Pastor Skip Heitzig guides us through First and Second Peter in the series Rock Solid.
Let's turn in our Bibles to one Peter, chapter 2. We continue a series we started called Rock Solid based upon Peter's writing in First Peter, chapter, well, 1, all the---the whole book, but we're in chapter 2 this morning; First Peter, chapter 2. I was first pulled over by a police officer when I was fifteen years old. I'll never forget it. Being fifteen, I did not have a driver's license. I was on the freeways in Southern California, and what's most interesting is he pulled me over for something he called "impeding traffic."
And he said, "You were going 55 miles an hour, but the flow of traffic is much faster, and it's actually illegal to go slower than the flow of traffic," only in California, I might add. So he asked me if I had a driver's license, and I being unredeemed said, "No. Yes, I do have one, it's just not with me at the time, but I have a driver's license." So I lied through my teeth. And this began a very uneasy relationship with law enforcement in my life.
As time went on and I was riding motorcycles where I lived, and I had right down the street from me Officer Lattis. He was a member of the CHP, California Highway Patrol. He had a brother named Officer Lattis who was also a member of the California Highway Patrol. And so between the Lattis brothers and the Heitzig boys it was like a match made in hell. [laughter] They did not like motorcyclists, and we were not that fond of law enforcement, and it was very difficult. We'd get pulled over all the time.
And we felt like we were being harassed and hassled by "the man," which leads me to open up with a question: of all the doctrines in the Bible which is the hardest one? I know it's a sort of a loaded and even a trick question, because if by that question I mean which is the hardest doctrine in the Bible to understand, you might say, "The doctrine of the Trinity ranks pretty high up there for me. It's hard to understand that one." If you were to say, "The doctrine of submission," which is what I'm talking about today, "that would be the hardest one to do and obey."
The doctrine of submission is the doctrine that Peter addresses in these verses that we have before us. You see, nobody likes to be told what to do, nobody. Nobody likes it when their personal right to choose and self-determine their future is taken away or hindered. In fact, I would even say American culture is sort of based upon the idea that we have freedom from the restrictive laws of a tyrannical government. That's how we began as a country. But the difficulty in submitting is not just in an American proclivity, it's human tendency. It's human nature.
Most of you remember the name or know the name James Dobson. Dr. James Dobson has written several great books on families and marriage over the years. And if you remember some of those books, if you're familiar, he speaks about two kinds of kids in a family. Remember the categories? There's the compliant child and the defiant child. And he speaks about those in his writings, and Jim Dobson says that there are twice as many defiant children as compliant ones, and that they learn rebellion to their parents at a very young age.
While I do not disagree with Dr. Dobson; I think what he said is true, I just want to add, it's not limited to children. Resisting authority and finding it difficult to submit is as human as is blinking. The prophet Isaiah in chapter 53 said, "We are all like sheep who have wandered off and gotten lost. We've all done our own thing, and we have gone our own way." It's human nature. However, without submission there is no safety, there is no security, there is no protection, and I would add, there is no music.
Let me explain. At a meeting of the American Psychological Association one of its members Jack Lipton from Union College stood up and he described with his colleagues how members of a symphony orchestra perceived one another. He said, "The percussionists," these would be the drummers, "are seen as insensitive, unintelligent, hard-of-hearing, and yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. But the orchestra members overwhelmingly chose the word "loud" as the primary adjective to describe brass players."
"Whereas woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem and were described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical." Now here's a question: When you have a group of people with such different personalities and perceptions, how on earth are they going to make music? What's the answer? Submission. When they subordinate their feelings and their biases to the leadership of one conductor, there's beautiful harmony, there's beautiful music because of submission.
There is a theme that Peter has been working with in chapter 2, and I just want to bring you back up to speed since it's been a few weeks since we've been there. What Peter is addressing is how you and I as Christians are observed by the outside world, the kind of accusations they make against us. And Peter says when you live with the close eye of scrutiny upon you, there's certain ground rules you need to play by. Go back to verse 12 of chapter 2 and you'll see what I mean.
He says, "Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles," a euphemism he uses for unbelievers, "that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." In other words, by an inward purity of life that is demonstrated by an outward quality of life, you will put them to silence. Any accusation they make against you won't stick. And then he gives examples beginning in verse 13 of how to do that, how to do that societally, how to do that socially, how to do that familially within the family unit.
So you will notice, even though I'm skipping a little bit ahead: number one, you submit to government; that's verse 13. Number two, you submit to your employer; that's essentially verse 18 and following. And within the family, wives submit to their husbands; that's chapter 3 beginning in verse 1. So let's go to our text. Verse 13 says, "Therefore," playing off the previous verse as the unbelieving world is looking at you, you are to conduct yourselves honorably.
"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men---as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."
In those verses there are four principles that we want to look at, four principles. First of all, the principle of submission. Second, the particulars of submission; who are we to submit to when it says that we are to submit. Third, the purpose of submission; why are we to do it. Do we do it just to keep order in a culture or is there a higher good? And then, finally, the practice of submission. All of that is inclusive within this text. Look at a phrase where we begin in verse 13.
"Therefore submit," there's the principle, "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man." The word submit is the Greek word hupotassó, which means to arrange in orderly fashion a group of soldiers under the ranking of commanding officers. It has a military term with a military use; however, it is used here and elsewhere in a nonmilitary sense. It speaks of voluntarily cooperation or even helping somebody carry a load. In other words, believers, you and I, are never to be known as subversive troublemakers, but as model citizens.
Now before you get all itchy and riled up about being a model citizen and thinking of ways that it's sort of impossible to be a model citizen in the culture and governmental structure that we find ourselves here, let me just remind you about the New Testament and the kind of culture that that was birthed in. When Jesus came and when Paul wrote, the New Testament culture it was politically corrupt. It was filled with tyrants, filled with despots. When Peter wrote these words, there was not a democracy in Rome. People didn't get to vote.
There was no free speech. It was an autocracy. The king, Caesar, made the rules and everybody had to abide by them. Here's a sampling: in Rome there was Caesar. At this time it was Caesar Nero. I'll get to him. The Caesars were deified by the people, considered god, to be worshiped as god. So that once a year it was required of a Roman citizen to stand before an altar, offer a pinch of incense, and say, "Caesar is lord," at which point they would be given a little certificate called the libellus, which certified that they had worshiped their emperor.
And now they were free to worship any god they wanted to worship, but you had to do that first. Well, that posed a great problem with early Christians, because when they were dragged before the altars, they didn't say, "Caesar is Lord," they said, "Caesar is not lord, Jesus Christ is Lord." And they were persecuted because of it. Those Jews who had been living in Judea remembered guys like Herod the Great who had all the babies in Bethlehem, the males under two years old killed to get at Jesus Christ.
Then there was slavery in the Roman Empire, and it was in epidemic proportions. One writer says that there were three slaves for every one free person in Rome. It's believed that over half of the population of the ancient Roman Empire were all slaves. And then, then there were taxes. And you think it's bad now, the kind of taxation that we have discussed with you that was present in the Roman Empire was absolutely oppressive. It crushed the people and the taxation was simply a form of cruel injustice. Into that world Jesus Christ came as the Messiah, but not as people expected.
They thought when the Messiah comes he's going to deliver everyone from that oppression; he's going to deliver everyone from Rome and the yoke of Rome upon them. But he didn't do that. In fact, Jesus never picketed. He never told his followers to make a protracted march on Rome or Jerusalem and protest cruel government. He never started an insurrection. He never tried to win any culture war at all. In fact, it so surprised people that on one occasion they tried to trap him. And there were two groups of people who did it. Both of them hated each other.
There were the Pharisees who hated Rome, hated Rome and government, hated paying taxes to Caesar. And there were the Herodians who thought it was okay to follow Rome, and especially Herod in Judea, and to pay all those taxes. So these two groups hated each other and they were both present on one occasion and they tried to corner Jesus. And they said, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" Thinking, "Whatever way he answers, we got him. If he says yes, half will hate him. If he says no, another half will hate him."
So Jesus took out a coin and he said, "Whose mug is on this?" or "Whose face is on this?" They said, "It's Caesar's face." He says, "Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." In other words, "Well, if his face is on it, you better give it to him. It's his. He owns it. So you pay those taxes exorbitant as they are, but you make sure you give to God what belongs to God." Well, it was an amazing statement, but not everybody agreed with that statement.
There was a whole other group of Jews called Zealots. They were Jewish nationalists. They refused to pay taxes. They staged terrorist attacks to kill their oppressors. And they did all of that, get this, they did all of that "based on Scripture." "We have the right to disagree with the government and protest and disobey them based upon the Scripture." What was their Scripture? Deuteronomy 17, that says, "You shall not set a foreigner over you who is not your brother."
So, because there's a Caesar in Rome and because there's a Pontius Pilate in Judea and a Herod, "We didn't put them there. We must be sworn to overthrow the government." So what is a Christian to do in the midst of that? In an ungodly government, what is a Christian to do? Peter in the midst of that world says, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man." That's the principle. But then there are the particulars of submission. Let me spell it out for you. Verse 13 says; "Whether to the king as supreme," notice that.
Who was the king back then? Caesar was the king, and in this case Caesar Nero was the king. Then it says in verse 14, notice, "Or to governors, as to those who are sent by him [by the king] for the punishment of evildoers, for the praise of those who do good." Now, Rome had twenty-eight imperial districts, and those imperial districts were all governed by governors or procurators. Pontius Pilate was a procurator or a governor. And so Rome gave to them part of the Roman army, legions of soldiers who would keep the peace. They were law enforcement officers for the government to use on behalf of Caesar.
So here's the principle: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man," whether it's to the king, Caesar Nero, or to all of those twenty-eight provincial governors, submit to them. Now let me tell you a little background. When Peter wrote this letter, he was about one, maybe even two years away from what's called the Great Persecution in Rome. It happened in 64 A.D. Here's what happened: a fire broke out in Rome. Most all of the Roman citizens---and it destroyed a great portion of the city. Most of the Roman citizens believed and many historians to this day believe the fire was started by Caesar Nero.
It was so controversial and so widely believed that their own Caesar started the fire that Caesar Nero needed a scapegoat. And guess who he chose? The Christian population of the city of Rome; he accused them of arson and he started persecuting them in mass. Here's just one story. About halfway through his reign Caesar Nero started fancying himself as a race car driver, except they didn't have race cars, they had chariots, a chariot racer. He just thought it was the coolest thing to race chariots. He had a track built for himself in Rome so that he could race chariots during the day.
And he started getting into it so much, he wanted to do it not just during the day, but also at night. The only problem is nobody invented electricity yet. So, his sick solution was to have his soldiers round up during the daytime Christians and bring them to his palace. And while they were still alive cover them in tar and pitch, tie them to poles, so that at sunset he could light those torches around his track, so that he could spin his little race car at night while Christians were burning after he accused them of setting fire to Rome.
Can you see by this the obvious problem that the early Christians had, and even we have today, that the world is filled with Caesar Neros and Adolf Hitlers and Bashar al-Assads, which makes us ask this question: Is there ever a time when a Christian can or should defy and not obey and not submit to the government? Is there? Yes, there is. But here is the rule. The general rule is: submit until submitting to earthly authority makes you not submit to heavenly authority. You obey until your obedience makes you disobey God. At that point a whole other set of rules comes into play.
And there are many examples to show you. Example number one is back in the Old Testament when Pharaoh of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boys that were born among the Hebrews. It was a law that was passed: "Kill the baby boys." They refused to do it. Exodus, chapter 1, tells us, "But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king commanded," flat disobedience. Later on there was a guy named Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon who when the captives came in, Daniel and his buddies, made them eat a certain diet that was against kosher Old Testament law, the delicacies of the king's table.
They refused to do it. Daniel, chapter 1 tells us, "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies." "I'm not going to obey you because it would mean that I would have to disobey the covenant of my God." Another example is later on when Nebuchadnezzar built a huge image of himself, a golden image, and commanded everybody to bow down and worship that image. And there were three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who said, "We're not going to do it." Their reply in Daniel, chapter 3, "We will not serve your gods, nor will we worship the golden image."
Another example, also in the book of Daniel: King Darius, the prevailing king at the time, the Medo-Persian king made a law that for one month, thirty solid days, nobody could pray to any other deity except to himself. "You want to pray, you pray to me. I am your new god." What did Daniel do? Did he say, "Okay. I'm gonna submit to that." No. The Bible says in Daniel 6, "He opened his windows toward Jerusalem, knelt down on the ground, and three times that day he prayed and gave thanks before his God."
Another example is in the New Testament when the Jewish Sanhedrin passed a religious law that the name of Jesus Christ could not be preached any longer: "You can't say that name. You can't preach that name. You are forbidden to preach the gospel." What did Peter and John do? Did they fold over and roll over? No. They refused to obey it. Standing before the government authorities they said, "We must obey God rather than man." That's the principle: obey man until obeying man makes you disobey God. And then you must obey God rather than man.
You can look into modern history. The Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler passed all sorts of crazy laws. It was law. Many Christians defied it, including one pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And that isn't just a matter of history. I think it's going to confront us. In fact, I think it already does as our government passes its own laws, abortion laws, same-sex marriage laws. And we're going to be confronted: "Am I going to obey God or am I going to do what they say?" But back to our text.
Verse 14, notice what it says, that these governors, this police force even "are sent by him [the king] for the punishment of"---what?---"evildoers." "For the punishment of evildoers." You see, you never need to fear the police unless you're breaking the law. If you are breaking the law, then you should be afraid. You know, it's funny, because of my earlier altercations with the law, even to this day, it's just conditioned response whenever I see a police officer I just sort of gasp, skip a beat, white knuckle the steering wheel.
And immediately my eyes instinctively look down at the speedometer to see how fast I'm going. If I look down at the speedometer and it says 75 miles an hour as I pass that police officer, I go, "Oh, no! Lord, please help me." [laughter] But if I look down and it says 45 miles an hour in a 45, I go, "Lord, I just bless you and I thank you for those police officers. Bless their day." It's sent for the punishment of evildoers. So that's the principle and the particulars of submission. Well, there's a purpose for submission. That's the third, there's a purpose for submission.
And you'll notice what it is in verse 13. "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for"---what? What does it say? "For the Lord's sake." In other words, you do it to honor God. God is honored when his earthly representatives are seen as stabilizers in their society. And isn't this the highest reason to do it? Isn't this the greatest motivation to do it, because God said to do it, right? Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," which means if you constantly break his commandments, it must mean you don't love him.
The highest motivation is because it honors him. You know what it's like, parents. You love it when your children obey, when you give them a direction and they go, "Yes, Daddy." "Sure, Mommy," you love that. Okay, but have you ever had a child not do that? Okay, come on, all of you have. And so what do you say if your child ever comes to you and you give him a directive and they don't want to do it, and they say, "Why should I have to do that?" And you say, "Because I said so." Right? That should be enough. "What I just said to you as your parent should be enough for you to obey."
Well, it's no different with God. "Well, God, why should I obey my authorities?" "Because I said so. Because if you love me, you'll keep my commandments." Now, Peter augments that thought in verse 15, notice, "For this is the will of God." There are very few places in the New Testament where something is called "the will of God," and he spells it out, this is God's will. So when people come to you and they go, "Well, I'm just struggling with knowing God's will. What is God's will for my life?" Go the speed limit, let's start there. [laughter] Quit texting while you're driving, let's go there.
"It is the will of God," he says, "that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men---as free, and not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." The central issue is simply this: a good Christian should be a good citizen. And a good Christian who is a good citizen because he or she wants to honor God has a clear conscience. It's great to have a clear conscience. One man wrote a very honest letter to the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS, that stated: "Dear Sirs: I cannot sleep. Last year when I filed my income tax return, I deliberately misrepresented my income."
"Now I can't sleep. Enclosed is a check for $150. If I still can't sleep, I'll send the rest." [laughter] Okay, we have a problem with that one, don't we? He's not really being honest, he's not really being highly motivated, he's just buying off his own ill conscience. It was an honest letter, but listen to another letter, Paul's letter to the Romans. "Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God."
God's the ultimate authority. And if God is the ultimate authority, he has the right to say to you and I, "Obey the intermediate authorities," right? After this last service somebody came up to me and said, "Boy, that's a hard message for you to tell us to like our government." I said, "I never said to like your government. I said to honor your government, to obey your government, to submit to your government." You have the right to voice dissent and to not enjoy certain things, but this is a different issue. The highest reason, the purpose then is to honor God. That's the upward purpose.
There's an outward purpose. Notice verse 15, he says to silence, "By doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." People are always looking at you and I to find the dirt on us, the reason why they shouldn't trust in the God we say we believe in. So one of the best witnesses is to be a good citizen, because the way people will often view God is by looking at God's representatives. So you say, "I'm a Christian." "Oh, really? What are those five traffic tickets doing in your front seat?" "How come you're going to court again over that issue?"
One of the greatest, if not the greatest apologetic for the gospel of Jesus Christ is a good life, a righteous life. Because what is the central message of the gospel? Redemption. We talk about how God can take any life and redeem a life. So you know what the best apologetic is? A redeemed life. Verse 16 says something that just---I never saw it before: "As free, but not using your liberty as a cloak for vice." Now, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. He just said submit to higher authorities, and in this case there was tyrannical governments, submit.
But then he says you're free, you have liberty. That doesn't sort of make sense, does it? Because most people think of freedom and submission as opposites; if you submit, you're giving up your freedom. Now, actually, you're gaining a greater freedom. William Barclay said, "Christian freedom does not mean being free to do as you like, it means being free to do as you ought." I'll give you a little example here. Let's say there's a young girl who shows promising athletic ability in ice skating. He parents cough up the big bucks and they get her a world-class coach.
And the coach says to the young lady, "I will coach you under one condition---I own you. I own your time for the next several years. You will work out when I tell you to workout. You will keep the regiment and discipline of exercise that I set out for you, no exceptions. If you agree to that, I'll coach you." And so she does. So hours and days and weeks and months are eaten up and spent on practicing, and pretty soon all of her free time disappears. She's lost her freedom to do what she wanted. Her friends start complaining, "We never see her anymore. She's always working out."
Even her parents are a little bit miffed at this new schedule. But years later the day comes when she competes in the Olympics. Was all that work worth it? Was that loss of liberty and personal freedom worth it? She would said, "It sure is." "Oh, but, sweetheart, you lost your freedoms." "But I gained other freedoms that I didn't have before. I now have the freedom to represent my country before the world athletes. I now compete at a different level that I've never competed before. And because of that notoriety that will probably even bring later on financial freedom."
So in restricting certain freedoms, you gain others. So the purpose of submission: it honors God and it gives a good witness. You have the freedom to live your life in the open before men, and let it be on display, and let them look at you because you've got nothing to be ashamed of; whatever accusation won't stick. Leads us to the fourth and final slice of this; and that is, the practice of submission and I take you to verse 17 where we close. It's a summary statement this verse. It's a summation. It really is a doctrine, a theology of submission.
Four short statements that show submission in four areas: "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." Take the first one: "Honor all people." Every single human being deserves a certain amount of respect. Whether they hate you or they hate your God or they practice a certain lifestyle that you degree with, they're still made in the image of God and you are to honor all people. When Peter wrote this in the first century, he wrote it against the backdrop where slaves were not even considered human beings. They weren't considered persons. They weren't considered people.
They had no rights, and women had hardly any rights at all. But the Christian church, he would say, is not to discriminate. Now don't misunderstand what I am saying. I'm not saying that we are to mindlessly tolerate any behavior that is aberrant and unscriptural and sinful, not at all. But every single person deserves to be honored, made in the image of God. Second, he says, "Love the brotherhood." Who's the brotherhood? We're it. It's believers loving each other. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by the love you have one for another."
It's an interesting statement. We all know it, but I don't think we know what it means. Essentially Jesus gives the world outside permission to judge us, to look at our lives, to see if the gospel of love that we preach really works among us. He didn't say that, "They will know that you're my disciples by the fact that you love them"; "They'll know you're my disciples by the fact that you love each other." And maybe about now you're thinking, "Um, how is loving each other going to make an impact on them? And how is loving one another going to silence them as they accuse us?"
Easy, here's how. When I was a little kid and I had good parents. They stayed together, but we had some difficult times in our family. Whenever we had some real difficult seasons, whenever I was around families that were stable and filled with love and grace and acceptance, I was invited over for dinner, I just wanted to live there. I didn't want to go home. I thought in my head, "I want to be a part of this family." That's how it works. You want to have a family of love so compelling here that when people visit they go, "I want to be in that family." "Love the brotherhood."
"Fear God," is the third. Fear doesn't mean a crouching fear. It's not---it's not like the Cowardly-Lion-in-the-Wizard-of-Oz kind of fear. This is a reverential respect and awe of God that culminates in submissive obedience to the will of God. And because we submit to him and his will and part of his will is to obey intermediate authority, we do it because he said to do it; that's fearing God. And then number four, and we close, "Honor the king." So, he ends full circle from where he begins. He says, "Submit to human authority, even the king," and then he says at the end, "Honor the king."
However, this is different. In verse 13 he was dealing with the action; in this verse he's dealing with the attitude and it's very different. You can do something and have a rotten attitude. You can be like the little kid whose dad said, "Sit down." Finally the little kid sat down, but with a sneer on his face. And he said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm still standing up on the inside." That's not honor. It's obedience, but it's not honor. It's the right action, but it's the wrong attitude. "Honor the king." "Yeah, but the king is Nero, Caesar Nero." "Honor the king."
Let me just place it in our lap: be careful how you talk about your governing authorities. Be careful of sending those back-of-the-hand things that do not compliment but rather deprecate political figures you disagree with. You can degree with them, you cannot like them, but whether it's your president or your governor or the police force, they are to be prayed for and they are to be honored. Because they are in a place, according to the Bible, if I'm reading it right, that God allowed them to be in. So I honor them.
So, let me close with this: let's make beautiful music together. How are we going to get along and perform all of this and do all of this when we have so many differences and personalities and ideas? By making our ideas and our biases subservient to the conductor, our Lord. We submit to his Lordship, and in submitting to his Lordship we march together in lockstep in unity. "I don't feel like it." Don't have to feel like it, just do it. And you'll discover as you just do it, eventually the emotions will catch up with your obedience. You'll find yourself honoring.
Here's a start. Go home this afternoon, make a prayer list: president, vice president of United States; your governor; your mayor; police officers, especially the ones that gave you maybe a ticket lately, and just start praying for them. You'll find that hate cannot well up in the heart that prays a prayer of honor to a loving God.
Father in heaven, we thank you that Peter's words are really just so simple and so easy to understand, but so practical. And yet I imagine that when the first recipients of this letter read it, it was difficult to read, because they were in an oppressive situation feeling alienated already because of the world and the governmental structure they were in. And then Peter comes along and says, "Now obey them and honor them and submit to them."
"And by doing that you show that you honor God and that you provide a good savory witness to those who are watching." Lord, that is our highest purpose, and that is what we are called to. And we admit it's not easy, but it's what we're called to, and it's made a little bit easier by knowing that in doing so we please you, in Jesus' name, amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.