||2018-02-13 00:14:25, 조회 : 14, 추천 : 0
What is the Relationship between Church and State
The Sword and the Keys
Last week we continued our discussion about the relationship between church and state. We learned that as human beings we do not like authority to tell us what we "ought to do" and "ought not to do." We like when people empower and entitle us, so when we receive orders; we are quick to disobey them. However, as Christians we learned that we should submit to authority because God gave the government authority. In addition, we also learned in Romans 13:1-2 it tells us that those who do not submit to authority will "incur judgment." Today, we will learn more about the relationship between church and state by understanding the sword and the keys.
The Protestant Reformers believe that civil officials "cannot assume to themselves the administration of Word and sacrament, which are the essential duties of the church." There were always unique roles of the priest and the king in Israel. For example, during the Old Testament, Uzziah reigned for more than 50 years as a king. While he had many great deeds, his life ended in tragedy and was ultimately eliminated from God's throne. What did he do to deserve such a tragic death? Sproul says, "He went into the temple and assumed for himself the authority to administer the sacrifices." His role was as a king but he took it upon himself to take the role as the priest. Due to this, God punished him with leprosy and left him to die in shame.
The separation of these two institutions can be seen back in ancient Israel. Both institutions were ordained by God. As we learned, in Romans 13, Apostle Paul says that the role of the state is to protect its citizens against evil. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther also made note of the unique roles between the two kingdoms "kingdom of the state and the kingdom of the church." However, during the Middle Ages and the Reformation, these unique roles slowly became blurred. The state began to have more agency over the church.
We learned in the previous chapter that Apostle Paul instructs Christians to have responsibility in obeying the government. At that time, he instructs Christians to obey the Roman government even if it was an "oppressive regime" (refer to Romans 13:3-6). Apostle Paul states, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is god, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain...For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing."
Apostle Paul very well understood that the human government can be corrupt. However, he also understood that God instituted the government as well. Sproul states, "Government is to minister as an instrument in the hand of God to promote the justice and to punish evil." The role of the government is to enact laws and in doing so, the law promotes justice. God never authorizes the state to do wrong. Sproul says, "The state does not exercise its authority autonomously, as a law unto itself, but is subject to the ultimate government of God Himself. For this reason, the state is held accountable by God for the promotion of justice." Apostle Paul goes on to teach us that the government does not "bear the sword in vain." The sword symbolizes the right of the force used on the citizens to fulfill the law. This is why God gives the officers of the state "arms" to use. We can see this in the Garden of Eden, when God places the angels with flaming swords in the entrance of the garden. Like this, God gives the swords to the civil government (i.e magistrate).
On the other hand, the power of the sword is not delegated by the church. The purpose of the church is the cross. When we see other religions like Islam, we see how they use the sword to push their agenda; but in Christianity this power is not given to the church and is given to the state. It is important to understand that this power is not given to the church because the church's influence and authority is "spiritual." This ministerial power is different than the power of the sword. Instead it was given the "power of the Word, the power of service, and the power of imitating Christ." More importantly, the church was given the "power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Westminster Confessions of Faith/ Section 23.3). This comes from Matthew 16:19 when Jesus tells His disciples, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Jesus gives the keys of heaven to the church and not the state.
The church must be a critic to the state. We often find many people criticizing the church for "imposing" their agenda onto the state. For example, in the case of abortion, the church speaks against this and asks for the state to fulfill their role to "protect, maintain, and support human life." It is not attempting to assume the role of the state; rather it is asking the state to do its own job. The state is also called to support all churches. Yet, often times we find the state assuming the power of the keys. This not only violates the First Amendment, but it also goes directly against God. In the Westminster Confession 23.3 it writes, "the duty of the civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons shall enjoy the full, free and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence of danger."
The power of the sword and the power of the keys are given to two distinct roles. Yet, in modern time we see these roles becoming blurred and misunderstood. God ordains these powers to the specific roles and like Uzziah; we should not attempt to mishandle these roles.
1) What did Uzziah do? Why was this problematic?
2) What does Apostle Paul tell us to do?
3) Explain the power of the sword and the power of the keys. How does it differ?
4) How do you think the power of the sword and the power of the keys are understood today? Do you think people have the right interpretation of these two powers?