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A Bible Study of The Scripture

Lesson 3 - Does God choose ALL civil government magistrates

Does the Bible show that God chooses all magistrates and ordains their authority over us? (Question 1)

Background: Many sermons, commentaries and recent translations of the Bible state that we must obey governing authorities becuase they are chosen by God. We will look at the Bible to see if the Scripture confirms these statements.

This is answered by God speaking through the prophet Hosea. Let's look at Hosea 8:3-4

Verse

King James version

English Standard Version

3

Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.

Israel has spurned the good;  the enemy shall pursue him.

4

They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.

They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction

These verses seem to be very clear. "They have set up kings, but not by me" and "they have made princes, and I knew it not". Not all magistrates, not all of those in authority are chosen by God.

These verses do not imply that God does not know what the people are doing. They mean that the people are not coming to the Lord, following his commandments and fulfilling his plan. The kings and princes being chosen are man's choice not the Lord's.

Does the Bible tell us how we are to choose magistrates as implied ny the passage from Hosea above?

Moses instructed the Israelites to chose their own authorities and he would install them. They are to be: wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes. Other passages which we will study later expound on these requirements. In this and the passages in Exodus where Jethro gives Moses these instructions you will see one of the Biblical bases for a representative or republican form of government espoused by the Colonial period of our country.

Deuteronomy 1:13-15

Verse

King James Version

Holman Christian Standard Bible

13

Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.

Appoint for yourselves wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will make them your leaders.

14

14And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.

You replied to me, 'What you propose to do is good.'

15

So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.

So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and respected men, and set them over you as leaders: officials for thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and officers for your tribes.

Yes God does at time specify our authorities, for example Moses, Saul, David and Solomon to name a few. The above Scripture shows that in many cases the selection is left up to man, but we are held accountable for applying God's requirements and held accountable if we fail to do so.

As we know the people of Israel wanted a "king" to be like other nations. Through the prophet Samuel they were warned. This warning is in 1 Samuel 8:5-17 and worth reading. Verse 18 tells us that we are accountable for our selections.

In 1 Samuel 8:18:

Verse

King James version

English Standard Version

18

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day

The Matthew Henry commentary on this verse follows:

These would be their grievances, and, (1.) They would have none but God to complain to. Once they complained to the prince himself, and were answered, according to the manner of the king, Your yoke is heavy, and I will add to it, 1 Kgs. 12:11. (2.) When they complained to God he would not hear them, 1 Sam. 8:18. Nor could they expect that he should, both because they had been deaf to his calls and admonitions, and this trouble, in particular, they had brought upon themselves by rejecting him, and would not believe when he told them what would come of it. Note, When we bring ourselves into distress by our own irregular desires and projects we justly forfeit the comfort of prayer and the benefit of divine aids, and, if God be not better to us than we deserve, must have our relief in our own hands, and then it is bad with us.

1 Samuel 8:18 clearly points out that through the prophet Samuel the people were told that they would be held accountable for the magistrates that they chose.

God has given man His Plan for mankind in all aspects of our life including civil government. Man was also given freewill to comply with God's Plan or to be in rebellion to God's Plan.

Conclusion: Not all magistrates or possibly many or most magistrates are not in their position of authority by meeting God's plan for civil government. Sermons or commentaries that make this statement are incomplete as they do not specify the criteria for a magistrate to be pleasing to the Lord. Nor do these sermons or commentaries specify what God's criteria are nor what our Christian duty is if the criteria are not followed. As the passages above indicate if the chosen magistrates do not meet the criteria then we are on our own and are corporately responsible for their actions. A better understanding is needed.

Next: Lesson 4 - Did the apostles contradict their own words?