“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11, NKJV).
Paul had been falsely accused of sedition against Rome and crimes against the Jews and kept imprisoned by an unscrupulous governor (Acts 24:5-6, 22-27). Two years later, he is before another Roman governor (Festus) answering these false charges (Acts 25:7-10). His appeal to Caesar’s court for judgment indicates several things worthy of our consideration and practice. (1) Paul put himself under the authority of civil government. We do not see Paul arguing against the government’s authority to adjudicate disputes of its citizens. Although the government was suppressing his rights (as Felix detained him, hoping for a bribe), Paul did not become violate. Neither should we when those in authority oppress us (1 Pet. 2:14-20). (2) It is right to seek justice from civil authorities. God ordained civil government to address the primary purpose of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul’s “appeal to Caesar” was the exercise of a legal avenue for justice and protection from the Jews who were trying to kill him (Acts 25:2-3). (3) If we violate the law, we should accept our punishment without objection. Paul was willing to be executed if he “committed anything worthy of death.” If we are guilty of violating the law, we ought to admit it, accept our punishment, and repent of our transgression against the Lord (Rom. 13:4-5). While our citizenship is in heaven, we are to be honorable citizens of society (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 8:21).
33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. (Luke 4:33–35, NKJV)
Why did Jesus rebuke and silence demons when casting them out? After all, this one and others declared the truth that Jesus is “the Holy One of God,” the Messiah (Lk. 4:34, 41). The answer is one of contrasting the sources of truth and the authority of Christ. As Jesus was teaching in the Galilean synagogues, He showed Himself to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Lk. 4:16-21, 31-32, 42-44). The Messiah, not demons, would “preach the gospel” and “set at liberty those who are oppressed” by sin (Lk. 4:18, 35, 41). Christ gave miraculous evidence of His authority to save souls from sin’s power when He miraculously freed people from demonic possession, (Lk. 4:32, 35-36). Jesus applied His authority as the source of truth when He silenced demons from declaring Him to be the Christ, the Son of God. Christ, not demons, would proclaim “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:19). Therefore, we must listen to Christ as the final authority for salvation and service to Him (Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 1:2).
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:34–38, NKJV)
“It is written” is used over 300 times in the Bible. It usually calls attention to the recorded law of God, including prophetic writings applied to people and events (Josh. 8:31; Psa. 40:7). When “it is written” in God’s word, it is accomplished (fulfilled). Jesus said in verse 35 that people do not deprive Scripture of its binding authority; it “cannot be broken” by people. Jesus argued from the lesser to the greater, using a statement from Psalm 82:6 that describes human judges as “gods” (since they have power to adjudicate disputes and apply justice). They accepted what was written about men who held authority as “gods” among men. But, when Jesus said, “I am the Son of God,” they tried to kill Him (Jno. 10:30-33). His words and His works amply testified to the truth they resisted (Jno. 10:37-39). Here’s the point for us; We can violate God’s word, but it remains true, valid, and authoritative. The wise course is to accept what is written and follow Jesus instead of fighting against Him.
7 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” (Psalm 2:7–9, NKJV)
Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophetic proclamation of God’s plan to establish His Son as King (Acts 13:32-33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; Rev. 1:5; 12:5). Thus, He is Jesus “Christ” (anointed). Christ begins speaking in verse 7 and rehearses the divine decree spoken to Him by the Lord. This verse is not describing the fleshly birth of Jesus. Instead, Scripture shows its fulfillment when God raised Jesus from the dead. That is when God brought forth or declared Jesus “to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The apostle Paul declared this fulfillment, “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (Acts 13:33). Jesus is the Son of God and King on God’s holy hill of Zion (Psa. 2:6-7). The full authority of Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth is recognized with His ascension to heaven and coronation at God’s right hand (v. 8; Acts 2:32-36; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Christ has the authority to give life and to punish sin (Jno. 5:26-27; 17:2). While offering merciful redemption to the world, Christ’s rule includes punishing those who fight against Him (Psa. 2:9, 1-3). To resist God’s Son brings sure condemnation (Jno. 5:28-30).
17 “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” 18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:17–20, NKJV)
The Jewish rulers viewed the gospel like a virus spreading unchecked throughout Jerusalem. Their solution was to “severely threaten” Peter and John to keep them from continuing to speak and teach in the name of Jesus. The conflict was set between the order of men and God’s mandate, not by Peter and John, but by the opponents of the truth. Peter and John would continue to do what they had been doing, speaking the things they had seen and heard (v. 20). When men insist we listen to them more than God, they cause a flashpoint. We do not desire it, but we do not shrink from it. The rules and dictates of men do not hold sway over our worship and obedience to God (Acts 5:29). Like then, rulers and faithless people will continue to test our resolve on this divine principle of truth. May we be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil to navigate the rough seas of human obstructions and listen to God’s word more than men (v. 19-20; Rom. 16:19).
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:1–3, NKJV)
Reminders. We all need them. They reinforce what we already know, encouraging us to persevere, to be on guard, and to grow spiritually. Paul had just exhorted Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Now he teaches him to remind Christians of sound attitudes and actions of faith. 1) We must remember to be submissive (v. 1-2). Obeying civil authority reflects the submissive lifestyle of the saint, equipping us for good works that cannot be successfully condemned (cf. Titus 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Being submissive requires “showing humility to all men.” It takes moral strength to be humble, to be peaceable and gentle instead of speaking evil of others. 2) We must remember we once lived in sin (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ is not a license to be dismissive or condescending toward those who are still captives of sin. Recalling our previous sins (and forgiveness in Christ) is an incentive to remain vigilant in faith and responsive to help others escape evil. Do not be drawn back into foolish disobedience and selfish desires. The love of God in Christ compels us to be kind and careful to maintain good works that honor God and serve others (Titus 3:4, 8).
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. (Luke 20:20, NKJV)
Honor, honesty, and integrity of faith did not move the enemies of Jesus. Far from it. Their agenda was the destruction of Jesus, and they would use whatever means they come to undermine him (Lk. 19:47). Just days before his crucifixion, their faithlessness was on full display as Jesus taught in the temple. Like vultures descending upon carrion, they circled about Jesus looking for their opportunity. They hypocritically asked Jesus about his authority, yet their only interest was in securing their authority by handing him over to the power of Rome (Lk. 20:2-8). They flattered Jesus while trying to drive the dagger through him (Lk. 20:21-22). But Jesus knew their evil intent and condemned their faithless rejection of the Son (“the stone which the builders rejected,” Lk. 20:17-19). Pretending righteousness always ends badly (Rev. 21:8). Unlike the enemies of Jesus, let us listen to the truth Jesus teaches with open, ready hearts to receive and do the will of God (Acts 17:11-12).
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Properly handling God’s word includes respecting the silence of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). At times God says, “thou shalt not,” but that is not the only way He reveals His will. The double negative, “It doesn’t say not to,” fails to prove God’s approval. Yet, many use it to justify moral and religious decisions. We must search for what God says on a matter, content that it is sufficient for us to know and to follow (cf. Deut. 29:29). The Hebrew writer used the silence of the Scriptures in today’s passage. He arrived at the unavoidable conclusion (a necessary inference) that the law had to change because the priesthood had changed (v. 11; Heb. 6:20). He explained that only Levites could be priests under the Law of Moses (Num. 3:10). Yet, Moses never directly said, “You shall not have priests from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc.” He did not need to. Moses said what God wanted, priests from Levi. All other tribes were necessarily excluded. Even though Moses did not leave a “thou shalt not” list, Israel knew the correct application. There was no authority for priests from other tribes. Thus, the law itself had to be changed for Christ to be High Priest. God’s silence restrains, it does not free us to act. Let us find what God says, for that is what He approves. Then, “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.