ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(A Biblical Examination of Its Origin and Jurisdiction)
by Kerry Lee Morgan*
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2:1-6.
God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8.
The Law of Nature Denies Civil Government Unlimited Jurisdiction, Even by Consent
We have completed our chronological survey of the Bible and concluded that civil government and civil officials are purely the creation of human decisions. God does not make them. He does not establish them. He does not institute them. He does, however, use them for his purposes. He also rules over the nations. He is the King of the nations and their governments. What does this mean in practice when the people establish a civil government or a dictator comes to rule by force and violence?
Recall that civil government when established cannot impair the jurisdiction, prerogatives or purpose of any preexisting authority. The people cannot, if they establish a civil government, give it just any old power they please even by free consent. The people cannot violate the law of nature. The people cannot lawfully declare that God shall have no say in what powers they may extend to their civil government. If they do, they do so in defiance of God, the Creator. The civil government cannot lawfully violate the law of nature and any attempts to do so though they may be “successful” are lawless and not the will of God. God laughs at such presumption. He holds such governments and nations in derision.
The people cannot lawfully give civil government any authority which God has given to another authority. God established at the creation one kind of authority–mankind. He gave man male and female governing authority over the earth, but not over other persons. Man has no implied authority over another man. No man has a right to govern another without his free consent. Mankind is capable of self-government with no civil government ever existing or brought into existence by consent or otherwise. But if the people do establish a civil government, they have no right or authority to set aside what God has created and say to the civil government they create: “Here government, you exercise jurisdiction that God retained for Himself, or gave exclusively to men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, or the church.”
God has established the authority of a Husband and Wife. How? He did this by defining marriage and then empowering a man and woman to mutually consent to be husband and wife in marriage. He established the authority of the family and charged it with continually governing their part of the earth with their own labor, property and land. God also added duties pertaining to bearing, rearing and the education of children to the family’s charge. The family does not need or require any civil government to fulfill its familial purposes.
If the people establish a civil government, they cannot by their consent declare that the authority which God gave to the family shall no longer be exercised by the family or this authority shall be regulated, diminished or impaired. The people in making Constitutions or their agents in the legislature making subordinate laws have no jurisdiction, right or authority to set aside what God has created and say in the law or constitution, “Here civil government, you exercise a jurisdiction that God gave exclusively to the individual and the family.”
This is a hard fact to accept in a day and age where the government claims to help build strong families and politicians solicit votes on that basis. But the civil government does no such thing as build strong families and the sooner we see this, the better off we will be. The people cannot violate the law of nature of family. The government cannot violate the law of nature of family. Attempts to empower the civil government to substitute its judgment and will for that of the family as given by God trigger His fury. We may have to obey these lawless acts as a practical matter, but any obedience we show is not because God requires us to do so. It is because we wish to enjoy what liberty is left rather than challenge the entire system of lawlessness.
So these are the authorities that exist: man, male and female, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers. They govern themselves, their families, their households and rear their own children. Civil government is unnecessary to their existence or purpose. What other authorities has God instituted? For Christians, Jesus established his church of which he is the head. (Colossians 1:18.) It is a voluntary society based on faith, reason and persuasion with its own internal structure and purposes, lacking the power of force or coercion. (I Corinthians 12:28.)
How about civil government? Did God establish civil government? The answer is “No.” God did not establish civil government. That nations exist and civil governments eventually arose either by consent or by force of arms, from the original act of God confusing human language, is not to say God created civil governments. God created languages and as a result humanity scatted into language groups, each occupying different geographical regions. These regions developed borders and assumed the particulars of nationality built on their unique language and fraternal identity. “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27.) He did this by confusing human language at Babel. (Genesis 11:1-9).
Only in this context is civil government even to be discussed. It is not discussed as a “divine right” emanating directly from God to a ruler. While God created Man and established marriage and the family, there is no comparable creation of civil government by God Himself. A civil government exists by the consent of the people or by the declaration of a despot backed by the sword and violence. It does not exist because God said “Let there be civil government.” He never said this in any general way for the nations.
Some argue that the inherent authority of civil rulers is to punish murders. (Genesis 9:4-6). But when God extended such a power to mankind, there were no civil governments in existence. Some argue that God established a civil government in ancient Israel. They ignore that its origins were by consent of the people and later that He objected to their demand for a king as a rejection of Himself. Yet, he allowed the people to make their foolish choice and they readily agreed to be the slaves of their human kings. Exodus 19:7-9, I Samuel 8.
What Is The Lawful Authority A People May Delegate To Their Civil Government?
Recall we have been reviewing the Scripture chronologically to understand what God has said about civil government including its authority and jurisdiction. We have seen that God established nations, not for their own purposes, but rather so the language divided Peoples of the earth should be prevented from greatness without God, and so that the people may seek Him and perhaps find Him. He also established nations so they would expand out over the entire face of the earth as He originally mandated. The only human government in existence originated by God, if it could be called that, is through the family, with humans authorized to punish murderers by death since the time of Noah. In all other respects, this familial authority was extant from the beginning of time.
While there is no evidence that God authorized individual human beings to punish crimes other than murder, we note that murder is a crime against persons. One might conclude that the authority to punish murderers includes by implication the authority to punish other lesser offenses against the person. Such offenses generally speaking would include all of the degrees of homicide, assaults and battery against a person, branding, maiming, disfigurement and torture of all types, kidnapping, false imprisonment or confinement, illegal arrest and searches, molestation, rape and criminal sexual conduct, coerced medical procedures including treatment, vaccination and sterilization, feticide and enslavement. Such an analysis would conclude that the victim’s family has authority from God to effect its own remedy short of death for these offenses.
We have an example of how one does not avenge rape. Recall that Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and killed all the males of the Canaanites as retaliation for one man’s defilement of Dinah. Genesis 34:25. This is an example of excess. Their father upon learning of it declared, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” Genesis 34:30. He later described his sons and such lawless measures as “weapons of violence.” Genesis 49:5.
If this same logic is applied to offenses against property, it would be reasonable that God gave dominion to the family over the animals, food, things and property both real and personal in Genesis 2. As such the family has authority to secure its own property from interference or alienation by others. The family enjoys authority to use force to prevent its property from being stolen. It has authority to recover by force if needed, its own stolen property. An example of this authority to recover persons and property in action can be found in Abram’s use of armed force to rescue his nephew Lot, his family and all his property from Lot’s kidnapping or enslavement and theft of all his property recorded in Genesis 14:12-16.
Recall that Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” If you are looking for the property delegation equivalent authority of Genesis 9:6 such as something like, “Whoever steals the property of man, by man shall his property be recovered,” you will not find it in the scripture. The authority to recovery property is part of the family authority and it may be derivative from the family to be exercised by the civil government through express delegation.
From the foregoing it may thus be reasoned that familial persons may undertake a non-exclusive delegation of their authority to remedy injury to persons and recovery of property to a civil government, should that human institution be voluntarily established by the people. 1 Peter 2:13-14. Such a civil government may be delegated by corporate familial consent authority to remedy injury to property for offenses such as arson, theft, larceny, burglary and robbery, property damage and vandalism, all types of fraud and deceit, and extortion. We do not generally consider examples arising in the context of Israel’s ancient government under God’s specific laws for that people to learn of examples of how to remedy injury to persons or property, as that government by God as King, Legislator and Supreme Judge is of singular historic jurisdiction.
Yet, we also see that God has never relinquished much of his authority to judge humans by his laws He laid down contemporaneously with the creation of the heavens and earth. This is the “law of nature.” By this law God’s decree and punishments for a variety of offenses has been reserved only to Himself. He has not shared that jurisdiction with any human government. For instance, no human court has any lawful authority or jurisdiction to judge or punish unnatural sexual relations, greed, depravity, envy, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-hate, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedience to parents, a lack of understanding, fidelity, love, or mercy. Punishment of grumblers, malcontents, and loud-mouthed boasters are likewise beyond civil power. Jude 16. The civil punishment of hate crimes and misinformation do not make the list. Only the punishment of murder as an overt act was specifically modified to come within the power of humans to judge since Noah. Romans 1:26-32.
As we have also observed familial authority to punish crimes against property and persons may also be arguably delegated to civil governments established and limited by the people. God alone judges these other matters. For those who maintain the civil government must have the authority to punish unnatural sexual relations, we note that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment.” 2 Peter 2:9, God’s direct punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire serves as an example of His retained jurisdiction to punish such conduct. Jude 7. See also Romans 1:17 wherein God and no man, imposes “the due penalty for their error.”
Such conduct will be also judged by God in this world through corrupting the land in which it occurs. Leviticus 18:24-28 is directed to Israel but it has implications for any and every nation. Moses writes, “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.”
This “judgment of vomit” is really a direct way of saying the land was depopulated by war. This depopulation affects every person in the land including those who commit such acts as well as those who will not declare the true standard of conduct or speak out against sexual perversion. But this is God’s judgment, not that of any civil government. Even though God ordered civil punishment of persons in ancient Israel who engaged in specifically enumerated sexual misconduct (See Leviticus 18:16-22), this example of civil punishment for these crimes is not rule of general applicability for other nations. The crimes are wrong no matter the nation in which they are committed, but the punishments of Israel are limited to the law of that land and no other nation.
We may also mention that what a person eats or drinks is not given over to the authority of any person, let alone civil government to judge under law. This is bad news for the Food and Drug Administration, food police and other government regulators. Likewise how or when a person celebrates or declines to celebrate certain days or how or when they celebrate or observe the Sabbath also falls outside of any human authority to judge civilly. Religious leaders failed to grasp this principle when their state governors used the Covid-19 virus to subvert the rights of the people to worship. Likewise, enactment or enforcement of Sunday Blue Laws were never extended by the law of nature to any human authority. Colossians 2:16.
Only God has authority over the human heart and human mind as referred to above in Romans 1. God alone searches and probes the “the heart and mind.” Jeremiah 17:10, 20:12; Romans 8:27. It is the peace and knowledge of God, not government control of education or public schools which guards the heart and mind. Philippians 4:7.
Yet, God has given parents the authority to direct, teach and guide their children, but not to compel belief. They are not free to delegate away the educational duty a parent owes to God, to any other person and never to the civil government, though parents are free to retain others to assist them in performing this duty. Parents cannot delegate the duty to educate their children to the civil government like they may be free to delegate their right to recover injury to their person and property. God requires parents to account to Him concerning the education and upbringing of their own children including the voluntary retention of agents and tutors to assist them. Civil governmental control of education fails the test of volition. It is built on the law of force and coercion. Failure to attend school is a crime.
This is unlike a delegation to the civil government of the authority to remedy injury to persons and property, which a family member may elect to forego. That choice is no violation of any duty owed to God. In any event, God has not given authority over the heart or mind to any nation or civil government and God continues to exclusively judge the content and motive of such heart and head matters to this very hour.
Understanding the jurisdiction God has reserved to Himself as a judge will help us to better understand the very limited nature of civil jurisdiction. If you have never conceived of the civil government’s jurisdiction as limited, you are missing out on the freedom God has extended to you to govern yourself, your family and those voluntary organizations you create.
When Civil Government Is the “Wrongdoer”
The legitimate purpose of civil government when established by consent or wrongfully established otherwise, is to secure the rights of individuals arising from their duties to God, and of the family arising out of its duties owed to God. This involves the protection of persons and property. The individual and family member are free to exercise their rights without interference, regulation, or control by others, and not by the civil government, its officials, police, prosecutors, judges, zoning administrators, truant officers or the dog catcher.
Unfortunately, we have Romans 13 all turned around. We have been wrongly taught that God has authorized Caesar to play mini-God. We have been taught these verses justify every civil ruler’s authority to punish anyone and everyone in connection with an undefined and unlimited number of civil and criminal offenses. Perhaps we have been taught that one exception exists preaching the message of Jesus Christ, but of course that wrongly assumes Caesar is otherwise unlimited by the will of God. We have been taught that the president down to the dog catcher is God’s divine representative. We have been taught this idolatry in our churches.
But accepting that whatever the state says is a crime and can be punished, is the wrong way to think about it. The problem is that the civil government, state governments and the federal government have criminalized and will punish, control, regulate and interfere with a man or woman when they try to exercise their own authority authority they enjoy as members of the human race and not as gifts from any civil government. These civil governments also pass laws that interfere and punish the exercise of that authority which God has given to husbands and wives and fathers and mothers in marriage and family. This is a complete perversion. It is a construction that emasculates the clear and obvious authority of humans and families.
The wrongdoer is the one who interferes with you and me when we undertake those responsibilities we all enjoy as members of the human race and as families summarily stated in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.'” The civil ruler’s authority to punish wrongdoers exists only where the people consent to extend that authority. If that limited power is simply assumed by a despot or oligarch, the resulting use of that limited power may be the same, though the basis upon which such a despot comes to power is lawless. If a civil official enjoys the authority to punish those who interfere with our responsibilities either by our consent or without our consent by usurpation, the end result in protecting our freedom is the same. But the lawful approach is that no civil official ever act by his or her own claim to rule.
Caesar’s power, when given by the people, is limited to punish those who interfere either by regulation, subsidy, taxation or legal prohibition, with the individual authority of each man and woman to govern their own person and property. It is limited to punish those who interfere with our authority to enter into and enforce contracts and join or associate with others including the pursuit of voluntary societies and commercial and business relations by consent (to name a few). It is limited to the punishment of those who interfere with husbands and wives and fathers and mothers with the exercise of their authority about their land, labor, children, conceived or born (including their education and upbringing) and their estates.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Caesar is not consistently the protector of these responsibilities. Caesar has instead, become more often than not a wicked transgressor of these responsibilities through decrees, statutes and orders, ordinances, codes, property regulations, compulsory education laws and zoning laws to name a few.
Civil government never made a man, husband or father, wife or mother by a legislative declaration. These authorities all preceded civil government in time and history and are superior to civil government in exercising their respective authority. Without this understanding, personal freedom is impossible. Caesar will play God by default. We cannot remain ignorant of those duties we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharge and still be free. We cannot yield the existence of those duties to any force except our own reason and persuasion. The civil government and church may not use law or exercise force, coercion or violence against those duties. The Virginia Bill of Rights, observes this concept: “That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” Because God is the King of the nations, He authorizes no civil government or official to interfere with any duty He requires.