The Tale of Two Governments

Charles Dickens, the English author of classical literature, wrote a famous novel called The Tale of Two Cities. It centered on London and Paris during the upheaval of the French Revolution. The opening lines state, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

I guess that describes to a certain degree all generations in human history, but for the purposes of this article, I’d like to borrow from Mr. Dickens title and change it to The Tale of Two Governments. What is the best case scenario for civil government as opposed to the worse case scenario?

What constitutes a wise government as opposed to a foolish one? What does a government based upon the Bible look like as opposed to a government rooted in humanism, which the Bible refers to as the beast? What is more preferable for our future hope? Is it a government exercising its authority in the light of justice or a government that descends into the darkness of tyranny? Is it a government that inspires a spring of hope or plots a winter of despair?

As our nation moves from being a free nation towards Communism, I believe we are at the crossroads to answer these questions before they are answered for us. God, in His Word informs us that this tale of two governments does exist in our poor fallen world. Proverbs 29:2 teaches, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” As you check the pulse of America today, are Americans groaning or are they rejoicing?

Thankfully, it is also in the Scriptures that we find the delineation between what constitutes a righteous government as opposed to a tyrannical one.

We will be studying two Scripture references to discover the contrast. They are Romans 13:1-4 and Psalms 94:20, 21. Prayerfully, between these two references, the reader will gain understanding between a virtuous government and an immoral government as God’s Word defines the critical concepts of good and evil. Otherwise, as men and nations are prone to do, we descend to a place where good becomes evil and evil magically becomes good (Isaiah 5:20). The following are the Biblical marks that define them both.

Three Marks of a Tyrannical Government

Psalms 94:20, 21 states, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.” Generally speaking, Psalms 94 cries out to God to shine forth His Justice upon those who “break in pieces Your people, O LORD, and afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless” (Psalms 94:5, 6). A powerful question is mentioned as well, one I dare say the modern day church needs to answer, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity” (Psalms 94:16)? From there, the Psalmist zeros in on the three major marks of tyrannical government that God rejects and refuses to endorse.

First mark: tyrannical government “devises mischief by the law.” In other words, they codify evil into law. In the name of law, despotic governments violate the function of law. As the French philosopher, Frederic Bastiat, stated, “It (civil government) has acted in direct opposition to its proper end; it has destroyed its own object; it has been employed in annihilating the justice which it ought to have established.” Today, in America, under the color of law, our experiment with liberty is being dismantled, one freedom at a time.

Human law divorced from the foundation of God’s moral law, is no law at all. Sir William Blackstone, English Jurist, who penned Commentaries on the Laws of England clarifies this time-honored truth:

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being… And, consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker’s will… this will of his Maker is called the law of nature. These laws laid down by God are the eternal immutable laws of good and evil. This law of nature dictated by God Himself; is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this… The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found in the Holy Scriptures… {and} are found upon comparison to be really part of the original law of nature. Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.

America rejects this foundation for law today and has opted for legal positivism. Legal positivism implies law does not need to have an ethical basis. In other words, it is not necessary for law to have a moral foundation. Concepts of righteousness, morality, and time honored truths, are no longer necessary to support law. Frederic Bastiat exposed the folly of lawlessness masquerading as law. He stated, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” Just a cursory view of American jurisprudence and the culture it has spawned reveals both tragic realities manifesting under our watch.

As a result of America’s betrayal against God’s Law, our nation opted for a campaign calling for judicial reform. Led by Christopher Columbus Langdell, dean of the Harvard Law School, America rejected Blackstone in favor of Langdell’s “reforms.” He gave birth to the current case method, legal model. The case method uses the study of man’s experience, previous court cases, and prior judge’s rulings as the basis for “law.”

Roe vs. Wade is the epitome of Langdell’s judicial reforms and legal positivism. It moved the basis of law from an eternal, fixed standard to the whims of fallen men. The case method, legal model and legal positivism conspired to produce the “Constitution is a living, breathing document” mentality that breaks the chains on the federal beast that threatens our liberties today. This also paved the way for judicial activism. Judicial activism legislates “law,” like Roe v. Wade, rather than judge cases according to the Constitution. Void of divine absolutes, law has become a human fabrication.

We cringe today at the legal concept of paterfamilias. Under Roman “law,” the father had the authority to express a thumbs up and his child would be allowed to live. But, if he motioned a thumbs down, his child would be left to die. Yet, Roe vs. Wade granted this same so-called right to women. Think about the implications of this unlawful, yet legal insanity. The basis of law finds its source in the fickleness of flawed human beings. In this case, if woman wants the conceived child, the baby can live, if the woman rejects her child, the baby can be exterminated. The God of the Bible describes a government who allows such evil as those who “devise mischief by law.” He will not have anything to do with it, except judge it, like every other idol fit for destruction.

Second mark: They gather together against the life of the righteous. The sword of civil government is not neutral. It is a ministry of justice that is to be concerned with the physical welfare of men and nations. Part of its function is to punish evil doers as God defines evil and to protect those who are good in God’s sight. If our civil government reverses that function and protects evil, it must of necessity punish the righteous.

This is part of the reason why the Apostle Paul called for prayers for those who are in authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2).

Proverbs 17:15 warns, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.” This double abomination dominates American jurisprudence today. Our government gathers against the life of the righteous by legalizing sins and abominations, such as, abortion and homosexuality. Local, State, and Federal officials routinely deny Christians their First Amendment Rights in order to uphold, celebrate, and defend what the Bible considers abominations. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 teaches:

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Tragically, our government is making a conscience decision that the pro-abort and sodomite agendas trumps Christians free speech, free exercise of religion, and a host of other rights articulated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Our Lord takes this persecution against His people personally. Before Saul became Paul, he was breathing out great threats against the fledgling church (Acts 9:1). He hunted Christians down, imprisoned them, confiscated their property, and had many put to death. On his way to Damascus, however, to spread more terror amongst God’s people, he had a divine encounter.

Suddenly, a great light shown from heaven and knocked Saul off his high horse. It was at this point the Lord reveals something truly amazing. He declared, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:3-5).

Saul never laid a hand on the person of Jesus Christ and yet the Lord accused Saul of persecuting Him. In other words, when you touch God’s people, the apple of His eye, you touch Him. As a result of this divine encounter Saul became Paul. Afterwards, the hunter became the hunted and the persecutor became the persecuted.

It is never a good practice or sound policy to persecute God’s people and yet the world delights to do so as seen in Islamic and Communist regimes. Sadly, America is steadily moving forward in this dangerous direction. The day may come when Christians will be considered enemies of the state in the land of the free and the home of the brave. History reveals that our Lord has a major problem with governments who “gather together against the life of the righteous.”

Third mark: Tyrannical governments condemn innocent blood. The first mention of civil government in the Bible is found in Genesis 9:6, which states, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God, He made man.” It is here that we discover the ultimate purpose for civil government, which is to protect life and stop the shedding of innocent blood. God instituted the state to make sure the earth would never again resort back to the horrific conditions of evil before the flood.

Our Founding Fathers agreed with the Biblical understanding of civil government. Thomas Jefferson declared, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” Therefore, any civil magistrate that upholds Roe vs. Wade and promotes abortion violates their sacred trust and is not morally qualified to govern.

The Biblical Marks of Good Government

Romans 13:1-4 reveals the marks of good government, a civil government that is operating as God designed it to function. Keep in mind, the Apostle Paul wrote this courageous admonishment during the cruel reign of Nero, a great persecutor of God’s people. God’s Word states:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, reveals the first mark of good government, which is, Almighty God is the supreme authority and civil government is a delegated authority. This implies the concept of limited government. It also introduces the concept of higher law. Almighty God is the final arbitrator mankind can appeal to when suffering under the weight of oppression by despotic governments.

Our own Declaration of Independence acknowledges this truth. “To which the laws of nature and nature’s God” was the appeal and justification for our Founding Fathers to “dissolve the political bands” with England and become a separate and distinct nation amongst the nations of the earth. If there is no such being as the Triune God of the Bible or the concept of higher law, America remains a rogue nation in rebellion to England to this day.

Good government also acknowledges God as the ultimate sovereign. If not, man has only two failed options to embrace. The state is sovereign or the individual is sovereign. One leads to tyranny and the other to anarchy. This is part of the reason our nation opted for One Nation under God. Only “One Nation under God” can secure the delicate tension between a just social order on the one hand, while allowing maximum individual freedom on the other hand. Only “One Nation under God” can maintain the essential balance between authority and liberty.

The second mark of good government upholds God’s commandments in the civil sphere. The symbol of God’s authority in the church are keys (Matthew 16:19). The symbol of God’s authority in the state is a sword (Romans 13:1-4). The church is a ministry of grace, while civil government is a ministry of justice. The church is to be concerned with the spiritual welfare of men, while civil government is to be concerned with the physical welfare of men. Whereas God’s church is to teach the commandments of God, civil government is to enforce God’s commandments in the civil realm. The church is called to expose evil, while civil government is to punish and deter evil that constitute crimes.

Though there is a true separation of church and state, surprisingly it is not found in any of America’s historical documents. It is discovered in the Bible. There is no separation, however, between God and his delegated authorities that He established for His glory and our benefit.

Only the ultimate Lawgiver, Creator God, can define for us the concepts of good and evil. If civil government rejects this revelation, the danger becomes, as stated prior, good becomes evil and evil, good. This moral confusion will lead civil government astray from their sacred trust and inevitable lead to tyranny. Isaiah 10:1, 2 warns, “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, which they have prescribed, To rob the needy of justice, And to take what is right from the poor of My people, That widows may be their prey, And that they may rob the fatherless.” Bible commentators refer to this passage as the “woe of tyrants” text. Rulers descend to this deplorable condition when they refuse to acknowledged God’s law and their duty to uphold it in the civil realm. They abandon justice, so God abandons them.

Lastly, Romans 13 addresses good government as God ordained. We are duty bound to obey all lawful authority. This passage of Scripture on civil government, however, does not address our Christian duty when civil government becomes idolatrous, tyrannical, and becomes a lawbreaker itself. In those instances, when the laws of men conflict with the laws of God, we must obey God rather than man. This was clearly taught by the same Apostles who admonished the church to obey all lawful authorities. Acts 4:19, 20 states, “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 5:29 is even more explicit, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

In the first Epistle of Peter, the Apostle taught in the times of oppression and tyranny, Christians are to trust God and continue to do good. He admonished this, even though our good may be considered a crime and civil government may consider Christians enemies of the state. This is true Biblical submission and subsequent redemptive suffering Christians endure living under a tyrannical state. It is also God’s rebuke to a government that moved from being a Minister of God to an agent of oppression.