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When it is right to rebel against governing authorities?

Updated on June 8, 2010

Ever wonder where obedience to our governing authorities ends? Are you struggling with the way some laws have changed, or with new ones that have been set into place? Are you disturbed with how your tax dollars are being spent? You are not alone! You have a whole spectrum of people from extreme liberals to extreme conservatives struggling with this dilemma.

King Solomon, who the Bible says, was the wisest man who ever lived, under the inspiration of God has this to say, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all." (Proverbs 28:4-5)

While I'm concerned about what is going on in our government both nationally and locally, for the most part I have taken a position of staying out of politics. I vote, discuss issues with family and friends, and that is the level I'm comfortable with as far as involvement. I'm actually way more concerned with church authority, and it's lack of leading people to obedience to God and His authority.

Scripture, God's Holy Word, makes it clear that we are to "be in subjection to the governing authorities. "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God." (Romans 13:1-2) And yet, when the High Priest told the Apostles, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?" (Acts 5:28) The Apostles responded, "We must obey God rather than men." (5:29)

So Which is it obey or disobey? What is our relationship to authority and our response to it? What does God's word teach us? A quick view of scripture reveals these seven precepts from God himself: We are to respect authority and submit to it, Those in authority are appointed by God, God is the ultimate authority, therefore we are to obey God not men because; when men abandon the law we are to reason with them, at the same time understanding that evil men do not understand justice (the law), but those who seek (follow) the Lord do.

We are to respect authority and submit to it. The scripture is clear that to resist authority is to be in opposition with God. (Romans 13:1-2) There may be many decisions and laws that those in authority have made that we do not like. Some decisions and laws may go against what we believe to be right, and even go against God's standard of law and justice. Yet we are to respect those who are in positions of authority and submit to their leadership. And beyond that we are to pray for them! That's right, pray for them! Imagine that! "I urge you, first of all to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity."

Those in authority are appointed by God. Who wants to believe that? Hard to believe! Many Christians don't always believe that they have been appointed by God. And at the same time it seems as if most Christians believe that "God is in control", (which is another topic for discussion at another time). The fact is that we need to be careful about our attitude towards those in authority. Scripture reminds us that, we are "to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men." That includes those who are in governing positions.

GOD IS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. Many I'm sure do not agree. Where does authority come from? The strongest? The Smartest? The best talker? The one with the most money? I'm my own authority!? Society? Many places? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Now that is authority! And since he is the creator of the universe, since we of the human race are part of that universe, doesn't it stand to reason that he is the ultimate authority? Therefore, those who are in authority are there because God allowed them to be, they are established by Him. I know this goes against human nature, especially those of us who have so much freedom under those who are in authority. We want to be in authority, we want to be the boss. Yet none of us ultimately can be, all including those in authority will give an answer to God. For God himself makes it clear that, "we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So then each one of us will give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10c-12)

We Are To Obey God, Not Men. I thought you just said that we are to obey those in authority? No, I did not. But yes, that is what God says, we are to obey those in authority. Is God playing games with us? First He says one thing, then He says another. The answer can be found in the account given in Acts 5 when the Apostles were put in Jail by the high priest and the other religious leaders of the Jews. Only, they didn't stay in jail, "an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 'Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." So they did as the angel commanded. Why? The angel was a messenger from God! What do you think the response was from the religious Jewish leaders? They sent soldiers (the police of the day) and brought them to the religious leaders. The high priest questioned them, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, (the name of Jesus), and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Peter answered the high priest, "We must obey God rather than men." That's the answer, God's authority trumps all other authority. Everyone answers to Him first, including those in authority. Jesus, who is God, said, "All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." (Mathew 28:18-20a) Human authority of any kind has no authority over doing the will of God.

When men abandon the Law we are to reason with them. "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them." (Proverbs 28:4) We don't find anywhere in scripture where it says we can, spread lies about them, disrespect them, assassinate them either figuratively or literally. We can reason with them and try to show them that what they are doing does not agree with the one from whom they get their authority, God, Himself. The Bible is God's word, we can use it to reason with those who have abandoned the law. And of course in this country we can vote them out! The problem is that for far too long the church (in general) got lazy and comfortable with the prosperity we enjoy in this country. Christians (again in general), don't live any differently then those who don't believe in Jesus Christ. As a result the church has increasingly become shallow when it comes to the law of God. Prosperity breeds shallowness and laziness in people. The church (in general) did not stand up and contend with leaders in Government when they made non-Biblical lawless decisions. This has been going on for decades, and in case anyone wants to gloat about their political party, both sides have left the faith and politics of their forefathers. But it is not the fault of government leaders that some of the laws have been abandoned. No! It is the fault of the preachers and teachers in our denominations and churches! We need to pay attention to history. Because the church had become cold and lifeless in Europe, it did not stand up to Hitler and the world was plunged into World War II; it may not, but it could happen here.

Evil men do not understand justice (the law), but those who seek (follow) the Lord do. (Proverbs 28:5) How in the world can anyone expect leaders who do not understand or believe in God's justice (law), to uphold His laws? Why do we expect our leaders to defend something they don't believe in? Want change? It won't come by wasting energy, time, and money on trying to legislate morality; which is what God's law is really all about. Morality is a matter of the heart, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7) Jesus explained it this way, "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications (any sex outside of marriage), thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile a man." (Matthew 15:1) There is only one way to change the heart, clean it out and fill it with love, kindness, mercy, justice and liberty. What got the Apostles in trouble with the Jewish leaders? Preaching the message that Jesus Christ is able to save a person from their sins, and give them a new heart. So that a person is able to "love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbor as yourself." (see Mark 12:29-31) The answer is to clean out the church first, get the church to fulfill the law of God. Get the leaders of the church to set an example and truly live under the authority of God almighty. It is time for the leaders of the church to quit being like the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day, bragging about how holy they are and relishing their exalted position. What was it that Jesus said about the Jewish religious leaders? Oh yeah, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."

So, When is it right to rebel against authority? Only when that authority prevents you from obeying God's authority. As long as civil authority allows us to obey God's authority, there is no problem with it. Only when the authorities try to stop you from going out and making "disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I (Jesus) command you." (Matthew 28:19) can a person or church rebel against civil authority. When it comes to the church and those currently in authority, it is time for those who truly love God and their neighbors to rise up and rebel against them, demanding that they return to Biblical Christianity; fulfilling the ministry established by Jesus Christ.


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