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Message #8: I Peter 2:13-17 “Saints as Sensible Citizens”

The title of the theme of this book is “Sustaining Strength for Suffering Servants.” Peter wrote this epistle, this great letter, to sustain and strengthen those servants who were suffering at that time. I believe the same is true for us today. We saw in the first part of the book some of the ramifications of salvation; and of course, salvation includes in its widest dimensions, sanctification as well. Then we are narrowing in on the theme of sanctification in I Peter 2:11. We who are saints are first declared to be that, and the word “saint” means “a holy one.” Someone has pointed out that it is never in the singular in the Bible. It’s always in the plural lest any of us think that we are the only saint that there is. We are saints. We are holy ones, declared to be such but that which we have been declared to be. It is expected that we will demonstrate that we are an actual outworking in life. In verses 11 and 12, we saw the saints as sojourning strangers, that is, those who are just passing through this particular veil of tears in which we find ourselves; and we indicated that the two words there are “strangers” and “pilgrims.” The word “strangers” relates to a difference of location, that is, that our heavenly citizenship makes us different in that we are in a different place from which we are destined ultimately to be. “Pilgrim” relates to the shortness of time that we are here, and both of these are true so that we are sojourning. We are just passing through, but we are strangers while we are here. We saw something of our position in regard to that, our practice in that we are to abstain, our pattern of life— we are to have our manner of life honest among the Gentiles; and then that through our witness, we have the prospect of glorifying God.
Today, we are moving on to chapter 2, verses 13-17 in relation to the “Saints as Sensible Citizens.” This is a very appropriate theme during this bicentennial week, that we explore what the Scriptures have to say in regard to our being sensible citizens.We have some on each side. We have some on the far right as it were that are almost ready to overthrow everything except what they want in particular, and then on the far left those that are trying to amalgamate everything into a state control of socialism and that kind of thing. I think that the truth lies somewhere in between, but I believe the perspective for a proper approach for being a citizen is clearly set forth in the Word of God. Beginning at verse 13 I am going to read through verse 17. I am reading from the King James, even though we will be enlarging and elucidating some of that as we proceed. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme, Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Herein is set forth some ramifications concerning the saints as sensible citizens. Lord willing, if we get this concluded we will go on then to the saints as submissive servants in the section that follows. Today, sensible citizens. Notice first the exhortation to submit. The word “submit” means to place yourself under, place yourselves under every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. I meet some Christians that think by becoming very spiritual, they need to submit themselves only to the Lord. Now may I assure you that our first allegiance must always be to the Lord, but the Lord has ordained authorities on earth to whom we are to submit. Indeed, one of the evidences of being filled with the Spirit is that you might turn to Ephesians 5 and see that that is very clearly set forth in the context of the very sentence in which we are exhorted to be filled or controlled by the Spirit of God. It goes on to indicate that we will demonstrate this by a joyful frame of mind or attitude in verse 19, by a thankful attitude in verse 20, and then in verse 21 by submissive attitudes— by submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
It is this matter of submitting that we are going to be talking about today in the context set forth here— placing yourself under another. I must indicate that in recent years this has not been taught especially in our public schools where we are taught rather to assert ourselves. In fact, there are some books of recent vintage that indicate the best way to advance yourself is to be aggressive, and in fact to overcome the other person by almost being overbearing against them. I would assure you that this is not a Biblical principle as such. The Bible indicates that we are to submit— that means to place ourselves under. Now the scope of this submission is involved in the expression “every ordinance of man.” Actually the word for “ordinance” there relates to as one note indicates “every creation of man,” and the New American Standard Bible translates it “every human institution.”
As I thought about that I thought about the fact that in this age of grace there are three divine, human institutions. Can you think what they are? Three divine, human institutions. Well the one and the first one in which you get involved is the home. You are born into that divine, human institution. While it is divine, in that it was ordained of God in the very beginning, it is a very human institution as well. A second divine, human institution is the government. The powers that be that are over us in the land in which we live. The third, and it is not the last in order of importance, is probably the first in spiritual importance is the church; for the church is a divine, human institution. Sometimes when I teach I Thessalonians 1, I point out that there where it says it is “the church of the Thessalonians,” that indicates it is a church of people. It is a human institution, but it is in God the Father and in Jesus Christ our Lord, with its feet on each and its head in heaven, and in that respect it is a rather unique institution on the face of the earth. As I study the Word of God and I see what is involved, really in regard to all three of these institutions, I see something of a relationship; and in fact I am personally convinced both from Scripture and from observation of experience, that being a citizen does not just involve your relationship out there to your government. In reality, it begins in your home and when there is respect and proper honor in the home, it moves out also into society and into our relationships in government, and it will also be demonstrated in the church. In fact, I think there is a threefold relationship within these divine, human institutions that is required in the Word of God. As I study this, I tried to come up with something you might remember. First, I believe we are to pray. We are to pray for these institutions. Obviously, we are taught to pray for those in authority over us. For example I Timothy 2 makes this very clear and one of my dear friends who has a prayer book, and by the way that is not like an Anglican prayer book; but what he has is a loose-leaf notebook of people and works that he prays for. I am glad that in his prayer book he has a picture of the campus of Lancaster Bible College and prays for us. On the basis of I Timothy 2, and he takes this rather literally and I am not sure that the context demands it quite as literally as he takes it; but from I Timothy 2:1 “I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.” The first picture he has in his primary prayer book is a picture of the President and he prays for the President of the United States every day. Then after that he has a picture of his wife and children. Now maybe you’ll want to turn that around a little bit, but he prays for those in authority. I really believe that maybe we as Christians failed to pray as we ought for those in authority over us as Scripture indicates here. Actually, one thing that we are to pray for them is that they will come to the knowledge of the truth. I remember some years ago a young man came to our campus and in his great zeal, which lacked some knowledge, he said that the Bible never says that you are to pray for the unsaved. It simply says that you are to pray that saints get right and the unsaved will get saved. I had him turn to this passage, I Timothy 2:1. “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” Now I said to go down to verse 4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Now certainly the prayer for the “all men” in verse 1 includes the “all men” of verse 4, and includes the fact that some of those for whom you are praying are not saved. In the prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17, He prays on those who would believe on Him through the Word of His disciples; so obviously, He is saying that you pray for the unsaved. So this young man was instructed more thoroughly in the things of the Lord, and sometimes in zeal things are said that are not truly Biblical. I do believe that we ought to pray that those in authority over us might come to know the Lord so that in turn they might be indwelt by the Spirit of God and be guided of God in guiding us in the things of the Lord. First, we are to pray. By the way, that includes, I believe, those who are in authority over us in the church according to Hebrews 13:7. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation (or manner of life).” Remember them and I believe that includes the matter of prayer. Secondly, we are called upon not just to pray but to obey those in authority over us. In Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.” While it sounds very simple in reading this passage, and you say right away that this is very clear and means that we are to always to submit and obey those who are in authority over us, I believe that that is certainly true in regard to our American government. What about our colonial forebearers? Should they have resisted the power? Now there are some good people who until this day, including one of my history professors in college, believes that we should never have fought the American Revolution; that, indeed, that was completely out of the will of God, because our colonial forebearers should have submitted rather than resisting. There is a lot involved in this, and I really don’t have time to go into all the ramifications of it this morning. It hinges upon whether there are only and all ordained powers or whether there are also usurped powers; and whether there are some who in using their power in a wrong fashion thereby abrogate the power that God has given to them. I must confess that I sort of incline to that view, and I believe personally that our forebearers had a right to resist the power. I don’t think that we have a right to resist the power that we have now, because I believe that basically our rulers are not a terror to evil works but of to good works, at least for the most part. Now in Romans 13, verse 2, “Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God (and this is why some use it against our colonial founders); and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation (or judgment) for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” (Now this, if you take the second interpretation, indicates that the rulers that are ordained of God are those that follow the good works rather than the evil which would include dealing with Adolf Hitler and other things like that as a usurped power.) “Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain.” Now I am frankly a bit disturbed by the movement in our government, both federally and on the state level, to abolish the death penalty. I am not blood thirsty. I am not wrathful, but I do believe that when the government removes that power, they begin to bear the sword in vain. When they bear the sword in vain, then they also lose respect. I have been reading recently and hearing about real problems that some of our cities are having because young people simply laugh at the police because they say, “There is nothing they can do to me.” Then, of course, those who have already committed murder and have life imprisonment, the only thing they can get is just to be put back into prison, nothing more can happen to them. I believe it is tragic that no longer is our government bearing the sword effectively. I think in that respect that they will have to answer to God for their stewardship. “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath (not only because you will get it if you don’t) but also for conscience sake.” Now when you come back to the passage in I Peter, it indicates that we are to submit to the ordinances of men.
Then if you take that in the narrower sense of the actual laws of the land, I suppose it hits many of us right where we live and right where we drive. The story is told about a young man when he came back to chapel one day after having been out on a long weekend of ministry, and he began to tell how much time he made traveling very rapidly from one place to another and cited some of the speeds he had attained; he had failed to check with the Dean as to who the speaker was that morning in chapel at the college. When the speaker was introduced as a state trooper, not in uniform, the young man just walked off the platform and left the chapel, because he with many other Christians had a problem of submitting to the ordinance of men in regard to speeding. May I say that in that regard, I think sometimes maybe we set a rather poor example for our children. We say you are to obey but if we do not obey at given points that are very observable. I think that we have a problem to communicate to them the concept to obey the powers that be that are over you in the Lord.
You are to pray, you are to obey; and thirdly, you are to pay. April 15 comes around and you are reminded of this. The Lord Jesus taught this is Matthew 22 when He was asked about submitting to the authorities, and they came to Him and He said in verse 19, “Show Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God, the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way.” Now whether you like it or not, you are cordially expected to pay your taxes. You are to pay your tribute to the government; and I might say that there is something in each of these three institutions: the home, the government and the church that requires that you pray, and that you obey, and that you pay. If you don’t think so, you can read, for example, in I Corinthians nine where it indicates that those who preach the gospel, it is ordained that they should live of the gospel; and if they have ministered unto you in spiritual things, you are to minister unto them in material things, so that in that divine, human institution you are also to pay. I also think that even in the home, there is a place for each individual to pay, that is to make his imput. I don’t think that it is only the responsibility of the father, but I think that the children also have to make an imput into the home to pay. To pray, to obey, to pay; and then I have one more. By the way, this spells “pops.” I don’t know if that means anything.
The last is to stay, to hang in there. It indicates, for example, in I Timothy 2 that when you pray for those in authority over you, it is that you might lead a quiet and peaceable life. In other words, you are to demonstrate by the very contentedness and acceptance in the life as you find it, the joy of the Lord. That’s I Timothy 2:2 the latter part. “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” The same is true in I Thessalonians 5 in regard to life in the church. It says in verses 12 and 13, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. (Notice this.) And be at peace among yourselves.” In all three of those divine, human institutions, and I’m not going to debate Romans 13 here, because I think clearly in America that we have a responsibility to pray, to obey, to pay, and to stay. To live peaceably and quietly in the context of these three divine, human institutions; and I believe thereby we will demonstrate that we are truly sensible, and in fact, spiritual citizens. The explanation going back to I Peter again, I Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme (in other words the primary authority or secondary or designated authority), or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (Here again you come into this usurped authority idea. When that thing is reversed, there are those who believe that you have the right to resist the powers and then to constitute a divinely authenticated authority, but we are not going to emphasize that. Let me rather go on into verse 15.) “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Here I believe, is the expectation for the believer. Verses 15-17, the expectation of exemplary manner of life. “With well doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” As I thought about this, I thought exemplary living extinguishes ignorant exposures. Someone tries to expose you or something that they think you are doing wrong and even when you try to do what is right, they will not understand if they are unbelievers. In I Peter 4:3-5 it says, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries. (But now that you have turned away from those things) Wherein they think it strange (those who practice those things) that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you; (and they will speak evil of you).” We must be ready to give an account to Him that is ready to judge the living and the dead, and even those who criticize you will one day have to stand before the Lord and be judged of Him. So, live a life in such a way that people will not be able to speak ill of you. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.”
I have frankly been more than a little disturbed by some of my fellow fundamentalists; and I don’t mind calling myself a fundamentalist in regard to the faith. I must say that some of my fundamentalist friends are considerably lacking in the area of simple human kindness. I had the opportunity last week of attending two different church conventions and the more fundamentalist of the one, I found that when I was even standing there for registration, everybody pushed in ahead of me, and nobody said, “Pardon me” or anything else. They just went right ahead, and they are fundamentalists of the fundamentalists. I think that while we are not saved by good works, we ought to demonstrate in our lives the reality of our salvation by good works. In Galatians six this, or course, is set forth as a requirement for the believer in the age of grace; and one that I think that he should never loose sight of. Verse 10, “As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Years ago in Eternity Magazine they used to have, I think that it was at the bottom of the page, some rather pithy sayings that I enjoyed and some of which I have remembered and quoted. I remember one that I have often quoted. It says that “If you have been saved by grace, be gracious.” I think that as Christian citizens one of the things that we ought to demonstrate is the graciousness of God in our lives. I think sometimes that we think because we have the truth, we always have to be fighting over the truth; but you will more often accomplish your end of winning someone by being winsome than by being quarrelsome. In fact, to win some we ought to be winsome. That includes this doing good as I Peter 2 exhorts us to do in verse 15 that “With well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” This ought to be our manner of life.
Then our motivation of life, verse 16, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” There is a certain viewpoint that has maintained in the church which is resurfacing in certain areas, even up where we live, that it doesn’t matter what you do on the outside as long as you are right on the inside. Frankly, it is simply a resurgence of ancient antinomianism. I am not under any law, I will do as I please on the outside, because it doesn’t matter. It comes out of ancient gnosticism and that sort of thing. I want to indicate to you when you get saved you are not free to do as you please. You are free to do as He pleases. When He changes you, when you become related to Him, it’s that He might transform you, and your whole life might be spent to please Him. I have quoted a verse many times, “I would not work my soul to save. That work my Lord has done, but I would work like any slave for love to God’s dear Son.” It is that motivation of love that makes us want to be well pleasing to Him. Two years ago I spoke here on the saints supernatural service. I pointed out there that there is something better than obedience. Do you know what it is? It is to be pleasing. Now to be pleasing includes obedience, but to be pleasing is to be more than obedient. I got the idea first from Dr. Scroggie who said that if his mother sent him to pick a quart of raspberries and he knew that she really wanted two, he’d be obedient if he picked one, but he’d be pleasing if he picked two. If he brought them home and washed them, I guess he would have been well pleasing. In fact, this is what it is said of the Lord Jesus. “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” This is what our motivation ought to be, to be pleasing to the Lord as servants of God.
Finally today, the manifestation of life. Honor all men. I believe that we ought to honor everyone. In fact, years ago I came to realize the truth that everyone knows something more about some things than I do. In that respect we ought to honor them. Even children know some things better than we do. For the most part they are better psychologists than we are. I won’t enlarge on that but honor all. Love the brotherhood. That’s believers. We ought to appreciate the family of God, being part of the family of God. Then fear God. Have a proper reverential respect for our heavenly Father. In fact, while I was a little facetious in what I said at the beginning concerning the family law of justice, I do believe that in the family of God, it is the Father that ought to set the standard. I think that it is true in the home as well, by the way. I think that we ought to look to our heavenly Father and be obedient to Him and do that which is pleasing to Him. Fear God. Honor the king which relates to our responsibilities here on earth to those who are in authority over us. I believe as saints the reality of our sanctification, of our growth in holiness, is going to be demonstrated in the home, in the government, and in the church by the reality of whether we are sensible citizens therein.

As it was delivered at
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
July 6, 1976

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