In times of strife, God provides encouraging words

Paul Christianson

Dear reader, the church in not a theocracy! The civil government and the Christian church are separate with different spheres of authority.

Mark records Jesus’ words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

The Apostle Paul expands this important concept in Romans 13:1-7, and this is part and parcel of the “newness” of the New Covenant (see Hebrews 8:1-13). Unlike the Old Testament church, the New Testament church does not govern civil society. It is not about church interference in the legitimate prerogatives of civil government.

Christians who understand the Scriptures desire to be obedient to the civil authorities and if we are to suffer, let it be for the Gospel’s sake, for righteousness’s sake, not for our personal preferences. I would encourage a careful reading of 1 Peter 2:13-25 as a further assist in understanding the New Testament teaching on separation of church and state. You will find this passage more authoritative than the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

There have been significant times in history of the church where government has overstepped its role, and in so doing, the church must follow God’s decrees rather than the governor’s mandates. One such area is worship.

The Old and New Testament churches have always sang hymns, psalms and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). To deny this to the people of God is to violate the Scripture and deny God high rights and glory in Christian worship. In the words of Baptist Roger Williams (d.1683), founder of the colony of Rhode Island in 1639, and the champion of separation of the political and the religious, “The magistrate has no power to enforce religious demands. The laws of the First Table (First Four) of the Ten Commandments are not regulations for civil society or a political order. They belong to the realm of religion, not politics.”

I trust you can see the important distinction that many people fail to understand; that the church exercises spiritual authority apart from government jurisdiction.

Christianson serves as pastor at Grace Reformed Church in Clarkston.