1 Peter 2:13-17

1 Peter 2:13‑17  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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Having begun with self-judgment as to the inner springs in order to a comely behavior before others, ready as they are to think and speak ill of Christian men, he now turns to various external relations and exhorts us to the conduct that becomes us in them.
“Be subject1 to every human institution for the Lord's sake; whether to a king as supreme, or to rulers as being sent through him, for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to those that do well. Because so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye put to silence the ignorance of senseless men; as free, and not having liberty as a cloak of malice, but as God's bondmen. Honor all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (vers. 13-17).
The Jews found it a hard task morally, and in particular when entrusted with the then only revelation from God, to live in submission to the powers that be; idolatrous as these were and given up to a reprobate mind. The mass never accepted the Gentile yoke as the divine chastening of their own wickedness and departure from the God Who deigned to make them His people. And as their pride was irritated by the gospel which, on their rejection of the Messiah, God was now sending out to the nations no less than to themselves in His free and indiscriminate grace, their rebellious spirit also was growing till it drew down on them the days of vengeance in war, and desolation, as Dan. 9:2626And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26) predicted, as well as the Lord Himself (Matt. 21:38-41; 22:738But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. (Matthew 21:38‑41)
7But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. (Matthew 22:7)
, and Luke 21:20-2420And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:20‑24)), in the last clearly distinguishing the Roman siege under Titus from the far more solemn events about to be in the consummation of the age (Luke 21:25-2725And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:25‑27), as still more fully given in Matt. 24:15-3115When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:15‑31), and Mark 13:14-2714But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains: 15And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: 16And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. 17But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 20And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. 21And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: 22For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. 24But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. (Mark 13:14‑27)).
It was therefore of moment to exhort the Christian confessors from among the dispersed Jews to whom the apostle writes, that they should in their humble loyalty please God and be gracious, instead of contrary, to all men. Notwithstanding that Israel was a wreck, and Judah so more than ever in God's sight because of adding the Lord's ignominious rejection to their old iniquity, the remnant that believed in Him not only received spiritually what the nation sought after the flesh, but enjoyed new blessings in Christ beyond all that saints possessed of old. Prophets had it even revealed to them, that not to themselves, but to the remnant that believed after Christ's sufferings and glorification, they were ministering those things which were announced to them through those that evangelized them in virtue of the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven.
In such a case therefore consciousness of such rich and unmerited blessing softens the heart before God, and opens and swells its new affections toward man. For as another apostle wrote, “the arms of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful according to God to overthrow of strongholds, overthrowing reasonings and every high thing that lifteth up itself against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4, 54(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:4‑5)). Thus, on the one side as God's children, and knowing their redemption by Christ's precious blood, while on the other strangers and sojourners instead of being at home on the earth, it was all the more beseeming, simple, and easy that they should be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake.
The church is a divine institution, not a human one, and every Christian is a living part or member, whatever his place. And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers. After that we are told of another and inferior class, powers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues. Sign-gifts passed away, and such of the great gifts for edification as laid the foundation. But God is faithful, whatever the changes through man's unfaithfulness; nor can Christ's love to His body cease in active and effectual care, till we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at a full grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
But here the call is external even to submit to every human institution; for they might assume different shapes, all involving trial to the Christian. But as the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Rome (13:1), where these were chiefly Gentiles, and a cruel and unscrupulous and depraved emperor reigned, “Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above [him]. For there is no authority except from God, and those that be are set up by God.” Here it is not the secret providence that comes before us, but the manifest fact. In both the duty is to subject oneself; and here “for the Lord's sake” as there for conscience. A republic had its claim no less than royalty. The only relation revealed as to the believer is subjection without one word here or anywhere else in the N. T. for exercising authority in the present evil age. The grace of Christ is the pattern for every Christian; and “for the Lord's sake” does not import His relation to the human creation, though He is indeed Lord of all, but His appeal to the saints themselves, that they obey Him in submission to the powers of the world.
But the Spirit distinguishes, while He enjoins subjection to all: “whether to king as supreme, or to rulers as being sent through him, for vengeance on evil-doers and praise to those that do well.” “Sent through him” refers to royal authority as superior. Had the reference intended been to God, the phrase would have been ὐπὸ), “by,” and not the intermediate word διὰ, “through.” All may see the incongruity which the mistake would involve of predicating divine mission, not of the king but only of delegated governors.
The aim of government expressed in the latter part of ver. 14 is quite clear. It is to punish evildoers, and to encourage those that do well. The broad obligation was enjoined on Noah after the deluge. We hear of neither king nor magistrate in the antediluvian world. People imagine and reason in an abstract way about Adam; but the case of Cain left unpunished in Jehovah's hands indicates how matters then lay. “At the hand of man, at the hand of each one's brother, will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God he hath made man” (Gen. 9:5, 65And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (Genesis 9:5‑6)) first laid the general basis of human government as it is. Life belonged to God, who thus communicated the principle to Noah. Henceforward man was responsible as God's servant to execute wrath, and even to blood if blood were shed; for he must not bear the sword in vain. It was the beginning of dispensations, neither the Adamic state being one, nor the new heavens and earth in the absolute sense during the ever-running space. Nor was it long before Nimrod, the rebel of the Cushite line, availed himself of the dispersion to usurp despotic power of his own will; and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
With the government of the world those who are Christ's have nothing directly to do. They are expressly not of the world as He was not (John 17:14, 1614I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
), who refused even to arbitrate when one sought His informal intervention; He would be no judge or divider of inheritance (Luke 12:13, 1413And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? (Luke 12:13‑14)). “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my officials fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” He was come into the world to bear witness to the truth; and such is the mission of the Christian. The age to come will behold Him and them reigning over the earth when evil shall be infallibly judged and iniquity hide its head. It is now the time to suffer with Him, looking then to be glorified. Therefore should we meanwhile be the more zealous to submit ourselves to every human creation (as it is literally), and not only to a king as supereminent but to governors as sent from time to time through him for righteous dealing with evil-doers and for praise of such as do well. Our proper interests are on high; hut that is our duty for the Lord's sake.
A weighty reason follows. “Because so is the will of God (and are we not sanctified unto obedience—obedience of Jesus?), that by well-doing ye put to silence (lit. muzzle) the ignorance of senseless men; as free and not having liberty as a cloak of malice, but as God's bondmen.” How sound, wholesome, unselfish, and godly! The true and comely answer to the spiteful hatred of the world is a godly course of living. For men as such, not some only but all, are senseless if they know not God, and therefore find their malignant pleasure in imputing their own evils to His children. This habitual well-doing is not to give up the liberty wherewith Christ set us free, but as we live by the Spirit, also to walk by it, instead of wearing the liberty as a cloak of malice, which enemies pretended. It is our happiness and cherished duty to carry ourselves as God's bondmen: such we really are; and we find it the perfect law of liberty, as it flows from our new nature.
The paragraph ends with a pointed and pregnant conclusion— “Honor all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” The form of the first honoring is not the same as the last expression of the act done when called for, not the habitual doing it. The Christian should not fail to remember that man was made as none other in the image of God. He alas! when fallen is prone to forget what rebukes his manifold inconsistencies.
Loving the brotherhood is a constant duty; but the love takes a shape according to their state. No Christian is called to love carnality or worldliness; nor yet a schismatic way, nor the heretical or sectarian, but to turn away from the one, and to have no more to do with the other after a first and second admonition, however once perhaps honored in God's service. Love would take pains with those guilty of lesser faults, admonishing the unruly, comforting the faint-hearted, sustaining the weak, and patient toward all. It is the very reverse of either self-seeking or indifference, or independency.
Then how necessary to cultivate habitually the fear of God! There is nothing right where this fails. The holy fear of God shuts out every dishonoring fear of man, and all tormenting fear of God. We know His majesty, His holiness, and His righteous character; and we know also that He loves us beyond a father's love, with the perfection of the Son's Father. May we all deepen in our fear of Him!
There remain the words, “honor the king.” This too is continuous. Whatever may be his personal character, he represents God in the things of earth. The Christian, if true to his calling on high, has nothing to blind his eyes; for he seeks no personal interests, favor, or honor, nor consequently has he to feel the disappointments of such as live for present things. He can therefore in simplicity and godly sincerity honor the king for his office as of God in His providence (for it is ignorance to speak here of His grace), and this as his habit with supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, not only for all, but in particular for kings and all that are in high place, that we may live a tranquil and quiet life. Our sufferings, sorrows, and conflicts come because we have Christ our life in the world which led of Satan crucified Him; and because we have to do with men bearing the Lord's name who seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. The world's false glory, the flesh's selfishness and self-will, and Satan's antagonism to Christ and the truth must make it a question habitually of overcoming by faith in subjection of heart to God.