Friday, December 30, 2005


The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament. Some Christians hate the law. They say that we live under grace, not law. However, those making this statement should be clear what parts of the Torah are no longer relevant. Jesus had a fairly serious warning for those who reject the Torah.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:17-19).

The Torah covers a variety of topics. We need to be clear about which parts have been fulfilled, and which parts remain in force.

  • creation
  • history
  • civil laws,
  • sacrifices,
  • tabernacle design,
  • covenants,
  • infection control and hygiene,
  • genealogies,
  • blessings and curses,
  • rules for priesthood
  • land distribution
Creation and history still stand. In fact Christians get quite excited about the creation, so this part of the Torah has not been set aside.

The tabernacle and the sacrifices have been fulfilled by Jesus death on the cross. They sacrifices never did provide salvation from sin, but needed to be accompanied by faith to be effective. The tabernacle has been replaced by the body of Christ becoming the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The genealogies remain, but are not so relevant for the gentiles. The Aaronic priesthood has been replaced by the priesthood of all believers. We are all priests and kings.

The civil laws have not been fulfilled or set aside by Jesus. Modern society contains sinful people, so civil laws are still needed. The only issue is how we implement them. The answer is godly judges.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Turning a Cheek to the Law

Many Christians are confused about the realtion ship between the law and the Sermon on the Mount. These two principle have very different purposes. The former is not cancelled by the latter.

The law is the minimum requirement for the functioning of a society. If theft, murder and false witness are not controlled, society will fall apart.
Turning the other check is a higher standard for those who choose to follow Jesus.

The big difference is that the law can be enforced. Judges can use coercion to restore something that was stolen, to punish murderers and to correct those who bear false witness. Turning the other cheek is voluntary. We cannot force another person to love someone who hurts him. Turning the other cheek must be motivated by love.

The law applies to everyone, whether they love God or hate him. It can be imposed on non-Christians. Turning the other cheek is only for the body of Christ. Sacrificial love marks us off from the rest of the world.

Turning the other cheek should not be made into a law. The time may come when the whole world follows Jesus. In that day, turning the other cheek will be a universal practice, but the law should remain, in case there is a falling away.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Prophet, Priest and King

The priesthood was a temporary ministry. It could not buy perfect salvation, but pointed to Jesus, the great High Priest. His perfect sacrifice completed that aspect of the priestly role. He still intercedes for us in heaven. We are all priests with perfect access to the heavenly temple. The consequence is the priesthood of all believers.

He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father (Rev 1:6).
The Jewish kings were not an ideal solution, but pointed to Jesus the perfect king. He defeated Satan the ruler of the earth and now sits on the heavenly throne in heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are seated with him in faith, so we are also kings. This is the doctrine of the kingship of all believers. We do not need Jesus to come back as a king, any more than we need a high priest on earth. He can rule from heaven, so he does not need to return to earth.
He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father (Rev 1:6).
Moses and Elijah were prophets who revealed God’s will. Their ministry was imperfect, but pointed to Jesus the ultimate prophet. He revealed God perfectly to us. The Holy Spirit was poured out so everyone can hear God speak and many can prophesy. This is the prophethood of all believers.
I will pour out my Spirit and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:18)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Shopping Shutdown

On the Friday before Christmas, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, EFTPOS terminals across New Zealand shut down. Paymark EFTPOS, which accounts for 80% of all electronic transactions, said that the outage was caused by a hardware failure at around 12:50 pm. This failure caused performance to degrade to the point where the system had to be rebooted. The system was not restarted until about 3 pm.

The outage frustrated Christmas shoppers. Lengthening queues of last-minute shoppers faced manual "zip-zap" card machines and long lines at cash machines. Many had to leave their purchases behind.

The Retailers' Association Spokesperson, Barry Hellberg said that EFTPOS network failures are uncommon, so it is just bad luck it happened so close to Christmas.

I do not believe in luck. Nothing in God's universe happens by chance. Everything has meaning, so what was the meaning of this system crash, which no one forsaw, which no one could prevent and which disrupted out Christmas spend..

Maybe this was a warning event for New Zealand.

Or maybe God was trying to save us from ourselves. Maybe he was saying, Threshing the plastic will not add an ounce to the joy of Christmas. If you understood that Jesus was God come to earth, you would have abundant joy. This gift is freely available, even when EFTPOS is down.

Christmas Goat

My daughter Christine has the gift of giving. She gave me a goat for Christmas.

She donated money to Tearfund to buy a goat for a family in Afghanistan.

My goat is the one with the big horns.

I am looking forward to getting a letter every year to telling me what it is doing at school.

A great gift!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Loyal Reader

One of my most loyal readers lives in Czechoslavaokia.
Thank you for your support
I have sent you a free copy of my book Being Church Where We Live.

Ransom Payment

If the criminal cannot afford the required ransom, they could borrow the ransom from their family or someone in their community. They would need to sell themselves as a “bonded employee” to a person who can pay the ransom. To get the loan, a criminal would have to demonstrate repentance, which would be good for society.

The ransom is an instrument of mercy, but it is not an easy option. The seven-year limit for charity loans does not apply to someone borrowing to pay a ransom in lieu of a death penalty, so the murderer still be getting a life sentence. The difference is that but they could pay for their crime while living at home and working for the person who paid their ransom. They would not be able to travel away from their place of work, but at least they would not be locked up. This is more merciful than the modern practice of imprisoning people for life.

This will be my last post on this topic for a while. I will go on to something more cheerful for now, and come back to this topic in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ransom Principle

An important aspect of biblical mercy is the ransom principle. A person sentenced to death can pay a ransom to have their sentence commuted. The law allows a convicted criminal to pay a ransom to the victim’s family as an alternative to the death penalty (Num 35:31). In many cases the victims of the crime will prefer a ransom, as they would benefit economically, whereas the criminal’s death would bring them no benefit.

The court would decide the value of the ransom in agreement with the victims of the crime (or their family). The value of the ransom should approximate the discounted value of the victim’s future earnings. Likewise, an aggrieved wife should be given the discounted value of the income that her adulterous husband would have provided her during the rest of his working life. Some criminals would want to die, but most would prefer to make restitution to the family of their victim.

Evil men who are a risk to society would not be allowed to pay a ransom for their freedom.

Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death (Num 35:31).
A ransom must not be accepted for a serious murder that “deserves death”. This confirms the view that some murders are so awful that the murderer “deserves to die”, but a ransom is sufficient for less horrendous murder and relationship crimes like incest, adultery or homosexual activity.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Relationship Crimes

In addition to murder, the law also requires the death penalty for adultery, bestiality and homosexual activity. However, the hardness of heart principle described above means that the death penalty should only be enforced in a society where the majority of people are Christians. In a Christian society adultery and homosexual activity should be very rare, so this penalty would seldom be enforced for these crimes. Public disapproval would mean that they almost never occur in public, so the required three independent witnesses would not be available. The death penalty is specified for these crimes to remind us of the strength of God’s disapproval for them, but it should never need to be enforced.

God hates adultery, bestiality and homosexual activity. We were created in the image of God, so a man and a woman “becoming one flesh” is the best representation of the image of God. From this it follows that adultery and homosexual activity are an insult to the image of God. Just as he hates divorce because it mars his image, he hates homosexual activity for the same reason. He also hates the effect that they have on families and the structure of society. They are a form of treason against the Kingdom of God. The death penalty reminds us of the seriousness of these sins, but God’s mercy prevents it from being applied.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The law distinguishes between murder and manslaughter. The death penalty only applies where the murder is planned in advance. If the death is accidental, God has allowed it to happen (Ex 21:13). Murder has not occurred, so the death penalty is not required. Num 35 16-24; Deut 19:4-7 give some examples.

Many Christians feel uneasy about the death penalty, believing it is cruel and harsh. However, we should be careful about standing in judgement on God’s word. If he says that some murders are serious enough to require the death penalty, we should be careful about saying he is wrong. When men and women decide what is good and evil, they have taken the place of God. Before rejecting the death penalty, we should understand the way it should be applied. This is quite different from modern practices. I will explain this in the next few posts.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Murder in Hebrew

Some examples of murder are given in Numbers 35:16-18:

If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone
so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
The English translation does not really capture the intensity of these words.
The Hebrew text uses less words, but they are often repeated for emphasis.
Hit with Iron, die die, murderer murderer, die die.
Hit with Stone, die die, murderer murderer, die die.
Wood in hand, die die, murderer murderer, die die.
The symetry between the punishment and the crime is obvious.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Penalty for Murder

The biblical penalty for murder is death. Some crimes to be so serious, that death is the only just penalty.

Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. However, if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate. But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death (Ex 21:12-14).
Intentionally and deliberately killing another person is such a serious crime that the death penalty is required by the law. We were created in the image of God, so killing a person is like striking at the image of God. The family of the murdered man who is robbed of all the income he would have earned during the rest of his life, so murder is a very costly crime.

The death penalty provides a strong deterrent for murder, but this is not its primary purpose. The basic reason for the death penalty is that justice requires it. A human life is so valuable that deliberately destroying a life deserves the ultimate sanction. Justice requires that a penalty for a crime is equal to the crime.

Over the next few posts, I will look at why the death penalty should be rare.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus also dealt with this issue in the Sermon on the Mount. In his time, the “eye for and eye” principle was being used as an excuse for personal revenge. Jesus made a twofold response. First he reminded the people that the common understanding was different from what God had said. The popular meaning was a distortion of God’s words to Moses (Mark 5:38). Secondly, Jesus raised the standard required for his disciples. He reminded them that the common saying that you should “love your neighbour and hate your enemy” was also twisting God’s standards (Mark 5:43, Lev 19:18). We must bless those who harm us.

“An eye for an eye” is not a rule for personal behaviour, but a principle to be applied in a court of law. If someone gives me a black eye, I should not immediately hit him back, but should “turn the other cheek”. However, if a person is assaulted and loses their eye, they are entitled to compensation for that loss. The court should use the principle of an “eye for an eye” to determine the amount of economic compensation that the violent person should pay to the person that injured them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Deciding Compensation

Courts will decide compensation to be paid, by determining the economic value of an eye. It would try to assess the value of the income and enjoyment lost through the lack of an eye. This is a bit like the lump-sum compensation provided by some accident insurance schemes, where the loss of an arm was worth more than the loss of an eye. An “eye for an eye” means that a person who loses an eye will receive compensation for the loss of any eye. If the victim loses the use of their leg, the criminal will have to pay compensation for the loss of that limb.

Most English translations put the word “but” at the beginning of Exodus 21:23 to make it sound like a different principle from what precedes it, but there is no “but” in the original Hebrew. The verse refers to financial compensation. Using it to justify harsh physical revenge is only possible if Moses’ words are taken out of context.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Eye for an Eye

The expression “an eye for an eye” is well known, but it is totally misunderstood. Almost everyone assumes that the law requires physical vengeance for personal injuries. Even Christians assume that the Old Testament literally requires “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, because they have never bothered to check what the law actually requires. An examination of Exodus 21:23-25 shows that it purpose is almost totally opposite to this popular view.

If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise (Ex 21:22-25).
The passage specifies financial compensation for the loss of the baby and not physical vengeance. The context is a situation where two men fighting have hit a pregnant woman and she gives premature birth. The mother is entitled to the financial compensation demanded by her husband and approved by the court. “An eye for an eye” is nothing more than a principle for deciding the value of the economic restitution a criminal should make to their victim of an assault.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Restitution for Assault

The restitution principle also applies to assault. The person who assaults another must pay compensation to his victim for any injuries or damage to property caused by the assault. A practical example is given in the following verses.

If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist and he does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held responsible, if the other gets up and walks around outside with his staff; however, he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time and see that he is completely healed (Ex 21:18-19).
The person who assaults another must compensate his victim for any income lost as a result of the crime. If the violent man refuses to pay, the victim could also claim the cost of obtaining compensation. The fairness of this solution contrasts dramatically with our modern system, where victims of assault get very little help and if they try to get financial compensation most of the benefit goes to their lawyers.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

State Slavery

Bonded employment is a new concept for many Christians, but it is very similar to modern social welfare systems. The state gives poor people sufficient money for food and shelter, but in return it takes control over its beneficiaries and puts limits on their lives. It can make them go to work, and if they earn more than a certain amount, it can take it off them. This is a form of “state slavery”.

Under the biblical system of justice, convicted thieves will face a similar lack of freedom, but they will be bonded to relatives or people from their local community who know them, rather than an impersonal government department.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Length of Bond

Strict rules would apply to the treatment of “bonded employees”. If they are mistreated, they could go before a judge and claim their freedom as compensation (Ex 21:26,27; Deut 15:12-18).

The length of the bond would depend on the amount stolen and the size of the restitution. If the items stolen were valuable, the restitution might be quite a large amount, so the criminal might lose their freedom for several years. The thief would be giving the lender a mortgage over their life. The bible teaches that “a borrower is a slave of the lender” (Prov 22:7), so the penalty for theft will be a slave-like life.

The length of the bond would also depend on productive capacity of the criminal. Unlike a charity loan to someone who falls into poverty, the debt would not be cancelled after seven years (Ex 21:2), so a thief with a bad attitude might be under bond for a long time.

The thief would have an incentive to work hard and increase his skills. By becoming more productive to his employer, he might be able negotiate an earlier release from the bond. Developing good work habits and increasing his earning power would make the thief less likely to offend in the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bonded Employment

For the biblical system of restitution to function effectively, a process will be needed for people who cannot afford to pay the required restitution. If poor people are not required to make restitution, they could commit crime with impunity. The biblical solution to the problem of the poor thief is the “restitution loan”. If the convicted thief owns property, they would probably need to sell some of it to make restitution. If the person does not own property, they would have to find someone, hopefully a family member or neighbour, to lend the money to make restitution.

In exchange for this loan, the criminal would become a “bonded employee” of the lender. While under the bond, the criminal would be provided money to cover food and shelter, but the rest of their earnings would go towards repaying the loan (Ex 22:3). The bonded employee would be under travel restrictions and would not be able to travel far from their place of work. An electronic tracking device may be needed to ensure that they do not escape to avoid payment. The criminal would probably have to promise good behaviour to the person making the loan. This should assist with the rehabilitation of the criminal.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

State Monopoly

God’s law gives judges responsibility for punishing crime. The modern state has rebelled against God’s law. It has demanded a monopoly over justice, but refuses to provide justice for its citizens. Taxpayer money is spent on a variety of causes that buy popularity, but justice is neglected. The police refuse to investigate many thefts, because the amount stolen is too small. The state knows what is should do, but refuses to do it. It knows what is should not do, and does that (shades of Romans 7:21-24). Biblical law gives citizens control over justice.

Petty crime is a serious problem in many societies, because most police forces do not have the resources to investigate minor crimes. The problem with this is that most criminals start off small when they are young, and then move on to more serious crimes as they get away with it. Petty crime needs to be “nipped in the bud” to prevent an escalating cycle of crime. The biblical restitution model provides a good solution to this problem. Young people convicted of petty theft could have a compulsory automatic payment attached to their bank account for the fourfold restitution. They would quickly learn that crime does not pay.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The compensation a victim of crimes receives should be sufficient to pay for the cost of tracking down the criminal. This gives power to the victim. In the modern system, the victim of theft has to rely on the police to track down the criminal. If theft is not a priority for the police, nothing will happen. Under the Old Testament system, the victim can pay someone to track down the criminal knowing that his compensation will pay the cost. The victim can decide what action should be taken.

People with detective skills could track down criminals on the condition that they only get paid if they get a conviction. Provided they get a conviction for about half of the crimes they investigate, they will be able to recover their costs from their clients.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Restitution for Capital Goods

An ox gets fivefold restitution because it can be used to pull a heavy load. It is a capital good that can be used to produce a stream of income into the future, so is more valuable to its owner than a sheep. Stealing an ox makes the owner less productive for the lifetime of the oxen. Using a modern example, the theft of a carpenters tools (his capital goods) costs him more than the theft of something he has made. This is why additional restitution is required. Biblical law requires fivefold restitution for the any capital goods that are stolen.

This restitution principle is very different from the modern system of fines and imprisonment. All fines get paid to the state, so the victim gets nothing. If the criminal is sent to prison, innocent citizens pay the cost and the victim still misses out, which is very unfair. In the biblical system, the victims gets compensated for their loss.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


The basic principle in the Old Testament Law is that a person who is convicted of a crime must make restitution to the victim of their crime. For example, the penalty for theft is four or fivefold restitution to the victim.

If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).
The thief must pay his victim four times the value of what he has sold. The compensation beyond the value of what was stolen makes up for the cost of tracking down the thief. It also acts as a deterrent against theft. A thief will not get caught every time, so if he only had to pay back what was stolen, he might decide to risk the crime, knowing that when if he gets caught, he can just give back the stolen goods. The fourfold repayment severely reduces the economic benefits of theft.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Penalties for Crime

The Bible specifies the penalties that judges must apply for each crime. These penalties are still relevant in the modern world. The most surprising thing is that there are not prisons are not mentioned.

Prisons have no place in God’s justice system. There are no prisons in biblical, law so it is not surprising that prisons do not work. They put criminals together in one place and cut them off from the rest of society for long periods of time. Prisoners will hate society and learn more about crime, so they are unlikely to be reformed.

The Old Testament allows a person to be held in custody while waiting for their trial, but this should be only for a brief time.

They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them (Lev 24:12, see also Num 15:34).
In most cases keeping a person in his home should be sufficient. Justice should be administered quickly, so long periods in custody should be unnecessary. There is no biblical basis for locking people up as a punishment for crime.

Innocent Witnesses

An additional principle is that the witnesses must not have committed the crime with which they are charging the accused. This is what happened to the “woman taken in adultery” (John 8:3-11). The men accusing her, turned and walked away, because they knew they were guilty of the same sin.

But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7).
I suspect that a group of men would find it hard to enter a house to catch a woman in the act of adultery and then make her stand in front of them, without falling into lust along the way. Lust was the same as adultery to Jesus (Matt 5:28). Lust is not a crime, because it is hidden from witnesses in the mind, but it is sufficient to disqualify a witness to adultery.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Independent Witnesses

A key principle in the Law is that a person can only be convicted of a crime on the evidence of at least two independent witnesses.

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offence he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15).
This prevents one person making false charges against another. There must be another person to corroborate their evidence. For serious crimes there must be at least three witnesses. A person can only be convicted if there is strong evidence from three people who actually witnessed the crime. Hearsay is not sufficient. The requirement for two or three witnesses imposes a high standard for convicting a person of a crime.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Relationship Crimes

This hardness of heart principle means that relationship type crimes should not be enforced in a society where the majority of people are not Christian. If Moses showed mercy, we should too. If he did not enforce God’s standard against adultery, we should not be attempting to establish laws against other “relationship sins”. God has changed his mind; rather he is realistic about what can be achieved by the Law.

In modern society, adultery is so widespread that enforcing a law against it would be impractical. Likewise, homosexual activity is so widespread in modern society that enforcing a law against a law against it would be impossible. These laws should be taken off line in our time, due to “hardness of heart”.

The same principle applies to blasphemy or “treason against God”. This means that in a non-Christian society, crime should be limited to theft, violence and false witness.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hardness of Heart

A “hardness of heart” principle applies to the role of judges when dealing with crime. Although adultery was listed as a crime in the Law of Moses, this law was not enforced by Moses.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning (Matt 19:8).
Moses did not enforce the law against adultery, because the people’s hearts were hard. There were so many people committing adultery that applying biblical sanctions would have been unacceptable. God does not want his law to be enforced on a society that is opposed to it.

If a law is constantly being disobeyed, the authority of the entire law will be undermined. If adultery were widespread, a law against it would become a joke. Far better, to put the law against adultery on hold until society changed.

If a law is being ignored, it is better for judges to stop enforcing that law. This is what Moses did. Instead of undermining respect for the law by trying to enforce a law against the adultery that the people did not want, he chose not to enforce it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crimes are Few

Crimes are a small subset of all of sins. We can identify crimes by determining whether biblical law specifies a punishment. If it a sanction is specified, the sin is the crime. If there is no sanction, the sin is not a crime.

A judge has no authority to deal with sins that are not specified to be a crime, because God has reserved them for himself. He can see into people’s hearts, so he is best placed to deal with them. Judges are not required to eliminate all sin, as that would be impossible. It is limited to punishing the few sins that really disrupt the functioning of society.

The surprising truth is that the biblical law specifies only a few sins to be a crime. The following sins specified in the law as crimes.

  • False Witness (Deut 15:19-21)
  • Theft (Ex 22:1-4)
  • Murder (Ex 21:12)
  • Manslaughter (Ex 21:13)
  • Kidnapping (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7)
  • Incest (Lev 20)
  • Witchcraft (Ex 22:18)
  • Sacrificing children (Lev 20:2)
  • Adultery (Lev 20:10)
  • Bestiality (Ex 22:19)
  • Homosexual activity (Lev 20:13)
  • Treason against God (Deut 13).
This is a very short list. It gives judges a very limited role in dealing with sin. However, even this list must be shortened further by the “hardness of heart” principle.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Crime and Sin

Biblical law makes an important distinction between a crime and a sin. This distinction is important in defining the role of judges, because a crime is a sin that can be punished by them. Therefore, defining crimes places an important boundary around the activity of judges.

The Old Testament teaches that only a few sins are also crimes. For example, coveting is listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17), but there is no punishment specified for coveting. Although coveting is a sin, it is not a crime. The obvious reason for this is that it would be impossible for judges to prove that a person is coveting. No one can testify that another person is coveting, because we cannot see into another person’s mind. This places a clear limit on judges. They can only punish actions. They must not attempt to control our thoughts.

Theft is specified as a sin in the Ten Commandments, but in this case the bible also specifies a punishment. This means that theft is both a sin and a crime (Ex 22:1-4). Once a man acts on his coveting and steals from his neighbour, judges have authority to act against him. His actions are visible, so witnesses can observe and testify against him. This provides judges with a basis for dealing with theft.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Risks to a Peaceful Society

A peaceful community that relies on judges for justice will be a great place to live, so only a fool would not want to change it. Foolishness cannot be eliminated, so a wise community will think about risks to it peace. A community under the government of God will face three different risks.

  1. A foreign nation or government may try to invade the peaceful community. A temporary military leader to lead resistance is the best solution to this problem.
  2. A temporary military commander may try to become king and the people might be afraid to resist. The best solution to this problem is to limit payments to the military commander and ensure that all soldiers are volunteers. If the military leader is dependent on the community for his resources, they will desert him, when he gets too big for his boots.
  3. A criminal may become a predator and use his unjust gains to terrorise his community. If justice is effective, then offenders should be dealt with before they become hardened criminals preying on their communities. Prophets will have a role in warning against potential predators.
A free society that lives under God’s law and good judges will be able to deal with all threats to it peace, provided people are alert to the dangers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

No Nations

When the Kingdom of God comes, nations will disappear. Although we see them as a normal party of life, they have no place in God’s plan. A nation is not created by a common language. Canadians and Americans speak English, but they are not one nation. A common culture does not create a nation. A nation is defined by a common ruler: whether king or parliament. A nation is a group of people that are ruled by the same political ruler. A nation has a common set of laws. The boundary of the nation includes all territory where that law applies.

When the Kingdom of God has come, all people will acknowledge the law of God. His law will be the only law, so kings and parliament will have nothing to do and will cease to exist. If there is no king or parliament, there will be nation. The only boundaries will be between areas were the law of God is acknowledged and nations that still want human laws. Within areas where God is acknowledged their will be no boundaries, because there will be no kings and parliament.

Different localities and communities will have their own judges, but they will be all applying the law of God. Different languages may be spoken in different places and culture will differ from place to place, but their will be no political boundaries, because there will be no political institutions. Christi will be all in all.

The book of Revelation is about the disenfranchisement of kings (and democracies). They will hide under the rocks and in the caves (Rev 6:15-16).

Monday, November 21, 2005


Paul summarises the principles of good government in his letter to Titus.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good (Tit 3:1).
Rulers and judges are “arkon’ and “exousia”, so Paul is urging people to submit to judges and magistrates. This is another confirmation that God’s government consists of judges and magistrates applying biblical law.

Achieving this goal will require most people to believe in Jesus. However punishing theft, assault and murder will make sense to most people, so judges who apply God’s law would be acceptable to people who do not believe in Jesus.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Servants of God

Judges who apply God’s law are his servants.

For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4).
The Greek word translated as “servant is ‘diakonos’. Elsewhere it is translated as “deacon” (1 Tim 3:8) and as “minister” in the context of the ascension gifts (Eph 4:12). God has given us his law, but he cannot implement it himself. He needs servants to do this for him. Judges are his servants when they do his work, just asapostles and pastors are his servants.

Jesus stated clearly that you cannot be a servant of two masters.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt 6:24).
Most modern judges serve a king or a parliament. There loyalty is either to one man or the entire people as represented by their parliament. However, a judge cannot serve two masters. A judge serving a democracy cannot be serving God. God is looking for judges who will serve him alone.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Praying for Kings

The scriptures tell us to pray for kings, but that does not mean they are appointed by God.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim 2:1,2).
The word used for authority is not the same as the word exousia that Paul used in Romans 13. The word here is “huperoché”, which means to be placed above. Kings have placed themselves above us, but they do not have legitimate authority in the same sense as a judge who is applying God’s law.

We pray for kings so we can live in peace and have freedom to share the gospel, not because they are God's reprentatives. Our prayers do not imply the "divine right of kings". We can pray for members of parliament, but that does not mean that they are God’s servants in the same way as excellent judges. Their authority is not authority from God.

We pray for kings because God is greater than they are. He was able to bring down Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon and one of the most powerful emperors that have ever existed (Dan 4). He was able to use Cyrus of Persia to complet his purposes. God decides the times and boundaries of the nations because he is God (Acts 17:26), but this does not mean that kings, dictators and parliaments are delegated authority by him.

Peter was always willing to challenge their authority and expose them for what they are. He said that we should submit to God rather than to man (Acts 5:29).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Honour the King?

We must honour the king, but surprise, surprise we are required to honour everyone. The king is not worthy of special honour.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king (1 Peter 2:17 NASB).
We should love other Christians. We must fear God. We are not required to love or fear the king. The king is below God and our Christian friends, but on the same level as other people. We should honour the king, but no more than we would honour any one else.

I am to submit to my Christian brethren, but I am not required to submit to all people. I am not require to submit to a king or hegemon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Free Men

Peter says that we should live as free men.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God (1 Pet 2:16).
If we must submit to evil rulers, then we are not free. However, Peter is talking about voluntary submission. If we submit voluntarily, then we remain free.
Submission is not something that God requires, but something that we do voluntarily for pragmatic reasons.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kings and Hegemons

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers… that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Pet 2:13-14 NKJV).
The contrast between Peter's word and Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 is interesting. Whereas Paul says that judges are instituted by God, Peter is very clear that kings and governors are instituted by man (ordinance of man). The word translated as ordinance is a derivative of the word for “create”, so kings and governors are the creation of man. The reason for the difference is that Peter is describing life under an ungodly government, whereas Paul is confirming God’s ideal government (just he describes ideal Christian behaviour in Romans 12).

The Greek word that Peter uses for governor is “hegemon”. This is not a nice word like "judge". (We should also note that governors are sent by the king, they are not appointed by God.)

Christians should submit to kings and hegemons for the sake of peace and freedom to do God’s work, but they are not instituted by God. Governors are not appointed by god, they are appointed by kings. They have political power, but their power has been stolen from God. We might have to submit to them for the sake of the gospel, but submitting to a king or a parliament is not the same as submitting to God. They are the creation of man and are not appointed by God.

We do not need to start a revolution against emperors or parliaments, because our gospel is revolutionary. As more and more people at converted and give their allegiance to Jesus, the power of kings and rulers will gradually leak away. The gospel undermined and defeated the Roman empire, so it can destroy any political power. Powerful preaching of the gospel supported by prayer will be more effective than revolution.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Peters View

Peter’s comments about political rulers in his letter are often misunderstood, because the context is ignored. Whereas Paul in Romans 13 was giving basic principles, Peter is providing advice to Christians about life in a hostile world

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world.... Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds.… (1 Pet 2:11,12).
He is writing to Christians who are living in a hostile world ruled by kings and dictators. He tells them to submit to the political powers for the sake of peace.
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers… that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Pet 2:13-14 NKJV).
Peter is not describing God’s will for government, as Paul does in Romans. He is explaining to Christians how they should get by under a hostile government. They should not attract unnecessary attention, by trying to overthrow the government, but should submit to it, so they can be free to get on with preaching the gospel.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Only One King

A kingdom can only have one king. If God is King then all other kings must stop being kings. If God is lawgiver, then other law givers will have to find something else to do. If they are unwilling to become judges applying God’s law, they are usurpers and rebels.

Mary understood very clearly the implications of Jesus birth, and spelt out the consequences of what God would accomplish in her song of joy.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:52-53)

A major implication of Jesus ascension into heaven is that he is king of the universe, so rulers should be brought down from their thrones. God will raise up humble judges in their place.

Unfortunately, Christians have failed understood Paul's message about submission to authority and have twisted the scriptures to give a justification to kings and parliaments that have set themselves up in opposition to God.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Coercive Power

Paul says judges “bear the sword” (Rom 13;4). The sword is a symbol of punishment. This is a confirmation of the Old Testament teaching that judges have the power of coercion. They do not need to turn the other cheek or repay evil with good (Rom 12:21), but are required to punish those who break the law. This can only be done by using force.

This passage is not a justification of absolute political authority or democratic political powers. It is a confirmation of the role of judges as developed in the books of the law. God instituted rule by law which must include enforcement by judges. This is the authority that was instituted by God.

Paul warns that resisting what God has instituted is dangerous. This is a challenging thought. We think that a Parliament is better than a King, but neither is instituted by God. A parliament puts the law of the people above God’s law applied by judges. A king put his own laws above God’s law. So any nation that is ruled by a king or a parliament is “is rebelling against what God has instituted” and will “bring judgment on themselves”.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Whose Authority?

All authority belongs to God.

There is no authority except that which God has established (Rom 13:1).
If all authority belongs to God, there cannot be another source of authority. There can only be delegated authority, but delegated authorities only have authority, while they are submitted to their superior of authority. If they claim an independent authority, their legitimacy disappears. If a king’s servant claims the right to make his own decisions, he is refusing to accept the authority of his king. He is making himself into a king.

If all authority comes from God, then Caesar cannot have an independent authority. The same applies to a parliament. The only legitimate authority is one that acknowledges God’s authority and implements his law. Political powers that claim sovereignty and an independent authority are in rebellion against God’s authority. Any institution that creates its own law is usurping the authority of God. To be legitimate, a political power must apply God’s law in every situation. The only legitimate government is righteous judges applying God’s law.

We have totally misunderstood Paul’s message in Romans 13. He is not saying that we should submit to parliaments, kings and emperors. The real implication of his message is exactly the opposite. These so-called authorities are in rebellion against God, because they are refusing to apply God’s laws, but are trying to establish their own laws. The role of a parliament is to create laws, so by definition, it are illegitimate. By being a law-maker, Parliament becomes a law breaker. A parliament that acknowledged God’s authority would have to vote itself out of existence and hand its power over to anointed judges.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Doing Good

Paul says that good people do not need to fear "rulers".

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you (Rom 13:3).
If Paul were speaking about all political authorities, this statement would be nonsense. All over the world and throughout history, good people have had terrible harm done to them by rulers. Kings and armies have pillaged and burned houses and farms without discrimination. In the Soviet Union, millions of good people were sent into exile and many were killed. Millions of innocent people were slaughtered in Communist China. Political powers have always been a source of terror for good people.

Democracy does not prevent political powers from doing terrible harm to good people. After the London bombings, a man was shot dead by police while he walked onto a train. Tax authorities have made life miserable for many innocent people.

Paul cannot be speaking about all political power, when he says that they hold no terror for those who do right. In fact, the opposite is true. Modern political authorities have so much power that they are terror to good people.

Paul’s statement can only be true of judges implementing God’s law. They have no power to hurt good people. They can only harm those who have broken God’s law. This is further confirmation that Paul is only commanding submission to excellent judges. His statement cannot be true of other forms of political power.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Implementing the Law

Another key to understanding Romans 13 is given the third verse of the chapter.

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:3,4).
The word usually translated as “ruler” in the third verse is “arkon”. However, this Greek word can also be translated as “judge” or “magistrate”. It is translated as judge in Luke 12:38. This suggests that Paul is writing about submission to judges. This is confirmed by the context. The role of these authorities is to punish the wicked, which is what judges do, not political leaders or military leaders.

We should also note that the word “authority” is plural. Paul is not talking about a single political leader or king. He is suggesting that we should submit to authorities (plural). Romans 13 is not about kings and parliaments, but confirms the Old Testament teaching of the role of judges. There will be many judges and authorities and we must submit to the excellent ones. This is also consistent with the Old Testament, which always speaks of multiple judges (Ex 22:8,9, Deut 19:17,18; 25:1).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Excellent Judges

The word authority (exousia) is used four times in the first two verses of Romans 13. It has a broad meaning, ranging from freedom to ruler to judge. Exousia is used for the authority that was given to Jesus (Matt 28:10) and for spiritual authorities (Eph 1:21; 6:12). One meaning of exousia is judge or magistrate. This is the way that it is translated in Luke 12:11. In Romans 13, exousia is authority that has been given by God to those who implement his law, so it must be referring to judges.

When considering the expression “governing authorities” in Romans 13:1, we should note that the word “governing” is not in the Greek text. The word that is often translated as governing is “huperecho” can mean “superior in rank”, but it also has a strong sense of excellence and excelling. Paul used the same word in Phil 3:8, when speaking of the “surpassing greatness” of knowing Christ. Paul is actually saying that we should submit to “excellent judges”. This gives us a choice about submitting. We are only required to submit to those judges who have demonstrated excellence.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Powers that Be

Before we can understand Paul’s teaching about submission, we must answer a basic question: who are the civil authorities that he is writing about? I believe that Paul is only referring to judges. His teaching about submission does not apply to other political powers. There are several reasons why this is true.

The essential key to understanding Paul’s message about civil authority is in Romans 13:1, where he writes,

The authorities that be have been established by God

He was referring back Deut 19:17, for which a literal translation refers to “the judges which shall be in those days.” This link has been missed because we do not love the law and have tended to ignore it. When Paul says that the “authorities that be” have been established by God, he is speaking about judges like those that existed in Moses' time. He is not talking about politicians, parliaments, emperors or presidents.

This is an extremely important principle. We are only required to submit to righteous judges. Romans 13 does not give a blanket authority to political power in all its forms, Paul is simply confirming the Old Testament principle that government by judges is the best way. This is the system of government that has been established by God.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Romans Thirteen

Paul’s letter to the Romans has an important teaching about the role of civil government sandwiched within a discussion about the meaning of love. At the end of the Romans 12, Paul is expounding Jesus message about “turning the other cheek”. He explains that we must not use force against those who harm us, but wait on God to provide justice. We must overcome evil with good.

Paul then answers a question that he had probably been asked many times when talking on this topic. Does the injunction to turn the other cheek apply to the civil authorities? Was Jesus saying that they should turn the other cheek to those who break the law instead of punishing them? Was Jesus advocating absolute pacifism? Paul gives his answer to this important question in Romans 13:1-7. He then goes back to talking about love for the remainder of the chapter.

The heart of Paul’s message is that Christians should submit to the civil authorities because they have been instituted by God.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves (Rom 13:1,2).

This passage has been used to justify various forms of political control. The common argument is that Paul was writing to the church in the Rome at a time when Nero was Caesar. If a terrible ruler like Nero was instituted by God, then all forms of political power are justified and Christians must submit to whatever political authority they face.

The problem with this argument is that it does not define the “governing authorities” that Paul is writing about. In my view, the entire passage has been badly translated into English. Translators of almost every English translation have translated it in a way that gives the greatest possible power to political leaders. This is odd given that we are supposed to be submitted to God and that Paul got into trouble with the political authorities throughout his ministry. The assumption that Paul is commanding us to submit to every political authority including dictators and tyrants is totally wrong.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Judges not Politicians

We do not need elected politicians to write laws and regulations to cover every possible situation. We need good judges to interpret the God’s moral principles, using the method of application described in the books of the law.

God is our lawmaker. He has given us all the law that we need, so we do not need politicians to make laws for us. However, God’s law will always have to be interpreted and applied to the current situation. Elected politicians will not have the skills to do this task. The best people to do this task will be wise and godly judges.

Good judges are all that we need in addition to the law. God has provided his standard for justice in the law. Our challenge is to apply God’s law to the modern world.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

God's Law is Holy

The Law is Holy and Spiritual. Paul affirmed that the law is good in his letter to the Romans.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not!
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
We know that the law is spiritual (Rom 7:7,12,14).
The law is holy, righteous, spiritual and good. Christians who reject the law are rejecting a gift from God. The law is only problem when used for the wrong purpose. When used as a substitute for the cross, it becomes a heavy burden, but when used to restrain evil it is righteous and good. Substituting man-made law for one that is holy and good does not make sense.

Once we realise that the law is good, our attitude to it will need to change. The key to understanding God’s government is to love the law. The scriptures say,
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes (Psalm 119:97-99).
This passage is usually interpreted as a command to meditate on the scriptures, but this is not what the Psalm says. It encourages us to “love the law”. It suggests that “loving the law” is the key to gaining wisdom about the role of government and the law. The Lord said something similar to Joshua.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Jos 1:8).
Loving the law of God is a key to understanding true justice and achieving good government.

Friday, November 04, 2005

God's Standard

The reason that modern Christians have so much disagreement over politics and the role of the state is that most believe the New Testament, but do not take the Old Testament seriously. Many Christians have never studied the Old Testament law, because they believe that the law has been replaced by grace. Even those who know that Jesus has not abolished the law are uneasy, because they have accepted the conventional wisdom that the Old Testament is harsh and cruel.

This creates a serious problem, because it leaves Christians with nothing to say about the role of the state. The New Testament teaches very little about the state and law. The reason is that God does not repeat himself. His word on these issues is contained in the Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, so it does not need to be repeated in the New Testament. Those who ignore the content of those books are left with a big hole that has to be filled in some other way. Without a standard to decide the role of the state or judge the performance of government, many Christians who teach on political issues end up following a secular prophet.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gods Law is All We Need

God revealed his law through Moses. His Ten Words are recorded twice in the Old Testament: in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Case laws that explain how the Ten Commandments should be applied in a variety of situations are provided in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These laws deal with theft violence and murder, so they are all that is needed for a peaceful society.

There is no evidence in the Bible of a group of people being elected to decide what the law should be. A parliament or congress is not needed because God had already provided his perfect law. This is a very important principle. We will not understand the government of God while we think that we need politicians to make laws for us. We already have God’s perfect law, so we do not need elected representatives to make laws on our behalf.

Christians tend to hate the law, because they relate it to salvation by good works. Jesus does not come to destroy the law.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5:17,18).
The law will remain until God’s purposes on earth are complete. Christians have failed to understand that God still has a purpose for the law. We cannot be justified by obeying the law, because we are saved through faith. Abraham knew that five hundred years before the law had been given. However, the primary reason that God gave the law is so the people of a nation can live together in peace and harmony. The law was given to protect citizens from theft and violence that destroy the peace of a society.

Paul explained the purpose of the law to Timothy.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers (1 Tim 1:8-10).
We must understand that the law is still good, when it is used for the correct purpose. It cannot wipe away sin, because only the cross can deal with the guilt of sin. However the law is good for dealing with lawbreakers and evil people. By dealing with murder, adultery, theft and false witness the law allows good people to live together in peace.

The Ten Commandements were spoken directly by God, so we should take them seriously.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Correct Question, Correct Answer

The correction question is "What is God’s ideal form of government?"

The answer to this question is that God’s ideal for human society is government by his law. His law is the only system that can provide peace on earth, but it must be supported by two human activities. The first is wise judges who apply his law to resolve legal disputes and punish evildoers. The second human activity is temporary military leaders raised up in response to threats of invasion by an external enemy. The Old Testament polity consisted of judges and military leaders. Isaiah described these two roles in the same passage.

He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate (Is 28:6).
These two governing roles are described in detail in the Old Testament.

The first role is that of judges who settle legal disputes based on God’s law. Moses and Samuel took this role. The second role is the military commander who calls soldiers together to defend the nation when it is attacked by an enemy. This is probably not a permanent position, but only comes about when the nation is attacked. Moses, Joshua and David took this role.

Military leaders are only needed during a time of crisis. Judges are more important, because they will be needed all the time.

Judges applying God's law are his ideal government.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Not J-in-J

Many Christians think that Jesus ruling as king in would be the perfect government, but this is really an awful idea. The thought of Jesus sitting in and using an “iron fist” to crush all opposition is repulsive and because it is contrary to the gospel it cannot work. Military power does not produce good government. The United States has one hundred thousand well armed troops in Iraq, but they have not been able to enforce peace. How would Jesus sitting on a throne in Jerusalem be able to do any better. Many evil people would just ignore him.

If Jesus has to come back to bring peace to the world then the gospel must be useless and the Holy Spirit is a failure. God does not use force to bring change to the world, but change the hearts of people, so that they freely choose to obey him. God is backing the gospel and the Holy Spirit, so counting on the return of Jesus to bring peace to the world is a false hope.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Not Monarchy

Kings are not God's ideal form of government.

When the people asked Samuel for a King, God said that they were rejecting him.

So all the elders of came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.... Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do" (1 Sam 8:4-9).

God then warned them that a king would enslave their sons and daughters and steal their wealth. Kings are a sub-optimal form of government.

The Jews look back to King David as their model ruler, but he was not the ideal. David had a heart for God and a contrite spirit, but he still sinned when he became corrupted by power. His disobedience brought a calamity on his nation that killed 70,000 people (2 Sam 24:13-17). A king who loves God is not the perfect answer.

The history of Israel demonstrates that good kings are usually succeeded by bad kings. Because their sons grow up in a privileged world, they generally do not have the character that such a powerful position needs. The trouble is that once power has been given to a king, the people can never get it back, even if his sons turn bad.

Saul was chosen by the people (1 Sam 10:17-25). David was also chosen as king by the people (2 Sam 5:1-5). However, once the people had given them absolute authority, they could not get it back from their successors, even if they wanted to. The people of Israel tried to take back their freedom when Rehoboam became king, but they failed. Their rebellion brought out an even worse dictator called Jeroboam (1 Kings 14).

A King in heaven is great. A king on earth is dangerous.

Monarchy is not God's ideal.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Defintely Not Democracy

Many Christians are getting involved in the political process to try and accomplish God’s purposes, but they will not succeed, because all political institutions are rooted in humanism. For example the United States constitution begins with the words, “We the People…… do ordain and establish this Constitution This is a declaration that the people will decide their own laws and is a blatant rejection of God’s law.. A system for producing human laws, no matter how carefully designed, cannot produce the justice of God.

Christians have tended to recommend democracy as a political solution, but there is no biblical reason for this enthusiasm. People power leads to oppression because the crowd is usually wrong.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd (Ex 23:2).

We should be careful about recommending a system that does not have God’s approval. Just as a thorn bush cannot produce apples, a system where man establishes the laws, can never advance the Government of God.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not Democracy

Democracy cannot be God's ideal government, because it is the rule of man and not the rule of God. When the people get their way, disaster always follows.

Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way .... of obedience to the LORD's commands..... the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways (Judges 2:17-19).
Gideon understood this problem well.
The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you" (Jud 8:22,23).
This is a good example of democracy getting things wrong. The people voted Gideon for president, but that was not God’s will. Gideon understood the issues better and reminded them that God was their ruler.

The people will always refuse to serve God and follow his ways. Here are some examples from just one of the historical books.
Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, "This is what God says: 'Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper' "(2 Chron 24:19,20).

The people, however, continued their corrupt practices (2 Chron 27:2).

But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy (2 Chron 36:16).
Jeremiah summed the problem up when he said,
This is what the LORD says about this people:
They greatly love to wander;
they do not restrain their feet (Jer 14:10).
Any system that relies on the people to do the right thing is doomed to fail. Demoracy cannot provide godly government.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wrong Question

If we ask the wrong question, we will not get the right answer.

Most Christians ask how we can make the democratic system to work according to biblical principles. Their answer is to get more Christians elected, so they can pass Christian laws. Efforts in this direction have only had limited success and have often harmed God’s name.

A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

The correct question is as follows. What is God’s ideal form of government? This is a very important question that we have not seriously attempted to answer.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Left or Right

The Christian Right is wrong.
The Christian Left is not right.
They both believe in salvation by politics.

The both want to make their own laws,
because they are unwilling to live under God's law.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Challenging Questions

What would you do if the Prime Minister of your country decided to become a Christian and asked you to disciple her? Would you tell her to resign because politics is evil and Christians should not be joined with evil? You would need to be very sure before doing this, because God may have put her in a position of authority for a purpose (This was true of Queen Esther.)

Or you could tell her to keep on implementing party policies while keeping her Christian faith personal and private. The problem with is that after a while she would start feeling like a hypocrite.

What would you do? You would have to start thinking about what it means to be a Christian Prime Minister. If we are praying for our rulers as required by the scriptures, we cannot assume that none will ever become a Christian. We should be prepared to answer the question when it happens.

Here is another tough question. If the gospel has great success and we find that 90 percent of the population of our nation is Christian, should we start implementing a Christian legal system? What would that be? What would the new society look like? Or would we leave politics to the other 10 percent, so the church does not get dragged back into Christendom?

When Constantine became a Christian, the church did not have the answer to these questions, so we got Christendom by default.

We should start thinking now, as it will be too late when it happens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Escape or Wait

We have gone for 2000 years without solving the church/state problem, but it will not go away. A reaction to the collapse of Christendom has been to avoid the issue by believing that the church should remain a persecuted and isolated minority. If the state is persecuting the church, Christians can declare it to be evil and not need to get involved. This is easy to say that when you are living in peace and comfort, but it destines the church to be defeated forever. My reading of the scripture is that God expects more of the Church than continuous defeat. We cannot assume that the Holy Spirit will leave his church defeated forever.

Others expect the problem to be resolved by Jesus coming back soon to rule from Jerusalem. They believe that Jesus will take over from “George Bush” and rid the world of evil, but this has not really been thought through very clearly. Think about some of the problems. How would Jesus stop Timaru teenagers from sniffing glue? He would be busy in the temple in Jerusalem, so he would not have much time for the young people of Timaru. He will have will have a lot of Christians in spiritual bodies to help him, but what would they do. Would they track down every glue sniffer and "zap"them. That is hardly likely to stop glue sniffing. The disembodied Christians could hide all the glue, but what about those who have a genuine need for glue. Society would become very controlled, but it would not be very pleasant place to live.

Jesus simply would not have the power to solve every problem. The world’s problems cannot be solved by forcing people to do things they do not want to do. Evil will only disappear when all sinful hearts are transformed and to love of God. Jesus sitting on a throne in Jerusalem would not have the power to change hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

And Surprise! Surprise! He can change hearts now without waiting for Jesus to return.

Neither waiting or escaping is the solution. If our Christian faith is real, it should be good for both the tough times and good times. We cannot avoid working through our relationship with the political system.

It will be too late to start thinking when things turn to custard.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Church and State

The relationship between the church and the state is a key issue for the Kingdom of God. The last two millennia have been marked by an ongoing struggle/alliance between these two. Christian leaders tried to use political power to strengthen the position of the church, so they formed an alliance with the state, in which the church authenticated the state power in return for state protection of the church.

This alliance with the state led to a jostling for power that did not really advance the gospel cause. At times the gospel was successful and the influence of the church increased, but in a straight out power struggle with the state, the church will usually lose. The church mostly played second fiddle and the gospel was corrupted by secular views, as it compromised to hang onto scraps of power.

Our problem is that the correct relationship between the church and the state has never been defined. The early church was persecuted, so it saw the state as an enemy. When persecution of Christians, ceased in the fourth century, the church never resolved the issue of how it should relate to a state that is not hostile. This task has never been done, so we lurch between using the state to advance the gospel and escaping from the political world.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Taxation and Tyranny

Compulsory taxation came with the king. Kings and taxation are part of the same package. When the people asked for a king, Samuel told them what he would do.

He will take your sons........
He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves .........
He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage ......
the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves (1 Sam 8:11-17).
Kings take. That is there nature. Samuel was not so much disturbed by the size of the payments to the king. A tithe was quite normal. However, he was shocked that the King would take what he wanted. He was disturbed because payments to the king would be compulsory.

During the time of the judges, tithes to the Levites were voluntary. The judges mostly supported themselves. Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a noble wife who worked hard at business, so her husband could be a judge at the gate. Any payment to a judge was always a voluntary payment. Abraham paid for his own army.

Choosing a king marked a transition from giving to taking.

Choosing to have a king brought compulsory taxation. Choosing democracy also brings compulsory taxation. Samuel warned the people.

When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day (1 Sam 8:18).
Monarchy (kings) and democracy are inferior forms of government because they require compulsory taxation. God's ideal government depends on giving, not taking.

Taxation is the basis of Tyranny.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Did Jesus Pay Tax

An interesting incident occurred when Jesus came to Capernaum.

The collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matt 17:24-27).
Peter made the mistake of speaking for his master without checking first, so Jesus had to put things right. He made two important points. The first was that the sons of kings do not pay tax. This referred back to the warning that Samuel had given to Israel when they chose to have a king (1 Samuel 8). Jesus is a son of the King of the universe so he does not have to pay tax to an earthly power.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he became our king and we became sons of the king. As sons of the true king, Christians are not require to pay tax to a king. We cannot serve two kings. If we accept Jesus as our king, we cannot serve another king by acknowledging his right to impose taxes.

Jesus second point was that at times it is better to keep the peace than to stand on your rights. He chose to pay the tax voluntarily to avoid embarrassing Peter. Christians will sometimes choose to pay taxes to political powers, because they do not want to get distracted from their work for God. When they pay an imposed tax voluntarily, they are following Jesus example. They are not morally obliged to pay the tax, but they will do so as not to cause unnecessary offence.

For Christians, all payments to political powers are voluntary. We are only required to pay for services that we have received.

All taxation is voluntary for children of the King of Creation.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Bad News for Caesar

and his imitators.....

Jesus statement about rendering to Caesar has been used to develop a theory that Jesus rules the church and the spiritual life, while the political powers control the political and economic dimensions of life. This is nonsense. Jesus could not assign authority over the political dimension to Caesar, because all authority belongs to God. He could not give authority to make laws to political dictators or parliaments, because God is the our law maker and has already given us the law that we need. God is not interested in power-sharing with Caesar, or any other political authority.

When Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to him, he was not giving Cesar authority over secular life. He was not legitimising political power. He was simply restating the biblical principle that stealing is wrong. If the people had received something from Caesar, they owed him payment. If he had taken more than he had given, they owned him nothing and he was in debt to them.

Jesus told the people to “give” Caesar what they owed him. He did not say paying tax was compulsory. Giving is a voluntary concept. If something is taken by force, it is not given. If someone steals your car, you do not say “I gave it to the thief”. We must choose to give, or it is not giving. Jesus told us to "give" what we owe to Caesar. This means that he was talking about something voluntary and not compulsory payment of taxes. Jesus was teaching that all payment to the civil authorities are voluntary.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Render to Caesar What???

Jesus confirmed the principle of voluntary taxation when he was confronted by the Jews.

They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke20:20-26).
This incident has caused a lot of confusion. The usual interpretation is that Caesar’s image and name on the coin proves that he owns all coins, so they must be given back to him if he asks for them. This is economic nonsense. An image on a coin or banknote proves nothing. New Zealand five dollar notes have a picture of Sir Edmund Hilary, the first person to climb Mount Everest. To suggest that he owns every five dollar note would be absurd. The coin that Jesus looked at belonged to the person who had given it, unless it was stolen, and then it belonged to the person it was stolen from. It did not belong to Caesar.

Jesus was telling the people to pay to Caesar what they owed him. Caesar had provided them with a service by minting coins. Having a coinage that was accepted throughout the world was a benefit for those engaged in trade, so they owed him something for that service. Rome may have provided roads that were beneficial to Jewish communities. Maybe Caesar also provided some justice services (I am not sure how much), so they owed him something for that. Caesar had not protected them, so they owed him nothing for defence.

By way of contrast, everything does belong to God, so we must submit everything to him. Jesus had taught the people over and over again that all authority belongs to his Father God. Even the Son of God must submit to his authority. Since all authority belongs to God, we must submit to God in everything him. Caesar must submit to God in the same way as ordinary people. Caesar must give to God, everything that belongs to him.

A political power (emperor or parliament) cannot be above God in anything.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Payment of Judges (3)

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Rom 13:7 NKJV).
The word “render” literally means “give back”, and includes a strong sense of repayment or paying back for something received. Paul does not give judges the right to impose taxes, but he does give Christians responsibility to support their judges. He is commanding them to pay the judge for the benefits they receive through having a good system of justice.

Judges cannot decide what they are worth to the people of the community. Only the people can decide what value they place on justice. They are the only ones who can decide on the value of what they have received.

Some may decide they do not care and pay nothing. Most will decide that good justice is worth having and make a contribution; just as most people freely pay for fire insurance. They will hope that they will not need a judge, but they be willing to pay a small amount to ensure that a good judge is there when they need one.

At the end of verse 7, we are are told to honour those to whom honour is due. God does not expect us to worship any human. The Greek word translated as honour is “timé”. The root meaning of this word is “price”. The basic meaning of the verb is to “set a price” or “determine the value” of an object. The idea of hounour is derived from this concept of valuation.

Paul is not commanding us to honour judges in the modern sense of the word, but to evaluate a judge and decide what he is worth. We should be making a payment to a judge based on what we perceive that he is worth. This links back to the idea in of submit to the excellent judges at the beginning of the chapter.

A judge or authority does not decide what he is worth. Christians decide themselves what the judge is worth. Judges cannot impose taxes, but they should be paid what they are worth to their community. All taxation is voluntary so it ceases to be a tax. It is a burden we owe to those who have provided justice to us. Paul concludes his teaching on civil government by saying.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom 13:8).

We pay what we owe, but payment is voluntary, a fulfilment of love. As in any expression of love the amount to be paid is decided by the one making the payment.

Taxation is Voluntary!!!