Authority from the Governed – Nowhere Else!

All authority comes from the individuals and is provided to their representatives in government through an expressed powers document called a constitution. The understanding that all authority for government actions comes from the people individually is the fourth most important principle of freedom and the cornerstone of true freedom.

This principle is set forth in the third sentence of the “Declaration” that reads, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The perception of all authority coming from the individual to their representatives in government is reiterated in the Virginia Constitution in “Article 1 Section 2 People the source of power. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people, that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.” The origin of this principle is found throughout the Bible. Examples are found in Exodus 18:21, 1 Samuel 11:15. and 2 Samuel 2:4 which reads, “Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah….”[1] David did not become king when God had him anointed by Samuel, but when the people consented to him being their king.

Unlimited Submission and Obedience Is Due None but God Alone!

In 1690, theologian and political philosopher John Locke cited over a thousand references to scripture in his second treatise on civil government. He put forward the same sentiment when he stated, “…where-so-ever the Authority ceases, the King ceases too, and becomes like other Men who have no Authority.[2]”

Therefore when we resist government edicts that contravene God’s law, we are not resisting real authority but arbitrary authority, authority formed out of thin air or assumed authority.

Just days prior to the signing of The Declaration of Independence, Pastor Samuel West similarly preached after reading Titus 3:1, “In order… that we may form a right judgment of the duty enjoined in our text, I shall consider the nature and design of civil government, and shall show that the same principles which oblige us to submit to government do equally oblige us to resist tyranny;[3] or that tyranny and magistracy are so opposed to each other that where the one begins the other ends.”[4]

As West develops the concept of rebelling against tyranny in contrast to any authority that God has set up, perhaps we need to reiterate that by definition when anyone tries to impose his arbitrary will over someone else not constrained and restricted by God’s moral law through the consent of the governed, he acts tyrannically.

Elsewhere, West proclaimed, “Unlimited submission and obedience is due to none but God alone… and to suppose that He has given to any particular set of men a power to require obedience to that which is unreasonable, cruel, and unjust is robbing the deity of His justice and goodness.”[5] The truth is that God gave man freewill to follow Him and no mere man has a right to control another unless God specifically grants authority through Holy Scripture as in Genesis 9:6.

While Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-15 and Paul in Romans 13:1-7 speak of submitting to authorities, they are made by many Christians to sound like they support unlimited submission to the will of man. But, in 1749 Pastor Jonathan Mayhew argued against unlimited submission when he proclaimed, “It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers. They are more properly ‘The Messengers of Satan to buffet us.’ No rulers are properly God’s ministers, but such as are ‘just, ruling in the fear of God.’ When once magistrates act contrary to their office, and the end of their institution when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace… they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.”[6]

“Thus, upon a careful review of the apostle’s reasoning in this passage, it appears that [Paul’s] arguments to enforce submission are of such a nature as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e., such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants and public oppressors are not entitled to obedience from their subjects by virtue of anything here laid down by the inspired apostle.”[7]

Conclusion

Today in the political arena, we need to elect statesmen who will work to repeal ungodly laws. Laws that work to undermine God’s authority are a disgrace to any people. Some modern politicians have been working overtime to promote themselves by voting for “the will of the people” only to get re-elected, without regard for the rights of individuals or for God’s moral law. Many recent laws restrain or restrict God-given rights or redistribute wealth through the legalized plunder called welfare. Charity, as opposed to government welfare, is the giving of your own money without the force of law.

Much of modern politics focuses on control and providing goods and services. This philosophy is both un-American and un-Biblical! One deception that enabled this philosophy to creep into the American thinking is the misconception that our Nation was founded as a democracy. Democracy, unlimited majority rule as opposed to our republican form of government based on limited majority rule by God’s moral law. The need to teach the fundamental principles of freedom is essential to regaining our lost freedoms and providing justice.

Now that we have shown that civil government of man over man has limited authority, limited by the moral law and authority of God through the individual, the next question is, “What are our obligations to God through civil government?” The philosophy of everything we have written so far rests upon the self-evident truth that all men are obligated to stand up and defend the rights of all. We must have the courage to put aside our own personal prejudices and have an open mind to think through this understanding. Do we have an obligation to support and defend the fundamental Godly principles of freedom? Principles that declare: “Freedom and Justice in America was founded on the fixed moral standard of the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” “Rights come from God not Government.” “The sole legitimate purpose of just government is to secure our inherent God-given rights; nothing else!” “All power and authority to protect and secure God-given rights come from God to the individual and from the individual to his representatives in government through a limited powers document called a constitution.” Therefore, if we do not have the authority as an individual to do something we cannot delegate to someone else that which we do not possess.

As we stated, the Constitution of the state of Virginia in Article 1 Section 2 states, “That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people…” The essence of freedom is in limiting the power of government to exercising no more authority than the individual. John Lock explained, “For no Body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself…”[8] This understanding of government, exercising no more authority than the individual has in himself is what Law Professor John Eidsmoe calls the “Cornerstone of Freedom.” Therefore if your representatives are faithful to our founding Biblical principles, they will be restrained from doing anything that would be wrong or immoral! As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to George Logan dated 12 November 1816, “It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings collected together are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.”[9] If government officials are ever allowed to violate this principle, then they become our masters and “we the people” become their servants.

These are the facts upon which the uniquely American view of law and justice rest. If there is no Creator God then all our claims to a right to life, liberty, and property, and justice for all evaporate before our eyes.

Video of this exposition:  Starting at 14:29

[1] All Scripture NKJV unless otherwise noted.

[2] John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Peter Laslett, (New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 424.

[3] Highlighting added.

[4] John Wingate Thornton, A.M. The Pulpit of the American Revolution, (New York, Burt Franklin, 1860, Reprinted: 1970) p. 270.

[5] Thornton, The Pulpit, p. 283.

[6] Thornton, The Pulpit, pp. 73, 74.

[7] Thornton, The Pulpit, p. 78.

[8] Locke, Government, p. 357.

[9] Thomas Jefferson letter to George Logan dated 12 November 1816. Accessed Nov. 8th 2013, http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=808&layout=html#chapter_88352