Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 2

gaysurveyThe government seen positively

Well, even though I’m a lawyer, I took no political science classes. (Math major. Ask me about cosines sometime.)

And the Bible does not give a complete theology of good government. But it does speak of government as both a gift from God and an enemy of God. Really. Kind of like the Law of Moses. A necessary thing that, in the case of government, will become unnecessary when Jesus returns. The last enemy is death, but somewhere just before death, Jesus is going to destroy government.

(Rom 13:1-7 ESV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Paul says that government has certain legitimate purposes, and we should honor the government as it fulfills these purposes. Among them are punishing those who “do wrong” (v. 4). Unfortunately, Paul doesn’t give us any detail on doing wrong, and I doubt that he wanted the government involved in the circumcision controversy that was such a difficulty in his ministry.

BDAG defines “do wrong” as harming others or being morally or socially reprehensible. The language doesn’t pick up all sin, but it’s quite broad.

Peter offers similar counsel —

(1Pe 2:13-17 ESV) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 

The government is established to “punish those who do evil.” The word for “those who do evil” has the same root as Paul’s “do bad” and generally refers to criminals — but doesn’t say who should and shouldn’t be a criminal in any detail.

Obviously, there is some guidance in the Torah, but just as obviously, the Torah was for an Ancient Near Eastern theocracy in which God was the acknowledged ultimate ruler, whereas the United States is not a theocracy. People dispute as to what the Founders intended, but they clearly did not intend to adopt the Torah wholesale as law — and few would want that. After all, the Torah requires animal sacrifice and makes barbecue pork unclean and prohibited by law. (I add “pork” for the sake of Texan readers who are unfamiliar the correct usage of “barbecue.” It’s so sad.)

The government seen negatively

(Rom 8:38-39 ESV)  38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Rulers” is arche, which is often used of people in governmental authority. “Powers” translates dynamis, which can also be used of a government official, especially one of great power. But these words can also refer to spiritual powers.

An interesting, short read is David Lipscomb’s Civil Government. Lipscomb points out —

(1Co 15:24-26 ESV)  24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The words “rule,” “authority,” and “power” also can refer both to earthly powers and to spiritual powers. Lipscomb sees the focus being on earthly powers.

In fact, it’s rarely easy to tell which Paul means, likely because he saw little distinction. The Caesars claimed to be sons of a god and to become gods upon their deaths. They asked for worship from the people.

The Revelation treats the Roman government as a spiritual enemy of God, according to most commentators.

The ancients understood nations to each have their own gods, so that wars were ultimately contests between the gods. YHWH was therefore “the God of Israel” because he’d chosen Israel as his people, just as the Greek goddess Artemis had chosen Ephesus. Hence, the ancients saw government as having its power by virtue of the god of that nation. The caesar had his power because his god gave him that power. Thus, to defeat the heavenly powers was to defeat their earthly avatars (if I may borrow from Hinduism or computer games), and to defeat a nation was to defeat its god.

And it’s the nature of all government to insist on the loyalty of its citizens and subjects, even contrary to the known will of God. I mean, “No man can serve two masters.” “It’s better to serve God than man.” The second quotation deals specifically with the conflict that sometimes arises between government and God.

So the government is necessary to protect us from evildoers, but the government almost inevitably becomes an evildoer when, for example, it seeks to compel Christians to violate their beliefs — a very real problem in the US today.

Hence, governments will not survive the Second Coming. They’ll no longer be needed. And their gods will burn in the Lake of Fire when Jesus finally defeats all the principalities, powers, and authorities.

I disagree with Lipscomb’s view that, because government is the enemy of Christ, Christians cannot be a part of the government. After all, Esther is the story of the good that happens when a good woman — a Jewess — is elevated to power in a secular government. The same is true of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah — each of whom served as a part of secular government and furthered God’s  intentions in so doing.

But as Daniel very capably illustrates, there are times when even a servant of the king must disobey his earthly king in order to serve God. Not everyone is willing to enter the lions’ den to avoid sinning, but that’s how Daniel managed to be both faithful to God and a government official. It should give us all pause.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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13 Responses to Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 2

  1. Richard constant says:

    first let’s deal with the silence of the Scriptures.
    somebody put up how that works.
    and I’ll tell you now kick me off.
    I’ve honestly forgotten especially how it works in the Restoration Movement

  2. jbevans says:

    As you said in the part 1 of this series, “government and church are not the same thing.” God established both but for different purposes. If I recall correctly, every time the two are confused we end up with problems. Your points are spot on and quite enlightening.

  3. Dwight says:

    Richard. It depends on where you start:
    Silence to Campbell, meant you can’t make law where there is no law.
    But directly after him they repurposed “where the Bible is silent we are silent” to mean that if no law, then you cannot do anything that isn’t stated. Basically the regulative principle.
    And yet for some reason this is only applied to worship and not to life.
    God made many laws, but still allowed man to do things along side of his laws. Some of these are very obvious. Feast were added to God’s rotation. Wine was added to the Lord’s Supper, Etc.
    And yet we still create laws in the silence. Instead of telling people they MUST wash thier hands along with God’s other cleansing laws. We instead reason that since God made cleansing laws that it is a sin to wash your hands as this is an addition.

  4. Richard constant says:

    But is this only applied inside the the “new Testament books act’s- revelation by John?
    Dwight
    or those letters being everything needed

  5. Dwight says:

    Rich, I don’t understand the question.
    In regards to Jay’s post- the congregation is the body of Christ and the government is the government. We are always supposed do what Christ says, even when it agrees or doesn’t agree with the government. And we are supposed to do what the government says unless it counters God’s will. God often speaks throught the government on some level, as he has used some governments to impose his will and yet governments are largely led by man’s will and will do bad things. It is impossible to tell where God’s will begins or ends in regards to the government, unless God tell us, but God’s will would never go against His own will. So God doesn’t create a bad government or the bad decisions, but He might use those governments to accomplish an overall arc or might not. But government in itself is a good thing. Bending to a higher power, government or king, is reflective of whether we can bend to a higher power- God.

  6. rich says:

    i ll get to it sorry

  7. rich says:

    still studying
    John Mark Hicks: John Mark Hicks Ministries
    JOHN MARK HICKS
    Hermeneutics

    Philosophical/Theological Foundations–“Created for Hermeneutics” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    Stone-Campbell Hermeneutics (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Theological Hermeneutics (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 10)

    Applied Theological Hermeneutics [“It Ain’t That Complicated”] (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Contemplative Bible Reading or Hermeneutics (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    Pastoral Care

  8. John F says:

    He had plainly declared that his children could not
    fight with carnal weapons even for the establishment of his own Kingdom. Much less could
    they slay and destroy one another in the contentions and strivings of the kingdoms of this
    world. It took but little thought to see that Christians cannot fight, cannot slay one another or
    their fellowmen, at the behest of any earthly ruler, or to establish or maintain any human
    government. But if he cannot fight himself, can he vote to make another fight? What I lead or
    influence another to do, I do through that other. The man who votes to put another in a place
    or position, is in honor, bound to maintain hum in that position, and is responsible for all the
    actions, courses or results that logically and necessarily flow from the occupancy and
    maintenance of that position. A man who votes to bring about a war, or that votes for that
    which logically and necessarily brings about war is responsible for that war and for all the
    necessary and usual attendants and results of that war.

    The above is Lipscomb’s preface to Civil Gov’t. mentioned above;

    a few other phrases…. .
    Christ thus was recognized from before his birth as coming as the enemy of, and to make war
    upon the human government, (46)
    So long as sinners are in rebellion against God and his authority and refuse to be his servants, so long would it be resisting the ordinance of God to resist the human government and seek to
    overthrow or destroy it. It is God’s ordinance for punishing sin and sinners, and as such it is
    right and good for the end for which God ordained it. (72)

    Lipscomb goes to length to decry human gov’t.;; but see it as an enforcement against “sin and sinners” — he would likely endorse “laws against sin” — and of course every law has a moral base of some kind..

    Our question is: shall we promote restrictions regarding behaviors the bible identifies as sin or ignore such.

  9. David Newhouse says:

    Texas does not have barbecue. It does have barbeque. Some people get confused about that.

  10. rich says:

    TO start the church …the people of the faith …
    should all pool their money… into a a
    church run bank… by this i mean run by people of the faith.
    started by and run by faithful men.
    what is the point….
    to service the faithful saints…
    and the needy…
    as we are expressly shone how to do,in the first covenant…
    now then that is a start. although this could be a hot dog stand.

  11. rich says:

    or it could be a lemonade stand,
    ya know when the Spirit gives us lemons (Government,Capitalism,corporate structure ), and a loving hart…and freedom to bring about (express) GOD’S good(using profit) why can’t we make lemonade.
    cus .there just might be some smart people in pepperdine, that know a little about this….ya think…
    to say nothing of avenues of support organizations necessary.

    yes each would give up a little,,? what?
    this becomes a shift in perception instead of the secular corporate none initiates, that everyone of feeds into…we help in the mission of the lord by by a simple restructure and supporting that …

  12. Gary says:

    Jay, honestly, how is the US government forcing Christians today to violate their beliefs? If you are referring to wedding planners and bakers of wedding cakes how is today’s situation any different from a conservative CoC wedding planner or baker in the 70’s having to do business with couples who had unscripturally divorced and remarried? Why was that never an issue then but doing business with gays now is such a cause celebre for conservatives? In a recent court ruling on wedding cakes for gays the judge wrote that no one reads the message on a wedding cake as being the speech of the baker but rather the speech of the couple marrying. Who can reasonably dispute that? The supposed suppression of Christians by the government in our nation is a farce. I thank God for our federal government. In our case government is pulling the church to more just positions just as it did for civil rights in the 60’s.

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