Why are we told to be subject to “authorities,” when we are to be “subject to God?”


Question: One of your podcasts refers to being “subject to authorities.” Your Romanian examples chose not to be subject to authorities by singing Christmas carols in spite of the government’s laws. Can you clarify?

Response: Peter is the one who wrote “Be subject in the Lord to every human institution (creation)… honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13,17) And yet Peter defied the Emperor (he wouldn’t renounce Christ) and defied the authorities in Jerusalem in Acts 4:18-20. So “being subject” to the “authorities” doesn’t mean doing whatever they say, for we are “slaves of God.” (1 Peter 4:16) So, Peter subjects himself to Nero, BECAUSE he is fully subjected to God. In the same way Jesus subjects himself to Pilate, Herod, and all of us, because he is fully subjected to God. In the same way Peter describes “house slaves” and “wives” as “being subject” to their masters and unbelieving husbands because they are subject to God. However, if their subjection to God is contrary to what those husbands or masters require, that subjection to God must take precedent. So, in the early church, like Peter in Acts 4:18-20, the early Christians would not take up arms against a repressive government, but they also would not renounce Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In Romania they wouldn’t stop singing Christmas Carols but chose to be gunned down in the Central Square. Some in Romania did take up arms inspired by those that sacrificed for the Gospel. I think Peter is saying what his life, and Christ’s life, demonstrated, that we are to be subject to others up to the point where we believe it directly conflicts with our subjection to God in the Sanctuary of our own soul (1 Peter 3:4).

This is why I really can’t judge others, for I don’t know what the Lord may be telling them. (He may call some to be pacifists, for instance, but call others to enlist.) I don’t know about them and what their “subjection” to God may require. However, I do know that God is asking me, and every believer, to sacrifice what the world calls “my rights” to him and for his Kingdom, so that when he calls me to do something, I won’t demand my “rights.” I’m a slave of God, who has forfeited his “rights.” So, Jesus didn’t go to Jerusalem every day to be crucified (and God didn’t tell him to do so every day), but when the Father told him to go, he surrendered (and had always surrendered) his “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (and he is the Life) and subjected himself to us when he had the ability to call down a legion of angels and forcefully subject everyone to himself. He does subject everything to himself, but through the power of his cross, which, ironically, is the power to lay power down; it’s the power of Love.

Hopefully that explanation helps. I certainly don’t believe that Peter is equating “subjection” to “absolute obedience.” He made himself subject to Nero but didn’t obey Nero absolutely. That’s why he was crucified with Jesus; he wouldn’t renounce Jesus, but he offered himself with Jesus for Nero. He offered himself to God (not Nero), but he offered himself for Nero (As Christ offered himself for us). Christ offered himself to God for us, just outside the temple that is us (Old Jerusalem). By subjecting himself to us, he conquers us. This is what I meant by “The power of Romance.” “When I am lifted up from the earth (speaking of his cross) I will draw all people to myself,” said Jesus (John 12). In this way he conquers not only our bodies but our hearts. And, in this way, he still conquers through his body which is us. When we allow others to hurt us and constantly forgive, we are his body broken and blood shed.

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