Discipline, Development and Determination
Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers
1 John 5:16-17 talks about sin leading to death. What does it mean for a sin to lead to death? I receive a newsletter from a man by the name of Dan Corner. He has founded a ministry called "The Evangelical Outreach" and his most recent newsletter (Volume 10, Number 1) takes up this very question. The article is called "The Righteous Can Die Spiritually" and he quotes verse after verse which says things like "If you sin, you will die" (Ezek. 3:20; 18:24-26; 33:13-18; Rom. 6:16; 8:13; Jas. 1:14-16; 5:19-20). And he takes every single one of them to mean that if you sin, you will die spiritually. You will lose your salvation.
But what he fails to understand in this situation is that there are different kinds of death in Scripture. Another newsletter that I get, which I would encourage you all to sign up for, is this one put out by Duluth Bible Church called The Grace Family Journal (http://www.duluthbible.org). In the September/October 1998 issue, they have a wonderful little chart called "The Seven Deaths of Scripture." It is very helpful to realize that when we see the word "death" or "dead" or "die" in Scripture, it is not always talking about spiritual death, spiritual separation from God. There are other kinds of death that the verse may have in view.
One of these types of death is clearly illustrated in Acts 5 and the events surrounding Ananias and Sapphira.
Remember, at the end of chapter 4, we saw a man by the name of Barnabas sell a piece of land and give the money to the church. It is hard to hide such an act of generosity, and so he probably received some sort of recognition and gratitude from the apostles and maybe even from the people that were helped by his gift. And so maybe some other people in the church wanted to get some recognition also. They also wanted people to praise them and recognize them and think of them as generous givers. But it doesn't quite turn out how they imagined. They end up getting disciplined by God. This is not church discipline, but divine discipline.
1. Discipline (5:1-11)
1But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? It wasn't that they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves. It was that they told people they were giving it all, when they were really only giving a portion. The sin wasn't that they were only giving part, it was the lie they told that they were giving all. The sin wasn't that they were holding back some of the money. The sin was that they wanted to appear to be more religious than they really were. They sin was deceit. The sin was hypocrisy. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things that the Lord hates. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.
Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of almost all of these. They had haughty eyes in that they were proud and wanted recognition for their generosity. They had a lying tongue in that they lied about the profit from their property. Peter says in verse 3 that they devised a wicked plan. They ran rapidly into this evil without thinking what they were doing. And they gave false testimony about what they were doing. This is close to what Peter says in verses 3-4.
3But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
Your money is your money and you can do what you want with it. Oh sure, it technically all belongs to God, so your money is actually His money, but even still, He has given it to you to see what you do with it. And if you want to give none of it back to him, well, that's your decision. If you want to give 10%, that's your decision. If you want to give 99%, that's your decision too. Especially in these sorts of areas where the giving is above and beyond the normal giving. Ananias and Sapphira were probably a good Christian couple. They probably attended church regularly, and gave generously from their income. They had this piece of property that they realized they didn't need, and so they sold it.
They have the right to choose whether to keep the money, or give a portion of it back to God, or give all of it back to God. That's what Peter says in verse 4. While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?
But what it is not okay to do is tell people and tell the church that they were giving all of it, when in face they were only giving part of it. What it is not okay to do is lie to the church, which is actually, as Peter says at the end of verse 4, lying to God. What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? It was a lie. Now, that doesn't sound so serious, does it? One little lie? And besides, they were being very generous. Doesn't that counteract the teeny little lie? No. Sin is a very serious thing in the life of the believer, and sin is even more serious in the life and health of the church, especially when it is a public sin like this which brings shame and discredit to the name of Christ. It is so serious, God puts Ananias to death. What kind of death? Physical death.
5Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
Does this seem harsh? It sure does. But we must remember, God is holy, righteous and just. Any sin, no matter how small, deserves eternal separation from God. So this punishment is not harsh, it is just. But nevertheless, God does not strike dead every Christian who sins, so why is Ananias? The reason is because the church was just getting started, and Ananias commits the first "public" sin. God puts him to death for it, because God wants to show everybody how serious sin is in the body of Christ. Sin cannot and should not be tolerated in our midst. God takes sin very seriously, and so should we.
I sometimes wonder who of us would be left if God struck us dead whenever we lied to him. Whenever we were hypocritical in our service to him. You know, we all come to church on Sunday and put on our best faces, and sing songs like "I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Jesus, blessed Savior, I surrender all." But meanwhile, we have kept back large portions of our life, our time, our energy and our money for ourselves. We want to appear holy and pious and like good Christians to other people, but in our private lives, we are disobedient hypocrites.
I had a man call me on the phone last week and say, "I have a prophecy for you from the Lord." And before he could tell me what it was, I asked him, "Where are you going to church?" And he said, "Nowhere. I don't go to church." And I said, "Well then I'm not interested in hearing your prophecy because true prophets, if there are such a thing today, obey God with their lives and their time, and God has commanded in His Word that we attend and get involved and minister and serve in a local church. And if you aren't doing that, then I don't believe God has given you a prophecy." He tried to explain to me how God told him not to go to church, but that would mean that God was contradicting Himself, which God does not do. So you see, this man considers himself a prophet, but he is holding back from God.
All of us do this to some degree or another, in one part of our life or another. And we need to realize that the only reason God has not struck us dead like He did Ananias is because God is being patient with us and longsuffering. But if we continue in our hypocrisy and rebellion, a day may come when He will put us to death physically. This is what 1 John 5:16-17 is talking about and what numerous other passages in the Bible mentions and what Ananias illustrates for us here. Be very serious and be very ruthless about rooting sin our of your life, because God is serious about it too.
7Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much."
Peter is being very gracious here toward Sapphira. He does not jump to conclusions. He gives her the benefit of the doubt that Ananias made this decision on his own. He gives her a chance to come clean with the truth and so save herself from death.
We must do the same thing Peter does. We must always give people the benefit of the doubt and be willing to hear their side of the story before jumping to conclusions. But Sapphira answers with the same lie that her husband did. And this time, Peter knows what will happen to her.
9Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
The same thing happens to Sapphira as happened to her husband. So let me pose a question. Were they Christians?
I think so. Simply from the fact that God disciplines them, and He disciplines His children, He disciplines those He loves, we know that they were Christians. If they had not been Christians, and had lied, Peter would have said, "Well, we know the truth that this is a lie, and your lie simply shows that you were never saved in the first place, and so what you need is to believe in Jesus for eternal life." But Peter does not say this. Why not? Because they are already Christians. They don't need to be saved. They need to be disciplined. And that is exactly what happens. And God's discipline is very serious. So serious in fact, that they will die in their sin. They will die in a state of unrepentance. They will die in a backslidden state. They will die having not persevered in good works.
So will they be in heaven? Yes, they will. Why? Not because of their obedience and faithfulness and perseverance, because they were none of these things. They will be in heaven because of God's faithfulness and the preservation of Jesus Christ. They will be in heaven because Jesus had died for all of their sins - even this one - and they had accepted His sacrifice by faith in Him. Now, they experienced discipline in this life. Some people today think that since this sort of thing doesn't really happen any more, God doesn't discipline any more either. But nothing could be further from the truth. A day is coming when all believers will stand before Christ and answer to Him for the deeds done in the body whether good or bad. And on that day, He will hand out rewards. Great honor and blessings for those who were faithful, no honor or blessings for those who were disobedient. Do not think that if God does not discipline you in this life for disobedience that you got away with it. For you didn't. Like Ananias and Sapphira, you may think your hypocrisy will never be found out, but God knows and God sees and He takes all sin very seriously.
Well, as a result of this discipline by God, we see in verse 11 that great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
What kind of fear was this? It was reverent, obedient fear. Not the shaking in your boots, cringing in terror fear. This was holy fear. Respectful fear. It was the "they mean business" fear so don't join unless you are serious about it.
Now although this is divine discipline going on here, there are lessons that we can glean from it about church discipline. There are countless churches today that say we cannot and should not practice church discipline any more today. They say it is not loving. They say that people just need to be accepted as they are. They say that we just need to be patient with people. All of that is true. But at the same time, we also need to practice church discipline on those who blatantly and publicly disregard God's Word and God's commands. People say, "Oh, but if you do that, nobody will come to your church. You'll scare everybody off." And initially, that is what seems to happen. We saw this happen in verse 5, and then also again in verse 11. But look what happens in verses 12-16. When God sees that a church is serious about obeying His Word, He begins to act on their behalf. We see several things that God does as the church continues to develop and grow.
2. Development (5:12-16)
a. Power (relationship with God)
First, God performs signs and wonders and miracles among the people.
12And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.
And look down also in verses 15-16. 15so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
We have talked about the miracles and healing ministries of the apostles frequently, but here we see it again. They were able to heal people in incredible ways. Sick people and demon possessed people were healed by Peter and the apostles. Some were even healed when Peter's shadow passed over them. I do believe that people can still be healed today. But it works a little different now. Today, when we want to be healed, all we have to do is simply and respectfully ask God to heal us if it is His will. And He may or may not heal. We could also have more healing accomplished by God today than is happening. While sin in a person's life is not always the reason they are not healed, I do think that the Bible tells us that in general, purity and power go together. Sometimes, sickness is God's way of disciplining us to get us to turn from a certain sin in our lives. You know, we sing, "More Love, More Power." Well, maybe we should add to that, "More Purity."
But notice that in the apostolic era, they were all healed. This is the difference between healing then and what some call the gift of healing today. I have never, ever heard of anyone who claims to have the gift of healing today where everyone who comes to them is healed. It just doesn't happen today. The reason, remember, is not that we don't have enough faith. It's not the amount of faith that matters, as it is the object of your faith. The reason so many were healed back then is that they did not have the written New Testament to compare the words of the apostles against. So the only way to verify what the apostles were saying was by whether they could perform signs and wonders and healing as we see here. Multitudes came and all were healed. They were truly and literally emptying the hospitals. By this, people knew that the teachings of the apostles was from God.
Today, there is nobody who heals all who come to them. Nobody. And just because some people have been healed under a certain ministry does not mean that the person is an apostle or we should take 100% of what they say as absolute truth. Now that we have the New Testament, we must always, always, always compare what a person says with the words of the Bible. If the two contradict, the person is a false teacher no matter how many miracles he or she claims to have performed. But these miracles and healings in the early church were genuine so that the church could continue to grow and spread and develop. But they developed in other ways also.
b. Unity (relationship with one another)
So first, as a result of standing on the Word of God, God worked mightily in their midst. Secondly, the church grew in unity and oneness. Picking back up in verse 12.
And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
This is the first car in the Bible. They were all in one accord. No, what it means is that they were in unity and oneness. Solomon's Porch was a part of the Temple where they met to pray together and listen to the apostle's teaching. The New Testament talks a lot about how important unity is (Eph. 4:1-6), and Jesus prays that we would be unified (John 17). And one way to grow in unity is to spend lots of time together studying the Word of God.
c. Public Esteem (relationship with world)
So, as the church developed, they had signs and wonders, they had unity, and thirdly, people realized that the church was not a social club. A fellowship club. It wasn't a club that people joined because it was popular to do so. It wasn't a place to meet nice people of the opposite sex. It was made known that if you joined the church, you better be serious about it. This is what we read in verse 13.
13Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.
Although not many people dared join them, they were well thought of. People realized they were serious about their business, that they were serious about obeying God's Word, and that if you put your name with theirs, you had better be serious about it too. Today, verse 13 is almost reversed. In some places, it seems like almost everybody joins the church, and yet those who aren't in the church ridicule it and revile it. This is because the church has stopped being salt and light, and has gone to being sugar and stage lights. The church in general is more like a circus today than anything else. We have our three rings, and our side shows, and the cotton candy and popcorn to attract the crowds. And people come and are entertained and leave feeling warm and fuzzy inside. But there is very little of substance. There is very little respect. The church is not esteemed highly.
As the church stood on the Word of God, God worked on their behalf, they developed in unity with one another, and the world esteemed them highly. And look at the results in verse 14.
14And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
The result is that God added to their number. The people who did join were serious about it, and got rid of sin in their lives, and let their light shine before men, and they evangelized, and witnessed, and served, and ministered, and as a result, God brought more and more people into their midst. Notice that it is believers joining, not the world. Many churches today try to do everything they can to get the world to come to church. But we don't want to the world to come to church, we want to the church to go to the world so that the world can become believers, and then believers come to church.
Nevertheless, even though they had all this going for them, they faced persecution. From whom? The other religious leaders. This is what the rest of chapter 5 talks about. But again, the apostles were determined to please God rather than men.
3. Determination (5:17-42)
17Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.
Here is a laying on of hands that you don't want to happen to you…
The apostles have been doing exactly the opposite of what they were told to do in chapter 4. The religious rulers told them to not teach any more about Christ, but the apostles said they must obey God rather than men, and so they continued to preach Christ. And as they did so, miracles were taking place, and many people were becoming Christians. So the religious rulers got upset that they were not obeyed, and they are beginning to feel threatened that so many Jews are becoming Christians, that they arrest the apostles and put them in prison.
But when we are doing God's will, not even prison bars can hold us. We may be kept in prison, but even there, we can do God's will. But sometimes, as we read in verse 19, God allows escape so that His will can be carried on outside of prison.
19But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20"Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life."
God frees the apostles so they can go back to preaching in the temple. He tells them to go and speak to the people all the words of this life. This means that they were to teach them not only about this physical life, but also the eternal life that is ours through faith in Christ, and beyond this, the abundant life that can be ours through obedience and sanctification (John 10:10). Did you know there was a difference? Eternal life begins the moment you believe in Jesus for eternal life. There are no strings attached to eternal life. But the abundant life is gained through a process of submitting to the Lordship of Christ and obeying Him and His Word. The angel tells the apostles to teach all about this. Which is exactly what they do in verse 21.
21And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.
The apostles didn't wait until things cooled off around Jerusalem. They didn't go into hiding for a few days or weeks. They didn't even wait until noon the next day. They went early in the morning. They knew that they had just escaped from prison, and that God had told them to preach, and that possibly, if they were arrested again they might be put to death. They knew their time was short, and so they put it to the best work they could. Early in the morning they went and preached.
When God calls you to do something, don't wait and drag your feet and make excuses. Just obey. Obeying God is their priority. They are determined to do His will, and they do it as soon as they able. Meanwhile, the high priest and the elders of Israel had gathered to have a little trial for the apostles.
But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!"
Somehow the apostles passed right by the guards in the night, and nobody even knew they were gone until they opened up the cell and found it empty. The officers reported this to the Jewish council.
24Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.
They are wondering where their prisoners are, and just as they are trying to figure it out, somebody comes and tells them where they are.
25So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!"
Just the day before, this is what got them arrested, and now they are at it again, teaching the people in the temple. The Jewish rulers now realize that no matter what they do, they will not be able to stop these men from preaching. If they are told to remain silent, they teach anyway. If they are put in prison, they escape and go back to teaching. They are not criminals who are trying to hide and escape the law. They are simply trying to do what God has told them to do, and He apparently is enabling them to do it.
So they send the captain of the guards to bring the apostles before them again for questioning.
26Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!"
The first thing Christ told the apostles to do was to be His witnesses in Jerusalem. The High Priest here unknowingly reveals that they had completed the first part of their task. He says that they have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine. Wouldn't that be great to have this charge leveled against us for the Tobacco Valley? "Get out of town. You have filled Eureka and Fortine and Trego with your doctrine!"
Another ironic thing about what the High Priest says is there at the end of verse 28. He says that the apostles intend to bring this Man's blood on us. But isn't it these same people who, before the crucifixion, cried out, "Let His blood be upon us, and our children"? (Matt. 27:25). After the deed is done, they don't want to face the consequences. This is the same way it is for us sometimes. We are faced with a temptation to sin, and we know what the consequences will be, but we say, "Hey, it's worth it. I want that sinful pleasure so bad, I will pay anything to get it." But after the sin is over, and we have wallowed in filth for a while, and then it comes to suffer the consequences, we never want to pay the bill. We try to lay the blame on others. We try to squirm out of it any way we can. We say that God is not good to discipline us in this way. But such arguments will never stand up under divine scrutiny. We knew and admitted the cost of the sin before we ever committed it, and so after the sin is done, there is no way to get away from it, no matter how hard we try to deny it.
Well, Peter and the apostles say again what they have been saying frequently. And Peter preaches another mini sermon and throws in the message of repentance for Israel to receive the forgiveness of sins.
29But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
For the average Jew, Peter had just uttered as much heresy as was possible in a few short sentences.
Peter mentions all three members of the Trinity. They didn't believe in the trinity. He tells them that Jesus was the promised Messiah, which they flat out refused to even consider. And worse than this, that they had murdered him. And not just any murder, murder by hanging him on a tree. The Old Testament says, "Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree" (Dt. 21:23). They never would admit that the Messiah was Jesus or that they had killed him, or that the Messiah would allow himself to be cursed by hanging on a tree. Finally, Peter tells them that Israel must repent of her sins in order to be forgiven. The religious rulers didn't think they had any sin. They were righteous and holy and perfect in the strict obedience to the law.
All of these things would have infuriated the Jews. And Peter is not stupid, he knows it. But what he doesn’t know is what is about to happen to him. For all he knows, these sentences will be his last. And so he gets right to the point and tells them the bottom line, exactly what they need to hear, and exactly what is wrong with their thinking. And not surprisingly, his bold and accusatory sermon makes them furious and they want to kill him.
33When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.
But then a man by the name of Gamaliel stands up to speak.
34Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.
Gamaliel, by the way, was the Apostles Paul's teacher (Acts 22:3). Paul, at this time named Saul, may have been in this meeting. Jewish historians tell us that Gamaliel only had one criticism of Paul - that it was impossible to find enough reading material for him.
35And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God."
Was Gamaliel's advice correct or incorrect? He says, "If this is from God, you will not be able to stop it. If it not from God, then it will stop on it's own accord." Is this right, or not?
I think most people assume it was correct. But the Bible, history and logic shows that this is not always true. God frequently allows heresy and false doctrine and false teachers to gather large followings and never seem to suffer a bit of harm. Just look at all the cults that have sprung up over the years. Sure, some of them end in disaster like the one Gamaliel talks about here, and we could think of the Heaven's Gate cult and those at Jonestown who drank poison kool-aid. But for the most part, cults and heresies just get larger and larger as time goes by and God never seems to step in and intervene. If Gamaliel was 100% correct here, then any religion or cult that never failed must be of God.
Success is no test of truth, despite was pragmatists say. False cults often grow faster than the church. If success were the guide to truth, then the church must be wrong, and the cults right. And besides that, even if success were a test of truth, how long do you have to wait in order to see if something is successful or not? We do know that eventually, the church will be a success, but at times, it doesn't seem like it. So no matter how you look at it, Gamaliel's advice was foolish.
Peter's bold and confrontational sermon demanded a decision, not a "wait and see" attitude. When people are presented with the gospel message, they always want time to think about it. They always want to "wait and see." And while we can't press them into believing in Jesus for eternal life, we need to caution them about adopting a "wait and see" mentality, for they may not have the opportunity to wait and see.
We had a funeral here at the church yesterday for a young man named Joey. He was 15 years old and died last week in a motorcycle accident. Less than one month ago, he went to church with his sister in Post Falls, ID, and the pastor there invited Joey to believe in Jesus for eternal life, which I am told, Joey decided to do that day. But what if Joey had said, "Thanks for the info. I'll think about it and get back to you." Very likely, he would not have been done thinking about it this last week when he died. But he did not wait and see. He made a decision and that made all the difference in where he is now.
Jesus made it clear that it is impossible to be neutral about Him. He said in Matthew 12:30 that he who is not with Me is against Me." Any decision to "wait and see" is a vote against Jesus Christ. And in fact, this "wait-and-see-make-no-decision-now" stance is exactly what the rest of the Jewish council does.
40And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
If these men were guilty, they should be punished. If they were innocent, they should be let go. But beating them and then letting them go was half way between both. But the apostles don't complain. They rejoice and keep doing the Lord's work.
41So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
The apostles were single-minded in their determination to obey God's will. Nothing could keep them from doing what God wanted them to do. Not the commands of men, not prison, not law systems and court appearances, not even physical beatings. God had called them to preach Jesus as the Christ, and that is what they did. God has also called each one of us to do something specific. There are some similar and general things He has called all Christians to do, but I also believe that He calls each person to do something specific. Our main priority in life should be discovering what God wants us to do, and then single-mindedly doing it, no matter what distractions are thrown in our path.
In this chapter, we have seen the apostles determined to obey God at all costs - even if they went against the political and religious government. This is an example of civil disobedience. Let me give some pointers on disobeying the government.
We must always remember that the government was put into place by God so that we would obey it. And God commands us to obey the government (Rom. 13). We are to pay taxes (Luke 20:25) and obey them in their commands and ordinances. There is only one condition under which we may disobey the government, and that is when they make it illegal to obey the Bible. For example, on April 30, 2004 the Canadian government signed into law some legislation that effectively makes the Bible hate speech because it condemns homosexuality as sinful. Now if that happened in America, I would continue to teach the Bible because God says to teach the Bible and God's commands are higher than man's. And there are many examples in the Bible of where individuals did practice civil disobedience (Ex. 1:17-21; Josh. 2:4; Matt. 1:5; Dan. 3:18-25; Dan. 6:10-22). Henry David Thoreau wrote a book called Civil Disobedience, and it has some good points and some bad points because he wrote it from man's perspective. But when we get God's input, we know when and how to practice such disobedience.
First, civil disobedience must always be carried out only with Scriptural authority, not your own opinion or your own person vendetta against the government. God told the apostles to preach and so they did, even when they were told not to. Second, if you do have Scriptural authority for civil disobedience, then carry it out with humility. Don't be hostile, bitter, or violent. Just say, "Look, I know this is what you say, but here is what God says, and I must obey God rather than men."