Should Christians stop evangelizing if it is prohibited? Romans 13:1-7 seems to say that Christians should not evangelize if a government prohibits it.
There are countries in our would that have passed laws prohibiting Christians from evangelizing or from sharing the gospel about Jesus Christ. Since Romans 13:1 tells us that it is God’s will that everyone obey their government, a conflict is created. How should a Christian respond? The following provides insight into the biblical principles about this issue.
Everyone Is To Obey Their Government
The first passage we want to examine is Romans 13:1-2 because it reveals why government exists and how we should respond to government.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 (NASB)
This verse begins with a command. Every person is to submit to their government. That is, we are to obey the laws adopted by our government. In 1 Peter 2:13-15 we are told once again that it is God’s will we submit to government. The most powerful statement in Romans 13:1-2 is that anyone who opposes government is actually opposing God and will be punished.
When Christians Must Disobey Government
In Acts 4:1-4 the apostles Peter and John were sharing the good news about Jesus Christ. In verse 4 we are told that many responded by believing in Christ.
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 (NASB)
In verse 3 we are told the temple guards arrested those who were preaching. In verses 5-17 we are told that Peter and John were questioned at the Sanhedrin Council which was composed of Pharisees and Sadducees. Verse 13 tells us that the two apostles were Peter and John.
In verse 15 they were ordered to leave the council so the council members could decide what to do with them. In verse 18 they were ordered to return to the council. Verses 18-21 describe what happened.
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened . . . Acts 4:18-21 (NASB)
The passage reveals that they were ordered to stop evangelizing or preaching about Christ. Peter and John responded by refusing to obey saying that it would be wrong to obey them and not God.
Therefore, the apostles continued preaching about Jesus Christ. Consequently, Peter was arrested again and all of the apostles. They were tried before the council and in Acts 5:27-32 Peter and the apostles stood before the Sanhedrin Council. The council told Peter and the apostles that they were given strict orders to stop evangelizing. Verse 29 gives the response of Peter and the apostles.
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29 (NASB)
These two examples in Acts 4 and 5 establish the principle that Christians must disobey government when governmental laws violate God’s commands. Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8 command Christians to evangelize.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47 (NASB)
. . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8
It is the responsibility of every Christian to share Christ with non-Christians. It is an act of love for every person and obedience to our God who desires that people be rescued from hell.
Reference Links:Does God appoint evil leaders to lead nations?
Seeking God’s Will
Government Is Established By God, part 1
Government Is Established By God, part 2
Submit To Human Government
Biblical Response to Persecution, part 1
Biblical Response to Persecution, part 2