It is good to be reminded of truths that we know but sometimes forget. Reviewing Biblical truth will be an encouragement but also it gives wisdom about how to make the right decisions in the midst of hard times! As noted before, COVID-19 is one of those times.
Below are some lessons to remind us of some of the important truths we ought to think upon during a time such as this. We are in a spiritual battle and we always need to have our guard up. Feel free to read through the lessons or just skim the highlighted areas. I hope this is refreshing and an encouragement. God bless!
A Review In The Biblical Hierarchy Of Authority
The Bible teaches that authority is hierarchical, meaning there are different ranks and classifications of authority. In this hierarchy, God is the highest authority. All other authorities are under His sovereign rule. As believers, we are called to be responsible in our positions of authority and submissive to those whom God has placed over us.
The Hierarchy Of Authority
- God has authority over everything because He is the Creator of everything. He has the absolute right, according to His own will, to make decisions, give orders and carry out punishment for disobedience.
Psalm 24:1; 92:8; 93:1-2; 103:19; Genesis 2:16-17; 3:24
- God has authority over Jesus, but He gave Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth; therefore, obedience to Jesus’ commands is obedience to God himself.
1 Corinthians 11:2-3; Matthew 28:18
- Jesus has authority over man. Man has authority over woman. The husband is called to lovingly lead his wife and she is called to respectfully submit to him. The children are to obey both of their parents until they are old and leave them to start their own family.
Ephesians 5:22-6:4; 1 Peter 3:1–7; 1 Corinthians 11:7–12
- Jesus has authority over the church. Men are called by God to lead the church as pastor and deacons. They have authority over the church in spiritual matters.
Hebrews 13:7, 17; Matthew 16:19
- Government has authority over its citizens. They are to act as the ministers of God to mankind for good. Their purpose is to encourage good, discourage evil, and use force to accomplish this mandate.
- Mankind has authority over the earth and all the animals. We are to use this position to care for the animals and environment.
Genesis 1:28, 2:15
- Employers have authority over their employees. The employees are to be obedient to their employer, and the employer is to lead properly.
Ephesians 6:5–9; 1 Peter 2:18–25
The Authority Of The Government
- God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. This means they will seek to preserve human life, property and justice. They are never given permission to do wrong. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them. If we resist them, then we are resisting the ordinance of God.
Romans 13:1-2; Proverbs 21:1
- God has ordained the use of force by the government. The government has the right to make laws concerning what is right and wrong and its citizens are obliged to obey the law. The government has the right to reward those who do good and punish those who do wrong.
- God has ordained the collection of taxes by the government. Because the government serves in this position of authority, they have the right to justly tax their people so they can have money necessary to fulfill their duty.
Romans 13:6-7; Matthew 17:24–27; 22:15–22
- God has ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, God is the foundation for knowing what is right and what is wrong, not man.
The Separation Of Church And Government
- The functions of the church and government are different. The government has been ordained to promote justice and punish evil. The church had been ordained to preach the gospel and be ambassadors of Jesus. Therefore, the government doesn’t have the authority in the affairs of the church, nor should it regulate its spiritual functions.
- The methods of the church and government are different. The church does not have the right to use “force” to carry out its mission. This is only the right of governing authorities. The church carries out its mission through the proclamation of the Word and living their life in obedience to it as a witness to all men.
The Believer’s Response To Authority
- Believers are to submit to the authority that is over them, like they are submitting to the Lord Himself. We are to be servants of God that are full of good works, honoring all men, loving the brotherhood, fearing God, and honoring the king.
1 Peter 2:11–17; Titus 3:1–7
- Believers are to obey their governing authorities (even if they are corrupt) because: (1) we will be punished by them if we don’t, and (2) because of conscience sake, we know that we are opposing God’s authority if we don’t obey. There is no perfect government because it is governed by sinful people.
- Believers do not have to obey the authorities over them if they are commanding them to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded. For example, your authority doesn’t allow you to teach in Jesus name, your boss wants you to be involved in fraud, or your friends and family want you to get an abortion.
Acts 4:19–20; 5:29
A Review In The Loyalty Of Believers
As believers, we pledge our allegiance to Him above all else and strive to remain loyal to Him in all situations—even the hard ones, in spite of the outcome.
Believers Know That Jesus Wields The Ultimate Authority
- All Power: As believers we live out our lives and fulfill God’s mission in this world under His authority. Jesus’ authority supersedes all other authority structures and governments. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and told them that, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”—absolute and sovereign authority. From this position of authority, He commanded them to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Thus, the church has been God’s active witness in the world since then. And since then, as they have fulfilled this command, Jesus has gone with them, and will continue to do so through the entire process until the end of the world.
Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:19-23
- Counting the cost: Thus, as the church goes forth in their local communities and sends missionaries around the world making disciples, there will be individuals, communities, governments, and nations that reject Jesus’ authority and persecute those who come in His name. But we have a declaration from the King of kings and the Lord of lords to go forth into every part of the world where there are people to reach with the gospel of Jesus—there is no where we can’t go carrying the good news. But this will come at a cost because even though all people need the gospel, they aren’t always welcoming to it. Thus, to obey the command of Jesus we have to be willing to endure persecution if necessary. For example: God tells His prophet to go into a land with a hostile government. He gave him a specific duty to do (sacrifice) for his protection against the government (undercover) in order to carry out his ultimate mission (anointing). So the choice is left to the believers: obey God and possibly suffer persecution because of it or disobey God.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
- The Apostles’ Example: The Jewish leaders questioned Peter and John, saying: “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, told them very clearly that His authority was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and He continued to tell them that, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” They understood that they were going in the authority of Jesus, were eager to declare He was the ultimate authority and willing to suffer for it if need be.
Acts 3:11, 25; 4:1-12
Believers Pledge Their Allegiance To Jesus Above All Else
- Believers pledge their allegiance to God over man to fulfill His mandate. When the Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John they commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus so that it wouldn’t spread further among the people. They had to choose who to obey: God or man? They responded by saying they, “Cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” They were released and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Then as the apostles were doing many signs, wonders and teaching they were arrested again and asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Acts 4:13-31; 5:12-42
- Believers should obey the government but ultimately pledged their allegiance to Jesus. God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. God has also ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them (even though they are not perfect). Only when the authorities over us are commanding us to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded or prevents us from obeying God, should we choose not to obey.
Romans 13:1-4; Proverbs 21:1
Believers Exercise Abiding Loyalty In Hard Situations
- Our loyalty to Jesus will be tested. The wicked will test to see if we truly pledge our allegiance to Him or if we will renounce Him. There are numerous situation in which this can happen, but we are going to look at the following two Old Testament examples that encourage us to exercise abiding loyalty in hard situations.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego remained loyal to the true God when they were commanded to worship an idol. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded all the people, nations, and languages to worship the idol when the music was played. Whoever would not worship the idol when the music was played would be cast into a burning fiery furnace within the same hour. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego only worshipped the true God, thus they refused to obey the kings order to worship the idol. Instead, they made a very calculated risk and told the king that, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…”—meaning they believed that God could deliver them from being persecuted. Then they said, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods…”—meaning that even if God chose not to deliver them from being persecuted they wouldn’t worship the false gods or idols. The three men were cast into the fire but God did a miracle and delivered them. This caused the King to repent and bless the true God.
- Daniel remained loyal to praying to God even when it was made illegal. Certain government officials were jealous of Daniel and tried to find something against Daniel to tell the king, but they could find no fault, so they said, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” They knew He was faithful and loyal to God. So they tricked the king into making a law that would force Daniel to have to choose between his loyalties: the king or the living God. Daniel remained loyal to God and was cast into the lion’s den because of it. But God delivered Him and the king made a decree, that in every dominion of his kingdom people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
- Abiding loyalty means that we pledge our allegiance to Jesus even if we don’t know the result. Every believer will receive different types and degrees of persecution. King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, planing to persecute them. He killed James the brother of John with the sword. Then he proceeded further to take Peter also, but the Lord had delivered him out of the prison. Why did God deliver Peter and not James? We don’t know but both men exercised abiding loyalty to Jesus.
Acts12:1-17; Romans 1:16; (Another example, Jeremiah was delivered but Urijah was killed: Jeremiah 26:10-11, 20-24)
A Review In Going Forward In The Face Of Uncertainty
Go Forward In Wisdom And Harmlessness
- Jesus sent His disciples forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger—meaning that the persecution was imminent for the disciples. Jesus knew that persecution was going to be a reality if they obeyed His command to go and preach the Kingdom and He sent them anyway. Thus, the advice He is going to give them wouldn’t mean they were to suspend their mission if they were persecuted or even at the “chance” of being persecution. Ceasing to preach or speak in the face of persecution was never intended, but His intention was to encourage them to “go forward,” but as they did, they were to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
Matthew 10:16; (Context: Matthew 10:1-42)
- “Wise as serpents”—in scripture, serpents are used both in a bad and good way. Here we are told to have this good characteristic: wisdom. Snakes have to be wise because they often live in hostile environments (not many people like them). The first aspect of this wisdom is being shrewd and having a sharp sense of judgement. They pay attention, are watchful and careful. The second aspect of this “wisdom” it to cause the disciples to keep from becoming “slothful” out of the timid, cautious and circumspect characteristics that come when facing danger. Thus, in the same way, we need to have this sense of wisdom as we face persecution.
(Compare to prudence: Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 16:21; 18:15; 22:3; 27:12)
- “Harmless as doves”—doves have no real defense or offense. They don’t fight back when attacked. They aren’t seeking to hurt others, take advantage of others, nor are they attacking others. They easily put themselves in danger so that is seems silly or stupid. A dove is vulnerable. It isn’t fearful nor does it hide. As a messenger of the gospel “harm” shouldn’t be characteristic of who we are. Though people will mock, hate and hurt us because of the gospel, we shouldn’t fight back. They might harm us, but we don’t harm them. To apply this to our lives we have to understand that God uses suffering for the advancement of the gospel. Our suffering is a testimony to the grace of God.
Go Forward Ceaselessly Proclaiming The Gospel
- Go forward speaking the gospel and do not be silent. As believers we are sent forth preaching the gospel and when we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, we should continue being witnesses to them. In the face of persecution we should always be proclaiming the gospel message, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Jesus said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace”. Also, after Paul was arrested He used this opportunity to preach the gospel. Never cease preaching.
Matthew 10:18-20; Acts 18:9-11; 21:27-26:32
- Go forward speaking the gospel and if needed flee to another location. Jesus tells His disciples that when people persecute them in a certain city they were allowed to flee to another city. We should be aware and alert to the danger that could happen and if needed move to another location as long as we keep on preaching the gospel. We are permitted to leave a city because of persecution but we shouldn’t stop preaching the gospel. Thus, the task is more important than the location—even if the location can’t be changed.
- Go forward speaking the gospel and if persecuted keep speaking the gospel. Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left there supposing he was dead. But when the disciples stood round about him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe and preached the gospel there. Even after being stoned and left for dead, Paul was faithful to preaching the gospel.
Go Forward Doing Right Regardless Of What Happens
1 Peter 4:1-2
- Go forward obeying God even if persecution is inevitable. Paul was told by a prophet that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles when He went up to Jerusalem. When the believers heard this, they pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. But he would not be persuaded by them, saying, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Finally, they said, “The will of the Lord be done.” Paul was willing to go forward knowing that persecution was inevitable.
- Go forward serving God even if it is against the law. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed (that said if anyone prayed to any god or man, except the king, during the next thirty days they would be thrown into the lion’s den) he went into his house and prayed just as he had done before the law was passed. He did what He had always done: he prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem in his upper room; he did this three times each day—kneeling, praying and giving thanks before his God. He didn’t allow fear to keep Him from obeying God even though it had become illegal.
Daniel 6:10; (Daniel’s obedience to prayer: 1 Kings 8:35-36; 44-50; Psalms 55:16-17)
- Go forward by faith and not fear. After spying out the land, Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and posses it; for we are well able to overcome it”. Then the other men that went up with Caleb to spy out the land disagreed with him and said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we”. The other men were focused on the facts and looking at all the reasons why it couldn’t be done. They had a list of fearful reasons. This caused them to fear and caused the children of Israel to fear and doubt the promises of God. But Caleb had a mindset of faith. His report wasn’t focused on the giants but on God. All the same conditions were true, all the same giants were in the land just as the other men reported, but Caleb had faith that God was going to bring the victory.
Numbers 13:30-31; 14:7-9, 14, 24; Examples of faith: Hebrews 11:23-28, 32-40
- Go forward assembling together with the local church and not forsaking it. Some of the Hebrews were habitually abandoning and neglecting the local gathering of the church. This was wrong. The reasons why some stopped assembling together isn’t given, but whether it was because of persecution and the fear of gathering publicly and being identified with Jesus and His church or another reason, they risked abandoning the faith over time by not assembling. We assemble because we need to exhort (encourage) one another—especially to: draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith; hold fast the profession of our faith (hope) without wavering; and consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Thus if we need this at normal times, how much more in times of persecution and as we are living out His mission in this world. This is a nonnegotiable.
Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 12:30; Acts 2:42; 14:19-23 (Persecution in Hebrews 10:32-34; 12:3-4, 12-14; 13:3)
The above articles are taken from the following lessons:
- What Does The Bible Teach About Authority?
- Where Is Our Loyalty In The Face Of Persecution?
- How Can We Go Forward In The Face Of Persecution?