God and The Rule of Law

Of all the legal concepts, the rule of law may be one of, if not the most important. It's a principle that states that there is not a person in any government who is above the law. It prohibits the enforcement of the law to be arbitrary, but rather holds us all to the same standard; even those in positions of power and authority.

God not only establishes the rule of law in the Bible, but also has assured all people that His rule is not authoritarian nor totalitarian by submitting to the rule of law.

Biblical Basis: Societal Law

The Bible establishes the rule of law in every context of governance imaginable. The first context is that of societal law.

“‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly" Lev. 19:15

God makes sure in these verses that the justice system of Israel would work in accordance with the rule of law. Poor, rich, strong, or weak are all bound to obey the law and be punished for breaking it.

Biblical Basis: Customary Law

Another context where the Bible establishes the rule of law is in customary relationships. These aren't government enforced, but customs or principles we treat each other in accordance with.

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4

Even in the relational aspect of our lives, the rule of law speaks to how everyone should be treated equally for carrying the Imago Dei- the Image of God, especially if we proclaim faith in Jesus.

Biblical Basis: Church Government

We also see the Bible establish the rule of law for those in authority in Church. It is to shape the way they should treat those under their leadership.

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 1 Timothy 5:21

The instructions that Paul leaves Timothy are for his work as a pastor. And at the end of some principles on how he should go about accusations, laying hands, helping widows, and more, Paul assures he rule in the church with no favoritism. All fall under the rule of law.

Biblical Basis: God's Rule

A final case of the Bible establishing the rule of law is found in how God Himself rules those on the earth.

There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. Rom 2:9-11

God as the Great Judge who is infallible assures us in His word that there is no favoritism in His judgment. He who does evil and good are judged according to those works. His rule then becomes the standard of how all other government's should work.

God's Submission

The question of the wise or the one in rebellion against God might be that the way things are is unfair. That in some ways God is above the law because He is the one who determines law but acts in what seems to be an arbitrary way. In a nutshell they ask who will judge God? To them I present this reality.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5

Jesus' incarnation shows God submitting to the rule of law. He did not just come and be born under the time period of the law. God decided to make sure He also lived under the law. In His statement of saying He fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17), He reminds us He also fulfilled the requirements of living under the law of God. Receiving the penalty of one who disobeyed, God rectified the sentence of death on Christ and raised Him to life. Christ lived under the rule of law perfectly, granting Him and those who believe on Him eternal life.


In history we see great reasons for the rule of law in the works of Aristotle, Montesquieu and other political philosophers. Some include fairness and assuring that no monarch or political figure abuses the law.

But how great is it to see that God Himself has established this principle in His Word to reflect His rule. He Himself lived under the rule of law and show us:

He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23