This Week's Focus Passage

‘Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.’

Focus Passage: 1 Peter 2:13-14

‘Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.’

This is certainly one of those instances where it is highly important for us to consider the entire context in which the statement above is found. This is, of ĥproceed any further, let us cite the entire passage from verse 13 through 17:

Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether to a king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bond-servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

In the larger context, Peter begins by exhorting his readers to have their behavior seemly among the Gentiles, and concludes with the reminder that Christ has left us an example, that we should follow his steps, committing ourselves to him that judgeth righteously.

To any who would demur from this biblical prescription, we remind them, and ourselves, that not only does Peter point out that for so is the will of God, but undergirding that exhortation is the reader’s presumed knowledge that it is also God who raises up kings and governors, and He that puts them down whenever it may please Him to do so. We must, through faith and understanding, see the Almighty God standing, as it were, behind these earthly potentates. They are His appointees, and rule only at His good pleasure, and according to His will. Therefore, when we give allegiance to the kings and governors above us, we are truly giving allegiance to Him who is above all and every. When Caesar Augustus decrees that all the world should be enrolled, we are to submit to that decree even as did the parents of our Lord Jesus Christ. The king, governor, or Caesar may, of course, issue laws and decrees that are unjust in and of themselves. We must seek guidance from the Word and God the Holy Spirit with respect to such ordinances. The question for the one who is a follower of the Lamb, is whether any such legislation is a violation, not of our civil rights, but of the law of our God. This is really the only question that needs to be asked. This is that challenge that faced the apostles as we find recorded for our instruction in Acts 5. An angel of the Lord had been sent to His imprisoned servants to open the prison doors and bring the apostles out. The angel gave them instructions from the Lord, saying, Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life. This directive they immediately complied with. They were soon apprehended once again and brought before the high priest who asked them, saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, Peter and the apostle’s simple, but forceful, response was We must obey God rather than men. After much consternation and discussion, the bewildered leaders of the Jews beat them and charged them [again] not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So we see that the Lord honored them and preserved them and, although they were beaten, they were not imprisoned again, but rather let go. They had followed their Rabbi’s teaching, when He said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. No one is saying that it will be easy. They were beaten. We may suffer some loss for striving to follow our Lord as did the apostles here in Acts 5, but nonetheless, we must obey God rather than men.

We are not pretending that it is always easy to determine distinctions, it is a bit like the lights at our traffic intersections; the light may be green, red, or perhaps yellow. There are directions in God’s Word that are clearly green lights. Such a green light is found in commandments that give us an unqualified go-ahead. The issue of marriage may present itself as an illustration for our purposes. In the beginning, God said very clearly, it seems, ‘It is not good that a man should be alone, I will make him a help meet for him.’ And, of course, God made a woman for the man, Adam, which resulted in the Lord saying further, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife,’ a clear manifestation of God’s blessing on the institution of marriage, which is seconded by the Second Person of the Trinity in Matthew 19:6, ‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ This is what God would have to be done; it is a green light.

On the other hand, we find the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, speaking of the issue of marriage in his first epistle to the church at Corinth, 7:39. Here Paul give his approval for a widow to marry. He has said that if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will, adding the yellow qualifying caution light, only in the Lord. This yellow light indicates, slow down, prepare to stop; you may marry if your husband is dead, but it must be in the Lord. Slow down, do your best to determine that this individual is a child of God. Prepare to stop if his profession of faith proves to be seriously questionable. This is the purpose of the yellow caution light. If this man’s profession is not what it should be; or if there is any doubt about the husband being dead—something that certainly is possible when many husbands are engaged in far-away military campaigns—then this present a red light before the ‘widow.’ The red light says stop what you are about to do.

Traffic lights often are irritating as we feel that we have been sitting at an intersection way too long waiting for the light to change, or being very close to the intersection when it turns yellow; we don’t know whether to slam on the brakes and risk skidding or being rear-ended, or going through the yellow. But this is metaphor and we have been, by God’s grace, given the Word and the Spirit to help us through these trying occasions. Still, we must be willing to pay attention as to whether a light is green, yellow, or red. It is not a matter of being afraid of having our license suspended; it is a matter displeasing our heavenly Father.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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