1 Peter 2:13 - Submit Yourselves
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake ... to the king, as the supreme authority.1 Peter 2:13
As we consider these words of the Lord’s apostle to his church we take note of the context in which he writes them. He had written one verse earlier that the believers were to “live such good lives among the pagans.” In abstaining from sinful desires (v 11) and in embracing godly living (v 12) the apostle tells these scattered saints that God will be pleased to use their good lives to win over their pagan neighbours to Christ and the Christian faith. But what exactly constitutes living a good life among the pagans? Peter answers that question by addressing how we as Christians relate to authority ordained by God – the authority of the government, the master, and the husband. In each situation there is a command given, namely, submit.
In this word of God there is much for us to meditate on. For we live in a time wherein the authority relationships God has instituted in the world are being challenged and overturned. This is true of the relationship between management and labour. It is true of the relationship between husbands and wives. And, it is also true of our relationship to government. It is to this particular relationship that we give our attention with the words of 1 Peter 2:13.
The command is submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to the king, as the supreme authority. The word “submit” is, as I have already indicated, a word of relationship to authority. It means to willingly place oneself under the authority that God has instituted. In this case it is the governing authorities that Peter mentions. Practically speaking this means that as citizens of the land we are to obey the laws of the land doing what is good and right. It means that in our personal as well as our congregational prayers we pray for all those who are in authority over us. It means that when we speak about those who govern us or address ourselves to them we show the respect and the honour due those in government.
We submit for the Lord’s sake. Our submission is a service we render unto the Lord Himself. It is not service simply to another human being. For if that be the case their failings, weaknesses, and sins would make our service to them seem unfair and an unnecessary burden. This is the natural inclination of the pagan – to see a person but not the office. As Christians however we see an office and behind that office we see the Lord Himself. And seeing the Lord Himself we abstain from that sinful desire to disrespect, disobey, and rebel against the governing authorities. This includes those governing authorities who fail to exercise justice and righteousness. It extends to tyrannies and dictatorships. As Peter refers to the supreme authority of the king, then he in his day was speaking of Nero, the godless pagan ruler who mercilessly oppressed Christians. Nevertheless, in this context he writes submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake. We are to obey the governing authorities in all things that do not disagree with the Word of God. And furthermore in our obedience we must be willing to suffer even as Christ did at the hands of the governing authorities.
This word of God, which calls us to submission and obedience to the governing authorities even if that means suffering, should cause us as Christians to examine carefully our participation in any form of public dissent. As I write this meditation our minority government is being challenged on same-sex legislation even as it struggles with what is called the sponsorship scandal. It is tempting to join in with the pagans and register our public dissent. But all too often such dissent knows nothing of the honour and respect we are to hold the governing authorities in. It knows nothing of the Lord who stands behind these his servants, as wicked or corrupt as they may be.
As we strive on the one hand to hold up God’s truth among the pagans as it concerns the authority relationship of management and labour, husband and wife, let us not give away with the other hand his truth about the relationship between government and us as citizens. Indeed, let us particularly now submit to them for the Lord’s sake and pray for them that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. And may our gracious God be pleased to use our good lives for his greater purpose – the salvation of those who at present do not know Him.