Scripture Reading: Acts 5:26-32
“But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’” (Acts 5:29-32)
When the religious leaders ordered Peter and John not to teach in the name of Jesus, the apostles rightly responded: “We must obey God rather than men.” They explained the reasons for their position. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. The religious leaders were responsible for having Jesus crucified. However, God exalted Jesus and gave Him supreme authority by placing Him at God’s right hand. Jesus Christ alone has the authority to grant repentance and forgiveness. The apostles were commissioned by Christ to be His witnesses and this was confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostles must obey God rather than men.
The real issue here is civil disobedience. Believers are responsible to submit to the governing authorities over them (Romans 13:1-5). All legitimate human authority is derived from God. However, when human authority contradicts the authority of God, we must obey God rather than men. In such a case, we must exercise extreme caution and seek God’s wisdom.
Most of the Bible’s teaching on the subject of authority stresses the importance of obedience to authority, not disobedience. There should be very few occasions when disobedience is called for. None-the-less we must obey God over any human authority structure. In such cases, we must determine clearly and without any doubt that the authority structure is demanding that we do something that is contrary to Scripture. We are to be respectful when we question authority and we must be prepared to accept the consequences that may be imposed upon us if we disobey. Having said all this, there is a time to say, “We must obey God rather and men.”
Lord God, grant me wisdom as I consider the demands of human authority structures over my life. I know that human authority structures are derived from you. Therefore, I am to respect and obey them. Let me willingly submit, unless I am asked to violate your commands. If so, give me wisdom and grace to respond respectfully.
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