About a year ago, I wrote an article called Theonomy No More. In it, I addressed certain points such as why a theocracy is an unbiblical (and horrible) idea, how it inconsistently applies the threefold division of Law, and how it minimizes the completed work of Christ. Since writing that article, I’ve received multiple comments (some good, some bad) and have observed what appears to be a rising tide of those promoting the position. As a brief follow-up, I want to focus on why theonomy is a doctrine of ignorance and error.
6Some people have strayed from these things and have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
1 Timothy 1:6-7, NASB
When Paul was writing to Timothy, he instructed Timothy to teach sound doctrine and to be careful of those who had turned aside to teach things they knew nothing of. While it may sound harsh, I believe theonomists are committing a similar error. I want to be clear that I do not automatically count a theonomist as a false teacher or heretic. There are many who are dear brothers in our risen Lord. However, the underlying concept and method being employed does share a common vein. They continually make proclamations of Law while understanding nothing of it. In fact, while promoting error, they typically do not even do it with any form of consistency, which I will briefly highlight. While this won’t be an exhaustive refutation of theonomy, my hope is that it will be enough to cause the reader to question it.
Undoubtedly, anyone who has ever encountered a theonomist has likely heard the person employ Matthew 5:17 as the definitive prooftext.
17Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!
Matthew 5:17-18, NASB
I guess that settles it. If not even the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until heaven and earth pass away, the argument must certainly be over! After all, I’m still here typing this article instead of enjoying eternity with our Lord. Then again, maybe there might be more to the story.
by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances,
Ephesians 2:15a, NASB
In this, we are explicitly told Jesus abolished “the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances.” This is just another way of saying the Ceremonial Law has been abolished. The word used for “abolished” is καταργέω (G2673). It carries with it the idea of an external force putting a stop to something. For all my cessationist brethren out there, it’s the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, where Paul speaks of prophecy and knowledge being done away at the coming of the perfect. This poses quite the dilemma for the theonomist who desires to use Matthew 5:17 in an all-encompassing manner. Clearly, Christ has abrogated, at a minimum, a part of the Law. Therefore, the verse can’t possibly be saying no part of the entirety of the Law (Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial) will be abolished before heaven and earth pass away, as the Ceremonial Law was abrogated in His death, burial, and resurrection. It necessitates and “all or nothing” approach be deemed inadequate and incorrect.
With the Ceremonial Law being out of the picture, that leaves the Moral and Civil Law. While it could very well be that Christ was only referring to those two, with the Ceremonial Law being explicitly removed from the topic at hand, it does open the door to the possibility that another one may be on the chopping block as well. In fact, I will make the assertion that the Civil Law no longer applies either and that we are only bound to the Moral Law. While I believe the the “commandments expressed in ordinances” refers to both the Ceremonial and Civil Law, a case can still be made to one who disagrees.
One thing that must be kept in mind is that the Civil Law was only given to ethnic Israel. It was given for the purpose of preserving a people for the coming Messiah. Even before the Law was given to mankind, God’s Moral Law still existed and sin was still in the world (Romans 5:13). This is because it’s universal law that applies to all of humanity. Unlike the Moral Law, the Civil Law was only given to a specific people for a specific purpose. Not once do we see the early Church calling believers to uphold the Mosaic Civil Law. You can search until your eyes bleed but you won’t be able to find a single verse advocating for it. This is because they were not bound to it. Conversely, we do see Jesus making proclamation that the entirety of the Law rests on God’s Moral Law (Matthew 22:37-39).
At this point, we can see the Moral Law is the foundation of all binding law. We’ve also seen how the Ceremonial Law has been abolished. While there is no single verse that speaks to the abolition of the Civil Law, there is a clear example of who was and was not bound to it. Yet, we are all bound to the Moral Law. Of course, this isn’t to say the Civil Law doesn’t have any virtue to it. As I made clear in last year’s article, I’m not promoting antinomianism. Even the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith recognizes the Civil Law has a certain moral use to it through its general equity. But this does not mean believers are bound to observe it. This is because Christ fulfilled it in His active obedience. Believers are grafted into Him and His fulfilling of the Civil Law. There is only one aspect of the Law that we are now bound to: Moral Law.
Even among those who uphold this position, there tends to be uncertainty. Of course, we’re finite creatures living before an infinite God. Questions are certainly going to pop up. As stated, certain aspects of the Civil Law are helpful when held to the Moral Law. We are to strive for obedience in our duty to God (Commandments 1-4) and our duty to fellow man (Commandments 5-10). In our duty to man, we are not to murder, steal, covet, etc. These are all helpful and beneficial to society. But it does not mean we are to implement abolished Law in order to achieve it. While I may not agree with implementing the Civil Law, I also contend that applying morality to legislation is not synonymous with legislating morality. We can never make the unbeliever righteous by forcing him to obey the Civil Law. In fact, even if he were to follow it perfectly, he would still be unrighteous because it would not be with the motivation of obedience to God. In this case, even his perfectly kept legal standing would be as filthy menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only way to achieve righteousness is to be in Christ. Nobody in Christ should ever seek to bring back that which He has fulfilled. What we should be doing is seeking to demonstrate our love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15).
We should strive to obey the Moral Law, not out of selfish ambition but out of a love for God. Because we love God and seek to obey His commandments, we apply the second table of the Law to legislation out of a desire to obey the first table, but the first table should not be legislated itself. While the Law does serve as a mirror, the first table should be proclaimed, not legislated. For instance, some may say we should outlaw working on the Sabbath in order to help prevent someone from reaping God’s wrath for practicing a Fourth Commandment violation (Exodus 20:8-10). But this would be no different from outlawing non-Christian places of worship in order to prevent a First Commandment violation (Exodus 20:3). It simply is not what we see prescribed in Scripture. To make an argument to the contrary is to make an argument from silence, while defending error born in ignorance of the Law and what it teaches.
No doubt many of you will think this is a sensationalist title, and that I’m just trying to aggravate and inflame emotions. Well, it is meant to pack a punch, but not without a good reason. The reason I aim to get your attention is to confront you bluntly with the perverseness of this doctrine, which I call Eschatological Feminism. What is Eschatological Feminism? It’s the usurpation of what properly belongs to Christ by His Bride, the Church, in much the same way as a feminist arrogates the privileges of her husband to herself. And if it’s perverse for a wife to steal the prerogatives of her husband in an earthly marriage – which is only meant to serve as a model of the heavenly one (Ephesians 5:22-33) – how much more perverse is it to distort the roles of that heavenly marriage itself?
This is the sin committed by the most popular forms of postmillennialism today. It hears God say to the Lord Jesus, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1) and somehow hears, “Sit thou at His right hand, until we make thine enemies thy footstool.” Instead of occupying till He comes, and waiting to rule with Him until He returns with the Kingdom (cf. Luke 19:15-27), they demand to reign now, to force His Kingdom down before His time, and to mix Christ’s Kingdom with Belial’s. And, as I will show, they have absolutely no Apostolic precedent for this affront.
But before I begin, I’d like to make clear that the title of this post is NOT Against Postmillennialism, but rather against its Eschatological Feminism which so often goes hand-in-hand with that perspective. I understand that there are pietistic forms of postmillennialism that make a clear distinction between Christ’s Kingdom and Caesar’s kingdom and do not propose mixing the two. Such postmillennialists do not advance the Kingdom by a theonomic takeover, but rather by faithfully using the means given to us by Jesus and the Apostles, which they use to gradually draw sinners out of Satan’s kingdoms and into the Lord’s. If that’s your view, brother or sister, you are a dear friend of mine, and we share the same end and means. Whatever differences we may otherwise have about eschatology, know that the harsh rhetoric is not aimed at you.
The Example of Jesus and the Apostles
The postmillennialists we speak of here are those who set their eyes on the present world, aiming to take it over via their own means and make a utopia for themselves. Rather than confess with Paul that “our conversation is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), they plainly identify as citizens of the earth, focusing a great deal of their energy in political and cultural “engagement” (usually the kind of engagement that ends in marriage). For this, there is no New Testament encouragement. The Lord Jesus instructs us to take our hearts off of an earthly inheritance, and to lay up our treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:20). So unconcerned are we to be with this present world, that we are not even to care about societal reform when its injustice affects us:
“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also“
If an Eschatological Feminist were taken to court unjustly, it’s hard not to imagine them organizing a protest, appealing to lawmakers, and doing all in their power to conform this world’s standards of justice to those of the Kingdom. But there is not the least hint of any of that here. On the contrary, the Christian is instructed to let the unjust prosecution take more than they asked for. Why? Because our heart is not here, and the Christian – when thinking rightly – knows that the rewards stored up for him in heaven far exceeds whatever he may lose in this life. His sojourning on earth is but the tiniest sliver of his existence, and so he’s not concerned with how he fares here. The Christian knows he’ll be home soon enough, with or without his cloak.
This sentiment is echoed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. Far from engaging with the legal system of his day, Paul doesn’t want Christians to go to the law to resolve their problems with one another at all:
“Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?“
1 Corinthians 6:7
Again, undoubtedly taking cues from Jesus, Paul is utterly perplexed as to why believers would feel the need to go to court against one another. For starters, Christians are much better suited to judge their own affairs than the secular world, whom we will ourselves judge (v. 2). But beyond that, Paul doesn’t understand why believers would care about being wronged. This is an example of the principles laid out in the Sermon on the Mount put into practice, which causes us to ask: What thing of lasting value could they have lost? Are not their treasures laid up in heaven? Accordingly, if there is conflict among believers concerning things of this life, Paul advises us to “set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church” (v. 4). Far from desiring to create a perfect justice system to execute the decrees of heaven on earth, Paul doesn’t care if a judge of earthly matters is qualified at all. And if Paul is apathetic towards the earthly affairs of the saints, he is at least as blunt in the previous chapter about his indifference towards the rest of the world: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? … them that are without God judgeth” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). How this is compatible with theonomic Christian Reconstructionism is beyond me.
These are just a few examples of what is simply the New Testament spirit. What may speak louder than these is the otherwise deafening silence about societal issues altogether. In an empire full of corruption and wicked practices, neither Jesus nor the Apostles speak once about reforming the institutions that practice them. Even those under the bondage of slavery are told to “care not for it” (1 Corinthians 7:21). Why? Because such a one is already the “Lord’s freeman” (v. 22). The only time an issue such as civic rights appears is when it would open the door for Paul to preach the Gospel (Acts 22:25). Other than that, there is nothing but indifference and silence on the part of the New Testament authors who looked for another world, not the present one.
A Passover People
We’re indifferent to the institutions of the world because we are a Passover people.
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us“
1 Corinthians 5:7
The leaven we’re to purge from ourselves can represent many things (cf. v. 8), but the other evils it symbolizes stem from its root sin: worldliness. God established that this was the symbolic purpose of leaven when He first instituted the Passover feast. When the children of the Israelites would ask about the meaning of the feasts given to them, this is what God told their parents to say about it:
“they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual“
Principally, the avoidance of leaven signifies that the Passover people are a sojourning people, who would not be around long enough to leaven their bread or have any other prepared food. For the Passover people to purge themselves of leaven is to purge themselves of any sense of permanence in this world. For us to be a Passover people is to confess – with the Passover people before us – that we are a sojourning people thrust out of Egypt, and who will be a sojourning people until we reach the Promised Land. It’s to confess that we are heirs of Abraham, Noah, and Abel, who likewise “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth … But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13, 16) [And make no mistake, the Epistle of the Hebrews says it’s God who is preparing the city for us, not ourselves]. To purge ourselves from leaven is to be risen with Christ, to set our affection on things above, not on things of the earth. It’s to be dead and have our lives hid with Him (Colossians 3:1-3). The dead tend not to be very concerned about societal reform.
Thy Kingdom Come
The Lord instructs us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). It’s a passive prayer; Jesus does not tell us to pray that the Father would give us strength to bring His Kingdom down to earth. We are to pray as beggars – as those who acknowledge their inability to accomplish His will, and who must entreat Him to cause it to come to earth. And come it will, and we shall see “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), quite apart from any of our own efforts. It would be sin for us to try to construct a tower to reach her, as if God hadn’t already promised to bring her down and wasn’t perfectly capable of doing so Himself.
So, what is our job? It’s not to be lazy, as we anticipate an Eschatological Feminist may accuse us of being (which is exactly the same accusation real feminists lay at the feet of faithful women). Rather, our job is to follow the marching orders of our King: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Our Lord is our breadwinner, and we are not to compete with Him. We are simply to proclaim His Word and live in accord with His commandments, trusting that God will work through the means He’s given us to accomplish His purpose. We are not to be defiled by the world, but to “come out from among them” (2 Corinthians 6:17) in such a way that we remain separate even when living in their midst. We are not to merge our city with theirs, but to be “A city that is set on an hill” (Matthew 5:14), and therefore to be a city set apart from the rest. We are to purify ourselves that we may be without spot, blemish, or wrinkle, and manifest that holiness which is becoming for the Bride of Christ. God forbid that He returns to find His Church committing fornication with the world, trying to prop-up kingdoms and causes dedicated to idols. With the present world, all institutions around us “shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:12). Let’s not waste time polishing a sinking ship; the cities belonging the prince of the power of the air will not fit on the Ark of Christ, but will be washed away by the coming flood of fire. And to those who resist the Gospel preached to them, we will by no means mandate their obedience, but repeat to them the solemn words of the angel: “he which is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Revelation 22:11).
Closing Remarks/Anticipated Objections
If you’re among those this article is targeted at and have made it this far, you may think that I’ve made you out to be a heretic and an enemy of the Cross. So, now is a good time for me to say that I don’t think that’s the case for most of you. Let me be clear: this doctrine of yours is aberrant, and inverts the New Testament’s emphasis on detachment from this present age. However, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and if you believe in that Gospel, you are my brother or sister regardless of your other views. It’s actually because I believe most of you are saved that I attack the doctrine as aggressively as I do. Partly, it’s because I hold you to a higher standard, but it’s also because – as members of the Church – when you defile yourselves with the world, you are actually entangling the genuine, born-again Church of God with its filth! This makes the error worthy of strong rebuke. And so, it’s with love that I implore you to cease from your worldly efforts, and focus your time following the example that Christ and the Apostles gave us.
Let me also stress what I’m not saying. I am not saying that it’s a sin to ever vote, or to engage in any behavior that might be classified as “political.” In fact, the confession I subscribe to says it’s even acceptable for a Christian to hold public office if that’s his vocation (LBCF 24.2). My chief concern is what the duty of Christ’s Church is, which on a corporate level is not to infiltrate and reform the institutions of Caesar, and on an individual level is not to have anxiety about the actions of the rulers over us or the quality of our earthly lives. Again, we can remind ourselves of the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 22, which was briefly alluded to before. He raised his civic rights, but it was not for the sake of the rights or because he aimed to make the Roman government a better model of the heavenly one, but because it was a convenient thing for him to do for the furtherance of the Gospel. Similarly, there may be instances where it’s practical to represent the interests of the Church during a policy debate which could hinder the performance of her duties (such as the classification of her preaching as “hate speech,” or the forbidding of her assembling on account of a quarantine). However, even in these cases, it’s never permissible to view ourselves as anything but outsiders – as sojourners who politely ask to be left alone as we continue our journey home. While we’re here, we’ll be good neighbors – we’ll help wash your dishes, take out your trash, and invite you to join us as we head to a better world; but your affairs, O citizen of this world, are not our affairs. And while we mourn for the wickedness and injustices committed by your governments, we rebuke you as outsiders, not as your fellow-heirs. And when we rebuke, the remedy we offer is not a changed political system, but a changed heart through the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Bridegroom who invites us into His own Estate. Who ever heard of a bride building a home for her husband?
There’s one objection to what I’ve said which shouldn’t be raised by Bible-believers, but, because I’m sure someone will anyways, I’ll address it before I close. There will be those who will dismiss everything I’ve said because the passages that deter us from societal engagement were written before 70 AD. If you raise this, then I’m more worried about your view of Scripture than your eschatology. The Bible isn’t merely a compilation of authoritative spiritual teachings, but is the Spirit-breathed Book that God decreed should be the guide for the Church throughout her generations, and it’s sufficient for all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So, to say that the example of Christ and the Apostles doesn’t model how Christians should live today is to say that the Holy Spirit gave no example for post-70 AD Christian living. It’s also to say that huge portions of the New Testament have no practical relevance to any Christian who ever had a complete New Testament, which wasn’t assembled until after 70 AD! This is especially true for the Corinthian epistles, which are largely concerned with problems relating to the Church and her interaction with the world around them; is a huge chunk of their content irrelevant? Why did God see it fit to include those portions in a Bible given to the entire Church age? Maybe – just maybe – if your eschatology causes you to have a view of the New Testament more in line with hyper-dispensationalists than the rest of the orthodox Church, you’ve made a wrong turn somewhere.
Fix your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, be faithful to His Word, and wait patiently for His return. Leave everything else in God’s hands.
Shout out to Travis Rogers, who made a great post on the related topic of theonomy on this blog. You can read that here.
THEONOMY. Perhaps there is no word more beautifully deceptive than this. Literally meaning God’s Law (theos: God, nomos: law), it sets forth the proposition that our civil magistrates must adhere to God’s standard and that our earthly laws should reflect His moral law. Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to see how the Christian might be inclined to follow it. For instance, Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church is a strong advocate for the system where he has affirmed his position that the only two options are theonomy or tyranny. With such well known Christians proclaiming the belief, does this give credence to it? There seems to be a growing number of people, particularly post-millennials, who are advocating for it and are using the Bible and etymology of the word to justify their position. However, as set forth, I believe to do so is to fall victim to highly deceptive terminology rooted in error. Before we begin, I want to outright state I’m certainly not advocating for antinomianism (i.e. lawlessness) with this post. I’d be foolish to ignore the fact that God has written His moral law on the hearts of believers (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 10:16) and that we have an obligation to be obedient to the One who bought us with His blood (Galatians 3:13). However, what does that obedience look like and how far does it extend? If God truly reigns over all the earth (and He does), is theonomy a view that aligns with Scripture? I argue that it does not.
Personally, I think theonomy becomes a dangerous position when taken to its fullest extent because it becomes inconsistent, mandates a theocracy, merges Church and State, and reintroduces what Christ has abrogated. I think it’s a wonderful and necessary thing in the Church, but it has no place in the government as a formal requirement or system. I’ll give a very brief summary and then expound upon each point throughout the remainder of this post. If enacting a theocracy, it necessitates the reinstatement of Civil Mosaic Law or else it’s no longer grounded in biblical principles. After all, if we’re going to mandate civil government follow the biblical structure as found in the Old Testament theocratic systems, we must also resurrect the biblical pattern for judicial consequences. Any other structure results in “cherry picking” and fails the test of consistency. However, our nation follows a system of Separation of Church and State, which means a theocracy can never be as that makes the two a joint union. While I pray for leaders to be Bible-believing Christians (for obvious reasons), I don’t see it as a requirement for office that they be. The only two offices I feel necessitate that are elder and deacon.
Aside from feeling theonomy within government can’t be done properly, we’ve also never seen a single instance of it actually work, even in all of Scripture. Ultimately, sin gets in the way and leads to a perversion of God’s Law, oftentimes leading to legalism, which is just as bad as antinomianism. It’s impossible for us to live in a pure society that is fully governed by God. The only time we’ll ever see a functioning theonomy is in Heaven, and the only way to truly be a consistent theonomist is to conflate the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. As Christians, we adhere to God’s Moral Law as found in the Ten Commandments. Yet, even these are for His people, of which most of the world is not. Those not in Christ are expected to live like the world. Those in Christ are expected to adhere to the Moral Law. The Civil (and Ceremonial) Law has since been abrogated and, I argue, to adhere to theonomy is to minimize the completed work of Christ. Furthermore, a theocratic government, if implementing theonomy to its fullest extent, would have to punish people for not being Christian, having a different sexual preference, etc. God will indeed judge spiritual rebellion and sexual immorality in His time, but our government shouldn’t assume that role.
When speaking with a theonomist, you’ll undoubtedly be given Scriptural examples of God being over governing rulers. However, what does this actually imply? Does it imply we’re to advocate for a theocracy, or does it simply tell us that God is sovereign? I dare say it’s the latter. Because He has sovereignly placed them in positions of power, we’re to submit to this governing power as unto God. Despite this, it in no way advocates for a theocratic form of government. As stated earlier, every such form of implementation has failed, and there is a good reason for it. Let’s break down a number of examples. At Creation, we see Adam and Eve before the Lord. They were in direct communion with Him and He was over them. He gave the command and their responsibility was to obey. That’s a prime example of a theocracy how it was meant to be. However, we both know Adam and Eve failed miserably and paid the price that, ultimately, spread to all men in the form of physical and spiritual death. This wasn’t a failure on part of the theocracy but of humanity. Yet, it still failed.
Throughout Scripture, we see more examples. For instance, the Hebrews followed Moses and submitted to the governing structure that was in place. This was another theocracy, as it was leadership appointed by God to lead His people. All moral, ceremonial, and judicial matters were handled by this body. While it was in effect for a time, Scripture reveals that Christ abrogated the Ceremonial and Civil Law, leaving only the Moral Law that is written on the hearts of His own. Thus, we shouldn’t desire to go back to that construct as it’s no longer functional.
When we see kings come on the scene, it was something that immediately angered God. Yet, they wanted one just like the pagan lands. While we see times of prosperity when those kings feared the Lord and used discernment, we also see how they abused the position. Countless forms of sin crept in due to a sinful nature. This was a horribly perverted form of a theocracy that even God Himself warned against. Surely, this shouldn’t be advocated for if even God is against it (1 Samuel 8:7).
Now, let’s skip ahead to the time of Christ and the early Church. While we see examples telling us to submit to the governing rulers because they were placed there by God, nowhere do we see a requirement that they be Christian in order to be legitimate. In fact, we even see evil rulers being regarded as legitimate. While they were indeed placed there by God, in no way was it a theocracy. Nor do we see Christ trying to implement a theocracy. What we do see is Christ setting the foundation for His Church and other New Testament passages telling us how we’re citizens of Heaven (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20). If a theocracy was the structure in view here, Christ took zero time to speak of it and actually seemingly spoke contrary to it.
It’s been argued that Jesus was a theonomist, and that He advocated for the system in Matthew 5:17. Does this undo everything I’ve just said and annul anything I’m about to say, or are we just not thinking critically enough yet? First, think about the time period in which Jesus lived. The threefold division of the Law was still in effect. He was still performing His active obedience to the Law. With this in mind, we’d be remiss to ignore the preceding verse where he says he, “did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Again, we can’t “cherry pick” the parts we want just to validate a belief. Keeping in line with the extent of Christ’s vicarious atonement also comes the extent to which, as our federal head, His active obedience fulfilled the Civil and Ceremonial Law. I’ll elaborate on this in a bit.
Where we once again see a theocracy try to rear its ugly head is in the Catholic Church. Within the first few centuries after Christ’s death, the Church was the State and it handled all matters of governing ordinance. It was a true theocracy in every sense of the word. However, it, too, failed miserably due to human nature. It quickly became corrupt, lost sight of God, and sought absolute power, all while claiming the name of Christ. Perhaps even more frightening than the prospect of religion ruling over the people of the State is the thought of the State ruling over the people of the Church. Think it can’t happen? I highly suggest reviewing the history of Theodosius, c.391 A.D. When one conflates Church and State, man’s sinful nature knows no bounds.
Yet again, it was an example of why a theocracy will never work this side of Heaven. The only example of a pure theocracy was in the Garden with God as the direct ruler and even that failed on the part of man. Every other instance was nothing more than a perversion of the theocracy we will see in eternity. And, as I stated above, to implement one on this earth necessitates a restoration of Mosaic Civil Law in order to properly punish the wicked who violate God’s Moral Law.
The greater question becomes one of whether we are to hold the unbeliever accountable for violating God’s Law. Clearly, we have violations and punishments in place for things such as murder, rape, theft, etc. But is it in place because they violate God’s Law or is it in place because they violate the law of the land? I’d argue it’s the latter, because punishment for violating God’s Law will come from God Himself on the Day of Judgment. We still submit to it because we know the rulers are only there by God’s divine appointment, but just as Pharaoh met his demise at the hand of God, so, too, will our ungodly earthly rulers. Again, no instance of a theocracy is necessary nor is it prescribed. We live in a pagan land with pagan rulers. While I would prefer a Christian be in office in order to possibly implement laws that honor God, I also recognize they aren’t obligated to do this. Similarly, if we had a Christian in office, I wouldn’t want the law of the land to be conflated with the standard of the Church. This would only open the door to punishing people simply for not being Christian or for worshiping a false god. Our civil government is not to be conflated with the moral law written on the hearts of those in the Christ.
Chapter 19, Of the Law of God, in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 gives a very concise, yet highly biblical, description of what Christ accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection in regards to the Law. I highly suggest reading it for yourself. In it, paragraph 1 speaks of a law of universal obedience being written on Adam’s heart. Paragraph 2 goes on to say how this same law, “was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments and written on two tables, the first four containing our duty to God and the other six, our duty to man.” Paragraph 3 speaks of the implementation of ceremonial laws and how Christ abrogated these laws (Ephesians 2:15). Paragraph 4 goes on to speak of judiciary (i.e. Civil) laws , “which expired together with the state of the people,” (Acts 6:14) and tells how, though they have a certain practical application in the moral use, we’re under no obligation to follow them. Take note that all of this is written for the Church and not for our civil government. Look no further than 1 Corinthians 5 for an example of how this should play our biblically. Though this man was to be excommunicated, at no point was the recommendation to put him to death (Leviticus 20:10). Such Law that would require it had been fulfilled. In the sense of civil government, it held no role in what would happen to the man. It was a Church matter only.
In conclusion, I hope you can see why, though a beautiful term from the etymological position, theonomy is incredibly dangerous when implemented with an earthly system of government. We have many freedoms in this great nation and I value all of them, even the ones that give people the legal right to worship idols. While sounding liberating, due to its very nature, when taken to its logical and consistent end, it will always result in bondage to man and threatening of liberty. God indeed reigns over the earth and His righteous judgment will one day be executed in the day He withholds His grace and mercy. That day belongs to Him alone and not to any civil magistrates. There will come a day when Christ shall return and we’ll finally see theonomy as God intended. However, unless Christ comes back before sundown, today is not that day.