Our family was blessed to be able to attend one of the sessions of Grace Family Baptist's Annual Spring Conference for this year, and the following are some of the notes that I took. Pastor Conrad Mbewe was the guest speaker, visiting from Kabwata Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa (more about him at his blog here).
Pastor Mbewe spoke on the topic of authority and submission. Opening with I Peter 3:13-17, the Apostle Peter is writing to the dispersia of Pontious, Galatia, and believers scattered all over various countries. Peter teaches with a focus on salvation, which is the organizing principle of their lives. As obedient children, so we should be holy, living lives consecrated to God - lives distinct from the Gentiles (the unbelieving world.)
In Ephesians 5, we are instructed to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Col. 3:18 also emphasizes submission, that God has established an order to his people. We honor and respect God by respecting an honoring those in authority over us. We are to be subject, not for America's sake, but for the Lord's sake. We are keeping the vertical plane in the right place.
The question becomes, what if the leader is a despot? This was not a new issue at the time, and Peter addresses the subject of suffering at the hands of the unjust. In doing what is right we might be called upon to suffer for it.
In I Pet. 2:17, we read about being subject to every institution. Submission and authority is a not a side-issue, but rather is at the center of godliness and holiness. Our individual holiness pours into other areas of life.
Peter avoids splitting the hairs of obeying issues such as national vs. state, but rather gives blanket instruction to honor all authority. When Paul speaks of submitting to leaders, we are indirectly submitting to God, and in Paul's situation, he wasn't talking about a Christian leader but rather a despot and a tyrant. National and state leaders that rule are servants of God (I Pet. 2). These governors ensure the way that we live with one another, and uphold laws against those who break them, punishing those who do evil and praising those who do good. Rom. 13 - rulers are ultimately servants for our good. Pay taxes, respect and honor those in authority, as submission to authorities pleases God.
My notes were a little scattered, as we had some kid issues, but there were also a few notes on marriage, and that the one who brings up together in marriage is God. Our vows are made to Him, and we do not need a civil magistrate. We register to satisfy the laws of the land. We should be careful not to use the freedom that we have in Christ to breach the laws of the land.