The following article is a guest post by Brad Johnston, pastor of the Topeka Reformed Presbyterian Church. In sharing this news about a national confession of faith by the country of Poland, we at Gentle Reformation want to be clear that we are not advocating Roman Catholic doctrine, as Brad’s article states several times and this recent post shows. Rather, this rather remarkable situation provides a challenge for the Protestant church to pray greatly for the kingdom of God to be further manifest through nations coming to Christ.
You may have heard the thought-provoking news that a former Soviet-bloc country in Eastern Europe has confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Lord. This type of confession is what Christians pray for when they recite or sing Psalm 67: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4).
This notable event took place on the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland when the Polish prince embraced Christ in the year A.D. 966. A millennium later in the past century, Poland found itself pressed by Nazi Germany on the west and Communist Russia on the west. The two superpowers wound up invading Poland and dividing its territory between them. Later Poland emerged as a political pawn in the high stakes brinkmanship of the Cold War era.
Roman Catholic bishops and Polish national leaders (plus 100,000 people) assembled at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow on November 19, 2016 to jointly confess Jesus Christ in a six-hour televised Polish language service, bringing “a conscious confirmation [and] … an unambiguous pronouncement in his favor, and a revival in living the vocation to holiness.”
The following day Roman Catholics in parishes across this country of 38.5 million joined to “confess Christ’s dominion over the entire world and submission to His law,” according to The Jubilee Act of Acceptance of Jesus Christ as King and Lord.
We as Protestants ought to be clear that The Jubilee Acts of Acceptance is a Roman Catholic document that also propagates numerous unbiblical doctrines. For example, it gives thanks “for the maternal and royal presence of Mary in our history” and expresses that “in the Immaculate Heart of Mary we place our decisions and commitments. We all entrust to the maternal care of the Queen of Poland and the intercession of the patron saints of our Fatherland” (see a critique of such statements at the website www.justforcatholics.org which engages charitably with a variety of Roman errors). Surely such Marian devotionals do not magnify Christ, but in a speculative and idolatrous fashion focus on a godly mother who herself confessed faith in “God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Sinless people do not need a savior.
Yet for those who love and seek national confession of Christ’s mediatorial kingship, such news should at the very least challenge us. Yes, we must be careful to critique structural elements of the Polish constitution and expose the extra-biblical doctrines of the Roman Catholic church. But we must also give thanks to God for examples of national confessionalism – imperfect though they be – that challenge the individualism and existentialism that pervade the West. In these days of secularism’s ascendancy in the public square, such an example of church and state together confessing transcendant truth and morality is rather refreshing when you hear words such as these:
“We Poles stand here before you [together with our authorities, clergy and laity] to acknowledge your reign, to submit ourselves to your law, to entrust and consecrate to you our Fatherland and our whole people. We confess before heaven and earth that we need your rule. We acknowledge that you alone have a holy and perennial law for us. Therefore, humbly bowing our heads before you, the King of the Universe, we recognize your dominion over Poland and our whole people … desirous to worship the majesty of your power and glory, with great faith and love, we cry out to you: Christ, reign over us!”
Note that, unlike previous such pronouncements, this Act does not ‘enthrone’ Christ as King, but ‘acknowledges’ Christ as King. Those confessing this Act appear to be submitting to the space-time reality that the Father has given all authority to His Son (Matt. 28:19). This type of language reflects what John says: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever … you have taken your great power and begun to reign” (Revelation 11:15-17).
These words of the Polish confession particularly caught my eye:
“Christ our King, we confidently entrust to your mercy all of Poland, and especially those of the people who do not follow your ways. Give them your grace, enlighten them through the power of your Holy Spirit, and lead us all to the eternal communion with the Father. In the name of brotherly love, we entrust to you all the world’s nations, especially those that have made Poland bear the cross. Make them recognize you as their rightful Lord and King and use the time given to them to submit voluntarily to your lordship.”
Notice that every one of Poland’s citizens are “entrusted” to Christ (and thus pointed to Christ, as is spoken of in Is. 49:22-23). But notice also that the nation waits expectantly upon the Holy Spirit to change their hearts that they might willingly come in faith. As Psalm 110 says regarding Christ’s kingly rule, “Your people will offer themselves freely in the day of your power.”
The Reformed Presbyterian Testimony states that “every nation ought to recognize the Divine institution of civil government, the sovereignty of God exercised by Jesus Christ, and its duty to rule the civil affairs of men in accordance with the will of God. It should enter into covenant with Christ and serve to advance His kingdom on earth … we reject the view that nations have no corporate responsibility for acknowledging and obeying Christ” (23.4-5).
But what are individual Christians to make of such a “corporate responsibility” as this? What does it actually mean for a nation to confess Christ? Those who recited the text of the Act of Acceptance also pledged themselves to active participation in the religious life of their nation. Could we make a similar pledge as this?
We humbly submit ourselves to Your Lordship and your law. We commit ourselves to ordering our entire personal, family and national life according to your law:
- We pledge to defend your holy worship and to preach your royal glory –Christ our King, we pledge!
- We pledge to do your will and to protect the integrity of our consciences –Christ our King, we pledge!
- We pledge to care for the sanctity of our families and the Christian education of our children – Christ our King, we pledge!
- We pledge to build your kingdom and to defend it in our nation –Christ our King, we pledge!
- We pledge to engage actively in the life of the Church and to protect her rights –Christ our King, we pledge!
You, the only Ruler of states, nations and of all creation, the King of kings and Lord of lords! We entrust to you the Polish State and Poland’s rulers. Make them all those who exercise power do so with justice and govern rightly in accordance with your Laws.
Time will tell what effects such national confession will bear for the state of Poland, and we ought not to minimize the Roman Catholic context and traditions of this event, and indeed, of Christianity in Poland.
Yet may we acknowledge that the citizens of Poland have collectively – though imperfectly – acknowledged Jesus the Messiah as King and Lord. May we press the Roman Church back to the clear teachings of her Founder Jesus Christ and his Apostles – including their clear teaching of Solus Christus and Sola Gratia. May believers around the world become aware of the worldview tenants of secularism, and of its pervasive influence on how we in the West think about civil government, church and state issues, and the reign of Jesus in the world (see Psalm 2).
May the 21st century be an era when, by God’s grace and the Gospel’s power, world headlines are filled with the news that nations are one by one truly bowing low to kiss the Son – even Jesus Christ.