By S.G. Smith
We have lived for millennia in confusion over the precise role and purpose for human government. People have worked to cooperate, oppressed their own, enslaved others, and fought wars in an effort to advance their particular notion of political authority. We continue today to choose sides associated with party affiliation (democrat or republican) and economic philosophies (socialism or capitalism) to use as guides to establish an appropriate perspective for government and political authority. However, do we ever stop to ask, “What was God’s intended purpose in instituting universal human government?”
In Nazi Germany political officials were glibly advancing the notion that Christians, or others, were required to comply with government leaders on the basis of references from Romans 13. As valid as this brief apostolic citation might be, it cannot be used to give carte blanche acceptance to every particular political action or be allowed to usurp the historical purpose for universal human government in general. Therefore, come now and let us reason together.
The Genesis Record
The original social order was implied in the first family as summarized in the first chapter of Genesis within the Adamic covenant. However, the seminal principle of what we tend to think of as human government does not arise until after the Great Flood. In the Noahic covenant (sometimes referred to in such terms as the Noahide code) capital punishment for murder is universally mandated for all mankind for perpetual generations. For most conservative scholarship, the divine institution of universal human government begins in Genesis 9.
Sometime after the Flood and also recorded in Genesis 11, we learn how mankind was fragmented into different language groups, which became foundational for the development of nations. The unified plan under Nimrod on the plain of Shinar exposed a level of rebellion deserving of divine judgment. God halted this rebellion by confounding the language of the human family at what is known as Babel (or ‘Babylon’ in Greek).
It should be mentioned that this division of mankind into nations was not based upon genetics or ethnicity, but on language. Genetic variation, due to the geographical distribution which followed, would give rise to ethnic variation in the wake of this divine judgment. Needless to say this would have a huge impact on how universal human government would develop throughout history. Instead of a provincial tribe simply putting an individual murderer to death, we have moved on to war between nations due to arbitrary human slaughter or genocidal activity. Genesis 14 explodes with kings allied against another group of kings for the purpose of plunder and perhaps slavery. It appeared that human government had progressed well beyond divine expectations.
Finally, before we leave Genesis, we learn how the Egyptian civilization came to acknowledge Pharaoh as supreme dictator and essential owner of Egypt. Preconditioned to idolatry, they eagerly accepted a system of state socialism as their salvation. Granted we can only speculate, but had they also personally followed Joseph’s administrative example of holding back stores of grain for their individual households, they might have been in a better position for negotiating the looming crisis that would come after the seven years of plenty. What was probably intended as a short term solution for a national crisis eventually became a significant overhauling of the Egyptian political system. Although some might suggest that this socialist order was God’s long term plan for human government, why then was the political structure for Israel, under Moses, so radically different in form? After all, Israel, not Egypt was to be the premier example for God’s work among nations. Egypt followed its natural inclination toward absolute monarchy. The Pharaoh owned everything and essentially ruled as God.
Moses, Samuel and Israel
After the children of Israel departed from Egypt to wander in the wilderness, a new form of national government was beginning to develop. This was a system where the true God was the active agent legislating social edicts and assigning a judge (as opposed to a deified monarch) to mediate and assess the divine will. As would be seen, it was the people who would effectively serve as the executive branch of government to punish criminals or wage war against invading nations. Furthermore, here was a society which was economically centered on private property, apportioned to the tribal families spread out in the land for subduing the earth…….an echo of Eden. Long before any such concept existed in America, the “gentleman farmer” of Israel prospered from his own productivity and was ready to take up his civil responsibilities when required. Sadly the liability of our sinful natures causes humanity to percolate downward, and under the last judge, Samuel, a drastic shift would take place.
During the time of Samuel, the people had apparently grown tired of their civic responsibility, along with an understandable discontent with the likes of Samuel’s sons. The people eventually came to Samuel and demanded a king like all the other nations! Really, could this be true? Wasn’t God supposed to be king? God, however, permitted the Israelites to have their king which would eventually lead the nation into the Babylonian captivity. God, in His sovereignty however, would accommodate this idolatrous deviation from His purposes to eventually lift up David and a virtual Israeli empire under Solomon. However, the lesson to be learned seems to be that idolatry, in any form, ultimately ends in slavery.
The Time of the Gentiles
Finally, we come to the critical stage in the advancement (and perhaps corruption) of universal human government which has opened the door for the modern political environment in our world today. The book of Daniel has long been cited by many as possibly the most interesting book of prophesy, which conveniently intersects with the book of Revelation(s). The four major empires, following the decline of imperial Israel, each made a significant contribution toward political management for subsequent empires down into our own day. These might be briefly summarized as follows:
- Babylon – money, usury, and deficit financing
- Medo-Persia – bureaucratic regulation & control
- Greece – philosophy, humanistic rationalism
- Rome – military statism and oppression
Although varying shades of the above features may have existed to some degree within previous empires, these particular qualities have been emphasized by scholars for centuries regarding these four empires in Daniel. Additionally, it is interesting to consider that the Egyptian storage economy under Joseph (as a short term solution) was most likely adopted by the Babylonians as a permanent economic basis for their deficit economy. Sadly today, we don’t seem to have any kind of representative collateral to serve as a foundation for our deficit fantasy (except for government ultimately stealing the literal property of the citizenry).
A New Testament with Old Politics
So we have concluded a very brief political history of government from the Old Testament scriptures and have now come to the New Testament. One could (as some have) open with Jesus as a socio-political reformer who comes as some pre-marxist liberator of Israel from the tyranny of Rome. Though this is not the case, it is not inconsistent with what the people of Christ’s day may have actually wanted…..a king (like other nations, except Rome). Surprisingly they would soon be crying out for Jesus to be crucified. May God forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.
Well, do we know what we are doing?
When we arrive at Paul’s summary of human government in Romans 13, are we really responsible to honor every arbitrary, unbiblical mandate or Luciferian idolatry imposed on us by the state? I think not. When the state acts to capriciously kill, steal or destroy, this exposes an abuse of their divine stewardship as they fail to honor the seminal principle of government from Gen. 9. The overriding biblical requirement for the church, the state, or any individual is to honor and reflect the majesty and character of God in our service. Failure at any level is simply that…….failure, which is ultimately sin.
The presumption of liberty is coupled with taking responsibility associated with that freedom. Freedom, liberty, and responsibility require maturity. Though a child is free from responsibility, he does not enjoy the freedom and liberty of an adult. Sadly, slavery is generally associated with restricted responsibility with even less freedom. This condition may be externally imposed due to oppression, or exists perhaps as the natural result of an individual’s lack of opportunity, diligence, or endurance. Nevertheless, the road to Babylon is a road to slavery. Christ came to conquer Death, not Rome; He died in order that we might have eternal Life.
Submitted by S. G. Smith ; P. O. Box 93075 ; Lubbock, TX 79493