Speaking the Truth in Love

Church and State

Public school teachers cannot legally lead students in prayer, display the Ten Commandments, or teach the Genesis creation account. According to the Supreme Court’s dubious interpretation of the Constitution, the state must sever any links between itself and religion–Christianity in particular. What biblical principles relate to this controversial legal doctrine known as “separation of church and state”?

First, the state has the biblical right to encourage true religion. David led Israel both politically and spiritually. When the king brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, he offered sacrifices, shouted praises, and danced joyously in the presence of all the people (2 Sam. 6:12-15). Conversely, a government must never establish or encourage false religion. King Jeroboam set up idols, appointed non-Levitical priests, and ordained his own religious festivals. In so doing Jeroboam son of Nebat sinned and “made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16).

Second, the church lacks any biblical authority to engage officially in political action. Jesus himself avoided entanglement in the political controversies of the first century. However, Christ readily criticized the wickedness of individual political leaders. For example, he denounced Herod Antipas as a “fox” (Luke 13:32).

Finally, the Bible teaches that the church can be faithful to Christ with or without state approval. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, ordered Peter and John to stop preaching in the name of Christ, but the apostles refused to obey. They insisted that listening to God was more important than honoring men (Acts 4:18-20).

Although supporting legislation or political candidates is inappropriate for the church, individual Christians must practice their faith in every sphere of life. Discipleship should affect family relationships, work habits, leisure time, and political activity. No one who presents himself “as a living sacrifice” to God can isolate his politics from faith (Rom. 12:1).

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