For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isa.9:6).
It has been said that the Biblical doctrine of a subject is all that the Bible says about that subject. The Bible says a lot about civil government, and the Christian person is obliged to examine the scriptures to determine what God requires of this institution.
The future for man when he thinks the State is his Saviour, is slavery. This is what most of the world began to discover in the twentieth century, but it hasn’t led to everyone wanting to throw off their chains. Just as the children of Israel under Moses had an almost perennial tendency to want to return to Egypt when their circumstances displeased them, sinful man has perennially turned to the State for his problems. Even when the memory of Egypt had faded by the time of Samuel, they still wanted a king.
Samuel’s warnings about what this king would be like, had no effect. Why? Because the children of Israel had a problem; their own hearts. So, God gave them the king they wanted, and they faced the consequences of their foolish choice, for forty years.
Samuel described what this new form of government would be like, in I Samuel 8.
a) The king would raise an army for his purpose in opposition to the law (Deut.17:16). War would become a way of life in Israel (v.5), and the king would use this army for personal profit (v.12).
b) The young women of Israel would be subject to the whims and fancies of the king (v.13).
c) Private property would no longer be safe, but would be used to pay for the king’s political favours (v.14).
d) This king would require a tenth in taxation. This was a sign of tyranny, for only God could demand a tenth (v.15).
Israel had turned from their God as their Saviour, Lord and Provider, who had brought them out of Egypt. They no longer wanted to physically return to Egypt, but they were turning to the false security offered to them by a civil government that would subject them to slavery in the name of security.
This scenario has been played out in history, innumerable times; the twentieth century showed this happening almost everywhere, both in totalitarian and democratic countries. It is evident that
Socialism has demonstrated its ability to destroy, but not to create. Being itself immoral, it creates immoral people, or rather, it is first created by an immoral people who are then confirmed and increased in their immorality by the socialist state.
What is the Role of the State?
The Bible teaches that the State is “a minister of God to you for good” (Ro.13:4). Biblically, the State does have the powers of coercion: “…it does not bear the sword for nothing.”
a) Civil Justice: Civil government should operate judicial systems on the local state and federal level. The law of God, as outlined in scripture, is to be the standard of justice. This clearly includes capital punishment. An accused person should be able to appeal to a higher court, if he feels that justice has not been done.
b) Weights and measures: Just weights and measures must be maintained; even owning false weights is prohibited in scripture (Deut.25:13-16). This includes false and misleading advertising, and extends to such things as debasing a currency. “Your silver has become dross, your drink diluted with water” (Isa.1:22).
c) Defending Christianity from public attack: the State cannot be neutral towards the Christian faith. Any obstacle that would jeopardise the preaching of the Word of God and carrying out the Great Commission must be removed by civil government. Paul expected even the Roman civil government to protect him from those who threatened the Christian religion. No government is religiously neutral; if it were, it would enact no laws, for all laws are religious.
d) National defence: Government is responsible to defend the nation against aggressors. In wartime, this would include the marshalling and organisation of troops. It doesn’t mean the state is responsible to ensure there are professional, standing armed forces. The concept of a civilian militia force able to be called upon for defence or police activities, prohibits the use of soldiers for international aggressive activities, and means that soldiers cannot be used by their government against their own citizens.
e) Quarantine: The power to quarantine is the power to protect innocent life. Any community needs to be protected against infectious diseases. Thus the State must have legislative powers to deal with these things, protecting the healthy.
f) Defending private property: Private property means an opportunity for liberty, dominion, security, and the passing on of an inheritance, and is to be protected. Ahab’s plot to murder Naboth with a view to confiscating his vineyard, brought he and Jezebel under God’s judgment for murder and theft (I Kings 21; II Kings 9:29-37). Confiscation by State power is never legitimate.
Individuals must be prepared to assist in apprehending criminals, even to the point of killing a person if necessary, who threatens life (Ex.22:2-3).
God has not seen fit to legislate exactly what should go for the financing of the state. He has seen fit, however, to demand a tithe for the financing of the Church. In those times of history when the tithe is given properly and the Church does her work with integrity, the state will greatly shrink in size and will require only a minimum in taxation. On the other hand, in those seasons of history, like our own, when the people refuse to tithe, and the Church is not faithfully proclaiming and educating in the Word of God, then the state will grow to massive size, and will exact a terrible tribute. The reformation of the state, then, awaits the reformation of the Church and the proper use of the tithe.
The State is not called on to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. It is not our Father. State welfare is not in the Bible. It must stop interfering in the operations of the free market, with minimum wage laws and awards, compulsory, tax-payer funded education, by phasing out Social Security, and reducing taxation at all levels. All of these measures pre-suppose the active involvement of the Christian community in initiating care in the community, along Biblical lines, because you can’t replace something with nothing.
Towards the future: Civilisations come and go, but the kingdom of God goes on forever. Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan.2) showed that kingdoms built on the shaky foundation of the sovereignty of man cannot last. The history books show that every empire-building civilisation collapses in time. Christians in understanding this, must begin to prepare for the future, even if they do not see the fulfillment of what they are commencing in their lifetime. God tells His people that their earthly efforts have meaning in time and eternity.
Socialism is finished: it is destroying itself, and although the worst lies ahead, the certainty of socialism’s collapse is nonetheless inescapable, and it must be a basic premise of all thinking concerning the future. The central concern even now must be reconstruction, the creation of new institutions dedicated to liberty, education to that end, and the assurance that the fresh air of liberty is ahead, past the days of chaos.
Christians must believe and preach the whole counsel of God concerning government. We need a full-orbed gospel that offers comprehensive salvation. We need healing-not just spiritual and physical, but cultural healing. We need the doctrine of the resurrection-the resurrection, restoration and reconstruction of every area of life, to the glory of God. We need to subdue the earth (Gen.1:26-28) to the glory of God. We need to fulfill the Great Commission: the discipling of the nations.
Politics is simply the organized activity of those who are exercising legal and economic power as citizens of the nations. Since the Lord has given us the task of holding ‘dominion . . . over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26), we are not taking up our assisted role as stewards if we refuse to become involved in the activities of governing. I further point out: How can we disciple the earth if we are not involved in running it?
Unbelief and its first cousin, pessimism, have always robbed the church of its vitality, since the days that the ten spies viewed the giants in the promised land (Nu.13:25-33). As the inhabitants of the land were clearly afraid and could be defeated, so they can and will be defeated in history. But this requires capital in the broadest sense to be built up.
God requires us to work confidently for the victory He wishes to give us, which has already been won on the cross. Every Christian must apply themselves to the long-term task at hand, “not despising the day of small things” (Zech.4:10), knowing that “…your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor.15:58). Psalm 110 clearly teaches us that Jesus will stay at the right hand of His Father until all His enemies are made His footstool, and that is the task of His people, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We believers are the inheritors: what have we been waiting for?