Honor All — Honor the King!
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” — 1 Peter 2:17
Going verse by verse through the book of 1 Peter with a small group of men on Sunday mornings for several months recently brought us to consider the four commands in 1 Peter 2:17. Due to time constraints, we were limited to only a few passing comments on each of them. However, a few days later, the Holy Spirit brought this verse back to my memory and begin to convict me about the manner in which I had so grievously and frequently transgressed the first and fourth commands.
The first is to honor all people and the fourth is to honor the king, queen, prime minister or president.
In present day America, especially with the advent of social media, writing or speaking demeaning, disparaging, and damning invectives as relates to the president, both past and the present, have never been more profuse, dishonoring and disrespectful. In fact, never in American history have so many caustic, critical, and vitriolic words been written and spoken toward our sitting president. And yes, if you are an American, he is our President — like it or not.
Regretfully, I have been as guilty as the most. Having been convicted by the Word of God, I have repented personally and am doing so publicly.
Commanded to Honor
In the text, we are given four commands, not multiple choice, or mere suggestions, but Spirit-inspired, divine commands that are just as obligatory in obedience as any other of God’s commands.
Our English word, “honor” is a translation of the Greek word, “timao.” It means “to estimate,” “fix the value, or price something”; “to have in honor, revere, venerate.” The word is in the aorist imperative here, denoting a sharp, definite rule or command, to be adopted at once.
God tells us to venerate or hold in esteem all men. All men are God’s creation or handiwork, made in His likeness, even though their lives may be sadly defaced and marred by sin. The “honor” would doubtless be shown in different ways to different people; but, in some sense, it is due all men. This is true even with regard to the worst harlot or backslider. Christians must learn to accept people (not their sin) where they are, and strive to lead, or pray, them from where they are to King Jesus and into His kingdom!
In the context here, Peter may have special reference to the Jews’ attitude toward the idolatrous Gentiles around them, or to a dishonoring attitude toward the millions of slaves in the Roman Empire.
We cannot always honor their words or their behavior, but we can remember that every single life is of more value than all the world. We can recognize that every person was made in the image and likeness of God. We must never forget that the Lord Jesus bled and died for even the most unworthy.
‘Honor the King’
Then Peter throws in the kicker — honor, revere, venerate the King!
Of the four imperative commands of this verse this is the most amazing, for the king refers primarily to the Roman sovereign who at this time is none other than the incredibly evil and cruel Emperor Nero. The New Testament teaches that even a ruler like Nero is sent by God to preserve order among men and that he must be honored or respected!
This does not mean we have to avoid ever expressing disagreement or even personal dislike for the person. But we are not permitted to publicly castigate, humiliate or dishonor anyone in general and the president in particular.
Christians are to honor everybody, no matter what their position. This appears to be a unique command in the New Testament because it is not confined to honoring fellow-Christians. Indeed the context makes it clear that Peter means people outside the church. They are not to be despised because they are not believers, nor hated because they are persecutors, nor treated with contempt because they are of lower rank or status, but treated with honor. It inevitably follows that people are not to be treated with dishonor because they are of a different race, color, faith-persuasion, or political party.
Some attempt to avoid obedience to Peter’s command by modifying it with Paul’s as found in Romans 13:7, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
However, the first command, “all persons” makes it impossible to limit that to only “all whom honor is due” based upon your personal opinion or that of a political party or even the majority.
God’s Established Authority
Human governments are instituted by God (Rom. 13:1). Rulers are God’s servants (Rom. 13:4). Even if the rulers are not believers, they are still God’s men officially. Even if they are dictators and tyrants, their rule is better than no rule at all. The complete absence of rule is anarchy, and no society can continue under anarchy.
So any government is better than no government at all. Order is better than chaos. Believers should submit to every human institution for the Lord’s sake. In doing so, they are fulfilling His will and doing the thing that pleases Him. These instructions apply to the emperor or to whoever is the supreme ruler. Even if Nero happens to be occupying the imperial palace, the general exhortation is to be subject to his political rule.
As for me, I am asking for the Holy Spirit to empower me to obey freely and faithfully this command. Instead of bad-mouthing and dishonoring any man or leader, I commit to praying for them seriously. And although I have liberty to disagree and expose their words and works, I am not to dishonor them in so doing. I want to be able to disagree without being so disagreeable and disrespectful.
Dr. Ray Pritchard sums up the Christian’s proper attitude:
God says, “By me kings reign.” He takes responsibility for raising up one leader and pulling down another. He stands behind the ballot box and behind the armies that march and the navies that sail. He is Unseen Hand at work in the nations of the world.
Honor ALL — Honor the PRESIDENT, even if you didn’t vote for him and can’t stand him!
Above all else, “Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.” (1 Timothy 2:2)
Originally published at Training for Reigning. Reprinted with permission.