1 Peter 2, 16-17 (Mar 18, 2007)
If you're free - serve God! (1 Pe 2:16-17)
The Cost of Freedom
16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
If you're free ... serve God!
note: If you're not free, then you're a slave to sin (John 8:34)
II. Body - Four Costs of our Freedom
Our main idea today is simple: If you're free - serve God!
But notice it starts with "if" ... If you're not free, then you're a slave ... a slave to sin. So the first step is to get free from sin's grasp ...
What does it mean to be free? Most people say something like this: "We're free to do what we want." Perhaps that's true - but notice I said "perhaps."
There are assumptions behind that definition, and we need to make them clear.
Two in particular:
1. We are free to do what we want - without consequence.
2. We are free to do what we want - and that makes what we do good (we define what is good).
But is that what Christians mean by freedom? No!
Christian freedom is tied to the idea of slavery. We once were slaves ... slaves to sin. Sin owned us - we had to do what sin commanded. But, God paid the price to redeem us, to free us. Now, we are free - paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross. We are free to say yes or NO! to sin - just like a slave, once freed, is free to still obey their former master, or politely decline.
Our freedom is a freedom from sin - we are free to serve whomever we choose. Who do you choose to serve? Sin, or our Savior? Hopefully, that question is an easy answer - we serve the Lord.
Since the price is already paid - the Cross - what's left?
To obey! As royal priests, we serve the Lord. This is how:
A. We show everyone respect
We are free to respect everyone ... no one is "off limits" ... Jesus on the Cross said, "Father, forgive them [everyone], for they do not know what they are doing." The price of our freedom is Jesus on the Cross ...
Our freedom is paid for - are we living out our freedom by respecting everyone? Jesus forgave "them" - everyone.
If we see people as sinners to stay away from, then how can we share the good news with them?
B. We love all believers
OK, this one seems easy. I try hard to love all fellow Christians - so I'm good here, right? Well, no!
Our Scripture says, "Love the brotherhood of believers." It does not say to try and do it; it says to actually do it - fully! Why? Again we turn to the Cross ...
Jesus actually loved us on the Cross: (John 15:13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
But right before that (verse 12), Jesus commands us to love - everyone. Jesus says this is how we know we are His - by loving others.
Do you love believers? All believers?
C. We fear God
Look at what we've seen already: (1) Respect everyone; (2) love believers ... now fear God. The verb 'fear' (phobeisthe) here does not mean to be in terror, but awe and reverence that leads to obedience (cf. phob' in 1 Peter 1:17, phobou in 3:16, and phobon in 2 Cor. 7:11).
You will never truly respect people until you revere God.
As we try to respect everyone and love believers, we stumble. We can't do this all the time, for everyone, under our own effort. We can't - but through God we can. So we bump into this idea - what we can't do ourselves, we can do through the power of God. And this humbling leads us into reverence & awe: the fear of the Lord. Am I humble enough to fear God? To fear the God who loves me enough to hang on the Cross for me?
D. We honor rulers
These four commands follow a pattern - First the universal, then the particular; first everyone, then believers.
Now, first we address the Universal King - God ... by knowing we are not God. We fear God ....
Then, we address the particular - the earthly leader. They are not God either ... we honor them, but not fear them.
They are placed in their position through divine blessing - as hard as that is for us to understand at times. We honor the king because we do fear the Lord.
As Christians, we must exercise discernment in our relationship to human government. There are times when the right thing is to set aside our own privileges, and there are other times when using our citizenship is the right thing. Paul was willing to suffer personally in Philippi (Acts 16:16?24), but he was unwilling to ?sneak out of town? like a criminal (Acts 16:35?40). When he was arrested on false charges, Paul used his citizenship to protect himself (Acts 22:22?29) and to insist on a fair trial before Caesar (Acts 25:1?12).
Paul suggests that the baptismal gift of the Holy Spirit indicates that the believer is no longer a slave, but fully a child of God, and the law can be fulfilled out of responsive love instead of enslaving necessity (Gal. 4:1-7). Thus the Spirit becomes a sign of liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
This new liberty, however, is not merely freedom from past masters; it is also freedom for new obedience to God so complete that Paul can paradoxically speak of a new bondage replacing the old, bondage to righteousness and God (Rom. 6:18-22), which has as its consequence life, not death.
We are creatures made by God, we are not gods. We are given life by God for a purpose. We are free to worship God, to serve God, and to witness to the rest of creation by living a life that honors God. This is real freedom - freedom to be who God created us to be. This freedom - like all freedom - is not cheap ... it was paid for us by Jesus on the Cross.