BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 20
Copyright 1990, Biblical Horizons
The Message of the Covenant
Can we really say that the saints presently rule the world, and always have since Noah? Look around and you can see that the wicked rule in virtually every country on earth. There are wicked civilizations that rise Babelically age after age. Clearly the wicked do indeed have rule and dominion. It is insane to deny it.
Is it? The Noahic Covenant tells us that the eye of faith discerns an explanation of the world different from what we usually perceive. Let us start with "world civilizations." How many of them have there been? In fact, there haven’t been any since Babel. Never have the wicked been able to get it together and rule the world. By way of contrast, the saints always rule the world, the entire world, as we shall see.
The message of the Noahic Covenant is this: Right now, the Church rules the nations of the world. We and we alone have been given power and dominion, and if we don’t like the way things are going, we have only ourselves to blame. Unbelieving rulers are puppets, and we are the puppetmasters. They dance to our tune, and move as we pull the strings. They "rule" only as we direct them. Right now, they are doing exactly what the Church has told them to do.
This is the True Reality. It is the way things really are. But because of sin, we in common with all men suppress the True Reality and believe a myth (Rom. 1:18). We believe that those who wield external power are the rulers of this world, but that simply is not the case.
It is interesting to read Romans 13:1-7 in the light of the Noahic Covenant, as we have understood it. Paul says that every civil authority is established by God. He says that the Roman Caesar is a cause of fear for evil behavior. He says that if the Church does good, the ruler will praise her. He implies that if the Church does wickedly, the ruler will persecute her. Christians are to pay taxes to their slaves (rulers) so that their slaves will be able to do what Christians tell them to do.
What does this mean? It means that when the Church is faithful, God will convert the heart of the ruler and he will rule righteously. Conversely, when the ruler is evil and destructive, this means that the Church has not been pleasing to God. The Church is always in charge of culture, and she has been in charge ever since the Flood. We don’t have to take the world and culture over. We already have them. We just have to start using them aright.
This is not something new that comes in with the New Covenant, though the New Covenant puts it into force as never before. When Joseph was faithful, Pharaoh converted. When Daniel was faithful, Nebuchadnezzar converted. It was because Judah was wicked that Nebuchadnezzar conquered her. The picture of the world throughout the Old Testament is that Jerusalem is the center of the world, and that the faithfulness or faithlessness of God’s priestly nation determines the fate of the whole world. The New Testament presents the same picture, making the world’s fate rest in the hands of the Church.
At creation, God gave to His Church the benefits of His world. After Adam fell, God renewed this covenant with him and with his faithful posterity, but God did not give to Adam the sword to prevent the wicked from multiplying and taking over the earth, nor did God Himself act to break down the pre-Flood Cainitic "towers of Babel." After a while, the faithful line of Seth intermarried with the wicked line of Cain, giving the strength of the covenant-people to the covenant-breakers. At this point, God acted to prevent the world from being destroyed utterly, by bringing the Flood and saving the remnant of the Church.
In the Noahic Covenant we have a change. God gives to the Church once again the benefits of creation, but adds something. He gives to the Church the right and duty to rule by wielding the sword. The Church does not to this directly, but indirectly. From this time forward, God’s people are to rule in the nations of the world, restraining evil by means of their government.
But this is not enough. Merely restraining evil is not God’s programme. Fighting sinful men in the "outer" land is not the extent of His design. In the New Covenant God carries the battle into the "inner" sanctuary, and calls on His Church to defeat Satan and his fallen angels. Now the Church no longer simply restrains evil, she conquers it by liberating and transforming men.
The "kingdom" given to the saints in Daniel 7:18-27 is the "full kingdom" of the New Covenant. The "dominion of the beasts" should have been broken by the Noahic Covenant, but because Satan stood behind them (Rev. 13:2), and because the Church was faithless and weak, the Noahic Covenant never operated as it should have. Whenever the people said, "We have no king but Caesar," they gave away their rule to the Satanic powers. Even so, the book of Daniel shows that the nations were governed by the righteousness of the Old Covenant saints. In the New Covenant, however, the war is taken to Satan, and the "dominion of the beasts" is fully destroyed.
This three-stage history is related to the three degrees of apostasy set out in Genesis 3-6. Before the Flood God did not cut out the Adamic apostates or the Cainitic murderers, but at the Flood He did cut out the mixed civilization of the Sethite compromisers. The great sin of the Sethites in Genesis 6:1-3 was that they intermarried with the Cainites, thereby giving the spiritual strength and vitality of the Church to the forces of wickedness. The result was a disastrous mixed civilization. After the Flood God allowed Adamic apostates to live, but cut out the Cainitic murderers by instituting capital punishment, preventing mixed civilizations. In the New Covenant God cuts off the Adamic apostates by demanding that all men come into the Church, and by instituting the post-Pentecostal campaign of worldwide evangelism.
(For more on the New Covenant, see my essay "The Dominion Church," forthcoming in Biblical Horizons No. 20.)
"If a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Pr. 16:7). This verse shows how it is that the Church governs the world, how she controls the puppet civil governments of all nations. When she is faithful, God changes men.
We see this in Acts 5:11-14. Here we find the faithful Church right after Pentecost. Those who lied to the Holy Spirit were slain, cut out of the covenant. "Great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things." Faithfulness caused great fear to fall on the culture.
So great was this fear that no one "dared to associate with them." People were afraid to draw near to the Church. The Church and her faithful leaders had "high esteem" in the eyes of the people.
And yet, paradoxically, "all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added" to the Church. "No one dared join . . . multitudes were added." How would you like to see that in your community? It’s easy: Do what pleases God and He will send great fear, and will bring it to pass.
This is how we rule. We do not rule first and foremost through activism and we do not rule first and foremost through evangelism, important as these may be down the line. We rule first and foremost through our interface with God, by pleasing God through faithful lives or by displeasing Him.
You see, it is inescapable. Right now, you are one of the prime rulers in your city. God holds you responsible. If your city or county or country is being governed badly, it is your fault. The rulers are doing exactly what you have told them to do.
Am I exaggerating? After all, doesn’t it require more than just one man to make a difference in this spiritual warfare? Yes, but remember that it only took one man (Joseph) to convert Egypt, and one man (Jonah) to convert Assyria, and four men (Daniel and company) to convert Nebuchadnezzar. And that was in the Old, weak covenant! A small church, if faithful, might make a whole lot more difference than we can imagine.
So what is to be done? How can we start sending different signals to our rulers? How do we manipulate the strings of these puppets? Let me suggest how we don’t do it. We don’t change our slaves (rulers) by hypocritically telling them to do things we don’t do. That is the problem with Christian activism and evangelism today. We go door to door telling people they should fear God, when we don’t fear Him enough to do what He says. We tell the government to judge justly, when we refuse to execute justice in Church discipline. We want the government to get out of debt, when the Church owes trillions of dollars in back tithes to God.
I am not saying that the world perceives the Church as hypocritical and thus does not listen. The problem is much deeper than this. It is not our slaves (rulers) we need to persuade. It is God we need to persuade, and He sees past our verbiage. He sees what we are really doing, and He sends that message down the wires to our slaves.
Here are six very simple, basic, elementary things that the Church today does not do — indeed refuses to do — and that she must start doing before there will be any change. I am not saying that if we do these things, change will occur overnight. In the Bible, when people begin to take God seriously, the first thing that happens is persecution and suffering, but afterwards there is significant cultural change. It took about a decade in the cases of Joseph and Daniel, so it might take a decade or longer for us. Also, there may be a few things else that need to be done. But these are for starters:
Take the Whole Bible Seriously
Right now anybody who takes the Old Testament seriously is called a "theonomist," which seems to mean a combination of "brute" and "heretic." I am thankful that the prestigious faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, in their new book Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, call for serious attention to be given to the practical meaning of everything in the Old Testament. We do not have to be "theonomists" in order to study and apply all of the Bible.
The Old Testament provides the framework and context for the New, and we cannot understand the New Testament rightly until we have understood the Old.
We are sending a signal to our slaves (rulers) that the Bible is not important and that God’s law is not important. That is how we are ruling our world today.
Do the Sacraments Properly
God invites us to His house every week, and asks us to bring along bread and wine. We cannot be bothered except four times a year, so why should He bless us?
The Bible says to use bread and wine, not saltines and grape juice. Do we trust Him enough to use the elements He commands (wine)? If we don’t trust Him enough to use wine, why should He bless us? (Have grape juice for those who cannot have wine, but don’t dishonor God by refusing to have any wine at all.)
I believe that the Bible says that children need to be included (1 Cor. 10:1-4, 11, 16-22). If we treat our children this way, we should not be surprised if child-killing is common in our society.
The Bible says that this rite is to be done in two distinct halves, with a prayer before each part (see Rite Reasons No. 1). If we cannot do this one simple ritual in the way God commands, why should we expect Him to bless us?
We are sending a signal to our slaves (our rulers) that God’s charity to us (free bread and wine) is not important, and thus that charitable dealings with other people are not important. We are sending them signals that we regard children as "question marks" before God. That is how we are ruling our world today.
God says to give to His Church 10% of our income. Calculate that amount however you want, just make sure that it is an honest 10% before God. If God had asked for 12.67843% of our income, that would be something else. But God’s commands are so simple! God says, "Don’t worry about money; trust Me." If God’s people refuse to trust Him in something this simple, we can hardly expect Him to bless us.
We are sending a signal to our slaves (rulers) that it is okay to steal and to use our position in life to amass wealth. We are in debt to God for the tithes we fail to give, and thereby we have told our slaves (rulers) that huge national debts are just fine. That is how we are ruling our world today.
Do Church Discipline
We don’t have any business telling the magistrate what to do as long as sin is rampant and uncorrected in the Church. We need to do our excommunications as visibly as our baptisms. We need to respect one another’s discipline, and not gleefully receive excommunicated people onto our rolls, with pious pride and vain assurance that "we’ll be able to help these people, where that other church failed."
Satan attacked in the Garden, not in the land. He attacked at the center, on the Lord’s Day. He attacked the clergy who governed the Garden. The decisive battle against principalities and powers is in the Church, and that is why the New Testament everywhere calls us to Church discipline. Paul warns and warns and warns about it. If we practise Church discipline, God will change the society surrounding the Church. If we despise His holiness and exalt the wicked in our midst, He assuredly will not send revival!
We are sending a signal to our slaves (rulers) that crime does pay, and that criminals should not be punished. That is how we are ruling our world today.
Sing God’s Songs
Ephesians 5:19 commands us to sing the 150 psalms. These are the arrows God has put into the quiver of His army. They deal with holy warfare, and in this respect are very different from hymns.
It is not good enough for the choir to sing the psalms.
It is not good enough to sing Scripture Songs, because they are only a line or two wrenched out of context and thereby eviscerated of power and meaning.
It is not good enough to read the psalms responsively, but that’s a start.
It is not good enough to sing metrical psalms, because they change and paraphrase the Word of God. If you sing metrical psalms (a good thing to do), then make it a rule to read or chant the psalm first straight from the text. The pure psalm is the Word of God; the metrical psalm is an adornment.
It is not good enough to sing only some of the psalms. For a balanced diet, we need all of them.
It is only good enough when the priesthood of all believers, the congregation of the Lord, chants all 150 psalms straight from an accurate English translation.
What’s so hard about that? It is really very simple to do. Lutherans do it. Why can’t we?
The psalms are alien to the "evangelical mindset," and if we let ourselves be mastered by them, they will make new people out of us. Moreover, they are God’s way of prayer, and they are the strings by which we control our puppets, the rulers of this world. God wrote them, and God likes to hear them. He does not mind our hymns, but He wants His to come first. It is utterly ridiculous for us to expect any kind of cultural change when we refuse to sing His songs to Him.
We are sending a signal to our slaves (rulers) that we do not fear God and do not care to pray down His justice, and that therefore they need not fear Him either. That is how we are ruling our world today.
Finally, Think Locally
The Biblical conception of the Church is geographical, not ideological. In America today, we drive past twenty churches to get to the one we "agree" with. This situation cannot be reformed overnight, but we need to start thinking the way the New Testament does. We need to recover the parish concept of the Church.
Biblical government in the Old Testament is intensely local: elders over tens, then fifties and hundreds, and then thousands. The "elders of the gate," who tried capital cases, ruled over populations of only a few thousand, about the size of a large subdivision in our of our cities — about the size of a political precinct. The New Testament view of the Church is the same: the Church in a place, taking dominion over a parish, over a precinct.
The local Church must see herself as the True Governor of the neighborhood or precinct in which she meets on the Lord’s Day. Whether the people up the street worship at that Church or not, they are still part of the parish of that Church in one sense. We must reacquire a dominion-consciousness about our parishes. Neighborhood people must be prayed for, invited to Church bazaars and festivals, and the like.
Unfortunately, Christians today are all concerned about national and international affairs, or state and city affairs, all of which are "too big for us" (Ps. 131). We say that we want local government and that we are against big government, but when we act and pray, we give the lie to this.
Thus, we are sending a signal to our slaves (rulers) that we think Babelically instead of locally, and that is how we are badly ruling our world today.
The meaning of the Noahic Covenant is this: It is up to us. We don’t need people in office. We don’t need parachurch organizations. We don’t need books. We don’t need television and radio programming. We don’t need evangelistic campaigns. These things are all secondary — in fact they are way, way down the list. What we need are a few good men and women, a few genuinely faithful churches.
God has given His keys to the Church, so that she binds and looses in all of life (Mt. 16:18-19; Rev. 20:1-3). That means she governs the world — all of the world.
She is responsible and answerable for everything that goes on in the world.
And she will be held accountable.
Afterword #1: What Can I Do?
Say you are a member of a Church that is not interested in these things; or your pastor would very much like to upgrade the Church, but he is unable to move very fast. What can you do?
First, there is no excuse for rebellion and revolution. You must go to Church faithfully, pray for your pastor and elders, and pay your full tithe.
Second, you may not have the Lord’s Supper in your home. It is an ecclesiastical ordinance, and it is rebellion to do it privately. Make weekly communion and child communion a matter of prayer and courteous argument, but do not act defiantly. God knows your heart and will make up the difference if your Church does not feed you enough.
Third, you can use the psalms in personal and family devotion. Use them all. Make them central. Teach them to your children.
Fourth, you can study the whole Bible and you can support ministries (like Biblical Horizons and others) that promote the study and application of the whole Bible.
Fifth, you can honor such discipline as the Church does measure out, and you can hearken to the book of Proverbs by keeping away from contentious and rebellious people.
I don’t believe we shall see reformation in society until we see it in the Church, but we won’t see it in the Church until some people within the Church become concerned enough to work in a prayerful, courteous, and non-rebellious way to bring about reformation.
Afterword #2: What About Civil Government?
If the Christian view of civil government is not grounded primarily in the Noahic Covenant, and its grant of the sword, then where do we ground it? I believe we simply ground it in creation. Adam was told to guard ("keep") the Garden. By extension, he was to guard the Land of Eden. In the Old Testament, the laws of sanctuary guardianship (by the priests) are parallel to the laws of land guardianship (by the judges, kings, and emperors).
Biblically speaking, however, the "state" (guardianship of the land) is not an institution "next to" the Church (guardianship of the sanctuary), under some different set of principles. We cannot reform the "state" as an action separate from reforming the Church. Rather, the land is always protected by the Church. If the Church is faithful, God will bless the land around her, and there will be good rulers (even if they are unconverted "slaves").
Even before the Flood the lands were being guarded by means of the sword, although perversely (Gen. 4:23-24). The "right" to guard the land by use of the sword only came in with Noah, and only through the Church. "Slave nations" far removed from the Church do guard themselves with the sword, but ultimately this is only possible because of the mediation of the sword to them by the Church. Otherwise, those nations would have been completely wiped out by God.
Does this mean that the institutional Church should ordain civil rulers? Not necessarily, but we find something very similar at a more "invisible and spiritual" level when we read in the New Testament that the saints are to pray for rulers. In Protestant lands, Church officers have sometimes administered the oath of office to new officials, and almost always have been asked to pray. This is merely cosmetic today, but it once was powerful, and it reflects the reality of God’s covenantal order. In ancient Israel, the king was ordained inside the Temple precincts at the "King’s Pillar." (See Jordan, "Thoughts on Jachin and Boaz," available for $4.00 from Biblical Horizons .)
Church and "state" only appear to be side by side. In reality the Church is the inner circle of God’s world, and the "state" (land and world) the outer circle. The Church is guarded by elders administering (verbal) ecclesiastical discipline. The land is guarded by elders (rulers) administering the sword. In the Old Testament, the good priests maintained the boundaries of God’s house, while the good kings maintained a series of forts around the boundaries of the land. When the priests (and people) were bad, and the boundaries of the Temple suffered (through immorality and idolatry), then God gave them bad kings who failed to protect the land from invaders.
In summary, the sword is given to the "state" through the Church. The Church may not wield it, but she determines who will. If the Church wants evil rulers, she gives the sword to evil men by means of her own evil behavior. If the Church wants good rulers, she gives the sword to good men by means of her own good behavior.