Studies in 1 Peter. Presentation 05. The Structure of the Book. 1v1-2 Salvation: grounded in the Godhead 1v3-5 Salvation: accomplished in their hearts 1v6-9 Salvation: confirmed by their suffering 1v10-12 Salvation: anticipated through history
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1v1-2 Salvation: grounded in the Godhead
1v3-5 Salvation: accomplished in their hearts
1v6-9 Salvation: confirmed by their suffering
1v10-12 Salvation: anticipated through history
1v13-21 Salvation: outworked in their lives
1v22-2v3 Salvation: and the Word of Truth
2v4-12 Living Stones - Chosen People
2v13-17 Submission to the State
2v18-25 Submission to Superiors
3v1-7 Wives and Husbands
3v8-17 The Believer and Suffering
3v17-22 Christ’s Victory
4v1-6 Responding to Christ’s Victory
4v7-11 Living for God
4v12-19 Suffering for Christ
5v1-11 Elders and Young Men
5v12-14 Final Greetings
Having reminded believers of their security and worth, Peter has equipped them for the next piece of exhortation - an exhortation to submission.
Indeed, submission is the central theme of this epistle:
Submission to the state, to superiors, masters or employers, the submission of wives to husbands, and in a particular sense the submission of husbands to wives and finally a submission to one another.
Peter begins with submission to the state [v13] perhaps because this is where those, who are being persecuted are most likely to rebel. What does it mean to submit to the state’s authority?
First, we are to recognise that state authorities have been instituted by God. Without such an authority structure man assumes to himself an absolute authority. He does what is ‘right in
his own eyes’ Jud.21v25. The result is anarchy.
Notice the twofold function given to the state
in v14 is to ‘reward those who do well and
punish those who do wrong’.
Governments that fail to operate
in this manner are in turn answerable
Secondly, this authority is a delegated authority. It is God's authority, which is delegated to the state. When that authority is abused, do Christians have the right to overthrow it? This is a dilemma that has faced the church for centuries.
It divided the Puritan movement in the C 18th who asked, “Is it right to rebel against King Charles 1 and
take his life”.
A similar debate took place in
America in the C 18th was it right for
British subjects to rebel against
King George III ?
In thinking about this subject we need to remember that nothing happens in God's world, which is outside of God's control. No human or angelic power can operate without him cfDan.4.17 and Is. 45.1-7
Some Christians have argued that it is quite
permissible to contract out of their duty to the
state if they do not agree with its policies.
They say, they will withhold taxes, withhold
their vote, withhold their service in time
of national emergency but cfMatt22.15-
27... If we accept the benefits that the
state provides then we must be prepared
to exercise our responsibility towards it.
What happens when there is a conflict of interest between human and divine authority? Think of Daniel's response to the indoctrination that Nebuchadnezzar initiated. He respectfully sought an alternative [Dan.1.8-14]. But when King Darius decreed that no requests should be made of any god except him, Daniel went on praying to the one true and living God. [Dan.6.10].
What do we do when there is a conflict between human and divine authority. The apostles' instruction of Acts 5.9 is to be followed,
'It is better to obey God than men'.
When they refused to obey the
authorities they submitted to any
sanctions the authorities imposed for
their disobedience. They did not say,
‘We do not recognise the jurisdiction
of this court.’
Some have felt provoked to take up the sword against authority because they were absolutely persuaded that there was no vestige of God’s delegated authority in those who exercised power.
It was this that persuaded Dietrich Bonhoeffer
the influential German Pastor to involve himself
in the plot to take Hitler's life. The plot was
unsuccessful and Bonhoeffer was sent to a
concentration camp, where he was eventually
Conflict with the state can be initiated not by the gentle persuasion of the Spirit of God but by well meaning carnal presumption. This is illustrated in the experience of Peter in Gethsemane cfMatt 26:51-53
“With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place”, Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
This Biblical teaching has not been adequately recognised by the advocates of 'liberation theology'. Its exponents, particularly in parts of Africa and South America point to the injustices and exploitation experienced by the poor. At the same
time those in power appear to become wealthier
and wealthier. And so, liberation theologians
argue, we must oppose these injustices and
inequalities by establishing the kingdom of
God on earth – a fair deals for all.
‘And the way’, they say, ‘to do this,
is through a violent revolution’.
When either society or government is unsympathetic towards the Christian church, if instead of rebelling and withdrawing themselves, the Christian population ‘do good’ v15, then the critics of Christianity will be silenced. Those opposed to Christianity often do not understand the substance of its teaching but they are able to read our lives. We are ‘living epistles’ [2 Cor. 3.2] and as such can exercise a positive influence. Think of the effect of Stephen's death upon Paul....
Note: Tacitus like many in the Roman
Empire, misunderstood Christians. He
describes them as 'loathed because of their
abominations' . He thought that the
communion service was an act of cannibalism!
The words used, “the body and blood of Christ”
created this false impression.
Peter teaches a profoundly important truth in v16. No matter what the Christian’s physical state or condition may be, as a result of his relation to Christ, he was free man. What had Jesus said? 'If the Son of Man shall set you free you shall be free indeed‘ Jn. 8.36.
There was however a danger that this freedom
could be abused. In what way?
First, with reference to God. The gospel freed man
from the idea that salvation was something to be
earned through works of righteousness. Salvation
is a gift of God's grace. But grace must never be
used as a license or excuse to continue in a sinful
Secondly, we have been given freedom in reference to other men. The Christian’s mind and the conscience has been emancipated from submission to external human authority. No human power has the right to dictate what we are to believe!
Therefore in matters of conscience the choice
is simple. God will always come before the
state, when the two are in disagreement.
However, we are not thereby absolved from
our obedience to the state on other matters.
We have not been given unqualified freedom.
When we live as servants of God the danger of abusing freedom is restrained. For we begin to show a proper respect for everyone.
1. We will love the brotherhood. In practical terms this means more than concern for their well-being but a giving of ourselves to help them.
2. We will fear God- We will live our lives in awe of Him. It is not easy to abuse grace when such an attitude grips our heart.
3. We will honour the king/government. Why
because we have recognised God's delegated
A Christian man is the most free Lord of all and
subject to none, a Christian man is the most
dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.
Peter has called his readers to live lives of holiness and has provided incentives for so doing. He has described the new status conferred upon them. They need neither prove their value nor their superiority. Against this background he calls them to submission, which affects every area of their lives. They are to submit not
because they have been coerced but
for ‘the Lord's sake’.
In v18-25 Peter addresses slaves. It has been
estimated that one third of the people living
in the Roman world were slaves. Christian
slaves are told to be submissive to their
Some are puzzled by the fact that the N.T. seems to accept slavery and ask, “Why is it not denounced?”. How do we deal with this criticism?
1. To have abolished slavery would have destroyed the economy of the Empire and left millions homeless and unemployed. Peter's immediate concern is not to promote social stability far less to perpetuate slavery.
2. Slavery in the Roman world was quite different from the slavery of the C18th. Slaves had rights. Many chose to place themselves in slavery. Slaves could inherit
and they could also buy
their freedom if they
3. Slaves released by their Christian masters tended to stay in their household and do precisely the same job they had done before.
4. The N.T. contains sufficient teaching on the dignity of man to press for its abolition, when it was no longer a semi-benevolent institution and when human rights were infringed. Cf. the pioneering work of the Christian politician William Wilberforce in the C18th .
5. It is important to recognise that the N.T. addresses not only slaves and their behaviour but masters and their behaviour as well cfEph 6.5.
6. The word used here is not the world ‘doulos’ which literally means ‘bond-slaves’ but ‘oiketai,’ which is literally 'domestics'- and this would include estate managers, physicians, teachers, and tutors employed within large households.
The master-slave relationship which is addressed here can, quite legitimately, be applied to the contemporary employer-employee relationship today. The thrust of what Peter is saying holds good for both groups – ‘Don't abuse your position’.
This call to submission does not say submit to and respect those masters, who are good and considerate but not those, who are harsh.
It is the office they were to respect even if they did not think much of the person holding it. cfActs 23.1-6. where loyalty and respect for the office is recognised, whether or not the holder behaved unjustly.
Imagine the impact this teaching could
have on the business world today if
taken seriously. A great deal of the
antagonism, conflict and entrenched
attitudes would begin to dissolve.
Those who bear up under unjust suffering are praised in v19. For they do so because they are ‘conscious of God’. What does that mean? Household slaves are faithful in their service, no matter who their master is, when they come to realise that they are serving God, who has placed them there.
There is no value in their being punished for laziness
or faithlessness but there is value in bearing an
unjust punishment. This provides a marvellous
opportunity to demonstrate their distinctively
Christian service. By patiently enduring
unmerited abuse, in contrast with a display of
whinging servility, they are also demonstrating
If we repay evil for evil we show ourselves to be a victim of circumstance. “He hurt me unjustly, so I will make him pay!” But if we bear evil patiently the chains of vengeance are broken. By behaving in this way the Christian shows his confidence in God's justice; he need not avenge himself. He simply commits his cause to God.
Finally, by failing to react to unjust treatment, the Christian
shows that his service is not forced but voluntary.
He serves his master for the Lord's sake. His
master cannot enslave him for he is Christ’s
slave. He cannot humiliate him because
he has willingly humbled himself.
This is how we can be imitators of Christ. We reflect God’s mercy by rising above petty retaliation. “Father forgive them...” Lk 23.34.
We show that we are unthreatened by evil and determined to overcome it by good. In the midst of suffering we show mercy to those who have shown us no mercy.
Gordon Wilson lost his little daughter in a terrorist bombing
in N. Ireland some years ago. When interviewed
by a BBC reporter, who clearly expected
him to vent his anger at the
awful atrocity, he spoke three
‘I forgive them...’
In order to discourage his readers from thoughts of vengeance and retaliation Peter points them to the cross v21... He points to the example of Jesus and says ‘follow in his steps’.
There is a Christian novel entitled 'In his steps'.
It tells the story of a church who, shamed by
their lack of true Christian discipleship,
resolved that in their family life, their
business life and their church life they
would always ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’
The community of which they were a
part was completely transformed as a
result of asking that simple question.
The Christian’s calling has been defined in a variety of ways. Peter defines it as suffering unjust abuse and patiently enduring when we are beaten for doing right. Many years ago Archbishop Leighton made this sad observation of some Christians:
“They like better Peter's carnal advice to Christ to
avoid suffering in Matt 16.22, than his apostolic
doctrine to Christians, teaching them, that as
Christ suffered so they likewise are called to
suffering. A life of suffering is our calling and
not our fate. It is not something we accept
with a stoic stiff upper lip and resignation but
something we wear a badge of our calling as the
disciples of Jesus Christ”