Summary: God expects submission to government, submission to employers, submission in marriage, and submission to other Christians.
The word “submit” is the key to this section. This word is very closely related to the word “humility.” To submit requires humility. Today we are living in days of pride and rebellion. My wife and I were given a book on parenting written by Dr. James Dobson, and he states that there are twice as many strong-willed children as there are compliant children. And he also says that this rebellion against parents’ rules often starts very early in life. Rebellion, though, is not only a characteristic of the child and the adolescent. Most people, regardless of age, find it hard to submit to others.
Who do unsubmissive people despise the most? Government officials, employers, teachers, police officers. What is the one thing that all of these people have in common? They all have a position of authority. These people are often not liked because people naturally don’t want to submit to their authority. In the passage we will be covering this morning, Peter talks about submission to government, submission to employers, submission in marriage, and submission to other Christians.
I. A citizen should submit to his government (2:13-17).
Even though a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven, we are to still accept the authority of our government. Jesus said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Peter probably wrote this epistle only a year or two before the great persecution under Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D. Nero was one of the most notorious rulers of all time. During his reign there was a fire that destroyed part of the city of Rome. There was a rumor that Nero had started the fire, and this rumor was so widely accepted by the people that Nero had to find a scapegoat. He diverted feeling against himself to the Christians by accusing them of arson and by persecuting them. Peter and Paul both died in this period.
There is one story of Nero which shows how evil he was. Halfway through his reign, Nero got the idea that he was a great chariot racer. So he built a track and raced all day. Soon he decided that he should race at night too, but electricity had not been invented yet. So Nero came up with a very sick plan. During the day he would get his soldiers to go into the city and find Christians. They would cover these Christians in pitch and tie them to poles around Nero’s track. As the sun set, these Christians were set on fire and became human torches.
No matter what we think of Prime Minister Chretien, our leader and government are much easier to submit to than the government in Peter’s day.
Peter says that governments are to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good. Generally, this is true; however there are always exceptions. Obviously, Peter was not saying that we should compromise our beliefs in our submission to government. In Acts 5:29, when Peter and the other apostles were told by the Jewish leaders to stop preaching the gospel, they said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” In Canada today, though, I can’t think of anything that our government tells us to do that would cause us to go against our Christian beliefs. We probably don’t agree with everything the government does, but that is not an excuse for not submitting to its authority.