The Role of the Civil Magistrate: Part 3

“Because civil authorities are established by God for the purposes stated, we should submit in the Lord to them in everything lawful that they require. We should submit not only for fear of punishment but also for the sake of conscience.  We ought to make requests and prayers for kings and everyone in authority, so that under their rule we may live a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.”- 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 24:3

            In part 2 we discussed what it means to be a Christian in civil government. We will conclude this series with why it is critical that we have Christians in civil government. John Calvin once wrote that when God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked leaders. I can’t think of a more logical explanation for the state of our nation than the wrath of God. In light of this, let’s examine the last paragraph of chapter 24 of the confession.

            “Because civil authorities are established by God for the purposes stated, we should submit in the Lord to them in everything lawful that they require. We should submit not only for fear of punishment but also for the sake of conscience.” As we established in part 1, civil authorities are ordained of God and it is right for us to submit to them insofar as they are not calling us to disobey God. This isn’t a new principle but it is worth repeating. The other reason why we ought to submit to governing authorities is to maintain a clear conscience before God. Romans 1:5-7 states, Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Just to clarify, if the governor says wear a seatbelt, the police aren’t doing anything wrong if they give you an extra ticket when they stop you for speeding. They are doing something wrong when they say that we can’t gather for worship or start telling us how we can worship. So if the governor says you’re only allowed to worship via ZOOM, wear a seatbelt on your way to church and risk the arrest because we don’t forsake the gathering together of the saints. If the governor says you can gather but you can’t sing, sing louder because we make a joyful noise unto the Lord. If the governor tells you that you’re not allowed to preach the gospel anymore, you preach to them. You get what I’m saying.

            So you see that I am not suggesting that Christians be rebels, quite the opposite actually. I am suggesting that we honor our governing authorities as appointed by God and only to oppose them when they require us to oppose God. Our final notes are simply this, “We ought to make requests and prayers for kings and everyone in authority, so that under their rule we may live a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.” We should be seeking peace always, honoring their God-given authority, making requests rather than demands and praying for them that they would honor God. We should not be like the world seeing things only according to party lines and which team did what. We are to love even our enemies and hope that God will save them, change them and win the world over to Himself. 1 Peter 2:17 states Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” We cannot do any of that if all we care about is the R or the D next to their name. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Be praying for your leaders on the city, county, state and federal level and as far as it is up to you, seek to live peaceably with all people.

            I made the point at the beginning that this was why it was critical that we had Christians in government. Notice how I made no distinction of whether we are to pray for and respect our Republican or Democrat leaders. If your assumption is that a partisan affiliation determines whether a leader is a Christian, you’re not paying attention. Recently, the Republican party has taken a strong slide towards liberal theology and even cultists like the Mormon Mitt Romney. If you assume that the Democrats are the only mixed bag of fruits and nuts, you’re wrong and yet, we are still called to pray for our leaders, even those who believe differently and still called to obey their laws insofar as they are not calling us to disobey God. Don’t assume any politician or party is your savior. Trust God, serve God, if God is calling you to serve in government, run for office and if you win, serve your constituents in the fear of the Lord. The role of the civil magistrate is to reward those who do good, defend the weak and innocent and punish the evildoer; how are your local magistrates at doing so and if they’re not good at it, do you know who is next in line to replace them? Why not you?

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