ďSubmission To Every AuthorityĒ†††††††††† 1 Peter 2:13-17†††††††† †††††††† June 12, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO:† Weíre studying 1 Peter this summer.
The theme of this letter is Christian suffering.†
†† How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,
†† and sorrows that inevitably come, donít crush you, but make you better.
First part of the letter, Peter lays the groundwork by telling us who we are
†† in Christ.† Godís elect, a kingdom of priests, the church of the living God,
†† strangers and aliens in this world.
Second part of the letter, tells us how we are to live consistent with who we are.
†† This has a direct bearing on how we deal with the sufferings and trials of life.
INTRO:† On the 29th of this month, our President will host a White House gala
†† celebrating Gay Pride month.
Among the accomplishments being celebrated are
†† the pending repeal of Donít Ask Donít Tell, and the Justice Departmentís
†† decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
This will be the third year the White House has hosted this celebrationó
†† and also the third year has chosen not to host the National Day of Prayer service.
What should our stance be as Christians toward government and those in positions
†† of authority, especially those who are hostile toward biblical values?†
Thatís exactly where Christians in the Roman Empire found themselvesó
†† those to whom Peter was writing.† Only their situation was much worse than ours.
Commentators argue over just how serious things were when Peter wrote letteró
†† some think this was just private persecution, government turning a blind eye.
†† Others think the imperial government was actively involved.
But clearly there was a growing hostility towards Christianity.
†† Emperor Nero was on the throne.† He was immoral, corrupt, and cruel.
†† The taxes he collected built pagan temples, funded gladiatorial games,
†† and even paid the very people who were oppressing the church.††
So what should a believerís attitude be toward human government?
†† This was a hot topic in the New Testament church.
†† Paul addressed it several times, and Peter did too.† In complete agreement.
Peterís basic stance was that governments are from God.†
†† Those in authority over us are put there by God.
They serve to protect and foster public order by punishing wrongdoers and by
†† rewarding those who keep the law.† Bad government better than no government.
And as Christians, we are obliged to give them obedience and respect.
†† In doing so, we are a credit to the name of Jesus Christ and we honor God.
Immediately questions come to mind.† But . . .
†† But what about governments that reward evil and punish good?
What about Peter himself who once told government leaders point blank that he
†† would continue to preach even though they had told him not to?
†† He said that he had to obey God rather than man.† What about that?
Well, those are important issuesóand Peter hints at them here.
†† But his main purpose is to tell a community of Christiansó
†† Christians who had good reasons to see the government as the enemyó
†† to submit and honor.†
There are probably some of you here this morning whose hearts are sinking.
You came to church hoping to get a sermon that would give you a boost.
†† A passage of Scripture that speaks to you where you are right now.
And you canít imagine any encouragement for your soul in a sermon
†† on the relationship between church and state.
Well, let me challenge you to do something.†
Lift your eyes off yourself and your problems for a minute and consider that there
†† are millions of brothers and sisters around the world who are living these verses.† This is their daily concern.† Government a threat to welfare, happiness, even lives.
China, North Korea, Iran, PakistanóThere are Christians in jails and prison camps
†† because they are Christians.† We donít have a clue what they face daily.
Can you imagine how Peterís words sound to them?†
†† How they must wrestle with this when pastor announces as sermon text!
And when you think about them, you realize that this passage is more than just a
†† lesson on biblical view of the state.† It is that.† Very important theological
†† principles here about nature of government as God intended.† But itís much more.†
Itís about how your faith in Jesus Christ must radically change your perspective on
†† life and your attitude toward world.† Thatís what Peter is really concerned about.†
He wants to show that you have to develop a way of thinking that is consistent
†† with who you are.† We are people chosen by God, a holy priesthood,
†† strangers and aliens in this world.†
You have to become a person who is not living for anything you will obtain in this
†† world, but only for the glory of God and Jesus Christ.†
And one of the contexts where you work this out is in your relationship with
†† government.† Thatís what this passage is about.†
Seeing your relationship with the government as a context in which you
†† become a better, more holy person.† And, after talking about government,
†† heís going to move on in the next verses to your employment and marriage.
Look at this passage under three headings:
1.† The meaning of submission to government
2.† The limits of submission to government
3.† The reason for submission to government
MP#1† The meaning of submission to government
To submit to those in civil authority over us means obedience, respect, good deeds.
First, submission means obedience to the laws of the state.
†† Christians must obey the laws of their government.†
†† The good laws, the bad laws, the arbitrary laws, the stupid laws.
But what about . . .
†† Iím sure you have an great hypothetical example of a really bad law.
†† Weíll get to the limits of submission eventually.
Peter doesnít give an exceptions.† He says obey the king, supreme authority.
†† Might in our case think of federal government.
†† Governors under the kingóthink of state and local laws.
Pay your taxes.†
Once read an article by a Christian who had computed
†† how much of his federal income tax was being used to fund abortions.†
He deducted that percentage from his return.† Turned out to be pennies.†
†† Canít help admire his sincerity.† Canít even put him in the same category as a
†† Christian who cheats on his taxes.† Principle not greed.†
But even so, Jesus said:† ďRender unto Caesar that which is Caesarís.Ē†
†† Jesus paid taxes even percentage used to oppress his homeland.†
Paul said:† ďIf you owe taxes, pay taxes.Ē
†† Even though Paul knew by personal experience the corruption of Rome
†† and how it could grind a person down.†
Obey all laws, even traffic laws.
A preacher pulled into a No Parking spot and put a note on windshield.
†† ďI circled the block 10 times.† If I donít park here will miss appointment.
†† Forgive us our trespasses.Ē
He got back and there was a ticket with this note:
†† ďIíve circled this block 10 years.† If I donít give you a ticked, I lose my job.
†† Lead us not into temptation.Ē
A preacher was stopped for speeding.†
†† He said to the officer:† You should not stop me.† Iím doing the Lordís business. †
The officer replied:† Iím doing the Lordís business too.†
†† Jesus said:† Go out into highways and byways and bring them in.
Someone has said that the last part of our body to get sanctified is right foot.
†† Submission means obeying the laws.
It also means showing respect to governmental authorities.
†† Peter says we are to honor the king.† Paul says the same thing.
†† What if heís a scoundrel?† Respect his office.
There are so many examples in Scripture.† Joseph and Pharaoh.
†† Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar and Beltashazzar.†
†† Nehemiah and Artaxerxes.† Esther and Xerxes.
†† Paul and Felix, Festus, and all the other Roman authorities.
And Jesus Christ himself in his dealings with Pilate.†
†† Lots of scoundrels and worse.† But they all gave honor due.†
When The Dukes of Hazzard TV show came out in the late 70s,
†† I begged to watch it and my parents refused.† But why?† I asked.
†† Is it Daisy Dukeís halter top?† No, that show makes a mockery of the law.
What a strange reason.† Almost makes no sense to us today.†
†† But this was the principle they were acting on.
Can authorities be criticized?† Can their decisions be challenged?
†† Of course they can.† But must be done in a way that preserves respect.
I think that for me, the area where this is hardest to be obedient is political satire.
†† I have significant political disagreements with our President and other
†† Democrats in office.† If political satire helps me understand the weaknesses of a
†† political point of view, itís ok. †If it encourages me to despise our leaders, itís not.
Obedience, respect, and finally, submission means good deeds.
ďThat by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.Ē†
†† In the context, Peter talking specifically of civic good.
†† Christians are to be the best citizens.† Most law abiding citizens.
When Israel went into exile in Babylon, strangers and aliens in a foreign land.
†† Looking forward to being restored and returning to homeland.
Remember what Lord told them through Jeremiah?
†† Tell the exiles to build houses, plant gardens, get married, have children.
Give your children in marriage.† Increase in numbers, donít decrease.
†† ďSeek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.†
†† Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.Ē
Can draw a direct line from that to usóweíre living as strangers and aliens.
Build houses, plant gardens, raise families, seek and pray for the welfare of city.†
†† Improve and beautify what you have, build a good, honest business,
†† work to improve schools, help the poor and weak, be a good citizen.
Peter says that living this way will may silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
†† Remember heís addressing Christians who were in a much more hostile
†† environment than ours.† This wasnít the Bible belt and Cullman, Alabama.
But even so, still true.†
†† Critics of faith, critics of church, often silenced by the steady, consistent,
†† selfless, good deeds of believers within a community.†
All this is pretty straight forward, isnít it?† No real surprises.
Well, letís get to the point that some of you are itching to talk about . . .
MP#2† The limits of submission to government
Now this is one of those subjects that you can have long, hypothetical
†† discussions about.† What if you were in this situation?† What if in that one?
Iíve been reading biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer recommended by Dr. Nyquist.†
In case you donít know Bonhoeffer,
†† he was a minister and theologian in Germany during the rise of Hitler.†
He had a prophetic insight of where Nazism was going to lead Germany.
†† It was really quite astounding.† He was only in his late 20s.
†† The vast majority embraced Hitler at first, even many church leaders.
†† From the very beginning, Bonhoeffer saw clearly, began to organize resistance.
He first began to fight against attempts by Nazis to control the church.
He eventually become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
†† It failed and he was executed.†
Every step he took was heroic and brave and thoughtful and biblical.
†† Even so, there are some Christians who think he went too far.†
What would you have done?†
†† Would you have hidden Jews, even at risk of life?† Of course you would have.
†† Would you have joined a plot to assassinate Hitler?† Maybe, maybe not.†
A number of years ago there was an overture that came before the General
†† Assembly of our denomination regarding Operation Rescueó
†† which was a pro-life group that would not just picket abortion clinics,
†† but actually illegally block entrance, until arrested and hauled away.
The argument of Operation Rescue was that breaking the law could save the life
†† of an unborn child, because women prevented from entering, second thoughts.
I think the overture was for the PCA to go on record supporting Operation Rescue.
But the General Assembly voted down the overture.†
†† Affirmed that abortion is a violation of sixth commandment, is murder.
†† But also affirmed Christians should work through legal means to change laws.
I believe that was the right decision.† Some Christians obviously donít.
Maybe these sorts of discussions interest you, maybe they donít.
I hope that we never have to seriously face this question as many Christians
†† have, like Bonhoeffer.
Because the fact is that when you look at what the Bible says about the limits of
†† submission to government, it is only for very serious situations.†
Itís when the government either commands you to do something that Godís law
†† forbids, or when it forbids you from doing what Godís law commands.†
Peter doesnít spell that out here, but he hints at it.
†† The hint is in verse 17 where he says ďFear God.† Honor the king.Ē
†† Point is that there is only One who you fear.† Great Judge and Lawgiver.†
Itís his law that you must always keep, no matter what earthly kings say.†
In the book of Exodus is the story of the Egyptian midwives who were commanded
†† by Pharaoh to throw any Hebrew male babies they delivered into the Nile.
They didnít do it.† They knew that murdering babies was against Godís law.
†† They came up with a story to cover it up from Pharaoh.
†† These Hebrew women give birth so fast, canít get there in time.† Hidden babies.
They are commended in Scripture for their fear of God.†
Any time Christians are commanded to do something that breaks moral law.,
†† then you have to fear God more than man and not do that evil.
That has a wider application than just dealings with government.
†† Can imagine situations where that might happen in workplace.
†† Know of someone who was fired because she refused to falsify a report at work.
So you donít submit to government when commanded to do what God forbidsó
†† But the next one is probably harder.†
†† You donít submit when forbidden to do what God commands.
In Acts, Peter and the apostles were forbidden by the Sanhedrin from preaching.
†† They said:† We will preach, because we must obey God rather than men.
In the history of persecution of Christians by the state, this probably most common.†
†† You are forbidden to assemble for worship.† What do you do?†
†† Just stay at home and read your Bible?† Have home devotions and call it church?
Or do you gather on the Lordís Day as God commands and perhaps suffer
†† the consequences for your obedience?
We can take church attendance so lightly, canít we?†
†† At the threat of losing some little thing, itís easy to say, Iím not going today.
But Lordís Day worship is a very costly obedience for many Christians.
†† In China, perhaps as many as 60 million Christians attend illegal churches.
†† They all donít suffer for it, but many do.†
May have seen news around Easter, a crackdown with lots of arrests.
†† That doesnít make big news in America, unfortunately, but real for many.
That brings us back to the real heart of this passage.
This is not just written to American Christians.
†† What Peter says here applies equally to American Christians, Chinese Christians,
†† Iranian Christians, Cuban Christians.†
God gave us this word knowing that through the ages, a great many Christians
†† would be facing circumstances much different from ours.†
Why would the Lord give such a clear, yet difficult command?
†† That brings us to the heart of the passage.
MP#3† The reason for submission to government
ďSubmit yourselves for the Lordís sake to every authority instituted among men.Ē
As you submit to human leaders, you are doing it for God.
†† You are bringing glory to God.
†† You are learning submission to God.†
†† You are bearing witness to your faith in God.
Peter is saying that your nation, your government is just one the contexts
†† in which you live by faith and show who you are.
One minister I read described this as cultivating spiritual detachment.
†† Now that can sound bad.† It can sound like a Christian checking out of world.
†† Who cares if world goes to hell in a hand basket, Iíll not participate, vote, etc.
But thatís not what he meant.† Government is important for order in society.
†† Without that order, even the church could not function.†
†† Weíve already seen that as Christians must be good citizens, best citizens.
†† Pray and work for the prosperity of the city.† Settle down.† Build homes.†
By spiritual detachment he meant that we learn to see everything in this
†† world as of relatively minor importance compared to our eternal destiny.
Nations and governments come and go.† If Lord tarries, one day the United States
†† will pass away like all the other empires of the worldóBabylon, Greece, Rome.
†† It will be gone with the wind.
Which party is in the White House, or which party controls Congress has
†† absolutely no bearing whatsoever on our identity in Christ and the advance of
†† Christís eternal kingdom, in which we are citizens and priests.†
Thatís why Peter say in these verses:† Live as free men.†
If a Christian feels that governments are oppressing him and keeping him from
†† enjoying his freedom in Christ, then he doesnít understand who he is.
†† He doesnít understand how impotent governments are to touch that freedom.
If you get too worked up about politics, you donít know who you are.
Listen to the way one pastor explained it:
You get a tax bill. †It is larger than you thought. †So what! †Is God no longer on his throne? †Can you no longer live the Christian life? †Is God unable to provide because the IRS has emptied his treasury? †Let human governments, or bosses, or even uncaring, unspiritual husbands, do their worst! †Such a thing is just one among a great many things that provide the context of a Christian life, one of the places where we can find the Lord by submitting to others, where we can forsake the world by exulting instead in the blessings that faith alone can know. †And it is exactly the same if it is not a tax bill, but rather a knock on your door that will lead you to prison for your loyalty to Christ. †In the darkest dungeon you remain the freest man on earth and the heir to the greatest fortune that can be conceived. †At the last, all the cruelest, the most unjust government can do to a Christian is to give him another opportunity to trust the Lord and prove him faithful, to serve the Lord and raise a witness to his name and power. †They have no real power over him.† All they can do is kill him and send him to heaven. †But Christians must have this attitude about life and make it a matter of believing it to be so every day they live, in regard to small matters as in regard to great.
Whatís the theme of 1 Peter?† You know by now.† Christian suffering.
†† How by faith and the grace of God, the troubles, trials and sorrows of life
†† donít burn you to ashes, but refine you like gold.†
Peterís just getting into specifics.† I know you Christians are suffering under govt.
†† Later heís going to say:† I know some of you are suffering under unjust masters.
†† Some of you Christians women are suffering under unbelieving husbands.
The way you come through that furnace refined is knowing that itís for Lordís sake.†
†† Itís here you bring him glory.
†† Itís here you bear witness to his grace.
†† Itís here you learn submission to himóeven as you submit to other people.
That sounds so noble in theory, but when it comes to practice, itís so hard.
†† Thatís where you need Jesus.† You have to have Jesus or you will never make it.
There are two ways to look at the Trinity.
One way is to see that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in power and glory.
†† Each person of the Trinity is equally God, equally powerful, equally glorious.
And there is another way of looking at the Trinity.
†† That is to see that the Son submits to the Father,
†† and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son.
Look that the theme verse, 1 Corinthians 11:3.† ďThe head of Christ is God.Ē
And thatís how Jesus lived.† Perfect submission to the will of his Father.
†† We could point to example after example where Jesus obeyed, honored Father,
†† but letís just skip to the greatest of all.† In Gethsemane, night of his betrayal.
Pleaded:† Let this cup pass from me.† But not my will, but yours be done.
†† Where did that take him?† To stand before the church authorities.
†† Even as they violated the law in their mock trial, he honored office.
And even before Governor Pilate, man who stood for the oppression of Rome
†† over Israel, a man who was the worst sort of politician, willing to throw anyone
†† under the bus to keep his position secure.†
Even then, Christ stood before his court and submitted to it.
†† He could have called legions of angels, but he didnít.
Why?† Because the Lord had that perfect spiritual detachment.
†† He knew that it would be through his suffering, inflicted by an unjust government,
†† that he would be victorious.†
That the kingdom of his Father, the kingdom of love would win.
†† And salvation and forgiveness of sins would come to his people in all nations.†
Thatís where you have to let this passage take youó
†† not to theoretical discussions about government, this and that situation.
But let it take you to Jesus, to his submission for you, for your salvation,
†† and then let that soften you and shape you.
So that you are able to stand before any human authority and say by faithó
†† Iím a free man.† Iím a free woman.†
†† And Iím joyfully submitting for the Lordís sake.
When you pray, remember to pray for your brothers and sisters in China,
†† in Iran and those under other communist and Islamic governments.
That they would be brave and bear witness to Christó
†† and that the Lord would have mercy on them and give them relief.
If you want something specific for prayer, go to persecution.com,
†† read some of their stories.