Summary: This sermon spells out what our responsibility is to those who govern us.
Text: 1 Peter 2:13-17
Introduction: Christians make good citizens. We really do! I believe that if America’s leaders understood that our faith obligates us to this, they would encourage men and women to follow Christ. Permit me to share just a few ways that we bless our country:
1. We pay our taxes (See Romans 13:6-7).
2. We do good to others (See Galatians 6:9-10).
3. We obey our leaders (...and therefore the laws they make--See Titus 3:1).
4. We pray for our leaders (See 1Timothy 2:1-2).
5. We strengthen the moral fiber of our nation (See Romans 12:17). Many years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French political philosopher, visited America. He came here when this nation was very young to find the secret of our greatness. He traveled from town to town, talking with people and asking questions. He examined our national government, our schools and centers of business, without finding the reason for our strength. Not till he visited the churches of America and witness the pulpits of this land "aflame with righteousness" did he find the secret of our greatness. Returning to France, he summarized his findings with a compliment and then attached a word of warning: "America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
In short, Christians have long been a great blessing to those among whom we have lived, though we are aliens and strangers in the world because our true citizenship is in heaven--See 1 Peter 2:11; Philippians 3:20. This has always been the case with God’s people so that the same thing was expected of the Jews, even when they lived in exile (See Jeremiah 29:7). A major factor in the way we become this kind of blessing to America is by learning to submit to the authority of those who govern us. This is the main point of the passage that we’re looking at together this morning.
Now it seems to me that there is a lot of confusion about the principle of submission, and that, in some ways at least, the concept has undeservedly earned a bad reputation here in our great country. We have confused the freedom to govern ourselves, purchased for us by those who shed their blood fighting for our independence, for the right to do whatever we want whenever we want, a notion that is unsupportable in the Scriptures. I would like to take the next few moments and address the topic of submission by looking at the words of the Apostle Peter found in 1 Peter 3:13-17.
I. The concept of submission. The word in the Bible is a compound word meaning "to arrange under." It was primarily a military term, the concept of which is alluded to in Matthew 8:8-9. There the centurion communicated his understanding of the Roman military system. All "authority" belonged to the emperor and was delegated to others. Therefore, because he was under the emperor’s authority, when the centurion spoke, he spoke with the emperor’s authority, and so his command was obeyed. To disobey would have been regarded as nothing short of an act of treason in defying the orders of the emperor himself! Here are just a couple of thoughts about submission as it applies to us.
A. Submission is a godly thing. (See verse 15a - "For it is God’s will -- what does this mean if it is not referring to submitting to the governing authorities?) Even Jesus, Himself, lived in submission to the Father. This was the point that the centurion was making in Matthew 8. He recognized that because Jesus always served under God’s authority (submission), when He spoke, God spoke. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the quality of submission characterized Jesus life almost more than any other (See John 4:34).
B. Submission is a good thing. In this passage Peter refers to it as "doing good (See Verse 15b)." What’s so good about submission? Think about what a society would look like if no one submitted. It would have devastating consequences. This is precisely Peter’s point about the exercise of freedom in verse 16. Where there is no submission to authority, we do not have freedom, but chaos (See Judges 21:25). Illustration: Submission often seems to be an unappealing option to those who value the freedom to do as they please. Yet God assures us that it is both a godly and good thing. In the movie, The Poseidon Adventure, an ocean liner is hit by a large wave and flips over. The only way for anyone to be rescued is for them to make their way to the bottom of the ship, which is now the top! The handful that choose this option ultimately survive. For the rest, the move makes no sense and so they decide to remain on the floor nearest the deck which is now 75-100 feet beneath the surface. They perish as the waters eventually come rushing in. Just as deciding to make their way to the bottom of the ship seemed odd, so the idea of submitting to authority may at times be contrary to popular opinion. But as Christians we know that only one opinion matters and that is God’s.