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Submission to Civil Authority, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
June 19, 2024 4:00 am

Submission to Civil Authority, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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June 19, 2024 4:00 am

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The focus of Scripture is to be subject to the powers that be because they are ordained of God. And you must allow God to be sovereign, because He is, in ruling as He chooses. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Voting against anti-family legislation, voicing your opinion against abortion, campaigning for a political candidate, or running for office yourself. There's certainly nothing wrong with those activities. On the contrary, you should lend your support to causes that honor God. But, as a Christian, can you take those activities too far? How much latitude to influence the government does Scripture give you? And when government runs afoul of Biblical standards, are you still obliged to obey the laws of your land?

And does the Bible ever allow you, or even call you, to rebel against your government? Find out today as John MacArthur continues his study, singing the Lord's song in a strange land. And here's John with the lesson. Well, let's open our Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 2. 1 Peter 2, 11 to 20 is our text, and we're talking about silencing the critics.

Silencing the critics. You will notice that we have begun this look at this wonderful chapter in verse 11 with a discussion of verses 11 and 12. We are now in a discussion of verses 13 through 17. It's the second paragraph of this larger passage. But the whole text from verse 11 through 20 is about how we as believers are to live in order to eliminate criticism. How we are to live in order to eliminate the criticism that the world wants to throw at us.

The key statement here we have already noted. It's in verse 15. It says, For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. It's amazing how the critics of Christianity are silenced by a righteous life. That is the greatest platform and foundation for evangelistic ministry. The life that you live and the life that I live is crucial to the effect of our message. By way of an illustration as we embark again on this wonderful text, turn with me to the sixth chapter of Acts.

And I want to reintroduce to you a very familiar name and a very familiar man. Acts chapter 6 and verse 8 says this, And Stephen who was introduced in verse 5 as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. And now it says, And Stephen full of grace and power. Now that's quite a man, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, verse 5.

Now full of grace, full of power. And he was performing great wonders and signs among the people. He had the miraculous capability that God gave to those in that early time.

This great unusual man of God was a powerful speaker. Verse 10, The people were unable to cope with the wisdom and the spirit with which he was speaking. So they secretly induced men to say falsely against him, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes and they came upon him and dragged him away and brought him before the council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, that is the temple and the Lord. For we have heard him say that this Nazarene Jesus will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us. And fixing their gaze on him in all of that hostility and hatred, all who were sitting in the council saw his face like the face of an angel.

What an amazing reaction to the circumstances that he found himself in. Then in chapter 7, the trial begins, the trumped up false trial, and the high priest said, Are these things so? And starting at verse 2, he launched into a sermon that goes all the way to verse 50. It was a simple question.

It was a complex answer. Stephen, being full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, full of grace, full of power, being a gifted preacher and speaker, full of wisdom, launched an inspired message. And he closes it in verse 51, You men who are stiff necked and uncircumcised in your heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did, which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute and they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the righteous one whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.

You who received the law as ordained by angels and yet did not keep it. A very confrontive, evangelistic message. And when they heard it, they were already furious, they were already vitriolic, they were already vengeful, and now it was escalated. They were cut to the quick. They began gnashing their teeth. They were so furious, they literally, physically, began to grind their jaws and their teeth together out of fury. But, verse 55 says, being full of the Holy Spirit, He gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. No wonder He had the face of an angel. They cried out with a loud voice and covered their ears.

Why? They thought this was blasphemy. They rushed on Him with one impulse. And when they had driven Him out of the city, they began stoning Him and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

How interesting. And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. And having said this, he fell asleep. Chapter 8, verse 1 says, and it should be the last verse of chapter 7, and Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.

You say, what's the significance of that? Just this, I believe that the way Stephen died had an indelible effect on Saul. I believe the patient, trusting, dynamic, powerful, forgiving way in which Stephen endured that execution of injustice was a factor in the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

Talk about an unjust death. A man who was as much a man of integrity as any man in the world at that time stoned to death for no reason. Though he dies an unjust death, there's no protest, no vengeance, no seeking retribution, no retaliation, no anger, just forgiveness, and he commits himself to the Lord. There's no doubt in my mind that Saul never forgot the angelic face, the forgiving heart, the power of the person of Stephen. It must have been something like the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Peter writes in this very same chapter, 1 Peter chapter 2, that while he was reviled, verse 23, he did not revile in return, while suffering he uttered no threats but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. You remember that Jesus was dying on the cross, also an unjust death, also through false accusation, false witnesses, and the violent hatred of men. And he too in the midst of all that injustice and murder perpetrated against himself, bore it without retaliation, bore it without vengeance, bore it quietly, patiently, and with forgiveness in his heart, saying, Father forgive them they know not what they do. And I am also convinced that it was the amazing forgiveness of Christ, the quiet, patient way in which he bore the murder of himself unjustly, which was part of the reason why the centurion and others said, truly this was the Son of God. You see, as much as what Stephen said, it was what he was that was so powerful. As much as what Christ taught, it was what he was that was so powerful.

Now mark this, particularly in a situation of injustice and even murder. You see, how a believer reacts to the world's violence, to the world's injustice, to the world's persecution, to the world's perpetration of murder is a definite key as to how the world will react to that Christian's message. The platform that we establish by the quality of our living in the direst kind of circumstance is crucial to the impact of our testimony. Thus, we go right back to 1 Peter 2 and verse 15. It is the will of God that by doing right in every situation, and that means right deeds, right words, right thoughts, right attitudes, in any circumstance you will silence the ignorance of foolish men. That is the foundation of our witness, the character of our lives.

Now Peter has drawn us into three categories by which Christians are defined in the world. Verses 11 and 12 tell us we are aliens. Verses 13 to 17 tell us we are citizens.

And verses 18 to 20, we are servants. We've already studied the fact that we are aliens. We are aliens in the world.

We are strangers in this world. We live above the world. We belong to a different dimension of life. We are not part of the world, though we are in the world.

But in order to balance that, verse 13 then introduces the subject of citizenship. You see, if we think we are aliens and that's all we are, then we will not feel subject to any of the laws of this world. We'll feel we're above and we are hostile to the world. And we can live any way we want, not so. Yes, we are aliens.

Yes, we are not of the world, but we are in the world. And though we are aliens to the world, we must live as citizens in the world. And so beginning in verse 13, as we noted last time, he begins to describe to us the factors of our citizenship. First of all, you remember the command in verse 13, submit yourselves, a very general spiritual principle for all social structure designed by God.

Submit yourselves. We remember Romans 13 as a comparative passage and you remember well what the Apostle Paul says there. He notes for us that all the powers that exist in the human realm are designed by God. In fact, he says it explicitly, let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Human government and human authority is established by God, all of it is, and when you violate it, you will receive the condemnation of God. So the command is very simple, submit yourselves.

Submit yourselves. That's the general spiritual principle for behavior in a society in which we live as Christians. We saw secondly the motive. Why are we to do that? Verse 13, for the Lord's sake, because of the Lord. Because our testimony for Christ is more important than anything else.

That's the most important thing of all. For the Lord's sake, we submit so that we do not bring reproach upon Him. So that we do not scandalize His holy name. So that we do not detract from His righteous requirements. That's why in Romans 13, 5, it says it is necessary to be in subjection. Not only because of wrath, that's the negative, God will judge you if you're not, but also for conscience sake.

Because you want to do what's right to honor God. You remember Jesus' conversation recorded in Matthew with the disciples? Jesus said, who pays taxes, the sons of the king or the servants? And they said, well the son is not going to pay taxes to his father, it's the servants. And Jesus said, that's right. But in spite of that, we don't want to offend them, so even though implied I'm the son of the God who made all the rules, I'm going to pay my taxes and so shall you. And since they didn't have any tax money, He caught a fish with tax money in its mouth. So they could pay their taxes. Jesus was in effect saying, I'm the son of God, I don't have to live according to the system.

I'm an alien. But on the other hand, as long as I'm here, I'm a citizen and I don't want to offend, so I'll do what's required. And the motive for us then is, we want to do what honors God. We don't want to be known as those who are civilly disobedient.

We don't want to be known as those who, because we believe we are alien to this society and live on another level, are therefore disrespectful of human institutions and do not regard ourselves as those who have to subject ourselves to them. Quite the contrary, because that would bring reproach on Christ. The world defines goodness, righteousness, and proper conduct by how you respond to the law. And as we respond properly to the law, we demonstrate even that kind of goodness, righteousness, and proper conduct, which they can then perceive. And that will lead them to understand in our lives a deeper kind of righteousness that which only God can provide. So the command to submit, the reason for the Lord's sake, how you conduct yourself can either be a glory and an honor to Christ or a dishonor. To say you're a Christian and the righteousness of Christ is upon you and then conduct yourself in civil disobedience is to send very confusing signals to the society in which you live.

They can't sort that out. Because if we say that the Lord has made us good, the Lord has given us excellence, the Lord has transformed us into creatures of light, the Lord has called us to godly conduct, and then we disobey the law, which to them is the standard of righteousness, they become very confused about what our Lord has said, who our Lord is, and whether or not we even belong to such a Lord. Now let's go to the third point and we'll pick up where we left off. The command, the motive, the third thing Peter talks about is the extent. And that's the question that's always asked, okay, we're supposed to submit, but to what extent? Very interesting, verse 13, submit yourselves for the Lord's sake, here it comes, to every human institution.

Now we'll stop at that point. He could have said most human institutions. He could have said the majority. He could have said all but a few that you don't think are sensible. He just said every human institution.

Now what does he mean by this? Well, there are a lot of ways to translate it, as I'll point out in a moment. But basically what it means is that every enterprise of man on earth by which he seeks to maintain order in society, that's the idea. To every one of them we are to submit. They are the systems by which man can live peaceably on the earth. Now let me give you a little deeper understanding, okay? In biblical Greek, the term here from the Greek verb katizo is used, now listen carefully, is used in Scripture exclusively of the products and activities and enterprises of God, not man, okay?

Very important to note. The term here is never used in the New Testament of any enterprise of man, always the enterprises of God. It is even translated, katissos, the noun form, creation, which is totally an enterprise of God. It is so translated in Mark 13, 19. It is also translated creature in 2 Corinthians 5, 17.

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. That's totally the work of God. So what you have here in its biblical usage is a term that always refers to something that God has done. Then the question comes, how is it thus used here to speak of human institutions very simply?

Because human institutions are designed by whom? By God. And you're right back to Romans 13. The powers that be are ordained of God, Romans 13, 1. Civil government is the work of God.

So we could translate this in this way. Look back to verse 13. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every God-ordained human institution. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every God-ordained human institution. Now that means, beloved, that God has designed the human institutions. God has established them for the control of man in society and social relationships. And here we have a very general statement that blankets everything. Every institution designed by God for man. You say, yeah, but every. That's what it says.

Every. You say, yeah, but we have some bad judges. There are some judges that make some bad decisions. That's right. You want to know something? Ours is not the first set of bad judges.

You ready for a little history? Go back to Isaiah chapter 3. It says in verse 1, for behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water. God's going to provide no water and no bread for you. He's going to judge you.

That's very severe. Why is He going to do that? He's going to judge the mighty man and the warrior, verse 2. He's going to judge the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder. In other words, He's going to judge them all. He goes down through a long list.

Why? Verse 8, for Jerusalem has stumbled. Judah has fallen because their speech and their actions are against the Lord to rebel against His glorious presence. Hey, this isn't the first time there have been bad judges.

This isn't the first time there have been bad leaders. But who judges them? Who judges them? God judges them. Look at Daniel chapter 9. Just another illustration.

There are a number of them. Daniel 9, 12. God is again going to judge. The curse is on us, verse 11 says. Thus He confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our judges who judged us to bring us into great calamity. And again, Daniel points out the fact that there were unjust judges, unfair judges in the society in which He was living with the people in captivity. This is not anything new.

This is not anything unusual. Micah, the minor prophet, chapter 7, verse 2, the godly person has perished from the land and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie and wait for bloodshed. Each of them hunts the other with a net. This is a terribly vicious society, murderous, burning evil. Both hands do it well.

They're just doing it with both hands. The prince asks also the judge for a bribe. And he goes on to speak judgment against this society. All the way down, verse 9, which talks about a proper pleading of a case and executing of justice. And the point is there have always been bad judges and God has always called in to execute proper justice. Paul certainly lived in a day when judges were bad when he wrote Romans 13. Peter certainly lived in a day when judges were bad when he wrote 1 Peter. After all, some of the bad judges were holding court against the Christians who were being persecuted.

And may I note for you please, Peter was the execution victim of somebody's bad judgment. But not withstanding all of that reality in human life, the focus of Scripture is to be subject to the powers that be because they are ordained of God. And you must allow God to be sovereign, because he is, in ruling as he chooses.

You're listening to Grace to You with John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today's lesson is from his current study titled, Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land. Now, John, as you pointed out today, the Bible gives clear instruction on how believers should think about government. Still, there are plenty of cultural issues the Bible doesn't specifically address, gray areas that can get sticky, especially when our beliefs are shaped more by traditions and politics than by our understanding of the Bible.

Yeah, the challenge, of course, is to navigate everything that's floating around in the culture and come to the truth in all situations so that you can act in a way that honors God and advances the gospel. And we want to help you with that, and I want to mention a book that you're going to find amazingly insightful. The title of the book is Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong. It's common in today's evangelical church for people to verbally acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God, and it is the final authority for both what they believe and how they should live.

Yet in reality, a clear connection between the public confession and personal conduct seems to be rare. With that in mind, a dozen fellow leaders at Grace Community Church joined me in writing a book, and that's the book called Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong. It has 20 chapters, and it covers subjects like political activism, environmentalism, homosexual marriage, abortion, birth control, surrogacy, euthanasia, suicide, immigration, and a whole lot more. You can respond to these controversial issues with a settled confidence in objective biblical truth. This book points in that direction. So order a copy of Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong, and you can order today from Grace to you.

And as always, price is affordable. Thanks, John. Again, the title of this book, Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong. Make sure you know how to respond biblically to today's challenging political and social issues. Get a copy of this practical book today.

Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong costs $11.25, and shipping is free. To order, call us at 1-800-55-GRACE or purchase your copy at And while you're at, be sure to take advantage of the thousands of free Bible study tools we offer. You can read blog articles on practical issues affecting your life and your church at the Grace To You blog. You can also listen to radio broadcasts you may have missed, or you can download more than 3,600 of John's sermons free of charge in MP3 and transcript format.

All of that and more is free at And if you're benefiting from John's teaching, would you let us know? It's a great encouragement to us. To send us a note, email us at letters at, or you can write to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Watch Grace To You television this Sunday on DirecTV channel 378, and then be back tomorrow as John continues to look at how to honor God by submitting to the government. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-19 06:22:25 / 2024-06-19 06:31:38 / 9

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