Are Civil Leaders Ever Responsible for the Sinful Free Choices That the People They Govern Make?

April 2, 2016

Many people believe that civil leaders are not responsible when they allow the people that they govern to have the freedom to choose to do what is evil. Scripture provides definitive information that shows that this view is false.

Was Pilate Responsible for the People’s Free Choice to Have Jesus Crucified?

Pilate was a secular governor who failed to release Jesus even though he knew and declared repeatedly that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:4, 14, 15, 22; John 19:4, 6). Instead, Pilate gave the Jewish authorities and the Jewish people the choice of whom they wanted Pilate to release: Barabbas or Jesus (Matt. 27:15-23; Luke 23:17-20; John 18:37-40).

Pilate thus gave these people the choice to choose to do something that was sinful (release Barabbas and condemn Jesus) or to do what was right (release Jesus and condemn Barabbas). The Jewish authorities and people (Matt. 27:20) chose to do what was sinful by requesting the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of Jesus (Matt. 27:21; John 18:40).

In vain, Pilate washed his hands and said that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood (Matt. 27:24). The people said that His blood would be on them and on their children (Matt. 27:25) Was Pilate absolved of wrongdoing because he gave the people the choice to do what was right or to do what was wrong and they chose to do what was wrong?

Through the apostles, God indicted not just the Jewish authorities and the Jewish people for the murder of Jesus but also the Roman authorities (Acts 3:13-15; 4:27; 13:28). God thus held Pilate also responsible for the injustice that took place even though the people and not Pilate made the free choice to have Jesus crucified (Matt. 27:22-23).


When a governmental authority gives people the freedom by law to make a sinful choice, God holds both the governmental authority and the people who make that sinful choice responsible. This truth has profound significance for what governmental authorities choose to do concerning their enacting and enforcing legislation that gives the people that they govern the freedom to choose to do what is sinful.



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