the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
What then is the relationship of the Christian to the civil authority? Clearly, followers of Jesus Christ are to respect civic officers as ministers of God (Romans 13:1–7). At the same time, we are not to view civil power as supreme. The Bible evinces that each institution established by God is granted sphere sovereignty. This means the individual, the family, the church and the state have a particular arena of activity wherein they are "in charge." This doesn't mean any one institution is immune from the interference of the others; it means each institution is expected to take care of its own business even as it recognizes the legitimate authority of the others.
According to the Bible the primary duty of the state is to protect the other institutional authorities and maintain an environment conducive to the realization of their kingdom obligation. In other words, the state is supposed to inspire righteousness and bear the sword as God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil (Romans 13:3-4). In truth this is the limit of the civil minister's role. It is called to legislate godly (limited) law and to enforce that law. It is not called to do much else and it is certainly not given the responsibility to redistribute wealth.
Many Americans would like to see the civil government reduced in power. As mentioned in previous articles, non-Christians and Christians alike often believe this will be accomplished through the political process. Yet Christians need to realize that the best way to diminish the power of the civil authority is to strengthen the other institutions. For our purposes this would include the enhancement of local and state civil government's. The goal is to bring balance to our society not to replace the tyranny of national power with the despotic rule of the family (church or individual, the state or county).
The first step in leveling the institutional playing field is aggressive "trust and obey" evangelism. Our presentation of the gospel must give proper emphasis to both sides of the coin. We should call upon people to repent, place faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and submit to him in all things. Moreover, we need to disciple new Christians, educating them in kingdom worldview thinking. Many followers of Christ reduce their religion to a personal faith. They allow the Bible to give them guidance in some areas of their life but not all. They accept the Bible as a guide to personal piety but reject the concept of a comprehensive gospel. They are comfortable with Sunday church but often find Monday application disquieting. Although they may not admit it they are guilty of hiding their light under a bushel rather than placing it on a lampstand so that it gives light to all who are in the house (Matthew 5:15). Indeed, they are altogether unsure how one is to be salt and light in this fallen world. It is much easier to make personal peace and comfort a priority instead.
In tandem with evangelism and discipleship local churches ought to develop strategies for bringing their sphere of influence under the authority of Jesus Christ. The sphere of influence of any church is defined by the combined arena of activity of its members and one duty of the church is to strengthen followers of Jesus Christ for the task of dominion. Christians must be taught how to offer an alternative to the world's way of doing things. "You can't beat something with nothing" and local fellowships need to equip their members for the task of dominion by teaching them the duty of excellence in service to God. Christians should never produce insipid alternatives to worldly education, entertainment, medicine, homemaking, carpentry and so on but must offer only the best to our Lord. In this way a culture of death is progressively replaced by cultural life and everything is changed.