The Epic Journey
Legitimate Government

Legitimate Government and the Kingship of Jesus Christ

 

by Tim Case

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

 

If as Christians we are ever going to come to the point that we are truly members of Christ’s Kingdom in the present, not as some future promise, we must first come to grips with Jesus’ kingship. The sooner we Christians learn that the authority to rule is a function of ethics, the sooner we will be able to understand why Jesus is the only legitimate King man that has known in the last 2600 years. Plus we will learn what actions are required of us within the confines of the present political and civil environment. 

 

The power to rule does not derive its legitimacy from any other than source than the moral, ethical laws that have governed man since Adam and Eve. Gary North, in his work Conspiracy: A Biblical View (p. 43), states: “Western Civilization adopted biblical ethics as its moral foundation. The Bible teaches the sovereignty of God, not the sovereignty of man. What this means is that all creaturely power is inescapably limited. Man is a creature; he cannot possess ultimate power, and it is a sign of men's evil intentions if they pursue power as such — power divorced from ethics.”

 

On July 4, 1821, President Adams said, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” It is rare indeed that a government designed by man should have such an understanding of the principles of power and its relationship to morality, but those are the founding ideals of American government. Thomas Jefferson wrote on the front of his well-worn Bible: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator.”

 

Why would men of such caliber as President Adams and Thomas Jefferson, make such statements? To answer the question, I again quote Gary North:

 

The Old Testament required that the people of Israel be assembled once every seven years to hear the reading of God's law. Everyone was required to come: residents, children, women, priests, and rulers (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). No one was exempt. All were presumed to be able to understand the law. Everyone would know when the provisions of God's law were being violated. Thus, men had reasonable expectations about law enforcement. They could predict both the State and each other's actions far better, for all of them knew the public, revealed law.

 

Absolute authority ruled from the top: God. Limited authority was delegated from God to rulers, but only by means of revealed and fixed law. The rulers could not legitimately change the law, and a bottom-up system of monitoring the rulers was established by the public reading of the law.

 

The U.S. Constitution, as a written document which binds the State itself, is an indirect product of this biblical approach. So is the common law jury system. A dozen of our peers are presumed to be better than robed judges at deciding both the facts and the law of the case. In any given judicial dispute, the decision of the jury is final.  There is no double jeopardy: once declared innocent, the person cannot be retried for the same crime. The jury system is the last major bulwark against judicial tyranny.

 

We see, then, that the founding fathers understood the difference between “power” and “authority.” They were fully aware that they formed a government under the “authority” of Jesus Christ but limited in its “power” to that which is Biblically appropriate for a government of men to exercise.

 

When the power of government is limited to the Biblical principle of leadership, it is in fact a legitimate institution and to be honored. As such it will represent God to the people and the people in turn will worship God, and check the nation’s leadership by the principle of God’s Word and proper government.  This very principle was expressed in reverse by the High Priest Eli when he addressed his evil sons who were priests of the tabernacle. “Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress” (1 Samuel 2:22-24).

 

The simple fact is that no authority can be legitimate when it requires its subjects to follow a standard from which it exempts itself. Thus a government that punishes it subjects for stealing, but then turns and steals from those same subjects must be by definition illegal. 

 

This is the guiding doctrine of Scriptural “authority” whether the authority is the head of a family, political authority, or religious leadership. As a legitimate authority then it falls to the people to honor that human authority for the reason Paul declares in Romans 13:1-7:

 

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not terrors to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

 

It was the refusal of government to adhere to the Biblical doctrine of leadership that was the driving force behind Patrick Henry’s declaration: “An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle sir is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”

 

When the government of Britain ceased to be a legitimate government by replacing the morality of Scripture with force, it drove the 13 colonies to issue the Declaration of Independence. In this regard, the Declaration of Independence is arguing the very essence of Scriptural authority, that man is required by God to be in allegiance to all leadership that is moral and under the authority of Jesus Christ. However, leadership becomes illegitimate by straying from the doctrine of authority established by God.  At such time it is the duty of man to resist that which is contrary to God’s teaching.

 

This was also the argument that the first century Christians had against the dictates of Rome and Caesar. The Christians held that they had no allegiance to Rome since it did not hold to the authority of Jesus Christ.  Thus it was an illegal, illegitimate government to which they were not in any way responsible. This is the argument between the Christians and Rome as to who was “god,” “lord,” “savior,” etc… and who was the legitimate ruler of men’s lives. This is always the argument between Christians and the immoral illegal authority of evil men and their institutions with their use of forced compliance to the laws of men and demons.

 

Christians have no more authority to honor and obey immoral, illegal government than a woman is to love, honor and obey an immoral, abusive husband, as his slave. Nor are Christians to honor authority that is contrary to God’s law in the religious realm.

Why? Because Jesus said: “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Here is the lesson of 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12:

 

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, which they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

 

Consider the following Scriptures in light of Romans 13:1-7 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 above: 

  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego’s refusal to obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to serve his gods and worship his gold image of Daniel 3.
  • Daniel’s refusal to obey the King’s decree that no man could petition any god or man for thirty days of Daniel 6.
  • Ehud’s dealing with Eglon king of Moab when Ehud delivered Israel’s yearly tribute, Judges 3:15-30

 

You may be asking: what has this to do with the Kingship of Jesus Christ?  In reality all of this has everything to do with Jesus and His authority to rule. The very embodiment of the doctrine of authority to rule as a function of ethics (morality) is found in Jesus Christ. 

We find in Scripture that we have a High Priest who can sympathize with all our weaknesses, because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Thus the legitimacy of Jesus Christ’s Kingship and Priesthood is based on His moral perfection and not force. He simply will not require compliance to God’s law of those who follow Him and exempt Himself from the same laws. This is perfect justice and is the foundation upon which He will judge.

 

If this was not true then He would have no authority to rule. However, since Christ is and was sinless He could say, after His resurrection: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, it is through His obedience to God and the moral, ethical law of God that legitimatized Jesus’ Kingship.

 

It is time for Christians to understand what it means to follow Christ. For if He deems it necessary to be sinless to rule justly, then how can we expect to rule with Him unless we are as obedient? We are fooling ourselves if we continue to teach that we have no standard by which we will be found just other than salvation. The simple fact is that we are required to mirror Jesus Christ in obedience if we hope to reign with Him.  The time to start is today, here and now. The alternative is simply not acceptable either in the future judgment or the resulting loss of our freedoms today.

 

The axiom is simple: freedom—whether it is spiritual or civil—begins and ends with our obedience to Jesus Christ.

 

May 26, 2003

 

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Tim Case is the editor of The Epic Journey.  A website dedicated to Christianity, freedom, instruction, and the America of our youth.  Tim can be reached at twcase@earthlink.net.

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