Government was ordained by God. It has substantial power to protect and punish. But what if it begins to protect the wicked and punish the just? What should Christians do if the Government outlaws obedience to God?
Americans have been blessed to live in a county with freedoms that allow us to worship God according to the Bible and our conscience. But what if that changes? Who would we obey?
In Acts Chapter 4, Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Christ in a popular public place. A crowd gathered, and they preached the Gospel. Over five thousand souls were saved!This is the age-old question: What should Christians do if the government outlaws obedience to God? Click To Tweet
While the Christians and the new believers rejoiced, the civil authorities moved to stop the work of God. The disciples were detained and ordered by the religious and civil governing body (the Council) to halt all preaching in the name of Christ.
“Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach 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. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.”
These government officials wanted to punish the preachers, but the miracle was so public that the happy citizens would have rebelled at such an ungodly action. The Apostles were released with a stern warning to stop preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.
Soul winning, street preaching, and proselytizing was prohibited by law. Jail and torture would be the punishment for obeying God.
What was the Apostles’ response? Did they cower in fear? Did they surrender to governmental demands to halt the exercise of their faith?
No! On the contrary, they went back to the rest of the disciples and began to pray for power and boldness to remain faithful during persecution.
“And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
These Spirit-filled disciples filled Jerusalem with the doctrine of Christ as they spread the Gospel with power and boldness in spite of government regulation.
God worked mightily as multitudes were saved, and thousands came to Jerusalem from surrounding areas to have their sick healed as the Apostles used the sign gifts to verify the power of the Gospel.
The Council was furious that these religious fanatics did not heed their first warning. In a flex of civil power, the Sadducees arrested the disciples. As a crowd gathered for a public trial, they sent to bring the prisoners. Word came back that they were not in the prison! An angel had set them free the night before.
As these government officials sat there in shock considering their options, a messenger told them that the men who were supposed to be in jail were preaching and teaching Christ publically again!
The Council sent soldiers to arrest these stubborn preachers once again. The soldiers did not stop them in violence, for they feared that the citizens would stone them. These pesky preachers were causing quite a stir in town!
The stuffy, self-absorbed government officials demanded to know why these preachers disobeyed their orders. The answer was quick and straightforward.
WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.
“Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
This is the age-old question: What do Christians do if the government outlaws obedience to God?
The answer from the Scripture is clear. God trumps government every time.
Yet, how to obey God in spite of government restrictions can be complicated.
Why? Government Is ordained by God. The government has real power given to it by God Himself.
There are three institutions ordained by God:
Each of these have their own jurisdiction and powers. They should not contradict one another, but sometimes they do if one oversteps its bounds.
Government was ordained by God to protect its citizens and punish evildoers.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”
But what if the evildoers begin running the government? This has happened many times in many different places throughout history.
Christians have faced persecution and restriction of religious expression for 2,000 years.
How do these facts affect us in 2020? In America, we have lived in relative peace and prosperity. The coronavirus crisis has been the first time in our lifetime that rights have been infringed in such an overt way.
Originally, Americans agreed to self-quarantine and suspended life because of a common threat. After all, if there is a deadly virus that would kill our loved ones, a wise person would stay home until we found a safe way to move forward.
As more information was gathered, we learned that the virus was not as deadly as once thought. In fact, it seems that many people had already contracted the virus and fought it off without even knowing it.
While many rejoiced over this news, many state governments imposed more strict guidelines instead of relaxing them. What were once “recommendations” became tyrannical edicts.
The question on everyone’s mind is, “What do we do if the government continued to demand “compliance” beyond reason?”
It is no secret that some in politics look for every opportunity to change our freedoms in America forcibly. During this episode, local officials have overreached, and police have been confused about enforcing the law.
Consider these events:
- A man sitting on a bench in an empty park drinking a cup of coffee was threatened with an $800 fine if he didn’t leave.
- A man was pulled out of a Philadelphia public bus by his feet by 10 police officers for not wearing a mask when the law didn’t require it.
- A woman was arrested for driving alone in her car to get out of the house.
- A man was arrested and handcuffed in front of his children for playing catch in public with his daughter.
- Liquor stores and abortion clinics stayed open while the churches are closed.
- Governors in some states banned drive-in church services even though they were within health guidelines.
- Police cars blocked church parking lots on Easter Sunday. Officials threatened to take license numbers and give up to $1000 fines for those who dared attend drive-in services.
- A Church in Greenville, MS had every on-duty cop on the church property warning people away from an Easter service. Those who stayed were fined $500. The pastor recorded a policeman saying “your rights are suspended.”
- When a governor was asked on TV about extreme measures being enforced in light of the Bill of Rights, he replied, “I wasn’t thinking about the Bill of Rights.”
These things are happening in America!
The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to quell the people’s fears that Government would become a tyranny. Marshall Law has been a concern since its first use in America. Some government employees act like it is in effect when it is not. While shutting down an outdoor church service, one police officer was video recorded telling a preacher, “Your constitutional rights have been suspended.”
Most Christians complied with government recommendations during the COVID-19 outbreak. It was wise to do so with so many unknowns about the virus. Also, Christians strive to be good citizens. We don’t want to cause trouble. Our goal is to save souls not take over governments. We just want to be left alone to serve God in peace.
This crisis has brought to light in our generation a problem that Christians have faced for 2,000 years.
What if the government demands we stop serving God under penalty of law? What if our government forcibly took our freedoms?
What if Christians were told to stop obeying our Saviour under penalty of fines and imprisonment.
It may not happen in your lifetime, but it could. Some expect the Rapture to happen before things get too bad. While that is our blessed hope, it is not guaranteed that Americans will escape persecution.
Our Lord warned us of dangerous times before His return. Millions of Christians have lost their freedom and their lives since these words were penned.
2 Timothy 3:1
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”
The lines have been more clearly drawn during the race riots following the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The same politicians that put their citizens on house arrest don’t mind the protests for a cause they agree with. The same people that condemned patriots for peacefully protesting governors’ political decisions during such a dangerous pandemic applaud the violent protests that result in injuries, deaths, and properties destroyed. The same politicians that believe in open borders, liberal indoctrination, and the removal of God from our society, seem to align themselves with anarchists.
Cities run by liberal politicians have been the hardest hit. Citizens in urban areas who have had their 2nd amendment rights restricted found the police could not protect their neighborhoods during crisis.
The world seems to be in chaos as it speeds toward the return of Christ.
What should Christians do? I am not advocating revolt. I am not championing disobedience. I am not recommending lawlessness.
In fact, Christians make the best citizens in free societies. But tyrants fear Christianity because they can never control our hearts and minds even if they confine our bodies. Christians already have a Master. His name is King Jesus!
I am not inciting violence or riot. God’s people are called to be peacemakers. However, I am asking a serious question. If the government outlawed the essential practices of our faith, what do we do? What would YOU do?
Here is the crux of the question I am raising. Where is the line between submission and civil disobedience in your life? How much would you take? At what point would you disobey the law to obey God?
Some things are worth fighting for. A few things are worth dying for. What would YOU fight for? Die for?
The Apostle Paul eventually died for His faith. He was ready.
2 Timothy 4:6–7
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”
Every committed Christian should know what they are willing to die for. To get you thinking, here are a few areas that we must obey God rather than man.
Confess Christ Publicly
During the Roman inquisition, tribunals were set up by the Catholic church to root out and punish heresy such as confessing Christ alone as Saviour and the rejection of infant baptism. It would look something like this. An offender would be tied to a stake and prepared to be burned alive. As the magistrate or his henchman held a torch, the offender would be given a chance to recant. This means to publically renounce faith in Christ alone and pledge fealty to the Catholic church.
Millions were killed because they would not recant.
Our commitment to profess Christ publically should be more important than life itself.
Preach Christ Boldly
The disciples refused to stop preaching and evangelizing when outlawed. Many times throughout history, Satan has used political intervention in attempts to stop the evangeslistic work of God’s people. We must never stop telling the world of our wonderful Saviour.
John Bunyon spent 12 years in the Bedford jail for refusing to take a license to preach. Will we abandon our holy commission without sacrifice?
Assemble Together Peacefully
God’s people assemble in private in hostile countries all over the world. Some at the risk of death. To them, the local church is worth civil disobedience.
In America, some Christians can’t be bothered to walk across the street or drive across town in a comfortable automobile. God help us! This lockdown must cause us to reexamine our commitment to attending the House of God. It is something worth keeping at any cost.
Raise Family Biblically
The government has no biblical authority to tell parents how to raise their kids. Leftists and liberals seek to exert their will and instill wicked philosophies into our homes. Some even believe that your kids belong to the public and that parents are a danger to the desired development of children. Do the research. They have already taken over the schools. Public education has more to do with liberal indoctrination that reading, writing, and arithmetic. Do we let them have our living rooms as well?
Make no mistake. They want your children. We must not give them up.
Live For Christ Faithfully
The Bible teaches us how to live. Will you allow others to dictate your faithfulness to Christ? We cannot rule the government. We cannot control other people. We are responsible for our own actions before God. Faith obeys God regardless of the consequences.
Each individual Christian will stand before Christ and be judged for their service after salvation. Will you be faithful until death?
Which do we obey: God or government?
It is a sobering question. I pray that God will protect our freedoms in America so we can continue to worship our Lord without interference. However, the day will come when you must make a choice. What are you willing to fight for? What are you willing to die for?
The Bible is full of examples of people who hazarded their lives to obey God.
Consider this summary of the power of faith.
“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
The examples of the martyrs should embolden and instruct us. May Almighty God empower us to be faithful to Him under any circumstance!
Government was ordained by God. It has substantial power to protect and punish. But what if they begin to protect the wicked and punish the just? What should Christians do if the government outlaws obedience to God?
The Bible answer is plain. WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.
What should we do today? I am not advocating revolt. I am not championing disobedience. I am not recommending lawlessness. What can we do?
We should speak up against sin, live righteously, win souls, stand for the Truth, and pray! No matter what, we must live for Jesus and obey God. Pray for wisdom and protection; boldness and power. Pray for our governmental leaders to have wisdom and to let us continue to serve God in freedom and peace. Pray for a space of grace so we can win more people to Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 2:1–2
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
A portion of this article was originally published in the SAVE NEW ENGLAND Quarterly Magazine’s summer 2020 issue. You can learn more about the magazine here.