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Civil Disobedience and the Word of God

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There are people who, for whatever reason, like to try and put the screws to the followers of Christ. “Judge not!“, or, more recently, “Mind your own business!” and then they proceed to make it our business and then get mad when we decide following our faith is more important then condoning their sin.

Many, many laws have been passed recently. Most of them probably wouldn’t pass Constitutional muster – aside from the very liberal (and wrong) rulings SCOTUS has put out recently on the issue – if people actually understood what our Founding Fathers actually attempted to do (and they could if they’d intelligently read the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers). Unfortunately, like in ancient Rome, such attention to detail is inconvenient when you are trying to pave the way for unbridled hedonism. When your goal is to clear a path for unbridled amounts of self- and instant-gratification regardless of the consequences, such details and truths are highly and excessively inconvenient. Older, more conservative thinking is labeled as out-dated, and when that doesn’t work, it becomes labeled as hate.

Except, of course, when it comes to trying to put the screws to Christians. Of course non-believers will never understand, not fully. They have not an understanding of the book they try to throw back in our face, and unfortunately not many Christians have enough knowledge, wisdom, or love to be able to correct those who try to use our own faith to control us in such deceptive manners. Unfortunately, I’ve had my own issues, not from unbelievers but from a Brother, no less, dealing with issues of obeying the government and how exactly that applies to us. Unfortunately I didn’t handle the situation very well. I pray, though, that this little devotional, shared by a Sister I know on Facebook.

It is, however, a bit lacking. Not in understanding of the issue, the author is obviously a mature individual and has studied this out quite a bit, but because I feel he leaves out some critical pieces of Scripture from his teaching. Following in the blockquote is the devotional intact, without commentary from myself, followed by my own addition to it. My prayer is for my fellow Brothers and Sisters to come to a deeper understanding of this issue. You cannot help but grow from truth, and this is nothing but the truth.

Civil Disobedience

Acts 4:1–22 “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” (vv. 19–20).

Christian ethicists have long debated whether or not it is ever legitimate for believers to defy the state. This is understandable since there are many passages, such as Romans 13:1–7, that seem to encourage submission to the ruling authorities no matter what. Paul, however, was not reflecting any sort of naiveté when he instructed us to submit to the earthly authorities. After all, as one who was often imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, he well knew that the state could very easily become an instrument of evil. His commands to obey the state, as with all of the biblical injunctions to submit to the government, carry with them the assumption that our rulers are, broadly speaking, fulfilling the task that God has given them to preserve life and protect the right to private property.

Yet when the state forbids us to do something the Lord commands or commands us to do something He forbids, believers must not submit to the decrees of the authorities. Christians are never given the license to sin, nor are they permitted to abandon the dictates of God in order to obey the orders of other human beings. Christ alone has ultimate authority, as the apostles demonstrate in today’s passage. Given the chance to preserve their freedom and safety at the cost of preaching Jesus to sinners, Peter and John choose to obey the Great Commission (Acts 4:19–20; see Matt. 28:18–20). Make no mistake, they are engaging in an act of civil disobedience, but they are doing so in order to be faithful to the Lord. Such circumstances alone can justify such actions.

The principle that we may disobey the state if it forbids what God commands or commands what He forbids is easy to learn, but difficult to apply. The state will sometimes engage in unfair practices that we must follow because we cannot make the case that such practices violate Scripture. For example, the so-called “progressive” taxation that exists presently in the United States may be unjust, but we have no right to refuse to pay taxes (Rom. 13:7).

Our default position as Christians is to bend over backward to be model citizens. But when the demands of God’s kingdom directly contradict the demands of the kingdom of men, the mandates of our heavenly citizenship must win.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Because of our fallen nature, it would be easy to twist the principle for Christian civil disobedience enumerated in today’s study into an excuse to avoid the Bible’s call that we submit to the government. Indeed, our fallen nature makes us prone to find any loophole we can in God’s law in order to render something less than true obedience. Beware of this tendency in your heart, but also remember that your allegiance belongs ultimately to Christ, not to the state.

For further study:
Exodus 1:8–22

The Bible in a year:
Ecclesiastes 10–12

For the weekend:
Song 1–6

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

I think for further study one need look no further then Daniel chapters 1 through 7. It is a classic case study in defying the authority of men in order to be in submission to the Lord. In Daniel, three clear cases are presented.

Three Case Studies for Believers to Disobey Government

  1. With the introduction of Daniel we see the very first act of civil disobedience: Daniel and the three Hebrew children purpose within their hearts not to defile themselves by eating food offered to idols (Daniel 1:8). Because of this, and because of their faithfulness in the Lord, an alternative is provided (eating nothing but vegetables) for the entire period of their training at the king’s court. They even propose a test run in which they agree to eat the idol-offered food if they suffer in health or looks because of their choice. Because we can read ahead, we know the outcome is assured and those 4 become the king’s top students and the best looking of the men selected. (vv. 15-21)
  2. Later on, in Daniel 3, the king creates an image of gold and Daniel and his friends are put into an awkward position, again (4-12):

    Submit to the king of Babylon or submit to the Lord. This time it is an act of worship whenever music sounds. The jealous court officers want to get Daniel’s buddies to dance/worship to a golden idol (not sure where Daniel is during this, but one would assume he didn’t obey, either). Once again they disobey, and the king calls them on it (vv 13-15). Now, they are facing what some may see as a lose-lose situation: Worship the golden idol and sin, or don’t sin and be thrown into a furnace of fire. They tactfully tell the king that they cannot and will not sin against the Lord, whether or not He keeps them safe from repercussions (vv 16-18). Into the furnace they go, only to dance with the pre-incarnate Christ in full view of all present. Not only did they not receive any harm from the immense fire (one so hot several of the king’s loyal men died in the process of putting the three Hebrew children in the furnace) they also did not smell like smoke or have a single hair singed (vv 19-27).

  3. One final time, this time in chapter 6, Daniel’s counterparts were out to get him. They saw how blessed he was, and they attributed it rightly to his obedience to the Lord. They also saw the favor he curried with the king and it must of stuck in their craw something awful (vv 1-5). This time they had what they thought was an iron-clad, fool-proof way to get rid of Daniel and once and for all get the recognition they thought they should have.

    They got the king to declare a law, according to the custom of the Mede’s and the Persians, with no loopholes. The law was an onerous one, too (vv 6-9):

    For 30 days one could only worship the king, if they worshiped or petitioned anyone – or any God – else than Darius (king of the Chaldeans at the time), they were to be put to death by being throwin into the lion’s den, no loopholes. They knew Daniel would violate the law,they just had to catch him. Since Daniel made no effort to conceal himself or his worship of the Lord, this was fairly easy. Daniel, of course, offered no resistance. He knew he had broken the law but he also knew not doing so would have brought him into sin and soiled his relationship with the Lord. He was willing to die for his faith (v 10).

    Once again, the Lord protected him and this time the king – who had enough of the other’s scheming, had them thrown to the lions (whom, according to scripture, ate very well that day). There is no doubt in my mind – according to the account of Daniel – that the king became a believer that day (a tertiary thing in this discussion, but worth mentioning) (vv. 11-28).

Disobedience to those in authority over us comes in a very, very narrow line. As the devotional mentions above, do not twist Scripture and the laws of man to find reasons not to obey the laws of man. Government and those in authority over us are there as the Lord’s ministers for justice. Do good – as Daniel and his three Hebrew friends did – and you have nothing to worry about. Remember, though, when man’s laws try to get you to sin against the Lord, your allegiance should be to Him.

Judge Not Lest…The Heathen Ridicule You

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I have addressed this subject before, but only in passing. I fail to see, though, why a professing Christian should need any lesson on this if they have properly sought after God on the matter and not man. For the unbeliever, it is somewhat excusable that you do not understand this (or really any other) part of Scripture. Spiritual matters are spiritually discerned and, being spiritually dead, it is no wonder these matters remain a point of contention and misrepresentation amongst your own circles. The same cannot be said of the Believer who is supposed to be reborn, transformed, and redeemed. You are supposed to be awakened to these things and have a thirst for a Godly and proper understanding of any of Scripture. No, all will not be revealed at once, and like me you’ll have to engage in regular prayer and study to be found worthy of the reality-making revelation that comes only from the Holy Spirit. I will try to make things easier for all, though. My own explanation though, will be sorely lacking – and certainly shall not constitute a fuller revelation – and should not be solely relied upon for spiritual truths. As with everything, consult Scripture and consult God and test what I have to say against The Authority in all matters.

The Scripture most used when Christians – when they call sin sin – is Matthew 7:1. The entire rest of that chapter is happily ignored because for too long that one verse has been enough to silence many, many Believers as they seek to witness to others and provide them with a warning that the path they are going down is destructive. It is of no surprise, given that the truth always hurts, but in the end the truth is all their is to set men free. It was Christ Himself who said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32, KJV) The surrounding Scripture is Christ teaching a very important lesson, one that many like to ignore because for the last 50 years or so they’ve gathered to themselves preachers with slick tongues and easy-believism. The important truth: You cannot live a life IN and as a servant OF sin and call yourself a disciple of Christ Jesus. You cannot be in rebellion to God and call yourself moral, or just, or good. You cannot just hand-wave away your accountability to Almighty God just because you were saved by His grace (unmerited favor). Don’t believe me? That’s fine, this is hard to digest and even harder to /live/. How, then, can I claim such things? I can claim them because Jesus Christ Himself said them:

John 8:30-38, KJV:
As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

He also, in the preceding verses, spoke that those who abide in the Son (and who are set free) live without sin, but that those who continue in sin abide in their father (a reference to Lucifer, the father of sin since it was in his pride that he rebelled against God and convinced a third of the heavenly host to rebel with him, and in their rebellion be cast out from the presence of God). Christ Himself also asserts that in the following verses:

John 8:39-41a, KJV
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.

A logical fallacy, you say? I mean, it obviously is an ‘either-or’ statement (either you are with me, or you are not) but is it really a fallacy? There are only two positions you can take in regards to God. You are either His willing bondslave, or you are not. In the former you are adopted into His family and your life /will/ be transformed, or you continue to be regarded as the rebel you are. You choose to either continue in what you know is sin, or you do not. A claim to some alternative means of redemption is doctirinally false (and as such is a false teaching). A claim of any sort of redemption that allows you to continue in sin unabated is heretical to Scripture and borders on blasphemy.

I know I have seemingly wandered far away from Matthew 7:1 and it’s twisted use by the heathen and even false converts, but there is a reason. I need to set the ground for why it’s use by the heaten and false converts is twisted and inaccurate. Please, if you have read this far, continue along with me.

In John 8, Jesus continues to make the case that those He was speaking to then (and by way of Scripture to us today) could not call themselves sons of God if they continue to live in what the Almighty called sin, and He called a lot of things sin. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:22-32, KJV) “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) That is just some of the teaching in the New Testament as to what is sin.

Of course, the argument goes, if those are still sin why aren’t Christians stoning those who are guilty of the law? Well, that really isn’t our calling. It wasn’t meant to be the calling of the Jews either but they also needed to be taught that there is punishment for breaking God’s law. Since in the Old Covenant God dealt with Israel physically (as a foreshadowing of spiritual things) so to the punishments had to be physical (foreshadowing the eternal problem of sin). The short answer is, we do not stone unbelievers because even if they do not receive a physical punishment, they are already found guilty and condemned to an eternity in Hell. No passing Go, no collecting a reward in Heaven, no eternity with the Father. You see, in addition to being a loving Father, He is also the Just Judge. As a sinner guilty of rebellion, if you do not accept the salvation of Christ Jesus He cannot and will not stand in as your propiation, and His holiness will not be imputed upon you. You will have to suffer the price of your sin instead of letting Christ do it since He has already paid the price on the Cross. That punishment alone is so serious, so permanent, that no stoning, drowning, hanging or crucifixtion could ever compare to it, and once you die, it really is too late. All of the Old Testament is a PHYSICAL foreshadowing of who God is in spirit. Unfortunately Israel as a nation never really got it in a way that was permanently imprinted into the collective consciousness. This does not, of course, take away from Israel’s place as God’s Chosen, nor does it take away their inheritance from Him, that though is another post for another season.

We are taught that the fulfillment of the law is in love, and one cannot say that they love God if they live in sin, and they cannot say that they love their neighbor if they do not warn them of the danger they are in. If you are not a True Believer, you are very much in danger of hellfire. That is neither condemnation nor judgment on my part. It is a warning given in love. If I did not love you, I would not tell you of the very real and eternal peril you are in.

Romans 13:8-14, KJV
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

Galatians 5:13-18,KJV
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

1 John 3:11-15, KJV
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”

1 John 4:7-17, KJV
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”

I think, though, that the one of the greatest chapters in the Gospels is John 14, which I shall not copy paste as it is short enough that I shall not miss you if you go and read it if you need to refresh yourselves before continuing, which speaks volumes about God’s (and therefore Christ’s) love for us, and the love which we are to show one another. I do so love one promise that seems to be ignored, though, and that is found in verse 12: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” We are given the full power and authority of Christ Jesus. Not some. Not just a part. All. Of. It. We are called to preach the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not the easy parts. Not the soft parts. All. Of. It. That includes preaching the repentance of sins. To do that, though, one must call sin, sin. This brings us back to Matthew 7 (and not just the first, easy to twist, verse). You see, in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to do so with His authority, with His power, we need to know not only what it is, but have allowed God to excise it from our lives for it is only then we are mimputed His righteousness, and that is what Matthew 7:1-5 boils down to: righteous versus unrighteous judgment. The mote (or plank, or whatever) being spoke of in verses 3-5 is sin in our own lives. We cannot (and have no right to) call out sin in the lives of others if we have first not dealt with our own and by our honest and true conversion into a bondslave of Christ the issue should have been dealt with, clearing up our own eyes so that we may honestly and in love preach to others. Let verse 6 be a warning, though: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” What exactly is Christ saying? Well, if Scripture is holy, we should not cast it before the dogs or swine (those heathens whom have hardened their hearts totally in regards to God and His full and complete word). In other words, if someone has demonstrated they are not willing to listen, quit preaching to them lest they tear you limb from limb. Pray for them, love them, but move on. They have chosen their path and have condemned themselves. Our judgment is not in condmenation, for it cannot be. The Just, Holy, Pure, Loving, Wrathful, Envious, Perfect Judge has already declared them rebells, and they go to a hell of their own making.

Paul Washer said it best, I think, in response to those who exlaim, “Judge not lest ye be judged”: Twist not scripture lest ye be like Satan. Those who do not listen to the word of God, and whom seek to twist it in a vain attempt at justifying their sinful lives, are condemned by their own mouths and hands. Those whom have hardened their hearts to the truth will not listen to anyone, no matter how loudly or lovingly you proclaim Truth to them. God’s answer is simple: Leave them be. Stand not in their way. We have a duty to expose sin, to preach repentence, and do so all in love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

May God’s peace be with you all.

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