Question & Answer Forum

For what did Paul exhort prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2)?

The Lord’s “world view” (“In the world ye shall have tribulation,” John 16:33), Paul’s eventual martyrdom, and the context make it doubtful that he requested prayer for a government favorable to Christian living and the spread of the gospel.

Leading “a quiet and peaceable life” certainly is “good and acceptable” (verse 3), but the context more likely describes praying “for all men” (verse 1) as being “acceptable” to God, “Who will have all men to be saved.” By repeating “all men,” Paul encouraged prayer for the salvation of all men.

Even though the government was acting immorally in opposing the gospel and imprisoning its messengers, Christian piety and morality (“godliness and honesty”) remained unchanged. Believers would live in quietness (externally “aloof from political agitation,” Vincent) and peace (inwardly calm) by keeping their focus and praying for the salvation of all men, including cruel kings. Whatever the condition of government may be, our mission in the world is to see men saved.

D. Oliver

What is the Christian’s relationship to government?

Primarily, believers are to obey and be subject to government at every level (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1). Although some Roman officials were immoral, corrupt, unjust, and idolatrous, believers paid taxes and tariffs, and feared and honored officials (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:13, 14, 17). By paying the temple tax and advocating “rendering to Caesar” (Matthew 17:27; 22:21), the Lord exemplified this. The revisionist view of “Jesus the political subversive” is without biblical support.

Occasionally obedience to God and to government conflict, requiring us “to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The Lord and His followers encountered this “wrongful governance” through injustice to themselves and others (slavery). Their resistance was passive, not reforming the government, but rather personally obeying God. Active resistance is disobedience to God.

Governments protect and provide services to their community, benefits in which believers share. Paul accepted this protection (Acts 23:17) and also used his citizenship to further the gospel (Acts 16:37; 21:39; 22:24; 25:11).

Some believers work for the government, as did Erastus (Romans 16:23), the city treasurer (NASB). They have two limitations: consistency with the government’s mandate (serving the community, Romans 13:4) and Christian morality (executing righteous policy). Reforming or leading the government seems inconsistent with subjection to the government.

D. Oliver

What drives the present marriage of evangelicals and politics?

At least four misunderstandings contribute to this.

1. A wrong prophetic view. Reform theologians, not expecting a Millennium, thought society could be “saved” without Christ’s coming. Some millennialists forget these roots of their crusade.

2. A wrong ecclesiastical view. Responsibility for “church action” belongs to a local church. “The Church” never refers to all believers on earth. Tragic events, like Hitler’s madness, moved some to think the church has a responsibility to withstand immoral governmental policy We are to “do good unto all men,” but assemblies uphold truth (1 Timothy 3:15) by proclaiming it, not by confronting governments.

3. A wrong world view. This is not a Christian world. Christian principles are diametrically opposed to society’s standards. Imposing them is not possible and not workable, apart from Christ’s coming reign.

4. A wrong dispensational view. God’s Old Testament focus was the nation of Israel. Now, His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); He is saving individuals “out of the world” (John 17:14, 16; Acts 15:14). If we understand this distinction, we won’t make Old Testament kings (and other worthies) our models for political action. Despite our nationalism, the only government that will bring God’s will to earth is future. Until then, our responsibility is to rescue men from the “kingdoms of this world.”

D. Oliver

Is voting in political elections appnopniate fon us?

In countries where voting is mandated, Christians vote in subjection to the law.

Where voting is optional, other biblical principles apply. This world has rejected Christ (Luke 19:14; 1 Corinthians 2:8); His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), nor is our citizenship or hope (Philippians 3:20). Although government is ordained by God, governments are opposed to God, as will be fully demonstrated in a coming day (Psalm 2:2, 3). How, therefore, can a believer involve himself in governmental leadership? Such involvement and voting are cut from the same fabric Voting seems to deny our separation from the world. Christians’ moral impact, retarding evil (2 Thessalonians 2:7), is through character (salt) and conduct (shining as lights, Matthew 5:13-16; Philip pians 2:15). Believers are “resident aliens.”

In addition, God has not abdicated His role in controlling who rules (Romans 13:1; Daniel 4:17). He requests that we pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). We do not know God’s will in His present “guidance of history,” nor is that our domain. We are responsible to know His will for our lives (Romans 12:2; James 4:15). Were we to vote in keeping with God’s will, we should likely select “the basest of men,” hardly “responsible citizenship.”

D. Oliver