By Angela Wittman
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. – Hosea 4:6
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)
Understanding Biblical Doctrine, Lesson XVI, “Christian Citizenship”
Romans 13:1 “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.”
I. The Biblical View of Government
A. Man’s need for civil government stems from the fact that God created him with the ability to live in an orderly society (Genesis 1:28 — And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth).
What authority is God conveying to Adam here?
B. All exisiting governments receive their right to rule from God (Rom. 13:1).
What government (power) did Paul live under?
How does he say it received its authority?
Could the government of Paul’s day be considered as a Chrisitian form of civil government?
C. Since the fall, government has become necessary to:
1. restrain evil. Rom. 13: 3a – “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?”
What is the role of rulers toward those who do evil?
2. protect and reward the innocent. Rom. 13: 3b – “do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same”
What is the result of our doing good?
3. punish evil-doers.
Rom. 13:4 – “For he is the 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 the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
What is the ruler as a “minister of God” to do to law-breakers?
D. The governments of men are under the sovereign control of God through Jesus Christ, the ruler and judge of Nations.
1. Dan. 4: 37 – “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
What lesson does God teach proud Nebuchadnezzar?
2. Matthew 28:18 - “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
What is Jesus claiming here?
3. Ephesians 1:22 - “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,”
a. What does Paul state about Jesus here?
b. Is this to be in the future only?
c. Does this include the governments of men?
d. Who are the beneficiaries of Christ’s kingly rule?
E. Men in government are responsible to God for the way they discharge their duties: the moral law of God should be the basis of civil law.
(II Chron. 19:6,7) And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.
1. For whom do rulers (judges) carry out their duty?
2. Does God have any part in legal decisions?
3. What characteristic is given as necessary for a good ruler?
4. What 3 reasons are given why God’s judgements (His Word) are to be the basis of civil law?
F. No particular form of government is set down exclusively by Scripture, but all civil authorities are summoned to recognize the authority of Christ as King.
1. Psalm 2:10-12 “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
a. To whom are these verses directed?
b. What are they required to do?
c. What is the result of rejecting Christ’s rule?
2. Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
What is the key to blessing for a nation?
3. Psalm 132:12″If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. ”
What is required of a ruler here?
G. A government cannot justly require of its citizens anything that is contrary to divine law or compromises the citizen’s prime loyalty to Christ.
1. Acts 4:13-20 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
a. What had Peter and John been doing?
b. How did the Jewish government act?
c. How do Peter and John respond?
2. Acts 5: 17-29
“Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told, Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
a. Why are the apostles imprisoned?
b. What does the angel of the Lord do for the apostles?
c. What does he tell the freed prisoners to do?
d. How does Peter defend himself before the council (Sanhedrin)?
3. Daniel 6:13 “Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. “
a. What does Daniel refuse to do?
b. Why does he refuse to conform to this civil law?
c. Does he attempt actively to overthrow the government because of its sinful laws?
H. Even when a government is unwilling to recognize Christ and passes unjust laws, such a government is still under God and we must render submission to it in so long as we do not personally compromise our faith.
1. Matthew 22: 17-22 “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
a. What is the context of what Jesus says here?
b. What does it mean to “render unto Caeser the things that are Caeser’s?”
2. I Peter 2:13,14 “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
a. What is required here?
b. What is the reason for this submission?
c. Are there any exceptions? ( Acts 5:29 – “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”)
II. The Church and State Compared: TWO Spheres of Authority
Ordained by God for His glory.
Governed by Christ.
Subject to God’s law.
Elects its own leaders.
Deals with the spiritual welfare of all men under it’s rule.
Independent of State, but under Christ.
Ordained by God for His glory.
Governed by Christ.
Subject to God’s law.
Elects its own leaders.
Deals with the physical welfare of all men under its rule.
Independent of Church, but under Christ.
Please note that this is a reblog of an earlier post at “For Christ’s Crown & Covenant” .
When receiving this lesson: I was part of a Bible study that had begun as a possible OPC church plant in my local community. When we found there was not enough local interest in the OPC, we continued the study under the leadership of Pastor Ray Morton of the Sparta (Illinois) Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA). I do not know the author of the study, but I believe the principles presented are historically Christian and Biblically sound. If anyone has any additional information on this study or the author, please contact me. Thanks!