Heeding the Highest Power: Part II (Acts 5:27-29) | Jared Betts

For the Love of God, Truth, and People

Before we begin our second study on heeding the Highest power, I would like to share a quote from the prolific English author and journalist, G.K. Chesterton. It was Chesterton who said that:

“A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

I believe Chesterton’s words capture the essence of why we do what we do when we make a conscious decision to civilly disobey the governing authorities in certain circumstances that demand it. When we find ourselves in a situation where we must obey God rather than men, we do so not because of a hatred for men, but because of love for them and the truth of God.

Seeking a More Sufficient Understanding

We are delving further into our study of human authority and let me be the first to say that I do not profess to be an expert on it. In fact, up until these past few years, I would describe what I did know of the purpose of governing bodies to be extremely deficient. I of course did not realize how inadequate my knowledge of the state was until my research brought me to what reputable people of the faith have maintained for centuries. Only in the light of their learning did I come to understand how little a really knew.

It was a sermon on Romans 13 by Canadian Pastor, James Coates, entitled Directing Government to its Duty, which I urge everyone to either listen to or read, that helped me begin to see the deficiency in my understanding of human authority and God’s purpose for them, as well as what our relation to them is to look like. Recognizing my ignorance on the matter, I reached out to James in an attempt to discover what his sources were to help him to better understand God’s purpose for government and our subjection to it. The list I was given began to shape my theology of civil authority as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. I, therefore, encourage anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of this area to utilize these resources I am about to disclose, because not only am I incapable of dealing with every facet of this branch of theology, but even if I were capable, time would never allow it. If you do utilize these resources, you will understand why I say this.

I was directed to two books that inevitably led me to other sources. One was Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of Romans chapter 13, which is a wonderful work every believer should read to better grasp not only that chapter of Scripture, but that book itself.

The second book was Matthew Trewhella’s work called The Doctrine of The Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government. This too is an excellent work that everyone should take the time to read. Trewhella offers not only profound Scriptural insight and understanding, but a great comprehension of history.

Trewhella’s book directed me to a third source, known as The Magdeburg Confession, which is a work produced by a body of pastors in Magdeburg, Germany on the 13th of April 1550 AD. Charles V established laws in an attempt to force Protestants back under the rule, practices, and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. The pastors of Magdeburg defied the law and wrote a defense of their position to the king, entitled Confession and Defense of the Pastors and Other Ministers of the Church of Magdeburg. This document begins to develop what is known as the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, which is the teaching that when a superior governing power makes unjust laws or decrees, the lesser governing power has not only a God-given right to resist those laws or decrees, but also God-given duty to do so.

By the way, one can even see the doctrine of the lesser magistrate being put into practice in the Roman Empire. It is said that when prominent and powerful Roman Emperor Trajan had appointed a Master of Horse for himself, that he handed a sword to the man and said:

“Use this sword against my enemies, if I give righteous commands; but if I give unrighteous commands, use it against me.”

The Magdeburg Confession was influential in the life of the 16th century Scottish reformer John Knox who would go on to write what is known as Appellation Addressed to The Nobility. In this fourth source, Knox sought to remind the nobles of their God-given duty to resist authority that was operating outside of the jurisdiction God had given them. As one person says of his work:

“While Knox maintains a clear distinction between civil and ecclesiastical authority, he recognizes that both are under the sovereign authority of God; the Lord requires both civil and ecclesiastical rulers to fulfill their obligations regarding their own distinct duties and their responsibilities in relation to one another.”

Finally, the last resource I would encourage everyone to take the time to read is the 20th chapter of the 4th book of The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. This is a profound work on civil authority, and it really reveals how much we have lost through the ages in understanding it.

If you recognize that your knowledge of God’s purpose for human government is deficient and desire to have a more sufficient grasp of it, I highly recommend these resources.

Recalling the Purpose Civil Government

May we begin today by taking a moment to recall the truth that all authority is derived from God. As Paul says in Romans 13:1, “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” All earthly rulers, whether believer or non-believer, receive their authority from Him. They only possess what is given to them, which means they can only exercise the power that they have been granted. Very simply put, delegated authority entails a limited authority. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars.”[1] That implies limited jurisdiction. That which belongs to Caesar must be given to him, but there is clearly a limit to what is owed. In other words, there are things that do not belong to Caesar. There are things that Caesar has no claim to.

As was pointed out last week, we can see this clearly in other realms. There are at least three bodies of government that God has ordained upon this earth: Family Government, Church Government, and Civil Government. These three entities are designed to aid in what could be considered a fourth body of government, which is Self-Government. Within each realm there are authority figures:

  1. Within the family, the husband is the head and the wife the helpmate who functions as the coregent to govern their children, who are then commanded by God to honor and obey them.[2] A husband is the head of his own household and no one else’s. He has absolutely no jurisdiction over another family.
  • Within the church, there are elders who have been given the authority to exercise oversight among the church body, and the church is commanded by God to subject themselves to them.[3] Similar to the husband, pastors only have jurisdiction within their own local assemblies. I have absolutely no authority over New Gloucester Bible Church. That is Jason’s jurisdiction, not mine. As a pastor, I also have no authority over the state, because that is not my jurisdiction. I have a delegated authority, which means it is limited to a very specific realm and purpose.

It is the same thing with civil government. They have a God-given purpose and jurisdiction, and they must stay in their lane.

May we never forget that Caesar is not exempt from the latter half of what Jesus said, which is to render “to God the things that are God’s.”[4] All earthly authorities are limited by and accountable to the Almighty. Christ is their King. He is their Lord. The rulers of all nations are subservient to the blessed and only Sovereign.[5] They are, as Paul says, “a minister of God to you for good.”[6] They are not to be a “cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.”[7] God has granted them the sword so that they might bring wrath upon those who commit wicked acts. All human authority is to mirror the justice of God. They are all to govern according to His rule. Proverbs 8:15-16 says:

15 By Me kings reign,
And rulers decree justice.
16 By Me princes rule, and nobles,
All who judge rightly.”

Turn to Psalm 82. The Psalmist declares this in verse 8, “Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.” All nations belong to God. Everyone is accountable to Him. Take a moment, however, to consider what is said before this in verses 1-7. The Psalmist says:

1 God takes His stand in His own congregation;
He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.
Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

They do not know nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
“Nevertheless you will die like men
And fall like any one of the princes.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth!
For it is You who possesses all the nations.”[8]

There is a pretty confusing statement here. In this Psalm, God calls governing authorities “gods”. Why? Is God declaring that there are people in this world either equal to Him in power and wisdom, or at least greater in some respect to mortal men and women? No! God says to them “You are gods” because they are representatives of Him to the people, and they have been invested with divine authority to exercise His justice upon those who do evil, and to reward those who do good. By the way, this is Jesus’ interpretation, not mine. Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 10:34-35:

“Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken).”

In other words, those who received the word of God were then the voice box of God. They represented Him to others. We see this very clearly in Exodus 7:1-2 when God commissions Moses and Aaron to go before Pharaoh:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.”

God commissioned them to represent Him.

Civil authorities are, as Paul says, “Ministers of God.” They are to act as His substitutes on earth. He has given them the authority to govern with His Word and Law as their objective standard. His Law is to be their guide in doing this. Romans 7:12 tells us the Law is holy, righteous, and good. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 says:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”

The Law of God restrains evil on this earth, and civil authorities have been endowed with divine authority to be the restraining agent. Let us never forget that the chaos which ensued in the book of Judges was because “in those days there was no king over Israel, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”[9] There was no governing body over Israel to restrain evil and protect the innocent. Governing authorities are, as Calvin says:

“The ordained guardians and vindicator of public innocence, modesty, honor, and tranquility, so that it should be their only study to provide for the common peace and safety…they protect the good against the injuries of the bad, and give aid and protection to the oppressed, they are armed with power to curb manifest evil-doers and criminals, by whose misconduct the public tranquility is disturbed or harassed…all public matters depend on reward and punishment; that where these are wanting, the whole discipline of states totters and falls to pieces.”[10]

Certainly, when we consider this truth we can agree with Calvin when he says in his Institutes that:

“No man can doubt that civil authority is, in the sight of God, not only sacred and lawful, but the most sacred, and by far the most honorable, of all stations in mortal life.”[11]

Why? Because they have been commissioned by Him to mirror His justice on earth. Calvin goes on to say:

“What zeal for integrity, prudence, meekness, continence, and innocence, ought to sway those who know that they have been appointed ministers of the divine justice! How will they dare to admit iniquity in their tribunal, when they are told that it is the throne of the Living God? How will they venture to pronounce an unjust sentence with that mouth which they understand to be an ordained organ of divine truth? With what conscience will they subscribe impious decrees with that hand which they know has been appointed to write the acts of God? In a word, if they remember that they are vicegerents of God, it behooves them to watch with all care, diligence, and industry, that they may in themselves exhibit a kind of image of the divine providence, guardianship, goodness, benevolence, and justice.”[12]

By God’s design, civil government is to wield the sword in a manner that both reflects Him and protects the inalienable rights that He has bestowed upon each, and every individual created in His image so that they might fulfill the cultural mandate of being fruitful and multiplying and populating the earth and subduing it to His glory.

The question is, must we obey our kings, be they good or be they bad, for God has so commanded? Not quite! When governing bodies are functioning in accordance with their God-given purpose and within their God-given limits we must obey because they are functioning as God on earth. To oppose them is to oppose the ordinance of God. To resist them when they are ruling justly is to resist God. We must do as Paul says. We must:

“Be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”[13]

As Peter says:

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”[14]

When civil authorities, however, exceed their limits by forbidding what God has commanded, or commanding what God has forbidden, or even by functioning in ways outside of their realm of authority, we have not only a right to disobey, but a duty to. Obedience is not required when they are operating in areas in which they have no authority to operate. Remember that tyranny, by definition is:

“The exercise of power over subjects and others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice or not requisite for the purposes of government.”[15]

Civil Government has a God-given purpose and a God-given jurisdiction. When governing powers fail to fulfill their purpose and function in a manner outside of their invested authority you can rest assured that individual persons, property, and freedom will be assaulted. When this begins to occur, governing bodies must be defied in whatever ordinance is contrary to the character and nature of God and His purpose for them. The pastors of Magdeburg this:

“The magistrate is an ordinance of God for honor to good works, and a terror to evil works. Therefore, when he begins to be a terror to good works and honor to evil, there is no longer in him, because he does thus, the ordinance of God, but the ordinance of the devil. And he who resists such works, does not resist the ordinance of God, but the ordinance of the devil.”[16]

The pastors go on to make this point:

“If God wanted superior magistrates who have become tyrants to be inviolable (Unchallengeable) because of his ordinance and commandment, how many impious (Evil or wicked) and absurd things would follow from this? Chiefly it would follow that God, by His own ordinance and command, is strengthening, nay, honoring and abetting evil works, and is hindering, nay, destroying good works; that there are contraries in the nature of God Himself, and in this ordinance by which He has instituted the magistrate; that God is no less against His own ordinance then He is against the human race.

All of these things are most plain, nor can they be denied by anyone: If God has granted such great impunity (Exemption from punishment) to the greatest tyrant by His own ordinance and commandment, who will prevent him from laying waste all of nature, even if he could, and being innocent before God?” [17]

When Caesar crosses his limitations, he must be defied. Civil disobedience reminds the state who they are accountable to and what their responsibility is. It aims to get them to acknowledge that they are the real anarchists for they have deviated from God’s purpose for them. We defy them because they are defying the One we are all accountable to, which is God Almighty!

Remember what the apostles said to the Sanhedrin:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.”

The men Peter was speaking to may have had delegated authority from God, but in the end God never lost His right. They were to govern according to His rule, and the apostle’s civil disobedience reminded them of this.

In a sense, it is as the founders of the constitution would say, “Disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God.” Matthew Trewhella points out that the:

“The duty to resist unjust law is the product of Christian thought…Christianity acts as a check to tyranny…We have a salvific affect upon society as a whole.”[18]

The last time we discussed this matter we left off with these questions: Why do we do this? How do we even do this? Is there even a Biblical precedent for doing this? Let seek to provide an answer to these questions.

A Biblical Precedent for Civil Disobedience

The first question we will seek to answer is whether there is a Scriptural example for civilly disobeying governing authorities when they make unjust laws or decrees, and function outside of their God-given realm? The answer is a resounding, yes. We will briefly look at several instances in the Scripture chronologically:

  1. The Hebrew midwives and the king of Egypt.

This account in Exodus 2:15-20 provides us with a perfect example of what people are to do when the state commands that which God forbids, and how God approves of civil disobedience to the governing authorities when circumstances call for it. The text says:

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.”

  • Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego before King Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 3:1-18 gives us another instance how believers are to respond when the state commands that which God forbids:

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

  • Daniel and king Darius.

Daniel 6:1-10 provides us with an example of civil disobedience when the government forbids that which God commands:

“It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”

Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.

10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”

We are all aware that Daniel will eventually be thrown into the lions den, but miraculously spared by God. Take a moment to consider Daniel’s words to Darius in verse 22 after he had been spared from the mouth of the lions which were there to tear apart anyone who defied the king’s edict:

“My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”

Daniel was innocent in the eyes of God because Darius functioned outside of his lane.

            It is also worth noting that Daniel’s defiance drew Darius to realize this about Daniel’s God:

“He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever.”

The result of the king realizing this was that Daniel enjoyed success under Darius’ reign. He was, in a sense, able to live at peace, and ultimately so was everyone else who called upon the name of the Lord.

The Doctrine of Interposition

Within each of these accounts we see what is known as interposition. Simply put, interposition is putting oneself between. It is when a person or persons place themselves in an intervening position. More specifically, it is setting yourself between a tyrant and the one they are dominating. As Trewhella says:

“Interposition is that calling of God which causes one to step into the gap – willingly placing oneself between the oppressor and his intended victim.”

Every instance above is an example of interposition.

Let us not forget about Moses interposing for the people of Israel so that they might worship God the way He defined and desired; or the account of Saul’s army interposing on behalf of his son Jonathan after Saul made a ridiculous regulation where the men were not allowed to eat anything, and if they did they would be put to death, which Jonathan ate some honey; or Queen Esther who forsake all self-preservation and interceded on behalf of her people before Ahasuerus saying, “I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”[19]

May we see that the essence of interposition is captured in Jesus’ words:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”[20]

This is exactly what interposition demands. It demands the courage to lose sight of yourself for the sake of others. To put their well-being as more important than your own.

There are a couple of ways to interpose. First, you can remonstrate before an elected official, so that they might take up the fight to interpose on your behalf with their delegated authority, and you and others rallying behind them. This falls in line with the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, which we will not seek to develop a better understand of today.

Second, and most simple, way to interpose is to civilly defy the unjust laws or regulations. To civilly disobey is to interpose on behalf of others. Remember that civil disobedience reminds the state who they are accountable to and what their responsibility is. When this is achieved, others benefit.

By the way, disobedience is to be practiced even when persecution is not a reality. Some seem to think it is only appropriate for the church to defy the state so long as the state is specifically targeting the church. Realize that persecution does not produce civil disobedience. Civil disobedience produces persecution. Will you suffer when you defy tyranny? One hundred percent! The Scripture says that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.[21] You will, however, suffer to the glory of God for doing that which is right.

Church, we not only have a right to disobey unjust laws and regulations, but we also have a duty to not merely for our own sake, but for the sake of others. It was Calvin that said:

“We are redeemed by Christ at the great price which our redemption cost Him, in order that we might not yield a slavish obedience to the depraved wishes of men, far less do homage to their impiety.”[22]

We must defy unjust laws not necessarily because we hate what is in front of us, but because of our love for what is behind us. First and foremost, it is a love for God and His truth. Secondly it is a love for others, which flows from a love for God.

Genuine love, as Paul says, does not seek its own and rejoices in the truth. True love clings to that which is good so that it might overcome evil with it. True love, therefore, never contradicts truth and goodness, both of which the living God epitomizes.

            The church is to be the pillar and support of the truth. We love others by being this. The most unloving thing we can ever to do others is to perpetuate a lie. In the words of James Coates:

“Complying with unbiblical and unjust government laws is neither faithful nor loving. Affirming the government has an authority, it does not actually have is neither faithful nor loving.”

It is unloving to our neighbors to perpetuate the lie that we must obey our kings, be they good or be they bad for God has so commanded. How many of our neighbors have been crushed in some way by the governments blatant overreach these past couple of years? If you love your neighbor you will acknowledge when there is foul play and stand against it.

It is also unloving to those in authority to perpetuate the lie that they have no limits to their jurisdiction. They are accountable to God! How many men and women in positions of civil authority are heaping condemnation on their heads right now for they way in which they are governing?

God desires men and women in positions of authority to come to the knowledge of the truth. This is accomplished when we interpose and direct them to their duty of governing according to that holy, good, and righteous standard, the Law of God, which not only establishes just laws, but above all acts as a school master to lead people to Christ.

It is also achieved when we intercede for them in prayer so that we may experience the benefits that Daniel did when Darius came face to face with the living God. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Display Strength and Take Action

Daniel 11:32 says, “The people who know their God will display strength and take action.” Strive to know your God, and to live your life to His glory.

Christians ought to be the greatest citizens because they have fellowship with the living and triune God. Even when are put in a situation where we must disobey, it is not to be done with disdain or a riotous mentality. We are to continue to give honor to whom honor is do, and subject ourselves to whatever consequences they seek to thrust upon us for our civil disobedience.

Make special note of it being called “civil”. We are to be civilized in our defiance. We are not to return evil for evil. As the Scripture says:

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”[23]

We are to conduct ourselves with wisdom, making the most of every opportunity, and letting our speech “always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt.”[24] The Scripture says:

“Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”[25]

May we always be read to give a defense for the hope that is within us no matter the cost.

            Let us never forget that the greatest model of what it means to lay down our lives for out friends is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He was rich, yet for our sake became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich. He emptied Himself by becoming a Man, and as a Man, He humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross where He bore our sin on His body to satisfy the wrath of God in our stead. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross and such hostility from sinners against Himself. He who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. If Christ so loved us, and gave Himself for our benefit, ought we naught give ourselves for the benefit of others?

If I may end with a final word from J.I. Packer:

“Those who know their God have great energy for God…those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God’s truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men’s attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it – even at personal risk.”[26]

[1] Mark 12:17

[2] Ephesians 5:21-6:1

[3] Hebrews 13:17

[4] Matthew 22:21

[5] 1 Timothy 6:15

[6] Romans 13:4a

[7] Romans 13:4b

[8] Psalm 82:1-8

[9] Judges 21:25

[10] The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page 975-76

[11] The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page 972

[12] The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page 972-973

[13] Romans 13:1-4

[14] 1 Peter 2:13-17

[15] The New Twentieth Century Dictionary; Page 1861

[16] The Magdeburg Confession, Page 57

[17] The Magdeburg Confession, Page 67

[18] The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government, by Matthew J. Trewhella; Page 28

[19] Esther 4:16

[20] John 15:13

[21] 2 Timothy 3:12

[22] The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page 988

[23] 2 Timothy 2:24-25

[24] Colossians 4:5-6

[25] 1 Peter 3:16-17

[26] Knowing God, J.I. Packer; Page 23-24

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