Is It God’s Will for Us to Obey Everyone?

Does God Command Us to Obey Everyone?

Made subject to all?

As with other English translations of 1 Peter 2:13-14, the ESV reads: “Be submit for the Lord’s sake to every human organization, whether to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish the evildoers and commend the doers of good.”
Brent is now claiming that the term “human institution” means “human creation” in its literal sense.
Indeed, that is the case.
Moreover, that is the most straight-forward interpretation of it.
Be submissive to all human beings for the glory of God, to use the literal language.

Isn’t it a somewhat nebulous phrase, so we need to know what it means before we can even begin to consider whether or not it is correct?
The term “human creations” could refer to anything that was made by humans, such as a system of governance or a set of rules.
Also, it’s possible that “human creation” refers to the fact that God made mankind.
Be subordinate, then, not only to the things created by man, but also to the people whom God makes (1 Peter 2:13).
The question is, which is it?
And if you simply take those two questions, I believe the answer would be quite evident given the New Testament’s usage of the verb create and the noun creation.

After counting them all, I found that the term “create” or “creation” appears 39 times throughout the New Testament.
And every single one of them attributes it to divine intervention.
The New Testament never uses the word “make” to describe something that was made or was done by a human being.
Human creation in 1 Peter 2:13 probably doesn’t refer to something that humans really make.
Instead, it’s likely referring to God’s creation of humanity, or humans in general.
People are God’s handiwork, so to speak.

This is, in fact, what Brent means by asking this question.
To further his point, he wonders why “every human creature” (i.e., people God made) shouldn’t be the literal translation of “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to all human creations.”
As an alternative interpretation, why shouldn’t verse 13 be seen as encouraging a modicum of deference to every human being?

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Insights into the Meaning of “Institution”

We may or may not agree with the translation “Be subservient for the Lord’s sake to every human being,” but our stance will depend on two factors.

Before anything else, do we really think that the Greek term for “be subject” (hypotagte) can indicate anything other than “obey”?


It would be contrary to Peter’s goal for us to state that we should be subject to every human person if we construed the verb “be subject” as always implying the sense of obedience, since many individuals would urge us to do sinful acts that we should not do.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this is the consensus among biblical scholars: that to be subject is to abide by authority.
First and foremost, that variable will impact the translation.

Second, the immediate application and perhaps limitation that Peter puts on it is this: he continues, “whether it be to the emperor as sovereign, or to governors as sent by him” (v. 13). (1 Peter 2:13–14).
Thus, the claim is made that when Peter talks about submitting to governors and emperors, he is referring only to those whom God has created and authorized to have power over the rest of humanity (as, for example, is clearer in Romans 13:1–4).

Now, these two reasons are sufficient to persuade me, and most others, not to dispute the popular translation, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13).

To the Best of Our Honor

Even if this is not Peter’s primary intention, it seems to be his and Paul’s understanding of the Christian life to say that there is a sense in which we are to be subject to all people, not in the sense of obeying, but in the sense of serving. So, like I said at the outset, Brent is onto something that we really should take seriously.
To be subject means to humble oneself, to descend to one’s knees (sub-ject), to get one’s feet under another, and to do whatever it takes to help that person ascend to the truth, the righteousness, and the joy of eternity.

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We are to be subject to all others, not in the sense of being obedient, but rather in the sense of being of service to them.

In verse 15, Peter seems to move in this direction when he explains why Christians should submit to authority derived from human beings or institutions: “For this is the intention of God, that by doing good you should put to quiet the stupidity of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).
The importance of doing good is emphasized numerous times throughout 1 Peter.
This is one of his most signature and often utterances.
It recurs frequently as a method of interacting with everyone, not just those in positions of power.

More amazingly even, in verse 17 Peter says, “Honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17).
Both “respect every human creature” and “be submissive to every human creature” are extreme statements, and neither is necessarily true; there are clearly dishonorable people, just as there are people we should not obey.
There may be a method to submit to people who should not be obeyed if there is a way to honor dishonorable humans.

Then, in verse 18, Peter commands slaves to “be subject to their masters” (1 Peter 2:18).
The wives are then told to do the same in the following phrase of 1 Peter 3:1: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands.”
In the next paragraph, 1 Peter 3:7, he says something that took us by surprise—or at least it did me.
Instead than telling men to “be submissive to your women,” he writes, “Live with your wives in an understanding way, giving regard to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the favor of life.”

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Therefore, he will not argue that a husband’s and wife’s roles in terms of authority and submission are equivalent.
Nonetheless, he will reiterate his earlier statement from 1 Peter 2:17 (“Honor everyone”), stating that husbands are to honor their spouses.
And he prefaces this instruction with “likewise,” as if it were some sort of recurrence of the commands for submission that he has been giving us in our connection to government, relation to masters, and relation to husbands.

“Christians, taking their cue from the meek and selfless Christ, should be submissive to everybody for the sake of the Lord.” In addition, Paul instructs us to “do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10), to be subject to one other (Ephesians 5:21), and to “consider others more significant” than ourselves by becoming their servants (Philippians 2:3).

Dropping to a Higher Level

I think Brent is on to something when he draws our attention to the fact that Christians, following in the footsteps of the humble, sacrificial, suffering Christ, should be subject for the Lord’s sake to all people — not in the sense of obeying, but of desiring earnestly to go low and doing what we can to lift them up into the truth, into faith, into righteousness, and into everlasting life.

So, let’s give Brent the benefit of the doubt and agree that’s very astute on his part.
And that’s a possibility that needs serious consideration on our part.

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