Submission and Obedience - 1 Peter 2:12-13

In 1 Peter 2:12-13 Peter told these believers to lead honest lives before the lost. Here, he expounded on how that was to be done. They were to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. Remember that these people were living under corrupt Roman rule. The emperor proclaimed himself to be a god and accepted worship. How could this be?

Remember also who wrote this instruction. It was the same Peter who told his religious rulers, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). It would appear that Peter acted differently than what he commanded these people to do here.

But there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy in Peter’s actions and instructions. The key to understanding this is to understand the difference between submission and obedience. They are not the same thing.

Submission is an attitude. Obedience is an action. The attitude of submission influences actions, but you can disobey people in authority and still be submitted to them.

When Peter disobeyed the rulers’ command not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore (Acts 4:18), he didn’t rebel at their authority. He didn’t go back to the believers and marshal a revolt or criticize their actions. Instead, the believers prayed for boldness regardless of what the rulers did (Acts 4:23-30). That’s submission without obedience.

We should never disobey God’s laws because of man’s laws. But in the process of doing what is right, we need to stay submitted to authority. Any form of government is superior to anarchy.

See Exodus 1:17.