2:13-25 – Follow Christ’s example

In this chapter, we see Peter’s main encouragement to all of the believers in his target audience, and by extension, US!  In fact, instead of just saying “be encouraged, follow Jesus, God loves you,” he gives us a definitive how-to for the purposes of walking in the Sanctification that God is giving all of His chosen ones.

These are what I would refer to as issues of discipleship of the believer.  These are not things one does in order to be saved, these are things one does BECAUSE one is saved.  When we do this in the company of other believers, it is called a church activity, which according to Peter, is not limited to potlucks and singalongs…although I enjoy those social activities as well.  The importance of walking as a disciple cannot be overstated for believers, and as I have already stated, that is Peter’s main reason for writing the letter.

The consequences of weak or worldly disciples is easy to see in all of Christendom today.  The failure of those who name the name of Christ to learn the basic teachings of the Apostles about Christ and the resulting teachings of the need to be a holy testimony and example is clear in the apostate churches that dot the map around the world.  Christ’s Great Commission to His Church is found in the last few verses of Matthew’s gospel.  They read:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28:18-20)

Please note that Peter is giving the exact same message as Paul and James did–Walk with the Master, our Lord Jesus, and this is how you do it.  James told us that faith without the resulting works is dead.  Paul said we must walk in a worthy manner.  This is Peter’s version of the same thing, and we will look at it in detail.

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The specific WAY that we are supposed to follow Christ here is in our submission to civil  authority.  Just as Paul wrote on this topic very precisely in Romans 13, Peter here writes with understanding of Scripture on the topic.  Because there are spiritual lazybones out there that don’t seek to understand what Peter is saying or what Paul says and see how they actually agree with each other, and because there are latte-sipping skinny-jeans pastors that use this as an excuse to keep themselves from actually standing where God told them to stand and doing what God told them in the Scriptures to do, a very precise handling of this has become necessary.

It is true that most human beings have this tendency to stick out their chin and clench their teeth at authority and take on the bad attitude of “Go ahead and swing, ‘t’ain’t glass,” daring perceived authority to strike a blow if they can.  Christians, at least by my own long observation, are no different, and because of that we miss opportunities to be a proactive and positive witness for Christ.  For that kind of an attitude, we should repent, and I need to say that right at the beginning.  The other possible response is that the Christian particularly acts as a wallflower and does nothing negative, but also nothing positive, and does what they are told to do by civil authority when they have clearly over-reached their God-given authority.  Yes, all civil authority, is mandated by God Himself.  We’ll get into that in the text.  Even our Canadian Prime Minister was put in his position by God.  Think about who the emperor of the world was for Peter–Caesar Nero!  And HE was DERANGED!  Our natural response may be to shut up and run and hide in a hole somewhere, but that isn’t what God commands us to do, and it isn’t what Jesus did, and it isn’t what Peter said to do.

Having said that, there are limits to this submission, and it comes from an understanding of who is really in charge.  Beloved, that’s God, our heavenly Father.  He created the earthly civil authorities for the punishment of those who do wrong, and the reward of those who do good.  To that authority, we have a holy duty to submit to it, even if it is poorly expressed and managed.  However, as we have seen recently, it is possible for earthly authority to overstep what God gave it as a responsibility and either command us to do things that God said NOT to do, or command us to NOT do things God said we MUST do.  In either of those cases, we are not to obey…but our behaviour MUST STILL be godly behaviour.  With that said, let’s look at this study’s text. 

I broke the text down like this:

KV21:  The purpose of our calling in Christ

13-17:  Submit to authority as God’s servants

18-20:  Submit to ALL authority, not just the good ones

21-25:  Christ is our example of submission

Again, this is all pretty self-explanatory, even if we don’t like what it says, even if it makes us angry, even if it scares us, even if it makes us want to hide.  I’m in that last category, because standing for this WILL cause conflict, and I hate conflict.  However, my dad didn’t raise a snowflake, and as a friend of mine recently said, “These colours won’t run.”  Let’s look at it.

KV21:  The purpose of our calling in Christ

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…

It is as a result of this verse where it is being used the way Peter used it that you may finally understand a point I have been making since the beginning.  This is a wonderful promise, to be sure, but it has a context.  That context is historical, textual, and grammatical.  If we were to ignore that, we would be using the text out of context, and that would be because we had some pretext to lead you down some garden path somewhere.  And Beloved, that is NOT EVER our purpose.  It is instead to get you to read like a scholar that wants to understand what the text is actually saying, and that is very clear here.

The context of this verse actually comes from the two paragraphs that precede it that talk about submitting to civil authority.  If you miss that, then what else could Peter have meant when he used the words “called for this purpose?”  You could literally assign ANY meaning at all to the verse if you did not understand that Peter is talking about our submission to civil authority, and how Christ is our example.  And beloved, this is done all the time by non-believing gatherings like Hillsong or Bethel and others because they are interested in one thing only, and that’s what’s in your wallet and bank account.  We are more interested here at BereanNation.com with how you respond to the truth of the gospel and then the Scriptures.  You may notice we no longer ask for your money.  That is because we don’t want it.  We don’t even want you to join our church.  We want you to see the need to belong to a bible-based church to be sure, but what we want is for you to read the Scriptures daily so you can see the truth for yourselves, just like those godly Jews in the city of Berea in Acts 17:11.

The reason I picked this verse as key to the understanding of the text is that it ties all of the themes together in Christ, and we can then put in context the subject Peter speaks of in his letter.  With that, let’s get into the text.

13-17:  Submit to authority as God’s servants

This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer for the Christian.  Most of us understand that God created civil government (in many forms I might add, from monarchy to direct democracy, and a number of things in-between and outside that gradient).  He did so for our protection, primarily, but also to reward those who do good.  Have you noticed that lawbreakers go to jail or pay fines?  There are sometimes other punishments as well, but this isn’t a treatise about crime and punishment.  Christians, who are tasked with being salt and light to the world, should follow our Lord Jesus, who never broke any law, and who even tacitly approved of the treatment he received under the law of Rome.  Hopefully, we’ll say more about that when we get there. 

However, recent world events have showed us that not only is it possible for civil authority to overreach its own limits to compel behaviour, but to put those who do good under the penalty of law for doing good.  This is a very bad misuse of the law, and it is reprehensible–yet it is not a reason to break the law in itself.  If you wonder what I am speaking of, I will refer you to the province of Albertan in Canada.  The provincial government, playing the role of Caesar, forbid churches to meet because of a “pandemic” so-called.  It isn’t my purpose to talk about the reality of that situation or lack of it, and I won’t here, but People should be reminded that the Scriptures really say, “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

The argument made was “public safety,” but how do people that are risking their own health and meeting with others endanger the health of those who the province said could no longer contract or spread the virus at the time these events were happening?  They told the pastor he had violated the law, and that he should turn himself in.  That principled man did just that, and he was arrested, put in actual chains, and dragged of to the maximum security Edmonton Remand Centre, where he spent a little over 5 weeks I think, because HE WOULD NOT AGREE to stop discharging his duties as a pastor at the command of Caesar.  I brought that up in a sermon once, and I was told I was a conspiracy theorist and that I held as heroes men that were predisposed to break the law.  The reasoning that I was given was that he deserved what he got because he did not submit to civil authority, and I was dismissed out of hand when I protested.  Apparently they didn’t get the memo of what to do when those orders directly contravened God’s commands in Scripture.

I said earlier that a very precise handling of this was necessary, and I meant it.  Peter here knew that the pastors of those gatherings would be in fear over the worldwide persecution of Christians by the Roman Government on false charges.  Peter’s solution did not involve protests or lawyers either.  His solution was the same as Paul’s:  Imitate and follow Christ, and that is the context by which we must understand this text…in fact all of Scripture.  So let’s get into the text.

13:  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

  • Peter just comes right out and says it.  You have to submit to every human institution, and then he starts to name them specifically.  We’re going to do what we always do though, and look at this a phrase at a time, and sometimes a word at a time.
  • Submit yourselves – This is a form of the Greek word hupotasso, which we have seen before.  It means to arrange yourselves in rank under a commander, and it is as you might expect a military term.  Metaphorically, it is understood to mean that you are to submit by an act of your will to someone in a greater authority, hence the translation of “submit yourselves.”  We are to engage our will to this task, as opposed to getting that clenched jaw I described earlier.  Case in point:  The SPEED LIMIT.  Over the years, I have changed my own opinions on this, but I started off thinking of the speed limit as more of a guideline if I’m being honest.  Beloved, a LIMIT is more than a GUIDELINE.  Yet other people naming the name of Christ over their lives drive with a little lead inserted in the sole of their right shoe, and seem awfully senstive on the matter when addressed about it, even kindly or jokingly.  No, Beloved, submit.  Cruise Control makes this easy.
  • For the Lord’s sake – [dia ton kurion] This is referring to the source from which something is done, not for their sake.  This is an English error, not a Greek one, so the meaning is that the Lord is the source by which we are to submit ourselves according to Vine.  Does that not remind you of that great exchange Paul talks about in Gal. 2:20?  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  He is to be the source, the energy, the motivation behind everything we do.
  • To every human institution – [anthropinē ktisei] Anthropinē is a form of anthropos, which means human.  Ktisei is usually translated as “a creation” of sorts, but here is translated as “institution” because it is the result of a creative act, and is only used once in scripture in this sense, to refer to an ordinance, the creative result of human actions.
  • The verse is only a partial sentence, so it has an incomplete thought, but is a reference to a king [basilea] being the one in authority, as in a monarch or emperor of some kind.

14:  or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

  • I find this to be reflective of Paul’s “authority that bears the sword” bit in Romans 13.  The Greek word for Governor is hegemon, and it means “rulers” in a general sense.  They are “one that is under the king,” as per the previous verse, and their purpose is to be a basic deterrence for evil and punishment if someone is found guilty of evil, but also for the encouragement of doing what is right. 
  • And this is where the rubber meets the road.  Is it right for the government to close churches wholesale or with severe restrictions on who can attend, or to demand lists of those who do attend in the “name of public safety?”  This verse actually provides an answer in what it does not say.  In fact nowhere in Scripture does it say to my knowledge that the government of any country ever including all of Israel is responsible for the safety of its citizens in peacetime at least.  So the “public safety” argument, if it has any validity at all, has to do with those who are a clear and present danger to humans around them.  Note, HUMANS.  People that hurt animals for no better reason than they can are also despicable, but those seem to be the same folks that hurt the humans around them.  Ever notice that?  The government is for punishing those actions, and promoting those that actually build, not “try to build” a better place for everybody.  What Caesar has NO authority to do is REGULATE, at least not biblically.  Some regulation is needed and even good in most things, but that’s usually to keep people doing the right thing.  Over regulation is not always good, especially when they regulate what you can think in terms of acceptable thought.  Like those, and I quote our own Prime Minister as the head of OUR governement, “small fringe groups that have unacceptable views,” referring to the Canadian Truck Drivers that set up a completely peaceful protest (violence and questionable activities have already been proved to come from outside the actual protesting group) and got busted in the chops because of it. 
  • In case you didn’t know about this, my DAD was a truck driver, and I grew up around the them.  I’ve ridden in the trucks of these guys across Ontario.  I got free transportation a few times just because I needed to be somewhere.  These people are just people.  They do not have “unacceptable views.”  They have the same fair-minded approach that most Canadians have!  And for your information, a government leader that declares that any legal opposition group or group of peaceful protesters has “unacceptable views,” especially in the west, in democracies, and in the current day, has taken a giant leap past his own jurisdictional boundaries and is well into the country of TYRANNY.  Now that shouldn’t change Christian behaviour, but wherever we see real injustice or someone promoting a fake agenda that has a bad end for fellow citizens, we should stand up and say something.  Like those Pastors in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick that I know of personally did.  Otherwise, Peter isn’t really discussing our actions here, he is giving the purpose of government, and telling us that it too is ordained by God.  Yes, men are fallen and evil exists, but that is all answered by Christ, is it not?  Moving on.

15:  For  such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

  • Our job isn’t to necessarily even to resist tyranny.  Some are made to do things like that, and some aren’t.  For those that are, please do.  I know I’m not.  I’m actually made to encourage people and guide them through their own difficulties.  You know, BE a PASTOR.  But sometimes you have to speak the truth, to power or to anyone that will listen.  Before you mistake my meaning, the concept of “speaking truth to power” is not a spiritual concept.  The phrase itself comes from Marxist roots, and should be avoided.  What the will of God, OUR God, remember, is that we do the right thing.  And when you’re done that, move on to the NEXT right thing before God.  And I need to say this here:  You do not need to hold political power to do the right thing.  You should not do the right thing for any reason other than it is the right thing for you to do according to the will of God.  Why is that?
  • It is very difficult to accuse people that are always trying to do the right thing in the eyes of the God of Scripture.  These people are always trying to make everything better, not in the do-gooder sense, but in reality.  This is the difference between giving someone something to eat and teaching them to get something to eat for themselves, Beloved.  The word “silence” here means literally “to close the mouth with a muzzle.”  I could spend a lot of time criticizing my former place of work about this.  I used to work for something called a “wealth management” company.  That company literally cared for BILLIONS of dollars in assets for our clients.  And our office had something like $150M in assets under management.  To give you an idea of what that means in terms of commissions generated for those who worked in the office considering only the WORST case scenario, that’s $3.75M per year for that office.  (To put that into context for you, there were 53 employees in that office, and if that number is divided equally, everyone gets about $71K a year.)  Every year, our office was the major sponsor of a comedy festival that toured the country, and the biggest comics in Canada gave a ticketed show for all of the clients we would invite and pay for to attend.  There was food, alcohol, conversation, a generally good time.  The show was ostensibly given as a benefit concert to aid the local food bank.  My Regional Director (the boss of my boss) got up to play MC, and the very first thing he did was give a cheque to the food bank of Ottawa.  Anyone want to guess how much that cheque was for?  $2000.  I was insulted and offended.  And I was with clients and guests and had to hold my tongue.  And yet, everyone applauded the Ottawa offices (of which there are FOUR that contributed to that donation) for such a “generous” donation.  NO, beloved.  That’s not doing the right thing.  The right thing in comparison might be getting that person a JOB so they can buy themselves enough to eat!  Or making sure that the food bank has enough to make sure no one in their charge goes hungry because they don’t have a job. Two-thousand dollars is about 2 months worth of groceries at my house, incidentally.  We’re a family of five.  The cheque the boss gave to the Ottawa food bank could have fed us for 2 months.  By comparison, it probably fed 40 people in our ward for a week, and there are WAY more than 40 people to feed in a week in our ward, and let me tell you, it isn’t any fun at all to go hungry.  But I digress.
  • “Ignorance” in this verse means that people do not know.  And as in the previous example involving the local food bank, people don’t know what they don’t know.  That word doesn’t bother me as much as the next descriptor.  “Foolish” is aphrenimos in the Greek.  According to Vine, this carries the meaning of “want of mental sanity and sobriety, a reckless and inconsiderate habit of mind,” or “the lack of commonsense perception of the reality of things natural and spiritual… or the imprudent ordering of one’s life in regard to salvation.”  What this verse says to me is that when you are doing the right thing, it places an enforced silence on people who think they know better but don’t.  They may still not like that right thing or you, but they really can’t say anything without seeming like, well, an ignorant and foolish one, and no one wants to be seen as that.  Although that’s all of us, pretty much, unless Christ makes us free of that.

16:  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

  • And when Christ DOES make us free of that, then Peter tells us what we should be doing next!  Be the douloi of God (I used the plural like the text).  I need to immediately point out that the word “act” has been added by the translators.  It is NOT in the original Greek.  Surely, I thought, when I saw this, there must be a way of using the words to make a coherent Greek sentence, and there is.  I’m not a big fan of the New Living Translation, it is a tad too charismatic for my tastes, but it does a great job on this.  “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” 
  • What Peter is saying here is that Christ set us free from the sin that would otherwise control our lives, and it is now actually possible to “do the right thing” in the eyes of God.  However, because we are still in the flesh that is frankly wrecked with sin (Paul’s “the sin that dwells in me”), we are prone to reasoning that it is okay to still do those things that Christ died to redeem us from!  Instead of being slaves of sin, Peter is telling us, rather be slaves of God!

17:  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

  • The “honour” spoken of here is that of valuing a person for the good things that they have done.  The word is only used in this positive sense in everything I have looked at.  I suppose it could take on the negative connotation of “evaluate yourself to see if you are in the faith,” for example, but that’s usually some for of the word krino, so I don’t associate that meaning with this word here.  This is a form of the Greek timao, literally to fix a price or to value something or someone.
  • “Love the brotherhood” is the Greek phrase adelphoteta agapate, and has that exact meaning.  The “brotherhood” here must literally be that body of believers that Christ has called to Himself.  In other words, love the believers!
  • Fear God.  We all know what it means to fear something, but I think Peter has something in mind here.  Psalm 111:10 says, “The  fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”  Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  It seems that Peter is saying more than “Be very afraid.”  He is literally quoting Scripture and calling us to gain the knowledge that will cause us to reverence our thrice-holy God!  Only the ignorant fools of verse 15 would reject that knowledge in favour of their own vain imaginations and broken understanding of how things actually work.  It says right near the beginning of Proverbs (1:7) that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Fearing God as Peter states it is to learn that reverence that will help us to submit to His authority willingly and in truth, not “feigned obedience” as it states in Psalm 66:3–“Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!  Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will  give feigned obedience to You.”  God has not made us to be His enemies who offer Him fake obeisance.  We read I n Chapter 1 that He has caused us to born again to a living hope, and an inheritance reserved in Heaven for us that will never spoil or fade away!  Learn this, Beloved!
  • Honor the king.  The Greek is again basilea as in verse 13, the monarch or emperor of some kind.  I do feel the need to point out that this is uncorrelated with the character of said government leader.  The Emperor of the World at the time of Peter was Caesar Nero, the very man that began a government-sponsored persecution of believers for the next 250 years or so.  At the time of this writing, we have already learned that it had already begun in earnest, and Peter was in fact writing this very letter to reassure the leaders of church gatherings that God had not forgotten them, and they still had to conduct themselves as believers in Kurios Christos even if it meant they had to disobey kurios Caesar.

From what I have seen in the world today, it seems like believers don’t seem to know these principles anymore.  We get embroiled in the politics of the country where we reside instead of remembering that our citizenship is in heaven, like Paul said in Philippians 3:20.  I’m not saying vote or don’t vote here, that is a matter for your conscience before Christ, but whatever it is you decide, you need to live by that decision before Christ in freedom for yourself, and not paint everyone else with your own private brush in matters of conscience.  Moving on.

18-20:  Submit to ALL authority, not just the good ones

Peter here is continuing the theme of submission to authority, and in doing so, he makes no bones about telling real believers everywhere that it doesn’t matter what your earthly masters say, they are still your earthly masters.  Many today preach a false gospel that says these masters are your oppressors, and that you should fight against them and rise up, because God is on your side.  That isn’t what Peter said.  For those that would try to make the doctrines of Critical Theory and Intersectionality a type of Gospel, I would read you Galatians 1:8-9.  “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be  accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be  accursed!”  This dangerous doctrine is no gospel at all, and I am not seeking to please men.  I am sorry if you don’t like what I’m saying, but the truth is, I don’t work for you, and you are NOT my master here.  I work for my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and you can take this up with Him.   Let’s just get into the text.

18:  Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

  • This may not be important to you, but it is to me.  The word here translated as “servants” is NOT doulos.  It is oiketes, and that means a house servant like a maid or a butler.  This is often a skilled position, and is distinguished from a run of the mill slave.  Some people say it makes no difference, but I am very unsure of that.  The Lord uses the words He uses on purpose, and when a different word is used, we should note that and inspect that.  The closest thing to this today would be “employee” or hired staff as opposed to slave.  This could be a distinction between a captured and sold slave versus someone who sells themselves into “slavery” as was common for all professions at the time.  Such individuals had what we would call a financial contract that most often had time limits, and that was paid up front.  At the end of the contract, they were free to go their own way if they desired.  It is to this group that I believe this comment is addressed.
  • What does Peter say?  “Be submissive to your masters with respect.”  Submission:  There is that Greek word hupotasso again.  To rank in order under something, in this case a master, or despotes, which in this case is simply translated as “one placed in authority.”  The reason they are in authority is not mentioned.  They might be a legitimate authority in your eyes, or they might even be a pretender that has usurped the authority of another.  As long as they stay within the bounds of the highest authority, you are to submit to them, and specifically you are to do so with a good attitude!  Now that chafes against our own wills, does it not?  Particularly when we do not agree with our “masters” as if they asked us for an opinion!  They should!  We’re intelligent!  Smarter than they are!  Morons!  You can see how this goes.
  • The word for “respect” hear may surprise you.  It is phobos, the Greek word for TERROR.  Originally, it had the meaning of flight caused by fear, but in this sense, at least according to the Vine’s Expository Dictionary, in this particular passage means to obey your superior with fear and trembling.  Today, we would say, “Do what your boss tells you to do!”  And some bosses are easier to work for because they are good bosses, and understanding.  The owner of the flooring store where I work is like that.  If I need something for the job, all I need to do is ask.  He even knows that I work on my sermons when there are no customers in the store, and he even occasionally listens to them.  However, I haven’t always had decent employers, the nearest thing to what this is talking about in the present.  I have had some bad ones, and some of them even made promises about my future that they promptly broke when they had opportunity.  What has Peter said here?
  • Peter has instructed believers that no matter what kind of boss you might have, you’re to do what they tell you.  You are to submit to their will and obey them.  Why?  He’s going to explain himself.

19:  For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

  • Peter says that it finds favour.  What?  God is pleased when we suffer unjustly?  Hang on, that isn’t quite what Peter has said, although God has His children under His own gaze, protection, and will at all times.  Nothing happens to you that he hasn’t already allowed.  Remember what happened with Job?  There is an unseen reality all around us of which we have no perception.  I think this is saying something additional, so hear me out before drawing the conclusion that God is a sadist who likes to watch people suffer, because that simply is not true.
  • If you bear up under unjust suffering and put on a good face as you believe the best and submit to this unreasoning boss, as long as he isn’t in violation of God’s word, then it finds favour with anyone who can see what is going on.  As broken as mankind is, we still know and hate when someone gets a raw deal, don’t we?  Don’t think for a minute that isn’t true!  And God will look after His children, even if that means they get fed to a bunch of starved lions and tigers.  Hey, right after that, they’re with Him forever.  How does it matter how we got there, right? 
  • I remember watching a movie about Paul in Mamartine Prison, and Luke went to visit him.  All of the Christians are rounded up, and Luke is caught in a sweep and also sentenced to death with all the other frightened believers.  Paul was in a different part of the prison, and people started to turn to Luke asking “What do we do?”  The actor playing Luke nailed it.  He said very seriously, “There will be a moment of pain.  Then we will be God’s presence forever.”  Luke, and most of the believers are somehow set free, but many do perish in the coliseum.  I think the movie was trying for some historical accuracy.  And those that stood by watching the show knew that these people were being wronged.  Ultimately, we know what happened.  Over the next 200 years or so, the gospel of Jesus Christ was declared by people submitting to reasonable, but especially unreasonable despots, and by the time Constantine came on the scene in the early 300s to choose a religion to unify his empire, it wasn’t the so-called gods of Rome that were the most common anymore, it was the illegal belief system known as Christianity that was the actual religion of the people!  Historians today will try to deny it, but frankly, it has been too well documented by people that were only interested in seeing history told properly.
  • Peter is making the point that people see and understand when someone is being mistreated, and that sort of underdog status that you get out of that will win favour, and that favour is an opening for the gospel as you give an account for the joy within you, which is something Peter is coming to in this book if memory serves.

20:  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

  • And then Peter returns to the idea that this also pleases God!  This is a concept with which we should be familiar.  If we sin and pay the price for it, we should just recognize we are getting exactly what we deserve and leave it at that.  If you want, you can call that enduring with patience, though I don’t.  Enduring with patience is what happens when you suffer for doing what you know is right.  Comfort yourself with the thought that no good deed goes unpunished by the world and the system that entangles it and the ruler over that system, who really doesn’t like us very much.  THAT is what finds favour with God.  Patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  We should live displaying that fruit, which is never against any law I have found, at least not yet.

Peter’s point here was for servants to obey their masters, it is true.  However, is it not also the case given what we said about the other authorities that God Himself has placed in authority, that this idea can and should be expanded to include civil authorities, not just the boss at work?  Paul tells us that we should pray for our leaders so that we can live lives of peace and godliness, but also commands us to pray they would be saved from the coming wrath.  In my thinking, and I hope in yours as well, these are signs of love for these people, and how we desire the very best for them, not just to benefit ourselves, but to impact them in a positive way for all eternity!

Okay, I hear you, and you’re right.  It DOES beg the question, “How do we do that?”  As usual, the answer is to follow our great example, our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the very topic to which Peter turns next.

21-25:  Christ is our example of submission

If you are not seeing this, Christ at a minimum is how we should be behaving in the main, up to and including naming names and flipping tables if the situation warrants it…but that only happened to Jesus once in His lifetime that He acted on it, so calm down.  We should always seek to be imitators of Christ.  That old question “What would Jesus do?” is best answered with the answer that focuses on Scripture:  “What DID Jesus do?”  Peter is about to apply this to what he has said so far in this chapter.

21:  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

  • Peter tells us that we are in fact called for the very purpose of suffering for doing the right thing!  For following Christ!  Don’t get me wrong, not everyone will be called on to give their life for faith in Christ.  However, some will, and you had best be armed with the mindset Peter is describing against that event.How do we know this?  Well, it is how Peter finishes his statement in this verse!  Since [literally BECAUSE] Christ suffered on our behalf, He should be seen as the example to imitate!  Is that not what it means to follow in His steps?  To walk the way He walked?  To suffer the way God chose and designed specifically for Him to suffer?  God has specifically designed ways I can suffer as well, beloved!  One of the ways I suffer is to patiently endure what illness and injury have done to me.  I’m not depressed because my health limits me, instead I joyfully do what I can!  SO SHOULD YOU.  God gains glory when we suffer for doing what He has commanded us.  How will you suffer for His (and dare I say your future) glory?  Look to Christ, our great example!  Don’t believe me?  Watch where Peter goes next!

22:  who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

  • Remember the context here.  From the previous verse, these words refer to Christ who is our example.  Peter is telling us that He suffered for us.  Who is Peter talking about?  Believers.  Christ suffered for all those who would ever turn from their sins and believe in Him.  Does that include you?  Does it?  Really?  How do you know?  How does anyone know, for that matter?  Are those questions making you uncomfortable?  GOOD.
  • Christ suffered for us.  Christ did not commit any sin for which to suffer.  He did not tell lies, make up stories, use other peoples’ circumstances as his own, or blow smoke up anyone’s behind. 
  • Those of you who have been around for a while will know that this verse is in all capitals!  What does that mean?  Right, it is an Old Testament Quotation!  Specifically, it comes from Isaiah 53:9, which reads, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”  This was spoken by Isaiah approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus as a description of the suffering servant of god, the Messiah.  Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ, which is the Greek word for The Anointed One of God.  Most of you will recognize that Isaiah 53 is the chapter about the Messiah, right?  You should!  Look at the chapter on your own for your own edification sometime.  I don’t want to go there because the temptation to exposit it is too great for me.

23:  and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

  • Peter continues his thought here.  Remember, Peter was there at all three of Jesus’ illegal trials.  He saw all of this, and later told Mark, who wrote it all down in the Gospel of Mark.  He saw them revile Jesus.  That means he saw them abuse Him.  They hurled abuse at Him.  He did not return it, verbally or physically.  They made Him suffer, and yet he didn’t do like we all would.  “Just you wait, you’ll get yours!”  Or words to that effect.  Instead, He simply trusted his Father.  Why?  Because His Father, God the Father, only EVER judges uprightly.  And this was NOT without reason!

24:  and He Himself  bore our sins in His body on the  cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

  • Remember the context, Peter is still speaking of the Christ who suffered for us and left us an example to follow.  The verse that best expresses this thought apart from this one is 2 Cor. 5:21–“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  But like I said just a few seconds ago, this was not without reason.  Peter tells us that He bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we could have the ability to die to our sin!  Those things that we kick ourselves for in the morning after the night before.  And more, so that we could be different!  So that we could exchange that broken mess of death we mistakenly called a life for REAL life and live it to Him in righteousness.  THIS is what it means when Isaiah says in the 53 chapter of his book that “by His wounds we were healed,” not that if we believe God he would heal our bodies like the charismaniacs tell you.  I have to be really honest here–most of our problems in this life are not physical ones, they are spiritual and deal with the mortification of our sin, as per Romans 7.  Christ died so that He could heal our deepest wounds of all–the sin that taints our very being in order that we might live in purity to Him.

25:  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

  • Peter nails it in the first part of this verse.  What do you know about sheep?  I can tell you a few things.  About 60 miles from the place I grew up, about 20 miles from Dryden, ON, was a sheep farm.  We knew when we were about 10 miles away, too.  You could smell the farm.  Beloved, if you didn’t know this, sheep smell really bad.  To be compared with sheep is a less-than-flattering comparison sometimes!  Also, sheep are DUMB!  They are forever wandering off (called here by Peter “straying”) and getting themselves into predicaments that are not easy to get out of!  Sounds like us, to be sure.  Sheep are also stubborn!  Try to get one to go where it doesn’t want to go!  You have to bribe them with stuff they like!  (Like us!  We’re stubborn, and will only go where we perceive benefit to ourselves!)  And everything needs to be just so, or the sheep will not thrive!  The need continual watching by specially qualified men called “shepherds!”  Now the Greek word for this is poimeen.  I am willing to bet very few English-speakers know the Greek.  Most of them are more familiar with the English derivation of the Latin pastore, where we get our word “pastor.”  The actual English translation here is “shepherd.”  And who is the Shepherd here?  It is obvious from the context within the text that Peter can only be speaking of Jesus Christ, literally, the Shepherd and Overseer [episkopos] of our souls.  That’s what episkopos means–“one who watches over.”  Why does that remind me of the term “Overwatch?”  [hahaha]
  • What is it that He is the Shepherd and Overseer of?  Very simply, our souls [psuche].  The term here is used of the soul, the very component of us that we have looked at before and defined as what makes us, well, US!  You see, the Lord Jesus does not want us not to be ourselves and instead squelch everything that makes us who we are, instead he wishes to be the one who both guides and guards us into who He wants us to be in Him, which is far better than anything we could imagine.  Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who truly love Him.
  • You may also notice that this statement is phrased in the past tense, as something that has already happened.  Given that Peter is addressing only believers in his letter, this should not surprise us.  If you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul, you have already turned from your sins and to Christ in faith!  You already belong to Him!  What?  You haven’t done that yet?  That’s okay, you can do it right now!  Repent of your sins and believe that His death on the cross 2000 years ago was for you, and that God was so pleased by His sacrifice there that Christ rose from the dead to show that His sacrifice was not only accepted by effectual!  If you will do that, God will regenerate you and make you to be His son or daughter!  That’s what the Scriptures say!

What the Lord is looking for, at least what Peter has said here, is that we would walk in a worthy manner, Beloved.  If we know the rules of the ruling authority, we should follow those rules, so long as they are not in violation of the Word of God, his written will for us.  When they overreach their authority, we should stand up and say something regardless of the cost, but we are NEVER called to violence or armed rebellion as I have heard some suggest.  The faith and patience of the saints implies that those who live by the sword will die by that same sword.  Is that really what the Lord wants for His people?  I don’t know, but at least to me, it doesn’t seem like that.  Instead, we are to submit to authority as a general principle, even when it seems unreasonable, knowing that Christ went before us not only as an example to show us the way, but also to guide and guard our very souls as we go.

And that’s what I saw in this portion of text.

Next study, we will consider 1 Peter 3:1-12.

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