Thursday, 31 October 2019
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 1 Peter 2:18
Peter now turns from a general exhortation of being submissive to the leaders, which he says “is commendable before God,” to a specific exhortation directed to “servants.” The word is oiketes, or “servants.” It is not the common word which speaks of a bonded servant, or a slave. Rather, it speaks of a servant in a household who works for a family. This implies that it is work accomplished with devotion and affection. Paul uses it in Romans 14 when speaking of believers –
“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4
What Peter will say here extends to the end of the chapter, the contents of which certainly applies to all believers. But the focus is on servants because it is servants whom this particular aspect of Christ and His ministry reflects. He came to be the “suffering Servant.”
The word translated as “master” is despotés. It “implies someone exercising ‘unrestricted power and absolute domination, confessing no limitations or restraints’” (R. Trench). It is where our modern term “despot” comes from. It is used ten times in the New Testament, and six of them are speaking of the Lord.
Paul uses it when speaking of an earthly master several times, such as in 1 Timothy 6:1 –
“Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.”
The idea that Peter is conveying is like that of Paul’s words. Whoever is a believer, while a member of such a household, is still obligated to be submissive to his own earthly authority who exercises control over him, and to do so “with all fear.” It is the same word as Peter used in verse 1:17 –
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
After saying that, he then tied the reason for this conduct in with the work of Christ. He will do the same thing here in the verses ahead. We are to have reverent fear of our masters because Christ also conducted Himself in this same manner. The point, then, is that we are to be like Christ in our earthly walk.
He then explains this by saying, “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.” It is not difficult to yield to a good and gentle master. In fact, it is a privilege to do so. But Peter says that servants are expected to be this way toward those who are harsh as well.
The word Peter uses, translated as “harsh,” means “crooked.” John the Baptist used it to speak of the crooked paths which Christ would make straight. The only other two uses of it need to be seen to understand why Peter is speaking as he is –
“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’” Acts 2:40
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14, 15
In both instances, the apostles speak of the state of the world in general. Christ came into this state and submitted Himself to this crooked generation. Thus, believers are to conduct themselves in the world in the same manner. In the verses ahead, Peter will show us that this was a part of Christ’s plan in order to bring men out of this state and to Him. The crooked paths are made straight by Christ, and a part of that work is incumbent on us to see that it is accomplished.
Life application: Have you have had a really terrible boss in the past? Do you have a really crummy boss now? Peter is telling you today that you are to be submissive to your masters.
Obviously, we normally don’t have bondservants and house masters in today’s society, but we do have bosses that we are accountable to. As long as we are working for them, we have made the voluntary choice to submit to them. We are to show them proper respect regardless of how moody or uncaring they are. Fortunately for many of us, we work in a hierarchy and bad bosses can be monitored by higher bosses. Further, we have workplace standards in place which were set by government bodies at all levels.
In the time of the Roman Empire, such wasn’t the case. Slaves, hired hands, etc. were at the whims of their overlords. No matter whether they were gentle or harsh, Peter told them (and thus us today) that they were to be submissive. Jesus set the perfect example in this. If the Creator was willing to show such humility, how much more should we also be submissive?
Lord, we can see how terribly short we fall from Your high standard. We have not been submissive to those who are over us in the way Your word directs. At times, we have complained against, gossiped about, and even talked back to our superiors. Give us a full-cleansing that we might be acceptable employees in the future. May our actions bring You the glory that You are due. Amen.