- What Is The Purpose of Government?
- What Duty Do I Owe The Government, and What Duty Do I Owe God?
- Should A Christian Be Involved In Police Work or Military Service?
- Does The Bible Teach Pacifism?
What Is The Purpose of Government?
Government was instituted by God to bring His laws to people and to carry out His will and purposes. In the Old Testament, government maintained the place of worship, provided judges to decide civil cases between the people, restrained and punished lawbreakers, and mobiled the nation for action against external enemies.
The first government was a theocracy, where God dealt directly with the people. When God was in charge of things, no other government was necessary. He worked through the family, clan, or tribe. The father or patriarch acted as the agent of God for the rest of the family.
During the period of the judges the people became rebellious, and clear direction from God was lacking. Both religious and civil life became confused, and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). At the close of the period of the judges, God raised up Samuel, who was both a prophet and a judge. At that time, the formal religious life of the country was under the direction of the high priest. During Samuel’s administration, the people asked for a king, and God gave them a monarchy which rose to its height during the reign of David and his son Solomon (see I Samuel 8:4-5, 19-20, I Kings 9:3-5, 10:23).
When the perfect government is established during the Millennium, Jesus Christ will combine in Himself the offices of prophet, priest, and king. This will be a perfect theocracy, made possible because the perfect law of God will be universally accepted by all mankind, and “the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Perfect government comes from God and is controlled by God. Short of that, the next best government is a limited democracy in which the people acknowledge rights given by God but voluntarily grant government limited power to do those things the people cannot do individually. Contrast these forms of government with Communism, which maintains that the dictatorship of the proletariat is supreme and an essential evolution of history; that God does not exist; and that citizens have only those privileges granted by the state.
What Duty Do I Owe The Government, and What Duty Do I Owe God?
That question was asked of Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” He said, “Show Me the tax money.” They gave Him the denarius, on which was a picture of Caesar. Then He asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He answered, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (see Matthew 22:17-21). And that has become the standard for what we owe the government.
We owe the payment of taxes for the necessary services government renders to us. We owe a law-abiding and honest type of personal life (see Romans 13:1-7). Especially, we owe government informed, active citizenship.
We do not owe the government the allegiance we owe God. To God we owe our worship and our loyalty. We must remember that government exists only as long as God gives it the ability and the power.
When any civil government steps outside the mandate authorized by God Almighty, then that government does not have any further claim over its citizens. When the apostles came before the government of their day, they were commanded not to speak about Jesus. They told the authorities that they could not help speaking of the things they had seen and heard (see Acts 4:18-20). Even though they were threatened with jail, beatings, and other reprisals, they continued to proclaim their faith to the people. The apostles obviously considered the government’s power to be at an end when it began to restrict their freedom to worship God and to proclaim their faith in Jesus.
In the United States, we believe that our government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. We believe that God has given certain inalienable rights, vested in humanity itself. The people give their support to the government so it can do such things as build roads, highways, and harbors; train armies; establish courts of law and maintain currency; establish uniform standards; and do other things that individuals cannot do for themselves.
In our society, Caesar is all the people. When we are told to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, that means we ourselves should be responsible for government. Therefore, we owe the obligation of serving in public office, of being informed citizens, of voting, and of being active in politics at all levels. That is part of the duty we render to Caesar.
We give God the spiritual allegiance that is His. We give Him our tithes, our offerings, our love, our worship, and our testimony in praise. To the government we give good citizenship, knowledge of the affairs of the day, and taxes that are due. We also give the government our services as political figures, as statesmen, as public servants in every level of government.
Some might ask: “But what are rights under a dictatorship or a Communist government?” People have the same rights everywhere. Every man should have the right to his own personal life, his property, his freedom of movement, and his freedom of conscience. But there are some governments, such as those controlled by the Communists, that do not give those rights to the people. There is a totally different mindset in the Communist world.
That does not change the order that God established. Those under Communist domination must sometimes disobey the government. They must continue to speak and testify to their faith in God, even though this is very costly. Many of them go to prison. Many are tortured and beaten and deprived. When they get out of prison, they go right back to testifying and preaching again. We in America do not have any idea what those people have to go through in order to practice their faith in God.
Still, we must recognize that the apostle Paul was living under tyrannical Roman emperors when he wrote, in the book of Romans, that Christians are supposed to pay taxes to whom taxes are due, and that the civil government is not supposed to be a terror to those who do well, but to evildoers (see Romans 13:1-7). He also said Christians are supposed to pray for those in authority over them, so that they might live a quiet and godly life. This is so that the Word of God might go forth freely to the end that all should come to the knowledge of the truth (see I Timothy 2:1-4). This kind of praying even should be done for bad rulers and governments.
Should A Christian Be Involved In Police Work or Military Service?
There are some who do not believe that Christians can be soldiers or policemen. The apostle Paul said, “Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (see Romans 13:2-5). The purpose of this minister of God is to restrain evil. The police, as God’s ministers, provide an essential service to society. As long as there are sinful people, we will need policemen. As long as men and women will not submit voluntarily to the righteous commands of God, force will be necessary to keep them from murdering, raping, kidnapping, stealing–from victimizing innocent people. Thus, it is proper for a Christian to be involved in police work or in military service. There has to be law and order, for no one is safe when there is anarchy.
In both ancient and modern times, governments have been taken over by selfish, dictatorial people who have used police power to oppress the innocent. Christians never have a God-given duty to serve oppressors. A corrupt government cannot be in alliance with God.
On the international scene, given the sin of mankind, there must be armed forces. Unless there are strong, righteous nations to restrain the adventurism of a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Mao Tse-tung, then all freedoms of all people everywhere will be compromised. There will be nothing but conformity to the will of the dictator, and many innocent people will be killed as that dictator takes power. So it is necessary for the family of nations to raise up an international police force to restrain evil.
There are those who, because of sincere religious beliefs, feel that they could never kill another human being, even in war. Society must accommodate the views of such people. During World War II, for instance, conscientious objectors were given the job of fighting forest fires in the Pacific Northwest by parachuting into remote areas. They performed a very useful duty in a dangerous, quasi-military environment. However, they were doing what they considered to be good for mankind instead of evil.
I must reiterate that when Jesus Christ establishes His reign on earth, there will be no more war and killing. The Bible says that men will not even study war anymore (see Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). The great military establishment that has been built up at such an incredible price is going to be dismantled. We should all work toward this end, but it will never happen until Satan is bound and all men acknowledge God’s reign in their lives.
But in the present time, with aggressors such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Vietnam, and other bellicose powers that are anxious to subjugate their neighbors, Christians cannot sit idly by and say, “Well, we don’t believe in war. We will disarm and let those people take over the world.” Doing so would be foolish and unbiblical.
Does The Bible Teach Pacifism?
The Bible teaches that when Jesus Christ comes back again there will be no more war. Imagine what a wonderful world it could be if the $600 or $700 billion the world spends on arms every year were devoted to peaceful pursuits. We could use that money to build roads, harbors, dams, and bridges, and to irrigate fields, and to provide cultural pleasures and things of beauty for the world, and to alleviate human suffering and need. War is hell. Only madmen would wish it continued.
But we live in a time when evil is increasing instead of diminishing, when some men seem to be controlled by selfishness and madness, when some men are bent on the subjugation of other men. As long as such attitudes exist, righteous men must stand against evil. I know there are some Christians who believe that war and their participation in it are morally wrong. While I respect their views and must allow them to follow their consciences, I do not believe the Bible teaches pacifism. The Bible teaches us that we are to lift the yoke of oppression from those who are downtrodden and oppressed. The yoke of oppression is not lifted by prayer alone. Action is necessary.
Sometimes we can bring change peacefully, through democratic processes. At other times freedom must be won through the use of military force. I do not know where this world would be if the United States had failed to respond to the challenge of Adolf Hitler during World War II. Fortunately, history records many examples of countries that have come to the rescue of other, weaker nations in times of distress.
People should think of what pacifism might mean on a personal level. If your sister, mother, or wife were being attacked by a gang of thugs, you would want someone to come to her aid. If such an attack happened and people just stood and watched, without helping, the indifference would be as bad as the crime itself. As citizens we demand effective protection from attacks against our persons. What is true on an individual scale is also true on an international scale.
We should also note that battles have been won by the strength of prayer and praise. Jehoshaphat won a war by sending people to sing and praise the Lord. As they did, the huge army that had assembled against him began to crumble in confusion (see II Chronicles 20:20-23). Nevertheless, Jehoshaphat had the army gathered anyway. The soldiers were there, even though they did not have to use their weapons.
When Joshua went to Jericho, he had an army prepared. They did not have to use their weapons because God fought for them (see Joshua 6:15-21). In many instances when Israel went into battle, its soldiers did not have to fight because the enemy fled. But they were ready to fight all the same. God is able to defend a nation without any use of arms. Prayer can be used of God to win wars even today. However, secular nations such as the United States can establish their foreign policy based on the miraculous intervention of God only if their people and policies reflect obedience to His will.