THE BIBLIST PAPERS: 2
Once anarchy and the sinful nature of humanity had finished their Divine tutorial on the need for human government, God then imposed the reality of it upon the Flood survivors immediately upon their exit from the Ark (Genesis 9:6), where human government had its Divine beginning with the idea of capital punishment for murderers. This essentially made the idea of capital punishment for murderers the foundation for all human government, and any government not built upon that foundation is, by definition, an illegitimate expression of it (from Heaven’s point of view).
There are a number of lessons to be learned from the Biblical beginnings of human government, but we shall today focus on but two of them, and the first is the issue of the stern nature of government. To put it bluntly, government is not called to be compassionate – it is called to be stern, and therefore feared. Compassionate government is little more than light-handed anarchy, and such compassion had already led only to ever-worsening expressions of the sinful human nature (Genesis 4:11-24), ultimately resulting in the need for the cleansing of the Flood (Genesis 6:7).
What is generally misunderstood by Believers is the role of compassion upon planet Earth. Acts of love, mercy and kindness are encouraged – and even expected – of individuals who love and follow God (Luke 10:29-37), as is forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). But the charter for government is quite the opposite, for it is meant to hold the worst expressions of the sinful human nature in check, as we shall now see in our brief study of today’s second issue of government – the reason for its existence.
As we are learning only all too quickly in the current maelstrom of government-run-amok, human government is the enemy of human freedom, and so an understanding of the relationship between freedom and government is essential to the continuance of freedom on the one hand, and to the propriety of government on the other. This understanding rightly begins with God, Who as a completely free Being has no outward constraints upon His actions. As beings created in His image (Genesis 1:26), humanity was likewise meant to exist under perfect freedom, but the advent of the sinful nature dictated that there must be some limitation imposed upon the expression of that nature, or else all decency upon Earth would be lost (Genesis 6:5). It is this limitation that defines human government.
When God instituted human government through the requirement of capital punishment for all murderers, He essentially removed the freedom to wantonly take the life of a fellow human being. Humanity therefore found itself limited by the institution of government, and is why I think it best to occasionally refer to human government as human limit-ment, despite the poor English of doing so. Every power or ability granted to government by definition represents a freedom lost to the people governed, and so as more power or ability is granted to a government, its people become less and less free.
This means that human government is by its very nature the avowed enemy of human freedom, and should therefore be as limited in size and scope as is possible in order to accomplish those few purposes given to it in Scripture. We are meant to be free beings, but we cannot be allowed to live completely as such with the sinful nature of humanity intact, and so must be to some degree limited (or governed). But all such limitation is a natural affront to the Divine image we bear, and so we must look to Him in Whose image we were created to know the degree to which we must be limited. When we look elsewhere, evil conduct will increase and inevitably lead to the conditions that once required the Flood.
After the Flood, God promised Noah that Earth would never again be destroyed as it had just been (Genesis 9:8-11), which meant that evil conduct in humanity would in turn need to be limited in order to keep such judgment from revisiting the planet, and so human government was born. When there were but few people left upon Earth, capital punishment of murderers was all of human government that was needed to accomplish this, but as humanity grew and spread the Divine boundaries of human government would likewise grow, as we shall see in future articles. But as we do so it must be clearly understood that it is God Who created humanity in His image; it is God Who truly understands the fallen, sinful nature; it is God Who originated the idea of human government; and it is only God Who has the right to define its boundaries. We do not have that right, nor will we ever have it.
Thank you for your time, and please stand by for Biblist 3, in which we will study the Biblical basis for the absolute need of capital punishment for murderers, and also the issue of how much physical government was actually required to maintain the original system.