Civil Magistrates and God's Law: Part Three
This article appeared in the October 29th edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 10.27.09 By D. Eric Williams
The only hope for this nation is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Believers we must proclaim the forgiveness of sin in Jesus and the reconciliation of all things to the Father in Him (Colossians 1:20). If our Christianity is merely personal piety, it is not the kind of faith God will use to turn this nation around. When we understand that Jesus is Lord of all of life, we will begin to raise up a generation educated in applying God's word to every aspect of this life and realm - including civil government.
The Christian civil magistrate who has entered office with proper training in biblical political theory will immediately set to work to bring his arena of activity under the authority of Jesus. As a minister of the Lord, he has the responsibility to serve Christ and to legislate in a manner in keeping with the law of God (Romans 13:1-4). Many Believers are uncomfortable with this idea because they do not understand how a modern Christian legislator might seek to implement law based upon God's word.
One of the first things we need to understand is that with the change of the priesthood (the coming of the Messiah), there is by necessity a change of law (Hebrews 7:12). We tend to limit this principle to ceremonial precepts but there is nothing in the text that compels us to do so. Thus, like ecclesiastical authorities, civil magistrates cannot simply propose the wholesale adoption of Old Testament law for 21st-century America. For example, in the Mosaic dispensation, Sabbath breaking was dealt with by the civil authorities and was a death penalty offense. However, in the new covenant age there are changes in both the mode of worship and the locus of authority concerning the Sabbath. To begin with, appropriate Sabbath observance has changed from the seventh day to the eighth (the first day of the week), and is now a matter of individual conscience rather than a responsibility of the civil magistrate (Romans 14:5).
Therefore, a principle that must guide our understanding of Sabbath worship in this age is, the civil magistrate has no authority in matters of conscience. Not only is worship of the one true God ultimately up to the individual, in the same fashion men answer to God for all worship - true and false. This is not to say anything goes in worship. The Church decides upon proper corporate worship and has the authority to excommunicate those who ignore orthodoxy. However, with the coming of the Messiah there is no longer a role for the civil authority in enforcing appropriate worship. This means there could be no civil penalty meted out for worship of a false god in this age of the Son of Man. This is not to suggest false religions must be placed on an equal footing with Christianity. The idea of a level playing field for Christian and non-Christian religions alike cannot be supported by Scripture. This is the reason the concept was not adopted by the founding fathers of the United States (See; Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition, 316). Nor should it be the intent of a Christian magistrate in modern America.
These are the kinds of things a Christian civil magistrate needs to know in order to legislate according to God's law in this modern age. Granted, we are years away from the day when Christians are in a position to do anything more than stand against the tide. Biblical law as the law of the land will only be in evidence after revival has come to the Church along with a willingness on the part of Christians to be educated in the truth of the Scripture as it applies to all aspects of life.