What does the Bible say about politics?
Did you know that the Bible has much to say about politics? It might not be what you expect! In this article, we will unpack what Jesus had to say about political leaders. We will discuss the role of politics and religion. Does our faith have anything to do with our political party? Let’s check that out! What about voting? How should we pray for our political leaders? Let’s jump into this timely topic and see what God’s word says!
Christian quotes about politics
“I can’t stand it when Christians have more hope in their political party than in the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul Washer
“The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”
“Conservative evangelicals don’t want government support for our faith, because we believe God created all consciences free and a state-coerced act of worship isn’t acceptable to God. Moreover, we believe the gospel isn’t in need of state endorsement or assistance. Wall Street may need government bailouts but the Damascus Road never does.” Russell D. Moore
Jesus and politics in the Bible
Jesus didn’t quite meet the expectations of many people of His day. They were looking for a Messiah who would be a political leader and deliver them from the oppressive Roman occupation. Instead, Jesus was a spiritual Messiah who came to deliver them from their sins and death. Jesus made this clear in His conversation with the Roman governor Pilate:
“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’
Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’
Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this purpose I have been born, and for this I have come into the world: to testify to the truth.’” (John 18:36-37)
Furthermore, in His conversation with Pilate, Jesus told Pilate that his authority came from God. Even though Pilate was a pagan, God had appointed him as the ruler for that place and time:
“So Pilate said to Him, ‘Are you not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’
Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over Me at all, if it had not been given to you from above; for this reason the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.’” (John 19:10-11)
Jesus made it clear that following God involved obeying governmental authorities. His enemies tried to entrap Him, assuming Jesus was against paying taxes. But Jesus set them straight!
“‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.’
And they brought Him a denarius.
And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’
They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’
Then He said to them, ‘Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matthew 22:18-21)
When the Pharisees warned Jesus about Herod, Jesus made it clear that He would continue His ministry according to God’s timetable. Herod could not interfere with God’s plan, although God did use ungodly people like Herod and Pilate in His plan. Jesus knew He would soon die, but He prophesied it would be in three days in Jerusalem.
“At that very time, some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, ‘Go away and leave this place because Herod wants to kill You.’
And He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox – Behold, I am casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I reach My goal – Nevertheless I must go on My journey today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside Jerusalem.’” (Luke 13:31-33).
Mark 12:13-17 “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”
John 6:15 “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”
John 18:36-37 “Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Mark 1:14-15 (NASB) “Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
How should a Christian view politics?
- Our citizenship in heaven trumps our political citizenship. The apostle Paul warned against getting too focused on earthly things. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
- God raises up political leaders, and He takes them down. God requires us to honor and obey our political leaders (with one exception).
- “He removes kings and appoints kings” (Daniel 2:21)
- “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
- “Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)
Philippians 3:20 (NKJV) “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Daniel 2:21 (NKJV) “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
Romans 13:1-2 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Matthew 6:33 (ESV) “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Daniel 4:34 “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Timothy 2:1-6 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Politics and religion
- God’s word tells us to obey our government leaders. However, there is one exception. If the government tells us to do something against God’s word, we must obey God.
The apostles encountered a situation like this. They were teaching in the temple, and the religious leaders told them not to teach in the name of Jesus. But the apostles did so anyway, and the priests put them in jail. But an angel opened the prison and let them out. The angel told them to go to the temple and teach the message of life in Jesus. The priests arrested them again and said,
“We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching!”
“But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:12-20)
- In the Old Testament, God meant the nation of Israel to display His light to all the other countries. As long as the Israelites obeyed God, God blessed them. God wanted the other nations to look at Israel and see a nation that prospered against all the odds simply because they followed the true God. God meant the entire nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, representing God to the rest of the world.
- “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Genesis 19:4-6)
Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Proverbs 29:2 *(NIV) “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
Engaging in politics
Should Christians engage in politics? Yes! By all means. At the very least, all Christians in democratic nations should vote because they can sway elections toward more righteous leaders and policies. Furthermore, Christians should run for political positions because they can be agents of change.
A few years ago, some parents in upstate New York were frustrated with what was happening in the public schools. Children were being exposed to ungodly sexual things at a very young age. Many parents attended the school board meetings and protested, but the school board ignored them. So, two of the mothers decided to run for the school board, and both ladies got elected! From that point on, they were able to exercise godly values in the choice of textbooks, sex education, and so forth.
- “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked person rules, people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)
- “Righteousness exalts a nation.” Proverbs 14:34
Inspired by God, the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the Israelites who were now living in captivity in Babylon. God instructed the Israelites to:
- “Seek the prosperity of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the LORD in its behalf; for in its prosperity will be your prosperity.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
The word for “prosperity” here is shalom: completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. Although they were aliens in a foreign land, God told the Israelites to actively promote Babylon’s prosperity, welfare, and peace. Daniel and his three friends served in political positions in Babylon (Daniel 1-6).
In a sense, Christians are aliens in a foreign land, since our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). But that doesn’t mean we ignore politics. Whether serving in a political position or being a prayer warrior for our governmental leaders, all Christians should actively seek the prosperity and soundness of their nation and local community.
Jeremiah 29:7 (KJV) “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Proverbs 14:34 (NIV) “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.”
Proverbs 29:2 (NKJV) “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
John 17:14-15 (ESV) “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
1 Peter 2:11-12 “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Mark 12:31 “English Standard Version 31 “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Romans 14:1-4 “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
Should a Christian be a Republican or a Democrat?
Historically, both parties have had evil people and righteous people in leadership. When choosing a political party, we must ask what each party stands for. How does a biblical worldview influence each party? To what extent do ungodly worldviews influence them? Do they promote abortion? Unbiblical sexual values? Do they support families led by a married husband and wife? What are they doing about the poor, the disabled, and the needy?
When voting for specific candidates, consider not just their party but also what they stand for as individuals. Check out their voting record if they’ve already been in politics. Research what they have to say about critical issues.
Psalm 94:20-21 (ESV) “Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? 21 They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.”
Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB) “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
Romans 13:1-7 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Psalms 119:130 (KJV) “The entrance of thy words giveth light; It giveth understanding unto the simple.”
Is it biblical to vote?
In Biblical times, most governments were monarchies or ruled by kings. Athens was experimenting with democracy, but not everyone got to vote. So, the Bible didn’t address the concept of individual Christians voting for their political leaders or specific laws.
However, as John Piper points out, Christians have a “double identity.” We are citizens of our country but also citizens of heaven. As such, Piper says, “Voting is one form of doing good.”[i]
- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
John MacArthur explains,
“My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society.”[ii]
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
God uses political leaders.
Yes! God does use political leaders, even ungodly ones! God used Cyrus the Great to release the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity. He even helped fund the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
- “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has appointed me to build a house for Him at Jerusalem in Judah.’” (2 Chronicles 36:23)
Paul said that political leaders (yes, even the ungodly ones) were God’s servants:
- “For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not carry the sword in vain. He is God’s servant, an agent of retribution to the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to submit to authority, not only to avoid punishment, but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes. For the authorities are God’s servants, who devote themselves to their work. Pay everyone what you owe him: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 3:4-7)
If God uses even ungodly political leaders to do His will, how much more can He use a Christian politician who is totally sold out to Him?
2 Chronicles 36:23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Praying for political leaders
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone— for kings and all those in authority—so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
- Pray for their salvation and sanctification.
- Pray that they will rule according to God’s word.
- Pray that they will be surrounded by “Daniels” who will guide them toward righteous and just decisions that will bless and prosper our nation.
- Pray that evil and unwise people will be removed from their inner circle. Pray that foolish decisions will be reversed.
- Pray for the upcoming elections to bring in wise and redeemed leaders who will govern with justice and righteousness.
- Pray for their wisdom in making important decisions
The “Presidential Prayer Team” is a Christian site that sends daily reminders to your email (if you sign up) to pray for the president with specific needs and issues for that day.[iii]
1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
John 17:9 (NKJV) “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”
Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 3:16-17 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,”
This love for God and neighbor should drive our politics. But Paul Huyghebaert cautions against letting political ideology shape our theology. It should be the other way around.
“When I say we should choose theology over ideology, what I’m not saying is that there is something inherently wrong with ideology. What I am saying is that if you choose to give yourself to a particular political or economic ideology, it’s very possible that it begins to shape your worldview more than the Bible does. . . Because it can be difficult to tell exactly what is at the heart of a particular political ideology, we as followers of Jesus should exercise wisdom as we sort through the confusion of a complex political system. And for those of us who follow Jesus, our starting point should always be Scripture.”[iv]