Jurisdictional Responsibilities of Church vs the State


This is part of a discussion a friend of mine Silas and I had before the break in December about who is a better candidate, he is Huckabee supporter.

I thought this dialog would make for a great blog post (and knowing Silas I’m sure he doesn’t mind our discussion being a little more public since most of our discussions have been)

Our discussion basically started when Silas, came into my office and seen my “Ron Paul” sign. Silas wasn’t fond of Ron Paul and said basically that Huckabee is the “Loving” candidate and therefore we as Christians should choose him and not Dr. Paul because Paul was the opposite.

Later that evening, I emailed him this (condensed) response:


Governments are ordained/called of God to be “ministers of righteousness” (Rom 13:4). The Church and Christians are called to be “ministers of God’s Love and Grace”.You seem to blur jurisdictional responsibilities of Church and State – this is the mistake of the Medieval Church to our shame…

He responded:


As for the role of governments, I agree, it is different than the role of the Church. However, both can (and should) be made up of the same people operating in those two different roles. So it is fine, in my opinion, to have a Christian leader in government operating according to his Christian beliefs. You disagree?

Here is my response:


Good to hear back from you, hope you had a wonderful holiday break.

I agree with you that I desire to have Christians as Magistrates, after all I am a card carrying member of the American Heritage Party (which is too small to run a President at this point)

I believe in the “sufficiency of scripture” for every area of life, I also believe that “righteousness and justice” can only be defined by God which is contained in His Law-Word the Holy Bible and not by some autonomous man made standard. Therefore, governments (whatever form of government they are) and their magistrates are to rule “under God”.

This said , we need to define the “jurisdictional responsibilities” of Church or State. Your comment of wanting to have “a Christian leader in government operating according to his Christian beliefs” really gets to the heart of the issue that I need to clarify.

Lets say that this “Christian Leader” is a High Church Anglican and he defines “his Christianity” in ways that Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Independents, and Catholics do not. Should he, by the powers of the state, legislate and enforce his particular version of Christianity on the other Christians? Mind you , If you study the history of this “Church/State” issue down thru the centuries you will see this tension has been a problem over and over again. In the 16th and 17th centuries these issues came to a head.

Beginning with the Protestant Reformation Luther‘s doctrine of “liberty of conscience” became the defining principal by which this question/tension would find a solution.

After Luther, Calvin who with Luther, was concerned with setting Europe free from the tyranny of both Church and State oppression, developed the theology (from the Bible of course) of jurisdictional spheres or the roles and responsibilities of each (Church and the State) to deal with this “liberty of conscience” issue.

One of the many texts that came into focus on the issue was 2 Chronicles 26. In it Uzziah, the 11th King of Judah, blurs the Civil and Religious jurisdictions, It reads:

But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.” Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.

Uzziah crossed “jurisdictions” here, he went beyond his “appointed” role and responsibility, Saul the1st king of Israel did the same in 1 Samuel 13 with his “unlawful sacrifice”.

Romans 13 defines the role of Civil Magistrates:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

The Civil Magistrate is the “minister of justice” who “bears the sword” an “avenger on him who practices evil” The problem has been that the state has used the “power of the sword” to compel, require, and coerce, many things outside of its legitimate jurisdiction. Unbridled taxes, non-defensive wars, education, Christian charity and even the Church herself can and have been used by the Magistrate as instruments to further their power and control – to force men to violate their conscience. Government “under the authority of God” is to define “justice” in accordance with his Law-Word, but is limited to carrying out its proper role in society. Limited Government is a Christian and Biblical ideal.

The Church on the other hand has the “keys of the Kingdom” and has traditionally understood herself as having the ministry of reconciliation, a dispenser of grace, an agent of redemption and regeneration, which is the real answer to this worlds evils. This ministry cannot be coerced or required by the power of the state who “wields sword“. She also is prophetic in her role both to the Magistrate and the world on issues of justice and righteousness, she is to teach the Magistrate all that “God commands” (Mat 28:19-20).

In America, as a Christian I am interested in preserving jurisdictional liberty for the Church, which is under threat – so that she can do what God calls her to; minister the Love and Grace of God without intrusion and obstruction, which according to Voice of the Martyrs is by done by Governments in 51 countries of the world today.

The definition of “liberty” has been obliterated in our culture, but liberty as traditionally defined as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control”, this is the real issue. Why would we want as Christians to empower the state to go beyond its God given role to “protect and administer justice” so that they can dictate more things outside of it’s legitimate jurisdiction and subsequently legislate more control in every area of our lives?

Based on their records, this really is why I prefer Ron Paul over Huckabee. Dr. Paul is a Christian and better understands Liberty and the role of Government, Huckabee in my opinion and based on his record, has and will, continue to expand the role (jurisdiction) of the Government beyond it’s legitimate boundaries -which will ultimately threaten every liberty, civil as well as religious.


FYI: This historical Church/State jurisdictional issue is what is presupposed in our 1st Amendment to the constitution, it comes directly down to us from the Reformation;

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Separate Jurisdictions is what our founders meant – not – Separation of God from Government, they believed in “One Nation under God”.

“Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the universe.”

James Madison, The Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785


7 Responses

  1. […] by David Larry has given quite an eloquent description of the Two Kingdoms and how they have God ordained spheres. The only thing I would add is the role of Church as a prophetic voice against the magistrates […]

  2. Thanks Dave for your complement,

    I do agree with you wholeheartedly on the role of the Church – as I mentioned:

    “She (the Church) also is prophetic in her role both to the Magistrate and the world on issues of justice and righteousness, she is to teach the Magistrate all that “God commands” (Mat 28:19-20).”


  3. Hey Larry! Good post, although I disagree with much of what you said. First, Matthew 24:19-20 has nothing to do with God commanding anything, only with the woes of being pregnant during the End Times. Second, and similarly, Rom 13:4 doesn’t say anything about government being a minister of righteousness, only that we should fear them because they have force to back up their authority.

    Third, and mainly, your argument seems to be that there are two spheres of jurisdiction, one sacred and one profane, and that ne’er the two shall meet. I disagree. The two spheres collided nicely under the monarchies of the united kingdom (and later in the southern kingdom) in the OT, where the king was charged with enforcing religious law and thought. Kings were praised when they established or re-established correct religion in the Land, and were considered evil when they walked away from God and led the people to do the same. I further disagree with your understanding of 2 Chronicles. Uzziah is given a role by God to perform, to be the king (as I already established, a significant part of which was religious), and he was going outside of the boundaries that God had established for him, not for government in general. The priests would have said the same thing to anyone who wasn’t of the Aaronic line – it had nothing to do with him being king.

    Additionally, even if we do have different spheres for these two powers, you seem to be defining what is a legitimate role for government and what is not, without scriptural support. Why is a defensive war ok, but a “non-defensive” war not? Why are “unbridled taxes” wrong? Why do we have to use your understanding of legitimate exercise of power and not mine? I can support Biblically the notion of non-defensive wars as acceptable, can you support your position from the Bible?

    Finally, I see the role of the church as not ministering to the World, but to those within it (I know that most Christians would disagree with me on this). that seems to be the clear Biblical witness. We are not called to have a “prophetic voice” (show me that in scripture), we are not called to “dispense grace” (again, where is it in scripture), we are not called to regenerate, reconcile, or redeem anything that is not already within the church.

    I hope you don’t mind the length of this reply, I tried to keep it short, but failed (what can I say, I’m long winded). 🙂

  4. Silas, You said,

    1) “We are not called to have a “prophetic voice” (show me that in scripture)”

    (Not “Matthew 24:19-20” sorry, Mat 28:19-20 – I will correct the typo)

    Also See: Mark 13:9 also Acts 24:25


    2) “two spheres of jurisdiction, one sacred and one profane, and that ne’er the two shall meet. I disagree”

    So do I,

    I have no such neo-platonic dichotomy – both are “under God” (they have different responsibilities) that’s the point of this post. For even more clarity on my position see my post: https://larrytemple.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/thoughts-on-theonomy-and-the-unity-of-theonomy-and-natural-law/


    3) “Rom 13:4 doesn’t say anything about government being a minister of righteousness, only that we should fear them because they have force to back up their authority.”

    A) Silas, Could you give me your best Biblical definition of righteousness?

    B) Is there such a thing as “Judicial Righteousness”

    It says:
    “he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

    C) What is the opposite of evil?


    4) “I can support Biblically the notion of non-defensive wars as acceptable, can you support your position from the Bible?”

    I reconcile these two:

    “And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Mt 26:51-52

    “Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” Luke 22:36-38


    5) “Uzziah is given a role by God to perform, to be the king (as I already established, a significant part of which was religious”

    I agree (partially) – my point is there were specific “religious” issues that were outside his “jurisdiction” -those that belonged exclusively to the priests…

    BTW This weekend’s post will deal more on this issue the “religious” roll of the magistrate.


    6) Why are “unbridled taxes” wrong?

    If I pass a Law that says the 90% Silas’ wages are to be taken by the Government who will give those wages to Larry Temple – is that right just because I have the power to pass such a law? Does thou shall not steal apply to Magistrates who write such unjust laws. Is Government sanctioned taking the workman’s wages – theft?

    Are there such things as “unjust laws” made by tyrants?

    Could you give me your best biblical definition of justice?

    Is it wrong to require more than God? (What other standard do you have? The Bible defines (the various tithes) how much tax is legitimate.


    7) We are not called to “dispense grace”

    What is the Gospel then?

    God Bless,


    I don’t mind you being long winded – so am I sometimes…

  5. Lar,

    It’s amazing how many of the same conversations are being had between completely different people. You have your work cut out with your friend Silas, and I have mine with RubeRad, as well as others.

    I just started reading “The Greatness of the Great Commission” by Ken Gentry, Jr. You can find it free at http://www.freebooks.com. But basically, the Great Commission is the subduing, i.e. baptizing, of the nations and teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded.


  6. Kaz,

    I agree, I would also say that part of this “discipleship” is teaching the Civil Magistrates of those nations to”obey” all that Christ has commanded as well.


  7. […] biblical law” (this also is a big problem I have with the “two Kingdom theory” as opposed to “sphere sovereignty” which I accept). This tension or dichotomy suggests some type of ethical “double standard” or […]

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