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1 Peter 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

 

This text has some serious bite, because the government of which he writes killed him (and many other Christians).

 

Here are some notes:

 

Context:

Household Commands: 1 Peter 2:13-3:7,

Good deeds: 2:1- 4:11

Suffering: Expected: 1:6, 4:12 (5:7)

Pilgrim: 1:1, 2:11

 

Command: Be subject ….to every human institution

Detail: whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him

Qualification: Live as people who are free,

                        not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,

                        but living as servants of God.

Repeated with detail:

Honor everyone.

Love the brotherhood.

 Fear God.

Honor the emperor.

 

Rationale:

A. Directly as relevant to God:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution

For this is the will of God,

that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

B. Civil Good: governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Notes on God’s Glory:

Notes on Civil Good:

Therefore the Christian must be loyal to the government under which God’s providence has placed him. One form of government may be better than another; but any regular government is latter than anarchy. St. Paul bids us pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” Government is from God; the form of it is determined, under God’s overruling providence, by man.

H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 1 Peter, The Pulpit Commentary (London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 82.

Objection:

It may, however, be objected here and said, that kings and magistrates often abuse their power, and exercise tyrannical cruelty rather than justice. Such were almost all the magistrates, when this Epistle was written. To this I answer, that tyrants and those like them, do not produce such effects by their abuse, but that the ordinance of God ever remains in force, as the institution of marriage is not subverted though the wife and the husband were to act in a way not becoming them. However, therefore, men may go astray, yet the end fixed by God cannot be changed.

John Calvin, 1 Peter: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Pe 2:14.

Notes on Command of Subjection

1) What Does “be subject” mean?

1 Peter stays with ὑποτάσσειν consistently (2:18; 3:1, 5; cf. 5:5), except for one passing reference to Sarah within a biblical illustration (3:6). Otherwise “obedience” (ὑπακοή) is reserved for a person’s relationship to Christ by virtue of accepting the Christian message (1:2, 14, 22). Because “obedience” (ὑπακοή) is a primary and radical commitment while ὑποτάσσειν represents a secondary and more limited one, “respect” or “defer to” is a more appropriate translation for the latter than “submit to” or “be subject.”

J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, vol. 49, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 124.

Some scholars define “submit” to refer to “deference” or “respect” rather than obedience.37 It is lexically difficult, however, to wash the concept of obedience out of “submit.”38 Indeed, in 1 Pet 3:5–6 Peter glided from the verb “submit” in v. 5 to “obey” in v. 6 without any hint of discomfort. The idea of willing obedience (or failure to submit) is evident in a number of texts: Jesus’ submission to his parents (Luke 2:51), refusal to submit to God’s law (Rom 8:7), refusal to submit to God’s righteousness, the church’s submission to Christ (Eph 5:24), the need to be subject to God (Jas 4:7), and the submission of younger ones to elders (1 Pet 5:5). Other examples could be adduced, but the main point is clear. Michaels and Achtemeier criticize the translation “submit” by implying that it involves “total submission”39 and “unquestioning obedience to whatever anyone, including governing authorities, may command.”40 Their interpretations confuse context with lexicography. Whether or not submission involves “unquestioning obedience” cannot be determined by the term but by context. Translations like “defer” or “be considerate of” are simply too weak to convey the meaning of the word. The injunction to submit does not rule out exceptions, for God is the ultimate authority.41 They illegitimately use this point, however, to diminish the force of the command. Peter gave a command that represents a general truth, that is, he specified what Christians should do in most situations when confronting governing authorities. Believers should be inclined to obey and submit to rulers. We will see, however, that the authority of rulers is not absolute. They do not infringe upon God’s lordship, and hence they should be disobeyed if they command Christians to contravene God’s will.

 

Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 127.

 

It is enough for us; our duty is to say, “Thy will be done,” and for his sake, in the consciousness that, in obeying those who are set over us, we are obeying the King of kings, to submit ourselves to every human ordinance. But that obedience is for his sake; therefore it cannot extend to unlawful commands. St. Peter himself had once said to the high priest, “We ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29; comp. also Acts 4:19; and the time was coming when brave Christian men and women would have to choose between renouncing Christ and the death of martyrdom. The disobedience would be “for the Lord’s sake.” The higher duty would overrule the lower. To “fear God and to keep his commandments is the whole duty of man;” this highest rule will guide the Christian under ordinary circumstances to obey human law and government, sometimes under exceptional circumstances to obey God rather than man. As a rule, Christians must be subject to the higher powers. Indeed, they are free; Christ hath made them free from the yoke of bondage. But they are the servants of God; his will should be the law of their lives; and his will is that Christian liberty should be orderly and sober. The soul is free from the bondage of sin; the outward life should be regulated by obedience to authority and law; and that for the glory of God, that the well-ordered lives of Christian people may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

 

H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 1 Peter, The Pulpit Commentary (London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 82–83.

 

2) “human institution”:

makes it appropriate to define its object as “every human creature” (i.e., every person). “Defer to every human creature” simply anticipates the command with which v 17 begins: “show respect for everyone.”

J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, vol. 49, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 124.

κτίζειν is used ordinarily in many senses, e.g., of peopling a country, of founding a city, of setting up games, feasts, altar, etc. In Biblical Greek and its descendants it is appropriated to creation. Here κτίσις is apparently selected as the most comprehensive word available; and the acquired connotation—creation by God—is ruled out by the adjective ἀνθρωπίνῃ. It thus refers to all human institutions which man set up with the object of maintaining the world which God created.

J.H.A. Hart, The First Epistle General of Peter, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume V: Commentary (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 59.

The word for “ordinance” is κτίσις, which in classical Greek means “foundation,” as of a city; but in the New Testament is used elsewhere only of the works of God, in the sense of “creation,” or “a creature” (see Mark 16:15; Col. 1:23, etc.). Hence some, as De Wette, translate the words, “to every human creature,” supporting their view by ch. 5:5. But on the whole this seems unlikely; ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις is a strange and awkward periphrasis for ἄνθρωπος. It is better to understand it as meaning a human creation or foundation.

 

H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 1 Peter, The Pulpit Commentary (London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 73.

The first sub-division is concerned with the Christian in the state. But it opens with a general charge: Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human creature. The Greek represented by the last three words (pasēi anthrōpinēi ktisei) is usually rendered either as ‘every human institution’ (RSV; NEB) or as ‘every institution ordained for men’ (RSVm, following Hort), but neither version is possible. So far from meaning ‘institution’, ‘ordinance’ (AV), or ‘authority’, the noun ktisis always in the Bible signifies ‘creation’ or, concretely, ‘creature’; and there is always the thought of God as Creator behind it. Further, it is inconceivable that the writer should have regarded the state or civil authorities as ‘ordinances of men’. These considerations rule out the former of the two customary interpretations. The latter, as well as missing the true import of ktisis, puts an intolerable strain on the adjective ‘human’.

 

J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1969), 108.

 

Objection: This cannot possibly be true? And if it is, what are the limits of the demands the govt can place upon one?

Objection: When is it no longer a legitimate govt? Can one every protest the govt?

 

A Pilgrim Mindset:

1:1, 2:1

Hebrews 11:13

 

Live in the world without being contaminated by it: 2 Cor. 6:17, Eph. 5:6-11, but even more so 1 Cor. 7:29-31