Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 2:13-20
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2. This morning we will be studying verses 13-20. This is likely one of the most taught passages over the past two years along with Romans 13, because it addresses government. I have learned over the years to be very careful as I read and study God’s Word, to make sure that I do not add to what it says, nor take away from what it says. And this is one of those passages where this is extremely important. This passage speaks very directly to much of what we are going through, and I am sure I will not answer all your questions, but it is extremely relevant. So let us look at the passage from the Legacy Standard Bible, and as I read, listen very carefully.
13 “Be subject for the sake of the Lord to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do good. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free people, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as slaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brethren, fear God, honor the king. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are crooked. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unrighteously. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this finds favor with God.”
1 Pet 2:13-20 (LSB)
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank You for Your Word this morning. Grant to us wisdom that we would know Your desire for us in these challenging days, that our actions and conduct would honour You. And that our hearts would be sincere and pure, that our response to the times would be for your glory and not to gain attention ourselves. May I be faithful to Your Word, as I humbly come with my thoughts this morning. Guide us by Your Spirit. Amen.
I do come humbly with my thoughts this morning, but boldly because it is the Word of God. I am sure that there have been many sermons given over these two years which have come from a heart of emotion and anger. Sort of that thought, no one is going to tell us what to do. Then there of course is the other side, that of complacency, where a move away from Christian values is increasing at an accelerating rate, and often the Christian church and the Christian are not heard from. And these issues today are much bigger than Covid, though I would say that Covid has magnified the issues, as it has forced government to place parameters around us that we do not always like. But it has also been a time when other human, secular movements have gained great momentum in our society. And of course, the division has found its way into the church. And I believe there is a good reason for that.
Let me give you an example. None of us raise our kids the same way. We may have various views on entertainment, music, and even theological differences. But we have over time to understand that. Yes, there are differences, but they do not damage unity. As I know families from our past that we dearly love who do some things differently from us, yet we could not be closer as Christian friends and we value so much their friendship. Yet Covid has come so quickly and government mandates were introduced, and it gave little time to work through those differences in church-life. And to complicate this, other issues emerged at the same time, things such as black-lives matter and an explosion in various sexual issues.
Let me give you an example of a past issue, the abortion issue, I really see four groups. One, are those who originally drove the issue, and this is often a small minority. Then on the far other side, there are those, like ourselves, who teach a completely different message because we hold to the Scriptures. A third group, is the secular society, that though they may see a difficulty in abortion, have become okay with abortion because of its acceptance over the years. They at first may have felt it was wrong, and many still do, but there is a tendency to not want to infringe my “feelings” on someone else. And, of course, what is missing in secular society is the teaching, conviction, and acceptance of God’s Word. And finally, there is another group, likely the most disturbing. And that is a people in churches that are waffling on truth. They have the Word of God, but the words of Scripture are being questioned at every turn when it collides with cultural issues. So, this group of people (churches), has basically done exactly what the secular society has done, though it has taken longer, and that is to peel away Bible truth to conform to cultural norms. So, what begins as a movement a number of years ago with a small minority, ends up becoming the majority of thinking in society, which includes the original movers, then the secular society, and finally churches that are no longer certain about the Bible.
And of course, this deterioration does not stop there. As the other discouraging thing is that this includes a number of movements that seem to be more on the radar today: the homosexual movement, the sexual identity movement, or whatever you want to call it is advancing in a similar fashion. And what begins as a movement among a very small minority, over time gets accepted by the culture who have little biblical basis to stop it. And then what? Churches, that desperately desire to fit in and seem to hate rejection, and therefore, one by one they fall to the cultural pressures. And here is what else happens, as even so-called Bible churches, that teach truth … lose their passion and steadfast belief in that truth.
Do you know what I mean? Do you understand the warning? Truth is still taught, but it has lost its effectiveness. It begins with preachers who speak the truth, but their lives do not match that truth, A Sunday School teacher who teaches children the Word of God, but their tone gives evidence that it is not a heart-wrenching truth anymore. It is the Mom and Dad, who at one time felt a deep need to teach their kids the Bible, but now it becomes a little mundane and less important, It is the average Christian, who at one time grabbed the Word of God every day, but now it sits at home on a table, only to be picked up on Sunday mornings. Ss more Christians drop out and more churches go down. So again, what begins as small movements, whatever it is, ends up with a vast majority of people. And now only a few years later, what at one time would have been a common-sense message, a proper sexual view as taught from the Bible, the biblical view now sounds completely absurd to our society.
So, what is the answer? What can we do? Hold onto that truth, the truth. In your own personal life, don’t compromise, suck it up. Family life, don’t compromise the truth. As you walk through those doors at work, don’t compromise your faith. And that we as a church will always hold onto the truth and never compromise. Never allow a pastor or an elder that does not hold to the truth of God’s Word in this place. Always expect the truth of the Bible to come from this pulpit. Because though the thinking and feelings of the culture are changing daily, we have God’s Word, and it never changes. As Peter has given us words this morning that were written two thousand years ago and words that are of eternal value to us! In fact, listen to what Peter himself wrote:
“And we have as more sure the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”
2 Pet 2:19a (LSB)
May we always be a church that is guided completely by God’s truth.
So, what does God say to us this morning regarding our interaction with authorities? What I noticed first of all in our passage are two statements that engulf the entire passage. Beginning of verse 13, “be subject for the sake of the Lord.” End of verse 20, this “finds favour with God.” In other words, God is the theme at both ends here. Which means that all our decisions regarding this difficult area are to be in line with honouring God. I notice that there are two things that highlight this (notes). One, being subject to government honours the Lord; two, suffering for doing what is right honours the Lord. I also notice the authorities which are covered in this passage are fairly broad. It includes human institutions (vs 13), governors (vs 14), and masters (vs 20). Another thing is that when Peter speaks of those in government, he speaks of them as leaders who (vs 14) punish evildoers and who praise those who do good. Yet when he speaks of masters or we could say employees, he even teaches to follow their leading even if they are (vs 18) crooked, a word which means to be perverse or wicked. Now Peter is also very practical in his principles as he gives some “why’s” to all this. In other words, why are we to live this way? (notes). Verse 15, to silence the ignorance of foolish men; verse 16, to further advance our role as a slave of God, as we have been talking about for these many weeks; and verse 19, to be able to live in harmony with our conscience. So let’s look at some principles found in this passage in regards to authorities in our lives (notes).
- We Need to Follow Both Good and Evil Authorities
There has been much said about this. Some have taken (vs 14) to mean that we would only follow governments that are good.
“Be subject for the sake of the Lord to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do good.”
- Pet 2:13-14 (LSB)
Yet, I would suggest there are some holes in this argument that we would obey only “good” governments.
- How would we ever describe a good government?
Would there ever be a time when a government was completely just in all its dealings? No. And how would we ever know, and what is the dividing line? To ever try as Christians to determine whether a government was good, would be an endless endeavor, and especially when we consider that this was written in the days of Peter when Rome was an oppressive government over the Jewish nation, Therefore, why would not Peter state otherwise in his situation? In other words, why wouldn’t he say to follow only good governments, but not follow the existing Roman government? Maybe Peter is mistaken. Don’t you realize Peter that if things do not change, if you do not change the government, you may be hung upside down on a cross. Which of course he was! Secondly, I would suggest another hole in this argument to only obey good governments.
- Why would he speak about servants obeying their masters, even when they are crooked?
Some have suggested that this is a separate category, but this would make it so hard to decipher, meaning that Peter meant that we follow good and bad masters, but we only follow good governments, that would be hard to make sense of the instruction given here in the text. Therefore, my conclusion here is that we are to follow both good and evil authorities that Lord has placed in our lives, whether that be a government or a boss or a school teacher. Yet, there is another principle, isn’t there?
- Following Evil Authorities Does Not Mean We Disobey God
This is obvious all over the Scriptures. Acts 5:29, “we must obey God rather than man.” Earthly governments will have a number of laws that may not agree with the Scriptures. However, this does not mean that we must follow them if it means being disobedient to God. That’s clear! Know that Christian! For there are many laws that permit sin, abortion laws, laws regarding sexual identity, unwed couples living together, and various unbiblical reasons for divorce. And yet, Peter seems to give the indication here that living in this type of unbiblical society is something that is given honour. And doing what is honourable is always the hard thing to do. It is an honourable thing to be subject to an evil authority. The evil authority is not honourable, but submitting to it is. One, because we do not want to, as it goes against human nature; and, two, you may have to face a cost when you cannot obey. But we don’t often warn new believers of the “cost.” As we often portray coming to Christ as the victory, and it is in a sense. But in another sense, it is not the end, but only the real beginning of the battle.
As “cost” must become a real understanding of our explanation of Christianity. For we are seeing now and will see more and more in the coming days of a biblical perspective costing us in things like a job, career opportunities, and finances, when serving Christ will threaten our freedom or even our lives. We often refer to the example set out by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For they convey such a good example of the cost of serving God. For they were willing to submit to many things in Babylon, a very pagan country. But when it came to being disobedient to God, they said, but we will not serve your gods. This would be like something that you may get asked to do by your boss. And your response may be, I submit to you and can do this and this and this. But if I am asked to disobey God and His Word, I cannot do that. Because following earthly authorities can never mean disobeying God, for that is clear in the Bible.
- We Must Consider Our Conscience
It is interesting that in verse 19, Peter mentions the conscience, and this is where we can find ourselves divide. The Apostle Paul also speaks about those times when doing something affects our conscience, that there may be times that someone can do something, and they are okay with it in their heart, but for someone else it is wrong. Not something that is stated specifically wrong in the Bible, but pricks their conscience personally themselves. Paul wrote:
“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
Rom 14:23 (LSB)
Paul was teaching that for some to eat certain foods or drink hurt their conscience and some believers observed certain days and others did not. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that “[some] things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.” There may even be times when we could do something, but for the sake of someone else’s conscience, we do not.
Yes, there are things that we are being asked to do as citizens these days that may be a threat to us. They are not necessarily things that would go directly against the Scriptures, but they may be things that bother our conscience. Therefore, there may be times, because of our conscience, not necessarily a definite sin, where we graciously must say, no, I cannot do this. Other Christians may be okay with this, but you are not. That some things may be okay with some, but not others. And these are issues that I believe Christians and the church must be willing to not quarrel or divide over. These are personal decisions that must be made carefully and in wisdom. Paul may have said, to eat or not eat; whereas we may say today, to be vaccinated or not be vaccinated. So, in matters where it is a direct disobedience of Scripture, we must say “no.” Yet in matters of conscience, we may be okay or we may have to say “no.” Therefore, we must consider our conscience.
- We Must Be Respectful of Authorities
My honouring of authority is because I honour the Lord. Verse 17, “Honour all people, love the brethren, fear God, honour the king.” See, there is no differentiating for the Christian. Love the brethren. This we get and we understand this. Fear God. This we certainly get, as this is the primary principle for all Christians. Honour the king. This we might get, especially if the king is somewhat good. But the first thing Peter says here is, honour all people. So Peter does not allow us to place certain people in a box in the case of honouring or respecting others. Now, when we read the whole of Scripture, we understand that there is a special relationship with the people of God. Paul said, “… let us do good to all people and especially to those who are of the faith.” So we know that.
But there is a significant error that we make as believers when we might choose some people over others. Not in the sense of understanding that some may be wrong in their thinking while others are right, or that some people may live more sinful lives, while others may be more ethical lives. But in an honouring sense, we cannot choose some over others. Now it does not mean we ignore sin and must speak out at times towards others. Yet to a significant degree we must “honour all men.” Why? Because this is what the passage says, as each and every man and woman have been created in the image of God. And so when Peter says to honour all men and then to honour the king (vs 17), and one verse later (vs 18) says that we are to serve those who are good and considerate, but also those who are crooked, we cannot separate that.
Therefore, how does this play out? Well, it plays out in respect for our leaders, our Mr. Trudeau’s, our Mr. Ford’s. For to not honour them, fundamentally goes against the instruction of God’s Word. So, we must be very careful of how we address them when we disagree with them and how we speak about them. And this is throughout the Scriptures. Peter will address an unbelieving husband who is married to a believing wife. And the Christian wife is to follow an unbelieving husband, unless, unless, what he is requiring her is being disobedient to the Lord. See, there is a position that is given here for us as Christians, that if we are disrespectful of authorities good or bad, we fail to understand the Scriptures. And it may just indicate a defiance of authority. Yet, at the same time, those who are afraid to speak the truth of God’s Word and obey God rather than man, greatly miss the priestly ministry which has been given to us, So, we need to follow both good and evil leadership. But we can never disobey God, we must always consider our conscience, and honour those whom the Lord has placed over us. Look with me at verse 20:
“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this finds favor with God.”
1 Pet 2:20 (LSB)
What if God has chosen us, our generation, to have the privilege of enduring through suffering. Which comes with a promise, favour with God. The Christian has been given a task which is so unusual, to submit to those who do not obey God, while at the same time we must always obey God ourselves. Making ourselves willing to be subject to those we may not necessarily desire to be subject to. Difficult job description. While at the same time, this does not mean that we are lethargic. For our unwillingness to speak has often allowed a whole culture to be influenced by a few. But our speaking, our actions, our words must be governed by the principles which Peter has given us here.
Something else I notice as well if we obey this passage, (vs 15) we will silence the ignorance of foolish men. And I would suggest that there is a missing ingredient here in our battle. Imagine what we would do if all our freedoms were gone. What would we do? What do we do when we have a family crisis? We might try this and that to try to solve the issue. But what do we do when we come to the end of our rope? Pray. Paul wrote:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the tearing down of strongholds.”
1 Cor 10:3-4 (LSB)
Alistair Begg said that sometimes our freedoms have enabled us to ignore that which is the most important, prayer. Remember when Peter was unjustly put in jail for preaching the gospel, and because of the prayers of God’s people, an angel came and released Peter. See, this is the same Peter that wrote this passage regarding government and our relationship to it. Yes, there is room individually to do what we can as citizens to influence the culture, but the role of the church is spiritually to come before God and ask Him to perform His will among us. Begg said, “the church … will never know angels nudging and releasing from jail as long as the church … uses the world’s methodology to achieve a divine goal.” Peter last week reminded us that we are to live as those who are sojourners and exiles, for Jesus said that His disciples are not of this world. This helps us because we realize that we have been placed here within the culture temporality fulfil a purpose. See, if we believe that the world is ours, we look with disdain at those whom we feel have stolen society from us. But if we understand our role within the world, nothing is being stolen from us, for no one can take away the mission which the Lord has given us.
Last week we saw that: unbelievers will observe Christians that speak the truth in love, unbelievers with witness Christians who live holy lives, and we as Christians will proclaim His excellencies before an unsaved world. And part of fulfilling this mission includes submission to authorities. John MacArthur said that “Integrity, impeccable moral fiber, and purity of life are all essential tools to muzzle the enemies of Christianity.” This theme will continue. We saw our role in society last week. We see our role under authorities this week. And in chapter 3 we see how this plays out in a marriage relationship. And next week, Peter will give us the perfect example, Jesus Christ, “who being reviled, was not reviling in return; while suffering, He was uttering no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” So, might we be diligent in seeking the Lord’s help to do this task right, and might we continue to search the Scriptures to better know God’s will for us in this area. (pray) Father, may You guide us through these issues. Might we be quick to do what the Bibles teaches us in all manner of life, for the sake of the Lord. And all God’s people said, amen.