But Peter and the apostles answered,
“We must obey God rather than men..."
This verse of Scripture is often used in juxtaposition to Romans 13:1: Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. In light of the rapidly changing culture in which we find ourselves, it is important for Christians to know what they believe and why. Are we to obey the government without question, trusting that God has placed rulers in authority for His purposes? Or do we follow the standards and principles of the Bible, and resist government that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus?
I do not claim to have all the answers, and I can understand why some Believers would struggle with how we are to live out our faith in this post-Christian age. I can only tell you what I have decided, after struggling with what the Word is telling me, and after asking the Holy Spirit to give me clear discernment. I will admit that I am human, and I cannot discount that my emotions and human thought have not contributed to my decisions, but I have settled on a course of action.
If you are a Biblical Christian, and not simply a cultural Christian, then the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is troubling, to say the least. The SCOTUS decision means that the governing officials in every state of the union must issue a marriage license to same-sex couples, who will now have the right to be considered married in the eyes of the law. But whose law?
If you are a Bible-believing Christian, the answer to that question is important. Yes, the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans that we are to be "loyally subject" to the civil authorities; that they have been placed there by God. I believe that to be true. But, through my deep study in the Word, I have discovered that God often placed rulers in positions of power as judgment against His sinning people. Other times, they began as God-fearing rulers, but became influenced by a wicked spirit, and God then allowed them to continue in their position of power, while He acted out His plan to discipline them or the nation. Whether they were restored or not, depended on their willingness to repent and turn back to God.
In today's increasingly Godless society, we are faced with many laws and dictates that are clearly not following Biblical teachings or principles. The same-sex ruling has been mandated according to man's law. It violates God's law. As a Christian layman, I should have no problem continuing to live in a society that has disobeyed God's plan for marriage ... no problem, that is, unless I am a Christian baker who is asked to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage; or a Christian pastor who is asked to perform a gay wedding ceremony. Does man's law allow us to decline based on our desire to be "loyally subject" to God's law?
If you are the Christian baker or florist, we have seen that the answer is "no". Christian businesses have been driven to bankruptcy, due to man's anti-discrimination laws. It remains to be seen how man's law will deal with Pastors who refuse to conduct a gay wedding. How will you respond when the time comes that you must choose between man's law and God's law? Because, I promise you it is coming, and it will affect everyone of faith. We will have to choose, just as Peter and Paul had to.
The military leader and the chief priests of the Jewish Temple did not like what the apostles believed or were teaching; it went against the accepted culture of the day. This Gospel message of Jesus was offensive to the leanings of the current administration, and because Peter and other apostles refused to compromise and go along with the culture, they were jailed. I cannot know for sure, because Scripture does not reveal this, but I can imagine that Peter, John and the other apostles spoke to each other at great length about how they would proceed in their commission, and went to God in prayer for inspiration and answers.
I do not think it improbable to assume by their actions that they received guidance from the Holy Spirit to continue teaching in the manner they had been, being careful not to incite violence. But the Sanhedrin's demand that they quit preaching and teaching was clearly against God's command that they spread the Good News of Jesus's death, burial and resurrection. But we must also be cognizant that by disobeying man's law, they were willing to accept the government's punishment for their actions. In their day that included jail time and being flogged, a particularly loathsome and painful punishment.
Can you say you are willing to follow the same path? According to the succeeding verses in Acts 5, they rejoiced that they were being counted worthy [dignified by the indignity] to suffer shame and be exposed to disgrace for [the sake of] His name. Is that how you would feel? Would you do everything you could to avoid the discomfort, inconvenience, and possible loss of your livelihood? Or would you stand steadfast in your faith, accepting of whatever the earthly government threw at you for the sake of receiving praise for a "job well done" by the Heavenly Authority?
Christian pastors and leaders have declared that they will not obey the un-Godly laws instituted by the Supreme Court. They will practice civil disobedience and accept whatever judgment man hands down. I, too, must follow my conscience and follow God's laws. We need to pray for those Christians on the front lines -- and for ourselves -- that we will not disappoint God when the time comes to declare our loyalty to Him. Our failure to boldly declare our faith in the past has led us to this precipice. We can no longer compromise, make concessions, or accept standards that displease our God. May we exhibit the strength, courage, and allegiance of the Apostles of old, and fulfill the commission of our generation.