Civil Laws Now Administered Differently

Christians today have no authority to enforce the civil laws designed for running a nation. Who has that job now? Part 5 of the “Has God’s Law Been ‘Done Away’?” series.

In the earlier installments of this series we have seen that Christ didn’t do away with God’s law, but rather gave the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep it more effectively. We learned that the only changes in the law were administrative in nature. The first of these changes was to emphasize the spiritual circumcision of the heart. Once God, by His grace, gave us His Spirit, He wrote His law on our hearts so we could begin to keep it in its full spiritual intent.

This brings us to the next change in the law.

Civil laws

This second change involves the civil commands God gave to the nation of Israel. Christians living in the New Testament world were not in charge of a nation, and so they could not enforce many of the laws given to properly run the nation of Israel.

Christ said His followers were not to be a part of this world and its governments. Just before His crucifixion, He prayed, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

Christ’s Kingdom is of a time yet future, not of this present world. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The apostle Paul made that point clear when he wrote that Christ came to “deliver us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4)—Satan’s age.

Satan’s world

When tempting Christ, the devil “took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8-9).

Jesus didn’t challenge Satan’s authority to have “all the kingdoms of the world” under his power. Instead Christ simply said, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (verse 10).

Since this is Satan’s world, Christ tells us that we should not be a part of it, although we still have to live in it. On the night He was taken to be crucified, Jesus fervently prayed, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

Subject to the governing authorities

Since Christians are not of “this present evil age,” God has assigned the responsibility of enforcing civil regulations to worldly rulers, who are also responsible to Him: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. …

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good” (Romans 13:1-4).

Paul himself was mistreated many times by the governments of his day, so he obviously was not implying that they always acted in a godly manner! This is Satan’s world, and many injustices are done that Christians must deal with.

Of course, when human laws are enacted that require a Christian to disobey God’s law, then “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

For example, as part of the civil law, God demanded that in certain circumstances the death penalty be executed. For example, “he who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:12) and “he who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). But it is not up to Christians today to enforce these and other civil penalties; rather, the execution of these sentences is now in the hands of civil authorities.

Clearly, God has given worldly rulers the right to enforce civil law now. In that regard, they are His ministers, responsible for maintaining the civil rules formerly carried out by the government of God’s nation of Israel.

So the second change in the law is the transfer of civil authority to the leaders of this world. But in any case, God’s law is still in full force and effect.

There is still another change in the administration of the law of God, and it has to do with the temple rites and sacrifices. We will cover that subject next time.

This is the fifth in a seven part series on God's Law. To read part 4, see “Circumcision: The First Administrative Change in God's Law.” To continue the series, see part 6 “Animal Sacrifices Prefigured Christ.”

About the Author

James F. Guy Sr.

James Guy is a deacon serving the Youngstown, Ohio, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, with his wife, Carla.