1 Peter 2:18 – 3:12. Peter next addresses the various natural relationships that believers find themselves in. Previously, we had the conduct suited to our new blessings and position through Christ, but there is also conduct that is suited to natural relationships. God is to be honored in all aspects of our lives, including our employment, marriages, etc. Finally, he addresses the behavior that becomes all of us as Christians in the house of God. He gives us the principle of God’s moral government in connection with good behavior.
Servants in their Relationship to Masters (2:18-25)
18 Servants, be subject with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the ill-tempered. 19 For this is acceptable, if one, for conscience sake towards God, endure griefs, suffering unjustly. 20 For what glory is it, if sinning and being buffeted ye shall bear it? but if, doing good and suffering, ye shall bear it, this is acceptable with God. vv.18-20 Subjection to Masters. The exhortation to servants is to “be subject”. By definition, a servant does the will of another. The Christian may find himself in the station of a servant, and Christianity involves proper conduct in that sphere. To be subject to a master who is “good and gentle” is one thing, but to be subject to the “ill-tempered” is far more difficult. To submit to a cruel master will mean suffering, and yet Peter says “this is acceptable”. One of the most basic points that we can gather from this passage is that the Christian pathway is not about ease and leisure. Suffering is to be expected. Here the path for a Christian servant is to submit to his master with respectfulness, while maintaining a good conscience toward God. A servant may suffer because his master is cruel, but vv.19-20 seem to have in view the suffering that a servant may endure because he will not compromise righteousness. There is no glory in patently enduring suffering that is a result of our own sin. But in “doing good and suffering” with endurance, the believer pleases God, which is ultimately the proper motive for all our activity, even in the natural sphere.
Allusion to Isaiah 53. From vv.22-25 we have numerous allusions to Isaiah 53, which speaks of the suffering Messiah. References are made to Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the sufferings of Christ at the hands of man (vv.22-23) and also at the hand of God (v.24). Finally, our lost condition as wayward sheep is compared to the place that the work of Christ has brought us (v.26).
21 For to this have ye been called; for Christ also has suffered for you, leaving you a model that ye should follow in his steps: 22 who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; 23 who, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but gave himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously; vv.21-23 Christ Our Model in Suffering for Well-Doing. The believer has been called to a path of suffering, according to the example of our Master who suffered for us, “leaving you a model that ye should follow in his steps”. The aspect of Christ’s sufferings in which we can follow in His steps is that which He suffered at the hands of men. Jesus was betrayed, scourged, mocked, and crucified, and yet none of that was because of any wrongdoing of His part. In His actions, He “did no sin”, and in His speech, “neither was guile found in his mouth”. The three great New Testament writers all attest to the sinless perfection of Christ. Peter was a man of action, and he said, He “did no sin!” (1 Peter 2:22). Paul was a man of intellect, and he said, He “knew no sin!” (2 Cor. 5:21). John was a man of intimacy, and he said, “In Him was no sin!” (1 John 3:5). In v.23 we find the response of the blessed Lord to insult and abuse; “when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not”. Instead of responding to injustice by retaliating or vengeance into His own hands, the Lord Jesus “gave himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously”. He committed His cause to God, leaving the righteous judgment in the matter in the hands of God (Isaiah 53:7).
24 who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, in order that, being dead to sins, we may live to righteousness: “by whose stripes ye have been healed.” [Isaiah 53:5] v.24 The Atoning Sufferings. Next Peter brings before us another aspect of Christ’s sufferings; i.e. the atoning sufferings which Christ suffered as judged by God for our sins. This is an aspect of Christ’s sufferings in which we cannot follow Him. However, it still bears in the subject of suffering for righteousness sake as a motivation to live righteously, as Peter goes on to explain. The atoning sufferings of Christ were accomplished “in his body”, showing that the atoning sufferings had a physical component, in addition to a moral or spiritual component (Isa. 53:10). The “tree” here is a reference to the cross. Why did Christ suffer? The reason mentioned here is that Christ suffered in order that we might be “dead to sins” and “live to righteousness”. The very sacrifice of Christ was in order to free us from the dominion of sin and introduce us into the paths of righteousness! The last part of v.24 is a quotation from Isaiah 53:5. There, four types of physical injuries are used to picture the atoning sufferings of Christ: wounds, bruises, chastisements, and stripes. It took the figurative scourging of Christ to heal our sinful condition. When we consider what our sins cost the Lord Jesus on the cross, how heartless for us to turn back to the paths of sin! Regarding this, the believer ought to be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
25 For ye were going astray as sheep, but have now returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. v.25 Returned Sheep. Another reference to Isaiah 53 is made, this time in connection with our lost condition before salvation, as sheep gone astray (Isa. 53:6). Before the Lord found us and saved us, we were like sheep doing our own way, far from Him. Now we have “returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls”. This is the ongoing work of Christ that He is doing for us even now from God’s right hand. As our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus goes before us, leading us and feeding us. As our Overseer, the Lord Jesus goes behind us, watching over us, correcting and protecting us. The same Divine love that caused the Savior to die for us is freshly poured out on us each day of our lives through the practical care of a Shepherd and Overseer! When we choose to sin rather than suffer, we leave the communion of that Blessed Person. How foolish of us to stray from the presence of our Shepherd and Overseer!
Wives in their Relationship to Husbands (3:1-6)
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, that, even if any are disobedient to the word, they may be gained without the word by the conversation of the wives, 2 having witnessed your pure conversation carried out in fear; vv.1-2 Subjection to Husbands. The next natural relationship addressed is that of husbands and wives. the Wives are addressed first. From Ephesians and Colossians we know the exhortations that Paul would have for husbands and wives: wives to be subject as the Church is to Christ, and husbands to love as Christ loves the Church. There can be a tendency to dismiss those Pauline exhortations as theoretical, or as acceptable for the ideal. But when Peter addresses wives, an apostle that we know was married, he says effectively the same as Paul; “wives, be subject to your own husbands”. In practice, great Christian marriages result from obeying these simple yet challenging instructions. The case that Peter takes up is of a wife who gets saved, leaving her in a union with a man who is “disobedient to the word”. Imagine, as a woman of God, your very nourishment being from the pure mental milk of the word, to go on married to a man who cares nothing for the word! This would be a challenging circumstance, and yet extremely common in Peter’s day and in ours. The exhortation is not for the wife to leave her husband (1 Cor. 7:12-13), but rather to submit to him. The result of submission on the part of the wife may be that the husband is converted through the testimony of the wife! It wouldn’t be through her preaching the word to him, but through her “pure conversation” or manner of life, carried out in the “fear” of God, and also in respect for her husband. This doesn’t mean that a person can be born again “without the word” as 1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18 show us. Rather, it means the husband is converted without the wife’s preaching.
3 whose adorning let it not be that outward one of tressing of hair, and wearing gold, or putting on apparel; 4 but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price. vv.3-4 Adorning. Peter speaks of the outward, attention-seeking adorning that a Christian woman should avoid and the inward moral beauty that she should have. Worldly women adorn themselves outwardly, with “tressing of hair, and wearing gold, or putting on apparel”. These things tend to flaunt wealth and draw attraction to self. This is not the decoration that a Christian woman should seek for herself. Instead, her adornment should be “the hidden man of the heart”, which is “a meek and quiet spirit”. A meek and quiet spirit will be seen in submission to her husband, as well as in other ways. This inward beauty is “hidden” as opposed to “outward”, but it is nonetheless an “ornament”. Hair turns grey, gold tarnishes, and apparel becomes moth-eaten. But in the hidden man of the heart is an “incorruptible ornament”. While the worldly woman’s adornment is desirable in the eyes of men, the meek and quiet spirit is “in the sight of God is of great price”.
5 For thus also the holy women who have hoped in God heretofore adorned themselves, being subject to their own husbands; 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose children ye have become, doing good, and not fearing with any kind of consternation. vv.5-6 Good Examples: Sarah. Peter sets before the Christian wife the examples of “holy women” such as those we read of in the Old Testament. These godly women adorned themselves with a meek and quiet spirit, and it was displayed as they were subject to their own husbands. The particular example that Peter brings forward is Sarah. What makes this example so striking is that Abraham had failed grievously in being a good husband. He denied that Sarah was his wife and allowed her to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Nevertheless, Sarah respected her husband and showed it by obeying his request. Subjection is broader than obedience, and it includes submission of the attitude – a far higher thing (Paul emphasizes submission, Eph. 5:22). The example Peter refers to is that of Genesis 18, where Abraham was visited by the three heavenly strangers. In Gen. 18:6 Abraham told Sarah to prepare the meal for the three strangers, and she obeyed. But it isn’t until Gen. 18:12 that we read of Sarah calling Abraham “lord”, and it has nothing to do with the meal they had prepared. It was actually something she said “within herself”, and it shows that she held her husband in honor in her mind. It is wonderful they she had this attitude in spite of Abraham’s history as a poor husband. What a powerful example! Christian women who follow Sarah’s example in meekness and submission to their husbands become her spiritual daughters: a worthy honor in the sight of God! The Jewish Christian women were already Sarah’s daughters by natural lineage, but now morally they could be her daughters by adopting her spirit. The world despises the Christian woman, but God values her! The last phrase guards against that which would tend to cause a woman to act independently: fear. When difficult circumstances arise, even more common when married to an unbeliever, it can be hard to trust God. Doing good can only be sustained by dependence and confidence in God.
Husbands in their Relationship to Wives (3:7)
7 Ye husbands likewise, dwell with them according to knowledge, as with a weaker, even the female, vessel, giving them honour, as also fellow-heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. v.7 Husbands. Much less is said to the husbands, but what is said is very weighty. While Paul exhorts husbands to :love your wives even as Christ loved the church”, Peter breaks down what that love means in a practical way. First, he says the husband should “dwell with them according to knowledge, as with a weaker, even the female, vessel”. This means the husband should be understanding of his wife, and considerate of her needs and limitations. The female is the “weaker vessel”, not only physically but often emotionally and spiritually. This doesn’t mean the man is strong, but rather that the woman is weaker. Weaker doesn’t mean worthless or inferior. Far from it, Peter reasons from this that the wife should be given honor! To dwell with her, the husband must be committed to stay with his wife. To do so “according to knowledge” means to live with her and treat her in a tender and understanding way. This means providing emotional support (romance included), financial support, leadership, parenting, and protection. Understanding that she is the weaker vessel, a Christian husband has compassion on his wife. Further, he honors her because together they are “fellow-heirs of the grace of life”. This refers to the gift of married life that God has given to those He has not called to a life of singleness. It involves the natural enjoyment of marriage that God has intended for husband and wife. We are to enjoy that gift as “heirs together”, and we are to receive the gift as from God’s hand, and use it according to His will. If a husband does not honor his wife in this way, the emotional disturbance can hinder the spiritual life of both (prayers hindered), and the Devil can get a foothold in the home. This also shows that praying together is a wonderful privilege for Christian husbands and wives.
Behavior for “All” of Us, and the Government of God (3:8-12)
8 Finally, be all of one mind, sympathising, full of brotherly love, tender hearted, humble minded; 9 not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but on the contrary, blessing others, because ye have been called to this, that ye should inherit blessing. vv.8-9 Seven things that should characterize us as Christians:
- Unity. Firstly, the saints are to be “of one mind”. We can be of one mind by having our thoughts formed by the Word of God and by being occupied with Christ. This will result in unity rather than discord.
- Sympathy. Second, the saints are to be “sympathising”, which means to enter into the sorrows and cares of others and share their burdens.
- Affection. The saints are to be “full of brotherly love”.
New Testament exhortations on love are centered around two main types of love: divine love ('agápe') and brotherly love ('philia'). Agápe love is sacrificial and unconditional. It is selfless in that it gives and expects nothing in return. It is the love of a settled disposition. An example would be God’s love for us in sending His only-begotten Son to die for us (John 3:16). The noun ‘philia’ and the verb ‘phileo’ originate from the Greek term ‘philos’, meaning “beloved” or “dear”. Phileo love is the love of affection or friendship. It includes loyalty, virtue, equality, and familiarity. As Christians, we are to love one another with ‘philia’ love (Romans 12:10). It is a love shared by the family of God. Read more...
- Empathy. The saints are to be “tender hearted”, which connects with brotherly live, but goes deeper. It means to be sensitive and compassionate toward others, entering into their circumstances and feeling what they are passing through.
- Humility. The saints are to be “humble minded”. Humility is to think little of ones own importance, not seeking a place or position for self. Humility is the opposite of pride!
- Not retaliating. The saints are to not render “evil for evil, or railing for railing”. This refers to the forgiveness that we should have in our hearts toward others when we are wronged. The natural, fleshly response is to retaliate when someone does us evil, or speaks evil about us. But Christians are not to respond that way!
- Kindness. The saints are to be found “blessing others, because ye have been called to this, that ye should inherit blessing”. To bless others is to speak to them words that build up and encourage them.
10 For “he that will love life and see good days,” let him “cause his tongue to cease from evil and his lips that they speak no guile.” 11 And “let him avoid evil, and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it;” 12 because “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears towards their supplications;” but “the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” [Psalm 34:12-16] vv.10-12 The Principle of God’s Moral Government.
The next mini-subject that Peter takes up is the government of God in the lives of believers. He then quotes from Psalm 34 where we have the principle of God’s government. If we want to have a good life, we need to do good. If we do evil, the Lord will be against us in a governmental way. There is scarcely a more practical and foundational subject in that Word of God than the subject of God’s government in the lives of sinners and saints. Read more…
The basic principle is this: because God is righteous and sovereign over all things, He generally rewards people on earth according to their deeds, whether good-for-good or evil-for-evil. The government of God is universal in that it applies to all people, whether believers or unbelievers, and across all dispensations (e.g. 2 Sam. 12:14). Paul nicely summarizes the government of God in Gal. 6:7, and Peter in 1 Peter 3:8-13.