The word sovereign comes from the Latin super, above, so that a sovereign in the nominative sense is one who is above all. One who is above all, is independent and unlimited by any other, and has independent and original authority and jurisdiction can only describe the God of Scripture. In the Bible, the word for sovereign is always translated as lord: adonai in Hebrew, and kyrios in the Greek. Thus, the most common term for God in the Old Testament is lord or sovereign, and the most used designation for Jesus in the New is also lord, which is also used to refer to God the Father. The term in Scripture means owner, the one possessing dominion and rule, authority and power. It was a term used to describe pagan gods, and Nero (AD 54-68) is described in an inscription as ho tou pantos kosmou kyrios, Lord of all the World. The whole issue between Rome and the early church was over lordship or sovereignty: who is the Lord, Christ or Caesar? If Caesar were lord, then Caesar had the right to tax, license, regulate, certify, accredit, and control Christ and His church. If Christ is Lord, then Caesar must be Christ’s minister and obey His word (Rom. 13:1-4; Phil.2:9-11). Paul is emphatic that every knee should bend and every tongue confess that “Jesus is Lord.”
But there is more. The source of law in any society is its god. In fact, the working god of the culture can be identified by ascertaining where law comes from. The first edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, in 1771, defined law thus: “Law may be defined, ‘The command of the sovereign power, containing a common rule of life for the subjects.'” All too often, in past and present history, this sovereign power has been king, emperor, congress, parliament, or a group of judges, all men playing at being gods. Since law defines good and evil, right and wrong, for men to make laws is to rebel against and to defy God.
When men set forth their own versions of the law, they thereby set forth their will as the governing power and authority, and their ideas about justice as true righteousness. It is thus inevitable that such a humanistic state will wage war against Christ and His church and realm. The first and governing law of God is this: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), including the state as Alan Stang has noted. As against this commandment of the triune God, the modern state has its own version: Thou shalt not have Jesus Christ as Lord God over me, for the state alone is sovereign and must rule over all things.
Excerpted from Sovereignty by R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001), pp. 1-2, (2007).
About the Author (from the Chalcedon web site):
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
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