Many have objected to the Bible as the foundation of a nation’s legal system on the ground that it would usher in tyranny, not liberty. For example, both Christians and non Christians have expressed their fears that a Biblical system of law would authorize the civil government to eliminate any belief and any activity inconsistent with that government’s leaders’ personal religious views of righteousness. Such objections, although widely held, are totally erroneous. In fact, only a Biblical foundation for law guarantees true freedom of thought and action; all other foundations lead either to anarchy or to totalitarianism.
“Render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”1 These words of Jesus Christ, while addressed to a question about paying one’s taxes, answer two of the most significant political and legal questions of the ages: What authority may rightfully be exercised by a civil government? Who decides what that lawful authority is?
Jesus emphatically denied that any human civil government could legitimately exercise total power over its citizens: Not all things belong to Caesar. This principle of limited authority had already been revealed by God through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy:
“When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee . . . and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose . . . But he shall not multiply horses to himself . . . Neither shall he multiply wives to himself . . . Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be . . . that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book . . . And it shall be with him . . . that he may learn to fear the Lord His God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.”2
Israel’s first king, Saul, on two occasions violated the law that governed his kingdom, first, by exercising authority that was not his3 and, second, by failing to obey God’s commands.4 Therefore, he forfeited his right to rule.5
These jurisdictional limits to civil authority were invoked by the early church when its leaders refused to obey the Jewish Council’s order to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. That Council, while acting within the authority that had been granted it by the Roman Empire,6 had exceeded Caesar’s lawful authority as defined by God. As Peter and the other apostles said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”7
Three times in Romans 13, Paul labeled civil rulers “ministers or servants of God.”8 In doing so, he had merely restated a truth that had been taught by the Master, Jesus Christ. Jesus, by simply making the statement as God’s Son, affirmed that God, Himself, has the exclusive authority to decide what power may rightfully be exercised by all human civil governments. Jesus as the Word of God9 and, therefore, as Creator of all governing authorities10 has by definition that incontestable right.
When God created man and woman, He gave them dominion over “the earth,” “the fish,” “the fowl” and “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”11 God kept for Himself the jurisdiction to rule man. Thus, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and Adam followed, God adjudged them guilty and pronounced their sentences.12 Not until after the Fall did God grant any authority to man over a fellow human being:
Unto the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”13
Even so, God placed severe limits on the husband’s authority over his family. For example, God denied to the father and husband any right to impose the death penalty upon a family member even for murder.14
After the flood, God granted authority to men to enforce the law of murder when he entered into a new covenant with Noah and his sons:
“Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.”15
From Noah’s sons came the gentile nations.16 Through the Noahic covenant, God granted limited authority to those nations to impose the death penalty. Later, God granted to Israel an extended jurisdiction to inflict capital punishment on those who committed adultery, sexual perversion, and various other offenses.
The point of this review has not been to determine the legitimacy of capital punishment. Rather, it has documented that man has no authority to rule over a fellow human being except as conferred by God.
In the early history of America, this proposition was not only well known but widely accepted. Indeed, the political and legal doctrine of the “divine rights of kings” was based upon erroneous Biblical interpretations that extended the God-given right of the husband and father over his family to the king over his subjects. John Locke, a 17th century political thinker and defender of England’s 1688 Glorious Revolution, devoted his entire First Treatise on Civil Government to a refutation of the claim of the English Stuart Kings to a “divine right to rule.”
Locke’s Treatise reflected the common assumption of his day. The legitimacy of any claim of right to rule rested upon an examination of God’s word and God’s will. As Samuel Rutherford had written about 50 years before:
That power of government in general must be from God, I make good, 1st, Because (Rom XIII. 1) “there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.”17
If civil government derived its legitimacy from God, then one could well expect that such government authority would also be limited by God. Indeed, Locke wrote that the legislative authority in any civil government was bound by “the law of nature:”
The rules that they [the legislators] make for other men’s actions must . . . be conformable to the law of nature – i.e., the will of God, of which that is a declaration – and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.18
Rutherford preceded Locke with a more explicit Biblical statement on the limited authority of the king, by relying upon the Deuteronomy passage quoted above.
Locke’s and Rutherford’s views followed those of earlier Reformation thinkers, especially John Calvin. Having experienced both the error of total authority in civil government and of total authority in the church, Calvin found neither approach consistent with the Bible.19 Dr. R.J. Rushdoony has captured Calvin’s position well:
Calvin’s conception of the kingdom eliminated the church as the manifest kingdom and made the individual Christian, in his activity, the citizen of that eternal order by virtue of divine grace. The individual was thus the primary area of responsibility. If the conscience of the individual made justice impossible, the state could not supply what the individual lacked. The state has its jurisdiction, the church its realm, art, economics, the university, the family, all have their respective jurisdictions, and the key to the life of each is the Word of God in the heart of man.20
Even before Calvin wrote his study that called for limited authority both in the church and in the state, the English common law had been developed in such a way to recognize such limits. In the 13th century Bracton claimed that the common law courts had jurisdiction over “temporal” matters and the ecclesiastical courts had authority over “spiritual” matters. For several centuries, English judges battled over whether cases involving marriage, tithes, inheritance of property, and the like were “temporal” or “spiritual.” Whatever the merits of these claims and counterclaims, this common law principle was established: Some “wrongs” were not within the jurisdiction of the civil government courts that enforced the Common Law, but were within the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts and vice versa; more importantly, some wrongs were not within the jurisdiction of any
“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from a foreigner, the fatherless or the widow” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
God and Man
“The same law applies to both the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
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Evangelical Alumni Foundation Church Government is ordered only by God. The LORD, was very clear in His Word about how He wishes His church on earth to be organized and managed. First, Christ is the head of the church and its supreme authority (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18). Second, The local church is to be autonomous, free from external authority or control, with the right of self = government and free from the interference of any hierarchy, or individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). Third, The church is to to be governed by spiritual leadership consisting of two main offices-elder and deacons.
And, He gave, some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
GOD’S GROWING US AS SPIRITUAL BILLIONAIRE’S, BECAUSE WE HAVE ZEAL TO SEE SOULS SAVED BY JESUS CHRIST.
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