© Charles A. Clough 2020
Charles A. Clough
Divine Institution Series
Lesson #03 – Divine Institutions #4 and #5
Civil Authority and the Division of Human Tribes by Language
19 July 2020
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
This is the third and final part of the material on Divine Institutions. I was saying to a few folks earlier: the reason why I’ve chosen to speak on these themes is because there’s a fellowship online—a small group of Bible-believing pastors—who have been very concerned about what’s been going on in our country at this time.
What most concerns us are the ideas that are behind it. Various movements today sway young people. People who really know how to manipulate sway many young people.
The people who are doing the manipulation come out of a Marxist tradition. The methodology they’re using is much akin to sociology. Previously I mentioned a textbook that one of the young ladies in our congregation had to read at a local university which is a typical sociological text.
What is happening in the field of sociology is that they’re classifying people groups. You have this class of people, you have another class of people, and they can’t seem to think in terms of individuals.
“We’re not individuals, we’re marked by the classification we belong to” is their thinking. It’s a fallacy, of course, but the point is, that’s it’s very persuasive, particularly if you’re not well grounded in the Word of God.
The Word of God has the answer to this, and that’s what these Divine Institutions are. “Divine Institution” is a fancy name for a simple idea. The idea is that God has so constructed our human race, by the way there is one race, not multiple races, we all have the genes of Adam and Eve.
We have in the human race certain structures. Just like we have in the animal kingdom, in the plant kingdom, in the human kingdom we have these social structures. That’s what we’re addressing in these lessons.
One of the things to think about is that when society is so turbulent, all of us have had out lives disrupted in one way or another. Businesspeople have had their lives interrupted. People in education have had their lives interrupted. It can be shaking; it can be upsetting because you want something that doesn’t change. You want something to rest your feet on.
One of the slides I have here is a familiar one from David. I cite David particularly for this reason. David as a young man was anointed to be king of a nation. But he did not ascend the throne for many years later, beyond that time when he was a young man.
We all have an intuitive sense when we’re in trouble to turn to the Book of Psalms. Why do we turn to the Book of Psalms? Because they speak to our heart when we’re encountering the trials of life.
Most of the psalms are Davidic in origin, or were inspired by David. We want to ask: Why is it that David’s psalms, many of which were musically expressed, why is it those psalms speak to our heart and give us a sense of rest?
They speak to our hearts because in the Ancient Near East at the time of David, 1000 BC, the political operandi, the modus operandi of politics, was that if you were a king, you needed political security. Today, every politician is worried about security and re-election, and so on. In that day, the way they gained political security for themselves was very simple: you assassinate your opposition.
This happened in Egypt, it happened in Assyria, this happened all around. Here’s the problem. You have a young man, David, who was well taught in the Bible from his parents. Jesse taught his boys that.
So, David is in the situation, he gets anointed. The problem is that there is another king on the throne, Saul. Saul understands that he has disobeyed God and therefore God has anointed another person in his place, which politically means the end of his dynasty.
Saul will never get to see his son sitting on the throne. This infuriates Saul. He then tried seven times over the years to assassinate David by means of one gimmick or another. David has to endure this.
When David is sitting there, he must be very tempted to assassinate Saul. After all that’s what everybody does. Except David broke with the entire culture of his time.
The psalms tell us the suffering he went through, the mental anguish he went through. Because David was a political pioneer. We don’t understand this too much until we get into the text of 1 and 2 Samuel.
You’ll see an intense rivalry going on between Saul and David’s dynasties. The books of Samuel have been told by scholars to be the first political documents in history.
In his struggles, David thought: “Saul is going to assassinate me if I don’t assassinate him.” This was the human pressure he had to face.
But he knew that God had ordained him. His struggle is: “Lord, when are You going to get me to the throne? This guy is trying to kill me.” David was not well accepted. He was a military hero for a while, but in order to reign, he needed the allegiance of the tribes of Israel.
But, he didn’t have the allegiance of the tribes.
Even in 2 Samuel there were only a few tribes that come to him. What happens during those years, is David has one trial after another.
He fled the country because Saul was after him. He went to Gentile areas, such as the Philistine area, he gets involved with the Philistines.
When you see these kinds of verses in the Book of Psalms, think of a young man struggling with his career. He absolutely refused to go along with what everyone in the culture was telling him.
At one point in the Samuel series he caught Saul in a cave. David was in the back of the cave and his military buddies said to David, “Now you’ve got him. Go kill him.” David was torn over this. He said, “I got Saul now.”
But on the other hand he was restrained because he was trying to follow the Lord.
David then reached out with his sword, he snuck up on Saul, and he cut his garment. Even by cutting his garment he felt a violated conscience, and he struggled with that.
His military buddies responded by saying “You blew it. You had an opportunity to take him out. Why didn’t you?”
In this particular psalm, Psalm 18, the imagery is of an animal. David was also a farm boy, such that he watched animal life, and thus used idioms that relate to animal life. In Psalm 18:32 David declared, “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” (or clear).
Then in Psalm 18:33 it says: “He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.” He is talking about getting your feet on the ground, and having a solid place to “stand.” This is what we want to do in the Divine Institution series, with these structures that God has built into the created order.
When we face a society and the turbulence it’s in, we need to have our feet solidly placed, such that we don’t freak out or panic. We “sit” on the Divine Institution structures. We know, because God designed the structures (the Divine Institutions).
Anybody who tries to destroy these structures is like somebody who tries to fight gravity. Trying to destroy them isn’t going to work. We have to have the assurance that comes from trusting in Divine Institution structures.
In Psalm 18:35 David declared, “You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up.” This is interesting, in the midst of his adversity, look what he put in there: “Your gentleness has made me great.” Do you know what he’s talking about?
David is thinking: “God, You have been gracious to me. I’ve got one answered prayer here. I’ve got another answered prayer here. That’s Your grace to me.” Here he is, the warrior guy, but he talks about God’s gentleness: “Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip” (Psalm 18:35–36).
This is the mentality we want to have as we go into this series on the Divine Institutions. I showed you this slide several times I think in the past, and I brought this up because the first Sunday we were nearing the fourth of July.
I wanted to show a point of history that is not taught in schools anymore. The Founding Fathers of this country—forget about the fact that they lived in a country that had slavery in Europe, slavery in Africa, and they had to break out of that, granted that.
What these men did, they were well-read people. I showed you how research has shown that over 3,000 different places where the Founding Fathers in their writings cited source material, thirty percent of the source material came directly out of the Word of God.
These men as they sat down at the Constitutional Convention had a specific view of human nature. It was a view of human nature radically different from what was going in Europe.
Their view of human nature came out of northern European Protestantism. Their view of human nature stressed the fact that we live east of Eden. We live with a fallen nature.
The technical theological term is “human depravity.” It’s a nasty word and people don’t like to hear about it. All of us know that we are depraved because look at the trouble we have following the Lord.
Our nature doesn’t want to do that. It’s not natural to us apart from regeneration to even want to do that. If we believe that human nature is depraved then we’re going to think a certain way.
We’re going to think particularly as the Founding Fathers did, if I set up a governmental structure, how do I set that up so it’s compatible with depraved population? Versus what was going on in Europe and wound up in the French Revolution with the guillotine.
“Human nature is good, all we have to do is lift our ourselves up with our bootstraps. We can fix the problem,” was the mentality during French Revolution. Basically, what they’re arguing is that human nature is perfectible.
We believe it can be improved, but only through the gospel. It has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we trust in Jesus Christ. The mentality during the French Revolution believed that through human/man’s works we can perfect human nature. We went through these three areas.
It has implications about the laws that you write, the punishments that you have for violating those laws. And, most importantly for our Constitution and understanding why we have an “inefficient system” of executive, judicial, and legislative branches: it is to limit the power of people who have government authority.
On the other hand, if you believe human nature is perfectible you will tend to say “I’ll just trust the authorities, they’ll do fine.” This is the collision, and it’s right at the origin of our country, but it’s never taught in school.
It’s the worldview of the men who sat down and did that. They were thinking in those terms. In Europe they were thinking in totality different terms.
The results, one time you have a country that survived and prospered. The other time you had France start and they had fifteen different governments in 1789. Total chaos.
This is because ideas have consequences, bad ideas have bad consequences. We went through that as a point of American history.
We dealt with the first Divine Institution, which is very important today because of the obsession that’s going on about classifying people: “You’re white,” “You’re black,” “You’re Asian,” “You’re something else.”
If you get to know someone who is black or Asian or white, do you notice that something happens? When you get to know the person you don’t think of what they are as a class. You think of them as your friend, don’t you?
It’s an automatic thing that happens, but it doesn’t happen unless you have a personal relationship, and you talk and eat together, and so forth. Divine Institution #1 in a nutshell is that God created us in His image, which means every person has value. They can be an atheist, they can be in a state of rejecting Christ, but they nonetheless have inherent value.
They have inherent value because they are made in God’s image. Dogs, cats, and horses are not made in God’s image. They’re very nice creatures to have, but they’re not made in God’s image.
The important idea here, you want to capture this, what is so important when we say “Human beings are created in God’s image” is, as Tertullian the early Church Father pointed out centuries ago, when God said in the Garden of Eden, and He looked down and He was shaping Adam’s body, and He breathed into him that life, what was on God’s mind was:
“I’ve got to incarnate Myself in this creature. I am designing this creature/human being unlike any animal,” we’re not evolving from chimpanzees. The DNA does not show that. We therefore have this unique creature who exhibits a unique nature.
Because God the Son knew from eternity past: “I will walk this planet. I will come down to the level of human beings, and I will express Myself as a human being. I will take upon Myself a human nature.”
That’s what is so important. If you don’t believe this, you might as well trash the whole gospel. Because then you can’t get your thinking about Jesus straight, if you don’t first believe that human beings are created such that an incarnation is possible.
We have then the idea that we are individually responsible. You can’t find any passage in the New Testament that addresses the gospel that doesn’t appeal to individuals. “Whosoever believes” does not express class membership.
We all come to God as individuals. We all will face Him as individuals because He holds all of us individually responsible and accountable. We can try to blame this or that. Adam blames his wife. God didn’t accept that.
He said, “You’re responsible Adam, not your wife. You’re responsible because it was your choice and you made it freely.” This is Divine Institution #1.
The thing we want to remember about this, these little diagrams in the coming series; I’m working with a Singaporean couple to move the Framework series from two-hundred plus lessons to fifty-five lessons, that you can download in PDF format for free.
The lady in Singapore is pretty good with cartooning and that kind of thing. She studied the Framework series for about three or four years, and she’s trying to put this into place. I was discussing with her, “Here’s what we’ve got to do.”
This is something we all as Christian’s need to think about. When we read the Bible we need to have mental discipline. We have to read the Bible against the environment; against the culture in which it was written.
Remember the Book of Psalms with David? To really understand the psalms you have to understand what he was facing. It’s the Bible always, century after century, millennium after millennium: the Bible against its environment.
When we come to the Divine Institutions, here’s the problem. Today, we saw this in Maryland, remember Proposition 6 was voted on in our state? The idea was that marriage is a tradition. “It’s one man, one woman, it’s just a tradition.” If it’s just a tradition, traditions can change, right?
What I wanted the Singaporean lady to do was create some sort of a picture that shows that these institutions are not merely traditions. Yes, there are traditions that come about, but they come about not because somebody casually invented them.
They come about because we’re made that way. The Singaporean woman tried to do this, and came up with this idea that here’s the person, and she tried to point out that it’s a choice between God’s design and a social construct. That’s what’s going on today.
Every young person that is going to the university today, who takes a sociology course, is required to understand that these traditions are merely social constructs, rather than God’s constructs.
They declare: “These are man-made institutions, not Divine Institutions.” This is why a group of us pastors are deliberately teaching they are Divine Institutions. We are opposing the environment.
The Singaporean woman has here all of the Divine Institutions. We have one cute, little thing here with the pregnant wife, and the man is working with the earth, which is what God said to Adam.
The idea then is that these are structures built in. We talked about the second Divine Institution: marriage. The first wedding is performed by God in the Garden of Eden.
People will come to us, and we have some evangelicals drifting around saying “There are only five or six passages in the whole Bible that talk about marriage as one man and woman.”
This is wrong. Marriage is defined by the first occurrence in the Bible. A basic principle of interpretation: when you read the Bible go back to where the subject first came up. That sets the precedent for the rest of the Bible.
We don’t observe five genders in the Garden. We observe two, and it’s binary. In sociological terms, it’s cisgender, that has been socially constructed.
It’s not socially constructed, God created man and He created a woman. There are only two people in the Garden of Eden: binary. Marriage is structured this way. It’s not that it’s patriarchal, that somehow man is more valuable than the woman.
No it isn’t, because wisdom in the Scriptures, which accompany God, is always pictured as feminine. “Wisdom” is a feminine noun and it’s Lady Wisdom who in Proverbs 8 says “I was with God.”
The idea there: it’s the woman’s role, an ezer, to be a God-given helper. The point is that marriage has a design. God took His image and He, if we can think of it this way, He put part of His image in man, and part of His image in woman.
We’re all made in His image, but there’s a difference. As I’ve said, you can’t be married for more than three weeks and not know there is a difference. There’s a difference in how we think. We were made to think differently.
That’s great because that makes both of us sharper. We interact with each other. Marriage has this design in place. Jesus showed when He came into Jerusalem on Psalm Sunday and He said, “Jerusalem, I weep for you as a hen weeps for its chicks.” This is feminine compassion and a feminine attitude towards youth.
Women bear children out of their own bodies. There’s a bond there. There’s that expression, if you say: “There’s Jesus showing a feminine side of God.” There’s no patriarchal bias in the Scriptures if you read the Bible first.
There were three things we said about the third Divine Institution. Why does it exist? Obviously it exists for procreation to fill the earth. Children are needed to fulfill the dominion mandate to manage resources in nature.
Any civilization that has less than 2.1 children on the average to every couple will die. This is what is happening in Europe.
The only people who are exceeding 2.1 children per family are the Muslims. They’re doing it for the long term. They’re going to conquer because they will out-procreate the Europeans.
Fortunately in our country, guess who the couples are who are having the most children: Christians; homeschoolers. The more left-leaning people aren’t having kids. There are long-term consequences here. God designed it this way.
Procreation, number one. Two: sanctification. In marriage there are two sin natures that are in close contact. Therefore marriage is a tool of sanctification.
The husband and the wife have to work through things and hence marriage is a challenge to our sanctification. But, without this challenge, would we really grow? Or would we fly off with somebody else?
Third thing: procreation, sanctification, and spiritually marriage is there to teach us truths about how God relates to us. In the Old Testament Israel was considered to be the wife of Yahweh.
In the New Testament the church is considered to be the bride of Christ. Why is it that marriage imagery comes up every time God is talking about His relationship with us?
There’s something about marriage that is training us for understanding something about God and His relationship to us. I think, in Heaven and in eternity, we will reflect upon that.
“I remember when I was married …. I can understand, God, why You work the way You do.” Those are three things of the Divine Institutions.
Then, we talked about the third Divine Institution. The third Divine Institution concludes the triplet. The Divine Institutions build on one another. You have to have individual responsibilities—the foundation—or marriage is not going to work.
Then you have to have marriage. If the marriage is weak or dysfunctional it’s going to negatively impact the family. The family is the basic social unit.
It’s not a class of people in society, it is the family. Any policemen, talk to them about what they see when they deal with juvenile delinquency. Ask them, “What have you learned as a police officer about their family backgrounds?” Be prepared to have a dump, because they’ll tell you what they’ve encountered.
Police will see the clear correlation between collapse of families and delinquency in crime. The tragedy is, that government programs don’t solve the problem. Look at how God designed it. Do you see government anywhere in these Divine Institutions?
No, they’re all structured to be mutually working. You have to have a man and a woman who are responsible, you have to have a marriage that’s functional, and you have to have a family.
You can have all of the aid and all of the laws, and all you want to, and go through all kinds of episodes, and you still don’t get at it.
This is why Divine Institutions are so important. If we don’t think in terms of these Divine Institutions, we cannot deal with these massive social problems. It goes back to these basics.
What is the family for? The family is preparation for social life. If you’re going to raise kids, the thing is when kids are very young it seems like the years go by so slowly. Until they are teenagers and then they’re out of the family. This what happens when you raise kids.
The big question is: are we training our children to live in society successfully? Are we teaching them those lessons? We can’t teach them everything. Parents don’t have the capabilities to teach them everything.
We have to have help. We need teachers who know what they’re doing. Family is a preparation for society and for living successfully.
The family is also a center, and this is another battle we face right now. It’s a critical battle, and going into the Fall semester with schools, this is becoming an issue.
Ultimately, the family is the decider of what kind of education your children are going to get. This is a hard decision.
A RealClear Opinion Research poll done recently yields a startling statistic. Forty percent of families have inquired about homeschooling for this 2020 Fall semester. This is not saying everybody can do homeschooling. It’s not saying forty percent are going to be homeschooled.
It shows you that parents are beginning to think, with all the chaos going on, “maybe we ought to take charge here. Because nobody else is taking charge, we ought to take charge.”
This is coming out of our family design. It troubles us to have other people dictating to us what our kids are going to learn. The government didn’t produce your children. You produce your children.
My friend who is a pastor in Connecticut was a teacher in a school. He took his kids out of public school to teach them at home. He was called into the faculty office, to the principal and the vice principal. They asked him, “Why have you done this? Do you think you’re qualified?” He answered, “You thought I was qualified to teach thirty kids. Why am I not qualified to teach my own kids?”
They kept at him and he finally got frustrated. Here’s what my pastor-friend said to them, which ended the conversation. “Who do you think loves these kids more?” End of the discussion.
This, then, is a tension point we’re facing today. Parents often can’t educate their kids. This is not what my message is. My message is: to understand what educational choices are out there for your kids, in terms of the way we know as Bible-believing Christians.
Now, we come to the final two Divine Institutions. We have to go back into history. The first three Divine Institutions are obvious from the history of Eden. Now we come to this:
The fourth Divine Institution is a different kind of institution. It deals with civil authority and it did not exist in Eden.
The only kind of authority we understand that must’ve gone on in that first civilization, from the creation of the world to the Fall, all the way up to the Flood, probably over a millennium: during that society there’s no indication of what we call “civil authority” existing.
The only hint that we get about something going on is what God posted at the gate of Eden. He took Adam and Eve and He said, “Get out of here,” because He was protecting them.
If they had gone in to eat from the Tree of Life, they would be in resurrection bodies and hence would have rendered themselves unsavable.
God driving them out of the Garden was an act of mercy. They could no longer walk into the Garden along the path. They know the path of Eden. So, He stationed at Eden, it says, “The cherubs—the angels—with flaming swords.”
There was a police function, outside of Eden there was a security force that was angelic. They are the progenitors of that kind of authority. There wasn’t any institutional authority authorized until Genesis 9:5–6.
This is the passage in the Noahic covenant, after the Flood, after the destruction of the first civilization.
“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” because … (Genesis 9:5–6)
Now watch the “because” [“for”] clause, because there are all kinds of people who freak out about capital punishment. But let’s go back and read the text carefully. What is the reason for this whole civil authority thing?
It’s “for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5–6). When murder occurs it’s a destruction of someone made in God’s image. God is troubled by this.
Granted: government does a lot of other things. The thing to remember about the fourth Divine Institution is that it fundamentally has lethal force. It exists for a reason, which I’m going to develop now.
We have to understand that civil authority is grounded on lethal force. What is the emblem of the state, the emblem of civil authority in the Bible? It’s a lethal weapon, the sword. Let’s be honest with the text. That’s what the text is telling us about the state. Then we have this passage. You say, “That’s the Old Testament.”
Let’s go to the New Testament. I’m going to show you two parts that run together in the Bible. The first part I’m showing you is at the end of Romans 12.
The end of Romans 12 leaves you hanging. You think, “How do I execute this particular command?” Then it’s married to the second part, which is Romans 13:1.
Let’s look at the first part and get our heads into what Paul is saying in Romans 12. He’s saying: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but give place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord—that’s out of the Mosaic Law code— . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19, 21).
That’s great to say that. But, you know as well as I do that there is evil that can come into your life such that your heart cries out for justice. It’s hard to fight that when God says “I’m going to take care of the vengeance. I didn’t authorize you to do it. I will do it.”
“How are you going to do that?” Let’s bring up the second part. This is why you always want to read the Bible in context. Here we have Paul mentioning this. Keep in mind that the government in his day wasn’t like our government.
In Paul’s day the government was at times totally negligent. It could have cared less about what was going on, and then all of a sudden it would come in with the Roman army. Paul lived in that type of political-civil environment.
In the midst of that he wrote: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. And the authorities”—he’s not saying that every government is good. Read carefully. This is a principle of the fourth Divine Institution.
“The authorities that exist are appointed by God”—[potential objection:] “God, I thought we elected them.” He’s talking about the structure. “The authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority, resists the ordinance of God.” This is the fourth Divine Institution: the ordinance of God.
“For the authority is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain [lethal force]” (Romans 13:1–2, 4). Behind civil authority there has to be a lethal force.
Why did this happen? Let’s go back and understand. We have to go to the Bible to understand why the Fall happened, it’s causes, and what changed our human nature from Eden to outside of Eden. We have to go back and ask, “How come we have to have civil authority with lethal force? What led to this?” Lets go to another verse [to answer these questions].
This is God’s evaluation of the first civilization. This civilization had no civil authority. It thus ended in anarchy and violence. He saw the wickedness of man. You would think Paul wrote this. You think you’re reading Romans 7 here, but this is back in Genesis 6.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Can you construct another sentence that more adequately describes human depravity? The Bible is realistic.
I had a professor one time in seminary that said: “When God paints our portraits He paints them warts and all.” The Bible is not merely a nice, religious storybook. The Bible is one of the most frank pieces of literature that has ever existed in history.
The Bible was written by Jewish people and filled with Jewish errors. Can you imagine writing a history of your own people and then letting all of the warts come out?
That’s the Bible, because God the Holy Spirit led them to write that way.
He led them to understand that “there is no salvation apart from My grace. I’m going to show you that when my Son dies on the Cross.”
The Lord saw this [“that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”].
Hence, “the LORD was sorry He had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6). This is grieving on the part of God. He’s frustrated that He made [human persons]. “So He said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth’ ” (Genesis 6:7). This led to the Flood.
The situation is this. We have Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and we have After the Flood. What happens [after all of this?]. This is the question. How do you continue history without repeating the error of the first civilization?
If you were in God’s position, You would know that You would have to continue history, because You have to have Jesus come into history and die on the Cross, or Adam and Eve’s salvation doesn’t work. Hence, You would have to continue history.
How do You, then, construct history with people with individual responsibility? You can’t use a robot. They, human persons, aren’t robots, so you can’t control them like puppets.
You’ve got to have another civilization. But somehow You have to get that civilization to survive long enough to get the redemption work done. This is the dilemma.
We have here, then, the Creation, we have the Fall: the broken relationship with Yahweh. Then we have the Flood. After the Flood we have the further threat of broken relationships. Right? Depravity hasn’t changed this side of the Flood.
We got depravity. We’ve got a depraved society, so God makes a contract. By the way, one of the great contracts in history, the rainbow, and it is not the sign of the LGBT community.
It is the sign of atmosphere that, as raindrops fall through, and as Ezekiel says, when he looked up and he had that vision of God’s throne room, guess what he saw?
He saw the bow. I think when we die and go to Heaven, if we’re believers, and we go there, we’re going to see that. And we’re going to think, “Lord, I remember seeing Your bow.” Do you know what He’s going to say?
“That’s because I signed the contract and I kept My contract.” That’s the sign of God’s contract. Every contract in the Bible God made with man has this sort of structure. And here’s the sword. So the sword has come to save civilization—to keep it going, to keep it functioning.
I know there are arguments against capital punishment. We don’t have time to go through all of them. But, let’s go into a few.
The first one: times have changed. The idea is, “[capital punishment] was back in Bible times, they had it in Europe. But, c’mon, we’re modern people now. We don’t mess with capital punishment.”
What’s the problem with this argument? Human nature hasn’t changed. What led to it in the first place is still here. God’s justice hasn’t changed. This is the lex talionis.
What does lex talionis mean? It means “proportionate justice” (“eye for an eye”). If we steal, God’s solution isn’t to put the thief in jail for theft. God’s solution in the Mosaic Law was to put the thief to work so they repaid their crime. This kept insurance rates low.
What we do in our society is that we jail somebody. This incurs a raise in everybody’s insurance. Then we pay forty thousand dollars a year for every person we put in jail. How does this solve the problem of theft?
Paul in Ephesians tells about this. “Let every one who steals stop stealing, and work to labor and have something left over to pay for this sort of thing.” Times have not changed in the sense that human nature hasn’t changed and God’s nature hasn’t changed.
In the predictions of the Millennial Kingdom what does it say Jesus will rule with? A rod of iron. In the Millennial Kingdom there will be unbelievers and the Lord Jesus is going to have civil authority, and He’s going to exercise it, and it’s going to be lethal force.
The sin nature is not going to go away in the Millennial Kingdom. It will in the eternal state, but not in the Millennial Kingdom.
Here’s a second argument against capital punishment: “It doesn’t deter crime. There’s no evidence that it does.”
This is the one you hear every time capital punishment comes up. A response to this objection: “It deters the murderer, doesn’t it?” At least this deterrence happens.
But our answer is “if capital punishment was administered properly, timely, and publicly, it would deter.” Notice the last word. This sounds gruesome: “publicly.”
Do you know how they carried out capital punishment in the Bible? Think about Jesus dying on the cross. When Jesus hung on the cross, and His body was exposed for hours until the sun set,
it was part of the Mosaic Law that when capital punishment was exercised, the body of the convicted murderer, or whoever, would be displayed along the road where people could see it.
Do you know what that does? It’s sobering. When we see a dead body there is something in us that says, “this is not right, this is abnormal.”
We’re not designed to see that kind of thing, because God designed us in Eden before there was death.
Therefore, it hurts to see dead bodies, as people say who’ve been in combat when they’ve had to pick up their buddy who is dying in their arms. It’s something that never goes away. It’s in their memory for the rest of their life.
So, we have this discussion about capital punishment deterring crime and whether or not it does if it were applied properly.
The third argument for capital punishment is a vital one. Lawyers are very good at delivering this third argument.
I understand attorneys because they’re so familiar with the judicial system and hence know how easily it can mess up. “It can’t be administered fairly.”
There’s a prominent criminal defense attorney here in Bel Air, Maryland, and I had quite a discussion with him about this.
He said “I can’t support capital punishment because I’ve seen too many errors made.” He’s right. What, then, is the answer to this?
The Mosaic Law had stricter rules of evidence than our today’s courts. You could not execute a murderer for circumstantial evidence.
You had to have eyewitness evidence, which is rare. This is why rarely you hear of an execution in the Bible, because you had admission there.
The point is, the Bible in its wisdom had a very strict set of rules. God was just as concerned. The civil law code of the Mosaic Law distinguished between accidental homicide and premeditated murder.
What did they do with a person who was involved in accidental homicide? They allowed him to flee to cities of refuge in order to be free from the civil authorities’ sword.
The Bible isn’t stupid. Moses was into the hierarchy of Egypt. I’m sure he asked God, “What do we do with this? You’ve got to tell me these things.” God did. That’s Deuteronomy, if you want to read it sometime.
Sometimes Christians bring up the fourth question sometimes: “It violates biblical forgiveness.” In other words, the gospel is about love. What is loving about executing a person?
The answer is that Scripture nowhere invalidates it. Here’s Paul’s own statement. Paul who talked about love, love, love, look what he says about himself.
“If I have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying” (Acts 25:11). He affirms the lethal force of the state, even for himself.
The bottom line is, civil authority is God’s way of transferring a case of murder to a higher court. The instant that person is executed he is in the presence of God.
He may be a believer. Think of the thief on the cross. Where did Jesus say he would be the moment he died on the cross? “This day you will be with Me” where? In Paradise.
What did the biographies of the criminal justice system in the 1800s say about death row? They didn’t just have people in cages on death row waiting fifteen years for execution. They had chaplains going in and leading them to Jesus Christ. Why? Because they were facing death.
They had chaplains dedicated to counseling those who were on death row. This ends discussion on the fourth Divine Institution.
The fifth Divine Institution happened after Babel. Let’s go to another passage. When you see these two passages from the fourth Divine Institution with wise use of force, civil authority, and then you see this one, this is the failure of the tower of Babel.
Let’s log this down, unless we think we have perfectible human natures that we can just use our “operation bootstrap” without any help from the Lord.
We have the failure in Eden. We have the failure at the end of the first civilization that ended with the Flood. We were excluded from the Garden of Eden.
The Flood killed everybody except one family. Then we have Babel, because now civil authority exists, “We’re going to use civil authority. We’re going to turn civil authority into a redemptive tool and bring in a utopia because we have the power of the sword.”
The first episode of trial and error of the civil authority was Babel. See how we screw up again? The history of the human race in the Bible is not flattering.
So we read this, here are the people now, descended from Noah, they were probably the first, second, or third generation—there weren’t that many—but, what did God tell this generation? It’s background for this verse.
What did God say in the Noahic Covenant? He wanted people to disperse throughout the earth. Why? Because the natural resources had changed.
If you wanted food, you had to go to some climate where you could grow food. This applied to gold, silver, and metal for metallurgy. Where did they go? They had to go somewhere where there were metals and you have to extract them.
It was imperative for the human race to diversify. We have maps. I can show you maps of people who mapped Antarctica who had plots of water and rivers before the Ice Age.
Who the heck did that? To navigate and to map Antarctica what do you need? You need clocks don’t you? How do you measure longitude and latitude? You’ve got to have the angle of the sun.
We don’t know what happened after the Flood. We just know that the people immediately following Noah had high technology.
These people weren’t idiots. They built pyramids that we can’t even figure out how they built them. We have mummies taken out of Egyptian coffins that have teeth drilled and fillings in their teeth. So, people then were smart.
We have the Chinese alphabet. I asked the Singaporean couple, if they could get me some examples of Chinese characters that show that Chinese … which is a pictographic language, probably one of the oldest, because after Babel how did people communicate?
If someone back then couldn’t communicate, they couldn’t understand language. Hence, they used pictographs. We still do don’t we?
If you go into an airport in Paris you can tell the difference between the men’s room and the woman’s room, can’t you? This is a pictograph. That’s what is used when there is confusion of language.
In China, you have these elegantly constructed pictographs that show a barge with eight people. Chinese pictographs show “righteousness” with a sacrificial lamb on top of the person.
There’s a pictograph of “God” as the “man” in the clouds.
Interestingly, there is no other biblical information in the Chinese alphabet except for Genesis 1–11. What does that tell you?
It tells you that in ancient China there was a manifestation of people who spread out after Babel. They used pictographic language like the Egyptians. The Chinese started, in their own pictographic way, memorizing the Noahic Bible. They knew the Flood event and they knew about Noah and his family.
Genesis 11:4, 6–9, “ ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens, let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ ”
What did God just get through telling them? To spread out across the earth. “No, we’re not going to spread out across the earth.” It probably was scary. We can’t make too much fun of these people.
The geological settling must have gone on on this planet after the Flood was very upsetting. Nevertheless they wouldn’t trust the Lord. They thought: “The Lord told us to go out and explore.”
I know it’s dangerous, I know it’s challenging, but it gets back to the fact, “Am I going to trust the Lord to provide me with what I need to follow what He told me to do.” They didn’t want to do this.
You’ll notice something else embedded in this language. It says “let us make a name for ourselves.” This comes out of Genesis 11. Interestingly, in Genesis 12, when God calls Abraham out, he says to Abraham, “I’m calling you out, I have a special mission for you and I will make your name great.”
So, the author of Genesis puts chapter eleven before chapter twelve so the reader can perceive the contrast. In Genesis 11: “We make a name for ourselves; we define our existence.” In Genesis 12 God declares: “I define your existence.”
What does the Lord say? He says, “The people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.”
“The Lord said: ‘Let Us go down and confuse their language that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them over the face of all the earth.”
What did He tell them He wanted them to do? Scatter across the face of the earth. In response to the Lord they declared “We’re not going to do it.” The Lord made sure they did that.
He said: “I’m going to therefore mess up your language so you have to do it, because that’s what I want you to do.”
We have, then, Genesis 10. For those who want to read that it’s called “the Table of Nations,” it’s one of the most interesting documents in all of history.
Nowhere in ancient history do we have anything like the Table of Nations. Genesis 10 tracks the origins of the human race on the basis of three people. Let’s look at this.
What is God doing here in Genesis 10? Think of a boat, like a submarine, or a ship. What do naval architects do to keep a boat safe from sinking when there’s a hole in the hull?
They have different hulls, watertight hulls. If one hull gets flooded, it therefore doesn’t take the whole ship down.
In effect what God is doing in Genesis 10 is He’s separating the human race not by race, not even by color, He’s separating them tribally by language.
I’ll show you this in a little bit. God did all of this deliberately so you can’t get the whole globe to agree on some Operation Bootstrap, which is the Antichrist wanting to say “We will save ourselves, we will make a global name for ourselves.” God didn’t want this.
He wants us to struggle, and that means there’s going to be war, there’s going to be competition, but it’s better than having a tyrannical world government that rules from the top.
This is God’s way of creating diversity.
Here’s a summary of the Divine Institutions. What we have here are the three Divine Institutions as they were originally before the Fall.
Do you see how crucial the Fall is? This is before the Fall. This is our society the way it should function and the way when we’re following the Lord it should function. The three Divine Institutions are there to build society, to strengthen society, to make society healthy and working.
Here’s the problem. We have the next two—civil government and tribal diversity—they aren’t there to help society build itself. These two are there to preserve society from evil so that the gospel can go forth. God is not willing that any person should perish. This is God’s grace.
How can God’s grace exercise it if it all goes down the drain? These two Divine Institutions [civil government and tribal diversity] in our thinking can’t be sources of redemption.
These two Divine Institutions aren’t there to redeem. The whole civil government enterprise isn’t there as a tool of redemption. It exists to restrain evil. This is the basic function of civil government.
There’s one more “Divine Institution” that we want to cover. It’s not really a Divine Institution. After the Babel mess up God called Abraham out. Something changed in world history around 2000 BC.
From 2000 BC when God called Abraham out from Iraq by the way, called him out, Arabic background, Semitic background, when He called him out, God told him what his job was.
Abraham was to set up a special nation, a priestly nation on earth. We know that nation to be the Jews.
From 2000 BC. on through the rest of history, all revelation is channeled through the Jews. The Bible is a Jewish document. The Jewish people, in spite of themselves—the Bible is not saying every Jewish person is a believer—it’s just saying that there is a tool that God has placed among the diversity of tribes, there’s one tribe He has selected. Why did He select this tribe?
Because at Babel we understood that there was available revelation—there was Melchizedek and other kings, there were all kinds of tribal diversity. We know that everybody was aware of Genesis 1–11, every people group did.
I always ask missionaries who have gone into what we would call primitive societies that live apart from civilization about this and every one of them says “I can detect pieces of Genesis 11 in these people.”
They still remember this because their people groups go back to Babel. That’s when they lost it. They don’t know Genesis 12 and following.
Now you have Abraham. We have to ask: What was accomplished by Abraham? What mission was he given?
His mission was to provide a vehicle through which humanity could receive the Bible, or revelation. Number one: the Jews’ function in history was to give people the Bible.
Their second accomplishment was to bring about the Messiah. The Messiah has to be a part of a tribal group that understands the background of biblical truth, to understand and to be convicted when the Messiah shows up and they reject Him. The nation of Israel has these functions.
The third thing Israel brought into existence: when Christ comes back He will purge that nation and in the Fall of the year, the Jewish calendar will be fulfilled like in AD 30, when the Jewish Spring calendar was fulfilled.
Jesus died exactly on the day of Passover, showing the precision of God in administering history. It wasn’t just any day that Jesus died. Jesus died to fulfill the Spring calendar, and the Holy Spirit came exactly on the day of Pentecost, which is a Jewish feast
There are four parts in the Jewish Spring calendar. All four of those occurred literally to the day when Jesus died, and He rose, and so forth.
The Fall calendar has never been fulfilled. If you have a Jewish friend, you know they treasure a holiday in the Fall called Yom Kippur. It means “the Day of Atonement.”
We believe that in Fall of some year, when Jesus Christ comes back at the end of the Tribulation in judgment of the Earth, and He comes back to Israel, He won’t come back until, what Jesus said when He came in that Palm Sunday, and He said “you will not see Me until you say ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” He was talking to the nation.
Israel will have to have a national repentance, and we know what Scripture they’re going to cite. They’re going to go back to Isaiah 53 and they’re going to read that some day in the future on Yom Kippur.
That will be their national confession and once they do that, Christ returns and sets up His kingdom. So, we have a historical story and it’s all coming out just the way God intended it to unfold.
What is our conclusion? We have a choice today between a subjective attitude, a subjective kind of thing that emphasizes what one feels, a feeling that we can have a utopia and we’ll just bring it about ourselves.
Or, rather, we can choose to have an objective and verifiable set of history that has been verified. We have a Messiah who has risen from the dead, has ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father. He’s part of that.
I want to conclude as we end our service today with two pieces that musically and lyrically express these realities that I just noted.
The first one is not music, but I want you to see the lyrics. Those of you who are old enough remember John Lennon. This is one of his famous songs from 1971.
Take notice of the lyrics.
“Imagine there’s no heaven … it’s easy if you try.
“No hell below us … above us only sky.”
Do you see what he’s done in these lyrics? No Heaven and no Hell. What has he diminished in these lyrics? Absolutes. There are no ethical absolutes in the worldview of these lyrics. I’m not answerable individually to God according to these lyrics. There’s no Heaven and there’s no Hell.
In the lyrics he says, “imagine there are no countries.” There goes civil authority.
“Imagine there are no countries ... It isn’t hard to do.
“Nothing to kill or die for ... And no religion, too.”
The message in this song eliminates Christianity and we’ve eliminated Divine Institution # 4.
Then we have this:
“Imagine no possessions … I wonder if you can.
“No need for greed or hunger ... a brotherhood of man.
“Imagine all of the people … sharing all the world”—
a destruction of all capitalism and labor.
This is a musically expressed example of a romantic idea that we human beings in our depraved way are somehow magically going to bring about a kingdom on Earth.
If we believe in the Bible there’s another story to tell. I’m going to have Jason conclude with a hymn.
In 1691 a boy from Germany, who was a musical genius, George Frideric Handel, was six years old and with his daddy, and they happened to visit a wealthy home. This little six-year-old boy walked over to the organ and started playing it.
His dad sat there thinking “how did my son ever learn that?” Sometimes our kids have treasures and we don’t see that they’re there. He plays this organ. Long story short: he receives musical training, and is given opportunities, but they don’t work out financially.
By 1741 he was facing debtor prison and failing in health. A friend came and gave him some lyrics of the Bible. As his friend gave him the sheet of paper with the great lyrics of the Bible, Messianic passages, there were three Dublin charities that gave him money to compose a hymn for a fundraiser.
Handel wouldn’t play his music in churches. Handel would only play his music in secular areas deliberately. The story is, that from August 22, 1741 to September 14, 1741, in twenty-four days, he wrote two hundred and sixty pages of music.
He hardly ate and slept during this time. Handel said, “God seized me with an incentive to take these verses and express them musically.”
Of course, part of the point we all know as when Handel performed this in the presence of the king of England, the story is, we don’t know for sure, but when this particular chorus happened, “The Halleluiah Chorus”, the king rose from his chair, and that’s why historically we always stand up for “The Halleluiah Chorus.”
It started in royalty, but it’s his twenty-four day, concentrated way of assembling messianic prophecies, what we’re playing is only a few minutes of “The Halleluiah Chorus”, so it’s very repetitive.
Pay attention to the lyrics: “the Lord God omnipotent reigns.” This is our hope, believers, this is our hope. We have the first installment done. And we’re waiting for the next one.
Note that the video that Mr. Clough then played is found here.