Sermon Audio: Submission in a Rebellious World

On November 21, I had the privilege of once again preaching at Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Ontario. The message, Submission in a Rebellious World, was preached from 1 Peter 2:13-25.

My original notes follow:

At the end of August, I was driving to work for a meeting and a police officer was sitting close behind my car. I was a little anxious, but I checked and confirmed that no, I hadn’t been speeding, so I should be in the clear. I switched lanes; he did too.

I turned at the advanced green, and he followed right behind.

Then he hit his lights.

I pulled over and waited quietly for the officer. He informed me that my sticker needed to be renewed and as an incentive, he gave me a ticket (one that could be voided if I got it done in the next 48 hours).

Sure enough, I got it done that day, but I found myself thinking about how ridiculous this was and how I couldn’t believe that he was giving me a ticket for that.

Now here’s the problem:

I was wrong. I hadn’t been speeding (fortunately), but I had failed to get my plates renewed when I was obligated to. And he didn’t have to give me a time-delayed ticket to incentivize the process. He could have just given me a $150 dollar ticket.

Yet, here I was, for a few minutes at least, with these thoughts going through my head. This self-righteous, indignant attitude. All because the officer was doing his job.

So what’s the problem in all this?

The problem is that I am inclined to rebel against authority.

I don’t like it when people tell me what to do.

I want to be in charge. I want to be in control.

I don’t want to have to submit.

If we were being honest with ourselves, that’s all of us. We don’t want to submit to authority because we live in a rebellious world.

But God has something else in mind for us, which He has made known in 1 Peter 2:13-25. And I believe that today—if you remember nothing else when you leave—this is what God wants you to know:

God has placed over us all the authorities that exist; therefore, He commands us to willingly and respectfully obey them so that He might be glorified.

Today, we’re going to try to cover this in two aspects of our lives: submission to civil authorities and in employment.

[opening prayer]

1 Peter 2:13-25:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Subject Yourself to Civil Authority

In this passage, Peter begins by telling us that we are to “Be subject.”

What does that mean? Well, the term used is a military term; it’s one that has the connotation of being under the authority of a commanding officer.

So we’re to be subject. Subject to whom?

“For the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”

Those are strong words. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”

Peter uses the examples of government. Be subject to the emperor and his governors.  Respect and obey them.

Now, we don’t like that kind of talk—whether we’re Christians or not. We live in a ridiculously anti-authority culture unless we’re that authority.

Look at politics for a second. Recently there were municipal elections around the region, true? And how many voted?

In London, we had a voter turn-out of less than 40%. That means out of every eligible voter in the city, less than half actually did it.

Why?

Because we don’t think it makes a difference.

We don’t trust politicians—and certainly we’ve been given reason to.

Shady backdoor deals, corruption, broken promises…

There’s a lot of reason for us to not trust the authorities; to not want to submit to them. And just looking at what we see in the news, they’re not really people who are worthy of respect, honor and obedience, are they?

But are we given that option? Are we given the option of determining who is worthy of respect in government?

No.

The Bible is clear, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.”

In Titus 3:1, Paul commands Titus to remind the church “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…”

Again, in Romans 13:1, we’re commanded, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…”

In verse 4, Paul continues, saying that, “[the ruler] is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

And here’s the really tough thing: The government, the civil authorities, whether they’re godly or ungodly—they are sent by God. They are His servants—even when they hate Him. We see this in the Old Testament, when God would use the surrounding nations to chastise the Israelites for their sin. We see it again in Acts when, after the Church is founded and commanded to go out into Jerusalem, Judea, Sameria and to the ends of the earth… they stay in Jerusalem. So God uses persecution to scatter the Church and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

So here’s my question for you: Do we need to be afraid of the government in Canada?

No, not really. Should we be concerned about the country’s trajectory, what we’re moving toward? Absolutely. But we need not fear our government. Why?

Because they are to “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”

That’s the reason they exist. Think about it this way. Why does every single one of us freak out a little bit when we see a police officer on the road?

Because usually we’re speeding.

But if you’re driving the limit, do you have a reason to be afraid of them pulling you over? No.

They’re not after you; they might just be on the way home from work.

But we panic, we become fearful, normally when we have done something wrong. The officer isn’t pulling you over because he’s out to get you. He’s pulling you over because you were breaking the law.

But if you aren’t breaking the law, there’s no reason to be concerned, am I right?

Next question: Why are we to submit? Look at verse 15:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

What Peter says is that we are to submit to the civil authorities and do good—to seek the wellbeing of the nation God has placed us in—because in doing so, God will silence the ignorant talk of the foolish. Our godliness is to silence false charges that are brought against us.

So what kind of false charges are brought against God’s people today?

Well, there’s a book that just came out that I’ve just started reading called the Armageddon Factor. The author is a Canadian journalist who suggests that a fringe militant Christian element is secretly trying to control the Canadian government and turn Canada into a “Christian nation.”

How should we respond? By living godly lives. By being engaged in our communities. By making sure that the gospel is clearly proclaimed so that there can be no excuse—to the best of our abilities—for not knowing the reason why we do anything as believers.

That because of what Christ has done for us, dying on the cross for our sins, out of gratitude we are devoted to doing what is good.

Before moving on to the next area of submission, Peter gives the following command:

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Here’s what he’s saying to us:

As we subject ourselves to every human institution for the sake of the Gospel, we are to treat all people—whether in authority or not, whether righteous or unrighteous—with the same respect and dignity as we would the highest government official.

Now here’s the thing you have to understand: Peter is telling his readers that they are to willingly obey the government that wants to kill them.

The emperor at the time was a man named Nero, and he had this peculiar habit. That is, he would round up Christians—and use them as torches for his parties.

That’s the man that Peter here says to honor.

Honor everyone. Honor the emperor.

But remember that only God is to be feared.

In the middle of verse 17, Peter says, “Fear God.” Honor everyone, love the brotherhood, but fear God.

Why there? Why is this essential to the conversation?

Because even as we seek to obey the authorities God has placed over us, we must never let them take the place of God in our lives.

They also are under His authority.

When we talk about authority, it’s easy for things to get messy. What can happen is that we can be so concerned with obedience to human authority that we forget that they are also under His authority.

In Luke 12:4, Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.”

This is what He says: Those who persecute you, those in authority over you. The worst they can do is kill you. So don’t be afraid of them.

Instead, fear God. Why? Because He can kill you and after that, He has the authority to cast you into hell.

So we obey the civil authorities, the government, but we fear God over them. And what happens when what the government orders comes into conflict with what God commands?

We obey God first.

We see this in a number of places, but I’ll highlight two.

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a golden image of himself that all the citizens of Babylon are to worship. But he learns that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—three Jews brought into the royal house as servants—refused to worship.

He calls them to him and asks, “Is it true … that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound… and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:16-18)

Their answer?

No. We must worship God alone. We believe that He will rescue us—and even if He doesn’t, we still cannot worship false gods.

And in Acts 4, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews because they have been preaching Christ. And the council “charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4-19-20).

The council ordered them to stop talking about Jesus. Their answer: We must speak of what we have seen and heard because it is from God—and we must obey Him.

So if the day ever comes that it’s illegal for us to meet publically, we will still meet. If preaching the gospel is ever outlawed, we will still proclaim it.

Why?

Because we must fear God and obey Him over any earthly authority.

Honor the godly authority. Respect him. Obey him.

Honor the ungodly authority.  Respect him. Obey him.

But fear God.

That’s submission to civil authorities. Let’s take a look at what he says about your work life.

Subject Yourself to Employers

Verse 18:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Peter’s command here is much the same as that in the previous verses.

“Servants”—the actual word is slaves—“be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust.”

Now this is important—masters in that culture had extensive authority over their slaves. Literally, they had the power of life and death other them, and slaves were often horribly mistreated.

But Peter commands, “Obey your masters, whether they’re good or evil men. Show them great respect.”

Today, does slavery still exist? Absolutely. There’s a form of slavery that exists that is very similar to the evil that led to the US Civil War. Human trafficking, The sex trade.

These things are very, very real forms of slavery. But for us, there’s a different, very subtle form of slavery that exists:

Your job.

Your employer has a great deal of authority over you, whether you want to admit it or not. They decide whether or not you’re still working there tomorrow.  They decide your pay.

And if you have consumer debt or a mortgage, you really need that job.

Elsewhere, we’re commanded to work as unto the Lord. Work to please God, rather than please men. So we’re commanded to do our best possible job as an act of worship.

But does that always translate into a reward?

No.

That raise you were hoping for? “Sorry, there’s just no room in the budget now.”

That promotion? “We decided to revamp the position and you’re no longer qualified.”

That bonus? “You did a great job, but you didn’t quite make the target.”

That vacation? “Sorry, something’s come up and we’re going to need you to put in some extra time.”

Sometimes what you receive from your employer is unjust treatment in response to doing your best work.

So how should you respond?

There’s a few ways. You can look for a new job. You can grumble. But take a look at v. 19-20:

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

Here’s what Peter says: Endure. Remain steadfast. Don’t quit. Why? Because your reward is in heaven, not here. You work to please God, not man. And one day, they, like all of us will stand before God to give an account of what they have done.

The disappointments can be frustrating and disheartening, but we need to be sure to keep a proper perspective.

I know how hard this is. Before I worked at Compassion, I was a graphic designer at a busy print house in London. And I was good at my job—I was fast, and detailed, which is a rare thing. So because of that, there were a lot of projects that only I would do. And I’d get them done exceptionally quickly and they’d be as close to perfect as I could get them. Very often, I’d be done an entire week’s worth of work within a couple of days.

What was my reward?

Was it more money? A day off?

More work.

Eventually I was doing the work of three people… but still being paid for the work of one.

This kind of environment is a breeding ground for discontent, for bitterness. And like everyone else, I got caught up in the grumbling.

But one day I got called out on it by the owner. Was it deserved? Absolutely. Did that make it feel better? Gosh no.

But here’s the thing Peter wants us to know about this: Our hope is not in our jobs, how much money we make or how happy we are in what we do.

Our hope is in Christ.

Subject Yourself to Christ

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Peter brings the reason for our submission, even as we suffer unjustly, back to the cross. Christ’s dying for sinners is something completely unique—something that cannot be repeated by anyone else.

Peter writes in v. 22:

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Only Christ was sinless. He is the only one who ever suffered completely unjustly. And yet, he did not respond in kind. He didn’t retaliate. Instead, He acted as a meek lamb. As Isaiah 53:7 says,

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

While, Christ’s dying for sin is unique and something we cannot repeat, it’s also an example for us of how to endure in submission to authority, even in the worst suffering that life can bring.

Christ came to the Earth of His own volition—but under submission to the Father. It was the predetermined plan of God that Jesus Christ—the second person of the Trinity—would come to the earth.

He would be beaten. He would be lied about. He would be spit upon. He would be lied about and criticized.

He would even be murdered.

And He submitted. He endured. Not begrudgingly, but joyfully. This was the work He had come to do.

And those who have been saved by Christ—who have been healed by His wounds and returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls as Peter puts it—we can endure all suffering, all difficulties with authority.

Why?

Because we, like Christ, can continually entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly.

There is no sin that will go unpunished. There is no act of evil that will not be dealt with by God. The question is, was it dealt with at the cross—or will it be dealt with on the coming day of Judgment?

But that’s our hope. We hope in Christ for the rewards of obedience. And when we look at the authorities over us—whether the government or our employers—we can willingly and respectfully obey, knowing that God has placed them over us so that He might be glorified.

So subject yourselves to the authorities over you. Respect them. Obey them. Fear God—and put your hope in Christ.

[closing prayer]

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  • http://cleverphrasehere.blogspot.com Amber

    On a tangent, you mention Canada’s conservatism compared to the US. I’d love to hear more about this. In the US, I think American Christians are very often confusing being Christian with being American – specifically being a Republican. It would be interesting to hear the perspective of a Canadian on this.

  • http://bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    The big thing here is that we don’t have hard identification of one party or another with any particular religious belief system—aside from Secular and More secular :)

    There’s a bunch of weirdness here though; on the one hand, when we hear “Christian” we think “republican” much of the time due to our consumption of American TV.

    We also have a small, inconsequential political party called the Christian Heritage Party that’s plan is to recreate Canada as a Christian nation, but are promoting a heavily politicized ideal that is more about legislating a form of morality than it is promoting the cause of Christ (after all, all governments legislate morality, it’s just a question of what sort). This typically results in them saying and doing stupid things simply to get headlines.

    The truth is, though, we don’t have a large Christian population here and therefore we don’t really know what it is that Christians look like. Culturally, we’ve got far more in common with Europe than the US (especially in terms of government policy), and any serious attempt to restrain some of the goofiness that we’ve experienced over the years would not be well-met (which is why no one tries to touch things like same sex marriage at this point).

    Not sure if that helps clarify?

  • http://cleverphrasehere.blogspot.com Amber

    Interesting. Thanks for your insights. In the U.S., I think there are negative consequences to aligning Christianity with one political party. On topics such as abortion that may make sense. However, fiscally, it’s difficult to argue that Republican policy is the only “Christian” way to go (which people get around by saying it was the way of the Christian “forefathers”). It leads to a lot of divisiveness in the church as some will say you can’t be Christian and a Democrat because of the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. On the other hand, it leads others to say you can’t be a Christian and a Republican, because of issues such as public health care and welfare programs.

    In any case, I should stop commenting on your blog and probably just write my own post. :)