Man or God?

Through Peter’s healing of the lame man in the temple (Acts 3:1-8), God gave strong evidence to all, certainly to the rulers and teachers of the people, that He approved Jesus and the work He had done. And while the rulers acknowledged that they could not deny a marvelous miracle was done (Acts 4:16), for them the lesson had fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes and hearts.

The rulers had Peter and his companion John thrust into prison and the next day called them to their council and charged them to speak to no man in the name of Jesus Christ. At this point the two apostles said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, rather than unto God, judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

In God’s wisdom He ordained government for the best interest of man whom He created. Rulers were not designed by God to be a terror to people. The powers that be are ordained of God and if we obey God, we will be submissive to our earthly rulers (Romans 13:1-3). Jesus taught, “Render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). However, the role of government and its authority relate only to physical man. God never gave government the right to legislate what is right or wrong for the inward man. God alone has the right in that realm.

The apostles understood that, but the rulers and teachers of the people did not. The rulers did not understand the realm of God’s authority given to them, because when they arrested Peter and John they did so because the apostles taught “in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2-3). After they had the two in custody and questioned them, they charged them to not speak to any man in the name of Jesus Christ. They were operating outside the authority God gave rulers when they did this. When any government attempts to rule in the realm wherein they have no authority, there is certain to be conflict between them and people of faith.

The constitution of our nation guarantees two great liberties to every citizen: freedom of speech and freedom of worship. These are precious liberties and should be cherished by everyone. But sometimes men, drunken on their supposed but mistaken authority, try to circumvent those liberties. In our day this danger is real, for men seek to suppress both our freedom of speech and worship by identifying things God has prohibited as “hate speech”, attempting to punish those who teach God’s will in those matters — which teaching “authorities” seek to suppress. When this authority is exercised and pressed. conflict is bound to occur.

In no uncertain terms God condemns “homosexuality” (Romans 1:26-27). Sodom and Gomorrah, cities which existed in Abraham’s day, were destroyed by fire sent from heaven because the sin was so commonly practiced in those cities (Genesis 13:10). Those who wish to practice this sin can shout about his or her rights, and “government” insists they have the right to do so. But when those who believe in God and the Bible respond that such practice is sinful in God’s sight, “government” objects to that response and seeks to silence their objections. They call this response “hate speech” and contrary to our laws — or so Bible believers are told. And this is just the beginning. How long will it be before those same “authorities” say when people steal and men of faith insist, “Thou shalt not steal” that this also is “hate speech”?

God made man and He alone has the inalienable right to dictate what is moral behavior for that man to engage in. Remember, God has said that someday all men will stand before Him and give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad (Acts 17:30-31). Don’t forget, it is God who determines what is good or bad in moral behavior, not “government”. “As I live, saith God, to me every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to God. So, then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12). And when we stand before God and are judged, it will be by God’s laws — not by man’s.

The world must judge whether it is right in God’s sight for men to hearken unto rulers rather than to Him, and people of faith must continue to say, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). May we all be among the ranks of those men of faith!

Jim McDonald

Bible Lectureship

(March 17-20, 2024)

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