1 Peter 2:18-21 ~ 20090208 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/08 1 Peter 2:18-21 God honoring Conduct; subjection to crooked masters
Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia Minor, who have become outsiders in their own communities because they are now followers of Jesus. They are aliens and exiles to society, but to God they are elect and precious. They have been selected by God for obedience (upakohn) to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a new inheritance that is kept for them in heaven. They are looking forward to a future salvation and their trials here are only temporary. They are to fix their hope fully on this future grace. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions from which they came, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed from the futile ways of their forefathers and set free to hope in God. They are to love the community of believers. Everything else will wear out and fade away, but they have been born again of imperishable seed. Jesus, their cornerstone, was also rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious. They are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. They will be honored by God when others are put to shame. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.
Based on the facts of who they are in Christ, these believers who find themselves in a hostile society, could draw some wrong conclusions, and Peter warns against these. One danger is that they would use their freedom and position in Christ and say “I'm a king's kid and I have a royal inheritance. As a child of the king I'm entitled to a life of pleasure and ease.” In 2:11 he warns us to 'abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul' and in 2:16 he tells us to 'live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God'.
The other danger is to take their position in Christ and say “I am an alien to your society and I am no longer under its laws. I fear only God and I obey a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. My citizenship is in heaven and I am no longer obliged to obey you or your laws or customs.” In 2:12 Peter says 'Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God'. And in 2:13 he says 'be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution' particularly the government under which you live.
Peter has laid out our freedom and privileged position in Christ very clearly, and now he gives some very practical instructions on how to flesh this out in society. In relation to the state, we are to give honor and live in obedience in so far as our conscience and respect for God's ultimate authority allow. In the remainder of chapter 2, he addresses our relation to unjust masters or employers and he points to Jesus as our example; in chapter 3 he addresses our relationships within the family. Let's read the passage in its context, then we'll focus our attention on verses 18-21
In this section Peter is addressing servants or slaves. We might be inclined to think that since we have abolished slavery in our country, what he says here has no relevance to us today. We need to understand who he is addressing, so that we don't make the mistake of tuning him out. The word is (oikethv), a household servant or domestic slave. This was a semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom. Peter probably doesn't use the more common New Testament word (doulov) for 'slave' because he just used that in verse 16 where he commanded all believers to live as slaves of God. Here he's focusing on those who serve a human master. Although we don't have the same social structures, what he says is applicable to our employer/ employee relationship. He is specifically addressing servants, but in verse 19 he says 'when one endures', widening his application to anyone who 'endures sorrows while suffering unjustly'. The master/ servant relationship is just one example of where unjust suffering can take place.
Peter is putting his practical instruction in the context of our ultimate purpose: we are
Last time we saw that our submission to the state is not so that we might live peaceful comfortable lives but that 'they may see your good deeds and and glorify God'. We are not to be submissive for our own sake, but 'for the Lord's sake... that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Our obedience is to be a God centered God honoring obedience. By our actions we seek to proclaim the excellencies of God.
The same is true as he talks about our submission to unjust masters. He says 'Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect...' The word translated 'respect' is literally the word 'fear'. It's the same word that he used in verse 17 when he told us that we are to fear God alone. I don't think he's telling us in one breath not to fear the emperor and in the next telling us to fear our earthly masters or employers. Literally he says 'servants, be subject to your masters in all fear' He's referring us back to what he just said. Fear God. In all fear of God, be subject to your masters. And look at verse 19: he doesn't say that you are blessed simply because you tough it out and endure while suffering unjustly. We can endure unjust sufferings for many wrong reasons. We might put up with mistreatment because we feel like we have no choice and are powerless to do anything about it. We might put up with unjust suffering because we feel like it is the noble thing to do. Or we might put up with it simply because we are too lazy to do anything about it. None of these reasons in and of themselves has any virtue with God. He says 'when, mindful of God you endure – that is a gracious thing'. It is a conscious intentional seeking to show the surpassing worth of God in our suffering that has merit with God.
He tells us that we are to be subject, not only when it's convenient and easy, but especially when it's hard. He describes masters as 'unjust'; the word is (skoliov) from which we get our word scoliosis. It literally means 'crooked or perverse'. Peter goes on:
He says 'this is a gracious thing'; literally 'this is grace (cariv) ... this is grace in the sight of God.' Enduring sorrows – emotional grief or mental anguish as a result of unjust treatment – is reason for God to show favor. Peter draws the contrast in verse 20: 'what credit is it if you sin and endure a beating?' That's not something that deserves honor or fame, and it certainly doesn't bring glory to God. But if you do good and endure suffering, that is grace before God.
This is the same teaching in the same language Jesus used in Luke 6:
Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit (cariv -grace) is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
If we only do what is normal and common and expected, it requires no grace and merits no reward. But to do what is extraordinary and noteworthy, we need God's gracious help, and we bring pleasure to God and praise to him as people see our good deeds and give glory to God. If we endure sorrow and patiently bear injustice, this proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. When, mindful of God; in trusting awareness of God's presence and never failing care; we endure sorrow while suffering unjustly; having confidence that God will ultimately right all wrongs and do justice, we can in fear of God submit to an unjust master without resentment, rebelliousness, self-pity or despair.
Notice the next verse:
Because to this you have been called. Did you know that you and I have been called to suffer unjustly in order to bring glory to God? That is our calling. We are called to be saints (Rom.1:7); we are called to belong to Jesus (Rom.1:6); we are called according to his purpose Rom.8:28); we are called 'beloved' (Rom.9:25); we are called 'sons of the living God' (Rom.9:26); we are called into the fellowship of his Son (1Cor.1:9); we are called in the grace of Christ (Gal.1:6,15); we are called to freedom (Gal.5:13); we are called to hope (Eph.4:4); we are called to into his own kingdom and glory (1Thess.2:12); we are called in holiness (1Thess.4:7); we are called to eternal life (1Tim.6:12); we are called to his eternal glory in Christ (1Pet.5:10); we are called to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3); we are called children of God (1John3:1); but did you know we are called to suffer? Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples:
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. ...
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Paul and Barnabas taught
Acts 14:22 ... that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers:
1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
Paul told Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Friends, we are called to be aliens in our culture. And we are called to suffer for doing good if that should be God's will (1Pet.3:17). We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and we have been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us.
1 Peter 2:9 ...a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
One of the main ways we proclaim his excellencies is by suffering well even under unjust circumstances:
Suffering is not a sidebar in the Christian life. Suffering is the main way through which God brings us to possess the promised inheritance, and in the process we bring him glory and praise.