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Church and State--How separate should they be?

Jul 19, 2018

The secularization of America officially began in the 1930’s in the guise of the need for a separation of church and state. The real motive was to usurp the place of God and give certain powerful men the so-called right to govern without any accountability to God.

Whereas the Declaration of Independence, under whose authority the Constitution was written, declared that the Creator was the Author of all rights, and that governments were under the authority of that same Creator, the new policy usurped the place of God and caused people to worship the state as a god.

The Declaration of Independence did not put our government under the church. It put government under God. There is a huge difference, and all of America’s founders knew this. Many southern states were Episcopal, Pennsylvania was Reformed, Maryland was Catholic, New England states were Presbyterian. The new federal government was not to be under any one of those churches but was to stand above church and under the Creator only.

That is what was originally meant by the separation of church and state.

The Biblical Pattern

The founders of America, schooled in biblical law through the writings of such men as John Calvin and John Locke, followed the very biblical pattern of the different callings of Aaron (church) and Moses (state). Neither Moses nor Aaron could do what the other did, but both were under God in their respective callings. Sanctuary duties were done and worship was carried out by Aaron’s family according to God’s instructions. Moses functioned as a primitive Supreme Court, because the state’s primary duty was to carry out legislation (which came from God).

Actually, the Levites could serve as official judges in the lower courts (Deuteronomy 17:9), though people from any tribe could be a judge. That included women, as in the case of Deborah (Judges 4:4). Ideally, every judge should have been able to hear God’s voice in order to obtain the wisdom and understanding of the law necessary to judge every case. Deborah was a prophetess, so she had the potential of being in the highest court of the land to which other judges appealed when necessary.

Higher Courts

There is no biblical limit on how many layers of courts a nation can have, as long as everyone understands that the divine court in heaven is the highest court to which men must submit. In the days of Moses, if a judge was unsure about how to interpret or apply the law of God, he could refer the case to Moses, who sat as a higher-court judge. So we read in Deuteronomy 1:16, 17,

16 Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, “Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear men, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it.”

Moses says that judges “shall not fear men.” This applied literally, of course, in the sense that judges were not to fear the threats of men (even government officials) when dispensing justice. However, “fear” was more broadly used as an idiom as in “the fear of the Lord,” where it refers to respect and submission to authority. In other words, the judges were to understand that they were stewards of God’s justice; they were not under men’s authority, as we see in most denominational churches.

So when Psalm 111:10 says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” the psalmist was not advocating fear as in terror. He was saying that the foundational principle of wisdom—the starting point—is to recognize God’s sovereignty and to submit to Him, recognizing that man is only a steward. Those who “fear the Lord” in this way actually are showing that they love God, because they recognize God’s right to rule and to decide what is right and wrong.

When the American government became secular, we lost the fear of the Lord, because man usurped the place of God, and government officials and judges began to think of themselves as the highest power. Such carnal thinking comes natural to the flesh. The flesh always seeks such power, and, given enough time, this comes out in the politics of both church and state.

The Progression of Truth and Understanding

Most church organizations are run under the assumption that they know all truth, and so they demand submission to their churchmen. But truth has never come to anyone or any organization in a single, complete package. Truth is progressively revealed over a long period of time. Even Moses did not know everything, nor did the prophets or apostles. This is why it was necessary for the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us into all truth.

Scripture establishes truth, but Scripture is often unclear, and the applications of the law to specific cases are not always shown in its pages. For example, the laws of tribulation speak of God imposing blindness upon the people as a form of judgment for their refusal to hear the word of God (Deuteronomy 28:28).

When these laws were applied to Israel some centuries later, it took prophets like Isaiah to explain that this blindness was not physical but spiritual (Isaiah 29:10, 11, 12). He showed how God had spread a veil over all nations—not just Israel (Isaiah 25:7). Finally, it took the Apostle Paul to show us that this veil was the Old Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:14), and that the veil is removed only through the Mediator of the New Covenant.

Most Christians have some understanding of this, but further revelation has been needed to teach them the nature of the New Covenant and how it differs from the Old Covenant. Even Paul’s writings are not clearly understood, even though he spoke the truth. All Scripture is true, but not all men have the eyes and ears to understand it. It is only now that clarity is being given to us, and I have to assume that there is more clarity and understanding yet to come.

Church Government and Kingdom Government

As I see it, the main reason why the secularists have been able to usurp God’s place as the Sovereign over the nations of the earth is because of church corruption and its misuse of authority. If the Roman church had not abused its authority, there would have been no need for a Protestant Reformation. If the Protestants in America had not abused their authority, there would have been no need for secular government.

If churches and Christians (individuals) had not put away God’s law and replaced them with the traditions of men, governments would not have made the same mistake. Governments largely reflect the hearts of the people. Lawless governments are established by lawless people. The term “lawless,” of course, in the biblical sense, is the condition or attitude of casting aside God’s law and replacing it with the laws of men.

This problem began in the early church, even during the apostolic days. Paul found himself buried in controversies within the church community as well. He fought to retain the integrity of the New Covenant, rejecting the need for physical circumcision (for example), which he claimed was the sign of the Old Covenant.

In addition, Paul fought for the rights of non-Jews to be equal citizens of the Kingdom of God, based on the laws of impartiality. (Note Deuteronomy 1:16, 17 quoted earlier.) However, such impartiality was a fundamental principle built into the government even in the days of the Old Covenant. Hence, it was very important, but it did not directly define the difference between the Old and New Covenant. It had an indirect effect, because the Old Covenant veil gave the flesh opportunity to assert itself and to claim (racial) privileges that God had never granted.

So we read in the law how God sternly forbade oppressing aliens and how He commanded the Israelites to love the aliens as they loved themselves. The law was to be applied with equal justice for all, and there was to be just one law for all people regardless of their ethnicity. To drive the point home, God told them to remember the days when the Israelites were oppressed by the Egyptians. They should have known how it felt to be treated unequally, for the system of Egyptian justice was a “house of bondage.”

God’s reminder was based on the principle that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12,

12 Therefore, however, you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones