Church does not rule nor is it ruled by po­lit­i­cal might

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - By Randy Moll

Many church or­ga­ni­za­tions and church bod­ies are ruled by po­lit­i­cal might when they should be ruled and gov­erned solely by the Word of God.

It hap­pens in lo­cal con­gre­ga­tions and it hap­pens in na­tional and in­ter­na­tional church bod­ies. De­ci­sions re­gard­ing doc­trine, wor­ship and mis­sion work are de­ter­mined by the group in power, whether that be a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, a group of pas­tors or el­ders or a group of del­e­gates. And which­ever group has the po­lit­i­cal power wins and its fa­vored doc­trine and prac­tice are forced upon the rest of the con­gre­ga­tion or church body — that is, un­til an­other group gains the po­lit­i­cal might to change things.

In so many ways, con­gre­ga­tions and church bod­ies are us­ing po­lit­i­cal sys­tems to rule and gov­ern rather than let­ting God rule and gov­ern by means of His Word, the Bi­ble. They for­get that the church is a theoc­racy with Christ as its head, while our civil gov­ern­ments are not.

While both the church and the state are or­dained by God, there is a big dif­fer­ence in their pur­pose and func­tion. The church was in­sti­tuted for the eter­nal sal­va­tion of men. The state is for the main­te­nance of ex­ter­nal right­eous­ness and or­der among men in this world. The church preaches and pro­claims the Word of God to bring men to faith and change hearts. The state en­acts and en­forces laws to curb and con­trol men’s out­ward ac­tions.

When Je­sus asked the dis­ci­ples who they be­lieved Him to be, Peter replied: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the liv­ing God” (Matthew 16:16); and Je­sus said that, upon this truth which the Fa­ther had re­vealed to Peter, Je­sus would “build His church; and the gates of hell shall not pre­vail against it” (v. 17-18). Je­sus also said: “If ye con­tinue in my word, then are ye my dis­ci­ples in­deed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

On the other hand, the Scrip­tures say of civil gov­ern­ment: “Let ev­ery soul be sub­ject unto the higher pow­ers. For there is no power but of God: the pow­ers that be are or­dained of God. Whoso­ever there­fore re­sisteth the power, re­sisteth the or­di­nance of God: and they that re­sist shall re­ceive to them­selves dam­na­tion. For rulers are not a ter­ror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the min­is­ter of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the min­is­ter of God, a re­venger to ex­e­cute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:1-4); and, “Sub­mit your­selves to ev­ery or­di­nance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto gov­er­nors, as unto them that are sent by him for the pun­ish­ment of evil­do­ers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

While the state — civil gov­ern­ment — bears the sword to main­tain or­der, pun­ish evil­do­ers and wage just wars, the church is ruled by and pro­claims the Word of God.

The Bi­ble says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wis­dom; teach­ing and ad­mon­ish­ing one an­other in psalms and hymns and spir­i­tual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colos­sians 3:16); and, “Con­tinue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been as­sured of, know­ing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scrip­tures, which are able to make thee wise unto sal­va­tion through faith which is in Christ Je­sus. All scrip­ture is given by in­spi­ra­tion of God, and is prof­itable for doc­trine, for re­proof, for cor­rec­tion, for in­struc­tion in right­eous­ness: that the man of God may be per­fect, throughly fur­nished unto all good works” (2 Ti­mothy 3:14-17).

In or­der that men might be saved, the church has been com­manded to preach the Word of God and pro­claim Je­sus Christ cru­ci­fied as the Sav­ior of mankind. Je­sus com­manded His dis­ci­ples to “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to

ev­ery crea­ture. He that be­lieveth and is bap­tized shall be saved; but he that be­lieveth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:1516; cf. Romans 1:16-17; 10:15,17).

To main­tain civil or­der and right­eous­ness in this world, civil gov­ern­ments have been given power and re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­act just laws, pun­ish evil­do­ers (in­clud­ing the use of the death penalty), and to wage just wars (1 Peter 2:13-14; Psalm 82:14; Ge­n­e­sis 9:6; Romans 13:3-4).

As Chris­tians, we rec­og­nize from the Holy Scrip­tures that no one can be brought to be­lieve the Bi­ble’s teach­ing, be brought to faith in Christ Je­sus or be made a mem­ber of God’s heav­enly king­dom through the pow­ers of civil gov­ern­ment (cf. John 3:36; 18:11,36; 2 Corinthi­ans 10:4-6; Eph­e­sians 6:10-18). Nor should the church ex­pect civil gov­ern­ments to re­quire faith or de­mand sub­mis­sion to church rites and wor­ship.

On the other hand, nei­ther does God give to civil gov­ern­ments the au­thor­ity to dic­tate to the church what it may or may not teach or how it should con­duct its wor­ship and min­istry in this world. And, when civil gov­ern­ments depart from their God-given du­ties and for­bid what God com­mands or com­mand what God for­bids, Chris­tians must obey God rather than men even if they must suf­fer the earthly con­se­quences (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; Luke 12:4-5; Daniel 3 and 6).

As a re­sult of this dis­tinc­tion be­tween the church and the state, Chris­tians should never sub­sti­tute for the on­go­ing preach­ing of God’s Word the en­act­ment and en­force­ment of laws which can only reg­u­late one’s out­ward con­duct. And churches should never feel they have car­ried out their mis­sion if only their po­lit­i­cal and mo­ral views are ac­cepted by civil gov­ern­ments and im­posed upon the peo­ple.

In fact, since the church is ruled by the Word of God, it is never a sat­is­fac­tory si­t­u­a­tion when only a ma­jor­ity of those as­so­ci­ated with the church holds to the Bib­li­cal truth. The Bi­ble urges the preach­ing of God’s Word as God’s Word un­til all, by the grace of God, come to know and be­lieve the truth.

The Bi­ble tells us: “Now I be­seech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Je­sus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no di­vi­sions among you; but that ye be per­fectly joined to­gether in the same mind and in the same judg­ment” (1 Corinthi­ans 1:10). And the Bi­ble tells us that this is ac­com­plished through on­go­ing and faith­ful preach­ing and teach­ing of God’s Word — not forc­ing peo­ple to be­lieve (or com­pro­mis­ing the truth) but al­low­ing the Holy Spirit to work to cre­ate and strengthen faith in the heart which ac­cepts all that God’s Word teaches (cf. 2 Ti­mothy 3:14-17; 4:1ff.; Ti­tus 1:9; Psalm 19:8; 119:105; Isa­iah 55:10-11; John 6:44, 63; Romans 10:17; Eph­e­sians 4:10-16).

My point in all this is sim­ply to say that churches and church bod­ies err and come short when they seek to rule over their mem­bers (or over an earthly king­dom or na­tion) through the use of pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing and ma­jor­ity de­ci­sions. Such po­lit­i­cal rule can only af­fect out­ward ac­tions. Rather, churches should faith­fully preach God’s Word that God’s Spirit might change peo­ple’s hearts — bring­ing them to see their sin­ful­ness and trust in their Sav­ior and, as a fruit of that faith, to live for their God and Sav­ior in ac­cord with his Word.

Randy Moll is the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the West­side Ea­gle Ob­server and the pas­tor at Good Shep­herd Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Rogers. He may be con­tacted by email at rmoll@nwadg.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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