1 Peter 2:13-17

Submission to Authority

13 1Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution,[a] whether it be to the emperor[b] as supreme,
14 or to governors as sent by him 2to punish those who do evil and 3to praise those who do good.
15 For this is the will of God, 4that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
16 5Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but 6living as servants[c] of God.
17 7Honor everyone. 8Love the brotherhood. 9Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 PETER 2

This chapter consists of exhortations, in general, to a holy life; and, in particular, to obedience to superiors. It begins with an exhortation to lay aside various vices, which were unbecoming regenerate persons, 1Pe 2:1 and, agreeably to their character, as new born babes, to express a desire after the Gospel, which is commended from its nature, being comparable to milk; and from its quality, being reasonable, sincere, and unmixed; and from the end and usefulness of it, a spiritual growth; and the argument engaging to such a desire is the experience they had of the grace of Christ in it, 1Pe 2:2,3 whose excellency is declared, under the metaphor of a stone, said to be living, to be chosen of God, and precious to him, though rejected by men; to whom the saints are encouraged to come, as lively stones built up, a spiritual house, for the exercise of the holy office of the priesthood, by offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ, 1Pe 2:4,5 and that Christ is such a precious stone, is proved from Isa 28:16 and not only to God, but to all them that believe; though to them that believe not, he is the stone of rejection, stumbling, and offence; to stumble at which, and the doctrine of it, through disobedience, they were of old appointed by God, 1Pe 2:6-8 but the character of the persons the apostle writes to was very different, quite the reverse, being chosen and called, and manifestly the people of God, and sharing in his grace and mercy, 1Pe 2:9,10 and these he exhorts, suitable to their state and condition, to abstain from sin, as an enemy to their souls, and to live an honest life and conversation among the Gentiles, that they, instead of speaking evil of them, might, by beholding their good works, glorify God, 1Pe 2:11,12. And particularly he exhorts them to obedience to civil magistrates, both superior and inferior; partly from the author of them, they being of the Lord; and partly from the usefulness of them to punish wicked men, and to encourage good men; and also from its being the will of God, by such obedience, to silence the cavils of foolish men, 1Pe 2:13-15. And whereas it might be objected, that they were made free by Christ, and therefore should not be the servants of men; it is granted, that they were free; but then it is denied, that they should use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness: and besides, it should be observed, that they were the servants of God, and therefore ought to do what he enjoined them; and, among other things, yield obedience to civil magistrates, 1Pe 2:16. And to this purpose are various exhortations in 1Pe 2:17, and another particular one is added, which is to servants, to be subject to their masters, and fear them, whether they be good or bad, 1Pe 2:18 and then he comforts such that had bad masters, and encourages them to bear the injuries they received from them patiently; because so to do was grateful to God, and acceptable in his sight; and because they were called unto it by him; and because of the example Christ had left them in suffering for them, 1Pe 2:19-21. And this is further urged from the character of Christ, who was without sin, and yet suffered, and from his conduct, who, when reviled, made no return, but left his cause with God, 1Pe 2:22,23 which leads on the apostle take notice of the nature of Christ's sufferings in his body on the cross, and the ends of them, which were expiation of sin, healing diseases, and holiness of life, as a consequent thereof, 1Pe 2:24 previous to which conversion, which is illustrated by the former state and condition men are in, being as sheep going astray; and by their present one, being returned to Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, 1Pe 2:25.

1 Peter 2:13-17 In-Context

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

Cross References 9

  • 1. Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1
  • 2. Romans 13:4
  • 3. Romans 13:3
  • 4. ver. 12
  • 5. See James 1:25
  • 6. 1 Corinthians 7:22; [Romans 6:22]
  • 7. Romans 12:10; Romans 13:7
  • 8. See Hebrews 13:1
  • 9. Proverbs 24:21

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or every institution ordained for people
  • [b]. Or king; also verse 17
  • [c]. Greek bondservants
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.