1 Peter 2:13-25 NIV
“The Government, The Boss, The Christian”
Today’s message is taken from 1 Peter 2:13-25. Those of you who have heard my earlier messages in this series will recall that Peter was writing to Christians who attended various churches in what is now Turkey. The letter was written around 64AD – just a few years before his death around 67AD. It was written to encourage the readers during difficult times – it may be they were already facing organized persecution, or it may be they were simply facing the “normal” persecution people of this Jewish sect suffered – but regardless, it was a difficult time for believers, and Peter wrote to encourage them to endure and live lives that were worthy of the name of Christ. And so we continue…
This word often causes people – both Christian and non-Christian alike – great difficulty. In our culture, where individuality is highly regarded, submission is thought to be beneath us. Or that to submit means we are less than someone else. But let us examine this word carefully. The dictionary describes submit as “to yield to governance or authority.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New and Old Testament Words describes it as a military term, “to rank under.” There is no mention of the person doing the submitting is less or more, better or worse, than the thing or person being submitted to. This word does NOT mean to resist with all your might, as some people seem to think is means. But neither does it mean to not speak up when it is called for. It means to yield to governance or authority.
It means that there is an order to things – are hierarchies of authority, and that as Christians, we live in a world where we must interact with one or more of those hierarchies. This word means that someone has authority over someone – such as the police have authority over you when they are investigating what might be a crime, but do not have the authority to tell you what to eat. The courts in our culture have the authority over people and organizations, to ensure the laws are being followed and in some cases, they have authority to determine when a law is not constitutional, and thus illegal.
Luke 2:41-51. Christ submitted himself to the authority of his human parents while it was appropriate to do so. All of us are subject to some form of authority over us. Each person in this world has to interact with one or more authorities in their lives – the most supreme of which is God himself.
[submit] yourselves for the Lord’s sake
to every authority instituted among men:
whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14
or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
We all know that government rarely commends those who do right and are much quicker to punish (or at least begin the process of punishing) those who do wrong. But it does happen. But that is not the point. We are not to dwell on how fair or unfair it all is and not follow the laws of the land, or to follow only those laws we agree with. Peter is saying that you should willing accept the authority of those who have been given authority over you – in THAT time and place it was the emperor and the governors he appointed (although technically, Rome also had a Senate, Peter only mentioned the more well known, powerful, and obvious offices).
Today, in our society, we have to submit to the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Judicial system, the governor, the State Senate and State Representatives, the County Commissioners, and Mayor, and State and local judicial systems, as well as those who have been hired to fulfill roles which help the people in those offices carry our their responsibilities. We are to accept that the president is the head of the land, whether we like him or not. Regardless of our feelings on the matter, we need to willingly put ourselves under his authority. This means that if you think the president is a womanizer, you still follow the laws he pushes forth that get passed – even if you think they are bad laws. This means you pay taxes, rather than trying got cheat on them, or not pay them. This means you submit yourself to the authority of the police – even if they are being abusive. This means you obey the laws of the land in which you find yourself – if you are traveling out of the country, you are subject to the laws of this country, as well as those in which you find yourself. So obey traffic signs, police officers, judges, and every other kind of authority men have created.
Romans 10:4. Some people try to use this verse to say that Christ ended the law, and so we can pick and choose which laws we want to follow. Read it in context. Paul was saying that the Law of Moses, as delivered to the Jews, is ended because Christ fulfilled it. He lived the perfect life. But that is not to say we are not subject to laws – Peter is clear on this. We have to follow the laws of the land.
Of course, when I say to follow the laws of the land, I am not saying to sin. Turn to Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Now, I’m not saying to kill the rulers either. That order was given to a people who as a nation were to be separate from other gods and not be contaminated by them and God enforced this harshly – it was a concrete way to show that God’s people are to be separate from the world while living within it. But while the body of believers known as the church is a holy nation, we are not a sovereign nation. We have no right to set our laws over other people in such a way. In fact, we should not murder at all. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45 to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. No, I am saying to not follow people into sin. I am not saying to do something which God has already commanded us to not do. What I AM saying is that you need to do what God has said in his word – the Bible. If it is not spoken of directly, and you can not find a guiding principle which countermands the laws of the land, then follow them to the ‘T’. IF however, you find yourself in the situation where the laws are in disagreement with the word of God, then follow the Word of God. But when you break man’s law, suffer the consequences gladly.
15 For it is God’s will
How much more plainly can it be made? God wants us to submit to the rulers of the land. And why?
that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
There is the key! The idea here is that we should follow the laws – we should be living our lives with such righteousness that people who would try ot say bad things about us would have nothing to say. People who do not know Christ would know we are different.
16 Live as free men,
Read John 8:34. Sinners are slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 – as Christians, we have been freed – freed from the slavery to sin. In some places in this world slavery is still legal. Here in the US, there have been way too many cases where people have been made slaves. But Christ has paid the price and while some believers may have lives as slaves, they are spiritually free from sin. We should ALL live like we are free from sin. Do not be burdened by desires that make you want to do things you shouldn’t do. Don’t be overwrought with guilt. Don’t be controlled by envy. Don’t be gripped by the need to defend yourself. Don’t be driven by deceit. Don’t be held in slavery to your emotions or the things the world says are good or at least ‘natural’. You are not natural – you are the adopted children of God! You are FREE! You are FREE from SIN. Live like it.
but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil;
live as servants of God.
This is Peter doing what preachers do: say something and immediately being sure the people don’t misunderstand. Here Peter is saying just because you are saved through faith in Christ, just because you have eternal life, just because your sins are forgiven, don’t go out and commit more sins – especially in the name of ‘religion’, or under the mistaken assumption that “I’m saved, so I can do what I want”. Even though those of us who trust Christ are free, we should are not to use our freedom as a license to do whatever we might wish. We are to not pretend that because we are ‘free’ that we can sin. We need to live as slaves to God – to His righteousness. We need to live exemplary lives which demonstrate CHRIST’S righteousness. And this is how we do it:
17 Show proper respect to everyone:
This is not saying that we need to like everyone. Nor is it saying we need to fawn over everyone. Nor is it saying we need to be hypocritical about it. It is saying we need to show the respect due each person – whether that person is our equal in all things or not. Whether that person is in authority over us, or subject to our authority, we need to respect them.
Love the brotherhood of believers,
1 John 3:10-13; 16-16. Peter is repeating himself here, in 1 Peter 1:22, Peter said we are to have sincere love for other believers. Its not hypocritical, nor is it abstract or hypothetical. This is real, sincerely held love for people who believe in Christ. Love is what identifies us. Love is the common characteristic of all Christians. If you have sincere love, then you will help those brothers and sisters in the faith who need help. It does not matter if you like them. We may not like someone, or not agree with something someone is doing, but we must love them. Can you say you love all the believers you know? If not, you need to pray that God give you this love, because is it by such a love that we are known.
Again, Peter is repeating himself. As I’ve said before, you are not to be looking over your shoulder in fear you will be caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing. You should be respectfully following the commands of God – being vigilant to the dangers of this life, but not worrying about getting caught. Show respect for God by loving him. Read 1 John 5:3. Love him by obeying his commands.
honor the king.
And this is done as I said earlier, by following the laws of the land. Don’t sin, but don’t disobey the laws either. And if there is a question about the law versus the Word, check with the pastor, check with other Christians, pray. If the law is contrary to the Word, follow the word and deal with the consequences of disobeying the law.
18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
This is pretty clear. Based upon the Greek word, Peter was specifically speaking to household slaves, but this applies to us today as well. Are you an employee? Are you a volunteer somewhere? Are you a member of a church somewhere? You are subject to the authority of those who are over you in that situation. It does not matter if you agree with that person; it does not matter if that person is a nice person, or harsh. Your responsibility is to submit to the leaders under whose authority you find yourself. Now, this does not mean to follow them into sin, but sort of that, you should be respectful and honor them.
19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
Peter is saying here that if someone does wrong and is punished for it and accepts the punishment, that is how it should be, but not anything out of the ordinary. But if someone does good and suffers for it and does not put up a stink about how unfair it all is, Peter says THAT is commendable. To suffer for doing right.
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” a 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
1 John 3:5. Christ suffered for you. He never committed a sin. He never lied or stretched the truth. He never retaliated for what people did to him. He entrusted himself to the authorities. He died for your sins. He died for my sins. He died for all the sins of those who would believe in Him. And he did it so that we could die to sin and live for righteousness. This is what we are called to – to live for righteousness and to suffer gladly, so that God might be praised.
by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 
Isaiah 53:5,9; Ezekiel 11:16. The healing Peter speaks of is not a literal, physical, healing. It is a spiritual healing – you have been given new life. You were going astray like sheep do, but now, as believers, you have returned to the Shepherd and guardian of your souls. For that is what overseer means – someone who looks out over you and looks after you and guards you from the wolves and other predators. He can only do that if you will follow him.
Look at how we care for our children. We need them to do what we say, for their own protection: “Don’t go out in the street – you might get run over by a car.” “Don’t eat too many sweets – you’ll get sick, it will ruin your teeth and you wont be hungry for dinner (which is supposedly more healthy than the sweets they want).” “Don’t hurt others – or they might hurt you.” “Don’t play with the electrical socket, it will shock you.” You get the idea. We love our children and want them to do what we are teaching them so they will live a full and happy life. God wants the same thing for us. God warns of us the dangers of not following Him. When we do things that God does not want, he will eventually allow us to do what we want and suffer the consequences.
But the verse says, “you WERE like sheep going astray.” Now you are someone who has said he trusts Christ. So live like it. Let God protect us from ourselves and others.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 2:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.