Of Cabbages, Kings, and Nations
1 Peter 2:13–17
1 Peter Lesson #067
October 13, 2016
“Father, we’re so grateful we can come before Your throne of grace this evening and that we can recognize that we have access to You every day—every minute of every day—because of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Father, as we focus our attention, our time, now in studying Your Word and trying to understand the implications and application of Your Word for our lives and in terms of our own submission to government and governing authorities, we pray that You would guide and direct our thinking. Help us clearly think through how to apply these things, especially because, as the text emphasizes, this is a critical part of our testimony—not only before others, but also before the angels. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
I’ve titled this lesson, “Of Cabbages, Kings, and Nations.” I hope we get to the “Nations” part, but we have a little bit to cover at the beginning. Once again, before we get there, I want to review quickly to summarize these principles, because this is so critical for understanding a lot of political questions that especially have been raised over the last seven or eight years.
I’ve heard these questions raised here or there much of my life, but especially the last seven or eight years as we have seen a number of court decisions that have reversed the historic and traditional understanding of the Constitution and some divine institutions—specifically, marriage and family—that have been very much a part of American history and American culture and how it has been understood.
This is a small glimmer of hope. I read an article this last week that was quoting, I believe, Senator Ted Cruz, that the Obama administration has had the least amount of success in the courtroom of any of the previous administrations. It might be 36 or 34 percent, but was right around 35 percent success in the courts.
Whereas, in previous administrations under George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George Herbert Walker Bush the success rate in court for those administrations was somewhere between 65 and 70 percent. So that ought to give you just a small glimmer of hope that the legal system still works to some degree, and that is important.
What we saw last time in this passage is that the believer has a responsibility to, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors.”
What we noted here is that this is submission for every ordinance. That, as we pointed out, doesn’t mean every ordinance without exception because there are exceptions that we have gone over again and again in the Scripture. These are very important because they set patterns, they set paradigms, that we can use for looking at different situations. We will get into that as we look at a few things today.
We’re to submit. This is the same word, HUPOTASSO, that is used in terms of wives submitting to their husbands, children submitting to their parents, slaves submitting to their masters. It ties all of these things together that we’re going to be studying through the next couple of chapters in 1 Peter. It is a flipside of what Paul talks about in Romans 13.
Remember, even though there is debate over the exact dates, Paul and Peter are both writing under Nero’s reign. Nero is clearly a tyrant. Nero is, especially in the latter years, very anti-Christian. This guy is not a good guy. There’s no sense of the word “righteousness” that anyone could apply to Nero.
Yet, they are writing very strong statements that we are to be “subject.” It’s the same word used in Romans 13:1 that’s used in 1 Peter 2:13. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.” It’s the same word. And here it’s to governing authorities.
Three times you have this word. The third time it’s in italics, and actually it’s a pronoun there that God says “these” and then it doesn’t have a word there; but it means these authorities that have just been there. “For there is no authority except from God.” This is either according to His active will or His passive will. Even evil rulers were raised up by God for a purpose.
That’s important to remember. They are governing authorities. That adjective is a participle, HUPERECHO, meaning a “higher” or “superior” authority.
So believers are to submit to every “ordinance.” It’s talking about laws that aren’t handed down by God, but they are the creations, as it were, of governing authorities.
The word that is used in the parallel in Romans 13:2 is a word that specifically means a decree or an ordinance. I think that’s a fair representation.
We are to submit to the king, or to governors. This is a word that could apply to procurators or proconsuls. It’s not that technical of a term. These are the ones who are extensions of the governing power. We understood that.
It is talking about not only the office but also the officeholder. The reason I’m going back to that and that’s important is because there are many times in life when we respect the office and we may not respect—or like—the person who holds the office.
We may disagree with the person. You may be in a marriage where the husband is not a believer where the husband may be abusive to a certain degree. I think that there is a point where a husband can become criminally abusive, a wife can become criminally abusive, and that changes the whole issue. There are exceptions; we will talk about these when we get into that particular situation and scenario.
We respect the office and we are to submit to the officeholder. That’s important. As I pointed out last time, in the early stages of the Reformation in the 1550s, before the Reformation church even came to a full understanding of premillennialism or a realization of God’s restoration of the Jews to the land [this is roughly the same time as the Roman Catholic Council of Trent when the big battle is over justification by faith still—not more developed understanding of doctrines] there were two books written.
I mentioned them last time. They emphasized two extremes. And they are extremes. I pointed out that neither one of them represents accurately what the Bible says. One extreme was the divine right of kings that was being emphasized at that particular time, and it was the idea that Christians are required to submit blindly to every law and policy of the government. That allows for no exception; it is just this blind submission.
The other extreme is that God is for government but He’s not for anarchy. In this view, you can kick out—you can arrest and try and behead a king, like Charles I—without violating the commands of Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 because you are not for anarchy, you are still for government.
You have used the excuse of tyranny; and we might even say that, “tyranny is in the eye of the beholder.” You have used the excuse of tyranny in order to justify that action. But this is faulty exegesis and faulty theology.
The Bible recognizes that there are exceptions—that no human authority is a 100 percent authority in the place of God. It is not only the office, but the person in the office that is established by God.
David Barton recognized this in the paper that talks about this issue, The American Revolution: Was it an Act of Biblical Rebellion? And he points out:
“Therefore, a crucial determination in the colonists’ biblical exegesis was whether opposition to authority was simply to resist the general institution of government … or whether it was instead to resist tyrannical leaders.”
In other words, it is shows this distinction between the office and the officeholder. All of their rationales assumed that it was okay—as long as they weren’t opting for anarchy—to throw the person out if you thought he was a tyrant.
Also, he pointed out that they used examples for rebellion as people like Gideon, Ehud, Jephthah, Samson, and Deborah. However, they weren’t throwing off leaders; they were throwing off conquerors. They were not throwing off Jewish authorities.
We went to this last time and I got three questions. I forgot that when we do this, we have to give a microphone to people. We did not have a microphone. I couldn’t really hear all the questions very clearly, and so I was kind of guessing at the answers because after you ask somebody to repeat the question three times it gets a little bit frustrating. So, I thought I would go back over these a little bit in order to understand this.
First question. This is actually about the third question into it, but I will take it first because I’m going to put these in a logical order. That was a question related to the framers of the Declaration of Independence. They don’t mention rebellion. Well, the reason they don’t mention rebellion, as I pointed out in the answer, is because if you’re not against government per se, then you’re not really a rebel. That was their thinking. So they would never think about it quite that way.
The question was, “What about their arguments against the infringements of legal rights as citizens?”
From the Declaration of Independence: I’m going to read the introduction in a little bit. They start off:
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [that is, the subjects] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”
Scripture doesn’t support that at all. When you look at Nero, Caligula, Claudius—remember Claudius kicked all the Jews out of Rome—none of these guys were really good guys. They were autocrats; all power was vested in them to the point that they viewed themselves as a god.
So at the time all of this is going on, Peter and Paul are saying, “Submit to these leaders”—not because they’re righteous, not because they are obeying Scripture, not because they can be conformed to righteousness, but because their position is a position of authority that God has established.
God also raised up people like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus and Sennacherib and others who were not righteous, godly leaders. What they were buying into here was the natural law view influenced by some of the writings of Locke and some others.
They don’t have a natural right to throw off a government they perceive to be a tyrant. When you compare George III and what he was doing to what Caligula and Nero and Claudius were doing, he’s not a tyrant; he’s really a good guy—comparatively speaking. We have to look at this scale. That’s why I say, “Tyranny is in the eye of the beholder.” Paul never looks at the Roman emperors that he’s under as tyrants, and they were much, much worse than George III was ever thought to be.
The Declaration goes on to say,
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Absolute tyranny is the same thing that you had with the Caesars of Rome. Okay? So this isn’t fitting the pattern that we’ve seen in Scripture where you have a governing king telling the subjects that they are required to do something that the Word of God says they can’t do or that they are prohibited from doing something that the Word of God says they are to do.
So you can go through this. There are 27 of these, and most of these are related in some sense to a background related to law. According to Edmund Burke, what had happened in the previous hundred years was a lot of these duties and taxes had been voted into law, but they had not been enforced. It wasn’t until George III came into power—and because he opposed the Whig party—that he began to enforce these fully, and that irritated everybody. Up to that point they were law, but they weren’t being enforced. Now he was enforcing them, though, so they were law.
I’ve highlighted the ones in blue that fit a biblical pattern. The others are all related to the interpretation of the King George III’s use of power.
“Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”
That may or may not be good. But I can envision a scenario that has happened in history where troops were quartered somewhere, and the believers look at that as a missionary opportunity and an opportunity to glorify God. It may be a violation of private property; it may be a violation of good sense; but they turn it to good. The government meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
So this one is kind of one way or the other, but it seems like it’s developed more in the next point.
The government protected those who were quartered, “By a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.”
Now that’s clearly a violation, because you’ve got murder and the issue of self-defense. Self-defense is a biblical principle that is laid down throughout this. Then you have a number of different points here related to various legal issues, none of which involve the government telling Christians they have to do what God said not to do or that they are told not to do something God said to do.
Now you get down to these five that I’ve highlighted.
“He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.”
What had happened was they had 11 or 12 years of negotiating, taking advantage of every legal option they could, with the British government as I pointed out last time. Finally, the British government quit talking to them and then sent in troops and quartered them; so it is a hostile action on the part of the British government.
This comes under the rubric of self-defense. The colonists had rights and that’s what all of these relate to. They don’t relate to the government of Britain telling them to do something God said that they shouldn’t do or telling them not to do something that God said to do. It’s a matter of self-defense. They are being basically attacked by the mother country.
“He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.” They have a legitimate cause of self-defense.
He brought in, “foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”
“He’s constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.”
“He has excited domestic insurrections among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
The point is that, of the 27, there are six that fit a biblical justification for a hostile response to Great Britain because they are being attacked. So that gives legitimacy to what they were doing.
As I pointed out last time, it’s a year plus. It’s from April 1775 when you have the battles of Concord and Lexington to July 4 before they come to a decision to declare their independence. They were still working to work things out. And that’s an important thing to ponder, because I’ve heard so many people question, “When do we have a right as a state to secede?” or “If you continue to see the federal government overturn and ignore the things that are sent from the states, when do they have a right, if ever, to sever their relations with the federal government?”
The point is that it doesn’t fit either the pattern of the War for Independence or the biblical pattern. If the federal government suddenly decided to send troops in and do things on that pattern, then, if the principal of self-defense were applied, the state would have the right to do that. But that’s not what’s going on here.
- Twenty-one of the 27 reasons listed relate to allegations of tyranny. The biblical issue is how do these infringements of rights relate to the principles of Scripture that we have studied? What we’ve studied is the government is not doing any of those things—they are not forcing them to violate their obedience to God in any way.
- Six of the 27 reasons relate to self-defense, which is a biblically sound rationale. So that gives us a solid rationale.
Now we go to question number two.
- What about the Constitutional provision of the Tenth Amendment?
This is a long question and I’m going to read it because this was well articulated. John asked this question last week and he says, “My question is, basically, how we are to interpret Romans 13:1–17?”
My original question, “Were our founders justified in defiance of British tyranny?” Defiance started before 1775. That’s why I said “defiance” really was not a good word last time, because it implies certain things. It was whether they were submitting or not.
He said, “The second part of my question is whether there’s a biblical support for the constitutional principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence regarding the right of the people to alter, abolish, or dissolve the political bonds between the two parties when there has been an infringement of the unalienable God-given rights of one party by the other.”
That does not fit a biblical pattern. That was happening in the Roman Empire; that was happening with Caligula and Claudius and Nero. They were infringing what we would say were inalienable rights; so that doesn’t fit the biblical pattern.
He goes on to say, “I take that to include infringement of states’ rights by the federal government as the author of the Declaration and later of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Thomas Jefferson, was an imminent proponent of restraining federal power by the use of state power, certainly. He taught that based on the authority granted to the states by the Tenth Amendment.”
Let me put the Tenth Amendment on the screen. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution …” In other words, the powers that are not delegated—specifically spelled out—by the Constitution, saying these are the powers that go to the federal government.
“Nor prohibited by it to the States.” [That is, it doesn’t also say that the states can’t do it.]
“Are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
That’s very important. The federal government only has the powers from the Constitution that are specifically delegated to the federal government. Everything else goes to the state. That’s how the founders establish this.
Let me go back to what John was saying. Talking about Jefferson, “He taught that, based on authority granted to the states by the Tenth Amendment, state authority outranks the powers [I think outranks is too strong a word] granted to the federal branches of government and everything except the few enumerated powers listed in Article 1, Section 8. He taught that states have the constitutional right to restrain, correct, reprove, and rebuke violations of the Constitution. Certainly, Jefferson thought it so important that he made it a national issue, etc.”
The question is whether this is a violation of the biblical command to be subject to governing authorities. “Our founders made the U.S. Constitution the rule of law and the federal government the servant of the states, not the ruler. Therefore, are citizens of each state fulfilling the biblical mandate to submit to governing authorities when they obey their local and state laws and ignore federal violations of the U.S. Constitution?
You indicated that so far the states have not availed themselves of their Tenth Amendment powers to defend the citizens. Does that mean that citizens of the various states must obey federal laws until the state legislatures do their job and block federal intrusions in violation of the Constitution?”
I had to use one of my help lines and call in a little assistance from a legal expert. Bob Guerra is a lawyer and chairman of the board for Dean Bible Ministries. He’s also a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment and in constitutional rights. But we have to understand what’s happened in federal law. First of all, he agrees that if there’s a conflict between state law and federal law, it should be fought and resolved in the courts. That’s the place of battle. It has to be fought and resolved in the courts.
He gives one example for that, and that was a case in South Texas, where Judge Andrew Hanen, a U.S. District Court judge in Brownsville, made a ruling that successfully thwarted Obama’s policy of giving complete amnesty to all aliens. That’s important. They are still judges who are functioning correctly and blocking things that are unconstitutional.
He makes a second point. He said, “It is clear to me that the Founding Fathers intended the Tenth Amendment to serve as a check and balance to the federal government and that any powers not expressly granted to the federal government were reserved to the states.” Then he gives a couple of really good examples.
He says, “What do you do, then, when one state recognizes same-sex marriage and another does not? The U.S. Constitution requires each state to give full faith and credit to the laws of another state. What do you do when the transportation laws of one state require an 18-wheeler to have a width of a certain amount and another state has a different measurement? Because of the uniformity in interstate commerce, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal motor vehicle laws trump state law.”
“In fact,” he says, “I think the Founding Fathers intended for the states to be sovereign and independent. However [this is a key statement], after generations of case law precedents from the U.S. Supreme Court, it has been decided that the federal government is superior over the states except in very rare cases.” Now we may disagree with all those interpretations, but that’s the law of the land, whether we like it or not.
We can go back and argue Marbury v. Madison and all of these historical cases, but the reality is, with 175 years of case law, that’s been settled. A lot of states’ rights were settled on the bloody fields of Antietam and Gettysburg and Pittsburg Landing and Chattanooga and Chickamauga and many other battles. That’s all in the past. We’re not living in 1800; we’re living in 2016 with a whole body of law that doesn’t recognize original intent, except in very rare instances, sad to say.
I want to summarize this a little bit differently for time sake. So we’re looking at federal law versus state law. You say, “Well, there’s a conflict. I like the state law better, so I’m going to obey that and I’m not going obey the federal law.” Bob made the comment that he doesn’t know of anything where that exists. He doesn’t really envision that right now.
I raised the issue and said, “What happens if we get a president that by executive action enforces certain gun-control laws?” Well, then it’s the right of the Attorney General of the State of Texas to challenge that in court. It is a court decision and it has to be taken through the courts until you get final resolution.” I’ll deal with, “If it goes the wrong way, what do you do then?”
- This means that States need to fight. But if the representatives and leaders and judges do not fight, they just succumb, then this will lead to a collapse of this whole principle of states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment becomes nullified through disuse.
That’s what has happened through 150 years; case law has virtually nullified the Tenth Amendment. There are still a few people who want to fight it—not that they shouldn’t—but it is not a winning battle. They should fight it is much as they can, though.
- Unless the laws involved are forcing a believer to do something God forbids; or prohibiting a believer from doing something God commands, then physical rebellion is not authorized. That does not fit the pattern of Scripture.
- Believers might choose to resist in order to provide a legal case to challenge the constitutionality of the law. That is totally within your right as a citizen. You can say, “I think this law is unjust. I’m going to challenge it. I’m going to disobey it so that we can make a federal case out of it.” But you must be willing, like Azariah, Mishael, and Hananiah—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by their Babylonian names—to take the legal, criminal, and financial consequences of that action.
If you’re going to disobey the federal law, you have to be willing to pay the price. They were willing. They said, “We’re not going to bow down to the idol. If you’re going to kill us, fine. God may rescue us; He may not, but we’re going to do the right thing.” Okay? You are willing to take the consequences. That’s applying the principle of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
- By all means every legal means necessary must be followed.
That’s what the colonial governors were doing. They were going to the court. They were negotiating with the king. They were doing everything they possibly could. They were not resorting to some sort of radical action right off the bat.
Use every legal means necessary, but once the system becomes perverted by the law… See, that’s what is happening—the Supreme Court is changing the meaning of the law.
- Once the system becomes totally perverted by reinterpretation of the law, there is still no biblical basis for rebellion—unless you go back to those basic biblical principles.
- It may even be that the judgment that comes on a nation as a result of the overturning of freedom in that nation might be God’s judgment.
That’s where we are today.
- This nation is demonstrating that the majority in this culture, even among evangelicals, no longer truly honor and obey the Word of God and are thus ripe for divine judgment.
Go back to the pattern that Jeremiah talks about. I referred to several passages last week. They come to Jeremiah and say, “What does God tell us to do? Nebuchadnezzar is coming, and what does God say to do?” Jeremiah said, “God says to just surrender. If you want to have peace and you want to have long life and you want to be blessed by God, surrender and give up. Don’t fight it.” They were nationalists and patriots and they said, “We’re not going to do that.”
So they disobey God. They were slaughtered, their families were slaughtered, and their kids were hauled off into conquest because they disobeyed God. Sometimes God is saying, “You violated My principles; you’re going down in judgment.” If you fight it, you are on the wrong side of history—you are on the wrong side of the plan of God—and the Israelites certainly were.
So then what you do? We have an example. This was Mark’s question.
Question 3: When are believers biblically allowed to resist government in a situation where a leader gains that position through illegal means, changes laws once in power in order to become a dictator or grossly abuses power?
Well, let’s take the example, because the second part of his question had to do with Hitler and World War II. Hitler came to power through legal means. He manipulated the law. He manipulated the law, but it was all legal. He went through loopholes—all of that—but he got into power. Once he had total power, he had total power.
Now you’ve got a problem. Are you going to obey him or not? You’ve got several options. Option number one is leaving the country—which a lot of people did. They saw it coming and they got out. They took that option. Some people didn’t have the right foresight. Some people didn’t have the money.
You’ve heard me talk about my first grade Sunday School teacher Ursula Kemp, whose family got out. She was a teenager at the time, and they got out just about five or six months before World War II broke out. They were from Breslau, which was in far eastern Germany, and they got out. They had about five dollars in their pockets in the whole family, and they barely got out. They got to Shanghai where they sat out the war and avoided being in the heart of the Holocaust. So they left.
Another option is to openly rebel and be quashed or killed. But the scenario that Mark set up in that question is when it gets to that point; the government has overwhelming power.
Let me tell you something. I am a firm advocate of Second Amendment. The reason that we have the Second Amendment is so we can protect ourselves against government troops. I know a lot of you; you have firearms and you can protect yourselves.
But when some SWAT team that has fully automatic weapons busts in your front door and by the time they come through your front door and get to your master bedroom—because they’ve already been able to use infrared technology to determine exactly where the warm bodies are in your house—you’ve had three seconds to respond. You’re barely awake, and you think you’re going to grab your Glock or your AR or your shotgun? You’re going to be dead instantly. The federal government and police departments—law enforcement—have all kinds of weapons you are not allowed to have legally.
This idea that we can defend ourselves? We hear this talk, “I can defend myself.” No you can’t! What would happen if we get to that point? I hate to say this—it’s going to burst a lot of bubbles. What’s going happen if we get to that point is a lot of people who talk a big talk right now are going to be taken down one person at a time. There’s not going to be a place where everybody is going to make it to some last stand. They are going to be hit in the middle of the night—first one person, then another—and those families are going to be made examples of.
This is the kind of thing that happened in Hitler’s Germany. The next thing you are going to decide is, “Maybe I just don’t want to take a stand because I want to live.” I think that’s what a lot of people are going to do.
So you can openly rebel and you’ll be quashed or killed or sent to concentration camp.
- You can quietly live your own life and pray to God that you will have opportunities to witness and opportunities to do the right thing.
Like many in Germany and Poland did: secretly obey God; they protected the Jews even at the risk of their own life. They protected others that were enemies of the state. This is the midwife option, Exodus 1. Pharaoh said, “I want you to kill all the male babies that are born.” They said, “Well, we never got there in time. They were born and we just missed it. We never had an opportunity to kill any of those boys.” So they are protecting; it’s the midwife option.
Then, if you are pressed on that, then you can take the Rahab option and lie about it because you are protecting life. That’s another option.
There were many righteous among the Gentiles. Those were Gentiles who protected the Jews: hid them on their property, hid them in their houses during World War II to protect them from the Nazis. There were many that were found out that were betrayed and they paid the consequences.
The Jews that they were hiding were taken to a concentration camp, and they were sent to a concentration camp. There were many righteous among the Gentiles that went up in smoke in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
So your options are to live your life secretly. If you are protecting life—which is an extension of the self-defense principle—then you’re willing to take the loss of life, take the punishment that comes, just like Azariah, Mishael, Hananiah, and Daniel did.
The other question is, “Were the German military officers like Stauffenberg correct in their plan to attempt to assassinate Hitler during World War II?” I think so because of the extension of self-defense. By taking out Hitler, I think that it is arguable that that would’ve ended the Holocaust. The Nazi government would not have survived without him; he was the glue that held it together. And I think that’s an extension of protecting the lives of the innocent.
- Take a stand against the rulers and obey God rather than man and just take what comes.
This is what we see in Scripture. I want you to turn to Acts 4. Let’s review what happens with Peter and John. This is so, so important. They are brought before the unrighteous, hostile, arrogant Sanhedrin because of the miracles they performed—specifically, the healing of the lame man in the temple.
They have been very successful in preaching the gospel. Many people have been converted to trusting in Jesus as the Messiah and believing in the resurrection of the dead. In fact, 5,000 men, not counting all of their families, were saved.
So they come to the Sanhedrin and they have this interchange. Peter gives them a mini-sermon starting in verse 8. He emphasizes in verse 12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The Sanhedrin recognizes their boldness and perceives, in verse 13, that they were uneducated and untrained men. And they marveled. They realize that they had been with Jesus. They have to put together a plan. They have a little conference and conspiracy deciding what they’re going to do with Peter and John. In verse 18, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
They are prohibiting them from doing something that Jesus has specifically told them to do. That, again, fits the pattern that we established in all the examples we see in Scripture.
In Acts 4:19 we see Peter and John’s response. “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ ” “We have to do what God has told us to do.”
So what happens? Well, they don’t like it. The people are too much on the side of Peter and John, so they don’t do anything to them at that point. They reprimand them and they threaten them. Acts 4:21, “So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.”
Then we get into Acts 5 and we skip down to verse 17. We read, “Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation.” Why? Because Peter and John are out there continuing to preach the gospel. They are doing what God says to do.
So they laid hands on them. That’s not the ordination type of laying on of hands—they arrested them.
“And laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.”
“But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said [so this is a divine mandate], ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’ ” Command reinforced: Go give them the gospel.
Then we continue to read through the story. They are arrested, they’re tried; all these things go on. We get to verses 27–29.
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!’ ” [verse 29, which you should have underlined] “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ ” This is a direct violation of God’s command. That’s what the Sanhedrin was doing.
Now they’re trying to decide what they’re going to do. Gamaliel comes in and gives them some wise advice and says, “You guys need to recognize if this is from God, you can’t stop it. If it’s not from God, it’s not going to have any impact; so keep away from these men, in verse 38, and leave them alone.”
If you follow their main flow of action in verse 33, “When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them [Peter and John and the apostles].” Then you get down to verse 40 after Gamaliel gave them that advice. “And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them.” If you’re going to do what God wants you to do, you have to be willing to suffer the consequences. That may be financial; that may be legal; it may be criminal.
After they were beaten, “They commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” So what did they do? They went to the temple and started speaking in the name of Jesus. Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” See, that’s the pattern.
What did Paul say? Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” What will happen if this government continues to turn against Christianity? We will become a minority—those who are Bible believers—and it will be a difficult, difficult time.
Yet, we have to keep the focus on what the priority is: We are to be witnesses for the gospel. We are not to be warriors for the Constitution. Now that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but that’s not what the priority is for us as a believer.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it, but it’s not the priority. They’re not competing priorities. But the priority is the gospel. The priority is not the Constitution—that’s number two. The Word of God is number one. We have to keep that as the focus.
What are you going to do if they come for your guns? Are you going to put up a fight? This is a tough question. I don’t know the answer—what I’ll do personally. I know what I would like to do, but is that my sin nature? Are you going to put up your fight and that’s it—end of the game?
Or are you going to give them up so that you can continue to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ and give people the gospel? Those are what the issues may come down to. It’s not easy, it’s not something we want, but we have to stick with what the Word of God says. The Word of God doesn’t authorize rebellion other than in specific situations.
Now what I want to talk about as we continue this talk is obedience to authority. We have to go back to something that is really being lost and assaulted today, and that’s the understanding of the divine institutions. These five divine institutions are clearly set forth in Scripture. This is a summary of what the Scripture teaches of what God has established for the social, political success of the human race—to preserve and to protect and provide order for the human race.
- First of all, the institution of individual responsibility.
There is an authority in that divine institution; that is, we are all accountable to God for our decisions and for our actions.
- The second divine institution is marriage.
God first created the man. Second, He created the woman to be his assistant, to be his helper. The authority in the team is the husband.
- There’s a family authority.
Family was envisioned from the beginning. They were to go forth and multiply and fill the earth. That’s the foundation. It’s before the Fall. It’s envisioned; they did not have children until after the Fall. But the family authority is the parents. They are the ones who are in charge, not the children.
I don’t have time to read this article, but it is an article about a new book that has come out called Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self and it is a book review. This is a great article dealing with the new term. I love it. The new term for the up-and-coming generation is the “Snowflakes.” They live in their own little bubble and they think everything has to be perfect and everything’s going to be pristine and they’re never going to be hurt or harmed; nobody’s ever going to disagree with them.
It’s because they’ve got a couple of helicopter parents who spoil them rotten, protect them from seeing the evil in the world and understanding the evil the world and teaching them about why there is evil in the world and that people are going to disagree with them. People are going to be mad at them. People are going to say horrible things about them.
They are so protected that they go off to school and they have to have some safe space. When they go to someplace like the University of Chicago, which says, “You’re at university and there’s not going to be a safe space because we discuss all kinds of ideas here,” they get threatened. And they want to revolt against it.
So we’ve reared a whole generation. You can read a lot of articles on Snowflakes in England and here; they’re pampered; they’re pansies. If World War III breaks out, we’re going to lose because this generation doesn’t have what it takes to swat a fly because of the parental failure!
- The fourth divine institution after the Fall is government.
It is primarily judicial in its basis. Authority is determined by the form of government. There are many different kinds of government. In fact, the perfect government that is going to come is going to be a monarchy because the Person Who is on the throne is a perfect Person. You will never have perfect government unless you have perfect governors and until we have someone Who is without sin in the place of the government, government will always succumb to corruption and evil.
- The fifth divine institution is nations.
The establishment of nations and the authority there is God, Acts 17.
The first three are pre-Fall and they’re designed to promote productivity and advance civilization. The second two came after the Fall, and they’re designed to restrain evil. Part of the purpose of human government is to restrain evil through the judiciary. This is established.
Some people have merged these. I find it a huge hermeneutical problem to say that there’s one divine institution and your support for it is two events that are 200 to 300 years apart. They cannot be the same institution.
You have human government established in the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:5–6. “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” There is an accountability of government to God, and that government is to execute justice, especially in the most serious offense, which is murder. From that you extrapolate all the other judicial functions.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.” There have to be various qualifications there to make sure you’re shedding the blood of the right criminal. The reason is not preventative, although that may be a secondary consequence.
“For in the image of God He made man.” It is an act of blasphemy to kill, or eradicate, an image of God. So that’s the reason for capital punishment.
After Noah you have his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and they had children and grandchildren, great-great grandchildren. Two or three hundred years go by, and instead of scattering to fill the earth, you have especially Hamites, under Nimrod, gathering together and establishing their own civilization and their own city in Babel.
We read in Genesis 11:1, “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.” This is internationalism. The Tower of Babel is one of the original examples of the UN. I have an example of the wonders of one of our UN organizations that happened today, in case you missed it. UNESCO.
UNESCO voted today a resolution that there is no historical connection between the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and Judaism. Who knew? But the UN has spoken, right? In 2011 UNESCO recognized a Palestinian state, and that is one reason the US withdrew giving any money to UNESCO. We don’t give any more money to UNESCO. But they made that decision.
This is what happens when you have internationalism—people unite against God. That is what the UN is. It has Bible verses etched into the outside of the UN building in New York that are Messianic verses—that we will beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and man will make war no more. That is a description from Isaiah 2 that is related to the Kingdom of the Messiah, not the kingdom of the UN.
The UN claims to be a modern messiah that will bring in world peace, and all they’re doing is exacerbating the problem. But this goes back to the Tower of Babel. They were really against God and establishing these towers as a way of opposing God—building them to Heaven. The result was, “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.”
How did He scatter them? Verse nine. “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth.” See, once God changed the language and said, “Okay. These five people are going to speak Yiddish or Hebrew. And these five people are going to speak Hindi. And these five people are going to speak Russian. These five people are going to speak English.” Then they had to split and go somewhere else where their small group could all understand each other and they wouldn’t get in a fight with anybody else. So that establishes nations.
Somebody once asked me, with a real smart-aleck tone, “How can you have a government without a nation?” Well, you have patriarchal governments in families and clans and tribes—read a little history.
This is the establishment of nations, and it’s reaffirmed in Acts 17:26. “And He has made from one blood every nation [ETHNOS] of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”
Another thing that has come out recently in the WikiLeaks of the last couple of days, is that in a speech to bankers in Brazil, Hillary Clinton, who’s running for president, says that we need to have open borders and open trade. No borders. The reality is, if you don’t have borders it destroys the nation. Borders are essential to the security of a nation. Unless you have secure borders, you can’t secure the nation; without borders there is no nation.
God has established the boundaries of their dwelling—this is a divine thing. So when you want open borders, you’re following in the footsteps of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel and you are asserting yourself against God.
God recognized the existence of borders and that some people have a right to a certain place and some people don’t. For example, in laws like Deuteronomy 14:21, the Israelites were told, “You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates.” That is somebody who’s a foreigner but living in Israel.
“You may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner.” That’s somebody who lives outside of Israel—sell it to the Moabites or the Ammonites; they can eat it but you can’t. “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 23:20, “To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother [that’s another Israelite] you shall not charge interest, that the Lord your God may bless you.” So the Lord clearly recognizes the legitimacy of different peoples and different nation states and different borders.
This is crucial, and this is coming up more and more in what we’re seeing in the current presidential debate. It’s part of the whole refugee crisis that is going on in Europe. If you follow what’s going on in Europe, you see where we’re headed in this country if we follow these policies. These are the policies that the leftists want to impose on America. It is complete open borders, which is just self-destruction; and that’s where were headed.
We just see all of the divine institutions under assault. We’ve abdicated personal responsibility because we’re not responsible for anything. It’s always somebody else’s fault, or we’re just the way we are because we’re programmed by our DNA; and there’s no such thing as God, no such thing as a soul. Everybody just does what is automatically programmed into their make up.
Then we have the breakdown of marriage because we recognize that marriage is for people of the same sex. Before long—there are already cases in the courts—we’re going to have polygamy recognized, and bestiality, and all kinds of other horrible things are coming. It’s a complete breakdown of marriage. When that happens, you already have a breakdown in the family. When the family breaks down, the nation goes. We are already seeing that with open borders. So it’s not a pretty picture.
But guess what? God is still in control. That’s right. When Jeremiah looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, he said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.” When we as believers are focused on what the plan is, and what God is doing, it doesn’t matter what’s going on.
I know so many of us get discouraged. You get up in the morning, you watch the news, and you get discouraged hearing about what’s going on. Forget about it! Get up in the morning and read your Bible! Get to know your Bible; get to know the God of the Bible. Really get the Bible into your soul because there may come a time in our lifetime—we never thought it would happen—when the Bible may become illegal in the United States. You never know.
It’s going to be hard to find a Bible in Germany in another 20 years, because it’s going to become an Islamic state. It is just horrible what’s happening in Germany and the loss of religion. This is what happened. Germany became a secular state; it really started before World War II. It started, probably, in the early teens and World War I exacerbated it. World War II made it worse. It’s become one of the worst places in the world for open pornography. I mean, it is just like the fertility cult everywhere.
I remember 15 years ago going through Kazakhstan and George Meisinger was flying through Frankfurt had to spend the night there. He got to his hotel room, turned on the TV, and it was nothing but rank. You didn’t have pornography channels that were pay-per-view; it was just everything; all through the network was just rank pornography. They have rotted from the inside out, and that’s exactly where we’re headed. We’re about 20 or 30 years behind them, but we’re fast catching up.
The only hope for us personally is to be absolutely in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Word of God because that’s the only source of stability and happiness and joy that we may have in this life. That can never be replaced, and that is not to be looked down upon or belittled by anyone because that’s the joy that we take with us into all eternity.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study and to be reminded of what Your Word says. We look at the world system and it’s just horrible. But we know that You are in control. This is Your permissive will, and You are bringing things to a head.
We believe that perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next year, the return of our Lord is soon; and we look forward to that. As He delays and we see things go from bad to worse, we pray that we might keep our focus and attention upon You and have Your joy in our lives, so that we may be a real witness, a source of stability and hope to those around us as we communicate the gospel, both through our lives and through our lips. We pray that we might focus upon You, and that we may constantly look to the Lord Jesus Christ Who suffered for us under an unjust government and unjust laws; He was punished unjustly and died for our sins that we might have eternal life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”