Therefore I exhort first of all that…prayers…be made for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour. 1 Timothy 2:1-3.
If Christians wish to demonstrate love for God and neighbour they ought to pray for the governing bodies having authority over them. For what hope do Christians have of living quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence if the civil authority is ungodly and irreverent in its use of its God ordained authority? Governing authorities exist to promote man’s good and to execute wrath on practisers of evil (Romans 13:4).
This being said, it necessarily follows that we beg the question: By what standard? How ought the Civil Authority measure good and evil? After all he has the authority to use both the flat and the sharp edge of the sword, as the case may require. To put the question another way: What types of things ought Christians to pray for regarding these authorities whose existence is in order to promote good, restrain, and even punish evil?
Should the Christian expect non-Christian authorities to pass laws in accordance with God’s immutable Moral Law? He should if the State Constitution the Civil Authority is under requires it. But what of those nation’s whose Constitution is not founded or based upon God’s Law? What should the Christian pray for then? Surely he should pray for the same as the former. Which is to say that Christians everywhere ought to pray that they may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence. Therefore Christians need to be under, and need to seek to be under, the civil authorities who honour God’s Ten Commandments.
Christians therefore must pray that the civil authorities will indeed promote good and punish evil in accordance with God’s Word. For only then will peace and quiet be possible for Christians in any nation.
Speaking very generally, this was, to a certain extent, the case in most Westernised countries prior to the 1960’s. Civil authorities in the West used to promote, for example, the Christian Sunday Sabbath (4th Commandment) by preventing department stores and the likes from opening, and keeping the pubs closed; and regulating the bar hours in hotels etc.
Also, people were required to take oaths on the Bible (3rd & 9th Commandments); and respect those in authority such as parents, teachers, police, judges etc. (5th Commandment). Murderers, (6th Commandment) in many cases, received the death penalty; adultery (7th Commandment) was certainly frowned upon (and sometimes punished), theft (8th Commandment) was abhorred and punished accordingly, lying (9th Commandment) was likewise abhorred as shameful. New “citizens” of Western nations made their oath ‘under God’ (1st Commandment). It would seem then, that only the 2nd and 10th (Graven Images and Coveting respectively) Commandments were not openly countenanced. Interestingly, Roman Catholicism attempts to absorb the 2nd Commandment (the use of images) as part of, or an appendix to, the 1st Commandment (no God but God). And, in order to maintain the number of Commandments as the traditionally accepted ten, Rome divides the 10th (coveting) in two.
All in all, before the sixties, the governing authorities in the West generally stood on the solid ground of God’s Law for promoting the good in society and punishing evildoers. With this in mind, Christians should pray that the civil authorities to whom they are subject will once again return (in the West) to the solid bedrock of God’s Law and begin to wisely implement it.
But what if there are some who do not wish to come under the implementation of God’s Law? What is there to guard their ‘civil liberties’? How is the governing authority to promote their good and punish their evil doing? To ask this question another way, should any one individual or group in society be exempted from keeping God’s Law as properly administered and upheld by its lawful authorities? For example, what about the criminally insane? Should they be punished for their crimes? Are they even eligible to commit crimes? What about refugees? etc. etc.
Surely the answer to these and like questions is that justice must remain blindfolded? Otherwise there will be no justice for all! After all, God’s Law is God’s Law for all; whether Jew, Mohammedan, Hindu, Atheist, Secularist, etc., even the criminally insane. Therefore the Christian must answer these and like questions in the affirmative. Yes, there should be no person or group above God’s Law. Each must be held accountable for his own actions. Which is not to say that the infantile and the imbecilic are expected to comply to the same degree as the mature-minded. Hence special consideration needs to precede any punishment for their wrongdoing.
God’s Word says that the Civil Authority receives his authority from God (Romans 13:1-7; John 19:10&11). Therefore “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” Romans 13:4. To be God’s minister at law one must honour and strive to uphold God’s Law, even when meeting out due punishment.
So, who goes to jail? Only those, who have broken God’s Law, as it is read (interpreted?), and applied, by the civil authority for the good of society. But, more to the point, what is jail? Is jail not simply a secure holding place for those accused and awaiting trial for crimes? and also, for those awaiting punishment for their crime, such as murderers? Jail, itself, does not seem to be a biblical form of punishment for evildoers. Indeed, God Himself is keeping fallen angels “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day…” Jude 6. Restitution or death are apparently the only two biblical options for guilty criminals.
Christians need to pray then for their Civil Authorities. Christ is building His kingdom from the inside out. Therefore Christian must also seek to evangelise their Civil Authorities so that their hearts might be changed by the power of the Gospel. Reconstructed hearts means a reconstructed society.