SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN GOVERNMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Definition – Government is humanity organizing itself to provide and secure sensed needs (i.e., Genesis 4 and 11).  Humans are social beings even before the Fall (cf. Gen. 2:18).  Families, tribes, nations give us community.

B. Purpose – God has willed that order is preferable to anarchy.

1. The Mosaic legislation, particularly the Decalog, is God's will for mankind in society.  It balances worship and life.

2. No form or structure of government is advocated in Scripture, although ancient Israel's theocracy is the anticipated form of heaven.  Neither democracy nor capitalism is a biblical truth.  Christians are to act appropriately in whatever governmental system they find themselves.  The purpose of the Christian is evangelism and ministry, not revolution.  All governments are transitory!

C. Origin of human government

1. Roman Catholicism has asserted that human government is an innate need, even before the Fall.  Aristotle seems to have first asserted this premise.  He says, "man is a political animal" and by this he meant that government "exists for the promotion of the good life."

2. Protestantism, especially Martin Luther, has asserted that human government is inherent in the Fall.  He calls it "the Kingdom of God's left hand."  He said that "God's way to control bad men is to put bad men in control." 

3. Karl Marx has asserted that government is the means by which a few elite keep the masses under control.  For him, government and religion play a similar role.

 

II. BIBLICAL MATERIAL

A. Old Testament

1. Israel is the pattern which will be utilized in heaven.  In ancient Israel YHWH was King.  Theocracy is the term used to describe God's direct rule (cf. 1 Sam. 8:4-9).

2. God's sovereignty in human government can be clearly seen in His appointing

a. all kings, Dan. 2:21; 4:17,24-25

 b. the Messianic reign, Dan. 2:44-45

 c. Nebuchadnezzar (neo-Babylon), Jer. 27:6; Dan. 5:28

 d. Cyrus II (Persia), 2 Chr. 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 44:28; 45:1

3. God's people are to be submissive and respectful even to invading and occupying governments:

 a. Daniel 1-4, Nebuchadnezzar (neo-Babylon)

 b. Daniel 5, Belshazzar (neo-Babylon)

 c. Daniel 6, Darius (Persia)

 d. Ezra and Nehemiah (Persia)

4. Restored Judah was to pray for Cyrus and his descendants' reign

 a. Ezra 6:10; 7:23

 b. Jews were to pray for civil authority, Mishnah, Avot. 3:2

B. New Testament

1. Jesus showed respect to human governments

a. Matthew 17:24-27, He paid the Temple tax (religious and civil authorities were meant to be one, cf. 1 Pet. 2:17)

 b. Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26, He advocated a place for the Roman tax and thereby Roman civil authority

 c. John 19:11, God allows civil authority to function

2. Paul's words related to human governments

 a. Romans 13:1-5, believers must submit to civil authorities for they are established by God

 b. Romans 13:6-7, believers must pay taxes and honor civil authorities

 c. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, believers must pray for civil authorities

 d. Titus 3:1, believers must be subject to civil authorities

3. Peter's words related to human governments

 a. Acts 4:1-31; 5:29, Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (this shows biblical precedent for civil disobedience)

 b. I Peter 2:13-17, believers must submit to civil authorities for the good of society and for evangelism

4. John's words related to human governments 

 a. Revelation 17, the whore of Babylon stands for human government organized and functioning apart from God

 b. Revelation 18, the whore of Babylon is destroyed

 

III. CONCLUSION

A. Human government (in a fallen world) is ordained by God.  This is not "the divine right of Kings," but the divine task of government.  No one form is advocated above another.

B. It is a religious duty for believers to obey and pray for civil authority.

C. It is proper for believers to support human government by taxes with a proper reverent attitude.

D. Human government is for the purpose of civil order.  They are God's servants for this task.

E. Human government is not ultimate.  It is limited in its authority.  Believers must act for their conscience's sake in rejecting civil authority when it oversteps its divinely appointed bounds.  As Augustine has asserted in The City of God, we are citizens of two realms, one temporal and one eternal (cf. Phil. 3:20). We have responsibility in both, but God's kingdom is ultimate!  There is both an individual and corporate focus in our responsibility to God.

F. We should encourage believers in a democratic system to actively participate in the process of government and to implement, when possible, the teachings of Scripture.

G. Social change must be preceded by individual conversion.  There is no real lasting eschatological hope in government.  All human governments, though willed and used by God, are sinful expressions of human organization apart from God.  This concept is expressed in the Johannine usage of the term "the world" (i.e., 1 John 2:15-17).

 

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