Government of God via the Conscience

This is the third instalment in a discussion on the Government of God, reflecting Paul’s description of God’s authority hierarchy in 1Corinthians 11:3.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Apostle Paul, 1Corinthians 11:3

We have already noted that God is actively involved in human experience by His personal intervention and by His prescribed authority structures. God’s government is centred in 2 key locations, the throne and the home. It is both divine and domestic.

Direct Government

God’s Government over human experience is remarkably direct. Rather than having to work through a convoluted infrastructure of multi-layered levels of authority, people are subject to immediate accountability before God.

God exercises this government by His personal claim over the hearts and lives of each individual. Each person has a personal account with God and either qualifies for God’s blessings and graces, or for God’s judgements.

God’s Word, the Bible, is given by God to guide the actions of men and to lead them into a blessed relationship with God. Parents are to teach godly morality to their children, instructing the heart of the child and disciplining the actions of the child, so the child obeys God and glorifies Him through their whole life.

Human Conscience

A primary personal mechanism which God uses to exercise His government over the individual is the human conscience. Our conscience alerts us to our actions and attitudes which are not pleasing to God.

Humans are expected to understand truth and to come to their own convictions about that truth. As sovereign entities answerable directly to God it is an immoral action to demand that a person violate their conscience. This is the reason why the right to object to an imposition, based on conscience, is enshrined in the law of many countries. The right to engage in ‘conscientious objection’ is acknowledgement of the divine significance of the human conscience.

For example, a person may believe that it is evil to kill another, even in warfare. When their civil government calls on them to take up arms they may object that they could not pull the trigger as that would bring them under God’s divine judgement. In such cases, once the person has been able to prove the vitality of their conscience, they will be assigned non-combat duties.

Divinity of Human Conscience

Human conscience is not respected because of its human value, but because of its divine merit. The issue in a case of conscientious objection is not how well the person will sleep at night. That is simply a human consideration, like “do you like this or not?” If a person’s conscience will simply make them feel uncomfortable then that is just human self-indulgence.

Human conscience has its greatest validity when it brings a person into conflict or relationship with God. When conscience causes a person to experience a breach of fellowship with God, then the government of God is relevant to the issue.

If a person is ordered to lie, steal, cheat, kill or commit sexual sin then the person’s moral conscience before God is threatened. They cannot do those things in all good conscience because they will experience moral guilt which will separate them from a moral and holy God.

The Conscious Human

I heard some people discussing their conscience recently. A lady said that she could not endure a certain process being followed because her conscience would not sit right with it. The other person said, “Yes, isn’t conscience a miserable thing?” They were both recognising that they were restrained and motivated by their personal conscience. Others might have happily allowed an injustice to be perpetrated but these two people could not sit by and allow that to happen.

Sadly not all humans are conscious of their conscience. It is possible to abuse the conscience, and even to so abuse it as to stop it from speaking up about moral issues. Some people act as if their conscience did not exist. This is most likely because they or others have violated their conscience and it has become seared, or calloused, so that it is no longer tender and sensitive to godly morality.

“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” 1Timothy 4:2

The Inaccurate Conscience

Conscience is a powerful tool in the government of God. God is able to direct and restrain people through their conscience. Since people are directly accountable to God it is important that their conscience is alive and tender.

However it is possible for our conscience to be inaccurate. We may have be given social or religious programming which makes us feel guilty about things which are not an offence to God. This is where parents, religion and the culture are accountable before God for their abuses of the conscience of others.

God is supreme, including supreme over our conscience. This is why the Apostle John says that even if our conscience accuses us we may not be guilty. He points out that God is greater than our conscience.

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 1Jo 3:20

This is an important point, because evolutionists and sociologists suggest that religion evolved as a response to the human need for such things. However John points out that God’s primal existence is supreme over the inner motivations of man, including man’s conscience

The Violated Conscience

One of the important processes in assisting people is to show them how to resolve their violated conscience. Sometimes this involves showing them that the things over which they feel guilty are of no moral weight before God’s throne. If God is not condemning them then it is a tragedy that they should live as if condemned.

Families, cultures, governments and religions impose protocols and expectations on people outside of God’s moral requirements. Failure to meet these expectations can effectively separate people from God because their conscience condemns them, even though God does not.

Where people have been out of order and violated God’s moral requirements it is our privilege to bring them into God’s presence to repent of their sins, putting their trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for absolution of their sins. In that process we restore the primal relationship, that of God and His created child.

The Gospel is therefore part of the Government of God, because it is able to restore people to a right standing before God. No civil, religious or domestic process can do this, just the prescribed application of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.

Where Manhood Stands Tallest

Where do you find manhood most visible and evident? If you were looking for manhood among the men of your city in which forum would you be most likely to find it?

My manhood journey began with the understanding that I had abdicated my headship as the husband within my marriage. So is marriage the place where manhood is to be identified?

Others recognise that their father displays real manhood, ruling his household with authority and setting up the next generation for authority and success in the following generation. So, is the family the forum in which manhood stands tallest?

What about those men who are giants of industry, outstanding political leaders, commanders of men, men of supreme personal talent and ability and so on? There are several places where outstanding men might stand out. Which of those places is the one where manhood is at its most potent?

Job’s Example

Job exemplified the self-sacrificing character of real manhood in his dealings with men. He was a political leader (he had a seat at the gate of the city – where the civic leaders exercised their leadership). He was totally selfless in his care for the needy, such as the disabled, widowed and helpless. He had a large family that honoured him. He had vast wealth and enterprise. See Job 29:7-17.

Yet Job was called into another forum to have his manhood tested. That forum was God’s presence. God called him to account for himself. Job did not achieve his greatest manhood until he accepted that call, which took him two attempts. See Job 38:3 and 40:7.

The Throne Room

Truest manhood has always been found in men who will do business with God. Men who hid from God’s presence lost their manhood, like Adam hiding after breaking God’s command. But men who were willing to run into God’s presence were those who God favoured the most readily.

King David was guilty of adultery and murder and he tried to hide his sin at first. Then the prophet came and convicted him. At that moment David did not go to Bathsheba’s family for reconciliation. Nor did he try to put things right with the family of her dead husband or with the people of Israel. Instead he ran into God’s presence and declared, “I have sinned against You!”

Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.” Psalm 51:4

Men who will enter the throne room, obedient to God’s earthly requirements for their lives, but also willing to do business with God, stand out as the real men of history.

Face to Face With God

Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Paul did business face to face with God. They were statesmen and commanders of men. They and others like them found the true forum for real manhood.

Your own manhood will not become what it is supposed to be until and unless you do business with God, face to face in the throne-room.

The Other Throne

The first throne where manhood is to be found is actually the heart of man. A real man does not have himself on the throne of his life. His heart is committed to God and he will do what God wants him to do. He will live his life sacrificially on behalf of others. He will be a defender and a rewarder, not a self-indulger.

Job had such a heart, as seen in his life of sacrificial benefit to others who needed assistance. His life was not his own, but was spent in blessing others, loving his neighbour and giving himself sacrificially.

Any man who lives life as if it is his own property for him to use as makes him happy is not a man at all.

Real men have done business at two thrones. They have the Lord God on the throne of their own heart, as the Lord of their life. Consequently they live their life sacrificially for others. They have also been into the throne room of God’s presence and invited God to do business with them, as they do business with Him.

Look in the Right Place

Don’t go looking for real men in the fitness centre. Don’t go to the discos looking for real men. Don’t even be impressed with the way their wife and children seem to give due respect to them.

Don’t look for the list of the richest men or winners of the “man of the year” award.

It is hard to see the heart of a man or to know if he has been into God’s presence or not. But the way a man lives his life for others, responds to God’s claim on his life and does business with God are the surest indicators of whether the man is a Real Man or not.

Unseen Authority

I have often struggled to comprehend authority that is not explicitly displayed. And so I have a problem truly understanding the operational authority in a situation if it is unseen. Yet in our lives much of the most important authority we will employ or be subject to is unseen.

I discuss this reality in helping husbands work through issues with their wife. In my recent trip to Europe I applied it for the first time to assist a young mother work through issues with her children.

Let me explain what unseen authority is in practice and how you can tap into it.

Enforced Authority

When we see authority enforced we tend to think of it as having bearing in a situation. If a sign says, “Do not walk on the Grass” and yet everyone does walk on the grass we see that the authority behind the sign is effectively non-existent.

When we see a security guard checking everyone and causing people to be detained and blocked from entry then we think of the authority as being effective.

This is what I mean when I say that we tend to respect authority when it is explicitly displayed. When we do not see an explicit display we tend to think of the authority as being of a lesser quality.

Unseen Authority is Real

While some forms of authority appear to be ineffective they can still be very real. Their reality may become apparent at some later time when recourse is finally applied. This is the case with God’s judgement of man’s sins. Many sinful people live all their life without any apparent recourse or judgement for their actions. But on the day of God’s judgement there will be a very evident display of the power and relevance of His authority.

But unseen authority is also real in other ways as well. Consider the authority which a patriarch has in passing down a family blessing to his children. In the case of Isaac, son of Abraham, the man was old and blind when it came time to pass the blessing. Isaac was of no economic value, having past his usefulness. He was able to be fooled by his wife and son.

Yet this useless old man had unseen authority. There were many things that Isaac could not do. He certainly could not have physically thrown his weight around and given us an explicit display of his authority, but he carried authority none-the-less.

The Unseen Transfer

When Isaac put his hands onto Jacob’s head he transferred the most potent family blessing in human history. Yet it was not charged with Hollywood effects or tinctured with electronic thrills.

The authority that flowed through Isaac was unseen and the transfer that came to Jacob was also unseen. And in just the same way there is an authority which we can employ that is just as invisible, but also just so powerfully effective.

Headship is Unseen Authority

What the Bible calls headship is actually invisible authority at work. It may or may not be seen in some explicit display, but it is equally as real either way. The problem that many people have in coming to terms with this unseen authority is that it is ‘unseen’ and they tend to think that authority must be demonstrated to be real. I hope I have at least opened your perspective a little on that score.

When the Bible teaches that parents have authority over the children and that the husband is the head of the wife these expressions of God’s authority (the government of God) are profoundly real, even if they are impossible to see with the naked eye.

The headship that God assigns is so powerful that it remains in force even when those who should be under that headship are in rebellion.

Did you get that? Headship and authority from God is so real and enduring that not only does it not have to be visible but it can even appear to be contradicted.

The Persistent Unseen Authority

For example, consider a man whose wife has chosen to leave him and live in a separate dwelling. As far as the visible expression of his authority over his wife is concerned it is nonexistent. So what is the reality?

Let us assume, for the purpose of this example, that the husband goes to God in prayer and tells God that the wife is no longer under the husband’s authority. The wife believes that to be true and so does the husband. But what does God say?

Imagine God calling the angels over with the record books to check the matter out. In God’s files what is the record of the authority over the wife? 1Corinthians 11:3 says that the wife is under the husband’s headship. Now the wife has decided to leave the husband. Did the wife’s action change God’s reality? That might best be answered by considering the question, “Is the authority assignment in God’s hands or man’s?”

The Government of God is determined by God and all the authority He assigns is as He assigns it. Mankind is not given the ability or authority to mess with God’s turf. So the authority given to the husband is persistent unseen authority. It persists even in the face of the wife’s rebellion against it. It is not authority based on explicit display, but on God’s supremacy.

Applying the Unseen Authority

In further posts I plan to elaborate on how I apply the truth about unseen authority into the circumstances of the marriage and parenting. Suffice it to say here that once we understand the persistent quality of God’s assigned authority we are better equipped to use that authority, at least before God’s throne, even if the people who should be under that authority have rejected it.

Government of God

The primary government to which we all must give account is the Government of God in our lives. But before you get all religious on me and think of that simply as some kind of stuffy or sentimental notion suited to church liturgy, let me assure you that I am talking about real administrative government over people’s lives.

The Government of God is not a religious construct created by bishops and popes to assert their control, but a primary level of government to which all people in every generation must give attention.

When God Governs

Most people have a dualistic notion of reality. They subscribe to various religious concepts, but see them only as notions or religious beliefs. When it comes to practicalities they have a completely different sense of reality.

Most religious people would admit that God is supreme over all, as a religious concept. But when it comes to the practicalities of who is in control, God doesn’t get another thought. This dualism decimates the real substance and authority of people’s lives. They live in a state of contradiction and compromise.

If God only governs in some notional sense then He does not govern at all. If God’s government cannot be seen in practical reality then it is only an empty concept and should not be subscribed to, even by the religious. It would be delusional and vain.

However, God does rule in the affairs of men and God has prescribed a form a government that is to be practically applied on the earth. That government is the government of God in the earth.

Application of God’s Government

In future posts I will explore some expressions of and implications of God’s government. Initial issues to consider include deism versus theism, God’s hierarchical order of authority and the role of personal conscience. I will not cover these in detail here, but wish to focus your attention on the reality of God’s government over your life and how that might be expressed in your experience.

Deism versus Theism

Those who acknowledge God can be relegated to two different perceptions of God’s government of man, relating to the level of intervention which God will exercise in the affairs of men.

Deists are those who believe in the existence of God but who do not expect Him to interfere in the lives and circumstances of humans. They conceive of God as an observer of that which He created and set in motion. Deists see that human history is in the hands of human will and that God will not intervene unless things become very drastic, as with Noah’s flood or Sodom’s sin.

Theists, on the other hand, believe that God not only initiated all things, but remains actively interested in and ready to intervene in human affairs. Theists recognise man’s place in responding to God and calling upon God’s power and they pray with expectancy to a God they know will hear and respond.

God’s Active Government

By the definitions explained above, I am a theist. I live my life with expectancy of God’s active intervention, and calling on God to direct that intervention according to my prayers.

I believe in God’s active government within the affairs of men. Men can conceive and plan what they will, but God has more than the power of veto. God has a pre-emptive will and dynamic foreknowledge, empowering Him to engage with the issues of human existence in a proactive and powerful way.

It is this divine activity that gives zest and substance to God’s prescribed government. His own active engagement gives power to His instructions and His expectations from man.

God’s Prescription of Government

The Bible provides the basis of all human government, developed by His divine guidance from the time of Noah. A complete study of the role of government as God designed it is a worthy investigation, found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The particular prescription of God’s government that I want to focus here is found in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. Paul laid out an authority structure in which man is under Christ, who is under God, with the wife under the authority of her husband.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Apostle Paul, 1Corinthians 11:3

God’s Hierarchy

Note the significances of this verse. God’s notion of government and authority is hierarchical. A person under authority is given authority over others.

In a day when the flat organization is being popularised and everyone wants to minimise their responsibility to be under authority it is worth noting that God, Himself, operates within an hierarchical construct of government. Government is not a matter of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.

Note also that mankind is meant to be directly under the authority of God, through Christ. Civil government is not described in this hierarchy. Civil government is, by God’s design, a servant to God and man, not an imposition over the responsibility and authority of mankind. Civil government is not interposed between God and man, nor does it absolve man of responsibility.

Note also that the core unit of social structure, the home, is an expression of the government of God. A husband being responsible for his wife and a wife submitting to her husband is at the heart of divine government on the earth.

Modern Government

Today there are various forces competing for rulership over the lives of men. Governments, big business and social engineers are among those who wish for mankind to comply with their plans.

International law now imposes itself over sovereign nations. At the domestic level children defy the will of their parents and wives assert their independence of the husband’s headship. So government is in an interesting state in homes, communities, churches and nations.

The best way to navigate through the uncertainties and competing claims on the lives of men and women is to submit to the government of God.