“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
The book of First Peter is so practical. In chapter two, special attention is given by the apostle as to how we Christians are to live before the world. His purpose for these instructions was to make us realize “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9)
This article will attempt to help us make twenty-first century applications of these first century principles. Peter sets forth four exhortations. First, “honor all people.” Here is especially meant those around us who are not Christians. Literally, we are to “esteem” all people. Every person is a potential child of God. Every person has an immortal soul that will endure for eternity.
Honor the aged. Remember the admonition in Leviticus 19:32 – “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.” Review the touching scene when Joseph receives his father Jacob into Egypt, his introduction of Jacob to Pharaoh, and the provisions Joseph made for his father and his family (Genesis 46, 47).
Honor the young people. Their traits include some of the best, and their future work in the kingdom should occupy our thoughts and prayers. Blessed are those who have a special rapport with the young, and can influence them toward a godly life!
Honor women. God’s special instructions toward women need to be taught in every generation. Much confusion, much disregard for God’s will on this subject troubles our society and often affects congregations and Christian homes. The ideal husband/wife relationship is depicted by the apostle in Chapter 3:1-7. These are eternal principles!
Honor people of all races. God made all people of one blood and there is absolutely no respect of persons with God. Christians, of all people, should be free of racial prejudice.
The second exhortation given by Peter is to “love the brotherhood.” To love the church of God is to love those whom God loves as His family. While God certainly loves all and gave His son to die for all, His love for those who choose to be His by obeying the gospel is a special love indeed. He is the loving Father who welcomes home His prodigal son (Luke 15). When Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church in Antioch to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles and elders about the question of circumcision, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria on their way. They caused “great joy to all the brethren” as they told and retold the progress of the gospel at Antioch and in those places where they had preached on their first missionary journey. Love abounded as the cause to which they were giving their lives met with success. Many modern day examples can be cited for those who are taking the gospel with love to people around the world. We must always rejoice as truth prevails among brethren and be filled with sorrow when error prevails. Our love for those of “like precious faith” must abound and move us to sacrifice time and effort to help brethren whom we love.
Exhortation three is to “fear God.” Fear in this context means reverence or awe. “Holy and reverend is His name.” (Psalm 111:9, KJV) Stand in awe as you think of God’s power in creation, our existence, our salvation, His providential care for us...the list could go on and on! Fear God as you think of God’s coming judgment pictured “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12) Fear losing God and all of the blessings He gives, and for all those He has in store for His own. Paul describes the terrible state of those “having no hope and without God in the world.” The fate of those who die without hope and without the promise of heaven when this life ends is even worse to contemplate. Solomon wrote the conclusion to his search for meaning in this life – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)
The fourth and final exhortation Peter wrote was “honor the king.” Our attitude toward lawfully constituted authority is noticed by family, friends, and coworkers and affects our ability to be a positive influence toward them. The king, president, or whoever exercises lawful authority over us is to be honored and respected for the office they hold. While New Testament Christians were often accused of being lawbreakers or rebels against authority, the charges were false. Of course, Christians were to “obey God, rather than men” if the authorities tried to stop the teaching and practicing of God’s will (Acts 5:29). “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1, 2)
These four exhortations effectively summarize our manner of life before the world. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. May our prayers include a request to God to help us as we live before others!