X Close Menu


Sunday School: Christian Ethic (Pt.8.1: Civil Government)

November 3, 2019 Speaker: John Bell Series: Sunday School: Christian Ethics

What does the Bible teach us about civil government in general?
• Where did the idea of government come from?
• What should be the purpose of government?

1. The Old Testament Foundation
     a. Genesis 9:5–6 “ And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”
     b. Anarchy Is a Highly Destructive Evil
     c. Governments Should Enforce Justice and Defend the Weak

2. Similar New Testament Teaching
    a. Romans 13:1–7: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

This passage tells us several things about government:
1. God has appointed the authorities who have governmental power (Rom. 13:1–2).
2. Civil rulers are a “terror to … [bad] conduct” (Rom. 13:3), which means they restrain evil by the threat of punishment for wrongdoing.
3. Civil rulers give “approval” or praise to those who do what is good (Rom. 13:3).
4. Governmental officials serve God.
5. Government officials are doing “good” as they carry out their work.
6. Government authorities execute God’s wrath on wrongdoers and thereby carry out a task of punishment.

b. 1 Peter 2:13–14: 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

c. There Would Be Civil Governments Even in a Sinless World.

Further thoughts:
1. The Bible is entirely realistic about the suffering that the state inflicts, and the suffering from which the state protects us. There is no reason for Christians to think that they or any other group should be exempt from the pain that arises from these sources.
2. The underlying assumption in biblical thought is the fallenness of humankind, our propensity for evil, the tragedy and the malice of a broken and rebelling world.
3. Despite whatever suffering we may have to endure from this quarter—whether from evils the state is called to curtail, or from the state itself—Christians will see themselves responsible to promote justice. We entertain no dreamy-eyed hope that utopia is possible down here. We acknowledge that even the best efforts are only palliatives: the final “cure” awaits the new heaven and the new earth, and the most telling reformation of society this side of glory comes about in massive, heaven-sent revival (as the history of the Great Awakening and its aftermath suggest).
4. There is a compatabilistic tension: God stands behind the state, yet the state frequently acts wickedly and so God holds it to account.

1. The General Obligation to Be Subject to the Civil Government.
2. When Is It Right to Disobey the Civil Government?
3. Is It Ever Right to Attempt to Overthrow or Obtain Freedom from an Existing Government?