Vol.XVII No.VII Pg.5
September 1980

The Police Force

Robert F. Turner

Government is usually divided into three branches: legislative (to make or pronounce laws, executive (administering and enforcing laws), and judicial (judging and applying) with authority. The kingdom of God can be so construed, and it is important to see at the outset of our discussion that divinity controls all three of these branches. James 4:12 says there is "ONE lawgiver (legislative), who is able to save and to destroy (executive): who art thou that judgest another?" (Judicial authority is also in God's hands.)

It is not difficult to grasp that God makes all necessary laws, or that Christ will judge us in the last day according to God's word (Jr. 12:48). But what is the "police force" of the Christian system? How is the "power to enforce" divine law exerted? There are O.T. examples of the earth opening and swallowing the rebellious, or fire raining from heaven (Num. 16:31-f, Gen. 19:24-25). But these foretell the judgment of God, the penalty exacted in eternity. While "fear of hell" is a legitimate motive for obedience, we believe there are more noble motives, and the exertion of a different kind of "force" in every day of our life.

Christ made it clear that the rule of heaven was not an arbitrary "will" that is self-serving, as was that of rulers among men (Matt. 20:25-28). A King whose "greatness" was expressed in humble service, and whose "glory" necessitated death for His subjects (Heb. 2:9-10) is surely a "different" kind of ruler. Since He is now reigning (Heb. 7:1,17,25, Col .1:13) we confidently affirm that He now rules His subjects with the exercise of police force very different from that of the kingdoms of the world.

Paul touched on this when he wrote "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds ...bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:35). His "authority" was for edification, not destruction (v.8). Again in 2 Cor. 5:14 he says, "for the love of Christ constraineth us..." The love that Christ has for us (see context) puts pressure on us, brings us into line, hedges us about. I am reminded of the old English word in 1 Tim. 2:9, "shame-fast-ness" or bound by our own shame. The love, and life, and sacrifice Christ gave for us touches our heart, brings about a response.

Christ does not overrule the will of man, "forcing" him to obey by some lash upon man's flesh. The appeal is to man's heart — the seat of thought, emotion and will. We are "taught" and our own reception of truth compels us to "come" (Jn. 6:45). The Spirit "quickeneth" (stirs to life, action) through inspired words (v.63); and we "resist" the Spirit when we will not receive and keep God's word (Acts 7: 51-53). "Hearing" in the sense of "reception," pricks the heart (2:37).

Church discipline must not take on the nature of a carnal police force. Christ did not put in our hands a club He would not use Himself. If the legitimate appeal of truth will not correct a sinner we recognize his condition, but God judges and punishes in the final day of reckoning.