A Biblical Understanding of Government - Part 2

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Function of Government

What purpose has God ordained for governments? The primary purpose God has ordained for governments is to uphold righteous laws. In essence, government officials are to be ministers of God to promote good and prevent evil:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil (Romans 13:3, 4).

Unfortunately, many governments do the exact opposite. They not only promote unrighteousness and evil, but they punish those who do good. What are Christians suppose to do when they find themselves living under these conditions. While we already saw that we are called to submit to those in authority, even when facing persecution (1 Peter 2:15-17), our ultimate allegiance belongs to God. Thus, when government officials mandate us to go contrary to the commands of God, then as Peter and the apostles proclaimed to the Jewish religious authorities,

“We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

Throughout Scripture, we find numerous examples of people who had to do this very thing, even with the threat of being punished and facing death (Exodus 1:15-22; 1 Kings 18:3, 4; Daniel 6:4-10; Acts 4:19, 20).

It should be noted that civil disobedience against unrighteous governments should never be carried out with violence. Rather, we should accept the consequences that may come our way when we disobey government laws or commands that are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands. In the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

What should we be doing in preparing for an election?

As we approach an election, we should be doing three things: Pray, Repent and Vote. Commit special time in prayer and ask for God’s blessing, as well as His will to be done. We should pray for God to raise leaders who will fulfill their role in promoting righteous and just laws. Let us all be a modern day Hezekiah, Daniel and Esther who, through their prayers and fasting to God, changed the course of events (2 Kings 19; Daniel 9; Esther 4:15, 16). Let us never minimize what God can do through the faithful and righteous prayers of His saints,

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b).

Second, we need to all evaluate our lives and repent of any choices that we are making which go contrary to God’s holiness. As Peter says, judgment begins with us (1 Peter 4:17). Thus, we need to stop pointing the finger at the world around us, and evaluate our effectiveness in being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We must stop living by the standards of the world, and with courage and conviction live holy and upright lives (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

Also, just as we need godly political leaders, we need godly spiritual leaders. We need pastors and church leaders who will not seek to entertain masses with shallow messages (2 Timothy 4:3, 4), but will unashamedly use their pulpits to proclaim the full counsel of God’s Word (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:2).

The hope of our nation goes beyond an election. Like the ancient city of Nineveh, our only hope rests in seeking the forgiveness of a gracious and merciful God (Jonah 3:6-10). While Solomon spoke these words to the nation of Israel, they still remind us of the power of humbling ourselves before the Creator of this world:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Finally, we need to go out and vote. We need to be responsible Christians and Americans and fulfill our duty to be part of the election process. Yes, this will require us to vote for candidates who are not perfect, and in many cases do not reflect all the values that we uphold. However, with a clear conscience before God, we need to be diligent in selecting those individuals whose policies best reflect the values of our Constitution and the Word of God. Remember the greatest responsibility that a government has is to promote righteousness and deter evil. When you pull that lever ask yourself who will best fulfill this God-given mandate. The stakes are too high for our nation to not do this,

“When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan” (Proverbs 29:2).


Regardless of what may happen on Election Day, may all Christians proclaim the greatness of our God:

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of Him. For when He spoke, the world began! It appeared at His command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken. What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance (Psalm 33:8-12).