Obeying God and Obeying God’s Servants: Five Truths from 1 Peter 2:13–17 (pt. 2)

IMG_9704

In obedience to God, we gather and sing and testify to the risen Lord.

Yesterday, I began a two-part series on 1 Peter 2:13–17. I am trying to answer the question, What does submitting to governing authorities looks like? Especially, what does submitting to governing authorities look like when they are ruling in ways that oppose God and God’s Word? Previously, I have tackled this subject in Romans 13 (see herehere, and here),, but now I am considering the text of 1 Peter 2.

Yesterday, I began by parsing out the fact that submitting to governors means putting God first and obeying earthly rulers as an application of obeying God. Conversely, we do not define doing good as obedience to our governors (full stop). Rather, we are called to consider what the good is from the unchanging and ever-authoritative Word of God. Then, in obedience to God, we promote the good by obeying good laws. And lest it go unsaid, the goodness of the law is decided by God’s standards, not my personal preferences. I am not advocating a hedonistic approach to ethics: “Just do what feels good.” No, we must obey laws that pinch our desires. That being said, to do the good we will at times need to resist tyrants when they enforce laws, rules, and regulations that directly defy the commands of Scripture or lead us to violate our conscience in following God.

That’s where this argument started yesterday. We must put God first. Today, I will flesh out the idea of God’s preeminence by looking in more detail at 1 Peter 2:13–17. In his letter to the elect exiles of Asia Minor, Peter has much to say about obeying the emperor and governors. And when we read his words in the context of his whole letter, and apply them to our own situations, we will gain much wisdom for walking well with the Lord. To that end, let’s look at five truths about obeying God and obeying God’s servants. Continue reading

Obeying God and Obeying God’s Servants: Five Truths from 1 Peter 2:13–17 (pt. 1)

83554468-gracelife_4406-w

Photo Credit: Greg Southam / Postmedia in The Edmonton Journal

Ever since writing on the harm of endless masking, teaching on the limits of Romans 13 (see here, here, and here), and considering how Levitical instructions about quarantine laws might help us think wisely about social distancing and sheltering at home, I’ve received numerous emails expressing deep sorrow for the ways churches have responded to Covid-19. With any such email, I always want to affirm the authority of the local church and her elders, as well as admitting the challenges faced by every church and my inability to speak to the inner workings of another church’s decisions. The problems our church faces are the not the problems that your church faces, and vice versa. Still, across the board, it does seem that one abiding problem that divides many evangelicals is how they understand passages that instruct obedience to governing authorities.

Most recently, a brother asked if our church had preached on 1 Peter 2:13–17. To date, we have not, but going through 1 Peter right now, we will—this weekend, in fact. Thus, leading up to that message, I want to consider again how that passage teaches us to think about the Christian’s obligation to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (see Mark 12:17), or as Peter puts it, to submit to every governing authority (v. 13) and to honor the emperor (v. 17).

Notably, Peter’s instructions are set in a context quite different than Christians in North America, and his words arise from an historical letter, the context of which we must remember in order to get the sense of his instructions regarding the state. So before making five points from the text, let me make a couple preliminary remarks.

Four Notes About the Context of 1 Peter

First, Peter addresses emperors and various governors. Obviously, we do not have emperors, but elected officials. So we must make applications accordingly, including the fact that in a democratic republic the people play a role in governance.

Second, we currently do not have the threat of persecution like the early church did, but neither do we possess the freedoms that we once did to exercise our faith without concern. James Coates’ arrest, the ongoing intimidation tactics of Canada’s health officials (see photo above), the meddling of governors instructing churches how to order their worship, and the need for the Supreme Court to weigh in on churches gathering (see here and here) remind us that religious liberty is on shaky ground.

Third, the command to submit to authorities comes in a letter where the supreme authority of Christ is repeated throughout (see esp., 1 Pet. 4:11; 5:11). Christ’s authority relativizes the commands that Peter gives. Peter doesn’t discount obedience to the state, but his letter does orient the church to Christ’s greater authority. The details of this (re)orientation will be outlined below.

Fourth and last, the persecution of the church in 1 Peter assumes a conflict between church and state. In other words, when the Gentiles slander the church, it will include the Gentiles who lord it over the church and exercise authority in ways that contradict the laws of God. For this reason, it is impossible to read 1 Peter 2:13–17 and draw the unqualified application that doing good is doing whatever the governing authorities say. Rather, as we will see, doing good starts with God. And all obedience to earthly governors must be in keeping with our heavenly citizenship and eternal king. To that end, let’s consider five truths from 1 Peter 2:13–17. Today I will focus on 1 Peter 2:13 and the first and most important truth—Putting God First. Tomorrow I will fill in the details from 1 Peter 2:14–17. Until, let’s consider the main overarching truth. Continue reading

Palin, Posts, and Prayer

I don’t write much about politics, and for good reason. I am a political novice and a legislative skeptic, but since my google reader has been overflowing with recent ‘Palin’ posts,  I feel compelled to offer the obligatory political post.  So instead of talking better than I know about politics, I will simply link to a handful of reflective Christians who have offered insightful and sometimes irascible comments.

The importance of this issue to gender complementarity, women’s roles, and the local church is where I am most concerned, and it is interesting that concurrent minds have diverged over this issue.  Voddie Baucham and Doug Wilson see this as a deadly plague for the family.  Albert Mohler sees this as a unique opportunity to differentiate the church from the government office.  Denny Burk follows the President’s lead. David Kotter, and the folks at CBMW, seem to want to use this opportunity to clarify the biblical nuances of gender complimentarity. And Tim Challies offers a cumulative survery of these and other considerations.

All of this discussion is healthy and good. Yet, I wonder in the richness of the conversation how much, if any, prayer has been lifted for this VP candidate and her family. Personally, I have been convicted about my lack of intercession. As I wrestle to understand the impact this governmental decision has on gender roles and the local church, in addition to its effect on Sarah Palin’s own family, I have not prayed for her as a godly, complementarian man ought. Ironically, as gender issues arise in the wake of these events, one thing is clear from the passage that has caused so much debate–i.e. 1 Timothy 2–that godly men are to raise holy hands to the Lord in prayer. They are not to quarrel in anger, but rather are to labor in prayer for the good of the their family, their church, the gospel, and their country. Discussion is good but prayer is better. May we as we read, write, question, and speak about these recent events, lift holy hands to heaven and pray for Sarah Palin and for our government, so that the gospel of Jesus Christ might have free reign in our families, our churches, and our country.

Here is a list of recent posts:

Reforming Marriage author, Doug Wilson has four thought-provoking posts: Kind of Spooky When You Think About It , Palin Comparison , An Epistemological Pileup, John Slays His Thousands.

Voddie Baucham separates Pro-Life and Pro-Family and makes some provocative, but polarizing, comments about Sarah Palin’s VP selection in his post, “Did McCain Make a Pro-Family Pick?”

Offering a more balanced commentary, Dr. Al Mohler blogs on his website, and on the Washington Post’s eclectic “On Faith” website

Denny Burk follows Dr. Mohler’s lead and presents a balanced response to the issues his post: Southern Baptist Hypocrisy?

Also navigating the challenging terrain of complementarity, CBMW Director, David Kotter offers a two-part series, “Does Sarah Palin Present a Dilemma for Complementarians?” Part 1. Part 2. From speaking with him the other day, it sounds like more reflections on the biblical and cultural issues are forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Finally Tim Challies summarizes a long list comments in the blogosphere with his lengthy rundown.  You can read it all here.

May we who love the wisdom of gender complementarity pray for Sarah Palin, for our country, and for our churches as we continue to think biblically on this matter!