Biblical Role of Government - Part 2
Is Government Doing Things It Should Not Be Doing?
Biblical Role of Government: VIDEO 1 | VIDEO 2 | VIDEO 3
In part one of this series we saw that civil government is to execute justice (fight evil). This has a number of aspects including creating and enforcing laws and establishing standards for weights and measures. The government's role can be summarized as a ministry of justice. However, our government now does much more than this. We have been turning to our government, asking them to do more and more. Is this Biblical? For example, is government doing things that the church should be doing? To answer this question, we need to understand the Biblical role of the church.
Have you ever wondered why, in some governments, government officials are called ministers, and the head of the government is called the "prime minister?" It is because they were following scripture (or following British tradition, which has its roots in scripture). Scripture refers to government as a minister of God:
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. - Romans 13:3-4 (NASB 1995)
The other institution described as a "minister" in scripture is the church.
Because man is fallen, we are like lost sheep. We do that which is wrong. We are made in the image of God, but we stray far from that image. That means there is a lot that needs to be done. However, the government cannot do everything that is needed, and we cannot just randomly divide up the tasks that need doing.
Government has been given certain tools that are appropriate for executing justice (fighting evil). Its main tool is the sword (lethal weapons). However, government tools are not appropriate for all tasks.
The other two institutions established in scripture to deal with the effects of sin are the family and the church. In this video we look at the church, and what it should be doing. The church's ministry is one of mercy. The church is to proclaim the gospel of God's mercy. The church is the minister of salvation, not the government.
In today's world we look to the government for salvation. People seem to think the government can save us from whatever is going wrong. However, things are going wrong because of sin, and it is the job of the church to address this. Only the church has the answer to the question, how are we going to be made better? For example, the government's tool is the sword, but the sword cannot compel a change in a person's heart. It is the church's job to teach us what it is to do good, and the tool the church uses is God's word... the sword of scripture. The church is to teach us how to do what is good and show us that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12
The church was established by Jesus upon His resurrection, and is made up of people who have repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. They have been given a new heart, new desires, and have been made into new creatures.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. - Romans 6:5-6
The church has two aspects. One is the local church, where Christians get together on a local basis to encourage one another:
Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25
There is also the church universal, composed of all Christians throughout the world. So, when we talk about "the church" we need to understand which one we are talking about. The word "church" can refer to the local church, the universal church, or both. In this video series it refers to the local church.
In the first video the need to deal with mankind's sinful nature was brought out. In general we are not good, but are prideful and self-centered. We must deal with this fact, even in the church. The way we deal with it is the same as in government, we don't want to put too much power in any single individual's hands. So within the church, where elders are the leaders, we always have more than one elder.
The other office in the church is that of deacons. These are individuals who serve. They are not as much in a leadership role as they are in a servant role. They are there to serve the people of the local church. Acts 6:1-4 describes the appointment of the first deacons:
About this time, when the number of disciples was continually increasing, the Greeks complained that in the daily distribution of food the Hebrew widows were being given preferential treatment. The twelve summoned the whole body of the disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should have to neglect preaching the Word of God in order to look after the accounts. You, our brothers, must look round and pick out from your number seven men of good reputation who are both practical and spiritually-minded and we will put them in charge of this matter. Then we shall devote ourselves whole-heartedly to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” - Acts 6:1-4
In this second video Doug Lundin also discusses just war and civil government's obligation to protect people... meaning, for example, that if someone steals from me, or destroys my property, the civil government has the responsibility to have that person held accountable.
This video also answers questions about what happens when there is an unBiblical government. Can the people overthrow that government? Yes... but there are constraints. We cannot create a mob and try to overthrow the government. What we do is use those who are already in positions of authority to take the appropriate action.