outside. So we decided to flip on the radio to see what they were saying. It turns out that some serious storms were rolling into the area. As a matter of fact, several places around us were warning of tornados. But that didn’t affect us any. We just keep on going.
And that’s just what you do when you got to get somewhere. Whatever the conditions, you push on and make every effort to press through the situation.
I say this because it really sums up what this section of Scripture is all about. Peter has told us that we are pilgrims, and we are traveling to Zion. But you know what? Along our journey we are going to face circumstances that are less than idea. Sometimes the conditions are not going to be the best. Nevertheless we have to press on.
Last time Mark talked about the previous passage. And there you saw that Peter talked about living as a citizen in a world that is less than ideal. And Peter told you that you were to press on. Despite things being a little quirky, you needed to continue to submit to the governing authorities.
The passage before us today deals with much the same theme. The only real difference is that this passage deals with one’s work environment. Peter addresses servants. Some of these servants were finding themselves in situations that were less than ideal. The passage seems to indicate that their masters were oppressive or abusive, perhaps something of a domestic tyrant. And so Peter writes to tell them that they needed to press on in their duties as Christians. They needed to continue to submitting to their authorities.
And you can imagine the reaction! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why ever should I submit to this guy? Peter answers by giving three basic reasons why it is important to do so.
And even though you might not be a slave, you can listen in here and take note. We are all under authority. And a lot of times we find ourselves in a position where we just want to jettison the whole submission thing. But before you do that, you need to take heed to what it says here about God’s order, pleasure, and example.
Our passage begins with the command, “Servants, be subject to your masters.” And I want you to understand what it is saying here. Peter is saying that you need to submit because it is in keeping with God’s order.
I. Because it is in keeping with God’s order 
Evidently, some of the servants in Peter’s audience were starting to get a little rambunctious. They were saying that they didn’t need to be subject to their masters now that they were Christians.
Commentators mainly agree that the reason for this was that these servants, having come to Christ, acknowledged the radical difference that now existed between them. In their minds they were thinking, “I’m a Christian. I have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and set apart to the service of God.” And their conclusion was, “Why now do I have to serve this reprobate master of mine?”
It is likely that they thought this mingling was not right. They might have thought that they who were now spiritual persons didn’t have to subject themselves to these unspiritual people.
But Paul says, “No, no, no. That’s not right.” In essence, he says because you are a Christian, you must submit to them. You are the servant. They are the master. And so you owe them all due reverence and obedience. Even if the guy is warped, you still are obligated to fulfill the duties assigned to you because that’s your role.
What we see happening here is that Peter affirms the order God has established in society. You see, God has ordained that society be structured according to a certain form of hierarchy. So there are going to be some who are superiors, and there are going to be others who fill the roles of submission. And if you find yourself in a position of subservience, then it is your obligation to make sure you revere those God has set over you. It is your God given duty to ascribe to them all due obedience because that’s the way he made it.
Now, I’m not going to give a dissertation on the slavery here. If you would like, I have posted something on my blog about that. The issue does come up every time you come to a passage like this. However, I’m not going to address it here. What I want you to notice is that Paul does affirm this structure of authority and societal order. In essence, through the Apostle God affirms headship within any given culture or civilization.
This is more important for us to talk about today than the whole slavery issue. Because everywhere we go today we are seeing it challenged and opposed. As a matter of fact, this is what the whole Occupy Wall Street thing was about. The occupiers expressed that they wanted radical equality, a pure egalitarianism. They wanted to usher in a new society where there were no authority structures. They want an open and leaderless society where unadulterated democracy ruled the day. They sneered at the fact that there were these Wall Street types who were corporate leaders who were economically prosperous. It galled them to no end, and they wanted to be rid of such things.
But we are to understand that such a structure is part and parcel with God’s created order, and we are not to try and eradicate those boundaries by acts of revolution.
What’s more, you need to recognize your personal role. God has most certainly placed you in a role of submission. It might be, as these servants Peter was speaking to, that it has to do with your means of living. If in your workplace you have boss over you, then it is incumbent upon you to submit to their rules and do their bidding. Even if you do not agree with their personal strategies or tactics, you still got to do what you got to do. Neither does it matter if he has some quirks in his personality that makes him a royal jerk. As long as what they ask you to do doesn’t violate God’s will, then you are obligated to show deference to them.
Of course, if you really don’t like it, then you can leave. But if you are in a situation, perhaps like these servants, where it isn’t feasible to do so, you are required to acquiesce. And when you do that, you demonstrate regard for the God ordained order He has put in place.
So submission is required because it is in keeping with God’s orde. But you’ll notice that it is also require because it is in keeping with God’s pleasure.
II. Because it is in keeping with God’s pleasure [19-20]
Peter addresses this in the following verses. In verses 19 and 20 he talks about enduring suffering. And basically he says, “Hey, I know it is difficult sometimes to deal with your masters. But let’s be clear, you are still required to do it. And when you do,” Paul says, “God has regard for you.” As a matter of fact, he repeats the saying, “It is a gracious thing” two times, once at the beginning of verse 19 and once at the end of verse 20.
Now, no. Paul is not saying that it is a desirable thing to take a great deal of grief from whomever it is who is over you. There is no virtue in that. What he means is that it is a compliment to you if you are able to endure it with Christian patience. It is a gracious thing in that it is pleasing to God that you are willing and able to bear the brunt of a raging fool with love and grace.
Now none of us are going to find ourselves in a position like this here. None of us will be taking literal blows because we have a cruel master. I believe that this is something unique about the passage here.
But what if we found ourselves in a position where we were under a bit of unjust scrutiny. What if one of our authorities (be they a parent or your spouse) treated you with a lack of respect. Or how about an elder here at this church? What if one of them just irked you a bit? How would you react? Would you clamor and whine? Would you break out in a rage or go around talking badly about them?
That’s the way we’d like to act. Inside we think, “Oh, you want to play that way do you? If you want to treat me like this, then I will happily reciprocate.”
But that’s not what we are called to do. We are called to love our enemies—and if we are being treated this way, that’s exactly what the person its—they are our enemy at that point. And God tells us that we are to bear this with longsuffering and patience. We are to demonstrate a quite reverence and respect for them.
And when we do that, God is pleased.
You know, nothing pleases a parent more than when their children obey. But there are certain times when their obedience really brings you a greater amount of pleasure. When the circumstances are really against them and they are tempted to give in, yet they do what is right, that really brings you joy as a parent. Seeing them with that kind of composure and the marks of a good character, that really warms your heart as a parent.
That’s what this is saying. When you are suffering unjustly, and you are tempted to blow off your normal duties and tell this guy off, but yet you demonstrate a spirit of reserve and composure, then that is a gracious thing in God’s eyes. It pleases him greatly.
Such an attitude might not be noticed by your superior, it will be noticed by your God. He will see it and he will be delighted to no end at what you are doing.
But in the end, let’s remember that there is a greater reason to demonstrate obedience. We are to submit because it is in keeping with Christ’s own example.
III. Because it is in keeping with God’s example [21-25]
The majority of this passage tells us this. You’ll notice verse 21 that it says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
If anyone had any right to show a little disrespect to his authorities, certainly it would have been Jesus. If anyone was mistreated, or treated unjustly, it was him. Despite his perfect love and his undefiled life, he was treated with the utmost contempt. He was despised. He was beaten. He was crucified.
It always impresses me every time I read the trial of Jesus. Here is Pilate examining Jesus. Jesus knows it is a kangaroo court of sorts. He knows there’s no escaping what’s going to happen. Yet Jesus is perfectly respectful the whole time to Pilate. He doesn’t raise his voice. He had every opportunity to tell Pilate exactly what kind a scumbag he was. But he didn’t do that. His address did not even demonstrate the slightest touch of sarcasm. As a matter of fact, at one point he chooses not to say anything at all.
That’s why Peter goes on to say in verse 22, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
That is exactly what we are to do. He provides the pattern that we are to follow.
But of course, we follow Christ, not just because he was a good example. He is our savior and redeemer. That’s what verse 24 makes clear. It says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
This is talking about his substitutionary death and the effect it has upon our lives right now. Jesus took the curse of God for our sins upon himself when he was nailed to the cross. And when we are united to him in faith, our sinful nature dies with him. The wounds that he bore are our healing in that they free us from the dominion of sin and breaks the remaining power of sin in our lives.
So if you are struggling with submission, what ought you to do? You go to the cross! You go to the one who submitted himself to the Father’s will. You go to the one who submitted to the Roman centurions.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Jesus submitted to the Roman centurions! He could have easily spoken one word and the hammer would have frozen in mid swing. It never would have had a chance to drive the nail into his flesh. He could have easily called down fire from heaven and torched the Pharisees and Saducees before they delivered him over to Pilate. But he did not.
As a matter of fact, there is that one scene in the Garden of Gethsemane that I always find intriguing. Do you remember when the band of guards came to arrest Jesus? Do you remember how it transpired? They approached him and asked where Jesus was, and he said, “I am.” And the Bible says that they fell back. They were overcome with some kind of power that they just blew over like dominos. They came up again and said, “We’re looking for Jesus.” And he said, “I am.” And again, Whoosh, they toppled backwards. It was obvious that Jesus could have easily dodged the arrest. But he didn’t. He allowed them to get up, bind him, and lead him away. That story is an amazing testimony to Jesus’ submission.
He did that for us and for our salvation. And in doing so he left us an example. He shows us the kind of submission that we are to render. If we cannot get out from under our circumstances by lawful means, and if we are not being made to violate God’s commands, then we must follow his pattern of obedience.
And this is a wonderful place for us to end. It is here at the cross of Christ. For if we are going to submit to any earthly authority, we must begin by submitting ourselves to God. You were straying sheep, but have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
And here at the cross we understand that God has made a way for us to do that. That is why Christ had to die. He died in order to bring us nigh unto God. And if we are going to respect God’s order, bring him pleasure, or follow his example, then we must first submit ourselves to him at the cross—acknowledging him to be our Lord and Savior.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.