|LIVING UNDER AUTHORITY
1 PETER 2:13-3:7
Series: Living For Heaven In A Hell Bound World - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 23, 2012
Tuesday, November 6th is what? Election day. President Obama or Governor Romney. Who will be elected? That is a huge question. Isn’t it? Who will be elected?
I struggle with the answer to that question. Thinking about where our country has fallen to - in my usually upbeat and optimistic view of things I really don’t think in the long run its going to matter one way or the other who gets elected. Am I alone in that?
Unless something changes dramatically at the fundamental core of who we are as a nation - regardless of who gets elected - we’re still headed downward morally - spiritually - if not economically. We’re in serious serious trouble.
Sometimes I think about the America I was raised in. Maybe I’m getting older and that’s what you do when you get older. We starting thinking nostalgic thoughts.
But, if you’ve been around a bit - you
remember things like most people went to church on
were closed on Sundays.
There was a moral sense - even if you weren’t a
Christian - some kind of sense of accountability to
at least understood that Jesus Christ was more than a
What’s common language today was shocking back then. People generally didn’t dress like prostitutes. Back then we knew what a belt was - and we used it. We left our homes unlocked. Our cars unlocked. There was a respect for other people and our government - notice our government not the government - which is how we refer to it today. There was sense back then that our government really was responsive to the people.
Describe that America to anyone under the age of 25 and it feels like were describing a foreign country.
What kind of country are our kids and our grandkids going to live in? I’m not very optimistic that its going to be better. Am I alone in this?
One more question: What does all that mean for the Body of Christ? For the church. For those seeking to live Godly - seeking to live for Heaven in a Hell bound world - in an America which is not “one nation under God” - where the government and society is becoming increasingly intolerant - if not hostile - to Christians. What will that be like? What does that mean for us today? Because in many ways - what’s coming next is already here.
Would you join me at 1 Peter 2 - starting
at verse 13. This
next section of Peter’s first letter - what we’re
coming to this morning - focuses on Living Under Authority. Would
you say that with me?
“Living under authority.” How do we
live under authority while living for heaven in a hell
1 Peter 2 - verse 13: Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
Let’s pause and unpack what Peter is saying here.
Peter’s writes that we are to be subject to human authority because of the Lord.
Be subject translates a Greek word that means to order under another - to rank top to bottom. It was a military term that described someone voluntarily - consciously - willingly - deferring to the commands - to the authority of someone else. Someone higher in rank.
Then Peter gives us examples of what he means by human authority.
Example One: The emperor supreme - meaning Caesar - in Rome. Today in kind of a similar way we can think “President” - the top rulers in the nation - leadership in Washington - or Sacramento.
Second Example are those sent by the emperor - the governors - who are sent to enforce the will of the Emperor - the government. To punish those who are breaking the law and to reward those who are obeying the law.
Today we might think of this as judges - enforcing the laws of the land - ruling for or against ordinary citizens in cases involving the law - in situations that may result in punishment or may result in some benefit to the citizen. We’re together?
I struggle with the implications of what Peter is writing here. In fact as I was studying through this passage and thinking about getting up here and sharing with you all I got to thinking that maybe I’m not the best example of what Peter is commanding us to do.
If you’ve hung around me for a bit you know that I’m pretty quick to criticize where our government has gone. And, pretty quick to share some deep concerns that I have about where it seems we’re going. And, as our country spins politically and morally and spiritually away from God I am not a happy camper when it comes to this whole idea of submitting to Rome.
Peter is writing this letter from... Rome - in about early 64 A.D. The Emperor Peter is writing about is... Nero. Nero who came to the throne in 54 A.D. when his great-uncle Claudius died. Nero who ruled until 68 A.D. when he was forced from the throne and in June of 68 committed suicide.
Nero was not very friendly towards
was the emperor who used Christians as living torches
to light his garden parties. In the
summer of 64 there was a fire in Rome and Nero used
the occasion to launch an empire wide persecution of
In the summer of 64 - just a few months after Peter writes this letter of 1 Peter - Peter is executed - crucified. Which is important for us to grab onto. As he’s writing this letter - about submission - Peter can see his martyrdom coming.
Peter is writing to Christians - Jew and Gentile - living in what is now north and western Turkey. Christians dispersed throughout the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Christians who are no longer considered a Jewish sect. Which means they’re no longer protected by Roman law - meaning they are wide open to any type of persecution the government wishes to level at them.
Point being that what was about to happen to Peter in Rome - his martyrdom - was a fire that was about to spread throughout the Empire - suffering and persecution and martyrdom. Since Christians were no longer protected as a Jewish sect it was about to become open season on Christians. These siblings in Jesus - strangers in a strange land - they could see that fire coming.
Which is important for us to hang on to. What Peter is writing here is not some trite religious platitude. This a real time command for the place where the chariot wheels meet the real time paving stones of life.
Its not hard to imagine that Peter’s readers then like Peter’s readers today might have wondered about the practical implications of what Peter is writing. “Is He nuts?” Still together?
In verse 15 Peter writes, “For this is the will of God.” That’s intense. Peter playing the “God Card.” People say, “I wish I knew what God’s will for me is.” Well here it is. In black and white and multiple translations.
Let’s be careful. What is God’s will? Going on - verse 15: that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
God’s will is for us to submit to human authority so that the result is that those who are foolish and so therefore ignorant will be put to silence. The word for “silence” has the idea of speechless - unable to answer - defeat in a debate.
All kinds of nasty things were being said about Christians - baseless rumors - accusations. “They’re loyal to a different Emperor.” “They’re a rebellious sect.” “They subversives.” “They want to overthrow the government.” Or today we hear things like: “They’re easily brainwashed, easily led, hate speaking, intolerant, homophobes.” All of which is hugely ignorant of what a true Christian really is.
Peter’s point is that - when Christians really do live as Christians - living in submission to human authority - the accusations can’t hold up. Those who speak them will be left speechless. Which means they will have to listen - at least acknowledge the reputation - the testimony - of God’s people.
What we need to grab here is the big picture. Which is a whole lot bigger than which political party controls Washington. We submit to whoever is President regardless of whether we voted for him or not. We submit to the decisions of our lawmakers even though there are times when we may think their decisions are senseless and excessive. We submit - not because we’re blind nationalists without the ability to think for ourselves - but because - as Peter writes - this is the will of God.
At stake here - in our submission - the larger picture is the testimony of the church - the testimony and reputation of God’s people and ultimately God Himself - in a hell bound world. Testifying of Jesus that others may turn to Him and avoid Hell is a whole lot bigger than playing Democrat or Republican. Would you agree?
Peter didn’t say it was easy. He personally understood the difficulty in this - even more than we do. Peter didn’t say this was easy. But, Peter did say this is how God’s people are to live. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.”
Be subject. Let’s say that together. “Be subject.”
Let’s go on - verse 16: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
How do we submit? Live as
those whom God has freed. Live Free. Let’s
say that together.
Grab this: Living free is how we live because of who we are regardless of the circumstances we’re in. Living free is about who you are in Christ not the circumstances you’re living in.
When we were undeserving - unworthy - rebelling and disobedient to God - worthy of God’s condemnation and punishment - eternity in Hell - God, knowing every ugly thing we’ve ever done - are doing - and ever will do - knowing that we could never measure up - never earn or achieve salvation or anything even coming close to what we needed to be right before God - God because He is grace - Jesus goes to the cross - dies in our place taking our penalty for our sin - as we confess our sin, trust God with our lives, and claim Jesus as our Savior - God puts on Him all of the sin, condemnation, and wrath that should have been ours and gives to us the righteousness of Jesus.
Jesus gets our death. We get life with God. Because God is gracious. God’s grace changes everything. Changes our trajectory in life. Changes our relationship with Him. The life we get to live. Forgiven of our sins. Free of the penalty of sin. Forever with God - living out His great purposes for our lives.
Have you heard that? Sure. Almost to the point where half way through hearing it something goes off in our brain and we say to ourselves, “Self - I’ve heard this.” Been there. Done that. And we start to tune out. Are we together?
But that reality is a truth that we need to remind ourselves of at the core of who we are every day and every second that God gives us breath to live because it is way too easy to take God’s grace for granted - to put our lives on spiritual auto pilot - and to get totally messed up in the circumstances of our lives - even our response to authority.
We need to embrace the truth of God’s grace - to let that reality rattle around at the core of who are - to let that truth - that we are receivers of God’s grace - that God is gracious to me - to embrace that truth so that God’s grace really does change everything about how we do life - everything about how we live for heaven in a hell bound world. Even our submission to human authority.
Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
God in Christ sets us free. We are chosen by the Sovereign Almighty God of Creation to be His before even creation was creation - to be His children - that He might lavish His grace on us - to set us free from bondage to our sins - to forgive us and heal us and renew us and rebuild our lives and to give to us the inheritance that He has reserved for His children - the riches of heaven - a forever with Him that begins the day we say “Yes” to His grace.
And nothing in this world can change that reality. We are free because God sets us free and no circumstance of this life - no government - no human authority - can ever change that realty. So Peter, writes: “Live free.”
Verse 16 - “Don’t use your freedom to cover up evil” - Christians aren’t perfect just forgiven. That can be hypocrisy in action - a testimony of arrogance and an excuse for sin. Peter writes - as those whom God has freed live “as servants of God.” Serve God not self.
Four quick commands - how...:
Honor everyone - regardless of their faith in Jesus - regardless of their godless lifestyles - regardless of their attitude towards Christians.
Love the brotherhood and sisterhood - love our siblings in Jesus unconditionally.
Fear God - which is about reverence for God.
Honor the emperor. God must always have our reverence. We obey God first. Acts 5:29 - Peter speaking to the leadership of Israel - “We must obey God rather than men.” Huge subject for a different time. But, when God’s law comes in conflict with man’s law always obey God’s law.
But grab this: We must honor the emperor - who may hate us - hate his own people - may hate God - and in the case of Nero, is a nut case.
Those are tough. Yes? A difficult balancing act. Notice - none of them are optional. None of them depend on any of those people being deserving or earning our honor or respect or our submission. What our subjection does depend on is our serving God.
As God’s freed people - knowing at the core of who we are that we are recipients of God’s grace - we are commanded to choose not to serve our own selfish prerogatives - turning our freedom into an opportunity to sin - to take care of number one.
But knowing who we are in Jesus - we are to live free by freely choosing to serve others so that God - our master - would be glorified. So that He gets the glory - His kingdom is moved forward - and by God’s grace - some of those who we serve outside the church may see the character of God coming through those in the church - and so they may also come to know God’s grace and themselves trust Jesus as their Savior.
How do we live under authority in a hell bound world? Be Subject. Live Free.
What Peter gives us next are three examples of what that looks like in real time. First: The Example of Servants.
Verse 18: Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit its it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God
The kind of servant that Peter is writing about here - in Peter’s day was really a domestic slave. Let’s grab that picture.
Being a domestic slave was in many ways very different than the hideous racist system of slavery of recent history and the deplorable slave-trafficking that goes on today. Slavery in Peter’s day was more of a social or economic or political institution rather than based on race and ethnicity.
In Peter’s day the slave population of the Empire was somewhere around 40% of the population. There were a number of ways a person could become a slave.
The Romans acquired slaves as spoils of war. Children of slaves became property of their masters. Abandoned children could be brought up as slaves. Slaves were bought and sold - in many cases thought of as tools - shovels - rakes - not necessarily people.
People sold themselves into slavery to
pay off debts or fulfill obligations. There were
even Romans who were slaves.
What a slave did varied depending on where they lived - what their skills were - the status of their masters. Some were miners. Some were even physicians. Some were domestic slaves - servants who cooked - kept house - even acted as teachers and role models for the kids.
One major similarity between then and now is that the treatment of slaves depended solely on the temperament and whim of their masters. Which is what Peter is focusing on.
Masters could treat their slaves well - even set their slaves free - in which case a slave could assume the same social status as their master. Or masters could beat them mercilessly - even to death. Who cared?
Well… the slave - the servant - cared.
Peter’s instruction to servants is to show respect to their masters whether or not the master is just or unjust. Regardless of how they treat you - respect them.
Before we go on we need to understand that when Peter talks about grace - “this is a gracious thing” - Peter has two shades of meaning in mind. Which is a tad confusing. Grab on to the Peter’s first meaning. Which means we need to think about grace as behavior that God rewards. Behavior that God commends.
If you get disciplined because you deserve it. You deserve it. Why would God ever pat you on the back and say “Well done”? But if you get treated unjustly - meaning that what you were doing didn’t warrant how you were being treated - Peter writes, this is a gracious thing - its something that God looks on with grace - its commendable in God’s eyes.
Point being: Live free by respecting your master - enduring - whether or not they treat you justly and God will reward you for it.
Verse 21: For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Nobody suffered as unjustly as Jesus. Right? The only man who ever lived in complete obedience to God - who never committed any sin - never deceived us - always lived and spoke God’s truth - that man was Jesus. And yet Jesus was misunderstood by His listeners - maligned by His enemies - forsaken by His family - betrayed and abandoned by His followers - tortured by those enforcing the law - executed by politicians.
Through all that - verse 23 - Jesus - when people were reviling Him - saying all kinds of things against Him - Jesus never gave it back to them. When they physically abused Him, He never made any threats of retaliation. We would have understood if He had. All that is something we do. But He didn’t.
Jesus could have called down legions of angels to take out His accusers. Could have asked God for a few strategic lightening bolts. Could have utter one word and “poof” - no more creation. But Jesus endured unjust treatment.
How? How did Jesus go through all that suffering? Verse 23 - Jesus continued - which means continued. Jesus - during all of what was happening to Him - He didn’t stop - He kept on - He continued - entrusting His life to God. Jesus entrusted Himself to the graciousness of God. God who would commend Jesus and God Who would act justly towards those who treated Him - Jesus - unjustly.
Let’s be really careful here. Because this is Peter’s second shade of meaning for grace. Which is how we usually think of grace. God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Getting what we do not deserve.
When we think about God commending us we
tend to think about what God does for us. God seeing
the injustice we suffer.
God making things right. God’s
vengeance on others.
Even if we don’t see it in the immediate sense
we comfort ourselves by thinking that God will reek
havoc on our oppressors in the end. Let’s be
How did Jesus endure all that suffering? By focusing on God burning out His adversaries or on God redeeming His adversaries? This is where God’s commendation and God’s graciousness intertwine.
Verse 24 - Jesus - the just dying for the unjust - is about God’s healing our souls so that we can live a new life of righteousness.
What Jesus did - His reward - His commendation - was our forgiveness. Remember, “Father forgive them because they’re ignorant foolish people who have no clue what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Can you hear yourself in that?
If we’re suffering - enduring - and what’s going in our minds is how unjust all this - we’re missing the point of the big picture - which centers in God’s grace - which is that our oppressors need Jesus - as do we.
In that sense, grace and commendation are intertwined. Are we together?
What Peter writes here is a restatement of Isaiah. Remember Isaiah 53? Listen to this description of Jesus.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6)
Did you grab the “all we like sheep” part at the end? Peter brings us to that in verse 25 - “You all were like straying sheep.” But God corralled you - returned you to the Shepherd - the Overseer - literally the guardian of your souls. That’s where we need to keep our focus - especially if we’re to live in such a way that others will be drawn to personally trust Jesus as their Shepherd.
Peter writes - verse 21 - Jesus is our example. Literally the word in Greek means that Jesus is our model - He’s the pattern that we need to copy. As Jesus suffered unjustly for doing God’s will so Christian servants may have this calling. Choose to submit to unjust authority - whether that’s at work or school or out the community - whatever the human institution. Follow the pattern.
Physically we may not be free but spiritually - in Christ - by God’s grace - we’re always free. Being a servant is an example of what it means to live free regardless of the circumstances. How we do that is to keep trusting in God - our Shepherd - our Guardian. That’s big picture - heaven focused thinking in a hell bound world.
We’re going to briefly touch on Peter’s next two examples. Briefly because if we really get into these we’re going to be here until Youth Group at 4. Chapter 4 begins with Peter using wives and husbands as examples of submission to authority.
Wow - that statement alone is pretty loaded. Isn’t it?
Look with me at chapter 3 - verse 1 - example number one: Wives: Likewise - meaning with the same teaching in mind - likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Pause with me. Be careful. Just looking at what Peter writes here. Why are wives to be subject to their own husbands? So that if their husband is not a believer - or at least not obeying God’s word - think unjust behavior - they - their husbands will see the example - the respectful conduct - of their wives and come to trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Do you hear big picture thinking in that? Heaven focused? God entrusting? This isn’t about me. Its about the eternal destiny of my husband.
Verse 3: Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear - but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious - think commendable - For this is how the holy women who hoped in God - think continued entrusting their lives to God - how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children - you’re living following her example - if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Frightening is easy to do. Number one need of a women? Relational security. A husband disobedient to the word is a frightening thing. Peter writes - entrust yourself to God.
Wives are an example of submission when husbands are not submittable.
(Cartoon) “After 39 years and 11 months of stubbornly wandering the desert, Moses’ wife decides to ask for directions to The Promised Land.”
How do they do that? From example number one - slaves - focus on the big picture of God’s grace. Entrust yourself to God. From the example of wives - focus on your relationship with God. Do you see that?
Understand that Peter is not advocating frump wife. That’s not his point. Peter’s point is don’t focus on the externals. Focus on what makes you a Godly women.
Deepening your relationship with God - growing to be come the women He’s created you to be - learning to love Him - understanding His love for you. That’s the answer to fear. It’s the strength you need to respect your husband and the character that God will use to win your husband to Himself.
Third example - Husbands. Chapter 3 - verse 7: Likewise - meaning with the same teaching in mind - likewise, husband, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor - think respect - submission - to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life - do you hear commendation and grace in that? - so that your prayers may not be hindered. Which means that our attitude towards our wives is connected to our relationship with God.
There’s a difference between putting up with our wives and living with our wives. An understanding means knowing - appreciating - caring about her intimate desires.
Men - marriage isn’t about us. Our wives - are God’s gift to us - to the partnership of marriage - to be our partners in the issues of life. Even though they’re different from us - physical being one of them. Even though we’re called to different roles. They’re still created in God’s image. As God’s daughters our wives are joint heirs of His promises.
Peter uses husbands as an example of humility. While our culture may tell us something completely different - some macho thing - we are to set ourselves aside - to live sacrificially - to cherish and nurture and encourage our wives to be the women that God has created them to be.
The issue isn’t whether our wives are living godly or not. The issue is obedience - humility before God as we sacrifice for our wives. Humility that begins with us.
Do you hear big picture in that? Living for heaven in a hell bound world. Taking ourselves down a notch in submission to God that others - especially our wives - might be drawn closer to Him?
Question: Where’s your focus these days? Is it on Washington or Heaven? Is it on who wins the next election or on the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul? Assuming that your focus is on God and His big picture - how could that change your attitude - your response - to what’s happening around us?
General reference: Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.