Rev Kenneth Stewart


Biblical Principles Governing Lawful Participation in Government



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Biblical Principles Governing Lawful Participation in Government


We would assert that the following five biblical principles for government are relevant for members of a nation governed by a Constitutional Monarchy and a Representative Parliamentary Democracy.

  1. Only those who meet God’s standards for civil office are truly qualified for that office.

The Bible gives clear instructions concerning the qualifications for office in civil government.

These qualifications can be summed up in the words of David 2 Samuel 23:3 ‘he that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’. They can also be found in Exodus 18:21, where we are informed that officers in civil government – not the government of the church – are to be men of ability, who fear God (that is, honour him and his Word), men of truth (not liars) and men who hate covetousness (not seeking their own gain). They are also found in Deuteronomy 1:13 where we note that, although the people choose their own rulers, they are obligated to choose qualified men. The qualification consists in possessing wisdom and understanding – and significantly, in the Bible, this wisdom begins with ‘the fear of the Lord’.

According to the Bible, then, those qualified for civil office (as distinct from office in the church) must fear God. This fear of God will find outward expression in a commitment to serving and upholding the law of God (as we shall see later).

It is plain from this that an unqualified man is no more entitled to serve as Civil ruler in the state than an unqualified man is to serve as an elder in a church. A Christian understands that it is God who has a right to lay down the qualifications for both and that he has in fact done so in his word.



  1. Those who are empowered to elect others to office should equip, support and vote only for those men who have the biblical qualifications for office in government. 

This principle follows from the previous principle. It also becomes clear when we consider our responsibility in the church: Just as we would never vote for a man to be an overseer in the church if he lacked the biblical qualifications for that office, so we should never vote for a man to be an overseer of the nation if he lacks the biblical qualification for that office. To do so would be to disobey God.

It is also important to emphasise that it is no more allowable to vote for a least-worst candidate for government office than it is to vote for a least-worst candidate for church office. Of course it has become quite common over the years even for Christians to vote for ‘least-worst’ candidates on the ground that they are – well, the least-worst!



However, it can never be the correct choice to authorise an unqualified person to govern either the church or the state in your name.

Furthermore, failing to vote for qualified people on the ground that they ‘won’t win’ is looking to expediency rather than to principle and is looking to the short term rather than to the long term. And, if there are no good candidates, why not run for office? Or why not spoil your paper in protest? Incidentally, one of the aims of the church must be to produce individuals who are qualified to hold the office of civil rule in a nation. If we produce no such individuals, it is clear that we are failing in our duty.

It should be noted, however, that this necessary requirement governing our participation in the election of rulers is distinct from the subsequent obligation to be subject to such rulers if they are elected – providing their commands are not in conflict with the Word of God.


  1. Those who are empowered to elect others to office should not vote for someone who has promised to sin should he win.

To vote for such a person is to give a mandate for that sin – for example, legislating for abortion. Again, it is no argument to say that the other candidate has promised to sin more. If that is the case, do not give your mandate to either candidate and either run for office or don’t vote and leave the outcome to our sovereign God. You are never left in a moral situation by God in which you have to do the lesser of two evils: there is always a third option.

  1. Those who are empowered to elect others to office must recognise that a bad candidate is not sanctified by a good political party and neither is a bad political party sanctified by a good candidate.

If the candidate is bad, you must realise that, in our system of government, you are voting for that candidate to be your personal representative making decisions in your name. So, for example, if he is affiliated to a party that is opposed to same-sex marriage but he makes plain that he is in favour of it and will vote for it, then by casting your vote for him you are empowering him to carry out his intention. If, on the other hand, the candidate is good but is nonetheless committed to accept the discipline of a political party that is committed to do evil – for example, legalising abortion or euthanasia – then he is not as good as you thought he was! And, of course, in voting for him, you are also voting for the party with which he has formally and publically identified himself.

  1. Christians should pray that the Ten Commandments and God’s standards for office would become part of the national constitutional law. 

Something more will be said on this below, but if the Kingship of Christ over the state as well as the church means anything in practice – as opposed to merely sounding good and appearing logical in a theological system – then it must mean that the primary laws issued by Christ the King as the basis of all his other laws should become the primary constitutional laws of the Kingdom.

These five principles make plain how we should approach the matter of involving ourselves in the government of this country through the act of voting. They also help us to begin examining in greater detail where the problem with voting, or serving as an MP, lies from the perspective of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

The source of the difficulty is to be found in the nature of the constitution which has governed our nation since the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 – and the duties which fall to the voters and the elected members to Parliament in the light of that constitution.

Let’s proceed, then, to examine





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