Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 2:17 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter here shows the responsibility we have toward all individuals and toward certain groups.
The form of the instruction here form beautiful literary symmetry. We find a chiastic ABBA pattern here Peter begins with something lower, moves to something higher, moves to something even higher, and then moves back down. The instructions form two pairs: “Honor all men” and “Love the brotherhood” go together. “Fear God” and Honor the emperor” go together.
The first pair
“Honor all men.”
Peter has been discussing submission to the government, and he is going to instruct Christians to honor the emperor. However, the emperor is not the only person worthy of honor .All individuals are created in God’s likeness, and all individuals therefore deserve honor. We should honor all—from the lowest peasant to the highest king. James makes this point abundantly clear when he discusses partiality (Js 2:1-7).
“Love the brotherhood.”
Although all men are to be honored, a special love should be manifested among Christians. Although all individuals are made in God’s likeness, Christians are family and should be treated as such.
The Scriptures often exhort us to love fellow Christians. “Let love be genuine” (Rom 12:9). “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (Eph 1:15). “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil 2:2).
The second pair
This pair may have been influenced by Proverb 24:21. “My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not disobey either of them.” However, in Peter there is a difference between God and the emperor. God is to be feared whereas the emperor is only to be honored. We are to show more love and respect to God than we should to the emperor.
This difference would be significant. In the Roman world, the emperor was considered at least semi-divine. Peter is showing that the emperor does not deserve worship and praise, only God deserves that.
Jesus made a difference between God and the emperor (Mk 12:13-17).
The idea of “fear” here is “reference, respect.” The idea here comes close to putting God first in our lives.
“Honor the emperor.”
Because we are Christian, we must honor governing authorities. Yet, as this text shows, we must not honor them more than God.