Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Role of Government

this article will be featured in David Ketter's Christian Homeschooling Youths Gazzette-kp

What is the biblical role of government?

I talked a lot about the role of government in my previous article concerning welfare. In that we saw how it is not the role of government to provide for the poor. Which leads us to a question, what exactly is the biblical role of government?

If we go back and read Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we can see the original form of Government and laws that God ordained and out in place. If we continue to read on up to the point where Kings were established, we can see that in their reigns they still followed the basic principles and laws already established. Of course, most of the kings became corrupt at some point in their reigns; however that still doesn’t negate the fact that the role of government is in the Old Testament as well as New.
A few examples of the biblical role of government include:

Lev 24:22Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I [am] the LORD your God.
Deu 16:18Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
Deu 16:19Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
Jer 22:3Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

According to those verses, a government should have a set of laws that everyone has to obey, a just court system, and authority to punish evil.
The Hebrew word for Law in Lev. 24:22 and Judgment in Jer. 22:3 is the word mishpat {mish-pawt'} which comes from the root word shaphat {shaw-fat'}. Shaphat means:

1) to judge, govern, vindicate, punish
a) (Qal) 1) to act as law-giver or judge or governor (of God, man)
1) to rule, govern, judge
2) to decide controversy (of God, man)
3) to execute judgment
a) discriminating (of man)
b) vindicating
c) condemning and punishing
d) at theophanic advent for final judgment
(to find the blue letter bible definitions, click here )

And Mishpat means:

1) judgment, justice, ordinance

a) judgment

1) act of deciding a case

2) place, court, seat of judgment

3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges)

4) case, cause (presented for judgment)

5) sentence, decision (of judgment)

6) execution (of judgment)

7) time (of judgment)

So those definitions are talking primarily about judging and law enforcement. The question may arise, HOW does this relate to government’s role?

In Leviticus, God was laying the framework for the government system, and gave the Israelites instructions on what things to do, how to do it, and how everything will work. Even though Israel did not stay a Theocracy, those principles established, such as making laws and having judges, were still in place.

In Jeremiah, the prophet was telling the king of Israel to execute judgment and righteousness but not to harm certain types of people. That word Judgment is the same as the word law (mishpat) in Leviticus. The principles established there for executing judgment are don’t kill innocent blood, take away the goods from the oppressor (or let the oppressed go free), have compassion on the fatherless and widows, and do no wrong.

These principles are still seen active in wars today, depending on what side you’re on. I know that in America these principles are held dear to almost everyone. The last thing we want to see is innocent blood shed because it is unjust, we want to see the oppressor suffer and the oppressed go free, we can’t stand it when someone harms the orphans and helpless, and we strive to do right.

God set the basis of laws that almost everyone knows as the 10 commandments. Most societies have some of these laws as well. For instance, don’t steal, don’t murder, and don’t lie are rules that can be found almost any where in the world. Not all people follow those laws, but the governments that have them established usually punish the violators.

This brings us to Romans 13: 3-4 which states:

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:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

One thing that is very interesting is how each of the different aspects are intertwined. If you don’t have a set of laws, you cannot effectively punish evil, without a just “court system” you cannot effectively enforce laws OR punish evil. All three elements are needed in order for the system to be effective and just.
Now the question is: has America effectively put those principles into practice? Or haven't we?


Bob D said...

Very good points. A government and any group of people must have some absolutes such as the 10 commandments and the other truths that have been given to us by God. If absolutes do not exist or are ignored, then the government will fall-not from the outside, but from within.

Bryce said...

Good stuff! I agree. Now can you tell us whether Bush believes this? Or congress?

Bryce said...

I should clarify...I am wondering how you think this applies to our nation today. Especially, how does this relate to a Christian's voting decisions and Christian politicians?

Mike said...

Are you advocating a return to rule by kings? Or theocracy?

Kierstyn Paulino said...


I'm not advocating kings or theocracy, I personally believe the system we have is just fine as long as it stays within boundries. (like punishing evil etc...but not making crazy-for lack of better term- decisions like abortion etc..)


I have no idea whether or not congress agrees...I tend to doubt it ;)

How do I think it applies to our Nation today? well I think that the principles outlined in Lev. Num. and Deu. can be applied to us today.

For instance, instead of the government working on welfare they could be working on enforcing our border (punishing wrong doers rather than spending time on things that aren't necessary).

How does it relate to Christian voting decisions and politicians?

We need to support the candidate or be the candidate with a Biblical worldveiw. I don't think that one politician is going to turn the government back to its roots, but it is a start.

Did that answer your question(s)?


mg said...

What is the biblical role of government?

Actually - in this country - there IS NO biblical role of government. Its called the 1st Amendment. read it.

mg said...

By the way - this website is hilarious.


Kierstyn Paulino said...

Well, if you read the Constitution and founding documents, alot of our laws are based on Biblical Principles and Common law.

I have read the 1st ammendment, it doesn't prove your point at all.

Congress shall make no law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...

It doesn't say anything about acknowledging God. In fact, one of the first acts of congress was to get a chaplian for prayers before the start of the sessions.

That wasn't an establishment of religion, that was an acknowledgement of the fact that there is a Creator.

Using Biblical Principles in government is NOT an ESTABLISHMENT of religion, rather, it is a system of principles that have been used over and over again throughout history.

Don't Murder is a Biblical concept, Yet we use it here in America...thats not an establishment of religion even though it came from the Bible.

YOu can use Biblical principles without establishing a religion, we can still see that today. Look at the 10 commandments, and look at Common law, and look at US law.