While God ordains and establishes civil leaders in general (Rom. 13:1), He didn’t specifically reveal an exact form of government or courts. He didn’t command a specific government, but instead gave examples in Scripture of leaders who He gave direct commands to (Moses in Exodus 18:21-22) and those who He approved of and blessed (King David, to name one). We also have accounts of evil and wicked rulers who led people astray, brought curses upon Israel, and introduced idols and false gods/goddesses.
The basic, foundational, principle of any government is God’s law providentially revealed throughout Scripture. The spiritual state of any land is easily determined by looking at the rulers and the laws that govern that land. The government of society is inextricably linked to that society’s faithfulness to God’s law. Even the type of government in a land is an indicator of God’s judgement on the land. Proverbs 28:2 tells us: “When a land transgresses it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, it’s stability will long continue.” The opposite is also true as well. In a land where people study Scripture, seeking godly wisdom and knowledge, there will be few rulers, because people will know how to govern themselves.
The Bible lays down four clear principles of a government:
- Representation. This is a theological principle. Adam represented all believers in the fall, when he sinned against God in the garden (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Christ represents all believers in His work of redemption (Rom. 5:18-21), and we in turn are all Christ’s ambassadors on this earth (2 Cor. 5:20). This idea that we are Christ’s ambassadors on this earth confirms the idea that we are made in His image. We should see this idea throughout government — civil rulers are representatives of the people they govern, and thus biblical government is a representative government.
- Elective. A biblically sound government is an elective government. Ideally, civil leaders are to be placed into office by an election of the people — not appointed to rule over those who have no say in the matter. We see this principle in Acts 6:2-3, when deacons are being elected for service in the early church.
- Qualification. Those who are elected to govern must be qualified to do so. The apostles allowed the people to chose leaders from among themselves to govern their churches — but they had a strict list of qualifications to fullfill (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9). All those elected to rule must be individuals whose lives show forth the knowledge and wisdom of God in their lives, who have shown this through the governing of their own family.
- Decentralization. In Exodus 18:21-22, we read of Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law, Moses, concerning decentralization of the Israel government — and in doing so, envelopes all of the above principles in his advice. “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”
Each judge had charge of a smaller and smaller constituency. Each judge was taken from the people. Each had to meet qualifications clearly laid out. And it was clearly decentralized: only the largest matters made there way to Moses.
While the Bible gives examples of courts governed by elected judges of the state, there is another kind of court Christians should seek to utilize; a private court. Paul gives a detailed account of a private court in 1 Corinthians 6, exhorting Christians to settle their differences in a way that would set an example for unbelievers ( v. 1-8). Paul strives to show us in this passage that all believers are judges throughout our lives. We all are judging ourselves and the decisions that we make daily, living faithfully for the Lord.
We only need to utilize the court system when people fail to exercise this judgement over themselves. However, being sinful people in a fallen world, courts will be needed to decide conflicts between sinners. Being Christians, we still need to exercise Christian virtues – those of justice, equity, love, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. Moreover, we should work to limit the number of cases that go to court. As Christians we should strive to privately resolve our disputes (especially when between Christian brethren) and eliminate state courts entirely.
Private courts have existed throughout history and even up until the early years of the 20th century when all private court decisions were declared to be not legally binding. These courts have a foundation in the Middle Ages when state courts were rarely utilized. They were an honor system in which the whole community participated. If you were a business owner and ignored the ruling of the court, you could expect to loose your living as no one would do any business with you.
How Freedom was Lost
In 1920 the state of New York decided the State would rule on all arbitration suits and the federal government on February 12 1925 nationalized this principle. This was the beginning of a federal act that has since been through many different revisions – the Federal Arbitration Act.
The establishment of a national Supreme Court was frowned upon by the Anti-Federalists at the start of establishing our government. An anonymous “Friend to the rights of the people” stated: “The Supreme Court may prove a source of mischief and ruin to thousands by which the course of public justice may be obstructed, the poor oppressed, many undone.” The fear was that leaders responsible for upholding laws who had not been elected by the people would have no accountability to those they governed. There would be no recourse of action by the governed, thus turning the Supreme Court into a tyranny.
Brutus warned: “When this power is lodged in the hands of men independent of the people, and of their representatives, and who are not, constitutionally, accountable for their opinions, no way is left to control them but with an high hand and an outstretched arm.” These men knew what they were talking about — there have been many tyrannical federal rulings that overrule the state’s established laws.
In Alabama, for instance, the federal court issued a ruling on sodomite “marriage” that was directly in opposition to the states current constitution. The chief justice, Judge Moore, chose to order the judges in the State to wait to issue marriage license to same-sex couples until the contradiction could be resolved, upholding state law. As a consequence of his actions to preserve freedom in Alabama and resist federal tyranny, he has been suspended for the duration of his term. And this was done by unelected officials that have no interest or say in the state.
In 1797 several politically motivated cases appeared in the court system, where specific rivals from the political realm were targeted because of their views. Juries were manipulated and stacked against them, refused lawyers, were ridiculed and mocked. These cases stemmed from President John Adams Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed him to deport those who criticized him or the government. This was an unconstitutional act, as it made the first amendment of no account at all in law. District court judges eagerly enforced and approved of this new law.
In a 1938 decision, Eerie Railroad Co. V. Tompkins, it was ruled that there was no such thing as a law based on biblical principles. In relatively quick succession, the Supreme Court passed rulings on abortion, homosexual marriage, and divorce – all against the teachings of Christ that we learn from His Word. Our nation quickly went down the road of progressivism, liberalism, and humanism.
The fourteenth amendment was passed, basically making the Bill of Rights null and void. The Bill of Rights original intent was to protect the State’s freedoms from the Federals. The fourteenth amendment is by the Supreme Court to force the states, local government, and citizens to accept an whole array of “rights” we are told are implied in the Bill of Rights. Rights such as legalized murder of those in the womb and the sinful relationship between two people of the same gender.
President Jefferson wrote, in 1823: “…I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market.”
When unelected officials who feel as if they don’t have to answer to those they govern depart from the values of God’s law, the nation will follow suit. We will have judicial tyranny. We will have a society corrupted by judicial destruction. The whole society of the nation will crumble into ruins because the foundational aspects of right and wrong are no longer based on God’s law — they are based on the feelings and whims of men. Candidus saw this fact, writing “….posterity may have cause to rue the day when their political welfare depends on the decision of men…” “An Old Whig” wrote, “If we perish in America, we shall have no better comfort than the same mortifying reflection, that we have been the cause of our own destruction.”
How to Get Freedom Back
How can we gain back the freedom we have unwittingly lost from the court system of America? One of the most important, and the most easily accessible, is to privately settle disputes instead of going to court. For this to work, we as Christians need to be committed to this type of settlement.
Private settlement should first include forgiveness, as Christ forgave us. When consequences are necessary, we need to seek out private Christian courts. We need to search for Christian arbitrators and judges to settle our disputes: whether they be an actual judge, or a pastor, a deacon, or other trusted church leaders. We need to ensure that Biblical law will be used in judgment, and verdicts will be based on God’s law and not mans. Biblical sanctions and verdicts will prevent frivolous, foolish cases that are prevalent today, and allow godly verdicts to be issued.
Only courts that honor God and His law are a valid court, for without His law we have nothing to base our laws on. “A judge or court whose premise is other than the law of God is an untrustworthy administrator of justice. Justice is not impossible with such a man, but it is not to be expected.” – R.J. Rushdoony
One of the difficult aspects of private courts would be the finality of verdicts issued. If a person disliked the verdict, it would be easy to go to another court. It would be up to the community to enforce the decision of the court, as the communities of the Middle Ages did. This may sound difficult in a large community, but if you think of the church as a community, the pastor as a judge, and the church members as citizens who are willing to uphold the pastors or church leaders rulings, then you have a private Christian court with effective rulings.
When a ruler makes a law that goes blatantly against the Bible, how should we as Christians handle that? First, we should strive for a peaceful resistance. If the ruling in localized, we can consider moving to another jurisdiction. There does come a time when a Christian has to engage in actions which may be considered unlawful by men, but perfectly lawful by God – respectfully, with prayer, consciously making a decision to “obey God rather than man.”
Another way to restore liberty on the court is through jury nullification. Often have I heard adults lamenting jury duty, when they have been handed an unique opportunity — that of deciding a case Biblically, taking a courageous stand for Christ in the political sphere. The concept of jury nullification is quite simple: juries have the right to decide both the facts and law in cases they preside over.
Dr. Joel McDurmon puts it this way: “In cases where the application of a current law would actually cause an unjust outcome, out where the applicable law itself is unpopular or simply a bad law, the jury can remedy the situation — even if the defendant is technically guilty of breaking the law — by refusing to find that defendant guilty, by declaring the person innocent. Juries have this right even if the judge instructs them otherwise in any way.” (Restoring America)
John Adams wrote “It is not only [the jurors] right but his duty….to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” This was used to prevent the abuse of power by the court system.
Theophilus Parsons, a Supreme Court justice, said: “The people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal of arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet let only his own fellow citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.”
Judges are not required to inform juries of their rights to jury nullification, although it is legally recognized and is something all those with jury duty should know. Christians today would benefit by acquainting themselves with civil matters and laws, becoming educated in them, and involved with them.
We need to make a conscious effort to increase our personal, self-government, both spiritual, physical, and emotional, before we can expect to see a change in society. We need to teach our children to exercise self-control. We need to train ourselves and our children to crucify our fleshly desires, wants, and impulses if we want to see progress towards a Biblical court system.
As we work to bring biblical freedom into our court system, we need to have perseverance remembering we are working for our future progeny. May the Lord help us in our endeavors!