Why bother with politics? This article looks at what the kingship of Jesus Christ means for politics and government

Source: Clarion, 2014. 3 pages.

Christ's Kingship and Politics

Is it worth getting involved in the political affairs of our city, province, or country? This world is passing away (1 John 2:17) and we are ultimately here only temporarily. After all, our citizenship is in heaven and from there we eagerly wait for our Saviour (Philippians 3:20). We're just pil­grims, strangers, and sojourners, passing through (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). Besides we're busy enough with other worthwhile endeavours. So why bother with politics?

Without denying the above realities, there are never­theless good reasons to be politically engaged, even min­imally for example, by participating in elections, send­ing letters to one's elected representatives, and signing petitions. Getting involved makes sense because Christ rules this world and we are his subjects who seek to hon­our him in everything we do.

Christ Rules!🔗

Prior to his ascension, our Saviour told his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). He ascended into heavenly glory and is now seated at the right hand of the Father who placed all things under his feet (Ephesians 1:20-22). Indeed, he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 1:5; 19:16). He is "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). He is not just Lord of the church. No, he is Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:17-18)! At his ascension into heaven

God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heav­en and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

But wait a minute, someone says. How come we don't see much evidence of his rule? Secularism and a gener­al disdain for God's moral law are the order of the day. Indeed, Satan, the prince of this world, seems to be in control (cf. John 12:31). How do we rhyme this reality with Christ's lordship?

It is indeed true that "at present we do not see every­thing subject to him" (Hebrews 2:8). But at the same time there is no doubt that Christ is sovereign and in control. Scripture says so and the world could not exist without his upholding creation (Colossians 1:16-17). With respect to the question at hand, a few things need to be kept in mind. Christ's kingdom comes in full glory for all to see in his own way and at his own time. He is not slow about his promise, but is patient, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Christ rules keeping in mind the well-being of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23) whose members are the citizens of the kingdom. Because he wants the number of the cit­izens of his kingdom to be complete before he returns, the gospel needs to be proclaimed to all the nations be­fore his glorious coming (Matthew 24:14). Thus prior to his ascension Christ not only told his disciples that all au­thority in heaven and on earth had been given to him, but he added: "Go and make disciples of all nations, bap­tizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). To equip them for this task, the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). This Spirit was sent in Christ's name to convict the world of sin and gather together those who believe in him (John 14:26; 16:8). This convicting and gathering happens through the preaching of the gospel (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2). This proclamation is therefore of utmost importance for the appearing of Christ's kingdom in its full glory.

As the Word is preached and works faith and repentance, Christ is raising up a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He rules his people by his Word and Spirit (HC, Q/A 12). However, precisely because believers are still in the old fallen creation of sin, the evil one will attack the new creation wherever and whenever he can. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the author­ities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spirit­ual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). As sovereign Lord, Christ assures us that in this struggle no one will snatch us from his hand (John 10:28) and that he will keep us in the hour of trial that comes upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10). After all, he has a task for us.

Our Responsibility🔗

As subjects of the King, we have the holy obliga­tion to obey him, recognizing that there is an enormous warfare going on. This obedience includes recognizing Christ's sovereignty over all of life. As Kuyper famously and correctly declared at the opening of the Free Uni­versity in 1880, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human life of which Christ, who is Sovereign of all, does not cry: 'Mine'" As those who belong to Christ's kingdom, we therefore seek to apply his stan­dards to all of life, in the family circle and in church, but also in other areas of life, including politics. One cannot confine one's identity as citizen of Christ's kingdom to the privacy of the home and the safety of the church. The King of kings rules over everything.

Now the church as such has no mandate from God to get involved in the political processes of the land, al­though there can be exceptions.1The task of the church is to preach the gospel and so equip Christians to be a light in this world and to seek true justice and righteous­ness (Matthew 5:14-16; 6:33). Politically it means that Chris­tians let it be known that Christ is supreme also over our nation. This is particularly pressing for our coun­try in which churches were built in the centre of towns and cities and which has therefore benefited from strong Christian influences in its past. The Lord will judge ac­cording to what each has received, but all will be judged according to his norms (cf. Luke 10:12-14; Romans 2). The western world has received God's full revelation. Such a legacy places considerable responsibility on our society and government.

In this situation, especially in a democracy that encourages the participation of all citizens, subjects of Christ cannot remain silent. To be sure, Scripture does not directly speak to a host of modern issues and one needs to carefully study biblical principles and so try to apply the wisdom of the Word to current complex prob­lems. However, for starters we must ensure that our pol­iticians are aware of God's will on the obvious moral issues of the day. After all, they are in the first place not to be serving the people, but God in whose service they are (Romans 13:4). By doing God's will, government will best serve the municipality, province, or nation en­trusted to it.

So how does Christ's lordship impact the duties of government?

Government and Christ's Lordship🔗

As God's servant, government should reflect the norms of Christ's lordship. Politicians, as placed in their authoritative position ultimately by God himself, need to give good direction on the moral issues of the day. God has tasked them, for example, to uphold his gift of human life, both at its beginning and as it nears its end, and to uphold his creation ordinances such as marriage. Although it is not always clear what a biblical position would be on many modern policy questions, there is no doubt about these type of moral issues. A nation with strong biblical morals will also be better equipped to make just decisions in other areas.

Should government in reflecting Christ's lordship then go further and seek to establish a Christian nation and remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship so that the kingdom of Antichrist may be destroyed? No. And Kuyper who emphasized Christ's lordship over all of life, strongly and rightly opposed such a task for govern­ment. The institution of government is not competent to decide which religion or church is the true messenger of God on earth.

More importantly, seeking to create a Christian state would not reflect Christ's current rule of this world. When Christ was on earth he issued the call for repentance and announced the coming of his kingdom (Matthew 4:17; 10:7). But he also said that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). He therefore made no attempt to establish his rule in political terms and prevented any attempt by the people to make him an earthly king (John 6:15). His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, ruled by his Word and Spirit. Its citizens are those who believe the Word.

Christ's kingdom is like the sower who sowed good seed, but discovered that weeds grew up as well. When the servants suggested that they go and pull out the weeds which were sown by an enemy, the owner said, no, because you may also pull up the wheat. Let them both grow up until harvest time. Then the weeds will be separated from the wheat and be burnt in the fire (Matthew 13:24-30). Government as God's servant for the coming of his kingdom is similarly not able to root out the weeds without hurting the good grain and therefore it needs a measure of toleration in the present age of that which Christ will not tolerate on judgment day. Such a situation does not however free government of the responsibility to give moral leadership to the nation. This it must do.

It is important to note that the world's woes and sins cannot be solved by government. There is no political solution for human depravity. People's hearts have to be changed. The gospel is what is needed. That is why the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost and that is why gov­ernment as God's servant is obligated to give the church all the room and freedom it needs for the propagation of the gospel. We are enjoined to pray for such freedom and peace (1 Timothy 2:1-4). That too is an important task with political implications! The gospel proclamation is a critical kingdom activity of this last age. The Word is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and this is how the war for Christ's kingdom is ultimately to be waged. Once the gospel of the kingdom has reached all nations, the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

In Conclusion🔗

As Christians living in a fallen world we cannot ex­pect to redeem society's culture for Christ or experience the triumph of Christ's lordship in a renewed nation or world in this life. We must be sober and realistic with respect to our political activities. There is no place for triumphalism. After all, when Christ comes on the clouds of heaven, he will not come to take over a world that has been redeemed of all ill, but he comes to judge its sin and usher in the new creation made possible by his redeeming work alone.

At the same time, Christ's rule is of great encourage­ment to us. As we are prayerfully active in all of life for Christ, including politics, we can rest assured that our work for the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). By pointing to Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings we testify of his sovereign supremacy to the powers of today. This testimony is the message that all need to hear.


  1. ^ See, e.g., C. Van Dam, God and Government (2011), 74-76. 

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