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Submission To Rulers And Masters (ch. 2:13 - 25)

 

What we read here about submission to civil authority sounds much like what Paul taught in Romans 13.  This is one reason, as I've stated in my introduction, that some people actually think Paul wrote 1 Peter.  Of course, I do not believe that.  What is more believable is that the first generation Christians believed, at least for the most part, the same thing on this issue.     

 

After Peter tells his readers to do good in order that their accusers would praise God on the Day of Judgement, in verses 13 and 14 he now tells his readers to submit to "every authority instituted among men."   He goes on to say that we should submit to the king, governors, or anyone these men send their way. 

 

The Greek word that is translated as "submit" is "hupotasso."  It is derived from two other words,  "hupo," meaning "under," and, "tasso," meaning to arrange or rank."  Thus the meaning of "hupostasso" is "to rank under, or to arrange under."  It was very much a military word in the first century Roman society.  A soldier, for example, would rank under his superior officer.  Peter is telling these Christians to align themselves under their governing authorities, who by the way, were hostile to their way of life as a Christian. 

 

"Hupotasso" in its daily Roman usage was a cold hearted word.  You just submit; no questions asked.  That being said, the New Testament, at least in certain places, often softens this Greek word.  For example, in Ephesians 5:22 Paul says that wives should submit to their husbands.  In context, and in how "hupotasso" is used in Christian relationships, this submission is based on a mutual love and care for one another.  It's not based on a dictatorial mandate by the one to whom we are to submit.  That being said, a mutual caring relationship is not what the first generation Christians had with their government.  Christians were being persecuted, imprisoned, and even executed for their relationship with Jesus.  I would not call that a mutual caring relationship.  This command then to submit to the authorities would be hard to understand and obey if you were a Christian living in the Roman Empire in Peter's day, the very empire that had Peter executed a few short years after he wrote this letter.

 

The Greek verb tense concerning the verb "submit" is an aorist passive imperative.  This means that the readers were to once and for all (aorist) decide to allow (passive) the authorities to dictate to you.  Imperative means that this is ac command, not a suggestion.  Again, this would be a very difficult command to obey under the reader's present circumstances.              

 

There are some reasons why Peter tells his readers to submit to authorities, and in this case, ungodly authorities.   One reason is because God has sent these men to punish people who are doing wrong and commend those who are doing good.  The Apostle Paul wrote the same thing in Romans 13:1.  This only makes sense.  If the government exists to punish the evil doer, then if you obey you have no worries about being punished, and, you are a good witness for the Lord.   

 

One thing to consider is that many governments over the centuries do more than keep civil order, punish the evil doer, and commend those who do good.  They institute all sorts of other laws, whether tax laws, marriage laws, or whatever, that makes it hard for the Christian to submit.  In the case of the first generation Christian, many of them were commanded to call Caesar lord, something they just could not do.  Jesus was their Lord, not Caesar.  It would be a denial of Jesus to call anyone else Lord.  This actually became an issue in the mid second century.  Some believers believed they could verbally say that Caesar was Lord but believe in their hearts that Jesus was Lord.  By doing this their lives would be spared to continue to preach the gospel.  Others refused to verbalize Caesar being Lord.  I would, at least I hope I would have, been found in this second group.         

 

The government of Peter's day was very much a dictatorial system that demanded more than just obeying laws to do good.  The government demanded pagan style worship.  So, the question is asked, "How could a Christian obey such laws from such authorities?" 

 

Paul made it clear in Romans 13:1 that the Roman government of hi's day, and I believe our day too, was put in power by God.   Therefore, God Himself is the final authority, even over the government.  So, when government laws fall in line with God's law, you submit, but, when government opposes the God who put it in power, you don't submit.  Thus, arose the conflict between Christians and the Roman authorities in Peter's day.  Peter's very life shows us that he did not submit to authorities all the time.  That is why he was executed by the Roman government.  He could not submit in matters that violated the laws of God.  

 

In Acts 4:19 Peter asked the Jewish leaders whether he should obey them or God.  It is clear that in Peterís mind, he would obey the civil authorities the best he could, but when civil law came in conflict with Godís laws, Peter would obey God instead of the authorities. 

 

Both Peter and Paul, and I'm sure others, understood that civil disobedience would be punished.  They did not try to escape this punishment, even if the punishment was death.  Instead, they submitted to the punishment, because this was the command from the Lord.  This is the ultimate in submission to authorities.    

 

The problem that arises among us is to know what laws should we obey and what laws we shouldn't obey.  We tend to differ on this within the Christian community.  The only thing I can suggest at the moment is to attempt to do our best to obey the government. 

 

We also should note that Nero was the Supreme leader of the Roman Empire when Peter wrote this letter, and he did not take kindly to anyone who even slightly disobeyed him.  Nero came into great conflict with both Jews and Christians.  Many Christians were killed under this manís rule, especially in the city of Rome where he majored on Christian and Jewish persecution.  What Peter says here is significant.  Peter tells his readers to obey Nero, the best you can.  For Nero, obedience was either all or nothing.  One act of disobedience could do you in for good.    

 

Another reason is given by Peter for obedience to authority in verse 13 is "for the Lord's sake."  We don't submit because the authorities are good or bad, right or left, or, liberal or conservative.  We submit because Jesus wants us to have an underlying spirit of submission, first to Him and then to others.  Our submission to government is because we are servants of God, the very God who put government into power.  The Apostle Paul put it this way.  "Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:17).  My point here is simple; a submissive spirit is a humble spirit.  It does not seek itself.  It seeks the Lord Jesus and those He places us along side at any given time.

 

Before I go on to verse 15 I need to point out once again, as Paul pointed out in Romans 13:1, God appoints governing authorities.  He is the one that works behind the scene and causes leaders and nations to both rise and fall.  You may think that you are voting your leader into office, and you do have a part to play in the process, but, it is God who ultimately appoints your governing authority.  I will not elaborate on how He does that here because I have done that elsewhere.  Suffice to say, Daniel 2:21 and 4:24 makes this clear.      

 

In verse 15 Peter tells us another reason why we should obey governing authorities.  "It is Godís will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."  Peter had no problem speaking the truth of fallen men here.  His estimation of fallen humanity is seen in his words "ignorant talk of foolish men."  In modern terms, he calls a spade a spade. 

 

The point Peter is making here is that Christians should not be punished by the authorities for doing evil.  If they were going to be punished it should be for doing good, for doing what Jesus wants them to do.  It's a bad witness for Jesus, for example, if a Christian gets punished for cheating on his taxes, drinking while driving, and all sorts of other such things.  In other words, we submit to authorities the best we can, even if they are foolish and stupid as Peter says.   

 

What Peter is telling Christians today is that we too should do good.  We should not get in trouble with the authorities for stupid or unlawful things that we do.  Authorities should see that we do good and want to in all honesty obey them.  If they punish us for doing good, that is, for our faith in Jesus, then so be it.  We should accept the punishment and rejoice because we are suffering in the same way Jesus suffered.  Way too often these days Christians are criticized for their nasty tone of voice and their nasty ways of doing things.  That should not be.  We should be respectful to all men, yet at the same time speak the truth.  Let the truth get us in trouble, not the nasty way we speak the truth.

 

I guess one should understand what "doing good" means.  Doing good in the eyes of a secular, even pagan, world, might not be doing good in the eyes of God.  The good that we do must be based on how the Bible understands what is good.  For example, in today's world the acceptance of the gay lifestyle, including attending gay pride parades, would be seen as doing good.  That's clearly not the way the Bible views doing good.  Therefore, at times we will be persecuted for what the Bible calls doing good.  

 

Martin Luther put it this way when he said, and I paraphrase, "God places evil government into power to punish evil people."  The point that God has instituted government to punish evil men often brings up the question about capital punishment.  I have personally struggled over this for years, but of late have looked into two passages that to me, suggest that Paul believed in capital punishment.  In Acts 25:11 Paul was before the civil authorities.  He felt that he had been arrested illegally because in his mind he had done nothing wrong.  That being said, he was willing to be executed if he had committed a crime punishable by execution.  Also, in Romans 13:4 Paul teaches that civil authorities use the sword when punishing evil doers. The word "sword" used in this verse is a small sword that Roman soldiers used to behead people.     

 

Did Paul believe in capital punishment?  I think that he might have.  I say that based on his willingness to die for wrong doing as seen in Acts 25:11 as just a matter of him accepting the social norm of the day.  Some people go on to say that Paul's thinking concerning submission to government goes as far as submitting to be executed for wrong doing and thus he would have accepted capital punishment as a legitimate form of punishment.  That being said, Paul was raised and taught in a Jewish society that from Old Testament days believed in capital punishment.  I tend, therefore, to believe, at least at the moment, that Paul believed in capital punishment.   

 

The word "silence" in verse 15 is important.  The government, or anyone else as far as that goes, should have no negative thing to say about Christians.  Their criticism should be silenced.  

 

The good and proper way in which Christians should live is really meant to be a testimony of our faith to the unsaved world around us.  Thus Peter, and the rest of the Christian community, believed that a spirit of submission was a godly attribute to have in life.  They considered submission to authorities, to slave masters, to husbands, and to each other as something to aspire to.  This kind of thinking is far from what we see in western culture today.

 

The verb "doing good" is a present active Greek participle.  This means that Christians are to be in the present time doing good, but, because this is a participle, and I know what I am saying isn't good grammar, but, the participle means the Christians are "gooders."

 

The verb "you may silence" is a present active infinitive Greek verb.  An infinitive Greek verb is a verb that has usually a precise outcome.  For example, a baseball batter swings at the ball with full expectation that he will hit the ball.  That is the intent of the swing of the bat.  The intent of the Christian doing good is to silence the foolish men that Peter has just mentioned.       

 

Peter goes on to say in verse 16, that his readers should "live as free men."  These words are significant in light that in any dictatorial rule, freedom is restricted, yet, Peter feels Christians are free.  We are free from many things.  We are free from the punishment of wrong doing.  We are free from bondage of sin and the Law of Moses.  We have the ability to be free from a sinful lifestyle.  The list could go on.  However you want to think of this freedom, and since it is the context of dictatorial government, Christians should do good and live as free men, not fearing being punished by government.  On the other hand, when Peter says that the Christian should not allow their freedom to be a cover-up for evil he might be saying that freedom has its limits.  You are not entitled to sin, to disobey government under the guise of being free.  It would appear that some Christians were doing just that or else Peter would not have given this admonition.     

 

Being free from our sin and its results enables us to be free to serve God, as Peter says here.  Sin separates us from our Lord and when sin is taken out of the way, we are reunited with Him, and able to serve Him as we should.  So, freedom has its boundaries. 

 

Note in verse 16 Peter says that we are to be servants of God.  The Greek word "dulos" is translated as servant here.  Our English word "slave" might be a better word because I think we tend to view the word "slave" in a more negative way than the word "servant."  For the western world, slavery is simply bad.  The Greek word "dulos" in the first century Greek world was understood to be the lowest of the lowest when it came to slaves.  It morphed into the idea of one giving himself up to the will of another.  This is how Paul, Peter, and most first generation Christians viewed themselves.  They were a "dulos" of God.  They were a slave by choice to God.  They gave themselves up to the will of God and they did so freely.  This should be our understanding of who we are in Christ.  I question that most western world Christians view themselves as a slave by choice to God.  Of course, our slave master is nothing like the slave masters that could be seen in the southern United States in the 1800's.  We have a gracious and loving master, who by the way, will punish and discipline us when needed (Hebrews 12:5 - 6).    

 

In verse 17 Peter thus says that we are indeed free to serve Jesus by respecting or honoring everyone, and that includes the pagan sinners who were killing Christians.  

When Peter says to honour, or show proper respect to everyone this is an aorist active imperative Greek verb.  An imperative verb is a command.  This is not a suggestion. Aorist is a one time action, suggesting that once and for all we decide to honour everyone.    

 

Peter also tells his readers to love (agape in Greek) the brotherhood of believers.  Jesus told us that the world will know we follow Him by the love we have towards our brothers in the Lord (John 13:35).  This has always been a hard Biblical command for Christians to follow. No wonder the world fails to see Jesus in much of the church. 

 

Peter says to honour the king, and again, this is Nero, an evil man who kills Christians.  I think you would have to admit that this would be a hard thing for these believers to do.  If you were a widow because Nero killed your husband, it would be hard for you to honour Nero.     

 

Peter commands us also to fear God.  I've said this before, but fearing God should not be down graded to mere reverence.  Fear means to be afraid as well as reverence.  That being said, we love the one we fear and we fear the one we love.  It sounds paradoxical, but it is Biblical. 

I often think of Billy Graham in respect to these things.  Many well known Christian evangelists are often criticized for dishonorable things they do.  Billy Graham at times may have been criticized for his trust in Jesus, but seldom for a dishonourable lifestyle and disrespect for governing authorities, which by the way, he was often asked for advice from.

 

In verses 18 and 19 Peter gives the same advice to slaves as Paul gives.  He tells slaves to submit to their masters, even if they are unjust.  The Greek word "despotes" is translated as "masters" in this verse.  It means "domineering masters," not just nice masters.  The reason why Peter tells slaves to submit, even to unjust masters, is because "it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God."  Is Peter being masochistic here?  Has Peter got his mind too much into the suffering life that he can't see straight?  Should he begin to think more positively in order to get out of such suffering?  Whatever the answers to these questions are, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says "it is commendable" to go through unjust suffering.  This is not really the attitude of many Christians today who avoid suffering at all costs.  Many Christians believe you are out of God's will if you suffer.  What Peter is saying here is that we should not be so quick to escape suffering.  Remember, back in chapter 1 he said that suffering is one way in which your faith is tested to be either genuine or false.        

 

According to some estimates, when Peter wrote these words there were probably about 600 million slaves in the Roman Empire.  We need to realize that slavery was simply a form of Roman government and culture.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the rest, were not out to change society.  That is probably the reason why they weren't out to stop slavery.  They were preachers of the gospel to individual people, not to governments or culture.  Peter wanted to win individuals to Jesus, not governments to Jesus.

 

The Greek word translated as "respect" in the NIV in verse 18 is "phobos," meaning, "fear."  Maybe the NIV has softened the meaning of "phobos" here.  I think many Christians have softened "phobos" today to not mean fear but reverence or respect.  I believe at times this misrepresents the passage of Scripture that the Greek word "phobos" is in.  

 

The Greek word "skolios" is translated here as "harsh" in my version of the NIV.  Scolios" means "crooked" and rightly describes an unreasonable master.           

 

In verse 19 Peter gives the reason why people can endure such suffering from a crooked master.  He says that it is because they sense "the consciousness of God."  Once again, many of us are not conscious of God in our lives.  If the Holy Spirit lives within us we should sense His presence, if not all of the times, at least some of the time.  No wonder we can't endure hardship and suffering as Peter suggests here.  Many of us do not sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives in the best of times let alone in the worst of times.  Being conscious of God's presence gets us through the sufferings of life.   Many of us don't feel the Holy Spirit's presence because we don't take the time to come to Him and sit in His presence.  We are too preoccupied with the things of the world.  As Hebrews 12:1 tells us, we should throw off all of these hindrances in our lives in order to run the race God has asked us to run.

 

We need to note here that the suffering Peter is talking about in this part of his letter is unjust suffering.  He is not talking about suffering of other kinds, like sickness, or example.  He was talking about Christian persecution.  He was saying that when you as a Christian suffer because of your faith in Jesus, you bear up under the suffering.  You don't retaliate, get even, or get mad at God or your persecutors.        

 

In verse 20 Peter clearly states that if a slave is beaten for doing wrong, he deserves it, but, if he is beaten for doing good, (God's definition of good) and he holds up under that injustice, then God says that is commendable.  It's this mentality, hard as it is, that we need in the coming conflict with the anti-Christ culture in which we live in the western world.  Christians in other parts of the world and Christians throughout history have suffered for their association with Jesus.  It's nothing new.  It's just our time.     

 

Peter's logic is understandable here.  If you are punished for doing wrong, that is to be expected.  You should be punished.  However, being punished for doing right deserves no punishment and therefore is unjust.  It may be just in the eyes of man, but not in the eyes of God.  Enduring such suffering is commendable in God's sight.  Again, the unjust suffering here is in reference to suffering for the sake of Jesus, such suffering that if you read John 15 and 16 was expected because it was predicted by Jesus.   

 

In verse 21 Peter states why unjust suffering is commendable in the sight of God.  The reason is because Jesus Himself endured unjust suffering.  If our leader shows us the example, then we should follow.  Peter backs up his point in verse 22 by quoting from Isaiah 53:9 that says, "he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth."  Jesus stood before His accusers with little words of self defense.  Jesus accepted the abuse because it led to a higher good.  He did not retaliate because He knew He was in His Father's will, as hard as His Father's will was to carry out.  

 

At times standing up for oneís civil rights when one is experiencing injustice is appropriate.  There may be times where you might not be able to stand up for any civil rights.  Paul had the choice, at least at one juncture of his life that we know of, to appeal to Caesar because he was a Roman citizen.  Other Christians in Paulís day did not have the choice.  They were unjustly persecuted, even to death, as was Peter, and Paul as well in the long run.  Therefore, Peter, Paul, and others, had to endure this injustice, even when it meant enduring death.  My conclusion is that we stand on Biblical grounds when we defend ourselves if that is possible, especially in our western democracies where we have the right of self defense.  If that is not possible, which is becoming more the reality in 21st century western culture, we need to endure the injustice, knowing Jesus is with us.

 

You might ask why the first generation Christians didn't oppose slavery.  Why didn't Paul, Peter, and others speak out against it?  There might be a couple of reasons here.  One was that slavery was the backbone of Roman society.  That is how much of the work was done in the Roman Empire .  Some slaves, probably in the minority, had socially recognized places of prominence, like lawyers or teachers. That being said, I believe the number one reason why the early Christian leaders didn't try to band slavery was because they were not out to change their pagan world through social change.  They were out to win individual people to Jesus.  In that way, society would be changed.  And really, the only known way to change society back then and for centuries prior was through military conquest, and Christians didn't believe in such conquest.

 

Note the words "you were called" in verse 21.  Suffering, especially at the hands of persecutors was a calling from God for these people.  I suggest the same might well be true for us as well when some day as the conflict between Christians and this anti-Christ culture in which we live escalates.   

 

In verse 21 we see the word "example."  Jesus left us the example when it comes to suffering.  The Greek word translated into English as "example" here means a "carbon copy."  We are to be a carbon copy of Jesus in all respects, and that includes suffering.

 

At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote concerning what the Bible says bout slavery.  It is important to this section of Peter's letter.

 

Many people have wondered why the Bible doesn't come out and clearly oppose slavery. Here's my very brief attempt to address this issue.   

 

Slavery, first mentioned in Genesis 9:25, has been an established practice in the social order of man since the dawning days of tribal warfare.  God conceded that slavery would never be eradicated from humanity so He regulated the practice in the Law of Moses to protect slaves.  Many of the Law's regulations were based on God conceding to our sinfulness.  They were a matter of necessity; not God's will.  The divorce law of Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 is another example of this.  God conceded that couples would divorce (Matthew 19:8) so He instituted the law of divorce to protect innocent divorced wives.  

 

Note the following laws.  "Your slaves are to come from the nations around you" (Leviticus 25:44).  "If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master" (Deuteronomy 23:15).  "If a man hits a slave in the eye and destroys it, he must let the slave go free to compensate for it" (Exodus 21:26).  "If a man beats his slave with a rod and if the slave dies Ö he must be punished" (Exodus 21:20).  Concerning the Passover meal the Lord said that "no foreigner is to eat of it.  Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him" (Exodus 12:44, also in Leviticus 22:11). 

 

These regulations show that God demands proper treatment of slaves.  He even views them as family in regard to the Passover meal, and that's significant.   

 

Exodus 3:7 tells us that God is upset with the 
abuse of slaves.  "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering." 

 

Jeremiah 34:16 says, "you have turned around and profaned my name; each one of you has taken back the slaves you have set free Ö" When Israelis took back their slaves, God viewed that as a personal offense against Himself.  Clearly, God prefers freedom.

 

I believe the Old Testament reluctantly concedes to the practice of slavery, therefore it regulates this evil practice to protect slaves.  I also believe the New Testament follows the same approach. 

 

The Apostle Paul speaks to slavery more than any other New Testament author.  Ephesians 6:5 to 8 says; "Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ."  See also Colossians 4:22 to 23 and 1 Timothy 6:1 to 2.  The Apostle Peter agrees with Paul, although he adds that slaves should even obey brutal masters.  He considers such obedience to be a form of suffering for Christ" (1 Peter 2:18 to 19).   Paul also says that slaves shouldn't try to gain their freedom, but if they're offered freedom, they should take it (1 Corinthians 7:20). 

 

The above statements disturb us today, but they weren't as disturbing in Paul's day.  There were just as many slaves as there were free men in the Roman Empire , many of whom were professionals, lawyers, doctors, and educators.  They weren't all the typical mistreated slaves slugging away in cotton fields as was the case in the southern United States before slavery was abolished.  Slavery was not only basic to Roman culture, it was fundamental to its economic survival.  The abolition of slavery would have caused serious social and economic problems, including the possible collapse of the empire.  All this being said, understanding what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 might clue you in on why he instructed slaves as he did. 

 

Paul tells all Christians in 1 Corinthians 7, including Christian slaves, to remain in the situation they were in when they first met Jesus.  He felt that if Christians could demonstrate a godly lifestyle in their anti-Christian situation, they might win those around them to Jesus.  Telling slaves to stay with their owners was all about winning their owners to Jesus. 

 

We should also note that God makes no distinction between slaves and free men when it comes to salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:28). 

 

Concerning Christians slave owners Paul says, "Treat your slaves in the same (caring) way.  Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and your Master is in heaven and there is no favouritism with Him" (Ephesians 6:9).  Paul reminds slave owners that both they and their slaves are subject to the one and only Master in heaven, so they better behave accordingly.      

 

Paul's letter to Philemon is key to this whole issue.  Philemon was a Christian slave owner.  Onesimus was one of his slaves who apparently ran away.  In Philemon 8 through 16 Paul says; "Although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, I appeal to you on the basis of love Ö  take Onesimus back, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother."  On the behalf of Jesus, Paul tells Philemon to do the right thing, which was to free his slave and treat him as a brother.  If you've missed all that I've said, don't miss this.  Freeing Onesimus and considering him as a brother clearly demonstrates the heart of God concerning slavery.   

 

You might still wonder why Paul didn't vigorously oppose slavery.  The answer is simple.  Paul's mission as seen in Acts 9:15 was to be "God's chosen instrument and to carry His name before the Gentiles and to their kings and before the people of Israel ."  Paul wasn't commissioned to be an activist or a politician to ban slavery and other cultural ills.  He was called to lead individual people to Jesus.  He was a preacher, not an activist.  That's partly why he never marched on Rome to ban slavery.  He knew that if he could lead a slave owner to Jesus, like Philemon, slaves would be set free, or at least treated as a brother in Christ.  

 

Many of us have been activists for various causes, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.  I've marched in protest in front of abortion clinics in times past, but as far as I know, no one came to Jesus because of these protests.  Only the preaching of the gospel can lead a sinner to Jesus.  Besides, banning abortion wouldn't have ended the practice.  It would have only sent it back underground, where slavery exists today in our so-called civilized western world.  Unless the heart of man changes, his cultural ills remain.  Even though God legislated morality in the Law of Moses, He knew that laws don't change the heart of man.  Only the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer can change a heart.     

 

The Bible doesn't overtly condemn slavery, but it does oppose it.  In His inaugural speech to Israel, Jesus stated, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18).  Interpret "preach deliverance to the captives" and "set at liberty them that are bruised" as you wish.  At least in part, I understand Jesus to say that our best attempts at legislating morality fails.  Only He, through the Holy Spirit, can effectively change the heart of man.  Only then will slavery be abolished from our world, including the sub-culture of our western world.  

 

The Bible does not say, "you shall have no slave" or anything like that, but, I do believe from what I've said above that the Bible does not condone slavery.  I now return to my commentary on 1 Peter.

 

In verse 22 Peter reminds his readers that while Jesus was being unjustly interrogated by both the Jewish and Roman authorities, even though He had done nothing wrong, He did not retaliate.  Peter is saying that we should follow Jesus' example in this respect.  This is something we should learn now in times of relative ease.  The day is coming in the western world when Christians will be forced to live like Jesus in this respect.     

 

In verse 23 Peter continues on with the example of Jesus when he says, "when they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly."  Peter says that Jesus endured unjust suffering.  Instead of standing up for Himself, and instead of retaliating, He trusted in God His Father.  The same should be true of us in those times of unjust suffering.  Jesus is our example here as He is with all things.  We give ourselves to the presence of God in our lives and trust Jesus in those hard times because He is trustworthy.  We hand our situation over to Jesus, knowing that even in the worst case, we will still have Him.  This is what genuine faith, or trust, is all about. 

 

Again, I need to point out that one reason why Jesus did not defend Himself after being arrested was that it was God's will for Him to die on the cross.  Trying to defend Himself so He wouldn't be executed was not God's will.  Our persecution is different than Jesus' in this respect.  We are persecuted because we follow Jesus.  Jesus was persecuted because it was God's will for Him to die on the cross for our salvation.  I'm not saying it's not God's will for us to suffer.  Peter says it is.  It's only the reason for our suffering that is different than Jesus' suffering.  

 

Note that Peter speaks of God who is the one who judges justly.  We have no need to retaliate because God will avenge those who do evil against us, and, He will do a much better job than us.  Remember the martyred saints under the altar in Revelation 6.  They asked God when their blood would be avenged.  God response was simply that it was not yet time.  The time will come, because God is just, that He will deal with those who unjustly cause us to suffer.   

 

Verse 24 says that Jesus suffered death so we might die to sin and live a righteous life.  Because of the Holy Spirit's involvement in our lives we do have the ability to little by little cease from sin and live righteously.    

 

In verse 24 Peter paraphrases Isaiah 53:9.  He notes that "Jesus bore our sins in His body" while on the cross.  On the cross Jesus was punished for our sins.  He died in our place, but something more than that happened on the cross.  He bore sins in His body.  His body became unrecognizable as a human being because He actually became sin (Isaiah 52:14).

 

The Greek word "anapharo," meaning to "take up" is translated as "bore" in this verse.  Jesus somehow picked up our sins, and as Paul said, "became sin" on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:24).  

 

Again, in verse 24 we note that Jesus bore our sin.  In Leviticus 14:20 in the Septuagint we see this same Greek word used.  It's used in reference to a lamb being lifted up on an altar.  It's a word representing sacrifice, and in Old Testament terms, animal sacrifices.   

 

Knowing this, we should die to sin.  If Jesus actually became sin for us, and if we continue in sin, then the fact of the matter is that Jesus became sin for nothing.  Since Jesus died for our sins, we should then die to our sins.  This clearly suggests that we, with the help of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, are capable of overcoming sin in our lives.  Obviously at this point we need a clear understanding of sin.  Sin is more than disobeying the Ten Commandments.  It's anything we do that stems from our fallen sinful nature, and that's pretty much a lot of what we do. 

 

Peter continues by saying that because of his wounds, we were healed.  The point to consider here is, what does the word "healed" refer to.  The Evangelical community is split over this issue.  Some say that the word refers to physical healing because physical healing was paid for on the cross of Christ.  In other words, it was part of the atonement.  Other's don't believe the word "healed" refers to physical healing but spiritual healing because they feel physical healing was not paid for at the cross of Christ, or, is not part of the atonement.  They say, for example,  that sin was portrayed as physical sickness as seen in Isaiah 1:5 and 6.  Whether physical healing is part of the atonement or not is debatable.  The way I see this verse is that I am not convinced that neither Isaiah nor Peter is talking about physical healing.  The context doesn't seem to suggest that to me both here in 1 Peter and in Isaiah 53.  There is no direct reference to the healing of our sick bodies in either passage.  I lean at the moment to thinking that Peter is speaking about spiritual healing; healing from sin because that is the context in which he is making his point.  That being said, I do believe that Jesus can heal a person physically if it is His will.  Miracles of healing sick bodies did not end with the first generation Christians, and I'm a living example of that.  I would have been dead at the age of 6 if not for Jesus healing me of Juvenile Diabetes.

 

The Greek word "aiomai" is translated as "healed" and throughout the New Testament.  A simple word search of both of these Greek and English words will show us that healing is in reference to both sin and sickness. John 12:40 is just one example.  This verse is a direct quote from Isaiah 6:10 which is clearly in reference to healing from sin.  We must understand the context of the word "heal" to understand in which way it is being used.     

 

One point to be made here is that among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, as soon as they see or hear the word "heal" they immediately think in terms of physical healing these days without considering the context.  That is bad hermeneutics.  We should not jump to our preconceived traditional thinking without giving the text serious thought.   

   

Before we go on to verse 25 I'd like to comment on Isaiah 53:4 from which Peter is quoting. The NIV reads as follows.  "Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering..."  The KJV reads as follows.  "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ..."  The HCSB reads as follows.  "He Himself has born our sicknesses and carried our pain ..."  The key words in the above phrase in the NIV are pain (KJV griefs  - HCSB sicknesses) and suffering (KJV sorrows - HCSB pain).  It seems to me that the variations in translations depend on how you understand the Hebrew words associated with our English words. 

 

The Hebrew word "choliy" is translated as pain (NIV) griefs (KJV) and sicknesses (HCSB).  This word has a variety of meanings that range from sickness, grief, evil, calamity, and something similar.  So, depending on one's presupposition one will translate these words accordingly. 

 

The Hebrew word "makof" is translated as suffering (NIV) sorrow (KJV) and pain (HCSB).  This word can mean pain in a physical, mental, emotional sense.  As in the Hebrew word "choliy" above, one's presupposition will influence the translation process. 

 

Here is one more thought in connection with the last two paragraphs.  It is my thinking at present that Isaiah 1:1 through 6 sets the tone of how we should understand sickness and pain that we read in Isaiah 53:4.  As noted earlier, God through Isaiah, told Israel that it was sinfully sick.  God uses physical or bodily descriptions to give a mental picture of how sinful Israel actually was.  In Isaiah 1:1 through 6 God is not speaking of physical sickness.  He is speaking of sinful sickness, which I believe He is also doing in Isaiah 53:4.  I, therefore, conclude that however one translates Isaiah 53:4 and however one views "by His wounds we were healed" it has to do with sinful sickness not physical sickness.                         

 

In verse 25, also like Isaiah 53, Peter calls his readers "sheep that have gone astray," but now they have been "returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls."  Note that Peter calls Jesus a Shepherd and an Overseer.  Shepherds, overseers, elders, and pastors are all the same function in the church.  These are 4 different names for the same responsibility.  The KJV adds a fifth word, that is the word bishop.  So, we may have earthly pastors to care for Godís people, but there is one Pastor (Shepherd - Overseer) that is far above these earthly pastors.  Once again, earthly pastors cannot claim the people they care for as their own.  They are only minding the flock in the place of the Great Shepherd.  The flock belongs to Jesus.

 

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