We must obey God rather than men. —Acts 5:29
If ever there was a more gripping conviction for the Christians of this generation to live by, I don’t know of it! “We must obey God rather than men.” It is a loud shout of allegiance to our Lord that has reverberated through 2,000 years time to here and now, and it is still so powerful a challenge that we find ourselves crying out for such loyalty.
As you probably know, this quote is an amazing, fearless declaration of Christ’s apostles to the Sanhedrin after the council arrested and imprisoned them for powerfully preaching the gospel (Acts 5:17-18). God did intervene (v. 19) by sending an angel to take them out of the prison, leaving all the doors locked and the walls intact. So—did the apostles run and hide? No! By God’s command they went directly back to the temple, and began teaching the people again (v. 20)! And, again, the apostles were brought before the council. They faced probable imprisonment or execution, and they knew it. But the Lord’s Spirit filled them and used them to refute the Jewish leadership.
Just hear this shaking interchange of accusations:
“The high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us" (Acts 5:28). But Peter and the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, engaged them in a battle of words, a battle of wills, and they retorted, “We must obey God rather than men.” Then they do the unthinkable! They immediately launch into an emotionally charged version of the gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching to the very enemy themselves, laying the blame for the death of Christ directly on them!
The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed; by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:30-32)
The Scriptures go on to record the council’s outrage and hatred of the apostles; it was so intense that in their rage they were burning to kill them all. Again, the Lord intervenes through one of their own teachers, who persuades the council not to kill them.
Oh, how my heart longs to be so stalwart, so committed to Jesus, so obedient to Him as our beloved apostles were.
“We must obey God, rather than men.” We are both commanded and constrained by God’s Spirit to obey our Holy God. For God has a plan; as Christians, as His children, we must obey Him so that we will have the privilege and the joy of serving Him as He accomplishes His purposes here on earth.
We must obey—it is not an option.
The spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ depends on it!
The hope of restoration for our nation lies within its influence.
And our own spiritual welfare is dictated by it!
Now it is our turn to shout our allegiance to Christ before the enemy! We must obey Him in testifying and telling of the salvation we have in Christ no matter how difficult it may be to us; and we cannot, we must not call good what God calls perversion, or abomination. We must stand against it all, no matter what will be required of us. The apostles thought death was a probable outcome of their obedience to the Lord. And it would have been, except for God’s intervention. It may be so for us, too—but yet, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Will you resolve with me to stand firm for Christ as God gives us all grace and courage to do it? God grant us apostolic courage, faith, and a loud shout of allegiance to Him! As we memorize this verse, may it become the daily mantra of our deepest soul—“We must obey God rather than men!”
Are you in the Word daily? We must be in the Word to know the mind and heart of our God—to know what He would have us to do!
Are you faithful in praying for our churches, our nation, for each other’s needs and griefs, and for the salvation of souls? We must obey God in this loving service to one another. Each of us needs it—no exceptions.
Are you regularly meeting together to worship and to hear the Word preached? We must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for the sake of our mutual edification, encouragement, and corporate power in prayer.