We Must Obey God Rather Than Man

Posted on January 21, 2020

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By David Ettinger

A Challenge to Christian ethics
I remember back in 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown approved legislation requiring crisis-pregnancy centers to provide information on abortion. In other words, when a pregnant woman – most likely young and unwed – seeks counsel and practical help regarding her pregnancy, center employees must include the option of abortion.

The overwhelming majority of these crisis centers is pro-life and Christian-led. The California mandate directly opposed everything the Bible says about the sanctity of life. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 reversed a lower court decision upholding a California law. However, had the law been upheld, should faith-based crisis-pregnancy centers have obeyed this severe challenge to Christian ethics?

Christianity and the Civil Law
Generally and biblically speaking, Christians are to be law-abiding citizens. Romans 13:1 tells us: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.”

There was a reason the Apostle Paul wrote this. During the days of the early Church, the Christian world was ruled by Rome. Some Christians took it upon themselves to withhold taxes, though Jesus had already ruled against this (Mark 12:17). Giving money to a pagan government instead of the needy was difficult to accept for the expanding but youthful Church. Paul needed to end this unbiblical practice.

Regarding government, he instructed, “… it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (v. 4). In other words, though far from perfect, government, in theory, is a blessing in that it is designed to bring order to society.

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Paul reasoned with believers to respond properly to this truth: “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’s sake” (v. 5). And just in case there was any question as to Paul’s message, he concluded the matter by instructing: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (v.7).

The Exception Clause
But what about when government strays from God’s design? What happens when government enacts laws that conflict with biblical morality. A perfect example concerns the first two of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Exodus 20:3-5).

banned bible

In the Book of Daniel, these commandments were defied when Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were commanded to bow down to an enormous idol erected by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 3). Though doing so had just become the “law of the land,” the three Hebrews knew it blatantly violated God’s holy Word and refused to do it, even at the threat of death.

In return for their righteousness, the trio of exiled Israelites was thrown in a blazing furnace. That God miraculously rescued them does nothing to alter the fact that they bravely refused to adhere to civil law which violated God’s Word. God sparing them is a clear indication that He approved of and even sanctioned their actions.

Similarly in the early days of the Church, Roman citizens were required to bow down once a year to an image of Caesar in order to display their loyalty to him. This was the mandated law of the land, but Christians, despite the threat of severe monetary fines, imprisonment, and even death, refused to capitulate.

God-Ordained Civil Defiance
The New Testament version of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is Peter, John, and the other unnamed Apostles who preached the Gospel in the Temple courts of Jerusalem (Acts 5:25). The men were apprehended and brought before the Council, or the Sanhedrin, Israel’s religious ruling body (vv. 26-27). The Sanhedrin ordered the Apostles to cease their preaching (v. 28). Though law-abiding citizens, this was an edict the Apostles could not accept. Their leader, Peter, respectfully, eloquently, and boldly, proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29).

The Blueprint for Christians
These words have held true for Christians throughout the ages and will continue to resound until the return of Christ. They serve as the Christian blueprint for how to respond to government legislation that opposes the Word of God. Christians must be civil-minded and obedient UP TO the point where law conflicts with and outright belies biblical mandate.

blueprints

Therefore, we should expect Christian-led crisis-pregnancy centers to disobey laws which require them to tell pregnant women that abortion is a viable option. Abortion is an abomination to God, humanity, and tramples on the sanctity of life as taught in the Bible:

  • “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).
  • “For you [God] formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13).
  • “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:13).

That which is in the womb is created by God, and is therefore sacred. Man is not to destroy what God has created. With this in mind, adherence to pro-abortion mandates is impossible. Obedience to them is to trample God’s Word.

In the days and years ahead, Christians will face many more challenges to our God-ordained beliefs, and “civil disobedience” to these will have consequences. But as did the three Hebrews and the courageous Apostles, we need to remember Him whom we serve and be willing to say, “I must obey God rather than men!”