SUBMISSION – How Far? (Part 3)
Romans 13:1-4 – “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; 4 for 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 upon the one who practices evil.” NASB
Let’s get back to the subject at hand. We mentioned the Three Hebrew Children in the last devotional. It was an illustration of how a refusal to submit to human authority could be obedience to God. In Acts 4 we find the apostles being thrown in jail for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were instructed to ‘cease and desist’ but they said, “We can’t obey because we have to obey God therefore, we will disobey man.”
Then in Acts 5, we find them put in jail again for disobeying the religious authority of their day. The authorities brought them before the court and reminded them, “you were warned.” The apostles, without concern for their safety, said, “Sorry, but we have to obey a higher authority.” They were not being rebels and looking for a fight, they had a commission from Jesus and believed that to be their mandate.
It is important that we remember there are ‘higher authorities’ in every facet of life. Have you ever flown on an airplane? There is the natural law of gravity that says what goes up must come down. But when you add thrust and forward movement you create momentum and generate a kind of life. The Law of Aerodynamics becomes a higher law than Gravity and what goes up stays up so long as that law is in effect.
In the natural, we see situations every day where a higher law stops a lesser law and takes over. That is also true in the spiritual. Remember the Old Testament story of Jericho and Rahab the harlot of Joshua 2? She became a part of the genealogy of Jesus through her obedience as an act of faith. The edict of the king of Jericho regarding spies was immediate death. When the police came to her house looking for the spies, she hid them and enabled them to escape. She believed the higher law, the Law of the God of Israel. James makes this clear in James 2:25 telling us that she was justified by works as she coupled it with her faith.
How about Samuel in 1 Samuel 16? He loved and was loyal to Saul, the king. But he believed and trusted God which placed him in a situation where he had to choose to obey the king or God. He chose God. He was so faithful and loyal to Saul that he would not leave him even after his pronouncement that God had rejected the king. God told Him to go and anoint another king. His response was, “How can I go, if Saul hears about it, he will kill me?” What would you do? Was Samuel a rebel or submissive? He was submissive although disobedient.
Dare we omit Jonathan, Saul’s son, in 1 Samuel 19. The biblical mandate is “Children obey your parents…” When Saul ordered Jonathan to kill David, what was his obligation, to his father or his Heavenly Father? Submission is not always obedience and there are times we must disobey human authority to obey divine authority.
One more example in the New Testament is the apostle Paul in Acts 9. The authorities in the church were out to kill Paul. He could turn himself into them, obey the law and allow them to execute him. But he exercised faith and escaped their edict in disobedience. Let me ask, “If the federal government issued an edict that all pastors must turn themselves in for execution, should we obey that law?” I say No from a biblical perspective. God said, “Go and preach.” If the government says, “Don’t preach” who do we obey?
Let me raise a sensitive issue. We can argue that a wife is to be subjective to her husband regardless because he is the head of the household, according to the Bible. I do not believe that God will honor a wife for participating in a sinful act or intent that her husband commands. If he wants to have porn in the home is, she just to passively said, “Yes, dear”? If he wants to become a swinger and engage in wife-swapping is she to be obedient to his decision. I and most of us would say, NO!
AN OVERLOOKED TRUTH:
The way we resist authority is of tremendous importance. The Bible instructs that if we intend to rebuke an elder, we are not to do so without two or three witnesses. Then we must entreat him as a father in the spirit of meekness. Attitude is as important if not more important than action in disobedience.
If a wife resists and says to her husband, “Honey, I cannot submit to that request” she has no power unless she can demonstrate to him that she has been submissive in all areas that were not moral or scriptural violations of conscience. In that situation, she has the backing of God when she says, No! In any situation where we resist and disobey, we must never do so with a vindictive, judgmental, haughty, or rebellious spirit. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
I suggest that it takes more courage and grace to disobey an unrighteous, unjust command biblically than it does to obey one. Tragically, there are times people will go along with an edict at the expense of their conscience to avoid conflict. It can be costly to disobey. If we are to be the exception rather than the rule, our disobedience must be solidly based on the Bible and God’s Word.
Our disobedience to authority must be biblically based not simply a matter of preference. We discover the balance in Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
If I can submit to authority I will submit, but if it violates God’s law or conscience I will not. Do to me what you will, but I must obey God rather than man. Always, count the costs, be right in your spirit and heart. We must not allow our Freedom to become license to do whatever we want and reject what we do no prefer.
I may have left some still with many questions, but let me leave it with this, “Obey where you can and disobey if it violates God’s Word, God’s Law, God’s Principles, and your conscience.” It would be ten million times better to be killed by man in disobedience than lose your soul through obedience that is disobedience to God.
God bless you is my prayer and desire!