Biblical and Constitutional Politics

Christians and the Government

By Gary F. Zeolla

The following Scripture Study is adapted from the director’s Scripture Workbook: Second Edition.

Christians and the Government

Scripture Study #38 

      This study will address whether it is appropriate for Christians to be involved in the secular government and in the military.

Note:

      After each question, the answer which this website disagrees with is given first. Below each Scripture reference is how “the other side” interprets the verse. After the “BUT” is the reason this website disagrees with that interpretation. Then the answer this website would give to the question is given, followed by Scripture verses and interpretations thereof.

 

Is it Wrong for Christians to be Involved in the Secular Government?

 

Yes:

      Answer of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, and other Anabaptist groups: 

Luke 12:13f:

      Jesus refused to become involved in governmental matters. 

BUT:

      The case needed to be taken to the proper, God-ordained authorities (Rom 13:1). Jesus was not in this position at this time. 

Mark 12:17:

      Believers are to render things to God not “Caesar.” 

BUT:

      The verse teaches believers are to be involved in both secular and spiritual matters. “Give back [or, Render] the [things] of Caesar to Caesar and the [things] of God to God.”

John 17:16:

      Believers are not to be “of the world.” 

BUT:

      What does “the world” mean? In this context, it refers to those who are opposed to God and who try to institute systems contrary to His ways (1John 5:19). Believers are called to be “salt” and “light” to these people and to transform society according to godly principles (Matt 5:13-15). We are promised that our faith is able to be “overcoming the world” (1John 5:4f). 

Acts 5:29:

      Believers are “to be obeying God rather than people.” 

BUT:

      We are to obey the government at all times unless it requires something ungodly (Rom 13:2; Dan 6:7-10). 

 

No:

      Answer of most Protestants and Catholics: 

Genesis 9:6f:

      The institution of the death penalty was given to and to be carried out by all peoples (9:9). And execution is a function of the secular government (Rom 13:4).

Genesis 41:3-43; 45:5-8; Acts 7:9f:

      Joseph was placed in the Egyptian government and used mightily by God in his governmental office. 

Nehemiah 2:1-10:

      Nehemiah was an official in the court of King Artaxerxes of Persia and used by God in that capacity. 

Esther 4:13f; 10:3:

      God placed Esther in the court of King Ahasuerus of Persia to work out His purposes. Her uncle Mordecai was later also in the Persian government. 

Daniel 1:1-7:

      Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were used by God in the Babylonian government. 

Luke 1:3:

      Theophilus was most likely a Christian. Luke addresses him with the title “most excellent” which was generally used for governmental officials.

 Romans 13:1

      Secular government was instituted by God. 

Romans 16:23:

      Paul’s companion Eratus was “the treasurer of the city”—a government position.

 

Is it Wrong for Christians to be Involved in the Military?

 

Yes:

Answer of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, and other Anabaptist groups: 

Isaiah 2:2-4:

      “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles” (v.4b).

BUT:

      This is a description of a future age. For this age, we are told to do the exact opposite (Joel 3:10). 

Matthew 5:38-42:

      We are told to “turn the other cheek.” 

BUT:

      This passage refers to personal, not governmental actions. And at this time the Jews were not to resist the Roman Empire since they could not win (Luke 21:20-24). Also a “slap on the cheek” is not a physical attack but simply an insult. 

Matthew 26:51f:

      Jesus tells Peter not to fight back. 

BUT:

      The situation is not one of war but of an arrest being made by the proper authorities for such an action (cp. Luke 22:52; John 18:31).

 2Corinthians 10:3f:

      We are to fight with spiritual not carnal weapons.

BUT:

      The passage refers to the spreading of the Gospel, not national defense. 

 

No:

      Answer of most Protestants and Catholics: 

Genesis 14:14-16:

      Abraham uses military force to free his nephew and others taken captive. 

Exodus 15:3:

      “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His name” (NKJV).

Leviticus 26:3,7:

      Obedience to God leads to success in battle. 

Deuteronomy 20:1:

      God fights for His people. 

Judges 3:1f:

      God providentially arranges history so that each generation “be taught to know war” (NKJV).

Judges 3:10:

      The Spirit leads Othniel “out to war.” 

Judges 4:21; 5:24-27:

      Jael is praised for bringing about a military victory. 

Judges 19:1-30; 20:1-48:

      When the people in one tribe of God’s people sinned, the other tribes go to battle against them. In 20:27f God is asked, and He specifically commands the Israelites to go into battle against their brothers. 

1Samuel 15:3,7-9,19-26:

      God instructs Saul to go to war against Amalek. God rejects Saul as being king when he does not follow His specific commands about how to conduct the war. 

2Samuel 22:35:

      David praises God for “teaching my hands for war” (see also Ps 18:34; 144:1).

Psalm 18:31-42:

      David praises God for victory in battle. 

Proverbs 20:18:

      “And by wise counsel wage war” (NKJV).

Ecclesiastes 3:8:

      There is “A time of war.” 

Jeremiah 48:10:

      When God pronounces judgment, “Cursed [is] the one doing the works of the LORD carelessly, removing his sword from blood.”

Joel 3:10a:

      In this age, nations are told to, “Beat your* plowshares into swords, and your* sickles into spears.”

Matthew 8:5-13:

      Jesus does not rebuke the centurion (a roman military commander) for being part of the Roman military. Instead, Jesus commends him for his great faith and answers his request for the healing of his servant. 

Luke 3:14:

      When the soldiers ask John the Baptist what they should do, he does not tell them to cease to be soldiers. Instead, John tells them to carry out their duties in an appropriate manner. 

Luke 14:28-32:

      Jesus uses an analogy from war alongside other analogies without a hint that the act of war is wrong in itself. 

Acts 10:1f,34,35:

      Cornelius the centurion (a military leader) is said to be a man who “fears [God] and works righteousness” (v.2a).

Romans 13:1-4:

      Government is instituted by God. A part of its function is the use of deadly force (“the sword”) “to the one doing evil”

      Note: “the sword” (Greek, machaira) is always viewed in Scripture as an instrument of death (Acts 16:27; Rev 6:4; 13:3,10,14). It is used by the government to execute (Matt 26:51f; Acts 12:1f). As such, this passage would apply to the use of deadly force in times of war and in the execution of criminals. For the latter, see the previous study on “Capital Punishment.”

 

Notes:

      This Scripture Study should not be construed as meaning that this website advocates any kind of church-state system. The questions are simply about whether Christians can vote, hold public office, and be involved in other political, governmental, and military activities.

      This website believes in freedom of religion as guaranteed in the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Matt 22:21; John 18:36).

Bibliography:

    Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotes are from The Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible. Copyright 1999-2016 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

    Verses marked NKJV are taken from  New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.

Christians and the Government - Scripture Study. Copyright 2017 by Gary F. Zeolla.

 

The above Scripture Study was posted on this site January 1, 2017.
It
is excerpted from the director’s Scripture Workbook: Second Edition.

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