After a Sunday night off this past Labor Day weekend, our discipleship class met to start to dig deeper into what the Bible says about government and politics. Toward the second half of our class, we began to dive into specific issues that we face as a nation and as a society.
Our class began, though, with a brief study of what the Bible teaches about government. In this limited space, it’s impossible to go into detail, so let me present the highlights. For more detail, go to our class source, Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem.
Government exists to punish evil and encourage good.
In Genesis 9:5-6, we see the post-flood mandate that God will require a “reckoning” for the crime of murder. Grudem states that,
once this principle is established, then the imposition of lesser penalties for lesser crimes is also validated, since if a government has the right to carry out the most severe kind of punishment, then it certainly has the right to carry out lesser punishments for lesser crimes as well.
In Romans 13: 1-7, the same principle is affirmed. And, Grudem goes on to say that authorities are appointed by God to give approval to those who do good, and they are a “terror to bad conduct.” See also 1 Peter 2:13-14.
Would there be governments in a sinless world?
Grudem says absolutely. And, I agree. The dual purpose of government is to deter evil and encourage good. Since, in a sinless world, there would be no need to deter, or punish, evil, the government would then focus its time and energy on providing for “the common welfare of the people.” There would still be the need for the management of infrastructure and general services that are provided as a service to the people.
Government should safeguard human liberty.
When God created the world, he gave humanity the freedom to choose. Also known as liberty, this differentiates us from the rest of God’s creation. Thus, the Bible place high value on individual freedom. Grudem lays the foundation for this through examples in Scripture: the nation of Israel in slavery in Egypt, the Messianic prophecies of a Deliverer, and the Jubilee year, a 50 year period when slaves were set free.
Government should safeguard human freedoms. Freedoms of religion, speech, the press, and so on are guaranteed to the citizens of this nation and must be protected by our government. This, in its core, reinforces that those made “in the image of God” are “created equal” and deserve those freedoms.
Ultimately, though, governments cannot save people. The hearts of people cannot be transformed by a moral government – that is the work of the Gospel, and the Church must proclaim the saving grace which transforms the hearts of people. It is the calling of those whose hearts have been transformed to create “significant Christian influence” in our government and the creation and interpretation of its laws.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how that impacts the issues of life, marriage, and the family.