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Is Religious Freedom a Divine Biblical Right?
The First Amendment- Amendment 1 -to the Constitution of the United States prevents Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of any religion, it prevents Congress from prohibiting any free exercise of such established religion, and it prevents Congress from preventing American citizens freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peaceably, or to petition the United States government regarding a redress of grievances of the same. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted as part of The Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791.
And since this ratification of the First Amendment, American citizens have enjoyed their religious freedom. And it is because our Constitution guarantees such observance of religious freedom that Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that our religious freedom is “the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights”. Do we today assume that Mr. Jefferson was right? Is our religious freedom a divine right? Does the Bible tell us that our religious freedom is a divine right?
At Mount Sinai, when Moshe (Moses) received the Torah, a young Yisra’EL-ite nation, began to operate under a theocracy- a system of government in which priests rule in the Name of YeHoVaH. This theocratic government will be the only form of government until the appointment and anointment of Sha’ul ha-Melech (King Saul). This means that religious freedom was not known in the Torah, the Prophets, or any part of the Tanakh (the Old Testament); YeHoVaH ruled Yisra’EL directly. At that time, in those days, Yisra’EL’s theocratic government was only for Yisra’EL. And, though many nations have tried to replicate/duplicate Yisra’EL’s theocratic government, they have failed; for example, medieval Spain and the Spanish Inquisition. This became a totalitarian nightmare- relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state. In other words, the Spanish Inquisition was not a true theocracy, it was a bunch of power-hungry sinful men.
Romans 13:3-4--”For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, for he is a servant of Elohim to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of Elohim, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil.” This passage of Scripture illuminates the exact boundaries of our American government, of all government- punish evil deeds, reward good deeds, and render justice [fairly]. These are all duties of any governmental system that Elohim has given to that same government; but, no one government on this entire planet can ever have the ability to enforce any specific religion or type of worship.
The Bible shows no conflict between any Bible doctrine/principles and any specific civic/government principles of religious freedom. And, for American citizens, this is exactly why our country was founded, on the basis of religious freedom- to make such religious freedom present today. Only those governments rooted in the Biblical doctrine of theocracy allow such religious freedoms. Governments who follow doctrinal roots of Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism do not allow any such religious freedom, rendering countries such as Pakistan, India, and Tibet as intolerant to any other global religions. Communist governments, also, are antagonistic toward any other government who allows any free religious expression.
So, I ask again. Is our religious freedom a divine right? Does the Bible tell us that our religious freedom is a divine right?
Yes. The concept of freedom of religion is Biblical.
First, Elohim extends freedom of religion to all people. Matit’yah-ha’Levi (Matthew 19:16-23 says, “Behold, one came to Him and said, ‘Good Rabbi, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, YeHoVaH. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Yahshua said, ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not offer false testimony. Honor your father and your mother. And, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Then Yahshua said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. Yahshua said to His disciples, ‘Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.’” Notice that the young, rich man went away, choosing not to follow ha-Meshiach, and Yahshua let him go. YeHoVaH will not force anyone to accept Him. Having faith in Yahshua ha-Meshiach is commanded; but, faith in Yahshua ha-Meshiach will never be coerced. You will either believe or you won’t. Matit’yah-ha’Levi 23:37 says, “Yerushalayim Yerushalayim, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not!” Yahshua desires to gather all who will come to Him, but only if they are willing to allow Him to do so. This is our religious freedom, this is our free will to either choose to trust and obey YeHoVaH through the shed blood of His Son and by the leading of Ruach HaKodesh or to reject Him. This is our choice to make.
Secondly, the freedom of religion that is so paramount for us is so because it respects Elohim’s image in man(kind), as men, women, and children, we are Image-bearers. Bereishit (Genesis) 1:26 says, “Elohim said, ‘Let’s make man in Our image, after Our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth.’” Because we are Image-bearers, we have full faculty of power to choose and make decisions regarding our futures, even if those decisions are bad or wrong. Bereishit 13:8-12 says, “Isn’t the whole land before you? Please separate yourself from me. If you go to the left hand, then I will go to the right. Or if you go to the right hand then I will go to the left. Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of Nahar ha-Yarden (Jordan River), that was well-watered everywhere, before Adonai destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Adonai, like the land of Mitzrayim, as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose the Plain of the Yarden for himself. Lot traveled east, and they separated themselves the one from the other. Avram lived in the land of Canaan, and Lot lived in the cities of the plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom.” And, Yehoshua (Joshua) 24:15 says, “If it seems evil to you to serve Adonai, choose today whom you will serve; whether the ba-elim (gods) which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the ba-elim of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, will serve Adonai.” Again, because YeHoVaH gave us the right to choose whether to serve Him or not, this choice is a choice we must extend to others as well.
Also, because we have freedom of religion, we also have the freedom to acknowledge that Ruach HaKodesh leads hearts to change, not our American government. Yochanan (John) 6:63 says, “It is Ruach HaKodesh Who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.” Only Yahshua ha-Meshiach provides salvation. If we, or our American government even, were to take away freedom of religion, then we, or our American government, has the power to decide the eternal destiny of every American citizen. However, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom which Yahshua ha-Melech (King Yahshua) will rule is not of this world … ipso facto, one cannot become a Believer, or even choose not to become a Believer, via [any] governmental system, American or otherwise. Yochanan 18:36 says, “Yahshua answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, then My servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Yehudim. But now My Kingdom is not from here.’” What amendments our United States government adds or does not add to the Constitution of the United States has no relevance on whether or not we experience a new birth as Believers in Yahshua ha-Meshiach. Yochanan 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become YeHoVaH’s children, to those who believe in His Name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of YeHoVaH.” And, Yochanan 3:5-8 says, “Yahshua answered, ‘Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and Ruach HaKodesh, he can’t enter Elohim’s Kingdom. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Ruach HaKodesh is spirit. Don’t marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew.” The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of Ruach HaKodesh.’”
Furthermore, freedom of religion is not really about religion. Gasp! It’s not about religion, not one little bit. What’s it about then? Freedom of religion is not about religion, it’s about relationship. YeHoVaH does not seek from us to praise Him in an external way (i.e.-giving lip service); rather, YeHoVaH seeks to have a heartfelt personal relationship with us. Matit’yah-ha’Levi 15:7-8 says, “You hypocrites! Well did Yesha’yah (Isaiah) prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.’” There is no one single government that has ever been, is now, or will ever be that can produce such a heartfelt personal relationship with YeHoVaH in any one single individual in all the land(s). This is freedom of religion … the right to choose a heartfelt personal relationship with YeHoVaH or to thumb your nose at YeHoVaH.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
Tehillim (Psalms) 113:3--”From The rising of the sun to the going down of the same, Adonai’s Name is to be praised.”
Baruch ata, Adonai, Melech me’hullal batishachot.
Blessed are You, Adonai, a King to be praised in adoration.