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God’s Property and Possession

By R. J. Rushdoony
January 06, 2020

God’s law-word is binding upon man because man is God’s property.Man has no claims on or against God, any more than the clay can say to thepotter, “Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rom. 9:20). We are God’s property byvirtue of creation, and, because of redemption, we are doubly His, “bought witha price.” Hence “we are not(our) own” (I Cor. 6:19-20). We are the Lord’s, and His right to use us and togovern us is total. Our creation, and election or reprobation, is of Hissovereign counsel and choice, not ours. Thus, we have no basis for any validobjection to anything God does. In the famous case of the man executed forgathering firewood on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36), it was Gods prerogative todo as He had decreed. We can understand the decision as judgment on apresumptuous sin (Num. 15:30-31); the offender deliberately expressed hiscontempt for God’s law and God’s provision. It was an act of defiance andtreason. However, whether we understand God’s law or not, or whether or not itseems reasonable to us, it is binding upon us, because the reason it rests onis God’s, not man’s.

Moreover, whenever man sets himself up as the judge over God’sword, deciding for himself which law is still useful to him or not, the word ofGod ceases in practice to be God’s word and becomes merely a resource manutilized when he needs it. The authority then is man, not God. TimeMagazine, in commenting on the widespread ecclesiastical toleration andeven acceptance of homosexuality, reported on the reaction of manyconservatives, noting, ‘”Since the Bible is so explicit, they wonder if thechurch will have any basis for imposing any restrictions on human behavior ifit votes moral acceptance of active homosexuality.”[1]Exactly. The new moral basis and authority is the word of man, or the word ofthe church or state. By such decisions, men, churches, and states declarethemselves to be gods walking on earth and delivering the new law for man. Bydenying the binding nature of the Bible, they are declaring their word to bethe higher and more authoritative word. The criterion for action becomes thenthe word and will of man.

The practical implications of such a perspective on cultureappear in an interview with actor James Caan, who confesses that nothing boldshis interest very long, except acting, and acting must be fun to hold hisinterest. “It’s not only my acting, but I don’t do anything unless I’m going toenjoy it or feel good about it.” Caan dislikes work and responsibility: “Whenyou work, you have to assume the responsibility and have the discipline, but Idon’t want to have to do anything. The more I have to be somewhere at a certaintime or do something, the more I don’t want to do it.” He admits to guiltfeelings but hopes to rid himself of them.[2]Caan expresses with honesty and candor the characteristics of most moderns.When man denies God, he substitutes for God either his own ultimacy or theultimacy of some institution or agency. If he affirms his own ultimacy, then hedenies the validity of any authority over him, and he rebells against authorityand discipline.

The breakdown of the authority of God’s word begins, however, inthe church. It is not only antinomianism which marks most churches butanti-Christianity. It is not only the law which is set aside, but thehistoricity of Scripture, God’s grace, mercy, justice, and love. Everything isre-interpreted by the theologians of surrender to mean as little as possible,to be as little binding as possible, and to be in effect another word, the wordof the theologian in question. The fact of creation becomes a nebulous andnon-historical fact; revelation becomes a historical process whereby man comesto a new insight into himself and the world; and the resurrection becomes animpossible possibility which has nothing to do with the actual resurrection ofthe physical body of Jesus Christ. Consider, for example, this conclusionconcerning the resurrection by Norman Perrin, in a small book of 85 pages,cited as “a help to pastors who proclaim the resurrection message to discoverthe unique resurrection accents of each evangelist.” The resurrectionnarratives are to Perrin not history but literary expressions of theologicalviewpoints. He concludes:

What actually happened on this firstEaster morning, according to the evangelists, is that it became possible toknow Jesus as ultimacy in the historicality of the every day (Mark), that itbecame possible to live the life of a Christian within the church (Matthew),and that it became possible to imitate Jesus in a meaningful life in the world(Luke).[3]

With such a perspective, the church would never have been born,and with such a faith, the churches now holding it will, happily, either soonperish or be changed.

Too often the modern theologian and churchman goes to the Bibleseeking insight, not orders. Indeed, I may go to Calvin, Luther,Augustine, and others, to scholars Christian and non-Christian, for insights,for data, and for learned studies, but when I go to the Bible I must go to hearGod’s marching orders for my life. I cannot treat the Bible as a devotionalmanual designed to give me peace of mind or a “higher plane” of living: it is acommand book which can disturb my peace with its orders, and it tells me that Ican only find peace in obeying the Almighty. The Bible is not an inspirationalbook for my personal edification, nor a book of beautiful thoughts and insightsfor my pleasure. It is the word of the sovereign and Almighty God: I must hearand obey, I must believe and be faithful, because God requires it. I amHis property, and His absolute possession. There can be nothing better thanthat. To be my own property and possession in a meaningless world is theultimate in misery and grief. But when the great and high God, possessor ofheaven and earth (Gen. 14:19, 22), makes me His elect possession by theadoption of grace through Jesus Christ, I must answer to His every enscripturedword, “Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth” (I Sam. 3:9-10). This is God’scalling and requirement of me, and it is my privilege to hear and obey, for Hisword is life, and it is health (Ps. 119).

In terms of God’s ownership, we yield ourselves to Him as aliving and continual offering and sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). We give our childrento Him in baptism from infancy, not because of some mystical meaning, butbecause we confess thereby God’s property rights over us and our children, andwe vow to bring up our children as God’s possession. We tithe, because God, whoowns all of us, requires a percentage for His work. All that we have, and allthat we are, our persons, families, possessions, and time, belong to the Lord.The whole meaning of the festivals and of circumcision-baptism, thepassover-communion, and all rites and ordinances of the life of worship, simplyset forth differing aspects of God's property rights over us, and His graciouscovenant to care for His own. When we tithe, baptize our children, and obeyGod’s law, we confess thereby that we are not our own, but that we have beenbought back by the Lord at a price, and we are therefore totally Hispossession. Thus, whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (IThess. 5:10), and in all things we are to give thanks, because in all things wehave no claim on the Lord, and we are the recipients of His grace and mercy (IThess. 5:18). Thus, we must be under God’s law, not man’s, because God is God:He is the LORD.

Taken from R. J. Rushdoony’s, Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, pp. 690-692.

[1] “Homosexuality and the Clergy,” in Time, vol. III, no. 5, January 30, 1978, p. 85.

[2] Rudy Aversa, “James Caan: A Tough Guy With Some Soft Spots And A Craving For Laughter,” in Los Angeles Herald Examiner California Living, January 1, 1978, pp. 8-9, 21.

[3] Cited by Richard Rodning, in a favorable review of Norman Perrin: The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977) Book News Letter of Augsburg Publishing House, number 472, January-February, 1978, p. 5.


Topics: Biblical Commentary, Biblical Law, Church, The, Dominion, Education, Family & Marriage

R. J. Rushdoony

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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