Live on Earth as Citizens of Heaven

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 1

Christians live in and are citizens of some nation on earth, under some government, but their final authority is in heaven. So what did God intend for human governments to do? And how should we respond as believers in Jesus? In this lab, John Piper explains how to live as exiles and refugees.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you see a biblical author repeating a theme in a book or series of books, stop and look at the verses that deal with that particular theme. Often phrases or ideas in one verse will bring light and clarity to another verse.

Study Questions

  1. Review 1 Peter 2:11–12. What kind of people is Peter writing to with this letter? Who are they and what is there status in this world? How does that inform his call in 1 Peter 2:13–14?
  2. Read 1 Peter 2:13–17, 18; 3:1, and 7–8. How does this effect your understanding of 1 Peter 2:13–17? What theme is Peter building on throughout this letter, specifically in these verses?
  3. One important word appears in 1 Peter 2:14 and 1 Peter 2:15. What does Peter’s use of that word in both verses reveal about God’s intention for Christian witness and the local government?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:12)

A Call to Refugees (03:12–05:58)

  • Remember that Peter is writing to Christians who are sojourners and exiles in this world, like spiritual Syrian refugees today. (1 Peter 2:11)
  • We are citizens in heaven (Philippians 3:21), and therefore aliens on the earth.
  • Peter calls these sojourners and exiles to live honorably in the world, to do good deeds, in order to silence their opponents and critics. (1 Peter 2:12, 15)
  • You are exiles or refugees here, but do not ignore the governing institutions where you live. (1 Peter 2:13)

A Call to Submission (05:58–09:22)

  • How do we relate to our American government (or the authorities wherever we live or work)?
  • We submit to “every human institution.” (1 Peter 2:13)
  • Submission is a major theme in 1 Peter. Peter speaks to submission as citizens (1 Peter 2:13–17), as employees or even slaves (2:18), as wives and as family (3:1–7), and as believers one to another (3:8).
  • We could apply this to the police, or the military, or to teachers and professors, and to a hundred other institutions.

A Call to Governors and Citizens (09:22–12:34)

  • Specifically, Peter calls Christians to subject themselves to the emperor and the governors (to the governing authorities in the land). (1 Peter 2:13–14)
  • The emperor and his governors (those in power) are called by God to “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:14)
  • The good that governments are to praise is the same good Christians are to excel in. (1 Peter 2:12, 14–15)
  • There’s an overlap between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Christ so that the reign of Christ can be seen in the world.
  • As Christians, one important role we play in this equation is to in help elect rulers who do what God intended them to do, namely punish what is evil and praise what is good.