Series: Civil Magistrate

Description: Civil Magistrate Discussions on how modern-day politics relate to timeless scripture.

Legitimacy and The Presidency

Dr. Derek Carlsen

Legitimacy is a religious concept that touches every aspect of our existence. Whether one talks about marriage, children, pastors, businesses, a president of a country, etc., the question of legitimacy is always involved. We are constantly confronted by circumstances where we have to evaluate “legitimacy.” We have to ask what the necessary components are for making something legitimate and which, if missing, make it illegitimate.

An extremely important issue in the USA at this time has to do with political leadership and the basis for its legitimacy. It is claimed that the majority of adults in the USA profess to being Christians. If this is true, they should either already know or be earnestly seeking to find out what the Biblical position is with respect to political legitimacy. If the Bible had nothing to say about this subject then such activity would be irrelevant, however, the Scriptures have a lot to say about this subject.

At the forefront of every Christian’s mind right now, should be the question, “What gives legitimacy to a particular person to exercise the authority of political office?” The office itself is ordained by God (Romans 13:1-3), thus the legitimacy of the office is not being questioned, the question is, “What is necessary in order to make a particular person a legitimate ruler?”

Scripture reveals that Saul was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the king of Israel and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in a special way to equip him for this task, though this did not yet qualify him to be the nation’s king. He did not assume nor exercise the power of the office until the people gave their consent that he should be their king (1 Samuel 10:1,8,9,24).

David was chosen by God to be king and he was anointed by the prophet Samuel for the task, however, this didn’t give him the authority to rule the people (1 Samuel 16:1,12,13). Saul was still king and David acknowledged Saul as king. David had to wait patiently for the missing key, namely, the will of the people. It was only when the people gathered together at Hebron and elected him as their ruler that he received authority to exercise the office of king—he was chosen first by the people of Judah to be their king and then by the people of Israel to be their king, thus uniting these two nations under his rule (2 Samuel 2:4; 5:2-5).

David’s son, Adonijah, sought to make himself king by organizing a “royal” parade, getting a military commander named Joab, a corrupt priest named Abiathar and other important people to sanction his “office”—there is nothing new under the sun! He made sacrifices unto God and organized a celebration, yet, this did not make him the legitimate king—he was missing the essential key: the will of the people. It was Solomon, Adonijah’s younger brother, who was chosen by the people and thus he was identified as the nation’s legitimate king (1 Kings 1:5-9,39).

At the end of Solomon’s reign, the united nation was again split in two and this came about through the will of the people choosing different kings to rule over them (1 Kings 12).

Time and again we see that it is the will of the people that gives legitimacy to leaders (Judges 8:22; 9:6; 11:8,11; 2 Kings 14:21). This is God’s design and to reject it means there is no way to prove legitimacy in a leader.

Scripture clearly shows that a legitimate leader requires the consent of the people. A person attains a high office by the people freely exercising their wills and choosing the one they want to be their ruler. Until the will of the people has been freely and transparently made known, an individual does not have the authority to rule over them—in other words, he does not have the people’s consent to rule. The people’s choice is necessary to establish legitimate authority within the political realm.

There are always a number of people within a nation that have the necessary abilities from God to rule that nation—they have the ability and the gifts to do so. There are in the USA, at any one time, more than one person capable of being the President. All of these people do not, however, have the right to assume that office. Despite the fact that their ability comes from God and that He has raised them to positions of prominence above other people, none of them yet has legitimate authority to rule. The power to exercise rule has to be conferred by the will of the people. It is the will of the people that grants this power to one person and not to another, though both might be equally gifted by God.

A President receives the authority to rule only by the consent of the ruled. Only the citizens of our nation have the God-given authority to bestow such power into the hands of a leader—there is no other way that a person can attain legitimate title to the Office of The President. Anyone who tries to take such power without the consent of the people, is an illegitimate usurper and no legitimate ruler would try to attain power through manipulating the expression of the people’s will. Until the people’s will has been revealed in a completely transparent way, no one has the authority to serve as their President. The will of the people forever remains the key to legitimacy.

If the Church in the USA fails to uphold this most basic principle of liberty, it will be failing to expound God’s clear principles for liberty and thus must not cry to Him about the effects of oppression and injustice that naturally flow from usurped offices. God has revealed clear principles for liberty, but if the church will not stand unwaveringly upon these principles, then oppression will be the consequence.

To deny or manipulate the expression of the people’s will in any way, makes the manipulator illegitimate. For someone to grasp a political office when he doesn’t have the support of those he intends to rule, means he has no authority and thus his claim to have a political office is illegitimate. Moreover, no one with integrity would want to rule over others without their consent. It is madness therefore, for a nation to accept as legitimate someone who doesn’t have the stamp of legitimacy, namely, acceptance by the people. It must be realized that a person who dares to claim the right to rule without this stamp, is unworthy of such an office. To usurp a leadership position is proof of extreme perversion and clearly shows that the usurper is not only God’s enemy, but also the enemy of the people he wants to rule.

God ordained that authority is transferred to a particular person through the people’s will, therefore, critical to the whole concept of legitimate authority is complete transparency with respect to proving who the people elected. Corrupt people have always needed to resort to all kinds of manipulation, deception and violence to overturn the true will of the people.

The citizens of our nation don’t only have the right, but also the responsibility to demand that God’s mark be clearly evident upon their President and this mark is only obtained through free, fair and transparent elections. This is God’s wisdom and so, if Christians call a leader legitimate who doesn’t have such a mark, they are taking sides against God’s wisdom. God has told us what constitutes legitimate political authority and to ignore His words, for whatever reason, is to suppress His truth.

Each Christian in the USA has to ask themselves very hard questions if they are going to honor the Lord in the light of what has been discussed above. Since God has revealed how we identify legitimate leaders, Christians have a moral duty, before God, to verify who the people actually chose in each State to serve as their President. We have a duty to determine whether the elections were transparent or not and justify how we arrived at our determination.

Truth always triumphs, because God is truth! Thus, we ought not fear exploring views, claims and ideas that contradict what we might initially think the truth is with respect to this matter. Faithfulness and doing due diligence require that we look at all the evidence in an unprejudiced way—we are to evaluate both those who say the election was transparent and those who say it wasn’t. After all, we are not trying to prove anything, we are merely trying to ascertain the truth and thereby honor our Lord (Prov.18:17).

To be lazy or prejudicial about pursuing the truth and verifying the legitimate President, reveals our unbelief, namely, that we do not believe God’s revelation about what legitimizes such an office.

Whose wisdom should we trust in this critical matter, God’s or man’s?