A gracEmail reader asks, “Would you care to comment on the use of Paul’s appeal as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:9-12) as the basis for Christians organizing and sponsoring litigation against certain of our own laws which permit activities contrary to Scripture?”
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Although Paul regularly used Roman law defensively in the course of his ministry, Scripture does not record any occasion when he used the law offensively to further his spiritual ends. God’s kingdom is not “of this world,” Jesus had declared to Roman Pilate (John 18:36). It does not depend on worldly power, human plans or earthly provisions for its success. God’s kingdom will eventually “break in pieces” all human kingdoms — not through bullets or even ballots, but by the divine transformation of men and women throughout the present age, and by the victorious appearance of Jesus Christ at its end (Psalm 110:1; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14, 23-27; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Phil. 2:10-11; 2 Thes. 2:8-9).
Thirty years ago, the Christian Left attempted to reshape America through political means. Today, the Christian Right is making the same effort. They all are wrong if they think that God needs their puny efforts — or the resources and powers of any government. God raises up rulers and puts them down (Dan. 4:25, 34-35). He uses worldly governments however it pleases him. But he does not depend on any of them, or on all of them put together. Despite present appearances, Jesus Christ is ruler of the kings of the earth, a fact which one day will become apparent to all (Rev. 1:5).
None of that means, however, that Christians ought to withdraw from positions of influence in which God has placed them, or that they should shrink back from political positions to which they are divinely called. Civil government is established by God, to protect and praise those who do good and to restrain and punish those who do evil (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Governments are accountable to God for this stewardship. If they abandon this mission, exalt themselves over God, or promote ungodly principles, they will incur his punishment and his righteous wrath (Rev. 13; 19:19-21).
Legislators rightly make laws which conform to God’s moral principles. Not because God’s cause needs their laws, but because lawful society needs the favor and blessing of Almighty God (Prov. 14:34). No, we cannot legislate morality, because morality springs from within. But we can and ought to legislate civil order based on principles of true justice and equity — an environment in which true morality may freely thrive.