Fear God, Not the Government

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 3

What does freedom in Christ look like in subjection to a human government? In this lab, John Piper explains five key principles. He touches on our attitude toward one another, toward hardened criminals, and to ungodly government rulers. He ends with Jesus being confronted by Pilate as one paradigm for all believers.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you are studying a passage of Scripture that deals with a particular subject or topic (e.g. government, or marriage, or spiritual gifts), try to see all that the biblical author says about that topic in that passage, not just the main thing or the thing you see first. Then work to see how the various things you’ve seen relate to each other.

Study Questions

  1. What might it mean to “honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17)? How would a Christian honor a rapist or a murderer?
  2. Why does Peter include, “Love the brotherhood,” here in 1 Peter 2:13–17? How does that command fit with the wider purposes in this set of verses?
  3. Read Jesus’s interaction with Pilate in John 18:36–37. How do Jesus’s words help us make sense of 1 Peter 2:13–17?
Piper: “No one in the world is impressed by minimalist Christian ethics that simply avoid bad things.”

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:58)

1. Fear God. (02:58–04:16)

  • You do not fear the emperor. You fear God. (1 Peter 2:17)
  • Godly submission to a government is marked by a fearless fear of God.
  • Our only ultimate fear in this life is to dishonor our Maker, the King over every earthly king.

2. Honor all people appropriately. (04:16–06:54)

  • We honor all people appropriate to their role (“Honor everyone.”). (1 Peter 2:17)
  • We subject ourselves to the emperor in one way and to governors in another way. (1 Peter 2:13–14)
  • How do honor a rapist or a murderer? Certainly not in the same way you honor a teacher, a boss, or a friend.

3. Reserve special affection for believers. (06:54–07:49)

  • “Love the brotherhood.” (1 Peter 2:17)
  • Alongside all the honor you show to all people, there’s a special love and affection we show each other as believers.
  • This is crucial in days when the emperor and governors may not be supportive of Christianity.

4. Overflow in good deeds. (07:49–10:05)

  • Peter returns to this theme again and again in 1 Peter. (1 Peter 2:20; 3:6, 10, 13, 16–17; 4:19)
  • We are not subject to human institutions by simply keeping the minimal requirements (e.g. speed limits), but by looking for every possible way to bless our communities.
  • No unbeliever is impressed by minimalist Christian ethics that simply avoid bad things. What impresses the world are good deeds overflowing way beyond normal expectations.

5. We silence the ignorance of the foolish. (10:05–10:39)

  • By the abundance of good deeds, we silence ignorant opposition to Christianity. (1 Peter 2:15)
  • The people in the world who slander Christians are ignorant of the truth.
  • We want that to change, and Peter says that happens as they see us do good deeds.

Bear Witness to the Truth (10:39–13:39)

  • Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world. He did not come to be installed as king, yet. (John 18:36)
  • If his kingdom was here, his servants would fight to install him as king or emperor now (John 18:36).
  • This is Jesus’s world. He will take it back, and rule as King over this world.
  • Jesus was born not to rule now as king now, but to “bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). And the truth is that he will return and be King over everything.
  • We submit to every human institution so that the world might see our good deeds, as we bear witness to the truth, and give glory to God. (1 Peter 2:11–12)