[Originally published as Part 4: Shaken to Obey]
And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. (Acts 4:14).
When people see the evidence of our being with Jesus, there is no accusation they can truly bring against us. But that doesn’t mean they won’t scheme against us. The Sanhedrin began to “confer with one another” (v. 15) about how to deal with the spreading news threatening their status, concluding, “So that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name” (v. 17). Thus they summoned the apostles and ordered them “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (v. 18).
What are we to do when the government orders us not to speak in Jesus’ name?
What are we to do when authorities tell us to shut our doors, not hold services, or close our church for the safety of others? Yes, Christians are to be obedient to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1). However, obedience to God is paramount (Exodus 19:5, I Samuel 15:22, Jeremiah 7:23, Romans 6:17, II Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 2:12, etc.).
How, then, are we to respond when governing authorities order us not to speak of, assemble for, or obey God? The same way the disciples of Jesus did, whose example is recorded in Scripture for us to see and learn.
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18–20).
How could they give this answer? Because they had been shaken by the presence of their Savior. He had washed their feet, eaten the Passover with them, and told them, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And then they watched Him be arrested, tortured, and killed for the sins of the world. But just when they thought everything was lost, they beheld Him standing in their presence, risen from the dead! They were so shaken they were willing to do whatever it took to fulfill His command of sharing the Good News with all the world (Matthew 28:18–20).
Are we so shaken?
When it comes to submitting to the voice of men or the voice of God, which will we choose? It should not matter what the Supreme Court says about marriage, what a policymaker says about life, what a counselor says about gender, or what a governor says about the assembly of the Lord’s Church; we should choose to obey and proclaim the One who created all things and has the authority to judge the living and the dead (II Timothy 4:1). Is that always easy? Certainly not.
When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened (Acts 4:21).
It seems that if we are serving the community as the people of God should be, the public might side with us and even sway the government. Sadly, what used to be ministries of the church have now been turned over to the social services of the government, resulting in less and less cultural influence. It still proves true, though, that the more involved churches are in serving the community, the more impact for the Lord they might have.
However, we must be ready to still serve, love, and share the gospel even if the culture and government are against us. The apostles were willing to do that because of how much Jesus had changed their lives. Today, people are persecuted for their faith all around the world. Even in America, society seems to be more and more hostile to Christianity. We must start resolving in our minds now that we will be ready to stand firm when “threatened.”
In recent years, many have bowed to the governing authorities because they do not want their lifestyle affected or they do not want to be the target of social or government reactions. Some are genuinely afraid of what the culture or the government might do to them.
It is easy to say what we should do, but it is a whole different matter to be in the situation and know what we would do. Yet, if we want to see revival in the land, if we want our children to be faithful and saved, if we truly love Jesus and are shaken by what He has done for us, then we will embrace His words: “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you… but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgement to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?… Therefore, those who suffer according to the will of God are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (I Peter 4:14–19).