Acts 18:13: “This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.”
The Jews dragged Paul to the deputy, and what was their accusation against him? That he taught men to worship in an illegal manner. This is what the modern haters of God, Christ and Christians do: they get certain doctrines of Christianity declared illegal – and then they use such legislation to persecute Christians. “You can’t say that – it’s against the law!”
They have legislation which protects certain religious practices while condemning others. They say, “You can believe whatever you like – as long as it’s in private. You can’t try to convince others of the truth of what you believe. That’s an infringement of their rights. It’s hate speech!”
If only those in authority in western countries today would copy the attitude of Gallio, the deputy to whom the Jews brought Paul and accused him in the words of Acts 18:13 above! Gallio’s reply was, “If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your [religious] law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters” (vv.14,15). He was a political deputy, and he confined himself to such matters, not to religious disputes. This was outside of his legitimate authority, and he would have nothing to do with it. A truly wise, sensible approach which today’s interfering authorities would do well to emulate!
Acts 20:20,21: Paul the apostle, in addressing the elders of the church at Ephesus, said to them: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In teaching God’s Word, Gospel ministers are to keep back nothing that is profitable. It is profitable for men to hear that they are sinners; to hear that certain specific sins are sins; that such sins will send them to hell; and that only Christ can set them free.
When a government prohibits freedom of speech, it always prohibits what some group or segment of society considers to be “hurtful”. Although the Gospel means the good news, first the bad news must be proclaimed: that men are lost sinners. But the natural man does not want to hear that he is a lost, hellbound sinner who needs to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Far more “convenient”, then, to simply ban certain speech, than to hear what people find distasteful!
Acts 20:27: Paul said to the same elders: “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
Yet when freedom of speech is removed, it becomes illegal to preach all the counsel of God! This again demonstrates why freedom of speech is so intimately connected with freedom of religion.
Gal. 4:16: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
Telling the truth to a man about the true state of his soul; the truth as it is in Jesus; the true Gospel as opposed to any false one; the truth of heaven and hell; etc. – this does not make the speaker the enemy of the one to whom he is speaking, it makes him his greatest friend! When a man is about to fall over a precipice he cannot see, and someone warns him of the danger, this is not hatred! It would be hatred to remain silent, and watch him plunge to his doom.
But today, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) is to be guilty of “hate speech”! When speech in love can be redefined as “hate speech”, we have reached a point where those who hate the truth have succeeded in redefining language itself, so that love becomes hatred and hatred becomes love; good becomes evil and evil becomes good; right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right. As George Orwell correctly observed, “In times of universal deceit [and such is our time], telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” – to be punished by the authorities. A nightmare world has now been created. Everything is upside-down. All is confusion. Black is white. White is black. Good is evil. Evil is good. Common sense itself has been cast aside. Madness prevails.
In the West today – where freedom of speech and freedom of religion originated – there is now no true freedom of either. Christians in western Protestant lands have enjoyed greater freedoms than any other nations in world history – but this has all changed.
But although government policy changes, the way Christians are to live, and the Gospel they are to preach, never changes. They are to live out their faith, and proclaim Christ’s Gospel, just as they did before. Just as Daniel did in his day, and the apostles and early Christians in theirs.
When Daniel’s enemies wanted to stop him, they said, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (Dan. 6:5). It has always been this way, and always will be! To silence and stop the people of God, the enemies of truth must find ways to silence the expression of their faith.
Therefore these men persuaded the king to sign into law a decree that no person in his kingdom was allowed to pray to any God or to ask anything of any man for thirty days, except of the king himself. And yet, despite the obvious danger to himself, how did Daniel respond? By doing what he had always done before! “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan. 6:10). Note that: he did as he had always done!
Daniel understood what so many professing “Christians” today do not, and he showed a boldness in the Lord of which so many professing “Christians” today know nothing! He knew that even though the king had passed such a law, his sacred duty remained the same as ever. He was to continue to worship and serve God, because no earthly power has the legitimate authority to prevent it!
Likewise, the apostles were threatened and forbidden to preach to anyone in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet what was their wonderful reply? “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19,20); and, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They knew the cost! But they also knew that no earthly authority, no matter how powerful, had the right to forbid them to preach the Gospel.
In these dark days, let every child of God understand this clearly: we are to obey the authorities in all lawful matters; but when they demand that we cease to obey the Lord so as to obey them, they have set themselves up in the place of God, and in every such case –
We ought to obey God rather than men.
Shaun Willcock is a minister, author and researcher. He runs Bible Based Ministries. This pamphlet was first published in February 2019. For other pamphlets (which may be downloaded and printed), as well as details about his books, audio messages, articles, etc., please visit the Bible Based Ministries website; or write to the address below. If you would like to be on Bible Based Ministries’ email list, please send your details.
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