Lo, the people shall dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations, He plainly declared His will that His church should be forever separated from the nations of this earth. But, contrary to His expressed will, and against His solemn protest, Israel set up a kingdom that they might be “like all the nations.” God wanted not only Israel, but that all people on the earth, should know that He is better than all other gods, that He is a better King than all other kings, that He is a better Ruler than all other rulers, that He is a better Lawgiver than all other lawgivers, that His law is better than all other laws, and that His government is better than all other governments. (See Deuteronomy 4:5, 6.)
But Israel would not have it so. Israel would be like all the nations. And so it has been, from that day to this. God has never been allowed by His professed people to reveal Himself to the world as He really is.
“Like all the nations.” The Israelites did not realize that to be in this respect unlike other nations was a special privilege and blessing. God had separated the Israelites from every other people, to make them His own peculiar treasure. But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen! And still the longing to conform to worldly practices and customs exists among the professed people of God. As they depart from the Lord they become ambitious for the gains and honors of the world. Christians are constantly seeking to imitate the practices of those who worship the god of this world. Many urge that by uniting with worldlings and conforming to their customs they might exert a stronger influence over the ungodly. But all who pursue this course thereby separate from the Source of their strength. Becoming the friends of the world, they are the enemies of God. For the sake of earthly distinction they sacrifice the unspeakable honor to which God has called them, of showing forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
With idolaters, religion always has been, and still is, a part of the government. In heathen systems, religion and the governments are always united; while in the true system, the genuine Christian system, they are always separate. And this was the lesson which God taught to Nebuchadnezzar. (See Daniel 3.) In a way in which it was impossible not to understand, the Lord showed to that king that he had nothing whatever to do with the religion, nor with the directing of the worship, of the people. The Lord had brought all nations into subjection to King Nebuchadnezzar as to their bodily service; but now, by an unmistakable evidence, this same Lord showed to King Nebuchadnezzar that He had given him no power nor jurisdiction whatever in their souls’ service. In things between men and God, the king was plainly and forcibly given to understand that he had nothing whatever to do. To the rulers of the Medo-Persian empire, God taught the separation of religion and the state—that with man’s relationship to God, rulers and state can have nothing whatever to do. (See Daniel 6.)
That is divine testimony, published to all the world, that innocence before God is found in the man who disregards any human law that interferes with his service to God. It is also divine testimony that the man who disregards such laws, in so doing does “no hurt” to the king, to the State, nor to society. The lessons in the book of Daniel teach to all people that no religious or ecclesiastical institution or rite has any right to any place in the law. And that when, against right, it is put into the law, it gains no force whatever from that, and is to receive no respect nor recognition whatever.
Our Duty to God and the State
Jesus Christ came to reveal to men the kingdom of God. Of it He said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. Christ says in another place, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matt. 22:21. In that time, the head of the Roman Empire was Caesar. He was set before the people as God; the people were required to worship him as God; that system was essentially a union of religion and the State. In view of this, when Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” He denied to Caesar, and so to the State, every attribute, or even claim, of divinity. He showed that another than Caesar is God. Thus He entirely separated Caesar and God. He entirely separated between the things which are due to Caesar and those which are due to God. The things that are due to Caesar are not to be rendered to God. The things due to God are not to be rendered to Caesar. These are two distinct realms, two distinct personages, and two distinct fields of duty. Therefore, in these words Jesus taught as plainly as it is possible to do, the complete separation of religion and the State; that no State can ever rightly require anything that is due to God; and that when it is required by the State, it is not to be rendered.
The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses—extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart.
Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12, 13. Here is the only power that can work the uplifting of mankind. And the human agency for the accomplishment of this work is the teaching and practicing of the word of God. (See Desire of Ages, 509.)
The conduct of Christ, the Example, was totally separate in all things from politics and the affairs of the State. Christianity, therefore, is the total separation of the believer in Christ from politics and all the affairs of the State, the total separation of religion and the State in the individual believer in Christ.
Our Relationship to the State
In Romans 13 and 14 is one of the strongest of the many strong treatises that there are in the Bible upon the total separation of religion and the State—the separation between that which is due to God and that which is due to Caesar. After recognition of the right of the State to be and require subjection and tribute, Paul marked the sphere of men’s relation to the state: “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.” Romans 13:8–10. Now everybody knows, and Paul knew as well as anybody ever knew, that there are other commandments of the very law from which he quoted these. Why did he leave these entirely out (the first four commandments) and say “if there be any other commandment it is briefly comprehended in this saying namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?” Why—the simple reason that he was writing of men’s relationship and responsibility to the powers that be, to the State; and he was laying down the principle that when men have recognized the right of the State to be, have paid the required tribute, and have fulfilled all obligations to their neighbors, there is nothing more for them to render to the State; there is no other commandment in that sphere, and therefore no other duty to be performed toward the powers that be.
Thus the Scripture distinctly sets the limit of the jurisdiction or the requirements of the State, at recognition of right to be, tribute, and the relationship of man to man in working no ill to his neighbor. Beyond this the State has no right to go.
State Not To Control Which Day We Worship On
But the Word of the Lord does not stop here; it positively prohibits the powers that be from touching the relationship or obligation of men to God. “One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day to the Lord he doth not regard it.” Romans 14:5, 6. The matter of the observance of a day, the duty to esteem one day above another, is not comprehended in that part of the law which relates to neighbors; nor is it comprised in the duties designated as marking the sphere of the powers that be. It is in that part of the law which, by the words “if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is definitely excluded from all cognizance of the powers that be.
The observance of a day, the duty to esteem one day above another, is due solely to God. For “he that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord,” Romans 14:6, not to men. It is comprehended in that part of the law which details man’s relationship to God alone, and concerning which to God alone every one is to give account himself. (See Romans 14:12.) Therefore, the powers that be, all men, and all combinations of men, are definitely commanded by the Lord to let every man alone in the matter of the observance of a day. On that subject all are commanded to “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” And this, because it is an obligation due solely to God, and “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Ibid.
How different are the ways of professed Christians today from the Christianity of the New Testament! The vast mass of professed Christians today, in hunting for another commandment in the sphere of the powers that be, would inevitably write it thus: If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt do no work on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.
But the Christianity of the New Testament, in defining the sphere of the powers that be, says, “If there by any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;” and then, as to the observance of a day, commands the powers that be, and all men, and all combinations of men: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. . . .every one of us shall give account of himself to God . . . Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”
The day to be esteemed above others is the Sabbath of the Lord. “Render therefore . . . unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21. And any man who does not esteem that day above others, who does not regard it unto the Lord, but esteems every day alike, is responsible to God alone and must render account of it himself to God, and not to man. While the thing that he does is wrong, it is a kind of wrong for which he is responsible to God, and not to the powers that be.
All this also conclusively shows that any movement on the part of the powers that be, or of men or combinations of men through the powers that be, to require the observance of a day or to cause men to esteem one day above another is a plain joining together of what is God’s and what is Caesar’s, is a positive union of religion and the State.