Intro: Following along with the series of messages I am preaching through 1 Peter, as Peter writes to the dispersed and persecuted church in exile throughout Asia Minor, he encourages them by writing, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12). In chapter 2 verse 13 through chapter 3 verse 8 he gives us three specific ways that we are able to have “honorable conduct”, even while living in an environment that is hostile to God and the gospel. Those three ways all involve submission to authority in different realms of our daily interactions. We are to be (1) submissive citizens, (2) submissive servants, and (3) submissive spouses.
As we look at these three focal points for submission, I’ve titled this devotional series “Our Mission is Submission – 1 Peter 2:13-3:8.”
Today we begin with the first installment:
(1) Submissive Citizens – 1 Peter 2:13-17
Submit Yourself to Every Ordinance of Man (vs. 13-14)
Peter began the letter we are studying by reminding dispersed pilgrims how established they are in their salvation through Jesus Christ. They are elect and sanctified, being able to stand firm even under pressure and persecution by walking in holiness through obedience to the purifying Word of God. By the time we get this far into chapter 2 he is not telling us why to be holy, but how to be holy and how to endure life in a hostile and corrupt culture. He starts by telling us how to relate to the government.
He begins with a reminder that we must not take on the standards of conduct that the culture around us holds. We should bring the standards from “home,” where our citizenship is, in heaven. We are to import our values to the place where we live from where our life is hidden with Christ in God in the heavenlies. We must strive and fight against absorbing the cultural context around us – “do not be conformed to this world…”, “do not love the world or the things in the world…”, familiarity and friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God, remember? (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:1-4).
Instead we confront the culture and the world with the truth of the Gospel. It is not a contentious confrontation; it is a compassionate confrontation as we live to be salt and light in a tasteless, dark, and dying world. The Gospel is offensive to the world system and those trapped therein. The world will be offended when we talk and look and live like Jesus. So be it. They hate Him and they will hate us, but may they never have a reason to think we hate them.
We must live like what we are, citizens of heaven who don’t belong here. In these verses he gives us three things we must do to live as submissive citizens of heaven.
1 Peter 2:13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.
He begins this paragraph of text “Therefore”, pointing directly to the truth that we are sojourners and pilgrims. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
This is our first point. In order to submit to God we must submit to earthly authority.
The word submit means “to voluntarily align ourselves under” someone. We willingly follow their authority and leadership by yielding and surrendering our own rights. But notice here, he says I want you to submit yourselves to every ordinance of man. The word ordinance does not refer to every single law passed by an earthly authority or government. That is important, because if the Bible told us that we had to obey every law that man enforced we would have a problem with that wouldn’t we? There are things in the laws of our nation that we disagree with because those laws run contrary to the Word of God, which we confess is our only infallible and final rule for life and godliness. So he doesn’t say submit yourselves to every law instituted by man. The word ordinance means institutions and refers to offices of authority. That is why he follows this with examples of the king and governor.
We have many (perhaps too many) human institutions that govern our lives and function as an authority over us. Federal, State, County, City, and of course the dreaded HOA, just to name a few. We are to submit to any institution, to any office that has authority over us. To a point (as long as we are not commanded to disobey God) we willfully yield to the governing authorities as they have been ordained by God. We are to strive to live honorably and peacefully (as much as depends on us, Paul says), by lining ourselves up under those in positions of authority.
Tomorrow we will look at a few examples from Scripture of living in less than ideal circumstances for the glory of God by submission to every ordinance of man.