Subjecting Ourselves to “Every Human Creation”
1. Who are the freest people today, but how could they lose their freedom?
FREE people must be careful not to abuse their liberties or to use them as a cloak for selfish, lawless deeds. The freest people today are the people who have been set free from the bondage to the “ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil, who is the “god of this system of things,” the chief opposer of Jehovah God. (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4) These people have been made free from the bondage to untruth, ignorance and superstitions. “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” said Jesus Christ, adding that “every doer of sin is a slave of sin. Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son remains forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.” (John 8:31, 32, 34-36) Such disciples are free from the false human traditions and philosophies of this world that enslave men and hold them fast in a groove. They are not sin’s slaves who are not free to do right. But if they abused their freedom by becoming wild and then used their liberty as a cover for selfish lawlessness, they would lose their freedom. They would become slaves of sin, slaves of wrong.
2. How do true and imitation Christians differ as to use of freedom?
2 Imitation Christians abuse the liberties they have. True disciples of Christ do not abuse their freedom, for they are guided by God’s Word. They are wise. They know that to abuse one’s freedom leads to trouble and difficulty with existing institutions of men.
3. When and to whom did Peter address his first letter, and how did he address them?
3 Christians follow God’s Word as expressed through the apostle Peter in his first letter to Christians. About A.D. 62-64, or about the same time that the apostle Paul wrote his letter to Titus, Peter wrote the letter to the Christians in Asia Minor, which was then part of the Roman Empire but now belongs to Turkey. Peter addressed them, not as permanent residents of where they were then living, not as a component part of the local community, but as the “temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”—1 Pet. 1:1.
4, 5. (a) Their being merely temporary residents was all the more reason for Christians doing what? (b) Because they were aliens and temporary residents, what did Peter write them to do?
4 As they were only “temporary residents” they had all the more reason to keep from abusing their Christian freedom. Otherwise, they might not be understood or treated right by the community of which they were no real part, since they are no part of this world though being in the world. (John 17:14-16) True Christians today, such as the dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah, are temporary residents in Turkey and all other parts of this world, for they are awaiting a new order of God’s creating. (2 Pet. 3:13) They are taking heed to Peter’s words that he wrote to caution true Christians against going too far with their freedom in Christ, namely:
5 “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul. Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection. For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good. For so the will of God is, that by doing good you may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men. Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for moral badness, but as slaves of God. Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.”—1 Pet. 2:11-17.
6. Why is there no real reason to think that “a king as being superior” means Jesus Christ?
6 Who is this king? Who are the governors sent by this king? Since Peter wrote his letter to the Christian congregations, does Peter’s expression “a king as being superior” mean the Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ? There is no real reason to think so. In his first letter Peter never directly mentions the kingdom of God, the closest suggestion of it being when Peter says that the Christians who are sanctified by God’s spirit are a “royal priesthood, a holy nation,” this meaning that they were king-priests. (1 Pet. 1:2; 2:9) But Peter does not speak of Jesus Christ as king. Peter always speaks of him as the Lord. This is so even in 2 Peter 1:11, where we read: “Thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”a
7. How does Peter indicate whether this applies to a king inside or outside the Christian congregation?
7 Who, then, is the “king” mentioned in 1 Peter 2:13, 17? He is not the Lord Jesus Christ, nor is he Jehovah God, “the King of eternity.” Peter sets God in contrast with “the king,” saying: “Be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” When Peter gives his orders to Christians concerning this king, where does Peter locate the Christians to whom he writes? Is it inside the Christian congregation? Or is it outside in the world with its Roman emperor and its subsidiary kings and governors? Is Peter speaking to the Christians about their conduct inside the congregation, or about their conduct outside among the people of this world? In the opening sentence Peter addresses them as “temporary residents,” not inside the Christian congregation, but in the Roman provinces in Asia Minor. Then, just before speaking of the superior king and his governors, Peter reminds them of their status as aliens and temporary residents and tells them therefore to keep their conduct “fine among the nations,” where they are spoken against as evildoers.
8, 9. Why, then, was it necessary for Peter to tell Christians how to conduct themselves, and why was it particularly fitting at the time of his writing his letter?
8 That is outside the Christian congregation. Undeniably, then, Peter locates the Christians to whom he writes outside in the world of which they are no part. That is why Peter needed to tell them how to conduct themselves out there in close touch with the political, religious and social institutions of this world. From what he said in his letter it is plain that the Christians were suffering persecution, either from the pagans or from the unconverted Jews throughout the Roman Empire. So the Christians needed to watch themselves. If Peter wrote his letter about A.D. 62-64, it was just shortly before the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire broke out at Jerusalem, which was in the year 66. The Christians had got their religion through the Jews, and the Christians’ headquarters were then at Jerusalem. Hence the general public confused the Christians with the unconverted natural Jews. By bad conduct against the Roman authorities just at that time Christians would give more reason for pagans to connect them up with the revolt-minded Jews.
9 Furthermore, the city of Rome was about to suffer the horrors and ruin of a great fire, A.D. 64, and Emperor Nero was about to turn the blame for this accidental fire away from himself by blaming the generally disliked, misunderstood Christians. Would the Christians inside the Roman Empire, by improper conduct, make themselves deserving of being suspected as the arsonists responsible for the burning of Rome? Providentially, in good time and with good forethought the inspired Peter showed Christians how to comport themselves in the Roman Empire under political governments.
10, 11. (a) Where is the “human creation” to which Christians are to be subject? (b) How or by whom did “every human creation” come into existence?
10 Accordingly, in 1 Peter 2:13-17 our attention is turned, not inside the congregation with its apostles, overseers and ministerial assistants, but outside the congregation to men in the visible, tangible world. Hence Peter tells us: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation.” (1 Pet. 2:13) Here Peter does not say every spiritual or divine creation, which would be a creation inside God’s organization, such as the spiritual creation spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; 4:24; and Colossians 3:10. A “human creation” is one founded or arranged for or produced by a human individual or a group, such as an ambitious human or a lawmaking body like a senate or an assembly. The first human king was the founder of the city of Babel or Babylon. This was Nimrod, the “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Gen. 10:8-10) Of course, Nimrod did not create himself as a human creature. He created or founded the office of king.
11 A lawmaking assembly or a government-making committee does not create the person who fills a certain government position. Such assembly or committee creates merely the office or government post that is to be occupied. It does not create the man that later occupies that office or post. When a man takes that office or post and assumes a title belonging to that position, then, as such, he becomes the creation of that human assembly or committee; he becomes a “human creation.” Thus by reason of his own action, aided by his followers, Nimrod was a “human creation” as the first earthly king. Likewise kings of other worldly nations are human creations by reason of the human origin of their office and of their appointment. Governors who are sent by such kings are also human creations.
WHETHER TO A KING OR TO GOVERNORS
12. For whose sake do they subject themselves, and how for his sake?
12 Peter names or enumerates whom he means by the expression “every human creation” by going on to say: “Whether to a king as being superior or to governors.” Such a king does not mean the Lord Jesus Christ, because Peter just referred to him by saying: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves.” Thus Christians do not do something directly to God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, but for his sake they subject themselves to “every human creation.” How for his sake? Because they do not want to bring any reproach upon the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not want their following him to be blamed for being disorderly and worldly among the nations. They desire to honor their Lord by being law-abiding residents, paying back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.—Luke 20:25.
13, 14. (a) Whom is the expression “king” thought by some to mean? (b) Where is it that such a “human creation” as a “king” is “superior,” and to whom?
13 The king whom Peter here mentioned to Christians within the Roman Empire is thought by some to mean the Roman emperor, Nero at this time. In fact, some modern Bible translations, such as Moffatt’s and An American Translation, read: “the emperor as supreme”; and The New English Bible (New Testament): “the sovereign as supreme.”
14 However, Herod Agrippa I of Palestine and his son Herod Agrippa II, and Aretas of Nabataea, are mentioned as kings. (Acts 12:1; 25:13, 24; 26:1, 2; 2 Cor. 11:32) Such a “human creation” as a king or emperor is not superior or supreme inside the Christian congregation. There he is not superior to Jehovah God, who is the Most High, or to Jesus Christ, who is the Lord and Head of the congregation that is his body. But outside in the Devil’s organization the king is supreme locally or the emperor is supreme in the empire. So, as Christians are in the world of which Satan the Devil is the ruler and god, they have to be realistic and recognize that fact and act accordingly. The king or the emperor is superior to the governors whom he sends (John 13:16), but specially to the people his subjects. Hence the honor that is paid to the king or to the emperor is higher than that paid to governors.
15. When honoring a king, whom also must we honor, and what is his purpose in sending them, according to Peter?
15 Of course, if we honor the king or the emperor we must show it by also honoring his representatives, the “governors as being sent by him.” Now, when he sends these human creations, these governors, does the king intend to promote badness, disorder, confusion, moral decline, and business ruin and stagnation? Are governors sent by the king with a harmful, malicious intent? No! answers Peter, who says: “Being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good.” According to their own national laws or their own assignment of duties, Peter says that this is the purpose of sending and locating governors in Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia, Asia Province and Bithynia and elsewhere.
16. What was the mission or function of governors in the Roman Empire with regard to Christians?
16 This mission of governors was especially true with regard to imperial colonies in distant parts of the Roman Empire. Otherwise, such governors would only induce revolt in the colonies. They were sent to maintain law and order. They were not sent specifically to persecute or act against true Christians. But, of course, if Christians did not bring forth the fruits of God’s holy spirit but turned to bringing forth the “works of the flesh” and thus did the same bad things that worldly persons did, then the governors would punish such Christians, not for being Christians, but for becoming evildoers and unfaithful examples of Christianity. The governors did not turn their attention solely to Christians. They inflicted punishment upon evildoers in general, including Christians who disobeyed Peter’s instruction and became evildoers. Of course, governors were obligated to give Christians the benefit of a trial when these were falsely accused by enemies. The unjust punishment of Christians was not the specific or exclusive function that governors were sent out to serve. Governors might even protect Christians.
17. (a) Was it the mission of governors to praise Christianity? (b) What is the idea, then, of Christians in seeking to win praise favorable to their religion?
17 To be sure, the governors were not sent by the king or by the Roman emperor to praise Christianity, for they had their own gods. But individual persons, whether Christian or not, could receive praise or approval from the governor for being orderly and law-abiding and beneficial to the community. The good conduct of the Christian would reflect favorably upon the religion that he practiced—Christianity. So in expressing any praise to the law-abiding Christian the governor would be indirectly paying a compliment to Christianity, the religion of these “aliens and temporary residents” in the Roman provinces. Christians have the right idea when they seek to win praise in behalf of their religion rather than to have punishment inflicted upon them for evildoing. What they want is that those ignorantly speaking against them “may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Pet. 2:12) Because of being misunderstood for their religion Christians may be spoken of as evildoers, in spite of their “fine works.” But such evilspeaking by enemies does not necessarily or unavoidably cause punishment to be inflicted upon faithful Christians by the king’s governors.
“SO THE WILL OF GOD IS”
18. Why, according to the way that Peter puts the matter, could it not be dangerous for us to be subject thus to worldlings?
18 But are we not going ahead on a dangerous basis, if we say that Peter was talking about political kings and governors of this old world? How could a Christian apostle tell Christians to subject themselves to worldlings? Is that not perilous to Christian faith and practice? Would that not oblige Christians to obey the king and his governors rather than obey God? By no means; for Peter says that such subjecting of ourselves is God’s will for Christians who spiritually are “aliens and temporary residents” in this world of kings and governors. Such subjection has a purpose. What? “For so the will of God is, that by doing good you may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men.” (1 Pet. 2:15) It would not be God’s will for Christians to obey kings and governors rather than God. Christians could not be “doing good” and at the same time be obeying the king and his governors to the point of disobeying God and sinning against God. Peter did not mean that Christians in subjection to kings and governors should break God’s laws. Disobeying God by breaking his commandments does not muzzle the ignorant talk of unreasonable men who do not want to understand Christianity.
19. (a) What is the “good” for doing which the Christians earn praise? (b) For the sake of what do they do it, and is their subjecting of themselves a forced subjection?
19 So the “good” for which the doers of good earn praise from the governors means what the governors think to be good and yet what is in harmony with God’s law and not against Christian principles. Good of this kind, although not directly itemized or specified by God’s Word, Christians may safely do. Spiritually as God’s people they are a free people. Their being slaves of God frees them from slavery to men. But “for the Lord’s sake” and for the sake of the good news of God’s kingdom they must do as the apostle Paul did, make themselves slaves to all sorts of people or creations in order to gain Gentiles and Jews to the side of God’s kingdom. (1 Cor. 9:19-23) Accordingly, when Christians subject themselves to the human creations that people of this world recognize and obey, Christians also do as Peter said: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for moral badness, but as slaves of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16) Christians subject themselves freely, voluntarily, and it does not hurt them. It helps to keep them out of trouble.
FREEDOM AND HONOR
20. What does our Christian freedom not entitle us to do, and, if we did, what would governors be obliged to do?
20 Peter’s thought should be plain to us. Our Christian freedom does not entitle us to ignore political governments or to try to live as though they did not exist, thus flouting them, defying them even in things not contrary to God’s will and law. Such disrespectful conduct would only get us into trouble, because we are still in this old world, not God’s new world of righteousness. It is only right that we hold back from moral badness. Even political governors would not consider us free to commit moral badness but would rightly punish us as evildoers in fulfillment of their official duties. We must therefore not abuse our freedom in Christ.
21. Hence what one thing only could Peter mean with respect to Christian subjection to human creations?
21 When Peter says that our subjecting of ourselves is God’s will for us and that our doing this should be as “slaves of God,’? there is only one thing that he could mean. What? That our subjecting of ourselves to human creations such as kings and governors of this world is not total, not unlimited, but merely relative. It does not make us their abject slaves. We remain God’s slaves, obeying Him as our one Master and thus remaining free from other masters. Though we subject ourselves, we never forget that we are slaving for God, not for political kings, emperors or governors.
22. Our subjecting ourselves should not be with what attitude toward the human creations?
22 When we thus voluntarily and wisely subject ourselves, it should not be with a contempt toward the creations just because they are human and part of a condemned world. Peter tells us the proper attitude for us to take toward them, saying: “Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.”—1 Pet. 2:17.
23, 24. (a) What makes the honor Christians render to members of the congregation different from that rendered to “all men” outside? (b) Why must we honor “all men” outside, and to what extent?
23 The honor that Christians render to all persons inside the congregation is, of course, different from that rendered to all men outside. Just the same, we must render honor to all men in responsible political positions outside the congregation. It is formal honor. But for the “whole association of brothers,” Christians must have more than mere formal honor; they must have love, the brotherly love that proves that they are Christ’s disciples. (John 13:34, 35) As regards rendering honor, Romans 12:10 says to the congregation: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead,” thus not seeking honors from our brothers.
24 However, we cannot ignore worldly men in high station outside the congregation. We must duly honor them according to what position they hold as representatives of their subjects, their peoples. No, we must not “heil” them or idolize them, make gods out of them. The honor that we render them is only relative; we render it at the same time that we do as Peter says: “Be in fear of God,” the true God Jehovah. Ranked under our having fear of God is our present obligation: “Have honor for the king,” and consequently for the governors sent by him to rule well.
SLAVES AND WIVES
25, 26. (a) How does it become clearer that Peter means a relative subjection to human creations? (b) What does Peter say with regard to house servants?
25 As we read on in Peter’s first letter it becomes more and more clear that the Christians’ subjecting of themselves to “every human creation” is to be only relative, limited to a certain sphere. How so? Because Peter speaks of other cases, too, where Christians may have to be subject to others. What cases? Those of slaves and wives. We cannot help being born under various forms of political government of this world, but our being slaves and wives may depend largely upon what we ourselves decide to do. Says Peter:
26 “Let house servants be in subjection to their owners with all due fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those hard to please. For if someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing [to whom?]. For what merit is there in it if, when you are sinning and being slapped, you endure it? But if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Pet. 2:18-20.
27. (a) How does this show that the servants’ subjection is only relative? (b) The suffering that comes upon the servants should be only because of what, and how must it be taken by Christian servants?
27 Because the house servants or slaves continue to be guided by their Christian consciences, their subjection to their owners cannot be more than relative subjection. This must be so especially toward unchristian owners, who are not good or reasonable but are hard to please. Despite doing their conscientious best, Christian servants or slaves might be mistreated by such sort of owners. Also, because their Christian consciences may not let them do the morally bad or ungodly things that such owners may demand, the servants or slaves may suffer unjust punishment. But this is suffering “because of conscience toward God.” Even though the suffering is unjust, the Christian servant or slave must take it. He must not run away or fight back in revolt. He must endure it in a proper subjecting of himself to his owner. When he does so, this becomes a “thing agreeable with God.” It does not throw any bad reflections upon the Christianity to which the slave adheres.
28, 29. (a) Amid such suffering what does a Christian servant have for his consolation and guidance? (b) How does Peter describe this model conduct?
28 Amid this undeserved suffering at the hands of hard-to-please owners the Christian servant or slave has a model to follow. From this model he can draw great consolation. It is a model furnished by someone greater than himself, yes, by his own Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Notice how Peter consoles the suffering Christian slaves by referring to this perfect model, as Peter says:
29 “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously. He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live in righteousness. And ‘by his stripes you were healed.’ For you were like sheep, going astray; but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”—1 Pet. 2:21-25.
30. With respect to this Model, what is the main point to note, and why is this important?
30 Since the Leader in Christianity thus suffered unjustly, his disciples could not expect to escape similar suffering unjustly. But the main point to note is that our Leader endured it uncomplainingly. To imitate him we must do likewise, whether as slaves or not. As in the case of Jesus Christ, such unjust suffering with no complaining, threatening or reviling works out for good, even for others. It is only the enduring of the unjust, undeserved kind of suffering that is a “thing agreeable with God.”
31, 32. (a) To whom does Peter then turn with counsel, and why? (b) What does Peter counsel these to do?
31 After encouraging and consoling the Christian slaves who were suffering unjustly “because of conscience toward God,” Peter then turns to others who had to subject themselves even under cases of unjust mistreatment. These were Christian wives married to unchristian husbands who did not obey God’s Word. Somewhat like slaves, wives are the property of owners, namely, their husbands, whom the Jews even today call Baalim or Owners. (Hos. 2:16; Ex. 21:22; Deut. 22:22, 24; Prov. 31:11, 23, 28) Rather than counseling Christian wives to get a separation or divorce from unbelieving, undedicated husbands, the apostle Peter points back to the case of the slaves and says:
32 “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect [more literally, with fear (phobos)]. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord.’ And you have become her children; provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.”—1 Pet. 3:1-6.
33, 34. (a) What kind is this wifely subjection, and what good result is possible from it? (b) To whom does Peter point as examples for Christian wives, and like which one in particular should they adorn themselves?
33 No more than in the case of Christian slaves, the Christian wives do not render a total subjection to their owners, without regard for God or Christian conscience. Wifely subjection too is merely relative and has to be balanced with fear of God and a conscientious regard for God’s Word. If she left her unbelieving husband and did not subject herself to him in a way to please God, how could the wife win her husband to Christianity without a word of mouth but by her faithful Christian conduct? She could not do so. For examples of wifely subjection Peter points, not to divorcees or to worldly women who demand “women’s rights” and equality with men, but to the “holy women” of former times who hoped in God.
34 Peter told wives to act like Sarah’s children, instructed by Sarah on how to act as a wife. Sarah recognized Abraham as her husbandly lord. She obeyed him even when he asked her to protect his life at the risk of her own freedom and security. (Gen. 12:11-20; 20:1-14) By thus subjecting herself to her husband Sarah was rewarded with playing an important part toward the eternal salvation of herself and the rest of the human family. She became the mother of Isaac, and thus an ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise a Christian wife can subject herself to her husband and do so with hope in God, in whose eyes she adorns herself with a “quiet and mild spirit” toward her husband. This may work for not only her own salvation but that of her husband and of others.
35, 36. (a) During the existence of this world, to what are we all obliged to subject ourselves, and to what extent? (b) How is this a safeguard and an advantage?
35 Not all of us who are Christian witnesses of Jehovah are human slaves or wives and thus bound to render subjection in those spheres. But, as long as we are in this old world by God’s permission, we are under political governments. As long as God lets these continue existing, we are bound, “for the Lord’s sake” and according to “the will of God,” to subject ourselves to “every human creation.” Neither Peter nor Paul leaves us in any doubt about it that this subjecting of ourselves to these worldly political institutions is only relative, subject at all times to a Christian conscience instructed in God’s Word. When we render such relative subjection, we avoid rousing indignation on the part of the people subject to the kings, emperors and governors because of our failing to show due honor to their rulers.
36 Not only will our relative subjection please such people, but it will especially please God. It will be a safeguard for us against joining in political conspiracies or rebellions against constituted authorities, even when we are persecuted for being Christian witnesses of Jehovah. It will disarm the enemies of God’s kingdom that we are preaching, for they will have no real fault to find or to prove against us except it be with regard to the law of our God.
37. So what will we all be found doing now everywhere, and where will our subjection to government be total earth-wide?
37 Wherever we live, under whatever form of government of men we live, we shall always be found doing good and glorifying God. In his new world of righteousness after the universal war of God’s great day, we shall have the honor and joy of subjecting ourselves totally to the only government then in full control of the earth, that of God’s kingdom by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
a See also Acts 2:14, 34, 36; 10:34, 36; 11:2, 16, 17; 15:7, 11; 1 Peter 1:3; 2:13; 3:15; 2 Peter 1:1, 2, 8, 14, 16; 2:20; 3:2, 18.