GOD'S PLAN FOR
A Look at God's Word by
Gary Ray Branscome
A key factor in understanding God's
for government lies in understanding the proper relationship of law to
gospel. For it is only as we understand that relationship, that we are
able to understand the role that God intended for the law to play in
the salvation of souls, and the role that government should play in
calling the world to repentance.
To put it briefly,
the law does not make us righteous in the sight of God. Instead it
condemns our sin, thereby showing us our need of His mercy. Therefore,
the purpose of government is not to make people righteous, but to act
as an agent of God's wrath in condemning and punishing certain heinous
sins. When rulers carry out that role as God intended, not only is
justice done, but citizens take the law seriously, and when the law is
taken seriously people are more likely to seek God's mercy (Matthew
24:12, 1Peter 2:14, 1 Timothy 1:9, Ecclesiastes 8:11).
One common error is
the assumption that the law has changed, or become easier to keep.
However, Christ did not change the law, He fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).
He did not make it easier to keep, He freed us from it (Romans 8:2,
Romans 7:3-4). For it is written, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot
or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law," (Matthew 5:18).
understood, we can see that the Old Testament reveals God's will for
the state, while the New Testament reveals His will for the church.
While a state religion existed in Israel, prior to the Babylonian
captivity, there was no state church. The priests were not teachers,
there was only one temple for the entire nation, and temple worship was
formal and liturgical. Therefore, even though God has abolished the
religious system of the Old Testament, the template remains (Hebrews
7:2). For that reason, the Bible is not opposed to having the
government provide Christian military chaplains, or even a National
Cathedral. However, at the same time, the government is not to usurp
control over Christian congregations, and pastors are not to be on the
Another thing to
consider, is the fact that even though God abolished the religious
system of Israel, the political laws are still valid (Hebrews 7:2,
Matthew 5:18). They were not abolished, on the contrary, Christians
living in Israel prior to the destruction of the temple still obeyed
the laws of the land, even though they no longer offered sacrifices, or
felt bound by the religious law. While that does not mean that those
political laws should be imposed on every country, it does mean that
our rulers can learn from studying the laws of Israel, and are free to
incorporate some of those laws into our own system of law.
Those who would
rigidly impose the laws of Israel upon every nation only confuse the
situation, for they understand neither the law or the freedom that is
ours in Christ. While our rulers should acknowledge the lordship of
Jesus Christ and follow the Ten Commandments, the influence of the
political laws of Israel upon the decisions they make, should be
voluntary (Philippians 2:10, Matthew 22:37-40, Romans 13:7-9).
Because our natural
knowledge of right and wrong has been corrupted by sin, it is a good
idea for our rulers to look to the political laws of Israel for
guidance. Over the centuries the English system of law (which is the
basis of the American legal system) has borrowed heavily from Biblical
law. So much so that, "English jurist William Blackstone observed that
the entire English legal system, including the jury system, the court
system, and the practice of oaths, was based on the Bible."
[NOTE: A clear distinction between the
religious and political laws of Israel is of key importance in
understanding what I have just said. You may find it easier to make
that distinction if you understand that the religious laws carry no
political penalty. Therefore, laws that do nothing more than describe
sacrifices or designate certain foods to be unclean are not political
laws. In contrast, political laws deal with the government, and may
specify fines and penalties (such as the death penalty), or set down
precedents for civil litigation. (Exodus chapters 20-23, and Leviticus
The story of the
woman taken in adultery is often twisted to support the idea that God's
law has changed (John 8:1-11). After all, the Law of Moses said that
the woman should be put to death, yet Jesus did not condemn her
(Leviticus 20:10-16). However, what those who assume that the law has
changed fail to see is that Jesus was not in any position to carry out
the law. He was not a magistrate. He was not legally authorized to
carry out capital punishment (Luke 12:14). Therefore, he could not have
done much more than He did do without breaking the law Himself.
Furthermore, His words to this woman give us every indication that she
was repentant, for only those who repent are free of condemnation (John
8:11, 1 John 1:9).
Because the gospel
is God's message to those who repent, the story of how Jesus dealt with
that woman is gospel. It was not recorded to encourage the unrepentant
(by leading them to think that the law no longer condemns them) but to
assure those who repent that they have forgiveness in Christ.
While the church
does not have the authority to carry out capital punishment, and has
never been authorized by God to do so, Paul called upon the Corinthian
congregation to condemn a man who was unrepentant (1 Corinthians
5:1-5). And he made it clear that politically speaking, "they which
commit such things" are still "worthy of death" (Romans 1:32).
OFFICE OF A JUDGE
While those who are
magistrates have a responsibility to carry out the law, and to punish
those who are guilty, there is no need to act mean or vindictive as if
we are more righteous than they. Those who are judges need to remain
objective, to be fair in their evaluation of the evidence, and to
pronounce sentence in accord with the law. At the same time, we who are
not judges need to remember that we are sinners in need of God's
When a man came to
Jesus saying, "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the
inheritance with me" (Luke 12:13). Instead of trying to act like a
big-shot or showing off His own importance by sticking His nose in
someone else's business, Christ simply said, "Who made me a judge"
(Luke 12:14). And, by so doing He left us an example.
When Joseph first
learned that Mary was pregnant, he knew that he had not been intimate
with her, so he assumed that she had done wrong. Nevertheless, because
he was a just man (a man justified by faith) he was not willing to
shame her publicly as if he was more righteous than she. Instead he
planned to divorce her quietly. Had she been guilty, the authorities
would have learned of it in time, but he was not going to usurp their
job. Thus, even though we now know that she was innocent, Joseph set an
example for us to follow (Philippians 2:5).
At present our
country faces a situation much like what Moses faced, when Balaam
advised the Moabites to commit adultery with the children of Israel.
During the last century, communists worked long and hard to undermine
the moral fabric of our nation by promoting immorality, and their
"liberal" fellow travelers continue what they started. Therefore,
Christian rulers have every right to deal with the situation in the
same way that Moses did. However, while they have that right, it would
not be wise for them to exercise that right as long as a satanically
orchestrated media, and university system, would demonize whatever they
do. Not to mention swaying public opinion against those who enforce the
law, by portraying the guilty as innocent victims of prejudice.
[Numbers 25:1-18, Numbers 31:16, Revelation 2:14, 1 Corinthians 10:8, 1
Peter 2:14, Romans 13:4]
Since rulers are
agents of God's wrath, when they execute a sinner, it is as if
judgement day had come early for that person. And capital punishment is
in full accord with the will of God (Genesis 9:6). Not because God
delights in the death of the wicked, but because those who trust in Him
must be protected, and without punishment the guilty will never repent
Commandments were given to Moses, not Aaron, and the are the basis of
the political law, not the religious law. Therefore, those who would
(in the name of separation of church and state) restrict the Ten
Commandments to the church, are themselves guilty of violating the
Biblical distinction between church and state.
Because the church
represents God's heavenly kingdom, pastors should stay out of politics.
By getting involved in politics they only alienate those who do not
share their views. At the same time, Christian laymen should be
involved, should be an influence for good, and should never be so
self-righteous that they prefer to remain aloof lest they soil
themselves by contact with the world. Furthermore, every Christian
(pastor and layman alike) should condemn the sins of those in power,
just as John the Baptist condemned the sins of Herod.