Christ and Caesar
(Psalms 22:28) For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations. (The following was written in response to a saint's inquiry) It is in the wisdom of God that men be ruled by other men. This wisdom has existed from the beginning of humanity: the authority of Adam over Eve was established before sin entered by virtue of the order of creation (1TI 2:11-14; 1CO 11:7-10). Scripture is replete with commands, precepts and examples of men governing other men, the just exercise and limits of such power, and also the duty of the governed to recognize the legitimate authority of their governors (ROM 13:1 c/w JOH 19:11; 1PE 2:13-17; TIT 3:1; etc.). In the sovereignty of God, Americans live under a system of representative government which, when all things work as they should, derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. By the electoral process, citizens choose who should represent them to be the guardians of their lives, liberties and properties. Bible-believers know that “Righteousness exalteth a nation...” (PRO 14:34), that “...He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2SAM 23:3), that “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (PRO 29:2), that “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest of men are exalted” (PSA 12:8), and when corruption is the universal byword of high office, “...the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time” (AMO 5:12-13) and the prudent may also have to “...hide themselves...” (PRO 28:28). It therefore behooves the Bible-believer to look for genuine virtue in a candidate for high office, someone of greater integrity than that unjust judge “...which feared not God, neither regarded man:” (LUK 18:2). Sometimes, though, such virtue seems to be practically absent in available candidates, and Bible-believers are left with a difficult decision: who should they support, if any? Following are some personal observations based upon Scripture and history that may be helpful for the Bible-believer who would like to vote (particularly in a Presidential election), and these are with a view to the well-being of Christ's churches and gospel. 1. Believers should recognize that oppressive civil governments are sometimes God's instruments to punish His people who have cast off the fear and knowledge of God. O.T. history is full of warnings and examples of this principle. One need only read the Book of Judges to see this “play then pay” principle repeated time and again. America is not under a national covenant with God as was Israel of old, but the churches of Jesus Christ are certainly under a covenant with God---the New Testament of Jesus Christ, Who is the messianic governor (per PSA 22:28) of those holy nations (1PE 2:9), walking in their midst (REV 2:1) to open and shut doors for them according to their works (REV 3:7-8). If the saints be troubled in a secular nation that seems to be “treading water,” that stream might well be traced back to its headwaters: “...judgment must begin at the house of God...” (1PE 4:17). 2. No civil authority is to be trusted as God is trusted (PSA 118:8-9; PSA 146:3). Neither men of low degree or high degree are the refuge that can be ultimately trusted to protect from trouble (PSA 62:8-9). Believers who participate in the electoral process do well to make wise, informed choices that are consistent with biblical principles. But they must ultimately place their confidence in God Who holds and turns the hearts of rulers (PRO 21:1) for the welfare of those that fear Him, even in times of bondage (PSA 106:46), and remember that the faithful are sometimes obliged to share in the trouble that unbelievers cause, as witness the experience of Joshua and Caleb (NUM 14:30-39). Believers should especially remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (JOH 16:33). 3. Whereas wisdom implies that the best civil leader would be one who fears God and has holy faith, remember that even the holiest of men have a sin nature which can corrupt their judgment and policy (as witness King David, 2SAM 11:15; 2SAM 24:1-4), and history has shown that churchmen can be as oppressive as carnal politicians. Further, sometimes the basest of men are used of God to benefit His people that fear Him. Nebuchadnezzar was a brutal, imperial tyrant in thrall to heathen superstition, yet God overruled his ambitions to the benefit of Daniel (DAN 2:46-48) and Israel's religion (DAN 3:28-30). Similar observations could be made of King Darius (DAN 6:25-28). Cyrus the Mede was an imperial heathen dictator chosen of God to set the Jews free that they might rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (ISA 44:28; EZR 1:1-4). On the other hand, it would seem to be a “no-brainer” for a believer to vote for a Solomon (a very wise prophet and preacher) but for all his wisdom and spirit, he turned out to be a heavy-taxing polygamist (1KI 11:1-3; 1KI 11:43 c/w 1KI 12:1-4). My personal opinion is that, when it comes to civil government, a man's track record and policies relative to the unalienable rights of life, liberty, property and conscience towards God are as important as his faith (sometimes moreso). 4. Personal flaws which are not illegal nor injurious to others are less dangerous than personal flaws which are illegal and present a threat to others. If, for example, your family was on a sinking ship and two potential deliverers showed up, the one an adulterer and the other a murderous pirate, with whom would you likely entrust your family? A rake is less danger than a robber, a cad less dangerous than a killer. History has demonstrated that, ironically, there have been favorable times for the common man (including Bible-believers), under morally-loose political leaders. On the other hand, a politician with an “I decide who lives or dies” attitude (like Nebuchadnezzar, DAN 5:18-19) makes life and property precarious commodities. 5. Electing a president is important but not because such will have ultimate power and use that (hopefully) for good. Presidential power in America is, thankfully, limited. But the influence that the President can have on the country's course through executive orders, veto power, immigration policy, treaty arrangements, military actions and judicial appointments (particularly for the Supreme Court) is considerable. For example, since God is emphatically “pro-life,” (since He equates conception with personhood, ISA 7:14 c/w MAT 1:23, etc.) a candidate who is “pro-life” would on that issue be a better choice than one who is “pro-choice” (pro-abortion), especially if there is a need to nominate a Supreme Court justice. 6. The U.S. Constitution is a remarkable form of government which recognized freedom of conscience towards God and enabled a high degree of personal liberty and prosperity. But from the beginning it was known that the continued success of that noble experiment depended on the virtue of the people: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (John Adams) “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” (Benjamin Franklin) “The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.” (Samuel Adams) “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.... Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?” (George Washington, Farewell Address) Mind that virtue is not hereditary, nor can it be forced into men by laws; it must come from within by convictions laid upon the conscience as the soul is challenged to stand before a holy God. Such animation is “...Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (ZEC 4:6). Nothing less than the gospel of Jesus Christ has ever produced the necessary general virtue in men that moves them to rule and limit themselves before they think to rule and limit others. Certainly, political liberty will be limited if the gospel message is limited. 7. Think not of electing some form of national pastor but rather one who is most likely to not obstruct the gospel or the speech of the church of Jesus Christ. The interests of both the state and the church are best served when they are friends, not married. The gospel needs not the taxing power of the state to prosper its work nor the official approval of or the sword of the state to insulate it against dissenters or skeptics' objections. The gospel desires that the state simply leave it to proclaim its message. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” Believers are to pray “...that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified...” (2TH 3:1). Since actions should accord with prayer's desire, it would be appropriate to (if such a choice exists), vote for a candidate who is most likely to not muzzle the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel. 8. God has ordained the division of men into nations as the best hope of man's personal liberty to seek God and be delivered from his own destructive, self-exalting ways. Hence, He imposed limitations by dividing men at Babel (GEN 11:1-9), “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” (ACT 17:26-27). God is no political globalist. Jesus Christ was offered the government of all kingdoms and He rejected it (MAT 4:8-11), and Scripture identifies all world government systems in all times as Satanic (REV 17:1-11). Therefore, if one presidential candidate is more likely to advance world government than another, the latter would be a better choice on that issue. 9. God supports the right of an individual to possess and wield a weapon for self-defense, the defense of others from peril, and even as a deterrent to political tyranny. Israel of old was a nation of militia-men, an armed citizenry who could be mustered for national action. When they became self-indulgent and looked instead to centralized power for security in Samuel's days, they found themselves ill-equipped to defend against foreign oppressors who then forbade them from having weapons to resist (1SAM 13:19-22). The rebuilding of Jerusalem years later was defended by armed citizens (NEH 4:13-18). Jesus Christ advised His disciples, “...But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (LUK 22:36). Therefore, a candidate which would not undermine the Second Amendment of the Constitution would be a better choice than one who would do so. 10. Believers are to pray “For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1TI 2:2). Again, since actions should accord with prayer's desires, if a candidate's policies are belligerent towards Christianity or would animate public sentiment against Christianity or would promote class strife and unrest or would flood society with anti-Christian immigrants or would through various means make godliness and honesty dangerous (see ISA 59:14-15; ISA 5:20), etc., such a candidate would be a poor choice for a believer. 11. There are many other scriptural commands and principles for which a good candidate for high office should stand, from sound money to fair and open trials to righteous judgment and justice. Stealing is stealing whether an individual does it for his own gain or whether he hopes an elected official will do it for him under color of law. To force a man (by threat of legal penalty) to work for the benefit of another is little different from enslavement, though the transfer of wealth may seem noble in the eyes of those who enforce it and those who receive it. Scripture forbids the notion, “...Let us do evil, that good may come...” (ROM 3:8). Beware of the candidate whose platform advances what God forbids, however noble and popular the cause. 12. Inasmuch as rulers should rule justly and in the fear of God (2SAM 23:3), their judgment should be, like God's, impartial: “For there is no respect of persons with God” (ROM 2:11). Beware of any candidate who undermines this principle in matters of law or in the control of the public coffers. 13. Finally, in view of the transient nature of kingdoms, nations, constitutions, etc., believers should be thankful that God has planted His unshakeable kingdom in this world: gospel churches ruled by the flawless, eternal King Jesus under a constitution which never needs amending (and woe unto those who think to add to its words or take away from them, REV 22:18-19). (HEB 12:28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (HEB 12:29) For our God is a consuming fire.