Chapter 4: The Duty of the Lesser Magistrates

Duty is that which a person owes to another or by which a person is bound to another, by natural, moral, or lawful obligation to perform.  Duty then is an action required by one’s position or by moral or lawful considerations.
The primary duty of the Lesser Magistrate is really three-fold…
1.  They are to oppose and resist any laws or edicts from the higher authority that go against the Constitution or the Word/Law of God.
2.  They are to protect the person, liberty, and property of those who reside within their jurisdiction from any unjust or immoral laws or actions by a higher authority.
3.  They are not to implement any laws or decrees made by higher authorities that violate the Law of God/Constitution, and if necessary, resist them.

When we say Lesser Magistrate we are mainly referring to local offices like Police, Sheriff, Town and City officials, County and State officials.  These are the ones set in place to see to it that the laws are just.  They must not use the excuse, I’m just doing my job or I’m just doing what I’m told.  They are not to simply do the bidding of those over them without question.
Herbert Schlossberg in his book, Idols for Destruction reinforces this truth,
The framers of the American Constitution were conscious of the excess to which centralized political systems were prone, and their solution was to devise multiple levels of authority.  The existence of state, cities, counties, townships.
He goes on in his book to acknowledge that most of these localities that are to be the checks and balances have succumbed to the Federal Government.  Mostly this surrender has to do with money.  When a local government goes against the laws of the State the first thing that happens is the Federal Government threatens to withhold money and usually that’s all it takes.  The old saying is true, with shekels come shackles.  The Federal Government master has bought the Lesser Magistrate off so they will more easily conform.  
With all this known, the local officers still have the duty to stand up against tyrants. 
The LM in America need to be reminded that when they uphold or follow unjust or immoral laws they become partners with the tyrants and rebel against God.
How can we remind them?
The resistance offered by LM goes further than when a few citizens resist…peasant revolts can easily be put down.  
The resistance by the Lesser Magistrates is good, wise, and proper.  Here is a list of the benefits that resistance by LM offers.
1. LMs possess lawful God given authority they can invoke.
2. LMs have been elected so they already have a power base of the majority in their area.
3. LMs usually have constitutional precedent and law on their side.
4. LMs already have access to public forum where they can vent their grievances
5. LMs can strike terror into the hearts of the oppressors, flushing them out into the open and exposing them for promoting what is evil; even as they attack the LM further exposes their evil.
6. LMs have a better chance at resolving issues peacefully and without bloodshed.  A tyrannical government is less likely to push the envelope if it realizes there is substantial resistance from the LM.  Often things can be resolved without revolution and death.
7.  God promises to support the resistant LMs in going against tyranny.  
Romans 13:1–4 (ESV) 
13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 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. 

These LM support the rule of law and due process in their authority as they resist those who would rule in evil.
God declares a willingness to support and strengthen a Civil Magistrate (Romans 13) to protect the innocent. This is due to his representation of what God instituted government to be – a picture of true justice to the culture at large and an empowered deliverance against the onslaughts of oppression and evil. Such a position gives people hope and a foundation upon which to construct a just and upright system of constitutional protections and proper “due process” of law in the future… as bulwarks against tyranny.

The purpose of government is to restrain evil men, not to be a blessing to wicked men. God himself overthrew many tyrannical governments and instituted those who would follow his whole law. 
James 2:10 (ESV) 

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 

God’s laws and not mans should be followed.  Unfortunately, once the State is empowered to redefine everything, there is nothing it cannot and will not redefine to retain its power.

Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer wrote, 

“Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. They were not killed because they worshipped Jesus…. Nobody cared who worshipped whom as long as the worshipper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason Christians were killed was because they were rebels”[1]

Christians placed the God of the Bible over the claim that the State and its Caesars were gods. Therefore, charges were brought against Paul and his local followers.
Acts 17:5–9 (ESV) 

But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 

Luke 23:1–2 (ESV) 

23 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 

The Maccabean Revolt

Hanukkah [festival of lights/ festival of dedication] is celebrated in remembrance of the Maccabees refusal to confirm to the pagan government and society. As a matter of fact, we find Jesus celebrating this festival in the gospels (John 10:22-23). 
John 10:22–23 (ESV) 

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 

Some speculate that the Maccabees are even referred to and praised in the “hall of faith” Hebrews 11:36–38 (ESV) 

36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 

What was this revolt?
The Maccabean Revolt was the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid Empire from 167 BC to 160 BC. It is recorded in the books of First and Second Maccabees (Apocrypha) as well as Josephus’s “The Jewish Wars”. 
After the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, they permitted the rebuilding of the temple as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. Later, Alexander the Great led the Greeks to conquer the Persians and gained control of Jerusalem. 
Upon Alexander’s untimely death, the Greek empire was divided among his four generals. Judea came under the control of the Seleucid Empire, based out of Syria. When Antiochus IV came to power in 175 BC, he forbade Jewish religious practice. This was a tumultuous time for the Jewish people.
In 167 BC he defiled the temple in Jerusalem by installing an idol to Zeus and sacrificing pigs upon the altar. Antiochus IV enforced a policy of assimilation to the Greek/Syrian way of life, forbidding circumcision, preventing kosher food restrictions, and requiring that sacrifices be made throughout the land to the Greek gods. 
When a Seleucid military officer arrived in the rural town of Modi’in to carry out Antiochus’s orders, the Jewish priest in that town, Mattathias, vehemently refused. He then killed a Jewish young man for obeying the officer’s orders and then the officer himself. He and his five sons then fled to the Judean wilderness where they were joined by many like-minded Jews. 
Mattathias died about a year later, but his son Judah led the small army of Jewish dissidents in guerilla warfare, first against other Jews who supported the Greek/Syrian way of life and then against the Seleucid army itself. 
Judah’s militia was known to be swift and fierce, quickly conquering areas and then strictly enforcing Mosaic Law, including destroying Greek altars and forcibly circumcising those they conquered. This brutality earned him the name “Judah the Hammer” or “Judah Maccabeus” in Hebrew. That is how his militia became known as the Maccabees and their uprising as the Maccabean Revolt.
In 164 BC, after conquering Jerusalem, the Maccabean army cleansed the temple and reestablished Jewish worship. This cleansing and rededication of the temple is the holiday known as, “Hanukkah” (John 10:22).
When Antiochus IV died, the Seleucid army was called to return home to Syria. Lysias, the commander of the Seleucid army, therefore granted religious freedom to the Jews, giving the Maccabees the right to run Judea (semi-autonomously) in exchange for tribute (taxes) to the Seleucid Empire. Thus, began the Hasmonean Dynasty. These leaders ruled Judea in relative independence for nearly one hundred years and continued to conquer surrounding areas. 
This ultimately came to an end when the Roman Empire gained control of Judea and Herod was established as King (37 B.C. – 4 A.D.). This political backdrop became the setting into which Jesus Christ was born. People alive in Jesus’ day remembered the independence they had enjoyed before the Roman occupation of Judea and they were eager for a new Jewish king to restore their freedom[2].

“They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand.”
-1 Macc. 2.48

And according to the Talmud, God did a miracle to keep the Menorah lit for eight days for those brave men who loved God more than Government.

[1] Schaeffer, F., 2005. How Should We Then Live? Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, p.24.

[2] Summarized in part from the article, “What Was The Maccabean Revolt?” at

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