What would you do if a boss, political leader, law enforcement, etc, asked you do something that goes against what God says? Peter and the apostles give us the answer.
Commanded not to preach in Jesus’ Name
Peter and the apostles had been warned by the religious leaders not to preach in the name of Jesus. When they continued to do so, they imprisoned them. At night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” Notice the angel didn’t release them and tell them to run and hide somewhere. Nor did the angel tell them to go to a different place – a safe place – and preach the gospel. The angel told them to return to the temple, stand there, and preach the words of life.
Where are the prisoners?
When morning came, the religious leaders found the prison doors locked, but their prisoners were gone. Then someone came to tell them, “Look the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” They sent a captain and some officers to collect them and bring them to them. They asked the apostles, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?” There response was, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
The anti-gospel problem isn’t new
Have you ever noticed that people aren’t always receptive to the Good News of the Gospel? More and more government and social groups attempt to stamp out the gospel, remove the Ten Commandments, and re-write laws that go against God’s laws. They remove prayer from school and Christian businesses can be faced with retribution for not serving someone that lives against the business owner’s religious beliefs. This anti-gospel problem isn’t new. And because the disciples chose to obey God rather than man, they would face persecution. But if the apostles were here to speak to us today, they would say to us, “You ought to obey God rather than men. We shared the Gospel to the point of being put in prison, beaten and even put to death – now it’s your turn! The lost are depending on you to tell them about Jesus.”
The anti-gospel problem isn’t new. But if the apostles spoke to us today, they would say, “Obey God rather than men. We shared the Gospel to the point of being put in prison, beaten & even put to death-now it’s your turn! The lost are depending on you to tell them about Jesus.”Tweet
Why did the Jewish authorities forbid the apostles to preach about Jesus?
The problem the Jewish authorities had with the disciples preaching about Jesus was two-fold. First, they didn’t believe Jesus was the messiah. Remember…they had Jesus put to death because they believed He was blaspheming when He claimed to be the Son of God. The second thing they had against the disciples preaching about Jesus was they were drawing public attention to the message of a Jewish man who was executed on a Roman cross. That message was contradictory to common ideas about God’s anointed Messiah. Additionally, their message challenged claims associated with Roman rule.
The religious authorities failed to realize who the apostles were because they failed to recognize who Jesus was. And so they commanded the apostles to stop.
A Divine directive to Obey God
But the apostles were given divine directive, first by Jesus himself, and now by the angel that miraculously set them free from the prison cell and they were going to be obedient, no matter what it cost them. So, they told the religious leaders that they must obey God rather than man. They were appealing to a higher authority – God – to challenge the instructions the religious leaders had given them.
Why are Christian to obey God rather than men? Peter makes the same points that he made in his sermon given on the Day of Pentecost: Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God who rose from the dead, He is alive and He lives in us. As the Son of God, his authority is higher than their authority and therefore they were to obey Him rather than them. Jesus’ command ruled over their command.
Obey God – no matter the cost
Peter and the disciples knew that following the outdated rules and regulations of the Jewish authorities would not lead to the forgiveness of sins. Only Jesus can provide forgiveness. Peter and the disciples wanted everyone to know the gospel message – regardless of what it cost them. They understood what their sins cost Jesus – death on the cross. If Jesus would die for the payment of their sins, then they were willing to die to spread the gospel to every nation.
On this occasion, because they refused to obey men, they were beaten and once again commanded not to teach about Jesus. Their reaction to being beaten was to rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name and daily they went to temple and to people’s homes to teach about Jesus.
We too have a divine directive to obey God
We too have been given a divine directive to go and tell all people about Jesus.
As Christians, we must acknowledge that there is sometimes a tension between obeying God and obeying civil governments. God, not government, is to be obeyed when it comes to the mission of the church, which is to spread the Good News of the Kingdom. Civil governments must be obeyed except when they overstep their bounds by trying to stop the work of God or when they pass laws that are directly against God’s commandments. When that happens, governments must be disobeyed because God’s laws are sovereign.
To obey God rather than man can bring retribution
Just as the disciples experienced persecution for obeying God rather than man, we too can expect retribution. When it happens, we can have the same reaction – to rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus and then to continue to obey God rather than men.
God wants us to acknowledge that God is sovereign and trust him instead of rejecting him and following our own plans. The disciples decided to follow God’s plan, and in doing so they set a good example for us to follow. If we are ever asked to do something that would cause us to disobey God, that is where we have to draw the line. The Bible tells us what is morally right and morally wrong, and if we go against God’s Word, then that is sin. Our allegiance must be to God and not to man, because God is the ultimate authority that we must answer to.
Are you willing to obey God rather than man?
God is in charge of our lives. He has rescued us from the bondage of sin, forgiven us and brought us into his family. The proper response is for us to be so grateful that we will spread the Good News in spite of opposition. How dedicated are you to telling others about Jesus? How faithfully do you live out your faith? If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
While on this occasion the apostles were beaten, eventually almost everyone of them would die a martyr – all because they chose to obey God rather than man. Are you willing to obey God rather than man – even to the point of death?
How dedicated are you to telling others about Jesus? How faithfully do you live out your faith? If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? — click to tweet
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The psalmist reminds us that when our sins are forgiven, God removes them from us as far as the east is from the west.
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