Certainly the believer in Christ ought to honor and respect the government. Romans 13:1-7 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
Government officials are called “God’s ministers” in this text three times. Every citizen should be subject to them.
I Peter 2:17-18, “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,” Yet there are stories in Scripture of civil disobedience. No one is ever required by the Lord to do something illegal or immoral no matter who is over them. A wife does not have to do anything illegal or immoral if her husband tells her to. A child does not have to do anything illegal or immoral if their parents tell them to. The church member does not have to do anything illegal or immoral if their Pastor tells them to and a citizen does not have to do anything illegal or immoral if their government tells them to.
Wartime poses a very difficult question in regards to this matter. “Conscientious Objectors” believe war is murder. As we will see in the chapter on the military, killing during war time is not murder. Killing was sometimes commanded by God. However, when a person has the conviction that it is wrong to kill, even in battle, there seems to be Biblical examples of them having an “out” from having to go to war. When battle came, according to Israel’s law, officers were given this instruction in Deuteronomy 20:8, “And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.”
Of the 32,000 men in Gideon’s army, 22,000 went back because they were fearful. (See Judges 7:3.) This subject doesn’t seem to be about civil disobedience, but about conscientiously objecting.
There are other cases where civil disobedience was practiced by God fearing people.
1. The Hebrew midwives refuse to kill the baby boys.
Exodus 1:15-17, “And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” Because of their fear of God they refused to participate in this infanticide and saved the children. To do this they had to disobey Pharaoh.
2. The soldiers of Israel refuse to kill Jonathan after King Saul’s strange command.
I Samuel 14:24-30, “And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground. And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened. Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint. Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”
I Samuel 14:43-45, “Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan. And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.”
Jonathan was innocent not having heard his father’s command to not eat anything. The people disobeyed their king to save the innocent.
3. Queen Vashti refuses to show her beauty to King Ahasuerus’ drunken friends.
Esther 1:10-12, “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.”
It is not known for sure what was expected of Vashti by the king in front of these men. She was a beautiful woman. The king wanted to show all the people her beauty. She refused. This appears to have been the honorable thing to do. She was a modest lady. Proverbs 31:30, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”
Nakedness is a shame to a nation. Those in authority should try to promote modesty. II Chronicles 28:19, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD.” It is a sore transgression against the Lord for a leader to bring down the dress and moral standards of a country.
Women should resists men’s desires to unclothe them. It is a disgrace to see the sorry state of dress today. Whether in pornography, Hollywood or society the dress standards of woman have declined and disgraced our country.
I Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;” The Bible describes modesty for a women’s appearance. Unfortunately men have controlled women in this area too often. II Timothy 3:6, “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,” Would to God we would have women of the character of Vashti who would say “no” to men who would have them act immorally.
4. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow to state ordered religion.
Daniel 3:1-7, “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
Daniel 3:12-18, “There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The king or the state should not establish a religion. The people should resist if they do. These men loved God so much they risked their lives to bow to God and not Nebuchadnezzar.
5. Daniel also refuses to bow to state ordered religion.
Daniel 6:6-11, “Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.”
Daniel 6:16-17, “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.”
Prayer is an individual freedom. It should not be sanctioned by the state or forbidden. It should be left up to individuals.
6. Peter and John continued to preach the gospel after being forbidden.
Acts 4:17-21, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.”
Acts 5:17-18, “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”
Acts 5:26-29, “Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
God is a higher authority than man. Believers ought to be the best citizens in the country. However, they should never do anything the government condones that is illegal, immoral or contrary to the faith of the Word of God.
Government should stay out of the Lord’s work. Thomas Jefferson said there should be a one—way wall of separation between church and state. Faith should influence government and morals but the state should stay out of the business of the church.
Soon there may be “hate crime” laws on the books forbidding “mean” or “hateful rhetoric” against certain issues. Many preachers face the very real possibility of being forbidden by the government to preach against what they honestly believe is sinful. The preachers will have to disobey the government and obey God at that time no matter what the price.