Politics in the Bible



The Bible is  highly political with loads of examples of men and women engaging in political life. Not convinced? Here's a run through of every book in the Bible and what it says about politics and political engagement.


The Old Testament



From the creation mandate in Genesis we received a cultural mandate – to develop institutions upon the earth. In this task, we understand that our relational priorities are governed by the fact that we are all endowed with equal worth and dignity. In other words, there are no premier league people. Under God’s authority, this essential equality is the starting point for all human government. Being made in the image of God, we are called to faithfully manifest that image in our day to day work. We govern because he governs. Throughout the rest of the Bible God keeps calling people back to this task. With Joseph we see how God uses his anointed to govern in an alien land for the protection and prosperity of his people. Genesis also shows that emancipation from oppression is on God’s agenda.


In Exodus we see how Moses was a deeply political figure, and we begin to receive the laws that express God’s heart for good government.
With a strong emphasis upon personal and corporate morality, and caring for the poor, Leviticus shows us how the law is designed to cover all the dimensions of Israel’s relations with God, with one another and with the earth.
Numbers proposes a democratic process under God with the selection of representative leaders.
Deuteronomy affirms the idea of equality under the law for Kings and subjects alike.
Joshua shows the need for integrity of leadership, and a strong national identity in which morality is required as a distinctive for God’s people.
Judges shows how the Lord raises up and empowers people to lead the nation out of sin, error and judgment. It also shows the need for women to assume national leadership responsibilities.

Ruth shows how social responsibility transcends legal contract.


Samuel 1 & 2 reaffirm equality under the law.


The books of 1 & 2 Kings chart the good, the bad and the ugly of how to govern. These books show how leaders are subject to greater accountability for their actions.
The books of 1 & 2 Chronicles show the Lord’s heart for government through the reply to Solomon’s request for wisdom to govern, and they place the responsibility for national renewal with God’s people.
Ezra demonstrates the power of the Word to restore identity and direction to a people.
Nehemiah teaches how we learn about how the restoration of authority.
Esther and Mordecai were raised up to lobby the authorities to save their people.
Job teaches us about trusting a sovereign God in trials.
The Psalms cover the whole range of effects that the human condition and the righteousness of God.
Proverbs was written to instruct princes how to govern when they become kings.
Ecclesiastes talks about the wisdom needed to rule.
Song of Solomon describes our relational priorities.
Isaiah describes the coming saviour and his Kingdom – the increase of whose government there shall be no end.
Jeremiah illustrates the need to speak truth to power. 
Lamentations shows how God can use one nation to punish another. 
Ezekiel describes how the river from the temple heals the nations. 
Daniel demonstrates that God’s people can be called to rule in alien, pagan cultures. With an implicit recognition that for engagement in politics there is a time to defy and a time to comply for the people of God. With Daniel we see how integrity is tied to identity, and how the role of the prophetic is important for governmental power. Importantly, the book shows that God’s dominion covers all kingdoms, all empires and the whole earth – and that ultimately, all kingdoms will pass into God’s own kingdom of love and righteousness.
Hosea attacks hedonism and the abuse of wealth. 
Joel challenges public consciousness. 
Amos exposes hypocritical rulers. 
Obadiah affirms that justice cannot be escaped. 
Jonah speaks of responsibility beyond the borders of our own race and ethnicity. 
Micah emphasises the importance of morality, integrity and justice. 
Nahum explains how freedom can bring both curses and blessings to a nation. 
Habakkuk talks of God’s care for the poor. 
Zephaniah binds belief with action, and demands clear identity. 
Haggai re-orders our social priorities in light of God’s holiness. 
Zechariah reaffirms the absolute authority of God.
 … and Malachi warns against complacency and idolatry in national life.

The New Testament



Matthew, Mark, Luke & John cite the governing supremacy of Christ through his statement that ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given unto me’ (Matt 28: 18); and when Jesus told Pilate that ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above’ (John 9:11). 


Acts demonstrates a unified and equal community that is governed by council, consensus and majority; illustrates the need to speak truth to power; and proposes new forms of citizenship. It also shows illustrates the need for religious freedom. 
Romans shows the value of secular government; and critiques the human effects of state sanctioned idolatry. Crucially, in stating that that the political authority ‘is God’s servant for your good (13: 1-4) Paul affirms that political authority comes from God for our benefit. 
1 Corinthians & 2 Corinthians in identifying the flawed wisdom of hollow philosophies establishes the need for moral reference beyond human ideologies; calls believers to model new, subversive forms of community; outlines the ministry of reconciliation; and values suffering for what is right. 
Galatians explains the radical, totalising freedom given by Christ – that the gospel both necessitates, requires and sustains freedom. 
Ephesians describes human responsibility in the spiritual battle that informs earthly authority, and states how the church is to communicate ‘the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’. Demonstrating the good governance of the Kingdom is proposed. 
Philippians encourages humility and hope in the face of suffering; and challenges abuses related to social status. 
Colossians affirms the supremacy of Christ in human affairs by stating that ‘Thrones or dominions or authorities – all things were created through him and for him … and in him all things hold together’ (1: 16-17); and calls for intellectual rigour to challenge hollow philosophies and human traditions.
1 & 2 Thessalonians confirms the value and dignity of labour; and asserts the necessity for the rule of law. 
1 & 2 Timothy compels believers to pray for government ‘first of all’ – as a priority for the gospel; values the council of elderly people and encourages young people to lead; explains the role of charity; warns against the corruption that wealth can bring; describes a godless society. 
Titus discusses authority amongst diverse social groups. 
Philemon deals with slavery and labour. 
Hebrews confirms the equality of all people before God, and how justice is indivisible from mercy. 
James explains how deeds must accompany words; that favouritism is forbidden in leadership; that a focus upon developing good language and communication is essential for leadership; and how the wisdom that comes from God differs in substance and impact from earthly wisdom. 
1 Peter calls for believers to ‘Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be the emperor … or to governors.’ (2: 13), confirming that all authority is ordained by God, and that submission is required even during persecution. It also shows that the gospel itself has its place in political power by revealing that Jesus ‘has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.’ (3: 22). 
2 Peter asserts the value of a clear conscience and good teaching for leadership; and the need to respond to evil with good. 
1, 2 & 3 John describes the institutional nature of sin; and the need to provide good role models for leadership.

 Jude attacks bad role models for leadership; and shows how when abused, authority can be abdicated.


Revelation affirms the dominion of the kingdom of God above earthly empires; calls Christians to lead as well as serve; condemns those who have put their faith in money and power; and promises a conclusion in which justice is inescapable. It shows how redemption in Jesus Christ is not limited to any one area of the creation. Not only persons, but nations, kingdoms, the entire creation will be reconciled.