Church and State

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

  • Romans 13:5

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

  • Hebrews 13:7

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

  • 1 Peter 2:13-17

For 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

” ‘You, most Christian emperor, owe God both faith and zeal, care and devotion for the faith. How then do some hope that you will feel it your duty to command the restoration of altars to the heathen gods and to pay for profane sacrifices? If anything other [than we wish] is decreed, we bishops cannot contentedly suffer it and take no notice. You may come to church but you will find either no priest there or one who will resist you.’ (Letter 17.3, 13 [to Valentinian])
“ ‘The church belongs to God, therefore it ought not to be assigned to Caesar. The temple of God cannot be Caesar’s by right. No one can deny that I say this with respectful feeling for the emperor. For what is more respectful than to call the emperor the son of the church?  For the emperor is within the church, not above it.’ (
Sermon against Auxentius 35-36)”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

“What happens when the pastor dies and a church fight spills into the streets over whether the next preacher should be Arian or Nicene? The city manager, Ambrose, intervened and some kid in the crowd yelled, ‘Ambrose for Bishop!’ Ambrose went from being city administrator to lead pastor in Warp speed— eight days from catechumenate baptism to bishop consecration—and Emperor Valentinian put his imprimatur on it. As bishop, Ambrose would have multiple staring contests with the next emperor, Theodosius, over which would have its way—church or state?
“Ambrose got it right when he disciplined the emperor about the massacre at Thessaloniki but missed the mark in advocating abuse of alternative adherents, in blocking the rebuilding of the Jewish synagogue, and in defending the episcopal arsonist. The clash between bishop and emperor offers an instructive case study of church-state relations when the status of the church becomes so privileged by the state that the church becomes corrupt and can no longer hear Jesus saying, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ Everybody needs Jesus. Christian celebrities and authorities need spiritual accountability Within a congregation just as much as nurses and garbage collectors. But when church discipline gets confused with religious persecution, then the church goes Taliban, and ISIS is us.
“Application: Keep in good faith with your preacher; he will have the last word at your funeral.”

  • David K. Stabnow, editor, churchfails, (author of this section – Rodrick K. Durst)

Ambrose of Milan (339-392) was a politician or civil administrator who became bishop.  He is now listed as a theologian and venerated saint of the church.

Whatever anyone may argue today about the separation of church and state, since Emperor Constantine, they were intertwined in the late fourth century.  Ambrose wrote about the wine and bread miraculously becoming Christ’s blood and flesh.  He laid the groundwork for Augustine’s arguments on the fall of mankind and original sin.  He made his mark in such regards as a theologian, but his greatest mark was in getting a reigning emperor of the Roman Empire to humble himself and be penitent before the other members of the church.

While Bishop Ambrose ran his church as he had run the city, the emperor, who was a member of Ambrose’s church, ran the empire with the idea of ridding the church of what he thought might be heresy.  At one point, he felt the Thessalonica church responsible when there was a riot in the city.  He then massacred many of the people of the city.  Before his orders were carried out, he had second thoughts.  So, when Bishop Ambrose sent him a discreet letter saying that he had sinned before God and would be excommunicated if he did not repent, do penance, and humble himself before God. …  Shockingly, the emperor did as Bishop Ambrose had told him.  Ambrose sent the letter secretly, but the emperor openly did his penance, as a sign of humility.

Even before Theodosius, Bishop Ambrose had written the (quoted excerpt) letter to the predecessor of Theodosius, Emperor Valentinian.  It was by order of Valentinian that Ambrose had gone from barely being a member of the church to being the Bishop.  But Ambrose had no problem in pointing out religious errors that the emperor had made, which must have related to celebrating some pagan religious festival from the content of the letter.

I have been deeply grieved since within my lifetime, we went from open prayer at the beginning of each school day to chastising government officials that quote Scripture to point out our country’s mistakes.

I totally disagree with the recent interpretation of the division of church and state.  Our forefathers might have not all been Christians, but they did not want the state to define what to worship or how to worship it.  But we seem to be forced into a worship of atheism, at least in government levels.

Did Emperor Theodosius overstep his bounds?  Yes.  Did Bishop Ambrose use his influence with the reigning emperors of his time?  Yes.  But take a quick glance through the history portions of the Bible.  When the government ignores God, bad things happen as a result.

Nothing good will come of our country or of our world unless we repent and turn back to God.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


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  1. This definitely caught my attention. Thanks Anita

    Liked by 1 person

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