Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (NASU)
Paul just finished with a brief statement that revealed a significant amount of underlying theology. In 2:15, he told us to declare it with all authority. “Sound theology has a way of doing that [taking a great load off your mind],” says Linus in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz that has been printed and reprinted many time since the 1950s. If theology doesn’t do that as well as teach us how to live correctly, then it isn’t good theology. So Paul sandwiches some practical advice between his delivery of good theology in the last chapter and that to come in this chapter. It starts with reminding us how our theology should show up in everyday practice.
For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. (2 Peter 1:12 NKJV)
Paul isn’t the only one who used reminders. Peter acknowledged that his readers already knew the truths that he was teaching but also reminded them again so they would not stumble (2 Peter 1:10). Jude also reminded his readers (Jude 5). Paul often wrote told his audience to remember things: the way he lived (1 Cor 4:17); the fundamentals of the Gospel (1 Cor 15:1-8); to not neglect one’s spiritual gift (2 Tim 1:6); Jesus’ trustworthiness (2 Tim 2:11-14).
They forgot the Lord their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them. (Judg 8:34 NLT)
This is the primary reason we need to be reminded. We tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of life and forget the Lord and all He has done. This especially happens in times of prosperity. Paul reminded the Corinthians that things that happened to the Israelites are bad examples given to us so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes; He always provides a way out (1 Cor 10:6-13).
Submission to Authority
And all the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! (Num 14:2 RSV)
The life of Israel was a yo-yo of obedience and disobedience. The cycle of disobedience and grumbling started even before they left Egypt, continued before they crossed the Red Sea, and peaked when told to invade Canaan. What is grumbling except disobedience or an unwillingness to submit to authority, even when that authority comes directly from God?
This is exactly what the Bible tells us over and over. In Deuteronomy 17:12-13 a person who would not obey the priests was to be killed for his rebellion and as a deterrent for others. Proverbs 24:21 (NIV) warns against those who want to rebel against God and king. Jesus didn’t rebel against Roman rule but expressed the principle that they had the right to tax people because that was their domain (Matt 22:21). Paul expanded on this explaining God has established governments and we need to be in a right relationship to their authority (Rom 13:1-7). He also urged us to pray for our government leaders so that we could lead quiet and peaceful lives (1 Tim 2:1-2). Peter also commanded us to submit to authority as a means of silencing slander (1 Peter 2:13-17).
But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.” (Acts 4:19 NASB)
How much harder is it for us to submit to government authority when it is wicked? It seems wearisome to have to bring this up, because some distort it and try to imagine that anything from paying income tax to using federal land without paying for it are all areas where it is legitimate to disobey the government. (Translation: I don’t like the governments imposition on me so I will disobey; I know better than the government.) So it needs to be addressed whenever we talk about submission to authorities, I also must point out that we also have a duty to resist when the government clearly asks us to violate God’s law. Notice, though, that Peter and John were willing to submit to the punishment of the authorities when they said, “Judge for yourselves.” A short time later, after disobeying the authority’s command not to preach in the name of Jesus, they were beaten and rejoiced about it (Acts 5:40-41).
The tough decision is when to disobey. I’m reminded that during WW II, many Germans knew that Jews were being slaughtered and did nothing. A 2011 verdict was reached against John Demjanjuk who served as a guard with no evidence in any specific killing. The result of that decision is that serving in any capacity in those death camps can now be prosecuted. A cook or a clerk drafted into the army has no choice to where or when to serve. According to this precedence, prosecutors are implying that they should have faced court martial and possible execution themselves rather than obeying their evil authorities. Why then, are the people who supplied food for the camps not prosecuted? Were they any less responsible? I am not saying this in any way to suggest that blind obedience is OK. I’m just trying to point out that it may not be as easy to disobey or know when to obey as we would like to believe.
Bring this home with abortions. What would happen if by some miracle, this country woke up and realized that abortions have murdered more people than the holocaust? Would the courts start prosecuting those involved? Even if that doesn’t happen, do we drive by a clinic that provides abortions every day and say or do nothing? Is a nurse who works in the cardiology center of a publicly funded hospital where abortions are performed just as culpable as the nurse who helps perform an abortion? Should everyone from the janitorial staff and accounting people to the doctors who believe abortion to be wrong quit when they discover that abortions are performed at their facility? Maybe if they did, along with every supplier refusing to sell to them, the abortions would stop. God will judge and what will His verdict be?
Ready for Good Deeds
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58 ESV)
We may not always understand when to disobey governments, but there is one thing that we can know and do. We can be ready to do good. I can imagine that some people are providentially placed in organizations or government agencies where evil occurs, people like Joseph or Daniel. It may be significant in that they are working to reverse evil practices such as torture or quietly counsel someone against getting an abortion. It could have been an SS prison guard who treated prisoners with respect and tried to help them in some way. It may be someone like Irena Sendler, who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto where they faced certain death. She worked within the system to get the children out and paid dearly for her actions when caught by the Nazis.
Paul admonishes us to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col 3:17). We are very fortunate in the U.S. At this time, we are free to quit a job if it isn’t honoring to the Lord. If our work is a burden, perhaps we need to look at it through the eyes of the Lord and find a way to make it honoring to the Lord. It was said of Brother Lawrence, “His greatest business did not divert him from God.”
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal 6:9-10 NIV)
Sometimes it seems like everything is going the wrong way. The government, society, even churches seem to be in opposition to what we believe is doing good. Sometimes, we continue to work for a good cause and see no results. At these times it is easy to turn inward and only to other Christians. Paul affirms that we should be especially kind to other believers, but his first command is to do good for all people. The temptation is to give up, but he has reminded us that our labor will not be in vain (1 Cor 15:58) and now he says we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Rom 12:17-18 NASU)
In between Paul’s reminders of how to do good, he says not to malign anyone. What a contrast between the way the world acts and the way we should act. Rather than malicious actions and words, we must not retaliate in the say way that we are attacked. Whether it is in an argument with a family member, the boss at work, or a neighbor, retaliation never brings about the godly life that God wants us to have. What may be very hard to do on our own, but is possible with the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we can live at peace with everyone. They may not be at peace with us, but when we are peaceable, gentle, and show consideration for everyone, we will be at peace in our hearts.
 David Rising, “Ex-Ss Guard on Trial in Late Push to Punish Nazi Crimes,” Seattle Times, February 10, 2016, accessed February 18, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/ex-ss-guard-on-trial-in-late-push-to-punish-nazi-crimes/.
 Lous Bülow, “Irena Sendler,” The Holocaust, Crimes, Heroes and Villains, accessed February 19, 2016, http://www.auschwitz.dk/sendler.htm.
 Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, The Practice of the Presence of God (Salt Lake City: Project Gutenberg, 2004), 77, Kindle.