Where Does the Authority for Law and Justice Come from? The State or God?

We are living in a time where judicial vacuums are being created by liberal and post-modern thought throughout the world. Specifically, in the Middle East, Muslims have been filling this space with a staunch and vigorous approach to implementation of the Quran for law and justice. I have found it very obvious that this is nothing short of a battle of good vs. evil. Many Americans have no problem calling the beheading of James Foley “evil” but where is the “good” to fight against it? Where is the “good” alternative to Sharia Law?

Because of the rise of Liberal thought that has invaded Christian doctrine on many levels, some Christians have failed to have been taught correctly on the Biblical position on the role of the State concerning law and order. There are many that simply see the O.T. as a storybook whereby we use crayons and color in the “primitive” stories of Noah and the Ark and David and Goliath. I would ask if there were a functional “State” in the Old Testament that implemented the Law of God on the judicial level, why shouldn’t we look to that for the role of the State today? Has God’s Law been replaced with lawlessness? Is the State no longer accountable to the moral standard of God’s Law? Of course not.

The difficulty for many people is a failure to recognize that God’s Law has not been “replaced,” but rather upheld by all of the New Testament writers, including Jesus Christ. It’s also difficult for many to see the distinction between physical acts of crime and sins committed in the heart.

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When I had previously written about implementation of the death penalty for the sin of Sodomy, many began to object for a number of reasons, citing all sorts of reasons or by juxtaposing Scripture in a manner unworthy of the text. In Romans 13, we can see a direct instance of the “state” being referenced and which speaks directly to the issue of lawful execution. Speaking of the civil magistrate, Paul writes:

“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

I would like to ask, who defines what is “good” and what is “wrong;” the State or God? If the State, then that would mean that Paul was teaching here that the State ultimately answers to no one regarding the Law being moral or not and is its own authority regarding what is “good” and “evil.” If God, then God’s Law defines what is “good” and what is “evil.” Therefore, it is the foundation for any State on the subject of justice and the death penalty.

Some would now ask, how do we implement lawful execution of a Sodomite? I would reply: how do you implement lawful execution of a murderer? Do we not gather evidence, have a trial, assign a jury, and have a judge oversee the arguments from the defense and prosecutor? How difficult is it to imagine the legal process translating over regarding this sin, which is also a crime?

Some have wrongfully suggested that this is improper to do seeing as how we have all violated the law of God on a spiritual level and are all guilty and deserving of death. I would completely agree. However, this is not to say that crimes are not to be punished nor does it mean that physical acts of lawlessness are the same as spiritual acts committed in the heart. How would one prosecute someone for the sin of covetousness, seeing as how it was committed in the heart? We couldn’t, nor does the Bible say that they should be punished by the State. In fact, the State could not prosecute covetousness any more than the State could prosecute someone for having lust for another woman in his heart.

It is important to note here the distinction of punishing physical acts that involve the justice system and God ultimately punishing the sinner on Judgment Day for the spiritual sins of the heart, as well as the deeds of the body. In the same way, while Christ has come and died for His people on the Cross, we still carry out justice towards physical acts of crime that are committed. If one does not see this important distinction, but would rather amalgamate physical acts with spiritual acts of rebellion and see that there is no need for a Biblical position on crime and punishment, then one would be in danger of taking the position to rid the world of any and all judicial systems.

Finally, while the Muslims are chopping off heads and claiming victory for their false god, may Christians begin to take a good, long, and strong look at the role of the State as God’s minister of justice and how it is accountable to God’s Law. As they do, may they begin to call upon Lawful implementation of justice which will put sin back in the hole it climbed out of and begin to deter wickedness that is now spreading throughout our nation.

Here is a back-to-back radio show discussion where I spoke to two Christian’s on this very subject.

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