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Why We have Government: A Theology of Government and Law Enforcement

Greater than our confidence in participatory democracy should be our faith in God who "rules over the kingdoms of men" (Dan. 4:17). God created and continues to sustain government, but for what purposes? On a day when we show community support for Liberty-area law enforcement, this article is written to present God's mind about good government.

 

Rendering Unto Caesar

"For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns" is John's joyous declaration of the omnipotence of God (Rev. 19:6) and the general beginning point for every other truth. Since God is all-powerful, there is no corner of the world and no "between the cracks" of human activity that is hidden from Him. Included beneath His divine reign is human reign.

Quizzed about paying taxes, Jesus said, " Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mk. 12:17). With these words, our Lord established that (i) rulers indeed have rule and that (ii) we must indeed follow that rule. Further, Jesus established that (iii) the requirement to follow does not depend on our delight in the rules or in the rulers.

In Romans 13:1-5, Paul expanded on this theme.

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities,for there is no authority except from God,and those that exist are instituted by God.So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command...For government is God’s servant, an avengerthat brings wrath on the one who does wrong.Therefore, you must submit.

Our submission to governing authorities is to be complete. These verses do not present a philosophy to be merely mulled in our minds. Instead, they create law-abiding temperments that turn over our full allegiance to our government from top to bottom.

Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good (I Pet. 2:13-14).

But Why?

Instead of existing for its own purposes, government exists to promote the purposes of God. Since governments tend to aggrandize themselves, we have accepted an exaggerated and elaborate view of the purpose of governments, that their primary purposes are huge and overarching. A much simpler view of the purpose of government is presented in I Timothy 2:2: "that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life."

John Gill explains,

The end of civil government...is to preserve the peace and quiet of the commonwealth; to protect the persons and properties of men, that they may possess their own undisturbed; and to secure to them their civil and religious rights and liberties, that they may have the free use and exercise of religion.

Embedded within this verse is an expression of God's desire for our lives. Instead of anxiety and trial, God's greatest hope is that our lives will be tranquil. International upheavals and domestic disruptions detract from this grand design for government.

Law Enforcement

How quiet and peaceful would our lives be without law enforcement? Imagine a world without police officers and sheriff's deputies, without firefighters and EMTs, a world in which we were not secure in our persons due to violence and disorder. On a smaller scale, imagine even a world without traffic laws and without traffic law enforcement - how tranquil would that be?

Reflecting on the purpose of law enforcement, Paul said, "it (the government and law enforcement) does not carry the sword for no reason" (Rom. 13:4). The short thrusting sword carried by Roman soldiers, everywhere visible in New Testament times, was the all-purpose tool of law enforcement. Marching as policemen, soldiers would use their swords corporally, capitally, and as a ever-present reminders of authority.

Ever-present reminders of quiet and peace, our First Responders perform God's highest purposes. Today we demonstrate our support with a luncheon in their honor. Everyday we should pray for them (I Tim. 2:1).