Responding to God’s Authority

KEY VERSE: “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD, and not unto men.” — Colossians 3:23


IN HIS letter to the church at Rome the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”—Rom. 13:1-7, RSV

We should always, of course, obey the just laws of the authorities. But at first thought this statement might seem to say that every citizen should obey the decrees and statutes of the land without consulting his conscience. Surely, this is not the intent of the apostle, for he goes on to cite the commandments, “You shall not kill” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In our own land, happily, provision is made for any who have conscientious objections to serving in the military and perhaps being required to kill. But elsewhere in other times Christians have died or endured much suffering rather than take up arms against their fellow men.

Our Lord Jesus did not teach his followers that they should obey the powers that be without question. When the Pharisees sought to trap our Lord in his own words by asking him, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” he perceived their malicious intention. Obtaining a piece of tribute money he asked them, “Whose is this image and superscription?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Jesus replied, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:15-22) Evidently, the things that are ‘Caesar’s’ and those that are God’s are not always the same!

Following his crucifixion and resurrection our Lord appeared to his disciples “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” His final instructions were that they should remain in Jerusalem where they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and thereafter they were to be his witnesses to “the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8) When the Day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. And suddenly “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:1-4) Peter immediately recognized that this was just what had been promised by Jesus. In faithful obedience to our Lord’s final words he entered at once on his life-long, fearless witness to Jesus as the resurrected Savior of the world of mankind. “Ye men of Israel,” he said, “hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs … ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain; whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death.” (Acts 2:22-24) Thus began the ministry of one of Jehovah God’s most faithful and courageous witnesses to the truth, in which he was joined by the other apostles.

As the inspired Peter continued to speak to the people, “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” They laid hands on them, and the next day they were ordered not to speak at all in the name of Jesus. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”—Acts 4:1-21

Fearlessly, the apostles continued to preach the kingdom, working many miracles among the people, and multitudes of believers were added to the Lord. “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him … were filled with indignation. And they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.” (Acts 5:12-18) Again, they were brought before the council, and the high priest said, “Did we not … command you that ye should not teach in this name? … Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”—Acts 5:12-29

Clearly, there can be times and situations in which the present-day Christian must do the same!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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