The words are simple, clear, and easy to understand. The apostle Peter exhorted his fellow-Christian believers living in the Roman Empire to “honor the emperor.”
But it’s one thing to hear these words and say, “All clear!” It’s another thing to implement them. What if the emperor is downright wicked? Are we still to honor him?
Let’s look first at the larger context to Peter words. He wrote:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13–17)
So, as the supreme earthly authority, believers were to submit to the emperor as well as honor the emperor, showing him the respect he was due. (Paul discusses this as well in Romans 13.)
The only problem with this exhortation is that the man who was most likely emperor at that time was Nero....