God’s Word for You
1 Peter 2:13-14 Submit to every authority
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 16, 2022
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (NIV)
These two verses would serve as a fine explanation of the Fourth Commandment. Mothers and fathers are given a special distinction by God among families, because to other relations (brother, sisters and children) and to our neighbors, God commands only that we love them (Leviticus 19:18; 1 John 3:10; Philemon 1:7). But God commands that we love our parents, and more than that, we should also honor them (Exodus 20:12; Malachi 1:6).
Peter shows that we should also carry out the honor we have for parents and apply it also to those who stand above us as authorities the way that parents do in other walks of life. For just as parents have authority in the home, so also pastors have authority in the church, and many kinds of officials have authority over us in the state.
Joseph had authority in Egypt and was given honor (Genesis 45:13). David was honored as were the other kings of Israel (1 Chronicles 29:28). Xerxes, king of Persia, gave honor to various officials, both godly (Esther 6:3) and wicked (Esther 3:1), and the people bowed down to them. There will be times when we owe honor to wicked, execrable murderers and fools simply because they are in authority over us. God does not commend us to make up our minds as to whether we must obey them or give them honor. “Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be put to death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment” (Ezra 7:26). God commands us to give authorities our respect, keeping in mind that should they command us to disobey God’s will, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; Leviticus 18:4; Deuteronomy 13:4).
What about our attitude when it comes to wicked and unbelieving leaders? We must remember those blessings which we have received from wicked governments and wicked leaders. God has used such to feed us, guard us, and protect us from other dangers, and God has also used their wickedness to turn our hearts to plead with him in our prayers, to turn more fervently to his word and sacraments, and through these things to strengthen our faith which otherwise might have been growing tepid or lukewarm, which he hates (Revelation 3:16). So when a truly evil hour comes into our lives and we are tempted to rage and grumble impatiently and forget all the blessings we have received throughout our life, we must pray for patience and strength to endure whatever evils come to us. For if we truly understand the nature of sin in the world we will recognize that sinful men and women will afflict us, either directly because of our faith or indirectly because of their own greed and sinful passions. And we should remember that in the Fourth Commandment God also attached a promise: “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Deuteronomy 5:16). Treasure this promise and its blessings, because what is the other side of this coin? Luther says: “If you are unwilling to obey father and mother or to submit to them, then obey the hangman; and if you will not obey him, then obey the grim reaper, Death! In short, this is the way God will have it: render him obedience and love and service, and he will reward you abundantly with every blessing; on the other hand, if you provoke him to anger, he will send upon you both death and the hangman” (Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment, par. 135-136).
Of course, it is also the Christian’s special duty to pray and intercede on behalf of an oppressed people, “Dear Lord, remove this wicked man from power,” etc., for the sake of the innocent, the oppressed, “and especially for those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).
But it isn’t only our leaders (exalted, Christian, or wicked and appalling) to whom we owe honor. Paul tells us to “honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). Consider this each day, especially husbands and wives, parents and children, and employees for your employer and coworkers. Keep one another’s souls at heart as you speak and work together. Think of one another as forgiven children of God. How would God have you treat, speak to, and even think about his special, dear, beloved, forgiven child?
Pastor Timothy Smith