|THE DIVINE PURPOSE FOR GOVERNMENT
Why has God delegated some of His divine authority to human authorities to allow them to govern their fellowman? Here we deal with the basic question of the purpose of government. Why do governments exist? I wish all of those involved in government today could be reminded of this very basic Biblical word concerning the divine purpose for allowing government to exist.
According to the Apostle, two basic things are involved in this purpose. The first is positive. And the second is negative. They are really just two sides of one basic purpose. First, "for he is the minister of God to thee for good." Here the apostle personifies this principle of government. The principle as it embodies itself in the life of a ruler is actually "a minister of God to thee for good". "Minister" is the word trans7ated in other places in the New Testament "deacon". The word means one rendering service to another. This statement tells us that the man involved in government is actually a servant of God given the assignment of assuring and seeking your good. Government is not meant to be the oppressor or controller of the affairs of man, but the friend of man, the servant of man. it is meant to be his servant for good. It is to promote and secure his best interests.
This purpose of God must not be confused with what some feel to be the purpose of government today. There is a breed of governmental workers today who seem to assume that man is not capable of determining what is good for him individually so they must tell him what is good and make sure that he does it. In light of the expanded discussion of the Apostle, his statement must rather be understood as involving the assurance of each man the kind of orderly climate in which he can do good as he determines the good. As our own government's constitution affirms, it must leave to him a certain freedom to pursue this good.
However, it must be admitted that many of the things about which we fuss, which the government does, are actually for our good. The fifty‑five miles per hour speed limit is a good example. Many people are fussing about the governmental oppressiveness of a fifty-five per hour speed limit, but all of the studies indicate that this is for our good. We are safer, richer, and better in every way when we are obeying such a law. As far as government fulfills this responsibility, we should render thanksgiving to God that he has delegated some of his authority to earthly rulers for our good.
The second divine purpose for government is to restrain evil‑‑again for our good. "But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." The Apostle affirms that God has delegated the sword to the government to restrain evil in the world. Should this be seen as a Biblical support for capital punishment? While it might imply this, we must admit though that this is not the purpose of the Apostle. He is rather affirming that the divinely ordained role of government in the world is to discourage, restrain, and punish wrong doing. While it does not say how far government should go in punishing wrong , it surely does affirm the right of government, yea, and the responsibility of government to restrain evil. It is responsible for administering the wrath of God against evil.
It might be worth our exploration to attempt a study of the relationship of the attitude of the general public toward governmental punishment, and their attitude toward God. I think it could be demonstrated that as the idea of a God of love who is incapable of punishing sin has become popular, the lack of popularity for punishment of wrong doers has also been evident. In our society today the public sentiment seems to often be on the side of the criminal instead of the side of the government that tries to restrain or punish him.
If you do wrong, and the government places its heavy hand on you, you should acknowledge it as being the hand of God. God ordained this. He granted to that governmental system the right to punish you for wrong doing‑‑‑yea, he gave to them this responsibility.
The duties set forth by the Apostle grow out of this view of government. The attempts today to remove our government entirely from the influence of God must be resisted. While none of us would want the government of our country to be under the control of any religious order, we surely want those involved in it to recognize that the very authority they exercise is granted to them by the living God for the good of all His creatures. We want to be delivered from that breed of politician that sees the people as existing for the good of the government.
In applying this, there are two things I want to affirm. First, we should stop seeing government in terms of something dirty. While there may be some corrupt men in government, the very principle of government is not only legitimate, it is essential for the good of man. We should also begin to see governmental service as a legitimate place for a man to serve God. God might want to call some of our young people to give their lives to a place of governmental service. It is a legitimate place for one to render a life of service unto God.
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