Now that the political conventions have ceased, I thought it was time to address the role of civil government from a Biblical perspective. By God’s grace, this is the message that will be presented this coming Wednesday night at our States of Refuge event in Little Rock, AR. If you find any merit, please pass this on in your sphere of influence. Brethren, we covet your prayers!
The Tale of Two Governments
Charles Dickens, the English author of classical literature, wrote a famous novel called The Tale of Two Cities. It centered on London and Paris before and during the upheaval of the French Revolution. The opening lines state, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
I guess that describes to a certain degree all generations in human history, but for our purposes, I’d like to borrow from Mr. Dickens his title and change it to The Tale of Two Governments. What is the best case scenario for civil government as opposed to the worse case scenario? What constitutes a wise government as opposed to a foolish one? What does a government based upon the Bible look like as opposed to a government rooted in pagan skepticism? What is more preferable for our future hope, a government exercising its authority in light of justice or a government that descends into the darkness of tyranny, a government that brings a spring of hope or a winter of despair?
As our nation moves from being a free nation towards Communism, I believe we are at the crossroads to answer these questions before they are answered for us. God, in His Word informs us that this tale of two governments does exist in our poor fallen world. Proverbs 29:2 teaches, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
It is also in the Scriptures we find the delineation between what constitutes a righteous government as opposed to a wicked one.
The two Scripture references we will center on are Romans 13:1-4 and Psalms 94:20, 21 to gain understanding between a Good government and an Evil Government. By God’s grace, we will explore the biblical marks that define them both.
Psalms 94:20, 21 reveals the three marks of tyrannical government.
1) “They frame mischief by the law.” A corrupt government codifies evil into law. They, in the name of law, violate the function of law or as the French philosopher Frédéric Bastiat stated, “It (civil government) has acted in direct opposition to its proper end; it has destroyed its own object; it has been employed in annihilating the justice which it ought to have established.” Today, in America, under the color of law, our experiment with liberty is being destroyed. God refuses to have fellowship nor endorse, approve or empower such a government. In fact, this type of government merely becomes another idol fit for destruction.
2) “They gather together against the life of the righteous.” The sword of civil government is not neutral. It is a ministry of justice that is to be concerned with the physical welfare of men and nations. Part of its function is to punish evil doers as God defines evil and to protect those who are good in God’s sight. If our civil government reverses that function and protects evil, it must of necessity punish the righteous. This is part of the reason why the Apostle Paul called for prayers for those who are in authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
3) “And condemn innocent blood.” The first mention of civil government in the Bible is found in Genesis 9:6. It is there that we discover its ultimate purpose, which it to protect life and stop the shedding of innocent blood, so that the earth would never again resort back to the horrific conditions of evil before the flood. Our Founding Fathers agreed. Thomas Jefferson declared, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” Therefore, any civil magistrate that upholds Roe vs. Wade and promotes abortion violates their sacred trust and is not morally qualified to govern.
Romans 13:1-4 reveals the marks of good government, a civil government that is operating as God designed it to function. Keep in mind, the Apostle Paul wrote this courageous admonishment during the demonic reign of Nero, a great persecutor of God’s people.
1) God is the supreme authority and government is a delegated authority. This implies the concept of limited government. Good government acknowledges God as the ultimate sovereign. If not, man has two failed options to embrace. The state is sovereign, which the Bible presents as The Beast or the individual is sovereign. One leads to tyranny and the other to anarchy. This is why our nation opted for One Nation under God. Only “One Nation under God” can secure the delicate tension between social order and individual freedom. Only “One Nation under God” can maintain the essential balance between authority and liberty.
2) Godly rulers are to uphold God’s commandments in the civil sphere. Whereas God’s church is to teach the commandments of God, civil government is to enforce God’s commandments. Why, because only God’s commandments define for us the concepts of good and evil. If they refuse to do so, the danger becomes good will become evil and evil, good. Civil government becomes tyrannical and end up fulfilling many of God’s warnings, such as, Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to them that call good, evil. Isaiah 10:1, 2, “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, which they have prescribed, To rob the needy of justice, And to take what is right from the poor of My people, That widows may be their prey, And that they may rob the fatherless. Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”
3) Lastly, Romans 13 addresses good government as God ordained. We are duty bound to obey all lawful authority. This passage of Scripture on civil government does not address our Christian duty when civil government becomes idolatrous, tyrannical, and becomes a lawbreaker. In those instances, where the laws of men conflict with the laws of God, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20, 5:29).
The Apostle Peter taught in the time of oppression and tyranny Christians are to trust God and continue to do good. Even though our good may be considered a crime and our government may consider Christians enemies of the state. This is our biblical submission to a tyrannical state and God’s rebuke to a government that moves from being a Minister of God to an agent of oppression. This is the legacy of the church and may we obtain the same grace, courage, and faith to follow the example of those who went before us in Jesus’ name!