From eternity past God has always been a relational God. His trinitarian nature is revealed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He communed within Himself when He made man – “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). God designed the whole creation as relational and often trinitarian as well. For example: the space-time-matter continuum is stated in the very first verse of the Bible: In the beginning (time) God created the heaven (space) and the earth (matter). Man is spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess 5:23). Matter is basically gas, liquid, or solid. The earth is air, sea, or land. There are three primary colors, etc. Trinitarian entities are designed to be stable and strong. The Bible says “...a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:12). A three-legged stool is never out of balance, it can always find a stable footing. Not only is God and the creation trinitarian, He also designed and ordained our social institutions to be trinitarian as shown.
The family is the first social institution set up by God. On day six of creation, when God created the first man, Adam (1 Cor 15:45), He immediately said “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Relationships were needed. God created Eve as a “helpmeet,” a companion suitable for Adam. He brought her to Adam and established marriage and the first family unit (Gen 2:22-24). The husband is the head of the wife (1 Cor 11:3). He should love His wife, provide for his family, and be a servant-leader, looking to Christ as the example (Eph 5:25, 1 Tim 5:8, John 13:15). The wife is to respect her husband and voluntarily submit to his leadership (Eph 5:22-24), just as Christ submitted Himself to the Father’s will (John 5:30). Children are to obey and honor both their father and mother (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1,2; Col 3:20), just as the Spirit is subservient to Father and Son, since He was sent by them and testifies of the Son (John 14:16, 15:26).
Satan’s attacks on the family have been unrelenting. Over the last couple of generations in America, divorce, distortions or lack of marriage, and fatherless homes have continually eroded this bedrock institution. Only if the proper relationships God intended are restored can our society recover.
The church is the body of Christ. He is the Head and Christians are the body (Col 1:18, Eph 5:23). This Body is a community of faith. The minimum number of persons needed to form a community is three (Matthew 18:20). God has set leaders — pastors/shepherds, bishops, and elders are all the same office (Eph 4:11, Php 1:1, Tit 1:5, Acts 15:6) — to feed (instruct) and guard the flock (the church members) from false doctrine (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2,3). Members (the flock) are to honor obey, and follow their spiritual leaders as long as they are obeying God’s Word and setting a good example (1 Tim 5:17,18; Heb 13:7,17).
Satan’s attacks on the church are serious as well. Leaders’ and members’ sinful actions hurt the flock and the church’s testimony before the world. It seems that since the beginning of the last century, leaders and whole denominations have strayed from the teachings and principles of God’s Word. Their compromise of God’s word, especially with “mainstream science’s” dogma of an old earth and evolution, has undermined the authority of the Bible. It is no wonder that the church as a whole has little or no influence anymore in American culture.
The institution we call government was set up by God in its infancy in Genesis 9:6, when He said that society is responsible to protect human life which is made in His image. Man has had and still has many forms of government. All governments are flawed, some more than others, because they are run by sinful people. Probably the closest government to God’s intent was in Israel’s history during the time of the Exodus and the judges. There God was the leader, and He called out judges/prophets to be His agents, His representatives, to the people. Moses could be considered the first representative judge-prophet to serve God. Joshua would be considered the second (Deut 34:9,10). But when the Hebrew people finally entered the promised land, they went through cycles. For a while the people would listen to God’s agent (judge) and obey God’s commands and live in peace and harmony. As time went on, the people would become more and more corrupt and idolatrous. As judgment, God would send another nation to defeat and enslave them. After a while, in humility they would cry out to their leader (God) and he would send a new representative judge (such as Gideon) to throw off the bondage. For a time they would obey God and live in peace and harmony. But after a while, they would become corrupt again and the cycle would repeat itself. The last judge was Samuel. The people made a grave error by not wanting God as their leader and a representative judge anymore, and they asked for a king (1 Sam 8:4,5). God warned them through Samuel of the negative consequences of having a sinful human king as leader, but He allowed it (1 Sam 8:7-22).
God ultimately rules over all nations (2 Chron 20:6) but He sets up governmental leaders as His delegated agents or ministers (Dan 2:21, Rom 13:1-7). Examples of leaders are kings, emperors, czars, presidents, prime ministers, and (communist) party chairmen. Sometimes these leaders are very evil. But we must understand that God ordains them as his instruments to accomplish His eternal purposes. The Egyptian pharaoh of the Exodus is a prime example (Rom 9:17). The best leaders are those who see themselves as being agents of God and subject to His will. Most leaders throughout history and today do not see themselves this way.
The founding fathers of America, knowing the sinfulness of men, patterned our representative republic (God’s agent) after Isaiah 33:22. They instituted checks and balances by separating the powers of government into three branches: Administrative (King/President), Legislative (Lawgiver/Congress), and Judicial (Judges). Although distorted today, their intent was for the people, through their representative legislators, to enact laws, for the executive branch to enforce the laws, and for the judges to rule whether the laws followed the constitution. But as President John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” We are seeing this truth, the consequences of a lack of morality at all levels, played out today in America.
Since Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), human government is another institution in which he has always successfully operated. Only as leaders (God’s agents) and the people are aligned with God’s Word, can there be a “good” government which benefits the people. It follows that the opposite is true as leaders and the people stray from God. There has been debate concerning whether Christians must obey corrupt governments which stray from God’s intended purpose. Romans 13 tells us that government’s purpose is to praise good and punish evil:
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (NKJV)
The problem is that often a government’s definition of “good” is perverted and contrary to God’s Word. Scripture tells Christians to pray for their leaders (1 Tim 2:1,2), and God inspired the apostles Peter and Paul both to encourage obedience and submission to government despite the fact that they were under the authority of a corrupt Roman Empire (1 Pet 2:13, Tit 3:1). The emphasis is always for us to focus on eternal matters – the salvation of souls, despite the circumstances.
However, it is evident that Christians can disobey governmental laws which require them to disobey or prevent them from obeying God’s law. Two Old Testament examples are found in the Book of Daniel. In chapter three, the three Hebrew children refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. They were thrown in the fiery furnace but God preserved them. Then in chapter six, King Darius (the Mede) made a decree that no one could pray to anyone but him for thirty days. When Daniel prayed to the one true God, he was thrown in the den of lions, where God preserved him. A New Testament example is that of Peter and the disciples continuing to preach the Gospel despite a prohibition by authorities (Acts 5:27-29). Throughout history, and even today, there are many examples of Christians who “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Some are delivered and some are imprisoned or even martyred. The issue is difficult when our faith/conscience forces us to choose between man’s law and God’s law. May God give us the wisdom and grace to choose rightly.