But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."
God's authority trumps human authority. At issue in this account is the balance for a believer between his relationship with the state or human authorities, and his relationship as an obedient disciple to his Lord. The applications and issues raised today are complex and I don't think every nuance of it can be gleaned from this passage, but the main clear principles are all here to observe, understand, reflect upon, and apply carefully to any situation arising today.
We ought to understand the issue that brought the apostles to this statement of conviction. The issue was not whether they would have to pay taxes, nor did they involve themselves with any political party. They did not cite this principle because an ideology among their civil leaders had swung left when they preferred it stay right. No, they made this declaration in sharp defense of the gospel mandate that had been given to them by Jesus. Their Lord had told them to proclaim the gospel to everyone in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world. The Jewish authorities told them to stop that! The authorities responded by locking them in prison. God miraculously released them to get them back to the task. The question as to who had the greater authority over them was never really there at that point! THEY HAD TO OBEY GOD.
The same principles should govern a christian's relationship with civil authority. Only in the realm of the commands of scripture and specifically the advance of the gospel is human government outside its authority over us. When it demands that we disobey God, we simply cannot because "we MUST obey God rather than men." That is becoming more pressing upon us as society is moving further and further away from accepting the legitimacy of any biblical authority, really any authority but the will of society itself. The day now is on us where the firm conviction of the apostles in Acts 5:29 will necessarily define biblical christianity.
- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.