Obedience to Government or to God?
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…”
There are times that I get arguments that the verse above gives us liscence to not obey the government (usually around April when it’s time to pay taxes). Of course, for some, I suspect that their motives has nothing to do with obeying God either. Nevertheless, it needs addressing.
Let’s start with a clear statement of the Lord’s will.
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 whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Now, I understand that this is a hard pill to swallow especially in these problematic times when people feel betrayed by those in government. For myself, I take comfort in the words of Jesus when he said, “The truth will set me free.” And the truth is, all human beings make mistakes including those in government. So, I tend to be forgiving. Why? Well, my take on Romans 13:1-7 is that I give much credence to those in office because I trust God and leave the outcomes to Him.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
How about the Apostle Peter’s statement above, ‘We must obey God rather than men’?
Let us look at the context of Acts 5
12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all together in Solomon’s portico…
16 The people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together as well, bringing people who were sick or tormented with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.
17-18 But the high priest stood up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison.
19-20 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and leading them out, he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life.”
21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple area about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, that is, all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison for them to be brought. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison… 25 …someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple area and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
27-28 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the Council. The high priest interrogated them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.”
29-32 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Every Christian will stand on a crossroad where they will have to choose between obeying God or the government that want you go against God’s will. I pray that we choose right regardless the circumstances.