Saturday, 26 October 2019
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 1 Peter 2:13
Peter now states “Therefore” based on his words of verses 11 & 12. He noted that believers are as sojourners and pilgrims, and thus are to abstain from the fleshly lusts of this world which war against us. We are to have honorable conduct among the Gentiles in order to bring them to a state where they glorify God, because of our good works which they observe. Out of this, comes Peter’s “Therefore.”
It is because we are living in this world, but are not a part of it, that we are to “submit … to every ordinance of man.” One might say, “I am not of this world, and therefore I do not need to submit to the ordinances of man.” And, unfortunately, this is the position many believers hold to. “I don’t have to serve in the military because…” “I will not vote because…” On and on, Christians pick and choose what they will do in this world in an attempt to appear more holy than those around them, or simply because they don’t want to do a certain thing, and so they fall back on the premise that they are not obligated to do this or that because they are not of this world.
It is faulty logic, refuted by both Peter and Paul. When Peter says, “every ordinance of man,” he is referring to the duly established laws of whatever land believers live in. The word he uses, ktisis, signifies “creation.” It speaks of either the act of creation or the product of it. Thus, from a human aspect, it speaks of institutions. They did not exist, but man created them. They form the basis for human conduct and living within a given sphere of existence.
When a believer lives in a city, for example, he falls under the institutions of that city, of the county in which the city exists, of the state in which the county exists, and of the federal government in which the state exists. The believer is to submit to all of these institutions because they comprise the sphere in which he exists. This is not optional, but rather it is God-inspired through the writers of the epistles. Paul says the same thing in Romans 13 –
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1, 2
The words from both Peter and Paul are clear and explicit. Therefore, if we are to submit to the ruling authorities, it is an all-inclusive deal. One cannot logically say, “I will pay taxes because I have been instructed to, but I will not vote because I am ‘not of this world.’” That is illogical and is simply an attempt to appear more holy or pious than the next person. A person may willingly choose to not vote, but to then ascribe that choice to the fact that he is a Christian is contradictory to what is stated by the apostles.
Peter next says that this submission is “for the Lord’s sake.” This means “because the Lord has mandated that it is to be this way.” It is not that the Lord needs it this way to fill a lack that only we can fill, but that we need to be this way because He has stated that “it is so.” He has delegated the powers of this world to certain individuals who then form their governmental institutions. They are the authority in this sphere, and we live within this sphere. Therefore, we are to submit to them.
Peter then begins to designate exactly what he means by saying, “whether to the king as supreme.” Peter uses the designation of “king” when speaking of the Roman emperor. The emperor is known by other titles, such as autokrator, Kaisar, and etc. However, he is also, at times, called “king,” such as in John 19:15 and in Acts 17:7. He was the highest earthly official in the land, and he was to be submitted to.
In the United States, the highest single official is the President, but the laws issue from Congress, and the Supreme Court’s decisions determine the legality of the laws. It is this three-fold federal head that is to be equated to Caesar here.
When Peter says that the king is “supreme,” he is speaking of his earthly state. It is not an acknowledgment of him as a god, nor does it mean that we are to do something mandated by this supreme king which would be against the rule of God. The highest allegiance of the believer is to God, as He has revealed Himself to us in His word for our life instruction.
Life application: As believers, we are living in the land that God determined for any given one of us – be it Korea, America, Germany, etc. We are told by Peter here to submit to every ordinance of man. If the king (or president, prime minister, etc.) signs a law, then we are to obey it. We are to do this even if it seems unjust. Everyone in the country is bound under the same law. If others obey it and Christians don’t, then they leave a bad testimony and an unfavorable image of our greater and true King.
However! If at any time an earthly government passes a law that is contrary to the law of God, it must be disobeyed. This is because we have a higher law in God’s word. As an example, America has legalized abortion. We therefore are to allow abortion to continue (such as not murdering the doctors involved in conducting them), while still working within the framework of the government to abolish the practice.
However, if America passed a “mandatory abortion after one child” law, we would be obligated to disobey this law when directed at us individually. We must follow the higher law of God and protect the life He has created. Sometimes it is hard to determine where disobeying should and shouldn’t be practiced. This is why it is so very important to know and meditate on God’s law which is contained in the Bible.
Heavenly Father, you have called us to live at peace with our governments and our leaders. You have shown us that we are to be subject to them, even when we disagree with their laws. Help us to be discerning in the proper conduct of our lives and the following of your mandates. This is right because it ultimately glorifies you. So be with us as we conduct our affairs under the governments in which we live. Amen.