The series What Christians Should Know Volume II (#WCSK2) boosts your understanding and shows you how to apply biblical principles to everyday life. All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Biblical references are examples and are in no way intended to be exhaustive. Many of the ideas here build upon the series What Christians Should Know, Volume I (#WCSK), which provides education on core beliefs and doctrines in the Christian faith. All of the lessons are best used as a general guide as you engage in your own Bible study.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)
How this Biblical principle applies to your everyday life: Because every Christian lives under the authority of some form of secular government, they ought to know what the Bible says about their civic responsibility. The State is ordained by God and is deserving of our utmost respect, but our ultimate allegiance and obedience always belongs to The Lord. Obedience to the State must never mean disobedience to God.
Introduction: What is the State?
Martin Luther once wrote, “Oblige me to write once again about secular authority and its Sword: how can a Christian use be made of it and how far do Christians owe it obedience?” This question was asked hundreds of years ago, and God’s answer as revealed to us in the Bible has remained the same. Yet in contemporary society, the answer may vary depending on whom you ask. So, the purpose of this lesson is to equip you with clarity and meaningful answers regarding the Biblical model for Christian behavior as it relates to the State—even when that authority is doing something with which you do not agree. In contrast to prior lessons, this episode will dive into history and dabble a little bit in political theory for obvious reasons.
In order to know how the Christian and the State interact, we must first define what the State is. When I say, “the State,” I am referring to government, which (in America) functions at all levels: federal, state, and local.
I am making no distinction between different types of governments (e.g., democracy, socialism, or monarchy) because the Biblical principles on how Christians and the State interact are independent of the type of system by which a person is governed. The State, then, consists of governing bodies, institutions, and the people that represent it. The State can be big (like the President and the IRS) or much smaller (like your town’s police force). Every person lives under the authority of some type of government; therefore, having a solid Biblical foundation on how Christians relate to the State is crucial.
The role of the State became a pressing concern when the community of New Testament believers was established. Why? Because they …