1 Peter 2:13-17 “Using Your Liberty”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church Manhattan KS, 12 July 2015


13 [Therefore], SUBMIT to every human institution on account of the Lord,  (COMMAND)

whether to a KING                                                                                         (Title)

AS unto him who is a superior ,                                                          (Role)

14 or whether to GOVERNORS                                                                   (Title)

AS unto those who are sent by Him                                                   (Role)

for vengeance against evildoers and praise for good-doers,

15 BECAUSE the will of God is thus:

to silence the ignorance of mindless men   (REASON for Command)

through y’all doing good 16 AS free-men                                          (Role)

yet NOT AS those who maintain their freedom to be a cover-up for

    wickedness, but rather (Anti-role)

AS servants of God.                                                                           (Role)

17 HONOR all of them:                                                               (PARALLEL COMMAND)

Love the BROTHERHOOD,                                                                                     (Title)

keep being respectful toward GOD;                                                               (Title)

keep honoring the KING                                                                                (Title)


First-off, it is important to understand that this sermon is the second of a two-part sermon. If you hear this sermon apart from last week’s sermon, you will have an imbalanced perspective. In the first sermon, we saw Peter’s main point: do what is right and wait for people who are hostile to you to realize that their accusations against you are false and come around to praising God. That is plan A. Our hope – and it is a reasonable hope because God’s word tells us to hope thus – is that there will be no need for a plan B. But much of this follow-up sermon will about what our options are if plan A is not an option. For instance:


13 [Therefore], submit to every human institution on account of the Lord, whether to a king as unto him who is a superior, 14 or whether to governors as unto those who are sent by Him for vengeance against evildoers and praise for good-doers,

·         In order to deal with slander, Christians should “submit” – specifically to “kings and governors,” but there are caveats imbedded in this command:

o       First, as I mentioned last week, we must remember that the point is to act “for the Lord’s sake” and to give Jesus a good reputation in the world, not merely to make yourself look good by following man-made rules.

o       Secondly, this verse does not say that the authority of the king or emperor is “supreme” over God’s law. The Greek word ὑπερέχοντι (translated “supreme/superior/in authority”) is not a superlative. The king is merely as high as authority goes in terms of the “human institutions” that Peter is speaking of.

·         Because God is even higher than the king in authority, there is a limit to our submission to human institutions.

o       I appreciated the way Dr. Gordon Clark put it in his commentary on 1 Peter, “If... ‘created or ordained authority’ ...be an acceptable meaning, it hints that Christians are not under obligation to obey any authority that is not ordained. For surely Peter himself (Acts 5:29) teaches us to obey God rather than men. And was Moses’ mother sinning when she disobeyed Egyptian law to preserve her son’s life? This hint that there are occasions when the Christian is obligated to disobey the secular law is made explicit in the phrase, ‘for the Lord’s sake.’ This phrase shows that secular obedience is a divine command and at the same time sets its limits. If and when a state commands anything forbidden by the Scriptures, then the state must be disobeyed and our allegiance given to God...” [4]

o       The history of Daniel shows us that even in a pagan country like Babylon, our God is still the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (Daniel 2:21).”

o       The early Christians in Bithinia that I mentioned a moment ago did a pretty good job of keeping the peace to begin with. Apparently, it wasn’t until the temples were practically deserted because of all the conversions to Christianity that the governor (Pliny the Younger) started getting involved. He rounded up the Christians and commanded them to curse Christ and worship Caesar. Should those early Christians have obeyed the governor? Some did. Others refused and were executed. Pliny died shortly thereafter at the age of 52, and I suspect that the circumstances of his untimely death were evidence of God’s judgment on him.

·         I believe that a further limitation on submission is also imbedded in the next phrase about governors being sent to punish evildoers and praise good-doers.

o       We know from history that governors were indeed hand-picked by Caesar, but we also know that the Roman governors (like Pliny) didn’t always punish evildoers and reward the righteous, nor were these the goals of most of the Caesars. Nero was the emperor at the time of Peter’s epistle, and Nero murdered more people than Hitler did.

o       Notice how closely the prepositional phrase “through/by/on account of Him” in v. 14 parallels the same preposition in verse 13: “for the sake of/on account of the Lord.” I think there is just as much reason to consider the pronoun “him” to be referring to the Lord as there is to refer it to the king.

o       Now, Romans 13:3-5 tells us that that “praise” for “good works” and “vengeance” for “evildoing” should come from human rulers, but we know that ultimately praise for good works and vengeance for evildoing comes from God.

§         “Vengeance [ekdikesis] is mine, says the Lord; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30), and

§         1 Corinthians 4:5 “...whenever the Lord shall come, He will both bring to light the secrets of the darkness... and there will be the praise from God to each [person].” (NAW)

·         While governors should be obeyed as though you were obeying the Lord Jesus, at the same time, governors who do not punish evildoers and who do not praise those who do what is right are acting illegitimately.

o       While you should still show all due respect, you cannot indiscriminately obey a wicked ruler just because he or she is a ruler. Jesus is the highest authority, and when a ruler’s rules clearly contradict God’s law in the Bible, you must choose “to obey God rather than man,” as Peter told the priests in Jerusalem in Acts 5:29 when those authorities commanded him to stop preaching the gospel.

o       I could be mistaken, but it looks to me like the Kleins who run the wedding cake business in Oregon will have to disobey the state officials because to obey them would necessarily mean disobeying God’s command in 1 Peter 3:14-15 “[I]f you should suffer for righteousness' sake... DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEIR THREATS, NOR BE TROUBLED. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you...” (NKJV).

o       If they are persecuted for that, and if they find that they cannot change the government of Oregon to where it will punish evildoers and reward good, then they may have to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of evil rulers and put themselves under the jurisdiction of a more just ruler by moving to another state or country.

§         This is what Mary and Joseph did when they fled to Egypt,

§         This is what the early Christians in Jerusalem did when they fled to Syria,

§         This is what the Pilgrims did when they founded the Plymouth colony,

§         and it is what the signers of the Declaration of Independence did.

§         and it is something we may have to consider if God does not send revival.

·         However, we must remember this is Plan B. The first line of defense is to do what is good.

15 because the will of God is thus: to silence the ignorance of mindless men through y’all doing good

·         Last week we looked at three specific examples in the Bible of ἀγαθοποιῶν “good-doing”:

o       Healing (Mark 3:4, Luke 6:9),

o       Helping financially (Luke 6:35),

o       and Doing good quality work to benefit your household or employer (1 Pet 2:20, 3:6).

·         During His earthly ministry, Jesus “silenced” Saducees and Pharisees (Matt. 22:34), demons (Mark 1:25), and storms (Mark 4:39) which had become adversarial to Him. I believe these three events informed Peter of the will of God to silence adversaries.

o       Jesus silenced the storm and the demons by issuing a command,

o       and it is instructive how He silenced the Pharisees:

§         First, He so faithfully obeyed the laws of both God and man that nobody could pin any charge of evildoing upon Him,

§         Secondly, He studied and taught the Bible faithfully, and

§         Thirdly, He exposed the hypocrisy of His adversaries.

§         Plan A that Peter is emphasizing is the first of these strategies – being a blameless person.

·         Jesus used the word afron- (which literally means “without thinking”) to describe the Pharisees and Sadducees in Luke 11:40 and 12:20, and it is used heavily throughout the O.T. wisdom books to describe the kind of fool who is “simple” and “careless.”

·         The fool who is intellectually lazy and has accepted the world’s propaganda might respond positively by seeing your good deeds and praising God when he is disabused of his misconceptions.

·         In the Mosaic law, a sin committed in “ignorance” (ἀγνωσ-) was treated differently from a sin committed rebelliously (Lev. 5:18), and both Peter (Acts 3:17, 1 Pet 1:14) and Paul (Acts 17:23, Rom. 10:3, 1 Cor. 15:34 cf. Heb. 5:2) preached grace to Gentiles and Jews who had disobeyed God in “ignorance.”

·         On the other hand, there are those who speak evil against and persecute Christians willfully. The Apostle Peter talks about them in his second epistle: “...the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries... these, like natural brute beasts... speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption...” (2 Peter 2:9-12, NKJV) God knows how to render even these kind of folks “speechless,” but it often takes a more dramatic intervention,

o       such as blinding Saul while he was on the way to to persecute Christians in Syria,

o       or whatever it was that ended governor Pliny’s life

o       or when the angel of the Lord struck Herod so that he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:23).

·         Meanwhile, how are we to live?

16 as free-men – yet not as those who maintain this freedom to be a cover-up for wickedness, but rather as servants of God.

·         There are three comparatives (hws) in the Greek wording of this verse, 2 positive and 1 negative

1.      AS freedmen

2.      NOT AS those who maintain this freedom to be a cover-up

3.      AS servants of God

·         Although the grammar is complicated, all three are linked to the participle in verse 15 “doing good.” This is how we should be going about doing good: as freemen and as servants of God, not as bad guys who are merely trying to look like good guys.

·         How do we do good like freemen?

o       A free-man is the opposite of a slave. A slave does the right thing because his master told him to and will beat him if he doesn’t. A freeman does good without anyone telling him to and does it because he loves it, not because someone will punish him for not doing it.

o       Economic slavery was instituted in God’s law to help people who were impoverished[5], but this is speaking of a different kind of slavery: moral slavery – whether you are mastered by sin or whether God is your master.

o       Jesus spoke of this kind of freedom in the gospels: “...If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36 NKJV, cf. Mt. 17:26) You see the contrast between economic or political freedom and moral freedom. A free man in this moral sense doesn’t keep doing the same sins over and over but fills his or her mind with Jesus’ words and follows Him.

o       The apostle Paul commented further on this in three of his epistles: Romans 6: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:16-23, NKJV)

o       1 Cor. 7:21-23 also has a close tie-in with what Peter is saying in our sermon passage: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it bother you, but rather, even if you are able to become free, rather employ yourself. For the slave who was called by the Lord is the Lord’s free-man; likewise the freeman, when called, is Christ’s slave. Y’all were shopped-for with value; stop becoming slaves of men.” (NAW)

§         As soon as you turn away from God as your ultimate authority, you enter a world where there is no higher authority than the man with the most power, and your submission to whoever is in power must needs be slavish.

§         But if you are God’s child, no man has the ultimate control over you. You are free to act in God’s interest without a slavish anxiety over what the people around you think.

§         You are free to choose to serve others – not because you have to, but, like Paul, out of love for them: 1 Cor. 9:19 “For, being free from all men, I enslaved myself to all men in order that I might win the more” (NAW).

·         The one thing which we are not to do is to use our freedom as a “cloak/cover-up/epikalumma” for “vice/evil/malice/wickedness” – the bad things we are supposed to “put away” in 2:1.

o       So when the state tells you or me that we have to actively promote same-sex unions, you have the moral freedom to disobey human authority in order to honor God, but you are not free to use that freedom to disobey God’s law and fail to demonstrate Godly love and kindness toward those people participating in same-sex unions. The Westboro Baptist Church has crossed the line into using their liberty as a cover for evil by focusing on hurling insults at fellow human beings.

o       You are free to share the good news that Jesus died to pay the price for our sin and that we can be forgiven if we call upon Him to save us, and you can choose to share that at school or at work or in public, even if the authorities at your school or office or government command you not to, but you don’t have the freedom to be obnoxious. To share the gospel in such a way that it disrupts the peace or prevents people from doing their job would be using freedom as a cover for evil.

o       If the state makes a law against spanking your child, you are morally free to disobey because God’s word commands us to use a rod for discipline[6], but you are not free to use that spiritual freedom as a cover-up for abusing your child. Corporal discipline should never bring damage to a child – that would be using freedom as a cover for evil.

o       A big kid or a bully might tell you that you have to do something you know is wrong. You are free to disobey them because you are a servant of God not of them, but you are not free to hate them because they have been so mean to you. That would be using your freedom as a cover for evil.

·         There are some fine lines here that you will need God’s wisdom and grace to navigate.

o       For instance, just because you are morally free to make a choice to honor God doesn’t mean that you will not suffer jail time under the government of godless men. My dad has been to jail for participating in a peaceful protest against an abortion provider in his city.

o       And just because the moral issue is clear-cut to you doesn’t mean that other Christians are going to draw the lines in the same place you have – they may decide to obey authorities when you wouldn’t or disobey when you would obey, but you’re going to have to give them the benefit of the doubt in the gray areas – maybe even visit them if they land themselves in prison. It was a lawyer who was a member of my Dad’s church and who did not participate in the protest who got my Dad out of jail!


·         This section concludes with a recap statement in v.17, which summarizes and ties together Peter’s main points from the previous verses:

17 Honor all of them: Love the brotherhood, keep being respectful toward God; keep honoring the king.

·         I plan to step into a deeper study and application of this verse for our Wednesday night Bible study, but for now,

·         Remember Plan A is to do good and wait on the Lord

·         But if we are called upon to choose between obeying God or obeying civil authority, we are free to obey God.

·         We just need to be ever so careful never to use that freedom as an excuse for doing something wrong.

·         And if the consequences of civil disobedience are intolerable, consider moving to the jurisdiction of another authority who will give you the freedom to obey God, but wisdom will call for different strategies at different times:

o       The Christians in Bythinia, as far as I can tell, surrendered themselves to be killed by Governor Pliny.

o       The Klines and their Sweet Cakes bakery are going to appeal the ruling of the Oregon Labor commission.

o       Miriam Ibrahim escaped her death sentence in Sudan and took asylum in America

o       The American colonists, under the strong influence of English covenantal puritainism sent the Declaration of Independence to King George and started a new country.

o       May God give us the courage and the wisdom to live as free men!


Comparison of Translations of 1 Peter 2:13-17 with Notes by Nate

Modified Patriarchal







13 ῾ΥποτάγητεAPM [οὖν[7]] πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσειDSF διὰ τὸν Κύριον· εἴτε βασιλεῖDSM, ὡς ὑπερέχοντιPAP-DSM,

13 [Therefore], submit to every human institution on account of the Lord, whether to a king as unto him who is a superior,

13 [X] Submit [yourselves] to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to [the] king, as supreme;

13 [Therefore] submit [yourselves] to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to [the] king as supreme,

13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to [the] emperor as supreme,

13 Submit [yourselves] for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as [the one] in authority,

13 Submit [yourselves] for the Lord's sake to every [authority] instituted among men: whether to [the] king, as [the] supreme [authority],

14 εἴτε ἡγεμόσινDPM, ὡς δι᾿ αὐτοῦ πεμπομένοιςPPP-DPM εἰς ἐκδίκησινASF κακοποιῶνGPM, ἔπαινονASM δὲ ἀγαθοποιῶν·

14 or whether to governors as unto those who are sent by Him for vengeance against evildoers and praise for good-doers,

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.

14 or to governors as sent by him to punishX those who do evil and to praise X those who do good.

14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

14 or to governors, X who are sent by him to punishX those who do wrong and to commend X those who do right.

15 ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ τὸ θέλημαNSN τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀγαθοποιοῦνταςPAP-APM φιμοῦνPAN τὴν τῶν ἀφρόνων ἀνθρώπων ἀγνωσίανASF ·

15 because the will of God[8] is thus: to silence[9] the ignorance of mindless men through y’all doing good

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good [you may] put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—

15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good [you should] put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

15 For such is the will of God that by doing right [you may] silence the ignorance of foolish men.

15 For it is God's will that by doing good [you should] silence the ignorant [talk] of foolish men.

16 ὡς ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ μὴ ὡς ἐπικάλυμμαASN ἔχοντεςPAP-NPM τῆς κακίαςGSF τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ASF, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς Θεοῦ δοῦλοι.

16 as free-men[10] – yet not as those who maintain this freedom to be a cover-up[11] for wickedness, but rather as servants of God.

16 As free, and not X using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as [the] servants of God.

16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

16 [Live] as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

16 [Live] as free men, but do not useX your freedom as a cover-up for evil; X live as servants of God.

17 πάνταςAPM τιμήσατεAAM, τὴν ἀδελφότηταASF ἀγαπησᾶτε[12], τὸν ΘεὸνASM φοβεῖσθεPNM, τὸν βασιλέαASM τιμᾶτεPAM.

17 Honor all of them[13]: Love the brotherhood[14], keep being respectful toward God[15]; keep honoring the king[16].

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king.


[1] Trajan was actually right about the second thing, for anonymous accusations violate God’s law of justice that two or three witnesses had to accuse a person before they could be indicted, and the accused had to be able to face the witnesses who accused him (Deut. 19:15).

[2] http://members.opendoorsusa.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=74842.0&dlv_id=106103

[3] Published on July 4, 2015, on news.yahoo.com

[4] (Gordon H. Clark, New Heavens, New Earth, pp. 100-101.)

[5] “For the poor shall not fail off thy land, therefore I charge thee to do this thing, saying, Thou shalt surely open thine hands to thy poor brother, and to him that is distressed upon thy land. And if thy brother or sister, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, be sold to thee, he shall serve thee six years, and in the seventh year thou shalt send him out free from thee. And when thou shalt send him out free from thee, thou shalt not send him out empty. Thou shalt give him provision for the way from thy flock, and from thy corn, and from thy wine; as the Lord thy God has blessed thee, thou shalt give to him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee from thence; therefore I charge thee to do this thing.” (Deuteronomy 15:11-15, Brenton)

[6] Proverbs 23:12-14., 13:18-24, 19:18-20, 20:30, 22:15, 26:3, 29:15-19, Eph. 6:4, etc.

[7] Although this conjunction is in the Byzantine majority of manuscripts, it is not in any of the manuscripts dating earlier than the 9th century, so it is suspect.

[8] Peter perhaps discerned the will of God by observing Jesus “doing good” (agathopoiuntas, Mark 3:4, Luke 6:9) – that is the only other use of this word in the Bible prior to 1 Peter. Here is a list of all the passages in the New Testament which mention “the will of God” is: Matthew 21:31; Mark 3:35; John 7:17; Romans 1:10; 12:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 10:36; 1 Peter 2:15; 3:17; 4:19; 1 John 2:17.

[9] During His earthly ministry, Jesus “silenced” Saducees and Pharisees (Matt. 22:34), demons (Mark 1:25), and storms (Mark 4:39). The only other appearances of this Greek word fimw are connected with the unrelated principle of not “muzzling” an ox while it is working.

[10] A free-man is the opposite of a slave. The kind of slavery instituted in God’s law was an effective way to help people who were impoverished. (Deut. 15:11-15), but the slavery spoken of here is spiritual to sin (John 8:31-36, Mt. 17:26,Romans 6:16-23, Galatians 4:24-31)

[11] epikalumma appears only four other times in the Greek Bible (Exodus 26:14; 39:34; 2 Samuel 17:19; Job 19:29), the nearest match being Job 19:29 “also beware of deceit: for wrath will come upon transgressors” (This is Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint. The original Hebrew word is not ארב “deceit/covering” – or even בּגד or שׁקר or one of the forms of מרמה – but rather חרב “sword.”) Here the picture is a “cloak” or “cover-up” for “vice/evil/malice/wickedness” – the same bad things we are supposed to put away in 2:1.

[12] The majority of manuscripts spell this word in the Aorist tense, however, since there is no manuscript older than the 8th Century which spells it Aorist, this reading is considered suspect by most modern scholars. The reading of the oldest-known texts here is Present Imperative, so that is the way the modern critical texts spell it. However, it doesn’t really make a difference in English translation. At the most, it could shade the meaning between an ingressive command “Start loving” (Aorist) and the progressive “Keep loving” (Present). In the last instance of this verb – in 1 Peter 1:22b, all known manuscripts agree on the Aorist imperative spelling.

[13] The Greek word for “all” here is plural. Timaw (“honor”) is the word in the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:12, Deut. 5:6, Mt. 15:4, Eph. 6:2), and is extended to older people in general in Leviticus 19:32a. It includes giving money or gifts (Numbers 22-24, Prov. 3:9, John 12:26; Acts 28:10, 1 Tim 5:3), defending from harm (Esther 9:3, LXX) rather than “oppressing” (Proverbs 14:31), esteeming and speaking well of (Prov. 4:8, Isaiah 29:13), and listening to and heeding them (Prov. 15:22, John 5:23).

[14] This echoes 1 Peter 1:22b, “start fervently loving each other from a clean heart.” This unique word for “brotherhood” only occurs here and 1 Pet. 5:9 in the Bible (although it is also in 4 Maccabeus). See 1 Clement 2:4ff, for a description of loving the “brotherhood.”

[15] cf. “fearing God” 1:17

[16] cf. v.13 As I noted before, this “king” could refer to the Roman emperor (Nero) or to one of the Roman kings appointed by Caesar to govern a region of the Roman empire.