The Law of God and Public Policy: Begin Here (3)
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis 49.10
The challenge of God’s Law
If the Law of God is ever going to have renewed influence on the shape of public policy, it must first begin to bear fruit within the community of faith. If we who believe in Jesus Christ will not walk the path that He walked, we have no right to expect others to do so (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
On the other hand, if, through our embrace of and obedience to the Law of God, we are able to show the benefits of such obedience to the world, it may be enough to convince even those outside the family of faith that the Law of God is a reliable source for sound public policy.
We do not look to the Law of God for salvation; that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. But, like the founders of our republic, we understand that there is great wisdom to be gained from following the teachings of God’s Law, and much good to contribute to the social order. And our nation knows this implicitly, albeit perhaps unconsciously, since it is a fact that many statutes remaining in the American legal system have their roots in the wisdom and goodness of the Law of God.
The challenge for believers today is how to understand the Law of God, and to apply it in own communities, so that we may then bring the Law to bear on public policy in a way that causes the blessings of God to flow even to those who do not know Him.
God’s King and His Kingdom
Our text from Genesis 49 helps us in understanding God’s intention for His Law, that it should come to the world through the obedience of His own people, as they submit to His eternal King.
Jacob foresaw an era during which kings would rule over the people of Israel, all the kings descended from the tribe of Judah. The final king in the dynasty is known as “Shiloh.” When “Shiloh” comes—Him for Whom the Kingdom has been prepared—in His glory, then the dynasty entrusted to Judah will cease and the nations and peoples of the world will be led to obey God’s King.
That King has come; He has brought near His Kingdom; and His Spirit is at work in the world advancing His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy like a growing stone (Rom. 14.17, 18; Dan. 2.44, 45). God intends to draw the nations to obedience to Jesus Christ through the example and witness of His people, as we have seen. And, while we do not expect the world to be entirely converted to Christ, nor the Kingdom of God to come fully before the day of judgment (Dan. 7.18-27; Matt. 13.36-43), still, we expect and work for progress in that domain, praying that God will do in and through us all that He has prepared from of old (Matt. 6.10; Eph. 2.10).
Government and the challenge of the good
In this world God has established governments to serve people for good (Rom. 13.4). But governments need wisdom and understanding to know what is good. The Law of God is good (Rom. 7.12), and the people of God are called to demonstrate wisdom and understanding by obeying God’s Law, and to teach God’s goodness and wisdom so that others might gain as much of the benefit of God’s favor as is possible—up to and including salvation in Jesus Christ. For it is a primary function of the Law of God to expose people’s sins and point them to Jesus.
All this is just another way of saying that the Church is the focal point of God’s world-transforming agenda, the epicenter of His power for making all things new and reconciling the world unto Himself.
The Church does not bear the political sword. It bears only the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The Word of God, with the Law as its cornerstone, instructs us in the way of obedience and blessing, and reveals the wisdom and understanding of God which are to be found in their fullness in Jesus Christ. The grace of God flows through Jesus Christ in wave upon wave from the Church and to the world through the lives of God’s people as they live out the commands and promises of God’s Word.
The power of persuasion
Thus, the only power by which the Church wields to bring the benefits of God’s Law to its unbelieving neighbors and their governments is the power of persuasion. The challenge to each generation of believers, as we strive to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1), is to discern the best ways of persuading our contemporaries in the direction of obedience and blessing. These will not be the same in every age or culture or political environment, and the task will never be easy.
We are not alone in this effort: The Word and Spirit of God are lively and powerful to bring the benefits of God even to those who despise Him (Jn. 6.63; Heb. 4.12; Matt. 5.43-48). The power of persuasion is not simply a matter of convincing others by arguments. Much less is it merely a political activity. Persuasion is accomplished when, by a combination of compelling reasons and examples, policies may be prescribed, the wisdom and understanding of which are readily apparent to those who must enact them.
As the focal point and epicenter of God’s Kingdom, it is the Church’s duty to persuade its generation to seek the wisdom and understanding of God as this is revealed in His Law, and, beyond these, to seek the King of that Law for salvation. For Shiloh has come, and He is ruling the world for love through the statutes, precepts, judgments, and commandments of His Law and all His Word.
1. What would happen if Christians simply decided that governments could do whatever they wanted, without any constraint of Biblical Law?
2. Why do we emphasize the need to be keepers of God’s Law before we try to persuade others of its benefits?
3. What can you do to improve in learning and obeying God’s Law?
Next steps—Transformation: Spend some time in prayer thanking God for all the laws you can think of that have been influenced or shaped by the Law of God.
T. M. Moore
What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your free copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.