Why We Believe Defiance to Tyranny is Obedience to God

A small understanding of world history is all you need in order to know that men are capable of acting like a tyrants after gaining power. In the middle of the 1st Century, for a period of about 15 years, Nero was the "Caesar" of Rome. Nero was well known for being a tyrant, to say the least. He was also well known for persecuting Christians. Many post-millennials believe that Nero was the beast (or Anti-Christ) described in Revelation 13. Regardless of your perspective on eschatology (the study of end times), it is safe to believe that Nero was a man who thought he was worthy of worship. You might be familiar with the phrase "Kaiser Kurios". This was the phrase that Roman citizens used commonly in reference to their support for Nero. It means "Caesar is Lord." Nero did not persecute Christians because they worshiped Jesus. Roman citizens were known for worshiping many idols and false gods. Nero persecuted Christians because they would not say "Caesar is Lord."

Tyrants demand worship


In a recent sermon, Pastor Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church made an excellent argument for why Christians ought to disobey tyrants. To summarize briefly, tyrants tend to demand worship. Since God demands our obedience to Him above all other authorities (Acts 5:29), it should be clear that we must disobey anyone else who seeks our worship (Exodus 20:3). We must not obey the government when they command what God forbids or forbid what God commands. While many Pastors preach the idea that Romans 13:1 gives governing authorities full authority of every aspect of life (i.e., the divine right of kings), the truth is that God has divided authority into three units. The Church, the family, and the government are the three institutions that God has established. Each of these institutions have their own jurisdiction. For example, the government does not have the authority to limit preaching or worship. Those things are under the jurisdiction of the Church. Pastors and Elders are the authorities for the Church. Parents are the authorities for the family. Kings and Governors are the authorities for correcting evil and bearing the sword, when necessary.


The idea of biblical jurisdiction is captured well in the First Amendment of the Constitution... Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; It literally means that Congress cannot make a law to establish a state church. The First Amendment was written with the thought of preserving religious freedom to worship the Lord, in part. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson meant by "wall of separation" when he replied to the Danbury Baptists, after they asked him if the Federal Government would establish a state religion. Of course, by "wall of separation", Jefferson meant the government does not have jurisdiction over the Church, not the other way around. This is the true meaning of the separation of church and state.


Our worship belongs to God


If the state does not recognize God Almighty as the ultimate, then the state will attempt to claim His authority. Nebuchadnezzar said, I will liken myself to the Most High. Consider other tyrants from more recent history, such as Mao Zedong, Vladamir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, or Hitler. Each of these men considered themselves divine, at least to some degree. Each of them ruled in complete disobedience to God. Each of them consistently disobeyed God's commands and each of them failed to rule in a manner consistent with Romans 13:4(a), which declares, for he is God's servant for your good. Yes, the Lord established governing authorities for our good, and not for evil. We must not mistake the fact that God can use evil to His glory, for approval of evil by God. God hates evil! And so should we!


Defiance to tyranny is a Biblical principle. We ought to be reminded of the Hebrew midwives, who disobeyed Pharaoh when he ordered them to kill male babies (Exodus 1). We should consider Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who did not bow to Nebuchadnezzar's golden image (Daniel 3) because they refused to bow to anyone but God. In the Book of Acts, both Paul and Peter disobeyed authorities when they were confronted for preaching about Jesus. And there are many more examples of followers of Christ who have disobeyed tyrants in order to obey God. Our God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24)! He requires that we would not have any other gods before Him. If we truly love Him, we will choose to obey Him (John 14:15). If we are going to choose to obey Him, then we must choose to disobey tyrants who desire that we worship them instead.


Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God - Benjamin Franklin

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