Augustine spoke of “The Two Swords.” He referred to the work of God ordaining rulers in both church and state. The authorities in the state, according to Paul, “bear the sword” as God’s minister (Rom 13:4). But God’s ordained ministers in the church have been given a different sword with which to wield their authority: the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The state can use physical force if necessary – right up to the point of execution. But the church’s ultimate power is excommunication. No physical force – for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but do have the power to bring down strongholds.

While the spheres of authority are distinct – for example one deals with sins where the other deals with crimes – neither is absolute. And both only exist as ordained by God and are therefore ultimately answerable to him. Only His rule is absolute. He is the King of Kings, just as he is the Head of the Church.

When the state believes that its authority is absolute rather than delegated (and delegated from God, not from the popular vote), the King becomes what the Bible refers to as “the Beast”. The climax of this is seen in Revelation where the State is no longer functioning as God’s servant. And because its government is no longer in the image of God, but demanding that its own law be considered supreme, it is portrayed as a beast requiring men to worship its own image. The result is always death.

As Ellul has observed, “Politics is the sphere of the greatest affirmation of man’s authority, of his revolt, of his pretensious attempt to play the role of God.” The role of the church then becomes to take up the sword – the sword that has been given to her, which is the word of God. Our strategy is not a coup or a revolution, but a prophetic proclamation. Only God can raise up and pull down kings.

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Or, you can listen to chapter 12 as audio files: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.