Intro: Following along with the series of messages I am preaching through 1 Peter, as Peter writes to the dispersed and persecuted church in exile throughout Asia Minor, he encourages them by writing, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12). In chapter 2 verse 13 through chapter 3 verse 8 he gives us three specific ways that we are able to have “honorable conduct”, even while living in an environment that is hostile to God and the gospel. Those three ways all involve submission to authority in different realms of our daily interactions. We are to be (1) submissive citizens, (2) submissive servants, and (3) submissive spouses.
As we look at these three focal points for submission, I’ve titled this devotional series “Our Mission is Submission – 1 Peter 2:13-3:8.”
Today we will look at what it means to fear God and honor the king:
(1) Submissive Citizens – 1 Peter 2:13-17
Fear God, Honor the King (vs. 17)
We are commanded and expected to honor all people and love the brotherhood. Then he says, “Fear God.” When you have a right perspective about Who God is in His holiness and perfection, how can we not fear Him? And why do we fear men more than we fear Him? What can men do to us? As we have discussed before, to fear God is indeed fear. It is trembling at His awesome power and holiness and righteousness because we know standing before Him that we are sinners and unworthy to approach Him except through the Mediation of Christ, our substitute. And this proper view of God in His sovereignty and power is the foundation of our ability to submit to government. That submission to earthly rulers and rules is in fact submission to God, for to disobey or disregard earthly authority is to disobey and disregard that which God has ordained as an extension of His rule over the world.
This is also why we obey earthly authority as far as we are not commanded to disobey God, because ultimately He is the authority, whether the earthly rulers He has ordained admit and confess that truth or not.
King Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way, didn’t he? In the midst of his incredible pride he was humbled and made to roam the fields like an animal and when God brought Him back to his senses he confessed in Daniel 4:
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.
Peter ends this paragraph of text by saying, “Honor the king.” And here is some insight for you, he uses a specific word here that indicates that he meant a specific king. He meant Nero. Honor the Emperor. Honor Caesar. Who is at the very heart of the persecution of these people to whom Peter is writing? It is Nero. He is brutal. Immoral. Wicked beyond imagination. Vile in his passions and evil in his practice. He has accused the church. He has crucified them by the hundreds and even thousands. He has sought to bring them to extinction. What is Peter thinking?
When he said honor all people there must have been agreement. Ok, we can do that. We love everybody to some extent. He said love the brotherhood, Ok, that is even easier, these are my brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering with me. Fear God – yes, we love God and fear God and yearn to be rescued by God. Oh, and finally, hold Nero in high esteem.
What? Honor Caesar? Honor the President? Honor the Supreme Court in the midst of injustice and corruption? Honor those who are leading us to destruction as a nation? Honor those who may soon be arresting and persecuting Christians? Honor those who call evil good and good evil? I’d rather blast them on social media, and call for their impeachment, and campaign for their replacement, and see them in chains! They have destroyed the nation I love! They have taken away my freedom to be free from all responsibility! They have brought judgment upon our heads! HONOR THOSE PEOPLE?
Who put Caesar in power? Who put our government in power? Who puts every authority in that place of authority? God. And as wicked as these rulers may be God has still ordained their authority to accomplish His purposes because here is the truth – God is sovereign! We profess it but look at how we live and the evidence would suggest that we don’t believe it.
If He has decided to glorify Himself through the judgment of our nation by turning us over to our sin and wicked rulers, then praise God! Yes we mourn for our nation, but we must exalt God for His holiness and we must confess that He has been patient and long-suffering with us. He has let us go on in our sin as a nation much longer than He had to.
We must live like what we are, aliens in exile, and to be clear, we did not become aliens in exile when the government turned against God and His Word, we became aliens in exile the moment Jesus exercised authority to become King of our life. We are to live as aliens in exile while abstaining from worldly lusts that war against our souls. We must be submissive to authority. We must do good. We must honor all people. Whatever the state of the nation, however wicked our rulers, however vile their edicts and judgments, we must remember that we represent Jesus Christ, we are shining the light in a dark world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” And Paul told us that we are to “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” May God help us to be faithful and do what is right, especially to those who are doing wrong.
The days ahead will refine the church, reveal the strength of our faith, revive the faithful, and give us all ample opportunities to do what is honorable and good in spite of persecution. God is still in control. Our nation still needs the gospel. Our leaders still need our prayers. And while here Jesus will never leave us or forsake us no matter how dark the days become. He is the Beginning and the End. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is, and He will come back for us. Will He find us faithful when He does?
Tomorrow we will learn about the next realm of submission as we look at the role of being submissive in the workplace.