Obey God Rather Than Men
by David Neal
Shortly after Christ’s death, the apostles were teaching and ministering to the people (Acts 5:12 -16). The High Priest and reputable (highly regarded) religious leaders became very jealous (indignation, resentment, religious anger) and put them in the common prison (Acts 5:17 -18). The apostles were miraculously delivered from the prison and were told to go preach the gospel in the temple (Acts 5:19 -20). They were not to run away in fear and cower (shrink, tremble, shy away) in hiding. No, they were to boldly profess Christ in the foremost center where these religious leaders, who persecuted them, held position – in their presumed territory. All the religious leaders gathered for an inquisition and to once again set themselves against Christ. Psalms 2:2-3, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed (Acts 4:25 -26 adds Christ), saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us (religiously seek their own will).” AND Acts 4:27-28, “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
After some stir in locating the apostles, they found them and brought them before their council (Acts 5:21 -27, Lk 12:11 -12). They were told not to speak in Christ’s name anymore (Acts 5:28 ). Peter boldly proclaimed a most significant statement, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 ). Many men or institutions have seated themselves in the place of God (that is Christ). Often it is assumed that if we obey these that we are obeying God. We must be able to discern (distinguish, recognize, differentiate, perceive) who is leading toward God and who is leading away. Do not presume that all who “profess God (Christ)” are submitted to Him and “following.” We must be strong in the Word and listen to the Spirit. Adherence to Peter’s inspired advice would cut away all the religiosity of man (doctrines, traditions, pomp, organizations, rituals, etc.) and place Christ solely as head.
Peter proclaimed to these men that Jesus was greatly exalted by God and now gives: first repentance (acknowledging of wrongs and then forsaking of transgressions) and then forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31 ). Peter further stated that those who were obedient (submitted) to Christ would receive His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32 ). The religious council didn’t receive this message very well in that they first sought to kill, but settled for beating and sternly warning them against teaching the people (Acts 5:33, 40). Notice that the only ones who are standing between men (the people) and God are clearly these religious men who actually claimed to represent God. They didn’t want the people to be taught!
Now many may find this odd, that men who profess God and seemingly live for Him with religious zeal could actually be working against God’s purposes. When man is not submitted to God and His Way, then he is often submitted to man and man’s way. The two “ways” often digress (deviate, differ, move away) from each other and are divergent (in conflict, opposing) in purpose. These religious men claimed exclusive rights to God and they had a tremendous religious system to back-up their assertion (declaration). They could prove that they sat in Moses’ seat, however, they “said” and “did not.” (Mt 23:2-3). Many a religious man today will also be conflicting with God’s purposes, even though they may have great authority behind them (position, influence, education, organizations, institutions). Many will “say,” but do they do? – and are they walking by example with a heart for God? These men had an institution full of doctrines, tradition, methods and control, but they were alienated (estranged) from God and had no meaningful knowledge of Him (Jer 4:22, Mt 11:27, Lk 10:22, Jn 1:10, 7:28-29, 8:19, 15:21, 16:3, 1 Jn 3:1). They actually fought against God (Acts 5:39 ) – they were workers of iniquity (Lk 13:27 -28). The apostles were clearly in the minority (view), but God was on their side. God spoke and wrought many miracles through them (Acts 4:8-13, 5:15 -16) – as a witness and a testimony. Religious man had humiliated and disgraced these true followers by beating them for their acts of love and compassion (Acts 5:40 ). They had done the same to Christ (Jn 15:20 , Lk 6:40 ). Herein lies a strange thing, even though the apostles were made the reproach of the religious world, their reaction was not as expected – they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus (Acts 5:41, Lk 6:22-23). When we boldly stand for Christ today we can expect no different; and from those who may even profess Him (Mt 10:22 , 24:9, Mk 13:13 , Lk 21:17 ). In all this, the apostles ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42 ). Let us go forth and do likewise; obeying God and having no fear of man (Ps 118:6, Heb 13:6).