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A Bible Study of The Scripture

MeWe Bible Study Part 23 - from Lesson 10 God’s (Biblical) Requirements for magistrates

Requirements for Civil Magistrate

Will we use God’s Word or worldly wisdom [sic] to exercise our right to vote in the selection of our magistrates and judges?

2 Tim. 3:16-17


King James Version


All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:


That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The goal of a  Christian is to glorify God and obey His Word in all that he thinks and does. This desire extends to his actions as a Christian citizen. Perhaps one of his more important actions as a citizen is that of voting for the men who will serve as magistrates (and judges) over him. So as each election draws near we seek to determine which candidate we should endorse with our vote.

Throughout the process of deciding we receive much advice, such as: vote Republican; vote for the conservative; vote for the one who is pro-life; vote for the one who stands closest to you on the issues; vote for “x” even though he is less than desirable because if he doesn’t win, then we will have “y” who is even worse; and so on. But the Truth is that these worldly ways of selecting our officials is not working.

However helpful this kind of advice may be, a Christian who believes that the Word of God is able to instruct him in righteousness and equip for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17  ), including the work of voting, should turn to the Scripture for guidance. The Bible contains explicit instructions concerning the qualifications for civil officers, and to these Christians should look as we determine who we will support with our time, money, and vote. There are several Bible passages that set forth the standards for choosing civil magistrates. We will study each of these.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, advises Moses

Exodus 18:20-21  

In Exodus 18  , Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, advises Moses to appoint men to help him in governing and judging the nation, lest he wear out both himself and the people (18:17-19  ). An important aspect of Jethro’s counsel to Moses is in regard to the kind of men that he should appoint as rulers. The character of the men chosen must be according to the following standards:


King James version


And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.


Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Men who are able

Civil leaders must be men of strength. The strength that is required here is not primarily physical, but moral and spiritual. It refers to men of valor and of virtue; men of courage and of character. A man who is a coward will not fulfill his duty to uphold God’s law if doing so would be unpopular with the people. A man who is of an evil character cannot govern justly. Only those who have proven that they have the ability, courage, and integrity necessary to lead should be chosen as civil rulers.

Men who fear God

Magistrates should be men who honor and reverence God and His Word. This qualification indicates that only those who are believers, i.e., stand in covenant with God through faith, should be considered for the office of magistrate. If a people are to have wise and understanding leaders, they must choose those who fear God, for the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7  ). Men who do not fear God are, according to Scripture, “fools” who hate true wisdom.

Proverbs 1:7


King James Version


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Men committed to truth

Civil rulers need to be men who stand firmly and faithfully for the truth. Men of truth are men who do not lie, but speak the truth even to their own hurt. They love the truth and hate all that is false. It is absolutely essential that civil leaders be men who can be trusted to speak the truth. Liars and lovers of falsehood are a scourge to those they lead.

Men who hate covetousness

A man who is raised to the position of civil magistrate must be one who seeks no unjust gain from his position. He must “hate” (not simply dislike, but hate) the thought of using his office to enrich himself or others through violence, fraud, bribes, etc. A coveteous magistrate will use the power of his office to unjustly seize for himself or others the wealth of those he governs. A magistrate must also hate covetousness in others, and not allow any citizen to use the power of civil government to seize the wealth of his neighbor through unjust legislation or confiscatory taxation.

Deuteronomy 1:13-15  


King James Version


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


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


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.

Note (We will cover the structure referenced in Question 4, concerning our Colonial).

In Deuteronomy chapter one, Moses recounts the events that took place forty years earlier at Mount Sinai. One of these events was the appointment of rulers to serve with him in governing the nation in accord with the advice of Jethro. In speaking of the appointment of rulers he does not mention Jethro, for Moses knew that God was using Jethro to direct him in that circumstance. The account of the appointing of rulers to assist Moses in judging the people given here provides further insight on the biblical standards for the choosing of rulers.

First, Moses indicates that although he did the appointing, it was the people who actually chose their own rulers. Moses charges the people to “take you wise men....” The word “take” means to provide or choose, while the word “you” means for yourselves. Therefore, Moses gives the people the responsibility of selecting their own leaders. Moses then appointed (installed into office) those chosen by the people.

Second, Moses provided the people with specific standards for determining which men were qualified for the office of civil judge and ruler. The citizens have the responsibility of choosing their own rulers, but they are not free to choose whomsoever they will. Rather, they are charged by Moses to choose only those who meet certain qualifications. Moses states:

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

These qualifications summarize those stated previously in Exodus 18:21   and provide additional commentary on the standards God has established for choosing rulers.


Next week we will look at Romans 13:1-7 in detail.




Next: Lesson 10-

From Lesson 10: God’s (Biblical) Requirements for magistrates

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