Breaking the bondage of oaths of allegiance

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“You must promise me that you will _____never _____” “You must promise me that you will_____always_____” Fill in the blanks and you can see how a person can become a slave to some words that were promised.

At the time of the writing of the New Testament, Roman citizens were required to make an oath of allegiance to the Emperor. Equally, the statements of faith by Christians at that time showed that by confessing Jesus as Lord, they were repudiating this oath of allegiance.

In his book Liberty to the Captives, pastor and scholar, Mark Durie demonstrates that the recitation of the Islamic creed, or the ‘shahadah’ constitutes making an oath of allegiance, which wields a spiritual power over the one saying it. Durie is convinced that this spiritual bondage–as he calls it–must be broken through the power of the cross to set Muslims free. 1

As we examine both of these oaths, we will notice some common themes.

Finally, we will conclude that a vital part of a mission strategy is to demolish every spiritual stronghold in the name of Jesus, the One who made a complete mockery over the great bondage maker, Satan. Just whether one sees these strongholds for what they are, is another question.

 

Oaths to the Emperor

An inscription from Paphlagonia in the Roman Empire [now in modern day Turkey]dated in 3 BC furnishes an example of an oath of loyalty. It reads:

I swear by Jupiter, Earth, Sun, by all the gods and goddesses, and by Augustus himself, that I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus and to his children and descendants all my life in word, in deed, and in thought, regarding as friends whomever they so regard, and considering as enemies whomever they so adjudge; that in defense of their interests I will spare neither body, soul, life, nor children, but will in every way undergo every danger in defense of their interests; that whenever I perceive or hear anything being said or planned or done against them. I will lodge information about this and will be an enemy to whoever says or plans or does any such thing; and that whomever they adjudge to be enemies I will by land and sea, with weapons and sword, pursue and punish. But if I do anything contrary to this oath or not in conformity with what I swore, I myself call down upon myself, my body, my soul, my life, my children, and all my family and property, utter ruin and utter destruction unto all my issue and all my descendants, and may neither earth nor sea receive the bodies of my family or my descendants, or yield fruits to them.” 2

Historians note that similar oaths were sworn at temples of Augustus throughout the Empire. 3

What we can see from this oath is that with the Roman gods as witnesses it swears allegiance to a human and his descendants, and the oath-taker calls a curse on themselves should they disobey.

 

An early Christian oath of allegiance

In the context of the Empire, which demanded the loyalty of body and soul to the Caesar who was known as the ‘supreme lord’, another Lord came on the scene. Rather than giving honours and setting up altars to swear by the renown of the name of the Caesar, and confessing, “none like you has arisen or will arise again” 4 believers in Christ said:

  • Jesus is Lord “over all”…”blessed forever” (Romans 9:5)
  • Jesus has “appeared” [a word often used of the birth of the Caesar]as the Saviour [a word that the Caesars like to call themselves]and Christ and has abolished death (2 Tim 1:10)
  • Jesus “put all things under his feet” and is the “head over all things…” (Eph 1:22)
  • “no one is able to say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 12:3)

One commentator noted that the verbal confession of announcing that Jesus is Lord is a spoken act of “personal devotion and commitment which is part and parcel of Christ-centered worship and lifestyle” and other, that this passage “declares absolute allegiance to [Jesus] and accepts his absolute authority over every aspect of life.” Obviously a clash of allegiances must and will ensue.

When the Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was offered freedom from martyrdom, all he had to do was to swear an oath, and to sacrifice to Caesar. In the words of his captors

“But what harm is it to say, `Lord Caesar,’ and to offer sacrifice, and so forth, and to be saved?”

His response was “I am not going to do as you counsel me” and later he said, “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Polycarp’s firm stance cost him his life.

 

The Muslim oath of allegiance

At mid-afternoon mosque callers throughout the world clear their voice and begin their confession of faith….”ashadu…….”….”I bear witness” to the fact–as they would have their auditors believe—that there is no god but Allah of Islam and that Muhammad is his prophet. Not only would they like their auditors to hear this, they would like to auditors to whole-heartedly embrace and make the same statement.

In this confession, Mark Durie observes, the orator affirms:

  • any other god except Allah of Islam is false
  • that what the Qur’an affirms is true and that one accepts it whole-heartedly
  • that one accepts all of the curses that come upon non-believers
  • the supreme example of Muhammad as a guide to life
  • that Muhammad is the embodiment of the final messenger to humans

Durie asserts that this confession is a symptom of the fact that “this world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and that its power can only be rendered null and void by the cross. In his chapter, “How To Renounce The Shahada” he states:

When someone leaves Islam, they should specifically reject and renounce the example of Muhammad, together with all the curses implied by the shahada. This means rejecting the belief that the Quran is the Word of God. If the status of Muhammad as a Messenger is not explicitly renounced, then the curses and the threats of the Quran, and Muhammad’s opposition to the death of Christ and the Lordship of Christ can be a cause of spiritual instability. (p. 109)

Durie provides a helpful example of a prayer that can be prayed which says multiple times “I renounce …..” and finally makes a number of affirmations “I confess that Christ is Lord of all.” (pp. 109-111)

Just so the book does not all come across as good theory, Durie also provides concrete examples of people who have been set free. Notably, one former Muslim who tried to pray recounted:

“…I felt a tightening in my throat as if I was being strangled or suffocated. Panic came upon me as this sensation continued and intensified. Then I felt a voice telling me, “Renounce Islam! Renounce Islam! I believed it was the Lord.”

After he did so, he recalls that he encountered a great sense of relief (pp. 87-88) and Durie notes that frequently Christian believers of Muslim backgrounds lament the fact that no one ever told them to renounce the spiritual power that Islam had over them.

 

Concluding observations:  

Two oaths of allegiance, made in the presence of a god, affirm undivided loyalty to a person. Both confessions place their speakers into spiritual bondage and invite curses upon themselves. However, Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna was wise to this bondage and refused–at the cost of his temporal life–to get entrapped. A former Muslim has his spiritual eyes opened to the demonic entanglement and is set free. Both affirm that Jesus is Lord and that neither Caesar nor Muhammad can make that claim. Hallelujah, Lord Jesus, You who have the power to “set the captives free.”

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Mark Durie. Liberty to the Captives: Freedom from Islam and Dhimmitude Through the Cross. (Melbourne, Australia, 2010, 2013)
  2. Joseph D. Fantin, “The Lord of the Entire World: Lord Jesus, A challenge to Lord Caesar?” (Diss.:Phd, University of Sheffield, 2007), p. 217.
  3. Naphtali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold. Roman Civilization: Selected Readings. Vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 589.
  4. Fantin, (p. 216) referring to a statement by Horace concerning Caesar Augustus (c. 12 BC)
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About Author

Salaam Corniche and his family have lived outside of North America for more than a decade. He is 'consumately curious' and loves to dig deeply into the Bible especially as it interfaces with the worldviews of other religions.

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