The Application of the Biblical Law to Civil Government

Some general, perhaps random, thoughts on…

The Application of the Biblical Law to Civil Government 300px-Decalogue_jekuthiel_sofer_1768

  1. The Bible addresses the proper role of Civil Government in both the Old and new Testaments
  2. That Civil Government as a Divine Institution
    1. Is implied in the Dominion Mandate (Gen 1:26-28) when it established mankind as a regulatory institution that rules over “every living thing” including mankind.
    2. Is clearly defined as such in Romans 13 where rulers are called God’s ministers for good.
    3. Borders of civil jurisdiction fall within the scope of divine providential determination (Acts 17: 26-28).
    4. Civil jurisdictions will face divine judgment and will survive the present earth and exist in the New Heavens and New Earth.
      1. “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in that day than for this city.”
      2. He shall call all the nations before him and shall “separate THEM,” the sheep from the goats.
      3. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the Nations.
      4. Among our eternal rewards will be the rule of cities and assemblages of cities, i.e. geographic regions.
  3. The OT establishes applicable principles and limits for civil government.
  4. As stated above, God will judge Civil Jurisdictions
    1. Cities
    2. Nations
  5.  Limits
    1. Cities of Refuge
      1. Civil government should provide for and place appropriate limits on acts of personal retribution.
    2. Eye for eye
      1. Civil government should place limits on the extent of punishment for specific offenses. The punishment should not exceed the magnitude of the crime.
        1. This is the meaning of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
    3. The most extreme punishments should be prohibited except in the case of clear and verifiable evidence
      1. In the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses shall every word be established.
      2. Degrees of provability are acceptable for determination of guilt but severity of punishment is limited by the degree of certainty of the evidence.
      3. Death Penalty limited by degree of certainty
  6. Concerning the death penalty, it was first given to Noah (Gen 9:6) for all mankind and only in the case of murder. According to the biblical passage, this was for the preservation of the dignity of human life and its significance and sanctity as creatures made in God’s image.  Apparently this is a punishment that is appropriate in all cultures IF properly applied.  The fact that other offences were not initially added but were added under the Mosaic covenant is an indication that these are not a necessity for mankind as a whole, though they might be considered in certain cultures and under certain circumstances but only as limitations, not as mandatory prescriptions and then, ONLY when rightly understood and applied and with great caution.
  7. God’s patterns of government serve as our patterns, showing where civil government’s proper functions and legitimate limits are.
  8. Specific application of biblical legal prescriptions and proscriptions.
    1. Human civil government shall not exceed the biblical design.
      1. What God authorized for civil government is right. In other wise, if God authorized a certain penalty a particular offense, then that offense may be regulated and the punishment inflicted upon the offender shall not, if applied, exceed the penalty biblically prescribed.
      2. There should never be any penalty that exceeds the magnitude of the crime.
      3. Death penalty may be permitted for certain offenses but we must endeavor to understand
        1. The nature of the offense actually being punished.
          1. For example, was the death penalty for homosexual acts merely a condemnation of the sexual behavior or was it a condemnation of the idolatry associated with the acts? And we must ask under what degree of evidence could this most extreme penalty be applied?
        2. The application of the principle of the law versus the application of the form of the law. Sometimes it is wise to adapt the principle being addressed into a more contemporary form or expression.
        3. The proper application of the specific restrictions and related punishments.
          1. With regard to whether what are perceived to be the extreme regulations of moral behavior should be applicable to us today there are several points to be considered.
          2. It is a common objection that biblical law should not be a guide to our concept of civil government because of such extreme punishments as the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, etc. under Moses. This seems to be outrageous to our modern mind. It is a challenge to engage this topic because of the emotional dynamics on all sides but it may be helpful to consider these points:
            1. Some moral law should not be civilly implemented but should be left to the conscience of the individual as long as the behavior presents no harm to others or to society as a whole. This is a biblical principle by the way in that persons not born Jews could adopt the Jewish religion but on a strictly voluntary basis.  And, the Mosaic moral code, though it was a vast improvement over that of the surrounding cultures, it was only enforceable within Israel.
            2. Moral law, which is advisable to implement civilly, cannot be effectively implemented civilly without a social consensus.
        4. The application of the law as practiced by the Jews. For example, though death by stoning was authorized in scripture for disobedience to parents, it was never carried out in a single circumstance, but rather served as reminder of the severity of the offense and a warning of its deleterious effect on the culture.
        5. The biblical context of the regulation.
          1. Some laws and associated penalties were transitional in that they were a lessening of severity from what had previously been practiced.
          2. In some cases, what seem to be strictures on women, for example, are actually an elevation of women from what was previously practiced and was practiced at the time by surrounding cultures.
          3. Some biblical regulations are to be understood not as God’s ideal prescriptions, but as His regulation of man’s fallen condition in an imperfect world. For example, God “hates divorce.”  We can properly conclude therefore that he does not approve of it, yet, he divorced Israel and he regulates divorce, permitting it in certain circumstances in both Israel and the church.  Why does he permit and regulate divorce? Not because he approves of it, but because of the “hardness of your hearts,” Jesus said.
  9. A rejection of the present applicability of biblical law to present society because some portions are perceived to be extreme, does a great disservice in disconnecting society from the many redeeming aspects of biblical law when properly applied to culture. The following ideas are not just good ideas but ideas with divinely sanctioned:
    1. Representative constitutional government
    2. Separation of powers
    3. Limited civil powers
    4. Due process
    5. Equal Justice (the equality of all men before the law)
    6. Proper treatment of the disadvantaged
    7. Proper treatment of livestock
    8. Laws against bribes and prohibitions of financial gain resulting from holding a position of power
    9. Self determination
      1. Private property
      2. Whosoever will…
      3. The numerous scriptures on enjoyment of life
    10. Respect for the rights, liberties, and property of others
      1. Restrain your unruly ox
      2. Do not commit murder
      3. Do not harm your neighbor with a lie
      4. Do not steal
      5. Do not covet your neighbors’…
  10. These principles, applicable to just civil government, are drawn ALMOST ENTIRELY from the Old Testament.

Whose Fault Is It Really?

Leck and The Finger 1Who’s to blame for the current mess that is the US Presidential Race?  Why are we looking at a very real possibility of a race between a probable felon and confirmed serial liar and a blowhard egotist who hesitates when asked to condemn the KKK?

Well there is plenty of blame to go around, but when you boil it all down…

Is it Obama’s fault?

Well of course it is.  No seriously, it is.  No one has done more to divide the country and to put up walls between left and right than Obama.  He pretended from day one to want to hear and benefit from all sides in any debate. But in the end, what he meant was, please come over and agree with me so we can work together in my vision of a “fundamentally transform[ed]” America.

Is It the Democrats?

Sure.  Who has done more to block progress and bipartisan action than Harry Reid, who wouldn’t even allow a budget to come to a vote on the Senate floor?

What about Republican Obstructionism?

Of course, that has played a part too.  Republicans, who had every opportunity to put forward real proposals and solutions to a variety of problems, even if it was clear they would be struck down, often chose to simply spend their energy blocking the opposition, thus being tagged with the well-deserved moniker, The Party of No.

Conservative Purism?

There is a time to block and a time to resist, but when you can’t even work within your own party to come to agreements on action that could be productive if passed, you have failed.  The best has become the enemy of the good.

But The Real Culprit Is Not Often Mentioned

The Church. That’s right the followers of Jesus.  We are the real foundational reason things are falling apart around us.  “But wait, we are the victims.  We are the persecuted. Don’t you see how the world is forsaking our values and persecuting us for our beliefs, even forcing us to make cakes for gay weddings? (What a bunch of whiners!) Don’t you recognize the culture wars and how badly our side is doing?”

Yes, I certainly do.  Look at those footprints on your back.  Look at those bruises from being run roughshod over and remember the words of Jesus.  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”

Oh yeah!  The reason the earth is not salted is because the salt has not salted it.  The reason society is rotting is because the preservative that can restrict its natural tendency to degrade has neglected or altogether abandoned its responsibility of performing its preserving work in every aspect of culture and society. And it has substituted something other than Christlikeness, and called it salt.  Self-righteousness is not salt.  Isolationism is not salt.  Defensiveness is not salt.  Unkindness is not salt.  Compromise of principles in the conduct of our families and businesses is not salt.  Always looking to tear down rather than strengthening the things that remain, is not salt.

And the Greatest Blame of All Rests Squarely in One Place

The Pulpits of America.  Pastors and teachers who are more concerned about building their personal kingdoms or losing a few donors rather than feeding the sheep God has put under their care are False Shepherds, hirelings at best and idolaters at worst.  Those who do not equip and commission witnesses into the culture with real wisdom, grace, and lives invested into the world around them as servants to a needy world are a disgrace to the Gospel of Christ.

And that does not just mean that we are to testify against the pervasive rottenness.  It means we are to sanctify the society.  We are to join hands with it.  We are to come alongside it and help it in its struggle to produce a functioning society that is stable, productive, and peaceful.  We have no right to confront until we have served.  We have no right to rebuke until we have been kind.  We have no right to judge until we have thoroughly judged ourselves, and the pastors and preachers must lead by example and train by the solid uncompromising Word of God applied first to the House of God.

Some think they see God’s hand in raising up a Donald Trump to take a stand against the tide of insanity that is breaking down our culture.  To this I say, if that is the case, it is to our everlasting shame.  Indeed, God has raised up the ungodly before to accomplish his ends, but if we look into the scriptures, he usually raises them up to judge his own people, and then turns to judge the very instrument of judgment that he raised up.

This is all unnecessary, but may have become necessary to eventually bring us to our senses by God’s mercy.  In any case, there is only one reason the world around us is rotting away.  Only one reason Christians are the subject of increasing abuse.  The salt has lost its saltiness.  And the reason the salt has lost its saltiness is that the pulpit has lost its power.  And the reason the pulpit has lost its power is that the shepherds have forsaken their assignment.

Applicable Scriptures: Mat 5:13; Mat 13:33; Luk 6:356; Rev 3:2 Ezk 34:1-10; Joh 17:17; Mat 7:35; Joh 7:24; Mar 10:42-43; 1 Pe 4:17; Gen 1:28; Eph 3:10; Psa 96:3