Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. . . . I know some say, let us have good laws . . . but let them consider, that though good laws do well, good men do better. . . .
A pastor was expecting to amend the constitution and to address present situations by proposals of a political reform. John Newton admonished the minister: “When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me no less vain and unreasonable, than it would be to paint a cabin while the ship is sinking or a parlour when the house is already on fire.” In the Bampton lectures, English theologian Robert Ottley remarked:
The Old Testament may be studied in the next place as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in His dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their own countrymen, but to the world at large. . . . There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired, it has been justly said, not better institutions but better men.
Scripture indicates that “better men” should be desired as opposed to “better institutions.” Daniel 1:4, 8 reads, “youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. . . . But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 6:4 states, “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.”
As the following Scriptures indicate, God has always desired for His chosen people to be a witness and a light to the nations.
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49:6).
“Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa 60:3).
“A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
“For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH’” (Acts 13:47).
“that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).
God’s Directives for His Political Leaders
1. God’s decree: He providentially installs our leadersProverbs 8:15 “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.”
Daniel 2:21 (cf. 4:17) “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.”
John 19:11 “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’”
Romans 13:1 “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
Scripture teaches that there is absolutely nothing that humanity can do which will ultimately thwart the sovereign decree of God. He alone providentially installs leaders in the realm of government. God even installs pagan elected officials, and yes, even sinful leaders. Yet, is that God’s desire? No! God’s desire is seen in His provision given to government leaders. What is His provision?
2. God’s desire: His provision for our leadersFirst Timothy 2:4 “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
God desires our leaders to be redeemed! To be redeemed means to be delivered. Salvation is the deliverance from sin and its consequences: from guilt (Rom 5:1; Heb 10:22), from the Law and its curse (Gal 3:13; Col 2:14), from death (1 Pet 1:3-5; 1 Cor 15:51-56), from judgment (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:28), from fear (Heb 2:15; 2 Tim 1:7, 9ff.), and from bondage (Tit 2:11—3:8; Gal 5:1ff.).
Jesus Christ paid the price for the believer’s sins; therefore, they are graciously removed for those who trust in the Savior. Justice is fully satisfied. God’s kindness, love, mercy, regeneration, renewing, and grace are enabled to act. Grace gives us what we do not deserve. We do not deserve to be forgiven, to have our sins removed, to have Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us; to be given heavenly citizenship, to be justified, sanctified, and one day glorified in the very presence of our gracious Savior and Lord.
God’s desire is not only for all humanity to be saved, but also to come to the knowledge of the truth. Our elected officials can know God’s absolute truth. God has provided truth. Psalm 19 refers to general revelatory truth in creation, and special revelatory truth through God’s Word (cf. Ps 138:2; John 14:6; 17:17).
3. God’s design: He designed that we pray and submit to our leadersFirst Timothy 2:1-4 (cf. Tit 3:1-2) “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
“Entreaties” is prayer that arises from the sense of need. Knowing that something is lacking, we plead with God to supply it. “Prayers” is a word that has a unique element of reverence and worship. Prayer for the lost is ultimately directed at God, as an act of worship, because salvation of sinners brings glory to God. “Petitions” is a word not only of advocacy, but also of compassion, empathy, involvement, and sympathy. “Thanksgivings” calls us to pray with a grateful spirit because God has extended the gospel offer to all. Thanksgiving is the only element of prayer that will continue forever.
There are four nuances that must enrich our evangelistic prayers, if we are to pray effectively for our elected leaders. If “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings” are absent, we need to examine our hearts.
- Do we fully realize the desperate condition of the lost?
- Do we truly desire to see God glorified by the salvation of souls?
- Do we sympathize with the compelling reality of the lost, both for time and eternity?
- Do we have thankfulness that the gospel message is extended to all, and thankfulness for our privilege of sharing it?
Jeremiah 29:5-7 “‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters . . . multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’”
First Peter 2:13-14 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”
In his letter to a pastor, John Newton concluded, “How much then does it import me, to be found watching, with my loins girded up, and my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set nations to right, but to preach the Gospel, to proclaim the glory of his name, and to endeavor to win souls. Happy is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing!” The church will truly impact society for the better only when individual Christians make their own spiritual maturity their primary concern, which means living in a manner that honors God’s commands and glorifies His name.
* Is there a ministry example that is based upon Scripture, and which then demonstrates how to serve elected officials in a manner that God desires? Indeed, there is! Capitol Commission is a nationwide ministry, with fulltime pastors/missionaries (state directors) serving in nineteen states. Capitol Commission seeks to accomplish the Great Commission in the Capitol communities of the world. As one examines Scripture to learn what God has said concerning the relationship between the church and the state, the primary thought is that the church is called to pray for our president and those in governmental authority (1 Tim 2:1-4). While many things could be prayed on behalf of our elected officials, the context of the passage in First Timothy directs one to pray evangelistically for those whom God has placed in authority.
For a leader to believe, however, the message must be declared, which means someone must be sent with the “good news of good things” (Rom 10:12-15). Therefore, the work of Capitol Commission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ within state capitols (as those who are “sent”). The mission of Capitol Commission is to reach the Capitol community for Christ, one person at a time, to disciple them, and to prepare them for a lifetime of ministry, wherever God chooses to place them. Won’t you join Capitol Commission in praying evangelistically for all those “who are in authority,” and then seek to have the Gospel sent to them? For, “how will they hear without a preacher?” (www.capitolcom.org) 6