Whom Should We Obey?
"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us! Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ** We ought to obey God rather than men **," Acts 5:27-29. There has always been a controversy within today's church concerning Bible smuggling and other activities which are considered "illegal" by today's law. Those in disagreement with "illegal" practices commonly quote Paul's epistle to the Romans, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves," Romans 13:1,2. In context there is a clear commandment to obey civil authority for the punishment of evil, and the good of mankind. Verse three clearly defines this context, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. ..." Yet those who do good in sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ in a Muslim nation have reason to fear. The rules established by Sharia law (Islamic rule) clearly are a terror to good.
We must not confuse civil authority with God's will. We have a right, and duty [FOR MY NAME'S SAKE], to exercise that which God instructs, *even if it violates man's law*. The apostle Paul was clearly instructing the early Church to *submit to man's rule in doing good*, that we may not be found as evildoers. If you walk by a pond where a child is drowning, you would ignore the "No Trespassing" sign and save the child. Godless nations and their token "official" churches who oppose Bible smuggling want their children to drown. In the book of Acts, Peter was clearly commanded by the local "rulers" not to teach in the name of Jesus. However, in verse 20 of chapter 5, the angel of the Lord instructs Peter to "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life." Was the angel of the Lord disobeying God? When Joshua sent two spies to view the land of Jericho, they were hidden in the house of Rahab the harlot. Rahab's house was built along the wall of Jericho, a wall built to prevent "illegal" passage of unwelcome visitors. When the king heard of the arrival of the Israeli spies, he immediately sent word to Rahab and instructed her to bring forth the spies, which had entered her home. Rahab disobeyed the command of her king and hid the spies, even lying to protect their whereabouts. Later that evening, she secretly "smuggled" the spies out of the city by lowering them through her window and down the wall with a long cord.
This act clearly suggests God's goodwill in ** civil disobedience **. Rahab, a harlot, who knew little of the God of Israel, was prepared to do good unto God, disobeying authority, and even placing herself in grave danger. For this act, her life was spared. A similar act of smuggling is found in Acts 9:25 when the disciples lowered Saul down a wall to spare his life from the Jews who were conspiring to kill him. Acts of civil disobedience and secrecy are not uncommon in the Scripture. We find Mary and Joseph quietly fleeing to Egypt in the evening. The mother of Moses hides him in a basket and places him in a river to escape a decree that would kill her baby. Daniel is ordered to discontinue his daily prayers. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are ordered to worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. Some Christian leaders have stated that if we disobey the governing authorities then we are deserving of the persecutions, which come upon us. Are Christians in China who refuse to register with the official church deserving of the beatings they endure? Are Muslims in Islamic nations who convert to Christianity deserving of death by stoning?
A teenage girl in Pakistan is charged with murder and awaits execution if she is found guilty. Her "crime" was committed when she gave a Bible to her Muslim friend. Her friend, after reading the Scripture, was converted and subsequently executed by her own family for refusing to recant her new faith. Because this Christian girl gave the Bible which led to the conversion, she is being charged with the death of the Muslim girl. How would our *theology of absolute obedience to civil authority* deal with cases such as these in Islamic nations? Are we willing to risk our lives and the lives of North Koreans to distribute God's Word? These are sobering questions and must be asked before contributing to ministries like The Voice of the Martyrs [typifying the questions the COG must ask in withdrawing from the SAGE systemic -MM]. As you support such a ministry, you are also partnering in "illegal" acts, which sometimes carry a penalty of death. However, you are in good company with those who have not only asked the question, "Am I willing to lay down my life for the sake of the gospel?" but have also demonstrated their willingness to do so. ** Your English Bible was paid for with the lives of such martyrs **. We realize that the type of ministry undertaken by VOM is not popular. It challenges our comfortable lifestyles. It violates our "rights." It also points us toward a higher call and strengthens our faith. EXPATRIATION WILL BE CONSIDERED *TREASON* (we will be brought before the courts of men, for God's sake, to bear witness before kings, rulers, nations); GOD'S COMMUNITY IS NOT LUKEWARM !! - OUR CHOICE IS MAMMON OR MESSIAH !!
Matthew 10:16. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings ** for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles **. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. Luke 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute [you], delivering [you] up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers ** for my name's sake ** [GOD'S GIFTS; RESPONSIBILITIES OF OUR FAMILY NAME]. 13 And *it shall turn to you for a testimony*. 14 Settle [it] therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For *I will give you a mouth and wisdom*, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. 16 And *ye shall be betrayed* both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and [some] of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all [men] ** for my name's sake **. 18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish [GOD IS WATCHING, HE KNOWS]. 19 In your patience possess ye your souls.
Acts 19:21. After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. 23 And the same time ** there arose no small stir about that way **. 24 For a certain [man] named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that ** by this craft we have our wealth ** [BUSINESS; WEALTH]. 26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; ** but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth ** [A GREAT FALSE SYSTEMIC THREATENED]. 28 And when they heard [these sayings], they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians. 29 And *the whole city was filled with confusion*: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre. [BUSINESS MEN ANGRY; MOB RULE] 30 And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. 31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring [him] that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. 33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people. 34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians. 35 And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, [Ye] men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the [image] which fell down from Jupiter? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.
37 For ye have brought hither these men, which are *neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess*. 38 Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. 39 But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly [CALL FOR USE OF THE LAW COURTS AND GOVERNMENT]. 40 For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. 41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
Those who believe that we should respect governing authorities and submit to their laws even when it hinders evangelical activities [OR STANDS IN THE WAY OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUS COMMUNITY], also believe that in so doing we will avoid persecution. They are right. If the Christians in China stop meeting illegally, the Public Security Bureau will stop beating them. If Christian women in Sudan submit to Islamic law, their children will not be sold as slaves, their husbands will not be crucified or drowned. If William Tyndale had not "illegally" translated the English Bible, he would not have been burned at the stake [IF WE DON'T TURN THE HEART OF THE COG AND ESTABLISH GOD'S COMMUNITY, IT IS THE CURSE WE WILL HAVE TO FEAR; DOING NOTHING RESULTS IN MAN'S EVIL MAGNIFIED UNTO HOLOCAUST !!]. As someone said, "suffering may prevent sin, but sin will never prevent suffering." As we continue our work in serving the persecuted Church, we continually receive requests for more Bibles (and so do we in the work of Giving & Sharing). Are you willing to help us help the persecuted? -- [written by Tom White and Steve Cleary (WITH COMMENTS ADDED), from The Voice of the Martyrs, October, 1998 (source here: Giving & Sharing).
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