"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VIII No.I Pg.60-62
June 1945

IX. Civil Government And Satan

T. B. Wilkinson

Is civil government an invention of Satan? The entire question raised by the conscientious objectors will be settled if we can find the proper answer to this question. If conversion to Christ and Christianity cancels man's citizenship in the civil government, then the Christian owes it no duties or obligations, not even that of tax paying, and of course, should not be required to bear arms in its defense. On the other hand, if conversion does not cancel man's citizenship in the civil government, he will owe it all of the duties and obligations which rightly belong to citizenship, and is required by Jesus and the apostles to render them, even to bearing arms for proper purposes. The question of bearing arms is a mere side issue, like paying taxes, and can only be settled by a proper solution of the general question.

If civil government is an invention of the devil and belongs among the powers of darkness against which the apostle tells us we must wrestle, then D. Lipscomb was right when he classed them as the natural enemies of the kingdom of God, and no child of God, in this dispensation or any other, could affiliate with them any more than they could with any other work of darkness. This would not only make it sinful for a child of God to bear arms in defense of the civil government when it is made the subject of unlawful attack, but to perform any other function of government similar to those performed by Joseph in Egypt, or Daniel and others in Babylon, who were made rulers in civil government by God's own acts.

In a former chapter I have considered civil government from a material standpoint, pointing out some of the many ways in which civil government has been a great blessing to humanity, protecting man from evils which would have destroyed the human race, and developing a civilization which has made it possible for men to live together in large communities in peace, and opened a door for the gospel when in the fullness of time God was ready to give it.

Now I want to examine some of the passages of Scripture relied upon by those who consider civil government an invention of Satan, and the natural enemy of the children of God. I cannot examine all of them in the space allotted, but will consider what I consider the most important ones, and the ones most generally referred to and relied upon. I cheerfully admit that the Christian is to have no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, and if it can be proved that civil government is a work of darkness, and is unfruitful for man's good, then I will admit that Christians should have no part in civil government.

One of the passages most often referred to is the one in Matt. 4, where the devil offered Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him. I admit that Satan claimed he had power to give them to him, and that he could give them to whomsoever he would. But those who rely upon this passage overlook the fact that Jesus did not admit what Satan claimed he could do, nor admit Satan's claims upon the kingdoms of this world. We know he lied when he said he could give them all to Jesus, and we have other passages which declares positively that God sets over the kingdoms of this world whomsoever He wills. Every word Satan said was a lie, and he was tempting Jesus for his own destruction just as he tempts man. I think it is a poor theory that must rely upon the words of Satan for its proof.

Another passage is Eph. 6:11-13 "Put on the whole armor of God that ye may able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against he rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God—".

It is assumed that the principalities and powers, the rulers of darkness of this world, means the civil governments of the earth, and that Satan invented them for an evil purpose. I suppose it will be admitted that if Satan invented them it was for an evil purpose, all he does is for an evil purpose. I admit that civil governments are principalities and powers, but deny that they are of the kind Paul is here condemning as evil, and with which he said we must wrestle.

To wrestle with a power is to resist that power, and the same apostle warns the Christian in Rom. 13 against resisting the civil government. He warns the Christian to submit to those who have the rule over them, and Peter commanded them to submit themselves to every ordinance of man, whether it be to kings as supreme, or to governors sent by him for the punishment of evil doers. (1 Pet. 5:) Of course this means we must submit— to them only in those things which belong to them, Jesus explains this fully when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." I also admit that there are principalities and powers which do belong to Satan; with which we are to wrestle, but deny that we are ever commanded to submit to them or obey them.

There are two kinds of dominions, powers, and principalities, in the world, one kind ordained of God, the other kind ordained of Satan, and this latter kind are the ones Paul called the unfruitful works of darkness. He said we should have not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Then what is the flesh and blood the apostle said we do not wrestle against, and the principalities and powers of darkness against which we do wrestle? Civil government belongs in the things of flesh and blood, they deal only in material things, and are of the things which Jesus said belongs to this world, or to Caesar. God ordained civil government for man, and they minister it as ministers of God for man's good. (Rom. 13-1-7)

Read also Col. 1:16. "For by him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth, visible, and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him." Of course, this cannot include things invented by the devil, the unfruitful works of darkness, but he things which were created for God's glory and man's good. He had just told these same Christians that they had been delivered from the power of darkness, and had been translated into the kingdom of God's son. But what was this power of darkness from which they had been delivered? He explains it fully in chapter three, verses 5-8. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affections, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

Therefore he said, "put off all of these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, evil communications out of your mouth.

Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds." Now, these were the things which they had come out of, and which they had put off, and therefore the things which belongs to the unfruitful powers of darkness, the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual wickedness in high places, against which he said the man of God must wrestle, and for which struggle he is armed.

That this is true, and that Paul has no reference in this passage to the civil government under which the people lived, was well known to the church in Ephesus who had seen the great apostle battle with this armor for two long years. They knew what the powers were with which Paul wrestled in Ephesus, and they knew he had not wrestled with the civil powers, nor offended them in his preaching, but rather had appealed to them for protection against the wicked powers of Satan with which he did wrestle from the first day he entered among them. Diana of the Ephesians was perhaps the most powerful among these powers of darkness, but they had many others, some authorities say as many as thirty thousand, and Paul wrestled with them. The Jews also were a power of darkness against which the apostle wrestled.

Christians are not of this world, we are told, their citizenship in heaven (Phil 3); and they are a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9); and therefore do not belong to "the nations of the world, but a peculiar people unto the Lord. But this is not a new thing that they have discovered, the same has been true of God's children in all ages of the world. The old patriarchs had no abiding city in this world, their citizenship was in heaven, and they looked for a city whose builder and maker is God, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Heb 11:13) I suppose none of them will claim to be better than Paul. He claimed to be both a Jew, and a Roman. "I am a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia." And this in spite of the fact that he said there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ. Paul was also a Roman, to the chief captain he said, "Is it lawful to scourge a Roman and uncondemned?"

Paul's citizenship in heaven had not canceled his Roman citizenship. "Tell me, Art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, with a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, but I was free born. Then they that would have examined him departed, and the chief captain was afraid after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him," (Acts 23) I think none of us would charge Paul with hypocrisy, and unless we so charge him the point is settled definitely in his case, and unless we are more spiritual than he, in our case as well. I have never met one of these fellows yet who deny their citizenship in civil government, and claim it has been canceled by their citizenship in heaven, who fail to claim all of the benefits of citizenship when it is put to the test. They are willing to accept all of the benefits of citizenship but refuse to accept the responsibilities of it.

With this point settled, and I think it is settled definitely by the facts enumerated above, the only point remaining is whether the carnal sword properly belongs to civil government. Did God ordain the carnal sword for the punishment of evildoers in the hands of civil government? Every conscientious objector with whom I have had contact, and they are many, frankly admit that he did. Jesus affirms as much when he said if his kingdom had been of this world his disciples would have fought for him, and both Peter and Paul give positive evidence to that effect, and command Christians to be in submission to them.

Most of the writers for the conscientious objectors which I have read, make much of the fact that we find no large armies during New Testament times, and no great wars being waged. They challenge me to find where Christians were drafted into the Roman army, or where some Christian joined the army and fought in a carnal war. They even say I must do this or lose the argument. They overlook the fact that there were no wars during New Testament times, and none for a hundred years afterwards. The Roman Empire had brought peace to the world, and they did it by their sword, and the Lord chose that as a proper time to launch his kingdom in the world. The only soldiers we find during that two hundred years of peace were in small bands, like the one Cornelius commanded, sent from Rome to preserve the peace, and keep down insurrections in the provinces. They were used to prevent wars, which Satan then, as well as now, was all the time trying to bring about. That is the most important use of the sword, it is much better to prevent war from starting than to fight to end one after it has got under way. The threat of the sword prevents men from committing crimes, that is its greatest value to mankind. But if criminals are not punished when they commit crimes there is no power in the fear of punishment.

We do not know that Cornelius, or any of his band, ever had to take the life of a single man to preserve peace and order in the territory they presided over. But we know they would have done it, and rebellious souls under their jurisdiction knew it, and that fear restrained them. Augustus had not sent this band of men, and others like them in many places, to make war on the people, he sent them to prevent war, and preserve peace, and they did it.

We have a number of men in New Testament times who were converted to Christ who were affiliated with the Roman government in various ways, some as soldiers (Acts 10), even officers in the Roman army, one man the keeper of a prison (Acts 16), one as the treasurer of a great city (Rom 16:23), and one as a man of great authority under a Queen (Acts 8), and who kept all of her treasures. Of this latter it is said that he event on his way rejoicing after Phillip had baptized him, back to serve his Queen and the country of his adoption. All of these men continued in their callings after they were converted, and I am sure they were better officers for their country after they were converted than they were before. Paul said, "Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it. But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. . . Brethren, let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God." (1 Cor 7:20-24)

The only attempt I have seen yet to answer this passage by Paul was from a preacher who claims to be a great debater. He said this passage would make the booze peddler and the whoremonger continue in their calling. But he was arguing with Paul instead of me, and if he can prove that booze peddling and whoremongering is a calling, and especially one ordained of God, he would have the old apostle in a hot spot. He also thinks little of the calling of the Jailer, Cornelius, the Eunuch, and Erasmus, not to mention all of our soldier boys in the army, to compare them with booze peddlers and whoremongers. I had never thought of booze peddling and whoremongering as a calling, but rather as evildoers whose crimes should be punished by the sword which God gave to His ministers.

Of these Roman officials we know that the Jailer was still abiding in his calling the next day after he was converted when he released Paul and Silas, and sent them on their way. The Ethiopian Eunuch went on his way rejoicing, and Luke spake very highly of the calling of Cornelius, saying he was devout man, a just man, one that feared God, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. Erasmus was both the treasurer of the great city, and a Christian, and Paul thought it well to mention his official calling in sending his salutation to the brethren. In all of these cases it seems that their callings are mentioned by the inspired writers in a complimentary way, and as men of importance rather than as men of low and vile callings incompatible with Christianity.

I am sure that no one can deny that their conversion to the Christian religion would have made them all better servants in their callings, and would not have interfered in the least with their duties. Regardless of their virtues as Roman officials before their conversion, Christianity would make them better ones, and they could certainly apply the principles of the gospel to their duties, and even the golden rule could be applied to them. And since God ordained civil government, and ordained every duty that any of these men had to perform, it certainly would not be a sin for them to act as God's ministers just because they were Christians and would perform their many duties in a Christian spirit.