Though governmental powers are ordained by God to uphold law and
order for the welfare of societies (Rom 13:1-4), God has not always been
pleased with what men have done (see Dan 5; Acts 12:23). Likewise with
church government: though God has ordained it, He is not always pleased
with what men do in it.
Because the same errors in thinking which have led to God’s
displeasure in secular governments are being employed in the churches,
it will be helpful to examine the following points regarding
1. The Intended Purpose of Government
Failure in Government
3. God’s Future Earthly Government
God’s Present Church Government
Purpose of Government
after the flood that God gave the first governmental instruction to
mankind in general: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall
his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Genesis
A man could kill animals, but not another man. Because God created
man in His own image, when a man committed murder, man himself
was given the authority to execute capital punishment. This was to
protect the image of God on earth. And this was the extent of what God
had instructed for human government.
It is Genesis 10-11 which records the first attempt of man to
organize his own government. Rather than scatter into smaller dependent
groups, man organized a big independent unity. In the establishment of
the “kingdom of Babel,” several of man’s enduring purposes of
government are revealed or implied.
a. To facilitate man’s ability. “Go to, let us
make brick, and burn them throughly” (Gen 11:3). They
discovered the ability to build on a grand scale and so used it. This
would give a sense of purpose in being a part of something so
b. To build and maintain an infrastructure. “Go to, let
us build us a city…” (Gen.11:4). Big cities like Babel
have big purpose. They pool man’s talents and resources together. With
their bridges, roads, and buildings, they allow for easy trade which
makes their economy grow. Together, people would specialize in different
areas of work and depend on one another to meet their needs and “improve
the quality of living.”
c. To establish and maintain a name. “Go to, let us
build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and
let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon
the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). A high tower would be a
rallying point and a symbol of man’s strength. A “name” is associated
with glory and authority. This “name” would keep the people of the
kingdom of Babel unified and patriotic. (But this name was unto man, and
Far from what God
instructed, Babel’s government became what men would depend on
for survival, sustenance and purpose.
A Babel mindset in government provides citizens “security” and
purpose through government’s provisions and job markets. It
organizes big trade where men are apt to depend on each other rather
than God. And it instills a “national pride” (patriotism) through the
government’s name so that when asked, men willingly die to build
and defend the name of their government.
no instruction after the flood for government to give purpose, to build
infrastructure, to unify, or to organize. Man was to replenish
the earth in dependence upon God (Gen 9:1-3). God would then in time
establish their national borders (Acts 17:26). But at Babel, man
defiantly unified to form one government.
At Babel, man acted without instruction from God, stepping far
beyond the governmental instruction God did give. God was not pleased.
Their oneness (unity) was wrong because it was a unity under man, not
God. God said, “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their
language …” (Gen 11:7). And they were judged. Their godless unity
was broken and they were scattered.
Babel’s government stood opposed to God, even denying Him. God
Himself is to be the “purpose” of a man’s life, not his trade.
Man is to depend on God alone to meet his every need, not
other men and certainly not governments’ securities and entitlements
(Mat 6:31-32). And man is to glory in his Creator, never himself, his
abilities, or his accomplishments (1 Cor 1:31).
The weakness of man’s governments (beginning with Babel) is clearly
seen. From human monarchy to democratic republic; from socialism to
fascism; all have come short of God’s simple purpose for government:
righteousness. This is because at their head (whether a king or
representatives) will be found man, of whom God says all have sinned and
come short of His glory.
When sinful man assumes governmental authority beyond God’s
instruction and massive resources are at his disposal, is it surprising
that he will engage in war where men created in God’s image are
And why? Almost never for the scriptural reason of bearing the sword
against them that “doeth evil” (Rom 13:1-4). Other reasons will
liberally be given: freedom, rights, land for citizens, resources for
the economy, etc. But isn’t war almost always the result of man’s hunger
to expand his borders? With divine direction forsaken, is it any
surprise that history bears out such brutal folly?
God’s Future Government
the time of Babel onward, God has allowed men to form nations: to grope
about blindly, as it were, without any divine instruction for what type
of government to form (Israel excepted). In every one of them, there was
failure because men’s confidence and hope was in man. (Even Israel
eventually rejected God as their Head and turned to man, 1Sam 11:3;
12:12). And with every failure, men devised something new. Now, after
millennia with so many failures, isn’t the data in?
Man can’t govern himself,
because a man can’t govern himself. As long as the
head is sinful man, a government will fail. The only question is
So then, what hope is there for earth? There is “a last best hope.”
The day is coming when there will finally be a sinless leader of the
world: a man – the Lord Jesus Christ. “…With righteousness shall He
judge the world, and the people with equity” (Psalms 98:9).
The King of kings and Lord of lords is unlike any ruler who has ever
been. He alone is a man without sin. But that’s not all. Being God, He
is omniscient, knowing every individual personally.
Modern day politicians would never dream of such a thing. They study
demographics, political science and economics which model nations as
collective units, not collective units of individuals. They must
deal with “the whole” because they could not possibly deal with the
“all.” And since they can’t know all the people, they could never
hope to serve all the people well.
What a glorious day it will be for the nations in the new heavens and
earth – to have a leader who is not only sinless and selfless, but one
who will meet every individual’s needs. All “the people”
will be secure, unified, and dependent on a righteous leader. And
He will be their purpose. And they will glory in His name alone!
In that day, God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). God’s purpose of the
ages will be fulfilled (Eph 1:10). It will not be, “of the people, by
the people, for the people” –but, “of Him, and through Him, and to Him”
God’s Present Government
now consider the New Testament church and how the errors of Babel are
affecting its government.
1. The Purpose of the Church
2. The Head of the
3. The “Leaders” of the Church
4. The People of the
The Purpose of the Church
the first civil government was formed at Babel man went well beyond
God’s instruction and purpose. This Babel-like urge to go beyond God’s
instruction must be resisted in the church today.
• Is our hope in the church to give purpose in life through
its many programs and ministries or is our hope in the Lord? “But our
sufficiency is of God” (2Cor 3:5).
• Was the church instructed to be strong with political authority or
maintain assets (infrastructure) in order to insure security in meeting
peoples’ needs? “But my God shall supply all your need according to
his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19, Mat 6:19-34,).
Some Christian ministries are building great assets with the goal of
meeting needs. Could they by their example and ecumenical compromises be
naïvely fostering dependence on man and independence from God?
God gives no organizational instructions beyond the single autonomous
church, and there is no precedent for church asset ownership (individual
ownership, yes (Acts 5:4), but not the church). The organizations,
“official ministries,” and infrastructures being built do not come from
a scriptural pattern or principle. A simple look at man’s marketing and
fund-raising strategies necessary to maintain such things confirm their
• Is the church to build up a name (Baptist, Methodist, Brethren,
etc.) which will instill a unifying patriotism? This will cause many to
defend their church’s organization and glory in its history and
accomplishments. Colossians 3:17 says, “whatsoever ye do in word or
deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
and the Father by him. And,“ If any man glory, let him glory in
the Lord” (1Cor 1:31).
Many well-intentioned saints are stepping far beyond the simple
instructions of God’s Word for the church and right into the same errors
made at Babel.
Churches often advertise to attract and keep people (as a business
might try to win market-share). Often seen is a boasting of entitlements
offered: counselling, “user friendly” church buildings, size, church
growth ministries, music, drama, and “seeker” programs (youth, singles,
etc.) that produce “results” – as though “church membership” and
satisfied people were the goal.
God’s way to save is by the “foolishness of preaching” (1Cor. 1:21).
The church, in dependence upon Him alone, simply proclaims His Word
through continuing in the “apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in
breaking of bread and in prayers.” When God adds to the church by
saving some, they are to be baptized, then brought into the local
church fellowship (Acts 2:41-47).
The purpose of the churches is being changed today from a habitation
for God where He is given His desires into a place where God is talked
about, but not obeyed or depended upon. (See Chronicles of the Church of
God, 1-8, for a scriptural exposition of this).
The Head of the Church
only one Head of the true church: the Lord Jesus Christ. The government
of a family unit can work well because there is a head who is closely
familiar with and loves every individual under his authority. So it is
with the Lord Jesus and His churches (1 Pet 5:7).
He knows every individual and all needs. He is able to meet them
through the spiritual gifts which He dispenses to whom He will (Eph
4:8). Too often it is the church leaders, not able to know every need,
who take control of matters and arrange and orchestrate so much that the
saints have little or no freedom to exercise their God-given gifts to
edify the assembly (1 Cor 14:12;26).
Israel once won a victory despite the spoils being withheld. Jonathan
said, “How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely today of
the spoils of their enemies which they found? For had there not been a
much greater slaughter among the Philistines?” (1Sam 14:30). Today,
in His mercy, needs are still met, but how much better could they be?
How much stronger spiritually might the churches be if the saints were
permitted to minister as directed of the Holy Spirit in weekly open
meetings - as the Head has clearly instructed (1Cor 14)?
The “Leaders” of the
Whom God calls shepherds, men call “leaders.” This word
holds with it a gross misinterpretation. The “leaders” of a church are
not to independently lead. There is one Head of the church. The
Elders are to follow that Head and oversee the assembly,
not dictate their own preferences. Elders are more discerners of
God’s Word than decision makers. (See Acts 15 where the Word of God ends
the argument, see Joshua 14:15; Judges 7; contrast 1Sam 14-15). Elders
are to simply relay God’s Word as they stand upon it. So in following
the “leader,” one is really following Christ (Acts 20:26-32).
A general in an army needs instant communication with his men
and he needs accurate intelligence of the enemy’s activity in
order to direct his army. No elder in any church has either of these
things. But the Head does. He can redirect any preacher a moment before
he opens his mouth. He can change an evangelist’s focus toward another
part of a city at an instant. He can move in the heart of a giver to
give where needed. He can do what no Christian “leader” ever could.
Elders are simply to oversee the sheep in the church meeting, seeing
that it functions in proper scriptural order under the Lord’s commands
(1Cor. 14:37). Elders are to be teachers by word and deed of what the
purpose in life is, how to depend on God, and most importantly, that the
Lord Jesus Christ is the preeminent One.
The elders (plural) of a church are to be overseers, hospitable,
teachers, caretakers of the church of God, exhorters and convincers of
the contradictors according to sound doctrine, and watchers for our
souls (1Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; Heb 13:17). These are their
The People of the
Finally, the largest part of any government is the
people. The saints are to be obedient to the elders. The reason for
this is that we are under the Head who commands it so (Heb
13:17). But personal obedience to the Lord must always take precedence
over our submission to any man (Acts 5:29). For example, the Head says,
“Let your women keep silence in the churches…” (1Cor 14:34). Whom
do we obey if men disagree?
When we do see wrong government in the church, we must resist the
urge to cause divisions and get our own following (see 1Sam 12:20-25).
The Lord Jesus is the Head of His church and knows how to deal with
disobedience (Rev. 2&3). The Lord allowed Saul to reign over Israel
(1Sam 8-31) and David refused to rebel – even when given clear
opportunity (1Sam 24 & 26). May we regard David’s example of
patience, understanding that there is a Lord who is in full control (See
The conclusion is very
simple. New Testament church government is one of utter
dependence on an all-sufficient God – for
The New Testament church lacks hierarchy, but has great order (1 Cor
14). It lacks a constitution (apart from God’s entire Word), but
handles the severest of problems (e.g. 1 Cor 5). It lacks earthly heads,
but nurtures loyalty to the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:32). It lacks
man’s infrastructure, yet it sees every need met (Acts 11:27-30).
It pays taxes, prays for leaders and obeys law, but is not dependent
on government. It is “pilgrim” in nature, but has a permanent city in
heaven. It is passive toward cultural change, yet resists worldly
influence. It plans for little, and thereby builds faith in an
all-sufficient God. It is persecuted by men, but perfectly secure in
God’s salvation through the King of kings.
New Testament church government is designed by God to be but a small
reflection of what will one day be when the Lord Jesus Christ reigns as
King over all creation and the Father’s will is finally done on earth.
It will be the day when “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen,” never
to intoxicate the nations again (Rev 18:2-3). May today’s church “come
out of her” and reflect His rule on Earth now (Rev 18:4).