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Honor The King (David Johnson)


David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


We have come together at this time to hear the Word of God.   The title for the lesson this morning is, “Honor the King.” Let’s bow as we pray. Father, I pray that you would lead both speaker and listener alike, that your will would be done in our lives as we apply your Word to our lives.  We pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Words that have been attributed to our first president, George Washington, are these and I quote. “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible,” end of quote.  Words attributed to our first president. And Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president said this of the Bible and I quote. “In regard for this great book, I have this to say. It is the best gift God has given to man. All the good Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book,” end of quote.

Mighty fine words, mighty fine thoughts lived out in the lives of probably our noblest and ablest of presidents that this nation has ever produced to this day.  Our first president greatly helped establish a new nation. Our 16th president gravely strived to preserve a troubled nation.

According to Scripture it is God’s will for all citizens and especially for Christians to submit ourselves to every legitimate, secular or civil authority instituted among men.   In our reading in 1 Peter chapter two and verse 13 and following—another great leader, the apostle Peter inspired of God gave us explicit instructions on how to conduct ourselves toward human rulers or kings or even presidents today in our nation in the year of our Lord 2013.

You understand that America, our beloved nation, has had 44 presidents.  Recently we witnessed the reelection of our 44th president to a second term and his state of the union speech to Congress and to the nation. Our nation today, as you undoubtedly know, remains greatly divided, divided over many of our president’s policies. However, in spite of this, our president and certainly the office of presidency remain our supreme secular authority over us in America today.

In 1 Peter chapter two and verse 13 we are told to submit ourselves, notice, for the Lord’s sake, to submit ourselves to rulers and kings or, in our case, presidents for the Lord’s sake.  Well, what does that mean exactly. It means, in short, that rebellious conduct by a Christian actually brings dishonor to the Lord, to be rebellious to legitimate authority over us, because we are commanded to obedience, to properly constituted authority which is necessary for the greatest good of the largest number of people and is necessary for law and order to best fulfill the overall will of God in this world.

You know and I know that God is not a God of chaos or disorder, but a God of order. And it is God who ordained the system of human government. The only exception is when government violates the law of God and promotes sin or that which is immoral, that which is wrong. For example, in Acts chapter four and verse 19 Peter did not obey authority when he said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” And so Peter defied the words of the Sanhedrin, those that were in charge of him in a religious and in a secular sense in his day.  In other words, anything, as Christians, anything that is contrary to God and Scripture that is clearly wrong or immoral, sinful, we must not obey.  It goes on to say in the book of Acts in the fifth chapter that we must obey God rather than men.

An example today would be, for example in Red China a Communist nation today, abortion is law.  It is mandatory in that nation as population control to limit children per family. They must abort any offspring beyond what the state, what Red China says is permissible. That would be wrong. That would be a law that we could not obey if that were to happen in this nation.

In 1 Peter chapter two and verses 13 and 14 it also goes on to say that we are to obey and to be under authority to every authority whether king or governors to punish those who do wrong. And so, therefore, as citizens and as Christians, we as obedient Christians, we are to live not only in submission to the king or to the president, but to all legitimate civil and social authority. That would include  national and state and county and city and even police and even judges whether they be on the high court or municipal judges. In other words, all of the legitimate officials over us.  All of those persons, whether or not they are Christians, as civil authorities we are still to obey them.

And you understand that indirectly, I said indirectly, when we disobey a legitimate civil authority, we also disobey God, according to this passage of Scripture, because it is God who has established, who has ordained a system of human government.

And so our submission to civil authority, besides obedience to the will of God also serves to heighten our reputation as Christians in society, in our communities. And we know that from verse 15, 1 Peter chapter two and verse 15.  That by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Part of the meaning of that is that we as Christians, as good citizens even in the secular sense, we are citizens of heaven first. But we are also citizens of a nation. And so our good and obedient citizenship in society, as Christians counters or contradicts any false charges or any slander that is made against Christians. It silences those who criticize or condemn Christians or Christianity or the faith and thereby lifts up Christ, exalts Christ and commends the gospel to our community.

Our law abiding citizenship and submission to authority is a witness to the world. Maybe you have not thought of it that way. But it is a way to witness to the world that we are also good citizens in society. And in Christ we are different and we strive to live in peace with everyone.  And yet there is also a caution in this passage. In verse 16 it says, cautioning us, warning us: Do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil.
Well, what does that mean exactly?  That we as Christians should not take a license or abuse the freedoms and the liberties to mask or to hide or to cover up what is really wicked.  Freedom, the freedoms that we enjoy, especially in our great nation is not an excuse, for example, for laziness or for self indulgence.

For example, to falsely take government payouts, because of unemployment or because of disability or social programs that are designed by government for the genuinely needy and for those that are genuinely to receive these benefits.  Yes, we can receive these things legitimately.  But we are not to cover up or take advantage of our liberties and freedoms and do it in a wicked way. We must honestly and earnestly abide under the law and under authority.

And then, lastly in this passage in verse 17 it says to respect or to honor and it is referred to here in three fold manner. We are to love the brotherhood of believers, that is the Church. Secondly, we are to fear God, that is, a genuine deep reverence for God. And, thirdly, notice, in the same context as reverencing God and loving the brotherhood of believers, we are to honor or to respect the king, in our case, the president, be willing to submit ourselves to secular and civil ... to the civil leader or the civil ruler, the leader of our land regardless of political parties and even regarding the policies of the president.

That does not mean that we do not often as Christians agree to disagree even with the president concerning that which goes against Scripture. But yet we are still to honor, to respect, the office of the presidency, even the president himself, whoever he is and perhaps in the future whoever she is. And even though we agree to disagree for anything that would be against Scripture or immoral.

But there is something that is really amazing here if you understand the timing of when the apostle Peter wrote these words.  When Peter wrote this epistle, this letter to all believers... notice in the very beginning of 1 Peter chapter one and verse one it says that Peter was writing—this is a general epistle. The world epistle just means letter, a general letter.  He was writing to God’s elect, strangers or aliens in the world scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.  In other words, he was writing a general letter not to an individual like Philemon, not to even a church like Colosse, but he was focusing on all of the Jewish and Gentile Christians throughout much of the Roman area of Asia Minor which is today the modern nation of Turkey. And so he was referring and writing to Christians abroad, or Christians that he had ministered to, whether Jew or Gentile and on a wide scope.  And the application is for us today also across every continent, every culture that Peter was writing to us by application.  And Peter’s reference to honoring the king or the emperor at that time would have been none other than the Roman Emperor Nero.

Now you and I know that we have all had favorite presidents and some presidents that you and I thought were not very good morally or politically or according to policy or program, whatever it is, even some presidents that we may have though very lowly of, but Peter was saying to honor the king or the emperor when Nero, the imperial Roman Emperor Nero was reigning.  He reigned from AD 54 to the year of our Lord 68.  Do you understand who Nero was? Let me tell you a little bit about this man who was the emperor when Peter wrote, “Honor the king.” Nero was a neurotic nutcase with a big N.  He was a neurotic person in many ways. He was godless. He was brutal. And you understand that the apostle Peter, it is generally believed, not only Peter, but even the apostle Paul were actually martyred, eventually during the reign of this same Emperor Nero.  According to tradition Peter was crucified upside down at his request, but he was martyred, during this despot’s reign. During this same time Nero was so immoral that he procured an order for the death of his own mother to please his mistress.

When a fire raged through much of Rome, Nero blamed the disastrous fire on Christians, many of whom were put to death because of Nero’s accusations. This Emperor Nero murdered many of his wives. One of which he actually kicked to death while she was with child.
His own Roman Senate condemned Nero to death, his own Senate. They didn’t just want to excommunicate him or censure him, but they actually condemned their own emperor to death he was such a low life.  Whereby he committed suicide.
Some early Christians actually believe that Nero was going to return as the antichrist and some Christians even believe that today, that he is going to be resurrected from the dead and he is going to be the antichrist.  And this was the sitting king or emperor when Peter wrote, “Honor the king.”

That doesn’t mean that we honor his lifestyle or her lifestyle or their programs or policies, but we are to honor civil authority.  We at least must honor the office, the position of secular supreme authority over us, even certainly today as it is still the will of God and in our country the president of the United States, whoever he is.

Abraham Lincoln in a special session, in a message to Congress at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 concluded his speech with these words, quote, “Having thus chosen our course,” this is the beginning of the Civil War. “Having thus chosen our course without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God and go forward without fear and with manly hearts,” end of quote.

Today in America in the year of our Lord 2013 there is still a war from within that continues to rage, but in our case, for the soul of America.  We, too, today have much division in our country.  However, the majority, as is the case in our country along with the electoral college in this recent election the majority of American citizens have reelected our president and, thus, we have chosen our course, like it or not.  And likewise let us renew our trust in God because he is ultimately in control, not the man in the White House.  Let us renew our trust in God and go forward without fear and even with manly, meaning strong or brave hearts, knowing that God is still the King of kings.

You understand that in 1861 there was the division between the blue and the grey states.  Yes, it has changed. But in the year of our Lord 2013 we have a division between the blue and the red states.  But we are still, by the grace of God, the United States of America.  So help us God.

But our first citizenship as Christians according to Philippians 3:20 is in heaven.  Have you honored the King of kings, even Jesus Christ, first and foremost? And if you really live for the Lord and for the Lord’s sake, you will also honor the human king despite the political parties or policies.

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, Indiana

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33