Christians and the State Part II,
by Rev. Steve Wilkins

 

Robin Griffin wrote:

>> Aragorn wrote:
>> The Bible does not speak of a king loosing his power when he breaks a
>> covenant (at least in those words).
>
> That's what I thought. I don't see where scripture says that the king
> has a covenant with those under his authority. The accountability seems
> to be toward God, who has put the king in authority. It would seem that
> it is God's prerogative to remove him from power. Of course he might do
> this through the sinful actions of men (as he did with Israel), but that
> doesn't make the actions of the men righteous.

Not so fast. The point here is grounded in the nature of covenant headship. All "governors" are "ministers of God" (be they in the home, the Church, or the State). That means, at least in part, that their authority is not unlimited but strictly bounded by the Word of God.

Thus, the wife who is brutally abused by her wicked, rebellious husband is not left to wait for God to "take him out." She is given legitimate recourse by God not only to defend herself but also to act upon the covenant-breaking activity of the husband (who is bound by God to exercise his authority to "nourish and cherish" his bride) and peaceably withdraw from his authority over her by the lawful remedy of divorce.

Thus, the church which is wickedly abused by a covenant-breaking pastor who "lords" it over the flock, is not left to wait upon God to "remove" the pastor by His providential judgments, but is allowed recourse by God to lawfully remove the pastor or (if lawful action fails or is not allowed) to peaceably withdraw from the congregation.

What is true for governors in the home and in the Church is also true for governors in the State. This is what was so "revolutionary" about Paul's instruction in Romans 13 (not that he was teaching any new doctrine — he wasn't, he was simply repeating the old teaching of the bounds and limitations that God has established upon covenant-headship). But here Paul reminds the church that ALL rulers are established by God as His ministers (ALL including the Roman emperor).

We must understand that this was not the view of the emperor (at the time Nero) or of the Romam empire. Pagans had always viewed the King/Emperor as God or as God "walking on earth" and thus given "absolute authority" over all those under him. Nero (or any pagan ruler of this season) would NOT have been happy with Paul's instruction. Caesar did not view himself as under any authority whatsoever.

This is also why our Savior's words ("Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, BUT render to God the things that are God's") were equally distressing to the imperial state. Caesar made claims to divinity and desired to obliterate all distinctions between himself and God. He claimed unlimited sovereignty — Jesus, Paul, and the entire teaching of the O.T. said "No." Only God has unlimited sovereignty.

God ordained Kings to be as "nursing mothers and fathers" to the people (Isa 49.23). They are in short, to exercise their authority like parents in the home (and like elders in the Church, who are also to be like fathers and mothers to God's people) — they were accountable to God. And God allows those under them legitimate, lawful recourse if they refused to be faithful to their calling (this is, of course, the basis for refusing obedience to unlawful commands).

Where a ruler persists in making unlawful demands upon those who are subject to him; where a ruler refuses to follow the constitutions under which his authority is defined; where a ruler refuses to hear the appeals and petititions of his subjects for redress; then God has given lawful recourse to subjects (in addition to praying for God's judgment). Those under rebellious rulers may either remove them from their office (king, elder) assuming such provisions exist or peaceably withdraw from under their authority (parent, king, elder) with the blessing of God.

> Where can I read the covenant that the king of England broke?
> Admittedly, I am historically challenged, but I don't remember such a
> compact.

Constitutions, charters, contracts, and political agreements are covenantal documents. The "covenants" that were broken by the King of England were the colonial charters which allowed for the self-determination of the colonies under His authority — i.e. The King allowed each colony to have its own legislature (popularly elected) and be ruled by that legislature under him (he retained "veto" power over their laws). The colonies were not under the legislative authority of the British Parliament since they were not part of England. They were self-governing colonies of the King, members of the British Empire.

This agreement was broken by the King when he allowed the English Parliament to pass laws, regulations, and taxes for the colonies (without the consent of their own legislatures) — and then sent the British army to invade the colonies and coerce them to submit to these laws. (NOTE: The colonists protested not against the right to tax, but against the right of the English Parliament to pass tax legislation over them — they said, they had their own legislatures to govern them and the English Parliament only had authority over the people of England and Scotland. Therefore, the English Parliament had no more right to tax them than they did the citizens of the moon.) The issue was one of covenantal headship and not merely political or economic.

When the King refused to listen to the colonial appeals for redress and the restoration of their mutually agreed upon rights, and thus, when he sent British troops to enforce the unlawful claims of the British Parliament — the colonies legitimately resorted to self-defense and, in light of the King's actions breaking their charters, declared themselves "free and independent states."

 

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