Author & Audience

We are continuing our study of the first letter of Shimon Kefa (Simon Peter). Shimon, as one of the twelve (12) Shl’chim, became known as the Apostle to the Jews.

Shimon wrote to the believing communities who were living in the region of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). These believers were primarily Jewish followers of Yeshua, but also included Gentiles who had been grafted into the body of Messiah. As such, the recipients of the letter were very much like Hineh Yeshua – Jews and Gentiles one in Messiah.

It continues to be important to remember that this Epistle was written to communities who were going through times of trial and suffering. Also, they were also about to enter into a greater time of persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero around 62AD.

Last Time

Last time we were truly encouraged by Peter to…

  • See ourselves as God sees ourselves; as living stones in a spiritual house for God
  • Not only that, but that we are also a Royal Priesthood serving at God’s spiritual altar
  • Jew and Gentile, Male and female, young and old…
  • Not in a way that replaces Israel of her calling, but in a way that shares in God’s calling of Israel to be a priestly nation…
  • We are chosen people, a purchased people, a holy people… we are the people of God…

Today we begin a new section all about that wonderful word that is so popular in our society today… Submission.

Submission to Authorities

1 Peter 2:11–17 (CJB)

11 Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents not to give in to the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; 12 but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evil-doers, they will, as a result of seeing your good actions, give glory to God on the Day of his coming. 13 For the sake of the Lord, submit yourselves to every human authority—whether to the emperor as being supreme, 14 or to governors as being sent by him to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that your doing good should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for evil; rather, submit as God’s slaves. 17 Be respectful to all—keep loving the brotherhood, fearing God and honoring the emperor.

Peter warmly addressed his readers as dear friends or better, “beloved” (agapētoi). He also identifies us as “as aliens and temporary residents.” How does that make you feel? The Greek word for Aliens (paroikous) means  “those who live in a place that is not their home,” (could be literally true for the Jewish believers living in Asia Minor or used figuratively for believers, whose real home is in the Kingdom of God) and strangers in the world (sojourners or temporary residents as in 1:1).

Kefa makes a passionate plea to believers to live lives that are witness to the world around us:

“I urge you… not to give in to the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evil-doers, they will, as a result of seeing your good actions, give glory to God on the Day of his coming.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, CJB)

Because this world, in its current state, is not our home we need to learn not to give in to our fleshly desires and the temptations that are all around us. There is a real battle that goes on. We have to resist the sin-ward pull of those passions that war against our spiritual lives (cf. James 4:1). This is not only for our spiritual well-being but for our testimony to unbelievers.

Peter says in verse 12:

“… live such good (kalos) lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evil-doers, they will, as a result of seeing your good actions, give glory to God on the Day of his coming.” (1 Peter 2:12, CJB)

People are not so impressed by our good doctrines, our great ideas about end-time-prophecies, or even our good intentions. No, what is a witness to the world around is our “good deeds.” We cannot get away from that. We are to live “good lives” with “good actions.”

Yeshua said,

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15–16, ESV)

And Sha’ul stated,

“For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, TLV)

“You can trust what I have just said, and I want you to speak with confidence about these things, so that those who have put their trust in God may apply themselves to doing good deeds. These are both good in themselves and valuable to the community.” (Titus 3:8, CJB)

I don’t usually quote from The Message, however it paraphrases the words of Peter this way,

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, The Message)

The message of this verse is applied in vv. 13–17 to the question of how believing citizens should relate to a government run by unbelievers, in vv. 18–25 to how believing slaves should relate to unbelieving masters, and in 3:1–6 to how believing wives should relate to unbelieving husbands. [2]

“Submit yourselves…” is the key theme of this section of the letter. The word in Greek (hupotassō) means literally “to place under,” to “subject oneself” or “rank oneself under.” The motivation for this submission is for the Lord’s sake. Peter argues that Human governments are divine institutions that God has appointed to punish the evil-doers and to avenge on behalf of the victim. It is the responsibility of government to approve those who do well. Peter made no exception based upon various types of government. At the time Peter wrote his epistle, the government was an autocracy ruled by the Roman Emperor Nero under whom Peter would eventually be martyred (would he have written this if he knew he would be unjustly killed by Nero?) Regardless of the type of government under which a believer lives, he/she must subject himself to that government.

Does this mean that believers should obey the wicked laws of an evil government—the Nazis, the Communists, other totalitarian regimes that may ask a believer to do something contrary to God’s law? No, because this rule does not stand by itself in Scripture; it must be set against other Scriptures. Even Peter disobeyed the Jewish authorities, the Sandhedrin at one time:

“But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” (Acts 4:19, ESV)

“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29, ESV)

Sometimes we have to refuse to do something. The early Christians refused to offer incense to statues of the Roman emperor and paid with their lives. Another example in Judaism is called al kiddush hashem – for the sake of sanctifying the Name (can be positive like during the time of the Maccabees, when Hannah and her 7 children chose martyrdom instead of blaspheming the name of Adonai).

Peter gives three reasons for submission:

  1. Because it is the will of God (v 15a)
  2. Because it will silence unbelievers (v. 15b). Silence (phimoun) lit means “muzzle”
  3. Because we are bondservants of God (douloi literally slaves of God). We are freed from sin so we can be slaves of God.

Summary: Four essentials

  1. Be respectful to all (everyone made in the image of God)
  2. Keep loving the brotherhood (love agape fellow believers). Literally reads; “Brotherhood, keep on loving.”
  3. Fearing God and,
  4. Honoring the emperor. Literally reads “the king, be honoring.” [3]

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 737). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., 1 Pe 2:12). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.

[3] Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2005). The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude (1st ed., pp. 347–348). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.