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2012 Elections: What to do “when the wicked beareth rule…”

By Angela Wittman

(Revised and updated 9.16.2012)

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” Proverbs 29:2 KJV

There has been much discussion in Christian circles about how one should vote in the upcoming 2012 Presidential elections.  And while I won’t presume to tell the reader who to cast their vote for, I will share some Christian history on how earlier followers of Jesus Christ believed and taught on this important aspect of our life: Biblical Christianity and the civil government.

Much of the information I am presenting was found in “Reformed Confessions Harmonized” edited by Joel Beeke and Sinclair Ferguson, the “Historic Church Documents” page at Reformed.org (CRTA – Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics) and the website “A Puritan’s Mind” created by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.



The Belgic Confession (1561) is known as one of the oldest reformed doctrinal standards and originated in the Netherlands. Its chief author was Guido de Bres (1522 – 1567) who was martyred in 1567. The Belgic Confession is said to be modeled after the French Reformed Gallic Confession (1559) and was adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1618.

Article 36 discusses the theocratic nature of civil government:

  • We believe that because of the depravity of the human race our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. He wants the world to be governed by laws and policies so that human lawlessness may be restrained and that everything may be conducted in good order among human beings.

  • For that purpose he has placed the sword in the hands of the government, to punish evil people and protect the good.

  • And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God's law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship.

  • They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them.

  • And the government's task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.

  • Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives in honor and respect, and obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God's Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and decency.

  • And on this matter we denounce the Anabaptists, other anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has established among human beings.


The Second Helvetic Confession was written by the Swiss theologian/reformer Heinrich Bullinger (1504 – 1575) in 1562 reportedly for his own use and then revised in 1564 when he thought he was dying of the plague.  However, he recovered and it was eventually sent to Frederick III who had it translated and published in German and Latin.

It concludes with Chapter XXX, Of the Magistrate:

  • The civil magistrate is appointed by God himself (Romans 13. for the peace and tranquillity of the human race. If opposed to the Church, he can do much harm: if friendly, he can do the Church most useful service.

  • The duty of the magistrate is to preserve peace and public order; to promote and protect religion and good morals; to govern the people by righteous laws; to punish the offenders against society, such as thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, and incorrigible heretics (if they are really heretics). [789]

  • Wars are justifiable only in self-defense, and after all efforts at peace have been exhausted.

  • We condemn the Anabaptists, who maintain that a Christian should not hold a civil office, that the magistrate has no right to punish any one by death, or to make war, or to demand an oath.

  • All citizens owe reverence and obedience to the magistrate as the minister of God in all righteous commands, and even their lives when the public safety and welfare require it. Therefore we condemn the despisers of the magistrate, rebels and enemies of the commonwealth, and all who openly or artfully refuse to perform their duties as citizens.

  • We pray to God, our merciful heavenly Father, to bestow his blessing upon princes and rulers, upon us, and upon all his people, through Jesus Christ our only Lord and Saviour: to whom be praise, and glory, and thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.


The Augsburg Confession of Faith written in 1530 and submitted to Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg states:

Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs.

1] Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that 2] it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.

3] They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

4] They condemn also those who do not place evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil offices, for 5] the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such 6] ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates 7] and laws save only when commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29.

(Link: http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php#article16 )

And the highly respected and historical Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) also teaches us about the duties regarding the Civil Magistrate in chapter 23:

1. God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil-doers.a

a. Rom 13:1-4; 1 Pet 2:13-14.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto;a in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth,b so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasion.c

a. Prov 8:15-16; Rom 13:1-2, 4. • b. 2 Sam 23:3; Psa 2:10-12; 82:3-4; 1 Tim 2:2; 1 Pet 2:13. • c. Mat 8:9-10; Luke 3:14; Acts 10:1-2; Rom 13:4; Rev 17:14, 16.

3. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:a yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.b For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.c

a. 2 Chron 2:8 • b. Isa 49:23 • c. 2 Chron 19:8

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates,a to honor their persons,b to pay them tribute and other dues,c to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake.d Infidelity or difference in religion doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him:e from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted;f much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.g

a. 1 Tim 2:1-2. • b. 1 Pet 2:17. • c. Rom 13:6-7. • d. Rom 13:5; Titus 1:3. • e. 1 Pet 2:13-14, 16. • f. 1 Kings 2:35; Acts 25:9-11; Rom 13:1; 2 Pet 2:1, 10-11; Jude 1:8-11. • g. 2 Thes 2:4; Rev 13:15-17.

You can read more about the history of the Westminster Confession of Faith at: A History of the Westminster Assembly by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” – Jeremiah 6:16 KJV

In conclusion, perhaps the discerning Christian is better instructed on matters of the civil government by Scripture and those who have gone before us who often paid the price of an uncompromising Christian witness with their blood, than he is by political pundits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." - Isaiah 33:22 KJV

 

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  2. Hello Ms Wittman,
    This is Jacob A. We had emailed many years ago about the then-called American Heritage Party. I have rediscovered my covenanter roots after a long hiatus. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Praise the Lord! It's good to hear from you! Thanks for contacting me... I look forward to reading your blog.

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