Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 2:13-17
Text: 1 Peter 2:13-17
Title: Our Relationship to Government
Date/Place: LSCC, 9/18/05, AM
A. Opening illustration: Not Raising Hogs – illustrations file
B. Background to passage: This is the passage that begins what is termed as “a household code.” They were common among early Christian writings, being the general instruction in practical living for a household. They usually relate to authority and the God ordained way to do relationships inside and outside the home. Peter brings up the word “submission” and uses it in the context of government, employment (slavery), and marriage. The simple fact is that God has put in place certain authorities to bring about order in our world, and as Christians, we are to receive that as well as any perceived hardships it may bring. Specifically in our text today, Peter deals with our relationship to the government over us.
C. Main thought: We will see three aspects of our submission toward the government.
A. The Meaning of Submission (v. 13)
1. The word used here is hupotasso, which is a compound word meaning “to line up or arrange under a commander.” It was a military term used to instruct soldiers to fall in line under the officer in charge. The verb is in the form of a command. It was a clear implication for obedience. Peter qualifies the extent of this submission by saying to “ordinance of man,” or some translations say “every human institution.” In our text he is dealing with government, but Peter intend every institution that God has created and placed over man. Remember that during the time that Peter is writing, Nero is the Emperor in Rome—probably one of the most unfit rulers ever.
3. Illustration: At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, showed how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestras perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose “loud” as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music. “But Christians are called to give up striving for power and authority over other human beings and instead to pursue the good of others, submitting to them.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s non submission to the Nazi regime,
4. Our general attitude and pattern of behavior toward the government should be submission. This includes toward law enforcement, toward revenue agencies, toward local, state, and federal governing bodies and officials. Do you respect governmental authorities, even when you disagree with their policies? Do you pay your taxes? So what about when rulers are ungodly, immoral tyrants? The question that we must then ask is, Does God only ordain governments that are Christian, or godly? As Christians we must trust in a sovereign God that reigns supreme even over ungodly men. Ungodly men were used of God all through the OT to accomplish His purposes. So the quality of the governing officials does not determine whether or not we submit. Corollary: there are biblical instances of people not submitting to governmental authorities, and their behavior is commended such as in Daniel 3, 6, and Acts 4 and 5. The principle to be drawn is submission, unless that submission causes us to sin against God. This is the principle applicable to all authority circumstances (government, home, workplace, church). In the US and other civilized countries, certain forms of civil disobedience are societally acceptable forms of protest. But even in this, we must make sure that we are above reproach and well within the legal boundaries of protest and assembly. This means non-violent, obtaining all proper permission, proper attitude and action, and choosing the proper issues to protest. Our protest must come under the mission of the church.
B. The Reasons for Submission (v.13-16)
1. Ultimately it is 1) to please God. Several phrases point to the fact that our submission to His ordained authorities pleases God. “For the Lord’s sake” in v. 13 and “for this is the will of God” in v. 15. Additional reasons include: 2) maintain order in society, 3) maintain testimony, and thus silence the slander of unbelievers, and 4) experience true Christian freedom. Maintaining order in society is part of the purpose of government in general. This includes retribution for crime and promotion of good. Maintaining our testimony is again in view of how others see us, and thus perceive God. The great paradox of the Christian life is that freedom from sin is actually freedom to choose to do what is right. Freedom is actually realized in the context of submission to the God-ordained, God-controlled authorities in life. Because it is God who is now responsible for their outcomes.