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October 20, 2021 12:01 am
Christians are to be models of submission to the authorities God has placed over them. But what happens when those rulers command us to disobey the Lord? Today, R.C. Sproul navigates this conflict between ruling authorities in this sermon from the book of Acts.
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In the middle of the 18th century the town were Jonathan Edwards was preaching was divided over their loyalty to the crown and their loyalty to their new homeland. If you read your American history. You know that there were Christians on both sides of that debate. There were those Christians who insisted that it is never legitimate for any person or body under any circumstances to disobey the civil magistrate and the widows on the other side of the debate who said that it's a Christian's duty to obey God rather than men. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind. We will. The Bible is not silent on this issue and today Dr. RC Sproul is going to help us think through what God's word says about our duty as dual citizens if you will, citizens of a particular country, and the kingdom of God. Dr. Sproles text for this message is acts chapter 4 and he begins reading at verse 13 now when they saw the oldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled, they realized that they had been with Jesus and seeing the man who would been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against the one that commanded them to go aside of the Council they conferred among themselves, saying, what shall we do with these men were indeed that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it, but so that it spreads no further among the people. Let us severely threaten them.
From now on they speak to no man in this name, so they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, 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. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them because of the people. Since all they had all glorified God for what it been done. The man was over 40 years old, on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. Let us pray. O father give us ears to hear of the boldness of Peter and John before this august body of authority and instruct us by thy spirit on how we are to act in similar circumstances.
We ask that in Jesus name, amen is reading a novel the other day and I came across a strange line where one of the police detectives was often on television in the city and somebody came up to him and said oh you are that world-famous detective and he said yes I'm world-famous in the city of Minneapolis.
Anytime somebody says if somebody's that's introduce somebody saying that their famous sin seem to be unnecessary because the famous. It shouldn't have to be introduced but we never know how far and how broad our influence may extend and sometimes were surprised our way.
I'm never forget when the most shocking surprising experiences of my life came on the day when like Valencia, the leader of the Polish Solidarity movement was placed under house arrest by the Soviet official. Some of you will remember that the picture of his arrest was on the front page of every newspaper in America and when he was arrested. He was shaking his fist in defiance of the arresting authorities and in his hand.
He was holding one of my books.
This incredible is that knowing that I later found out that that same book. He placed in the casket of his father when his father died and was buried. So I thought I never would have dreamed in a million years anything I ever wrote never find its way into the hands of like Valencia, but it made me think a lot about his position in modern history because I thought, why was it that the government at that time interested in arresting him. Why didn't they just execute them. That's usually the way it works in tyranny of tyrants always have a secret police.
They find a way to get rid of those who are in opposition to them and usually it's by some form of execution, but I realize that the reason why like Valencia was put in the house arrest and was not executed was that he had already become too well-known, and to kill him would've made him a martyr and the thing that every tyrannical regime fears more than anything else is the public uprising back in the 18 century. The philosopher Montesquieu when he wrote his book the spirit of the laws said that the maintenance of all forms of tyranny depends and relies upon the ability of the government to keep the people afraid. That's why you have purges. That's why you have secret police. That's why you have mass execution in nations that follow that sort of regimen and what Montesquieu said was it only takes one person, one like Valencia with enough courage to withstand the tyrant to bring down their powerful regime will throughout history we have seen individuals who have swim against the current, who stood against powerful obstacles. Mahatma Gandhi in our own country. Martin Luther King stood against the authorities of his day. He defied those authorities and raise all kinds of questions about the legitimacy of civil disobedience back in the middle of the 18th century in the little town of Northampton in Massachusetts were Jonathan Edwards was the preacher. The town itself was divided about equally well before the Revolutionary war. In terms of their loyalty to the crown and to their loyalty to their local magistrates because already division over those loyalties was being felt in new England and if you read your American history. You know that there were Christians on both sides of that debate.
There were those Christians who insisted that it is never legitimate for any person or body under any circumstances to disobey the civil magistrate. And so, though they were feeling exploited by the taxation and so on. Coming from Parliament and England.
They refused to rebel war to join in the rebellion on matters of principle and on conscientious grounds of being obedient to civil magistrate because the Bible teaches again and again that it is the Christian's duty to submit to those who are in authority over us, whether it's children to their parents students to their teachers employees to their employer citizens to their government. Whatever it is wherever we find levels of authority over us. The Bible calls us to be model citizens of submission and of subjection. It was out of that principle of submission to the civil magistrate that Mary and Joseph made the arduous journey to Bethlehem risking the life of both Mary and the unborn infant Jesus out of this deep affliction and inconvenience. They made the journey to obey the authorities that were over them so the principal that comes to us again and again in Scripture is the principle of submission to those who are in authority, but always the question arises, is it ever legitimate.
Is it ever ethically right to refuse to obey authorities who are over you that's the question I want to look at this morning in light of the text that I just read. Let's look again at what's taking place because we continue to deal with the reaction of not only the people but the authorities that ruled over the Jews in Jerusalem to the healing of the man who'd been born unable to stand or to walk when he was healed by Peter and John by the gate beautiful. So we read in chapter 4. This only saw the boldness of Peter and John. They notice they perceive that they were uneducated, untrained men like a stop right there and said, therefore, ignorant rabble-rousers who have no credibility.
That's not the point here because they add to it and they marveled because they marveled at their power, they marveled at their persuasive skills, they marveled. Obviously, at the eloquence of Peter as he spoke on this occasion bring to mind, does it not the promise of Jesus to his disciples before he left this world saying don't be afraid when you are brought up before, councils, and the rulers of this world because in that time the Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you the ability to say what needs to be said and so these men believed that promise of God and in the face of adversity and opposition. Peter spoke with this boldness so that the whole sand Hedren 71 of along with the people were amazed. They realized they had been with Jesus. What a statement.
Many sermons can we get just out of that one line returns as anybody's ever said to you all I know about you, I can tell you've just been spending time with Jesus was ever made a connection to make a talk about my connecting the Steelers or the Penguins or to the Irish or whatever but nobody says all he must've just been with Jesus, but they made the connection. The events of the transpired so recently in Jerusalem were so resident in their ears that was unmistakable that these men belong to that group that followed Jesus and seeing the man who'd been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it surely could say something against the same thing I wanted to guess about what the author Scripture thought Lucas saying is they didn't dare publicly say anything against it from the Sanhedrin who among the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees can become on-site.
That's enough of that stop is healing. We can't have any more miracles around here. They didn't dare say that because of the multitudes of the people who were there so then they commanded them to go aside out of the council and they conferred among themselves. They went into executive session and they said we do these men, but it doesn't really say what we do with this men.
The question is what will we do to these men we have to do something to them because this is getting out of hand and this has to stop Melissa which we do to these men. They were suggesting giving them some kind of honorary banquet, but they said indeed that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all in Jerusalem.
And we cannot deny it, but here the enemies of the apostles conferring among themselves, and listen well when we're there now it's manifest it's clear that through these guys a notable miracle has taken place full city knows about it and everybody's cheering them on course. We aren't, and you believe how wicked the hearts of fallen people are when they know the manifest power of God is been given right before their very eyes, and they still enter in a conspiracy to squelch it. That's what they're doing, so that it spreads no further among the people. Here's what they come up with S severely threaten them was not just warn them was not just say you stop this or else let's make our threat severe the. From now on they speak to no man in this name, so they call them and command them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus come out of executive session they call back, and Peter, just a come on in here where I think enough of what you've done well at the slide this time will just write it up as a warning, but don't you dare ever mention the name of Jesus again as long as you live when you want to hear that name from your lips, let me ask you this morning. If the apostles at that moment decided the Supreme Court of the nation has spoken. It is our obligation now to obey is supposed Peter and John came out of there and the people said what they say. Peterson my lips are sealed. I'm never to speak about what's his name again. Had that been the response of the apostles, we would not be here this morning talking about it or listening to a story about it would, but all of a sudden Peter and John are in the worst of all possible conflicts of ethics, a conflict between ruling authorities. Every child knows what it's like when the child go to the mother and says mom I cannot go to the movie tonight.
Mother says no so I was a child who then goes to daddy and dad can I go to the movies tonight tries to set one authority after the other doesn't work because father always says go after mother. There's the soldier was on trial for his life for war crimes. Norbert involved in genocide and the court interrogates them the recent excuses given is what I was only obeying orders. I was only doing what my commanding officer required of me, but the court said no, you are required at that point to disobey this magistrate rather than to commit genocide. Martin Luther King knew the law. He knew that any statute published by any state in the United States was unchallengeable by the Supreme Court if it violated constitutional rights and so with passive resistance. He went ahead and broke the law in order to get the test case before the Supreme Court, which Wright was given him by the higher magistrate with respect to the lesser magistrate.
We still have but the conflict of those situations.
At times can be on barrel and here's how the apostles handled.
They said whether it's right in the sight of God to listen to you or to God you judge while these guys are supposed be the judge of Israel Supreme Court but you see, still ringing in the ears of the disciples of the apostles is only few weeks have gone by since they heard these words was the word of Jesus that we call the great commission to go in all the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the name of the son and of the name of the Holy Ghost.
Jesus gave to Peter and to John and to the entire church of the first century a mandate and it's our mandate and if any authority under heaven comes to the Christian and tells them he may not pray he may not preach, he may not worship.
It may not die, he may not do any of those things that God commands that Christian may not only disobey that Christian must disobey on our ethics courses in the seminary we give the principal and said it's a simple principle. Anybody can understand it, the application of it to concrete circumstances is often excruciatingly difficult principles. This that we are always to obey those in authority over us unless that authority commands us to do something. God forbids or forbids us from doing something God commands the husband says the wife I want to earn some extra income for us by turning to prostitution not only making disobey empty must disobey the other hand, a woman's marriage or nonbelieving man. The man says to her, you may not go to church on Wednesday night and join the choir. Which of the wife to stay home because God nowhere commands women to sing in the choir. I plead for it, but I can't command but what if the husband says the wife you are not permitted to go to church on the Sabbath and join the corporate worship of the people of God.
Not only may she disobey empty must disobey because God commands her to be in the assembling together of the saints to see how this can be very painful and very costly when we are caught in this vice between two authorities that differ. We can never use the copout. I'm just obeying orders as a license or an excuse for sin, but the other side of it is this just because God gives us the right and the responsibility to disobey went and authority over us commands us to do something he forbids or forbids us from doing something God commands that is not a license to be disobedient.
Just when we disagree with the authority or if the authority is exploiting us worth the authority is afflicting us, bringing us discomfort or inconvenience. How inconvenience were Joseph and Mary in making that arduous journey to Bethlehem, but they submitted, because God never commanded the Joseph and Mary be comfortable or be wealthy or be popular and so again the principal that's the general principle is we bend over backwards to be submissive, but we stand with the ramrod defiance when the magistrate commands disobedience to God.
That's why it's very important for us to understand in our daily lives what it is, God commands and what it is. God forbids otherwise we are like sheep without a shepherd and we go along with what Nietzsche called a herd morality, doing whatever anybody tells us to do when in fact there are times the Christian has to say no. There is a reason why the first century was the century were the blood of the church became the seed of the church's growth through the martyrdom of those who would not submit to tyrants who told them to deny the faith in Christ with Job, we have to say though they slay us yet. We will honor. So I urge you, Chris prepare for that time when you have to obedience to those commands soon were obedience be prepared. I think we can see how important it is to determine those boundaries ahead of time under the heater persecution. It's so easy to compromise.
Glad you joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday I'm Lee Webb, and that this week. Our focus is on Dr. RC Sproul's teaching from the New Testament. So far we've heard sermons from the Gospels of Mark and Luke and today we benefited from a timely and practical message from Pax Dr. Sproles many years of study, along with experience teaching God's word gave him the ability to pull important implications from God's word. That's why like to recommend our resource offer today. It's RC's commentary on the book of acts with more than 400 pages. This hardbound edition will be a great study companion requested when you give a donation of any amount to look at her ministries. She can reach us by phone, it 800-435-4343 or you can give your gift and make your request online and Renewing Your Mind.org. Look at her ministries. We want to encourage you to grow in your faith. We do that through this daily program printed material like the Reformation study Bible and table talk magazine teaching series and conferences that we host throughout the year. All of our resources and events are meant to help you articulate what you believe and why you believe it, your generous financial gifts allow us to continue this ministry to proclaim the holiness of God to as many people as possible around the world. Tomorrow we are pleased to feature another sermon by Dr. scroll this one from second Peter, please make plans to join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind