Intro: Following along with the series of messages I am preaching through 1 Peter, as Peter writes to the dispersed and persecuted church in exile throughout Asia Minor, he encourages them by writing, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12). In chapter 2 verse 13 through chapter 3 verse 8 he gives us three specific ways that we are able to have “honorable conduct”, even while living in an environment that is hostile to God and the gospel. Those three ways all involve submission to authority in different realms of our daily interactions. We are to be (1) submissive citizens, (2) submissive servants, and (3) submissive spouses.
As we look at these three focal points for submission, I’ve titled this devotional series “Our Mission is Submission – 1 Peter 2:13-3:8.”
Today we will look at what it means to be a servant in this passage:
(2) Submissive Servants – 1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants (vs. 18)
Wherever we are among the nations of the world, we as believers and followers of Jesus Christ are to live in such a way that our conduct is honorable, glorifying God, bringing credit to Him because of what He is doing in our lives here and now equipping us to live and walk, not necessary as we want, but as we ought.
The watching world then we are told will see our obedience to God and our love for one another and God indeed is glorified.
So in order to help us in this pursuit of honorable conduct and walking worthy of the calling with which we have been called, Peter wrote to believers in these churches who are under distress and suffering, and he tells them first that they need to submit to authority. This as we learned was submission not to every law or command of men, but submission to every position of authority under which we are placed, specifically in the context of governing authorities. Christians, whatever nation we live in, should be obedient citizens, working and praying for the peace of our nation and leaders. We are told to be model citizens, keeping in mind that as we obey earthly authority we are obeying God’s authority, as He ordains all authority that is. That is also why we obey Him rather than men if there is a discrepancy in commands. A man that commands disobedience to God is a man that can and must be disobeyed, as we are willing to obey God and suffer the consequences from those men.
He continues his instruction for us now, telling us that there is a second thing we must do, a second way to live honorably among the Gentiles. In verses 18-25 he tells us to submit to our masters. In the days ahead as we look at chapter 3 verses 1-8 we will see the third way to honorable living is found in being submissive spouses. That is where the discussion of submission usually begins for us – in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, where we see the pattern for submission within the home. Interestingly though, as Peter structures this, we see that he starts with teaching about submission in the nation and as we will see now, in the workplace – indeed, before we ever get to the home we have already been told to be submissive everywhere else. Submission is not only a command for wives! It is a command for all believers in all circumstances. Submission is a way of life without which we cannot walk as we ought or glorify God as we should.
Our text today tells us that we need to be submissive servants.
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
Peter makes another point about submission. He says that as servants we need to be submissive to our masters. Now usually this is explained within the context of slavery with the Roman empire. Slaves were owned as prisoners of war, as people who owed a debt and could not pay, or as part of the societal structure within the world at this time – and to be sure the Word of God does address those who found themselves in this position and were also believers. However, the word Peter uses here for servants is not the Greek word doulos, the word for a bond-servant, or a bought and paid for slave. He uses a term oiketai, referring to a domestic worker, or a household servant. This is someone serving under another’s authority in service to a household. It also refers to one who works for another for a wage. This is a paid employee, working and serving our company, our managers, our boss, for a wage that we have agreed to work for in order to “make a living.” As we provide a service (work) for the provision of a wage, we are to be submissive to our masters.
Now some of us might immediately think that because we don’t work at a job, or receive a wage, then this does not apply to us. But Jesus has told us that to be a great leader we actually must be a great servant, and just as we are His bond-servants, bought and paid for slaves of Jesus Christ, we are also expected to serve who? For the sake of the gospel we are called to esteem all others as better than self, to see all others as a higher rank than we see ourselves, and so we are called for the sake of the gospel to serve everyone. As ambassadors of Christ, we work ultimately for the Kingdom of God in service to one another.
We are equipped within the church so that we might do the work of ministry, that is, the work of service to one another, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4. We see then that we in the church are equipped by the Word of God rightly preached and the church properly lead to be ready to do the work of serving others all around us. At some point in our lives, whether as a citizen, an employee, a family member, or a church member, we find that these verses in 1 Peter 2 and 3 apply to all of us. Again, we see that we are called to a lifestyle of submission. Serving Christ, and under Him, any authority over us and any person we find in need.
As our Master, the Greek term remember is kurios, as Jesus is our Master, literally our Lord, we do find it difficult at times to be submissive and obedient to Him. But really when we look at it, Jesus is not a harsh Master. His burden is easy. His yoke is light. He gives us life and light and walks with us and lives through us. He is a gentle Good Shepherd, a Great Physician, He is both our Lord and our Friend. What a Friend we have in Jesus! We can say that He is a Master who is pleasant to serve. But what about other masters? Other “lords”? Others who are over us to whom we are called to submit, to line up under in obedience? Are all our bosses pleasant people? Are all our bosses easy to please? Are all our managers good managers who we are eager to please?
Tomorrow we will learn about the term for “master” that is used in this passage.