Submit to Government? (1 Peter 2)

It was Peter who uttered the words, "We must obey God rather than men!"1 to the Sanhedrin. Does he later tell us, in 1 Peter 2:13, to submit to secular governing authorities rather than God?

Read these two versions of the text.

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God ... Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:13-17 NASB2)

"Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: For so is the will of God ... Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." (1 Peter 2:12-17 DRA3)

"Be subject, then, to every human creation, because of the Lord, whether to a king, as the highest..." (1 Peter 2:13  Young's Literal Translation)¶ 

The first version seems to suggest we should submit to every human institution, while the second, an 1899 version, reads as though he is admonishing us to be submissive to every human creature alike and show them honour for God’'s sake. What was Peter saying and to whom?

In answer to whom, it is important to remember that Peter was appointed as the Apostle to the Jews4 and in the opening verses he writes:

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," (1Pe 1:1 NAU)

Clearly he is writing to the Jews in dispersion in the areas mentioned. The question then becomes, “How is he instructing the Jews in respect of their relationship with authorities?"

As to what is he saying, the question then is, "Are they to submit to a human institution or to a human creature?" Other more modern translations use have interpreted it to mean government5 or authority instituted among men.6

The difference is in the interpretation of the Greek word ktisis, which literally means "creation" (the act or the product)and is translated as such in every case, except in 1 Peter 2:13 of some versions. This word, ktisis, is also used by Paul to describe the “new creature” that people become in Christ Jesus.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB) (emphasis is mine)


Most modern lexicons will tell us that ktisis can mean creation, creature, or institution. To submit to any human creation or institution is tantamount to idolatry since we would be submitting to a thing we have created or formed. A cursory investigation of ktisis leaves me wondering how the word institution came to be included as a definition. Is it there because that is how it has been translated or that is what it means? I suggest that this is an interpretation of the Greek word and not a translation.

In modern legal circles we have to two main types of entities, one living, created by God and the other an artificial one such as a corporation, created by man. A corporation is an entity that has been given "personhood" by man through a legislative act. All our modern ‘governments’ are mere corporation.  Are we to submit to a thing created by the hand of man or to individuals selected by Jesus for positions of authority within the local body of believers? 

The University of Hawaii’s study determined that since 1900 secular governments have be responsible for the murder of 262 million people. If you haven’t already determined that our modern governments are inherently evil you are wasting your time reading this.

The word translated whether is the Greek word eite where it is defined as "a conditional disjunctive conjunction bringing together two objects in one's thoughts while keeping them distinct from each other." I would suggest that this could be better translated "as if" suggesting that Peter is presenting as a simile, "Submit to one another as if to the king or to governors." This is much more harmonious with the context and with other scriptures.

This is not about institutions; it is about relationships with people. You may love shopping, but when Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour as ourselves, He did not mean persons such Walmart® or Monsanto®

Young's Literal Translation, above, put an interesting slant in that it avoids the phrase "for the Lord's sake" as used in most versions. The Greek word used here is dis actually means through or because of. I wonder if Peter meant to say, "Be subject to every human creation, there because of the Lord." This is in better harmony with the rest of scriptures where we, Messianic believers, are admonished to obey those that the Lord has placed in authority over us—withing the body of Christ or the Kingdom of God.

In context, Peter is admonishing the Messianic Jews, for the sake of their testimony to those around them, that they show honour to every human creature whether they are kings, cops, or commoners. He summarizes well his intention for this chapter in the verse 17 where he writes, "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." Each of these entities are living beings not artificial entities.  His main point, I believe, is that they submit to those He has placed in authority over them, not those simply elected.

Footnotes

1Acts 5:29

2New American Standard Version

3The Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition. Very literal translation of the Latin Vulgate.

4Galations 2:7

5God’'s Word to the Nations - GWN

6New International Version - NIV

7Strong’s Concordance


©2009, steven, a man.

All publishing rights reserved. Permission is granted to reprint this article for personal use; however, no commercial re-publishing of the material in this article is permitted without prior written consent.

Steven is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.


Without Prejudice. © 2012, Steven., house of bij de Leij., a man.