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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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Studies in 1 peter



1 Peter

Presentation 05

Studies in 1 peter

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

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

Studies in 1 peter


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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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

to God.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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 ?

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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.’

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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


Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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?”

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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’.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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


Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to the State

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.


Studies in 1 peter


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


Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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

so wished.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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’.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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

their freedom.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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.

Lk. 6.32f

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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

memorable words,

‘I forgive them...’

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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.

Studies in 1 peter

Submission to Superiors

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”