It was a historic event – the third of three in less than a year. What was the meaning of the coronation of Charles III and what meaning does it have for Christians?
I am not a lifelong royalist. Born and raised in the United States, I had no acquaintance with royal things. Instead, I learned about republican government and the American Revolutionary War. America broke with King George III and the British Crown because of taxation without representation and other grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence. The only royalty we Americans had was Hollywood and the ‘Camelot Kennedys.’
I am interested in the (constitutional) monarchy because of its role in modern Britain, Australia, and the rest of the Commonwealth. One thing I learned quickly is that the monarchy greatly evolved since the days of King George III and 1776.
Apparently, people worldwide are, as a whole, fascinated with the pageantry, pomp, and ceremony of the kings, queens, crowns, castles, and costly jewellery. As illustrated in the coronation service, the Biblical Christian emphasis in the crown is beyond dispute and unmistakable. In an age where we need to withstand the assault on our history and heritage – if we want to have a future – the coronation service is a reminder of where we came from, where we are going, and ’who’s the boss’ (hint: it’s not the monarch).
The coronation on 6 May 2023 was the third grand national/international UK event in less than one year. The other occasions included the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (June 2022) and her funeral (September 2022). Regarding meticulous planning and military precision, no one does it better than the British.
A reminder: What is a coronation? It is the ‘crowning’ of the monarch before God and man. While Europe had regular coronation services for their respective monarchies, only Britain still does it to this day. Charles III’s coronation was the fortieth to be done in the last one-thousand years within the hallowed walls of Westminster Abbey.
A Scriptural Event
The coronation service gets its cue from the Bible. Let’s have a quick look:
So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them — 1 Kings 1:38-40
Three points about the above passage:
- God save King Solomon: This is the title of the British national anthem and the phrase is found seven times in the Bible. This story has a salvational quality because if Solomon had not been coronated when he was, his older half-brother Adonijah would have succeeded in stealing the throne. If that happened, Solomon and his mother Bathsheba would have faced execution. Life is an irony: great power creates great vulnerability and God’s hand of protection should be ever-present. Hence the words, ‘God save the king.’
- Public ceremony: In order to secure the coronation it had to be done in public, with the public witnessing and affirming the monarch. The coronation site was the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s only natural source of water. It would have been a major gathering place and thus an ideal venue for the public ceremony.
- Joy: Coronation is a joyous time. The people gathered together, played instruments, praised exuberantly, and the earth quaked as a result.
- Empowerment: The coronation anointing of Solomon gave him great power and authority immediately. He forcefully dealt with potential seditionists like Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei (1 Kings 2) and quickly rendered justice to one of two harlots (1 Kings 3).
The coronation of Charles III pretty much stuck with the traditional order of service, words, and practices. There were innovations: the people, not just the nobility, could pledge allegiance to the monarch. Also included was the participation of other non-Christian religious communities, though this was a supporting role to the overall Christian theme. For example, the UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak is an observant Hindu, yet he did a very professional reading of Colossians 1. The word of God went forth.
We are Royalty
Earthly royalty is obtained through three avenues: 1. By birth; 2. By marriage; 3. By seizing power. On the surface, it looks like all-glamour but it is not a normal life at all. It is a lifestyle of continuous unrelenting service and much public scrutiny.
What we observe is that a constitutional monarchy is where the monarch is a servant leader: On his entry into the church, Charles III was greeted by a young man from the Chapel Royal chorister with these words:
As Children of the Kingdom of God,
We welcome you in the name of
the King of Kings.
In his name and after his example,
I come not to be served but to serve
Elizabeth II, known for her flawless commitment to duty to God and her people, saw her reign as a spiritual calling that must be conscientiously embraced. Her son and heir has expressed his intentions to do likewise.
Since the Crown takes its orders from the Scripture, the coronation oath ‘to uphold the law of God and the profession of the Gospel,’ and then is cemented by a private anointing ceremony, what takeaways can we have?
- Believers in Christ are royalty: We are called a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Christ has made us ‘kings and priests’ unto God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). We will live in the biggest, grandest, most costly, most enduring royal city imaginable: the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-22:5).
- How did we become royalty? We are born-again followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
- Our coronation: Our crowning is made possible by the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The anointing by oil represents an even greater and invisible anointing of the Holy Spirit. This occurs when we are born again of the Spirit, baptised in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit and learn to walk in the Spirit.
Spirit-filled living makes us spiritually crowned and empowered to do whatever God has called us. While we might not have the costly paraphernalia of orb, crowns and sceptre, what God gives us by the Spirit is far more valuable and powerful than anything this world can offer. It’s time to think, speak, and act like royalty because, according to God’s Word and Spirit, we are.