Obey God Rather Than Man—No. 1

An editorial on loyalty to God.


When Christ answered the question, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" He settled a question which had perplexed the Jews for gen­erations. The Jews held themselves to be the only people of whom God approved, harking back to the days of Abraham for evidence of being His chosen in­heritance. With them it was not a matter of obedience but of birthright that made them God's peculiar people. They held in contempt all peoples other than themselves. They de­spised the Romans, who had control of their nation, and who collected taxes from the Jews with which to wage their wars and administer their government.

All through the childhood and youth of Christ there had been Roman supremacy over Pales­tine, the land promised to Israel. The Romans were a ruling, foreign power hated by the Jews. The Jews had started one rebellion after an­other, only to find themselves more and more in the iron grip of this supreme and relentless force. Christ could hardly have replied to the question asked by the Pharisees and Herodians, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cmsar, or not?" in more surprising and stronger language than the words:

"Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? Show Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Csar's. Then saith He unto them, Ren­der therefore unto Caesar the things which are Csar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Matt. 22:17-21.

It has ever been God's plan that His people should be separated from the world, for He de­clares: "The kingdom of God is within you." The divine command is: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15. The prayer of Christ definitely defined the distinction between the Christian and the world:

"I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. . . . As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall be­lieve on Me through their word." John 17: 15-20.

When Christ was being persecuted by those who were determined that He should die, he said:

"My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence." John 18:36.

Here Christ claims a kingdom, but He at once declares that it is not of this world. If it be­longed to this world, then would His servants fight. Thus Christ separates His people from the world, and plainly adds, "But now is My kingdom not from hence." Because of the nature of His kingdom, it being a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men, His servants cannot kill. On this very occasion Peter in his zeal undertook to defend Christ with his sword. It seemed right to Peter that he should defend his Lord and Master.

"Behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?" Matt. 26:51-53.

If the use of the sword by true Christians can be justified on any grounds, it would seem that Peter was justified in defending the Son of God who was soon to be crucified by a mob. Christ is the Christian's perfect pattern. As He lived, we are to live. It would be unthinkable that Christ and His chosen twelve should have joined the Roman army and followed the Roman eagle. Nor can we think that the peo­ple of God can live the Christian life when en­gaged in taking human life. The Duke of Well­ington is quoted as saying: "Men of nice scruples about religion, have no business in the army or navy."

Christ established His church in the hearts of men. His kingdom is spiritual, not carnal. "When He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He an­swered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20, 21. Thus Christ has a real kingdom over which He is King. Men whom He has called and chosen, and in whose hearts He has established His spiritual kingdom, are to be citizens of tem­poral kingdoms, which may tax them and con­trol their actions toward the state and toward one another; but He demands that in the Chris­tian's heart and affections and service God shall be given the first place.

Thus there comes between the state and the devout Christian a natural separation. The state represents this physical world. It says to all its citizens: "I demand your utmost loyalty, your highest degree of service. There shall be none who come between the state and its citi­zens. Your first duty is to the state." But said Christ: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. . . . Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Mark 12:30, 31. "Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Csar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

God demands man's supreme love. Nor does He yield one iota of His demands. Should He do this, He would lose His subject. The service God demands is from the heart, the affections, the finest, noblest part of man. Nor is He will­ing to divide this loyalty, and give part to the state. This is made very clear by His own words: "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.                                                      

I. H. E.

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June 1935

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