29b We ought to obey God rather than men.
These were the words of Peter and other apostles who were brought before the Jewish council that prohibited them from preaching the name of Jesus Christ. The high priest who headed the council charged them, saying, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28). However, on an earlier occasion, Peter and John had already told the very same council that “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).
The apostles’ bold and forthright reply was a much-needed spiritual lesson for the self-promoting, self-seeking, unreasonable Jewish religious leaders, who exhibited their utter defiance to God by crucifying Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their hatred for the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the main reason for their ungodly demand that the apostles be banned from speaking about Christ.
Man’s greatest obligation or duty in life is to obey God. So the apostles said, “We ought to obey God”. We owe to God our obedience. It is a requirement abundantly set forth in the Scriptures and in our conscience. For instance, in Deuteronomy 13:4, the LORD commanded, “Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him” (cf. Deuteronomy 27:10). The prophet Samuel taught that obedience to God’s Word is more important than sacrifices: “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Jesus also taught that obedience is the proof of one’s love for Him: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; cf. Exodus 20:6).
So by declaring their commitment “to obey God rather than men”, the apostles exalted God above all human authorities, whether it be secular or religious. They and all other Christian martyrs chose death rather than a disobedient life. They were men committed to obey the Lord at any cost. Making the ultimate sacrifice in obedience to the Lord should be the Christian’s highest honour and privilege.