1 Peter 2:11-17
Welcome to River City
Joining us for first time / watching online. Sermon series called “We’re Not Home” looking at what it means to live as believers in Jesus in a world that is not our home.
Peter has just come through this first section of this letter where he has encouraged the people with the good news of what God has done in their lives through Jesus’ resurrection, and he closes up this intro with these words we looked at last week:
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
If you’ve ever flown internationally or filled out a form for passport, or driver’s license or whatever, the largest category for helping define and identify you, after your gender, is your race. After that, to locate your identity, you’d probably go to your nationality. What country you belong to. Then maybe your state, your city, your street address, and then your role in the household – father, mother, child, etc, or what you do for a living. That would be the natural way of identifying yourself.
But when Jesus was raised from the dead, he completely overhauled that system of identification. Galatians 3:28, says for those who have received the gospel, There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. The old methods of identity, while still part of who we are, aren’t what is MOST true about us anymore. In Christ, there is a new race that contains people from all the other races. In Christ, there aren’t only the nations you can point to on a globe – there’s a Holy nation that contains people from all the other nations. And in Christ, there is a new vocation, a new work to be done that contains people from all other vocations. And that is the role of being priests, carrying out spiritual sacrifices of obedience, mercy, humility, repentance, forgiveness, etc.
Our entire identity, from the largest category of race to the routine daily activities of our lives, is changed by one simple but history-shattering event: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. He is alive, he is risen, brought back from death the power of the Spirit. Our identity has been completely overhauled by the resurrection of Jesus.
- If he only lives a perfect life of obedience to God, we say “wow, what a guy, I’m not sure how he did that… too bad it ended like it did.”
- If he only dies on the cross, our sins are forgiven but death still wins. When we die, we stay dead. There’s no hope for the future.
- But if it’s true that Jesus rose from death, then as our lives are joined to his by faith – we too will rise from death. Our God is a resurrecting God, bring dead hearts to life, dead marriages to life, spiritually dead families to life, and at the end of this world as we know it – uniting our souls with resurrected and perfected bodies that will never get sick, never succumb to weakness or cancer or addiction. We will see Jesus as he is, and we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52). And on that day, a renewed and restored earth will be home to those who have waited and readied themselves for Christ’s return.
So what now?
But we aren’t there yet. We are not whisked off to heaven the moment we put our faith in Jesus. We don’t pray a prayer to receive the gospel, and then instantly we are in glory. We are still here on earth. We are children of the Heavenly Father, we have full and complete salvation coming, we are no longer slaves to sin – but we still live in a world that is opposed to the message of grace, and in bodies that are still prone to their sinful nature.
So the question of this whole series is how do we now live with and live out this new identity, while we are still in this world? It sounds good on paper, but what does it look like in real life? That’s what the apostle Peter, eyewitness of the life of Jesus, wants to communicate through the rest of this letter, looking at four major arenas of human living:
In Public (which we’ll look at today),
at Work (next week),
at Home (looking at marriage for a couple weeks in November),
in Church (which we’ll get to in January sometime).
If you’ve ever had kids in your home, you’ve probably heard one of them say to another kid, “you’re not the boss of me. You’re not my dad/mom.” And what do they mean? Obviously not in these words, they mean, “I answer to a higher power than you. You can tell me what to do until I don’t like it. Then I don’t have to listen to you, because I’m not accountable to you.”
As believers in Jesus, we now live as strangers in this world. We are part of a different kingdom, with a different authority, a different king than those without Christ, so why not simply go through life, freedom in hand, and say to the President, or our boss, or our family members, or our church - “Hey, you’re not the boss of me! I don’t belong to you, I belong to God”? Jesus said in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me”, so presidents, police, local government – I don’t have to listen to you if I don’t want to. Should we withdraw from public discourse and say, “I’m not going to get involved in politics, or voting, or run for city council or community clubs, because you know what, this world isn’t my home, this king or Mayor or governor isn’t my real king, it’s all going to be renewed anyway when Jesus returns, so I’ll just mind my own business, go to church, obey the speed limit, and call it good”?
Well, let’s look at how Peter encourages us to think about this:
 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul.
You’re still prone to sin
As we talk about how Christians should live in public, there are three things I think we have to come to terms with:
- We still have sinful desires. Peter is writing to Christians; believers; people who have been born again. Though we are saved from the penalty of sin, and the power of sin, until we are resurrected with new bodies, those old sinful desires still exist. So before we even talk about how to live under authority, whether it’s secular or religious, corporate or family, you have to own the fact that you have preferences and desires and wants that are still fully opposed to the will of God. You are not always right when you think you’re right.
- You are expected to control those desires. Peter isn’t making a suggestion, like, “hey guys, guys, guys… listen. When you get a chance, you know, if you’re on board with this, can we try not to proud today… you know, if it works out that you have the right conversation.” No – He is urging, strongly encouraging you to turn away from your empty way of life with its desires, which implies that he believes you can do that. These are not suggestions – they are expectations.
- Jesus said:
- “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
- Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses to the world”
- Back in 2:9, he says you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, why? So that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of the darkness you love and into his marvelous light.
You’ve been purchased out of your old self by the blood of Jesus! By Peter’s pleading with us to stay away from those things, there is no room here for “that’s just the way I am”, no matter who you are relating to, or how we are behaving. There’s no room for it.
- you still need the armor of God. These desires in you are not simply part of who you are. The enemy is not happy that you have been called out of darkness. He’d like for you to stay there. So your desires, coupled with his temptations, are waging war against your soul, against your whole new identity. There are enemies in the camp. We’ve got to be on our guard, or else we’ll be ineffective for the mission of proclaiming the praises of God.
Instead of caving to our sinful desires, verse  Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles,
That word honorable here means good, beautiful, morally upright, commendable. So our conduct, our way of life, should be beautiful. Morally upright. Commendable among those who don’t know Jesus, so that, keep going...
when they slander you as evildoers, When they accuse you, or malign you… they will observe your good (that’s the same word as honorable) works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
You know, maybe you grew up in a household where your parents said, “watch what you do when you think no one is watching – because there is always someone watching. And even if no other humans are around, God is watching you.”
Maybe they used that to try to scare you into right behavior, but Peter writes in chapter 1 verse 17 that we should conduct yourselves in reverence, or in fear. God is holy and he does see everything we do, think, and say, and God has expectations for how we should live. But he’s not the only one watching.
Jesus said in Matt 5:16, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.”
Peter is concerned with how the watching world will perceive and evaluate Christians, and the win in his mind, the desired outcome, is when people look at our lives, they will glorify God. That’s the motivation to live lives of purity and holiness as followers of Jesus.
And one of the arenas people are watching us, whether we realize it or not, is with respect to how we relate to the governing authorities. So Peter says:
 Submit (put yourself under; obedience to) to every human authority (why?) because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority  or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.
And this right here is where Peter’s readers might have been tempted to wad up the letter and burn it. The emperor, the supreme authority in power at this time, is either Claudius, who was responsible for scattering Christians from territory to territory, or his son Nero who was notorious for his brutal persecution against Christians.
So to the people reading this, this isn’t just “obey the speed limit.” This is Peter asking them to obey and submit to quite possibly one of the worst human beings who has ever lived. But in doing so, Peter is implying the authority structure in humanity, from the Emperor, the King, the President, down to the small town cop, are agents of God, acting in accordance with his sovereign will, which is to:
- Punish those who do evil
- Praise those who do good
- … so submit to them. By submitting to them, you are participating in the sovereign will of God.
- Now, I’m not stupid, Peter’s not stupid, and neither are you. We all are well aware that sometimes authority gets abused. Sometimes people in authority who love darkness more than light, even pastors and teachers, use their authority for their own pleasure, to meet their own desires instead of for the glory of God. Instead of representing God’s authority by leading well, punishing evil and rewarding good, sometimes authorities reward evil and punish good.
A politician taking a bribe; a pastor threatening someone in his church with heaven or hell based on a certain behavior; a teacher behaving inappropriately toward a student; a company executive committing fraud, manipulating prices, etc.
- We should grieve when we see it. We should grieve that the authority given by God is being misused and misrepresented, especially when it happens in the church.
- We groan under that misuse of power, because we are created to know and respond to the perfect authority of God.
- Peter isn’t saying that abuse of authority won’t happen. Nor does he say, “if the authorities turn out to be wicked, never mind all of this.” Peter says submit to them. Be subject to them because of the Lord.
What do you mean, “because of the Lord?” He answers in 15:
 For it is God's will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.
Not only should we submit to and obey the civil authorities, it is God’s will that we do good in our communities! This reminds me of Jeremiah 29:5-7, where the entire nation of Israel was in exile under the Babylonian empire, drug away from their homes, and forced to learn a new culture. And God said to them, through the prophet Jeremiah, “when you get to Babylon:
 Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce.  Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease.  Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive."
As we do good for your communities and your neighborhoods, the outcome is that those who would throw stones at us will find they are throwing stones at people who are helping their own city thrive!
When the time is right, God said, I’ll confirm my promise to you. I know what my plans are for you – it’s for your good and my glory! And when the time is right to fulfill my promises to you, you can rest assured that I will see to it that justice is served to those who abused their authority. The time is coming when everything done in the darkness will be brought to light, and all the shady deals behind the scenes and people who made them will be exposed for what they are, and justice will be served.”
So,  Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God's slaves.
You are free with respect to the world, but you are a slave, a servant, with respect to God.
And if anyone would have been free to NOT submit to authority, it would have been Jesus Christ, who was in very nature God! If anyone would have had the right, or the authority to say, you’re not the boss of me it would have been Jesus! Yet, if you read through the gospels, the accounts of Jesus’ life, and you looked only for his interactions with civil authorities, you would find him paying taxes. You would find his family making the trek to Bethlehem for the census. You would find obedience. But you would also find him doing good – healing a centurion's servant, healing an official’s son, restoring the ear of a soldier who was arresting him.
In John 19, as Jesus stood on trial before Pontius Pilate, who was the local authority for Rome, Pilate said, “Don’t you know that I have the authority to release you and the authority to crucify you?” And Jesus calmly looked at him and said  "You would have no authority over me at all," Jesus answered him, "if it hadn't been given you from above."
Jesus looked at the civil authority who would order his execution, and in other words, said: You have my permission. Because Jesus had submitted himself to the will of his Father, stranger to this world and deserving of so much more, he could submit to Pilate’s authority knowing Pilate was acting as God’s agent to bring salvation into the world through Jesus’ death.
Jesus is our cornerstone. He’s where we draw the lines for our lives from...his example is ours to follow.
And here are Peter’s final words on the subject before moving on:  Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Normally I close with application, but will do something different this time.
Pray 1 Timothy 2:1-4