If you miss one part of the puzzle that is being put together in these studies, you will never see and understand the whole picture.
A publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry
(1) The Ordination and Purpose of Civil government
(3) Civil Government Failure and God’s Judgment of Nations
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Copyright © December 30, 2017
As we have seen from the last lesson, God gave man another chance to govern under God according to His precepts for His purposes. 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 quite and peaceable life and non-Christians will be free to choose God, no god, or a false god or gods since, as will be seen, separation of church and state is a biblical principle for Gentile nations.[i]
Civil government serves several purposes consistent with Bible teaching. The New Testament teaches, consistent with Old Testament teaching that we have already looked at, that one God-given purpose of Gentile civil government is to control evil.[ii]
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.
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.”[iii] 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,”[iv] 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.”[v]
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,”[vi] 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.”[vii]
A 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,[viii] but that individuals should choose to conform their wills to the will of God. As will be seen in future lessons, everyone in such a nation may choose the one true God, god, gods, or no gods at all; this will be very important as our studies take us to the History of the First Amendment, the History of Religious Freedom, in America.
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.”[ix]
The covenant God made with Noah was written to Gentile nations. Gentile nations were to always proceed 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.
[i] See 1 Ti. 2.1-6.
[ii] Ro. 13.3-4; see also, 1 Pe. 2.13-14; 1 Timothy 1.9-11.
[iii] Ge. 9.3a.
[iv] Ge. 2.15.
[v] Eidsmoe, God and Caesar, p. 8.
[vi] Ga. 3.24.
[vii] 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.
[viii] See History of the First Amendment.
[ix] Jn. 14.6.