…And the government will be upon His shoulder…Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. (Is. 9: 6b,7a)
Since the Scriptures inform us that the governance of the kingdom of God is on Christ’s shoulder, how then does the church perceive its responsibility to submit to Christ’s supreme authority. Christ’s authority is not simply limited to a particular era in history, but is an ongoing progression that continues from generation to generation and so on. The responsibility of individual believers and ‘the church’ as a whole, are to subject themselves — through the power of the Holy Spirit — to the Law of Christ (i.e., the Law of God) in obedience to the Word of God.
[Here is a call for the endurance of the saints; those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (Rev. 14:12)]
To the modern mind, this responsibility of Christ’s followers appears to be a difficult, oppressive, or impossible way of life. But, a proper view of God’s Law reveals it is a more positive way of life that is not only far superior, but also much freer with increased liberty. But, how is this possible if most of God’s Law is perceived as being so negative to the modern psyche. This brings us to a brief examination of the difference between the concepts of positive and negative law. Much of modern thought today is solely governed by a preconceived concept of positive law for positive outcomes. The following observation by R.J. Rushdoony gives us a unique insight to this philosophy from a Biblical perspective:
“A negative concept of law confers a double benefit: first, it is practical, in that a negative concept of law deals realistically with a particular evil. It states, “Thou shalt not steal,” or, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” A negative statement thus deals with a particular evil directly and plainly: it prohibits it, makes it illegal. The law thus has a modest function; the law is limited, and therefore the state is limited. The state, as the enforcing agency, is limited to dealing with evil, not controlling all men.
Second, and directly related to this first point, a negative concept of law insures liberty: except for the prohibited areas, all of man’s life is beyond the law, and the law is of necessity indifferent to it. If the commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal,” it means that the law can only govern theft: it cannot govern or control honestly acquired property. When the law prohibits blasphemy and false witness, it guarantees that all other forms of speech have their liberty. The negativity of the law is the preservation of the positive life and freedom of man.
But, if the law is positive in its function, and if the health of the people is the highest law, then the state has total jurisdiction to compel the total health of the people. The immediate consequence is a double penalty on the people. First, an omnicompetent state is posited, and a totalitarian state results. Everything becomes a part of the state’s jurisdiction, because everything can potentially contribute to the health or the destruction of the people. Because the law is unlimited, the state is unlimited. It becomes the business of the state, not to control evil, but to control all men. Basic to every totalitarian regime is a positive concept of the function of law.
This means, second, that no area of liberty can exist for man; there is then no area of things indifferent, of actions, concerns, and thoughts which the state cannot govern in the name of public health. To credit the state with ability to minister to the general welfare, to govern for the general and total health of the people, is to assume an omnicompetent state, and to assume an all-competent state is to assume an incompetent people. The state then becomes a nursemaid to a citizenry whose basic character is childish and immature. The theory that law must have a positive function assumes thus that the people are essentially childish.”
Rushdoony thus shows the model for a ‘negative’ limited-government is the model of God’s law itself. Modern man’s humanistic law (positive-law) is much more comprehensive and intrusive in regulating every segment of people’s lives, therefore, greatly limiting freedom and liberty. Positive-Law systems require many more laws regulating people’s behavior while continually creating more laws all the time. It is not only, significantly more oppressive, but also much less effective overall in promoting a prospering healthy society. Positive-law systems also empower a privileged–elite-class of lawmakers that often operate above the law and routinely pervert justice. The more humanistic and ‘positive’ a law-order becomes, the more regulatory and totalitarian its practice. Thus, injustice routinely increases and the people grow to resent the authoritarian overreach of law-enforcement and hypocrisy of its leaders.
Power is strength or force. The concepts of positive and negative law are derived from their sources of power and authority. Ultimate power from a religious perspective is derived from the ultimate authority or ‘god’ of a system of thought. As Rushdoony observed; Jesus declared, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28: 18). Since the first commandment says – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – this also means, ‘though shalt have no other authority before me.’
Authority means the right to command and enforce obedience; and refers to rightful power. Jesus’ enemies did not recognize His authority; nor do the enemies of His church, today. Authority under God is a delegated, limited, and divided authority. In Christ’s kingdom, all authority is subordinate to God, is under God, and is subject to the Law-Word of God. Christ has delegated power and authority to His Bride, the church, through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The church’s responsibility is therefore to further the Godly-order in the world and to teach all mankind and all nations the ways of Christ and His commands. (Matt. 28: 19-20)
God’s Law is the ‘practical’ applied power for righteous governing under Christ’s authority. God’s Law as a ministry of justice (not as a means of salvation) is the ideal model for a just and prosperous social-order. For redeemed believers, the law is not a curse or a threat because the redeemed in Christ; (1) have a self-awareness of God’s law written on their hearts, and (2) Christ’s death on the cross eliminated the ‘curse’ of the law for the redeemed in Christ.
Governments that embrace centralized-power-structures based in positive-law, effectively kill liberty, suppress freedom, and promote totalitarianism as a natural by-product of such systems. In the same autonomous thought-stream of the satanic power-structures of Babel, ancient Babylon, ancient Egypt, and the Roman Empire; modern centralized-government systems manifest the humanistic spirit of man’s self-supremacy and ultimate ‘autonomy’ from God’s command decrees. Or as philosopher G.W.F. Hegel stated it; “The State is god walking on earth.” The Scriptures however reveal that ‘government’ is on Christ’s shoulder; and Jesus declared that He builds-up and empowers ‘His church’ and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus further revealed, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16: 18-19). Thus, the body politic is incorporated into the ongoing work of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to His church.
The antithetical ‘globalist’ metanarrative of an autonomous universal one-world-order not only denies the ultimate sovereignty of God, it also serves as a mechanism to attempt to thwart the progress of Christ’s kingdom on earth. From an autonomous-humanistic worldview, it seeks to glorify the ‘will and determination’ of mankind to dominate Christ’s church through a quasi-empirical conquest. In its own prideful philosophy, if they can hoodwink their fellow-man into believing that they can “turn stones into bread,” (with the welfare-state) or claim to ‘control the earth’s climate,’ then they believe they can surpass and conquer the need for Christ, or Christ’s reign on earth.
[“those enemies of mine, who do not want Me to reign over them…”(Jesus, from Luke 19: 27)]
Thus, for positive-law systems the apprehension of government-power also means the seizure of divine-power as well. In the spirit of the god-king, Moloch, the state then becomes the ultimate power and all-encompassing supremacy. Thus, as centralized-governments become increasingly totalitarian; religion and the church become like a community relic, or a unique museum piece. This is the ongoing utopian-fantasy of socialists, communists, and modern welfare-states that insist they can ‘turn stones into bread,” (and other magic tricks).
[…and the devil said to Jesus; “If you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matt. 4: 3)]
Christianity, in the image of Christ, inherently challenges the forces of such false power structures. The progress of Christianity is a steadily developing Biblical-model for governing with the concept of negative law, limited government, with limited jurisdictions. This ultimately provides for maximum liberty, more freedom, and more positive results overall. The Biblical-model of negative-law is the antithesis of the positive-law models of all ancient and modern monolithic-governments that seek to control every single sphere of people’s lives through the contemporary false-god of Statism.
“If no divine law is recognized above the law of the State, then the law of man has become absolute in men’s eyes–there is then no logical barrier to totalitarianism.” (Greg L. Bahnsen)
- Source: The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. I, by Rousas John Rushdoony, 1973. The Craig Press.