Reading the Word
1 Peter 2:13–25 (ESV)
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is 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. 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. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 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. 24 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. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Understanding the Word
At first glance, this passage may not seem too surprising. Peter tells Christians that they ought to be subject to those in authority over them, whether it be governors, masters, or the emperor. This would have been quite shocking to Peter’s first recipients. Why? Because the emperor was Nero and he was persecuting Christians!
Peter reminds these believers that paying honor to the authorities is the will of God because by doing so it puts to silence those who would like to accuse Christians of evil behavior. In this way, Jesus is our example. He was falsely accused and tortured for doing no wrong, but he committed no sin in return. He honored the Father through suffering and left final justice in the Father’s hands.
Applying the Word
We all have authorities over us. We have parents, teachers, managers, supervisors, and government. Some of them are good. Some of them are not so good. Some we want to serve. Some we would rather not. We would rather complain and disrespect them through gossip, slander, and other attacks.
But how should Christians respond to the ones that are not so good? We should honor them. We should respect them. We should obey them unless they are instructing us to do something contrary to the word of God (Acts 5:27-29). When we do this, we imitate our Savior and we make the gospel visible.
Christians should be the very best students, employees, and citizens anyone could ask for as we seek to honor everyone in authority over us for the glory of God.
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