The church and the state (the civil government) are institutions created by God, along with the family, that are clearly distinct from one another. None of them has any authority over the other two in the particular activity sphere in which they are designed by God to function, i.e., the family—raising and training children; the church—equipping its members to proclaim the gospel and the kingdom; the civil government—to protect family and church as they do their jobs.
This means that there is a distinct separation of church and state, but definitely not between God and state, as today’s culture would have you believe. According to the Ship of the Kingdom diagram we have been studying, it is easy to see that Jesus currently rules over each of His three institutions from His throne in Heaven, delegating authority and responsibility to each as we learn to function, sometimes agonizingly slowly, according to His revealed will in the law of God.
Today, we are going to investigate the relationships between these institutions, represented by the horizontal lines in the diagram, keeping in mind the reason for their existence. It is to express God’s image and to rule over the earth for Him, while reproducing others to follow in our footsteps (Genesis 1:24-26). Let’s look at how each institution relates to the other two.
The Family – By following the appropriate lines one can see that the family relates to each of the other two institutions in exactly the same way: it is to “supply” them. With what? Only the family can provide them with what they both desperately must have to continue to do their God-given jobs—trained, educated, diligent, well-behaved young men and women with a vision for both gospel and kingdom, and who are ready and eager to join God’s family business of ruling over the earth.
One can readily see in today’s culture what happens when the family does not do its job. Divorce, lack of parenting skills, absentee fathers, as well as career-focused, absentee mothers are among the culprits who have unknowingly destroyed the only source for well-trained young people to supply the church and the civil government, as well the marketplace and other kingdom enterprises.
The Church – Jesus tells us that the church’s unique job is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).
This disciple-making process means the church is teaching and equipping these converts in how to do what God has commissioned us to do in Genesis 1:26-28: bear His image (spontaneously, naturally, and unconsciously by the gospel of the grace of God), rule over the earth (bringing the rule of Jesus to everyone we touch as they see it in our lives), and reproduce (having offspring, both physical and spiritual).
However, in the last 100 years the church has retreated from the cultural battlefield, being unwilling to come out from behind the supposedly safe fortress walls of its building and engage the world that is systematically attacking it. The church has looked the other way as Satan has, one by one, assaulted all our country’s centers of power and influence, including education, the arts, athletics, business, and politics in this, supposedly, originally “Christian nation.”
We have focused on “preaching the gospel” only, and in the process we have refused to “preach the kingdom.” As a result, these cultural “influence centers” have been neutralized or outright stolen. They will not be won back without engaging the enemy in a war of ideas, a war that will take incredible resolve to fight.
So, without emphasizing this big-picture vision of our eternal purpose, the church has failed in its task of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Talking about men being the decision makers in their families, spanking their children, and then protecting them as they grow up from the negative cultural influences around them is controversial. So is discussing how to take back the other “influence centers” mentioned above.
It is much safer to ignore such controversial topics that might cause many to leave the church. In today’s user-friendly church era, that is unacceptable. How can we equip them if they leave? Better just ignore such controversial topics and not try to equip them (even though the church’s specific job is to “equip the saints!”). The fact that church leadership is generally not equipped itself settles it. Without spiritual awakening in the church it cannot do its equipping task.
In any event, the church has not yet learned how to, with agape love, stand for biblical truth against all onslaughts. Without this resolve, the church certainly can’t speak prophetically to the civil government to do so (its mission to them), can it?!
Civil Government – The mission of the civil government in the plan of God is the simplest to understand yet the hardest for 21st century Christians to implement. The word on the horizontal line from civil government to both family and church is the word, “protect,” its sole task. This function is accompanied by the necessary “punishment” for those who refuse to follow the government’s laws designed to protect the other kingdom enterprises (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13, 14; 1 Timothy 2:1-4). This is covered in greater detail in my two books available free of charge on the website: Let Earth Receive Her King, and The Two Edges of the Sword.
Any government activities outside the confines of protection and punishment only, such as education, regulating the economy, caring for the poor, building roads, bridges and other infrastructure, etc., is overreach by the government into the sphere of authority of other kingdom entities in the private sector.
As the government has grown (in many ways trying to replace God as our ultimate authority), it has taken away more and more of our freedoms, and encroached on the authority spheres of family, church, and other kingdom activities. We have been willing to go along because we have been promised to be taken care of in exchange, and many of us have unwittingly made the trade. It’s time to wake up and say “Enough!”
Yes, there is a separation of church and state—and family and state, and church and family—each with its own specific biblical responsibilities, authority and God-given limitations in His kingdom, under the authority of Jesus Christ. May our eyes be opened to the great truth of the Ship of the Kingdom, and may we set sail on it together as we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.