For such is the will of God, that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men continues Peter’s encouragement to do right before the unbelieving world as a testimony to the power of God in your life. What is the will of God for you as a citizen of your country? Be the best citizen by obeying the law of the land. Silencing the ignorance of foolish men means the slander you have endured will cease because of divine production. People are ignorant of the gospel; they are ignorant of the grace of God; they are ignorant of the plan of God. And one of the ways that they are silenced with regard to their antagonism toward God’s grace is by your own patriotism in fulfilling your national responsibilities. So actually this verse is saying in effect that fulfilling responsibility to your country is a part of your witness as an ambassador for Christ.
Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God refers to national freedom not spiritual freedom. It is a picture of the believer who is free to function under grace. But grace has authority; grace has a number of authorities. Grace has the authority of Bible doctrine, the authority of the pastor-teacher and even greater than that, grace has the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, therefore, the whole plan of grace makes it possible for believers to be free to serve Jesus Christ as ambassadors and free to function under their priesthood. This freedom began at the point of salvation, at the point at which we received our priesthood and our ambassadorship. The abuse of freedom comes from rejecting the authority in that freedom. We have to be very careful that in enjoying the freedoms that we have under God that we do not abuse them by destroying them. The destruction of these freedoms comes from the rejection of the authority which makes it possible for all of us to operate under these freedoms (national freedom).
A covering for evil, means to veil the evil that you are doing. In this case it is rejecting the authority over you. The Greek word for evil is “kakia,” which means anything that is wicked, like using your freedom as a license to sin. Freedom does not give a person a license to do evil. As Peter told us earlier, government is designed by God to protect our freedom and punish evildoers. But Peter said to instead use your freedom to serve Christ. That is why we are called at the end of this verse “bondslaves of God.” And as a part of our Christian service we function under God’s authority.
Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
This means to honor those who have certain types of authority. It doesn’t even say to love them. The word honor is the Greek word “timao,” which means respect for authority. Honor all men is defined by the context as the whole realm of human authority - parents, teachers, police officers, judges, civic government, military leaders, executives in business, pastors, and so on. “All” means all of those who have some form of authority that contributes to the protection of your freedom.
Love refers to the mental attitude of impersonal love which is produced only under conditions of the filling of the Spirit and which is defined as freedom from mental attitude sins. It refers to love for the Royal Family of God. This does not mean that you have to be friends with every believer. All this means is that whether you know other believers or not you have a relaxed mental attitude of impersonal love and you are totally free from any mental attitude sins toward that believer. You are not responsible to know every believer, to love every believer. The smarter you are, the smaller your circle of friends, the greater your discernment. You will have those with whom you are very close, and that’s it. You are not required to run around and befriend every person you meet who is a believer.
Fear God is the Greek word “phobeo” for fear and means to reverence. Reverence means respect for God’s authority in your life. It does not mean that you are to be afraid of God. God is your father and His love for you is above any love you will ever experience in this life. However, God is a good father and His discipline is something to be afraid of as his child. The connotation in this passage is to reverence God, follow His mandates, respect His authority and respect the authority which has been placed over you so that you can enjoy the freedom God has provided for you. Honor the king means recognize the authority of the king. The king indicates the time in which the Bible was written. The king represents authority in a national entity. If you ever find yourself in a situation where governmental authority is corrupt, it is still your responsibility to obey that authority and continue to live your invisible spiritual life.
Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable refers to any believer who is working under the authority of another. Servants in the time of the Roman Empire referred to those who worked as slaves or those who worked in some particular laboring type job. The Greek word which is used here, “oiketes,” was originally used for domestic servants. Today it refers to anyone who is working under a supervisor.
Be submissive is the Greek word “hupotasso,” one of the strongest of all Greek verbs for authority. It means to be responsive to official authority, to be subordinate, to recognize the authority of whoever happens to be the boss on the job. Other passages of Scripture also indicate that this might be a good supervisor, fair, unfair, bad - all categories. But the responsibility of the believer is to recognize the authority of the person regardless of what kind of a person they are.
Masters refers to someone in a supervisory capacity. A boss or a manager is not commanded to be loved personally but have must have the respect of those in his organization. That is, he must know what he is doing. Those who exercise authority must know what they are doing and this is why some people can never exercise authority, because they never know what they are doing and they slip into tyranny, to bullying; and they are very childish and it is just a matter of being spoiled and getting their way rather than actually functioning under the true principle of authority. The phrase with all respect means that authority carries responsibility. Like everything else in life business runs on the principle of authority without which industry would collapse. A person may not like their boss. But you must respect his authority. Bible doctrine causes us to understand the principle of authority and to operate under it. Your respect for authority in the workplace is a testimony for God. You may not respect the person in charge, but you are commanded to respect their authority.
If you are in a position of authority at your job, you can also learn a lot about glorifying God while at work by being a good and gentle boss. Good means good of intrinsic value and used in the case of management it actually means someone who knows how to handle management, the situation. They know their job, they know how to meet every particular problem, and so they are actually a good manager, a good boss. This does not necessarily mean a sweet personality, it just means they know what they are doing. In other words, “good” here means efficient. Gentle means to be reasonable. It is always better to have a boss with excellent executive ability and who is reasonable. As long as they are reasonable they are easy persons to work for.
Unreasonable means crooked or unfair. Here it means a person who is incompetent. You are going to have from time to time incompetent management. What do you do about it? Well there is a passage in Colossians 3:16, 17 — you still have to respect his authority and it is good training for you to be occasionally under someone who is unfair, incompetent and absolutely no good at all. It is a good chance to see if you recognize the principle of authority because the principle of authority still stands. Leave his incompetence in the hands of the Lord.
For this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. This is a reference to undeserved suffering referring to the previous verse of working for someone who is unreasonable. By respecting the authority of their position over you, you honor the Lord. Good conscience is the norms and standards you have developed through the intake of Bible doctrine. You have to have doctrine in the frame of reference. The good conscience is doctrinal standards replacing human viewpoint standards so that your viewpoint is divine. Every believer will be tested in this life. Passing these tests is a must if you are going to accelerate your spiritual growth and reach spiritual maturity. Using the problem solving devices to solve problems and pass the tests of life will accelerate a believer and increase their momentum toward maturity. The key to passing any of life’s tests is Bible doctrine resident in your soul and ready for application.
Testing, which normally takes on the form of suffering, comes to a believer as either suffering for blessing or divine discipline. Though divine discipline may not seem like a test, it is. It is a test to see if you can utilize the doctrine in your soul to get back in fellowship with God and begin advancing in your spiritual life. The solution to both categories of suffering is proper application of Bible doctrine. Therefore, priority number one remains consistent intake of God’s Word. The Bible tells us to walk through life with our eyes wide open. This means that we should realize that testing will come our way and be prepared for it. If you have done the work of learning accurate Bible doctrine, you will be prepared. You won’t be caught off guard and you will pass the test, if you apply the doctrine in your soul. (Ephesians 5:13-18)
In order to endure suffering and pass the test of momentum testing the believer must exhibit the same mental attitude that Jesus Christ exhibited when He suffered in His humanity. What was His attitude? Peace, joy, stability, single-mindedness, humility and obedience to the plan of God. Jesus Christ fully understood the plan for Him. This plan involved intense suffering, both physical and mental. Knowing this, He was still willing to die for our sins. (Isaiah 26:3-4; Hebrews 12:2; II Timothy 1:7; II Corinthians 13:11; II Corinthians 10:5-6; Philippians 2:5-8; Matthew 26:39) Once a believer is oriented to suffering by making good choices, by separating from those who would distract him and through the control of God the Holy Spirit, they can produce divine good works even while suffering under the authority of an unreasonable supervisor.
For what credit means you actually did something and you suffered for it; you earned it. This is deserved suffering or self-induced misery. That kind of suffering does not bring credit or blessing. In other words, the believer out of fellowship expects discipline and suffering and affliction, and it is no credit to him for taking his punishment. The credit comes from undeserved suffering. Deserved suffering is divine discipline. The only blessing in deserved suffering is to profit by it as taught in Hebrews 12.
But is a conjunction of contrast. The contrast is between deserved and undeserved suffering. When you do what is right means to do good of intrinsic value, to produce divine good. It means the believer is in fellowship, is functioning under the ministry of the Spirit, is functioning under Bible doctrine, and he is producing divine good.
Every believer will suffer injustice at the hands of others. Since most people, including Christians, are operating with Human Viewpoint Thinking, it is inevitable that you will encounter testing as a result of others’ bad decisions and behavior. This category of suffering is undeserved and must be handled by the integrity you have resident in your soul as an advancing believer.
Learning to rely on Bible doctrine to act and not to react when people testing comes your way is imperative. People testing can come from strangers, friends, loved ones, coworkers or even spouses. Satan’s cosmic system is full of unbelievers and believers who operate outside of God’s divine power system and they will test your virtue and integrity to the maximum. You must be prepared for the inevitable by saturating your soul with accurate Bible doctrine.
The doctrinal rationale that you choose will sustain you during this category of suffering. Impersonal love is the problem solving device that you will most need when people testing comes your way. Reaction should not be an option for the mature believer. We must allow others the freedom to make mistakes and still love them as Christ loves them.
We must learn to have a relaxed mental attitude, to “live and let live” and stop judging others and allow others the “right to be wrong.” We cannot control the behavior of others, but we can control our own. Since we are responsible only for our behavior, we have no pressure to try to change or control anyone. A relaxed mental attitude towards others contributes to both our health and our happiness. We can possess this relaxed mental attitude only as we grow spiritually. (I Thessalonians 4:9-12; I Peter 3:8-16; James 2:1-9)