MUST THERE BE CHOICE BETWEEN GOD AND GOVERNMENT? — PART 2

 Description: Samuel Anoints David ; Synagogue interior wood panel. Location: Dura Europos, Syria. (from here)
Description: Samuel Anoints David ; Synagogue interior wood panel. Location: Dura Europos, Syria. (from here)

In MUST THERE BE CHOICE BETWEEN GOD AND GOVERNMENT? — PART 1, I promised to provide my answer to the subject question. Before I do, however, I would like to thank those who offered their thoughts in the comments following that last post. All have been interesting, and some of them have been excellent. Hopefully, the quality of my reply approaches such a level.

The Nature Of The Argument

Consider the question: must there be a choice between God and government? The question assumes a belief in God. Since I am a Christian, our heritage is Christian, and the person who asked the question is Christian, I will answer from a Christian perspective.

Why is the Christian perspective important? Let’s consider several passages.

The Book of Judges offers this warning twice.

Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 New King James Version (NKJV)

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Are we to infer from these verses that the Bible supports monarchy? No, but without a king, everyone could do whatever they wanted to do. That freedom allowed some people to foolishly worship idols. These people had the Mosaic Code (the first five books of the Bible), which condemns idol worship, but they too often chose to ignore their heritage.

In 1 Samuel 8, God makes it clear He does not approve of monarchy. Here are the key verses.

1 Samuel 8:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

What did the people want? What did they tell Samuel?

1 Samuel 8:19-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Instead of God, the people wanted Samuel to choose a man to rule over them. They expected Samuel to choose a godlike, benevolent man, but there is no such man. Romans 3:9-20 makes that abundantly clear. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Even the most suitable man God could appoint (other than His Son) was only a flawed human being. Even David marked his rule with civil war and treachery. Even King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, took up the worship of idols and all that entails. King Solomon left a kingdom so divided in spirit and his sons so ignorant of managing a kingdom that his successor could not hold Israel together.

When We Accept The Rule Of God, What Does That Mean?

Genesis 1:26-27 English Standard Version (ESV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

God created us in His image. God created us for much the same reason we have children, for glory of having someone to love who loves Him. Yet Adam and Eve were difficult and disobedient just as our own children are sometimes difficult and disobedient. And so God sent a redeemer, and the Bible tells the story of that redeemer, how He redeemed man from sin.

Meanwhile, until the Second Coming, we remain in Satan’s dominion, and even born-again Christians can be tempted to sin. “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

So how are we redeemed? Jesus explained.

Mark 8:34-38 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Imagine hearing Jesus’s words. The Roman Empire used the cross, crucifixion, to inspire terror. It was their practice to force those they had sentenced to die on a cross to carry their cross to the site of their crucifixion. Once hung upon a cross, strong men might live several days in agony before they died. Thus, the Roman Emperor used crucifixion to ensure that all those who saw a man dying on a cross understood the full extent of his power.

Therefore, we have a conundrum. For the sake of our souls, each of us must voluntarily take up our cross and follow Jesus. When people must voluntary take up their cross, and follow Jesus, what is the role of government? What role does government have in a Christian society?

To Be Continued (next Monday, I hope).

What is to follow?

  • The Christian Nature Of The American Experiment
  • Why All Our Songs Are Laments.

5 thoughts on “MUST THERE BE CHOICE BETWEEN GOD AND GOVERNMENT? — PART 2

  1. Hmmm, interesting, Tom. I’m reminded that there were people who really wanted Christ himself to be their king, sort of a white knight that would lead a rebellion and over throw the Romans. King of the Jews to rule over them in the here and now. The fact that Christ Himself did not chose to fulfill that role, speaks to me of the fact that we were intended to learn how to govern our own selves, to look to Him as King, but to select our own leaders. The virtues required, the skills needed, to select good leaders, to create a system that tries to balance individual rights with the good of the whole, seems like a vital part of eventual human development.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my mind, we are ultimately called and held responsible to follow our Lord and His moral laws. Government’s responsibility is to make laws that upholds the moral law of God and then punishes those who break those laws. In essence, the human government simply aids and encourages men to follow the moral laws of their God.
    (Romans 13:1-6)

    Thanks Tom for another very interesting, informative, and much needed examination of governments role in the world.

    By the way, although Christ did not come to rule at his first coming, He will come to rule at His second coming. The reason why He did not rule at His first coming was not because men are not supposed to follow Him, it is because that is no the work to which He had been called by His Father. He was still our King at His first coming but he did not publically display that rule because He was called ot come humbly and die for the sins of His people as a Lamb without blemish.

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    1. Rob, thank you for an excellent comment.

      When it follows what you say government exists to do, that scripture reference, Romans 13:1-6, is quite interesting. Since he was a citizen of Rome and no such state existed, the Apostle Paul obviously did not have a Christian theocracy in mind. If it was any kind of theocracy, the Roman Empire existed as a pagan theocracy. Nonetheless, Paul encouraged Christians to render the authorities that respect appropriate to their duties.

      It is as you say. Christ will not establish His rule until after the Second Coming. Meanwhile, we each have to do our best to put ourselves under God’s rule.

      Like

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