It is not enough to have “conservative” rulers who merely follow after the traditions of men. Christians should be working for Christian leaders whose lives are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and who seek to make the Word of God the law of the land. Moreover, Christians must preach the whole counsel of God to all men—especially to civil rulers, to whom much has been given and of whom much will be required. . . .
(Editor’s Note: This is from the author’s Ruler of the Nations. For much more on a Biblical blueprint for politics and government, Download your FREE copy of Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government.)
Supporting Godly Leadership
The people have the responsibility to support godly leadership. Moses chose leaders who had already come through the ranks of family, business, and community leadership: “Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deuteronomy 1:13). The responsibility for choosing godly leaders rested with the people. Moses then chose from those presented to him as worthy leaders: “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands, and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes” (1:15). Judges were chosen with the same ethical and experiential considerations (1:16, 17).
In time, however, Israel rejected this procedure and chose a different standard for determining leadership. An autonomous (autos = self; nomos = law) choice was made. The people wanted a king “like all the nations,” someone who would meet their needs rather than God’s requirements (1 Samuel 8:5). They rejected Biblical law and voted for the “Law of the Nations,” a distorted law that put man at the center of law-making. God warned them that such an allegiance would bring only tyranny, despotism, and eventual slavery (vv. 10-18). The rejection of Biblical law resulted in the State determining what is right and wrong. Long-term, the State is the law. All those who reject the king’s law are either killed or enslaved (1 Kings 12:6-15).
Today, Christians have the freedom and duty to vote for responsible leadership using the standard of God’s law as the measuring device for their political choice: “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down” (Proverbs 11:11). There is a direct relationship between those who rule and the condition of the nation: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). The people chose a “king like all the nations.” God gave them what they wanted. Christians who refuse to vote, for whatever reason, are getting what their non-vote brings.
Qualified to Lead
The qualifications for leadership are ethical and practical, that is, they are to have some leadership experience in the family, church, school, or business world. Rulers must be “men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain” (Exodus 18:21). The standard by which they are to rule is not to be their own, and no amount of monetary and political gain will move them from their allegiance to God and His Word. They are to “fear God.” This is the ethical dimension.
The apostle Paul builds on these principles when he sets forth the qualifications of leadership in the church. Ethical considerations abound. Self-government must first be manifested in a potential leader. Leaders must be able to control their own appetites (1 Timothy 3:1-7); that is, they must be self-disciplined in all their affairs. Paul draws on the Old Testament system of government that applied to both church and State, and he carries these principles to the New Testament people of God.
In addition to ethical qualifications, there are practical considerations as well. The ethical leads to the practical. (For example, how does a voter know whether a political candidate reflects biblical moral behavior? “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). We should see their ethics worked out in everyday situations. Ethics, then, must be made visible. A voter should not simply trust a politician’s position on an issue. His voting record and his lifestyle should be open for all to see.)1 The individual who is scrupulous in personal, family, and business affairs will gain positions of leadership where experience is cultivated. Those who are faithful in small things (an ethical evaluation) will be entrusted with greater responsibilities (a practical result) (Matthew 25:23). This is why the young are discouraged from holding positions of authority without some supervision or accountability. New converts are susceptible to conceit because they have not gained the needed maturity to work out the implications of their new faith in Christ (1 Timothy 3:6).
Jethro’s advice to Moses suggests that “able men” must rule (Exodus 18:21). Ability is cultivated through time as the Word of God is applied to life’s situations. Of course, there are rare exceptions to this general rule. Timothy is told, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness . . .” (1 Timothy 4:12). Instead, he is to conduct himself in a way that reflects his faith in ethical terms. His life (ethical behavior) is to be an example (practical behavior) for others to imitate.
Civil leadership, like ecclesiastical leadership, is designed to be ministerial. Those in authority must follow the pattern of God as ministers rather than attempt to define the role of governmental leadership in terms of how others rule (Luke 22:24-30; cf. 1 Samuel 8:5).
The seventh basic principle in the Biblical blueprint for civil government is that those who rule in the civil sphere are God’s servants. Those under their jurisdiction must serve the civil government faithfully, to the extent that the government is serving God faithfully by enforcing God’s law. Faithful service upward is sup posed to insure faithful service from subordinates.
Civil government is not a “necessary evil.” God established the civil sphere of government like He established the family and church, for our good. What is missing in each of these governments is godly leadership. We’re often faced with voting for the best of two bad choices. It’s hard to find men of principle, men who “fear God rather than man.”
But where is leadership cultivated? The family and church are the training grounds for developing true civil servants. The example of Christ as the servant par excellence is our model. Most governmental leaders are persuaded by their voting constituency. If the people back home want some law passed that will favor their district or them personally, their congressman will seek out their wishes and vote accordingly. Of course, if it’s the majority view. Service in the Biblical sense means responsibility. Today, leader ship so-called is really slavery. Politicians are slaves to the will of the people. Their impetus for action is not principle but pressure. The Bible commands us to submit “to every human institution.” Governments are established by God, therefore, they rule in God’s name. This is why rulers should not be cursed by the people. The Bible, however, shows resistance to tyranny is legitimate and is often commanded. Christians are commanded to pray for those in authority over them.
Civil rulers must hear from the Christian citizenry. Christians are inheritors of the earth because we are “fellow-heirs with Christ.” We have a stake in the way our world is being run.
Peace can only be realized when we recognize that we are first at war with God and need to be reconciled to Him. The State has the duty to collect taxes for its Biblically defined function.
Christians should support qualified Christian leaders.
- God has established multiple covenantal authorities.
- These authorities are structured as appeals courts, as in Exodus 18.
- Civil authority is only one authority among many.
- The family and the church can lawfully discipline its members.
- The symbols of the church’s authority are the keys to the kingdom.
- The symbol of the State’s authority is the sword.
- The symbol of the parent’s authority is the rod.
- We must disobey laws that prohibit the public preaching of the the gospel.
- The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh.
- Moses’ mother disobeyed Pharaoh, and saved Moses in an ark.
- Rahab disobeyed the laws of Jericho by hiding the spies and lying to the authorities.
- The three young Israelites disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship his statue.
- Peter and John refused to obey the order to cease preaching.
- Civil resistance must not be autonomous.
- Christians are to pray for rulers: to guide them, to turn their hearts from evil, to judge society in terms of Biblical law, and to achieve peace.
- Christians are to instruct civil rulers in the law.
- Civil government is required to enforce God’s law.
- Lasting peace can come only through the enforcement of Biblical law.
- Man cannot save himself.
- The State cannot save man.
- Civil governments are service institutions: service to God.
- We owe taxes to the State.
- Caesar’s claims on us are not unlimited, however.
- High taxes are one way God judges sin.
- Taxes also support the peace-keeping activities of the State.
- Leaders should be elected because of their righteous behavior.
(For this and much more on the Biblical blueprint for politics and government, download your FREE copy of Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government, or purchase a copy of the author’s much-more-detailed views in God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Perspective.)
- Added from same context in Gary DeMar, God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Perspective, p. 531. [↩]