Today: [1 Peter 2:] Should We Submit to Hostile Authorities? In chapter 2 of 1 Peter the writer insists that mistreatment by those in authority is no exemption from our submission to them. He reminds us that Jesus patiently endured persecution and instructs that we do likewise. If you were to obey that mandate today what would you do or think differently than you did yesterday?
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[1Pe 2:1-25 KJV] 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord [is] gracious. 4 To whom coming, [as unto] a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, [and] precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using [your] liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all [men]. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 18 Servants, [be] subject to [your] masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this [is] thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Our chapter begins almost mid-sentence from a declaration from the previous chapter regarding the incorruptible nature of Christ imparted to us in the New Birth. Because of the purity of God’s Spirit within us, we are to lay aside all malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking. In other words, in light of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are to conduct our lives with deferential fear particularly in how we regard and treat others. We are as babes (v. 2) to desire the sincere milk of the word of God for our growth in spiritual things. With simplicity and fervency, we are to draw upon the twin breasts of the Old and New Testaments just as an infant would. How often do you remember feeding your infant children? Usually every 2-4 hours. How often do we feed on the word of God? It is to be a continual backdrop to our lives in place of other things that the world offers as a pale substitute – if (v. 3) we find the graciousness of God in taking up residence in us to our taste Peter instructs almost with a hint of sarcasm.
We are coming to Jesus as the living stone (v. 4) rejected by men but chosen of God. If men reject Jesus why do we work so hard in Christian culture to make him palatable and acceptable? We are lively stones; Peter says built into a corporate spiritual house. We are a holy priesthood ordained to offer up spiritual sacrifices. What are our sacrifices? Not animal flesh but our own lives as acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Why does God accept our lives as oblations on His altar? By our own merits?
Rather by the merits of Christ. Because Jesus is in us God accepts us; thus we are to live in harmony with one another and in holiness before God lest we offend the indwelling Christ by whom our standing before God is secure. The writer is making every effort to connect our access to God by Christ to an imperative that we do nothing in our personal lives to offend or grieve the Holy Spirit within us.
The world stumbles at Christ who is a rock of offense to those who trust in themselves and live lives of entrenched self-interest. But we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people for the purposes of manifesting by our public testimony the truth of the existence and supremacy of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We cannot claim to stand in the light and at the same time pander to those are in darkness as though we don’t want to offend them. We are those who in times past had not obtained mercy from God but now in Christ – not on the basis of our works – have obtained the mercy and clemency of God so much so that we are no longer enemies of God from birth but children, heirs, and joint-heirs with Jesus.
Because we are children of light in the midst of darkness Peter reminds us (v. 11) that we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Just as you don’t drink the water when you visit a third world country even so we are to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against and have a caustic effect on the soul within us that Jesus has redeemed. In other words, do not do damage by sinful habits to the mind, will, and emotions that have been transformed by the New Birth if indeed we are in fact born again. We are to conduct ourselves with transparency and honest among those who do not know Jesus even though they speak of us as evildoers, racists, religious bigots, etc. The believers Peter is writing to were believed by the public at large to hold meetings in secret where sexual orgies would take place and where they were accused of drinking the blood of newborn babies. These were more than rumors – they were legal accusations whereby 1000s of Christians were subjected to torture and death.
In spite of the brutality and unfair treatment of the world around them Peter still insists that they submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake including the king, the governors under the king and those who enforced the law. In that day they obeyed a leader whom they had no influence over by voting them into office. Today we vote our leaders into office, but still, the warning holds true that we are not to hold ourselves aloof from the idea of accountability to the powers that be – even if we don’t always agree with them. This is the will of God (v. 15) that we might silence the ignorant accusations of foolish men.
It is true that we are free in Christ (v. 16), but we do not have permission to use our liberty for a cloke of clandestine, rebellious activity but rather to conduct ourselves in every interaction with those around us as the servants of God. Furthermore (v. 17) we are to treat all men (Christian or not) honorably. Islam doesn’t teach this. Islam requires fair treatment of fellow Muslims but accepts mistreatment of infidels. In Christ, we are to be fair dealing whether or not a person is a believer. Likewise, we are to walk in love toward the brotherhood. What is the brotherhood? Those believers we are connected within our local settings. Do you even have a fraternity of Christians in your life to be connected with? Increasingly most Christians today only have a tenuous connection to Christian believers – a nodding acquaintance and nothing more.
In v. 18 servants are instructed to be subject to their masters. We are talking about slaves obeying their owners – not only those who are kind and gentle – but also those who are “froward” which is a word meaning perverse. What do you do when others mistreat you? When this happens, you need to come back to this verse and ask yourselves on what basis you exempt yourself from this command? Peter goes on in the next verse to emphasize the point. We are for conscience toward God to endure grief even when it means we suffer wrongly. There is no glory (v. 20) when we suffer for our wrongs, but there is glory given to God when we are mistreated and tolerate it for the sake of our testimony in Christ. This appeal is far removed from the sentiments that run rampant in our culture today, and the church sadly is no exception although Peter says (v. 21) we are actually CALLED to this kind of suffering. What kind of suffering is Peter speaking of? The suffering of wrong and injustice against us by those that are without for the sake of maintaining our testimony in Christ.
Peter goes on to give Jesus as our example. He was mistreated but did not sin under the pressure of it. He didn’t use guile or falsehood to get out from under his persecutors. When he was reviled he reviled not again. When is the last time you saw a Christian vilifying those vocal opponents of our values in society? In Peter’s view, this is a sin. It is a sin to go on social media and flame against some politician you disagree with. It stains your testimony when you do so. That doesn’t mean we agree with them, but we don’t allow our disagreement to give us a pass on good Christian character and conduct. Do you ever feel threatened? Do not threaten (v. 23) in return but rather commit yourself to God that judges rightly. Where are you looking for justice in the midst of an unjust world entirely hostile to faith? Are you looking to the political realm for vindication – mark my word you will be sadly disappointed. We are to look to God knowing that the truth always outlives they lie and when none else defend us the Father is our defender.
In verse 24 Peter reminds us that Jesus not only gives us an example of patient continuance but also went so far as to die on the tree that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness. Likewise, by the stripes of Jesus (a reference to Isaiah), we WERE healed (past tense). Whether we experience healing or not it is a foregoing provision. To suggest that God wants you sometimes to be sick means that sometimes this verse applies to you and sometimes it does not. That is a false doctrine. By His stripes, we are healed period. If we never experience healing it isn’t because the provision isn’t there – it is for other reasons that we must take up with the Father for our correction and enlightenment that we might remove the hindrance and receive our blessing. Christ has provided, and we all go astray from the mandates of obedience and humility Peter commands as certainly, his readers were recoiling at his instructions to submit to hostile authorities – but Peter nonetheless calls them and us into compliance that we might return to Jesus as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
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