The Role of the Civil Magistrate: Part 2

“Christians may lawfully accept and carry out the duties of public office when called to do so. In performing their office they must especially maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom or other political entity. To carry out these duties they are authorized now under the New Testament to wage war in just and necessary situations.”- 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 24:2

            In part 1 we discussed the role of the civil magistrate as God’s ordained instrument for encouraging those who do good, defending the weak and innocent and punishing evildoers as well as our responsibility to obey those God-ordained authorities insofar as they don’t impose their authority to make us disobey God. In part 2 we will analyze what it looks like for a Christian to take upon themselves the role of the civil magistrate.

            First, “Christians may lawfully accept and carry out the duties of public office when called to do so.” According to the confession it is acceptable for a Christian to serve in government but what do the scriptures say? 2 Samuel 23:2-3 says “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” God calls men to rule over other men justly in the fear of God. Reader who is considering a career in civil service, are you prepared to be just and to serve in the fear of God? If so, then you may be the right person for the job.

            Next, “In performing their office they must especially maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom or other political entity.” I know that the word “justice” has been re-defined by a lot of people over the last several decades and the fruit of that effort has really come to harvest in recent years, but God is very concerned about justice. So concerned in fact that the eternal Son died to satisfy the righteous wrath of a just and holy God in order to redeem His bride and settle her debt for sin. Justice is on the mind of God and it ought to be on the mind of the Christian, especially the Christian magistrate. Psalm 82:3-4 says, Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” As a civil magistrate, your job will be to uphold the righteous and godly laws of the area you govern whether it is city, county, state, or federal government and ensure that all people are treated fairly in the eyes of the law. This also means seeking to strike down any laws that are ungodly or unrighteous when checked against the word of God. Are you prepared to challenge our pagan culture Christian magistrate?

            Finally, “To carry out these duties they are authorized now under the New Testament to wage war in just and necessary situations.” Obviously not every role is going to give you command over military forces however should one find themselves in such a position, God grants the civil magistrate the authority to even command armies in order to carry out justice, rescue the weak and the needy and deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Luke 3:14 shows an obscure picture of Roman soldiers asking John the Baptist what they ought to do in light of what he has preached to them about the coming messiah and he doesn’t tell them to quit the army, he doesn’t tell them to deny their orders, he only tells them to do the right thing in their position as they had been extorting people for money like the tax collectors. He told them “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages.” He didn’t say the soldiers shouldn’t be soldiers, he said they should be good and just soldiers. Let’s scale this back from the idea of an army and let’s consider a sheriff’s department or a local police force, should not the Sheriff or the Mayor want their Deputies or Police Officers to act in a just and righteous way, protecting the innocent, encouraging good behavior and only punishing evil? This is the same idea.

            So after reading this, do you still want to serve in government? If so, praise God. If not, pray for those who do and still seek to get involved in your town. Attend city council meetings, go to high school football games, attend school board meetings if you have a kid in the district, now is not the time for Christians to pull back but instead we need to push harder.

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