Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

One of our Bible Study groups asks in connection withI Peter 2:11-17, “When must we obey God rather than man? In which area of life may this principle be used?”

In the passage of Peter’s epistle referred to above, Scripture is pointing to our calling as Christian pilgrims in regard to the magistrate, emphasizing our duty to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”

The Word of God goes on to say that this includes every form of government and authority placed over us, whether that be a king or a president, whether that be a governor or a mayor, or whether that be a sheriff or a police officer, a stop sign or a speed law, or any other law or ordinance of man.

The basis for this submission lies in the fact that God is a God of law and order, who has “ordained the powers that be” as ministers of God for our good (Romans 13:1-5). When we submit to the higher authority we submit to God, because we love Him and keep His commandments. That is our Christian liberty. God has freed us from the bondage of sin and death. Sin has no more dominion over us. By the grace of God we can, and may, and must keep His commandments. We are His chosen people, His witnesses in the midst of an evil world to let our light shine in obedience and faithfulness to our God. To refuse to submit to those in authority over us would bring dishonor to God’s name and cause on the earth.

From this it becomes evident that there is only one occasion in which we refuse to obey the magistrate, and that is when the rulers make laws and ordinances which are contrary to the laws of God. In that case we say, as the apostles declared shortly after Pentecost, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When the government requires of us that which is contrary to God’s law we may not obey, lest we transgress our Gods commandments. We cannot, we may not obey, for conscience sake. We must obey God, not men. And if we are punished for our submission to the law of God we bear that punishment willingly as persecution for Christ’s sake. That also belongs to our Christian liberty. We have the example of our Lord Himself and of the apostle Paul in willing submission to punishment for what is right.

With that the Bible Study Group that sent in these questions have no problem. They are more concerned about the area of life to which these principles apply. And then more specifically they ask: 1. How should we as Christians respond to our government’s legalizing of the evil practice of abortion? 2. Is the pro-life practice of carrying signs, handing out literature, etc. at the abortion clinics a proper Christian response?

In regard to the first question, we should not sit idly by while evils are being perpetrated by our government, whether that be local, State, or federal government. We so often take the attitude of “what’s the use?” instead of giving expression to our objections and convictions. We should take a firm stand for what is right and make that known. There are proper means whereby we can express ourselves. These means should be used. For example, we can write our representatives in the State capitol and in Washington, or wherever they are located, being ready at all times to give account of the reason for the hope that is within us (I Peter 3:15).

Possibly our strongest witness against the evil of abortion is to impress upon our teenagers the privilege of their Christian liberty. Parents should begin to warn their children, at an early age, of the evils of the world round about them, in which God is no longer recognized, God’s commandments are despised, sin is no longer sin, and fornication is no longer an evil to be condemned. The world round about us is no longer ashamed of immorality or promiscuity. Dating has become in many instances an all night or week-end “experience”; “living in” is no longer frowned upon; sexual relationships outside of marriage are condoned. Young people are only warned to prevent unwanted consequences. In such a world young and old within the church must be reminded of their obligation to love the Lord their God by fleeing from every form of fornication, knowing that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, for we are not our own, but we are purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 6:18, 19).

In the church of Jesus Christ, not only abortions should be foreign among us, but also the sins that bring about the desire for resorting to this evil. We are called to be a shining light in a world that is rapidly becoming ripe for the coming judgment. Our calling is, “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:17, 18).