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 submissive for conscience sake:
(2) Submissive Servants – 1 Peter 2:18-25
Conscience (vs. 19-20)
In verse 19-20 then he talks about submission that is commendable. Not just that we are to submit in any circumstance, he writes, “19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
He tells the reader we do this because of conscience. We work as unto the Lord as He is our ultimate Master, so then our submission to others is an extension of our submission to Christ. If we fail to submit to earthly authority then we are failing to submit to Christ. About that He asks, “Why do you call Me Lord but do not do the things which I say?”
And if we buck the system, if we provoke a harsh response from our bosses, if we instigate the friction, then certainly we cannot complain about our treatment or expect God’s blessing in that situation. But if we do have to take a stand for conscience sake and bear up under a boss that is bad, we do so with a humble heart, not a proud disregard for authority. Not in defiance. Obeying God rather than men in no way means that we act defiantly or hatefully or spitefully toward those we have had to disobey. We take a stand quietly, calmly, humbling, all the while being willing to pay the price and bear the consequence for our actions. Some things we simply cannot and must not do, and so we submit to harsh treatment if necessary. We stand, being willing to suffer for that stand. That is submitting to God for conscience sake.
In Ephesians 6:5-7 Paul tells us, “5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”
In Colossians 3:22-25 he says something along the same lines, “2 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”
In Matthew 5:11, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches, ““Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” If we must make a stand and choose to obey God rather than men, we had better be doing it for conscience sake, for the cause of obedience to Christ. It must be our desire to be obedient to the Word of God and not a desire to be disobedient to an earthly authority.
Peter says when we do submit like this for conscience sake, this is commendable. If you have to suffer a grievous situation, if you have to suffer for following God’s Word and standing for what is right, it is not your fault that you are suffering – now all too often we suffer as a direct result of something we have done. We make the mess and then complain about how the consequences are so not fair. But if we suffer for conscience sake in obedience to God, we are to suffer patiently. To patiently endure suffering……we’d rather not! We’d rather not endure suffering. Honestly, we’d also rather not be patient when we do suffer. So Peter asks, “20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten (not physical beating, but mistreated, put down, downtrodden) for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
If we deserve being “put back in our place” we should take it patiently. And even if we do not deserve mistreatment, especially when we do not deserve mistreatment by those over us, we must take it patiently.
Because of conscience we are to endure grief and suffering at the hands of those over us – if they abuse and mistreat us we yield to God first and submit to them as best we are able with His help knowing that our mission is to reach those with the gospel who would mistreat and act unfairly toward others. We can never forget that wherever we are we are a missionary, we are on a mission, a gospel mission. We are salt and light are to live the gospel out in front of the world, before those who do not know Him, or those who do but are living is disobedience. As our conduct is commendable we are pointing people to Christ – and who among us does not need to be pointed daily to Christ?
Monday we will be back to learn why we should pray for patience.