Several examples of civil disobedience are found in the New Testament. When Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish authorities and commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they answered:
"Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19
So they went on teaching in public and were arrested again. The high priest said to them:
"'We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men."' Acts 5:28
It was a brazen statement before a hostile crowd. But to fully understand what was happening here, we have to look at what took place just hours before this meeting.
But a curious thing happened that night which delivered a very clear theological statement to the early Christians.
“But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.” Acts 5:19-21
After Peter was arrested and jailed (again) for preaching about Jesus this happened:
“The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” Acts 12:5-17
When Paul and Silas persisted in preaching the Gospel they were arrested, beaten badly and thrown into prison. But they didn't stay there long:
“A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” Acts 16:22-28
Now if you and I tried to spring someone from jail, we would be breaking the law and end up in prison ourselves.
But here we have God doing exactly that.
The jail break in Acts 5 left a very clear message to the early church — when it came to preaching the gospel they were not subject to human laws — which led the Apostle Peter to say Christians must “obey God, rather than men.”
But the Apostle Paul is adamant in issues not pertaining to this exemption; the early Christians were subject to those in authority unless they put restrictions on their freedom to worship, freedom to witness or their freedom to enjoy His Word.