By Alistair Begg
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? … It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
What ought to be the Christian’s relationship to authority?
On the one hand, we ought not to despise human authority because we recognize that God is behind its establishment. We would have to remove large portions of Scripture to come close to the idea that the Bible is a revolutionary tract undermining rulers. Yet, on the other hand, we also understand that no human authority has ultimate or permanent authority. God ordains the rise of leaders and He also orchestrates their demise. No matter how powerful they seem in a moment, for a season, or even during a lifetime, within a relatively short time their power will be gone and in almost every case the world will remember them no more.
We must remember whom we ultimately serve—the sovereign God to whom all other rulers are “grasshoppers.” Therefore, when the authority of man seeks to oppose the authority of God, we are to ask, along with the apostles, “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to [rulers] rather than to God” (Acts 4:19)—and we are to answer as they did.
In Acts 4, the apostles spend a night in prison after healing a lame man. When they are released, they gather with the other believers and regain true perspective by remembering that they serve the sovereign Lord, the Creator of the earth, sea, and everything in it (Acts 4:24-26). Applying this truth, they then recognize that though they are under subjugation by the Roman authorities and facing the persecution of the Jewish religious establishment, these leaders are only doing what God’s “hand and … plan had predestined to take place” (v 28), while they have been commissioned to preach the good news to the ends of the earth by the ascended King, Jesus Himself. With that perspective, they continue to share the gospel boldly and openly.
Can the same be said of us in our age? Will we obey God and share Christ even if those who wield earthly power over us are commanding us to silence or compromise?
What is it that silences us? One answer is surely how quick we are to forget that God is sovereign and that the nations and rulers of the world are under His authority. Having forgotten that, we succumb to a political correctness which makes us increasingly fearful of telling anybody that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. So, have you lost sight of Jesus’ kingly rule and reign? Do those who are ultimately grasshoppers to your Lord loom too large in your view of who to listen to and how to live? Then join the early believers in remembering, recognizing, and proclaiming the truths that God is the incomparable Creator of everything and that ultimate authority belongs to Him.