Slave, Submit to Masters (1 Peter 2:18-25)
So far in our study of 1 Peter, we have learned how the Christian is to act personally, we also have learned how the Christian is to act with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and last week we looked at how Christians are to act towards the government. Today we will continue to look at what it looks like for a Christian to be living in the world. Today we will look specifically at what it looks like for a Christian slave to work for a worldly master.
Now with this passage we have to be careful with not imposing our historical experience of American slavery onto to what is going on in this passage. There are some clear differences in the New Testament slavery and what happened in America just a few hundred years back. For example, slavery in Rome was not based on race, but because they were captured in wars or because they faced economic hardships and sold themselves into slavery.
Another big difference between Roman slavery and American is that it would not be unusual for a slave to be better educated than the master. In Rome, slaves served as doctors, teachers, managers, musicians, artisans, and many other positions. Unlike that of America which served mainly as labors.
Therefore, as we read this passage we should not be thinking of images of what it was like for an American slave to obey his master, but how we should apply this passage to our relationship with our teachers and coaches, and one day how are we going to apply this passage to our work situation.
Starting in verse 18, Peter instructs slaves to submit to their masters, even if the masters are wicked people. God is more glorified with our lives when we live in a way that is contrary to what the world would expect. The world expects for slaves of bad masters to rebel. However, Peter instructs slaves to go over the top in their service for their masters because they are ultimately working for the Lord, not the evil master.
However, Peter is not saying that Christian slaves should participate in evil or follow a corrupt master in an evil course of action. If the slave is commanded to violate God’s will, then slaves are obligated to disobey, even if they suffer because of their disobedience. Ordinarily, however, believing slaves will do what their masters dictate.
Peter’s point in this passage is that slaves cannot exempt themselves from doing what a master says, even if the master is wicked. How does this relate to you all today? One example is that a football player cannot refuse to run a certain play for a coach simply because the coach is a bad coach. Refusal to run the play would be defensible only if the contents of the play was designed to injure or cheat.
In verse 19, we get what motivated Peter to instruct slaves on how to act. This reason is because those who endure suffering from masters while doing what is good will be rewarded by God. However, those that are punished while doing wrong have no reason to congratulate themselves since they are simply receiving what they deserve. On the other hand, those who suffer while doing good and who endure such mistreatment will receive a reward from God.
So what is the main point Peter is trying to communicate? Peter is saying that slaves who endure unjust suffering because of their relationship with God will be rewarded by God. Therefore, we can apply this to our lives that if we have a bad teacher or coach we should go out of our way to do what they say, so that others in the classroom might see that there is something different about us.
Jesus in Luke argued that if people give love only on their friends, they are no different from unbelievers. What distinguishes believers from others is their love for enemies and sinners. Anyone can love someone that loves them back, but Christians are called to love those that the world sees as unlovable. Similarly, Peter insisted that suffering for doing wrong deserves no credit, but if one suffers for doing what is right, a reward is fitting. If we are to rebel against the bad teaching or coaching like is natural our punishment is what we deserve. However, if we are still punished for doing what is good, then God promises us a reward.
Verse 20 explains what Peter means in verse 19 in more detail. Those slaves who endure punishment because they have sinned will not receive any approval from God. Only those who do what is good and experience suffering will be rewarded by God.
Peter begins verse 21 by reminding believers that they have been called to suffer, and he immediately turned to Christ as an example to be imitated. Why are believers called to suffer in order to receive their final reward? The answer is given in this verse. It is because Christ also suffered for you. Therefore, the logic of this verse is that since Christ suffered for you, you will now suffer for him.
This might sound a little radical, but when we understand fully what Christ achieved for us on the cross, we see that any amount of suffering that we face will not ever equal what Christ faced on the cross. Jesus Christ was sinless, yet died a death of a criminal so that we can be forgiven of our sins forever. We understand the value of Christ’s sacrifice then we are able to suffer unjustly too, so that the glory and value of our savior can be displayed.
Therefore, the suffering of believers may be like Christ’s in that it will lead some unbelievers to repentance and conversion. Just as Christ’s suffering led to the salvation of others, so too the unjust suffering of believers will draw some to faith in Christ. Believers are to suffer just as Christ also suffered. Therefore, the short answer to the question, Why are believers called to suffer in order to receive their final reward? Is so that others might come to faith in Christ, or so that others can see how valuable God is.
According to verses 22-23, Christ did not suffer for wrongdoing since He was sinless. When he was criticized and threatened, he did not retaliate but entrusted himself and the whole situation into God’s hands.
Verses 24-25 advance the argument in that they focus on the unique character of Christ’s suffering. His death was on behalf of his people so that He bore their sins on the cross. The purpose was to free people from sin so that they were wandering from God like errant sheep, but now, by virtue of Christ’s death as the suffering servant, they have returned to him as their shepherd and overseer. And Peter reminds us that our ruler is not the government, teacher, or coaches, but the Lord. So we are to do everything for His glory, whether or not we have a good