Qualifications to Lead

Man with Tie

During an election year, it is common for people to discuss what characteristics qualify a candidate for public office. The Bible certainly addresses the role and desired character of civil authorities, but I want us to focus on a higher authority in this study – God.

In the Old Testament, God was the Israelites’ King (1 Samuel 8:7). In the New Testament, Christ is the person of God identified as our King (John 18:37). He is in a position of ultimate authority, even over our civil rulers (Ephesians 1:20-21). But what qualifies Him to be our King and worthy of honor and respect?

He Is the Creator

The creation testifies of God’s “eternal power” (Romans 1:20). We will notice more on this point later. The fact that He created all things gives Him the right to rule over us: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11). All good things come from God (James 1:17). We are to show our gratitude by recognizing His power and authority over us and then serving Him (Hebrews 12:28)

He Is Righteous

Kings are expected to act righteously: “It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness” (Proverbs 16:12). Therefore, it is natural for us to desire leaders who are generally of good moral character.

But there is no one more righteous than God. Paul quoted David, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). While all men – including rulers – are imperfect, God is perfect. John wrote, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Not only does He not sin, but He cannot sin (Titus 1:2).

In addition to being righteous, rulers ought to support righteousness (“It is also not good to fine the righteous, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness” – Proverbs 17:26) and oppose wickedness (“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. …it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” – Romans 13:3-4), even though this is not always practiced. Yet the Lord is able to save and support those who are righteous (Hebrews 7:25) and is willing and able to punish the wicked (2 Peter 3:3-7).

He Is Just

The wise man noted, “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it” (Proverbs 29:4). Where there is no justice, a nation becomes unstable and in jeopardy of falling. Therefore, good leaders will be just and fair. However, they are human. So even good leaders will pale in comparison to the Lord.

The Lord, who is the supreme Judge (James 4:12), executes judgment perfectly. He does not make mistakes the way some well-intentioned human rulers might because He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). He also understands the law perfectly as Jesus is the word in the flesh (John 1:1,14). No one can act “as His counselor” (Isaiah 40:13). In addition to having a perfect understanding of the law, He is also able to judge fairly in all cases since He is “not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34-35). Furthermore, He never lacks evidence needed to pass judgment: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3; cf. Hebrews 4:13).

He Is Powerful

The king represents the power of the nation. Among the things that are said to be “stately in their march” is “a king when his army is with him” (Proverbs 30:29-31). Part of the limited role God ordained for civil government is the responsibility to “bear the sword” as “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).

As we noticed briefly already, the creation shows God’s “eternal power” (Romans 1:20). If He has the power to create, then He also has the power to destroy. God certainly holds this power over the universe. Peter wrote, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Our eternal spirits were also created by God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Just as He created and will destroy the world in which we live, He created and has the power to destroy our souls. Because of this, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Understanding God’s power should lead to fear. Fear should then naturally lead to obedience (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

He Is Wise

Kings and rulers are to possess and exercise wisdom. In describing the appeal of wisdom, the Proverb writer said, “By [wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By [wisdom] princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly” (Proverbs 8:15-16). Good leaders will exercise this type of wisdom.

However, we should remember that wisdom originated with God. “The Lord possessed [wisdom] at the beginning of His way, before His works of old” (Proverbs 8:22). No one is able to counsel Him (Proverbs 21:30) or contend with Him (Job 40:1-2). His ways and thoughts are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). No one is able to rival God when it comes to possessing wisdom.

He Desires Our Good

Though corruption is often common in all levels of government, those in power are not to use their position to enrich themselves. God warned about this practice in the Old Law: “Moreover, [your king] shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses… He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). Despite his position, the king and the common people were equals (Deuteronomy 17:20). Therefore, the king was to seek for what was good for the people, not just act for his own selfish benefit.

God certainly desires our good. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This desire for our good is also the reason why He is being patient and has not yet destroyed the world: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He wants all to be saved (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-35).


Many of the characteristics we seek in elected officials are the characteristics our Lord possesses perfectly. Therefore, He is the only one worthy of our complete allegiance. So as you consider candidates for various public offices, remember this: The Lord is the only one which we can and must serve Him faithfully and whole-heartedly.

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