Read the Passage: 1 Peter 2:11-25
Honorable Conduct (2:11–12)
In 1 Pet. 2:11–12 Peter writes of the glorification of God by the Gentiles that will happen in one of two ways. God will be glorified either (1) by their conversion on account of being convicted by believers’ example, or, more likely, (2) by their admission of guilt at their own judgment “in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Admittedly this is a difficult and sobering teaching, however we should be comforted by the idea that believers and unbelievers alike will eventually bow down and worship Jesus (cf. Phil. 2:9–11). Note the similarity of Christ’s teaching to that of Peter as Jesus exhorted us, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Note Peter’s continual reference to followers of Jesus being aliens and sojourners in the present lost world (cf. 1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11).
Submission to Government (2:13–17)
The term “submit” means to voluntarily subject oneself to an authority. It is a dynamic of every relationship that exists between human beings, including the God/believer relationship, the state/citizen relationship, the employer/employee relationship, the pastor/layman relationship, the husband/wife relationship, and the parent/child relationship, among others. Because the concept of submission is so foundational to all of life, and getting it right is so foundational to sanctification, Peter begins this section of his epistle with the command, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” (1 Pet. 2:13a). The apostle then goes on to give several reasons for submission over the next few verses, the first of which is that we are to submit “for the Lord’s sake.” Note that this submission is an example of the honorable conduct Peter mentioned at 1 Pet. 2:12.
In 1 Pet. 2:13b–14 the apostle discusses one of the specific relationships in which Christians are to manifest submission—that is, the state/citizen relationship. In view of the government Peter notes that secular rulers have been “sent by [God] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14; see Rom. 13:4). This is a second reason why we are to submit—that is, because submission results in blessing, whereas rebellion results in cursing. Not coincidentally, many who bristle at the concept of submission are in bondage to a prideful self-conceit, distorted ideas of human freedom, and an egalitarian view of human life. Conversely, and perhaps counter-intuitively, those who embrace submission usually live lives that evidence a freedom and liberty found only in Christ. In 1 Pet. 2:15–17 Peter gives a third reason why believers are to manifest submission—that is, to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15).
Submission to Masters (2:18–25)
In 1 Pet. 2:18–20 the apostle turns to a second social relationship in which submission is to be manifest—that is servant/master relations. The question of proper servant/master relations was a very important topic in the early church, for it related to their social order. This topic is addressed at 1 Cor. 7:20–24; Eph. 6:5–7; Col. 3:22–25; and in the entire book of Philemon, among other places. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in 1 Peter. 2:18–25 Peter gives the same advice that Paul gave in the aforementioned passages—that is, servants are to submit to their masters. In modern Western culture, with our history of sinful, racial slavery and our warped philosophy of radical personal freedom, Peter’s exhortation seems strange. Yet, in a similar vein to what he wrote in 1 Pet. 2:13, here in this passage Peter writes that submission is to be practiced because it is “commendable . . . toward God. . . . [It] is commendable before God” (1 Pet. 2:19–20; cf. 1 Thess. 4:10-12).
Lest we think that Peter’s exhortation here is just an archaic, culture-bound teaching that applies only to those living in biblical times, Peter bases his argument on the example of Jesus Christ. With divine wisdom, Peter addresses and answers future objections to his teaching by giving it a timeless, theological foundation. In this passage Peter cites Jesus Christ who “suffered for us, leaving us an example” (1 Pet. 2:21). If we claim to be followers of Jesus with the desire to become Christ-like, then we ought to expect to follow the example of submission and suffering that Jesus gave to us. One cannot claim to be Christ-like and not suffer. Note that Peter extensively appeals to Isaiah 53 here, demonstrating that his teaching is not new, but is what had always been taught by God. In this passage Peter quotes Isa. 53:9 in 1 Pet. 2:22, alludes to Isa. 53:7 in 1 Pet. 2:23, and alludes to Isa. 53:5 in 1 Pet. 2:24.
- How can we make sure our conduct before the world is effective for gospel purposes? Do you ever consider the value of your testimony (cf. Matt. 5:16)?
- What does Peter mean by justifying submission primarily “for the Lords sake” (i.e., on account of the Lord, or because of the Lord)?
- How are the concepts of submission, freedom, rebellion, and bondage related? How would you define true freedom?
- What is your reaction to the concept of submission? Is Christ’s example sufficient for you to manifest submission?
- What is your attitude toward suffering? How do you react when it involves you? How can suffering be commendable toward God?