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Obedience and Submission; healing principles.
OBEDIENCE and submission are the healing principles of humanity. How constantly they were exemplified in the life of our Saviour! Through grace we are taught of God to bow. I do not say "to approve" always, but to respect divinely constituted authority in its place, in reverence toward HIM who gave it, while waiting patiently on the Lord, if He sees an abuse of authority, to correct the one at fault in His own time and way. "All power is given unto" HIM "in heaven and in earth."
In the Word, the delegation of authority is revealed in at least five aspects, namely: to the husband, to the father, to the "powers that be," to the master, and to the assembly.
The Husband's Authority
The formal _expression of the husband's authority was made to Adam's wife immediately after the fall. It was revealed to the one who was to be in the subject place. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
Will any husband be bold enough to assert that he has never abused his authority as husband? I'm sure not. Did not the Spirit of God foresee that Christian husbands would often fail in their exercise of authority, when He indited these pointed words, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them"? Col. 3:19. When does the God-given authority of a husband over a wife cease? When he fails in the exercise of it? No! Only when death intervenes is she loosed from the law of her husband. What is the divine remedy prescribed by the Lord for our wives when we have abused our authority? SUBMISSION! (Eph. 5:22-33.) That heals! Insubjection leads to a divorce court.
The Father's Authority
The father's authority is supplementary to a husband's, and combined with it invests a man with authority as the head of a house. Its existence is assumed and its exercise is clearly portrayed from the early chapters of Genesis on to the time of the giving of the law (Exodus 20). Then children were formally commanded to honor their father and their mother (she being viewed as one with the father in their joint care of their children). This in itself implies subjection, which is enjoined on the children of Christian parents (and on other children, too, who read or hear God's Word). "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord." Col. 3:20.
What is the divine remedy prescribed by the Lord for our children when we have abused our authority?
Is any father bold enough to assert that he has never abused his authority as a father? I'm sure not. Did not the Spirit of God foresee that Christian fathers would often fail in their exercise of authority, when He caused these searching words to be written, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged"? Col. 3:21. When does the God-given authority of a father over his children cease? When he fails in the exercise of it? No, only when the children leave father and mother to take up new relationships owned of God in nature. What is the divine remedy prescribed by the Lord for our children when we have abused our authority? SUBMISSION! "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence. . . . They verily . . . chastened us after their own pleasure." Heb. 12:9,10. Insubjection is a moral characteristic of the "last days," as it is written, "Disobedient to parents." 2 Tim. 3:2.
The Authority of the "Powers that Be"
Authority to deal with violence against the life of man, is found in Genesis 9:6: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." God-given authority to punish the greatest violence done to one's fellow man includes authority to deal with all lesser acts of lawlessness. With the advent of Christianity, it became necessary to define the obligations of believers in this world, a people taken out from among the Jews and the Gentiles for God's name, toward the "powers that be." Toward the civil authorities, what was the responsibility of a people who had been made partakers of a heavenly calling, whose associations of life were in heaven, and whose walk in this world (in the thoughts of God) was to be a living _expression of that calling? Romans 13:1-7 gives us this instruction (note that it is the subject party that is addressed): "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." In Titus 3:1, the charge is reiterated: "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates", and again in 1 Peter 2:13: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake."
What is to be our attitude when an abuse of God-given authority of this character takes place and we are the ones who suffer wrongfully? To take an extreme case (which, for the principle at stake, embraces all others), suppose that I am arrested by a man in a policeman's uniform whose badge of authority and whose warrant for my arrest are not to my certain knowledge bona fide; furthermore, he is partially intoxicated. I am absolutely innocent of the alleged crime. What shall I do? Shall I remind him that he is drunk? Shall I tell him that I do not feel obliged to obey his summons inasmuch as I am not sure that he really represents his professed jurisdiction? Shall I plead my innocence? No, I am to SUBMIT, leaving the policeman with his full responsibility toward his superiors to answer for himself, committing my own case into the hands of the judge. Surely none of us has any difficulty as to what the real character of authority is under conditions such as this, nor as to the rightness of submitting to the authority.
The Master's Authority
Sin had not been long in the world until an abnormal relationship developed: that of slavery, men with their wives and children becoming the property of masters, who did with them as they pleased. In the wisdom of a sovereign God He permitted this abnormal relationship to continue to subsist. Abram had no less than 318 menservants alone, "born in his own house." Gen. 14:14. It is not recorded in Scripture that the Lord said anything to him about setting them at liberty. The law (Ex. 21) recognized the condition of bondslavery, making a provision for the slave bought with money to go out free in the seventh year by himself, which was seldom the case.
The very place of subjection has been glorified by our Lord Himself, who "took upon Him the form of a servant."
Under grace, the same condition of slavery is taken cognizance of, but not set aside. Considering, however, the difficulties encountered by a Christian slave seeking to reconcile the will of God with that of a heathen master, if opportunity to obtain his freedom presented itself, he was to take advantage of it (1 Cor. 7:21), but this also was seldom the case. Christian bondmen, therefore, have a more numerous list of instructions addressed to them than are given to any other persons placed by God in the position of subjection.
From the instructions given to bondslaves, we see how fully we should recognize and respect a master's authority. While not bondslaves, most of us in our employment are in the servant position to our employers. How profitable these instructions are for our own souls because of the divine principles they set forth! "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive." Eph. 6:5-8. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh." Col. 3:22-25. "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit." 1 Tim. 6:1,2. "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Tit. 2:9,10. "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. . . . Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." 1 Pet. 2:18-23. How clearly and blessedly these scriptures indicate that glory redounds to God through whole-hearted submission by those in the most trying relationship of all in this world, that of bondslaves! Indeed, the very place of subjection has been glorified by our Lord Himself, who "took upon Him the form of a servant." Phil. 2:7.
Truly, are not obedience and submission the healing principles of humanity? Obedience to the revealed will of God results in submission to divinely recognized authority. A subject wife wins a disobedient husband by her chaste conversation coupled with fear! (1 Pet. 3:1,2.) A subject Child has His ministry interrupted, so to speak, by "His parents" (Luke 2:41) who did not know that He must do His Father's business, but He "went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them"! Luke 2:51. A subject Christian apostle, captive and sport of the "powers that be," styles himself the "prisoner of the Lord"! Eph. 4:1. He thus had a door opened to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God to Agrippa and to Nero, whose abuse of their God-given authority is overruled of God in sovereign goodness to spread the truth abroad! "The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." 2 Tim. 4:17. A subject Christian servant endures grief, suffering wrongfully (1 Pet. 2:19). He thus commends Christ to a froward master and has the joy of communion in his own soul with the blessed One in whose footsteps he walks!
Authority Vested in the Assembly
As I have already stated, the delegation of authority by God presupposes the activity of the evil nature in fallen man in its manifold forms of _expression. Galatians 5:19-21 gives us an appalling list of things which each of us not walking in the Spirit is capable of doing! "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, angers, contentions, disputes, schools of opinion, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revels, and things like these; as to which I tell you beforehand, even as I also have said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom." (JND.) Therefore (even though we are a new creation in Christ and members in particular of the one body of Christ, vitally united by one Spirit to Him our living Head in heaven), the ever-present capability in us, individually and collectively, of giving way to the lusts of the flesh when out of communion with the Lord, makes it necessary for the Christ, as "Son over His own house" (Heb. 3:6), to make the assembly responsible for its behavior as "the house of God" (1 Tim. 3:15) here on earth. Accordingly He invested the assembly (in its local _expression) with authority to deal with "whatsoever" it judged to be inconsistent with its position as representative of Christ in this world.
An immense responsibility was thus placed upon the assembly as a responsible body! Where, in the various forms of delegated authority previously considered, whether to the husband, father, civil authority or master, do we find so solemn and so sweeping an investiture of divinely constituted authority as the Lord enunciates here? Indeed, in the former cases, the authority is assumed to be operative, and those subject to it are addressed. Wives, children, saints, and servants are acquainted with, or reminded of, their respective places of subjection. But now there is to be a new thing on earth, a church, one with Christ its Head! And through the local _expression of it, divine title is given to exercise authority.
The Lord, prefacing with His solemn "verily" this irrefutable grant to the assembly, defines its scope and character: "Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matt. 18:18. He that challenges the authority vested thus in the saints gathered together (be they only two or three) by the Spirit of God unto Christ's name, challenges the LORD HIMSELF, for HE is in the midst of them!
Binding and Loosing
The objection has often been raised that to hold that the Lord binds in heaven an unrighteous act bound on earth is sheer popery. Such an objection arises, I believe, because the nature of authority is not understood. Delegated authority (in this case from the Lord to the local assembly) is confounded with infallibility. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Binding, or loosing, in heaven does not in itself mean approving. Had the blessed Lord meant "Whatsoever ye shall bind or loose shall be approved in heaven," He would have said so, but He did not!
We naturally like to set aside authority in order to gratify a course of self-will and insubjection
Let us look at a scripture which gives us the principle involved in the Lord's binding of an unrighteous act (not approving it); it also shows us the profitable use to which He turns all in His divine sovereignty! "And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee . . . the Lord judge between me and thee. But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. . . . And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me." Gen. 16: 5-9,13. This is the first occurrence of the word "submit" in the Scriptures! Was Sarai's act a righteous one? No. Did the Lord set her act aside and her authority with it? He did not; He bound it! Hagar is addressed by the Lord (for verse 13 shows us who the angel in reality was!) as "Sarai's maid" at a time when she had disowned that claim under persecution. She is told to return to her mistress, and to submit herself under her hands, by the Lord Himself!
Was the Lord unrighteous in this? Of course not! But appearances are against Him, as they often are in this present evil world where the self-will of ungodly men and (sad to say) of saints themselves expresses itself. If we are walking according to man (1 Cor. 3:3), we might think thus: "How can the Lord be Himself, be righteous, be the God of light in whom is no darkness at all, and yet compel poor Hagar to submit to Sarai's harsh actions?" But "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord." Isa. 55:8. As to Sarai, the Lord brings about a disciplinary action for the good of her soul (He ever acts in sovereign goodness!) by means of the submissive action of Hagar which placed her again in the presence of Sarai, thus daily affording Sarai a reminder that she had brought all the sorrow in this situation upon herself by her own act of unbelief in the first place. (Gen. 16:3.) What a chastening of soul, certainly not joyous, this was for Sarai! Do we not plainly see in all this that the Lord knew how to discipline Sarai without for one moment setting aside her authority to "guide the house" (1 Tim. 5:14) as mistress there? But we naturally like (and are little aware how far the evil propensity is allowed in us) to set aside authority in order to gratify a course of self-will and insubjection.
Please bear with me while I refer again to other familiar scriptures which also give the principle of the Lord's binding an overbearing act, not approving it, also using it in His ways with His people as a judgment of their state; all of this too is in connection with the preservation of a testimony by the Lord Himself to that which He had set up, and as to which He said through the prophet Ahijah, "That David My servant may have a light alway before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen Me to put My name there." 1 Kings 11:36. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable
for instruction in righteousness:
that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Tim. 3:16,17.
The Lord's Dealings with Failure
In the history of the Lord's dealings with His earthly people (and surely we are agreed that God's moral principles never change), while sovereignly maintaining "a light alway before [Him] in Jerusalem," I believe that we should discern that the Lord acted on the principle of Matthew 18:18 long before He ever enunciated it for the maintenance of a heavenly testimony in this dispensation. Let us look at this history briefly. In 1 Kings 11:1-10, we have the saddening account of the departure of heart of the wisest man on earth, King Solomon, from the Lord. In verse 33, the apostasy of the tribes of Israel is also disclosed. The Church, too, has long since left its first love (Rev. 2:4). Furthermore, those whom God mercifully delivered from spiritual Babylon a few generations back, and to whom He recovered "all the counsel of God," have alas! also left their first love. The Lord personally tells Solomon (vv. 11-13) that his kingdom is to be divided, only one tribe being spared for David His servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which He had chosen. The Lord, through Paul, has warned the Church most solemnly that His discriminating judgments would sift the saints on the earth: "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 1 Cor. 11:18,19. But in Revelation 3:7-13, He marks out a spared remnant, for it is Himself that keeps the door opened! For the sake of David, the man after God's own heart, and for the sake of Jerusalem which He had chosen as His divine, earthly center, the Lord spared a tribe in Israel. For Jesus' sake, for the sake of Him who has bought the Church with His own blood, and for the sake of a little corporate testimony to and _expression of the one body (of which He is the Head) on earth, the Lord will sovereignly spare twos and threes gathered to His name. In either case, it is sovereign grace acting for itself and for the glory of Christ (Jehovah of the Old Testament). It is not on the ground of human merit, for on that basis all was lost in Israel and has been in the Church.
Why have saints gone into division in every generation? They have not had the person of Christ . . . in power before their souls!
The Lord then told Jeroboam, by the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29-38) that he was to get ten tribes; He told him why, "Because that they have forsaken Me." v. 33. Nevertheless, in His sovereignty He preserved a tribe, twice repeating what in substance He had already told King Solomon, namely, that Rehoboam should have one tribe for David His servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which He had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. The Lord plainly informed all parties concerned that He was about to bring a judgment of scattering upon Israel and upon its king, but that He would sovereignly maintain a testimony for Himself nevertheless!
How was the Lord's judgment executed? But more important still, on what principle does the tribe act which is sovereignly preserved? We have the account in 1 Kings 12:1-24. Rehoboam rashly wielded his newly acquired authority as "the power," as the king of all Israel, and boasted before the people of the oppressions he would impose. His abuse of his divinely constituted authority directly resulted in the rebellion of the ten tribes. But this manifested (what God knew beforehand, namely) the state of their hearts! They had not valued David! This state was not a new one; it was there in the bud when David returned to Jerusalem after the death of Absalom. See 2 Samuel 19:41 to 20:2. The person of him who was a man after God's own heart was nothing to them. Notice that the ten tribes said nothing about Rehoboam, but this: "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David." 1 Kings 12:16.
Why have saints gone into division in every generation (for God sifts His people) since the truth was recovered to them and acted upon over a century ago? They have not rightly valued the true David! They have not had the person of Christ, the Head of the Church, which is His body, in power before their souls! They have not held the Head (Col. 2:19). In consequence (as with the ten tribes of Israel) the Lord in His discipline has His instrument ready, and when He allows that which crosses their will to develop into a trial of testing, these saints have found a man ready to lead them away, and to keep them away, from the true Center which they have left, Christ in the midst of those gathered unto His name; a Man whom God has marked out beforehand to those who really own the Lord in the midst and bow to His authority.
Did the Lord set aside the authority of Rehoboam now that he had abused it? No! 1 Kings 12:23, makes that plain. "Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people."
On what principle was Judah (and little Benjamin reckoned with it) preserved from abandonment of the divine center in Jerusalem, where the Lord's name had been placed? On the simple principle, or principles, of obedience and submission. They saw through Rehoboam the king and beyond to Jehovah the God of Israel! In obedience to Him they submitted to the unrighteous act of the king. "But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them." v. 17. "There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only." v. 20. By bowing under Rehoboam's unrighteous exercise of his authority, they remained on divine ground. They cherished the place which the Lord had chosen to put His name there, the place where the ark was and where He dwelt between the cherubim! "There am I in the midst of them." The principle on which Judah acted, then, was the principle of submission to an unrighteous act committed by the man invested with regal authority by God at His true center on earth.
How, then, did the Lord in His governmental ways deal with Rehoboam? Did he reap what he had sown? Indeed he did! A very casual reading of his history shows that he was in continual trouble, from within and from without. "And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days." 1 Kings 14:30. "And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the Lord." 2 Chron. 12:2. Does not this show that the Lord knows how to discipline a king without for one moment setting aside his authority? Moreover, since the divinely chosen center of worship was at the same place as the king's seat of government, is it not highly significant that the Lord's determined maintenance of the place which He had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His name there is carefully mentioned right in the middle of the summary of Rehoboam's history? "Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign . . . in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess." 1 Kings 14:21. (See also 2 Chron. 12:13.)
"The Lord uses our brethren to heat the furnace in which He tries our faith."
The Lord does not abrogate or negate divinely constituted authority because of abuse, and that in the very place which He has chosen to place His name there (to use Old Testament language), "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (to use New Testament language). Questions like these bring matters to a focal point. The Lord's "whatsoever" of Matthew 18:18 is no new principle with Him, but the very one He has always acted upon (both as the bestower and maintainer of authority, and also as subject to authority in the "days of His flesh").
The blessed Lord of all (Acts 10:36), "both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2), submitted when one of His creatures who possessed divinely constituted authority as a ruler in this world wickedly wielded that very power against Him, the "Lord of glory"! 1 Cor. 2:8. Please read John 19:10,11. While telling Pilate where his grant of authority originated, that its origin was from above, the Lord Jesus submits to its wrong use, committing His cause to Him that judgeth righteously! Are we not told in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ has left us an example, that we should follow His steps? What better opportunity than when under discipline from our brethren? It has often been quoted: "The Lord uses our brethren to heat the furnace in which He tries our faith."
Submission and Restoration
As to restoration of some individuals, however, to the divine Center of gathering, we notice the following in the history of the ten tribes: "And after them, out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel" (not of Judah merely, note!) "came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers." 2 Chron. 11:16. This is restoration after a divine sort, as also a later one in Hezekiah's day, long after the division had taken place in Israel; Hezekiah "sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel. . . . So the posts passed from city to city, through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem. . . . So there was great joy in Jerusalem." 2 Chron. 30. Thus the Lord graciously used Hezekiah's faithful letters of entreaty, words of "grace, seasoned with salt," to recover individuals to His true and only center of worship at Jerusalem, where Jehovah Himself dwelt between the cherubim. May the Lord graciously grant a like recovery with individuals in this our day of weakness!
By weakness and defeat
He won the meed and crown,
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.
Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,
Slain in His victory;
Who lived, who died, who lives again --
For thee, His church, for thee!
While we chafe under the flesh intruding into the disciplinary acts of an assembly which has divine authority, do we forget that the flesh may also act in an individual, who does not have authority?
I believe that at the bottom there is always a measure of unbelief along with insubjection. We do not believe the grand truth that
"God is for us."
In the wisdom of God He deigns to use our very failures as a means of chastening (which for the present does not seem joyous, but grievous) to some of His dear children who are the objects of assembly discipline. And is not this one of the ways in which He makes manifest the hidden state of our hearts? Here in the wilderness He brings out, for both ourselves and others to discover, whether we are really "meek and lowly in heart," or unbroken in will. Submission, and obedience to God in it, are what He looks for. Another has written as follows:
"Circumstances would not trouble if they did not find something in us contrary to God; they would rustle by as the wind.
"Until the will has been crushed in the presence of the majesty of God, there cannot be a right state before God."
I believe that at the bottom there is always a measure of unbelief along with insubjection. We do not believe the grand truth that "God is for us," ready and able, if He sees fit, to vindicate us Himself, if we have been in any way wronged by individuals or assemblies. In general, however, instead of ordering circumstances to vindicate us, He lets us suffer wrongfully. Later on, when we have grasped the lesson He is teaching, we discover that He has vindicated Himself, though through the instrumentality of the very ones who wronged us!
"Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight" was the heart-language of the Lord Jesus when everything was going against Him here. He was content to commit His cause to Him that judgeth righteously, never lifting a finger to vindicate Himself! Are we?
The Lord pledges His keeping power (Rev. 3:10) to those who keep the word of His patience. To seek to hold fast to divine principles when they are being given up all around puts patience to the test. To be content to have His approval alone, though but few are found to walk with, is the fruit of God's work in the soul.
The Lord holds forth wonderful encouragement to His tried saints: "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." They have something which the Lord values. "Hold it," He says, "until I come!" Furthermore, these despised ones here are to have the preeminent place there in the glory: made "a pillar" in the temple of His God! (Rev. 3:12.)
James H. Smith
We Ought to Obey God
What if man uses his God-given authority to try and make us do something contrary to God's instructions? The disciples in Acts 5 faced this situation and their actions show us God's will in the matter.
The high priest and those with him put the apostles in prison for teaching and healing in the Lord's name. The angel of the Lord opens the prison doors and says to the apostles, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." This the disciples do. They are arrested and brought before the high priest who says: "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?" Peter and the apostles respond, "We ought to obey God rather than men." After discussing the matter among themselves, the authorities beat the disciples and again command them not to speak in the name of Jesus. They let them go and the disciples continue to teach and to preach Jesus Christ.
God is the ultimate authority. If man abuses his God-given authority and commands a person to disobey God, then the instruction for the person is -- we obey God rather than man. This does not give liberty to refuse authority because one does not agree with the judgment of the authority or because the authority is acting unjustly. We do not submit if the act of submission would make us disobey God, that is, make us sin.
The perfect example of submission to the cruel, unjust abuse of authority is the Lord's submission to Pilate. He could and did submit (without disobeying God) to Pilate's abuse of authority in unrighteously condemning him to death. May His example ever guard our hearts and consciences from rebellion against the authorities He has established and lead us into the healing path of obedience and submission.