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Biblical Teaching on Civil Government


Jerald Finney
Copyright © May 14, 2011


Click here to go to “Self-exam Questions: Biblical Teaching on Civil Government”


Preface

The material for this article is from Section I, Chapter 5 of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. The Endnote has more information on this and other books by Jerald Finney. The complete book will be reproduced in these articles, and the audio teachings on this blog also cover the book in abbreviated form.


Biblical Teaching on Civil government

dispensation_3a

In spite of conscience and the restraint of the Holy Spirit, what happened without civil government? Very soon after the fall,

5“GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart…. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” After the flood, “[T]he LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Ge. 6.5-7, 12-13; 8.21).

When man, operating in an economy of God, has totally failed in his responsibilities under God, the only remedy is God’s judgment. Therefore, at that point God exercised His only option, judged man, and for the first time, in the Noahic Covenant, gave man the responsibility for ruling over man for Him and under Him—God ordained human or civil government. God initiated the Dispensation of Human Government. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Ro. 13.1b,c). He did so at the flood: He declared:

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Ge. 9.5-6).

“God gave man the right to take the life of a man, which in the very nature of the case gave man the authority to govern others. Unless [civil] government has the right to the highest form of punishment, its basic authority is questionable and insufficient to protect properly those it governs” (Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 53).

Although the Bible did not, in those verses in which God first established civil government, call the institution which He ordained at that point civil government, that is what it was. It was the first time God ordained that man was to exercise authority, direction, or control over man. In addition to conscience and the restraint of the Holy Spirit, God instituted civil government. He ordained civil government to secure for man a temporal good—the protection of mankind from violence while on the earth. Only God had the power to prevent civil government, and only God had the power to institute civil government. It was apparent, in context, that He desired man to operate civil government under Him, according to His rules.

He ordained civil government for the earthly benefit of man—to control evil—as is contextually apparent: Before the flood:

kjv_genesis_6-5“… God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination2 of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them: and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Ge. 6.5, 12-13).

“[A]nd the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Ge. 8.21).

Mankind was so utterly corrupt that the only solution was for God to destroy every man, woman, and child, except the one righteous family. This total corruption of mankind, except for Noah and1 his family, had occurred in a relatively short period of time after Adam and Eve had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. At the same time that God judged man by the flood, He ordained civil government, in order to control the violence that resulted from the wickedness of man, to secure for mankind as a whole a temporal good. Some leaders have realized this. Alexander Hamilton asked and answered his own question:

“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint” (M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom (Washington, D.C.: Regency Publishing, 1994), p. 193 cited in William P. Grady, What Hath God Wrought? (Knoxville, TN: Grady Publications, Inc. 1999), p. 72).

Civil government was established within the covenant God made with Noah. “The elements of the Noahic Covenant are:

“(1) The relation of man to the earth under the Adamic Covenant is confirmed (Gen. 8.21).
“(2) The order of nature is confirmed (Gen. 8.22).
“(3) Human government is established (Gen. 9.1-6).
“(4) Earth is secured against another universal judgment by water (Gen. 8.21; 9.11).Gen 9-13
“(5) A prophetic declaration is made that from Ham will descend an inferior and servile posterity (Gen. 9.24, 25). (Pastor Joey Faust says of this portion of Scofield’s note: “Scofield’s old note missed the fact that the curse of being servile was on Canaan (only one branch of Ham’s seed). This is why Canaan was dominated by Israel. But the first kingdoms of the world were all Hamite (Nimrod, Egypt, etc.), until Nebuchadnezzar (Semite) began to rule the world. All subsequent powers were Japhethetic.
“I do not think it would serve any purpose to try to make the curse of servitude to be on all of Ham’s seed. This was the error of some postmil preachers in the Southern states. I have two lengthy articles on the southern states, and how they saw the South as the New Canaan, and the actual Kingdom of God. These quotes are online at http://www.kingdombaptist.org under Baptist history, etc.”).
“(6) A prophetic declaration is made that Shem will have a peculiar relation to Jehovah (Gen. 9.26, 27). All divine revelation is through Semitic men, and Christ, after the flesh, descends from Shem.
“(7) A prophetic declaration is made that from Japheth will descend the ‘enlarged’ races (Gen. 9.27). Government, science, and art, speaking broadly, are and have been Japhetic, so that history is the indisputable record of the exact fulfillment of these declarations” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Genesis 9.1, p. 16).

God ordered man to multiply and populate the earth: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Ge. 9.1).

Noah ShamedWould man obey God on the basis of conscience, the restraint of the Holy Spirit, and human government? Man almost immediately failed to govern under God—Noah became drunk and incapable of ruling. Furthermore, Noah’s descendants rebelled against God’s command to populate the whole earth. The pattern has continued with every nation that has ever or will ever exist until Christ returns. The covenant God made with Noah was to continue: It was to be an “everlasting covenant”  (Ge. 9.12) for “perpetual generations” (Ge. 9.16). Thus, the covenant is in effect today.

Shortly after the flood, God divided the world into nations: “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Ge. 10.5). God probably did this because if all worldly government were concentrated in one world government, the potential for evil would be unlimited:

“Rulers are sinful and given too much authority can become oppressive tyrants. Nations check each other’s power. A one-world government would have no check on its power. No one could check violations on legal limitations and guarantees. World government has the potential for world tyranny” (John Eidsmoe, God and Caesar: Biblical Faith and Political Action. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stack Publishers, 1997), p. 210).

“The people, instead of obeying God’s command to scatter and fill the earth, conceived the idea of1staying together and building the tower of Babel to achieve their aim. Fellowship with man replaced fellowship with God” (Ryrie, p. 53). Soon after this division into nations, mankind attempted to build the world’s first “United Nations” building. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Ge. 11.4). This is what was wrong with their attempt:

“It was a picture of salvation by works, Tower_of_Babel 3reaching heaven by one’s own efforts; one of its probable purposes was astrology or Satan worship, as with the ziggurat towers in ancient Babylonia; it was based on pride and self-exaltation. In addition, its purpose was to keep the people together in a one-world government instead of spreading them out into national entities as God had intended. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing shortly after the time of Christ, says:
‘Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God…. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny—seeing no other way of turning them from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his power. He also said … that he would build the tower too high for the waters to be able to reach and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers….’

“As we can read in Genesis 11.5-9, God frustrated the building of the tower by causing the people to speak different languages. God then reaffirmed nationalism: ‘And from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth’ (Genesis 11.9). God further reaffirms nationalism in Deuteronomy 32.9 and Acts 17.26. National entities will continue even during Christ’s millennial rule on earth (Isaiah 2.4; 66.18; Revelation 12.5; 20.3, 8), and perhaps even in heaven (Revelation 21.24, 26)” (Eidsmoe, God and Caesar, pp. 210-212, citing The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1974), p. 30).

Thus, God again judged man for his failure to keep His command to populate the whole earth. God confused their language. Since they could no longer speak the same language, the builders could no longer understand one another. They separated and relocated to different parts of the earth. They began to populate the entire earth.

The New Testament teaches that one God-given purpose of Gentile civil government is to control evil:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Ro. 13.3-4; see also, 1 Pe. 2.13-14).

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers or fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Ti. 1.9-11).

A second purpose can be inferred from an admonition of Paul to Timothy—to organize society under God, that is according to God’s principles:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Ti. 2.1-6).

For example, an application of God’s principles in civil law would be laws regulating hunting. In the Noahic covenant, mankind is told: “Every living thing that liveth shall be food for you” (Ge. 9.3a). Thus, God gave man the authority to hunt animals, but not the “right to engage in mass and wanton slaughter of the animal kingdom.” On the other hand, God placed man in the Garden of Eden to “dress it and keep it” (Ge. 2.15), not to destroy it. “So God requires man to exercise wise stewardship in his use of the animal kingdom and of natural resources in general” (Eidsmoe, God and Caesar, p. 8). God wants every Gentile nation to choose to operate under Him—that is, under His principles as given in His Word. If a nation will do that, Christians will live a quiet and peaceable life and non-Christians will be free to choose God, no god, or false gods or gods since, as will be seen in later articles (See also, Section III of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application), separation of church and state is a biblical principle for Gentile nations.

A third, and the most important purpose of civil government is to teach. Just as “[t]he law is a “schoolmaster” to bring us unto Christ” (Ga. 3.24) a nation, by its laws, teaches. The laws of a nation, as do God’s laws, have a didactic effect; that is, they teach. Lawrence McGarvie observed:

“American law tended to operate as if it had a life of its own, shaping society to conform to legal values by directing the actions of individuals. Recognizing law’s relative autonomy, scholars such as Michael Grossberg, Christopher Tomlins, and Mark Tushnet contend that law acted to infuse the new society—including the judges—with a system of rules and principles derived from liberal ideology. Many authors have noted the incremental pace of legal change. Law’s structural dependence on the Constitution, common-law precedent, and the procedural dictates of pleading recognizable legal arguments mitigated any societal tendencies toward rapid transformation. Instrumentalism, as a theory of understanding law, fails to fully appreciate its institutional inertia, the multiplicity of forces involved in its creation, and its hegemonic role as a relatively autonomous body of values, beliefs, and doctrine that provides the means of ‘discourse’ in a nation of law” (Mark Douglas McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), p. 12).

aA nation under God will base its law upon biblical principles and such a civil government teaches its citizens the biblical principle that they have freedom of conscience (See Section III of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application), but that individuals should choose to conform their wills to the will of God. Everyone in such a nation may choose the one true God, god, gods, or no gods at all. If under God, a nation teaches and points to truth, including the ultimate truth that Jesus stated: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14.6). This is why it is important, for example, that government leaders, officials, and others pray in no other name than the name of Jesus. On the other hand, a nation which is not under God teaches the principles of Satan, the god of this world. A civil government not under God will allow or require official government prayers in the name of any god, no god at all, and perhaps also in the name of Jesus.

The Noahic Covenant was written to Gentile nations. Gentile nations were to always proceed15 under God’s original plan for civil government. Later, as will be shown, God called out a nation, Israel, for specific purposes applicable only to that one nation. Israel was to operate as a theocracy directly under God. Israel was to be the center of God’s dealings with nations. God’s treatment of every Gentile nation depended and depends upon that nation’s treatment of Israel.

Thus, the Bible teaches that God can prevent man from setting up civil government, and He can ordain civil government.  He is the Highest Power. At the same time, because God has given man free will, God does not force civil government to operate under Him and within the sphere of its God-given authority. Regardless, all other powers, including all other governments and civil government officials and leaders are under the Supreme Government and subject to His rules. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Ro. 12.1).

All that God showed man as recorded in the Old Testament failed to convince mankind, excluding a remnant, that God was who He claimed to be, that His rules and principles could not be changed, that judgment falls upon individuals and institutions which do not operate according to His principles. As Isaac Backus observed: “Yet all this [all that God had done in the Garden of Eden, the flood, the ordaining of civil government] did not remove the dreadful distemper from man’s nature, for the great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another while the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Backus, Isaac. “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty,” Boston 1773, an essay found in Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism, Pamphlets, 1754-1789, Edited by William G. McLoughlin. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968, p. 310, citing Ge. 4.19; 6.13, 15; 8.21).  “So that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually” (Ibid., pp. 310-311).

Having ordained civil government, God desires nations to know Him, to operate under Him according to His principles, and to glorify Him. This is clearly taught in the Word of God. That will be the subject of the next article.

Endnote

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only); (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only); (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

Introduction: The Biblical Teaching on and Doctrine of “Government”


Jerald Finney
Copyright © March 3, 2011


Click here to go to Self-exam Questions: Introduction to the Biblical Doctrine of Government”


Left click the following for links to all chapters (articles): The Biblical Doctrine of Government 


Preface to articles on the biblical principles of “government”

In God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application the author systematically examined the issue of separation of church and state (see En1 for links to preview God Betrayed online and links to sites where that and other books by Jerald Finney and others can be ordered). In Part One of God Betrayed, he analyzed the biblical principles of government (Section I), church (Section II), and separation of church and state (Section III). In Part Two he analyzed the history of religious freedom in America (Section IV), Supreme Court religion clause jurisprudence which has removed God from practically all civil government affairs (separated God and His principles from state or civil government) while still upholding the separation of church and state provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Section V), and union of church and state and how a church in America can both remain under God only (choose not to be become a corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization or any other type of legal entity or religious organization) and also operate within the civil law, thus not only retaining her protection afforded by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as by state constitutions and laws but also, and more importantly, her New Testament church status as ordained by God (Section VI).

The author is now following the outline of God Betrayed in his present series of articles on this “Separation of Church and State” blog. He has already finished his series on the biblical principles of “church” (see column at left). The introduction below lays the foundation for and summarizes what will be published in future articles on the topic of the biblical doctrine of “government” in much more detail. The author plans to publish the complete study he did in God Betrayed on this website.

The purpose is to glorify God by publishing God’s truth concerning the issue of separation of church and state and applying that truth to reality.

Introduction to articles on the biblical principles of “government”

Nothing is more crucial to our concept of faith than a proper understanding of the nature of God. God is the Sovereign of the universe. He is not a glorified Santa Clause or a puppet controlled by our faith or whim as some “Christian” churches depict Him. Regardless of the willing subjection of some churches to civil government through incorporation, 26 United States Code § 501(c)(3), or in any other manner, God remains the Supreme Ruler, the Highest Power as recognized by churches in many nations whose members are imprisoned, tortured, and/or murdered for their faith and their refusal to submit to ungodly civil government and by churches in America who can and do choose to remain under God only while protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as by state constitutional provisions and laws. The government of God is supreme and over all other governments. He ordained and rules over all other governments (See, e.g., Ro. 13.1b,c). “Ordain” means “to establish or order by appointment, decree, or law” (WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 818 (10th ed. 1995)).

God teaches in many ways, throughout the Bible, that He is the Supreme Ruler and His is the Higher and Highest Power. “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the Jesus King of Kingsworld, and they that dwell therein…” (Ps. 24.1). John the Baptist understood the supreme rulership of God; speaking of Jesus Christ he said, “He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all” (Jn. 3.31).

 “As ‘possessor of heaven and earth,’ the most high God has and exercises [supreme] authority in both spheres: (a) The heavenly authority of El Elyon (e.g., Da. 4.35: [‘And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?’]; Isa. 14.13-17 [Satan tried to usurp God’s throne, but God threw him out of heaven and he will be thrown into hell.]; Mt. 28.18 [‘And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.’]; (b) the earthly authority of El Elyon (e.g. De. 32.8 [‘When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.’]; Ps. 9.2-5 [‘I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to  thy name, O thou most  High….’]; 21.7 [‘For the king trusteth in the LORD, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.’]; 47.2-4 [‘For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth….’]; 56.2, 3 [‘Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.’]; 82.6, 8 [‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.’]; 83.6, 7, 16-18 [‘… That men may know that thou, whose name is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.’]; 91.9-12 [‘Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation….]; 2 Sa. 22.14, 15 [‘The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice….’]; Da. 5.18 [‘O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour[.]’)” [Bold emphasis mine.] (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Genesis 23.18, p. 23).

 “That God is supreme, the Highest Power, is revealed in the Old Testament through[, among other things,] His names. A study of God’s supremacy as revealed in His names is, of course, beyond the scope of this article, but one commentary gives a very good summary as follows:

         Class                                           English form                                       Hebrew equivalent
Primary                                                  God                                                     El, Elah, or Elohim (Gen. 1.1, note)
                                                                LORD                                                  Jehovah (Gen.2.4, note)
                                                                 Lord                                                   Adon or Adonai (Gen. 15.2, note)

Compound (with El= God)                 Almighty God                                    El Shaddai (Gen. 17.1 note)
                                                               Most High, or                                      El Elyon (Gen. 14.18, note)
                                                                most high God                                  
                                                                everlasting God                                  El Olam (Gen. 21.33, note)

Compound(with                                      LORD God                                        Jehovah Elohim (Gen. 2.7, note)
Jehovah = LORD)                                   Lord God                                          Adonai Jehovah (Gen. 15.2, note)
                                                                  LORD of hosts                                   Jehovah Sabaoth (1 Sam. 1.3, note)

God names of 2“This revelation of God by His names is invariably made in connection with some particular need of His people, and there can be no need of man to which these names do not answer as showing that man’s true resource is in God. Even human failure and sin but evoke new and fuller revelations of the divine fullness.
“The [Old Testament] reveal[s] the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator of the universe and of man, the Source of all life and intelligence who is to be worshipped and served by men and angels…” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Malachi 3.18, p. 983).

As the Supreme Ruler, He has decreed that men may choose to be guided by His principles or not. Just as man’s laws which, for example, place a speed limit on the highway or forbid people from driving while intoxicated do not and cannot keep people from violating those laws because people decide whether to obey them or not, God cannot force men to comply with His laws since He has given every government—self-government, family government, civil government, and church government—freedom of choice or free will. (See En2 for comments upon this most important matter of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man).  However, choices are met by either blessings or judgment. In the final analysis He will either reward or judge all governments according to the degree they abide by His will.

The first government established by God was self-government. Every person exercises self-government, and decides whether he or she will receive the only true and eternal hope which is provided by God, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, as Savior. En3. Since only some will do so, only those institutions which are composed of Christians—born again believers who also follow the principles of Christ—or which are dominated by Christians, have any hope of receiving the blessings of God.

After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and man knew “good and evil,” God established family government. Every person within a family, in exercising self-government, chooses whether to submit to God’s guidelines concerning family government.

The next type of government ordained by God was human government or civil government. God ordained civil government at the time of the great flood.  For the first time, He gave man the Noah the floodresponsibility of ruling the world for God. Relatively quickly after Cain killed Abel, all mankind except Noah and his family, guided only by conscience (knowledge of good and evil or an awareness of right and wrong) had become totally corrupted. Civil government provided further control over the evil nature of man.

Some time after ordaining civil government, He called out Abraham to be the father of Israel. Israel was established as a theocracy. All other nations were non-theocratic and were and are called “Gentile.” God established Israel to be directly under Him for specific purposes. Israel was to be the only theocracy that God has ever ordained. The Gentile nations can only look to Israel to see that God is who He claims to be, but God still desires every nation to choose to honor Him and His principles.

The Word of God teaches us that no civil government, Jew or Gentile, since it is made up of sinful men, will, before the return of Christ, ever follow the principles of God for any significant period of time. That both Israel and the Gentiles have governed for self, not God, is apparent.  Therefore, every civil government that has ever existed or which willJesus christcomingwithhisarmyofsaints ever come about prior to the return of the Lord will be judged by God. God used a Gentile nation to take Israel into captivity, and He has already judged and is judging many Gentile nations. The Lord will return and crush the Gentile world-powers existing at the time of His return which, led by the beast and false prophet, will come and besiege Israel (Re. 19.19). The nation Israel will then be restored to the land which God gave them according to his covenant with them (Many verses in the Bible verify this. Here are a few: Is. 11.11-16; 14.1-8; 27.12-13; 43; 45.17; 48; 49.8-21; 51; 52; 54; 61.3-62; 65.17-66.24; Je. 16.14-16; 23.3-8; 24.6; 30.8-11, 16-24; 31; 32.37-44; 46.27; 50.19-20; Ez. 11.17-21; 16.60-63; 28.25-26; 34.11-31; 36; 37.21-25; 37; 39.25-29; Ho. 2.14-23; Joel 3; Am. 9.13-15; Mi. 4.6-8; Zep. 3.4-20; Zec. 10; Ac. 1.6-7; Ro. 11.25-27). God will do this for His “holy name’s sake, which [Israel had] profaned among the heathen…” (Ez. 36.22-23, 32).  Then Satan will be cast “into the bottomless pit, that he might deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” (Re. 20.1-3), the nations shall be judged (Mt. 25.32-46), and God’s kingdom will be set up (Da. 2. 34-36, 44).

Thus, a believer can understand that the word “government” does not apply only to “civil government.” It is tragic that America has been so successful in indoctrinating its citizens to believe that the only government is civil government. This is against the desires of God who wishes all people to know that He is the Supreme Ruler, that His is the supreme government and that He has ordained various types of government each with its own God-given purposes and limitations.

Today’s America has redefined “government.” Most Americans now believe that all direction and control should come from civil government. For example, many now blame civil government when their child rebels, fails to get an education, becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, etc. The modern Webster’s Dictionary defines “government” entirely differently than did the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary which to a large degree still honored biblical teaching:

“government … n…. 1 : the act or process of governing; specific authoritative direction or control 2 obs : moral conduct or behavior : DISCRETION 3 a : the office, authority, or function of governing  b obs the term during which a governing official holds office  4 : the continuous exercise of authority over and the performance of functions for a political unit RULE 5 a : the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usu. classified according to the distribution of power within it b : the complex of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out  6 : the body of persons that constitutes the governing authority of a political unit or organization: as a  the officials comprising the governing body of a political unit and constituting the organization as an active agency b cap : the executive branch of the U.S. federal government c cap : a small group of persons holding simultaneously the principal political executive offices of a nation or other political unit and being responsible for the direction and supervision of public affairs:  (1) such a group in a parliamentary system constituted by the cabinet or by the ministry” (MERRIAM WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 504 (10th ed. 1995)).

The modern definition quoted above suggests civil government in every definition and the one definition which does not, “moral conduct or behavior,” is noted as being “obsolete.”

In the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, definitions of “government” went beyond civil government:

“GOVERNMENT, n. Direction; regulation. These precepts will serve for the government of our conduct.
“2. Control; restraint. Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.
“3. The exercise of authority; direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies or states; the administration of public affairs, according to established constitution, laws and usages, or by arbitrary edicts. . . .
“4. The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents. “Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate. Kollock.
“5. The system of polity in a state; that form of fundamental rules and principles by which a nation or state is governed, or by which individual members of a body politic are to regulate their social actions; a constitution, either written or unwritten, by which the rights and duties of citizens and public officers are prescribed and defined; as a monarchial government, or a republican government….
“6. An empire, kingdom or state; any territory over which the right of sovereignty is extended.
“7. The right of governing or administering the laws….
“8. The person or persons which administer the laws of a kingdom or state; executive power.
“9. Manageableness; compliance; obsequiousness…. Shak.” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828)).

The older definition recognized the biblical teaching that God did not intend civil government to be an all-seeing, all-defining, all-controlling, all-directing eye; and that God Himself, as the Supreme Authority, has given churches, individuals, parents, and authorities, in addition to civil government, rules and boundaries by which to govern themselves and others without the control of the civil government, except for violations of certain moral laws. God was able to do this because His is the Supreme Government, over all other governments. He is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Re. 19.16).

Those who believe in the supremacy of civil government have not thought out the consequences of their belief. For example, as John Eidsmoe points out:Humanism

“[the humanist] would deny that government derives its authority from God. But in doing this, he also denies the source of government’s limitations and the source of human rights. If government does not depend upon God and his law for its authority, it is not bound to respect the limits God has placed on its authority, and it becomes a monster unleashed to do whatever it pleases. Under this concept there can be no such thing as an unjust law, for there is no higher standard by which man’s law can be judged. If government has said they are just; government becomes the arbiter of right and wrong as well as of legality.
“That is why humanists, when they try to destroy the biblical foundations of government (in the name of liberty yet!), end up creating a tyranny far worse than even they ever imagined. The very word tyranny, in its early Greek root tyrannos, means ‘one who rules without the sanction of religious law.’
“[A statement of William Penn] summarized it well…, ‘Men must choose to be governed by God or condemn themselves to be governed by tyrants.’” (John Eidsmoe, God and Caesar: Biblical Faith and Political Action (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stack Publishers, 1997) p. 35).

The reader should keep in mind all governments: first, God’s Supreme Government, then the other governments which God has ordained—self-government, family government, civil government, and church government. Biblical principles of governments other than church government are dealt with in a series of articles already published on this site (see categories at left); and biblical principles of individual, family, and civil government are dealt with in this series. God laid down the boundaries of the authority of each type of government and the principles by which every government should conduct its affairs. He will hold every government responsible for the choices it makes. The reader should also keep in mind that the God-given goal for all governments is the glory of God, not the happiness of man. Joy is a side effect of “loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Endnotes

En1. God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from amazon.com at the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only); (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only); (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

En 2. In the colonial period, Isaac Backus recorded that “How to reconcile divine sovereignty with human liberty, and efficacious grace with the use of means for conversion were also questions that they had long and tedious debates upon.”  See Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 2, p. 239.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee has stated on his “Thru the Bible” radio program that no matter what one argues, it cannot be denied that both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are in Scripture. God in His sovereignty has allowed man choices because without choices love is impossible. That is, love requires choices. God wants our love. One can force a man to marry a woman with a shotgun, but that man does not love the woman if he has to be forced to marry her.

God foreknows everything that will happen, but foreknowledge does not mean control.

Pastor Joey Faust commented upon the paradox of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man: “God is able to ‘control men’ (Prov. 21.1); yet He is so powerful and sovereign that He alone can control men without infringing on man’s free will! We do not understand with our limited minds (Rom. 11.33-36) how God can control, and yet do so without interrupting man’s responsibility. Therefore, I believe in absolute free will that will be punished or rewarded. But I also believe that God is somehow able to work through man’s free will in His perfect plan. We see this in the Jews who crucified the Lord. Peter says they were wicked to do so (wickedness requires free will); yet it was also ordained by God. We see this also in Samson who rebelled against his parents, but it was said to be of the Lord. There are many other examples.

Pastor Faust teaches: “The Calvinist Postmillennialists will seize on [the] statement that ‘God cannot force men to comply with His ordinances since He has given every government—self-government, family government, civil government, and church government—freedom of choice,’ and imply that God has left all nations, and thus the whole world, under the whims of their free will. They will point out that God sets limits and boundaries. I am no Calvinist; but I do believe in a paradox beyond our comprehension. Most Calvinists advocate sovereignty and make free-will a dirty word. Some who deny Calvinism go to another extreme. For example, the Jewish radio host, Dennis Prager, argues that if some tragedy takes place, it is because God was too weak to stop it. He says this is the only way to make God good. Calvinists decry this view of Divine weakness (and rightly so). The biblical balance is beyond our comprehension.”

En3. Jesus said, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6.40.