Today’s selected reading continues in the first new redeeming epistle which was written by the apostle peter. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirteen through twenty-five of the second chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find language that is once again very similar to what we have already found written in the New Testament. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse of this chapter you will find the apostle Peter writing unto the strangers which were scattered abroad, and providing them with very specific instruction. If you are a student of the divinely inspired word of God you will find and discover that this was not the first time the saints of God were instructed in such a way as what we find here. Beginning with the thirteenth verse of this second chapter we find the apostle Peter instructing those to whom this epistle was addressed to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that this was not the first time a New Testament author and write instructed the saints of God to submit themselves to the authorities and powers which were present in their lives, and over them within the earth. As early as the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman saints we find the saints of God being instructed by the apostle to submit themselves unto the authority, unto the power, and unto the leadership which was before, over and above them. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Roman congregation you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this say, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:1-10).
In the very first epistle which we find in the New Testament after the four gospels describing the life and ministry of Jesus, and after the New Testament book of Acts which details and outlines the formation and function of the early church, we find specific instruction given by the apostle Paul concerning submission to the authority and power which is over and above us within the earth. It’s interesting and worth noting how the apostle Paul began this particular passage of Scripture writing and speaking concerning submission, but towards the end of this passage we find him writing and speaking of love. I have to admit that I do not find this to be merely coincidental, for I am convinced that the only way one can truly submit themselves to the higher powers, and the only way one can submit themselves to the authorities which are above them is if that individual has at the very foundation of that submission love—and not just love for the sake of love, but a true, a genuine and authentic love of one’s neighbour as oneself. In the first verse of this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing unto the Roman saints and instructing them to be subject unto the higher powers, and in verses eight through ten we find the apostle Paul seemingly bringing a discussion concerning submission to authority to a close by writing and speaking of love. In verses eight through ten of this particular chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Paul:
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this aging, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
In order for us to understand—not only what the apostle Peter wrote in the second chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the strangers which were scattered abroad, but also that which the apostle Paul wrote in the thirteenth chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans, we need to turn and direct our attention to three additional passages found in the epistle written unto the Philippian congregation, the epistle written unto the Roman congregation, as well as the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in each of these epistles, which serve as the foundation for what we have before us:
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to to feed the poor,a nd though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profited me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinkers no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly: but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife of vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth,a nd things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
As you read each of these three passages you will be immediately confronted with the awesome and tremendous reality that if we are going to obey and heed the words which the apostle’s Peter and Paul wrote concerning submitting ourselves to the authorities which are above us, it must first begin with love one toward another. It is absolutely impossible for us to submit ourselves to the authorities and the powers which are above us without and apart from giving ourselves over to love one toward another. I am utterly and completely convinced that true and authentic submission—not only true and authentic submission unto the authorities and powers which be present in the earth, but also submission unto the Lord Himself—has as its foundation love for our neighbor, as well as love for the living God Himself. It is not by accident or coincidence that Jesus emphatically and boldly declared that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and then to immediately transition to declaring that the second greatest commandment was likened unto the first—namely, loving our neighbor as ourselves. This reality is highlighted in the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew when one from among the Pharisees came unto Jesus in order that He might ask Him a question, thus trying to tempt, trap and ensnare Him in His words. Beginning with the thirty-fourth verse of the twenty-second chapter we find the following words written by Matthew:
“But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
This particular encounter takes on additional weight, meaning and significance when you journey to the New Testament gospel written by the beloved physician Luke. If you turn and direct your attention to the tenth chapter of this particular New Testament gospel your will find the following words written and recorded by Luke concerning this encounter. What marks this particular account all the more significant is that not only do we find this lawyer trying to tempt, trap and ensnare Jesus in His words, but we also find this lawyer—in response to Jesus’ words and answer—seeking to justify himself by further testing, tempting, and trying to ensnare and trap Jesus. Beginning to read with and from the twenty-fifth verse of the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel we find the following words written and recorded concerning this encounter:
“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him; And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three thinkest thou was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
What I find to be absolutely and incredibly intriguing and challenging about this particular passage of Scripture is that the first question this Pharisee asked Jesus centered around eternal life, however, the second question took on an entirely different level. When this lawyer came unto Jesus, the only reason he asked Him concerning eternal life was in an attempt to tempt, trap, and ensnare Him in and with His words. The first question this lawyer asked centered upon eternal life and was only asked to try and tempt Jesus, while the second question this lawyer asked had absolutely nothing to do with tempting Jesus, but rather to justify himself. What’s more, is that this second question came directly on the heels of him answering and responding to Jesus’ question correctly. This lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus responded to his question with two questions of His own—“What is written in the law?” And, “How readest thou?” The lawyer answered correctly by summarizing the law in two commandments—loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and loving thy neighbour as thyself. When this lawyer came to Jesus to tempt and trap Him in His words, he was actually confronted with how he read, and how he interpreted the law of Moses. This lawyer correctly interpreted the law by narrowing it down to two singular commandments which stand at the very heart and foundation of everything we are, and everything we do—namely, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus not only responded to this lawyer by declaring unto him that he answered correctly, but also declared unto him that if he went and simply did these two commandments he would have eternal life. As I’ms sitting here right now I can’t help but think of how simple this encounter actually makes our obedience to the one true and living God. This lawyer asked a question concerning and regarding eternal life, and when asked how he read and interpreted the law, he spoke only of loving the Lord our God, and loving our neighbor. I am sure Jesus’ response to this lawyer utterly shocked and stunned this lawyer, for not only did Jesus respond to him by declaring that he answered correctly, but He also told him to go and do likewise. In other words, if this particular lawyer wanted to have eternal life and wanted to live, he needed simply walk in obedience to the two commandments which summarize and sum up the whole law. It actually seems quite simple when you think about it, for obedience to the law of Moses could be summarized and carried out by two distinct actions—loving God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. In all reality, it can’t get much simpler than this, for we fulfill the law of Moses by simply loving the Lord our God, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.
What we find to be incredibly challenging within this passage is that while it was the lawyer who spoke concerning loving his neighbour, it was the lawyer who took the reality and concept of loving his neighbour as himself, and in seeking to justify himself—proceeded to ask who his neighbour is. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this lawyer’s question, for I am convinced that this lawyer’s question is one that is asked by countless men and women among us within this generation. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the single greatest hindrances to us loving our neighbour as ourselves not only centers around our capacity, our ability, and our willingness to love, but it also centers around our concept of who we think and who we believe our neighbor. I am convinced that when we attempt to define who exactly our neighbor is, and when we begin asking questions concerning and regarding who are neighbors are among us, we play an incredibly dangerous—not only a dangerous game with love—when we seek to define and become masters over who our neighbor us. One of the deadliest and most dangerous games we can play with love is when we begin defining who our neighbors are rather than viewing everyone we meet, everyone we encounter as our neighbour. There are a number of us who journey through life passing by on the other side of the ride simply because we do not view those we encounter as our neighbor. The underlying problem and issue with this mindset is that in our belief and in our definition of who is and who isn’t our neighbor, that which we are actually doing is limiting and prevent ourselves from being a neighbour. PLAYING GAMES WITH LOVE! The more we seek to define who among us is truly our neighbour, the more we limit and restrict ourselves from being a neighbour to others. What’s more, is that the more we seek to define who our neighbors truly are, the more we can and will limit our ability and capacity to love. With that being said, if we begin playing games with love by proceeding to define our neighbors, we also limit ourselves from loving others, and love is the key and foundation to submitting ourselves one to another. One of the most difficult realities and concepts in all of Scripture is not necessarily loving others, but loving others enough in order that we might submit ourselves one to another, and in order that we might submit ourselves to those who have been placed in positions of authority, power and leadership above us. It was the apostle John who wrote concerning our inability to love God whom we cannot see if we cannot love our neighbour whom we do see. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in the final two verses of the fourth chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the Ephesian congregation:
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
Within these two verses—not only does the apostle John ask how we can say we love the Lord our God whom we cannot see if we cannot love our brother whom we do see, but he goes on to declare that those who love God also love their brothers. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of these words, for with these words we have as the base and foundation a powerful truth concerning submission to those who have been placed in authority and power over us. I would present unto you that if you cannot submit to those whom you can see with your natural eyes, how can you think and believe for a moment that you can submit to the living God whom you cannot see? I believe with all my heart that our submission to those who are in authority and power over us in the natural realm is but an expression of our submission unto the true and living God. Our decision to submit ourselves to others is but an expression of our willingness and desire to submit ourselves unto the true and living God who has all authority, all dominion, all power, all strength and all might. Our decision to submit ourselves to those who are in authority and power within the earth is but a manifestation of our willingness to submit ourselves to the Lord our God. With that being said, any refusal, and any unwillingness on our part to submit ourselves to the authorities and powers which are present within the earth is nothing more than a sheer and utter refusal to submit ourselves to God. If there is one thing Scripture reveals, it’s that not only are we called to submit ourselves to God—as it is found in the epistle written by James—but we are also called to submit ourselves unto the authorities and powers which are above us. We as the people of God have been called to submit ourselves one to another, and by doing that we are called to esteem others as above ourselves. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that by esteeming others as better than ourselves, we actually elevate others over and above ourselves, and we cause ourselves to decrease. This is in all reality one of the most difficult things to do within our hearts and lives, for very rarely will one look upon another and abase themselves in order that one other than themselves can be elevated and lifted up. It is not at all easy to esteem another as better than ourselves, and it is not easy to place the needs of another before and above those of our own. One of the hardest things for us to do is to live our lives in a place where we are not the center, and where the world does not revolve around us. There are a great many men and women who believe themselves to be the center of the universe—a universe that they themselves have created for themselves. There are countless men and women who have set up and established their own thrones within their lives, and as a result of doing so—are completely incapable and unable of submitting themselves to God, and submitting themselves to others.
When writing unto the strangers which were scattered abroad, the apostle Peter began this particular passage by referring to them as strangers and pilgrims, which should in and of itself provide us with the incredible truth that there is something so much greater, and there is something so much more than what we are living for in the here and now. The apostle Peter besought those to whom he was writing as strangers and pilgrims that they might abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against their soul, and having their conversation honest among the Gentiles. Beginning with verse thirteen, the apostle Peter transitions to a place where he begins writing concerning their submission to the authorities and powers which were above them. There is not a doubt in my mind that this was difficult to do—particularly and especially if they were scattered abroad within and throughout the Roman empire as they were. Not only were they strangers and pilgrims in a land that wasn’t their own, but they were also present among authorities and powers from those lands which they were living and dwelling. There is perhaps no greater demonstration and manifestation of this reality than what we find in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah. If you journey to the twenty-ninth chapter of this Old Testament prophetic book you will find the prophet Jeremiah writing in a letter unto the captives found within Babylon, and providing them with very specific instruction. If you begin reading with and from the first verse you will find that the words which were found and contained within the letter Jeremiah wrote were written “unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. Coming to and approaching the fourth verse of the twenty-ninth chapter of this prophetic book we find the following words which were written unto the captives of Judah which were living as strangers and foreigners in a land which wasn’t their own:
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearkent to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord. For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord; and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:4-14).
If there is one thing we must learn and understand from the captivity of the Jewish people living in the land of Babylon, it’s that through their captivity they were actually being preserved within the earth. What’s more, is that there within their captivity their submission to the authority within and among the provinces of Babylon would result in their preservation and their protection. Despite the fact that they were removed from their land, and were living as strangers and pilgrims in the land of Babylon, they were to submit themselves unto the Babylonians. It would be very easy for the Jewish people to get caught up in distress, in discouragement, in bitterness, in anger, and in resentment toward the Babylonians, for not only did they destroy their Temple, not only did they burn houses and villages, but they also took them captive by bringing them into the land of Babylon. The Lord knew the Jewish people would be captives in the land of Babylon for seventy years, and yet during those seventy years they were to pray for the peace and safety of those people, as well as submitting themselves to the authority and power which was present there. Similarly, the Jews and Christians which were scattered within and throughout the Roman Empire found themselves in positions and places which for many might have been extremely difficult and hard to bear. I find it absolutely incredible that the apostle Peter wrote unto strangers and pilgrims in the earth and instructed them to submit themselves to the authorities and powers which were above them in the lands and places they had been scattered. Although they were scattered abroad among the nations and peoples of the earth, they were to live their lives in a place of submission unto and before the authorities and rulers which were above them—similarly as their ancestors had to do when they were living as captives, strangers and foreigners in the land of Babylon. I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote unto these strangers and pilgrims which were scattered abroad beginning with the thirteenth verse of the second chapter:
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 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. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grieved, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, He threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are not returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:13-25).