The Beginnings of Christian Reform (39) – Reforming Government (2)

II. A Bottom Up Hierarchy-We Must Render Appropriate Service:

The second point of a Biblical covenant structure, is the establishment of a hierarchy to enforce God’s authority on earth. Even before the giving of the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, Moses’ father-in-law (Jethro) challenged Moses to begin the process of delegation of his authority:

Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times: and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace (Ex.18:19-23).

What was Jethro really saying? “You are not God; you need help. Acknowledge your weaknesses and limitations, share in the authority of being a judge, and you will not wear out these people, nor will they wear you out…that is the way of destruction.” (R. N., p.28).

Political decentralisation means that no single institution has been established by God to bring about social justice. Freedom and order are realised when men throughout a society strive to follow the blueprint God has given for the reconstruction of all family, ecclesiastical, social and political institutions (R. N., p.30). There is no freedom without the government of God, which will always be hierarchical.

Government Under God:

Christians need to understand jurisdictional diversity. Romans 13:1 instructs us to subject ourselves “to the governing authorities,” each of which is “established by God.No single earthly authority is to have our total allegiance, but we must be obedient where obedience is required by God’s law. While paying tax is law, we should do so, for we are to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”(Luke 20:25).

This means that no one institution within society is ultimate. Reclamation of multiple authorities comes about when individuals assume their responsibilities before God, and begin to transform their family. Then, those individuals can begin the process of working with others to transform their church, their school, their community, their state, and ultimately their national government (R. N., p.33).

This is a process that can take years, or even generations. But the issue is that“power flows to those who take responsibility.”If we will take on tasks which according to scripture are clearly ours, and discharge them faithfully, we can expect God to add further tasks to us, along with authority, because “where responsibility rests, authority lies.”

All rulers are to represent God, and so we are prohibited from cursing a ruler (Ex.22:28; Ro.13:1).Our understanding of spiritual authority should always prevent us from doing so, for the same reason that David restrained himself from harming King Saul (I Sam.24; 26). Nonetheless, Christian citizens are under obligation to disobey those laws that prohibit worship and the proclamation of the gospel. Furthermore, laws that require people to commit evil must be disobeyed. The Bible shows that resistance to tyranny is legitimate and often commanded (R. N., p.102-103).

The people have the responsibility to support godly leadership. Moses chose leaders who had already come through the ranks of family, business and community leadership: “Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads”(Deut.1:13). Responsibility for choosing godly leaders rested with the people, and Christians have the freedom and duty to vote for responsible leadership using the standard of God’s law as the measuring device for their political choice (R. N., p.111).

III. Plural Law Systems-Plural Gods. Neutrality is a Myth:

The third part of the Biblical covenant structure, is a set of rules or laws man must follow in exercising his dominion over the earth. God will judge man by how he follows these rules.

In Biblical terms, there is but one Law and one Lawgiver. God thought enough of His law to send His Son to keep it in every detail. If the Son of God was required to keep the law, should anything less be expected of the sons of God? Jesus was tempted at every point with respect to obeying the commands of God, yet He remained sinless throughout His life (Heb.4:15). He kept the law perfectly, and was able to offer up Himself as a lamb without blemish, to cleanse us from our sins (Heb.9:14). (R. N., p.41).

In contrast to Jesus Christ, sinful men want to be a law unto themselves. They want to be their own lawmaker and make their own standard, so that the word of human authority becomes the new law.

Modern man seeks to create a humanistic justice by means of his social planning, laws, and education, to enable himself to establish a just order apart from God. History gives us the continuing shipwrecks of all such efforts. For all such men, their laws are attempts to force their particular doctrines of justice and order on men and societies. In so doing, they affirm the claim of the tempter in Genesis 3:5, that man is his own god and law, can determine good and evil, establish the true paradise on earth, and declare God to be irrelevant and wrong.[1]

One supposed system of law which has been popular, is natural law. Christians, when they have rejected God’s law, frequently succumb to the notion that natural law could be a just alternative. But natural law is of pagan, Greek origins. It assumes that nature is not fallen, that man’s reasoning abilities are not distorted due to the Fall, and that ethics are based on philosophy and not “religious precepts.” What makes Stalin’s murder of 60 million people wrong? What makes abortion wrong? The Bible says these are wrong, but “natural law” gives us no clear answers. Law legislates either morality or immorality. When Biblical law is rejected, the result is chaos.

The modern Protestant is a child of the Enlightenment in his political outlook. The political religious pluralism which was regarded as heretical by the church, East and West, for 1700 years is today universally accepted by Protestants as somehow innately Christian and, in the words of Unitarian sceptic Thomas Jefferson, “self-evident.” The modern secular State has issued its declaration of independence from God, and American Protestants have not only agreed, they have hailed this as the very work of God in history, their source of liberation.[2]

Any attempt to institute justice in a community without a scriptural base will be a perversion of justice, for the Bible says, “By Me kings reign, and rulers decree justice”(Prov.8:15). This was what the Queen of Sheba commented on when she visited Solomon: “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness”(I Kings 10:9).

Godly Jehoshaphat commenced reforms in his era (II Chron.19:4-11) as did Josiah (II Kings 23). Religious revival and reform in a populace, reflected in civil government includes legislative, executive and judicial functions (see Isa.33:22). Criminal behaviour needs to be dealt with through restitution or capital punishment. Placing criminals in goal is not according to scripture. They either are made responsible to provide restitution to their victims, or if their crime is a capital one, they forfeit their life.

The mark of a community’s commitment to liberty is its commitment to Biblical law. God’s law must be enforced. The countenances of the citizenry must be set against the countenances of criminals. The citizenry represents God. Their ordained civil agents represent them before the face of God and represent God before the faces of criminals. Civil authority flows from God to citizens to the civil magistrate. They are judges insofar as they bring sanctions, positive or negative, against their ordained representatives. They are told not to fear the face of man.[3]

Christians should never be embarrassed about involvement in politics or government. Like the family or the church, these are aspects of God’s created order. God has instituted all governments. The question is not, “do religion and politics mix?” Rather, it is “which religion will be mixed with politics?” Israel was not judged because it mixed religion with politics, but because it mixed the wrong religion with politics. Today, it is no different, and the potential for judgment is the same (R. N., p.127).

The Bible never condemns political involvement. As Gentry comments,

It is God who ordained governments in the first place. He is the One who establishes particular kings (Prov.16:12; Ps.119:46; 82:1-2). Therefore, He commands our obedience to rulers (Ro.13:1-3). Rulers are commanded to rule on His terms (Ps.2:10-12)…Jesus urged payment of taxes to de facto governments (Mat.22:15-22). In response to reminders of King Herod’s political threats against Him, Jesus publicly rebuked the king by calling him a vixen (Luke 12:32). He taught that a judge is unjust if he does not fear God (Luke 18:2, 6). John the Baptist openly criticised King Herod (Luke 3:19-20). Peter refused to obey authorities who commanded him to cease preaching (Acts 5:29). The apostle John referred to the Roman Empire as “the beast” (Rev.13).[4]

[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “Romans and Galatians,” 1999, p.353.

[2] Gary North, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, ch.39.

[3] ibid., ch.4.

[4] Kenneth Gentry, “The Greatness of the Great Commission,” 1981, quoted in Demar, p.125.