Calvary Road Baptist Church

“INSTRUCTIONS ON THE TREATMENT OF OTHERS”

First Peter 2.17

 

Contrary to what the lost world thinks, in which I would include the vast multitudes of evangelicals, people who come to Christ for forgiveness really are sinners, really are despicable creatures, and really are both helpless and hopeless without Jesus Christ. There are various degrees of civilization found amongst those who are converted to Christ, but we are all despicable sinners who are in the greatest need of God’s undergirding grace and guidance to live lives that are pleasing in His sight.

That understood, it is no surprise when reading the New Testament that each epistle contains a section in which Christians are given the most basic instructions for respectable behavior and for the ethical treatment of other people.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we find exhortations to be “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love,” to prefer one another, to be hospitable, to “bless them which persecute you,” to “provide things honest in the sight of all men,” and so forth.

To the Corinthians, Paul writes prohibitions against companying with fornicators, against filing lawsuits against church members, against defrauding your spouse, against exhibiting a judgmental attitude, and against giving people such offense that the gospel ministry ends up being blamed and Christianity discredited.

The Galatians were warned against “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”

The Ephesians were encouraged to put “away lying,” to speak the truth with their neighbors, to stop stealing, to quit trash talking each other, and to “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Therefore, if you think that Christians think that we have arrived, then you have little connection with Christians who regularly read their Bibles, or who spend much time in the company of seasoned, mature believers. Christians with experience, Christians who are spiritual, Christians who pray and spend time in their Bibles, Christians who actually serve the living God, are Christians who are in touch with our own terrible sinfulness.

Having given you just a sprinkling of what Paul writes in his New Testament epistles, it should be no shock to you that James, Peter, and John were inspired to take the same course with those they wrote to. Those other New Testament authors constantly challenged their readers to stop doing wrong and to start doing right, with each challenge, each exhortation, each rebuke, each confrontation, just a little ways removed from that which ought to motive us, in the form of reminders about our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In our text for this evening, which is First Peter 2.17, we find Peter exhorting his readers to treat people properly because the Lord is gracious, verses 3 and 7, because they have obtained mercy, verse 10, and so God will someday be glorified them, verse 12. As we stand and begin reading from verse 13, notice that Peter once again challenges his readers by motivating them to spiritual behavior and godly obedience for the Lord’s sake, as he then lists some of the specific categories of behavior before we get to our text, which is verse 17:

 

13     Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14     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.

15     For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16     As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

17     Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

 

Of course, Peter continues with exhortations to servants, to spouses, and to preachers. However, the verse that I have chosen as my text for this evening is the most general, and provides the undergirding directives that prompt all Christian behavior. Therefore, I will focus my attention on the four brief phrases found in that verse.

Beloved, notice that these four phrases, being very short, are not at all complex. But they are complete, in that you will find in these four simple phrases the basis for everything the child of God does and the motivation for every act in the Christian’s life. Fall short in any area of life and the problem can be traced back to this verse.

Let me illustrate by applying each of these phrases:

 

First, HONOR MEN

 

I say, “Honor men” because the English word “the” is italicized, meaning it is not found in the Greek text. What Peter is communicating under inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that God’s will is for the Christian, for the believer, for the child of God, is to so live your life that you typically, usually, constantly, as an ongoing habit of life, honor those you come into contact with.

To see how important this is, remember that First Peter was written to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. So what, you say? So, consider that Jewish believers were well known in Peter’s day for being strongly prejudiced against Gentiles. In other words, they were racists, and the people they did not like were people like you and me. However, Peter is used of the Holy Spirit of God to direct those Jewish Christians to honor men. In other words, Christians are commanded by God to treat everyone with respect.

Thus, you are given a holy obligation to show respect toward everyone. How can you do this with people you despise, with people you abhor, with people you have a low opinion of? Turn to Second Corinthians 5.14-17, where we will see how the Apostle Paul, who had at one time been the Gentile hating Saul of Tarsus, did it:

 

14     For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15     And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

16     Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

17     Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

 

The key verse, of course, is verse 16, where Paul declares that he knows no man after the flesh. In other words, he looks at everyone as a candidate for conversion, as a target of his evangelistic efforts, and an object of God’s love.

Do you have a serious problem with some lost guy you utterly despise? Do you hate him, abhor him, and find that your skin crawls around him? You need to treat that person with respect, with courtesy, exhibiting propriety. In a word, you are required as a Christian to honor that person. Why so? Because Christians do not look at men now as we once did. We honor everyone. Amen?

 

Next, LOVE THE BROTHERHOOD

 

This word translated “brotherhood” is a rather rare word, found in only one other place in the New Testament, First Peter 5.9, where it is translated “brethren.” It is referring to that relationship you have with others who are God’s children, who are brothers and sisters in the family of God. They may not be fundamental Baptists. They may be Christian and Missionary Alliance people, they may be Southern Baptists, or they may be some other stripe or persuasion. The important thing is that you are fairly confident they are blood bought and blood-washed Christians.

Guess what, Christian? You are commanded to love them. It is a present active imperative verb, meaning you are commanded to love them and to keep loving them.[1] You may disapprove of their affiliations. You may argue against the stands they take. Their positions may even irritate you. Nevertheless, you are commanded in God’s Word to love them.

What is it to love someone? It is certainly more than honoring them. If you show a proper measure of respect to everyone, bar none, then you must understand that your holy obligation as a Christian is to go beyond that to actually exhibit love toward all who are Christians. However, what is love besides tenderly, generously, graciously, providing for that other person what he or she needs? Love, you see, is not how you feel about that Christian, just as God’s love for sinners does not mean He likes sinners or approves of their choices and lifestyles. Love of this sort is unconditional, is tender, is gracious, is kind, and meets needs. If you are supposed to treat everyone with respect as a Christian, then surely the love you exhibit towards other Christians should be superior to the honor with which you treat the lost.

Do you see a problem here? I think I do. I know guys who are delighted to treat their unsaved co-workers with honor, excitedly showing them respect, while at the same time speaking to their wives in a most condescending and unaffectionate way. I am not saying spouses cannot get mad at each other, but I am saying your treatment of your spouse should always be better than your treatment of your most favored unsaved friend or colleague.

Here is another problem I see. Do you find yourself complaining about the treatment you get from Christians being worse than the treatment you get from the lost people you know? This should be no surprise, since almost anyone who walks into a tavern or a saloon will find himself accepted by both the bartender and the customers, not unusually better than he will be accepted at church. However, this acceptance is not genuine, and it certainly is not helpful. The acceptance of anyone who is lost is typically based upon flattery and a false humility, while the love of Christians is unnatural, is sometimes unfamiliar and strained, but is always beneficial to those who receive it.

Just mark it down, Christian, that you will honor everyone and that you will love Christians. Treat everyone with respect, and do what you can to show genuine love for believers. You may not like those you show respect toward. Hey, you may not like those you are commanded to love. I suppose that is why the guidance is provided in the form of a command, isn’t it? Because Christians would otherwise want to withhold love from other Christians for the lame excuse that they did not like them.

 

Third, FEAR GOD

 

What does it mean to fear God? Keep in mind that to fear God is not the same as being afraid of God. Being afraid of God is the result of knowing that God is angry with you for rejecting His rule and refusing His Son, and knowing that there is a terrible judgment coming that you will not escape from. To fear God is based upon a spiritual Father to spiritual child relationship that results from knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior, and which includes your admiration of God, your appreciation of His majesty, your eager desire to please Him, your dread of displeasing Him, and knowing the terror of the Lord.

Not to spend a great deal of time on this point, but do you see how fearing God governs the Christians life? What kind of music is listened to by those who fear God? What kind of activities are engaged in by those who fear God? What types of lives are lived by those who fear God? What kind of humor is appreciated and not appreciated by those who fear God. What kind of apparel, and what level of modesty is exhibited by those who fear God?

Again, Peter uses an imperative verb to command that God’s people fear Him. This raises the question of how we are to keep and cultivate this scriptural and admirable fear of God. I would suggest that you study the Bible, that you consider its message, that you contemplate its Author, and that you reflect on His great and terrible works of creation, of redemption, and of coming judgment. Read of those men who feared their God. Study the reasons for their fear and adopt them as your own. Do you fear the tornado and the hurricane, the earthquake and the volcano? Then how can you not fear the God who spoke the universe into existence, whose power is infinitely greater than those tiny displays of nature?

 

Finally, HONOR THE KING

 

God’s ways are not like our ways, nor are His thoughts like our thoughts. Therefore, it should be no surprise to look back through the Bible and find God’s way of dealing with wicked despots and opposing rulers different from what we might expect.

Jeremiah advised the people of Jerusalem to surrender to the Babylonians, knowing the Babylonian captivity was God’s plan for their lives. Of course, he was bitterly opposed by his countrymen as a traitor. Once in Babylon, Daniel and the three other Hebrews served Nebuchadnezzar with distinction.

As well, when Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, Nero was the emperor. Keep that in mind as we read Romans 13.1-7:

 

1      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.

2      Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3      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:

4      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 revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5      Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6      For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7      Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

 

Notice verse 1: “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This statement is not a declaration that God instituted governmental rule, since we know Nimrod was the author of human government, and that he used it to oppose the plan and purpose of God shortly after the great Flood. What this verse tells us that is God, in His overarching providence, makes use of human government to accomplish His purpose. Therefore, to prevent anarchy and chaos, and to contribute to the general order, God’s people are to honor those leaders who exercise rule over men insofar as it is possible without violating our consciences.

To honor the king, then, means more than admiring the king. It speaks to not only yielding to his authority, but also to doing what you can to be a good citizen, thereby building a reputation for yourself and for the Christian community as law abiding. It is this general approach to the powers that be that keeps the persecution of Christians in such countries as Syria and Turkey, China and Indonesia, to the relatively low levels we presently see.

 

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” What kind of testimony would we have in the San Gabriel Valley, with our friends and love ones, and among those who know us who we do not know, if we lived by these four basic rules of life for the Christian?

How little counseling would I be involved with if husbands and wives simply honored each other by showing proper respect, much less actually displaying tender love toward each other? What kind of reputation would our church and the cause of Christ in general have if professing Christians feared God and honored the king?

There are many specifics and details associated with living the Christian life that we need to seriously consider, that we should carefully study, and that we should feel compelled to abide by. However, it all starts with this: Generally speaking, honor people. Show them respect even if you do not like them or what they stand for. If the person is a professing Christian, and there is a reasonable likelihood the person may be a Christian, love him, meaning you should certainly treat him even better than the person you may like better who is not a professing Christian. The blood of Christ should always count for more than what you like. Amen? Then, fearing God and honoring those God allows to occupy positions of great power and prestige. What is this but a manifestation of humility? And God prizes humility in His people. Amen? He gives grace to the humble, while resisting those without humility, resisting those who are proud.

This is not complicated living. But it is important living. It is necessary living. It is powerful living. It is obedient living. And it is foundational living, the basis for all Christian growth and development beyond these four basics of the Christian life. Considering what you claim Jesus Christ has done for you, professing Christian, is this really much to ask?



[1] Robertson

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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org