The Government to the Christian
Dear BPCWA worshipper, The past year or so has been active and exciting in the political arena in Australia. Back in March 2021, there was the WA State election. Yesterday was the Federal Election. Does this have anything to do with us Christians? While we want to understand more of this today, let me at the outset of this clarify unequivocally that I am not teaching that Christians should be engaged in political or social activism. Much to the contrary. God has not called the church to be distracted by involvement in politics and seek to change society through political means. The church always has a spiritual aim and purpose. Nor do we expect a “Christian government” and it is unlikely that there will be any who are truly such at this point of history. There will be one day when that will be so, and that is when Christ is the sole ruler and governor of the world in the millennium. Now, however, God permits the rule of nations through many governments around the world. Hence, Christians must have the proper view of those He permits to rule now.
God’s purpose for governments. Christians must remember first and foremost, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Rom 13:1,2). The Westminster Confession of Faith 23.1 biblically states, “God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword”. WCF continues on the purposes, which are: 1) “For the defense and encouragement of them that are good” (Rom 13:3). . . 2) “For the punishment of evil-doers” (Rom 13:4). There is also the “stick” (ie, the “bearing the sword”)aspect that governments are expected to wield – the punishment of wrongdoing. Hence, governments are important because they enforce laws and punishments that promote the public good and deter evil. To have law and order and to protect the good, there must also be the penalties that accompany the breaking of that which is contrary to God’s intended order for societies. Christians must have this right view, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same” (Rom 13.:3).
How governments can affect Christians. We often take governments and rulers for granted and really don’t think much about them until we perceive they fail in their duties to deliver to us what we want or expect of them. A stable and righteous government with good administration can have great benefits to the church and her work. For example, a good infrastructure allows us to have the technology to support our worship as well as to promote our faith too. But bad governments affect so much of our normal daily lives negatively too. For example, in the New Testament times, the early Christians faced persecution from the government for simply being Christians. Instead of being rewarders of that which is good, they were a “terror to good works”, torturing and martyring believers. Even in today’s modern world, while they do not go to the same extent as what the Romans used to do, some governments do not allow the free promotion and propagation of the true Christian faith and worship in churches. The fact is, as rulers, they can edict laws that either promote our freedom of worship or limit it. Those who do not toe the line of the government’s guidelines even of what is considered “faith” may even be arrested or penalised in other ways. Outside of the religious realm, governments have a great impact on our ordinary lives. As we witness in today’s war in Eastern Europe, a leader with personal political ambitions can make decisions that affect not just himself and the cabinet, but can throw the everyday lives of the people into turmoil. And diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries can turn even what used to be peaceful lives into disarray. When it comes to natural calamities, how the government responds can affect our homes and even the availability of food in our supermarkets. I hope that some of these real-life examples help us realise that governments do affect our daily lives in many ways – whether halting and distracting us from, or aiding us in our focus as Christian witnesses for God. This being so, what should we do?
Pray for our government. Governments can affect what is “normal” in our lives. I do not say in our “Christian” lives, because all of our life must be Christian in focus and nature. Hence, God commands us in 1 Tim 2:1-3, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (2) For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour”. As Christians, while we are not called to be political activists, we are called instead to be active in prayer for our government leaders. And the purpose of praying for them is so“that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Only with a quiet and peaceable life can we have the undistracted worship of God, growing in Him, encouraging one another, forwarding His Kingdom’s work, and witnessing for Him to those around us. We are also to pray for the salvation of rulers because God “. . . will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). The characteristic of the life that we must desire and pray for is one that we can live in accordance with God’s principles and precepts based on His Word, and where the fabric of our society will be one where justice, truth, and honesty prevails. And when God gives us a government that allows us to do that, let us be thankful to Him for His goodness. We have such freedom now. We must remember that when God has given us a quiet and peaceable life, it is not just so that we can have a better standard of living in a first world country to enjoy for our own purposes. Rather, let us seize these opportunities that He has providentially provided to live lives in all godliness and honesty, instead of abusing them for personal pleasures and using our lives to enjoy ourselves. This means actively participating, learning, fellowshipping, gathering, serving, and witnessing for Him when the path is open for us to do so. That is why we pray for our government.
Yours in our Lord’s service,