BIBLICAL SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

A Study by
Gary Ray Branscome


   
    The ideological cartel that presently wields so much influence over our government is using a religious doctrine (Separation of Church and State) to justify discriminating against Christians. While those who know Constitutional Law, are aware that the Constitution says nothing about separation of church and state, the courts have used a phrase from one of Thomas Jefferson's letters, to redefine the First Amendment. At the same time, religious sentiment favoring separation of church and state has been used to neutralize opposition to what they were doing.

    At the time Jefferson used the phrase "separation of church and state," that phrase meant "free exercise of religion," not exclusion of religion from government. Only a few years before that letter was written, Baptist pastors had been jailed because of their religious beliefs, and Jefferson's letter was assuring some Baptists that the new government would not repeat such discrimination. However, the phrase "separation of church and state" is now used to justify discrimination. In the name of separation of church and state, atheists are free to seek legislation that is in accord with their religious beliefs, but Christians are not. Atheists are free to disseminate their views through the publicly supported schools and universities, but Christians are not. At the same time, separation of church and state is used to deny Christians any voice in the abortion issue, while justifying the cold-blooded murder of almost fifty million babies. Therefore, it is time for Christians to stop parroting undefined cliches about church and state, and find out what the Bible actually has to say.

CHRIST IS LORD


    The very fact that rulers who reject God, harden their heart, and fail to trust in Christ will be condemned to hell, tells us that God wants rulers to worship Him, repent, and trust in Christ (Ezekiel 33:11). Moreover, the time will come when every knee, including the knee of every ruler, will have to bow before Him and give account (Philippians 2:9-10, Revelation 19:16). Therefore, they should conduct their affairs, and the affairs of state, as men who must account to God.

MOSES AND AARON


    The Biblical distinction between church and state goes back to the time of Moses, and can be seen in the difference between the roles of Moses and Aaron. While the authority wielded by Moses was clearly political in nature, in that it involved judging civil litigation and punishing criminal behavior, Aaron's job had to do with worship, sacrifice, and mercy. Moreover, since God's law condemns sin while the gospel extends His mercy, the roles of church and state parallel the distinction between law and gospel.

    However, while the Old Testament priesthood had a role similar to that of the church, and was an establishment of religion, it was not a church in the modern sense of the word. While some worship services were offered, the congregational system that we now have has its roots in the Synagogue. Moreover, the primary role of the rabbi, as opposed to that of the priest, was educational. The rabbi was a teacher, who would teach the law (as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic) during the week, while leading the worship service on the Sabbath. For that reason, the role of education belongs to the church, not the state.

    While God has assigned the church and state different roles, the Bible nowhere calls for a rigid "wall of separation." Although church leaders should be free to condemn the sins of rulers, they have no business trying to tell rulers how to do their job, and should never try to use the power of the state to advance the gospel (2 Corinthians 10:4). Furthermore, they should never use the pulpit to promote partisan politics. The purpose of preaching is to spread the gospel, and pastors who get involved in politics are likely to anger and offend those who need their council. At the same time, the government is not to interfere with the work of the church or meddle in its internal affairs, and individual believers have every right to be involved in politics and to express their opinions without being told to keep their beliefs out of government.

    Although God allowed the head of state to build His temple, we should not confuse the temple with local congregations, and we should not confuse one-time donations with government support. While rulers have a right to donate their own money, they should not be using the power to tax as a way of forcing others to support the church. Furthermore, it is imperative to the work of the gospel that congregations be free from government control, for the members have a responsibility to keep false prophets out of the pulpit. [1 Kings 5:5, Isaiah 44:28, Matthew 7:15, 1 Corinthians 10:15, 1 Corinthians 5:4,5, Acts 17:11, Romans 16:17, Galatians 1:8,9, 1 Peter 2:5, 2 Chronicles 26:16-21]
 

THE LIMIT OF AUTHORITY

 
    Even though church and state have different roles, and exist as separate institutions, both should acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. However, any attempt on the part of an earthly ruler to place himself over both church and state, should be seen as a mark of the anti-Christ. While God has given the power of the sword to the state, that it might carry out His wrath against evildoers, the sword is not to be used to carry out the work of the church (Romans 13:4, 2 Corinthians 10:4). Furthermore, because the church is a vehicle of God's mercy, it has no business putting people to death, or using the state to do so (Revelation 17:18, James 1:20).

    I might also add, that because the Ten Commandments represent an authority higher than that of any earthly ruler, they safeguard freedom by placing a limit on the abuse of power. However, for that safeguard to work, there must be a mechanism in place for holding rulers who violate them accountable for their crimes, and that requires a division of power. Rulers should never be allowed to commit the very crimes that they were put in office to punish.

THE FAILINGS OF THE STATE

 
    While some governments have required their citizens to be members of an established church, salvation requires more than membership and the outward performance of a sacramental rite is not what makes a person a citizen of heaven. While the rite may give us God's promise of forgiveness, it is only through personal faith in Christ that we receive what is promised (Galatians 3:22). Therefore, a "state church" generally includes many who are unsaved, and who desperately need to be evangelized. Yet such churches usually hinder, or even persecute, believers who would carry out that evangelization.

Although, in terms of the law, the state can require an outward civic righteousness, it can never make anyone righteous (Romans 3:19-20). Furthermore, the more invasive the law becomes, the less it is respected. Therefore, those who think that they can make people righteous, or at least prevent crime, by adding law to law, are under a delusion.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT


    When our national Constitution was adopted, all but five of the original thirteen states had a state church. The purpose of the First Amendment was not to prevent such churches, but to assure the states that the Federal government would neither abolish the religious establishment that they already had, or impose one on them. Furthermore, the references to freedom of speech, press, petition, and assembly simply enumerate various ways in which the free exercise of religion has been denied in the past. Therefore, that Amendment was adopted to protect our right to control the education of our children and express our beliefs politically, not deny it. Yet today, the "rights" of pornographers and subversives are protected, while Christians are told to keep their opinions out of government and education.

CONCLUSION

 

What is being passed off on our society, as "separation of church and state" is not only unbiblical, but also anti-Christian. In fact, it is nothing more than an atheist doctrine cloaked in Christian terminology. Furthermore, it totally misrepresents what the Constitution says. Therefore, those who work to promote it are working to advance tyranny and subvert freedom.