A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.
Copyright © February 21, 2018
God ordained civil government as an earthly institution and limited its jurisdiction to certain earthly matters. God ordained His churches to be spiritual institutions and limited their jurisdiction to spiritual matters.
He desires every state to remain both under Him and within her God-given jurisdiction, but every nation that has ever existed has failed to honor God sooner or later. America herself, which was to a large degree a nation under God for much of her history, has now rejected God and His principles.
Many Christians in America have been persuaded by false interpretations of Scripture that civil government is the highest power. Many believe that civil government is led by God to do all that they do, no matter how evil. In fact, civil governments, like all other governments, insofar as they choose to operate outside the principles of God, are under the god of this world.
The unity of world power prophesied in the Bible appears to be in the making. The world is being prepared to accept the last days. At the same time that America has almost totally removed God from all civil government affairs, many Christians, largely because of a false interpretation of the Word of God, almost deify America. One would fare better in many fundamental Bible believing churches should he lash out at Jesus Christ rather than speaking ill of America. Many believers, due to an erroneous interpretation of Scripture, think that God Himself bows down to civil government.
In America, Christian misunderstanding of biblical principles concerning separation of church and state has resulted in most Bible believing churches uniting with the state by becoming 501(c)(3) tax exempt legal entities such as corporations, charitable trusts, corporation soles, or unincorporated associations. Churches have willingly placed themselves, to a great extent, under the authority, rules, procedures, and principles of civil government. As a result, most churches are to some degree earthly, not spiritual.
Many misled believers hold huge rallies, preach in their churches, and work in other ways to try to have an influence in bringing America back under God. Most of those believers are in churches which have dishonored their love relationship with their Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, by uniting with the state through the methods mentioned many times in these studies. They incorrectly apply to America, a Gentile nation, God’s admonition to the people of the nation Israel in 2 Chronicles 7.14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” God’s people today are saved individuals who are members of local churches. The correct application of 2 Chronicles 7.14 today is that if Christians and churches “shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek [God’s] face, and turn from their wicked ways; then [He] will hear from heaven, … will forgive their sin, and will heal” believers, their families, and churches.” How can God’s people hope to have any affect on their nation if they overlook the wickedness of their churches?
More appropriate for churches would be:
- “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Other appropriate verses include, e.g., John 15.19; Romans 6.16-23, 12.1-2; 1 Corinthians 6.15-17, 19-20; Galatians 1.4; Ephesians 5.14-17; Philippians 2.12-16; Colossians 2.6-8, 3.1-4, 15-17, 23-25; James 4.4-8; 1 Peter 1.13-16; 2 Peter 1.4-10; and 1 John 2.15-17.
Persecuted Christians have refused, even under penalty of torture, imprisonment, and/or death to submit churches and spiritual matters to the ungodly, usually the civil government, and/or the state-church. Christians were labeled as heretics and persecuted after some churches united with Rome under Constantine. Roger Williams, the man who established Rhode Island, the first civil government in history to honor the biblical principle of separation of church and state, wrote:
- “Scripture and all history tell us, that those Caesars were … arrogant, without God, without Christ, &c.; … [and] worshippers, or maintainers, of the Roman gods or devils; … notorious for all sorts of wickedness; … cruel and bloody lions and tigers toward the Christians for many hundred years.
- “Hence … it was impossible that he should appoint such ignorant, … idolatrous, … wicked, and … cruel persons to be his chief officers and deputy lieutenants under himself to keep the worship of God, to guard his church, his wife. No wise and loving father was ever known to put his child, no not his beasts, dogs, or swine, but unto fitting keepers.
- “Men judge it matter of high complaint, that the records of parliament, the king’s children, the Tower of London, the great seal, should be committed to unworthy keepers! And can it be, without high blasphemy, conceived that the Lord Jesus should commit his sheep, his children, yea, his spouse, his thousand shields and bucklers in the tower of his church, and lastly, his great and glorious broad seals of baptism and his supper, to be preserved pure in their administrations—I say, that the Lord Jesus, who is wisdom and faithfulness itself, should deliver these to such keepers? …
- “[W]hen the Lord appointed the government of Israel after the rejection of Saul, to establish a covenant of succession in the type unto Christ, let it be minded what pattern and precedent it pleased the Lord to set for the after kings of Israel and Judah, in David, the man after his own heart.
- “But now the Lord Jesus being come himself, and having fulfilled the former types, and dissolved the national state of the church, and established a more spiritual way of worship all the world over, and appointed a spiritual government and governors, it is well known what the Roman Caesars were, under whom both Christ Jesus himself, and his servants after him, lived and suffered; so that if the Lord Jesus had appointed any such deputies—as we find not a title to that purpose, nor have a shadow of true reason so to think—he must, I say, in the very first institution, have pitched upon such persons for these custodies utriusque tabulae, keepers of both tables, as no man wise, or faithful or loving, would have chosen in any of the former instances, or cases of a more inferior nature….” 
- “Christ never delivered His sheep or children to these wolves, his wife and spouse to such adulterers, his precious jewels to such great thieves and robbers of the world, as the Roman emperors were. Paul never appealed to Caesar as judge appointed by Christ Jesus to give definitive sentence in any spiritual or church controversy; but against the civil violence and murder which the Jews intended against him, Paul justly appealed. For otherwise, if in a spiritual cause he should have appealed, he should have overthrown his own apostleship and power given him by Christ Jesus in spiritual things, above the highest kings or emperors of the world beside….”
- “A civil magistrate may be a good subject, a good magistrate, in respect of civil or moral goodness, which thousands want; and where it is, it is commendable and beautiful, though godliness, which is infinitely more beautiful, be wanting, and which is only proper to the Christian state, the commonweal of Israel, the true church the holy nation, Ephes. ii.; 1 Pet. ii.”
Roger Williams correctly maintained that the civil power has five proper political means to attain its end:
- “First, the erecting and establishing what form of civil government may seem in wisdom most meet, according the general rules of the word, and state of the people…. The magistrate has power to publish and apply such civil laws in a state, as either are expressed in the word of God in Moses’s judicials—to wit, so far as they are of general and moral equity, and so binding all nations in all ages—to be deducted by way of general consequence and proportion from the word of God.
- “For in a free state no magistrate hath power over the bodies, goods, lands, liberties of a free people, but by their free consents. And because free men are not free lords of their own estates, but are only stewards unto God, therefore they may not give their free consents to any magistrate to dispose of their bodies, goods, lands, liberties, at large as themselves please, but as God, the sovereign Lord of all, alone. And because the word is a perfect rule, as well of righteousness as of holiness, it will be therefore necessary that neither the people give consent, nor that the magistrate take power to dispose of the bodies, goods, lands, liberties of the people, but according to the laws and rules of the word of God….
- “Secondly, the making, publishing, and establishing of wholesome civil laws, not only such as concern civil justice, but also the free passage of true religion: for outward civil peace ariseth and is maintained from them both, from the latter as well as from the former.
- “Civil peace cannot stand entire where religion is corrupted, 2 Chron. xv. 3, 5, 6; Judges viii. And yet such laws, though conversant about religion may still be counted civil laws; as on the contrary, an oath doth still remain religious, though conversant about civil matters.
- “Thirdly, election and appointment of civil officers to see execution of those laws.
- “Fourthly, civil punishments and rewards of transgressors and observers of these laws.
- “Fifthly, taking up arms against the enemies of civil peace.”
On the other hand, Mr. Williams wisely observed that:
- “the means whereby a church may and should attain her ends, are only ecclesiastical, which are chiefly five. “First, setting up that form of church government only of which Christ hath given them a pattern in his word.
- “Secondly, acknowledging and admitting of no lawgiver in the church but Christ, and the publishing of his laws.
- “Thirdly, electing and ordaining of such officers only as Christ hath appointed in his word.
- “Fourthly, to receive into their fellowship them that are approved, and inflicting spiritual censures against them that offend.
- “Fifthly, prayer and patience in suffering any evil from them that be without, who disturb their peace.
- “So that magistrates … have no power of setting up the form of church government, electing church officers, punish-ing with church censures…. And on the other side … churches, have no power, though as members of the common-weal they may have power, of erecting or altering forms of civil government, electing of civil officers, inflicting civil punishments—no, not on persons excommunicated—as by deposing magistrates from their civil authority, or withdrawing the hearts of the people against them, to their laws, no more than to discharge wives, or children, or servants, from due obedience to their husbands, parents, or masters: or by taking up arms against their magistrates, though they persecute them for conscience; for though members of churches, who are public officers, also of the civil state, may suppress by force the violence of usurpers, as Jehoiada did Athaliah, yet this they do not as members of the church, but as officers of the civil state.”
The failure of churches to honor God is far worse than the failure of civil government to honor God. One expects civil government, made up mostly of unregenerate people who cannot understand or honor God’s Word, to dishonor God; but it is vexing to see God’s people follow the principles of the god of this world. How our Savior must be grieved to see His Holy Word being perverted to condone union of His bride and wife with civil government.
- Click here to go to the written lessons.
- Click here to go to the 3 1/2 to 6 minute video lectures.
- Click here to go to the booklet, Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses.
- For accompanying study from Render Unto God the Things that Are His click here.
 See God Betrayed for an explanation of biblical principles concerning government, church, separation of church and state as well as the American application of those principles. See, especially, Section II, Chapters 2 and 3 and Section III, Chapter 3 for insights into the differences between church and state, the spiritual nature of churches and the earthly nature of nations.
 2 Co. 6.14-18.
 Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), pp. 204-205.
 Ibid., p. 209.
 Ibid., p. 212.
 Ibid., pp. 212-213. See pp. 219-223 concerning the power of the magistrate in making laws.
 Ibid., pp. 213-214.