The Magdeburg Confession;
The Will of God: Do Good
1 Peter 2:13–17
1 Peter Lesson #068
October 20, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful we have this time to come together this evening to be reminded of Your grace, Your goodness, to be reminded that You are in control of history and that You are the sovereign God of the universe who created the human race, and that You created these divine institutions that are so critical for the survival of the human race, for the preservation, the protection, the security of the human race.
Father, we pray that we might come to a greater understanding, especially tonight, as we study in the framework of government and the importance of nations to provide security and safety for people. Father, we live in a time when there are many who are in power who reject this whole idea of national borders and national entities and are moving more and more towards a one-world government.
We pray that we might have wisdom, as believers, not to be sucked into this kind of false teaching, and to recognize the leaders who wish to lead us in that direction, and to do what we can to remove them from positions of power and influence. We pray that we can understand what we’re studying tonight, that You will help us to see these things and answer questions that we have, that we may have great perspicacity as believers in the choices we make. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter 2. We are in 1 Peter 2:13–17. Tonight I want to take a little time and go back to part of the question that we’ve been talking about, which is submission to a national entity, especially when that national entity might not be leading the way, or in the direction that we think they ought to go. So I want to go back and look at something that didn’t come up in the Q&A, which I would have expected to have come up in the Q&A, and that is something called “The Magdeburg Confession”. I want to talk about that just a little bit, and then we will go forward in our passage understanding what it means to do the will of God and that we are to do good, rather than to do evil.
What we’ve seen so far is that the believer has a responsibility towards the national government, the national entity. We are to submit ourselves “to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,” and the verse goes on in the next verse to read, “or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
What we see in this section is this contrast back and forth between those who do good and those who do evil—the evildoers, the wrongdoers. It’s a very important thing to understand the focus of the passage.
We are to submit ourselves—a clear word used several times in this passage related to submission of servants to masters or slaves to masters, wives to husbands, children to parents, and, in fact, it is used of the Lord Jesus Christ’s submission to the authority of God the Father. We are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man.
Unfortunately, that word “every” has been misunderstood. I’ve talked about this. I want to remind you a little bit about this tonight, that this does not mean that each and every ordinance or law that is passed by a governing authority, or mandated—executive order, or whatever—should be obeyed. I’ve read more and more in these areas over the last two or three weeks, including historical documents.
The problem is, there have been those Christians—and there are today—who say that it doesn’t matter what it is, you have to do everything the government says to do. You just take it; you just suck it up; you don’t resist in any way. You don’t try to resist legally; you don’t try to have the law changed; you just take it; you just passively take whatever comes. That is not what the Scripture says at all, and that’s not what the Scripture gives as examples in time. There is the principle we’ve studied again and again—that we are to obey God rather than man, but it’s very specific to understand that.
Every ordinance doesn’t mean every ordinance. If we understand the context of Scripture. It’s every ordinance that is consistent with the Word of God. And that word “consistent” doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are many laws that we may think are unjust; that doesn’t mean it’s nonbiblical.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,” or to his governors—his representatives, the magistrates that serve at the will of the king or the government.
These ordinances are of human creation. That’s why Peter uses the term KTISIS, meaning creation here, whereas Paul, in Romans 13, uses the word for ordinances.
We’ve seen this and walked through this—that we are to look at any of the magistrates as the extension of the king—they are sent by him, that is, the king, the ruler. Okay? And that specifically indicates the individual—it’s not just the office. Even as I’ve been studying. Again and again this mistake is made, and it continues to be made today, especially by those who are on what I would call the extreme right wing of Evangelical Christianity in this area. I’m referring to those who are post-millennialists because they think that we have to have a restoration of the law of God in every area of life; that’s called Theonomy.
Theonomy is the word THEOS for God plus NOMOS for law—Theonomy. This view seeks to reinstate the law of God as national law. They would not apply the religious law, the ceremonial law—they would not apply that; just the civic law needs to be specifically applied today, which is completely erroneous.
As I was thinking about this today, I thought, “Isn’t it interesting?” These are guys who have written a lot about government. Some of their material is very, very good and very, very helpful, but you always have to recognize where they’re coming from. They want to reinstate the Mosaic Law so that Jesus can come back—post-Millennium. “Only by a restitution of God’s law will we bring in the Millennium, and only by bringing in the Millennium will Jesus eventually come back.” That’s their perspective.
In many of their writings, they are strong literalists when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. They are strong, strict constructionists; they want to interpret the Constitution in terms of original intent. My question is, “Why don’t they interpret the Bible that way?” Why is it when it comes to eschatology, they want to go into a nonliteral interpretation; you don’t have a literal thousand years? The way they interpret Revelation 20, you would think they were a post-modern freshman English teacher at the University of Texas. They are absolutely absurd in terms of how they want to interpret the Bible eschatologically.
What we see here is that in this passage it’s not talking about the office of the king, it’s talking about the person of the king. I pointed this out in the last three lessons. This was one of the fallacies that entered into the thinking of the church following the Reformation as they’re seeking to develop a biblical philosophy of government and polity. They said that you can respect a governor, respect the king, and not violate Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 by removing the person, because you’re not removing government per se. The point is—that is sloppy exegesis; it’s talking about the person of the king who is represented by the government, not just the office.
We saw that these are the two extremes that often people enter into, this idea of either absolute, total, one hundred percent submission to every jot and tittle of law blindly without any attempt to change things, or they go to this other idea that you can remove the person without overturning the office.
I want to remind you of this passage, because it is germane to what we need to understand in this Magdeburg Confession. When Peter and John are preaching in the temple area, they are arrested by the Sanhedrin; they are taken, they are examined, and, as it were, put on trial.
In Acts 4, Peter and John said, after being told not to proclaim the gospel, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you [the Sanhedrin] more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” He states it more clearly in the fifth chapter.
What happens is they go out, they preach again, they get arrested again, and that’s described in Acts 5:18–20. An angel of the Lord comes, releases them from prison, and orders them to go stand in the temple and to speak to the people all the words of life. So they do that, they get arrested again, and they’re brought back before the Sanhedrin.
The high priest reminds them, “We told you strictly not to teach in this name. And you filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood on us.” But Peter says, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” That’s the biblical principle.
When there is a contradiction between what God tells us to do and what some governing authority says to do, that’s the only time we have a right to violate, to resist, to change that law in an extreme sense.
Now if the government comes along and passes a law, especially in our country, then we are duty-bound. If this is wrong, if this is a silly law, if it is a bad tax, if it has horrible ramifications, then we are to start challenging it in the courts. There are ways to do that. The scale of resistance is great.
Too many people, when they think of resistance, immediately jump over 20 miles of options and land on, “Let’s go get our AR 15s and leave the nation.” Sadly there are a lot of people who think that, because they are just angry and fed up over decades of the increase of federal government and the ignoring of the Constitution.
So all of that is just kind of background. Recognize what happens when we stand for the truth. Just like the apostles—they plotted to kill them, they beat them, but, nevertheless, they went out and they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Messiah.
Let me remind you of this. I meant to put this on a slide and didn’t do it, so you just have to remember this. We have certain examples in the Scripture of biblical resistance to governing authorities, and these provide the paradigm for different kinds of situations.
- First of all, we have the decree of Pharaoh in Exodus 1, that the midwives are to kill all of the male babies that are born. The midwives resisted that; they just said, “We just didn’t get there in time!” They came up with a reason and a way to avoid having to do what Pharaoh said to do. That’s in Exodus 1:15–17.
- Then we had the example of Rahab. Rahab hides the two Israelite spies who came into Jericho. She hid them, and when the ruler of Jericho said, “Where are the spies?” She said, “I don’t know. I think they left and went out of town; they went that way.” As a result of that, the spies were able to escape.
- We have another example, one I haven’t mentioned before, and that is Esther. Esther is a very important example of resisting a king’s ordinance, because Ahasuerus had been duped by Haman to pass this law that on such and such a date, the people had open season against the Jews and they could kill them all.
Then, he realized how he’d been duped due to the way that Esther very wisely went through a series of luncheons where she had Haman and Ahasuerus come in, she presented the case, and she exposed Haman for what he was doing.
That is a resistance to an unjust law, but she made the king understand what had happened. The result was that Haman was executed. The law couldn’t be changed, but it was added to—that the Jews had the right to self-defense and to fight back; so that when the day came, very few people tried to kill the Jews. It changed the nature of things. But it’s a point of resisting; it’s working within the system, using the laws at hand.
That example, and the next three examples, all take place when the Jews are outside of the land, living under the authority of pagan governments. That’s very important. We will come back to that in a minute.
- The fourth example is Daniel. We talked about this recently. Daniel challenged the diet they were going to be put under in Babel. He made a commitment that he was going to eat only kosher, so he goes to the chief of the eunuchs. He appeals to him, he presents a case. God blessed his presentation so that the head of the eunuchs said, “Okay, we’ll give it a try. We’ll run a test case. If, at the end of the test period, the Israelites are stronger than the others, then we’ll keep doing it,” which is what happened.
That’s a picture of how you can present a case to the ruler to change the way the law is applied, or to change the law, and the response is positive.
- The next example, which is the fifth example, is the three Hebrew men who refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. They appeal to the king. The king says, “I’ve already made the ruling that anybody who doesn’t bow down is going to be burned in the fiery furnace,” and so they are going to reap the negative consequences. There is no response to their appeal, but God intervened and saved them.
- Then you have the example of Daniel. Same thing. Daniel refused to obey the law that you couldn’t pray or appeal to anyone other than Darius. He goes home and prays just like he did every day to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the result was he’s thrown into the den of lions. He’s willing to do the right thing to obey God rather than man and take what comes to him.
Notice—in Esther, in these three episodes in Daniel, you don’t see a conspiracy, or a movement to try to unite against Nebuchadnezzar or Ahasuerus or Darius. It is, “I’m going to do what God says to do. If you want to punish me for it, that’s fine. If not, then it’s in God’s hands.” So those are the examples.
Then we get to the New Testament.
- We have the example of Peter and John in Acts 4 and 5, which I read to you earlier.
- Then we have one other example in Acts 16. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas have been witnessing in Philippi. They’ve cast the demon out of a fortune-telling girl, and the people who owned the slave girl were going to lose their livelihood, lose their means of income, and so they went to the city leaders and had Paul and Silas arrested and put in jail. That night an angel comes and releases them from their bonds. They don’t leave the jail, though; they stayed there. Then, the next morning it was discovered that that the bonds were gone. Did you know that the Philippian jailer was one of the smallest people in the Bible … because he slept on his watch?
So the Philippian jailer is scared to death. He came to Paul and Silas, and he said, “What can I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your family.”
But they stayed there. Then when the city leaders came in and discovered what happened, they said, “Oh, you guys—you’re free. Let’s let bygones be bygones. You guys just leave town real quietly, and we won’t say anything and nothing will happen.” But this is what Paul says in Acts 16:37, “Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans.’ ” That’s the key thing. By saying that, he’s revealing to them that they have Roman citizenship, and it was illegal under Roman law to beat a Roman citizen. So he is saying, “You know, your leaders arrested us and beat us. That was illegal. So we’re not just going to walk away.”
He says, “And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed!” Paul is using the law against them. See, Christians do not have to be rollover pacifists. When the ruler does something wrong, then you are wise and figure out how to use that against them. You don’t just jump to superficial decisions. This is what’s happening in this country.
You have of a lot of organizations like the American Family Association, like Liberty Counsel, and who knows how many others, that are fighting for First Amendment rights day in and day out; and they’re having huge success in the courts. That’s how you resist these unjust laws by doing it within the legal structure that has been set up in this country.
What Paul said was, “They want to put us away secretly? No!” “They didn’t beat us and break the law in secret. Let them come themselves and let us out.” So the officers went back to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they found out the Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.
So they came. They pleaded with them and finally they brought them out, and asked them to leave the city. There is a justification that takes place. Paul is right in saying, “No, you’re going to do it the right way. You’re not going to get away with this in secret.”
These are the examples. Now, each of those is different and each of those sets up certain kinds of standards and a framework for how to handle a situation when the person in authority is doing something that is not right. It doesn’t necessitate breaking the law in order to get that, because two wrongs don’t make a right. There are just too many people, when the government does something wrong, or something happens, and they go riot. That is wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You stay in a position of obedience to the law.
One example historically of this that has just become known in the last four years, is something that happened in Magdeburg, Germany in the late 1540s, approximately 30 years after the Protestant Reformation began. The documents on this have been available for centuries in Latin; but they hadn’t been translated into English, so they weren’t known and they weren’t accessible. Here’s a copy of the book right here.
In 2012, Matthew Colvin translated it into English, and they published it as a tool to let Christians understand the biblical way to challenge the magistrate when the magistrate institutes or initiates an unjust law. The trouble with this is that many people have distorted what is said in this confession and misrepresented it. I want to talk a little bit about that now.
Initially, I just want to give you some warnings. When I purchased my copy of the book, it came with a three-page handout that was folded in there, and it starts off like this. It says, “Scripture speaks to the qualifications of civic leaders.” Okay? We’ve all heard this kind of thing before, by many people.
In fact, there is a very well-known president of a Southern Baptist seminary who is very vocal in his opposition to Donald Trump and his candidacy because of his immorality, because of his treatment of women, a number of other factors. He’s crude; he’s rude; he’s socially unacceptable many times; and we all know that. But my response to that is: He’s an unbeliever. You cannot hold an unbeliever to the standards of being a believer. You can’t do it. It’s wrong; it’s self-righteous; it’s arrogant; it’s pharisaical; and you’re dead wrong! Period. You don’t understand a thing about grace—or the Bible, frankly.
So they cite passages like Exodus 18:21, when Moses is picking out different men to rule. He’s going to delegate authority to these lower magistrates, as it were, among the tribes of Israel. It says, “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” 2 Samuel 23:3, which is one of the last statements that David makes, “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.’ ”
So you have these quotes. What’s going on here? We have to be very careful, because when you see a number of Christian leaders today emphasize the need for these kinds of moral qualities among national leaders on the civic stage, they either cite passages like I just quoted from the Old Testament or based on the Torah, or they quote from passages in the New Testament.
For example, 1 Peter 3 or Titus 1, but these are passages that are talking in the Old Testament sense about leaders of God’s theocratic kingdom. No other country was expected by God to have leaders like that. But Israel was a kingdom of priests, they were supposed to be distinct from all other nations, and so they were to exemplify the highest standard possible for God’s people under the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was never applied to the Assyrians, to the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Egyptians, to anybody else. So it’s totally illegitimate to do that. It’s comparing apples to oranges.
When you get in the New Testament, and you have these moral qualifications for leaders—they are leaders of the church. They’re not for civic leaders. We have to understand that there is a difference. And the difference is that we have to understand that the pattern for how the believer is to operate within a pagan national entity—and to choose leaders— if they have that privilege—is not to be found in either the theocracy of the Old Testament or the ecclesiology of the New Testament. God does not expect that; you don’t see that anywhere in Scripture.
In fact, here’s what we see in the Old Testament. This is in Jeremiah 29, a crucial pattern. Now what’s going on in Jeremiah 29? In Jeremiah 29, the Jews have been told by God that they are going to be defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and that Nebuchadnezzar is going to take them into captivity. They are going to be taken from their homes, they are going to be taken as slaves back to Babylon, and they are going to live in a pagan country. This is what he tells them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
So God takes responsibility. It’s the fifth cycle discipline. You’re now going to be living in a pagan world; you’re not living in the theocracy under the Torah anymore. You’re living in a pagan world, with a pagan king, who has multiple wives, who is an idolater, who is immoral, who is egotistical, who is the opposite of everything that’s listed for what your king should be when you’re under theocracy. But now you’re going to be living in this pagan environment—this is Daniel, this is Esther.
The Lord says, “Here is what I want you to do. I want you to overturn the government and install a spiritual king over the Babylonians. I want you to make sure that their king fits the standards of Deuteronomy and Exodus.” Is that what He said? No! That would be totally absurd! What God says is, “Go live there.” “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.”
“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.”
“For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.
“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”
There is a promise that there’s an end to this, but in the meantime you are going to be living in a pagan world with a pagan government and you’re to make the most of it. You are, in fact, to live your lives in such a way that it will bring blessing by association to the pagan government. You’re not going to change the pagan government; you are going to provide a blessing for that pagan government, and that goes back to the Abraham Covenant.
At no point does God expect him to impose the Torah on the civic government of Babylon, or Persia or Greece or Rome or anywhere else. Gentile leaders were never held to the standards of Torah anywhere in Scripture. You can go through all the major prophets and minor prophets where there is a condemnation of judgment announced on all the various pagan kingdoms—on Edom, on Philistia, on Lebanon, on Syria, on Babylon, Egypt.
All of these have their woes announced, but they’re never condemned for violating Shabbat. Israel was condemned for violating Shabbat, the sabbatical year. They’re never condemned for violating anything that is unique or distinctive to the Mosaic Law. They are condemned for two things: how they treated the Jews and idolatry. And that goes back to the Noahic Covenant, which is for all human beings. They are never condemned for anything that is distinctive or unique to the Mosaic Law.
What we see is that they are supposed to be submissive to the pagan kings who multiplied wives like crazy: people like Nebuchadnezzar; and fools and autocrats, like Belteshazzar in Babylon; Darius; and Cyrus, who also had many wives; these were not moral or ethical leaders like we would like.
Ahasuerus, who wanted his wife, Vashti, to come out and in a very disrespectful way entertain all of his male guests at a big banquet. These men are egotistical, they’re vein, they’re worshiping idols, they’re immoral, and they’re spiritual failures. Yet God put them in positions of authority and rulership.
See, that’s important to understand, because when you get into these discussions from a lot of these over-idealistic Christians, what they have said historically was that if the king did wrong, then he’s no longer a just king; therefore, he can’t be God’s ordained. That’s how they reason, but that’s not historically correct and that’s not biblically correct. When you follow that line of reasoning, you’re going to get into a tremendous amount of trouble.
The New Testament says something very similar. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
This is a criterion for who you are going to vote for. You are going to look at two candidates—forget the other two. It’s going to be one or the other—it’s going to be a Democrat or it’s going to be Republican. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton or it’s going to be Donald Trump; there is not going to be any other option.
It’s really easy to come to the decision: Which one is going to be more sympathetic to First Amendment rights of churches and Christians than the other one? Which one is going to be more supportive of forcing Christians to perform homosexual marriages? One is and one isn’t. There many other things that we can look at, but one is going to decimate the First Amendment every chance she gets, and the other one won’t.
The discussion ought to end there, but we can go to the Second Amendment and the Fifth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment and how one candidate will decimate the Bill of Rights as much as she can, and the other one won’t. But our criterion is from this verse, under whose administration is Christianity going to fair better and have more peace and less to be concerned about than the other one. That’s the bottom line.
We look at these and recognize that expecting any political leader to follow a biblical pattern of morality or spirituality may be a nice and wonderful thing if we can get it, but that’s not the option that we have today. We have the option of, as one person put it, “selecting the taller of two midgets.” Okay? But one midget is going to be much more evil than the other.
Expecting secular leaders to follow a biblical, a theocratic or ecclesiastical model, is just plain self-righteous, biblical ignorance.
We also have to recognize that there is a biblical pattern. For the most part, this is something that was set forth in the Magdeburg Confession, otherwise known as the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate. Now we’re going to get a good history lesson.
To understand the significance of this, we have to understand the historical context. First of all, October 31st is Reformation Day. It’s called Halloween because the next day, November 1 in the Roman Catholic calendar, was All Saints’ Day. Saints were called hallowed people. That was another English word. Just like the night before Christmas is Christmas Eve, the night before All Hallows’ Day is Hallow Evening, Hallow Eve, or Halloween. That’s where Halloween came from. Since that day’s a day to celebrate the saints, we’re going to give the devil his opportunity and do something devilish on the night before. This is where Halloween came from.
But it was on that day, October 31, 1517, that an Augustinian monk, a Roman Catholic monk, by the name of Martin Luther, who is a real bull in a china closet. Every now and then, leaders need to be bulls in china closets to shake things up, because everybody gets so passive in their routine or settled in their power base.
So Luther nailed these 95 theses, or arguments or debate points, to the church door in Wittenberg Church in Germany. It was All Saints’ Church, also called the Castle Church. He struck a match that lit a fire that ran through all of Europe. This is on October 31, 1517.
Then, four years later, there’s going to be blowback from the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V. He convened a meeting, called the Diet of Worms. That is not a way to lose weight. A “diet” is a term for a convocation or assembly of magistrates in order to adjudicate something. It’s not “worms”; it’s “voerms.” It is a German word. It is not talking about little crawly worms that you use for bait. Okay?
This is the Diet of Voerms, and they were going to try Luther on charges of heresy. They heard all this testimony from the end of January—from January 28 until about the middle of April. Luther was brought in during the middle of April in order to give his testimony, and afterwards he saw the handwriting on the wall. He knew that he would be arrested and executed, so he managed to escape from the castle at Voerms.
He fled back to Wittenberg, but on his way, Prince Frederick the Wise, who was sympathetic to him and is the ruler of Saxony—he is known as Frederick III, the Elector of Saxony—he is showing what a lesser magistrate would do. He has Luther grabbed, or kidnapped, on his way home, and he takes him to Wartburg Castle. Nobody knows where Luther is, and he hides him and protects him so that Charles V can’t do him any harm.
By the end of this period, they come to a conclusion at the Edict of Voerms and declared Martin Luther to be a heretic, that he taught both old and condemned heresies as well as being the inventor of new ones. He was to be arrested and delivered to Charles V, where he would be executed.
But at this particular time in history, God raised up some other problems in the empire so Charles had to go elsewhere and he turned his gaze away from Luther for many years. By the time he was ready to do something about Luther, Luther was too popular, the movement was too big, and so he just had to let it go. So God protected Luther.
The next thing that happens in terms of our study is that 10 years later, there is a group of German princes who join together their cities, their duchies, whatever, into what is known as the Schmalkaldic League. Say that five or six times real fast.
The Schmalkaldic League was formed by Prince Philip of Hesse and Prince John Frederick I of Saxony. These were two of the most powerful Protestant leaders. They are opposing the emperor, because they are allowing Protestantism to flourish; so it’s all about religion. This went on for about 15 years.
Then, in 1546, Luther died. Once Luther was dead, Charles V thought, “Ah ha. I’ve got an opportunity now, so we’re going to end this particular problem.”
Four months after Luther died, Charles V entered into a treaty with Pope Paul III to end the spread of the Reformation. So all of this is about religious freedom and religious belief. In his mandate from Pope Paul III, he was told:
“… his Imperial Majesty [Charles V] should prepare himself for war, … against those who objected to the Council [of Trent].”
The Council of Trent was the Roman Catholic theological response to the Reformation. It vindicated all Roman Catholic theology. He said, “This is against those who objected to the Council of Trent”—that’s the Protestants.
“… against the Schmalkaldic League, and against all who were addicted to the false belief and error in German, and that he do so with all his power and might, in order to bring them back to the old faith and to the obedience of the Holy See.”
So the issue is, we’re going to commission Charles V to send his military into the Schmalkaldic League and force them, by arms, to submit, to change their theology, and to come back under the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope.
This resulted in a war called the Schmalkaldic League War, which lasted from July 4, 1546 to April 24, 1547. Charles V defeated them; he imprisoned Philip of Hesse and John Frederick of Saxony and everything looked like it was over. All the many different cities and villages submitted to the authority of Charles V and were converting back to Roman Catholicism, except one town—and that was Magdeburg.
The pastors in the town influenced the city Council called the Senate, and they refused to submit because they had a freedom to believe what they believe was the truth about God’s Word.
On May 15, 1548, Charles V issued the Augsburg Interim; he called another diet. That’s not Nutrisystem, okay? He calls another convocation, and they issue a decree called the Augsburg Interim. This is supposed to end the Protestant Reformation—that’s their goal. Everybody has to convert to Roman Catholicism and Magdeburg is the only city that stood against them.
There were nine pastors who were significant in enabling the people to take their stand and giving them strength. At the end there’s a siege for about a year and a half. Close to 4,000 of Charles V’s troops are killed, and only about one tenth of that—about 450 or so—of those in Magdeburg were killed during this year-and-a-half-long siege.
Now here are some statements from this. I think it’s important to understand their basic principle. This is their basic principle. Now, remember: There are people who are taking this completely out of context and using it today to justify some sort of civil disobedience against everything—from taxation to whatever—not directly related to biblical mandates.
This is what they say:
“When a higher or superior authority makes an unjust or immoral law or decrees, the lower (lesser) authority in government has the right—even the duty in the sight of God—to interpose against that immoral law or decree, and if need be, to refuse obedience to the immoral law or decree, and if need be, to openly resist the unjust or immoral law or decree made by the higher authority.”
Now, what’s wrong with that statement? Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with that statement? It’s ambiguous language. You can take that out of context and you can come up with anything that you think is an immoral law or decree, or an unjust law. That’s not specific language.
But you have to look at other things that are said. For example, they say, “The idea of unlimited obedience to the state is an invention of the devil.” That’s the idea of the divine right of monarchy—anything and everything they say we just blindly obey.”
Then they say, “When the state makes laws commanding us to do that which God forbids, or makes law forbidding us to do that which God commands, we obey God, rather than the state.” Have you heard that someplace recently? That’s what they mean in context when they talk about a law that is unjust or immoral. A law is unjust or immoral because it directly contradicts the Word of God. See, we have to read things contextually.
Now, they’re not fighting the same kind of battles we’re fighting with certain Christians, but Christians will go back and they will quote this as if it has no relationship at all in the document with this statement. This statement defines what they mean by an “unjust law.” It’s a law that specifically contradicts what God says to do or what God prohibits from doing.
A couple of things we need to note before you read or go into this. First of all, just as there’s a failure to define the term “unjust law” and “immoral law,” there is also a failure to define the word “tyranny.” They talk, consistently, about the fact that Christians have the right to resist tyranny, but tyranny doesn’t mean just anything you think is tyrannical.
Tyranny, in context, is the Holy Roman Empire coming in and saying, “You have to return to Catholicism” and using force to do it.
Here’s a statement:
“…Whether a Christian magistrate can or ought to preserve his State and the Christian teachers and hearers in it against his own superior magistrate, and drive off by force one who is using force to compel people to reject the true doctrine and true worship of God and to accept idolatry.”
That’s what tyranny was. Tyranny wasn’t the fact that they want to have a graduated income tax; tyranny wasn’t the fact that they wanted the top one percent of the country—the richest people in the country—to carry eighty percent of the financial burden. That may all be unjust and unrighteous, but that’s not what they’re talking about. They’re talking about contradicting the Word of God.
Here they’re making it even more clear—that this involves the higher magistrate, the king, using force to compel people to reject the true doctrine and true worship of God and to accept idolatry. Totally different! This is an Acts 4 and 5 scenario. It’s not the kind of thing we’re running into—yet—in the United States.
These pastors who wrote this recognize that this could be easily abused by even good people. That’s what we’re seeing today. This kind of reasoning is being taken out of context. They wrote, “Even good men are sometimes carnally impatient of injuries, and can badly abuse opinions that have been rightly handed down to them by employing them at the wrong time or place.”
I’ve heard too many libertarians and too many conservatives want to just jump over 20 miles of options to throw sand in the gears of the progressives and to use legal options to try to challenge things; they just want to jump to some sort of hostile reaction.
In terms of their oath of loyalty to Charles V, this is what they wrote in one section of it directly to Charles V, “… We will gladly render obedience—as much as we are able and we owe you.” “… That except for the preservation of our religion, nothing else is sought.”
See, that was the only issue. There might have been many things the Emperor was doing, but they weren’t contradicting Scripture. They are saying “The only thing that we have an issue with is you want to force us to change our religious beliefs.”
“… That except for the preservation of our religion, nothing else is sought; that when this is gained, our Senate and citizens will be most obedient in all their proper duties according to your Majesty’s laws.”
Then they write,
“We again affirm from the sure Word of God that when superior magistrates attempt to force Papistical idolatry upon their citizens, to overwhelm the true worship of God and His true worshipers, just as they have now begun to do, by unjust maneuvers with their laws, even if they pretend otherwise—then pious magistrates are not only able, but even have an obligation to resist them as far as they are able, to defend the true doctrine, worship of God, life, modesty, and the property of their subjects, and preserve them against such tyranny.”
Tyranny. See, there’s the use of that word. How is it used in context? It’s dealing with forcing the subjects to worship the Roman Catholic doctrines.
The point that I’m making here is that this document is often being used today to try to justify a lot of different interventions against federal policies or federal government where they really haven’t exegeted it correctly. They have abused it. In fact, the edition that I have has a forward by George Grant who is a major voice in the post-millennial theonomic worldview. They don’t know how to exegete literal interpretation or original intent, as I stated already.
As you look at this, we have to recognize that what they were saying was the same thing that I’ve been saying for the last three weeks, and it’s important that we understand this. First of all, depending on the legal system, every effort should be made to peaceably reverse a law. We have to work smarter, not get into a head-butting contest; but we have to apply biblical wisdom.
But you know what? When you’ve got a spiritually ignorant evangelical population like we have today, they can’t think wisely because there’s no doctrine in their souls; and that’s really important. You have people who just can’t think biblically anymore, because they don’t spend time in the Word. But we have to be Daniels. We have to be wise. We’re not trying to overturn the pagan system; we’re trying to preserve freedom.
Second, each individual must obey God first of all in direct commands rather than government where there is a conflict, but in other areas, then you are to be obedient. If the human government then replies with force, as it did at Magdeburg and as it did at Lexington, then the lesser magistrates have a right of self-defense, but force in response must be used sparingly. So we’ve understood all of that.
Last time I talked about the fact that we have nationalism—that the nation is established by God, boundaries are set by God.
Could you stomach the debate? I could not. I’m seeing a lot of heads in agreement. I’m just tired of it. But we once again heard Mrs. Clinton talk about how she really didn’t mean what she said, which is open borders. She tried to prevaricate and lie and say, “Oh, she was just talking about the free flow of petroleum, or goods like that,” and that’s just garbage. She wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped her in the face.
We have to recognize that we have to have closed borders. If you left your house unlocked with the doors open all the time, you would quickly lose everything you had and you would be destroyed—and that’s the issue in borders. It is the point of security, and that’s what Mr. Trump recognizes. Whatever else his flaws and failures may be, he does understand what the basis of national security is; and it starts with borders.
Now, as we look at our passage, as we look at these four verses that are brought together here, the command is to, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance [every created law] of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors [representatives], as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
Notice the contrast here. The standard for the government is that they are to punish evildoers and they are to praise those who do good. We are going to see this contrast between evildoers and those who do good through the rest of 1 Peter. The word translated “evildoers,” a term that was used many times by President George W. Bush in referring to the Moslems—he just didn’t carry it far enough—is KAKOPOIOS. POIOS is from the verb meaning, “to do”; KAKOS is the word for evil or wrongdoing. These are wrongdoers or evildoers. They are those who are causing trouble.
In contrast with those who do good, it is POIOS again, the verb “to do” with the other word for good, the adjective AGATHOS applied to it, meaning “to do well.” There’s a contrast—believers are to be those who do well.
But look at how this is used. We’ve looked at verse 14 here, but it goes back to verse 12. “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers …”
This is what’s going to happen in a Gentile government; there are going to be those who oppose Christians and accuse them of things that they are doing that are wrong. They are biased; they’re prejudiced; they are racist; they demean women because they think wives should submit to their husbands. They will make all these kinds of false claims in order to run down Christians. They will charge us with being evildoers and the source of problems in the country.
“If we just got rid of all the Christians, then everybody could be as sexually licentious as they want and we would all be happy.” That’s their basic rationale. It’s all our fault, because we are trying to hold the nation to a standard. So we will be accused of being evildoers.
Then 1 Peter 2:14, the governor is supposed to punish evildoers. 1 Peter 4:15, Peter says, “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer …”
An evildoer is someone who is a criminal, someone who is doing things that are destructive to the culture, to the society, and to the government.
“… or as a busybody [a gossip or a slanderer or somebody who’s a busybody] in other people’s matters.”
The word for doing good, broken down into two words or one word, is found many times as well. In 1 Peter 2:20 we read Peter saying, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults ...” He’s talking to the slaves.
“For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults …” If you’ve done wrong and your master beats you, well that’s probably what you deserve.
“You take it patiently?” What credit is it? Because you know you deserve the beating.
“But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” In other words, if you’re not saying, “I have my rights!”
When I was first out of college, I had the learning experience of two years of running a junior and senior high in-school suspension class. Most of my darling little students were junior high kids. There’s nothing nastier in the world than a juvenile delinquent. Anything that would happen and I would say something, they would say, “I have my rights.” And I would say, “Your rights, the Constitution, ended at my door. You have no rights. I am the boss. I determine your happiness and your health, and if you smart-mouth me, you get 10 more days in here.” It would take some of those kids a long time to learn that hell was a nasty place to be.
When you do good and suffer you take it patiently—you don’t say, “Well, that’s in my rights. You can’t do that to me.” You have to have humility and grace orientation—that’s commendable before God.
We see it again in terms of wives to husbands. 1 Peter 3:6, “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good [you are doing well] and are not afraid with any terror.”
1 Peter 3:10–11, quoting from the Old Testament, “For ‘He would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil [that is being an evildoer] and do good ...’ ” That is what the believer is supposed to do. He is not a do-gooder in the sense of the self-righteous, but he is someone who obeys Scripture and does what Scripture says to do.
1 Peter 3:16, “having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” See, when we look at 1 Peter 2:13–15, we realize that we are going to be accused of being evildoers. 1 Peter 3:16 expands on that and says, “when they defame you as evildoers,” when they bring up this false charge, “those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” If you are living well—doing good.
Then Peter says in another way than he did earlier, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for [doing it the right way] doing good than for doing evil.”
1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” That’s what we’re supposed to do.
1 Peter 2:15 says, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” A lot of times people say, “I need to know the will of God.” This is a clear statement of the will God: do the right thing. Live your life with spiritual virtue and honor. Take your biblical priorities of studying the Word of God, knowing the Word of God, meditating on the Word of God, applying the Word of God, and do that; that’s what you know to be true. If you’re doing that, God will guide and direct your life.
This is in contrast to the fact that Christians were going to be charged as evildoers in 1 Peter 2:12, they were going to be punished as evildoers in 1 Peter 2:14—even though they weren’t, and that they are to do good now in 1 Peter 2:15, even though they are being abused and charged as evildoers.
We see this continue in 1 Peter 2:20. This whole idea of doing right and being punished for is a major theme in 1 Peter.
“For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer ...”
1 Peter 3:6, Wives are to do good. 1 Peter 3:17, It is better to do good than to do evil. 3 John 11 says the same thing, he says, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God [in John’s terminology, that’s the one who is walking by the Spirit], but he who does evil [that is, the believer operating on the sin nature] has not seen God.”
1 Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God.” Now how do we know the will of God? The will of God involves one of three things.
- The revealed will of God.
That’s the only thing you can know. You can’t know anything else because it’s hidden in God’s omniscience. The will of God is only knowable through reading Scripture.
- The second category is called the sovereign will of God.
You only know what God sovereignly allows. It may be good things. It may be, “I would like to go be a missionary.” And God says, “No. You can’t be a missionary; you’re going to be a pastor.”
I know a man, Gordon Whitelock, who founded Camp Peniel. He was going to be a missionary in South America, and obviously God’s sovereign will was not to allow that, but He wanted him to found a camp here in Texas.
- Permissive will is when God allows something evil or sinful to take place.
This is known as God’s permissive will. The only thing you can know, though, is the revealed will of God.
So when Peter says, “This is the will of God,” he’s talking about the revealed will of God.
In Ephesians 6:6, we are to serve God “as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God [that is the revealed will of God] from the heart.”
Colossians 4:12, and he uses that over and over again, “that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [spiritual maturity].”
1 Thessalonians 4:3, we’re to avoid sexual immorality, sexual sin.
We are to give thanks, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
2 Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” It’s revealed will.
Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God.” That’s the revealed will of God.
This is what Peter is talking about. 1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” We’ll come back and continue our study here in 1 Peter 2, as we go into the next section which deals with servants being submissive to masters.
“Father, thank You for this time to study Your Word this evening. We pray that we would be challenged to look at our own lives, think in terms of how we respond to authority around us, and that we are indeed fulfilling what the text says, which is to honor the king, to love the brotherhood, fear God, and to trust in You.
Father, we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”