THE FORM OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
While the Bible dictates no detailed form of civil government (with the exception of the Old Testament nation of Israel), there is a definitive form, a divine expectation, outlined there in general terms. The basis for civil government was laid by God in the original construction of man. Man was created rational, free to choose, and ordered (to function both physically and spiritually according to "law"). Godís nature is order. In the Old Testament the creation is described as an ordered arrangement. In the Mosaic dispensation a multitude of human actions, both religious and civil, were precisely ordered (even to the arrangement of priestly garments and the shewbread on the table of the Tabernacle, Exod. 40:23).
Because he is like God, man has a natural love of order. "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace," (I Cor. 14:22). Thus we have reason to assert that something of voluntary social organization, or government, was inherent in man from the start. There is precedent for it in the Godhead. The three Persons of the Trinity are equal in dignity and power and possess all the divine attributes in perfect degree, yet the Father sent the Son; the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Scriptures display an eternal economy of relationship between the three Persons and distinguish important differences in their relationships to creation and redemption. These are aspects of that love of order in the Godhead which depraved men can not fully root out of their own nature. In his own way, each man on earth has a different place to fill. He does not find it automatically as does an ant or a locust or a coney or a spider. He may have to be assigned it by authority . . . . In a sinless . . . society, assignment of individual social function ó baker, carpenter, teacher, etc. ó would have always been done well. In any case, organization of society would have been necessary. Even the first pair, before sinís entrance, had relations to each other involving wielding of authority and submission to it in mutual relations.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, by Robert Culver, pub. Baker, pp. 69,70
When God formed the earth and established it, he did not create it chaotic (see Isa. 45:18,19). It was arranged in order. God wants "all things done decently" (Gr. euschemonos, by schematic, by blue-print) and in order (Gr. kata taxin, by military precision-drill) (see I Cor. 14:40). He wants each individual to "order" his life (see Psa. 50:23; Col. 2:5). Order requires form and arrangement.
In 1659, John Eliot, Puritan missionary to the American Indians, wrote a treatise entitled The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy of the Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The treatise was a plan of government for the Natick Indian community:
That which the Lord now calleth England to attend is not to search humane Polities and Platformes of Government, contrived by the wisdom of man; but as the Lord hath carried on their works for them, so they ought to go unto the Lord, and enquire at the Word of his mouth, what Platforme of Government he hath therein commanded; and humble themselves to embrace that as the best, how mean soever it may seem to Humane Wisdom.
There is undoubtedly a form of Civil Government instituted by God himself in the holy Scriptures; whereby any Nation may en-joy the ends and effects of Government in the best manner, were they but persuaded to make trial of it. We should derogate from the sufficiency and perfection of the Scriptures, if we should deny it. The scripture is able thoroughly to furnish the man of God (whether Magistrate in the Commonwealth, or elder in the Church, or any other) unto every good work .
(The) written Word of God is the perfect System or Frame of Laws, to guide all the Moral actions of man, either towards God or man.
The Puritans in America believed that the Scriptures contained the general principles of government, including the "Platforme" it should take. They also believed God left it up to men, guided by the Scriptures, to work out the details of applying those general principles to specific situations.
The Pilgrims, before going ashore at Plymouth, signed a covenant for civil government called the "Mayflower Compact" ó it speaks of the necessity of "ordering" and "frame" and a "civill body politick" all "in ye name of God":
In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James, by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c., having undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutually in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by ye vertue hearof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just & equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye 11. of November, in ye year of ye raigne of our soveraigne lord, King James, of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth, Ano: Dom. 1620.
That there were structures of civil government before the flood can hardly be denied. Man was created to "have dominion" (Gen. 1:28; Heb. 2:5-9). "Dominion" in a multiplying human race would necessitate social, civil structure. The first social structure was the human family.
Sociologists generally agree that there are three social institutions, and that they are so called because they have their origin in human needs. These are the family, the state, and the church (or other religious institution).
The natural sociality of man is actualized primarily in domestic society. (1) Domestic society is necessarily pre-supposed in every other form of society: without the conjugal relation there would be no other form of society that rightly could be called human.
The natural sociality of man is actualized imperfectly, however, in domestic society. (1) By imperfectly we mean in-completely . . . (2) Man is first of all a member of a family, and than a member of a state . . . the family is per se insufficient to provide for the necessities of the physical, intellectual and moral perfection of the human being. A single family lacks the division of labor essential to the provision of food, shelter and clothing that it needs; and certainly it cannot provide for its needs in the field of education, art, science, business and industry . . . (3) Again, the family is per se insufficient to protect its rights, to defend itself against attacks upon its peace and prosperity. It has to rely upon the state for this necessary protection . . The state arises naturally from the insufficiency of the family as such to provide for the common good ("general welfare").
Common Sense Ethics, by CC. Crawford, pub. Wm. C. Brown Book Co., pp. 332,333
It would not have been long after creation and the Garden of Eden that the multiplication of mankind would have necessitated some form of "state" government. Its earliest structure was undoubtedly patriarchial. "Families" then "clans" and then "tribes" would have been the order. The oldest living male of a "tribe" would have been the leader, constantly struggling to sustain by tribal warfare whatever powers he needed to preserve the "tribe."
Cain built a city (Gen. 4:17). Archaeological excavations show the presence of villages and city life in the very early period.
During recent years excavations have been made of an ancient city in Mesopotamia a few miles north of Nineveh at a site called Arpachiys. Here was found one of the earliest evidences of village life, dated by the excavators to 4000 B.C. or a little before.
Archaeology and Bible History, by Joseph P. Free, pub. Scripture Press, p. 37
Archaeologists have found evidence of extensive "tribal" societies and their "organized" living sites. The Bible indicates Jubal, a member of Cainís family invented musical instruments (Gen. 4:21) and another called Tubal-cain was "an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron" (Gen. 4:22). Archaeological discoveries document the use of smelted metals as early as 4000-3000 B.C. This would require some form of social structure beyond the family.
The Biblical notation that Cain built a city would seem to indicate some municipal form of government in the second generation of humankind. Bible scholars have conservatively estimated a population of at least 120,000 within the lifetime of Cain. One commentator, however, doubts that there was any centralized form of human government at all during the pre-Flood era.
The reference to the city which Cain built possibly suggests that he was trying to defy Godís prophecy that he would be a wanderer in the earth. Whatever his intent, the Hebrew verb is in-definite ó "was building" ó probably suggesting that, though he may have started it, he did not finish it. He moved on after a little while, perhaps leaving his son Enoch, after whom the city was named, to complete the job and to begin the true Cainite civilization .
During this period from the Fall to the Flood, there seems to have been no organized system of laws or government for con-trolling human conduct. Although Adam undoubtedly instructed his children . . . there was no human agency ordained to enforce standards of behavior or worship .
There were undoubtedly some, especially in the direct line of patriarchs from Adam to Noah, who heeded Adamís counsel and thus believed and obeyed Godís Word. Most people, however, were content to go "in the way of Cain" (Jude 11); and with the creature comforts and advantages accruing from the rapidly developing science and technology of the day, it was not long before "the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (Gen. 6:5). Each man and each clan did whatever they wanted to do, to the extent that their strength and skills permitted. There was nothing to restrain them except, in some cases, the superior strength and skill of others. Thus it was demonstrated long ago that men can-not simply be left to their own devices; laws and governments are absolutely necessary. Consequently, after the Flood, God formally instituted systems of human government among men (Genesis 9:6).
The Genesis Record, by Henry M. Morris, pub. Baker Book House, pp. 144,148,149
The commentator cited above also estimates that "by the time of the Deluge, 1656 years after Creation by the Ussher chronology, even using . . . conservative assumptions, the world population would have been at least seven billion people!" The biblical summary of that civilization is:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground . . . Now the earth was corrupt in Godís sight, and the earth was filled with violence . . . (Gen. 6:5-11).
Before the Flood there was no centralization or recognized structure administered among humankind (except that of the clan or the tribe) for the punishment of crimes against the social order. Perhaps there were patriarchs (heads of families or tribes) who were able to maintain order and restrain total anarchy among their own clans. But there was no authority agreed upon among the roaming and expanding tribes who could restrain evil so the society grew more and more violent and evil. God had to providentially protect Cain from individual "avengers" (Gen. 4: 13-16). Lamech boasted that he had slain young men for simply striking him and he would, himself, guarantee a seventy-seven-fold vengeance upon anyone who hurt him in anyway (Gen. 4:23,24). It appears that each person, no matter what the "civil" structure, had assumed the authority to act independently of all restraints except those of his own conscience and self-interest. This eventually led to a universal state of violence and anarchy.
Whatever the forms human governments may have taken in pre-flood times they were obliterated by the Creator when he destroyed all the human race except eight persons of one family. It was the very fact that almost total disorder (anarchy and mobocracy) prevailed which prompted God to send the Deluge. God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:13).
The most significant mandate respecting human government is in the form of a covenant from Almighty God with the survivors of the Deluge, the family of Noah (see Gen. 9:1-17). This covenant places direct responsibility upon man for a "stewardship" of divine creation and orders mankind to institute some coercive form of human government to prevent the anarchy and unchecked evil that brought divine judgment upon the first civilization. There is no indication from this text of any divine commandment or anticipation as to the precise form civil government should take.
Singularly important here is the emphasis on the divine covenant. All human governments, all human institutions, no matter what their form, have their raison díetre in this covenant from God. It appears from Biblical history that the Creator permitted mankind to develop and improve the particulars of form in civil government coincidentally with the gradual revelation of his divine will and its world-wide dissemination through the Gospel of Christ. In other words, the most beneficial forms of human government seem to arise out of cultures and peoples where the Bible and the Gospel of Christ is believed and practiced.
Clearly, there is a fundamental profile of divine expectation for human civil government in the Bible. Because of sinful human nature, no civil government has ever fulfilled the divine profile. None ever will! Some fit the basic mold better than others. It is evident that God has granted great latitude in forming the particulars of civil government. This due to human finitude. God does not expect any human government to fulfill the messianic government profiled in the Scriptures. The ideal, messianic government is fulfilled only in the church, over which Jesus Christ alone is Lord. However, God does expect conformity to an elemental framework for all civil governments which is outlined in the Bible. That outline appears to contain the following elements:
Covenant relationship to Almighty God (discussed already in our chapters on "Origin" and "Purpose") is expected as part of the schematic of human governments (see Gen. 9:1-17; Dan. 2:21; 4:17; I Pet. 2;13-17). God insists (Amos 1:1-2:16) that even the most idolatrous nations are accountable to his fundamental standards for civil government. This is written in the "natural law" and in human conscience (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:12-16) as well as in the Bible.
Sometime after the Deluge "nations" began to form (Gen. 10:32). But then, man attempted to form a "one-world" government (Gen. 11:1-9). God intervened, miraculously, demonstrating his opposition. It is clear from Biblical history that God has determined "one-world" government is not his will for the human race (see Deut. 32:8). Although a few "emperors" have tried, and have succeeded temporarily in forging large (but limited) "empires", God predicted through the prophets (especially Daniel and Revelation) that the last such "world empire" would be the Roman "empire" (circa. 100 B.C. ó 450 A.D.). Others have tried since (Napoleon, Hitler, et al.) and have validated the prophecies, Christís church, established during the Roman empire, was to remain the only "universal" kingdom until the return of Christ (see our commentary on Daniel, ch. 2:44-45, etc., College Press). The apostle Paul declared Godís will to be nationalism (Acts 17:24-28). God has "determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitations." Pragmatically, history proves that civil government must be formed on a nationalistic basis. God has distributed varying human genetics, made geographical and climatic differences, thus dispersing the human race into many far-flung corners of the globe. It is logistically and ideologically impossible to construct a "one-world" government that could functionally serve the purposes outlined for civil government in the Bible. In our own lifetime we have seen the evidence of this in the dismantling of the British "empire", the "Yankee, Go home" syndrome, the under-ground resistance to Communist imperialism, the bitter, terroristic fighting between modern Israel and the Palestinians, and even in the tragic war between two Islamic nations ó Iraq and Iran. Nationalism is an ongoing fact of history. Every great "world-empire" of the ancient world (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) and those of more modern times has had to face the stark reality of nationalism as an inevitable enemy of "one-world" government. He has written it in the Bible and in history! He does, of course, want all men to come into the universal kingdom of Christ no matter what their human nationality. Christís kingdom is, even on earth, composed of people from "every tribe, and tongue and people and nation" (see Rev. 7:9-12, etc.). Those in Christís universal kingdom maybe loyal to their national human government so long as their first allegiance is to Christ. For the Christian, nationalism must always take second place to obedience to Christís word. Should the two ever conflict in their demands upon the Christianís allegiance, either in thinking or acting, the Christian must take his stand with Christ and suffer whatever consequences may result from such a stand. Loyalty to oneís national government when it does not conflict with clear and unequivocal commandments of Christ has Biblical sanction. It is the right thing to do!
3. Consent of the Governed:
Some civil governments do not adhere, in principle, to this Biblical form. In practice, however, all do. For if "the governed" do not consent, and if those not consenting are able to muster sufficient force, rebellion, revolution and formation of a different civil structure occurs. Consent of the governed is a condescension from God. That it is Biblical may be demonstrated in a number of examples. The "strife" between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot resulted in Lot separating himself from the patriarchial government under Abram in favor of the suzerainty of the king of Sodom (Gen. 13:1-18). When the Israelites chose to be free of the governmental dominion of Egypt, God intervened providentially and obtained their deliverance (Exodus, chapters 1-13). The Israelites consented to the governance of Joshua (Josh. 1:16-18) and to succeeding "Judges." When the people of Israel became dissatisfied with the administration of Samuelís sons, and asked for a "king like the nations," Saul was anointed King of Israel (I Sam. 8:1-10:27). The elders of Israel, after a long war between the houses of Saul and David, "sought David as king" over them (II Sam. 3:l7ff). After Davidís death, the people of Israel consented to Solomonís rule (I Kings 1:39,40,). With heavy taxation placed upon Israel by Rehoboam (I Kings 12:lff), the majority of the Israelites consented to be ruled by Jeroboam (I Kings 12:16) and thus the divided kingdom was formed.
Jeremiah delivered Godís decree that Jews being exiled from their homeland and divested of their governmental structures should "seek the welfare of the city where I (God) have sent you into exile . . . for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer. 29:7). Most of the Jews complied. Some Jews gave such consent to being governed by their alien hosts, they became "rulers" themselves in governmental structures drastically alien to them (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, Mordecai, and others).
Of course, a plethora of governmental forms not listed in the Bible existed coincidentally with those which are listed. There were patriarchies, tribes, monarchies, republics (Greece and Rome the most prominent), empires, even alleged "democracies" (Greek). That Almighty God permitted such a diversity of governmental configuration shows that the Biblical principle concerning form of government is ideally "by consent of the governed." Thus, even for theocracies and monarchies:
Throughout the Old Testament people chose kings to rule over Israel: "The men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule thou over us." (Jdgs. 8:22) "The men of Shechem . . . made Abimelech king" (Jdgs. 9:6). "Hushal said unto Absalom, Nay; but whom the Lord, and this people, and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide" (II Sam. 16:18). "The people . . . took Azariah . . . and made him king" (II Kings 14:21). God spoke through Moses to "all Israel" (Deut. 5:1) and later God directed the Israelites to choose judges: "Judges and officers shalt thou (speaking to Ďall Israelí) make thee (again, Ďall Israelí) in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment" (Deut. 16:18). These passages indicate that the Jewish kings and judges governed with the consent of the governed, and that the Israelites had some voice in the selection of their leaders.
Christianity and the Constitution, by John Eidsmoe pub. Baker, pp. 368,369
4. Limitation of Powers by Separation of Powers:
The Lord told Moses: When you come to the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me; you may indeed set as king over you him whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. . . And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, from that which is in charge of the Levitical priests; and it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them; that his heart may not be lifted up above his brethren, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or the left; so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel (Deut. 17:14-20).
Granted this Mosaic legislation was for Israel, Godís type of the messianic kingdom to be established by Christ (his church). And no human civil government was ever intended to be the anti-type of Israel. However, the Deuteronomy passage was intended for a human king. It therefore should be applicable to any human ruler whether of Israel or not. The principle that all human rulers and governments are to be subsurvient to the "law" of God ("natural," "conscience," "Biblical") is biblical! No monarch, emperor, president, parliament, congress, or politburo is to be above the "law." This is what the Bible says. Some rulers and governments have dared to violate that principle but Godís word is true and they shall be answerable to the Almighty at the Day of Judgment. The Bible is filled with examples of Godís judgment upon rulers and governments who have contravened this principle of the limitation of power. The examples begin with "the kings of the East" (Genesis 14: 1ff), and Pharaoh (Exodus 1: 1ff); they include Saul, king of Israel, many succeeding kings of Israel and Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, the Syrian king Antiochus IV (see Dan. 11:21-24; 11:36-39), Herod (Matt. 14:lff), and the Roman emperor ("beast") of Revelation 13:1-18. Others have acknowledged the limits of power and to varying degrees followed such a principle in their governing.
The authority of the king (of Israel) in matters of state was exercised partly by him in person, partly through his ministers, the "princes" (I Kings 4:2ff). Among these functions are to be classed the communication with subjects and foreign princes and the direction of the taskwork, which was employed for public improvements, partly military, as in the fortification of cities, partly religious, as in the building of the temple. Local affairs had always been left largely to the tribes and their subdivisions, but, with the gradual increase of royal authority, the king sought to exercise it more and more in the conduct of the village communities. Conversely, the "elders of the people," as the (albeit aristocratic) representatives of the communes occasionally had a voice even in larger matters of state.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, art. "Government"., Vol. II, pp. 1287-1289, pub. Eerdmans
Numerous examples in the Bible of limited power by separation of powers come to mind. Rehoboam, while he eventually rejected it, sought counsel from the "elders" (I Kings 12:6-11); Ahabís attempt to get Nabothís vineyard was ultimately (for appearances sake, of course) adjudicated by the "elders and the nobles" (I Kings 21:8-14); David was "elected" king by the voice of the people (II Sam. 5:1-5) and David "made a covenant with the elders"; David was returned to his throne after Absalomís rebellion by consent of the people (II Sam. 19:11-15); Jeremiahís trial was called for by the "princes of Judah" (Jer. 26: 10ff). The Old Testament prophets are replete with references to "princes" and "elders," "priests" and "prophets" assuming roles of advice and consent to the Israelite monarch. The same is true of incidental references to Gentile kings and emperors (see Esther 1: 13ff; 3:lff; 8:7-17; 10:1-3; Dan. 3:1-3; 5:2; 6:1-5; Isa. 36:1-3; Jonah 3:7, etc.). The political structure of Israel was unique because it was especially chosen by Almighty God to prefigure the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah (the church). At the same time, the very fact that it was not only a human, national entity but even more exclusively, a racial entity, the fundamentals of its civil-political structure give us an idea of the form of civil government which is pleasing to God.
Limitations and separation of civil powers are exemplified in the Bible as early as Mosesí appointment of subordinate "judges" from among the people to assist him in civil leadership (Exodus 18: 13ff). It is also evident in the dual-leadership appointment of Moses and Aaron by Jehovah (Numbers, chapter 16-17). The appointment of a judiciary branch of government is mandated in Deuteronomy 17:8-13. Both king and subjects are obligated to keep Godís commandments (I Sam. 12:12-25). David con-ducted his office as king "in covenant" with the elders of the people (I Chron. 11:1-13). David appointed "mighty men" to assist in civil government (I Chron. 11: 10ff). David "consulted" his "commanders" (I Chron 13: 1ff). Davidís "commanders" and other governmental assistants are listed (I Chron. 27: 1ff; 28: 1ff). Amaziah distributed civil powers among assistants (II Chron. 25:5ff). Hezekiah took "counsel" with his "princes" (II Chron. 30:lff) as did Josiah (II Chron. 34:29). When the Jews returned from the captivities they were ruled by "governors" (Zerubbabel, Ezra 1:8,11; who may be the same person as Sheshbazzar, Ezra 5:14) and "elders" (Ezra 6:7). Ezra was told by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to "appoint magistrates and judges" who would share civil government with the "governors" (Ezra 7:25ff). Nehemiah shared governance with "nobles and officials" (Neh. 5:6; 5:14ff) and "princes and priests" (Neh. 9:38). Indeed, Solomon, wisest of the wise, wrote, "A nation will fall if it has no guidance. Many advisers mean security" (Prov. 11:14, TEV); and, "Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength. After all, you must make careful plans before you fight a battle, and the more good advice you get, the more likely you are to win" (Prov. 24:5,6, TEV); and "People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17, TEV) (see also Prov. 15:22; 28:18).
An interesting passage is to be found in Isaiah 33:17-22. It is unquestionably messianic. That is, it is a prophecy of the first coming of Christ to establish the messianic kingdom (the church), and that in Christ will be united all the fundamental powers of governance. Isaiah 33:22 states:
For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us (KJV).
The three fundamental powers of governance, judicial, legislative, and executive, are to be united in the Messiah because he is the Son of God, the Perfect Sovereign. He will be Absolute Sovereign (over those who by faith and repentance choose his rule) and he will not pervert justice or prostitute governance because he is without sin. While Isaiah 33:22 clearly predicts the ideal government, the spiritual government of the Messiah, it certainly is correct that the passage implies a divine will that human governments be structured with a separation of powers.
The Hebrew words in Isaiah 33:22 are: shophetenu, "judge"; mechokekenu, "lawgiver, legislator"; malekkenu, "king." If the ideal and eschatalogical (final, perfected) government of God (the kingdom of Christ) is structured with "branches" of government, surely the less-than-ideal human governments should be thus structured.
A balance of powers within each state is desirable. In Isaiah 33:17-22, the now-conventional balanced division of powers is suggested as that of "judge" (judicial), "lawgiver" (legislative), and "king" (executive) . . . The passage does not directly teach balance of powers. Nor do the words judge, lawgiver, and king in-variably designate distinct functions. Coming to the passage with knowledge of the customary analysis, the division of powers necessary in government under the condition of sin appears. Under messianic conditions of the coming kingdom of God, they are united. Government always has difficulty in maintaining unity and harmony among these powers.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, by Robert Culver, pub. Moody Press, p. 104
We have already documented that the Founding Fathers of Americaís Constitutional Republic were primarily influenced by what the Bible says about civil government. We add here a quotation from the Federalist Papers (writing of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in favor of ratification of the U.S. Constitution):
It may be a reflection on human nature that such constitutional separation of powers] devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing of a government which is to be ad-ministered by men over men, the greatest difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
The illustrious Scotchman, Presbyterian preacher, Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), was also influential in forming the thinking of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Rutherford, in his classic work, Lex, Rex (or, The Law and the Prince), is unequivocal concerning limitations that must be compelled upon human governments and human rulers:
Rutherford stressed that rulers derive authority from God, as declared in Romans 13:1-4 and other passages of Scripture. But God gives this authority to rulers through the people. The people establish a form of government and choose a particular man to be their ruler. The ruler then acts under the direction of God. Rutherford cited biblical passages to prove his point:
II Samuel 16:18, "Hushai said to Absalom, Nay, but whom the Lord and the people, and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide"; Judges 8:22, "The men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule thou over us"; Judges 9:6, "The men of Shechem made Abimelech king"; II Kings 14:21, "The people made Azariah king"; I Samuel 12:1; II Chronicles 23:3.
The covenant view of government also found secular expression in John Lockeís social contract theory ó the belief that men in a state of nature formed a government by mutual consent and gave it certain limited authority to act in order to protect their basic rights of life, liberty, and property. Locke, a Puritan by background, based his political theories on Rutherfordís Lex, Rex.
For Americans the covenant concept finds its ultimate expression in the Preamble to the Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Calvinists not only believe civil government is ordained and established by God, they also believe that God has given civil government only limited authority. The same power that grants authority to government, also limits that authority .
Rutherford in particular emphasized limited government. The people acting under the will of God, had given the civil government only limited authority, and they had given it conditionally ó they reserved the right to terminate their covenant with the ruler if the ruler violated the covenant terms. Consequently the ruler is acting without legitimate authority if he violates the laws of God and nature by suppressing the basic liberties of the people. In such instances he is not to be obeyed. In fact, he is to be resisted. It is the Christianís duty to resist ó by force if necessary.
Limited government also formed the basis for resistance to British oppression in the War of Independence. The colonistsí slogan, "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God!" grew from roots firmly planted in Calvinist soil.
Christianity and the Constitution, by John Eidsmoe, pub. Baker, pp. 24,25
Because the principle of limited powers in civil government is so biblically fundamental, and because Samuel Rutherford had such singular impact in the promotion of it in history, we quote one more writer concerning his Lex, Rex:
The governing authorities were concerned about Lex Rex because of its attack on the undergirding foundation of seventeenth century political government in Europe ó "the divine right of kings." This doctrine held that the king or state ruled as Godís appointed regent and this being so, the kingís word was law. Placed against this position was Rutherfordís assertion that the basic premise of civil government and, therefore, law, must be based on Godís Law as given in the Bible. As such, Rutherford argued, all men, even the king are under the Law and not above it. This concept was considered political rebellion and punishable as treason.
Rutherford argued that Romans 13 indicates that all power is from God and that government is ordained and instituted by God. The state, however, is to be administered according to the principles of Godís Law. Acts of the state which contradicted Godís Law were illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Tyranny was defined as ruling without the sanction of God.
Rutherford held that a tyrannical government is always immoral. He said that "a power ethical, politic, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power; and is no more from God, but from sinful nature and the old serpent, than a license to sin."
A Christian Manifesto, by Francis A. Schaeffer, pub. Crossway, p. 100
There are different views as to the posture the Christian is to take in the face of "ungodly" government and governors. We shall treat some of those different views in the next chapter. Our point here is to show that limitation by separation of powers in human civil government is what the Bible says.
The word hierarchy is from two Greek words, hieros (temple, sacred) and archos (ruler, rank). It has come to denote, generically, "anything arranged in an order of rank." If there is to be civil government, there must be a hierarchy of authority in some form. Civil government exists only by coercive power. Because of the sinfulness of men that is its mandate from God (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17; I Tim. 1:8-11, etc.). Peter writes concerning "the emperor as supreme" and Paul says, " . . . the governing authorities." God has ordained that civil government be structured upon a hierarchy of "authorities." Some one (or ones) in civil government must be invested with authority. Someone (or ones) has to be "in charge." Where there is no hierarchy of authority confusion reigns. When law is not enforced by some authority, moral chaos results. The Bible says so. When "there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:lff; 21:25). During the days of the Judges, Israel suffered extreme oppression on many occasions because there was only intermittent civil (and spiritual) leader-ship. God strictly forbids the ruled from cursing the ruler (Exod. 22:28; Acts 23:25). The Bible charges all people, especially Christians, to "be obedient to the governing authorities" and to "every human institution." Authority may be vested specifically in a multitude of individuals or groups by "consent of the governed." That is, God apparently is content to let nations of people exercise some choice in the structure of governmental hierarchy, but ultimately God, himself, has decreed there must be a hierarchy. Historically, both in the Bible and outside the Bible, governmental hierarchies have taken many forms ó patriarchal, monarchial, imperial, republican, dictatorial, etc. One thing is certain, unalienable human rights cannot exist when mobocracy or anarchy is the "rule." Classic examples are Paulís experience in the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41), and the plot against his life at Jerusalem (Acts 23:12-25). Secular history documents this to be an inescapable fact (e.g. the disintegration of the Roman empire, the anarchistic tyranny resulting from the French Revolution, the starvation and chaos during the Bolshevik Revolution, et al.).
Social anarchy, however, inevitably creates a vacuum that demands to be filled with order. Some form (often tyrannical) of hierarchical authority will necessarily issue out of any circumstance where social disorder exists.
Even the most evil society or the worst government will hold to a basic preservation of life and property. Unfortunately, some good governments do very poorly at it, while some evil dictators do very well. Even the poorest government is a blessing compared to no government at all. Can you imagine what would happen in a society with no one in control? It would instantly self-destruct. If people had only themselves to protect their lives or property, there would be constant war.
The Christian and Government, Romans 13:1-7, by John MacArthur, pub. Moody Press, p. 40
In essence, there is no such thing as a pure "democracy." Even the angelic community clearly functions through a hierarchy or organization of ranks (see Col. 1:16: 2:15; Jude 9; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Dan. 10:13). The word "democracy" comes from two Greek words, demos, "the people," and kratein, "to rule." There has never been a nation where "the people," en masse, were their own government. A nation (such as the U.S.A.) with 260 million people could never conduct public meetings to enact laws, administer and execute the laws, adjudicate appeals, assess sentences for violations, and fulfill a multitude of other complicated duties of government. It would be literally impossible. And a pure democratic (rule by the people) government for any institution, no matter how small (family, tribe, school, township, city) would also be logistically and practically impossible. There has to be some form of hierarchical authority ó some kind of "chain of command." Somewhere, as the late President Harry S. Truman reminded people, "the buck stops." The "buck" has to stop with some person (or representative body of persons) who has final civil authority.
The ancient Greek civilization, as a cursory reference to any modern encyclopedia will reveal, had no pure democracy. Theirs was an aristocratic-democratic-republic. In a limited way the Greek "democracies" were like the government of the United States. But in many ways they were not at all like it. The early Roman Republic was a representative government but its rulers were aristocrats who came to their offices and positions mainly through wealth.
The fear of power so widely and uncritically dispersed led the Puritans to distrust even what is called "majority rule." Unbridled majorities, they believed, were likely to mishandle and even pervert power because majorities are no more possessed of divine wisdom than minorities or monarchies. As Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652), minister of the First Church (Congregational), Boston, wrote:
Democracy, I do not conceyve that ever God did ordeyne as a fit government eyther for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed? As for monarchy, and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved, and directed in scripture, yet so as referreth the soveraigntie to himselfe, and setteth up Theocracy in both, as the best forme of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the church.
We may disagree with Rev. Cotton that monarchy is "directed" in Scripture, but we must agree with him about the impossibility of a pure democracy for governmental form. We must also agree that God has never specifically ordained democracy as a form of government. God has never ordained any precise form ó only a general form ó for human civil government.
While it is true that the United States of America formed its government essentially by a vote of the "people" (although all the "people" certainly did not vote), it is not a "democracy." The government of the U.S. is founded upon its Constitution. "Representatives" were "chosen" and sent as delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. These delegates (not all present at the final signing) constructed our basic Constitution. That Constitution was declared "in effect" in March, 1789, after nine of the States had ratified it, and was fully ratified (by vote of the "people") by the last of the 13 States, Vermont, in March, 1791. This Constitution provides for its amendment (Article V) by two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, or by application of the Legislature of two-thirds of the States. It has been amended twenty-five times. But as it now stands, this nation, the United States of America, is a Constitutional Republic. Its laws are enacted by elected representatives; its laws are declared "Constitutional" or not by an appointed-for-life Supreme Court; its chief executive, the President (and the Vice President), although theoretically elected by popular vote of the "people," is in effect "chosen" by the two political parties and presented to the "people" for popular vote. And the system has, on a few occasions, put a man into the office of President who did not get the majority of the popular vote! But even granting that the chief executive is elected by "the people", one must remember that "the people" must elect him in accordance with the Constitution! In other words, Americans have agreed that in their government, the Constitution is the hierarchical final authority. All citizens and agencies and government officials are subject to the Constitution, including its legislators, its judges, and its chief executive. As a matter of fact, nearly every level of civil government in the U.S. is "representative" ó not democratic. The legendary Greek philosopher, Aristotle, discussed forms of government in his work entitled: Politics, Book III:
True Forms (ruling with a view to the common interest)
Perverted Forms (ruling for the benefit of private interests)
(1) Of the one
(2) Of the few
oligarchy (usually a plutocracy)
(3) Of the many
pure democracy (mob rule)
Of these different forms, said Aristotle, royal rule (that of a "benevolent monarch") is probably the most efficient for as long a time at least as the monarch lives; its weakness, however, is in the fact that a succession of benevolent monarchs is too much to expect; history shows that good fathers all too often sire notoriously bad sons. Therefore, on the whole and in the long run, constitutional rule is preferable. This he defines as the rule of the many under a constitution (the organization of powers and offices as determined by law). Every government, Aristotle insists, should be a government under law: "matters are better regulated by laws than by the will of man which is a very unsafe rule"; "the arbitrary power of acting on their own judgment, by rulers, and dispensing with written law, is dangerous"; "whereas the law is passionless, passion must ever sway the heart of man"; "the law is reason unaffected by desire." Pure democracy, a kind of mob rule, says Aristotle, is the least desirable of all forms: this he defines as "a state in which the multitude have power, but supersede the law by their decrees"; the result is that they prostitute liberty into license and precipitate a kind of anarchy. "Such a democracy is fairly open to the objection that it is not a constitution at all; for where the laws have no authority, there is no constitution. The law ought to be supreme over all, and the magistracies should judge of particulars, and only this can be considered a constitution." A citizen Aristotle defines as one who shares in governing and being governed, one who alternates at rule and being ruled. Laws should be changed, of course, when they become obsolete; but frequent and needless changes diminish respect for law in general. (Practically every principle of political science embodied in our Federal Constitution is laid down in Aristotleís Politics,) Pure democracy exists only in cases in which the whole people vote on proposed legislation, determine sanctions, etc. . . . A representative democracy is one in which authority is vested in representatives elected by the people at stated intervals; this form of government is usually known as a republic. The United States of America is a republic.
Common Sense Ethics, by Dr. CC. Crawford, pub. Brown Book Co., pp. 359,360
The Bible says civil government must be formulated on some hierarchical system of authority. It does not specify what that system must be. But it does clearly teach that society cannot fulfill the divine purpose without governmental authority:
There is no biblical theory of human political sovereignty ó monarchial, aristocratic, plutocratic, democratic, republican, or otherwise. Godís is the only sovereignty recognized in the Bible. In biblical doctrine, all political sovereignty is bestowed by God. Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as either popular sovereignty as in Western democracies, or state sovereignty as in the various totalitarian states. The various human methods by which political power is conveyed to magistrates are just that ó methods of conveyance only ... government does not have its origin in some primeval social contract among our ancestors . . . neither does it arise out of some immanent force in the world culminating in the state . . . It has its origin in Godís sovereignty. He alone is sovereign, but has delegated the power of civil government to magistrates ó the manner of their placement not being specified.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, by Robert Culver, pub. Moody Press, pp. 53,70
God expects a "religious" or moral base for all human government. This is necessary for governments and governors to fulfill their ordained purpose which is to keep evil checked. The human race is fallen from goodness. Mankind in rebellion against its Creator, distrusting the Creatorís moral imperatives, is vulnerable to Satanís lies. When man rejects the law of God he is led astray by falsehood into moral anarchy. He makes himself his own god and all his actions become wickedly self-centered. Unwilling to practice divinely revealed goodness through the persuasive grace of God, sinful men must be coerced to behave morally so that an acceptable amount of social order may prevail.
At the base of every human culture is a shared set of "religious" values that help hold the society together. They are . . . those ideals or things that persons in a culture value most highly, are committed to, and would be willing to die for.
The Search for Christian America, b.y Noll, Hatch, Marsden, p. 44, pub. Crossway Books
Dr. C.C. Crawford, in his book, Commonsense Ethics, expands this anthropological fact when he writes:
Manís moral activity is his quest for Goodness, which is commonly identified with Justice, Order, etc. (1) The fact that all peoples, no matter how primitive their culture, have always been known to make distinctions of some sort between right and wrong, good and bad, in human conduct, can hardly be refuted. Even though anthropologists may designate such distinctions, in their most elementary form, as "customary law," the fact remains nevertheless that the distinctions are made and made universally. Moreover, although different reasons have been assigned for these distinctions, in diverse social structures, and by different systems of ethics, the fact of the universality of such distinctions is historically established. (2) The distinction between right and wrong, good and bad, seems to be a universal judgment of the human race: as one author puts it, "The feeling of obligation is an ineradicable element of our being" . . . . (3) This fundamental distinction between what ought or what ought not to be done, has been found to be so general that, as we have noted previously, by many philosophers it is designated the Ethical Fact. Moral activity ó the quest for Goodness, for the answer to the question, What is the Good Man? ó is another manifestation, obviously of the spirit that is in man (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8). (4) Finally, this quest for Goodness, Justice, Order, etc., has been at the root of the progressive development of social and political order in human history, from family to clan, from clan to tribe, from tribe to nation (a people, a specific ethnic group), from nation to national state (characterized by territory, independence, and government).
Man is a being that makes moral choices. That cannot be denied. The crucial issue, then, must focus on the basis or ground of morality. It is evident to any honest human being that he can-not be, himself, the ground of his morality. He must have some base for goodness which is higher, wiser, more enduring than himself. Thus, all human beings and human cultures manifest some "religious" orientation.
The religious consciousness of man has manifested itself in all ages, and among all tribes and peoples, in a great variety of forms (dependent for purity, of course, upon the standard of knowledge by which it was guided) from the crudest animistic beliefs and the ritualistic worship of gods who were but personifications of the forces of nature up to that pure love for God and man which fills the heart of the spiritually-minded person for whom religion is the unbroken communion of the human spirit with the Divine spirit on the basis of the Truth (John 4:24) . . . . It is doubtful indeed that any people ever existed without some consciousness of their human frailty and consequent need of strength to be gotten from a source or sources higher than man himself, and without a sense of moral imperfection, a sense of the need of prayer, and a dim longing for, and expectation of, survival beyond the grave.
Commonsense Ethics, by C.C. Crawford, pub. Brown, p. 123
God has ordained human government as an expedient to restrain the human rebellion that produces social anarchy. Humankind, for the most part, has seen the necessity for some basis of morality besides the mere hierarchical structuring of human beings in some form of government. Thus all civil governments have extolled some form of "religion."
There are only religions, and basically two of them. They arise out of manís need to return to God ó out of alienation from God to sin. One is the revealed religion of grace; the other is that pervasive natural religion of supposed human merit . . .
Government always has had a religious foundation. This is because government must always operate with some theory of authority. Another name for authority is sovereignty, or right of rulership.
Many foundational factors go into the structure of a society. Another way of saying this is to assert that every society has many concerns . . . it can also be said truthfully that in all its ethical and judicial aspects at least, and to a high degree in all aspects, a society is the expression of the ultimate concern of its people, especially of its ruling elite. Another name for ultimate concern is religion . . .
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, by Robert D. Culver, pub. Moody Press, pp. 25,52,128
Clearly, all human governments are short of the ideal government which sinful man must have in order that he may be regenerated after the Divine image. The only "government" capable of producing human redemption is that of Godís Messiah, Jesus Christ. The love of Christ alone has the constraining (II Cor. 5: 14-21) power to rule over man so that man sees everything from the Divine perspective and behaves accordingly. Human governments are (some more than others fundamentally contrapositional to the rule of God.
Most of the traits of this central "religion" in a culture reflect directly the values that predominate in fallen human nature. So, for in-stance, one factor that we find holding cultures together everywhere is sinful pride. This pride might be manifested in any one of a number of ways, but among the most common have been tribalism, racism, nationalism, and an inflated loyalty to oneís own class or social position. Each is a means of convincing people that they are inherently superior to other peoples and hence that they can treat others as inferiors, even as subhumans worthy of disdain or abuse. Similarly, every human culture is held together by the simple shared values of selfish interest. Putting oneself and oneís group first, is in fact, almost the premise on which human governments are based. Other widely held values found in almost every culture are materialism, lust for power, and love of violence. While cultures may be held together also by other values ó such as love or respect for elders, respect for law, love of virtue ó most of the widely held values related to human nature turn out to be directly antithetical to Christianity.
The Search for Christian America, by Noll, Hatch and Marsden, pub. by Crossway Books, p. 44
However, the fact that human governments are "antithetical" to God does not excuse them from the Biblical imperative that they should be synthetical (in sympathy with) to divinely revealed moral guidelines. The Bible speaks clearly on this point. There is sufficient revelation of the Creator and his nature (his wrath against wickedness, his eternality, his power, his deity) in creation that moral deviation and anti-social behavior is inexcusable in individuals and societies. Paul wrote in Romans 1:18-32 that "what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." In the same treatise (Rom. 2:14-16) the apostle writes, "When Gentiles (pagans) who have not the law (the propositional, human-language revelation of God) do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them . . . "It is, therefore, a matter of revealed truth that even those without the Bible have a moral base sufficient to carry out the purposes for which God ordained civil government.
Civil governments (which are constituted by people) which do "not honor him as God" and do not "give thanks to him" but "ex-change the glory of the immortal God for images" and "exchange the truth about God for a lie" are foolish, futile in their thinking and "darkened." Civil governments which condone and permit "dishonorable" and "unnatural" passions (homosexuality) to be acted out will receive in their own persons "the due penalty of their error" and "deserve to die."
In light of Godís revelation of himself in man, his highest act of creation, it is immoral to even think of some basis or religion other than that of the God of the Bible. Paul charged the philosophers of ancient Athens, "Being then Godís offspring we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man" (Acts 17:29). Honest reasoning should dictate to individuals and governments that the God to worship does not live in shrines made by man. Human beings and human governments should seek the God who made the world and everything in it as Lord of heaven and earth. God expects that! He expects those who administer human governments to do so as his "servants" responsible to observe the moral guidelines he has revealed in "nature" and in human conscience.
We would expect those who governed and guided Godís chosen people, the Israelites, to be called upon to rule from a religious and moral basis of Biblical truth. Some (e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, et at.) did; others (e.g. Saul, Jeroboam, Ahab, Ahaz, Jeroboam II, Manasseh, et at.) did not. But the Biblical record also declares that God expects all human rulers to govern according to his standards of what is right and just. Those civil governments which did not structure themselves in the moral and religious forms that acknowledged Jehovah were verbally judged and historically destroyed (so far as the Bible details the history of kings and kingdoms).
There are scores of examples that at least a modicum of revealed morality was practiced by some of the heathen empires in Biblical history. We list a few:
a. One of the Pharaohs acted toward Abraham with moral propriety (Gen. 13:17-20).
b. Abimelech, Canaanite king, had moral standards (Gen.
c. Josephís master, Potiphar, acknowledged what was right in Joseph and rewarded it (Gen. 39: 1ff).
d. The Egyptian government (while it did not ascertain the truth in the matter) demonstrated scruples against
adultery and imprisoned Joseph (Gen. 39: 19ff).
e. The Pharaoh contemporary with Joseph acknowledged the justness of Josephís administration of the famine
f. When Ahasuerus, emperor of Persia, was given the truth about Hamanís plot to commit genocide upon the Jews,
he saw that justice was done (Esther 7-8).
g. Even Pontius Pilate declared Jesus innocent some eight times of the false charges of the Jewish rulers, acknowledging the right moral evaluation while lacking the personal character to fulfill his responsibility to it. (John 18-19).
h. Numerous confrontations between the apostle Paul and Roman authorities show the Roman government had been structured on a basic morality which had been "writ-ten on their consciences" by Jehovah.
Godís expectations for civil governments in the area of religion and morals have never been met. Relatively speaking, some human governments have pleased God more than others. The tragedy of history, however, has been the shocking failure of Israel to govern itself according to the revelation of God. In a number of Biblical passages, Israelis condemned by the prophets of God as being more "heathen" than the heathen (see Amos 3:9-11; Jer. 18:12-16; Jer. 2:10,11; Ezek. 5:5-9). The Old Testament writings of the prophets are also filled with judgments pronounced by God upon Gentile rulers and governments because they failed to think and act according to moral levels within the Divine expectation (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 27-32; Obad; Amos, 1-2; Jonah; Nahum; Habakkuk; and the book of Revelation).
Two Biblical passages speak with unquestionable precision in this matter. In Daniel, chapter 4, after Nebuchadnezzarís dream of himself as the "tree" whose top reached to heaven, which is then hewn down and "he" is driven to live like an animal, Daniel was called in to interpret the dream. At the conclusion of the interpretation Daniel advised the emperor, "Therefore, 0 king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your tranquility" (Dan. 4:27). Clearly, God expected this heathen ruler to govern from a moral base higher than that which any heathen religion could supply. We might add that Nebuchadnezzar seems to have taken heed to Danielís message (see Dan. 4:28-37). Furthermore, when Belshazzar, the son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, blasphemed Jehovah by drinking from the vessels of the Hebrew temple in honor of idolatrous gods, Godís "finger" wrote his doom on the wall of the banquet hall. When Daniel was called upon to "solve Belshazzarís problem" he told the scion of the Babylonian throne that he should have known what Jehovah God expected of him from what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 5:17-22). But, Daniel added, since Belshazzar had not honored the God in whose hand was his breath, his kingdom was "found wanting" and would be given to the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:24-28). Those governing authorities who do not learn from history that Jehovah is sovereign and that his moral expectations must be met in government as well as in oneís private life, are doomed to repeat the judgments of Jehovah!
The second passage is a record of the confrontation between the apostle Paul and Antonius Claudius Felix, procurator of Judea. Tacitus said of Felix, "he revelled in cruelty and lust, and wielded the power of a king with the mind of a slave." He began his career as procurator of Judea by seducing Drusilla, the sister of Herod Agrippa II, and wife of the king of Emesa, and marrying her. Because she was Jewish he evidently learned much of Jewish life and customs. While he was a moral reprobate, he had enough conscience to be "alarmed" when Paul argued "about justice and self-control and future judgment." But the point is that the apostleís conviction about moral expectations in rulers was so strong he fearlessly demanded it of this ruler before whom he stood as a prisoner.
Finally, the two key passages of the New Testament on civil government (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17) unequivocally state that human governments are "to punish those who do wrong and praise those who do right." Those statements from the apostolic pen are divinely revealed and divinely authoritative. The inference seems incontrovertible that civil governments are to find their basis and guidelines for "wrong" and "right" from the divine revelation also. If God is issuing the orders for civil governments to arbitrate and administer "right" and "wrong" in the human arena (in the "kingdom of the world"), then God is the Authority to whom these civil governments must harken for the principles and directions of what is "right" and "wrong."
God communicates the grounds and guidelines of right and wrong in his two methods of revelation to the world. The first method of Godís revelation is, as Paul writes in Romans 1: 18ff, "the things that have been made" ("natural phenomena," history, human conscience). The second method of his revelation is pro-positional ó verbalized in human language through secondary agents, human spokesman (prophets, apostles). This second revelation we call the Bible. Realistically, we may expect few governments and governors to ever make the Bible their "rule of faith and practice" in governance. There may be a very few through the centuries who will make some concessions and exercise government from a general Biblical base. The best the world may hope for is that governments and authorities will apply honest logic and common sense to the divine axiom of the sanctity of life, liberty and property revealed in nature and human con-science, and rule from that moral base. Most human governments operate from a humanistic, relativistic, materialistic and pragmatic base. For most human governments, man is the end ó not God. With such a political philosophy, man becomes his own god.
The Bible says human governments are to be structured on the foundation of Biblical religion and morals. The Bible is omnisciently realistic, however, and portrays human history from the Garden of Eden to the Great White Throne of Judgment as never producing such a civil government. God is producing his ultimate moral government under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the minds and actions of men and women in the society known as Christís "church." In the interim, that human government which most nearly structures itself on the religion and moral standards of the Bible will be the most pleasing to God and most useful for his purposes of finishing the redemption of creation.
Copyright © 1990, Paul T. Butler