The Biblical Model for Civil Government

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We have seen in past blog postings how the New Testament church is to function in order to be the kind of church that fulfills its mission to rule in the kingdom of God—by preaching the gospel to the world and speaking prophetically to the civil government. We have focused exclusively on the former.

Much of the church has not seen the latter calling and has, instead, comfortably withdrawn from the current cultural battle with Satan’s acolytes, as they work feverishly to destroy the nation given to us by our founders. These Christian non-combatants have retreated to meet behind the protection of the stained glass church windows to safely “hold hands and share precious verses” together. 

However, biblically, the church’s task is to equip its members (Ephesians 4:11ff) to, first, even recognize we are at war (“on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” – Matthew 16:18), and, secondly, effectively attack those gates! 

So, we are not only called by God to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ, but also His other two ordained institutions, the family and the civil government. The civil government is the one through which much of our direct attack on Satan’s stronghold occurs. If Jesus has indeed been installed as King of all other kings, and Lord of all other lord’s, does it not make perfect sense that the Bible would give us some indication as to the kind of civil government God is moving our nation to adopt? There are several possibilities for such a governmental structure.

1. The first of these is a monarchy or dictatorship. The final authority in every situation is the will of the King, who often was chosen because he was next in line in the ruling family. North Korea is a “monarchy” today. The law by which the dictator rules is what he alone decides.

2. The second possibility is an oligarchy, with final authority resting with a ruling class of elites, who determine the general direction the nation is going. The “President,” or “Party Chairman,” is a figurehead, or lightning rod, who practically seems to have absolute power and who takes care of day-to-day issues. He fights to silence all dissent. Ultimately he answers to the ruling elites. Russia and China are examples today.

3. Thirdly is a democracy, with decision-making determined by a majority vote of the citizens of the country as authoritative. This is an impractical system for a large country and ignores the will of the minority, no matter how large that minority may be.  

4. A democratic, constitutional republic is the fourth option, where final authority is vested in a written constitution, “the rule of law,” a constitution that is produced by the people, and practically applied by laws determined by representatives chosen by those people. This is the type of civil government in the United States, and detailed in our U.S. Constitution. Its law structure is based on the cultural mores of the populace. In the U.S., they are based on biblical law. 

This constitutional republic is beautifully illustrated for us in the Bible by the Hebrew Republic. It was initiated by Moses and continued in Israel until the Israelites deliberately rebelled against God’s rule over them through this republic. Wanting to imitate the pagan nations around them, they clamored to have a monarchy—a king— to rule them. 

The very interesting story of this rebellion is told in 1 Samuel 8. This chapter relates the beginning of the end of the Hebrew Republic, which had begun at the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt. This portion of the Bible—Exodus to 1 Samuel 8, some 400 years—tells the story of the development of the principles that undergird a biblical constitution, as related in the Bible.

In the classic book, “The Roots of the American Republic,” written by the 19th century biblical scholar E.C. Wines in 1853, the principles of the Hebrew Republic in the Bible are studied and related in detail. The similarity with our constitution is striking. There are 17 of them, and I will comment on the first four in this posting. The book is available at Plymouth Rock Foundation,

1. The unity of the Triune God – The first of these foundation stones is that all of the citizens of Israel were circumcised Jews or proselytes. They knew that “diversity was (NOT!) their strength,” but the unity of the one, triune  God, Jehovah, and the law system He had given them were. Sojourners, or non-Jews, were welcomed, not discriminated against, no matter their god, and they were free to enjoy all privileges of the Israelites and assimilate into Jewish culture, but they were not citizens—until they claimed Jehovah as their God and were circumcised.

2. National Unity – These sojourners had full privileges with all Jews, but were not involved in the civil government. They must convert to become proselytes—converts to Judaism—in order to “vote and hold office.” Citizens were all believers in Jehovah, circumcised into the Jewish covenant.

3. Liberty – E.C. Wines defines liberty as the right to do what the law permits, no matter how many are offended.

4. Political equity – This principle is rooted in personal ownership of real estate. According to Wines, the Bible teaches (as he illustrates in his book) that land is owned by individuals, not by the state or the elite only. Originally, influenced  by John Locke, this was Thomas Jefferson’s initial wording in the Declaration of Independence. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was initially “life, liberty and property.”  We, as individuals, are stewards over God’s earth.

These are the first four of Wines’ 17 principles that make up the foundation of the Hebrew Republic. Some of the others are: 5.) Magistrates are elected by the people, 6.) The people have an authoritative voice in the enactment of all laws, 7.) Magistrates are accountable to the people, 8.) A cheap, speedy and impartial administration of justice, 9.) Desire for peace as a result of all government action, 10.) Agriculture constitutes the best basis of the prosperity and happiness of the state.

One can see that these first 10 of Wine’s 17 Hebrew Republic foundational principles are also each foundational, big-picture ideals in the United States Constitution. What do these principles tell us about the kind of people we will ultimately be to be a part of this nation? That is next week.

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