Even President Obama?
To what degree do you submit to the government? I have to admit something. I have had a very difficult time supporting the current federal administration. I have at times been very critical of the policies taken by our government. I have had great difficulty praying for our President. I can and do pray in broad generalities regarding our nation, but I have found it very hard for me to pray for President Obama by name. This all started a number of years ago. I was the director of a federal research laboratory. I greatly enjoyed my position and our laboratory was very successful. When President Obama took office, a number of new directives came down to the laboratory level. I believed that these new policies would directly deter our research program. For the first time in my experience as a Government Research Science, our results would now have to come into line with the President’s agenda. This, in my opinion, was an affront to our freedom as researchers. Why should the President’s agenda determine the results we report as scientists? Many times during my career, I advised personnel that if they didn’t like the direction or policies of the federal government, then they should get find employment elsewhere. Now, I found myself in that position. So, I retired. But, is this the counsel given by scripture. I have hesitated discussing the passage to which we come in Peter’s first letter. Peter writes: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 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. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13–17) Peter is giving instruction to his readers regarding how they should be living their lives. He has already emphasized that the Jewish Christians scattered from Jerusalem where a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special people…” (1 Peter 2:9) As such, Peter commands them to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Now, he changes to their conduct in the world. Surprisingly, his first topic is one’s relationship with the government. Subjection to Kings and Governors Peter begins with the principle that Christians should be in subjection to the king and to his representatives. The motivation for such an action is for the Lord’s sake. Human governments are divine institutions. God has appointed them to punish evildoers and to praise those who do good. The government is responsible to approve of all who do well! Peter makes no exception based on the types of government, i.e. good or bad, benevolent or evil. It doesn’t matter. All governments are under the authority and sovereignty of God. They exist according to His desire…His will. They may not be honest or fair. They may not be seeking after God’s will; but nonetheless, God is still accomplishing His plan through these governments. Consider Peter’s situation. Peter wrote this epistle during the time of autocratic government under the rulership of Roman Emperor Nero. Eventually, Peter was martyred by Nero. Regardless of the type of government under which a believer lives, all believers must be subject to that government. The only apparent point of conflict occurs when the government orders the believer to do something contrary to God’s Word. Even Peter disobeyed the government under such conditions (Acts 4:19; 5:29). Reasons for Submission Peter gives three reasons for believers to live in submission to the government over them.
- It is the will of God
- By doing good, the ignorance (intellectual failure) of foolish men is silenced
- Believers are bondservants of God
While living as free (the spiritual status of all believers—John 8:36; Galatians 5:1), this freedom does not release the believer from subjection to the government nor does it permit our liberty to be used as a cloak for vice (i.e. perversion or depravity). Our freedom cannot be used to permit antinomianism. Antinomianism is the view that Christians are exempt from the demands of the moral law because of their reliance on divine grace alone for salvation. Although the expression is not found in Scripture, it is evident that Paul was accused by his detractors of holding such a false doctrine. In Romans 3:8, he denied heatedly the accusation that he had called right conduct irrelevant to Christian experience, and again made this repudiation in Romans 6:1f, 15f. Spiritual freedom is not a pretext for evil deeds. Fruchtenbaum so clearly illuminates this idea when he says, “Believers have been freed from the slave market of sin, but it is this freedom that now enables freed men to become bondservants to God for the rest of their lives.” And as bondservants to God, we are obliged to live in submission to the human government He has instituted over us. Commands for Godly living Peter then provides four imperatives that should characterize the believer.
- Honor all people. Because all men are made in the image of God (James 3:9-10).
- Love the brotherhood. All humanity should be honored (even our governmental leaders), but believers should be loved with agape love (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12).
- Fear God. Believers must keep on revering God. This will enable the believer to carry out his responsibility to man and state (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesian 5:21).
- Honor the king. The believer must show due respect to the ruler as is befitting the position within the civil government.
Through these imperatives, Peter demonstrates that the Christian is to live a holy life before all men. Even more so, we are commanded to love Christians. In addition, we are to fear God so that we can see that He is the sovereign over all that is. Having a proper relationship with God empowers us to respect the government He has put in place. I must admit must admit that I have had trouble praying for our President, Barak Obama. To that end, I offer up this prayer. I thank you God that you have guided our country to greatness. I recognize that all the events that are unfolding in accordance with Your will. Lord, I thank you for putting President Obama over our country at this time. I know that in so doing, Your will is being accomplished. I recognize that it is your will that I submit to the authority of our government at all levels. I also pray that you will lead me into a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. I also pray that my submission to You and the government you have place over me that others will be moved to the point that they also will trust in You. Lord God, I recognize that my ultimate submission is to You and that there is only one Mediator between You and me, the Man Christ Jesus—in whose name I pray. Amen. (1 Timothy 2:1-5). Would you take a moment to say this prayer with me and to pray that I am able to honor President Obama?  Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude. 1st ed. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005. Print.