Christians are commanded to obey all legitimate human authorities (Mark 12:17; Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13). However, Jesus alone has the HIGHEST authority (Philippians 2:9-11). We know this because, about 2000 years ago, God raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, God now “commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). This is why Jesus told His followers after His resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Who will we obey?
We may find it easy to say we believe Jesus is the true ruler, but here is the test: if our government makes it illegal to obey one or more of Jesus’ commands, who will we disobey? Will we disobey the HIGHER authority to please the LOWER authority; or will we disobey the LOWER authority to please the HIGHER authority? Sadly, it’s not always possible to please everybody.
In the first century, Jesus’ disciples faced this same choice. The religious leaders punished them for telling people about Jesus, and warned them to stop preaching about His death and resurrection (Acts 4:1-21 and 517-42). But the disciples replied: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). Despite fierce persecution, “they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5:42). Their obedience proves that the disciples really did believe that Jesus is the true ruler.
Praying for boldness
How did the disciples have so much courage? One thing they did was pray for boldness (Acts 4:29). They may have remembered Jesus’ warning: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). There was also Jesus’ comforting promise: “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). And they would also have been encouraged by Jesus’ personal example. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus: “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11).
The proof of the crucifixion
Jesus’ crucifixion is the perfect proof that Jesus really is the true Ruler, even when it looks like His enemies have won. On the cross, it seemed like Jesus had been defeated. In fact, however, the earthly rulers were only doing what God’s “power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28), for it had always been God’s plan, from eternity past (Revelation 13:8), to send His Son into the world to save the world through Him (John 3:17).
A ransom for many
The final sign of the true Ruler is this: unlike so many earthly rulers, Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Even though we have often dishonored and disobeyed the true Ruler, He did not come to condemn us; instead, He came humbly, in love, to give up His own life, so that we could be forgiven.
There is no other Lord and Savior like Jesus Christ. Let us now learn to obey Him every day, as the HIGHEST authority in our world and in our lives.