Church & Government – 1 Peter 2:11-17 – Pastor Joshua
What are we known for? What is your reputation? At our jobs, at our schools, amongst family & friends… what are you known for? Peter’s main idea in this passage: Revere God so the world may revere Him. When we lovingly follow God and His ways, we become witnesses of who God is to the world. Reverence means to highly respect. To hold in utmost high esteem. As Christians, we’re called to revere and respect God. To live our lives for Him. Not just on Sundays but every day of every hour of the week. He’s the one through which we should see and live in this world! Revere God so that others may come to revere and know Him too. Sounds simple, but we all know it’s extremely difficult. How can we be good witnesses for God so that others can come to know Him personally?
Point #1, revere God with integrity (1 Pet. 2:11-12). We want to respect God by trying to follow Him as honestly and upright as possible… to the point of if we were to ask anyone we know what they thought of us, they would know you as an honest and honorable Christ follower. Peter starts off by exhorting his brothers and sisters to abstain from the passions of the flesh as sojourners and exiles. As those who call heaven our greatest home, we recognize that this earth is not. In that sense, we’re sojourners and exiles… wanderers waiting until that day where we can be home together with God in His joy-filled presence. So until that day, until we meet together with God in heaven, Peter is calling his audience and all believers to abstain from the passions of the flesh.
As people marked by God’s grace, we must refrain from some things while on the other hand give ourselves to others, because by refraining from the passions of the flesh, we revere God as the world stands by to watch our witness. What are these passions of the flesh? It’s any sinful passion or sinful love of the soul. All of these things, every sinful desire we must put away; we have to put them down out of our lives. While we may have walked in these ways before we knew Jesus, we’re to no longer walk in them because they dishonor God. To do this means we need to renew our minds everyday, to discipline our tongues and watch what we say, to control our bodies. If we don’t, they’ll continue to wage war against our soul. These physical sins, these sins we commit against God and ourselves, we may not know it but they have a spiritual effect on our souls. What sins we commit in our minds and our bodies will indeed hurt us by breaking down our souls.
We’re being called to fill our lives with honorable and good things, to love and treat others kindly and well (v.12). By doing so, we’re building up a good reputation so that one day if we are ever accused of wrongdoing, they would still see all the good things we had done before, ask and wonder why we had done those things before then hopefully come to know Jesus for themselves by our honorable witness! When people see you, the hope is that they would see Christ. And when Christ returns on the day of visitation, they could see Jesus alongside you and all of God’s chosen people.
Just to make clear, we don’t do good works because by doing them we get eternal life. We do good works as a byproduct. We do good works because we have been so affected by God’s great grace in the gospel that we can’t help but respond to the way He has called us to live. The New Testament is filled with this idea… just as Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is how we revere God… with integrity to the lives God has called us to live. So how exactly are we to revere and honor God in light of government?
Point #2, revere God with submission to government 1 Pet. 2:13-14. God is calling us to humbly submit to our government’s rule and authority. And as we respect God’s Word here, it would become a good witness to the world. Now this talk about government and politics might be making some of you uncomfortable. And if I’m making you uncomfortable, I apologize! We preach the whole Bible here at San Lo and it just so happens that this was today’s passage. As such, we shouldn’t be afraid to take a look!
Reading them, these verses sound straightforward… subject yourself to every human institution, every earthly authority, whether the emperor or governors. In other words for us – congress, the judicial branch and the president and all forms of national and local authority given by the government like the police, because in general, they punish evildoers and praise good doers. By doing so, we do it for God, honoring Him because He’s the one calling us to live like this. What makes Peter’s words even crazier was that he was saying this during the time of Roman emperor Nero who led a great persecution against Christians, killing many including Peter. Many rulers of the time were not friends of Christians. In fact, they were adversaries. Yet God still called believers to submit to government even in light of the crystal-clear difficulties in doing so. Today whether you agree with our government or not, we are called to submit to its rules and respect it in a God-honoring way. In fact, by doing so we become greater witnesses. It should be our goodness that is one of our greatest apologetics to the world.
Practically speaking, does this mean we’re going to agree all the time with our governments’ leaders’ political agenda? No. Every election there are good Christians that are Democrats, Republicans, 3rd partiers and no partiers. However, all Christians are called to obey the structures of our society and to live within those structures obediently. Now, there will be times when it won’t be possible to do so in good conscience. Since it’s February we get to celebrate Black History Month. Part of that celebration includes those activists and Christian brothers and sisters like Martin Luther King Jr. We should learn from them. If they didn’t stand up against the government’s unjust standards of racial injustice, who knows where San Lo would be today.
But generally, God calls us to submit to the government. We should be known for our respect and honest and fair work in government and political involvements. If you engage in political conversation with someone, we need to remember Peter’s words were in the context of showing respect to all peoples. So even if someone differs in opinion from you, you are still called to love and respect them... at all times. Regardless of our political affiliation, our greatest identity should never be in our political party or in our country in the first place, but in Christ. So, as those in Christ, we are called to glorify God and to bring others to Him. If our politics don’t do that, then we’re doing it wrong so let’s try to get better at it. Let’s revere God by respecting others so well that they can’t deny the goodness of God. How else is God calling us to live in this world in light of our relationship with government as Christians?
#3, revere God in liberty (vv.15-17); by living according to the freedom that He’s given to us through Jesus’ great work in the gospel. Verse 15 has the same idea from verse 12. That the reason why we submit to government and live with integrity is to be a great witness for God. By being a great witness, naturally this would silence all naysayers, all ignorance of foolish peoples. Peter then exhorts his audience in verse 16. Live as those who are free. Live as those who’ve been freed from the bonds of our sin, as those who have been given a new joy and lease on eternal life from Jesus.
By living in this freedom, we now get to be servants of God. Clearly this is much better than serving sin. In fact, we don’t want to use our freedom as a cover-up for evil. What does that mean? It means we are prone to take our salvation for granted and say to ourselves, “Hey. Jesus already saved me. I already have eternal life. So now I can just do whatever I want! I now have a license to sin! I can just do this one thing this one time.” Wrong! True freedom, or true liberty, is not given to us to sin against God. True liberty is given to us to serve God so that we could be saved from sin to obedient righteousness. As such, we are to respect and regard everyone well both outside and inside the church. All peoples. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood.” Then, “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” Revere God, respect Him. And honor our country’s leaders as well. By honoring and respecting our leaders, the world may witness God’s glory.
The reason why we are able to live as those freed, again, is because of Jesus. We were once prisoners of sin & death, but Christ chose to become a prisoner to the point of death to pay for our sins. Then by rising from death, Jesus showed His victory over all our sin, which allows us now to be seen by God as no longer prisoners to this world but as His dear chosen people. So now as those freed by this gospel story, by honoring God, revering Him in the midst of this unbelieving world, others may come to know Him personally and revere Him.
Praise Songs: Reign in Us, All the Poor and Powerless, Jesus is Better, Doxology