We Submit to all Authority remembering Christ is on the Throne
Intro: Well morning South Sydney Anglican Church. My name is Matt Johnson and today as we continue our study of 1 Peter – we remember it is a bit like Pilgrims Progress. In our journey to heaven (the celestial city) we often have to walk through some evil, dark and difficult places. Yet, nonetheless, we need to still do good.
PRAYER: Well friends, the passage today finishes in chapter 3 – (verse 22) – talking about Jesus being on the throne with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. So as we finish a long section about submission to those in authority we are reminded the ultimate authority in all matters is the Lord Jesus Christ.
And twice in today’s passage Peter talks about the importance of retaining a clear or good conscience – verse 16 and verse 22. Conscience is that thing inside you that tells you what is good and what is evil. The idea is don’t go against your Bible informed, Spirit led conscience. But sometimes that is COMPLICATED. If Jesus is our ultimate authority, how far do we go with obeying sinful authorities?
Well I’m coming to realise there is an even bigger question – that needs to be answered first. Is ordinary (non-Christian, non-saved man and authorities) essentially good or essentially evil? Are unsaved people mainly good with a little bit of evil? Or are we mainly evil? Sadly, the answer I’m going to give and the implications of the answer I give may shock you. But it shouldn’t…
The Bible is clear – human beings without God – are TOTALLY DEPRAVED. That’s the technical word – totally depraved. Fallen humans are not just a little bit sinful. We are totally evil. Romans 3 says our MOUTHS are full of deceit; POISON is on our lips and OUR FEET are swift to run in and shed blood (Rom3:10-18). Isaiah 64 says “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isa.64:6). Psalm 14 says people who deny God’s existence are CORRUPT, their DEEDS are vile and they DO NOT DO GOOD – ever…
Now this concept of the total depravity of man comes as a terrible shock because for the last 100 years we’ve all been suckling at the teat of humanism, HUMANISM says man is essentially good and any sense of evil small irregularities of evolution. So humanism says your love your fellow man and put your faith and hope in man because he is good. And that’s what we were asked to do in CORONAVIRUS. That’s what we are being asked to do with ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES and very soon ECONOMIC ISSUES. Now the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of this new religion is science. Now I use the word SCIENCE very loosely, because it no longer means what it used to mean. “Science” is now built on a whole heap of unproven, unproveable and Scripture denying hypothesis. But we are now called in all circumstances to trust this science. But that’s not really true. What we are being asked – is to trust the scientists who are the new high priests of humanism – (who like the Catholic priests of old, keep their sacred Scriptures in a foreign, academic language) – that few of us can really comprehend or understand.
In fact, ANY REFORMERS (or non-conformists) who suggest they will do their own research in any matter or question any conclusion are decried as heretics. “Don’t do your own research.” So 99% of the world does not understand the science and they are trusting an ever smaller group of people deemed to be experts. Scarily these priests are now beginning to create SACRAMENTS that we must take in order to be accepted in the club. So a really important question is whether such priests are essentially good and whether they can generally be trusted.
Point 1: Christians must choose Good in an Essentially Evil World
Show: 1Pet.3:8-12 (READ)
Explain: Well depending on your Bible translation there are about 18-20 references to good and evil in todays passage. We live in a world where good and evil are real. So Peter begins by telling us as Christians that as we pass through this world headed for heaven we need to choose good and reject evil because God alone is good. So Peter begins with some good things to embrace and some evil things to avoid…
First, he says – be LIKE-MINDED. I think that in context this means be likeminded as Christians in terms of what God has revealed to us in Scripture. Our ability to be good will only ever be as good as our comprehension of good and evil. The Scriptures tell us our world is broken. That is why we need Jesus. In and of itself the world really is evil (and incapable of good). This truth made Christians naturally cautious and wary of evil. But the absolute depravity of man started to be denied during the ENLIGHTENMENT in the 17th and 18th centuries. The fundamental underlying belief of the emerging HUMANISM – was that man could attain truth and do good without God. And like all religions humanism had a hope. The hope of utopia. So humanism created its own priests and pilgrims who are now journeying towards a utopia they are creating for themselves. Yes, in some humanism evil may still be acknowledged (sort of). But man is triumphing over this evil and we will create utopia for ourselves. And this HUGE GOD DENYING LIE is the air we breathe constantly…
So Peter begins by reminding us good actually requires sympathy, brotherly love and showing compassion. Now SYMPATHY and COMPASSION are both about showing pity and mercy to people. That suggests something is wrong. The need for BROTHERLY LOVE – suggests people may not have real family who love them already. Why is that? All these things are GOOD. But they also imply something is wrong. The world is somehow deficient and needs these things…
Then, the icing on the cake is HUMILITY. Again, we know humility is a good thing. But it suggests man has a problem with pride. So if we have any chance of doing good, we need to begin with an attitude that man is somehow broken, in need of pity, love and humility. We are not bent towards good. We are bent towards evil.
So the passage goes on in verse 9 and says (READ). This is what evil men and women do. Apart from God’s grace – evil people come out swinging and seeking revenge. But why is REVENGE even a thing if people are essentially good and not evil?
Peter is telling us to have a really sober judgment of natural man and that includes natural, non-Christian authority. I don’t know about you – but I tend to hold those in authority to a higher standard – than the average joe. But why? Those in political authority and in academia are just as fundamentally evil as the rest of us. We rarely elect our politicians because of their moral superiority and great academic knowledge never leads to humility. So we can’t really trust such leaders any more than the average person on the street.
Now keep that in mind – because it means we should be slow and cautious in trusting unbelievers. Psalm 14 tells us that secular man (who denies Gods existence) is not only a fool, but also devours God’s people (RPT) (Ps.14:1). Keep that in mind. Living among cannibals you need to be very, very, very careful who you trust. You are lunch.
So understanding the true state of the world Peter calls us to turn from evil and do what is good. Lets read again the quote from Psalm 34. (Slide – 1 Pet.3:10-12). Now this is telling us that in a world doing evil we are turn and do good because then God will look after us. But in a world where people are evil and governing authorities (are also essentially evil) it is hard to do good. because we all tend to go into SURVIVAL MODE.
This is A FATAL FLAW in secular humanism. The core dogma in humanism is survival of the fittest and yet they claim to be essentially good. Now if you can’t see that survival of the fittest and good are irreconcilable truths you are a fool. Of course, like Satan masquerading as an angel of light the humanist keep up the façade of goodness. But I’d recommend taking the humanists at their word about survival. They are preoccupied with survival. It’s their raison d’ter. They have to survive pandemics, environmental issues, economic threats and now AI. Of course, (as proud, paranoid fools) much of it may be in their mind. But survival is their objective AND if their fears get too high – you can be sure only the fittest, most powerful and wealthy will survive. Everyone else will become lunch (or at least necessary casualties). What’s more, strong humanists will sacrifice others to save self. Strong Christians are called to sacrifice self to save others. So the two religions are also irreconcilable.
So Psalm 34 reminds us that in an evil world – GOD TURNS HIS FACE towards those who do good and listens to their prayers. But, if you start aligning with evil and doing evil (that is worse) because the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. The last thing you want is for the Lord’s face to be against you. So trust God and do good.
Apply: Now the superscription to Psalm 34 says it was written by David when he was dragged before an evil King named Ahimelech or Achish. An evil authority. Psalm 34 records the internal battle that is taking place in David because he doesn’t want to trust God and not respond to evil, with evil. David wants to trust God and do good, trusting God will somehow get him through the difficulty. He finds a way out in humility. So David humbles himself and plays the madman, scratching at doors and letting saliva run down his beard – so that King Achish does not see him as a threat. Humility is good. Now it may not have been pleasant – playing the madman. But it was better than resorting to something evil and God did ultimately look after him…
Point 2: Christians will do better Suffering for Good, than Evil
Show: 1Pet.3:13-17 (READ)
Explain: Well the ANSWER to the question – who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good – should be no one – ever! God instituted authority to uphold good and punish evil. But verse 14 – begins with “BUT” for a reason. Evil authorities do sometimes punish good. In our evil world – there are ONLY TWO THINGS that keep authority functioning in a proper way and that is 1) God’s special grace and 2) God’s common grace. Apart from God’s grace man will do evil at every opportunity.
Now SPECIAL GRACE is God’s saving grace. When God comes into our life through the work of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit – he begins to change our hearts. He takes out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh – and this is the only thing that can make a person really good. Now you may see a non-Christian woman loving and feeding her baby and think that’s good. But there may be all sorts of mixed motives in having the baby and even a selfish desire to be seen as “a good mother”. You may think pharmaceutical companies making vaccines to save people is good. Or is it simply about making money? I encourage you – to always look twice because Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Apart from God’s special grace (and a genuine heart change) – there is no real good. Now this means we can to some measure trust and expect Christian authority to do real good. Christian authority should do good, even if it costs them. So we should be able to have higher trust.
But the only thing that causes non-Christian, secular authority to “do good” is external constraints and keeping face. If secular politicians are not seen to be doing good they may not be re-elected. In other contexts like Russia or China – they keep up an appearance of good to avoid a coup. This is God’s common grace – IN AUTHORITY. God has made the world in such a way that if you get caught doing evil, people tend to take revenge by doing evil to you. So the fear of getting caught out and suffering negative consequences – restrains evil, but it does not really produce good.
Now until very recently our Judaeo-Christian culture in the West – means God’s common grace – has kind of been keeping unbelievers on the narrow path. Traditionally, in protestant thinking this was called COVENANT COMMON GRACE – which was even one degree better. Unbelievers living in proximity to believers – are influenced towards our good by a desire to fit in, be accepted and keep face.
But this Covenant Common Grace is diminishing and it means you can only really trust an authority to the degree it is shaped by God’s special grace and/or common grace. The more godless authorities become – the less they should be trusted by Christians. Welcome to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran etc etc. GIVE PEOPLE enough power and they only maintain the slightest veil of goodness for the sake of face.
Now I’m not being alarmist because Jesus is still on the throne. As Peter says “do not fear their threats; do not be frightened; but in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” So I am not alarmist. I am simply saying that in such an evil world, you are being unwise, naïve and lacking discernment if you trust such authorities to be doing good.
Illustration: I’m sure most of you saw the Supreme Courts decision for SACRED HEART CATHOLIC HOSPITAL this week. The Catholics say that Canberra government tried to coerce them into allowing abortions and euthansia in their hospital. But instead of giving into fear or evil the Catholic Archbishop of ACT did what was necessary to preserve a good conscience. He said no. Then totally ignoring a whole lot of property laws the ACT Government took over the Catholic hospital. And Peter says losing the hospital for good is better than the alternative.
Apply: Now lots of people are IN SHOCK. But why? What should we expect from godless secular authority. I’m simply saying wake up. Be a little less trusting of fallen man and the objectives of secular humanism. Don’t be naïve.
But even in this evil – Christians are still called to present our hope in Jesus to people – gently and with respect. We need to continue telling people only Jesus can save them and this world. Humanism may now be the dominant western religion, but trusting in evil men to bring about good is just madness…
So Peter, finishes this section saying (verse 17) “it is better, if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil.” Now please note the word SUFFER. In a godless secular society – suffering is going to start escalating because evil always brings suffering. What’s more, godless secular authority is also going to start demanding we accept evil or suffer the consequences. So suffering is inevitable in the context of evil. You need to come to terms with that real fast. Suffering is going to be unavoidable. So in such contexts (Peter says) if you have to choose your poison – it is better to suffer for doing good. FIRST, suffering for good is noble. It is Christlike and there is no shame in it. But it is also better to suffer doing good because God may yet use us to restrain evil. I’m sure you all know the famous quote; “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So do good.
Point 3: Christians will be Brought through Evil because Jesus is Good
Show: 1 Peter 3:18-22 (READ)
Explain: Well verse 18 is the Christian gospel. The answer to evil in this world is Jesus suffering and dying on the cross for your sins, the righteous for the unrighteous. The fact is we’ve all done evil. If you could imagine being forced to disclose against your will every evil thing you’ve ever done – how would you feel? What’s more, if everything in your life was brought out into the open – how many of us could claim to be good. would certainly be the case for me. And there is a penalty for all this sin. We deserve to die and go to hell. We deserve to be publicly exposed to shame.
But as Jesus (the perfect man died on the cross) he took the penalty for our sin. The righteous man embraced suffering and died to accept the penalty for our sin. Jesus did this because he loves us. And the Bible says that if we believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness we are saved. Peter then talks about baptism with water as a Christian. As we put our faith in Jesus and get baptized the water marks us as being washed, made clean and renewed in Jesus. It is our pledge of now having a clear conscience before God. Yes, we were guilty. Yes, we have done evil. But knowing that Jesus has paid the penalty for all our sin – we have a good conscience. Going under the water with Christ – we leave our evil life behind, and we rise up from the water to live a new life doing good. Not just pretending to do good. But actually doing good – because our hearts have changed. We now actually want to do what Jesus says is good because we love him for saving us. So Peter is saying – do good in an evil world because this is what you promised to do in your baptism.
Apply: But its more than just do good. It is again, follow Christ’s example in being willing to suffer for what is good. If you hold verse 17 and verse 18 together you’ll see that we are being called in faith to follow Jesus’ whole life trajectory. This is not comfortable Christianity. This is saying that in an evil world you need to be willing to do good, to overcome evil – even if it brings you great suffering.
The trajectory for Jesus takes us back to the days of Noah. Genesis 6:5 tells us in the days of Noah – every thought of the inclination of mans heart was only evil all of the time. Evil all of the time. That’s pretty dark. It must have been hard for Noah to do good. But incredibly, God brought Noah (a righteous man) and his family through this evil and saved them. The point is God knows how to save his people from complete evil, so keeping trusting him and doing good. But we are going deeper into evil yet. There are hints in Scripture (and Jewish apocryphal writings) that tell us that the reason things got so evil in the days of Noah – was because fallen evil angels were teaching man dark, evil things. So when God flooded the world – he also bound all these sinful fallen angels in Hades – the place of the dead – where they await the final judgment. And that is where Jesus goes when he dies on the cross. He goes to Hades to pay for our sins. This is a place of pure evil. The fallen angels are there, and they are angry and full of hatred. Every person who dies rejecting God and without faith in Jesus is there – angry, full of regret, remorse and bitterness. Yet, trusting God and doing good – (even in the midst of evil and sometimes unjust systems) Jesus is also delivered from this place of evil. Jesus goes to heaven and is given a seat at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. And the idea is that as we trust Jesus’ authority and keep following Jesus (even in the midst of evil authority – Jesus’ trajectory will ultimately be our trajectory. This is our hope.
This evil world is coming to an end. And doing good in an increasingly evil world is going to be hard, it is going to increasingly hurt and it may take us through some really dark, lonely places. But do good, not evil. As we hold on to Jesus and we do good (of course, an evil world who does not understand salvation, does not understand we are washed, or sanctified) may still accuse us of evil, but do good, knowing that in the end you will be vindicated – and you will finally arrive at your true home – the home of righteousness. So hold on and keep doing good.