God, Christians and Government

Greg Strand – November 8, 2012 Leave a comment

In the wake of this presidential election season, one’s optimism or pessimism is often dependent on whether or not the candidate for whom one voted was elected. One has stated that either response is inappropriate for Christians – optimism is naïve; pessimism is atheistic. In contrast to both, the Christian is realistic and hopeful because his or her hope is in the living God (1 Tim. 4:10), not in the rise or fall of political leaders or a political party or any other situation or circumstance.

In this final post focusing on politics during this election week, I refer to a very good word from Sam Storms, who gives a good biblical overview of how Christians ought to think biblically about God and government. He does so in eight theses: “Thinking About the Election from a Biblical Point of View,” Parchment & Pen Blog (November 5, 2012). I include only the main points of this lengthy post; read the whole article so you can see how he supports each point:

  1. Human government is not inherently evil. The structures of authority in any particular political system are not per se wicked. All human governmental authority comes ultimately from the hand of God. Government is used for evil because people are sinful, not because the authority of the ruling party is wicked or should be abolished.
  2. God is absolutely sovereign and authoritative over who rules, where they exercise their power (its boundaries and extent), over whom they have authority, and for how long.
  3. God is not only sovereign in that he decides who shall rule and for how long, but he also can exert omnipotent and irresistible influence over the hearts and minds of kings and rulers and presidents to do what he wants done.
  4. Although we are ultimately citizens of a heavenly kingdom and only secondarily citizens of an earthly state, we are not for that reason exempt from submitting to the laws of the land where we live (1 Peter 2:13-17).
  5. Although we are submissive to the authority of government, Christians have a responsibility as citizens of both heaven and earth to influence for good the government under which they live.
  6. Although Christians are responsible to exert a positive influence on government, nowhere in the NT do we see that Elders in the local church, by virtue of their being Elders, have authority in or responsibility over local, state, or national government decision-making. Elders can certainly hold public office, but they do so as private citizens and not because of their office in the local church. Likewise, nowhere in the NT do we see governmental officials exerting authority over the local church or selecting its officers or dictating what it must believe or how its people must behave.
  7. No government or earthly authority or political party platform ever sent anyone to hell. Politics has no such power. On the other hand, unrepentant pride and immorality and rebellion and unbelief do send people to hell. They have precisely that power. Similarly, no government or earthly authority or political platform can save a single human soul. On the other hand, Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone can.
  8. The confession that “Jesus is Lord” is not simply a declaration of faith and an acknowledgement that He is the Master of our lives individually and as a church. It is also a political statement.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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