Decades ago, the schools of our nation taught classes like “Government/Econ.” Most of those classes taught ninth-grade students about America’s three branches of the Federal Government and, if you were lucky, the United States Constitution. Don’t worry, will not be asking anyone to define obscure legal jargon at the end of this series. Rather, during September, my “letters from the pastor” will focus on the subject of human government. In this first “letter” I will be introducing the subject, and in the three letters that will follow I will be taking a closer look at each of the governments God has established. One of the reasons our nation is swirling the drain is that we’ve mistakenly believed that national or global governing bodies are the only governments that matter. So, without further ado, let’s allow the Bible to inform our understanding of government.
God has instituted three spheres of human government: the family, the state, and the church. Because God is the one who institutes these governments, he alone gets to define them. Where do we find the institutions of these governments? The government of the family is instituted in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 1, 2) In Genesis 9, after the flood, God institutes the government of the state by granting the power of the sword to human societies as a way of restraining evil. Finally, the church is foreshadowed in the worship of Israel and realized in the New Testament (Matt. 16:19; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9, et. al.) Underneath these three formal human governments, is the requirement that individuals be able to govern themselves (self-government).
The three main reasons our state governments are so ineffectual are: first, the government of the state has failed to recognize and submit to God, second, the governments of the family and the church have been severely weakened, and third, the government of the state has overstepped the boundaries of both the family as well as the church. We will examine these three reasons in more detail in future letters but let me summarize my thoughts on all of them in a few short lines.
(1) If a nation does not recognize a God above the state, then the state functions as “god.” This has happened in America.
(2) Families with fathers, mothers, and children (not individuals) are the fundamental building blocks of a healthy society. Without healthy families, there is no hope of having healthy nations. The families of our nation face external threats (from the government) as well as internal threats (from our own sinfulness).
(3) Finally, governments are catastrophically ill-equipped to provide for the needs that only families and churches can meet. Our government, trying to substitute itself for fathers, mothers, and pastors has become an arrogant stumblebum.
We have immense challenges facing us, but the first challenge is to wake up, read what the Bible says about each of these governments, and believe it. Elections matter. So do families. So do churches. Our nation did not get where it is today simply by voting. We sinned ourselves into the mess we’ve made. We won’t get out simply by voting (though we must vote). We get out through repentance and faith: through believing God and obeying God.
Let me be clear from the outset of this series: Our obedience to the Word of God as it regards human governments will not and cannot produce a utopia on Earth. The perfect kingdom of Christ has been inaugurated by his resurrection, but it will not arrive in its fullness until the return of Christ at the end of this age. But we have a duty before God and to our fellow man to order our homes, our nation, and our church according to the dictates of his Word. And, when we do this, it will result in a far more holy and just nation than we are inhabiting today.
So, get out your pen and paper. Grab your Bible too. Over the next several weeks we’ll take a look at the human governments God has instituted and see how this subject addresses nearly every societal ill we face.