God’s Sovereignty over Sovereigns and Your Submission (1 Pet 2:13-17)


Ben Tellinghuisen - June 8, 2014

God's Sovereignty over Sovereigns and Your Submission (1 Pet 2:13-17)

Transcript: How many of you can remember the first time you were preparing to set out on your own? Going away to college, maybe after you graduated, and all you kept on thinking about was, “When can I move out? When can I get my own place?” I know I came from a great home, my parents loved me, and as appropriate I was given sufficient freedoms as a high-schooler and yet I still longed for college to be out on my own, to get my own place, to be my own man. So, it’s just something about getting away. It’s because ultimately I wanted to be my own authority. I wanted to pursue what I thought was best at any given moment. Now thankfully I was a Christian and I had a priority in finding a good church and a priority in finding plenty of Christian friends to encourage me on my college campus, and there was an element of self-discipline that my parents had helped me see was how I could give my best to the Lord. But this temptation to be my own authority, if not checked God’s desires found in the Word can, and at times in my life, has resulted in a sinful and even rebellious heart. And so a natural and good desire for independence to serve God as an individual with individual gifts, talents, abilities, to get married and have a family of your own, to rule over creation as God us to do, all of these things can be perverted as we have an overwhelming desire to be our own authority in every situation. This heightened sense of our own authority is not just a teenage or young-adult problem though, is it? It’s a human problem. That’s why mankind naturally dislikes the Biblical idea of submission. We ultimately want to be the chief authority of for our own lives. And that’s why Jesus said, “If you want to follow me, you have to give up on living for you. You can’t be the ultimate authority any longer. I have to be the ultimate authority.” That’s why Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives through me.” Now, I’ve known many unbelievers, some of whom are completely convinced of the facts of the Gospel, yet refuse to become Christians because they refuse to do this last thing – To submit themselves to following God with their whole lives. There are countless others who hear the gospel message and they just want to question everything, right? If you’ve ever shared the gospel with someone and they question, “How can you know that this Bible is actually accurate. I mean, it’s been passed down for centuries and ages. I’m sure there’s plenty of errors in it.” They might say, “Well, miracles didn’t really happen, did they?” Then they might question, “Well, the culture teaches that this sexual morality is okay and how can that really be talking about today? How can it really be applicable today?” And at best they’ll say, when you talk about the gospel, “Well, I’m glad that works for you, but that’s not what I believe.” At worst, they’ll call you all sorts of names, right? Bigots, hateful, close-minded, you fill in the blank. These men and women ultimately though are committed to being their own authority. You see, they’re committed to being their own judge of what is right and what is wrong – they’re own judge of what is absolutely true, and when confronted with the truth of the Word of God with the truth that the God of the universe gave to us, they reject that because they say, “I want to be my own authority.” And brothers and sisters, this is part of who we are as human beings. It shouldn’t surprise us. This is what’s been going on since the Garden of Eden. From the get go, the lie that was believed, “Did God really say,” right? - Question authority. You also believed, “You can be like God, knowing all things.” What’s that pointing to? You are the ultimate authority. And so we see from the Garden of Eden onward, we believe the lie – question authority, question all authority, and you can be the ultimate authority. And we have inherited this sin nature, this natural propensity to hate external authority and love personal autonomy, and to some extent we all struggle with the Biblical idea of submission. We are rebels at heart. This is the primary reason each of us struggles with authority, but there are some other reasons why we struggle even more with our rebellion against authority. And it’s going to be helpful for us to look at a couple of these so we can recognize the propensity to sin and better fight the sin that remains. So why are we so rebellious? Well, one reason is that we are Americans. You don’t know what I mean, just ask the Brits. Now listen, I’m grateful for our nation, I’m grateful for our freedoms, I’m grateful for our democracy that we share, but I find it very hard to justify the Revolutionary War Biblically. I know many and some may disagree in this room, but at the very least you have to recognize that our nation began by questioning the legitimacy of the King’s authority. So, we live in a country that was started by ‘sticking it to the man.’ It’s no doubt, no wonder then, that we had the 60’s and 70’s, right? - Where the man was ‘stuck’ all the time. That’s another reason why we struggle with authority, it’s because we are post 1960’s and 1970’s culture. Not only was our country founded on the basis of rebellion against authority, the baby-boom generation has left our culture with a legacy of enduring principles: Question everything (especially ‘the man’), and fight for freedom to do, say, and think anything you want. It’s no surprise that the intense questioning of authority that our culture endured in the 60’s and 70’s has been passed on to future generations, is it? Well, another reason why we can struggle a little bit more with authority here in America, well; we tend not to praise those who are compliant. We tend not to praise those who are compliant, well; at least after we’re of the age of 12. You see, that’s somehow the age in which we stop getting gold stars on our report cards or on our papers, isn’t it? I remember starting middle school I was surprised that all of a sudden my teacher would just give me a check. That meant it was good? What happened to my smiley face? As we get older, we don’t expect some medal or plaque for paying our taxes, right? And so it goes, most who are compliant who are obedient to the government, even to an unjust government, at best are not recognized, at worst are called cowards. In California, for example, the opposite is true. We always celebrated, when I lived there, Caesar Chavez Day. And you know anything about history; you know that Caesar Chavez fought against the government very violently at times, burning and destroying crops and homes, even fighting against the police. And so we have a rebellious person who fought against the government recognized as a here, and yet as a culture, we are those who celebrate rebellion, rather than celebrate those who are compliant. Well, another reason why we might struggle with this temptation to resist authority is that teenagers are expected to rebel. You know this if you simply watched TV. Recently, the Huffington Post found an ad for a new reality TV show that’s called “My Teen Life” and it was looking for teens as young as 13 who partied like a rock star and who hate their parents, using a little bit more colorful language to describe these teens. It’s a sad situation, but it’s part of our culture and although all teens often don’t go off the deep end, our culture most definitely celebrates teenage rebellion and it has for generations, really – even expects it – calls it a natural part of growing up. Well, another reason we might struggle with authority is that we struggle with pride. We struggle with pride. This is really an outworking of the sin nature that has a deep root in us, but pride specifically has its outworking in our lives to allow us to question authority. As pride says, “I know better. If only I were in charge. If only they’d see it my way…” It happened when you were a student, didn’t it? It happened all the time at work. It can happen in church when the leadership just doesn’t seem to get it. It happens all the time in politics. We think people we elect are complete idiots (especially if we didn’t vote for them, right?). If you listen to talk radio for any length of time, you know this is exactly what goes on. You here a caller calls in, like ‘Joe from Owosso,’ he calls in and repeats what his favorite talk show host has already said and he says, “You know what, Obama could have erased the national debt by know if he would have done this one simple thing,” and you feel like saying to ‘Joe from Owosso,’ “I’m sure it’s a little more complicated than that, Joe.” And if it really was that simple, I’m sure he that he had an advisor tell him. Listen, we’re those who fill our heart with hatred for those with authority because we are prideful. We’re arrogant enough to think that we would do a much better job if only we were in charge. Well, we also fight authority because we see authority abused. This is a somber reality in our lives. I’m sure many in this room have been abused by those in authority over them in the past. It could have been a parent, it could have been a relative, it could have been a teacher, it could even now be a husband abusing his wife or a wife abusing her husband. I can’t even being to tell you how often I’ve heard of and seen bosses abuse their power. Seems like everybody who’s in a workplace talks about an abusive boss, or a boss that doesn’t get it. And yet just because we’ve seen authority abused, does that mean that all authority is wrong? It shouldn’t. See, some of us have a propensity to hate all authority because we’ve seen it abused, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. Just look at our passage. In the passage today we’re commanded to be subject to the government, but this was Nero’s government which ended up killing Peter, was no friend of Christians. In chapter 2, verse 18; even servants were to continue to be subject to unjust masters. So clearly, just because authority is corrupt does not give us the right to rebel against authority. Now we move to our passage. Look down in your text in verse 13: It says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” This command to be subject here means to willing submit yourself to an authority. It implies obedience, honor, respect, service, a willingness to follow that authority. It’s a general term used for a variety of different relationships as we’ll see, and frankly, all of us by nature dislikes submitting to authority as we’ve just discussed. But authority and submission isn’t just a necessary evil in a fallen world, it is actually a blessed part of creation from the beginning, isn’t it? There’s authority and submission in the Trinity. You see, Jesus frequently mentions submitting to the will of the Father and the Holy Spirit exists to glorify both the Father and the Son. There is authority and submission in the angelic realm. Michael is described as an archangel and he’s also described of the commander of angel armies in Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7-9. Even authority and submission on the new earth is evident. Those of us who will be given resurrected bodies; some of us will be put in authority over others. So you see that even when sin is no longer part of the equation, there will be authority and there will be submission. In all these relationships that we just discussed, there is no sin, yet there still is authority and submission. Now you may think, “That’s fine for Heaven, but we live on earth with sinners, so there have to exceptions, right? There’s got to be exceptions to when I should submit and when I shouldn’t. And isn’t this text just talking about submission to the civil government? Why all this talk about authority structures in general?” Well, look at the beginning of verse 13. It says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake for every human institution.” The alternate translation in the ESV is, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every institution ordained for people.” See, Peter’s purposely inclusive here. This first phrase in verse 13 really is an introductory statement for the rest of the book. In verse 13-17 here, he’s going to talk about subjecting yourself to the civil government. Then in 18 and following, he’s going to talking about submitting yourself to masters – slaves are to submit to masters. Then chapter 3, verse 1, is going to talk about wives submitting to husbands. And then in chapter 5, verse 5, you’re going to see that those in the church are to submit to elders. And so, Peter gives Christians a command for us all, a command that has multiple applications in our lives. Every legitimate authority is to be respected, obeyed, and submitted to. We do this because it is God who “has established such patterns of authority for the orderly function of human life, and it both pleases and honors him when we subject ourselves to them” (Grudem 126). With that being said, now is that point at which it would be very easy to preach a sermon on the exceptions to the rule, right? In fact, if you were to listen to a sermon, as I have done, on this passage and listen to several sermons on this passage, a lot of time is dealt with the exceptions to the rule to submit to authority. And many commentators do exactly the same thing – “you submit to authority except… submit to authority except when…” and they go on and on about the exceptions. But when we look at our text, we don’t actually see any exceptions. So I think it’s going to be helpful just to say up front, “Look, here’s some exceptions. Here’s some summarization of some exceptions.” We’re not going to spend a lot of time on the exceptions, because our text doesn’t spend a lot of time on exceptions. Well, here’s the basic summary of the exceptions to submit to authority: Submit to authority, except when an authority requires you to disobey an explicit command or principle found in Scripture. This can include a boss which requires you to lie, or break the law for example. This can include a government that forces you to renounce your faith or to neglect meeting together as Christians. That is an appropriate time to reject that government or that boss’s command. And sometimes, it is appropriate to preserve life and flee and authority figure who is either murderous or overtly abusive. Okay, so there are exceptions. Now specifically with regard to submitting to the government, I’m just going to give you a couple of quick Biblical examples of exceptions. Think of Exodus 1. What happened in Exodus 1? – Remember, you got the Jewish midwives and they refuse to commit genocide and kill all of the Jewish babies as Pharaoh had commanded and ultimately they did that because God hates murder. You see Acts 4:18-20, and that’s when the Sanhedrin commands Peter to stop speaking of Jesus. And here’s Peter’s response: “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’” So, when you have the choice between listening to God or listening to the government, you have to listen to God. But again, this text is not about the exceptions so that’s all we’re going to talk about as far as the exceptions are concerned. And so, we need to focus our sermon on what the text says, which is, “Submit yourselves to authority - The authorities that God has put into your life.” Now many of you have already recognized that you struggle with this command as we’ve gone over different propensities that each of us have to struggle with this and there may be some reasons in your life that we covered earlier that make you more prone to question authority or to ‘fight the man.’ And focusing on the exceptions when the text does not will only encourage you to find exceptions rather than focus on the weakness that you might have. So, how are you doing? Do you struggle with submitting to authority in your life? Are you always questioning those who have any authority over you? As Christians, we must resist that temptation because that is precisely what God’s will is for your life – To submit to authority as we will see in our passage. Now specifically it is important for the Christian to submit to the government, and that’s what our passage will go over and we’re going to see three reasons you should submit you should to the government – three reasons you should submit to the government. 3 Reasons You Should Submit to the Government I) Your God Gives Authority (vv. 13-14) Well, the first is found in verses 13 and 14 and it’s that your God gives authority. Your God gives authority. Peter writes, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as a supreme or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” You see, we have to recognize that authority in this life is really delegated authority, isn’t it? You think of Romans, chapter 13, and you recognize this truth taught very explicitly when Paul says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there’s no authority except from God,” – There’s no authority except from God. You see what he said? Every authority that is in your life is given to you by God. It’s exactly what Jesus said in John 13:11, “You would have no authority,” speaking to the Pharisees and the religious authorities of the day, “You would have no authority except that God gave it to you.” You see, we serve a God who’s created the whole earth and continues to sovereignly direct everything that goes on including authority. You look at Psalm 24:1 for example, and that says, “The earth is the Lord’s in the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” So if all the world is the Lord’s, then that means that authority is the Lord’s as well. We also see the same and a similar truth found in Psalm 15, verse 3, he says, “Our God is in the Heavens. He does all that he pleases.” He puts the authority in our life that He wants to put into our life. God’s sovereignty extends not only just what we would expect in our lives, but over kings, over rulers, and not just over those who he would put into ruler-ship, but every aspect of what they do in their ruler-ship. We know that several places that God talks about – God raised up this king, God raised up that king – but we also understand that he is sovereign over every single action that those kings take. Listen to what Proverbs 21:1 says: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord/He turns it wherever he will.” See therefore every authority in your life is given by God, both evil and good, and so when you fight against authority you not only reject the authority you perceive to be wrong, but you reject the God who put that authority in your life. That’s why is says in our text, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,” because ultimately it is God who sovereignly laces authority in your life – as imperfect as the authorities can be at times. It is God who gave you those authorities. Also, look at the beginning of verse 14, it says “you are to be subject to the emperor as supreme or to Governors as sent by him,” – Governors who are sent by Him. Most commenters also believe that this is referring to God. See, God is the one who sends governors, who sends kings, who sends emperors to reign over us. So Peter picks up this Biblical theme of God’s sovereignty over rulers and explicitly states that is God who commissions all civil authorities and we’ll see this – “Your God gives authority,” first sub-point, “to all positions within government.” You see, he talks about in the end of verse 13 to the “emperor as supreme.” There’s no higher authority in the Roman Empire than the emperor himself, and he also mentions governors in the beginning of verse 14: “Or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” Now the word ‘governors’ here is really very, very broad and can include anyone that works for the government. That can include a local government. That can include leaders in the community that work for the government including tax collectors. It can include the army, the police force – listen, in other words, from the president to your city council to the police, you are to submit to the authority that God has placed over you. So every position of government is given by God – but why? We see that in the end of verse 14, “To punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” And that goes with what Paul says again in Romans, chapter 13, verses 3 and 4 (Romans 13:3-4). Paul says this: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is a servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrong doer.” See, it’s the government that bears the sword, that puts do death deserving criminals. Now notice that as right as it may feel to take vengeance in your own hand, especially if the crime was committed against you personally or against your family, we would be those who would say, “You know, I need to take matters into my own hand.” In fact, you probably seen a movie or two that celebrates that truth, haven’t you? It’s a very popular concept, but the Bible says that it’s never individuals that bear the sword, it’s the government that does. Further, governments are to praise those who are doing good. We mentioned that our culture doesn’t do the best job of this, but they try. The concept is foreign at times but there are plenty examples of ceremonies at the white-house that recognize Americans for their valor in the military or even social contributions through various awards or medals. It even happens on a local level, we just don’t often hear it in the news, do we? You also see our lobby, right? What’s out there? We have like 8 plaques that recognize First Baptist Church of Farmington for our role in our community, celebrating the beauty that we bring to Historic Downtown Farmington District. If you don’t remember or haven’t seen those, you can go out there and look and that’s our government commending us for doing a good job. These ceremonies happen, but we don’t often see them. But the result of both punishing evil and praising good, ultimately though, maintains the peace and supports human flourishing. Now at this point it is easy to start to point the finger at the short comings of our local and our nation government, and you say, “See, I have a right to be angry, to not support our government because it does so much more than this rather simple Biblical dictate of the role of government, doesn’t it? It tries to do everything in my life. It doesn’t just punish those who are bad and doesn’t just commend those who are good. It does so much more. It takes more taxes that it deserves to take…” And you go on and on and on and you begin to feel justified in your anger towards the government. But that’s not what Peter does, nor is it what we should do. See, we need to be those who try and find even the good in the government, not pick apart its faults. You know how much it is to submit to a government, or any leader for that matter, that you are constantly degrading in your mind? The root of most marital problems is exactly that, both partners are constantly thinking the worst of the other, assuming ill-motives, assuming things that are done out of hatred when there’s no intent. When it comes time for the husband to lovingly lead or the wife to willingly submit, there’s little to no chance of that happening when there’s been a constant mindset of questioning authority when there’s constant mindset of assuming ill-motives, thinking the worst of another person. So brothers and sisters, we need to be those who willingly submit, obey, and follow our leaders even though they are far from perfect. And a helpful way to begin this is to see the benefits and blessings afforded to you by our leadership, by our civil, national, and leaders otherwise that we have in our lives. And you might say, “But Obama was not president when Peter wrote this. He can’t possibly expect me to submit to him…” Or if you’re of a different political persuasion: “But Bush… No one could imagine that President Bush was the president. I could never submit to him.” - Both sides to the same thing. Remember who was emperor at the time when Peter wrote this – Nero. Nero was the emperor. If you know anything about Nero, he was extremely narcissistic, he burned down the city of Rome because he wanted to rebuild it and make it his own city, I guess, or own structures, and he blamed it all on Christians. And so he started persecuting Christians very, very widely, eventually even putting Peter and his wife to death. He arrested Christians, he put them in the Coliseum, using them as human torches to light his gardens at night, and last I checked, Obama or President Bush are not doing that, and yet Christians are commanded in our text to be “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,” even to their emperor. So even though a government is far from perfect, it can still maintain some degree of law and order. Just look at the anarchy that follows some of the most famous rebellions in history. See, all governments are given by God, and to some degree can provide for human flourishing, even as imperfect as they are. So Christians are to obey these governments because you want to obey and to serve the God who has placed them as leaders in your life. But further, your obedience is a perfect testimony of God’s work in your life. II) Your Submission Silences Detractors (v. 15) The second reason we should submit to the government is your submission silences detractors. Your submission silences detractors. We see this in verse 15. Peter writes, “For this is the will of God,” Anytime you see that in the Bible, there’s fairly limited times you see that, anytime you see that, your ears should immediately pick up because that frequent questions I’m asked as a pastor. Of course we’re asked, “What is the will of God?” And when you’re asking this, you’re asking in regards to “whether or not I should marry this person, whether or not I should buy this house, whether or not I should take this job,” but what we need to see is what the Scriptures do actually reveal about the will of God. And so, very clearly God doesn’t mince words, he says, “This is the will of God.” His revealed will is you submitting to your leaders. That’s it, very simple. And so before you can even ask and question whether or not you should marry this person, buy or sell this house, you need to ask yourself, “Am I following God’s revealed will? What He’s told me is His will for my life. Am I actually doing that?” And so, it’s a good point when you see that, “This is the will of God” in the text, that you ask yourself, “Am I actually doing this?” That is the question that God wants you to ask, even before you ask these other questions in your life. God wants you to be submissive to authority, to do what His revealed will has commanded us to do. Well, he continues in verse 15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good, you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” This picks up where Peter had left off in verse 12. Look up in verse 12 with me. He writes in verse 12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” And so we remember talking about that last week that the Christians of that time were being slandered, all sorts of false things were said about them saying that they ate their children, that they sacrificed people and not their children, and they had their cannibalistic in that manner, they were practicing all sorts of infidelity, they’re wicked, vile people, and they were being slandered, and yet Peter says, “Don’t go out and write a whole treatise about why you aren’t the way you’re being accused of being. He says, “No, live your life in such a way that your conduct shows these Gentiles, shows the people that don’t believe in God, that you aren’t an evildoer. And we remember talking in verse 12 it says, “That once you do that, once you let your conduct shine through, someone will see your good deeds and actually glorify God on the day of visitation.” In other words, some will actually be saved. Well, in verse 15, he says something very similar: “That by doing good,” specifically in our context, specifically good thing of submitting to the government, “by doing this good thing, you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” So, even if they totally reject you and reject Jesus as their Messiah, at least by observing your conduct they will say, “You know what? I was wrong. My slanderous understanding of what Christians are, what Christians did or said, was wrong.” And so, you will prove them to be foolish by your deeds, by your obedience. Today, we have all sorts of things that people call Christians, especially now that Christians are forced to say what the Bible says on all sorts of political issues, as it clearly differs from our culture. As a result, we are often called intolerant, or bigots, or homophobic. You see, the culture celebrates when they see us not living our Christian lives, don’t they? They see, “See those Christians; they’re really hypocrites, aren’t they?” I saw an article this week – made me sad – but apparently a large percentage of people who go to a website designed for cheating spouses to get together, a large percentage of those people identify themselves as evangelical Christians. And so the poll celebrated the fact, “Oh, well those evangelicals, those are just hypocrites, they don’t believe in marriage, married fidelity. They talk about it all time, but they actually don’t believe it.” Well, the best way to combat that is not tell them how much you aren’t a mean person or how much you aren’t a bigot, or how much you aren’t a hypocrite, how much you would never go to a site like that, no, the best way to combat these false accusations is to prove that they are false by our actions. And specifically with regard to the government, we need to obey and follow the law. As a secular psychologist points out, we are all authorities in different realms as parents, as older siblings, maybe in our workplace, you fill in the blank. And in light of that, we understand that “what is badly needed is submission” to some extent. For “to be an authority, and to face continual rebellion against that authority, is a draining challenge” (Burgo afterpsychotherapy.com). We all get this. I know I was a teacher and some of you in this room are teachers, and you get it’s a drain when the students just don’t want to listen. They continue to rebel. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you rebel against the authorities that God has put into your life. When you’re constantly a thorn in your boss’s side, when you’re constantly complaining about what they make you do, you’re doing the exact thing here. You’re a drain to them. So we need to be those who are above reproach, who are submitting to the authorities that God has put into our lives so that we can have a good testimony to those watching world. So your submission silences detractors as we see in verse 15 here and the final reason why you should submit to the government is in verses 16 and 17. III) You are Free to Follow God’s Ways (vv. 16-17) You are free to follow God’s ways. You are free to follow God’s ways. There are 6 different freedoms that we find in these verses as we will see, and each of them reflect the change that has happened at the point of conversion and the new life that Christians now are supposed to live. Hence the primary command in our text in verse 16, “live in such a way.” Well, it says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as cover up for evil, but living as servants of God, honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the emperor.” So brothers and sisters in Christ, we have freedom from sin as Christians and a new ability to actually live a righteous life and that’s a frequent theme in the Scriptures. I’m sure you all know – Romans 6:17-18 is just sufficient to point this out. Romans 6:17-18 says this: “But thanks be to God that you were once slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching in which you were committed, and having been set free from sin have become slaves of righteousness.” It echoes what Peter says – you are free from sin. You no longer have to sin. That’s the way we are born. We are born sinners. We are born with the only propensity to sin and yet we have been set free from this if we are Christians. We have a new life and we are now able to pursue righteousness. And so we come to our first freedom and we’ll go through these pretty quick here. a) Freedom from Evil (v. 16a) The first freedom that we see is a freedom from evil in verse 16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as cover-up for evil.” Well, during the night of April 15th, 1987, some 7 million American children disappeared overnight. No, it wasn’t a partial rapture – I know what you are thinking. That was the night when the government started requiring social security numbers for dependent children on their 1040 forms. See what happened? Previously, you could just list the number of dependents, telling us that as many people lived in your in home – lived in your home. You could list any random number that you wanted to. But the moment they required a social security number to be given, it meant that 7 million children disappeared. And so we see that many people were actually cheating on their tax returns. It actually turns out that apparently 1 in 10 children reported on the 1986 tax return were a result of someone lying on their taxes. How easy is it for us to justify either not paying our taxes or at least cheating on your taxes? It’s easy because it’s easy to point the government’s poor management of funds, or to their supporting of things like abortion or military actions you don’t agree with and then say, “I’m not paying my taxes.” That’s not what Jesus introduced us to, is it? He said in Mark 12:17, “You are to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Further, don’t use your new identity in Christ – “Oh, I’m a heavenly citizen. I don’t have to obey these earthly citizenship rules,” as an excuse for civil disobedience. There’s a story of a young man who said, “You know what, I’m not a citizen of this world,” as he was driving, “so I don’t have to obey the speed limit. I can even drive as recklessly as I would want to drive.” The pastor who was sitting in his passenger seat responded, “If you keep it up, we’ll both get see our heavenly kingdom real quick.” So the idea here is that you need to follow the laws of the land. You need to pay your taxes honestly, recognize that God did not redeem you to make you free from the laws of the land, but free to obey the laws of the land. b) Freedom to Serve God (v 16b) We also see in the end of verse 16 a second freedom. We are free to serve God. It says, “But you are to be living as servants of God.” There’s an irony here that we once slaves to sin, we’re now slaves to God. We’re essentially freed up from our slavery to see so that we can be a slave to God. It echoes Paul’s language again from Romans 6 that Christians don’t have an option to pursue what is right though. We are compelled to pursue what is right if we’re truly redeemed. You see, we must be those who try to honor God in everything we do. It is part of our new nature – it’s part of who we are as Christians – to serve and obey and follow Him and when you realize that you aren’t following and serving and obeying Him, as a true Christian you want to turn from that immediately and follow Jesus with your whole life obeying Him - even if He tells us to do things that we don’t, frankly, want to do. So every Christian is a slave to God. We’ve given it all up for Him. c) Freedom to Honor All (v. 17a) Well, a third freedom we have is that we have freedom to honor all. We see this in verse 17 – “Honor everyone.” Simple command – “Honor everyone.” You might ask, “What does ‘everyone’ mean?” Well, everyone, everybody, everybody, anybody that you can think of. You see, human beings are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity. Respect, we have to honor absolutely everyone. See, there is no such thing as ‘life unworthy of life’ as the Germans believe. Since every human being is made in the image of God and worthy of honor. We need to show that honor to everyone. d) Freedom to Love Christians (v.17b) Well, we have freedom to honor all. The second command in verse 17 – we have freedom to love Christians. “Love the brotherhood” is a simple command. Love the brotherhood. This is actually a higher command than honor – to selflessly love and to serve other Christians. We know that the church is supposed to be a place where people can look at the church and see our love – our mutual love and respect for one another and be attracted to God because of the intensity of our sacrificial love that we show towards others. And so we are free to love other Christians and according to 1John, it’s actually a mark of every Christian. We are those who love one another. e) Freedom to Fear God (v. 17c) Well, another freedom we have is that we have freedom to fear God. That’s the next command – “Fear God.” This is the reverential fear that we have as we look toward the majesty and the awesomeness of the Creator God that we serve and that not only we serve, but that as condescended to send His Son to die for our sins. This is the God that we serve and we ought to be standing before Him in reverential awe, fearing Him as a Creator God. Now notice it isn’t fear that is used for the emperor, is it? It’s just for God. That’s because reverential fear is essentially the highest form of honor and respect that we can show to anyone. And so Peter helpfully reminds us where our priorities in service should lie. Even though we submit to the government and obey the government, ultimately do so because our highest authority is to God and He’s told us to do so. So we are to fear God and the final command – honor the emperor. f) Freedom to Honor the Emperor (v. 17d) And that’s our last freedom as well – our sixth freedom: Freedom to honor the emperor. So Peter ends where he began, instructing Christians to honor the emperor – not as God but as a fellow man. Submitting to the government as a crucial way to show the watching world our redeemed life, ultimately because it is God who put our leaders over us and we would never want to fight against His will. So in closing, I want to ask a couple of questions: Are you trusting the sovereignty of God in everything, in putting authorities in life? Or, are you the one who is constantly fighting against authority, big or small? Do you now recognize a pattern in your life, a sinful tendency towards rebellion? As we come to communion, some of you may need to repent of sin that this passage has brought up, before God whom you fear. And so I’m going to encourage you to take a moment in silent confession before the Lord. Let’s pray: God, we thank you for this passage. We thank you that you’ve given your Word to us even when it says things that we don’t want to do. I pray that you would help us to be those who fight the pride that remains that thinks that we are always right, the thinks that all authority over us is foolish. I pray that you would help us to be those who live a consistent Christian testimony to the outside world – that we would show everyone that we want to honor those that you have put into authority over our lives. I pray that you would help us to do this, especially when it is difficult, especially when those in authority do unjust things, whether that be at or job or our home or at anyplace. God, I pray that you would help us to be those who are faithful to do what you have called us to do – faithful to love one another, faithful to follow you with everything that we are, and I pray that you would help us as we look to remember what you’ve done for us on the cross. I pray that you would help us to take these elements out of hearts that have properly dealt with the sin that remains. Lord, if there is sin that we need to confess, may we do so now, and may you give us the blessed remembrance that you have forgiven of this sin. That the sin that remains has been totally and completely covered by our Lord and Savior by His body that was broken for us, by His blood that was shed for us. What a sweet memory. I pray that you would help us hold on to this grace and may we be motivated to live our lives for you glory. We pray this in your Son’s name.

Scripture References: 1 Peter 2:13-17

From Series: "1 Peter: Standing Firm in this Shaky Life"

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