COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"2:13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." (1 Pet 2:13-16, KJV)
The practicality of faith is a worthy subject of meditation. While we are not of this world, being strangers and pilgrims in it, nevertheless we do conduct ourselves honorably while we remain in it. The Spirit will show us how the Lord has chosen to show the ignorance of unregenerate men. Among other things, He will do it by presenting a contrast between life lived in His light, and life lived in the darkness of this present evil world. While we are in the world, we confront requirements originated by men. What is to be our response to them? How are we to discern which ones, if any of them, impinge upon our faith, or require that we deny the Living God? The instruction given by the Spirit is marvelous, opening profound considerations to us. Remember, the Lord is showing us how to conduct ourselves in a world to which we do not belong. Our citizenship is in heaven. Still, the Lord will not allow us to withdraw from life in the world as though we were free from all responsibilities. There are practical matters to which we must give heed.
SUBMITTING TO THE ORDINANCES OF MEN
" 2:13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." KJV There is an underlying reason for this teaching. When man fell, he entered into a depraved moral condition-one in which disorder, confusion, violence, and all manner of social disturbance were initiated. In His mercy, the Lord ordained government to subdue the outbreak of anarchy and violence, and to encourage civility. This is declared in the thirteenth chapter of Romans. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God" (13:1-2). The twofold purpose of government is to encourage good works and punish evildoers (13:3-5). To resist the authority of civil leaders, therefore, is to "resist the ordinance of God," or what He has ordained.
When the Spirit says "every ordinance of man," He is viewing government from its most lofty viewpoint. The new birth results in us being separated from the world. But it does not make us rebels, or cause us to resist government and rule. The word "ordinance" does not mean "a law," as though the text said "Submit to every law men impose upon you." Rather, it refers to human authority, used for the purpose of social order. It is an institution formed by men, but under the authority of God. Other versions read, "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institutionNRSV . . . Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among menNIV . . . Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution."NASB That the "ordinance" refers to rulers, and not the laws they make, is evident from the explanation: "king," "governors," etc.
No child of God is to known as an anarchist, like Barabbas, who was involved in insurrection against the government, and even committed murder in the insurrection (Mk 15:7). When Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and taxes paid, Joseph and Mary submitted. In fact, God was glorified in their submission by the Savior being born at that time (Lk 2:1-5). When tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid taxes, or tribute, he answered "Yes." Jesus elaborated on the subject to Peter, telling him that technically He owed no tax, for He was the Owner. "Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee" (Matt 17:26-27). A noble example, indeed! Later, when queried about whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute to heathen Caesar, Jesus replied, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt 22:17-21). In both cases, He was submitting to every ordinance of man.
All of this is done "for the Lord's sake," in order that no reproach be brought upon Him through our insubordination. This means we will not submit to a law that demands we deny Christ and blaspheme His holy name. But if we break the normal civil laws, we will accept the punishment due to us. This very spirit was also manifested in Paul. When called before a Roman judgment seat he said, "For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die" (Acts 25:11). He was submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.
Notice the objectives of the rulers: "the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." We understand such rulers to be under Divine authority. God can work out His purposes for us through them. How else can you account for Joseph in Egypt (Gen 39:21; 41:44-46), or Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah" in Babylon (Dan 1:4-6; 6:2)? How about Nehemiah in Persia (Neh 2). All of them were rewarded by civil leaders-men who did not know God. Yet, God favored these men because they submitted to "every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." All levels of human authority can become means through which the people of God receive Divine consideration. If you will ponder this matter, you will find that you have also experienced such benefits.
A KEY FACTOR IN THE WILL OF GOD
" 2:15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men."KJV The world speaks against the people of God because they are of another order, belonging to another world. As the Lord Jesus said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). However, there are occasions when the world blasphemes God and His Word because of the ungodly conduct of those wearing the name of Christ (Rom 2:24; 1 Tim 5:14; 6:1; Tit 2:5). This is not the will of God.
Those who speak against the Lord, even though they focus their attention on the inconsistent behavior of professed believers, are described as ignorant and foolish. They are ignorant because they do not know God or His power. They are foolish because they dare to speak against the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. How is it that they can be silenced? Or, are we to imagine they cannot be silenced at all?
Here is something that is "the will of God." There is not room for opinion on the matter, and those living in contradiction of this are out of the will of God, profession not withstanding. The people of God are NOT to be noted for foolishness, inconsideration, dishonesty, and slothfulness. The mentioning of their name should not conjure up recollections of uncomely behavior. The saints are to be noted for doing "good to all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). "Well doing" is a means by which we seek for God's blessing. As it is written, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Rom 2:7). It is an area in which we are not to become weary (Gal 6:9; 2 Thess 3:13).
This is doing that "cannot be condemned" (Tit 2:8). It is being "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:15). As you might expect, the Lord Jesus is the Pioneer of this type of life. Once He challenged those who sought to stone Him, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" (John 10:32). After an exhaustive search, even Pilate twice admitted, "I find no fault in Him" (John 19:4,6). When His enemies tried to produce a reason for putting Him to death, they had to summon false witnesses against Him. Even then, it was hard to find someone who would lie about Him (Matt 26:59-60). The same may be said of Stephen, against whom they could not register a charge. They finally "secretly persuaded some men to say, We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God"NIV (Acts 6:11). Also, when Paul was arrested at the instigation of unbelieving Jews, he boldly announced, "Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me" (Acts 24:13).
One might object that the well doing of Jesus and the others did not stop their enemies from speaking against them. However, "put to silence" does not mean they raise no more accusations, although God is fully able to make that happen. It was said of Israel as they were about to come out of Egypt, "But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast" (Ex 11:7). But that is not the intent of this verse.
Rather, the meaning is that our enemies will not be able to bring a just accusation against us. They will have no cause to malign us. When those who are foolish and ignorant can find legitimate reason to speak against us, we have not done well! The blessing of the Lord is upon you "when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matt 5:11). Thus legitimate charges of evil are silenced, not being brought against the saints. That is God's will for you.
There is more to this, to be developed later in this Epistle. A godly demeanor will also contribute to awakening our enemies to the unjustness of their criticism. Thus the spirit reasons, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts . . . that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ" (1 Pet 3:16). Therfore, our light exposes their darkness, while their charges are proved false.
THE USE OF OUR LIBERTY
"2:16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God."KJV Our liberty in Christ is a marvelous thing. In fact, it is for continued liberty that we have been freed. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery"NASB (Gal 5:1). This freedom, however, does not mean the removal of restraint or personal discipline. Our freedom is all Godward-free to come to God, remain with Him, and receive from Him. We are free to abstain from all appearance of evil, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord (1 Thess 5:22; 2 Cor 7:1). No freedom or license has been granted to the flesh. Rather, it is to be "crucified with its affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). There is no aspect of spiritual life that is centered in the saved themselves. It all centers in God and Christ. Those, therefore, who imagine freedom means they can indulge in things God condemns, without any fear of reprisal, are foolish indeed!
Those in Christ do not live for themselves. As it is written, "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor 5:15). While this frame of mind is not that common in the professed Christian community, it is the ONLY acceptable stance for life. Paul stated it well when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Freedom, then, provides only death for the flesh.
The phrase "as free" means "Live as free men."NIV Do not live in such a way as to make people think you are under harsh and miserable bondage. Christ's yoke is easy and His burden light. Men should not conclude otherwise by beholding our manner of life.
The particular point of this statement is that spiritual life does not provide for the harm of another. At no point are we free to hurt someone. That is why the Spirit says, "Do not use your freedom as a covering for evil."NASB The verses that follow confirm that doing evil to other people is the point. That does not exclude the indulgence of the flesh, or the entertainment of secret lusts. However, that is not the intent of this passage.
There have been people who have assaulted and even killed believers in the name of religion. Stephen is a case in point, as well as thousands of martyrs throughout history. But such freedom is not afforded to those who are in Christ Jesus. They cannot indulge in malicious conduct, sanctioning it by saying the person opposed richly deserved it. The venom of hatred must not issue forth from the saints of God! Our religion, so to speak, must not become the authorization to hurt, offend, and defame others. You must know there is altogether too much of this in the sectarian church world. People use what they call spiritual liberty to vent their malice on those not seeing things as they do. It is wrong!
The Lord outlines for us how our liberty may be expressed. "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust"NKJV (Matt 5:44). Again it is written, "Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head" (Rom 12:20). The heaping of coals of fire upon the head of our enemy refers to the same thing Peter mentions: i.e., "that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed."NKJV (3:16). Thus their conscience will burn like that of Saul of Tarsus after he heard Stephen cry out, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). From that time, it was "hard" for him to "kick against the goads" of his conscience.
Again, the supreme example of conducting ourselves as "servants of God" is found in our blessed Lord. A single instance will suffice. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden, Peter came His defense. With a sweeping blow of his sword, doubtless intended to behead the enemy, he cut off the ear of Malchus, one of the soldiers. Jesus "touched his ear, and healed him" (Lk 22:51). You are free to do such acts of kindness to your enemies also. What a marvelous freedom for which Christ has freed us!