Summary: We obey human authority, not just out of fear, but for the Lord's sake. Peter says this is to be the motivating power behind Christian submission. Good citizenship is a service to God, and it is to bring glory to God.

Christians in general and Baptists in particular have played

important roles in the patriotism of America. One of the finest

patriotic hymns is My Country Tis Of Thee. It was written in 1832

by a Baptist clergyman named Samuel Francis Smith. The Pledge of

Alliance to the flag was written in 1892 by another Baptist pastor

named Francis Bellamy. Daniel Webster said, "Whatever makes

men good Christians makes them good citizens. Nothing can be

more contradictory than a Christian and a traitor. Nothing can be

more in harmony than Christianity and good citizenship.

Christians had to be instructed, however, on what their

relationship to the state ought to be. Paul in Rom. 13:1 writes, "Let

every soul be subject unto the higher powers." Then he goes on to

explain that they are ordained of God. He urges Titus to teach this

to his congregation, and he writes in Titus 3:1, "Put them in mind to

be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be

ready to every good work." We see then that Peter was not alone in

his concern that Christians be good citizens. It is only by ignorance

or willful disobedience that a Christian could practice irresponsible


As we examine Peter's counsel to the Christians of his day we

must recognize that our obligation is even greater than theirs. They

did not have the freedom we do. Under their authoritarian system

they needed only to be subject to the powers that be, but under our

system it is not enough to be submissive, for we have the

responsibility of helping to determine that to which we will be

subject. Our responsibility is much greater because our freedom is

much greater.

In verse 1 Peter makes it clear that good citizenship begins with

the duty of being subject to legitimate authority. He did not have to

bring in the exceptions and say unless they forbid what God

requires, or require what God forbids. This is obvious, and Peter is

not giving them a rule book. He is only laying down a basic

principle that applies in almost all situations. Submitting to proper

authorities is what Jesus meant when He said, "Render unto Caesar

what is Caesar's." He is the authority in control and it is the

obligation of believers to be subject to him.

Peter makes the principle almost absolute, for he says to be

submissive to every ordinance to man. This is a real blow to the

mystical type of Christian who feels that he rises above the reality of

the world and need not bother with mere human institutions. Here

is the text that tells a believer that the law of the land is the law you

are to obey. They are often arbitrary and only man made, but

Christians are to be ideal citizens by obeying these laws. Peter is

writing to believers who had no say in the human institutions. We,

on the other hand, can seek to get changes made that are more

realistic. But as long as a thing is legally in force it is our duty to

obey it. In so doing we reveal that we are good citizens, for we are

willing to obey even what we feel is disagreeable.

Christianity is other worldly in its origin and its goal, but no

one can charge it with being so in its practical effect in everyday life.

It is to produce the most helpful people in the society of the world.

The Christians greater vision beyond this world is to make them

better servants and citizens. We have a motive that no one else has.

We obey human authority, not just out of fear, but for the Lord's

sake. Peter says this is to be the motivating power behind Christian

submission. Good citizenship is a service to God, and it is to bring

glory to God.

Peter than gives examples such as the king or emperor. Peter

does not give us a different set of principles to follow if we are under

different forms of government, for the same applies to all forms. If

the established authority is a dictator, a Christian has the same

obligation of submission. If a dictator lays down the law that

everyone turn out their lights at 10 o'clock, every Christian home

should be dark at 10. Maybe there is no valid reason, and maybe it

is a foolish whim, but as long as it does not violate God's law, we are

to submit. There are many things that Christians despise about

living under a dictator, but his commands are to be obeyed in order

to maintain order in the land.

Remember, Nero was the ruler when Peter wrote this. If Peter can urge

submission to him, then no one can be an exception as long

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