God places a high priority on respect for authority. He commands us to live obediently under the authority of our government, our work structure, our church leadership, and within the family. So is it ever right to disobey someone in authority? If so, when? That is a question more and more believers are forced to consider.
1 Chronicles 1 & 2
When Is It Right to Disobey?
Sharing the Truth
Until recently, I worked full time at our church, so I have had great freedom to talk about Christ and the Gospel. Even now, as a volunteer counselor, I’m free to share the gospel with those who don’t have a personal relationship with God and speak the truth to those who want answers for the issues in their lives.
However, I have many friends who work in secular jobs. Some are teachers with students from broken homes and other difficult environments. Others are office workers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement personal, and dozens of other occupations. They are surrounded by people with great needs and a variety of beliefs and they are often limited in the freedom to share their faith openly.
And God does place a high priority on respect for authority. He commands us to live obediently under the authority of our government, our work structure, our church leadership, and within the family. So is it ever right to disobey someone in authority? If so, when? That is a question more and more believers are forced to consider.
In the home, believers are sometimes married to unbelievers who demand they not raise their children biblically or bring them to a New Testament church. Sometimes they are forbidden to attend church at all.
As believers, we should be godly, biblically submissive spouses, faithful employees and obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13.1-7). We should show respect for authority in the home, the workplace and civil society. As a general rule, we should not disobey company policy or the laws of our land, but there are times when we must recognize that we are under a higher authority.
Peter and John found themselves in such a situation. A lame man had been healed (Acts 3.1-10), causing quite a commotion in the city and Peter and John had been arrested as a result.
5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes,6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.
Pretty bold! And there was the evidence standing beside them, the formerly lame man. The religious leaders were between a rock and a hard place. They could not deny a miracle had taken place, but they wanted to put a stop to their preaching.
18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.
When asked to choose between the command of men and the command of God, they were compelled to obey God. But they also showed respect for authority when they said, “you judge.” They understood they had to be willing to suffer the consequences of doing right.
What Might that Look Like in Your Life and Mine?
As wives, we are commanded to submit to the leadership of our husbands (1 Pet. 3.1) and to show them respect (Eph. 5.33) whether they are believers or not.
God, also, commanded us to “not forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10.25). So if a wife is forbidden to attend church, she could, respectfully, say something like, “Honey, I want to follow your leadership and show you respect, but God tells me that I need to go to church. I can attend a Sunday service or go to a ladies Bible study on Thursday mornings. Which would you prefer?”
If you are forbidden to talk about your faith at work, look for opportunities to share your faith with co-workers outside the work place, over lunch or at some other time. Show concern for them and pray for them.
But if you are expected to act or speak in a way that is contrary to God’s clear commands, you must respectfully disobey. An example might be a teacher who is expected to teach evolution as an absolute, rather than, a theory or to deny the truth of God in some way.
I once counseled a teacher who taught at a religious school. She had accepted Christ as her Savior and professed to understand that salvation was by grace alone through faith alone, but at school, she was expected to teach that salvation was by faith plus certain works. Many from that background put their faith in having done the right religious duties, rather than the Gospel.
I explained to her that teachers have a higher accountability (Jas. 3.1) and that she was responsible for what she taught, especially where someone’s eternal destiny was concerned.
I know some of you are in situations where you struggle between what you believe God wants you to do and what you are told by those in authority. You may be fearful of losing your job or worse.
I would first caution you that this is not a license to do whatever seems right to you. Make sure of what Scripture commands. I would also encourage you to learn about the laws that apply to your situation. Many people are intimidated into believing they can say nothing about faith or religion, when in fact, they do have protected religious liberties.
As the End Draws Near
James said that we will experience tests and trials in this life and, as the end draws near, that will get worse, not better. He also said, if we will respond biblically to those tests and trials we will grow and mature as a result. James 1:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
No Other Name
Fear of authority is not the only reason we hesitate to share the truth. Sometimes we are afraid to sound judgmental, lose friends, or risk relationships. In a culture where so-called “tolerance” is touted as all important and enlightened, it is often easier to say nothing.
Many in the first century believed in Jesus, but were afraid to acknowledge it for fear of being put out of the temple or discredited by others. Even Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea went public only after his death. But look at Peter’s statement:
Verses 10, 12. “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole … Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Throughout history false prophets have claimed there are many ways to God and governments have tried to suppress the truth. In our desire to be “open-minded” or “tolerant” let’s be sure we don’t mislead people by neglecting to speak the truth in love! There is no other name—no other way. Salvation comes through saving faith in Jesus Christ alone!
Today’s Other Readings:
God Uses Imperfect People
1 Chronicles 1 & 2:
Even though he is not mentioned by name in Chronicles, it is believed that Ezra is the author of 1 & 2 Chronicles. These two books were written after the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and after they had spent 70 years in Babylonian exile.
The book of 1 Chronicles starts out with a partial genealogy (mostly covering the Messianic line) from Adam through David and beyond to remind the people of God’s promises to them and to encourage them to be faithful to God.
Also included in the genealogies are those of Ismael (1 Chron. 1.28-31) and Esau (1 Chron. 1.43). As God promised Abraham, Ismael’s descendants formed twelve tribes, who became some of the Arab peoples living in the area north of Israel. Esau’s descendants became the Arab peoples living east and south of Israel.
Interesting to note 2.4 says:
“And Tamar, his daughter-in-law, bore him Perez and Zerah. All the sons of Judah were five.”
Remember Tamar? In her desperation to have a child, she deceived her father-in-law into sleeping with her by posing as a prostitute. Yet, she is mentioned here by name in the genealogy of Christ. What a great reminder of God’s willingness to use imperfect people like us!
At His Rebuke …
Verse 6, “At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep.“
Neither man’s physical strength, not the greatest weapons are any match for God. He can and does destroy both in defense of His people.
These verses speak of the condition of the human heart, how people respond to others generosity, or even bribery, and how people will avoid the needs and demands of the poor.
Questions to Journal or Ponder:
Have you been faced with a decision of whether or not to obey someone in authority? Do you believe you handled it respectfully, biblically? Is there some area when you have been keeping silent when you need to speak up? May God give you the grace you need for any situation.
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