15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:15–17, NKJV)
God’s word teaches Christians to identify and turn away from those who promote and practice sin at every season, including the “perilous times” in which we live (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Eph. 5:8-11). Today’s passage teaches us to do good when the “ignorance of foolish men” would otherwise incite us to be unruly, unrighteous, and ungodly. In context, that includes submitting to human ordinances (that do not force us to sin, 1 Pet. 2:13-14; Acts 5:29). Being free in Christ (free from sin and death) means we are now bondservants of God and not men (Rom. 6:4-11, 16-18; 1 Cor. 7:23). Our freedom in Christ is not our license to be wicked; it is our calling to be God’s slaves (v. 16). Therefore, when evil authorities do evil things, we are to bear the image of Christ and patiently accept suffering for what is good (1 Pet. 2:18-24). For our part, we must be respectful of everyone (including rulers over us), love all our brethren, and fear God (v. 17). By doing so we silence (muzzle, give no credence to) worldly ignorance by exposing its inept, mindless, and egotistical foolishness (v. 15; 1 Cor. 3:18-23). By doing so, with God’s help, you “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NKJV)
Beginnings. Every New Year’s Day, people worldwide reflect on the previous year and resolve what they will do during our next 365-circuit around the sun. It is a perfect moment to remember who created the heavens and the earth and, therefore, time itself. With the precision that defies random chance, the earth sits on its tilted axis, rotating to produce night and day (not to mention gravity). This well-arranged order also gives the earth its seasons, protecting us from the sun’s otherwise harmful and deadly effects while sustaining plant, animal, and human life. God did that (Gen. 1; Psa. 33:6-9; Jer. 51:15-16). The hubris of humanity dares to think humans control this globe. God said to Job, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place” (Job 38:12)? We neither control the morning light nor the dark of night; God does. How foolish it is to think humans control the heavens and the earth! “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)? Pause as another year begins to give thanks to God, our Creator, and Sustainer. Thank God for your life, and especially for the life He gives you in Christ (Rom. 6:23). There is no better beginning to your new year.
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13–17, NKJV)
Christians show respectful submission to governing authorities. We don’t break the law. We do so “for the Lord’s sake” because He ordained civil authority and rules over it (Rom. 13:1-2). This is the will of God, and by doing so we silence the ignorance of foolish men (v. 15). When Christians vote, they are doing good, and our votes should advance righteousness and godliness in the land. We must obey God rather than men, but our freedom in Christ does not permit us indiscriminately to violate laws we deem improper (Acts 5:29). Instead, we obey God’s command to honor all people, including those with civil authority (v. 17). Remember, it is easy to submit to laws and honor rulers with which we agree. The test of faith is to submit to laws with which we disagree and to honor those in office for whom we did not vote.
1 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:7–9, NKJV)
Psalm 96 is a call to worship the Lord God because “He is coming to judge the earth” (Psa. 96:13). He is sovereign over every kingdom of earth and over every family of people who inhabit it. People of every nation are called on to attribute to the one true God the glory and strength by which He reigns, provides, and judges us all. Worship is about honoring God, not ourselves (v. 8). We must bring our offerings into His presence with holiness and reverence. Jesus teaches us to worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jno. 4:24). His gospel reveals the offerings of praise that God accepts (Acts 2:42). These offerings consist of the Lord’s Supper, praying, singing, giving, and teaching God’s word (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19). The Old Testament repeatedly teaches us God will not accept whatever we decide to give Him as worship, but that which He instructs us to give Him in worship. From Cain and Abel to Nadab and Abihu, from King Saul to King Uzziah and more, we learn God only accepts worship from hearts that reverently give His commanded worship. Let us give God the homage He is due. May we ever come before God with praise and adoration from hearts that fear Him and with lives devoted to holiness.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
Humanity stands before the superlative majesty of God. His wisdom and knowledge are more profound than any human philosophy. Man’s wisdom is foolishness to Him (1 Cor. 1:25). His purposes, decisions, and ways do not originate in the human heart. God has revealed His mind, His judgments, and His conduct to us by His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-11; Eph. 3:3-5). Paul’s use of Isaiah 40:13-14 calls our attention to this fundamental truth: We do not tell God how He should do things. God does not arrange His purposes based on our advice and counsel. He is sovereign over us. Many push back at this truth and refuse to yield to the supremacy of the Almighty. To do so invariably leads to foolishly following false gods (Rom. 1:21-23). May we humbly bow before God and bring ourselves into harmony with His will. He rules His world, including each of us, in the wisdom of truth and righteousness.
20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Corinthians 8:20–21, NKJV)
During his third preaching journey, the apostle Paul encouraged churches in Gentile regions to send funds to relieve their needy brethren in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9). Paul meticulously advised the churches to choose messengers to deliver their generous gifts to their brethren (2 Cor. 8:16-18, 23; 1 Cor. 16:3-4). These scriptures establish a pattern that approves churches sending benevolent relief directly to a needy church. Paul also sets an example of honor when administering church funds. Honesty and transparency in the sight of God and before men are vital when handling the funds of a local church. Those who have that responsibility must be careful and faithful stewards. Respect for God, the church, and the power of godly influence demands nothing less (1 Pet. 2:12).
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:22–24, NKJV)
You likely have more influence than you know. Although the churches of Judea had not personally met Paul during the early years after his conversion to Christ, they knew of it and his work. The influence of a life previously given to the faithless destruction of Christians, but now given to preaching the gospel, was profound. The disciples honored God as a result of Paul’s faith and conduct. Here is an example of the growth and impact of godly influence. When your life seasons the world with grace, and when your words and deeds illuminate this dark world of sin with truth and righteousness, you will influence others to glorify God (Matt. 5:13-16; Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). You may never know how far your influence reaches. That does not matter, because we aim to honor God, not ourselves (2 Cor. 5:9). Be an influencer for Jesus Christ and His gospel in truth, justice, mercy, and faith. God sees and rewards faithful disciples, and that is enough (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Proverbs 23:22, NKJV)
We join today with sons and daughters the world over as they honor their mothers. God, the giver of all good gifts, has given us the wonderful gift of mothers. Mothers are tireless givers, fierce protectors, and sacrificial sustainers of their children’s lives. Godly mothers also tend to the spiritual lives of their children. Like Eunice and Lois, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, God-fearing mothers teach their children sincere faith in Christ (2 Tim. 1:5). Sadly, not every son and daughter respects and honors the blessings of their mother’s love, devotion, and sacrifice. It is hard for us to understand why children turn their backs on their mothers, but it happens. Wise Solomon warned against despising your mother in her old age. The mother who bore you and kept you alive when you could not do so yourself may well need you to care for her one day. Be patient with your mother as she ages. Be kind to her. Show her your love. Doing so will comfort her heart and assure her of your love and respect. It will also show your respect for God, who gave us motherhood. After all, without mothers, you would not be here. None of us would. Indeed, that deserves our respect and honor—that, and so much more.
10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.” (Joshua 14:10–11, NKJV)
Even in old age, faithful Caleb was ready to wage war against the enemies of God’s people. He succeeded in occupying Hebron as his portion of the inheritance (Josh. 15:13-14). Even though our physical strength diminishes with age, there is much older men and women of faith can accomplish for the Lord. The psalmist observed that “the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,” and “they shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing” (Psa. 92:12-14). As the COVID-19 virus is especially (although not exclusively) attacking the elderly among us, we see a refreshing concern for the elderly among us. Aged men and women are valuable, and aged Christians have work to do in the kingdom (Titus 2:2-5). Instead of discarding the aged as burdensome, Israel was commanded, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). They were to learn that showing respect to the older person reflects their reverence for God. If you are older, seize this time of life and be strong in faith, even as your body grows weaker. If you are younger, respect for the older generation, because God willing, you will be in their shoes one day.
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).