1 Peter 2:17

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17

Peter has been speaking of submitting to the authorities which are duly established over believers, meaning those of the secular world. He said that this is the will of God, and the reason for it includes putting to “silence the ignorance of foolish men.” He then noted that a Christian’s liberty is not to be used as a cloak for vice.

With these thoughts in mind, he next says to “Honor all people.” The word signifies to fix a value to another, and thus holding in personal esteem. If one is to fix a value to the foolish, as noted in verse 15, there will obviously be lesser esteem for them than for others. It cannot mean that all people are honored equally. In fact, that would go contrary to what Paul says of the believer’s spiritual teachers –

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 5:17

Therefore, it must be that honoring all people is a way of showing the respect due to each individual accordingly. Paul speaks of exactly this in Romans 13:7 as well. Next, he says, “Love the brotherhood.” This word, brotherhood, is found only here and then again in 1 Peter 5:9. It speaks of the fraternity of believers.

There should be a sense of fraternal love between believers. It is true that we may not like every believer we encounter. And yet, we should endeavor to love them as believers, even if we don’t actually like them. There is nothing contradictory in this. Rather, it is how we would conduct ourselves in any situation, be it work-related, assignments in the military, and so on. We are to put our allegiance to the greater bond over our personal likes or dislikes of the individual. In the case of those redeemed by Christ, we should esteem them in the way that Christ did, saving them despite their fallen state.

Next, Peter says, “Fear God.” The word signifies dread, terror, reverent awe, and so on. The context of the situation explains the meaning. When Jesus performed miracles, the people around Him are said to have feared. In this case, it was an awe of the power of God. Jesus told the people to fear God because He has the power to save, or to cast into hell. He also said that believers are not to fear those who can only kill the body. If this is all they can do, but God can save even the dead from that state, then truly God is to be feared. We are to hold Him in the highest awe who created all things, and who has the power over all things and for all eternity.

Finally, Peter says, “Honor the king.” Most scholars are in agreement that this is speaking of the emperor at the time (meaning the governing authority at any time) who was also referred to as “king,” such as in John 19:15. This is based on the words of verse 13 where Peter spoke of the king when referring to the highest official of the land. This is probably not the case. Rather, Peter is speaking of the King of kings who is Christ. This would be in line with Paul’s words of 1 Timothy 1:17 –

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The same word used in the first clause, “Honor all people,” is used here. What is obvious then is that the personal value, or esteem, which is assigned to the King, is to be of infinite measure. We are to hold our God in such esteem that our praises and respect for Him continue at all times, even unto eternity.

Life application: Four wonderful imperatives are wrapped together in one verse to sum up the paragraph we have been looking over. Rather than getting wordy, Peter leaves no doubt and no ambiguity as to what sums up his thoughts. We are to –

1) Honor all people. All people – the poor, foreign, homeless, toothless, aged, young, annoying, etc. – are created in God’s image. All people are deserving of some level of our respect and attention.

2) Love the brotherhood. A little more specific than “honor all people,” and really, maybe a bit more difficult too. How annoying are some of the people in our church! Isn’t it easier to ignore them, or avoid them, when you see them coming? Sometimes it’s easier to travel to foreign countries and hang out with people who don’t speak our language than be nice to people in our own church. But we are called to love our fellow Christians no matter how different they are.

3) Fear God. Direct and to the point. Solomon said it this way –

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

4) Honor the King. This is surely talking about Jesus. Peter has moved from the general to the specific: people > brotherhood >  God > King. How do we honor God? By honoring Jesus. As Jesus Himself said, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

Yes Lord, give us wisdom and kindness in dealing with others – in the family of man, in the family which is the church, towards You as our Creator, and to Christ as our King. May our actions be appropriate in all ways and at all times, and may You be glorified through them. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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