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The Government of the Lord's Church

The Government of God

by Elder Steve Perrigo

Gallatin, TN

Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, and as far as governing people goes variety as well as variation seem to be ever expanding. In our world today, there are democracies, republics, socialists, communists, monarchies, dictators, and anarchists. However, this subject is upon the way God set up to govern His creation, His people, His church. Because sin has entered the world, God's way has continued to decline as it applies to dominions and principalities. Therefore, the subject will focus upon the Lord's church, God's people and how they are to be governed.

Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepth upon the earth."

The word dominion as used in the verse above is translated from the Hebrew word "radah {raw_daw'}." Its meaning is to rule or reign. God has, therefore, given to mankind the privilege to rule and reign over all the earth and its creatures. But what about other men? From the beginning it can be seen that God gave that responsibility to the head of the race, Adam. Adam was to seek wisdom from the Father, God the Father, through Adam, has the last word making Him the one who ultimately rules. After sin came into the world, things seem to change and a new ruler has taken charge. When man stopped looking to the Father and sought his own way, another advisor comes on the scene who distorts, who is a liar, who is a great deceiver. Mankind has fallen time and time again to his devices but only because their hearts have been turned to themselves seeking their own council. Because God gave mankind the rule over all creation, and man's rule has become corrupted, so also has all dominions upon the earth. Every part of God's creation has been affected from our families to our environment even to the place of worship, the Lord's church. Seeing that the Lord's churches are affected through the sin of man, so also is the manner of rule in the Lord's church. How should the Lord's church be governed?

J. M. Pendleton wrote in his book, Christian Doctrines, "..there are three forms of church government, known by the terms episcopacy, presbyterianism, and independency." The last one Pendleton refers to could also be called, congregational democracy. God's true government is a theocracy, meaning, God rules. In all other forms of church government, man rules, not God. Even though man has chosen another way to be governed, God's grace is revealed and an exception is made whereby God's will for man is implemented for the good of all.

What is this exception? When we allow God's chosen vessel, God's man, to lead, then God still rules. Let us look at Israel when it desired a king. I Sam. 8:5 "And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Samuel never stopped talking to God! Nevertheless, because he had set up his sons to be judges, the people had become spiritually blind by blind leadership. The blame for this condition lies with those given the responsibility to guide them in righteousness but were in fact guiding them in their own pleasure, selfishness and interpreting God's law for their own advantage. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of Israel saying they were "blind leaders of the blind." In the Lord's church where leadership has become blinded we find the people wanting to be like the churches of the world which appear successful. Biblical history shows that people, under evil or corrupt leadership, will turn away from God. So it was with Israel. However, God's loving grace, His longsuffering, His unending, compassionate understanding is exhibited when He consented to the people's desire for a King. In His omnipotent wisdom , God warns the people of the hidden dangers and what to expect under this type of government. Because of the importance of the office, God chooses the man turning the situation from danger to His good pleasure. God's law requires it. Read Deut. 17:14_15 "Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the LORD thy God shall choose:" Furthermore, as long as God's chosen leader followed and obeyed God with all his heart, he and the nation prospered. Ultimately, God was still ruling through His chosen man and through the prophet, the man of God. God's will has not changed! The methods and ways of the people, however, have changed. It is God's will to rule in the hearts of mankind. God's government is based on this principle.

"What is the will of God?" God's will is revealed in His Word and by the direction, or guide, of the Holy Spirit. Everything that happens today has happened before. God's Word tells us, Eccl. 1:9_11 "The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after."

Therefore, our answers will be found in God's Word just as the examples given as references reveal a pattern, a result and an answer. What is the answer to finding the will of God and His Government? The Bible has the answer.

God sent His only begotten Son into this world as Prophet, Priest and King. It is God's will for His Son, Jesus, to rule as King. In fact, Jesus is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; (1Ti 6:15). The government, or rule, as prophesied, is upon His shoulders or foundation. The Lord's church is founded upon this principle as revealed in the Lord's charge to His church. Matt. 28:18 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."

The power is given to Jesus. All that is done in His name should be in accordance to His commands and by the example He set. John 13:15 "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."

Congregational, independent government is the norm for most churches today. Most decisions are made through popular vote including pastoral selection. Even though churches no longer cast lots as was done in the early church, through God's mercy and grace decisions churches make can be the will of God as long as the people seek God's will and their attitude is to obey God. If we fail to look to God for leadership then our form of government becomes manmade and man centered. It will not be holy nor can it execute the will of God; it will be defiled, an unholy thing becoming the kingdoms of this world instead of the kingdom of Christ.