Requirements for a Magistrate


The conscientious Christian desires to glorify God and obey His Word in all that he thinks and does. This desire extends to his actions as a Christian citizen. Perhaps one of his more important actions as a citizen is that of voting for the men who will serve as magistrates over him.  So as each election draws near he seeks to determine which candidate he should endorse with his vote. Throughout the process of deciding he receives much advice, such as: vote Republican; vote for the conservative; vote for the one who is pro-life; vote for the one who stands closest to you on the issues; vote for “x” even though he is less than desirable because if he doesn’t win, then we will have “y” who is even worse; and so on.

However helpful this kind of advice may be, the Christian who believes that the Word of God is able to instruct him in righteousness and equip for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), including the work of voting, will necessarily turn to the Scripture for guidance. The Bible contains explicit instructions concerning the qualifications for civil officers, and to these the Christian ought to look as he determines who he will support with his time, money, and vote. There are two primary texts that set forth the standards for choosing civil magistrates: Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:13.


In Exodus 18, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, advises Moses to appoint men to help him in governing and judging the nation, lest he wear out both himself and the people (18:17-19). An important aspect of Jethro’s counsel[1] to Moses is in regard to the kind of men that he should appoint as rulers. The character of the men chosen must be according to the following standards:

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating coveteousness. . . (Ex. 18:21).

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In Deuteronomy chapter one, Moses recounts the events that took place forty years earlier at Mount Sinai. One of these events was the appointment of rulers to serve with him in governing the nation in accord with the advice of Jethro (Ex. 18:13-26). In speaking of the appointment of rulers he does not mention Jethro, for Moses knew that God was using Jethro to direct him in that circumstance. The account of the appointing of rulers to assist Moses in judging the people given here provides further insight on the biblical standards for the choosing of rulers.

First, Moses indicates that although he did the appointing, it was the people who actually chose their own rulers. Moses charges the people to “take you wise men. . . .” The word “take” means to provide or choose, while the word “you” means for yourselves. Therefore, Moses gives the people the responsibility of selecting their own leaders. Moses then appointed (installed into office) those chosen by the people.

Second, Moses provided the people with specific standards for determining which men were qualified for the office of civil judge and ruler. The citizens have the responsibility of choosing their own rulers, but they are not free to choose whomsoever they will. Rather, they are charged by Moses to choose only those who meet certain qualifications. Moses states:

Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you (Deut. 1:13).

<…rest of the article…>

I recommend that you read the whole article, and digest it.

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