Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth. Every nation on the earth is subordinate to him—whether they acknowledge him or not. Our greatest political leaders are merely viceroys to the King given limited power according to the divine mandate of government (which I’ll briefly discuss in a moment).
Living in our American culture, we need to be wary of the glory that is projected our way exalting our nation, our government, and the politicians who would bask in such glory. Such is just glitter in the sun. Remember that any glory the government has, in any of its aspects, is only a reflection of the glory of the true King. Let us not get confused in this matter. Give glory to God alone.
Do you see the danger of government in a secular vacuum? The glory of God the King becomes confused with the reflection, and a reflection has no inherent light. Hence, people are fooled, and the empty glory of the government is celebrated as the greatest glory—even becoming god to some. Because Jesus Christ is King, we must recognize that the glory and power of the government comes from him.
Verse 22: “And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’”
Perceiving the reflected glory of the sun on Herod’s silver robes, taken-in by his oration, the people were fooled. In the presence of such magnificence they perceived Herod as more than a man, and so, proclaimed that he was a god.
This can be a problem, a danger to all we hold dear in this world, even in our country today. I referenced earlier something called the divine mandate of government, which is a theological concept. Other mandates include the spheres of family, labor, and the church.
Scripture teaches that God has given certain limited authority to the government. Romans 13 is a key passage towards our understanding this doctrine. What we see there is that the divine mandate of government includes protecting and rewarding the good, and restraining evil. Hence, the government is granted the sword to carry out justice. Biblically and logically, the divine mandate of government comes after the divine mandates of family and labor.
The government’s responsibility is to provide, by the power of the sword (as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, in his book Ethics), “an outward justice in which life is preserved and is thus held open for Christ.” He goes on to say,
“Marriage is performed not by government but in the presence of government. Industry and commerce, science and art, are not cultivated by government itself, but they are subject to its supervision…But government never becomes the subject or originator of these fields of labor. If it asserts its authority beyond the limits of its assigned task it will in the long run forfeit its genuine authority over these fields.
Concerning its relationship to the church Bonhoeffer states:
“Through its service towards Christ, government is ultimately linked with the Church. If it fulfills its mission as it should, the congregation can live in peace, for government and congregation serve the same Master.”
One is not over the other, but the church and government are both under the command and authority of Christ. The mandates are mutually complementary, mutually limiting, and provide checks and balances.
When we begin to think that the government grants our freedom to worship and proclaim the gospel, we have put the government on a pedestal over the Lord. The government does not have the authority to give us permission or to deny us the authority to proclaim the Word of God (every aspect of it), or allow the people of God to act according to his will in worship and life. It is the Lord who gives his Church this authority, not the government. When we somehow think such freedom comes from the government we put it in a position to take those freedoms away and usurp God’s authority.
So, in allowing the government to go beyond its divine mandate, we give it attributes and authority that only belong to God. Combined with the acceptance of the lie of secularism, which is a rejection of God’s authority over the state, the divine mandate to limit the government from taking the role of god in the life of its citizens, is removed. In such a situation the exaltation of the deity of state is inevitable.
My friends, we must deny the lie that there are dual realities—the secular and the religious. Resist the culture as it attempts to force us to live this lie. Disciples of Jesus Christ are not to live in a secular reality for part of their life (the one lived day in, day out in the world) and then keep their life in Christ private and something for Sunday mornings. To do so not only is to accept a false reality, but it is to surrender to the world. And, it is to open ourselves up to idolatry—especially so when we consider the government from such a position.