CHURCH AND THE POLITICAL STATE
Pr. P. J. Daniel
Church is a spiritual kingdom established by the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. It is totally obliged to the one who has established it. Church is the place where the will of God is being done on earth. It originated on earth on the day of Pentecost, formally inaugurated by the Lord Jesus Christ by sending the Holy Spirit on earth. It had not existed on earth before Pentecost. It can be proved by the statement of Jesus Christ at Caesarea Philip “I will build my church”. Since this statement is used in future tense, it is obvious that the Church was not in existence before the day of Pentecost. Jesus also stated that hell and hades cannot prevail against it.
Though the church is in the world it is not of the world. It is a heavenly system maintained on earth by the Holy Spirit to eradicate the dominion of Satan from the world, which he had usurped from Adam. The present ruler of this earth is Satan. He is the god and prince of this earth (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He had shown all glory of this world to Jesus and demanded Jesus to worship him. Jesus did not try to argue against the dominion of Satan over this world, but only argued against worship. Jesus well knew that it belongs to him only temporarily and it will be recaptured not by bowing down before him but by crushing his head on the cross. So Satan’s dominion on earth is temporary. He knows well that his time is going to be finished. So he is trying his level best to evacuate the Kingdom of God. But it will end in the destruction of the evil one, and Christ and His Kingdom will be the final winner. The Kingdom of God will be established in three stages. (1) The resurrection of Christ was the initial breakthrough. (2) The second stage will be at the resurrection of the saints at his second coming. (3) The final stage will be at the great white throne judgment, when all the wicked will be resurrected and put in the lake of fire. It will be the consummation of his heavenly kingdom when Christ will destroy “every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15: 23-25)
But we have to discuss certain aspects regarding our relationship with this world. In this regard we have to discuss three passages from the New Testament. Romans 13: 1 -7; 1 Peter 2: 11 – 17; 1Timothy 2: 1, 2.
Our Civic Responsibilities
Though we live in this world our citizenship is heavenly (Phil. 3:20). As long as we live in this world we must maintain a heavenly pattern of life on earth. We are also the ambassadors of heaven. An ambassador is the representative of the country to which he belongs to. Since we are heavenly citizens we belong to heaven. So we should demonstrate the heavenly standard and lifestyle in this world. Though we are in the world we are not of the world.
Since we are in this world we have to keep certain civic responsibilities, which will be discussed in detail.
1. All authorities are appointed by God.
There is only one higher power in this universe that is God, who is sovereign and omnipotent. He is in total control of the cosmos. He ordains the higher powers on earth. Proverbs 8: 15 validates this suggestion. “By me kings reign and princes decree justice”. So all authorities got their authority from God. Jesus answered Pilate while he was interrogated, “you would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11). From this verse it is obvious that all authority is given from above. This is the state in which Christians, under certain conditions, can be loyal subjects (1 Peter 2: 13 – 17)
2. All the citizens are supposed to obey the authorities.
We have to obey the civil codes and rules of the local government if it is applicable to our Biblical precepts. The three Hebrew youths never yielded to the commandment of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, because bowing down before a statue was against their Decalogue. Such cases God intervened and rescued His loyal servants. As a common regulation all Christians are obliged to keep the civic rules of the state. If we do not obey them we resist the authority of God. Moreover we may come under condemnation or punishment. Resistance or rebellion against constituted authority is, therefore, to resist God who instituted the state (Romans 13: 2).
Being subject to state authorities is not a servile attitude. Subjection is used by Paul in regard to mutual respect and submission (1 Cor. 16: 16). “The rejection of subjection in an ordered society threatens peace and unity today. Ignorance and indifference to this cardinal principle of civilized society have brought things to the brink of chaos and anarchy”. A Christian can be responsible in the social order because he is free. Resistance or rebellion against constituted authority is, therefore, to resist God who instituted the state. The state is not eternal, and it is not the redemptive society – as the church - but it is God’s instrument to bring order among the lawless.
3. They are appointed to maintain peace and social justice in the country.
They are appointed by God to maintain social security, peace and tranquility in the country. They have to punish the anti-social elements. The Bible says that they bear the sword not in vain but to execute punishment upon the evil doers.
State officials are rulers and deserve the loyalty of Christians only when they approve good conduct and punish the wrong doers (Romans 13: 3, 4). “The corrupt politicians who appeal to the Christian conscience to protect their unjust reign of terror and tyranny should be totally repudiated”. Some rulers must be resisted by the testimony and their ruthless dealings with the Christians. We have examples of such in the history. Tertullian, the great convert of Carthage, protested to the precepts of the Roman provinces against the persecution of Christians. But one thing is sure that the church flourishes during severe persecution. Tertullian’s famous statement approves it. “semen est sanguis Christianorum” –“blood of Christians is seed of the church”.
4. All subjects are supposed to pay the taxes of the residing countries.
Jesus said: 'render to Caesar that which is due to him'. It is a model to us that Jesus paid tax to the state government together with Peter through a miracle fishing. This is an example demonstrated to his disciples, which is also applicable to each one of us. It is good to remember his famous saying on the occasion when he was asked as a trap whether to pay tax or not. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are of God’s” (Mark 12: 17). We should not make any negligence in pay our taxes and other dues to the state government.
There is more than enough money due to the state authorities. Respect and honor are also due (Romans 13: 3, 4) but it is not to the wrong doers. Even those with the best of conduct must give honor and the highest consideration to those who promote the good and punish the evil. Public authorities of this type are worthy of confidence and full support. But we lack these in this modern generation. We see there is corruption and anarchy from top to the bottom. It is difficult to solve the situation with a minority of Christians in our country. Jesus reiterates that we are the “salt of the earth”. As salt seasons and preserves things from decay, we too are supposed to preserve the world from moral corruption and decay.
5. All believers are supposed to pray for the authorities.
Apostle Paul urges to the Christians to pray for the kings and the higher authorities. The prayer would thus include all who are in high positions – President, Prime minister, Cabinet ministers and all the state ministers. Though we can pray for their conversion but the primary aim will be the welfare of the state, that we lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. Here is an important apostolic teaching about the church and the state. Even when the state is not Christian, it is the duty of the state to maintain the peace, protect the citizens from any kind of disturbances, to preserve law and order and to punish evil and promote good. Within such a society the church may be free to worship God, obey his precepts and spread his gospel. It is the duty of the church to pray for the state, so that its leaders may administer justice and pursue peace.
It is sure that the present world regulations are being turned against Christians, because Satan knows that the time of his doom is imminent. So he is on top gear to eradicate the heavenly reign over this earth. But we are confident that the heavenly kingdom will be the final winner. So, with Peter, we can confess that we are foreigners and sojourners of this world until we obtain that eternal kingdom.