Laws of God? Or Laws of Men?
By Jack Kinsella
Civil disobedience is a touchy subject among Christians. There is so much in our world that screams out for it. And we are all sick and tired of being pushed out of the public arena, marginalized and mocked, and sick to death of the Obama. It is difficult to know when is the right time to stand up and shout, “Enough!”
In Acts 4:15-20 and 5:27-29, when the Sanhedrin demanded that the Apostles cease preaching the gospel, it was a clear-cut case of the dictates of man contradicting the commandments of God.
Jesus had sent the Apostles out to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19,20); to disobey Him would be sin. The Apostles had to make a personal choice; they chose to obey their Savior.
In Acts 16:35-40 Paul explained that he was concerned about future opportunities to preach the gospel. He insisted on his legal rights as a Roman citizen. This is a unique situation, but from it, we learn that Christians CAN stand up for their legal rights, especially when the cause of Christ is involved.
On the other hand, the Apostle Paul writes that we are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities.
This is where it gets complicated. The two most important passages on this subject are Romans 13:1-5 and I Peter 2:13-17. The Holy Spirit lays out for us the following truths. First, every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for God has appointed those authorities (Romans 13:1).
It is worth of note that as Paul wrote these words, Nero was the Roman Emperor, and his kingdom was based on anything but Biblical principles.
Nero certainly was no God-fearing man, yet Paul gave instructions to submit to the government in that anti-Christian historical context, and included no conditions.
Many advocates of Christian civil disobedience base their views on the assertion that a government based on anti-Christian principles, carrying out unjust policies, forfeits its right to command obedience from its citizens.
But the Roman government Paul lived under was no less humanistic and wicked than is ours; and yet Christians living under it were commanded to submit to it.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient” (Titus 3:1).
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men, whether to the Kings, as the supreme authority, or to governors” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
Note that Peter does not say, “every authority except one that is humanistic” or “every authority except those not based on God’s law” but “every authority.”
Second, to resist God-appointed authorities is to resist God and invite His judgment on our lives (Romans 13:2).
Third, ruling authorities are the ministers of God for our good. It is amazing that God is using even unsaved political leaders to accomplish His purposes, without their consent or knowledge (Romans 13:3,4).
Fourth, we are to submit to authorities not only out of fear of punishment, but also in order to have a clear conscience before God.
Consequently, the believer will seek to obey the laws of society even when he is not likely to get caught for committing a crime. Our ultimate reason for obedience is to please God (Romans 13:5; I Peter 2:13-14).
Fifth, obedience to authorities is a good testimony before unbelievers (I Peter 2:15).
And sixth, we are to honor those who have authority over us (I Peter 2:17).
Some argue that the Roman Christians were practicing civil disobedience when they refused to sacrifice to the emperor as they were commanded.
Civil disobedience is not refusing to obey a command that would cause us to sin. Christians are free to disobey the government, and indeed must disobey the government when it commands us to do something contrary to God’s Word, or forbids us to do something Christ commands.
For example, if a government forbids us to preach Christ to unbelievers, we must disobey, as Peter and John did (Acts 4:1-20).
A true act of civil disobedience by the Roman Christians would have been their refusal to pay taxes as an act of protest against the Roman government’s corrupt policies – such as, supporting slavery, encouraging idolatry, and sponsoring cruel spectacles in the Colosseum.
Yet the New Testament instructs believers to pay their taxes: “this is also why you pay taxes, because authorities are God’s servants … if you owe taxes, pay taxes, if revenue, then revenue” (Romans 13:6,7).
This is the crucial difference: civil disobedience is refusing to obey a law as an act of protest against a government policy one believes is evil.
This is what troubles me. Is the Alabama cause the cause of Christ?
Paul said the Cross freed us from the bondage of the 10 Commandments, since no one except Jesus ever kept them all.
Paul writes in Romans Chapter 7:8-11,
“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”
As Paul already observed in Romans 6:14, thanks to the Cross,
“we are not under the law, but under grace…”
If Paul is telling the truth, the Ten Commandments are the reason that the Jews remain lost to this present time. The fact we are NOT under the Ten Commandments is the reason you and I can hope for eternal life.
Boiled down to basics, the unsaved world came away with the image of Christians, protesting the removal of a monument to the Law, the same Law that necessitated Christ’s crucifixion in the first place. A Law that Christians themselves cannot keep.
This is what troubled me. What kind of message does that send to the unsaved?
They don’t know that Christ set us free from the Law. A missed golden opportunity, since nobody got a chance to hear about that on TV.
Instead, the world saw the images on the television of Christians prostrate before the monument, like pagans worshipping at an altar. With a faith (in the Law, from the perspective of the unsaved) so powerful an Alabama Supreme Court Justice would defy his own court.
Should anything be more important than leading the lost away from the spiritual bondage of the Law and into the liberty procured by the Lord at the Cross?
Did anybody see anything in this debacle for the lost sinner, the skeptic, the seeker currently dabbling in drugs, the occult or paganism, that would convict them of their sinful state and turn them to Christ?
Anybody know anybody who got saved as a consequence of this hugely publicized Christian gathering? Anybody?
I could have gone with the majority on this. In fact, I wanted to. This is a juicy issue, if all I wanted to do was attract subscribers by piling on a popular topic and championing the popular view.
But the Bible and logic both say this isn’t right.
We’ve addressed it from the Biblical perspective, now let’s look at it logically. Because spin is spin, no matter who is doing the spinning.
Suppose the idiots who sued to have the monument moved had lost, then exhausted all their appeals. Having lost, they then took a sledgehammer to the monument anyway, in defiance of the court. Having removed the monument, they announced they did so because the ruling was unconstitutional (as they saw it).
I don’t want to offend anyone. I love you all as family. I hurt about this as much as you do. I am as infuriated by the anti-God efforts of the courts as any of you.
The Bible said this is what would happen in the last days. God Himself ordained the collapse of society, the rejection of godly principles, a system that would have a ‘form of godliness but denied the power thereof’ and He told the last days believers, ‘from such turn away’ — not emulate their tactics.
I gave you my word I’d unspin things and let you decide what the picture looks like when it is standing still. Even when it hurts.
Believe me when I say this one hurts.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on September 1, 2003