Obey as People Who Are Free

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 2

How do servants of the King live and serve in a world with kings? In this lab, John Piper reveals the wonder of Christian freedom and the witness of being subject to human authorities. To help, he draws in an encounter Jesus and his disciples had with tax collectors.

Principle for Bible Reading

Often the Bible creates tensions that appear to be contradictions to our limited perspective (e.g. freedom and subjection in 1 Peter 2:13–17). Some mysteries are above our human minds, but some of the most beautiful and profound things we can learn about God, and life, and ourselves are found in working hard to understand how these tensions are not contradictions.

Study Questions

  1. What might it mean to subject yourself to the government “for the Lord’s sake” in 1 Peter 2:13? Identify a couple of options and decide which one you think Peter intended.
  2. Peter says to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16) in the same passage he calls these believers to “be subject” (2:13) and to be “servants” (2:16).
  3. Read Matthew 17:24–27 and Mark 12:17. What do these passages bring into your understanding of 1 Peter 2:13–17?


Subject Yourselves to the Government

  • How does our subjection to every human institution stand out as peculiarly Christian? (1 Peter 2:13)
  • We are to subject to every human institution “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13)
  • That means we exalt the Lord over our rulers as we subject ourselves to those same rulers.
  • It also means being subject because the Lord sent us to be subject to human institutions. (1 Peter 2:13)

Subject Yourselves as Free People

  • Live (and be subject to every human institution) as people who are free. (1 Peter 2:16)
  • We are supremely subject to God as our highest authority (“servants of God”). (1 Peter 2:16)
  • This frees us from our earthly rulers’ authority ultimately. We don’t owe them anything because of them. We subject ourselves to them because our King has sent us into the world to obey our human institutions for the Lord’s sake.

An Example from Jesus’ Ministry

  • Jesus confronted these issues with his disciples before the tax collectors in Matthew 17:24–27
  • If God is your Father, and he’s the King over this world, and you’re the sons of the King, you don’t owe anything to anyone here because of their intrinsic authority. (Matthew 17:26)
  • You only owe anyone anything on this earth if your God, with all of his authority, tells you that you do.

Render to Caesar

  • Live as free people who are servants of God sent by God into to the world to be subject to human institutions.
  • Once you are subject to God in everything, you will be able to discern what to render to Caesar. (Mark 12:17)
  • You are servants of God, and everything belongs to him. And he sends you to subject yourself to every human institution and obey those authorities for his sake.