Honor the King
1 Peter 2:13–17
1 Peter Lesson #65
September 29, 2016
“Our Father, we’re thankful for this time to come together this evening and to focus on a very significant important topic that is addressed in several places in Scripture but is particularly relevant at this point in our nation’s history.
Father, we pray that You would help us to understand these important principles and how to work them out in terms of both our understanding of history and our understanding of current events. That we can, as believers, focus on our understanding of the role of the national entity and national government and how we as believers are to relate to the national entity. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter. We’re in 1 Peter 2, and we’re beginning tonight in verse 13. 1 Peter 2:13. While you are turning there, I’m going to turn to another passage just by way of introduction.
Since we’re living in a time of a lot of confusion for a number of people in terms of how they’re going to vote in November, we have gone through the basic principles in the past. This is a 2008 series: Decision Making in the Voting Booth. I encourage you to go back and listen to those basic principles and how to make a choice. They are fundamental issues. Most of what people are arguing about is not fundamental issues. We’ve got to get back to fundamental issues, and we will talk about one of those tonight.
One that I did not spotlight in that series that I think is an important element in making any sort of decision, especially at the national level, comes out of 1 Timothy 2:1–2. Paul writes, “Therefore I exhort [which means to challenge or to encourage people] first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions.” It uses three distinct words there, all related to making requests of God.
“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” Then he starts breaking down the categories of authority. “For kings and all who are in authority.” He focuses on them for a reason. It’s that reason that’s important. We are to pray for government leaders, whether they’re at the local, city, or municipal level, whether they are at the state level, or whether they’re at the national level. “That” they will do something. “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.”
What does that mean? That means a life where we don’t have to worry about government interference. We don’t have to worry about government restricting the First Amendment rights of Christians at local churches. That we can be focused on the mission of the church, which is giving the Gospel and teaching believers to grow to spiritual maturity without spending as much time as we’ve spent the last 10 years talking about the problems in government and how to understand government in terms of what the Scripture teaches, what the divine institutions are, and being involved politically. We all should be—not because we’re Christians—but because we’re citizens of the United States.
That is an assumed responsibility. When we were in high school we had to take civics courses and people would get grades in relation to citizenship and understanding what that meant. I don’t think they do that anymore.
We have a responsibility as citizens to vote, a responsibility to vote knowledgeably and intelligently and to know what the issues are. This is incumbent upon every person just because you’re a US citizen.
Now if you’re a Christian and a US citizen and you’ve got the Word of God telling you that everything that you do must be done to the glory of God. Citizenship responsibilities are certainly a subset of “everything.” Right? “Everything” pretty much doesn’t leave anything out.
So citizenship isn’t something that you as a Christian put on the shelf. One of the reasons I say this is because if you look at the polling data from the 2008 election, you had a significant number of evangelicals that didn’t vote for silly, superficial, and stupid reasons. That got us Barack Obama.
Barack Obama got elected in 2012 with fewer votes than McCain got in 2008. Why? Because evangelical Christians stayed home. So if we have Barack Obama as president and you don’t like it, it’s because Christians didn’t vote. Blame the church! It’s the Christian idiots—who don’t know the Word of God and don’t know their responsibilities—that are fragmenting.
You go out and you read the Internet and Christians are all over the place. They can’t unite. They can’t go vote. “I’m going to stay home.” This is a guarantee for failure! I’m going to blame the church. I’m going to blame every single evangelical Christian for the mess we’re in because they’re failing to live the Christian life. They’re failing to think biblically. If they don’t get a leader that is 100% aligned with their views, then they’re not going to vote at all. That is idiocy.
There was another civilization that did the same thing, and fragmented in terms of arrogance like this, and it was the Second Temple period Judaism. In the first century they were so fragmented because you had all these different groups. “Either you’re going to do everything my way or we’re not going to play.” The result was that when they revolted against Rome, they were so fragmented that when the Roman armies encircled and surrounded Jerusalem and were completing their final assaults before the destruction of Jerusalem, that these subsets, all these different Jewish groups were not only fighting and killing Romans, they were killing each other.
That’s exactly what we see among conservatives and evangelical Christians. We’re more concerned about attacking each other and attacking somebody who doesn’t see it 100% the way we do than doing the right thing biblically. We don’t understand what the basics are.
One of the basics is that we need to be looking and evaluating—especially presidential national candidates—in light of the fact of, “Are they going to support the First Amendment? Are they going to be more or less likely to create an environment that is positive for the church where the government is going to stay out of the business of the churches?”
We already saw failure in that part under the current president’s administration, when the IRS started investigating any kind of conservative group. Many of them are conservative religious-based 501(c)(3) organizations.
So we have to be looking for somebody who is more likely than less likely to strengthen—or at least prevent—any further deterioration in the application of the First Amendment. That’s another criterion to think through. We’ll evaluate some quickly as we go through this. I’m not redoing a series on voting. Anybody can go back and listen to that.
We are in we are in 1 Peter 2:13–17. We have five verses that are all focused on this one topic of honoring the king. As we have looked at 1 Peter, we’ve seen that Peter is writing this to a group of primarily Jewish-background believers. He’s writing to them in light of the fact that they are currently experiencing—and will experience—more opposition, adversity, resentment from others, and possibly even persecution.
He depicts this using terms like “fiery trials.” In 1 Peter 1:6 he talks about being “grieved by various trials,” and that this is all part of testing or evaluating their faith in terms of its approval, its positive aspects, as will be present at the future Judgment Seat of Christ. We saw that the first 12 verses of 1 Peter focused on introducing this theme of being prepared for that future evaluation—not for salvation-determined eternal destiny, but roles and responsibilities in Heaven at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Starting in 1 Peter 1:13, he begins to focus upon various specifics. In the section from 1 Peter 1:13–25, he focuses a lot on conduct, a theme that he picked up again as we just saw in the two transition verses from the first division—which really goes down to 1 Peter 1:10. But he then talks about having honorable conduct among the Gentiles. This would include the government. It includes Gentiles who might not be believers; in terms of marriage; also in terms of owners of slaves or servants.
This whole next section that we see going down through 1 Peter 4 is going to deal a lot with one of the major problems that everyone of us deals with—and that is, being obedient to an authority with whom we disagree. I’m not going to say it’s an unjust authority; I’m going to say it’s just somebody we don’t agree with.
It may be a parent that wants us to do one thing and we want to do it another way. It may be a husband who wants to do things one way and the wife wants to do it another way. It may be students in a classroom dealing with a teacher. It may be athletes dealing with a coach. It may be soldiers dealing with the military. There are all kinds of circumstances and situations where people want to buck the person who is in authority. That person may or may not be right, but we still don’t want to do it. We want to somehow find reasons to justify disobedience to authority.
Authority orientation is a subset of a broad doctrine that we describe as grace orientation. To be oriented to the grace of God demands, first of all, genuine humility. Genuine humility means that we have to recognize who we are in relationship to God. That ultimately, in terms of salvation, God is the One Who does all the work and we submit to that.
Humility is a poorly understood doctrine. When you look at the ultimate example of humility in the Scriptures, it’s in Philippians 2:5–11. There we learned that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of the Cross.
If anyone ever experienced something that was unjust or unfair, it was Jesus going to the Cross. He’s never committed a sin, He has never done anything wrong, never violated any law; and yet He was unjustly condemned of a capital crime, and He is sent to the Cross.
That becomes Peter’s major illustration of the submission to authority when we get down into the latter part of 1 Peter 3 and on into chapter 4. That becomes a standard. Jesus submitted to the unjust authority of the Jewish religious leaders and also to the unjust authority of Pilate. He didn’t rebel. If anybody had a right to rebel against an unjust authority, it was Jesus! And yet He doesn’t do it. Because that’s the example.
We have to understand how that fits in. We’ve talked about this recently—that authority is the key issue in terms of sin. It goes back to Lucifer. It goes back to the original sin when Lucifer said in his heart, “I want to be like God.” He is rejecting the authority of God.
So what’s the first test that’s brought to the human race? It’s whether or not they’re going to obey God—an authority issue—by not eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan tempts in that arena of authority.
This is Satan’s original sin. It is a violation. It is a rejection of the authority of God. This is why the Scriptures again and again and again come back to the importance of authority and submitting to various authorities, because when we don’t, we are following Satan in his original sin. That becomes a basic issue. Authority orientation is a subset of grace orientation because it involves humility.
There’s another doctrine that flows out of grace orientation, and that is loving one another. Before we can love one another, we also have to have genuine humility and we have to have that kind of humility evident in our mentality and in our life.
There are two areas of doctrinal teaching that I hear more grumbling and griping about from people, “That is just so hard!” It’s either loving one another or it’s being obedient to authority.
Those are two of the most difficult issues, and the only way you can resolve it is through God the Holy Spirit and walking by the Spirit and applying doctrine, because we can’t generate this on our own.
There’s no way that fallen human beings can do it, because the basic orientation of our sin nature is, “It’s me. It’s all about me. It’s not about you. What gives you the right to tell me what to do? Because it’s all about me.” That’s basically what your little sin nature and my little sin nature always say. That’s its default position—a position of rebellion against anything that contradicts what I want.
So Peter sums it up in the last verse. He says, “Honor all. Love the brotherhood” [that’s other believers, loving one another]. See how that’s connected to authority orientation. “Fear God.” Again, authority orientation. Fearing God means more than just respecting God; it involves being fearful, at some level, of the consequences.
Just like when you were a little kid and your mother probably said something like, “Well, just wait till your father comes home.” Okay, there is respect for that authority, and there is fear for that authority, because you know there are consequences for disobedience. “Honor all. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
He begins this section really focusing on what it means to honor the king. He focuses on the believer’s responsibility. The way I want to approach this is that I want to go through the basic structure of the passage, what is being said here, why it’s being said, and then we’ll broaden it out. In the process of looking at it, we’re going to compare Scripture with Scripture, because this passage finds an extremely close parallel in the first six verses of Romans 13. If these two passages were out of the Bible, Christians would have revolted against the pagan secular government we have a long time ago.
But these two important passages keep Christians as those who are oriented to the authority of government, because government is initiated and ordained by God. The way human viewpoint paganism looks at government—just like it looks at marriage and just like it looks at family—is these are just various things that were developed over time on the assumption of an evolutionary framework.
These were conventions that are developed over time because they work better than others. This is something that man developed through trial and error, and we figured out that somehow marriage works a little bit better than not marriage.
I remember studying in sociology in college that there were many civilizations that hold to some form of matriarchal marriage and matriarchal family. We don’t know a lot about them because they’re usually aboriginal-type civilizations that never advanced very far. But any civilization that advanced very far, that had any level of cohesion and was able to pass on their values from generation to generation, had a patriarchal family structure and had a strong emphasis on the family. The Romans certainly did. This was integral to building a solid civilization.
When we look at these things, we have to recognize that they’re not conventions that were developed through trial and error, but the Bible says that just as God created the physical universe, God also created certain social laws, laws that relate to how human beings relate to Him and relate to one another in the sense of a society. By that I mean a group of individuals who are having fellowship, who are communicating with one another, and living together. This is the basic meaning of the society.
Any kind of government over a nation is certainly a society. This is the fourth divine institution. When we get to the end, I’m going to start going over the divine institutions again. But this is the fourth divine institution, which is related to human government. It also relates to the fifth divine institution, which is that of nationalism, which is certainly a doctrine that is under severe attack, especially by people who are all in favor of open immigration.
It is destructive to the nation—not because people are racist or biased or any of the calumnies that are thrown at those who want to have border security. It is because we recognize that it is important to have border security in order to preserve the identity of a nation. But once you do that, it causes the collapse of a nation. Under liberalism, the whole idea of a nation is being viewed as something that is evil and wicked and destructive of rights and privileges.
Let’s just go through the text. In 1 Peter 2:13 Paul reaches a conclusion. He’s gone through the transition of verses 11 and 12. Now he says, “Therefore.” As I pointed out, whenever you see the word “therefore” in Scripture, you have to see what it’s there for. That’s right. Some people have listened. It’s drawing a conclusion from something that has been said before. What was said before is the command to have conduct that is “honorable among the Gentiles.”
So what happens over the next two and a half chapters is that Peter is going to talk about what honorable conduct looks like, how it is manifested. His focus is not on a lot of things that we might focus on. His focus is: If you don’t have authority orientation in the various spheres of authority in which you live, then you can’t have honorable conduct. This is fundamental. He goes to the foundational doctrine of authority orientation.
He says, “Therefore, because you’re supposed to have honorable conduct.” “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance.” Notice he didn’t say most. He doesn’t say the just ordinances. He doesn’t say the ordinances you agree with. He says submit to “every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
Now that’s the qualifier. We’ve studied this before, and we know that there are specific circumstances given in Scripture when a believer is legitimate in disobeying the command of governing authority. It’s very simple: when the government authority tells you to do something specific that is specifically prohibited by the Scripture, then you are justified in disobeying man under the principle that we obey God rather than man.
On the other hand, if the government tells you specifically to do something that God specifically tells you not to do, then you are within your rights to disobey the government and obey God rather than man. But I’m emphasizing the fact that this is something specific.
Let me give you an example. I’m not taking one side or the other on this issue in using this example. But in the Roe v. Wade decision, it didn’t mandate abortion. It gave permission for abortion. But nobody was told that you have to go abort a baby.
If the government had said, “You must abort the baby,” which is like China had with their one-child policy, then you would have a problem. But when it just is giving an option, then it’s not a problem. You can still do what you want to—nobody is telling you that you have to abort a baby.
We saw other examples of this. When Darius signed into law, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, a law that said that for the next 30 days nobody would be allowed to petition anyone other than the king. This was directed specifically to Daniel, who was known to pray three times a day. It was designed to catch Daniel, trap Daniel, and end Daniel’s political career. Daniel disobeyed the law, because the law was telling him not to do something that God told him to do.
We have other examples with the midwives. We have, of course, the example of the Sanhedrin telling Peter and John that they can’t proclaim the Gospel anymore. In Acts 4, they said, “We have to obey God rather than man.” But those were specifics—they weren’t just general principles.
A lot of times I hear Christians say, “Well, there’s a principle here.” Peter and John didn’t say, “There’s a principle here.” Daniel didn’t say, “There’s a principle here.” The midwives didn’t say, “There’s a principle here.” There were specific commands that they were being asked to violate.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Just as you have commands that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, the pattern is Christ. Wives are to submit to their husbands. How? “As unto the Lord.” You know, that’s a barometer there. We might not want to push that too far; we might have a revolt from a lot of wives.
But the barometer for your submission to Christ might be your submission to your husband. If you can only submit to your husband 30% of the time, that might say something about your ability to submit to the Lord. But that gets too convicting, so let’s move on.
The word for “submit” here is the Greek word that we find in all of these passages that makes it so difficult. It’s the Greek word HUPOTASSO and it means to put one's self under the authority of someone. When you are under the authority of someone, then you’re going to do what he tells you to do. That’s just the difficulty of it.
Submitting to authority means that when you have somebody who’s over you in an authority relationship, then we are to do what they tell us to do whether we like it or not. That’s one reason that the military used to be so good; because even if young men didn’t learn authority orientation in the home, they didn’t learn it at school, then you could send them to the Marine Corps, you could send them to one of the other services, and after boot camp, if they could learn authority orientation, they would learn authority orientation. So the idea here is very strong and it means to do what the person in authority says to do.
“Let every soul [person] be subject to the governing authorities.” That’s a little different word. Then it goes on, it changes. “For there is no authority.” That uses a synonym, EXOUSIA, which has to do with power, a tribinate, which is a judgeship in the Roman Empire.
“There is no authority.” There’s no judicial authority, there’s no executive authority, except from God. We’ll get into the will of God a little later on in the passage, but this allows God’s permissive will as well as His active will.
Sometimes it is God’s active will for there to be an unjust ruler. Sometimes God just allows people to choose an unjust ruler. But in either case, we talk about it as the will of God. God is the one who ultimately rules over human history.
Here we have that same principle that we have in 1 Peter (slide 4), “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake,” here in Romans (slide 5). It’s the same principle. “Let every soul be subject [HUPOTASSO again] to the governing authorities. For there is no authority [EXOUSIA] except from God, and these [the second use of “authorities” isn’t in the original there] that exist are appointed by God.”
What’s important here is that Paul writes Romans a few years before Peter writes 1 Peter; both are written while Nero is the emperor in Rome. Paul is writing during the early period; Peter is writing during the later period.
In the early period, Nero is fairly sane and a fairly decent emperor. In the latter period, he’s nuts, he is seeking to persecute Christians, and he has gone off the deep end. Here you have two different passages that agree completely with one another and it really doesn’t matter what the status of the ruler is—whether he is fairly good, or fairly stable, or off the charts.
Romans 13 backs this up completely. The word for “authorities” (the first time) is this word HUPERECHO, which means “higher ups” or “superior authorities.” There’s no wiggle room. That’s what we always look for in these passages: “What’s the escape clause? What’s the wiggle room?” I want to figure out how much I can get away with.
The Scripture mentions a number of individual authorities, especially in the New Testament. You have Israel’s high priest who is rebellious against God. The high priest in Israel during this time was Caiaphas, who was the son-in-law of Annas. Annas was still alive during this time and he sort of ran the high priesthood like his own personal money- laundering operation.
He’s the “godfather” of the religious operation in Israel, and he’s about as corrupt as you could possibly be. So all of this money changing and everything else that was going on in the Temple all ultimately accrues to his wealth, the wealth of his family, and their power. This is an authority that was to be obeyed, even though it’s unjust.
Those in charge of the synagogue, in some cases, were probably fairrt than others, but they were also a problem.
Members of the Sanhedrin were unjust and hostile to Jesus. It’s used of a judge. It’s used of pagan officials. It’s used of demons as well. So there are various authorities and these authorities include both good, or just, rulers from a human viewpoint standard, as well as unjust and wicked rulers. Yet both 1 Peter 2:13 and Romans 13:1 say that there’s no authority in that position unless it’s allowed by God. God establishes those; they are from God.
1 Peter 2:13 goes on to say, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance.” That’s not quite the same word that we have in Romans 13:2.
Romans 13:2 also translates a Greek word “ordinance.” There it’s the word DIATAGE, which does mean a decree or an ordinance, but Peter uses a very awkward term, which some people have problems with. It is debated among scholars just exactly how this ought to be translated. It’s the word KTISIS, which has as its basic meaning, “something that is created, something that is related to the creature.” I think it’s probably related to the fact that this is talking about creaturely laws as opposed to divine laws, the ordinances and laws that are the product of a created institution such as human government.
1 Peter 2:13, no wiggle room. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme.” Then he goes on to talk about our governors as those who are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers.
Let’s go back to Romans 13 for comparison. There Paul says, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.” That’s the flipside. That’s a pretty strong statement: that if you are resisting a legally established government and their representatives that are doing something legal—whether you agree with or not, whether you know you have a case or not—then you’re resisting the ordinance of God.
That has great application today. We know that there are many problems that occur in the black community. I used to work a lot with black pastors and in a black community and I’ve heard story after story after story of good, solid men who will tell me that over the course of the year, if they are in a predominantly white neighborhood, they might get pulled over three or four times a year. I’m talking about a pastor, somebody who’s well educated; I’m not talking about some smart adolescent kid that’s got a mouth on him. But they are respectful.
It is a genuine problem that in the black community. They do feel picked on. That’s legitimate. There are many reasons for that. I understand that. But the way to handle that—no matter whether you think the authority is picking on you or not—is to respect authority.
That’s what I was always taught when I was a kid and when I was being trained by my parents. When you’re in a situation where someone who’s in authority is confronting you, you listen to them and you respond with good manners and with respect, and you do what they say to do. If a police officer pulls you over, then you put your hands on the steering wheel and you say, “Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full.” No matter what they say or what they do.
I’ve been pulled over when I thought the guy was a real idiot and I just had to bite my tongue and not say anything. I’ve had other situations where the police officer was incredibly polite and very gracious. I had one situation where I got pulled over correctly for going a little bit over the speed limit.
Not too long ago I was in West Texas when you could see 20 miles down the road and was driving appropriately for that. I got pulled over. I had just gotten my concealed handgun license, so I put my hands on the steering wheel. He came up on the passenger side of the car, and I had rolled down the window. I said, “Officer, I want to let you know I have a concealed handgun permit.” He said, “Do you have any weapons in the car?” I said, “Yes.” I began to tell him where they were. He said, “Well, are you afraid of anything?” And I said, “No, sir, not at all. I’m not afraid of anything. I’ve got two rifles in the trunk. I’ve got a handgun in the glove box, one in the console, and one in my holster. I’m not afraid of anything.”
He said, “Well, I kind of figured that. You have an NRA cap on and two or three other things that were visible on the outside of the vehicle.” So he was pretty sure. He said, “Now, what do you do?” I said, “I’m a pastor.” And he kind of chuckled.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and he said, “Well, what are you doing?” I’ve learned to play a couple of cards. You know we all have our little cards that we can play. Women maybe sometimes cry—I don’t know. But I said, “Well, yes, I am a pastor.” This is my weekend. I got through this morning, and I’m taking a little three-day vacation to visit an old college ROTC buddy of mine who’s retired and out of the army now. We’re going to do a little shooting, and we’re going to do a little fishing—just relax a little bit. He said, “Well, I’m just going to give you a warning, Pastor. You just go right on down the road. And you have a good time, but slow down a little bit.” So it pays to be polite and it pays to be nice.
Now I’ve had similar situations happen when it didn’t turn out quite that way. But you have to be that way. You have to train kids to be this way.
I just thought of this; I haven’t thought about this in years. When I was five years old and a master criminal, I was living in Toronto, Canada and going to kindergarten. I may have been in first grade. Some kids were throwing snowballs. This would never happen today. Some kids were throwing snowballs at this big solid brick wall on the side of the school to see how high they could throw the snowball up on the side. Well, that was viewed as being disrespectful to the building.
We were all taken in and taken to the principal. I felt terrible for getting in trouble. When it was all over with, those two other boys were sent home. Then the principal called me in and said, “Those other boys were smiling and smirking, but you look like you were really sorry and sad. You got upset. You listened to every word I said, so you get to go back to class and there won’t be any punishment.” So, I think I learned that lesson very well at a young age and made that apply.
But that’s the issue—we have to treat the person in authority with respect whether they deserve it or not. That’s part of grace orientation. Grace orientation means God saved you, whether you deserved it or not. He treated you well whether you deserved it or not. So we have to treat that person in authority, not because of who and what they are as an individual, but because of the office they represent.
The real test comes when you have to do that in respect to your president with whom you disagree. That’s where it gets difficult.
We are to submit to authority. “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.” It’s a spiritual issue. You’re resisting that government; you’re smart-mouthing that police officer; you’re talking back to a teacher; you’re mouthing off to a coach; you are resisting God. It is a theological issue. It is a spiritual issue, ultimately. That’s the thrust of that passage.
“And those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” You will incur greater judgment from that person because you have resisted their authority.
In verse 14 Peter goes on to say, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king [who is the supreme authority] as supreme, or to governors.” That would be what we would think of as a governor of a state, a lower level—someone who is the ruler of the territory or region.
“Governors, as to those who are sent by him” [those sent by the governor]. See, it’s translated correctly as a lowercase “him”, which means it’s referring to either the governor or maybe the king. Everyone else under authority is an emissary or representative of the king or the national government.
Their role is to punish evildoers and it’s for the praise of those who do good. That is the standard.
But what if they’re not punishing evildoers? What if they’re a president who’s just letting hundreds and hundreds of prisoners out of jail? What if it’s a president who’s going to release all kinds of terrorists from Guantánamo so that they can go back and fight and kill Americans again, which is what most of them are doing? We’ve got studies to prove that.
Still you obey the authority, even if it’s not worthy, because it’s the position and the law has provisions for bringing them up on charges if possible. But, nevertheless, we have to obey. There is not an “if” clause or a conditional statement anywhere in the passage.
You see the same thing in Romans 13:3–4. “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” This is the same situation that we have in so many of these areas—what we see in these riots. It’s not a matter of whether they have a just cause or not. Jesus had a just cause! That doesn’t justify a wrong response. Two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s a basic principle. I can hear my mother say it today—over and over again.
If they’re wrong, it doesn’t justify wrong behavior. It doesn’t justify riots. It doesn’t justify burning down property. It doesn’t justify vandalism—ever. So Paul says that we are to do what is good, because it’s the right thing.
But we see that God raises up both just and unjust rulers. He is the Sovereign. He has used unjust rulers in numerous circumstances. Let’s think about a few.
First of all, we’ve been studying in 1 Samuel and we’ve seen what happened with Saul. The people rejected God’s rule over them in the theocracy of Israel. They wanted to have a king—not like God wanted—but they want to have a king like everybody else. We see this same mentality in this country from politicians who want to model American law and American policy after what goes on in the EU. Look at how the EU has fallen apart. But that’s their standard.
They want to submit to the UN, but this country was founded to get away from Europe, to get away from the way everybody else did things, and to do it in a distinct way, built upon the Bible. Once we get away from the Bible, it doesn’t matter. This country will not be—and probably isn’t anymore—what you often think it to be. President Obama got ridiculed because he said we’re not a Christian nation anymore. But guess what folks? We’re not a Christian nation anymore. You know, he spoke the truth. A blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.
Saul was a carnal and evil ruler, and he was still anointed king by the will of God. God, in His omniscience, knew exactly what was going to happen, but God was going to use Saul in his arrogance and in his disobedience to teach Israel a lesson, something for them to learn. He clearly authorized Samuel to anoint Saul in 1 Samuel 9:15–16.
Then in 1 Samuel 15, Samuel then rebuked Saul and said that, “God is taking the kingdom from you.” He is ripping the kingdom. But it was another 10–15 years before Saul actually died and vacated the throne.
Second example. Isaiah calls Assyria the rod of God’s anger and the staff in His hand. God raised up the evil empire of Assyria and Sennacherib and those that invaded and destroyed the Northern Kingdom and then invaded the Southern Kingdom and slaughtered them. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were displaced or killed, and yet God raised up those rulers in order to bring discipline upon Israel. Those who were captured were told then to be obedient to Assyria.
The same thing happened later on when God was sending Babylon in. You read this in Jeremiah. Jeremiah tells the people that God’s will is that you submit to Nebuchadnezzar, that you surrender; and then God is going to allow you to live, and God is going to take care of you. The people said, “That can’t be God’s will! We have to fight.” It wasn’t time to fight anymore; it was time to submit. So they rebelled against God, and they continued to fight Nebuchadnezzar. They were slaughtered; Jerusalem was destroyed, and so was the Temple.
Later on, Isaiah called Cyrus God’s anointed. Some people have thought that meant he was saved. The word “anointed” simply means appointed to a task. He was appointed to a task, and that was to send the Jews back to the land. There’s no evidence whatsoever that he would’ve known the gospel.
Being anointed doesn’t mean you’re saved. Priests—again and again—from generation to generation—were anointed, but not all of the priests were saved. It has nothing to do with salvation. So God uses unsaved, unjust rulers to accomplish His purposes.
Right now we have two people running for president. One may be saved. One doesn’t look like he was ever saved. Notice my use of pronouns. Okay? One—Hillary Clinton—might have been saved growing up in a Methodist church. It is conceivable. I don’t know that there’s any evidence, but it’s conceivable. Actually, she was one of Goldwater’s girls; she worked on the Goldwater campaign as a conservative in 1964. Can you believe it? And then she turned to the dark side.
So, just because somebody’s a Christian doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good ruler. Exhibit 1 is Jimmy Carter. Exhibit 2 is Bill Clinton.
Just because somebody’s a Christian doesn’t mean they’re going to be a better ruler. I often use this example. If I’m going to take my car to be worked on by a mechanic, I don’t care where he is going to end up in Heaven, I just want to make sure he can fix my car better than the guy down the street. The guy down the street, who might be a Christian, may not know how to really do a good job on my car.
I’m not saying this applies to Donald Trump. But I would rather have an unsaved leader who understands leadership and can lead the country out of this mess—because they understand establishment principles—than to have somebody who claims to have been born again, because they’re going to be a disaster just like Jimmy Carter was. A carnal believer is going to be much worse, in many cases, than an unbeliever.
Jeremiah said that Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant. At the time Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer. I think by Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar became a believer. But I don’t think, at the time Jeremiah was writing, that he was a believer—when he was used by God to destroy Jerusalem.
But you see, even when the king is not obedient, you still have to respect his authority. David demonstrates this on two different occasions. In 1 Samuel 24:3–15 and in 1 Samuel 26:1, David has Saul in a position where he could easily kill him. In one place he is in a cave where he has gone back to go to the bathroom. David sneaks up right behind him and cuts off the hem of his garment. In 1 Samuel 26, Saul and his men are camping out. Saul is asleep and David can sneak right up and could just pin him to the ground with his spear if he wanted to. But in both cases he makes this kind of statement. He said that Abishai in 1 Samuel 26:9, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?”
It doesn’t matter how bad he is. I can’t commit another wrong that would be justified. These are the important things that we have to do think through.
I’m going to stop here because the next section is going to involve a little bit more and I don’t have time to develop it. We’ll come back and begin to finish this a little bit when we come back together next week.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things. We pray for our nation. We know that we are in dire straits. And that’s because, as a nation, we have rejected the truth. We’ve rejected Your Word. We have failed, even as Christians, to apply Your Word, and to walk faithfully with You. The result is that we see this country erode from the inside out.
There are thousands of different opinions; and we resemble Israel during the period of the judges where “everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.” The result of that is just going to be national chaos and national collapse. It’s only by Your grace that that hasn’t happened yet.
Father, we pray that You would raise up leaders at the local level, at the state level, at the national level, who understand the truth and who will stand for the truth and will not succumb to the pressures in Washington.
We pray—should pray—for every one of our congressional representatives because they are under pressure daily to compromise the truth and to compromise their convictions. The assaults come in numerous ways.
Father, we pray that You would strengthen them, those who are believers. We know a number of them who are from the Texas delegation. Numerous ones are believers, and we pray that You would strengthen them and that they would be able to see the truth for what it is and not only guide people in that direction, but to lead in such a way that it convinces others who may not agree with them of the veracity of their position.
Father, we need men in the pulpit who will teach the Word. We need men in the pulpit who will focus on the truth of Your Word. Not giving people what will tickle their ears, but will teach the Scriptures word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, verse-by-verse, because it’s only as we are transformed by Your Word that we can be restored to the kind of greatness that this country had.
What made this country great wasn’t capitalism, it wasn’t the Constitution—it was the orientation to the truth of Your Word. That is what gave birth to other things. But without the Word of God being at the center of this culture, there is no hope.
Father, the only hope we know is in You and in Your Word, and we pray that You would raise up leaders who will proclaim the truth and people will respond. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”