The Biblical Roots of Self Government

The Revolutionary ideals of our Constitution allow individuals the right of self-government over the rule and authority of kings.  Where did this idea originate?  Ancient Greece, John Calvin and John Locke’s writings get some credit. The Mayflower Compact was key as was Connecticut’s Fundamental Order. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, anticipating the First Amendment, stood up for the liberty of individual conscience in matters of faith. They opposed puritan authorities who exercised authority over fellow citizens. often punishing them for not conforming to church doctrines. Later these puritans burned at the stake those believed to be witches

The roots of self-government are found much earlier however–over and again in the Bible.

“In Our Own Image.” Way back in Genesis, God gives mankind the gift of choice, even when that gift is misused. It is a principle fundamental to the ideal of self-government. First He created man in his own image. Then He challenged Adam, “You may eat of any tree of the garden but one.” Did man fall because God put temptation before him? Not at all—if a man isn’t free to choose the wrong path, neither is he free to choose the right one.” That’s God’s divine principle when dealing with us. That tree actually represents our freedom to exercise sovereignty, to make moral and spiritual choices. It also affirms our high calling, possessing the  very image of the sovereign God within us,

The Tower of Babel In Genesis 6,  we are given more insight into mankind’s sovereignty to make choicesm this time about ordering their social and economic lives. Their decision to build a tower was not made by a king or emperor. Rather, “They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and fire and build …then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven.” In this case God did a rare thing. He moved to overrule this decision by confusing their language. Why? Because, as He said, “They are united as one people and one language …. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!”

Choose You This Day. Israel found itself in a valley of decision in their new land when Joshua challenged them, “If it doesn’t please you to serve the Lord, choose today: will you worship the gods your fathers did beyond the River?…  As for me and my family, we will choose the Lord.”  To their credit, the people answered, “The Lord our God we will serve,” making God, their King–ordering their lives by the old covenant law of Moses.

King or No King. But things didn’t always turn out so rosy. Years later, Israel wanted another option. Even after they were warned how harshly kings would treat them, they still demanded one,. They wanted to conform to the nations around them. Reluctantly, the Lord gave in to their wishes, revealing once more how rare it is that he reneges on  granting us sovereignty to make bad choices. Again, this includes choosing our government. He told an irate Samuel, “Listen to their voice and make them a king.” Samuel anointed Saul—just one more regular guy becoming a big shot abusing his office.

Democracy and the Church  In Acts 6, novice church leaders face their first big conflict. In rapidly growing First Church, Jerusalem, Greek speaking believers complain. Their needy ones are being pushed aside by Hebrew speaking believers at the dinner table. The apostles hold a caucus and make a ground-breaking decision. Even though Jesus gave them apostolic authority, they called a congregational meeting, humbly instructing the people, “You choose seven men from your number who are trustworthy, full of the Spirit and have good sense. We will turn this matter over to them.” They not only declined to make the decision themselves, they stepped aside to share leadership. More revolutionary, they delegated authority to the people by giving them the vote In doing so, they follow God’s plan, granting freedom in the matter of government even in the church                                                                                                                                                                                             The Mark of Great Leadership.This isn’t just good leadership. This is great leadership. Church leaders today might take note.

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