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12. The Submission of Slaves to Masters (1 Peter 2:18-25)

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Introduction

How comfortable we may feel reading these words Peter wrote so long ago to a class of people who no longer exist in our nation today. If this is your response, watch out; this lesson is for you! Peter’s words in our text, addressed to slaves, are applicable to every Christian. Let me suggest why this is true.

First, the term Peter uses in our text is not restricted only to slaves nor is this the usual word for slaves. Rather, it is a much less common word which may refer to a broader group.71 Thus, not only slaves but servants are addressed.

Second, many may technically not be slaves, but they are subject to those with virtually unquestioned authority and thus face a condition similar to that of a slave. For instance, an armed forces private (the “sergeant” is the “master”), the prison inmate, or one living in the ghetto who, because of his poverty or minority status, believes he has virtually no rights.

Third, Peter speaks more generally in verse 19 as he lays down a more general principle which applies to all believers.

Fourth, our Lord and His apostles consistently taught that every Christian is Christ’s slave.

And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

“And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).

[Act] as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but [use it] as bondslaves of God (1 Peter 2:16; see also Romans 1:1; 6:12-23).

Fifth, Peter is instructing the Christian about submission to authority in the context of suffering for the sake of godly conduct. His teaching about slaves and masters is a “worst case scenario.” If Peter’s teaching applies here, as it does, surely it applies in less difficult circumstances as well.

Sixth, no time in history has ever seen such abuse as the subject of “abuse.” Abuse is the “lion in the road”72 for most Americans—the compelling reason for not doing what we wish to avoid and for doing what we desperately wish to do. Suffering is the dominant theme of Peter’s first epistle, and no one is likely to be more abused than the Christian slave who is subject to every whim of his master, who has absolute authority over him. Peter does not allow the fact that the slave may be abused to become an excuse for sin, but rather he instructs us to use it an opportunity to imitate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us therefore approach this text as one which speaks clearly and loudly to each of us, trying to learn the joy and privilege which is ours to suffer as servants of our Lord.

The Structure of the Text

Our text falls clearly and neatly into two divisions. The first is verses 18-20 which focus on Christian servants who are called to suffer for Christ’s sake. The second is verses 21-25 in which Peter turns to the Old Testament prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus as the Suffering Servant who provides the motivation, the means, and the model for all suffering servants.

Background: Observations on Slavery

Before looking more carefully at Peter’s instructions to slaves, let us consider the institution of slavery as it existed in Peter’s day.

(1) Slavery played a very prominent part in the lives of those who lived in Peter’s day. William Barclay provides an excellent description of the slavery of that day:

“To understand the real meaning of what Peter is saying we must understand something of the nature of slavery in the time of the early church. In the Roman Empire there were as many as 60,000,000 slaves. Slavery began with Roman conquests, slaves being originally mainly prisoners taken in war, and in very early times Rome had few slaves but by New Testament times slaves were counted by the million.”

“It was not only menial tasks which were performed by slaves. Doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, secretaries, stewards were slaves. In fact, all the work of Rome was done by slaves. Roman attitude was that there was no point in being master of the world and doing one’s own work. Let the slaves do that and let the citizens live in pampered idleness. The supply of slaves would never run out.”

“Slaves were not allowed to marry; but they cohabited; and the children born of such a partnership were the property of the master, not of the parents, just as the lambs born to the sheep belonged to the owner of the flock, and not to the sheep.”

“It would be wrong to think that the lot of slaves was always wretched and unhappy, and that they were always treated with cruelty. Many slaves were loved and trusted members of the family; but one great inescapable fact dominated the whole situation. In Roman law a slave was not a person but a thing; and he had absolutely no legal rights whatsoever. For that reason there could be no such thing as justice where a slave was concerned. Aristotle writes, ‘There can be no friendship nor justice towards inanimate things; indeed, not even towards a horse or an ox, nor yet towards a slave as a slave. For master and slave have nothing in common; a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’ Varro divides the instruments of agriculture into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute, ‘the articulate comprising the slaves, the inarticulate comprising the cattle, and the mute comprising the vehicles.’ The only difference between a slave and a beast or a farmyard cart was that a slave happened to be able to speak. Peter Chrysologus sums the matter up: ‘Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice and law.’ In regard to a slave, his master’s will, and even his master’s caprice, was the only law.”73

(2) In the Bible, slavery is not commended, but neither is it condemned as a social evil the Christian master should cease to practice or the Christian slave should seek to overthrow. Christian masters are instructed not to abuse their power or their slaves (Colossians 4:1). Christian slaves are encouraged to obtain their freedom, if possible (1 Corinthians 7:17-24), but if not to submit to their masters (Colossians 3:22-25), and they are especially not to abuse their status as Christians in relation to their believing masters (1 Timothy 6:1-2).

Human government and slavery may both be viewed as “institutions” within society, but of the two, government alone has been divinely instituted for the purpose of executing God’s rule over men. Governments are ordained of God to punish those who do evil and to reward those who do what is right (see Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Slavery is not given such a status. Societies function very well without slavery; they collapse without established governing authority.

(3) Peter does not assume that all masters are cruel, but he does assume that some will be, and that this will result in the unjust suffering of many Christian slaves. Unlike Paul’s epistles, Peter does not address both slaves and masters. He addresses only slaves. In particular, he speaks to slaves who will be harshly treated by their masters. This is consistent with his theme of suffering righteously for the sake of Christ. Because the slave had no legal rights and was subject to the whims of his master, many slaves would suffer at the hands of cruel masters. Christian slaves would be especially targeted.

(4) Christian slaves would especially be targeted for persecution by their unsaved masters. There are those who say, “A non-Christian husband should be delighted to have a Christian wife, just as a heathen slave owner should be pleased to have a Christian slave.” This is not necessarily so. Granted, there were heathen masters like Potiphar, who prospered greatly from the service of Joseph and therefore was delighted to have him as a slave. But it was also Joseph’s righteousness which eventually led to his unjust imprisonment by Potiphar.

As Peter will indicate in chapter 4 of this epistle, the righteousness of the Christian is threatening to the lifestyle of heathen unbelievers. The non-Christian master could very well be distressed, even threatened, by the conversion of one of his slaves to faith in Christ. The church where the slave attended would set the earthly distinctions of slave and master aside, making the slave an equal with his master. Indeed, the slave might even be placed in a position of authority over his master:

The result was that within the Church the social barriers were broken down. Callistus, one of the earliest bishops of Rome, was a slave; and Perpetua, the aristocrat, and Felicitas, the slave-girl, met martyrdom hand in hand. The great majority of the early Christians were humble folk and many of them were slaves. It was quite possible in the early days that the slave should be the president of the congregation and the master a member of it.74

As a result of his new identity in Christ, the Christian slave would now have moral scruples, and his obedience to his earthly master would always be subordinate to his obedience to Christ. The master was no longer in first place. The master no longer had the same power to threaten and intimidate his slave, because the believing slave’s hope was fixed on heaven. True, the slave might suffer as a Christian, but this was a glorious privilege. The slave might be killed, but this would bring him into the presence of his Lord. No wonder some masters would be infuriated by the conversion of one of their slaves. No wonder some slaves would suffer for their faith in Christ.

Slavery indeed provided the opportunity for abuse, but in the sovereign plan and purpose of God that abuse affords us the opportunity to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Suffering Servants
(2:18-20)

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Peter’s theme in this portion of his epistle is submission in the midst of suffering. Turning from submission to civil authorities, he now focuses on the submission of slaves to their earthly masters. He makes it clear that submission is not only required under favorable conditions but in painful and unpleasant circumstances as well. Christian servants are not only to submit to “good and gentle” masters but to those who are “unreasonable.” The term rendered “unreasonable” is the one from which the word “scoliosis” is derived. The term means “crooked” and thus is used for the disease of a distorted spine.

Unreasonable masters are those who are not “good and gentle.” They may be unethical or even dishonest. They may, like Laban, make promises they do not keep (Genesis 31:36-42). They may be unfair in their accusations, punishments, or rewards. They are those against whom we would naturally rebel apart from salvation, biblical instruction, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Submission to such masters is commanded because it is praiseworthy in God’s sight. Peter’s words in verses 19 and 20 seem to be an extension of our Lord’s teaching in the Gospel of Luke:

32 “And if you love those who love you, what credit 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 credit 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 is [that] to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive 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 Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil [men.] (Luke 6:32-35, emphasis mine).75

We should note that verse 19 is expressed generally (“if … a man bears up”). This suggests that the principle being laid down here, while it applies to slaves, also applies to all other saints as well.

Peter wants his readers to understand that the reason for our suffering determines, in part, whether our suffering is pleasing to God. He says there is no virtue in suffering for sin which we have committed. He sets down three qualifications for suffering which pleases God.

First, suffering which is pleasing to God must be innocent suffering. Peter has been speaking of righteous conduct in the midst of an unrighteous society. He is speaking here of suffering which is the result of godliness, not the result of sin. Who would praise a man for enduring suffering that is the result of doing wrong?

What wrongs would be especially tempting for a servant? The first would be disobedience; another would be disrespect, and yet another laziness. I saw this mindset in the business world where an older gentleman working alongside me observed I was working harder than he and many of the others in the company. He took me aside and said something like, “Bob, we’re not being paid the kind of wages we should be earning for this kind of work, and so we just slow down to the pace where we think our work matches our wages.” Yet another sin is stealing. How many people justify walking off the job with pencils, paper, and even tools and equipment, because they believe they are really worth more than they are being paid?

In the aftermath of the Ohio prison riot recently, one of the networks interviewed some of the inmates to learn the reason for their revolt. Although I did not see the entire interview, I did hear one inmate describe the way the prison often punishes inmates by shackling them so they are partially suspended in the air in what prisoners call the “Jesus position.” From what I saw, it seemed the treatment of these prisoners was unnecessarily harsh and excessively cruel. (The Supreme Court might call it “cruel and unusual.”) I was satisfied that the prison system was probably wrong in their administration of discipline.

But I was not at all moved to praise the prisoners for enduring their suffering. In the brief portion of the interview I saw, one of the prisoners was punished for spitting in the face of a guard. At a time and place where the threat of AIDS contamination is very real, such an act is not only offensive but potentially life-threatening. The other prisoner was punished in a similar fashion for striking a guard. Their punishment was cruel, but their suffering was not praiseworthy. Praiseworthy suffering is innocent suffering.

Second, praiseworthy suffering is suffering endured with patience. One who suffers righteously must persevere in his suffering. Many can endure for a short period of time, but Peter calls upon the saints to endure in their patient suffering.

Third, praiseworthy suffering is that which is patiently endured for conscience’ sake. Our motivation is absolutely crucial in relationship to our rewards. Often it is difficult for us to know our own motivations, let alone judge the motives of another:

3 But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by [any] human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, [but wait] until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of [men’s] hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).

Some acts are clearly defined as sin and cannot be committed with impunity. Other actions may be sinful or saintly depending upon our motivation. For example, one woman may choose to endure the physical abuse of her husband out of faith, believing it would be wrong even to separate and trusting God for her safety. Another woman may endure the same kind of abuse for an entirely different reason—fear. She may endure her suffering, not as an act of obedience and faith, but because she fears living apart from her husband more than living with him. As Paul has cautioned us, we dare not judge people purely on the basis of outward appearances, because God’s judgment includes the motivation of the heart.

While the ultimate judgment for our motives and actions is yet future, we are required to make decisions which are matters of conscience. This means one Christian may decide to do something another might decide he should not do. It even means a Christian might respond to unjust treatment a certain way on one occasion and another way on another occasion. For example, Paul seems to have silently endured an illegal beating on one occasion (Acts 16:19-24), while he protested in a way that prevented a beating on another (Acts 22:25-29). One may eat meat with a good conscience, and another cannot eat in good conscience (see Romans 14:1-23).

When Peter speaks of a servant who, “in conscience toward God,” endures undeserved suffering, he means that the decision to do so was a decision in accordance with a clean conscience before God. The servant, desiring to please God, determined in his heart that passively enduring suffering was the way to please God. It also suggests the possibility that for another servant, a different course of action might be the dictates of his conscience toward God.

I must confess that in all of my study of personal convictions, I never thought of my response to unjust treatment as a matter of conscience, but I can see how easily it might be. When and where does a slave draw the line? This is not an easy question nor a question which every slave would answer the same way.

Daniel, who was virtually a slave in Babylon, illustrates this point. In good conscience, Daniel was willing to submit to his captors. He was willing to be educated in the ways of Babylon. But he was not willing to eat meat from the king’s table. Neither was he willing to cease praying to His God. His three friends were not willing to bow down before the golden image. It was easy for Peter to disobey the orders of the Sanhedrin not to preach in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:29). It was easy because an angel of God had just commanded him to do so specifically (Acts 5:20), and before that the Lord had commanded His disciples to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). But there are times when our disobedience may be dictated by our conscience rather than by a specific command given us by the Lord Himself. Peter therefore requires that we submit to unjust suffering as a matter of conscience before God.

Righteous suffering, suffering that is pleasing to God and finds favor with Him, is suffering for doing what is right, suffering patiently endured, and suffering endured for the sake of a good conscience before God.

Suffering Servants and The Suffering Servant
(2:21-25)

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example76 for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,77 that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

It is interesting to note that Peter does not attempt to describe the suffering of our Lord from his own perspective. Peter may have chosen to use the language of Isaiah 5378 to describe our Lord’s suffering and death on our behalf for several reasons. First, because biblical prophecy is inspired and infallible, prophecy can be used to describe history as the events which are foretold will take place exactly as prophesied. Second, this text is recognized as a “Suffering Servant” text, and its application to “suffering servants” is therefore obvious. Third, Isaiah focuses on those aspects of our Lord’s suffering which Peter emphasizes as an example for us. Finally, I am not at all certain Peter personally witnessed a great deal of our Lord’s suffering and death, for he is never said to have been present when our Lord was crucified. Even when he was following our Lord after His arrest, he followed from a distance (Matthew 26:58; Luke 22:54). Those who did witness our Lord’s death were said to be at a distance (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49). Only a few were ever said to be standing close to our Lord shortly before His death, and Peter was not among them (John 19:25-27). In addition, darkness veiled the scene for three hours (Luke 23:44-45).

Peter has already told us how the Christian must suffer in order to glorify God and be pleasing to Him. But the question still remains, “Why should the Christian servant suffer at all?” Peter’s answer comes in verses 21-25. We must suffer because we are called to suffer. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Scriptures, especially the teaching of our Lord and of the apostles:

20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me (John 15:20-21; see 16:33; Luke 9:23).

21 And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and [saying,] “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).

29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29).

We are called to suffer because Christ suffered and died for us so that we might be saved from our sins. Christians are “suffering servants,” who are to imitate Jesus Christ, the “Suffering Servant.” Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection saved us from our sins. In Him, we died to sin, and we have been made alive with respect to righteousness (verse 23). His suffering gives us both the motivation and the means to follow in His steps. Furthermore, His suffering provides us with the example of how we should suffer innocently to the glory of God. Note the following principles of innocent suffering which emerge from Peter’s reference to Isaiah 53.

Principles of Righteous Suffering

(1) Christ’s suffering was innocent suffering, suffering which was due to His righteousness. Peter uses the words of Isaiah 53:9 to express the fact that He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (verse 22). Jesus did not sin in deed or in word, either before His crucifixion or during His suffering.79

(2) Christ’s suffering was silent.80 As a teacher, I had only one student who tried not to react or cry out when I found it necessary to use the paddle on him (this has been a few years ago now). He did not want me to think his spanking in any way changed his heart or mind. It didn’t work. After his one solitary swat, he stoicly walked to the door of the classroom, but when his hand touched the door knob, the sobs and tears burst out to be contained no longer.

More often, a rebellious student will make a great deal of noise when spanked. This may not be genuine sorrow at first, but anger. When we can do nothing else, we can shout, threaten, and even curse. Jesus remained silent. He made no effort to resist or to retaliate. The silence of our Lord is evident in the words Peter used, and the Isaiah text has even more to say on that silence:

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

(3) Christ’s suffering was a path He chose and not a tragic fate imposed upon Him. Jesus frequently spoke of His suffering and death in advance of the events of Calvary. Jesus aggressively accused His adversaries, the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem, thus provoking them to bring about His own suffering and death. Jesus chose the way of the cross. He chose to take up His cross, and so must we.

(4) Our Lord’s obedience to the will of the Father81 that He suffer was an act of faith. Peter tells us our Lord “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (verse 23). It was an act that resulted from His hope being in the Father and in the future He purposed and promised. Our Lord therefore left judgment to God. He did not need to retaliate against His enemies. He trusted the Father “who judges righteously.”

(5) Our Lord’s suffering was redemptive. Because our Lord suffered and died and was raised again on our behalf, our sins are forgiven and we are made to live to righteousness. By His wounds we are healed (verse 24). His suffering saved us. This is not only motivation for us to suffer as He did, but an indication that our suffering, like our Lord’s, may be instrumental in the salvation of some who are lost. He alone bore the sins of the world. But our innocent suffering might be used of God to draw others to faith in Christ. Later on in chapter 3, Peter seems to indicate that our response to suffering may prompt others to ask us about our faith and hope in God (1 Peter 3:13-15).

(6) Our Lord’s suffering was the divinely appointed means to His glorification and exaltation. Our Lord’s cross was the means to His crown. His humiliation, suffering, and death was prerequisite to His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. No matter how ignoble that cross may have seemed, the One who suffered and died on it is now the “Shepherd and Guardian of our souls(verse 25). As suffering was the path to His glory, so it is for us as well:

11 It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; 12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

Conclusion

How amazing to find Peter turning our attention to the sufferings of our Lord on the cross of Calvary! Peter is the one who so adamantly resisted our Lord’s words about His own innocent suffering. And now Peter instructs us to suffer, just as the Savior did. The cross, once so repulsive to Peter, has now become his central focus. Throughout this epistle, Peter keeps coming back to the cross. The cross is not only the basis for our salvation, it is the basis for our spiritual lives and even for our suffering.

How do you look at the cross? Is it the symbol of salvation and hope, or is it a dreaded symbol of defeat to you? Your response depends on from which side you view the cross. For sinners, the cross is a reminder of God’s righteousness and of His hatred of sin and the penalty which our sins deserve. The cross symbolizes the wages of sin—our sin. But for the one who has received the gift of God in the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it is the symbol of God’s love and grace. The cross is a symbol of our salvation.

Peter’s very short description of the suffering of our Lord tells you all you need to know to be saved. Jesus suffered and died innocently and willingly. He did not sin, either in word or deed. He suffered and died in trusting obedience to His Heavenly Father, so that our sins would be forgiven, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His suffering, death and resurrection made it possible for us, who were wandering far from Him, to return to Him as the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls.

Becoming a Christian requires that you look upon yourself as a sinner, deserving the kind of death our Lord suffered. It requires that you trust in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection as God’s provision for your sins. He who was without sin died for your sins, so that you and I who are without righteousness might be found righteous in Him.

18 Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

For those who have found salvation at the cross of Calvary, the cross now becomes the pattern for our lives. Because Christ suffered innocently for our salvation, we are now called to suffer innocently for His sake. In doing so, we bring glory to God and may be privileged to point others to the cross for salvation as well. As He suffered innocently and silently, so we are to suffer in the same way.

The tongue is the last outpost in the war of the flesh against the Spirit. And now it is Peter who speaks to us about silence. I find that amusing. Peter is the one who seems almost always to be the first one to speak. Often, he spoke when silence would have been golden (see, for example, Matthew 16:22-23; 17:4). We do not save our lives by wielding the sword (John 18:10) or by trusting in our tongue (Matthew 26:69-75). Now Peter understands that a godly life speaks louder than mere words and may provide an opportunity for us to speak as men seek to know about the hope which dominates our lives (see 1 Peter 3:8-16).

Peter is not speaking to us as a pope in these verses. Rather, he turns our attention to the Lord Jesus who alone is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (verse 25). Neither is Peter seeking to make reformers of us here. He does not find “abuse” and “excuse” for sin. Abuse must not be misused as a pretext for sin but as the context for righteousness. Nowhere is the love and power of our Lord more evident than in innocent suffering. This is what the world needs to see, and the message of the cross is the word the world needs to hear. Ours is the privilege of first living, and then proclaiming, that message.

For Peter, as for Paul, suffering for Christ’s sake is not seen as a pain but a privilege. If we are living as God requires of us, we are living as His slaves, suffering joyfully on His behalf. This suffering is not to be tearfully endured with gritted teeth, but joyfully, as a high calling and privilege. We are to rejoice in our sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-13; Colossians 1:24), regarding such suffering as a graciously granted gift (Philippians 1:29), an opportunity to enter into a deeper level of fellowship with Christ as we gain a greater grasp of the meaning of His cross (Philippians 3:10).

How radically different the gospel of the Bible is from all other religious claims and teachings. It warns us about becoming too attached to the things the world is killing itself to obtain, and it teaches us to embrace as precious the very things the world rejects and resists. The Christian life is not adding God to our life to go along with us in our pursuits and desires; it is not even God making modifications in our way of life. The Christian life is a complete turn about, so that the things we once held precious we now find useless, and the things we once rejected become the things we now pursue.

May God use this passage to cause us to glory in the cross of our Lord and in the cross He has given us as well.


71 “Oiketai, servants, means member of a household, domestic servants, including freemen as well as slaves. What Peter has primarily in mind is not slaves as a class, but the household as a common social institution.” Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), [photolithoprinted] 1968. Tyndale Bible Commentaries Series, p. 114.

“Peter’s term is not the usual word translated ‘servants.’ It occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only three times (Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7; Rom. 14:4). The term could be used to denote those in one’s household, including the women and children, but generally it was used as synonymous with doulos, ‘slave.’” D. Edmond Hiebert, First Peter (Chicago: Moody Press), 1984. p. 165, citing Liddell and Scott, p. 1029.

72 The sluggard excuses himself from work because there is a “lion in the road” (Proverb 26:13). In a land where lions roam, no one would think of going out to work with a lion there. It is a compelling reason not to work. In our day, abuse has become the compelling reason for separation, divorce, and a whole host of actions which God calls sin. When the mere word “abuse” arises, Christians suddenly urge other Christians to do what God has forbidden. At first, it was but physical and sexual abuse which was accepted in the “lion in the road” category. Now verbal and emotional abuse have been added as well. One wonders what “abuses” will follow.

73 William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, pp. 210-211.

74 Barclay, pp. 211-212.

75 As the marginal notes of the NASB indicate, the word “credit,” found three times in Luke 6:32-34, is a translation of the same Greek term (charis) rendered “favor” twice in verses 19 and 20. Some would prefer the word be rendered “grace,” for the ability to live in a way that pleases God and wins His favor is a gift of His grace. And to go above and beyond the call of duty is to manifest God’s grace to men. But since the term also refers to the favorable response men should have toward grace, this may be the best way to render the term as used in these two texts.

76 “The term for ‘example’ is not simply that of a good example that one is exhorted to copy, but the pattern letters that a school child must carefully trace if he or she will ever learn to write. As if to underline this point Peter adds that we are to ‘follow in his footsteps.’” Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1990. The New International Commentary on the New Testament Series. p. 110.

77 “For the word cross he uses the expression tree, which is an idiom borrowed from the Old Testament (see Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29). Simon J. Kistemaker, Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 1987. New Testament Commentary Series. p. 111.

78 Peter does not precisely quote an entire section of Isaiah 53. Instead, he paraphrases the passage, citing portions of the text. Stibbs writes, “In verses 22-25 there is a remarkable use by Peter of Old Testament language. There are no less than five quotations or echoes of the statements and phraseology of Is. liii. Verse 22 follows Is. liii. 9; . . . . Verse 23 is parallel to Is. liii. 7; . . . . Verse 24 has phraseology from Is. liii. 12. . . . Verse 25 echoes Is. liii. 6. . . .” Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), [photolithoprinted] 1968. Tyndale Bible Commentaries Series, p. 117.

79 See John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 3:18; 1 John 3:5.

80 “With a likely allusion to Isa. 53:7 . . . the author points out that Jesus in fact observed his own teaching about loving one’s enemies (Matt. 5:38-48; Luke 6:37-38) when he was insulted (Mark 14:65; 15:17-20, 29-32) and tortured (Luke 23:34). Unlike the Maccabean martyrs of Jewish history, who called for God’s vengeance on their persecutors . . . , Jesus was silent even in his own defense (Mark 5:15; Jas. 5:6-9; cf. Heb. 30:30).” Davids, p. 111.

81 See Matthew 26:39, 42.

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