-By Jeff Olson
God, in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, created and ordained three institutions: family, church, and government. It was, and still is, His design and will that each function within its biblically-ordained role and jurisdiction. It is His desire too that they serve in a co-dependent and complimentary but distinct capacity to create and maintain a free and stable society where families and communities can live as He intended.
God created man and woman for fellowship with Himself; then marriage for love and procreation, then the family to provide a home to be the first church, first school, first economy, and first government for children as parents love, nurture and train them in His ways and teachings.
God, in Jesus Christ, created the church to sustain and grow His body of believers so that His Kingdom might increase through their love and commitment to Him and to one another.
God created government to promote and administer justice and to restrain and punish evil.
When any of God’s three institutions fail to function as designed, then a breakdown in societal morals, norms, fabric, and stability is inevitable. We have seen this happening in America for some time, in part, because of our misunderstanding of government itself. Many of us limit our perspective of government to only within the civil realm, and then often in terms of a benevolent father, a centralized state, an institution void of accountability and specific areas of authority. However, God intended government to be characterized by multiplicity and accountability (Exodus 18:21) due to the natural condition of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). These Biblical precepts were foundational during the formation of America’s colonies and federal government.
Government begins with the individual (self) and the regulation of his/her conduct and then extends outward to include all institutions. Self-government is generated through the power of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26), thus men fail or succeed in self-government depending upon their choice of rebellion or obedience to God. Self-government is the foundation for any free society and it undergirds all institutional governments including home, church and civil. Self-government must be moral and personal before it can ever be practical and institutional. The central focus of all levels of government should be the regenerating work of Jesus Christ, because people will govern and be governed by the condition of their hearts.
This can be seen in a look back over our nation’s history. When our Forefathers developed our founding documents, over 90 percent of the references used were either directly or indirectly taken from the Bible. Those documents reflected God’s concept and design for government, accounting for the human condition (original sin) and the lessons of history. After more than 230 years America is still using her original constitution, an unprecedented feat in history. With the exception of 17 amendments (after the Bill of Rights), the Constitution hasn’t changed, but has our government? Have we as a people? Yes, but why? It goes back to the condition of our hearts (Proverbs 23:7). In the words of James Madison, known as the “Chief Architect of the Constitution,” and our 4th President, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government…….[but] upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves…according to the Ten Commandments of God.” Today, our government retains its original structure but bears only a mild resemblance in function to that which our founder’s designed. Our nation has the same Constitution, but as a people we have not the same morals and principles. In the words of John Adams, our second President, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion……Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The choice of autonomous rights over personal responsibilities will ultimately result in the moral decay of a nation. Our nation is proving this, as have others.
We must come to the understanding that all authority in family, church, and civil government is delegated from God and ministerial (Romans 13:1-7) for God. Without this principle, that authority becomes absolute and corrupt through man and tyranny of some sort will eventually ensue. History is replete with examples of such.
God intended that church and state be institutionally separate but morally and spiritually co-dependent and complimentary. Civil government is essentially a reflection of the cumulative components and effects of self, family, and church as well as voluntary associations and institutions which foster strong relationships and unity in community. In the words of Founding Father Elias Boudinot, “Good government generally begins in the family…. ”
In closing, the conventions, customs and mores of a society are essentially rooted in its core religious faith and thus represent a religious order; an order that begins in the home. For most of our nation’s life, that order came from the Bible. The question is: what religious faith and order will it be today and in America’s future? The fundamental answer lies in the priorities and choices that are made by you and me?