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Good morning. For the past four Sundays we’ve been examining the first letter that God inspired the apostle Peter to write. Peter wrote this letter to a group of congregations in Asia Minor. He had heard that these Christians were facing persecution because of their faith, and he wanted to encourage them to keep holding on.
To begin our meditation today I’ll try to summarize what we’ve covered so far.
Peter began his letter of encouragement by reminding his brothers and sisters in Christ that they were not of this world. When they had heard that Jesus was the very Son of God, and that he had suffered and died to erase the record of their sins, they believed it. And they were born into God’s family. This world was no longer their home. They were now sojourners traveling through this life to their place in the Father’s house.
Peter next encourages his fellow Christians to take God’s calling seriously. The arrival of the Savior had been long anticipated. Ancient prophets had been inspired to write about him. And the Holy Spirit had these writings put to the page so that people like those in Asia Minor could come to trust in Jesus as their Savior, and escape the wrath of God. This was a big deal, and something to take seriously. The fact that their salvation had required the very blood of the Son of God, that was a sobering and awe inspiring thing.
Peter then reminds his fellow Christians that the Gospel is intended to save sinners, and also, to change them. To kindle in their hearts a love for one another that mirrors the love God has for them. At the end of chapter 1, Peter encourages his fellow Christians to meditate on what Christ did for them on the cross, and to fervently love one another from the heart.
At the beginning of chapter 2, Peter instructs his brothers and sisters in Christ how to live differently, and why. They were to shed the ways of darkness they had been taught, and begin living godly lives. Godly lives that would bring blessing on their souls. Godly lives that would draw more sinners to the saving message of forgiveness in Christ.
In our reading for today, Peter continues to teach his brothers and sisters how to live God’s way. And the key principle that Peter centers around today is the idea of “submission.” He says Submit Yourselves Because of the Lord.
But what does Peter mean by that? Who are we to submit to? And what exactly does this “submission” include? We’ll let the Holy Spirit educate us through the words he inspired Peter to write. May God’s Spirit build us up through his words.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (NASB)
13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
To understand Peter’s words, we first need to understand that word “submit.” In our day, it seems this word has a bit of a negative connotation. We might think of a wrestler caught in a headlock tapping out. “I give up! I submit!”
But the idea of a forced submission is not what Peter has in mind. He says, “Submit yourselves.” This is a voluntary submission, a conscious choice.
When you take the Greek word apart, it literally means, “setting oneself under.” And Peter his fellow Christians WHY they are to consciously set themselves under authorities of man: for the Lord’s sake. Or, in other words, because of what the Lord has done for them. And they are also to set themselves under human authorities for the purpose of building up the Lord’s reputation.
The idea of submitting to human authorities is foreign to the American way of thinking. In our own Declaration of Independence it says…
“We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and Happiness” (Declaration of Independence).
The Declaration of Independence says the people have the right to rebel against their government. But God’s Word says different. In Romans, chapter 13 is says…
“1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2 NIV).
Those who claim America was founded on Christian principles need to revisit those principles as recorded in God’s Word.
The idea of ordering ourselves under human authorities is foreign to the American mind, and to the mind of all sinful human beings. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to bring it up here. To teach us a new way of thinking.
Obviously, when governmental authorities tell us to do something that is against God’s Word, we have to listen to God instead. But in every other instance, we’re called to submit to human government. And with good reason.
When Christians do what is right according to the laws of the land, people who accuse God’s people of doing wrong are silenced. We bring honor to our Creator and our Savior by living our lives as good citizens of whatever nation we belong to.
Look at verse 16 again. Peter says…
“16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:16-17 NASB).
As followers of Christ, we are truly FREE. Through his sacrifice, every single one of our sins has been atoned for and erased from God’s ledgers. We live in this world as foreigners.
The Bible describes our condition as foreigners in this world kinda like a someone who goes to another nation to serve as an ambassador. And as God’s ambassadors we have been given a sort of diplomatic immunity.
Diplomatic immunity means that a representative from another country can’t be charged with crimes while in a foreign country. Diplomatic immunity doesn’t exist so an ambassador can get away with criminal activity, it exists so that an ambassador won’t get bogged down by laws he doesn’t understand or know about. It exists so that an ambassador can get his job done.
Now, a bad ambassador might misuse his immunity, but that’s now the idea. And that’s what Peter says to his fellow Christians…
“16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2:16 NASB).
The fact that all our sins stand forgiven doesn’t mean we should live thoughtless and sinful lives. Instead we aught to see the forgiveness we’ve been granted as a reason to serve God through our every thought, word and action.
Like Peter says,
“17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:16-17 NASB).
Now, if you live in a country with good government, being a good citizen might seem like an easy thing. But its likely that the Christians in Asia Minor were facing persecution from the authorities over them. And yet God calls them to submit to the authorities that he had established all the same.
Sound a little crazy? A Christian writer by the name of Francis Chan once wrote...
“Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers” (Francis Chan).
And what Peter has to say next sounds even crazier. In verse 18 Peter speaks to house servants. I’m not sure if these house servants were slaves in the full sense of the word, or if they were free people working for others. But it doesn’t make much of a difference either way. Peter writes…
1 Peter 2:18-21 (NASB)
18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
We should be submissive to unreasonable masters? Peter says, “Yes.” For this is true submission. It’s easy to listen to the boss when the boss is a thoughtful and patient manager. But in Christ, God calls us to a higher standard. Our submission isn’t to depend on whether we’re treated well or not. Our calling is to do what is right regardless of the actions of others, and to let that be enough.
We’re to live our lives to GOD, not to ourselves, and not to others. As the apostle Paul also wrote in Ephesians, chapter 6,
“5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8 NIV).
This is a serious shift of thinking for the sinner. To disregard the character of our bosses, and to do whatever task we’re given as if that task was given directly by God? That’s a different way of thinking. A way of thinking that Peter says, gets the nod of approval from the Almighty.
I would challenge you, my fellow Christians, to put these words into practice. Today. This week. Do not think of what others think, but live to the God who redeemed you for his own. Live in a way that makes no sense at all to your unbelieving friends and coworkers. Even if they don’t notice, our God will.
And to give power to these commands, Peter brings us back to our Savior. In verse 21 Peter writes…
1 Peter 2:21-25 (NASB)
21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
In Christ Jesus we have two things. We have an example to model our lives after, and we have a Savior who through his sacrifice washed all our sins away.
These are two very different things. For when we look at Jesus as our example to follow, that has nothing to do with forgiveness. We’re not redeemed by how well we pattern our character after Christ’s character.
But when we look at Jesus as our only Savior, that has everything to do with forgiveness. For our forgiveness hangs on what Christ did in our place, and on his cross alone. That’s why he said, “It is finished” from that cross (see John 19:30).
Peter calls us to see our Lord Jesus as both example, and redeemer.
By Christ’s example Peter calls us to patiently bear insult and suffering, entrusting ourselves to God who WILL right all wrongs in the end.
By calling to mind Christ’s actions as our crucified Savior Peter leads us to remember that our sins have been paid for. He carried our sins in his soul when he suffered on that cross. And through his wounds, ours are healed.
It is Christ’s momentous work as the Savior of the world that cleansed us before God, and it is Christ’s work as our Savior that is the power behind any change that is effected in the way we live our lives.
In Christ we have both a Shepherd who scooped us up from the brink of hell, and a Overseer who watches over our faith and life by the power of his Word.
Voluntary submission isn’t an easy thing to learn. Whether we’re talking about submission to human authorities, or submission to unreasonable masters, or submission to God’s will. Ordering ourselves under others isn’t something we do by nature.
What enables sinful human being like you and me to learn the art of submission, is Christ. When we look at all that he bowed his head to in order to make us right with God once again, are empowered to change. We are enabled to learn submission to God’s will. For what God wants is to carry us through this life in faith, safely to his side. What God wants is to train up his people to proclaim his goodness and mercy to the world that they might know his grace and forgiveness too.
May the Holy Spirit lead us to rejoice that we have been placed under Christ’s protective wing. And may the Holy Spirit enable us through the Gospel to submit ourselves to God’s will in all things, joyfully putting others first, to the praise of our great Shepherd and Guardian.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.