1 Peter 2:13-17 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Peter identify the Christian in verse 16a (printed below?) In what sense was this true even for those first century Christians who found themselves occupying the status of slaves?

Live as free men, but not using this freedom as a pretext for evil, rather, using it as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Peter identifies the Christian as being “a free man” (referring to the spiritual freedom we have in Christ). This is a freedom from the tyranny and dominion of the devil. It is also a freedom from the accusations of the devil and the just condemnation of God.

2. What does Peter caution these Christians to refrain from doing? See 1 Peter 2:16 (printed above under question #1)

Peter informs us that we are not to view this freedom “as a pretext for evil.” That is to say, we are not to view our spiritual freedom as being a covering that shields us from the judgment of God and allows us to continue to engage in wrongdoing without fear of consequences (note Proverbs 14:9a).

3. In positive terms, how is the Christian to use his freedom? See 1 Peter 2:16 (printed above under question #1)

Peter reminds us that as Christians we have been made free (from sin) in order to become obedient to God. Peter equates spiritual freedom with being “servants of God.” As Christians, we are to serve God in our state of spiritual freedom, and do so by submitting ourselves to His will (note Romans 6:12-14a).

4. What does Peter instruct the Christian to do in verse 13 (printed below?) Why do you think he finds it necessary to issue this command? Note how Peter identifies the Christian in 1 Peter 1:1 (printed below)

Submit to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as the supreme human authority (1 Peter 2:13)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have been chosen by God and who are refugees of the Dispersion, residing in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1)

The apostle Peter exhorts us as Christians to be subject to every humanly instituted authority—for the Lord’s sake. We are commanded to be law-abiding citizens within the society in which we find ourselves. Perhaps these Christian people were of the opinion that, because they were spiritual “refugees” (1 Peter 1:1), they were under no obligation to obey any man-made and man-run system of government that belongs to this present world. We must recognize that as Christians we have a dual citizenship: we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and also citizens of the nation in which we reside. We must not withdraw from participation in society and from our civic duties; nor must we set ourselves against the civil authorities as adversaries who intentionally seek to disrupt the society.

5. Peter instructs the Christian to “submit to every human authority” (verse 13). Does this mean the Christian should violate the commandments of God if they conflict with the laws of the State? Note the hierarchy of authority Peter presents in verse 17 (printed below).

Respect all men; love the brotherhood of believers; fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)

For the sake of Christ, we are called to lead lives as law-abiding citizens. But we must at the same time be God-fearing citizens. Peter is not counseling us to compromise our Christian faith or to deny either the absolute authority of Christ or our absolute allegiance to Him. Note that Peter exhorts us as “servants of God,” first and foremost to “fear God” and then to “honor the king.” As Christians, we must obey the laws of the state that are in harmony with the moral law of God and not in conflict with the divine law. But we must protest against the state when it enacts policies and laws that violate the moral law of God.