When our First Amendment “rights” conflict with Romans 15:20

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After I preached my sermon a fellow in line began asking serious questions. But while we were talking another preacher arrived and began to preach over our conversation. As you’ll see in the below video, when I spoke to the other preacher about it, letting him know that it was inappropriate, he began arguing for his First Amendment “right” of “free speech,” and insisted that he was doing nothing wrong.

The sad thing is, he’s done this before. Once at the IRS building while I was distributing tracts, and handing out bottles of water, while getting ready to preach, he showed up and just started ‘preaching over’ what I was already doing. I actually stopped him and asked why he was doing this. He claimed “free speech,” and that he had driven a long drive from southwest Riverside County. I only allowed him to continue his message, because he had already started, plus arguing in front of the general public would not be wise (nor on Facebook).

Each time he arrived, he arrived after me, and then would claim “It’s my freedom of speech,” or “it’s my right.” Christians, just because it may be your constitutional “right,” doesn’t mean that it’s Biblically right. Though Americans and Christians have benefited from the First Amendment, Christians need to act more like Christians, and less like Americans, lest our constitution or “rights” become idolatry. Bear in mind that our First Amendment is an ecumenical document written by “theistic rationalists.”

Furthermore, this preacher knows that I have agreed with the Social Security Administration to stop preaching by 8:30AM sharp, but this preacher still attempts to preach after I had already preached, and after 8:30AM.

It is my desire to not just engage in what is known as ‘drive by preaching.’ But to labor daily at the same places for years. And to not just preach, but to ‘preach and teach,’ and to ‘minister’ to them, and ‘pray’ for them, and when the Lord opens the door – ‘disciple’ them.

It is wrong to force yourself upon another man’s ministry such as this preacher did. Often times I drive by abortion mills, and when I see people already outside, I continue driving by. I do this for many reasons (including but not limited to),

  • I do not know their doctrine, or lack of (as heard in this video)
  • I do not know their relationship to the church, or lack of (as seen in this video)
  • I do not want to become unbiblically ecumenical
  • I refuse to partner with free-will’ers
  • I cannot become unequally yoked with other religions at abortion mills (or the appearance of).

Back to preaching where another man is already preaching (or laboring).

Paul said in Romans 15:20, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:”

Let’s see what others have to see about this verse. Matthew Poole said,

“He gives us a reason why he chose to preach the Gospel in these places, because Christ had not been named or preached there before; this, he saith, was his ambition, and a thing that he greatly coveted; he was unwilling to build upon another man’s foundation, to put his sickle into another’s harvest, to derive the glory to himself which would be due to others 2 Cor. x. 15, 16.” 

Matthew Henry said,

“Not but that Paul preached in many places where others had been at work before him; but he principally and mainly laid himself out for the good of those that sat in darkness. He was in care not to build upon another man’s foundation, lest he should thereby disprove his apostleship, and give occasion to those who sought occasion to reflect upon him.”

Paul Trapp said,

Lest I should build. Lest I should seem to do anything unbeseeming the office of an apostle; there is a decorum to be kept in every calling.” (pg 516)

John Gill’s exposition says,

“but he chose not to go where they had laid the foundation by preaching Christ and his Gospel, that he might not take another man’s crown, or boast in another man’s line, or of other men’s labours; but rather to go where others had never been, that he might first lay the foundation himself, by preaching Christ, and him crucified, and so the more act up to his character as an apostle, and as the apostle to the Gentiles.”

Cambridge Bible commentary said,

“He avoided this, probably, both from consciousness of the vastness of untouched heathendom, and from scrupulous avoidance of needless discord on secondary points.”

Romans 15:20 is not saying that we should never sow Seed where the Seed has already been sowed. But is it saying that we should avoid building upon another man’s foundation. In my part of Southern California there’s no shortage of open-air evangelists. It’s not uncommon to run into each other at various venues. At large venues (like Comic Con or concerts), there’s plenty of room for all of us. But at these smaller venues, we cannot be stepping on each others toes, and talking over each other’s voices. And lastly, when the Constitution contradicts the Scriptures, we must always obey the Scriptures, lest the Bill of “Rights” become idolatry.

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