"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29
The church was in its early beginning in Jerusalem. The disciples of the Lord had been brought before the High Priest and others of the assembled religious rabble to be silenced for their insistence on preaching the Gospel to the multitudes. It is worthy of note that it was their kinsman of the "Mainstream Religious Order" that were attempting to close their mouths. Gospel preaching and teaching in the name of the Lord was unpopular then, as it is today, and those who engage in it do so often at their own peril.
This was the second time the Apostles had run afoul of their leaders for their insistence on promoting the Name of Christ as Redeemer and Saviour. On the first occasion they were moderately threatened, and sent back to their own kind, (Acts 4:21-23) where they had a joyous prayer-meeting, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:31) This time however, the sect of the Sadducees were filled with indignation, and put them in the common prison. We fully believe that but for the law of the land the same thing would befall the vocal among the Old School Baptists today, for we see and hear much bitterness regarding our doctrine and ways. Religious persecution was no new thing. It had its beginning with the death of righteous Abel at the hands of his brother Cain. Prophets, Seers, and Sages were stoned and murdered by those who detested a "Thus sayeth the Lord." While the Apostles were imprisoned for a short time for their alleged crimes, today's victims are accorded a much more severe sentence by the detesters of truth. Some are shunned as though they had a contagion; others are excluded from their churches, and often whole churches and associations are expunged from the "main-line" or the "orderly body." Sadly, very sadly, these punishments come from our own kind, just as Peter and the others were punished, not by outsiders, but their Jewish brethren.
Sound Baptists have always believed in good order in the Church of the Living God, but all too often "order" is only an excuse for a jealous preacher, or a gainsaying deacon to be ridded of those they oppose. We believe in our heart that much of the jealousy and gainsaying we see is hatched in a soul filled with hatred for truth and its success. The religious leaders were maddened at the sight of Peter and his fellows healing the sick, and those vexed with unclean spirits. So today, when the sin-sick, spirit-vexed little children are spiritually healed by gospel preaching, and the declaration of God's grace, there are those who will rise up to both persecute and prosecute the perpetrators of such. From one end of this land to the other, there are those who have little or no standing among the other Churches of the Old School simply because they obeyed God rather than men. It is not our purpose here to examine all the reasons assigned for such a condition. Rather, we wish to send a word of encouragement out to the prisoners of this sad system, and tell them there yet reigns as our God the same who sent His Angel to loose Peter and the others from their lamentable plight. The prison doors were thrown open and they were free to go. To go where, though? "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." Acts 5:20 There was no time for self pity, or even criticism of their enemies. "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught..." Acts 5:21 Is not this example enough for us today? Should any of us be in the same circumstances, the pattern is clear enough. There is no need declaring war on our antagonists, or "lining up support." If your imprisonment is as an isolated individual, then your recourse is to stand and speak all the words of this life in the temple, or Church where this censure took place. Should you fail to gain their ear be assured the Lord yet has two or three gathered somewhere that loves the "Words of this Life." If as a Church you have been cast out into the prison-yard of this world, your orders are the same. Declare the same sweet message as before. Is not the Righteous King the same yesterday, today, and forever? In any case, and under all circumstances "We ought to obey God rather than men" is the watchword. Advising our troubled brethren on how to solve all their difficulties is by no means our business. Rather, we hope in this article to extend some comfort to them by saying that this is no new thing, and our dear Lord ever protects us even when we often know it not.
It might be well to mention that when the Apostles persisted in proclaiming the gospel of their God these self-proclaimed keepers of the doctrine sought to slay them, for the words of truth cut them to the heart. Our observation over the years has been that Absolute Predestination must be the truth, as it cuts the proud religionists as quick as anything we know of. Should any of them advise us that we possibly could get along if we could but ease up on this and other points, may we be blessed to reply, "We ought to obey God rather than men."
Volume 4, No. 2
March - April, 1990