To Obey or to Rebel?
2 Samuel 15 and 20
Samuel Lesson #221
July 14, 2020
“Father, we are so thankful that You are our rock. You are always faithful, You are immutable, You never change, You are stable.
“We base our lives on You, we depend upon You. As we watch the world around us go from change to other change again and again, we don’t know where things are headed. We’ve never seen the world, or our country, in the kind of disarray that we see. And we’re not sure what will take place, or how to plan because of these stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, mask orders, and everything else.
“But Father, we know that we can depend on You. In a lot of ways we can just take advantage of this time to grow spiritually—take advantage of each situation as an opportunity to claim promises, to trust You, to walk with You.
“Because we know that when we see things happening like this on a global scale that this is something that You are working out. You are changing things up. Whether we’re a week away from the Rapture, a month away, a decade away, or half a century or more away—we know that You are setting the stage for that grand event when our Lord comes back. And He’ll call us up to Him, and we’ll meet Him in the clouds.
“So Father, we keep our focus on Him. And we keep our focus on our purpose and mission in this life, so that we cannot be set off course, or be distracted by all these things that are going on.
“Father we pray tonight that as we continue our study that You would help us to understand, get some perspective on what’s going on in the world around us, as well as in past history and understanding Your Word. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
I want to start tonight by looking at Isaiah 1. Open your Bibles with me to Isaiah 1.
We are continuing a study of rebellion I started two classes back, working our way through a number of things. If you remember from last Tuesday night, at the end, I raised the issue and gave you a teaser about what we are going to need to answer as we go through this.
The question that I’ve asked many, many times over the years, and wrestled with the different data that’s out there, and it’s a question that many people have asked me over the years, and that is, the way we normally put this is, was the American war that started in 1775, was that a revolution, commonly called the Revolutionary War, the American Revolution, or was that a war for independence?
The distinction is great. One is a rebellion, and the other is a just war, a justified war. That is, in a technical sense, the correct language to use. Is it a just war?
We are going to see some interesting things on that before we finish tonight. We’re not going to get there yet, but it’s like a lot of things in life—you ask a simple question, but the answer is not simple.
If we really want to grasp it, we have to work our way through Scripture. Then we have to work our way through how Scripture was interpreted, and how it was understood, at the time of the American War for Independence.
So, we’re talking about what is the issue about rebellion? One of the things that hit me some years ago, as I was contemplating this question in a passage, I’m sure I was teaching a passage dealing with authority, why is it that again, and again, and again, the Bible emphasizes submission to authority?
We have all kinds of authorities in our lives. We have a government authority. We have a state authority. In Texas we have county authorities. We have city authorities. We have authorities at work. We have authorities in the military. We have authorities in the classroom. We are surrounded by authority, and the Scriptures are very clear that we are to obey authority, to submit to authority.
We have authority in the home. We have authority in marriage. We have authority in just about anything we do, unless we just go out backpacking by ourselves up and down the Appalachian Trail with nobody around. And even then, there are going to be signs telling us what we can and can’t do.
So authority is fundamental to our lives. Scripture addresses that. From the very beginning God makes an issue out of it.
So, we need to ask that question, why is this so important? When are we to obey, and when are we to rebel, or disobey, the authority?
I want to start with a passage I was reading this morning. I am preparing, one day, someday, to teach—Isaiah.
I’ve done a number of different things to prepare myself, and for about the last six or eight months I’ve been periodically reading through Isaiah over and over again in a given month. Now I’m working on reading it in the Hebrew.
What struck me this morning when I came to Isaiah 1:2–4 was the language of verse 2. But I want to read this whole thing in context. Isaiah starts off basically charging Israel with their disobedience to God. This sets the stage for many of the prophecies that come later in the book, and it’s a great introduction.
A lot of people wonder why Isaiah 6, which is when God commissions Isaiah, is in the sixth chapter, not at the beginning. You might think of it as when you pick up a book, and you read the introduction, and then you get into the first chapter, and the first chapter starts taking you into the real topic of the book.
It starts chronologically maybe in a different place from the introduction. And that’s somewhat like Isaiah 1–5, it’s an introduction to the major themes that are in the book. Then we get into the call of Isaiah, which establishes his authority. But here he is given a vision. According to Isaiah 1:2–4 he is relating that to the people.
This is how he begins, Isaiah 1:2–4, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O, earth!”
It reminds us of several Deuteronomic passages where Moses calls upon the heavens and the earth to witness something. It has that sense.
Then he says, “For Yahweh has spoken:—and this is what Yahweh says—‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its owner. And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers. Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.”
Right away you get the sense this is not going to be a feel-good message. Right away you know that Isaiah is not concerned about winning friends and influencing people with that introduction.
But I want to focus on one thing and that is in verse two. He describes Israel, even though a lot that is here is in a covenant format, the word covenant never appears in Isaiah. But the rest of the language is very covenantal. And this calling upon heaven and earth to witness is so typical of things we see in Deuteronomy, and other passages of the Law.
And then it shifts, and God speaks of Israel, not as a covenant breaker per se, not as just a lawbreaker, but as family. He says, “I have nourished and brought up children—He speaks to them as a father to his children, and then He says—And they have rebelled against Me.”
The word we have for rebelled is a verb I talked about last week. I related it to David’s confession in Psalm 51. The word is pasha’ meaning to rebel or to revolt.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says it’s a breach of relationships, civil or religious, between two parties. It can be between two people. It can be between one group of people and another group of people. It can be between a group of people and a government. It has the essential idea of rejecting an authority.
This is a word that is used in a number of other passages. Later, in Isaiah 1:28, God says, “The destruction of transgressors …”
The same word, I prefer to translate it “the destruction of rebels and of sinners …”
That’s what a sinner is, a rebel against God, “The destruction of rebels and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.”
This is talking about a couple of different areas related to divine judgment as we’ll see in just a minute. But that’s what it’s focusing on.
If we rebel against the Lord, if we are sinners, then we are putting ourselves in legal jeopardy before the Lord, where we are ready for divine discipline or divine judgment.
Ezekiel 2:3, God’s commission of Ezekiel. “Son of man—which is a frequent title in Ezekiel for Ezekiel—son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel—then he describes his children, some of you may have children who have been like this at one point or another—to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me …”
This is another Hebrew word but it is a synonym. It refers to a rebellion.
“… they and their fathers have rebelled against Me …” In English you wouldn’t translate it the same way because you don’t want all those same words, but it catches the point that Ezekiel is making.
“Their fathers have rebelled against Me to this very day.”
In Hosea we have two verses. Hosea 8:1, “Set the trumpet to your mouth!—when you hear a trumpet blow that’s always to get people’s attention, to assemble the troops, to make an announcement, something of that nature—He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD.”
This is an announcement of judgment. Hosea is talking about Nebuchadnezzar coming. “He shall come like an eagle against the house of Yahweh because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.”
Hosea 14:9, “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right.”
That is a key phrase, “the ways of the LORD are right.”
The subject here at the end is “the ways of the LORD” and you have two options. Either the righteous walk in them, or rebels stumble in them.
What’s a sign of a rebel? He stumbles when it comes to the mandates of God. He stumbles when it comes to obeying the Lord.
Let’s look at a summary here of what I covered last time. Remember last time we looked at Absalom’s rebellion, Sheba’s rebellion, and compared them.
We drew some principles and then began to look at the original rebellion, which was Satan’s rebellion in Isaiah 14:12–14, and Ezekiel 28:12–20.
Rebellion begins in the heart. It is a mental attitude sin. It is a rejection of authority. It flows out of arrogance, as does every other sin. But rebellion, or disrespect for authority, always begins in an arrogant heart. The heart is the mind. The center of our lives is our thinking.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
First and foremost, as an act of rebellion, it is always an act of rebellion against God. You may think you are disobeying your parents. You may think you’re getting one over on your boss. You may think you’re doing something, getting around, sneaking around, a commanding officer, somebody breaking some rule. But every act of rebellion is first and foremost an act against God.
Because God had said obey this authority. And so, to disobey is, first and foremost, a rejection of God. It is disobedience to God and His standards.
Therefore, every act of rebellion is first and foremost a spiritual problem, which means you can’t really fix it. You may put a Band-Aid on it, you may have other ways of ameliorating it, or mitigating it for a while. But all rebellion is a spiritual problem, and a sin problem. And until that is addressed, you’re going to continue to have consequences from that rebellious nature.
I’ll tell you something, I’ve said this a few times from the pulpit. It’s interesting, some of you have been around more than a decade or two, and you can remember what you heard when you were young from many, many different pastors were sermons against legalism, emphasizing grace.
Or maybe you were in a church where you heard a legalistic sermon. That was the problem, legalism. Legalism produces a self-righteousness. Legalism is one trend of our sin nature. But the opposite side is antinomianism, or rejection of law, a rejection of absolutes, or rejection of authority.
Legalism is represented in the Bible by the Pharisees. They are making legalistic structures out of every law, 613 laws in the Mosaic Law. For each of those they developed an oral law where you might have one particular law, and there might be twenty sub-laws.
You think, “Boy, that gets pretty heavy.”
Have you looked at the US law code lately? We have laws and once you start trying to apply them, this situation comes up, that situation comes up, a question, another question. Next thing you know you have fifteen other laws to explain exactly what you meant in the first law.
So you have this problem of legalism. But legalism hasn’t been a problem in either churches or in this country since the sixties.
I’ll put a date on it—1964. A lot of things changed then. Sydney Ahlstrom, who was a well-known dean of the church history department at Yale, published a book called A Religious History of the American People.
It was a large book, a part of my reading list years ago in seminary. One of the things that he does as he’s periodizing—he’s got a chart of the different periods of American history.
The different periods of the American history—the Colonial period, the Federal period. Before the Civil War, after the Civil War, the Reconstruction, all these different periods. He breaks it at 1963–64. In 1964 on we are in the post-Puritan era.
What he meant by that was up till 1964 this culture was dominated by the influence of the Bible. It began to fade from World War I to 1964. What happened in 1964? The Supreme Court decision takes prayer out of the schools. The year before Kennedy was assassinated. You had the Beatles come in right around there. A whole lot of things changed in our culture.
I’m not saying they’re all related to each other, but they’re all the result of changes that had been growing in our Western civilization for the previous 30, 40, 50 years. And that’s the point.
From that point on we have been in an antinomian culture. We’ve been in a culture that prides itself on questioning authority. How many times have you seen that on a bumper sticker? Question authority.
Is that what the Bible says? I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you shouldn’t question authority, but that reflects a mentality where you are always going to judge everybody that’s in authority. And that’s antinomianism.
The Bible doesn’t say question authority. It says honor the king, submit to authorities. That doesn’t mean you submit to everything, we’ll get into that tonight, but that’s what the Scripture says.
So, rebellion begins in the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is wicked above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
It is the mentality of our soul that is so deceptive.
The second thing we learned is that spiritual rebels will be destroyed in time and in eternity. In history, in your lifetime, if you’re rebellious there will be divine discipline or divine judgment, because of your rebelliousness and disobedience to authority.
If you are an unbeliever, you will suffer the consequences, perhaps, for your rebellion in time, but you’ll also be judged for it at the Great White Throne Judgment for all eternity.
Rebel believers will have failure at the Judgment Seat of Christ, shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But they are still going to go to Heaven, because they trusted in Christ. Even though they’ve had a life of rebellion against God.
Spiritual rebels will be destroyed. They will be judged. There are going to be consequences, both in their lifetime as well as for eternity.
Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” And that’s just talking about the natural consequences of bad decisions. Then sometimes God comes along and says “Well, that’s just not enough, we’re going to intensify that a little bit. As you just haven’t been learning your lessons well.”
That’s when we move from just the normal consequences of bad decisions to when it’s divine discipline.
Third, we saw that arrogance is the original sin of Satan. It started in his heart. That’s what Ezekiel 28:15 tells us, until pride was discovered in your heart, in your thinking.
He is arrogant, he wants to be like God. He wants to rule over the angels. He wants to rule over the creation, he wants to be worshiped like God. That’s Isaiah 14:12–14.
So, arrogance is the original sin of Satan in which all human beings have followed because Satan enticed Eve, and then Eve enticed Adam, and Adam sinned, and “in Adam’s fall we sinned all,” as the old Puritan reader said.
Fourth, in the rebellions of both Absalom and Sheba we learn a few things. They first reject God before they reject David as king.
They reject God and then what’s the fallout from that? Once you reject God, even in a moment in time—okay, you’ve got a thirty-minute window when you let your rebellious nature go. The first thing you’re doing is you know it’s wrong, so you say, “I don’t care what God says, I am going to do this.” And then you know you’re in trouble.
First they rejected God. Then they rejected God’s plan for Israel which was David as the king over a united Israel.
God’s going to change His plan to a divided Israel after Solomon dies. But at this point. God’s plan was David as king and a united Israel.
They are following Lucifer in thinking that they had a right to the throne. Lucifer wanted the throne of God. They wanted the throne of David. At least Absalom wanted the throne of David. Sheba just wanted to go off with ten tribes and have his own throne.
Rebels, spiritual or political, base their position on lies. That shouldn’t surprise us.
In John 8 Jesus is in one of those head-to-head confrontations with the Pharisees. He says to these righteous, holy men, because they are the leaders. They are the most spiritually focused group in Israel at the time. They were part of the Hasidim, the holy ones.
John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.—Well, that was a real slap in the face, to say you are of your father the devil—he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth.”
So what happens? Satan is arrogant. Arrogance produces a self-deception, and it’s delusional. So, Satan is not living on the basis of truth, he is living in a lie.
What’s the old story? A neurotic builds castles in the air, and a psychotic moves in and pays rent to the psychiatrist.
That’s what happens. In sin we are neurotic. Freud just changed the language. Biblical language is you’re sinning, you are self-deluded. Psychosis is when you really believe your arrogant delusions.
So, the devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and he father of it.”
He is speaking out of his heart, and his heart is fallen, “he is a liar and the father of it.” He is a liar and the father of it.
The fifth thing that we learned in our study is that arrogance led to self-promotion. Absalom is promoting himself. Sheba is promoting himself. Self-promotion just strengthens self-deception. And arrogant delusions divorce us from reality.
When we really have that break from reality, they call it a psychotic break. But it’s a break from reality, a break from truth. It’s a break from objectiveness.
We have a whole country filled with people now out rioting, turning over statues. They are ignorant of history. They don’t know what they’re doing.
Last week there was talk that a group was going to try to topple that eighty-six-foot-tall statue of Sam Houston up by Huntsville. Why? If you’re concerned about black lives so was Sam Houston.
Sam Houston was against slavery. Sam Houston was the governor of Texas when they voted to secede and he voted against it. He argued to stop it. He did everything he could.
He thought that it was the worst decision in the world for Texas to secede from the union. And here they are. They are just willy-nilly doing that.
And they tried to tear down, or they did tear down, Frederick Douglass’ statue somewhere in Ohio. Frederick Douglass, who was an escaped slave. He was one of the most articulate voices of his time, as an escaped slave, for the abolition of slavery. It makes no sense.
When you are operating on arrogance you are living in the world of irrationalism, and it can’t be explained by logic at all. It divorces us from reality.
Six. In all of these cases, we see an appeal to human emotions rather than truth or facts. That’s what Absalom was doing. He is out there, “Oh, the king doesn’t really care about you, but I’ll take care of you.”
He makes them feel good. We have too much of that in pulpits today. You don’t want to make people feel bad, you just want to teach the Scripture. And any one of us who is honest will say, “I read the Scripture sometimes and I don’t feel too good about myself.” Because it exposes our failures, and our arrogance, and our sin. When emotion overrides reason and facts … and that’s where we are today.
You know, Pastor Thieme had a great phrase. I can’t tell you how many people in the last month have said that that just describes it, “the emotional revolt of the soul.”
We are seeing it. Just turn on the news, we are seeing it every single day and that’s what it is. Instead of thinking we are emoting. People have just lost all sense.
When emotion overrides reason and facts, the result is delusion. I said this last week.
I said this last week, truth, facts, do not care about our emotions. The teaching of Scripture doesn’t care about how you feel. Not once did Jesus sit down with the woman at the well and say, “Well, how do you feel about this thing?”
You can go through the Scriptures, not once does God come to Abraham, “Sit down, we can have dinner. How do you feel about things? It’s been awhile since I said anything to you, and you still don’t have that child. How do you feel about that?”
It’s not about how we feel, it’s about what we think. Over and over again it’s about changing our thinking, not our feelings.
Truth cares about what is biblically correct and what glorifies God, not what makes us feel good. Somebody ought to needlepoint that onto a pillow and start selling it.
Last time we looked, I changed it up a little bit, we looked at how do you evaluate something.
Here’s the evaluation, we are going to expand this later on. We talked about anything you’re evaluating—the claims of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Islam—any kind of polytheism, any kind of cult.
What do they think about God? The Bible says God is a personal, infinite God. He is righteous and just and He created everything. He is the ultimate authority. And He created everything and it was good. He created man. And He created mankind in the image of God, which means man is not an animal.
How many of y’all remember when you were in elementary school, that man is just another animal. Man is not an animal. Man is in the image of God. There may be some similarities but it’s not the similarities that matter. It’s the differences.
Just look at a man and a woman. As a man, you look at a woman, she has a lot of similarities to a man. But as Maurice Chevalier said in Gigi, “viva la difference.” That’s what makes the world go round. Love makes the world go around.
The problem is sin. We are corrupt, our heart is deceitful and wicked. The solution starts at the Cross, redemption. There we become a new creature in Christ. And then, by studying the Bible, we can change and start working on all of those aspects of sin in our life and dealing with the rebelliousness of our soul. History for the Christian is linear. The reason I’m saying this that we are going to take a look at Marxism.
Marxism is often said to be a Christian heresy. Have you ever heard that? Part of the reason is because every pagan view, other than a few, is cyclical.
Their view of history is just endless cycles. History repeats itself. No, it doesn’t. There are similarities, but history doesn’t repeat itself. It’s not identical.
But you get into Hinduism, Buddhism, you get this endless cycle. But Christianity is linear. God is taking us to a goal and a purpose, and it’s the Messianic Kingdom.
Marx borrowed that, perverted it. It’s directional and we are moving toward a worker’s paradise. He stole the kingdom idea and transformed it.
Causation for the Christian is Divine Providence. So, we just lined those things up, but we always have to start with God and His Word.
Last time we started off with Satan and his rebellion, and I’m going to take you through a quick panorama of rebels in Scripture.
It’s not long after the Fall, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they disobeyed God, they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And there’s a penalty.
There is spiritual death, and then there’s all kinds of consequences that are going to impact the animal kingdom. They impact the woman, they impact the man, they impact the serpent, they impact the ground.
Now it’s going to bring forth thorns, and so it’s going to be difficult for man to get food out of the ground. Because the ground is now going to fight it, and is going to bring forth thorns and thistles.
One reason that Jesus had a crown of thorns when He went to the Cross was because it is emblematic of the fact of the curse of sin. And He is going to bear the penalty of sin on the Cross.
So Adam and Eve suffer consequences. We are studying that under Divine Institution #1 on Thursday night—individual responsibility.
They have a child, the firstborn. Eve thinks this is the Promised Seed. She calls him Cain, I have acquired him from the Lord.
Cain didn’t turn out to be so hot. He gets jealous of his brother Abel, because Abel brings a better sacrifice. Better because he obeyed God and brought an animal sacrifice, and Cain brought sacrifice of his own produce from the ground.
He gets mad. And when he gets mad, God comes to him. How would you like it if you are getting ready to sin, and all of a sudden God showed up and had a little heart-to-heart with you every time? Well, that’s what happened with Cain.
Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?—in other words, your sacrifice will be accepted if you do the right thing— “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.”
The word for sin there is missing the mark. The picture here is of a ravenous creature crouching, ready to pounce and devour. That’s the word that shows up. It’s translated desire, but it has that idea of desiring to control, or to dominate. “And its desire is to control you.”
But God says to Cain, who is not a Church-Age believer, doesn’t have the Bible, doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, doesn’t have all these promises of God, and God says, “but you should rule over it.”
Isn’t that interesting? God tells Cain you’ve got to control your sin nature. This is what parents have to teach their children, to have self-discipline, control their sin nature. They can’t eradicate it, but they have to learn self-discipline. Otherwise, they are going to be antinomian rebels.
We know how things turned out. Cain killed Abel. Cain is kicked out of that area, and he has to go off. He founds a city, they start having children, Adam and Eve have other children, and civilization develops before the Flood.
Then God looks at civilization on the earth, and he says in Genesis 6:5, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
That’s the motivation of every thought, and that’s true from our sin nature. If we are not saved, the motivation of every thought is evil. “The intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Every intent, evil continually. It was bad. So, God brings judgment on the earth again. Every human being outside of Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives, are rebelling against the God who made them.
So, God brings judgment. Again and again we see rebels get judged.
Last week, as I was teaching on this, I got a couple questions.
Well, what about the Exodus event, was that a rebellion? What about the setting up of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was that a rebellion? I want to talk about that because that sets us up to the fact that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. This gives us a paradigm, a pattern, for looking at every situation in Scripture.
I drew this little chart today. In the upper left we have God as the absolute, ultimate authority. He has direct authority over people. He is our God. We obey Him. He is the ultimate authority.
Then we have an arrow pointing toward a crown in the middle representing the governmental authority. And we have a police badge, which represents the enforcement of those laws of the land, the criminal laws especially.
The police are the ones who help provide order and peace. We live in a time right now, we all know this, when there’s a lot of talk about needing to defund police.
That’s the worst thing we could possibly do, because police provide order. When the police are defunded, and you start having all of these hostile attitudes towards the police coming from their governing authority, which is the city government, or the county government, or the state government, how do you think they feel?
I know most of you know a few police officers. We’ve had a few in this congregation. I have known many different police officers over the course of my life. None of them are racist. In fact, in the last two or three weeks, month or so, I have talked to a number of law enforcement people who’ve gone through training. They are trained, and trained, and trained, to avoid any kind of semblance of racism.
In fact, in the black parts of town they try to always pair up, if they don’t have two black police officers together, they try to pair them up, a white and black or Hispanic and black.
They try to avoid all of this. Studies by Heather Mac Donald, and others who have looked through all the statistics that are provided by FBI and law enforcement, show that there is only a very small percentage of black citizens who are illegally shot by police officers. It’s extremely small.
I think two or three years ago there were like nineteen incidents in the whole year in 2017, or 2018. It’s very, very small. And yet, there is propaganda that’s been building.
Part of that, we’ll talk about this later, but part of that has resonance in the black community. Because it appears to many, and I trust them, I’ve known these men, they are good men, good pastors, that feel harassed at times. And there may be some police officers that do that, but they’re just a minority.
But when you start taking the few bad apples and paint with that wide brush, and make these generalizations about every police officer, then the end result is a destruction of respect for authority, respect for the enforcement of laws.
We are going to see what Scripture says about that in a minute.
So in this diagram we have God, we have people, we have delegated authority that goes through the crown, goes through the government of a nation, or a state, or county, or city, and then the enforcement of that.
The question that comes up is what happens when the crown, when the government, tells us to do something that is a contradiction to what God has told us? The solution that we see in Scripture is that we obey God instead of man when human authority contradicts God’s authority.
That is exactly what Peter and John said in Acts 5, as we’ll see.
But I want to quickly go through a couple of cases. In going through the Old Testament, we hit Exodus and we had a question about Exodus. So I just want to talk about this briefly.
In Exodus 1 we have the case of the midwives. These are the Hebrew midwives, and they are helping with the birth of the Hebrew children.
They are brought into Pharaoh and Pharaoh gives them a direct order.
What we have here in this scenario is that Pharaoh is going to tell the midwives that, “You need to kill every male baby.”
In the Ancient Near East males were the essence of national development. If you wipe out the males, you’ll wipe out the national identity. They are given that order, but they trust God. They are obedient to God.
In fact, in Exodus 1:17 we’re told, “But the midwives feared God.”
That’s an important term, they feared God. They were submissive to God’s authority, not Pharaoh’s authority. “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.”
Pharaoh said kill all the male babies. God said every life is valuable. Every life is precious. You don’t commit murder. So what are they going to do? They’re going to obey God rather than man because they fear the Lord.
In Exodus 1:21 we read, “And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.”
Twice we have this phrase related to fearing God, that’s their motivation for disobeying Pharaoh. And because that’s the reason they disobeyed Pharaoh, it’s not because they did what they wanted to do, but because they did what God wanted them to do, that He provided households for them.
He blessed them because they obeyed Him, rather than the immoral order from Pharaoh. That tells us right away that those in authority can give illegal orders, can give immoral orders, and that they can violate the law in the orders that they give.
When a believer is in that situation they have to obey the authority of God, not the authority of man.
A couple chapters later we have another example, where Moses comes in and tells Pharaoh “God says let my people go. You’ve got to let us go.” Pharaoh said, “No, not going to do it. God said, “Hmm, we’ll see.”
He took him through ten successive plagues. Horrible judgments that just devastated the whole culture, devastated the economy. And in the end, it destroyed the army of Egypt, the greatest power on the earth at that time. This isn’t a rebellion because the people didn’t leave until the Pharaoh said, “Please get out of here. Take them, go. I’m done with you” after the 10th plague.
So, they obeyed Pharaoh and they left. But they did it because God established that. God gave them the basis for doing that.
The problem we run into in setting up these kinds of situations where do we obey God, or do we obey man, is a misreading of many of the obedience passages in the New Testament.
We are going to get into that in just a minute. Option one is represented in history by the Stuart line of Kings, James I of England, who was previously James VI of Scotland. He’s the King James of the King James Bible. He’s the one who gave permission for that translation to be made.
His son Charles I, lost his head over the idea that he had a divine right to absolute authority.
So it’s usually set up this way. Here’s Option 1, the Divine right of kings: “Christians are required to submit blindly to every law (that’s the key, every law) and policy of the government.”
That when God says He ordained the authorities and we are to obey the authorities, that means you don’t question anything whatsoever. You have to obey everything. There are Christians who think that. That’s not right, that’s not what the Bible teaches.
Option 2, this is called the Fallacy of the excluded middle.
What that means is it sets things up as if there is only this option or that option, when there is actually another option.
God is in favor of orderly government. 1 Corinthians 14. God is a God of order. He established government. He authorized it in the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:1–9.
God is for government, not anarchy. He is not for tyranny. God hates disorder and chaos. Anarchy and tyranny are inherently against authority.
So, God despises anarchy. He despises tyranny. God established the institutions of government but does not approve of every government.
Because, according to this line of reasoning, there are governments that go over the line and are tyrannical. Therefore, opposition to tyranny, while holding to government, is permissible.
This is a fundamental principle that started being articulated, as we’ll see tonight if I get there, with Augustine who was the Bishop of Hippo.
He brought a lot of garbage into the church, we understand that. But this is where the line of thinking goes, and he was the first one to really clearly articulate a doctrine of just war.
“Just war” is just because of the overturning an evil monarch.
We see in another example Acts 4:19. There are a number of examples, of course, in Daniel, and I’m just not going to go through all of those different examples.
But before we skip there, I want to go over the case of the tax revolt in 1 Kings 11 and 12.
There we are told, it’s at the end of Solomon’s life, and there is a man who is a strong man. He’s considered a mighty man. He’s a warrior. He is adept, he has leadership qualities. He is a friend of Solomon’s. He is in Solomon’s administration.
He is on his way to Jerusalem when we get to 1 Kings 11:29. And we read, “It happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite— he’s from Shiloh which is where the tabernacle was for almost four hundred years—met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment—so he went to Neiman Marcus and bought a brand-new suit. And he comes out and he is dressed in a new robe.
He comes to Jeroboam and he says I want you to take this garment. I want you to tear it into 10 pieces, 1 Kings 11:31, “for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:—so he’s establishing that the authority comes from God—‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you.’ ”
This is not a rebellion because God is authorizing it. He is actually bringing a judgment on Israel by dividing it, because of their idolatry under Solomon, because of their rebellion against God.
In 1 Kings 11:40 Solomon got wind of this, “Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.”
Then, in 1 Kings 12:15, we read that after Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, became king and he didn’t listen to his elderly advisors. He imposed a heavy tax on all the people, and so the Northern Kingdom left, they split off. It was an act of separation.
Rehoboam attacks them, and there is a war. But the Southern Kingdom loses because God is behind it. God has authorized the establishment of a divided kingdom. Again, it’s not a rebellion. God is the one who’s telling them what to do.
We get to Acts 4 and we have a situation where Peter and John have been arrested because they’re preaching the gospel in the temple.
They are brought before the Sanhedrin and the Sanhedrin tells them, “We are going to release you, but you cannot talk about Jesus anymore. You cannot proclaim this message anymore. You have to keep your mouth shut.”
Acts 4:19–20, “But So 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.’ ”
They give them fair warning. They’re not being nasty. They’re not talking in an arrogant way. They are talking in a very humble way. They’re saying, “We have to do what God said to do. I’m sorry, we understand you don’t want us to say this, but we are going to have to speak the things that God told us to speak.”
In the intervening chapter they go out and preach the gospel. They are arrested and put in prison again.
Acts 5:18–20, “and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord—not the angel of the Lord, but an angel of the Lord—opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said—this is a divine mandate—‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’ ” Again, God is giving them direct revelation and that trumps everything else.
How would you like that? We see little taste of disorder and chaos around here. And right in the middle of what will turn into a riot, God tells you, “Go and speak what I tell you to speak, and give them the gospel.”
So they get arrested for that and then they are brought before the Sanhedrin. That’s the word council there, the Sanhedrin.
Acts 5:27–29, “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?—Didn’t we tell you not to do this?—And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!’ But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’ ”
The result of this was that the Sanhedrin got angry. They are furious, they plotted to kill them.
Acts 5:40, “… and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus ….”
But what did the apostles do?
Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Messiah.”
What we see here is, when God tells us to do something, and then the civil government, or any authority, tells us to do something or not to do something that God has instructed us on, then we obey God rather than man. But we do it in a kind, gracious, gentle way. It is not to be done out of any anger. It is not to be done out of any sense of vengeance, or bitterness, or retribution.
No mental attitude sins, but to be relaxed and do exactly what God said to do. I think this is a pattern for every act when we disagree with the government. We have to act in a very humble way.
Sometimes it’s difficult. I know nobody here in the congregation has ever said a bad word about anybody in government authority. We won’t name any names. But we are not supposed to do that.
I’ve had to try really hard. I just can’t say those things that come to my mind when I’m going to talk about different government officials. As a believer, that is not to characterize us at all.
The reason given Romans 13.
I’m just going to go through these, hit a few hotspots, we’ve talked about this many times. Romans 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to governing authorities.”
“Every” means there is no exception. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, doesn’t matter what country you’re a citizen of. It does not matter whether you are male or female. Every soul, every believer, is to be subject to governing authorities.
“For there is no authority except from God …” Some people say, “It wasn’t bad! Of course, Paul could say that.” No, it was bad. Nero was the emperor and he was crazy. He was a homicidal maniac. He is the emperor. God is allowing him, in His permissive will, to be the ruler of the Roman Empire for a reason.
That means there are times when people we think are idiots, inexperienced fools, who are in positions of authority, and we have to say, “Well, that’s God’s permissive will. We are getting the leader that God wants us to have.”
So, we are going to have to learn a little humility while they’re in authority.”
“For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
That doesn’t mean that that authority tells me to do something God tells me not to do, that I’m to obey them. But if they are telling me to do legitimate things, then I have to do it.
If they are telling me to do something, or not to do something, that is not addressed by the Word of God, then I have to do it.
Romans 13:2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God …”
In our country we have the right to assemble, we have the right to protest. We have the right to demonstrate. But I don’t think that’s what a believer should do.
We should be involved in government, we should be talking to our representatives. We should be calling them, writing them, letting our voice be heard. But the way to do that, I do not think, is by getting out on the streets and marching. Especially in an environment were too many people are fueling anger, and fueling resentment, and fueling bitterness.
We have seen what’s happened. In one sense it doesn’t matter what started this because we know where these things go. There are forces, and organizations, and people, who want chaos in this country.
It’s easy for them to slip, and they have slipped a lot of people in, who create further chaos. So, a believer has to live according to a higher standard.
Romans 13:3, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”
Show respect. Treat them with respect, and trust God to handle the situation.
In Romans 13:4, “for he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil …”
He is talking about Nero. Nero later starts burning Christians as torches to light the streets in Rome. He’s not talking about a good administration. He’s talking about one of the most evil administrations in history.
“For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain …”
The sword in Scripture, you go back to the Garden of Eden, the first time the sword is mentioned. Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden. They are expelled from the Garden and God sets up a guard. He sets up a troop of cherubs around the Garden with swords, flaming swords. It’s the ability to take life legitimately. That’s what that means, that government authority has the right to carry weapons, and to take life.
That is a heavy burden for a law enforcement officer. There’s a bad apple in every bunch. There are bad pastors, a lot of bad pastors. There are bad police officers. There are bad black people, bad white people, bad Asians. Everybody’s bad. We are corrupt and there are some who try to get away with it. But they’re the exception, they’re not the rule.
“He is God’s minister, and avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”
Romans 13:5–7, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes—submission to authority. Taxation is legitimate, not tyrannical taxation, but taxation—for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Slides 31 and 32
Paul says the same thing in 1 Peter 2:13–16, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God.”
How many people go around saying, “I want know what God what wants me to do.” Well, this is what God says to do. To show respect, “submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
You are doing it for the Lord, not for yourself. “or to governors, as to those sent.” “This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
He says exactly what Paul says in Romans 13. Some people try to make an issue of the fact that when Paul wrote Romans 13, it was probably earlier in Nero’s reign, and he wasn’t as bad as he got later, but he was still bad.
But in 1 Peter it’s at the end of Nero’s reign when he was so divorced from reality, and he was really bad and really evil.
“as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.”
You don’t use your liberty, even though you can do something, it may be permitted under the Constitution, doesn’t mean you should do it. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And that goes for the Christian life as well. That’s where you get into the law of doubtful things, which is another topic.
Just because you can eat meat that’s been sacrificed to idols, does that mean you should? It’s not a sin, but does that mean you should?
Okay, I want to wrap this up in about five minutes, so we will fly low.
We are going to go back in history. We are going to go back to the Reformation.
The foundation for understanding these issues about a legitimate rebellion against an authority, or just resistance to authority, is laid out in a document called The Magdeburg Confession. It is also known as the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate.
Last week I told you that I talked to Mark Hall, who wrote this book on the founding of America, is it Christian? Did America Have a Christian Founding?: Separating Modern Myth from Historical Truth.
We talked about the American War for Independence. He’s working on a book on that topic right now. He brought this up. He said the idea of the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate is really the foundation. And it was part of most Reformed Theology, reformed confessions of faith, coming out of the Protestant Reformation. And I said, “Well, that’s like The Magdeburg Confession.” He was not familiar with this.
So, I’m going to run you through this little bit of history. October 31, 1517 is Reformation Day. That is when Martin Luther, who was an Augustinian monk—as an Augustinian monk he had studied Augustine’s theology, much to his detriment. But, he understood the just war issue. That’s background.
Luther nails his 95 Theses—that’s discussion points, debating points—to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. What we know about this is that the church doors are like the neighborhood bulletin board. And if you wanted to have a public debate over some significant issue, then you would put this up on the bulletin board.
He called for public debate and that was in 1517. This began a break with the Roman Catholic Church. But remember this, that was not his intent. He did not want to start another spinoff.
Outside of the Orthodox Church in the East that broke off, there had never been a spinoff. There was just the Roman Catholic Church. He had no idea, he had no desire to cause a split.
He wanted to reform a very, very corrupt papacy and he wasn’t the only one who was pointing out how corrupt it was. So, he nails these 95 debate points to the church door.
Four years later, in 1521, he is tried by Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. I always remember this, it wasn’t holy, it wasn’t Roman, and it wasn’t an empire. But they did have authority over much of what we call Europe today.
Charles V issued a decree on May 25, 1521 called The Edict of Wörms.
This is an empire-wide law. It declared in part, “For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said Martin Luther.”
If you look at it, you better be scowling.
“On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.”
Luther is not arrested because he was protected by Prince Frederick III of Saxony. Remember, at this time Germany was just a lot of different smaller countries under different rulers. So, Prince Frederick III of Saxony protects him.
This is when you get the development of The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate. It basically means that when a higher authority enacts an unjust law, then a lower authority has the right and the responsibility to interpose himself between the higher authority and the citizen to protect the citizen from an unjust law.
That means that if the governor of Texas were to propose an unjust law, the county sheriff can step in and prevent its application and enforcement in the county.
That is true. That is a lot of power given to county sheriffs under the law. The lesser authority can block an unjust law. A lot of application came from this.
What happens then is that in 1531, some ten years later, the town of Magdeburg joins a group of other towns called the Schmalkaldic League. Charles had never been able to enforce the Edict of Wörms.
In 1530, after a meeting of princes of the Holy Roman Empire in Augsburg, Germany, they attempted to unify Christianity in light of the fact that—I know you won’t believe this—the Moslems were getting ready to invade Europe once again.
They wanted to unify everybody because of this threat of an Islamic invasion. An uneasy peace developed, but fearing that Charles might use military force at this time to finally enforce the Edict of Wörms, Luther wrote a pamphlet called “A Warning to His Dear German People,” which was published in 1531.
It had three parts. The Magdeburg Confession was modeled after Luther’s warning, and it also contained three parts.
So, in 1531 the Schmalkaldic League is formed by Prince Philip of Hesse, and Prince John Frederick I of Saxony—the two most powerful Protestant rulers at the time. Their whole purpose is to protect the Protestants.
Luther died 15 years later, in 1546.
Charles did not move quickly. He waited three years and then he imposed a law called the Augsburg Interim, which demanded several things.
First of all, Lutherans were to restore the number of sacraments. Lutherans had reduced the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church to two: baptism and the Lord’s Table. But they were going to have to restore all seven. The churches had to restore a number of the Roman Catholic ceremonies, doctrines, and practices.
And the decree also called for these churches to reject completely the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It required them to accept the authority of the Pope as the head of the church, and to again receive the authority of the Roman bishop.
In concession to the Lutherans, they had a number of things that they went along with.
But what happened is that, and this is part of it, four months after Luther’s death, Charles V entered into a treaty [with Pope Paul III] and he said, “… his Imperial Majesty should prepare himself for war, … against those who objected to the Council [of Trent], against the Schmalkaldic League, and against all who were addicted to the false belief and error in Germany …”
How would you like to live in Germany as a Protestant at this time? Talk about chaos. Talk about uncertainty.
He is basically declaring war against the Schmalkaldic League and they are defeated in battle. Philip of Hesse and John Frederick of Saxony are imprisoned, and it looks like it’s all over with.
All of the towns start to go along with the Augsburg Interim, and this would end the Protestant Reformation.
The only city to stand against the Emperor was Magdeburg. They put together this document called The Magdeburg Confession.
It states, “When a higher or superior authority makes an unjust or immoral law or decrees, the lower (lesser) authority in government has the right—even the duty in the sight of God—to interpose against that immoral law or decree, to refuse obedience to the immoral law or decree, and if need be, to openly resist the unjust or immoral law or decree made by the higher authority.”
And they stated that “the idea of unlimited obedience to the state is an invention of the Devil.”
“When the state makes laws, commanding us to do that which God forbids, or makes law forbidding us to do that which God commands, we obey God, rather than the state.”
Sounds biblical doesn’t it? They really thought it through.
“… whether a Christian magistrate can or ought to preserve his State and the Christian teachers and hearers in it against his own superior magistrate, and drive off by force one who is using force to compel people to reject the true doctrine and true worship of God and to accept idolatry.”
And they have a warning.
“… Even good men are sometimes carnally impatient of injuries, and can badly abuse opinions that have been rightly handed down to them …”
We recognize police officers, governors, everybody has a sin nature. They can do wrong things. We have to be on guard here.
Skips slides 49, 50
I’m going to skip over some of this. They did not invent this. They didn’t come up with this on their own. It had been part of Christianity for hundreds of years.
Thomas Aquinas, in his classic work on the Summa Theologiae, which is the Sum of Theology, a classic, impressive work writes in Volume II, Part II, question 42 the same thing. I’ll go over this next time.
But he says the same thing, that the Christian has the right to resist a tyrant.
Look at the last line, “Therefore, there can be sedition without mortal sin.”
Skipped slide 52
This he sets forth, but he didn’t start with him. Look, he quotes Augustine from the De civitate Dei, The City of God, in ii, 21, the same argument. It’s a “just war” argument.
There were a number of others. For example, John of Salisbury, one of the founders of Oxford in the 12th century, articulates the same thing.
So, this is the foundation. What’s the question we are trying to answer—was the American War for Independence rebellion or war for independence?
Understanding “just war” theory is what’s critical to be able to answer that. And so next time we are going to come back and talk about that.
I got out on the Internet and did a lot of searches and there are so many people who were saying that Antifa and Black Lives Matter are comparable to the patriots at Bunker Hill, and Massachusetts, and Valley Forge. And this is the same kind of thing that was done.
So we are asking, very objectively, is that the same kind of thing that was done? Or is there a difference?
As we always say, we have to go back to the Bible and understand what the Bible teaches, and how the people in 1776 understood the Bible, and were they right?
We will continue this next time.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things. To understand our history a little better, understand the development of ideas a little better, and understand the truth of Scripture.
“That we are to submit to Your authority. We are to submit to the authorities You set up over us. Whether it’s in the family, in school, at work, or in relation government—that we are to be an example.
“We are to be a light, we are to be a demonstration of humility. And even when we are, if necessary, disobedient, we must do so with respect.
“Father we know we don’t always do a good job at that, we have sin natures. But that’s the focal point we need, to be grace oriented just as You are grace oriented.
“Always You extend grace to your enemies, and we are to follow that example. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”