“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” – 1 Peter 2:16
In the previous verses, Peter has revealed that God’s will for Christians is to submit to every human authority, from the emperor (in Peter’s time) down to those who enforce the law. Peter delivered this command understanding that Christians would sometimes be falsely accused and treated unfairly by those in authority.
But don’t Christians have a higher authority? Aren’t we servants first and foremost to God and His will? Peter says yes. That’s exactly the point he is making. Christians are free people in Christ. We are no longer subject to the Old Testament Law, and our true purpose and future are not determined by any human government.
Peter doesn’t want his Christian readers to think of submission to human authorities as any kind of slavery. We should submit to human authority of our own free will. We should submit to human authority not out of loyalty to governments or men, but out of obedience and loyalty to God. As His “slaves,” we follow His command to submit to human laws. God is the one we are serving in our submission to any other authority. That makes us truly free. Believers are not people who submit to governments out of cowering fear, or even earthly loyalty. We submit because our God tells us to, and we are His people set aside for His purposes.
We must never, Peter writes, claim our freedom as God’s people as way of justifying wrong or sinful (or “evil”) choices. To do so shows that we deeply misunderstand what it means to be a free servant of God. Nor are we to use “submission” as an excuse to do something sinful, simply because the government has told us to do it (Acts 5:28–29).
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