1 Peter 2:13-17
Be Subject for Christ’s Sake
The fact that the Christian is considered a sojourner and exile in this world as we discussed yesterday also points to the truth that he must live in this world. He must live a holy life and not allow the world to hinder his growth in grace but instead employ its trials and temptations to propel him further therein. In the meantime, he must “get along” in it as best he can and do so for the glory of God.
Turning to the first matter of this “getting along” is being subject to the governing institutions. (Paul says the same in Romans 13:1-7.) And Peter is clear that this means from the highest authority to the lowest and all those in between. We would say in America: federal, state, and local. And why is this? Well one obvious reason is that, man being so wicked, human government is established by God to punish the evil-doer and praise the good-doer; in other words, to keep law and order. We must have authority over us. And one of the greatest blessings of living in America is that we have just that; there are many countries that do not, which is one big reason so many risk life and limb to come here.
But there is even a more important reason than law and order that the Christian is to submit and obey the law and governing authorities, namely, “that by doing good [we] should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” In other words, it’s about our witness. Christians were cruelly slandered in the ancient world as incestuous (the brothers and sisters loved one another), cannibals (they partook of the body and the blood), antisocial (they would not attend gladiatorial games or share their wives), and atheists (they would not worship the gods). It was blind hatred that drove the pagans to burn them alive, among other tortures. But Christians were to be sure that they lived in such a way that these charges were false.
And more than that, as servants of God, Christians are to go beyond the law. Keeping the law is a given as long as it does not conflict with the faith (e.g., meeting for worship or preaching Christ). Christians are to go about doing good to everyone they meet. Christians were set free from law and sin to serve God and others; they were released from bondage to become slaves to God, not to themselves (NICNT, 102). And within this context, we can honor everyone, and even pray for a persecuting emperor. We have much to be thankful for in America. Let us spend our blessings well by being a blessing to others and praying for the relief of our brethren elsewhere.