Pastors and politics

Should church leaders be involved in or teach their congregations about political issues within the church life of the congregation? Absolutely! The lordship of Christ applies to every area of life. To say that Christianity does not apply to government and our elected leadership is to deny the total lordship of God in all of life. Unfortunately, the belief that the Christian life is relegated solely to the spiritual aspect of one's life is a common error among too many of our church leaders. It is actually a form of Christian dualism that teaches a false version of the Christian life in which it is relegated solely to one's private spiritual relationship with God. This is actually a form of Gnostic dualism that the Apostle Paul had to address within the early churches. 

The Bible teaches what the role of government should be and what the boundaries and responsibilities are for government leaders, as well as for citizens. It is extremely important that church leaders make this knowledge a part of the curriculum used to disciple their congregations. Our liberties and the future health of our nation is dependent on Christian civil participation. So, what should Christians do with regard to politics and civil government? Actually there has been much teaching on this issue, though many church leaders have failed to have the principles taught to their congregations. 

Christians and Civil Government

Civil government is a means ordained by for ruling andmaintaining order in communities. It is one of the number of such means,including ministers in the church and parents in the home. Each such means hasits own sphere of authority under Christ, who now rules and sustains creation,and the limits of each sphere are set by reference to the others. In our fallenworld these authorities are institutions of God's "common grace"(kindly providence), standing as a bulwark against anarchy and the dissolutionof ordered society.

With reference to Romans 13: 1 - 7 and 1 Peter 2: 13 - 17,the Westminster Confession explains the sphere of government as follows:

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hathordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for his ownglory, and the public good; to this end hath armed them with the power of thesword, for the defense of and encouragement of them that are good, and for thepunishment of evil doers...Civil magistrates many not assume to themselves theadministration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of thekingdom of heaven (23: 1, 3).

Because civil government exists for the welfare of the wholesociety, God gives it the "power of the sword" the lawful use offorce to administer just laws (Romans 13: 4). Christians must acknowledge thisas part of God's order (Romans 13: 1, 2). A government may collect taxes forthe services it renders (Mathew 22: 15 - 21; Romans 13: 6, 7). But if itforbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, Christians cannotsubmit, and some form of civil disobedience becomes inescapable (Acts 4: 18 -31; 5: 17 - 29).

The church's sphere of authority relates to the civilgovernment at the level of morality. The church has the responsibility tocomment on the morality of governments and their policies on the basis of God'sword, but should not appropriate to itself the power to set such policies.Whereas these assessments may foster political action among Christians, theyshould act in their capacity as citizens rather than as representatives of thechurch. In this way the Gospel works through moral persuasion and the workingof God's grace among citizens.

Christians should urge the governments to fulfill theirproper role. They are to pray for, obey, and yet watch over civil governments (1 Timothy 2: 1 - 4; 1 Peter 2: 13 14), reminding them that God ordained them torule, protect, and keep order.


1. New Geneva Study Bible, Editor R.C. Sproul, Thomas NelsonPublishers, April 1995, Nashville.  

Book Recommendation:

By virtue of being King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ's reign over man and government is universal and total. "He removeth kings, and setteth up kings" (Dan. 2:21) and "increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them" (Job 12:23) because the government is on His shoulders: He is the governor among the nations (Isa. 9:7, Ps. 22:28). The need today is for the church to press the crown-rights of Christ the King, confident that His government over all will increase without end: "the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this." This powerful volume sets forth a Biblical theology of the state, tracing in detail the history and consequences of both statist domination and Christian dereliction of duty. By firmly establishing the Biblical alternative to modern Christianity's polytheism, the author alerts us to the pitfalls of the past, and provides Godly counsel for both the present and future. The crystallization of decades of research, Christianity and the State is a landmark volume of 20th century Christendom.