Church and The State (1)
A Sermon on Romans 13:1-7
Be Subject to Government
1Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation …
1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are …
In this first part of his series on the church and the state, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones lays a historical foundation for understanding the development of the relationship between the two. In this sermon from Romans 13:1–7 titled “Church and the State (1),” he affirms the importance of Christians thinking carefully about their responsibility and attitude towards government and authority. Scripture teaches that the church and government structures are both ordained by God and therefore Christians must maintain a God-honoring posture towards both. Critical to this is having an understanding of how church and state relations developed. In the first three centuries of the early church, believers were living in a pagan world controlled by the Roman Empire. No one was under the illusion that the church and state were one entity. They were at odds towards one another. This changed, Dr. Lloyd-Jones teaches, when Constantine came to power and instituted Christianity as the official religion of the state. What followed was a power struggle between church and state. Listen to this compelling sermon by Dr. Lloyd-Jones as he equips his listeners to understand the historical struggle for authority and power that shapes a current understanding of the relationship of Christianity and government.
- The relationship between the church and the state is an important topic that Christians must consider.
- There are two main views on the relationship between the church and the state:
- The church and state are one:
- The Roman Catholic view is that the church controls the state. The pope claims supremacy over political leaders.
- The Erastian view is that the state controls the church. The church is subject to the state. This view is held by the Church of England.
- The church and state are separate. We will explore this view next time.
- The church and state are one:
- The view that the church and state are one originated in the 4th century AD after Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church dominated political leaders in Europe for centuries.
- The Erastian view developed in opposition to the Roman Catholic view. It holds that the church is subject to the state. Thomas Erastus promoted this view, arguing that the church has no power to make laws or inflict punishment.
- Martin Luther originally believed in the independence of the church but later supported the state controlling the church due to political pressures and unrest. The Lutheran church became closely tied to the state.
- King Henry VIII made himself the supreme head of the Church of England, replacing the pope. His successors maintained control over the church.
- Queen Elizabeth I actively interfered in church affairs. The 39 Articles of Religion established the Church of England as subject to the monarch.
- Richard Hooker taught that the church and state are the same society viewed from different angles. The state has the right to legislate for the church. But the state cannot define doctrine or consecrate bishops.
- The state's control over the church was challenged under Oliver Cromwell but restored under King Charles II. Nonconformists were later granted freedom of worship.
- We must learn from history and understand God's word to avoid repeating the errors of the past. We pray for God's guidance on these issues.
The Book of Romans
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.