I asked a friend, Jonathan Binder, to help with some research on the three institutions that God has ordained according to scripture, and to find an article I could distribute when needed. Not happy with what he could find, he wrote his own! And here it is.
THE THREE GOD-ORDAINED INSTITUTIONS ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
According to 2 Timothy, all scripture is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Everything in this writing is based on scripture—both the Old and the New Testaments. What is written in the Bible is God’s word, and is to be taken as such. Test this with the Word.
By studying the Bible, it is evident that God ordained and established three institutions—the home (family), the church, and government—for mankind to abide in.
1. Home (family)
In Matthew we can read the account of Jesus’ answer, when the Pharisees asked about marriage and divorce. Jesus answers, as often, by quoting scripture. Referring to the creation described in Genesis, he says: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” (Mat. 19:4-6)
The home, or family, is the first institution we find in the Bible. It is God’s intention for one man and one woman to be united inseparably as one. In Genesis 2 we read about the establishment of the home. God sees that it is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), so He decides to provide him with a suitable companion. In all of creation, however, there was no suitable helper for the man (Gen. 2:20), so God created a woman to be the man’s helper (Gen. 2:22). Thus, through the unity of man and woman, the home was established (Gen. 2:24). This is God’s design for marriage, and it is not to be broken (Mat. 19:6). In Genesis one, we read that God commanded man and woman to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). It is His idea that the man and woman, being one flesh, create a family in which they as parents take care of and raise their children.
The home is the smallest, most intimate institution of society.
The home is the smallest, most intimate institution of society. In the home every personal and basic—the physical, emotional, and spiritual—need is met in the loving environment of family. Thus the home is established as God’s very first institution for mankind.
God’s second institution is the government. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, that the government is the authority established by God, under whom all are submitted (Rom. 13:1). All people are to submit to their respective governments, so that order and peace might prevail. Submitting to the government means that we are to pay taxes as required (Rom. 13:6-7), pray for those in power (1 Tim. 2:1-2), and obey the law.
The government God established is to rule in civil affairs, provides a safe and positive environment for the family and church to thrive in
In the Old Testament, we can see why God established government. He established rulers and judges over his people to “judge the people with righteous judgment” when disputes and arguments arise (Deut. 16:18). The judges marked the beginning of the government, whose purpose it was to lead its people in a good way, in unity, peace, and justice; to protect its people—families, women and children, the vulnerable; to punish the disobedient and commend the obedient—as Paul describes in Romans (13:2-3). The government God established is to rule in civil affairs, provides a safe and positive environment for the family and church to thrive in, secure from danger and injustice, expecting only what is due in return (i.e. taxes, obedience to the law, etc.). The institutions of government and home encompass all things and people.
The third and final establishment is God’s church. The church is described as being like a building (Eph 2:21) and a body (Eph. 4:16)—made of many parts, and yet one—of which Jesus is the central, elemental piece. The church is not a building, but a body of people. It is, as Peter writes, those who believe in and have received Christ—they are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Pet. 2:4-10).
The church provides guidance for its members according to God’s word
Jesus established the church while on earth, and put ‘overseers’ and ‘shepherds’ over it, so that its members would be taken care of (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-5). Of this church, Christ is the head, the cornerstone, the foundation—it is Christ that unifies the church (Eph. 4:15; Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11). The church provides guidance for its members according to God’s word, provides fellowship and support for its people to take on their given responsibilities, and holds them accountable for their lifestyle.
The church is within the other two institutions and requires both families for members and government for protection.
Corruption through sin
It was with good intentions that God established these three institutions. God’s idea of government, like his idea of the home, is good and beneficial to us. In the home every personal and minute—the physical, emotional, and spiritual—need is met in the loving environment of family; the church provides guidance for its members (the home) according to God’s word, provides fellowship and support for its people to take on their given responsibilities, and holds them to account; the government provides a safe and positive environment for the family (the home) and church to thrive in, secure from danger and injustice, expecting only what is due in return (i.e. taxes, obedience to the law, etc.). At the same time, these establishments reflect God’s person. They reflect his righteousness, justice, his care and love for his people, and his sovereignty.
Humans have found many ways in which to corrupt what God has established
But as with all things involving humans, corruption finds a way into everything. In the third chapter of Genesis, we read about how sin came into our world through the actions of one person, corrupting all thereafter (Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12; 1 John 1:8). As a result, humans have found many ways in which to corrupt what God has established—the home has been corrupted by sexual immorality, addiction, carelessness; the church has abandoned Christ and the Word, pursued power and control, discarded unity; governments have neglected their responsibilities, abandoned justice, and oppressed those they should protect. Where there is corruption in these institutions, damage is caused. Therefore, we must remember Acts 5:29, where Peter and the apostles say “we obey God rather than men”.
There are many passages in the Bible that provide more details about these three institutions. Among others, here are some examples:
• For the home: Colossians 3:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-6:18; Hebrews 13:4
• For the government: Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Titus 3:1-3
• For the church: 1 Peter 5:1-11; Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians; Titus 1:6-16; Ephesians 4:1-5:21: Hebrews 13:17