Is it right for a Christian to disobey the government?

Diethrich Bonhoeffer was a young pastor in Germany when Adolf Hitler rose to power. Bonhoeffer believed it was his duty to oppose Hitler. He actively sought the overthrow of the Hitler regime, was implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was eventually put to death for his role in the conspiracy against the Fuhrer. Were his actions against the ruler of Germany Biblical?

The mandates of our state and federal government is nothing like the tyranny or atrocities of Hitler, yet many people today are questioning the legitimacy of the orders imposed in response to the Coronavirus. Lawsuits have been filed and protests have been organized. How should a Christian respond to laws they disagree with or believe to be unconstitutional? This article is not concerned with whether the measures taken are wise, safe or helpful. The question is when a Christian genuinely believes a law to be wrong, hurtful or unconstitutional, how should he respond.

The Biblical answer is much more plain than many would like to admit. The New Testament leaves no doubt that Christians are required to obey the government and every law handed down by that government. 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Romans 13:1-2 says, “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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

The words of the New Testament were written to Christians living under the dictatorial rule of some of the worst rulers history has ever know. The Caesar’s were incompetent, insane, indifferent or corrupt. The entire system of the Roman government was incredibly corrupt. Officials were willing to issue any edict they thought would promote their own wealth and power. Often the only time the power of local rulers was questioned by Rome was if the officials incompetence or greed diminished Rome’s revenue or caused so much hardship that the subjugated people began to protest Roman rule. Despite the wickedness and injustice of Roman rule the apostles instructed Christian’s to obey all the capricious, malicious, excessive, petty or ridiculous laws handed down by their rulers.

The situation in America is complicated by the fact that we are a nation whose government is, “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” We are under the rule of elected governors, legislatures, judges and president. We are also under the rule of the constitution. What is a Christian to do when he believes a law to be unconstitutional? As Americans we have every legal right to protest laws, but the dissenting Christian must still obey the law even while protesting a law he believes to be illegal. The laws of the land provide means to address illegalities, but the commands of the Bible do not permit the Christian to disobey laws with which he does not agree.

The only exception is when the government orders something which would cause the Christian to disobey the clear commands of God. During the spread of the Coronavirus many states forbade all gatherings, including church services. Yet, the Bible clearly commands Christians to not forsake the assembling together with other believers. Many churches continued to gather despite the prohibitions because the laws of the land contradicted God’s commands. When obedience to the law would cause a Christian to disobey a clear command of the Bible then the Christian is obligated to obey the higher law- God’s command. (Acts 5:29)

In summary, the Christian must obey every law, even those which seem unconstitutional. He may use every legal means available to protest the law or see it repealed, but as long as the law is in force it needs to be obeyed. The only law the Christian is not bound to obey are those laws which oppose the clear commands of God.

What can I do about regrets from my past?

Most Christians look back on their lives and feel regret or shame for things they have done. Those who were saved later in life often feel this guilt more significantly. They consider their life before salvation and wish the past could have been different. Broken relationships, hurts caused, missed opportunities or consequences that continue until this day fill hearts with sadness. The memories of the past hurt.

Many attempt to forget the past, but some things cannot be forgotten. What should Christians do when they look with regret and heartache at the sins of their past? The answer is not to avoid thinking about them, but to learn to think correctly about them.

Sin is a terrible thing, and its consequences are horrible. Sin plunged the world into thousands of years of suffering, disease, despair and death. Sin separates every person from God. Yet, God in His overwhelming grace, forgives every sin of every one who asks Him for salvation. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20) The greatness of God’s forgiveness is better seen in light of the terribleness of sin. For those who think sin is no big deal, the forgiveness of sin is not that big of a deal either. Those who feel the weight of their sin, are better able to feel the magnitude of God’s grace. The old hymn says the grace of God is “greater than all our sin.” No matter what terrible things have been done, God’s grace is greater. Let your past sin remind you of the present grace of God.

Though the memory of sin remains, and sometimes the earthly consequences remain, never forget your guilt is gone. The guilty feelings may remain, but God holds you guiltless. He has forgiven all your sin. The promise of God is, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) Why should we allow ourselves to constantly think about that which God promises to remember no more? Every sin you have ever committed is completely forgiven by God. When you remember the sins of your past, remember they have all been cast into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:9) Praise the Lord!

Be careful to not become mired in feelings of guilt because of your past sin. In “The Pilgrims Progress” John Bunyan told of a man who was weighed down by the guilt of his sin. For a little while he was mired down in a slough, the Slough of Despond. His guilt threatened to drown him in despair. Only the kind help of a faithful man of God brought him out of the swamp. Do not let the remembrance of sin drive you to despair. Let sins past remind you to worship your God for His overwhelming grace. Never forget that where sin abounds grace does much more abound.

As you feel the sorrow of your sin, take comfort. God promises you, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) God comforts those who have repented and sought His forgiveness. He comforts you with the promise your sins are washed away. All guilt is gone, forever.

Why do Christians pray before eating?

A regular part of family gatherings used to include the family sitting around the table to enjoy a meal together. Once everyone was seated, the family would pause to pray before the meal began. Many Christian families still make this a habit at every meal. Why do people pray before eating?

Whether you call it “blessing the food” or “giving of thanks,” the prayer before a meal is a reminder that every good thing comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father.” Christians pray before meals to remind themselves every good thing we have comes from God.

“Saying the blessing” is an act of giving thanks to God for giving us our daily bread. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” If you have been praying for God to meet your daily needs, then the meal you are about to enjoy is a specific answer of God to that specific prayer request. The wise Christian seated before a plate of Divine provision will stop to give God thanks for answering his prayer.

Some may not realize the Bible specifically teaches about giving thanks to God for food. In 1 Timothy 4:5 Paul warned about false teachers. Their wrong teachings included forbidding marriage and forbidding the eating of meat. Paul rebuked these errors and said, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.” The restrictions of the Old Testament law have been done away with by Jesus. Now, the Christian may eat any animal he desires. This means the Christian can eat snails, raw fish, lutefisk, livermush or any other unpalatable dish he desires. Give thanks for the freedom to eat that we have in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul had to correct problems the church in Corinth was having with food. Christians were divided over whether they could eat things that had been offered to idols. Paul taught the church to not eat with selfishness, but to eat with concern for how their dining affected the spiritual well-being of others. Paul’s instructions are summed up with these words. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Prayer before meals reminds the Christian that even when eating we are to bring glory to God.

The sanctifying act of prayer sets the food and the person apart as offerings to the Lord. Praying before a meal confesses that the food is not to be consumed merely as fuel for the achievement of the individuals personal desires. Prayer recognizes the meal is a gift given by God enabling the believer to live for the Him.

Should a Christian be baptized a second time?

Every so often a Christian asks this Baptist pastor about being rebaptized. At times the desire for a second baptism is in response to a time of backsliding. A believer may have repented after a period of living in sin and desires to be baptized as a show of their renewed commitment to the Lord. The desire to show their return to the Lord is praiseworthy, but this kind of baptism misunderstands the purpose of baptism.

Jesus gave two ordinances to the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The command to observe the Lord’s Supper included the need to do so “often.” “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The record of Acts and 1 Corinthians indicates the church observed the Lord’s Supper as part of their Sunday gatherings. (1 Corinthians 11:21-26) The Lord’s Supper was repeatedly observed by all Christians.

Jesus commanded the twelve disciples to baptize every one who believes. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19) The book of Acts shows how the apostles obeyed this command. Those who believed the gospel of Jesus were baptized and added to the church. The New Testament church treated baptism as the initial sign of faith in Christ. Baptism was the way new believers told the church and their neighbors that they were followers of Jesus. Because salvation is received once and baptism is a testimony of salvation received, baptism was not repeated over and over again. There is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)

However, some situations require the rebaptism of a believer. Because baptism is the public testimony which proclaims a new believers salvation, any baptism that took place before conversion is not Christian baptism. A person baptized as an infant is unable to believe Jesus, receive His salvation or confess Him as Lord. Those baptized as infants should be baptized after salvation. A person who professes salvation, is baptized, but later becomes convinced his earlier profession of faith was not genuine should be baptized again. Anyone baptized before salvation should be baptized again following his conversion.

One danger of multiple baptisms is they may encourage the beliefs that baptism provides some special grace, washes away sin or gives the person a spiritual power boost. Baptism does none of those things. Baptism is the loving response of the Christian to his Savior. No act of obedience, however important, gains for the Christian a special measure of grace or additional spiritual power. The only grace in obedience is the grace of God which enables the believer to obey. A Christian who has made a public profession of faith through baptism gains no benefit from a second baptism. A sinning believer who desires to show the genuineness of his change can do so by a public confession of sin and acknowledgment of repentance. No other baptism is needed.

Are the New Testament commands optional?

Some Christians appear to have the idea that the New Testament commands are not that important. This author has been told by professing Christians that since obeying the New Testament commands is not necessary for salvation then believers today do not have to obey them. Are the New Testament commands binding on Christians? In other words, are they actual commands to be obeyed or just Divine recommendations?

The New Testament writers viewed the commands they communicated to be binding on Christians. Significant consequences were to be administered to those who did not obey the New Testament commands. Jesus Himself commanded that disobedient Christian’s were to be put out of the church. The Thessalonian church was told to remove those who did not obey the commands of 2 Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul said some members of the church in Corinth were sick and some had died because of their disobedience to God’s commands. In the second and third chaptes of the book of Revelation are strong warnings to several churches. Jesus threatened significant judgment on those churches and Christians who disobeyed Him.

More important than the consequences of disobedience is the confession made by obedience. 1 John says, “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.” Obedience to the commands of God is one of the evidences of genuine salvation. Those who profess salvation but refuse to obey God are frauds. They are not saved. To brush aside the commands of God is to show an incredible disregard for God, His Word and His will. Ignoring God’s commands shows a lack of genuine love for God. Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsover I command you.”

To disregard God’s commands because they play no role in salvation is to misunderstand the purpose of the commands. No command was ever given to save men. The Old Testament law was not given to the Israelites as a means of salvation. The Old Testament law was always a teacher to point the sinner to his need of a Savior. Salvation always has been and always will be received through faith in Jesus. However, it does not follow that obedience is unimportant.

God’s commands are given for the good of His children. The commands keep the Christian from sin and teach them how to live pleasing to Him. The New Testament commands work to make the believer more like Jesus. Obedience to the commands of God shows that the believer considers God’s will to be supreme, His words to be law and He to be the ruler of life. By obeying the commands of God the Christian shows that God is truly most important. Obedience is not necessary to salvation, but it is essential to growth, testimony and the glory of God.

How can I give thanks for everything?

How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?

The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?

Giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Nor is it trying to excuse evil. Evil will always be a horrible tragedy. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Instead, giving thanks for evil recognizes the good purposes of God that are being accomplished in even the most terrible evnts. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christians always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christians gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christians can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.

Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than the blessings of God. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the holy God who is accomplishing His good purposes in all things.

Christians can give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because we know they are working in us eternal good. (2 Corinthians 4:17) God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is for our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.

We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.

Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

In the November elections the state of Michigan passed a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Ten states now allow recreational marijuna us. Thirty-three allow the use of medicinal marijuana. In the two years since the following article was originally posted the legal landscape has changed significantly. For Christians, the major issue remains the same.

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using THC or CBD based substances that are prescribed and overseen by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the federal government and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

However, even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana Christians have a higher obligation that forbids their use of the drug. The Christian is not to participate in anything that would enslave him. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. The Christian must never be under the power of any addiction. The Christian must never be under the control of anything but the Holy Spirit. If the child of God is forbidden to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

Can Christians Learn God’s Will by Casting Lots?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. Weeks later the disciples sought to replace Judas. The disciples chose two men out of the 120 people in the upper room and then they cast lots to see which of the two would be the twelfth apostle. This is the last reference in the Bible to casting lots, and the only time the New Tesament describes Christians making a decision by casting lots.

Casting lots was a regular practice in Israel during Old Testament times. God instructed the Israelites to cast lots as part of the prescribed ritual on the day of atonement. The high priest would cast lots to decide which of two goats would be sacrificed. Later, lots were cast to assign land to tribes and cities to families. When the temple was built lots were cast to arrange the service of certain Levites. The book of Proverbs seems to speak favorably of casting lots. “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.” (Proverbs 18:18) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Casting lots in the Bible was the process of reaching a decision through the random result of thrown sticks, stones or bones. The most common modern parallel is flipping a coin– heads we go out to eat, tails we eat at home. Sometimes the coin is tossed to reach an impartial decision, sometimes to resolve a dispute and sometimes to reach a decision when a person cannot decide. Though the Old Testament used lots as a legitimate part of certain decisions, the New Testament church never did. Is it alright for Christians to roll dice, draw cards or flip coins to determine God’s will?

The Bible does not condemn casting lots, but the New Testament has no examples of casting lots after the reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Once Christians received the Holy Spirit they did not need to rely on external devices for guidance. When the church selected elders, deacons or missionaries they did not cast lots. When the apostles sought God’s direction in their ministry travels they did not cast lots. The apostles and early church made decisions through prayer, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s instructions. The Holy Spirit’s guidance of every Christian eliminates the need to cast lots.

Instead of casting lots, Christians are to learn the will of God. In the book of Colossians Paul prayed for the believers to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Prayer is a key element of learning the will of God. When Paul desired to go to Rome and then to Spain he asked the church to pray for him that he would be able to do so.

The will of God is learned through the Word of God. God’s commands are always God’s will. The wise application of Biblical principles also direct the Christian to know God’s will. In situations where the Biblical commands and principles leave room for a Christian to legitimately choose any of several options, then the Christian ought to make the best decision possible while trusting God to guide and protect in the decision making process. If God directs the fall of the lot, how much more will He direct His child who seeks to make a wise decision that obeys and honors Him.

Can we pray to Jesus?

Who do you address when you pray? Do you address God? The Father? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? All three at the same time? Some religious groups teach that Christians should not pray to Jesus. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Most of the prayers in the Bible are addressed to God the Father. Because of the Lord’s prayer and the many Biblical examples of prayer to God the Father, some churches have taught that prayer must always be addressed to the Father. The Bible clearly teaches the Christian to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, but what about praying directly to Jesus?

This may seem like splitting hairs, but evaluating prayer habits is profitable. If the Bible teaches anything the proper way to pray, then Christians should desire to know and follow the instruction of Scripture.

Because God is a Trinity, there is a sense in which all prayer is addressed to the Father, the Son and the Spirit. However, because God is a Trinity there is a significant sense in which prayer is addressed specifically to one member of the Godhead. Christians cannot say that because of Trinity it does not matter which Divine person we address in prayer. The Christian must approach God in the way He prescribes. God never allowed people to approach Him any way they desired. From the very beginning God defined the way in which man must come to Him. Entering into the presence of God must always be in accord with the specific instructions laid out by God.

Does the New Testament teach the Christian to pray to Jesus? Yes, it does. In the New Testament the majority of uses of the title “Lord” are in reference to Jesus. Acts 2:36 says, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” In those places where a prayer is addressed to “the Lord” it is likely that prayer is addressed specifically to Jesus, God the Son. The New Testament contains several specific examples of prayer to Jesus. When Paul prayed to the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh, the context of 2 Corinthians 12 makes clear that Paul was praying to Jesus. When Stephen was being stoned to death he prayed, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul speaks of Christians as those who, “call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Bible ends with a prayer to Jesus. “Even so come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Prayer to Jesus is modeled in the Bible. Prayer to Jesus is right and proper.

However, a disclaimer is necessary. The majority of prayers in the Bible are to the Father. Some are to Jesus. None are to the Spirit. Thus, the old formula, “Praying to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit” should be the pattern of Christian prayer. If the believers prayer is shaped by the Bible, then the Bible’s emphasis in prayer will also be the Christian’s emphasis in prayer.

Why should I read the Bible?

It is that time again, time to make a list of New Year’s resolutions that you will keep for a few weeks and then slowly forget about. While there are many good resolutions to be made, one worth the Christian’s consideration- and keeping- is the resolution to read the Bible more in 2018.

Some Christians have been reading the Bible religiously (pun intended) for years (the author knows of one Christian lady who has read through the Bible every year for over 45 years). Some have never read the entire Bible. Some read the Bible one time and thought once was enough. The Bible is not always easy to read. Some parts are difficult to understand, some are very foreign and some are troubling. Despite these difficulties reading the Bible is worth the time and effort.

Scripture does not command the Christian to read it at least once a year. The Bible does not command a specific reading schedule, but what the Bible says about itself should motivate Christians to want to read it. Saving faith comes through the hearing of the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and the child of God has been born again through the ministry of the Word (1 Peter 1:23). The Bible was written for our edification and instruction (Romans 15:4), for our spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2), for our teaching, correction, rebuke and training (2 Timothy 3:16) and for our equipping in good works (2 Timothy 3:17).

The Bible commands the Christian to mediate on it (Psalm 1:2), to allow it to abide within (John 15:7) and to be doers of it (James 1:22). The Bible is to be read, explained and applied in the church (1 Timothy 4:13). The Bible praises those who know it and study it (Acts 17:11). The book of 1 Peter says that those who have been born again will hunger for the Word of God. The natural desire of the child of God is to want to read His Word.

The Christian should regularly read the Bible. While a Bible reading plan is helpful to guard against only reading the easy or more enjoyable parts it is not necessary. What is necessary is the regular reading of the Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” (2 Timothy 3:16) The If the believer is to profit from the Word, if he is to grow in maturity and if he is going to be equipped for every good work, then reading the Bible is the least he should be doing.

The Word of God is eternal (1 Peter 1:25). Scripture is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) The Word of God will never fail (Matthew 5:18). The Bible is perfect, holy, just and brings great profit to the reader. It gives warning, wisdom, salvation, rejoicing and understanding. It is true and righteous. To the child of God the Bible is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey. (Psalm 19:7-10) The question is not why you should read the Bible. For the Christian the real question is, why would you not read the Bible?

Here are some plans to help you get started.