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A Bible Study of The Scripture

Lesson 13: The Lower Magistrate

In the previous section we saw that the Scripture asks: “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?”

Psalm 94:15-16

Verse

King James Version

New International Version 1984 (NIV)

15

But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

16

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

 

It is our Christian duty to stand for righteousness in the face of iniquity, from wherever it comes, including civil government. The Scripture provided three examples of individual resistance:

1)       Verbal – confront iniquity with the Truth. In today’s world this would probably include many forms of written communication which has replaced much of our historical verbal communication.

2)       Flight or avoidance. This method at times can eliminate an act of evil happening.

3)       Violent self defense. Very limited to specifically self defense. An individual can not use violence or force in the furtherment of the Lord’s work.

Thus individual resistance to ungodly government will be of minimal restraint upon such government unless it is corporate resistance of a large number of God’s people – or God intervenes.

But God’s plan for civil government does provide another method of resistance to ungodly government. Going back to the lesson where we covered Romans 13:1-7 in detail, lets look at one verse again:

Romans 13:4 - KJV_Strongs(i)

  4 G1063 For G2076 he is [G5748]   G1249 the minister G2316 of God G4671 to thee G1519 for G18 good G1161 . But G1437 if G4160 thou do [G5725]   G2556 that which is evil G5399 , be afraid [G5737]   G1063 ; for G5409 he beareth [G5719]   G3756 not G3162 the sword G1500 in vain G1063 : for G2076 he is [G5748]   G1249 the minister G2316 of God G1558 , a revenger G3709 to execute wrath G1519 upon G4238 him that doeth [G5723]   G2556 evil.

For: Backward grammatical reference. This verse is based upon verse 3.

He is the minister of God: The Greek used is diakonos which means “(Eng., deacon), primarily denotes a servant,". As noted it is the origin of our current English word deacon. Thus he is referencing the ruler who is not a terror to good works, but to evil and is a servant of God.

To thee for good: as we studied in the Scripture, magistrates are to administer to the people for their benefit. When we reference elected officials as public servants, it is not a new concept. As we studied when God established a covenant with the king, the people remained God’s people. The king was granted authority to rule for the benefit of God’s people: protect the righteous and punish the evil.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; Consistent with the Apostle Paul’s teaching – Christians should not do evil. For he beareth not the sword in vain; The For is a grammatical backward reference. The ruler has God’s authority to punish those who do evil. More importantly God will render judgement upon those who do evil.

For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil: Once again the For references backward to the previous phrase. Minister of God uses the Greek word diakonos again which means servant of God. “Revenger” is interesting. The Greek word is ekdikos which has a primary meaning of carrying out justice. This is consistent with the Scripture we studied about the Biblical qualifications for magistrate. A magistrate is authorized to carry out justice as defined by God. To execute wrath is of course punishment, Greek word orge, for those that do evil.

Specifically in Romans 13:4, “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil”.

This is true of ALL magistrates, not just the “king.” Lower magistrates that are Godly and fulfilling God’s plan for civil government can be a restraint upon. Lower magistrates have God’s authority to take action to restrain ungodly actions of higher magistrates.

To put this in some modern perspective, lets look at a hypothetical situation. You come home and find a thief has broken in your house , is attacking your wife and comes at you with a knife. Having your handy pistol with you, what do you do? You shoot him. That is an example of Biblical self defense.

Now lets alter the situation and the thief escapes. Driving down the road a few weeks later, your wife sees him and points him out. If you shoot him now, you will be charged with murder. That would be an act of violence contrary to God’s Word.

Second change. Your occupation is State Executor. You are the man who throws the electric chair switch. This same man who has escaped you twice – is finally caught after a life of ever increasing violence and is scheduled for execution after a trial. This time when you throw the switch you are ending his life, but will you be charged with murder? No, you are acting under authority, not as an individual.

Now lets look at some Biblical examples: Lower Magistrates fail to act. 1st Kings 21:7-14

Verse

King James Version

ESV (English Standard Version)

7

And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.

And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

8

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city.

9

And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:

And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people.

10

And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.

And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed[a] God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.,

11

And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them. 

And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them

12

They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. 

they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people

13

And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.

14

Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.

Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”


The elders and nobles failed to resist an obvious ungodly command. The king and queen were condemned by God and a righteous man was put to death.

Lower Magistrate (Pharisee – Gamaliel) intervenes. Acts 5:38-40

Verse

King James Version

ESV (English Standard Version)

38

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;.

39

But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,

40

And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.


In this case an act against God was averted. Gamaliel using his authority as a lower magistrate spoke up and the disciples were released to continue their ministry.

Lower magistrate removes queen.

Verse

King James Version

ESV (English Standard Version)

4

And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard, and brought them to him into the house of the LORD, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the LORD, and shewed them the king's son.

But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord, and he showed them the king's son.

5

And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do; A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king's house;

And he commanded them, “This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king's house

6

And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur; and a third part at the gate behind the guard: so shall ye keep the watch of the house, that it be not broken down.

( another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace.

7

And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath, even they shall keep the watch of the house of the LORD about the king. 

And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king, 

8

And ye shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand: and he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain: and be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in. 

shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.. 

9

And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that should go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. 

The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest

10

And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the LORD. 

And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David's, which were in the house of the Lord. 

11

And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple.

And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king.

12

And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king. 

Then he brought out the king's son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”

13

And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the LORD.

When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people. 

14

And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason. 

And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!”

15

But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host, and said unto them, Have her forth without the ranges: and him that followeth her kill with the sword. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of the LORD.

 Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, “Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the Lord.” 

16

And they laid hands on her; and she went by the way by the which the horses came into the king's house: and there was she slain.

So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses' entrance to the king's house, and there she was put to death.


Athaliah had ordered the murder of the entire royal family, but the kings son was hidden and was not killed. Jehoiada, a priest, ordered the protection of the king, an assembly of lower magistrates and proclaimed the king’s son as king. A priest, not a civil magistrate, but a spiritual magistrate intervened to stop ungodly government.

Jehoiada, a priest provided weapons to the captains and guards.

Note that as we studied on Biblical requirements for magistrate the king’s son was given a copy of God’s Word (gave him the testimony). Jehoiada, a priest then ordered the execution of Athaliah, which was carried out.

Summary. We could list many more examples from the Scriptures. Lower magistrates are subject to the same authority as are higher magistrates. Lower magistrates are also God’s ministers and are to protect the righteous and punish the evil. This is true for both civil magistrates and spiritual magistrates. In today’s world that includes pastors.

Going back to our Colonial period, have you heard of the Battle of Lexington and Concord? Who led the colonists? Pastor Jonas Clark. Where did the colonials store their weapons, powder and shot? In the church of Jonas Clark in Lexington. The men were led by Pastor Jonas Clark and Deacon Parker. When they were told to surrender their arms to the authority of King George, their reply was “No King but Jesus!” Knowing that the British were coming Pastor Jonas Clark preached a sermon on Judges 6-8.

Just as Christians have a duty to resist ungodly government, lower magistrates including spiritual ,magistrates also have a duty to be God’s ministers.

Next week we will conclude this Bible study. I will present my conclusions which will be open for discussion. As stated in the opening lesson, I am not a preacher, have never been to seminary and not ordained. I am not an authority. This study is the result of much prayer and study and being called to try and understand why our government is failing.

 

 

Next: Bible Study Conclusion

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