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  • Writer's pictureNate Miller

The Order of Operations (Acts 5:29)

"We must obey God rather than men." –Acts 5:29

“Why do I have to multiply before adding?” That question is an important one in our household as my wife teaches our nine-year-old daughter the order of operations. It is a mathematical reality that addition and subtraction yield to multiplication and division. 2 x 3 + 2 is 8 not 10. If my daughter does not grasp this reality, the solutions to her equations will miss the mark.

In a similar way, the Bible commands submission to a variety of authorities in different spheres of influence. Believers are instructed to submit to God (James 4:7), submit to human government (1 Peter 2:13), submit to employers (1 Peter 2:18), wives to husbands (1 Peter 3:1), children to parents (Ephesians 6:1), and members to church leaders (Hebrews 13:17). With so many areas at play and with the complexities of life, the natural question is: what do we do when these authorities conflict with one another? How do we know who to obey and when to obey them?

Our Fighter Verse gives us a clear answer for the order of operations by which a believer should function in this life: “We must obey God rather than men.” It is a statement uttered by the Apostle Peter in response to a complex situation. The council and the high priest have issued the command, “we strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…” The question behind the statement is clear: “We asked you to stop. We are the authority. Why are you still teaching? Why have you not obeyed our command?”

Peter answers, “We must obey God rather than men.” This verse is a principle that has the forcefulness of a command. Peter is not simply stating what he and the other Apostles will do, he is stating what they must do. There is a sense of compulsion here. There is, in Peter’s thinking and in reality, a categorical difference between the authority of God and the authority of human leaders. Peter’s order of operations forbids him to ever yield to a human institution at the expense of his obedience to God.

What a blessing that this interaction is recorded for our instruction! Obedience to God takes first priority; every other authority is secondary. This is the unequivocal voice of Scripture: when any authority commands evil or prohibits good, “We must obey God rather than men.” The Hebrew midwives are commended for their disobedience of Pharaoh. The parents of Moses refuse to allow their child to be killed and instead hide and preserve him for his God-ordained purposes. Daniel refuses to stop praying and is honored for it. Daniel’s contemporaries Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are protected and preserved by God in the midst of their disobedience of the king. Obadiah hides the prophets of God in a cave to protect them from the murderous ambitions of Ahab and Jezebel.

May you fasten this truth in your soul and have obedience to the living God as the top-tier priority in your order of operations


For Reflection

  1. Is Peter’s statement the conviction of your heart? What is the benefit of having this conviction solidified before you face opposition to the commands of God?

  2. What authorities has God placed over you? What does it look like for you to be a joy to those that God has placed over you? Are there any current demands you must respectfully disobey?

  3. How can you demonstrate a godly attitude right now, so that if the day comes when you need to say “I must obey God rather than men,” it is clear that your stand is about godliness and not rebellion?


Nate Miller is the Associate Preaching Pastor at Revive Church in Brooklyn Park, MN. Nate and his wife, Angela, live in Brooklyn Park and have three children.


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