In our text today, Peter is talking about submission, submission to authorities in government, submission to masters, and all of this is in the context of suffering. When people look at Christians, they shouldn't find those who are slandering their leaders or starting riots to overthrow government, even in the case of injustice, such as persecution or slavery. Remember, in this context Nero is on the throne and Christians are being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake. It seems like an ideal time to fight back, but that is not what Peter teaches the Christians to do. He tells them to submit to the unjust authorities in leadership.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Paul says believers must submit because there is no authority except that which comes from God and to rebel against the authority is to rebel against God. We see this very clearly in the scenario with David and Saul. David had been anointed as future king, and yet King Saul wanted to kill him. He threw a spear at David, had soldiers come to his house to take him, and chased him through the mountains, and yet David always said this, "I will not touch God's anointed. Who can touch God's anointed and be guiltless?" Do you see God as having established your pastors, your small-group leaders, your bosses, your president, even those who are ungodly? Many are guilty before God because they have touched God's authority by their criticism, their abuse and attacks, and not only have they touched these people but touched and disrespected God.
Does this mean we do not recognize wrong? Certainly, we do, but the manner in which we do it makes all the difference in the world. Does our response mock, belittle, disrespect, or encourage rebellion in others? If we have done that, we have dishonored God. The reason we submit is for the Lord's sake that we may honor him and also to avoid being disciplined by him. Paul said this in Romans 13:2, "Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves" ( emphasis mine).
In Isaiah 3, we see that one of the judgments on Israel for rebelling was taking away leadership. He took away heroes, warriors, judges, prophets, etc. We see that people were crying out for young boys and children to govern them. There were no great leaders left. I cannot help but notice that in our own country's elections. Every election, it seems people are voting against someone but not really voting for someone. This is a reflection of a people who no longer reverence and seek him. He takes away the blessing of godly leaders. However, either way we must affirm that God is in control of government and specifically our leaders. This is why we must submit to them, out of submission to the Lord.
Another reason we should submit to Authorities, is Because of their Purpose. "Or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right".1 Peter 2:14. In this passage, Peter talks about the reasons God established authorities. He has established them for two reasons: (1) to punish wrong and (2) to commend right. These are the reasons God established authorities on the earth. In One of the reasons we should submit to government is because we understand their purpose. They are given for the purpose of deterring sin and for promoting righteousness. They deter sin by discipline and they encourage righteousness through commendation or reward.
Let us choose to submit to authority, because God has made us free to do so. God has made us free by Christ's death and resurrection. It broke the power of sin over our lives. We can submit because the Word of God enables us to. It is the law that gives freedom. We also must do it as an act of the will; we must choose to live in this freedom.