorney at law. He is based in Eastern Europe, married with three children. He works for the spread of the Gospel, freedom of religion and speech and defending the traditional family.

I grew up in communist Bulgaria when public false worship of the national false god was mandatory. One of the major roles of the government, and why not the main purpose, was to ensure obedience to the ideology of the ruling cult – the communist party.

The above photograph has recorded a so called “manifestation” of the people in Bulgaria under communism. All schools, universities, factories, and all workers had to show up for these parades and shout worshipful slogans to the communist party, the state and its leaders. The socialist utopia was at its highest frenzy.

Some of the slogans we had to shout had an unreserved religious overtones: “Eternal glory to the Bulgarian Communist Party!”, “Forever Unbreakable friendship with the USSR!” and many others. They were evoking eternity!? The communists were supposedly banning religion and Christianity as the “opium for the people”, but were engaging in worship of the state and Marx, Lenin and other communist leaders.

If one thinks that socialist utopia is far behind us, in the annals of history, they are mistaken.

Today, western governments are also imposing its ideological tyranny on people. They are redefining the nature of family, education, service, atheism, and human relationships. They are imposing a new, state-sponsored and mandatory view on gender and marriage. These words from the British Prime Minister were publicized by the media:

"Speaking shortly before MPs vote on the gay marriage bill, the Prime Minister said: 'Today is an important day. I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too.' This is, yes, about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger."[1]

No, Mr. Prime Minister! This is not about equality. This is about making sinful behavior mainstream and about destroying traditional marriage and the family. This is about announcing to God – “We are strong and your ordinances will not break us. We will set up our own morality, our own family, our own marriage, and we will make your church, accept this!”

I don’t think my statement is an exaggeration. In France, regardless of massive street protests their legislature adopted marriage to be the union between two individuals of different or the same gender.[2]

The conservative members of the UK parliament voiced clearly their position:

"Nonetheless, some Conservative lawmakers added a strident note to Tuesday’s debate. 'It is not possible to redefine marriage,' said Sir Roger Gale, a right-wing backbencher. “Marriage is the union between a man and a woman, has been historically, remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory, Orwellian almost, for any government of any political persuasion to seek to come along and try to rewrite the lexicon. It will not do.”[3]

But you may say: “Why should we concern ourselves with politics? Christians should be concerned with spiritual things and the salvation of souls, right?”

God and Caesar

I am not so concerned with politics. I am very concerned with public idolatry. And when idolatry becomes public -- and when the state forces Christians to embrace its idols --  the battle is primarily about religion, faith and souls, not politics.

If one reads the Bible with the appropriate attitude he will be most likely surprised by the ample participation of the secular government in the interaction with the prophets and ministers of God, including Jesus. Three of the gospels record Jesus’ opponents trying to entice him into anti-government statements. The issue of paying taxes was as poignant in the early times as it is today. However, in the mentioned exchange the Lord teaches about more than taxes. He sets up the powers and the priorities for his followers, regarding these powers.

"And they brought [him a coin]. And he said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to him, 'Caesar's.' 'Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:16-17)

The Biblical context shows Jesus' theological opponents wanting to catch him in a teaching that they could use against him before the government. There are three aspect of this verse I want to point out:

1. There are things that belong to Caesar, (or the state).
2. And there are things that belong to God.
3. These two categories are different; they are not to be confused.

We cannot give to Caesar what is God’s (thus making Caesar God). And we shouldn’t give to God what is Caesar’s, as if our Lord were simply a secular, lower level authority.

What does this message mean for us today? Erwin Lutzer puts it this way:

"We shall discover that we always find ourselves caught between our responsibilities as citizens of earth and our responsibility as citizens of heaven. The church has always been poised between two gods and two crosses.

"On the one side is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on a Roman cross, executed for the sins of the world. On the other side are any number of lesser gods and other crosses that promise a false salvation. These other gods are almost always embodied in the state; they most often come to us dressed in the garb of Caesar. And in the end they are committed to crushing religious freedom."[4]

Indeed “statism” is one of the most wide spread idolatries of today.[5] Today's secular state seems determined to have a policy on all kinds of private and family-related issues, which in a "free" nation, would should be outside its domain. Those vital issues include health care, education, the family (caring for children), gender and marriage, and even worship.

Even the "free" nations of the west are now ignoring Christ’s wise command to give God what is God’s and Caesar what is Caesar’s.  The totalitarian state is now reaching out to claim and control what is God’s, and the masses barely notice their loss!

We have come to a time and place where it is not only the Communist or Nazi nations that intrude into areas that are not properly matters of secular government. Even the "free" nations of the west are now ignoring Christ’s wise command to give God what is God’s and Caesar what is Caesar’s.  The totalitarian state is now reaching out to claim and control what is God’s, and the masses barely notice their loss!

So what is going on? What is behind the political debate on… MARRIAGE!?

Socialism is a political society in which the rulers are the source of mores and laws. A new breed of Socialism threatens America as well. We can see that by the emerging laws of “homofascism” – the forced government requirement to uncritically accept homosexualism as a mainstream new morality?[6][7]

The California Congress passed a statute in January 2013 making it illegal to counsel children or youth under age 18 who fear they might be homosexual and therefore seek freedom through therapy. This is a very dangerous law. It outlaws God's natural plan for His people and promotes an unnatural practice that destroys families and devastates many children. It demonizes morality and normalcy. It intervenes in parent’s right and obligation to raise and counsel their children in the counsel of God and the Bible. It is bent on destroying free thought and free speech.[8]

The church, if she is “salt and light,” must respond to the challenge. We as Christians cannot give to the state what belongs to God. The government will want to intervene in our consciences and our souls and our families; and is doing it. The blatant legislating of new gender, family and new made up morality of “tolerance” is threatening the very core of freedom of religion and expression.

If Christians yield to the pressure to appear tolerant and “loving” while forfeiting the true definition of biblical love, then they have become an unsalty. They've chosen a convenient middle ground.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:15-17)

In post-communist Bulgaria (and for that matter in most European nations) the State is still an undisputed idol even for many Christian. Today the same mind-changing idolatry is rising up in America with unprecedented speed.

Worship God and Acknowledge the State, Not the Other Way Around

The Bible teaches that the reason for homosexual behavior is idolatry (Romans 1:27). A prominent Christian thinker, R.J. Rushdoony puts it bluntly: “Show me your laws and I will show you your god.”[9]

Tertullian, the fourth century Christian theologian and lawyer saw idolatry as the most fundamental problem of mankind:

"The principal crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, the whole procuring of the cause of judgment, is idolatry."

Is today’s secular government competent to tell us what marriage is about? Did the state invented marriage? Or did God?

Marriage is defined by God in the very beginning of creation and no one can redefine it without the risk of being in utter and complete rebellion against God’s created order. As we see it prophesied in Psalms 2:1-6:

"Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed,
'Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.'”

God response however is that such plans cannot shake his established order nor change the ultimate course of history or the delivery of his justice:

"He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
'As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.

We live in times where as Christian we must become very clear of what our faith is, what the Scriptures teach, what we believe. And we must stand up for our faith and the name of Christ.

Ephesians 5:8-14 contains the following exhortation:

"Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light."

Part of our good works of salvation is actually to expose the deeds of darkness, not to participate in them. We must be involved in a ministry which the apostle Paul announced as tearing down of strongholds, and captivating minds for Christ:

We can see where this mandate can be applied when we see injustice, deception and public immorality turned into law.

A disclaimer is needed here. I do not appeal for the establishment of some theocracy on this earth where we adopt the Bible as the law of the land. This has been tried before and has not worked out that well. In many cases the imposition of one worldview or religion, ever a Christian-like one, has led to totalitarianism.

Christians are a different people in a different kingdom. If our King was of this world we would want to have him run for President. But Jesus is not running for re-election. He is already King!

Our assignment in public witness is to assert namely that: to show a standard of the Kingdom of God and to thus affect souls and secular governments with the Gospel of Christ. And if public policy changes so be it. If the government honors God’s justice and His Gospel we will support it. If the government is wicked, immoral and corrupt – we will speak against the public unrighteousness. In both cases we will lift men in authority in prayer (1 Tim. 2:1-7).

But either way Christians must be a prophetic voice, an eternal reference to a new generation that lacks any moral compass, any hope in God, and any revelation of His character, judgment and mercy. We cannot withdraw our witness, we cannot be silent, we cannot just sit and watch darkness overtake the minds and souls of so many and destroy the lives of even the new generation.

Now is the time to go to God worship and acquire the boldness and faith that we need to join in the works of righteousness, exposing the works of darkness. We win in the end – the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord. But till then we must issue the warning and the call to obey God’s commands.

Now is the time to prepare for the changes ahead! May God give us the faith and boldness that we need to share in His works of righteousness and expose the works of darkness. We will win in the end; the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord! But until then we must issue His warnings and the call to obey God’s commands.

Romans 13 does state that all authorities are “God’s servants for our good,” to provide order and peace in a fallen society. But what do we do when instead of order and peace those rulers promote a false worship of idols? We must tear down old idols that we have allowed to be erected in the public square. How can that be, you may ask?

The struggle for freedom of conscience and the expression of faith runs through the whole Bible. Here we will point to only a few examples:

1) The Prophet Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of the false god Baal publicly? Those false prophets were supported by the government; they were favored by the queen and king. (1 Kings 18)

2) Three imperial employees Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow to the king and were ready to die for their faith and freedom of religion. (Daniel 3)

3) Daniel could have prayed in secret for thirty days, while the law of universal worship of the king lasted. Instead, when he learned of the new limitation on his religious freedom, Daniel opened wide his windows so all could see him praying to his God -- in violation of the new government law. (Daniel 6, see verses 10 and 11)

4) Throughout his ministry our Lord constantly debated the religious leaders who finally submitted him to the secular authorities for execution. (Matt. 12:1-14; Luke 23:1-5; etc.)

5) In Acts 4:1-27 and 5:17-42, preaching in the name of Jesus became the reason for the apostles to be arrested by the authorities.

These were all law abiding citizens, faithful to their secular state government. Nevertheless when the state or the king requested worship of themselves as a god, these law-abiding citizens broke the law of the land without any reservation. And that was a righteous thing to do. Because they knew the true Law-Giver.

Ephesians 6:10-13 states that besides obeying the rulers we must also oppose unrighteousness when principalities and powers impose it by using their authority.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

Although it is clear that this reference in verse 12 refers to spiritual entities, these are spiritual principalities who affect the earthly rulers. False worship and idolatry unleashes these principalities and powers to deceive individuals, families’ nations and their governments. As a result false worship produces more idolatry and injustice. It produces tyrants and tyrannical governments.

We must preach the Gospel to individuals so they can be converted and individually saved. But the Scriptures teach us that sharing the Gospel involves not only evangelism but also confrontation with sin and systemic evil and deception in the public square. We have to defend the standards of God and the standards of Scripture as if they were the only moral reference point people needed. In fact, they are!

However we must be aware that that freedom must work in us first, by the love of God and the power of Christ’s salvation. If we are free inside, in our so called “heart”, no threat of mockery or persecution can stop us from bringing forth the liberating Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Tortured for His Faith is a small book written by a pastor who started a mission for evangelism to communist lands. He was in Bulgarian communist prisons and labor camps for over 13 years in the mid 20th century. His struggle to tone down his preaching while his family was in danger is humanly understandable, yet Jesus warned against it. This is written after his wife and children were able to leave communist Bulgaria:

"The remaining years in prison were easier to endure. I was no longer afraid of the communists. They had me, but they could not touch my family!...They could torture me, but they couldn’t touch my one really vulnerable spot – my wife and children!

"Much suffering and torture lay ahead because of my witness for Christ in prison, but no longer was I a prisoner. Surely, there were walls and bars around me, but no one could take away the inner freedom inside me." (p. 64)


1) If we have Christ, we will have works that glorify God;

2) These works are to be conducted in a hostile world which worships false gods, and one of them is the state. Therefore doing good will involve exposing evil;

3) We must be able to discern what things belong to God and what -- to secular government. If the state wants to take away by law or ordinance our God-given rights we must not accept such laws. Secular laws which go against God’s revealed Word will be technically “legal” but morally reprehensible.

A "faith that works" will instruct us to worship God, not the state. Such faith is part of our witness and public testimony of the good news of the coming King and the Kingdom of our Savior – Jesus Christ.

Viktor Kostov, PhD is a missiologist and attorney at law. He is based in Eastern Europe, married with three children. He works for the spread of the Gospel, freedom of religion and speech and defending the traditional family.

See also Dr. Kostov's 2001 article, Haunted by Totalitarianism

1. BBC, “Gay marriage an important step forward, says PM,” Accessed Feb. 23, 2013,

2. Mark Deen, French Anti-Gay Marriage Protests Draw Hundreds of Thousands, Bloomberg, January 13, 2013,, accessed Feb. 23, 2013.

3. New York Times As ironic as it may sound, the UK government has even “generously” stated that the Church will not be obliged to perform same-sex marriages. It seems UK officials have the idea that they have the right to define the church’s theology about marriage in the first place.

4. Erwin Lutzer. When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany, p. 11.

5.  Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture, Crossway, 1990, p. 178.

6. Josh Levs, California governor OKs ban on gay conversion therapy, calling it 'quackery', CNN, October 2, 2012. .  Accessed Feb. 23, 2013.

7 I use the term “homosexualism” instead of “homosexuality” on purpose. As “sexual orientation” has been promoted to be a “human right” by elites and western governments in the past decade homosexuality has stopped being just a private sexual preference or deviation. It is now a public policy issue, a form of citizen activism and a “justice” issue. It has become a new ideological term and public agenda.

8. Mark Morgenstein, 'Gay Cure' Therapists, 'Cured' Student Sue California Over New Law, CNN,, accessed Feb. 22, 2013.

9. Some attribute this quote to Nazi-era German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, a leader in the anti- Fürher resistance. See here: