1 Peter 2:13-17: Submit to Government Authority “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” Now Peter switches to the seemingly distasteful subject of submission. The Greek word is Hupotasso, which is a military term meaning to arrange in military fashion under the command of a leader. It shows us there is to be a leader with delegated authority coupled with the proper response of subordinates to that authority. The fact is that we are all under authority of one kind or another. As the Bob Dylan song goes, “it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’ve got to serves somebody”. I can definitely say we are all under authority because of this verse of Scripture: Matthew 29: 16-18, “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Yes, every created being is under the authority of God the Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. This is part of the sovereignty of God. He is in control, and He has all authority. The next verse in Matthew 28 is where he delegates some of His authority to the eleven disciples. Here we see a principle: • All the authority that we see God granting to the human race is delegated authority. There is another principle we need to see about authority in general. It is found in Matthew 22:15-21. “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, "Tell us then, what do you think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? "Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." • All the authority God granted to the human race is limited authority. But we can readily see this in action. For example, in Scripture the husband is the head of the wife. That extends to his wife only. It does not extend to any other man’s wife. If authority was not limited we would be in a real mess. Come to think of it, problems always arise when limited authority is extended beyond its limits. Like a pastor who tries to extend his “ministry” to people who are not part of his congregation or who combines spiritual with the non-spiritual. WHY? Now we see our motivation to submit-“for the Lord’s sake”. We are to submit because of the reality of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is sovereign, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, righteous, just, loving, kind, immutable, truth. All these things and much more! He died on the cross for my sins and paid the debt I owed, but could not pay on my own. It is for His sake we submit. WHAT? We are to submit to “every human institution”. The Greek is Ktisis, meaning creation. The Greeks used the word for the founding of a city. It’s best understood to be today our institutions. This can be taken two ways: a) First, it can be understood to be to submit to every institution set up by man. b) Second, it can be to submit to every institution set up for man by God. Only the second interpretation fits and satisfies the whole biblical system of authority. Human government was set up by God for mankind for our benefit. God says then that we are to submit to the Divine institution of human government, whatever form that takes. And we know that he is speaking of government first, because of the phrase “whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him”. O.K. So, we don’t have a king, but we do have a government and we do have governors. Since we don’t have a king, this phrase shows us there are to be different levels of human government that we are to submit to. For us it would be Federal, State, County and City government. And it shows God as the source of the delegated authority “as sent by him”. This is borne out by the following verses of Scripture: Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Proverbs 8:15-16, “"By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice, by me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly.” And next we see there are certain functions that this delegated governmental authority are to perform. This is not an exhaustive list of government functions but it demonstrates the limited nature of authority. • The punishment of evildoers: Remember from last week that word evildoers is the Greek word for criminals. Government is authorized by God to punish criminals (Proverbs 8:15). This is to be done with justice. The punishment must fit the crime. Notice that from God’s perspective, just punishment is the issue, not rehabilitation. Deterrence is not the issue, just punishment is the issue. • Praise of those who do right: Proper government authority should also praise and reward its citizens for doing what is right in God’s eyes as it is a minister of God to us. Romans 13:3-5, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.” So things like citizen awards are totally in line with the teaching of the Word of God. Now we see that it is God’s will for us (in subjection to the ministers of God (government)), to do what is right. This is not sullen slavishness, but active good works. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” But the object here is to silence the critics, silence the ignorance of foolish men. We as believers are to live our lives in such a way as there is nothing the unbeliever can use against us. This can seem to be a tall order unless we see a couple of more principles. • If character of the people involved in the government does not matter from the point of view of subjection, whether the government is good or bad, or the ruling party is for us or against us. We submit to government as ministers of God for the Lord’s sake. We have more to gain under unfair authority that fair authority. • Liberty still stands and flourishes under submission to government. We are to “act as free men”. Sounds funny doesn’t it to tie government submission to our freedom and liberty? But we must look at what liberty really is: 1. It is not freedom to do as we please. In reality, this is slavery at its worst. Why? Because it is slavery to ourselves. It is also unrealistic to think we can do whatever we want when we want. Our wishes and wants are always more that what we can get. It is not freedom from service either. Freedom is side by side with service in Romans 6:18, “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”. 2. Freedom relates to a change in masters. We were slaves to self, slaves to sin, servants of our flesh, but now we have a new master in our lives, Jesus Christ. He is king. He is totally right and just. We find true freedom in Christ. Only in submission to our true King do we find personal freedom. Jesus has freed us from ourselves to which we were in total bondage. 3. The third step is that Jesus as our Master with all authority has delegated human government to people who He says we are to submit to. This begs the question, “what if these people ask me to do something contrary to what I know to be true and right in the Word of God?” Well, we know that God is absolute Truth and we as humans are frail and subject to error. But I believe that with our faith firmly placed in Jesus Christ and the fact we know our lives are hidden with Him, we can trust that no matter what the situation, we will be delivered. Think of Joseph unjustly thrown into prison, Queen Ester and Haman, even King David and his political troubles. And we have already established that there are limits to all delegated authority. This is a place where the government has exceeded its limited authority. If a government tries to rule outside its limited authority, then disobedience may be required since God did not grant them that authority. Therefore, we can trust that God will deliver us from a government or official who asks us to do something that is contrary to His Word. There are distinct dangers to our liberty in Christ Jesus. A. We can lose our liberty. Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Here we see our freedom was granted to us by Christ, and that if we do not stand firm we risk falling back into slavery (to self) and so, a loss of liberty. B. We can misuse our liberty. Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Here we see the potential to misuse our liberty as “an opportunity for the flesh”. Instead, we are to focus on others (those outside of ourselves) and not self (flesh). But there is an opportunity for us with our freedom-to use it as bond-slaves of God. Remember that a bond-slave was one who had been set free, but willingly return to the master to serve him. And an earring was the symbol of his commitment. It speaks well of the master and the character of the servant. Peter now closes out his though with four commands: 1. Honor all people. The Greek word for honor is Timao and it means to recognize the value in something. The command here then is to see the value in all people, not just a few. 2. Love the brotherhood. This is a restatement of the new commandment of John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 3. Fear God. This is the beginning of wisdom and our discovery of knowledge of God as we see in Proverbs 2:1-10, “My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 4. Honor the king. And of course, he finishes his thoughts on governmental authority with one last command to recognize the value of your governmental authorities. • Based on this study and what you know to be true, do you think Christians should hold public office? Why or why not? • Is civil disobedience ever justified? See Acts 5:29. • Over the course of history we have seen various forms of government, theocracy, democracy, republics, monarchy, etc. Does the Bible specify any particular form of government? What makes our form of government unique in history in terms of its positioning of God and man?