As some Lutherans might struggle to grasp how to apply Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms regarding matters of church and state, the staff of the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) offers some clarification:

One God rules the world (1 Tim. 1:17), but in two different ways in two different “realms.” This twofold reality produces tensions for the Christian that are not easily resolved.

In His “kingdom of grace,” where Christ reigns, He uses His Word and Sacraments to bring people to faith without coercion and to glad acceptance of His rule and authority (see John 3:3; 18:36; Col. 1:13-14; 2 Peter 1:11).

In His “kingdom of power,” His temporal or earthly kingdom, God uses governments to maintain order, stability and justice in this sinful, imperfect world (see Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-14, 17).

Thus, Jesus Himself tells us to render to Caesar and to God (Matt. 22:21). And, even as Christians honor and obey governing authorities, they must boldly disobey government when it usurps God’s authority (Acts 5:29).

In short, just as Christians respect human authority, they are also free to engage with government to prevent governments from acting unjustly.

Related documents:

LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations