1 Peter 2:13-17 Respect For Authority

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, 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. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Respect for Authority

What does it mean to be respected or to give respect?  I often think of it as related to a talent – someone is good at something so we give them praise because they are competent.  In this case, though, Peter is asking for the Christians to show respect for someone who is corrupt and an enemy of Christians.  On what basis can a person be respected?  In this case it is by virtue of their position.  Even though Christians are free from an identity primarily dictated by their social status, they can use their freedom to create a good name for Christians.  They can submit to the authorities and be model citizens.

Americans are known for rebellion.  Questioning authority often is a way of describing a disrespect for authority.  We look to undermine the authority of a position.  In movies the policemen are shown as corrupt, parents are shown as foolish, and teachers are shown as immoral.  This does reflect a portion of society, but our fascination with exceptions can become a stereotype that leads us to rebel against societal structures and community organisation.  Christians need to uphold law and order as much as possible.  They need to use their freedom to keep others free from chaos and disorder.

Prayer

We want to be our own bosses and sometimes submission to authorities is distasteful to us.  Soften our hearts to rulers, parents, and teachers.  Reestablish the fabric of society so that it functions peacefully.  Let us be the ones to lead the way.

Questions

  1. What should be a Christian stance toward authority?
  2. Why did Christians in Asia Minor have to hear a message of respect for authority?
  3. How is the image of slavery used?
  4. How do you respect the authorities of your school, government, or household?
  5. How can you encourage others to both question and submit to authority?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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3 Responses to 1 Peter 2:13-17 Respect For Authority

  1. 33324bg says:

    It’s quite amazing that Peter would instruct the believers to “submit to every human institution” and to “honor the king” when I think it was Emperor Nero who was in power right now! Now that clearly demonstrates that these believers are indeed “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” even by the fact that Peter, a disciple of Jesus, would write these commands! If these believers did respect their authorities, pray for them, obey them (as long as it doesn’t go against Christ).. they would definitely be demonstrating a supernatural power, and showing indeed that they are new creation in Christ!

  2. Christina Zezulak says:

    Christians are to submit to authority and honor the leaders placed over them by God. This was needed for the Christians in Asia Minor because the authorities were seen as the enemies/ the persecutors of the faith. It takes strength from the Holy Spirit to be able to love those who hate you.
    Although we are free, Peter tells us to live as God’s slaves. When I think about the authorities in my life, I praise God that He has helped me to be more respectful of them. It is probably hardest for me to respect the authority of the government because there’s so much corruption, but if the early Christians did not have that excuse…why would I? Even so, I attempt to follow the rules of my school, government, and parents, and seek God when I am not. I would encourage others to use Scripture to test what authority is telling us to do. For example, if the authority of the early Christians told them to deny Christ, may it never be! At the same time, we should be respectful authority because God placed them there but not obey whatever is clearly unbiblical and obey what is biblical and/or what does not conflict with the Scripture (an example would be following the speed limit). Ultimately, Scripture is the standard.

  3. kevin w. says:

    The Christian stance on authority should be one of respect. We do not have to like the person or office, but we are to show them respect because God has commanded it. The Roman government had its corruption just like all governments do. The Christians’ status within that government was uncertain during this time. During Nero there was outright condemnation of Christians. It would have been easy to dismiss the Roman government as pagan and anti-Christian and therefore justifiably undeserving of respect. We are to live as God’s slaves…we do not own ourselves but are owned by God. We are tied to Him now and for His sake we are to respect authority.
    Obedience and an attitude or respect are a big part of what this means. We are to show this to those in positions of authority and also to the positions themselves. We should not blindly follow, however, because we belong to God and serve Him as our foundational authority. Sometimes the government will demand that we do things that compromise our identity in Christ…when this happens we are to hold onto what we know is right by adherence to His Word. But even here, I think we should show respect…So respect is not equivalent to obedience, but often entails it.

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