What does it mean “we must obey God rather than men”?  

Author: BibleAsk Team

“Obey God Rather Than Men”  

In the early church, the Jewish Sanhedrin ordered the disciples not to preach the gospel. But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The disciples were simply being obedient to Christ’s Great Commission of preaching the good news of salvation to all the world (Matthew 28:19). They were not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). 

In obedience to laws, the Savior taught the basic principle that decides the Christian’s relationship to God and man. When asked the question, “is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” He said: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17, 21). The Savior’s teaching to pay tribute to Caesar is not against God’s law, as the Pharisees claimed (Matthew 22:17; Romans 13:6,7).  

The believer is not to ignore the obligation of the civil laws of the state upon him. For God instructed that His children should obey the authorities. The Bible says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1–2 also Titus 3:1; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13–14).   

In addition, the Christian is to walk in peace with all people. Paul taught, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18 also Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:14). The Christian is also to pray for his leaders. Paul wrote, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).  

However, God’s authority should be supreme. The Christian’s ultimate loyalty should be to his Creator. Thus, there are specific “things” where Caesar has no right to interfere (Acts 5:29). For God’s authority is absolute and universal, whereas Caesar’s authority is inferior and limited.  

When the law of man contradicts the law of God, obedience should be rendered to the Lord first even on the pain of death. The Christian must obey God rather than men. For the believer’s salvation is dependent on His Maker (Matthew 10:28). And all men will stand before the Almighty at the judgement to answer for all of their works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  

Man Can’t Serve Two Masters  

The Christian cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). And since only one master can receive supreme loyalty, that master must be God because He is the Creator and the Redeemer. The Christian faith cannot be one factor among many. Its influence must be first (Matthew 6:33a) and must control all other facets of life, producing a life that is in line with its values. Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37).  

The great Reformer Luther declared at the council of Worms, “My conscience has been taken captive by the word of God, and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen” (quoted in E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times, p. 505). These brave words, which illustrate the principle to “obey God rather than men” should serve as a vivid example to all Christians to follow.   

In His service,  

BibleAsk Team 

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