Verse of the Day Devotion. 1 Peter 2:13
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” – 1 Peter 2:13
One of the main things we need to understand in this verse is the first word, ‘submit’. The idea of this word in the Greek is closer to subordinate then submit or obey. It means to find our proper place in this relationship and then to act accordingly, which is counter to being called upon to obey unquestionably to whatever anyone, including governing authorities, command. While its intention is as much to counter any tendency of Christians to withdraw from contact with secular society and to calm revolutionary desire, it is intended to warn the readers against assuming that as Christians they are free from normal political and moral restraints.
Looking at our focus verse we see, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:13-15. And as we see here, those go beyond just the king. Civil government is necessary for the well-being of mankind, and those who delight in the law of the Lord are among the last to wish to see its power weakened or its executive despised. We would sooner suffer wrong than see our country the prey of lawless mobs. Look at what we are seeing today. What Peter is saying is that Christians are to subject ourselves to civil authorities. True religion is always the friend of order as well as liberty. The gospel is not a doctrine of anarchy; therefore Christians are no fomenter of strife. And besides, God allowed and instituted it. “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2.
So, as we see above we are called to obey officials that are over us. For example, speed limits, payment of taxes, etc. But what happens if what they require goes against God’s laws? Peter and the apostles ran into this situation found in the Book of Acts. “But someone came and reported to them, Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people! Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, lest they should be stoned). And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:25-29. Some of the apostles were put in prison by the high priest because of the success of their teachings which were in opposition to the priests. While there an angel came and opened the prison gates letting them out, telling them “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Acts 5:20. When the priests saw them preaching what they gave strict orders for them not to, Peter said “We must obey God rather than men.”
God wants us to obey all authorities over us. If we do not then we may suffer the consequences put in place for those who dis-obey. However, if what they require goes against what God says, then we are not to obey it. We should obey those over us, but not when they contradict God. And this may be difficult, but it is what is called for. For God is our ultimate ruler. He has told us to obey our rulers here, however, being our God and supreme ruler, we are called to obey Him over all else.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.