Nero of Rome

Unrighteous political leaders can hold sway on many things that Christians must endure. It could be policy decisions, wars that are fought or just general injustice and corruption. The unrighteous political leaders’ decisions can have a profound effect on a Christian – how they live, if they’re persecuted, if they’re killed – just ask the first century Christian’s under Nero!

An all-powerful God obviously can work through wicked or unrighteous political leaders, but does He?

how Scripture answers "Does God work through unrighteous political leaders?"

God can and does work through unrighteous political leaders1,2,7. In fact, we can find throughout Scripture examples of nations and political leaders that were vessels for God’s plan that culminated in Christ’s life, death and resurrection in the “fullness of time”6. God’s will is always accomplished, regardless of an individual’s personal righteousness3.

Unrighteous political leaders and their policies can have dire consequences on the citizenry they rule5 or provide peace and contentment1,2,7. While Christians are not in a position to definitively know God’s direct intervention with any political leader, we can judge their righteous deeds just as Jesus commanded.

We can judge whether the leader acts righteous or unrighteous (outwardly). We can judge whether they give glory to God or not. We can judge how their policies may impact living daily life as a Christian. Of course, we can’t judge their heart but we can always take solace in the fact that Jesus still rules and has ultimate authority4.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the Lord’s message spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord motivated King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his kingdom and also to put it in writing.

God motivated (“stirred up”) Cyrus, the king of Persia, to issue a proclamation that went throughout his kingdom.

The children of Israel have been in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  Cyrus and the conquering Persian empire follow a policy of allowing conquered peoples to return to their homeland and worship their own gods.  In this case, Cyrus is enacting this policy with the Jews and returning them to Jerusalem. This fulfilled God’s plan and what had been prophesied some years before.

How does it inform?

God provoked an otherwise pagan king of Persia to let His people return to Jerusalem. It was God’s will for this to happen, yet it could not have been readily known or obvious to a Persian (for example) living at the time since this was a general policy of Cyrus.

Does it apply? Yes

2

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was relaxing in my home, living luxuriously in my palace. I saw a dream that frightened me badly. The things I imagined while lying on my bed—these visions of my mind—were terrifying me.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream while relaxing at home.  The dream and visions frightened and terrified him.

Sometime after Nebuchadnezzar has marched on Jerusalem and taken them captive.  With Daniel in his service, this entire chapter 4 is a remarkable, first person writing from the most powerful man in the known world at that time.  He obviously acknowledged God. He also had the testimony of Daniel and the miraculous events associated with him and his friends.  However, Nebuchadnezzar himself still worshipped other gods and was polytheistic (he said of Daniel, “a spirit of the holy gods is in you” vs18). This is but one dream he had from God and interpreted by Daniel.  This one was a warning to humble himself before God Almighty or his kingdom would be taken from him.

How does it inform?

God certainly worked through Nebuchadnezzar on many things recorded throughout Daniel. These impacted the children of Israel (and other nations) as a whole but also individuals personally such as Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar himself.

Does it apply? Yes

3
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.
Some preach Christ from envy and others from goodwill.  The latter do so from love and support my [Paul] defense of the gospel, while the former do so from selfish ambition attempting to cause trouble while I am imprisoned. However, that both preach truth and Christ is proclaimed is reason to rejoice.

Paul is in prison in Rome and is uncertain of his future – whether release or death. He’s writing to the church in Philippi with greetings and encouragement.

How does it inform?

While Paul is condemning the motives (personal righteousness) of some that preach the gospel, he rejoices that the gospel is still taught (importantly, they were teaching truth as opposed to false doctrine). Granted, these were probably not political leaders, but Paul still distinguishes between their unrighteous motives and preaching truth/spreading the gospel message.

Does it apply? Somewhat

4

and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood

…and from Jesus Christ, the true witness, the first resurrected from the dead and ruler over the kings of the earth. He who loves us and has freed us from our sins with the shedding of his own blood.

Introductions given at the beginning of John’s vision.

How does it inform?

Jesus has ultimate authority over the rulers and kingdoms of earth.

Does it apply? Yes

5

Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

Manasseh led the people of Judah to do more evil than other nations that God had already destroyed.

The accounts of the Kings of Judah, the southern kingdom.  Israel, the northern kingdom, has already been swept away by the Assyrians.  Now about 150 years later, God has exhausted His patience with Judah’s unrighteousness and they will be swept away by the Babylonians. Manasseh’s wickedness and unrighteousness (vss 2-8) during 55 years of political leadership are the final straw.

How does it inform?

This is not so much God working through a political leader as it is a political leader’s own unrighteousness affecting the nation he leads. Quite remarkably given the depths of his depravity, Manasseh repents and humbles himself before God (vss 12-13) doing many righteous acts for the nation (vss 14-16). Yet, it is the policies of Manasseh’s reign that Scripture attributes to seal the fate of Judah’s existence (2 Kings 21:9-15).

Does it apply? Yes

6
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

God sent His son, born of a woman [Mary] and under the law [of Moses] in the “fullness of time” in order that those that were under the law might be adopted by God as sons.

Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia (1:2) in which he warns of “quickly deserting” (1:6) their call in Christ.  He continues this theme through chapter 2 and begins in chapter 3 to the end to connect the promise that God made to Abraham (3:8) with their present freedom in Christ (5:1).

How does it inform?

The “fullness of time” is the pertinent phrase suggesting an all-encompassing working of God through nations and by implication their political leaders.

Does it apply? Yes

7

And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation,

Felix, Roman governor over Judea, was credited for peace and reforms benefiting the [Jewish] nation.

Tertullus is representing the Jewish high priest and elders in the case against Paul.  He is beginning his argument to Felix, the Roman governor of the region.  Paul is under arrest and going through a series of trials and officials that will ultimately lead to him appealing to Caesar and going to Rome.

How does it inform?

At least according to Tertullus, he is testifying that Felix’s policies are leading to peace with “reforms” (presumably moving them toward a better Jewish existence under the Mosaic law). This is likely since Felix did have a Jewish wife (vs 24) and had a “rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (vs 22).

Does it apply? Yes

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