The Changing of the Guard 6 – God and the State

The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to construct a wall of separation between the authority of God and the authority of Caesar. Jesus reminded them that such a wall was utterly impossible. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Ro. 13:1).

God established and ordained the institution of the family as one of “the powers that be.” He delegated to it cultural authority (Gen.1:26-28), educational authority (Deut. 6:6-9), disciplinary authority (Prov.23:13-14), economic authority (Deut. 21:17), civic authority (Nu. 10:2-4), spiritual authority (Eph. 6:1-4), evangelistic authority (1 Pet. 3:1-4), and charitable authority (Ruth 2:2-4).

Likewise, God established and ordained the institution of the Church as one of “the powers that be.” He delegated to it judicial authority (Matt.18:15-20), spiritual authority (Heb.  13:17), liturgical authority (I Tim.2:1-10), charitable authority (I Tim.5:3-13), discipline authority (II Timothy 2:2), evangelistic authority (Matt. 28:18-20), diaconal authority (Acts  6:1-7), disciplinary authority (I Cor.5:1-13), cultural authority (Matt.16:19), and sacramental authority (I Cor. 11:23-31).

Both the family and the Church are holy institutions. They are ordained by God, invested with a particular jurisdiction, commissioned to a particular function, and empowered with a particular dominion. But they remain under His rule. Their various authorities remain subject to His absolute authority. Clearly, there is no wall of separation between God and the family or God and the Church, for God has ordained them both.

Both the family and the Church are sacred and ruled by God, ordered by His Word, and entrusted to men as a divine arena for the proving of righteousness.

God and the State :

Just as God has established and ordained the family and the Church, so also He has established and ordained the institution of civil government. Jesus made this clear in His response to the Pharisees and Herodians. There is no wall of separation between God and the state. In truth, everything that the state is, every authority that it wields, every jurisdiction that it holds, and every issue that it governs has been delegated to it by God. Rulers, magistrates, and judges are “servants” (Ro. 13:6) and “ministers” (Ro. 13:4) accountable to God.

Thus, like the family and the Church, the state is to be considered sacred: ruled by God, ordered by His Word, and entrusted to men as a divine arena for the proving of righteousness. And like the family and the Church, the state is to be considered by faithful Christians to be a legitimate, and indeed, an essential area of calling and ministry. It is as honourable and holy a pursuit as is fatherhood or evangelism or the pastorate.

When was the last time you heard of someone submitting to a call into the ministry-the ministry of political action? There can be no doubt that God called Joseph into such a ministry (Gen. 41:39-41). Though the path to power was difficult, there was never any question in his mind that God had chosen him to govern (Gen. 37:5-10) in order to bring glory to God (Gen. 50:20) and to save His people (Gen. 45:1).

There can be no doubt that God also called Gideon into such a ministry (Judg. 6:11-14). He was a simple farmer (Judg. 6:11). But he was obedient to God’s call (Judg. 6:33-35) and took seriously his holy occupation (Judg. 7:2-9). As a result, God delivered the nation (Judg. 7:19-25).

There can be no doubt that God also called Deborah into the ministry of political action (Judg.5:1-7). She was a prophetess (Judg. 4:4) renowned throughout the land for her anointing and judgment (Judg. 4:5). Had it not been for her courageous leadership, the land would have been sorely oppressed and the enemies of God would have triumphed (Judg. 4:6-24).

There can be no doubt that God called Samuel into the ministry of political action as well (I Sam.3:1-19).  He had been set aside for service to the Lord from birth (I Sam.1:27-28) and answered the call early to judge the civil affairs of the nation (1 Sam.7:15-17).
There can be no doubt that God also called David into the ministry of political action (I Sam. 16:1-13). Though he was the youngest child in a family of poor shepherds (ISam. 16:11) and despised by his own brethren (I Sam. 17:28), God raised him up to be the greatest of Israel’s many kings (II Sam. 2:4), a man after God’s heart (I Sam.16:7).

There can be no doubt that God also called Josiah into the ministry of political action (II Kings 22:1). As the leader of his nation, he restored the Word of God to its rightful place (II Kings 23:3-15). He rid the land of idolatry and debauchery (II Kings 23:19-24), and he made the name of the Lord great, serving Him with all his heart and soul and might (II Kings 23:25).

There can be no doubt that God also called Nehemiah into the ministry of political action (Neh. 1:1-11). He utilized his position of authority to remove the shame of his people (Neh. 2:1-20), to restore them to their proper stature (Neh. 4:1-23), and to re-establish civil integrity in the land (Neh. 13:4-28).

There can be no doubt that God called Daniel into that ministry as well (Dan.1:2-20). From his youth, God endowed him with great wisdom, deep understanding, discerning knowledge, and an ability for governmental service (Dan.1:4). He studied diligently (Dan.1:18) and demonstrated faithfulness (Dan. 1:20), so that the cause of the Kingdom and the name of the Lord were exalted throughout the land (Dan. 4:1-3).

Each of these heroes of the faith understood clearly that there was no wall of separation between God and the state. They knew that God had ordained and established civil government just as surely as He had the family and the Church. So they looked upon political action as a holy calling, a ministry, a sacred service before God.

They knew that, “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is glad shouting. By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down” (Prov.11:10-11). And that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov.14:34).

Pharisees and  Herodians:

The Pharisees in ancient Israel were a party of religious fundamentalists. The Herodians were a party of political statists. The Pharisees’ name literally meant “the separatists,”so concerned were they with remaining unstained by the world. The Herodians’ name implied a close connection with one of the most worldly, vile, and xenophobia men in all history. The Pharisees withdrew from occupations of power and influence in order to focus on “spiritual things.” The Herodians grasped for such occupations with undeterred zeal in order to focus on “earthly things.”

And yet these two parties, so diametrically opposed in every other way, became partners by their opposition to Jesus (Mk.3:6; 12:13; Matt. 22:16). Paganism makes for strange bedfellows: the Pharasaic sons of Jacob became the unwitting political accomplices of the Herodian sons of Esau (Mk.3:8).

The Pharisees opposed Jesus because they felt He had polluted the spiritual realm with such earthly cares as caring for the poor. The Herodians opposed Jesus because they felt He had polluted the earthly realm with spiritual cares, such as bringing every area of life publicly under God’s rule.

So the two parties-the pietistic escapists and the materialistic autonomist-became co-belligerents. They joined forces  to  assert a separation between God and state.

Interestingly, after nearly two millennia, the two parties still exist. And they are still joined together in opposition to the Gospel of Christ.

The party of the Pharisees is well represented by the evangelical Church, of all things. We have abandoned our God-ordained commission to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). We have abandoned our dominion mandate (Gen. 1:28) and our commission to disciple the nations (Matt.28:19-20).  Instead, we have emphasized a Pharisaic or Separatist view of piety wherein a sharp division is made between the “spiritual” and the “material.” Since we, like the Pharisees before us, consider the “spiritual” realm to be superior to the “material,” all things physical, all things temporal, all things earthly are spurned. Political action is thus left in the lands of evil-doers.
Although the Bible asserts that we are to think hard about the nature of Christian civilization (I Pet. 1:13), to try to develop Biblical alternatives to humanistic society (Matt. 18:15-20),  and to prophesy Biblically to the cultural problems of our age (Isa. 6:8), we have isolated ourselves behind the walls of a vast evangelical ghetto. We have rendered unto Caesar everything-what is Caesar’s and what is God’s.

Meanwhile, the modern day party of the Herodians is busy with its work of oppression and repression. The Herodians hold seats of power: in government, in education, in the media, in the judiciary, and in the financial world. They care nothing for the evangelical’ morality. They abhor our puritanical virtues. They chafe against our piety. They despise our nonconformity.

But, they applaud our irrelevancy. They appreciate our distraction from the things of this world. They know that as long as we separate God and state, they will continue to have a free reign. They will be able to perpetuate their slaughter of the unborn, their assault on the family, and their defamation of all things holy, all things sacred, and all things pure.

They will be able to transfer deity and rule from God to themselves, “doing what is right in their own eyes” (Judg. 20:25). In this way, these Herodians (or secular humanists, as we call them today) count the irrelevant, isolationist evangelical Church as their most trusted ally. They couldn’t do what they do without us.

Conclusion :

The second basic principle in the Biblical blueprint for political action is that God has ordained civil government, thus making it a sacred institution. It is God’s  institution.

Since it is our duty to “render unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt.22:21; Mk. 12:17; Luke 20:25), we must work diligently to render unto Him “the powers that be” (Ro. 13:1).

The Pharisees and Herodians both opposed Jesus on this matter. They both argued for a wall of separation between God and the state. The Pharisees avoided politics for fear it would pollute true religion. The Herodians avoided true religion for fear it would pollute politics. Together they saw in Jesus a real danger: the authoritative rule of God in all matters.

It should not surprise us then that the heirs of the Pharisees and Herodians should oppose Christ’s disciples today as they follow in the footsteps of Joseph, Gideon, Deborah, Samuel, David, Nehemiah, and Daniel. It should not surprise us that they are alarmed when we affirm that political action is no less a divine arena for the proving of righteousness than is the family or the Church.

Politics is dirty. But only because we have left it to the Pharisees and Herodians for so long.

Summary:

Jesus said to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25), thus affirming both the legitimacy of the state and the limitation of the state.

Because God ordains civil government, the magistrates have real authority. But at the same time, they are under authority. But more importantly, because God ordains civil government, it is a sacred institution and an honourable and holy vocational field. Christians should then view political action as a ministry as valid as any family ministry or church ministry.

A large number of the heroes of the Bible exercised their service to God in the political sphere. Those who oppose godly political involvement, like the Pharisees and the Herodians, do so on the basis of an imagined wall of separation between God and the state.

That separation simply doesn’t  exist. Our hesitation to take up the banner of the Living God shouldn’t either.

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