Jesus controls everything. Ephesians 1:22 says, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” What a comfort to know that our Savior rules everything.
However, Jesus himself said that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Instead, Jesus rules in the hearts of his people by his Word. We are citizens of the kingdom of God through faith, but we are also citizens of the state. Jesus rules by placing earthly authorities over us (Romans 13:1). These authorities are not perfect, so there will always be a tension between our two citizenships.
What are the possible conflicts that can arise for a Christian as a citizen of both kingdoms?
Citizens of the state
God established all authority. Therefore, to rebel against the government is rebellion against God.
Read Romans 13:1-7.
What are the state’s responsibilities to us?
Read Luke 20:22-25; 1 Peter 2:13-17; and 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
What are our responsibilities to the state?
Luke 20:22-25. Remember Jesus says this in the context of a government that used some tax dollars to support violent treatment of people. Also remember, it was this government that ordered the slaughter of infants in Matthew 2:16-18.
1 Peter 2:13-17. How do the words “for the Lord’s sake” (v. 13) help in carrying out our responsibilities?
1 Timothy 2:1-4
Citizens of the church
Every believer in Jesus is a member of the holy Christian church. It is called holy because each member is cleansed by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 5:27). It is called Christian because it is built on Jesus as our cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-7). It is called church (meaning “to be called out”) because we have been called out of darkness and into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). This church is invisible because Jesus rules in hearts. The church carries out its mission to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20).
Read Ephesians 4:1-17.
What are our responsibilities in the church?
What does God do for his church?
The church uses the gospel as its tool to carry out its mission to make disciples of all nations. The church is governed by God’s Word. The state uses the sword (i.e. punishment) as its tool to accomplish its mission of maintaining order and protecting its citizenry. The state is governed by reason.
For what reasons do you think the separation of church and state is wise?
Read more about the relationship between church and state in Civil Government: God’s Other Kingdom. A new small group Bible study based on the book is also available. Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net; 800-662-6022.
Author: David Scharf
Volume 107, Number 10
Issue: October 2020