The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Themes Archive

 
Obedience To God or To Men?
 
    When this question is raised and the men involved are the rulers of worldly governments, any religionists will counter with the question: Are not all persons commanded to obey the “higher powers”? And are not the rulers in the various nations the “higher powers”? There is no argument that all who have agreed to do the wilt of God must obey and be subject to the “higher powers”; as it is written at Romans 13:1,2: "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."
    But the “higher powers” herein named are not the kings and dictators and presidents or other political rulers of the nation, nor are the religious leaders of Christendom any part of the “higher powers”. Not one of them represents God and Christ Jesus, but, on the contrary, they are under the control of the invisible god of this world, Satan the Devil. (2 Cor. 4: 4) Further instructing those who would know the right way, the scripture reads: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” - Rom. 13:3, 4.
    Everyone knows that the rulers of this world are evil and do many evil things and, instead of aiding good works, they persecute those who do good works. This shows that they are not the “higher powers” mentioned in the Scriptures. Who, then, are the “higher powers”? Jehovah God is supreme, and Christ Jesus is his Chief Officer, to whom he has committed full power and authority to carry out His purpose; and therefore the “higher powers” are Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. (Matt. 28: 18) The scripture above quoted concerning the "higher powers" is addressed specifically to those who have agreed to do God’s will and whom God has accepted and called into his organization. (Rom. 1: 7) God is not dealing with the rulers of this world, not authorizing them to represent him.
    Concerning the “higher powers”, as above mentioned, he is instructing those who are on the side of the Kingdom, and them alone, and shows that Christ is “the minister of God” and “revenger to execute [God’s] wrath upon him that doeth evil”. Christ Jesus is the “King as supreme” in the organization of God, and is so named in the following scriptures: “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?” (1 Pet. 2: 13, 14) “Governors” in this text means the apostles of Jesus Christ, who were given specific power in the organization of the Lord. God’s organization alone is included in the following text: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” - Heb. 13: 17.
    That text has no reference whatsoever to worldly organizations. Surely such wicked men as Hitler and Mussolini and other dictators never represented God. Rulers of that stripe do not “watch for your souls”, but rather attempt to destroy those who are on the side of Christ the Lord. In the foregoing text (1 Pet. 2: 13) "every ordinance of man" is limited entirely to those who are on the Lord’s side and in his organization. When the Lord sent the apostles forth to establish congregations of Christian people he committed to those apostles authority to make certain “ordinances” or rules, and therefore the faithful apostles were "governors" in the Lord’s organization, and the rules promulgated by such are to be obeyed, and these rules are written in the Scriptures.

    IMAGES, MEN, FLAGS

    Should a Christian obey the law of the land where he lives? Yes; unless the law of the land is directly opposed to the law of God. As an example, taxes are required to be paid for the legitimate expense of the state. Jesus said: “Render therefore unto Caesar [Caesar symbolically standing for the state] the things which are Caesars; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22: 18-21) Following that rule announced by the Lord, the Christian should obey every law of the state that is not in conflict with the law of God; but when obedience to any law of the state would operate as forcing the Christian to violate God’s law, then the law of God takes precedence over the law of the state and the law of God must be obeyed rather than the law of man or that of the state.
    A state or government in which all the activities of the people are within the control of a dictator, that ruling power constitutes a totalitarian state or government. Under such the people are regimented or formed into classes, and all their individual privileges are fixed by the state, if they have any at all. This was exemplified in the case of Nazi Germany. In that land all the people were required to give a specific salute and to exclaim “Heil Hitler”, which means, “Salvation and protection come from Hitler.” A person who is in a covenant to do the will of Almighty God could not obey that law of Nazism, which demanded him to give a specific salute and repeat the words above mentioned, for the reason that to do so would be a flagrant violation of God’s specific command, as recorded at Exodus 20: 2-5. "Salvation belongeth unto Jehovah," and not to any man (Ps. 3: 8, Am. Stun. Vet.); and a Christian who denies this and obeys the state rather than God takes the course leading to certain destruction.
    An image, as defined by the Scriptures, means a “representation, a figure, a symbol; that is, something that stands for and in the place of another”. It is defined by Webster thus: “Something that represents another; a symbol; a representation.” “Bowing down,” as used in the Scriptures, means to do reverence, obeisance; to worship. It is the purpose of the Devil to cause men to reproach God’s name that destruction of man may result. For the specific protection of those who have agreed to do God’s will the Most High gives this commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” - Ex. 20: 3-5.
    The salute to the dictatorial ruler, as above mentioned, the bowing down to images or worshiping such, attributes to whatsoever that image represents the qualities of protection and salvation, and is therefore a clear violation of God’s law; and hence the one devoted to Jehovah cannot obey and will not obey a law of a state that requires him to violate God’s law.
    The Israelites were in a covenant to do the will of God, and when they entered the land of Canaan they found themselves among heathen nations. Satan had established pagan religions among these Canaanites, and God’s people were specifically commanded to cling to the law of Moses, specially with regard to the command to not bow down to images or anything in these heathen nations that were under Devil control. (Josh. 23: 6-8) This world and its nations are still under the invisible rulership of the devilish god of this wicked world. (John 12: 31; 14: 30; 2 Cor. 4: 4; 1 John 5: 19, Am. Stan. Ver.) Hence Christians would not bow down to or attribute salvation to images representing nations under Satan’s control, if they would be pleasing to God and abide by his commands.
    Flags of the various nations represent the government and what the government stands for. Any law that demands that a Christian salute the national flag is demanding that that person salute the Devil that is the invisible ruler of all worldly nations. (Jas. 4:4) During, Nazism’s reign Germany thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses were confined in concentration camps and tortured, and hundreds killed, because they would not “Heil Hitler” and salute the swastika. But is the saluting of the American flag by a Christian or one in a covenant to do God’s will a violation of God’s law? Yes, for the reason that protection and salvation are thereby attributed to the nation, whereas the protection and salvation of the Christian come from the Lord.
    In the flag itself there is no harm. It stands, however, for the ruling power of the government, and all earthly governments are of Satan’s world and none of them advocate God’s kingdom by Christ. Each advocates its own type of rule. The Christian favors another type of rule, the kingdom of Christ. If he saluted the flag representing any worldly government he would be repudiating his covenant with Jehovah God, and such covenant-breakers reap death from God. (Rom. 1: 31, 32) The real question is this: Is a person who is Christian to fear the things that the governments of this world stand for? or is that person to fear Jehovah God and his kingdom under Christ?
    Today God’s kingdom is established in heaven and Christ has received his power and reigns, while Satan is still in control of the earth. All the nations of the earth are against God and his kingdom. It is therefore impossible for a person to be in full accord with the governments of this world and at the same time to be in full harmony with God’s kingdom under Christ. He must serve one or the other of the masters, and there can be no compromise. The difficulty with national rulers and many court judges and the majority of the peoples is that they do not see or understand what God’s kingdom is or means. The true Christian knows that he cannot be for God and His kingdom and at the same time attribute his protection and salvation to governments of  this world under Satan. To salute the flag of a nation in effect says: “I look to what that flag stands for and represents for my protection and salvation.” No Christian could do that, because he knows that all nations are soon to go down to destruction at God’s hands at Armageddon. The nation the flag represents cannot give protection or salvation in that battle.
    But does the salute to the flag of the nation, the United States, for instance, mean more than giving respect? Yes, much more. If it meant no more than respect and obedience to all laws not in conflict with God’s law, Christians still view saluting a symbol as a violation of the Second Commandment. But note what worldly authorities say as to the meaning of the flag: “The flag, like the cross, is sacred. Many people employ the words or term ’Etiquette of the Flag. This expression is too weak, too superficial, and smacks of drawing-room politeness. The rules and regulations relative to human attitude toward national standards use strong, expressive words, as, ’Service to the Flag,’ ’Respect for the Flag,’ ’Reverence for the Flag,’ ’Devotion to the Flag,’ ’Behavior Towards the Flag.’” (Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 11, p. 316) The Manual of Information, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, states: "America expects those who come here to love and revere and defend the flag which protects them."
    Does not the state have the complete power to compel its citizens to obey every law it makes? Emphatically, No! If a state enacts a law that is in direct conflict with God’s law, the true Christian will obey God instead of man many centuries ago the worldly, ancient Babylon held Jehovah’s people captives. Then that nation passed a law requiring the people to bow before an image at the giving of a certain signal. Three faithful Israelites refused. They were told that such refusal meant that they would be bound and cast into a fiery furnace. Were they terrified? Did they bow down, or compromise? Their answer was: “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Dan. 3: 16-18.
    A further example showing the will of Almighty God in this matter and the proper course for those in a covenant with God to take, is the following: The apostles of Jesus Christ were arrested and arraigned before the courts for preaching the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and the judges of the courts threatened them with dire punishment if they refused to cease preaching; and their reply to the court was this: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you mere than unto God, judge ye.” “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 4: 19; 5:29) The child of God has no alternative. He cannot compromise and live. His salvation depends upon full and complete faithful obedience to God.
    The act of saluting the flag is not an offense; but the one who has made a covenant to do God’s will, and who then acts in disobedience to God’s will, commits a wrong leading him into destruction. Those who desire to salute flags should do so, but those who have agreed to serve Jehovah God must obey him if they would live at all. The state may imprison and may even kill those who disobey demands for flag saluting, but those who die because of their faith and obedience to God are assured of a resurrection, whereas he that dies at the hands of God because of unfaithfulness cannot have a resurrection. The state can only kill the body, but has no power to bring one out of death. Only God can kill both body and the merciful provision for a resurrection - Matt. 10: 22, 28.
    There are two masters: Jehovah God, the Master over all who desire righteousness; and the Devil, over those who are against God. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6: 24) And be informed that it is possible to be serving Satan without knowing it. It is the works and not the words of a creature that determine whom he is serving: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” - Rom. 6: 16.
    The rule that should be followed by Christians, then, is this: Obey every law of the state that is in harmony with God’s law, because that is right. If you are trusting in Jehovah God and his kingdom, obey his law always, because He is supreme.