A political community organized under one government. As the biblical historians looked back, they understood Israel to have been a theocratic state; that is, the power of the monarchy was limited by the tradition of divine laws and the voice of the prophets. Church and State were, so to speak, one community. In the era of the NT the Christian Church was a tiny group of communities, closely related to each other, and united by the authority of an apostle or his delegates, suspected by Jews, and denied privileges extended to Jews in the pagan Roman Empire. Christians, whether free citizens or slaves, were members of this great state and owed it responsibilities, as is recognized by Rom. 13: 1–7 and 1 Pet. 2: 13–17. Luke–Acts maintains that Christians are good citizens, generally loyal to the state, unlike Judas of Galilee (Acts 5: 37). People should have heeded Jesus' message of peace, and war (of 66–73 CE?) would have been avoided (Luke 19: 41–4). Acts 28: 31 observes that in his Roman prison Paul was allowed to teach without hindrance. The NT thus sets itself against political anarchy, but the courageous words of Peter that the disciples must obey God rather than men (Acts 5: 29) show that there are limits to Christian subservience to the secular authorities—reached by the time Rev. 13 was written and the Church was enduring persecution.

In subsequent centuries these two NT attitudes to the State have been in tension. It was especially so in the Protestant Churches, where the State was seen as a divinely ordained barrier against the all-pervasiveness of sin, that obedience to the State was most stressed, though since the disastrously obsequious behaviour of most Protestant Churches during the Nazi regime (1933–45) in Germany, a much more critical stance has become predominant.