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Three biblical priorities

National | The truth about leadership.

Issue: "Clinton unites conservatives," Oct. 10, 1998

The truth about leadership.
Proverbs 16:12: It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, For a throne is established on righteousness. The abandonment of righteousness will weaken the seat of government and the stability and security of the nation. Proverbs 31:4-5: It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink, For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Private acts of rulers can and do pervert public justice and good order. Proverbs 20:28: Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. The abandonment of truth and loyalty to covenants undermines the leadership of a ruler. Proverbs 29:4: The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it. Bribery is at root the issue of private truthfulness and acting on principle. Thus when this is forsaken, justice is overthrown. Proverbs 29:12: If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked. The minimizing of truthfulness corrupts others so that the entire government becomes less reliable. Prayer for our political leaders.
1 Timothy 2:1-2: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. In view of the biblical principles seen above, the "tranquil and quiet life" is not a mere matter of a good economy while immorality and dishonesty prevail in the leader's private life. That private morality has vast public implications (as we will see again in a moment). So we pray for all matters pertaining to his life. Submission to the governing authorities.
Mark 12:17: And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Be absolutely submissive to God and you will discern from God's ways how to be secondarily submissive to human institutions and authorities. Romans 13:1-2: Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 1 Peter 2:13-16: Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. The Bible does not deal directly with the responsibilities of a democracy in which officials are elected and laws are drafted by elected officials and have authority over officials. Thus we must make applications to our democratic context carefully. Submission is primarily to laws and constitutional processes, not persons. Biblical submission is a readiness to obey law and uphold the legal order, not an approval or endorsement of all lawmakers or even all laws absolutely. Christ's absolute supremacy over our lives qualifies the absoluteness of human law. There can be a submissive spirit and readiness to obey even where, for the sake of conscience, some laws and lawmakers may have to be resisted. John the Baptist's preaching is an example of a proper indictment of present government authority. Jesus said of John the Baptist, "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!" Nevertheless, he was beheaded for indicting publicly the ruling authority (Matthew 14:3-4). Therefore, opposition to a leader's behavior and public criticism of it and the declaration of moral unfitness for office is not necessarily inconsistent with a submissive spirit to governing authorities.

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John Piper
John Piper

John is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

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