Do Christians Have the Right To Disobey?

persecuted2The Bible speaks very clearly about the relationship between the believer and the government. We are to obey governmental authorities, and the government is to treat us justly and fairly. Even when the government does not live up to its role, we are still to live up to ours. Finally, when the government asks us to do something that is in direct disobedience to God’s Word, we are to disobey the government in faithful confidence of the Lord’s power to protect us.

Whether the Bible uses the terms “master,” “ruler,” “government,” or any other name for an established authority, the instruction is always the same – obey. We must remember that God created the authorities ruling over us just as He created us. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2). Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Both Peter and Paul also remind slaves repeatedly to be obedient to their masters for the same reasons (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 1 Peter 2:18-20; Titus 2:9-11).

The instructions to government “masters” are just as clear and just as numerous. Jesus modeled the behavior and attitude every leader or authority should take. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:25-28). A government or authority exists to serve those governed.

Many times, however, a government will stray from its purpose and become oppressive. When that happens, we are still to live in obedience. “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:18-19). Both Jesus and Paul used taxes as a way to illustrate this. The Roman government taxed the Jews unjustly and many of the tax collectors were thieves. When asked about this dilemma, Jesus took a coin and said, “‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’” (Matthew 22:20-21). Evidently, the believers in Rome were still asking the same question because Paul instructed them on the matter. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Romans 13:6).

In the Old Testament, Daniel is a model we should use when it comes to our relationship with government. The Babylonians were given authority over the Jews because of the Jews’ disobedience. Daniel worked himself into the highest levels of this pagan and unbelieving government. Although the rulers respected Daniel’s God, their lives and actions show they did not believe. Daniel served the king as a true servant when he requested the wise men not be executed for failing to interpret the king’s dream. Instead, he asked for the key to interpret the dream from God and saved those, including himself, who would have been executed. While Daniel was in the royal court, his three friends refused to bow to the idol erected by King Nebuchadnezzar and were sentenced to death in the furnace (Daniel 3:12-15). Their response was confident faith. They did not defend themselves, but instead told the king their God would save them, adding that even if He didn’t, they still would not worship or serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods (Daniel 3:16-18).

After the Medes conquered Babylon, Daniel continued to serve faithfully and to rise in power within the government. Here, Daniel faced the same dilemma when the governors and satraps tricked the king into signing a decree “…that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel responded by directly, and in full view of everyone, disobeying the order. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10). Daniel was completely loyal to any ruler placed over him until that ruler ordered him to disobey God. At that moment, when a choice had to be made between the world and God, Daniel chose God. As should we all.

GotQuestions

If we, as Christians, continue to rebel against the ordinances that have been set in place (regardless of your opinions), then we will undergo the worst persecution the church has ever seen.

Romans 13:1-2

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

15 thoughts on “Do Christians Have the Right To Disobey?

  1. Thanks for another enjoyable article. I have always liked Matthew 22:20-21, which you mentioned, Jesus told them to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”, because Caesar’s image was on the coin. But I also like to tie that in with Genesis 1:27, where man was made “in the image of God”; and since we are made in God’s image, we are to render all that we have and all that we are, unto Him.

    I fully agree with everything you wrote, but I have also questioned in my own mind how this would apply to Hebrews 10:25, where we are told to forsake not “the assembling of ourselves together”, yet many states are telling churches not to meet for the safety and health of everyone involved. We are still not having services, because most of our small congregation is elderly, and it is for their health that we have not started up again yet. I was willing to keep meeting all through this, but then I saw where someone wrote “I completely trust God, but I still wear my safety belt in the car. I completely trust God, but I would still wear a helmet on a motorcycle.” Therefore, I came to the conclusion that even though I fully trust in God, I don’t think He would want us to risk the safety of His children by meeting and even one of us getting ill. Any thoughts from others would be appreciated.

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  2. Absolutely Robert. Thank you for your insight. We, as humans are not fools and we all know full well the difference between right and wrong. Too many times I have read where Christians are screaming from the rooftops, “My rights! You won’t take my rights away!!” Instead we should be thinking, in order to be the servants of Jesus Christ that brings Him the glory He deserves, we should do everything we can to remain beyond reproach. We shouldn’t be giving the government an excuse to persecute us like this. Fine if we are persecuted for preaching the Gospel, then that is a wonderful thing and we should be honored to receive such. But to be persecuted because we are behaving like insolent children, we bring Christ dishonor and drag His namesake through the mud yet again.

    This whole situation has uncovered much pride and rebellion in the hearts of the saved and unsaved alike. Many times God does this to draw out the rot in our hearts and expose the sin that needs to be mortified. Will we humbly submit to His correction or will be continue to stiffen our necks and make ready for governmental discipline?

    As far as Hebrews and our assembling together, in this day and age, we have numerous ways of getting together. My wife’s parents are elderly and we connect on Zoom each week so they can see us face to face. We don’t have to meet in a building. What if we didn’t have a building to meet in? What if we were stuck in jail cells and we could only talk to one another through walls? You see, we really have no excuse. Many countries around the world are shaking their heads at the west over our selfishness and desire to have our rights. They have a few scraps of scripture and we have our rights. They have a few days where they aren’t being flogged and slaughtered and we have our rights.

    When the dust settles, I am sure the church will look far different than it did before this virus hit.

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  3. Another good article, Paul. Thank you for sharing this. We have said things like this before here at Truth in Grace, but it seems that so many are intent on believing what they want about their Christian responsibility to the government rather than basing their obedience on the words of Scripture.

    Too often, Christians in America think that God is Republican or Democrat and that “He is on OUR side!” We would do well to remember that God does not come down to our level, but that we must rise and be on His side. Beyond that, we are called to pray AND submit to those who rule over us, unless and/or until such time that they demand we disobey God.

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  4. Too many times have I read where Christians either post about this virus being a hoax or it’s nothing more than an exercise in eroding our rights. Let’s say they are right. Now what? Do we take off the masks and live life as normal? No. We live in such a way that honors Christ and we wait until legally we are allowed to live again. Did Paul balk at his house arrest and tell the authorities that he had rights and he refused to obey such ridiculous rules? No he wrote Romans in submission.

    The church of Laodicea is alive and well, and God will spew this church out of His mouth in disgust unless we submit and repent of our rebellion and pride.

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  5. My concern right now is, with a small church to begin with, will we come out of this intact, or will we be smaller still. But since we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we MUST fully trust in Him who already has beyond tomorrow planned out for us.
    Also, I have mentioned to my church, and others, that even though we are not holding services, the church still has bills to pay and missionaries to support.

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  6. I understand the wrongness of the griping about the masks. I have been guilty of that. However, there are over 30 million Americans unemployed….not allowed to have their business open because of these gov’t precautions (that don’t necessarily even work). People *need* to get back to work. When govt officials, who continue to have an income, continually extend the lockdown….even in counties with super low numbers of cases…this is causing people terrible hardships. Arguing about wearing a mask despite its annoyingness….is *nothing* compared to people who just want to be able to work. There are tons of businesses that will have to close down forever. People can’t pay their bills. These are the “rights” many are crying out for….just so they can take care of their own.

    I am not trying to be decisive in any way….just trying to show you this perspective.
    If they make the Covid19 vaccines mandatory…will you take it due to Romans 13? I will not.

    Are you concerned for the welfare of your neighbor who hasn’t been able to pay their mortgage in 2 months and has to wait in a line of cars to go to the food bank?

    I can deal with inconvenience if I must. But to know so many are hurting and desiring to work…but not “allowed” seems absolutely wrong…not even just in America. Many countries are worse!!!

    Also….our Governors are to abide by the Constitution. Many are over-reaching their powers. Do we truly answer to them…or to our Constitution? What governing authorities are truly the boss?

    I take all of this very seriously. I *never* want to dishonor or disobey the Lord. But do we sit back and say “Romans 13” to those who are suffering and *needing* a job? Cuomo in NY told people to “just go get an essential job”!? People need to work to provide. Men are to provide for their families. The govt has taken that ability away for millions. For Christians not to love our neighbors enough to speak out against that….is wrong. Plus, our governing authorities are to represent us, the people.

    Please know my tone is not meant aggressively or disrespectfully. I love whoever reads this and differs with me as a brother or sister in Christ. I fully desire unity and peace. But I am not sure how to do that in this situation! I appreciate any discussion.

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  7. This is exactly why we have a glorious opportunity to trust in God for our finances. He is sovereign over this virus, over the state of the world and everything else in between. Why shouldn’t we trust in God for our piddling little bills?

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  8. I agree that we must trust God. Too often, churches have trusted in the power of the “tithe” instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit. God can and does provide. This may prove an opportunity for God to bring churches together instead of being splintered. Sadly, many evangelical churches split over inconsequential items and have been struggling for awhile to make ends meet.

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  9. And depending on government support and now it’s biting them in the caboose. We MUST trust God and not use Him as a means to our ends.

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  10. Good morning Katy,

    Let me try to answer some of your thoughts now that I have a little free time.

    Your concerns are definitely valid and was something we actually spoke about this last Sunday in the Sunday School time. Personally, I do not think the issue of politics should be addressed in church as our focus should be the person of Jesus Christ, but I digress.

    Yes, many gripe about wearing the masks and some gripe about those who do wear the masks. So many convoluted thoughts are to be found even in the medical communities that it is hard to determine who or what is right. For myself, I think all of the hype about Covid-19 is a farce designed to strip us of more of our “rights.”

    Regarding mandatory vaccines – the answer for my family and I will be a resounding no. This is not something that should be forced on anybody and I believe brings harm.

    Our church is very small, but we have been blessed to come together and help others through this time of turmoil. We also check on our two elderly neighbors to make sure they are doing ok or need anything. This time has been profitable for being able to open up conversations that may not normally been possible.

    Let’s address the Romans 13 comments now.

    1. I agree that we do not want to dishonor or disobey the Lord.

    2. Here in America though, I think we have proclaimed our “Constitutional Rights” to be on the same level as the Bible. Enshrined on the hallowed grounds of where our forefathers are buried and somewhere (we know not where) possibly, maybe, hopefully, also to be found in some obscure Old Testament passage that guarantees our freedoms.

    3. The truth is that God only promises daily provisions of food and clothing. He does not promise success in our jobs nor does He promise that we will have rights. Believers down through the ages have lost everything simply for following Christ.

    4. In many centuries, placing your faith in Christ required a willingness to make a sacrifice. The cross of Christ was not an easy one to bear even though we Americans think that these hard times allow us to complain as being some type of persecution.

    Ultimately, to shorten this up a bit for now, we must obey God first and foremost. As long as the clear commands of Scripture are NOT violated, then we must also respect those in authority over us. For example, while we are commanded to meet with other believers, we are NOT given the leeway to rise up against the government because they curtail meeting in public places. We can still meet in homes in smaller numbers and still be in line with Hebrews 10:25-26.

    Yes, our freedoms may be lost through all of this, but we must also remember that God is still sovereign. Kingdoms rise and fall, but God alone remains faithful. If He ordains that we lose more freedoms in order to help purify His Bride in expectation for His return, then can we really try to argue against the purposes of our King?

    I welcome any more thoughts and discussion.

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  11. Thank you for your response. 🙂

    In this country, our leaders are to abide by the Constitution. Our govt is to be led by the people…right? So, our leaders are to do what is right according to the Constitution and when they aren’t following that…and we disagree with them are we really going against authority? Are they truly authority? See my line of thinking?

    I do agree with you though….I’m just trying to make the point that our governors step out of bounds when they go against the Constitution….so who is our authority? The governors or the Constitution? (OF course, with the understanding that Jesus in our Ultimate Authority!) As long as we abide by the Constitution, are we not still living within the authority granted us…..even when the “leaders” become tyrannical?

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  12. Katy, good questions.

    Let’s look at the Roman Empire. Rome actually granted religious toleration to ALL who were subjects of the Roman Empire. In fanct, as a Roman citizen, you could worship whatever god you wanted to choose. However, depending on which emperor was on the throne at the time, that religious toleration also meant that while you could worship your choice of god, you also had to give allegiance to Caesar or the predominant Roman gods. This normally meant, just once per year, taking a tiny pinch of incense and offering it on an altar. It could be done in such a way that your family and friends or even your church family would not have to know as long as Caesar knew.

    Just because Roman peace and toleration was granted to all of her citizens, there were times that a despotic ruler would take over and make life miserable for all true believers.

    The question we have to ask ourselves is this. What part of Scripture allows us to violate Romans 13 in which we are called to respect and obey those who rule over us just because that ruler violates the principles supposedly granted to us in a “Constitution” or law? God is the One who sets up one government and puts down another. Ultimately, it is to Him that we must answer.

    I believe the answer must be that we are to obey until such time that the government violates the direct commands of Scripture. For example, China has long had a one-baby per family policy. This forced two things to happen. Either the murder or abortion if it was a daughter in order to try for a son, or 2) forced sterilization. This is a direct violation of Biblical commands to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply. I believe that there are many true believers who try to hide from the government in order to protect the children that God gives to them.

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  13. Thank you for your words. 🙂 I appreciate what you say…and tend to agree…and yet, I’m still a bit torn…as the Jews obeyed their govt….and were loaded onto trains and then killed. 😦 I know, as Christians, we need to know that could happen to us. However, what’s the land of the free….if we aren’t really “free”?

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  14. We’ve never been free Katy. Democracy has never been real democracy. We’ve always lived under a soft communism. The only freedom we have as Christians is to serve God. Wwe won’t be truly free until we go to heaven.

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