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 through the New Testament that each epistle contains a section in which Christians are given the most basic instructions for respectable behavior and 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 who claim to be Christians, against filing law suits 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.”

So, 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 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, Jude, 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 morning, 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 his readers have obtained mercy, verse 10, and so God will someday be glorified by 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 this morning 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 “all” is italicized, meaning it is not found in the Greek text. What Peter is communicating under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that God’s will is for the Christian, for the believer, for the child of God, 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.

Peter is used of the Holy Spirit of God to direct those Jewish Christians to honor men. In other words, Christians are here commanded by God to treat all 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? Valid question.

Turn with me 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 as an object of God’s love. Everyone. Do you have a serious problem with some lost guy you utterly despise? Do you hate him, abhor him, 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. Got it?

 

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 your brothers and sisters in the family of God. They may not be fundamental Baptists. They may be Christian and Missionary Alliance people, or they may be Southern Baptists, or they may be some other stripe or persuasion. They may even be of the Nazarene persuasion or be high Calvinism Covenant Theology Presbyterians. The important thing is that you are fairly confident they are blood-bought and blood-washed Christians.

Guess what, my brother in Christ? 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 exhibit love toward all who are Christians. But 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 all men with respect now that you are a believer, 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 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. But saloon and tavern acceptance is not genuine, and it certainly isn’t helpful. The acceptance of anyone who is lost is typically based upon flattery and 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 every believer. 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 in our text is provided in the form of a command, isn’t it? Because Christians would otherwise want to withhold love from other believers for the lame excuse that they didn’t like them, typically because of something that occurred a long time ago. Shame, shame, shame.

 

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 at you for rejecting His rule and refusing His Son, and knowing that there is a terrible judgment coming that you will not escape from. On the other hand, 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 Christian’s 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. But how are we 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, the landslide, and the fire? 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 differently than what we might expect or want for ourselves at present.

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 a governmental rule since we know Nimrod was the author of human government, and that he used government to oppose the plan and purpose of God shortly after the great Flood. What this verse tells us is that God, in His overarching Providence, makes use of human government to accomplish His purpose. So, 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 the Christian community as law-abiding. It is this general approach to the powers that be that kept the persecution of Christians in such countries as Syria and Turkey, Egypt and Libya, to the relatively low levels we saw before the Obama administration sought to topple regimes in Syria, Egypt, and Libya.

 

“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 guidelines of life for the Christian? How little counseling would I have had over the years if husbands and wives simply honored each other by showing proper respect, much less 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 consider seriously, that we should carefully study and that we should feel compelled to abide by. But it all starts with this:

As a general rule, 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 believer, love him, meaning you should certainly treat him even better than the person you may like more who is not a professing Christian. The blood of Christ should always count for more than what you like. Amen? Then, there is fearing God and honoring those God allows occupying positions of great power and prestige. What is this but a manifestation of humility? And God prizes humility in His people. 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, are these so much to ask? No, they are not. Therefore, make it so.

One final comment before we conclude. I find myself dealing with people again and again who have been seriously scorched by Churchgoing people, grievously wounded by pretending Christians who feel called to do God’s work of judging and castigating people for Him. The pain inflicted upon them is real. The damage that results is often severe. That said, the truth of the matter is as I mentioned at the beginning of this message: Even real Christians, the very best of us, are when all is said and done despicable sinners. That is why even real believers in Christ are reminded again and again and again in the New Testament how we ought to behave and treat other people. Misconduct by Christians is not a new reality, only a tragic one. It is as old as the Christian faith itself. Therefore, perhaps it is wise if ever you have the opportunity to discuss the matter with someone who has been badly offended, to point out to them the constant correction that is supplied for our benefit in the New Testament. Do this as a reminder to the offended person that the issue is not about how a Christian has wronged them. It is never about the pain inflicted upon them by someone who grew up in Church. It is only, and it is always about Jesus Christ and no one else. He has never wronged anyone. He can never disappoint anyone. And when it is recognized that what is wrong with Christianity is Christians and what is right with Christianity is Jesus Christ, the Savior, perhaps offended ones will then seriously consider the claims of Christ and find the forgiveness He offers to those who will trust Him.

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[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1933), page 102.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org