Christianity 201

March 29, 2020

Obeying Those in Authority

Today we’re back another time with Elsie Montgomery who writes at Practical Faith. This is a very timely article as we’re witnessing a conflict between those who are obeying lockdown and quarantine orders, and those who feel the mandate of God’s people to worship together trumps government directives.

What about obeying the government?

Some Christians claim that God will not allow them to experience a plague. They quote Scripture and continue to meet in large numbers. In contrast, a friend said that we trust God yet wear a bicycle helmet, drive the speed limit, take our vitamins and so on. God promises protection but is it okay to play in traffic? One of the devil’s temptations to Jesus encouraged Him to jump off the top of the temple because angels wouldn’t let Him be injured. Jesus replied that this was putting God to the test.

God’s people, me included, need to remember that God’s protection goes hand in hand with obedience including this passage:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1–2)

God is sovereign. That covers all authorities, even those we don’t like. Agreeing with separation of church and state does not include ignoring political authority during this crisis. That attitude is deadly.

My hubby once took a course called “Christ and Government” which suggests there is much to consider on this topic. I am challenged to think more deeply by this passage:

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. (John 18:33–38)

The kingdom of God is not like those of the world. It is not defined by boundaries. It has no flag or logos. Its citizens are not governed by military might, nor according to how much money they donate to their current political party. Jesus’ kingdom is about allegiance to Him and having a personal relationship with Him. All our ‘laws and rules’ are in the Bible.

My devotional book offers additional thoughts. It says that Jesus’ servants will not fight to advance His kingdom the way the kingdoms of this world achieve success — using military drive or human armies. Apparently, Pilate believed at least this part of what Jesus was saying, and therefore saw him as no political threat . . . . But this does not mean that Jesus is making no claim whatsoever with respect to the kingdoms of this world. He insists He is King Jesus, even if His source of authority is not in this world, and His servants will not defend Him by resorting to arms. However, the time will come when all will acknowledge that He alone is Lord of lords and King of kings and all the kingdoms of this world are destined to become His.

How does this work in a practical sense? Again, my heart says to obey those in authority, not because I trust them, but because I trust the One who tells me to do it.

What if they order something contrary to the Lord’s commands? The Bible answers that also. The authorities were worried that the Gospel would spread so they decided to warn the disciples:

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:17–20)

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:27–29)

APPLY: Pay close attention to both the Bible and governing authorities. This could mean the difference between life or death even as God gives me a means to stay alive at this time. I am a citizen of heaven living as an ambassador for Jesus in a worldly kingdom. As long as I’m here, I’m to trust Jesus and obey His Word, especially concerning those in authority.

2 Comments »

  1. Here in my country Ghana, we are presently observing a govt temporary ban on gathering as a church due to the threat of Covid-19. It is amazing how some christian churches are viewing this as a persecution rather than seeing it as civil authority excercising its mandate of catering for the welfare of its citizens.

    This is no persecution and rightly we must obey the laws of the land so long as it doesn’t bring us into conflict with obeying God.

    Comment by Enoch Anti — March 30, 2020 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  2. “…my heart says to obey those in authority, not because I trust them, but because I trust the One who tells me to do it.”

    Well put !

    And thank you, Enoch. I had thought the cries of “religious persecution” from public-health orders were only being heard from some of my country’s Christians, who believe they have a “right” to disobey government.

    The enemy is never more successful than when he convinces us rebelliousness is pleasing to God.

    Comment by Steve — March 31, 2020 @ 6:11 am | Reply


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