Loyalty Tested is Loyalty Proven
Read 1 Peter 2:13-17 in your go-to Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
Here at Emmanuel Baptist Church we have been in the habit of setting aside the second Sunday in October as “Loyalty Sunday.” It has been a time when we encourage our members to make a pledge, invite a friend, make a special effort to be in worship. In the midst of the pandemic, those are things not all of us are going to be able to do, so this Loyalty Sunday I want to turn the emphasis a bit to thank you for the loyalty you’ve been showing.
Emmanuel Baptist members and friends have maintained pre-pandemic levels of attendance in-person and online. You have given generously and consistently to meet our expenses. You have responded positively to the steps we have taken to create a safe environment in our building.
On this Loyalty Sunday, I want to thank and congratulate you. As a result of your continuing support, the ministry of Jesus Christ at Emmanuel continues. Praise the Lord!
Take a moment to look at the illustration in your bulletin. It seemed to me if you want to illustrate the virtue of loyalty, the best place to start is with our race’s best friend (after Jesus, of course): the dog. The dog in this picture is demonstrating his loyalty through obedience: he’s been taught to leave a treat on his nose and will resist centuries of instinct, not gobbling it down until his master gives permission.
If you can’t see that picture at the moment, I offer a verbal illustration found at the website “DogTime.” “In Siberia, Russia, a dog has been coming to a hospital every day for over 2 years, unaware her master died a year ago. Her owner was admitted 2 years ago and a patient for about a year. Masha has come every day in search of her owner, unaware the man has passed. She still comes, hoping to find him. A family tried adopting Masha but she escaped and made her way back to the hospital. Now the hospital staff makes sure she is cared for.
That dog’s loyalty extends beyond the grave! What a great picture of the loyalty we are to demonstrate in our relationship with God.
Loyalty to God requires obedience.
CONTEXT: In 2:9 Peter taught believers have God-given authority; he called us A CHOSEN PEOPLE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, and a PEOPLE BELONGING TO GOD. (9) He went on to detail the responsibilities that go with such an exalted status in vs. 11+12. In this context, to command submission seems almost self-contradictory. Taken together these complimentary commands prove a full-featured 3D view of discipleship: we do not SUBMIT because we are doormats anyway. Believers SUBMIT out of obedience to God and to accomplish things that are possible only by submission. Now we’ll take a moment to explain how that works.
1. SUBMIT YOURSELVES. (13-15)
God commands us to SUBMIT to EVERY AUTHORITY INSTITUTED AMONG MEN. (13) The Greek words for EVERY AUTHORITY can also be translated “every human creation” or “every fundamental social institution.” Peter will specify the authorities to be…
The government (13-17).
Masters & slaves (18-25).
The family (3:1-7).
THE KING AS THE SUPREME AUTHORITY. Would’ve been the emperor in Peter’s situation. GOVERNOR were the regional or local authorities charged with enacting the emperor’s will in their jurisdictions.
What underlies this command to submit to heads of state is to counter the understandable desire for rebellion as a response to suffering persecution. These commands remove any excuse for retaliation for persecution, even though at that point the government is misusing its God-given powers.
There is also a theological argument for the command to submit. Starting with creation where God imposed order upon chaos, the Bible makes it clear God is all about order. He is an organizer who calls His people to join Him in bringing righteous order to a sinful disorderly world.
The reasons for our submission. The first and most important of these reasons is FOR THE LORD’S SAKE (13), which means for the glory due His name and for the obedience He commands. If you wouldn’t choose to submit, do it anyway; do it FOR THE LORD’S SAKE.
Second, the authorities are SENT by God to accomplish two purposes, which, together, accomplish the fullness of God’s justice. Purpose #1: TO PUNISH THOSE WHO DO WRONG. Purpose #2: TO COMMEND THOSE WHO DO RIGHT.
Third, it is GOD’S WILL that we should DO GOOD to SILENCE THE IGNORANT TALK OF FOOLISH MEN. Notice the word “rant” in IGNORANT. Do you suppose that’s just a coincidence? The word for IGNORANT is typically used in the Bible for stubborn unbelievers; people who reject God because they are unreasonable folk. Words do not generally silence such people as words are a weapon they wield as part of their arsenal of evil. What is more likely to silence them are good deeds. The point is that the lives of believers are to be as blameless as possible so that critics of the faith have no true basis for accusation.
2. LIVE AS FREE MEN. (16)
We are to be FREE, but without excuse: freedom is not an excuse for doing what you want. Our FREEDOM is that we’re no longer slaves to our own sin nature. We’re not free from rules or responsibilities; we are free to embrace God’s commands without the distraction and encumbrance of a sin nature.
Believers are to behave responsibly, not misusing our freedom to do evil. Followers of Jesus live in the truth; we don’t make excuses to justify misbehavior. Here Peter echoes Paul’s teaching in Galatians 5:13 = YOU, MY BROTHERS, WERE CALLED TO BE FREE, BUT DO NOT USE YOUR FREEDOM TO INDULGE YOUR SINFUL NATURE; RATHER, SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE.
Our freedom exists to allow us to choose to love. It is love that motivates and directs the free choices we make.
SERVANTS OF GOD exercise their true freedom in Christ; they are free in a way that an ungodly person is NOT free. “Slave” is a more literal translation of the Greek word rendered here as SERVANTS. Peter made a forceful comparison between slave and free. Behaving like FREE MEN requires surrendering our FREEDOM in voluntary slavery to Jesus Christ. In this, Peter and Paul are again in agreement: Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3; DO NOTHING OUR OF SELFISH AMBITION OR VAIN CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY CONSIDER OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELVES.
3. SHOW PROPER RESPECT. (17)
RESPECT involves recognition of another person as more worthy than self. We show RESPECT by deferring to the other person and having sensitivity to them.
In this “Information Age” we are trying hard to be heard, so it is easy to resort to disrespecting other voices on the same subject. A respectful person does the opposite; they are, as James wrote, QUICK TO LISTEN, SLOW TO SPEAK, AND SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY (James 1:19).
RESPECT is the foundation to all good relationships because it involves recognizing the worth of all people, based on the fact that God created them. Note: this means that RESPECT is NOT always earned, it is bestowed as a matter of course, based on God, not on the person. RESPECT can be as much an act of grace as any other human interaction.
The word PROPER means “appropriate to the type of relationship.” Peter gave three examples of appropriate RESPECT.
The first example is LOVE for THE BROTHERHOOD OF BELIEVERS. When we think about God’s command to love our “neighbor,” our family of faith rises to the top of that list. Our brothers and sisters in Christ deserve special LOVE.
The second example is FEAR for GOD. Our relationship with God is not one of equals. We must have awe for God, recognizing He holds us in His hands.
HONOR for the KING as long as honoring the KING does not require disobeying God’s law. When faced with that choice, we must agree with Peter and the Apostles in Acts 5:29, “WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN!”
Loyalty to God requires obedience.
President Woodrow T. Wilson said, “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” That is another way of stating what has been said in this passage regarding our loyalty to God: it is manifest in our obedience to His commands. Obedience has the greatest value when it demands the most self-sacrifice.
This loyalty is demonstrated in the big decisions of life, but it is more commonly and more importantly manifest in the minor and mundane decisions of everyday life. Our judgments made in ordinary moments, our choice of words and deeds either prove our loyalty or betray its falsehood. What’s needed is for each of us to slow down and in these ordinary moments, consider how we might act as a loyal follower of Jesus Christ. The weight of those decisions will, over time, have the most impact.
Zondervan Bible Commentary, James, G.J. Polkinghorne.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 1 Peter, Edwin A. Blum.