Disciple Hour: The Doctrine of the lesser magistrates Chapter 6: The Role of the People

We have discussed the role of the lesser magistrates regarding unjust and unmoral laws.  We have learned based on God’s Word that they have the duty to stand up and opening defy the unjust laws.  We looked at multiple examples from the Bible of lesser magistrates doing this.  We saw for example the three Hebrews standing firm against Nebuchadnezzar as court officials.  We studied the account of Daniel also serving in the Kings court standing up to his unjust law.  We also clearly saw together how God commends all who defy tyranny. 

What is the mark of an unjust law?  It goes against God’s Word.  We must obey God rather than men.
So, the county, city, and state officials are given the responsibility under God to stand up against evil unjust laws.  We looked at the great advantages the lesser magistrates have in standing up to evil.  But, what happens when they refuse to?

The role of the people.  We must stand up to evil laws.  Since this course began, we have used an old title Magistrate lets look at another old word…Remonstrate.
To remonstrate is to present a strong argument against an act, measure, or any couse of proceedings.  This strong argument can be accompanied by a petition and/or supplication.  
This is exactly what the Jews did when Caligula decided to place his statue in the Temple.  Tens of thousands of Jews went to Governor Patronius remonstrating.  They argued passionately and firmly that Caligula could not do what he was proposing to do.  They were turned away.  Then they came back with even more to argue their case again.  Finally, they all laid down on the ground saying that they knew they could not win over Rome in any type of battle but they were willing to die before they would allow this desecration of the Temple.  Rome relented.

If our county, city and state official will not stand against ungodly laws, rules, mandates then we, as the people have the duty to interpose.  
We can contact our officials, go visit them, put petitions together, and stand up for God’s Law.
Ezekiel 22:30–31 (ESV) 

30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.” 

Chapter 7:  The Laws of a Nation Should Mirror God’s Laws

“The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes.”Psalm 19:8 

Throughout our study we have been looking at what makes a law either Just or Unjust?  The standard for measuring this is God’s Law first and here in America second is our constitution.

The reasons we should defy tyrants and resist laws that go against God’s Law is that the Law of God is, of course God’s requirements and to go against God’s Law is sin and secondly His Law not only is commanded but has redemptive qualities.  I do not mean the Law of God can save us.  We know that salvation only comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  However, the Law of God plays a part in this.  God’s Law helps bring us to faith as we see His requirements our sin becomes more evident.  God’s Law has redemptive qualities after we are saved because it shows us the life that will bring us the most happiness and God the most glory.    

So, it is good for a nation to have laws that are in line with God’s Laws.

Galatians 3:24 (ESV) 

24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 

The Law of God shows people that there is a greater authority than them.  It shows that this greater authority has righteous laws and that there is a struggle for the sinner in keeping them.
The Law expresses the will of God for His people, telling us what to do and what not to do, and warns us of the penalties of disobedience.—John Stott

Romans 7:7–13 (ESV) 

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 

The Moral Law (codified in the 10 Commandments), while never meant to redeem mankind from their sin (only God, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone saves), is meant to restrain and reveal sin in a person, family, and society[1].
When people make their own laws that go against God’s Law then they have become the authority the people do not know that there is a higher authority, they don’t know what this higher authority demands, they don’t know that they fall short and much of the redemptive process of God’s Law is neutralized.  Society suffers greatly at the hands of immoral lawmakers of today.  They make laws that rather than show what God requires and that show man’s sin, their laws have the opposite effect.  Man is made the authority and rather than submitting to God, their laws are designed to as it were, have God submit to them.

Restrain through threat – Romans 13:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:9-10

“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. Therefore [you] must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” – Romans 13:4-5

Our next passage tells us who the Law is made for…
“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” – 1 Timothy 1:9-10

Reveal our sin – Romans 3:20

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20

Reveal God’s Will – 1 Timothy 1:8

“But we know that the law [is] good, if a man use it lawfully;” 1Tim 1:8

“Here is the best instrument for them to learn more thoroughly each day the nature of the Lord’s will to which they aspire, and to confirm them in the understanding of it. It is as if some servant, already prepared with all earnestness of heart to comment himself to his master, must search out and observe his master’s ways more carefully to conform and accommodate himself to them. And not one of us may escape from this necessity. For no man has thus far attained to such wisdom as to be unable, from the daily instruction of the law, to make fresh progress toward a purer knowledge of the divine will. Again, because we need not only teaching but also exhortation, the servant of God will also avail himself of this benefit of the law: by frequent meditation upon it to be aroused to obedience, be strengthened in it, and be drawn back from the slippery path of transgression. In this way the saints must press on; for, however eagerly they may in accordance with the Spirit strive toward God’s righteousness, the apathetic flesh always so burdens them that they do not proceed with due readiness. The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and reluctant donkey, to arouse it to work.” (John Calvin)[2]

Self, The Family, the Church and Civil Government are all under the jurisdiction of the Moral Law of God.  In each realm there is redemptive benefit when they mirror the Law of God. 

As a result, all are to agree with God and His moral law. If they do not, they will never experience His blessing. If they reject His Moral Law, a nation, family, or local congregation will only know his withdrawal and curse. This is not mere, “moralizing”. This is rightful use of the law that leads to the benefit and health of a man, family, the local church, and the larger society.  The point is that a good law, which by definition mirrors God’s Law, helps people to see their need for Christ.  An evil law communicates that mankind is good and there is no need for salvation.  

Where is the gospel in all of this? Reform of a society exists in the preaching of the gospel. We recognize that salvation saves sinners and transforms them. However, we are to also promote good laws that reflect God’s Moral Law. 
One scholar writes, Reform that exists only in pamphlets and sermons , and not also in the laws and institutions, would remain a private affair confined to all intents and purposes within the minds of preachers and pamphleteers.  

We are not promoting a mixture of state and church but rather, that the church is to have a prophetic call upon the state.  We are to promote God’s Law within society as a whole.  There are two results.  God’s Law shows our sin and points us to Jesus for salvation.  Then for society as a whole (including those not saved) evil will be hindered and all will benefit.
Here’s an example…
Before abortion was legalized babies were still aborted.  However, after abortion was decriminalized, the number of abortion rose dramatically.  The reason was that the magistrates given the responsibility to enforce the laws that mirror God’s Laws decided it’s okay for people to kill their son’s and daughters in the womb.  So, people rationalize that this is okay because it is legal.  The law in this area in the past mirrored God’s Law and abortions while they still took place were a lot less than they are now. 

We must remember, every law has a source. It originates from a system of values and beliefs. The question is, “whose”.  If the Law originates from God then it is good and just for us and for society.  We also must remember, every law is an instance of legislating morality, it’s just a question of, “whose” morality. 

Law inescapably exerts a shaping effect on a society, i.e., beliefs, character, and actions of the nation’s citizenry. 

Those who seek to separate morality from law are in a dangerous pursuit.

Civil virtue requires a virtuous citizenry – again, this doesn’t neglect the preaching of the gospel but understands its place in aiding, encouraging and correcting a society through reconciliation with God through the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.

“Law and morality share the function of governor — morality for those with self-control and self-restraint, law for those without it. Morality and law are like the two banks of a river, the river in this case being human action and the passions and desires that drive it.” – Michael Bauman[3]

Tyrannical governments are overcome through the preaching of the gospel and a public call to return to God’s Moral and Righteous Law (James 1:5). God has given us His moral law that is binding upon all mankind and He has revealed what types of laws the nations should pursue. 

A government that violates God’s laws is in rebellion against the King of Kings and will be cursed (Deuteronomy 6 15-57). It is also true that any nation that follows God’s law will be blessed (Deuteronomy 28.1-14; Psalm 33.12)..

Proverbs 16:12 (ESV) 

12    It is an abomination to kings to do evil, 

for the throne is established by righteousness. 


Hosea 8:4 (ESV) 

   They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. 

       With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. 


[1] Here I employ John Calvin’s 3-fold use of the law from The Institutes Of The Christian Religion 

[2] Of What Use is the Law? Three Purposes. (2020, June 30). Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://founders.org/2014/11/24/of-what-use-is-the-law-three-purposes/

[3]  Bauman, M., 2021. Law And Morality | Christian Research Institute. [online] Equip.org. Available at: <https://www.equip.org/article/law-and-morality/&gt; [Accessed 13 January 2021].

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