Civil government is of God. God is its mentor and his will is its raison d'etre. Almighty God orders civil governments and he sustains them. Their mandate is a "ministry" (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17) of justice and goodness. Civil rulers are servants of God to enforce social order so that the gospel truth of Christ may be made available to all mankind (I Tim. 2:1-4). In order to fulfill that stewardship they may often be called upon to punish criminals and wage wars. The Creator has endowed all men with certain inalienable rights; the same Creator has charged civil governments with the responsibility to ensure those rights.
The Bible teaches that citizens enjoy the protection of their inalienable rights by civil government only at certain costs to the individual. It is clear biblical commandment that citizens are to pay taxes, obey laws, and lend support to their governments — including military or other constabulary service when defense of the government is necessary. The Bible offers numerous historical examples of godly believers serving directly in structured civil governments. Many of these (David, Daniel, Esther, Mordecai, Nehemiah et al.) are held up in Scripture as heroes of faith whose lives and service are worthy of emulation.
Human governments are important, but they are not all important. The people of God are citizens of two kingdoms — the church and the state. The two are, by divine fiat, separate; the "things of God" always take precedence over "the things of Caesar" (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29). Ideally, God would have the two, church and state, acknowledging and practicing their distinctive ministries, but cooperating to work the Divine will in the world where they may do so without compromising his Word.
God ordained man to "have dominion" (Gen. 1:28. Man is ordered to serve God, in part, by exercising that "dominion" through human government (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:1-7). God reveals his law in creation, conscience, reason (Rom. l:18ff; 2:14ff) and in the Bible. His law is good if it is used lawfully (I Tim. 1:8-11). But man is a sinner at heart (Jer. 17:9, 10). He does not always use God's law in a lawful way. When man exercises his dominion in rebellion against the laws of God he is actually cooperating with Satan's attempt to thwart the redemption of mankind. Human rulers who do not seek the guidance of divine revelation are not servants of God but enemies of God (I Cor. 2:6-9).
Many forms of human government have been tried. Some in rebellion, some in harmony with God's will. Because man is a sinner even a theocratic form of government like that administered by Moses may find itself less than perfect. God may, himself, choose a "man after his own heart" (King David), but it takes more than one good man to govern a nation. Cultural pluralism, widespread human migration, and highly advanced technologies demand alternative forms of human governance. Governments more complex and yet much more flexible have developed from necessity. More than all else, however, the spread of Christianity has forced cultures and nations to turn toward governments that emphasize inalienable human rights and every-citizen participation.
No matter the form of human government, the church will never perish. It is God's eternal kingdom. It has existed, and will continue to exist, in the midst of many different forms of human government. However, when human governments acknowledge their subservience to God and build themselves on his eternal principles, freedom, human dignity, and justice exist and flourish. This serves God. When inalienable human rights are ensured, the gospel of Christ is preached and men and women are redeemed. While the government of the United States of America is not perfect, millions may thank God that they have come to know the truth of God because this government was founded upon the eternal principles of God in the Bible.
In his stirring anthem to the solidity of the Christian faith, George Chapman penned the now-familiar words, "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!" And how appropriate are these words when correlated to America's glorious heritage.
This nation, without reasonable doubt, was established on the firm foundation of Scripture. Our forefathers, brilliant as they were, openly acknowledged the true genius behind the new system to be the eternal principles of God's Word. The most fundamental concepts of the republic find their roots in the Bible. From the beginning, the basis for law and government in American society was decidedly biblical. What's more, the new land was forged through the energy of the Judeo-Christian work ethic.
The United States in her first century of existence knew the stinging reality of conflict. There were wars, assassinations, injustices, catastrophes, and plagues of disease. But the young nation endured, for its moral fabric had been woven with the durable threads of Scriptural truth. Societal ills, like slavery, were ultimately recognized for what they were: violations of God's standard.
The record of the establishment of America bears the clear stamp of Christian influence. The impact of the Gospel is evident in the leaders chosen, the laws written, and the sweeping changes brought about through the transforming power of Christ in individual lives and corporate experience. America was not formed a nation apart from God, but a nation under God.
The Rebirth of America,
by The Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, p. 70
The reader may have expected many other subjects to be treated in this work because civil government reaches into many more areas than those with which we have dealt. Such may be the areas of freedom of speech, education, ecology, racial discrimination, euthanasia, abortion, organized labor, and a multitude of others. We believe the Bible has divine guidance in every one of these areas, and more. God has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through his precious promises (II Pet. 1:3, 4). There are both precepts and principles in the Scriptures that will provide the answers to these questions. These latter subjects are more properly treated in works on biblical ethics. We choose to leave them there.
Copyright © 1990, Paul T. Butler