Submit to Authority: The Biblical Agenda (and ours)

"Why ask why?" goes the tired Budweiser slogan. But when it comes to understanding the ethical instructions of the bible, asking 'why' can be the difference between blind mimicry and holy obedience. So, we ask...

Why does Paul instruct slaves to honor their masters? Is it because slavery is acceptable, even ordered by God? Or does he have another purpose?

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider
their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name
and our teaching may not be slandered.
1 Timothy 6:1

Why? Because it'll be good for the spread of the gospel of Jesus.

Why does Peter tell wives to submit to their husbands? Is it because this is God's eternal will? Is it the way things ought to be? Or is there another reason?

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own
husbands so that, if any of
them do not believe the word,
they may be won over without words by the behavior
of their
wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
1 Peter 3:1-

Pretty clear. Submissiveness was Peter's mission strategy.

Why does Paul instruct that Christians to submit to the governing authorities and pray for them? Is obeying authority intrinsically good or is it a method for another end?

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible,
as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone...
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities...
Romans 12:17-18, 13:1

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession
and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all
those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet
lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases
God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

We are to relate to the governing authorities with one priority in mind - the salvation of all people. And usually this means playing nice.

But let's keep in mind that while biblical author sometimes endorse submissiveness - at other times they are subtly subversive.

Paul's household codes are hardly run-of-the-mill. Unlike others in the 1st century, these were shockingly addressed to husbands as well as wives, to masters as well as slaves. In their original contexts, these were grossly 'liberal' and 'progressive,' while when applied literally in our day they are blatantly 'conservative' and 'traditional.'

So we must ask - what motivates us to defend our particular points of view on household order or relations to the government. Are we attempting to maintain our own position of power, or are we driven by the same desired outcome as the saints - the winsome reflection of the gospel of grace that all might be saved?

Other Posts in this Series:
Should Wives Submit?   
Good Looking Gospel: The Missional Heartbeat of the Household Codes
Who Wears the Pants? Unlocking the Household Codes

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