Lesson 15—Freedom under Authority
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:13-16
Lesson Goal: To better understand that freedom in Christ does not permit a disregard or abuse of the standards of conduct established by God.
As we begin today’s lesson, we must recall the recipients of the Peter’s writing. He wrote to the Christians who were scattered, many homeless, mistreated, imprisoned and persecuted; many had no family while others, because of their faith in Jesus Christ, had been outcast by their families. Day-to-day trials and persecution were intensifying. Peter points his readers to the sure hope they have in Jesus. In today’s lesson we find Peter turning his attention to those who are being treated unfairly. He gives them the proper God-honoring response to such treatment.
(Verse 13) “therefore”—When we see this word in Scripture, we need to understand what it is “there for.” Peter begins verse thirteen in the context of what he has just written. In verse twelve, he wrote about the Christian’s honorable conduct and behavior. With this in mind, he writes: “Therefore let your conduct of life reflect this in the most difficult situations.” These believers had fled their homes, many leaving everything behind. In the midst of such difficulty and extreme persecution, what was to be their attitude and behavior?
“submit”—Submission is the key theme of this section of Peter’s writing. Submission involves not seeking one’s own interest, but rather assuming a voluntary commitment of service to others. Notice how Peter writes this; it is not a request or question. It is an imperative command. It is something that needs to be done. The word “submit” is a Greek military term having to do with the ordinary rank and file of an organized group of soldiers. Soldiers may not always like their orders; they may not agree with them, but those orders must be obeyed. Believers must remember that in society they are representative of Jesus Christ.
“submit yourselves to every ordinance of man”—Ordinance is from the Greek word Ktisis, and is usually used only of the works of God as Creator. Here it refers to the institution of the law of the land. The believer is to obey the law of the land “for the Lord’s sake” as a way to witness in the world. Believers are to submit to the governing authority in the land. Government was not established for the purpose of placing restraints, but rather for the protection and the common good of all. King (supreme governing authority of the land) represents more than a person or personality. “Governors” represents those subordinate authorities and officials. In obedience to authority, believers are to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. We do not have the right to disobey the law based upon our own dislikes or likes.
➢ What would happen if we could select the laws we wish to obey and disregard the laws we wish not to obey?
➢ What is the God-given purpose of law and government?
In verse fourteen, Peter gives two functions of government officials. They are to “punish” and to “praise.” The word for punishment is the Greek word ekdikēsis, which means to avenge. It suggests that which proceeds from justice. Here the word “praise” refers to public recognition of those who “do good.” When the Christian submits to government and to those in such authority in a God-honoring way, he is again revealing the praises of God through his life.
(Verse 15) “will of God”—God’s will is that His people live so honorably and blameless before the world that the lost will have no legitimate basis for accusation against them.
Christians in Peter’s day and Christians today often find themselves bombarded by the “ignorance of foolish men.” The word Peter used for ignorance means more than a lack of knowledge. It means a willful hostile rejection of the truth. Some of the arenas of such attacks may be in a university classroom, among contemporary peers, and in media and social networks.
True believers can and should expose the ignorance of the charges made against them by “foolish men” by living lives of exemplary conduct.
“put to silence” means to restrain or make speechless. In the original language it meant “to muzzle.”
“foolish”—Greek aphrōn is a strong word that means “senseless one.” The Lord used this word in describing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in Luke 11:40.
➢ Can you remember a time or place when you witnessed the attack of foolish men upon Christians?
➢ Can you remember a time in your own life when you were attacked by foolish men because of your faith in Jesus Christ? Explain.
(Verse 16) “as free”—The believer in Jesus Christ has a liberty which the nonbeliever does not have nor understand (see John 8:36).
The believer’s freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ does not give him a license to do whatever he wants, nor does it give a license to establish his own authority. Christians are to live and maintain godly credibility among unbelievers. The believer’s freedom gives great opportunity to demonstrate the light of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 5:8-11).
“yet not using liberty as a cloak of vice”—The Greek word for cloak is epikalumma, meaning “that which covers over, veil.” It can also carry the idea of pretext, pretend, phony, or counterfeit.
Peter writes that we must never use our freedom as a pretext of evil. Sinful disobedience should never be justified or excused by some cloak of spiritual pretext.
“but as bond servants of God”—The Greek word used here for bond servant is doulos, meaning “slave.”
F. B. Meyer wrote: “Heaven takes our most dreaded terms, (slave) and makes them sparkle in its own light, till what seemed the synonym of terror becomes the target of our noblest aims.”
See 1 Corinthians 7:22.
➢ Please read F. B. Meyer’s quote again thinking on its rich meaning. What does the quote mean concerning our relationship with Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ our Master—There is no greater freedom than being a slave to Jesus Christ.
Questions for Life Focus
Explain what is meant by being a slave to Jesus Christ?
How can your conduct of life reflect Jesus Christ in the most difficult times?
Write the testimony or story of someone you watched honor Christ in a most difficult time.
Ask God to show you areas of your life you need to surrender (receive His freedom).
Can you list some of those areas?
For more follow-up on today’s lesson, see Daniel 3, Daniel 6, 1 Samuel 22:17, Acts 4:19.
As believers, we are instructed to be in obedience to those in authority. However we are called to the greatest authority of God Himself.
Phillips writes: “The believer is not called to obey laws that violate our obedience to God.”
“Although they (believers) are not ultimately under human authority, God still expects believers to submit to the human institutions He ordained. To that end Christians will obey all laws and respect all authority, unless called upon to do something God forbids or not do something He commands” (MacArthur). See Acts 4:19 and 5:27-29.