Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Self-government is the Biblical model


October 23, 2019

Founding statesman John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The Constitutional Convention did not produce a document that could govern people who don’t govern themselves. As true as that is, there’s a sense in which it misses the point. It invites the question, “What form of government would be adequate for that other kind of people?”

From a Biblical and historical standpoint, the answer is “none.” Even in the old, iron-fisted government of the Soviet Union, where they used force to stop the spread of thoughts they deemed unhelpful, organized crime survived and flourished.

Beyond that oppressive structure, even, think of maximum security prisons here in our own country. These are places under strict surveillance, meticulous rules, and armed guards at every turn. Nevertheless, criminal street gangs keep doing business and the worst crimes still happen, including vicious assault, rape, and murder.

So, even the ol’ Gray Bar Hotel is wholly inadequate to the government of an immoral, irreligious people. It’s not shocking that the Constitution is also bad at that.

When we come to Scripture, many people try to say that the Bible really doesn’t specify a system of civil government. These are mostly people who don’t read it.

In fact, immediately after their exodus from Egypt, the nation of Israel was organized under a system of appeals courts. There was no executive or legislative branch. They had God’s commandments, and they had courts to settle disputes over them. That’s it.

The law of God allowed for a later king in Israel, but apparently only to function as the highest judge in the court system.

The point is this: even the judges that God appointed were not so much “rulers.” They didn’t walk around just being in charge of stuff. The law of God ruled. The judges merely reacted to criminal breaking of the rules.

None of this, however, meant that there was no government in Israel. No indeed, (and this is the shocking bit that sounds outrageous to us) the government in Israel was designed to be primarily self-government under the guidance of the law of God. Failure of self-government would get the courts involved, but nothing else would.

Nowadays, the faithful live under the greater blessings of the new covenant in Christ Jesus. It’s worth asking: If the ancient Israelites, who only had a small portion of the Bible; who had not been inwardly cleansed through faith; and who did not participate in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit — if these were expected to govern themselves under a handful of commandments, how much less should Christian people need anyone to govern them?

Why would Christian people need a swarm of government agents watching their every move, monitoring their communications, and eating out their substance? Even more, why would they cheer for these things?

When you figure this out, I’d love to hear the answer.

Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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