1. THE INSPIRED BALANCE
a. Explain the comprehensive duties of Christians of every era with regard to earthly authorities. Romans 13:1–7; Acts 4:18–20; 5:17–20.
“When the disciples preached Christ and Him crucified, after His resurrection, the authorities commanded them not to speak any more nor to teach in the name of Jesus. [Acts 4:19, 20 quoted.] They continued to preach the good news of salvation through Christ, and the power of God witnessed to the message. The sick were healed, and thousands were added to the church. . . .
“The God of heaven, the mighty Ruler of the universe, took this matter into His own hands; for men were warring against His work. He showed them plainly that there is a ruler above man, whose authority must be respected. . . .
“Those who seek to compel men to observe an institution of the papacy, and trample upon God’s authority, are doing a work similar to that of the Jewish leaders in the days of the apostles. When the laws of earthly rulers are brought into opposition to the laws of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, then those who are God’s loyal subjects will be true to Him.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 713.
“I saw that it is our duty in every case to obey the laws of our land, unless they conflict with the higher law which God spoke with an audible voice from Sinai, and afterward engraved on stone with His own finger.”—Ibid., vol.1, p. 361.
2. MAINTAINING APPROPRIATE RESPECT
a. What attitude and criteria did Christ teach regarding our duties to God and to the government? Mark 12:13–17; Romans 14:16.
“Christ’s reply was no evasion, but a candid answer to the question. Holding in His hand the Roman coin, upon which were stamped the name and image of Caesar, He declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as this did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 602.
b. Describe the attitude we are ever to manifest toward rulers, as exemplified by faithful men of God. Daniel 6:16–22; Titus 3:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:17.
“We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is not to be set aside for a ‘Thus saith the church’ or a ‘Thus saith the state.’ The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.
“We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily close up our way. We are to go forward in Christ’s name, advocating the truths committed to us.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 69.
“It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions. . . . Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. We should not be turned aside to lines that will encourage controversy or arouse antagonism in those not of our faith.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 394.
“In all modesty, in the spirit of grace, and in the love of God we are to point men to the fact that the Lord God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.”—Ibid., p.395.
3. YEARNING FOR THE SPIRIT OF GOD
a. Describe the impact of having God’s law in our hearts. Romans 13:8–10.
“God’s law is fulfilled only as men love Him with heart, mind, soul, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves. It is the manifestation of this love that brings glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men. The Lord is glorified when the great end of His law is attained. It is the work of the Holy Spirit from age to age to impart love to human hearts, for love is the living principle of brotherhood.
“Not one nook or corner of the soul is to be a hiding place for selfishness. God desires that heaven’s plan shall be carried out, and heaven’s divine order and harmony prevail, in every family, in every church, in every institution. Did this love leaven society, we should see the outworking of noble principles of Christian refinement and courtesy, and in Christian charity toward the purchase of the blood of Christ. Spiritual transformation would be seen in all our families, in our institutions, in our churches. When this transformation takes place, these agencies will become instrumentalities by which God will impart heaven’s light to the world and thus, through divine discipline and training, fit men and women for the society of heaven.
“Jesus has gone to prepare mansions for those who are preparing themselves, through His love and grace, for the abodes of bliss. In the family of God in heaven there will not be found one who is selfish. The peace and harmony of the heavenly courts will not be marred by the presence of one who is rough or unkind. He who in this world exalts self in the work given him to do will never see the kingdom of God unless he is changed in spirit, unless he becomes meek and lowly, revealing the simplicity of a little child.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 139, 140.
b. Now more than ever, what sobering call resounds to us? Romans 13:11.
“Let ministers and lay members go forth into the ripening fields to tell the unconcerned and indifferent to seek the Lord while He may be found.”—Ibid., vol.8, p. 253.
“Now the day of God is nearer than when we first believed, and we should be more earnest, more zealous, and fervent than in those early days. Our perils are greater now than then. Souls are more hardened. We need now to be imbued with the spirit of Christ, and we should not rest until we receive it.”—Ibid., vol.5, p. 162.
4. FOCUS AND ZEAL AS NEVER BEFORE
a. What is crucial as we approach the end of time? Romans 13:12–14.
“The Lord has not closed Heaven against His people; but their own course of continual backsliding, of bickering, envying, and strife, has separated them from Him. Pride and love of the world live in the heart. . . .
“Impurity is widespread, even among those who profess to be the followers of Christ. Many are eagerly participating in worldly, demoralizing amusements which God’s word forbids. Thus they sever their connection with God, and rank themselves with the pleasure-lovers of the world. If God should present their sins before them as they appear in His sight, they would be filled with shame and terror.
“And what has caused this alarming condition? Many have accepted the theory of religious truth, who have not been converted to its principles. There are few indeed who feel true sorrow for sin; who have deep, pungent convictions of the depravity of the unregenerate nature, and are trying to walk even as Christ walked. The heart of stone is not exchanged for a heart of flesh. Few are willing to fall upon the Rock, and be broken.
“What surpassing love and condescension, that when we had no claim on divine mercy, Christ was willing to undertake our redemption! But our great Physician requires of every soul unquestioning obedience. We are never to prescribe for our own case. Christ must have the entire control of our will and action, or He will not undertake in our behalf.”—The Signs of the Times, July 14, 1887.
“We are standing, as it were, on the borders of the eternal world. We are looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord; the night is far spent; the day is at hand. When we realize the greatness of the plan of redemption we shall be far more courageous, self-sacrificing, and devotional than we now are.
“There is a great work for us to do before success will crown our efforts. There must be decided reforms in our homes and in our churches. Parents must labor for the salvation of their children. God will work with our efforts when we do on our part all that He has enjoined upon us and qualified us to do; but because of our unbelief, worldliness, and indolence, blood-bought souls in the very shadow of our homes are dying in their sins, and dying unwarned. Is Satan always thus to triumph? Oh, no! The light reflected from the cross of Calvary indicates that a greater work is to be done than our eyes have yet witnessed.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 382, 383.
5. BROTHERLY LOVE
a. Considering the fact that all human beings are different, how should we treat each other? Romans 14:7–13.
“Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light, are to another most difficult and perplexing.
“So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another. We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil.”—Gospel Workers, p. 473.
b. How does the Lord see those who cause division in His church—and how only can we reach unity both in the family and the church? Proverbs 6:16–19; Colossians 1:27, 28.
“The cause of division and discord in families and in the church is separation from Christ. To come near to Christ is to come near to one another. The secret of true unity in the church and in the family is not diplomacy, not management, not a superhuman effort to overcome difficulties—though there will be much of this to do—but union with Christ.
“The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another. God is glorified as His people unite in harmonious action.”—The Adventist Home, p. 179.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What example do I give friends and family regarding earthly authority?
2. Explain the balance of honoring the Majesty of heaven above all.
3. How might my attitudes be hindering the Spirit of God in my life?
4. What actions should I be taking in preparation for Christ’s return?
5. How will my relationships with others change as I seek Christ fully?