Internal Source of Holy Behavior
External Demonstration by Excellent Behavior
Orderly Living by Lawful Behavior
1 Human institutions are for the order of society and are built on remnants of the imago dei that expresses itself in corporate structures. Even pagan structures have to recognize some kind of order, symmetry, designation of authority and submission to perform certain needed tasks. The perfect community of the Trinity forms the very nature of reality and humans made in the divine image cannot function apart from observing to some degree those aspect of community that are eternally present in God. Sin makes us abuse this, keeps us from reflecting it perfectly and fills our attempts at order with graft and corruption and selfish grasps for power, but all government helps keep the nations from becoming a perfect conflagration of human destruction. Note how Peter lists the different levels of administering the justice that should be at the center of governmental concerns. Our submission to these human institutions is for the Lord’s sake.
2. Punishment of evil and reward of good [cf. Romans 13:1-7] The distinction between good and evil as discernible realities is necessary to the proper governing of any society. Nations and the variety of classes within them might not hold to precisely identical codes of right and wrong and may, therefore, at times disagree on whether some laws are just or unjust, and should be able to remonstrate for change. But that there is a difference between evil, deserving punishment, and good, deserving liberty and an unmolested peace of mind in pursuit of personal prosperity (however conceived) and that the function of government is to enforce these distinctions for the well-being of the entire population is largely undisputed. This is because government is ordained by God Himself in accord with the creation realities of both authority and submission.
3. Our position as aliens and sojourners does not mean that we establish lawless societies, that our “freedom” in Christ might become a cloak for disobedience to law. While our citizenship is in heaven [Philippians 3:20], we live in this world as salt and light demonstrating that the principles of honor and love are fundamental to reconciliation in all personal relations.
4. The only exception is an order that requires disobedience to Christ [cf. Acts 4:15-22] In this case, their preaching was not yet illegal, but simply offensive to the Jewish leadership. Neither the significance nor the safety of a Christian’s life is bound up in the perfection of the political system under which he or she lives, but in reverent fear of God as manifest in belief of the gospel. The Christian may, therefore, honor the emperor as a testimony to his ultimate fear of and trust in God and as a witness to others that appropriate respect of order and authority is a moral commitment of the Christian.
D. Peter’s address to servants – In this passage, Peter continues his admonitions to Christians to live submissively within the sphere of their present calling. A call to submission does not mean, necessarily, that the sphere of labor or relationship is ideal, or even just, but that a Christian can live with godly integrity and can conduct himself as a follower of Christ under stress as well as in happy situations. This idea becomes especially poignant when we realize that the example given is that of Christ’s patience and submission in the most unjust action ever done in human history.
1. Does Peter’s address to slaves give warrant to slavery as a human institution? Passages such as these were frequently used in defenses of slavery. The assumption was that the regulation of an existing institution was tantamount to God’s approval of the institution. He regulated slavery, and did not issue a mandate against it; the institution of slavery, therefore, is ordained of God and we must not insist on its abolition but only seek to remove any abuses from it. Though arguments on this issue from a biblical standpoint can be complicated at times, the general principle of Scripture is that personal freedom is superior to slavery, thus if a slave could obtain his freedom, he was urged to do so [1 Corinthians 7:21] The foundation of slavery, man-stealing, is strictly seen as a violation of divine law [1 Timothy 1:10], and Christian Masters were to be aware that they themselves had a Master in heaven and that they should consider their Christian slave as Brothers (Paul even states in the case of Onesimus and Philemon “No longer as a slave but as a beloved brother.”] Over and above the importance of this particular ethical issue, Peter is concerned that all Christians conduct themselves with integrity, personal purity, and loving deference in the inequities of a fallen world.
2. Unjust suffering borne patiently is pleasing to God—19, 20. Peter looks at the condition from the standpoint of the dominance of sin in all human relationships. In a pagan society the regard that a Master would have for his slave would normally involve a peculiarly egregious violation of the second Great commandment, “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”
Disobedience to the commandments rules in the hearts of all men, so a Christian should not be surprised when the world, especially someone in a place of power, shows no regard for God or man.. Peter gives the admonition to slaves with the assumption that their true Christian character will shine most brilliantly when they are called on to respond to injustice. Responding positively to the benevolent and gentle does not draw upon the reserves of grace but is no more than natural men would do. If we love those that love us, how does that let grace prove itself. Even the unbelievers would show respect to those that treated them with favor. [cf. Matthew 5:43-48]
In addition, patience under just suffering, a warranted punishment, is not a distinct demonstration of Christian character but an expected attitude thoroughly consistent with a deserved chastening. To receive punishment with resignation and patience when it is due for disobedience shows no extraordinary strength of character; to resist it and resent it, in fact, would only aggravate one’s guilt.
The manifestation of grace for the Christian slave occurs when he/she does all that the Master requires [which according to Christ should not raise the spirit of expectation in the slave for gratitude from the master (Luke 17:10)] and yet on pure whim or from arrogant malice receives rough, ill treatment from the Master. This shows that one, no matter what his earthly condition is or who is his earthly authority, views the Lord as his true master. Such submission is “a gracious thing,” that is a manifestation of grace. The Christian has focus on the love, mercy, faithfulness, and grace of God and desires to please Him, knowing that whatever we do we do “as unto the Lord.” We should implant in our hearts and test our actions each day by Paul’s question to the Galatians, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please Man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” [Galatians 1:10].