This phrase, “honor to whom honor is due,” has been echoing around in my mind ever since I awoke out of a fitful sleep last week. In my half-awakened state, I recall in my dream I had become envious of a former colleague at work because he received deserved recognition. I was greatly troubled by the envy I felt in my dream, and was more appalled that it is so deeply part of me that it infects me where I hate it most: in the honor I give to Christ. This old man that is so much part of me that it is me, wants to take some credit that belongs to Christ. This horrifies me. But in my mind, that is, in my new nature, I recognize this treason and cry out to the Lord to subdue the enemy of my sin and my flesh that is so much me (Rom. 7).
As sometimes happens, a thought like this (honor to whom honor…) will reverberate around in my head until it attaches to many things I had not connected to it. I realize that this evil tendency of robbing God of His honor is not only in me, but it is a cancer in our society as well; it is all around us. God has told us in no uncertain terms that we are to honor those offices which God has appointed, and honor those who hold them. We do so, not to earn man’s empty praise or to manipulate men to get what we want from them, but for the Lord’s sake alone. How much of what is wrong in the world today is the result of failing, for the Lord’s sake, to honor those whom Christ has put in the place of honor. But to fail to do so is to also fail to honor the sovereign Lord of all.
And this is where the rubber meets the road. If I view myself as a little sovereign who can rise up on his hind legs to raise protest against my parents, my employer, my tax collector, my governor or my president, or (if we were in such a case) my king on earth, then I would dishonor my Sovereign in heaven. You see, God is absolutely sovereign. He does all His will in all things -- whatever pleases Him. And what He does is right, simply because He thinks and does it. God assesses all that He does and finds it all to be very good (Gen. 1:31; John 19:30; Eph. 5:2). He does all His thoughts (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 14:24). He does all that pleases Him (Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11). He only is holy (Rev. 15:4). He only is good (Matt. 19:17). He only does wondrous things (Ps. 72:18). What does it all mean? It means He alone is worthy of all trust and all honor (Rev. 4:11; 5:12-14). We honor God because He is worthy of all honor. Because we honor God, we honor men that God has appointed over us, because through them God teaches us to honor Himself as sovereign. We trust our great God and Savior to do His perfect will, though we are evilly treated (1 Pet. 2:17-25; 3:1-18; 4:19). We are not fatalists. We pray that the Lord’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, that we might lead a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (Matt. 6:10; 1 Tim. 2:2; Luke 18:1-9).
I view the present widespread insurrection in our own nation to be a reflection of the widespread insurrection in the heart of man against the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:8). Call to mind how the Lord Jesus humbled Himself. The King of glory made Himself of no reputation (Php. 2:7)! When He was reviled, He reviled not again. When He suffered for righteousness’ sake, He entrusted Himself to His Father, knowing it was His will that He suffer at the hands of wicked men! Then again, remember Jude’s account, how that when Christ contended with the devil over the “body of Moses,”(1) He said, “The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9). Our Lord Jesus Christ, unlike me, did not raise His voice in the heat of passion against His foes. He calmly, majestically, in regal sovereignty, appealed to His Father. Paul instructed Timothy to humble himself this way. He said, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Paul himself used entreaties with his own countrymen when they opposed the Gospel (Rom. 9:1-5). And he instructed the Corinthians to follow his example: “Being defamed, we entreat” (1 Cor. 4:13). The Spirit of God, by the mouth of Solomon said, “The poor (in spirit) useth entreaties; but the rich (proud) answereth roughly” (Prov. 18:23). Remember how humbly David spoke to Saul when Saul persecuted him unjustly (1 Sam. 24:6-22; 1 Sam. 26:1-25)? Thus, we show forth our faith in our Sovereign Lord and Savior when we speak the truth in love and entreat, desiring the salvation of those to whom we speak, to the glory of the only Savior and King of glory whom we serve.
I find it interesting that God did not tell Israel to rise up in arms against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but rather, sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go. It was the LORD, not the people themselves, who delivered Israel out of Pharaoh’s hand. I have often wondered about this, in light of clear instructions from scripture, as I look back on American history. Was the Revolutionary war an act of faith or an act of rebellion? Could not God have turned the king’s heart without an uprising? Wouldn’t that have brought more honor to those who professed to be God’s favored nation than the shedding of blood (Ex. 2:12)? I also find it interesting that in our Declaration of Independence, man asserts that God has endued him with “inalienable rights.” Really? Doesn’t God give and take life? Doesn’t He give to one five talents and to another one talent, as it seems good to Him? That same declaration says God made all men equal. But clearly, all men are not equally gifted or given equal advantages. If not in physical things, how much more in spiritual things (1 Sam. 2:7; 1 Cor. 4:7)? The Declaration of Independence also asserts that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But as I read the Bible, I see that God, not the governed, grants governments their rights, and requires an accounting from them (Ps. 75:7; 2 Sam. 23:3; John 19:11; Rom. 13:1). God requires men to bow to Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He instructs servants to render service to their masters on earth as though they served the Lord in heaven. He tells believers that if they are called by the Spirit of Christ while they are servants to men, then they are to live in that service as the Lord’s freemen, body and soul. He said that if they are called while free from man’s service, they are the Lord’s servants for the good of men (1 Cor. 7:22). “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22).
What do these things mean? It means that if we learn to honor men the Lord has put over us for our good, even though they may treat us unjustly, we honor God with a greater honor because we honor men for Christ’s sake in faith and in fear because this administration is God’s design to teach us to honor His sovereign rule. God is just. God is good. God is almighty. He is holy. He is merciful. He is gracious. But in all, He is sovereign -- absolutely sovereign -- and we should therefore fear Him in reverence and awe. We must humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand. “...ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).
For this reason, wives are instructed to submit to their own husbands that they might win their husbands without a word through loving submission to their most glorious and most Sovereign Husband and Savior, Christ (1 Pet. 3:1-6). Men, likewise, are to submit to Christ by honoring their wives as the weaker vessel and fellow-heirs with them of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7). We must all show all respect and humility to one another, without hypocrisy, in love. But our overarching aim and underlying reason for all that we do is to honor the Son of God. We want Him to take all glory to Himself, because He alone is worthy! We give honor to whom honor is due when we honor our Lord Jesus Christ, by looking to Him, entrusting our life now and for eternity to His saving and keeping care. What can man do to the one who thus fears God in loving trust and obedience (Heb. 13:5-7)?
“The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:32).