- July 11, 2014
- By Carolyn Porterfield / Multicultural Consultant, Texas WMU, Dallas
• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 27 focuses on 1 Peter 2:13-23.
Driving in a large metropolitan area can be dangerous. Speed limits are posted, but we reason if we don’t exceed them, we will be run over. Recently, I was sitting at a stoplight waiting for the light to change. When the light turned green, I didn’t immediately start through the intersection. It was a good thing, because a van came barreling through the red light and would have broadsided my car. What exactly did that red light mean to the other driver?
Speed limits and stop signs are examples of authority to which we are to submit. Too often, we ignore them because they seem an inconvenience in our busy lives. How do we as Christ-followers deal with those in authority over us?
Our submission to authority is a reflection of our faith in God. Allow the teaching of Peter to encourage you to endure in your faith as you voluntarily obey those who make our laws and write our paychecks.
Submit for the Lord’s sake
American culture is one of the most individualistic in the world. We fight for our freedom and don’t want others telling us how to live our lives. Even stop signs and speed limits can cramp our style. The word “submit” wrangles nerves both inside and outside the body of Christ. Perhaps it is because that term has been misunderstood and misused.
In 1 Peter 2:13, the Apostle Peter uses the Greek military term, “submit” to describe how Christians in the first century church were to live in relationship to human authority. This term meant to arrange the troops under the command of a leader. The concept includes the idea of voluntary cooperation and being subject to another.
You see the idea of voluntary obedience as Peter says, “Submit yourself.” Why were the Christians told to do that? It was for the Lord’s sake. This was a choice the followers of Jesus made. They chose to come under the authority of the emperor and his governors.
Some in the first century said Christians were against Rome. To defy Rome amounted to a sentence of death. The emperor really didn’t care what people believed as long as they gave their highest allegiance to him.
Jesus taught his followers to give to Caesar what was due him, as well as giving to God what belonged to God (Luke 20:25). The religious rulers of Jesus day made alliances to protect their positions of power. As Jesus stood trial before Pilate, the chief priests declared, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They denied God as their king.
Peter is encouraging the church to honor God as their king by willingly submitting to the authority of the emperor and his governors. This was the will of God. By doing good, they would silence the foolish and ignorant talk of those who wanted to do them in.
Why submit to leaders?
How could God ask us to do that in our day? Doesn’t he see what is happening to our nation because of laws made and decisions handed down from our courts? Why should we submit to our leaders?
As bad as we may think our leaders are, consider who was ruling as emperor when Peter wrote this epistle. From 54 A.D. to 68 A.D., the emperor was Nero—a godless, brutal man who had many Christians killed. It was to this man Peter is telling the church to submit for God’s sake.
Peter goes on to teach them not to use their freedom as a cover-up for evil (1 Peter 2:16). In prior lessons, we’ve been reminded as new creatures in Christ, we are to live a new way of life as strangers who have a reverent fear of God.
We bear the name of our king. What people think of him often is determined by how we choose to live. Peter tells us to “show proper respect to everyone” by loving other believers, fearing God and honoring the king.
Bear up under suffering
Again in 1 Peter 2:18, Peter teaches submission with respect. This time he uses the master-slave relationship as the example. He acknowledged some masters treated their slaves well. He also knew many did not.
This is a hard teaching that in good and bad situations we are to respectfully and voluntarily come under the authority of a master or in today’s words, an employer.
Peter says if you receive a beating because you have done something wrong, you are not impressing God. However, if you endure suffering because you belong to Christ you are commended before God (v. 20). Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Was it fair for the sinless Son of God to be beaten instead of us when he had done nothing wrong? Why did he endure such vile attacks? “He entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23b). He submitted himself to the will of his Father so we would know the forgiveness of sin. He suffered for our sake.
Men and women suffer today because they belong to Christ. They would rather go to prison, be beaten and even die than deny they belong to him. My heart is stirred by the example of men and women whose faith endures in the face of persecution meant to break them. No amount of physical and emotional abuse could steal their joy. Praise rises from their lips. Their lives are a living testimony of enduring faith in a faithful God. God uses their suffering to lead many more to know him. Can he use your life in the same way today? Will you submit for his sake?