Scriptural Principles on the Nature of Human Government

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governmentThere are two tendencies when it comes to discussing the nature and purpose of government in society. Some view the government as an encroachment on the natural liberties of the people. According to this view, human government is inherently oppressive. The less of it we have in society the better. On the other hand, we have those who view the state as a sort of Messiah. The state is to reform society and create heaven on earth. Government is expected to regulate all spheres of society – education, business, industry, the family – in short, take charge and ensure the complete wellbeing of its citizens. The hope of society lies in who wields political power at any given time.

But how should a Christian think about this important institution? We are called by Christ to a radical mind renewal. And this involves allowing God’s revelation to guide our view of everything, including Government. I think the *10 principles below are helpful in this regard.

  1. God is the true sovereign; he ordained all human government for the good of man, whom he made in his image (Ps. 22:28; Rom. 13:1, 3-4; Gen. 1:27).
  2. Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations into the light of his Word (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 21:23-24).
  3. He disciplines the nations according to their deeds (Jer. 18:7-10; Jer. 5:28-29).
  4. He also disciplines their rulers (Dan. 2:20-21; Jer. 25:12; Dan. 4:27).
  5. In general, disobedience to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only obedience but honor (Rom. 13:1-2, 7).
  6. But there are exceptions: Any governmental edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed (Acts 5:29; Dan. 3:18; Ex. 1:17, 20-21).
  7. The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintenance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed (1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Isa. 10:1-2).
  8. In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never deliberately to take the life of the innocent (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4).
  9. Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this can be done only by the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:22-25).
  10. Moreover, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due to the state, the church is never to be identified with it (John 18:33-36; Acts 20:28).

*These principles were sourced from the website of The Gospel Coalition and can be found here.

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