Humility; Grace Orientation
1 Peter 2:18–23
1 Peter Lesson #70
November 3, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful for this time that we have to come together to think through what You have taught us in Your Word, that we might come to have a greater understanding of what is being said, why it is being said, and how it fits within the framework of our spiritual life.
Father, we pray for this nation as we are approaching the election next week. We pray that You would restrain the evil that is always present and seems to be more and more overt at this time. We see so many things going on in this country that are contrary to its founding principles and contrary to the truth of Your Word.
Father, we pray that You would restrain the evil, that You would promote those who have a biblical understanding of truth that we might be a righteous nation, and that we might stand firm for truth in every area and be a country that is known for righteous judgments across the board—not based on political realities, but based on absolute truth, and based on the history of our own country and the foundation of law in our Constitution.
We pray that You would help us, that no matter what happens, we may be focused on You, that we may have stability, and that we may have joy and not become depressed, discouraged. No matter what happens, that we might be focused upon Your plan for human history and Your plan for our nation. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter 2. We are getting into a major section of 1 Peter which has to do with the outworking of God’s plan and the individual believer’s responsibility and response to authority. I think that’s an excellent way to think about this: How are we, as individuals, supposed to respond to those who are in authority over us? Because everybody, in numerous circumstances, has someone over them.
Whether it’s family, whether it’s in business or in career, whether it’s in government, whether it’s in education, in the classroom, whether it’s in the military, everybody has to deal with other self-centered, corrupt, foolish sinners who want to make decisions that govern our lives. As self-centered, corrupt sinners, we don’t like it when some other self-centered, self-absorbed, corrupt sinner wants to tell us to do something that we don’t want to do. So we have to learn how to respond to that.
As we get into this section dealing with submission in relation to slaves towards masters and then submission in the home, I want to talk about the underlying spiritual values that are reflected here—humility and grace orientation.
It’s going to be interesting as we go through the passage in front of you, because very few translations translate correctly a word that shows up in the next few verses that helps us to understand that this is talking about being grace oriented.
Just a reminder, this section began back in verse 13 talking about the believer’s responsibility toward government, using the same word that we have in relation to slaves toward masters and wives toward husbands, the word “to submit.” This is a word that is often misunderstood. As I say, and have said many times before, this is not a doormat type of situation. Jesus submitted to Rome. Jesus submitted to His parents. Jesus wasn’t a milquetoast doormat.
Moses was considered the most humble man in the Old Testament according to the Lord’s estimation, and he was no milquetoast doormat. But we come to the text with these kind of cultural concepts; then, instead of blowing up the cultural concepts, what we try to do is ram and cram the Bible and twist it into the cultural concepts. So we have to talk about this.
At the beginning we’re talking about the divine institutions and the focus was on the authority of government.
- Just as a review, the first divine institution is individual responsibility. Every single individual is responsible to the Lord. Every one of us is accountable for every decision we make to the Lord as the Sovereign over the universe.
- The second divine institution is that of marriage. In marriage, the authority is the husband. It is not a dictatorship. Authority structures in the Scripture are not necessarily to be viewed within that concept that we think of as a totalitarian dictatorship.
- Third we have family where the authority is the parents. As long as the children are under about 18, I think it should be close to a tyrannical dictatorship. They have to learn. I’m being a little bit facetious there.
- Number four—government, judicial. How that authority is worked out is determined by the form of government. So how a believer in Iran today is going to submit to government is not going to be quite the same as how a citizen in the United States is going to submit to government. Because in one form of government there is no option, really, for appeal and for discussion; whereas, in the United States, there are a number of ways to appeal and for recourse to be taken. And these should be taken if we feel like there’s something wrong or unjust that is taking place.
- The last divine institution is that of nations, and the authority there is God. In Acts 17, God is over the nations and established the boundaries. Just a few things to think of as we look at these issues related to the divine institutions.
First of all, the basic problem with every human being and every human practice of the divine institutions is sin. That’s where, as believers, we come in. Whatever the framework is in which you live—whether it’s military, whether it’s education, whether it’s family—is a recognition that the people that you’re dealing with are probably controlled by their sin nature—certainly a major factor in their life. That sin nature is going to mess up just anything. You can have an athletic situation and some coach lets his sin nature get the best of him, and you are going to have problems. Marriage, everything—it boils down to the sin nature.
So I wanted to start by just reviewing the sin nature and looking at our sin nature chart. The basic orientation of every sin nature is the self, this self-absorption, this arrogance, the “I will,” mirrored in the five “I wills” of Satan in Isaiah 12:14–16. Those “I wills” indicate what drives just about everybody. “I will,” what I want. I’m self-absorbed and it’s all about me.
That drives these lust patterns. We see things in the creation that we have to have in order to make life work for us in terms of our idolatrous conception of what brings happiness and joy and stability. We, as individuals and as societies, or cultures, trend in one of two directions. These aren’t consistent. You can have one person who is licentious in some areas and extremely legalistic in other areas. The same is true for cultures. Cultures mirror those same things.
We can think of a culture today that is extremely legalistic and tends to take a very high moral ground. What would that be? We can think of ISIS with their militant jihadism, driven by the arrogance of false teaching, driven by the arrogance of Allah and Mohammed. Yet, at the same time as they’re recruiting all of these young men to come fight for them, sexual licentiousness occurs. The raping, the sexual sins that are taking place there—usually with non-Muslims, although also with some Muslims—is justified.
So there’s a licentiousness that goes along with the legalism. That’s usually true. You think of the Pharisees—very legalistic, yet in some ways they are antinomian because they are rejecting the ultimate authority of Scripture. These are not always mutually exclusive type of categories, but they are excellent categories for breaking down understanding human behavior, the behavior of your children, the behavior of your friends, the behavior of a nation. These things are taking place.
If the trend is towards asceticism or legalism, what he produces is a sort of moral degeneracy. These words are usually not linked together, but you see it in the Pharisees. They are clearly degenerate in their arrogance, but it is a degeneracy from morality. Any jihadist who is emphasizing sharia law has also the same kind of moral arrogance. It’s a degenerate mentality because it’s fueled by arrogance. This will produce an ordered or structured approach to life, and it will produce a lot of rationality.
In contrast, you have the trend towards licentiousness, which means a license to sin, to do whatever a person wants, everyone doing what’s right in their own eyes—moral relativism. Lasciviousness is the promotion of sexual lust. This is evidenced in the ancient world where you had all of these fertility religions and all of these orgies, and things that were going on. That’s mirrored a lot in different areas of our own culture today. And then just antinomianism: that we don’t have to submit any ultimate law. That produces an immoral degeneracy. In terms of thinking, it produces irrationality as opposed to rationality.
Rationality is based on logic. It’s very structured, it’s very ordered, but irrationality is not. It is very difficult to try to express. For example, the gospel and arguments for the truth of Scripture. Arguments for the truth of Scripture are inherently logical, but try to use logic with somebody who’s illogical or irrational—it’s impossible. You’re talking two different languages. It’s ultimately mystical, because it is looking internally for the ultimate guidepost for some kind of value system. And it’s based just on intuition, not something that’s based on logic or reason or absolutes.
The reason I set this up is because when we get into the ancient world and we look at the civilizations produced by Greece and Rome, they manifest these characteristics through their paganism. They manifest these characteristics of the sin nature. In both Greece and Rome, there is a high value placed on a very orderly structured society. In Greece, for the polis to be healthy, you had much that was written by the ancient philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Many others down through the centuries wrote about the importance of family and wrote about the importance of marriage, that it was in the home that you provided the teaching, the instruction, that’s passed on as you go from generation to generation. They recognized that; that’s part of establishment truth. But they also perverted it, because that’s what the sin nature does.
So they have this trend towards a moral degeneracy in those areas; they were very, very strong, and they were very adamant about that. The Greek moral philosophers wrote quite a bit about this, Xenophon, Plutarch; Seneca was Roman.
They emphasize the fact that marriage and family were the central features that were necessary to preserve and protect the national entity. The result of this was a sort of legalism that protected marriage and family—and the nation. We see a trend in our culture with the advent of postmodernism.
Think back to the sin nature. In terms of knowledge and authority, postmodernism is an epistemological irrationalism. It rejects all authority, and truth is whatever you want it to be. It is like the immoral degeneracy and the moral relativism of the period of the judges. Everybody is doing what’s right in their own eyes.
We look at what is going on just in terms of the political battle today and understanding the whole issue with the Clintons. They are corrupt; there is more and more evidence. It’s not just overwhelming; it’s overpowering. It is snowballing now, this evidence. There are five different federal criminal investigations against either the Clintons or the Clinton Foundation. Yet we have a culture that is so inured to this kind of thing that it doesn’t seem to matter. And they want to make more of an issue out of somebody’s foolish, crude talk, than somebody’s criminal actions. This shows a culture that is not oriented to logic or reason anymore. They’re not comparing apples to apples; they’re saying that somebody’s criminality is somehow no worse than somebody’s just foolish, crude talking. They’re not in any comparison whatsoever.
Then we had this whole culture that’s in Western civilization. We see it in a more developed sense in Western Europe where there’s this promotion of sexual licentiousness and sexual immorality. You’ve got the rise of pornography that has been going on for at least 20 or 30 years in Germany and many European countries, as if this doesn’t have any impact on marriage, or the family, or relationships. It’s just gotten completely out of control.
You have the rise of sexual perversion in homosexual relations, the rise in the legitimacy of homosexuality to the point that if you take a traditional stance, you are viewed as the enemy.
This has come to America, and we have a Supreme Court that has legitimized homosexual marriage. We have just seen so many extremely crude and distasteful things that are now part of the national dialogue ever since the dalliances of Bill Clinton in the White House back in the 90s; it’s just lowered the level of discourse in this country to the gutter.
There is no longer any sense of decorum, any sense of what should be talked about in front of children. Most children are exposed to things that I still don’t know anything about, because that wasn’t part of the culture when we grew up. We did not have that exposure to sexual perversion and sexual degeneracy.
A lot of that was also true in the Roman Empire, but they weren’t legitimizing the destruction of the family. Augustus promoted several laws, as did Tiberias, that were emphasizing the family and made it difficult for divorce to take place. They made harsh punishments when it was brought to bear on adultery and immorality that broke down the family, and so there was this strong emphasis on family because they understood that.
We live in a culture today that doesn’t understand that strong marriage and strong family is the key to a strong nation. You destroy the family and the marriage—even if it’s a distorted pagan view like they had in Rome. It wasn’t anything like the biblical pattern. Even if it’s a pagan view, it still provided a structure socially and politically for the nation and preserved that nation for many centuries. Once that starts breaking down in a licentious manner, it’s not long before the nation is going to just internally collapse because there are no values that are passed on to the next generation.
So we see these kinds of things that were taking place in the ancient world. Seneca, who was a Roman philosopher, wrote that in relationship to understanding the importance of conduct within the family and within the household. They had these household codes of conduct that they were constantly writing about among the philosophers of the ancient world. And he wrote, “No one will do his duty as he ought, unless he has some principle to which he may refer his conduct.” In other words, he recognized that there is some sort of external absolute that gives meaning to any code of conduct.
Others have said that no finite reference point has any meaning unless it is related to an infinite reference point. In other words, if we don’t have a universal absolute, then nothing else in life can matter. You can’t bring meaning and value to that.
So he said, “We must set before our eyes the goal of the Supreme Good,” for philosophers. The Latin was summum bonum. There is just this philosophical idea; where it came from, they don’t know. They can’t explain; there is just this ultimate good. And that is what we have to understand. He said, “We must set before our eyes the goal of the Supreme Good, towards which we may strive and to which all our acts and words may have reference, just as sailors must guide their course according to a certain star.”
Well, when you get into the Scripture, it is the Almighty God Who has regenerated us. Peter explains that He is the One Who has revealed to us these absolutes—and only when we are oriented to Him. It’s not some abstract philosophical concept that gives meaning to right and wrong and how to deal with certain situations, but it is an orientation to the Scripture and to the Word of God.
The third point is that in the New Testament the Christian writers seek to straighten out these crooked, slightly distorted so-called ethics of the household codes. What Paul writes in Ephesians 5 and 6 and what Peter writes here in 1 Peter 2, what Paul writes in Colossians 3 related to husbands loving your wives and wives submitting to your husbands, children being obedient to parents, parents loving their children, raising them in the admonition of the Lord, these fit the patterns of these so-called household codes, these ethical standards that were written about in the broader Greco–Roman culture. But like every culture, even though they have elements that are true, they are just a pale reflection; they are a distorted reflection of biblical truth.
Peter and Paul and James and John are not getting their values from the culture. They are not getting their family values from Rome and Greece. They’re getting their family values from the Old Testament. And then they are seeking to correct the distorted family values that were present in Roman culture.
So we have to understand that in the Roman culture, there is an emphasis on submission. But slaves, when they were to submit to masters, were viewed as non-relevant animals. They were chattel; they were insignificant; they had no legal standing. But when the Bible, in a divine viewpoint framework, addresses them, it understands that they have volition.
That’s the command: “Servants, be submissive to your masters.” That’s divine institution number one. You have a choice. No one else in their culture treated a slave as someone who could make decisions, and who was treated with honor and respect. That is just one way in which there is a similarity. So that when Peter says, “Slaves, submit to your masters,” it’s not the same as when the pagan says, “You submit to your master,” because how they implement that and their view of the individual involved is very, very much different.
The fourth point, which I mentioned already: The biblical framework was the Old Testament. The Old Testament takes us back to Genesis 1, where God says, “Let us create man in our image.” So even the lowest member in society, the slave—and no one was lower than the slave—had no legal rights, no legal standing, wasn’t even considered a person. In biblical viewpoint, they are to be treated with honor and respect because they are created in the image and likeness of God.
They were to submit, but there’s a recognition in the text that there are going to be times when the person you have to submit to isn’t worthy of it—he’s harsh. We’ll get to the verse a minute, but if you look at verse 18, Peter says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
What does he mean by “harsh?” Harshness was legitimized in the practice of slavery in the Roman Empire. They could abuse the slaves, they could be harsh to them in many different ways, they could physically beat them in many different ways, and that was legitimized. But if you look at the context, Peter goes on to praise him. He says, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience towards God one endures grief.” It is the next phrase I want to emphasize. It says, “Suffering wrongfully.”
“Suffering wrongfully” is parallel to the “harsh.” What we have here is a situation where the harsh is defined by that word wrongfully, which is the Greek word ADIKOS. This is the alpha prefix “A”, which means something that’s a negative like our prefix “un,” and the word DIKOS for righteousness. So it’s unrighteous.
So it’s not suffering wrongfully. A better translation would be suffering unrighteously. It’s a recognition that this harshness is unjust; nevertheless, the slave is commanded to be submissive and show respect for authority’s sake to the master.
Point number 5. We have to recognize that the social/legal structure of Rome was very concerned with maintaining order. That’s why they spent so much time talking about the fact that you have to teach authority in the home, you have to teach the children, you have to pass these values on, and that marriage and family are at the core of the success of the nation. They were very concerned about these new religions that would pop up—like Christianity—that they might teach anarchy and try to reverse the right understanding and application of the roles of husbands and fathers and wives and parents in the Roman Empire.
There was a cult, the Isis cult, the worship of one of the Egyptian female deities, where the women were in charge. It promoted a matriarchal authority structure within the family, and this was illegal in Rome for that reason. Not because of the all the other stuff that went along with the paganism; it was because it would bring disorder in the family, and a breakdown of the home, and lead to a breakdown and anarchy within the culture.
So the apostles are also concerned that Christians not use their freedom in a licentious manner, which would be viewed as anarchy and the disruption of society. This is why they are commanded to not use their freedom as a license.
The sixth point. Though New Testament writers do not directly address social perversions such as slavery, abortion, and infanticide, which were practiced in Roman culture, they addressed the more significant underlying factor. Their focus was not on changing the culture at that upper level, but doing something that was even more insidious that would eventually lead to the transformation of that culture. And that was emphasizing that Christians would use their freedom in Christ in a way that would lead to a transformation of the culture.
Christians were to view themselves as slaves to God. That’s the background here. There is this clear analogy that the slaves are to submit to their masters. Christians are DOULOS, DOULOI to God, and so they are, in the same way, to be submissive to God. Christians were to view themselves as slaves to God and they were to focus on personal transformation into the image of Christ.
If Christians are transforming themselves into the image of Christ, and that would include both witnessing as well as personal spiritual growth, then they are going to be transforming the ideas that are inherent in the culture. That, eventually, is what did transform the paganism of Rome and Western civilization, the paganism of the Celts, the paganism of the Goths and the Visigoths, and all the other groups that were in Europe.
They were all rank pagans, but they were transformed not by revolution, not by imposing a top-down solution, but by the personal transformation of individuals as they trusted in Christ, were regenerated, and then grew. That’s the approach of the writers of Scripture—not to try to impose this by overturning the government, creating some sort of revolution, but by changing the lives, the thinking, the orientation, of each individual believer.
Look at 1 Peter 2:18. Peter says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear.”
That word for servants, as I pointed out last time, is the word for “household slaves” that were just marginally better treated than the field slaves.
He addresses them and he says that they are to be submissive to their masters. We talked about this last time—the word HUPOTASSO, which means to “submit yourselves.” You are to follow the leadership and carry out the orders of the person in authority, unless it directly contradicts the Word of God.
Their ability to maybe negotiate with their master was limited, and at times they couldn’t do it all because their treatment was rather harsh. Peter deals with that here; he sees the question coming, and he says, “Even if they’re harsh, then you are to be good and gentle.” That is part of grace orientation.
But he says that they are to be submissive with all fear. This is not the first time we’ve seen this come up. At the end of the previous section, in 1 Peter 2:17, Peter said to, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
But it didn’t start there either. It started back in 1 Peter 1:17, where Peter said, “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.” That is, ultimately, in fear of the authority of God.
In the ancient world, fear had two different components to it, just as it does in our thinking. Aristotle defines the distinction here in one of his treatises, Oeconomica. He writes, “The fear which virtuous and honorable sons feel towards their fathers, and loyal citizens towards right-minded rulers, has for its companions reverence and modesty.” So if fear is oriented in the right way toward submission to the authority and respect for the authority, then it produces an upright citizen.
The other kind is felt by slaves for masters and subjects for despots who treat them with injustice and wrong, and it’s associated with hostility and hatred. Just thought I’d throw that out.
The idea that Peter is talking about here is the first kind that is characterized by virtue and it’s characterized by reverence and modesty.
In Scripture, we see that the fear of the Lord is the foundation for all knowledge, submission to the authority of God: that the starting point for all knowledge isn’t with just abstract knowledge going out and learning things so that you can make a better living.
See, this is a problem that’s happened in our culture, and it has some subtle but devastating effects. We learn, we have an education, for a pragmatic reason—to go make more money. Well, that doesn’t always work as a good motivation. Ultimately, in the history of this country, what motivated people to be educated was so that they could understand God’s creation, and they could understand God, and they could understand God’s Word.
Today we have a pragmatic system of education, which is built on just basically serving the state. We have about a 65% to 70% rate of reading comprehension, and so you have many places where people can’t even read—they’re just ignorant of reading.
Whereas, you go back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and 95% to 97% (in the 1600s) of everyone in every village could read. Now that’s incredible. But the reason is they felt that everybody had to read so they could read their Bible. That’s a much higher and honorable and virtuous motivation than going out and making money to pay your taxes for the state. People responded differently that way in the 1600s.
But what happens is that when people go negative to God and reject God, then they hate knowledge, and they hate the Lord, and they no longer choose the fear of the Lord. That’s Proverbs 1:29.
We look at this command in 1 Peter 1:18–19. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable ...” That word for “commendable” shows up again in verse 20. You’ll never guess what the word for “commendable” is there. It’s the Greek word CHARIS, which is the word for grace.
In other words, what Peter specifically does here is, he says, “Submission to authority—even an unjust authority—is grace.” It’s undeserved favor. It’s unmerited goodness. It is grace. It is grace orientation. Somebody who is not authority oriented, somebody who is not submissive to their parents, not submissive to their husband, not submissive to their teacher, will never understand grace. They lack humility; they lack grace; they lack authority orientation.
What we have here is a clear statement: This is grace. “For this is commendable, if because of conscience towards God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” So he explains there, with the word “for” indicating he’s explaining his primary statement. He says, “It’s because of conscience towards God.” That has to be the motivation—you’re doing the right thing because that’s what God says to do. As a result of treating this harsh, unjust person in grace, you have the right motivation, you endure grief, you suffer unjustly, and that is accepted.
In other passages, we have the same sort of admonition to slaves. In Titus 2:9 it says, “Exhort bondservants [that is, slaves] to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back.” So they’re not displaying a lack of respect for their master.
In Ephesians 6:5 and following, Paul says, “Bondservants,” the same word. It’s DOULOI, the word for slaves. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart ...” That means that you’re not talking behind their back, you’re not showing them respect when they’re in your presence and then disrespect when they’re out of your presence.
“In sincerity of heart [or thinking], as to Christ.” Paul just keeps hitting us between the eyes with this—that how we respond to earthly authorities is a barometer of how we respond to the authority of Christ. How we respond to the authority of Christ is how we should respond to the earthly authorities that are put over us, because, as he has already said, no authority exists aside from the permission of God.
Slaves were to respond to masters as to Christ. “Not with eyeservice …” This has application to working for an employer. He may not have the same level of authority over you as a slave, but you should work for him, not just giving him eye service—as long as he’s looking you’re going to do a good job, but when he’s not looking, then you’re going to slough off.
“Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ.” Ultimately, I don’t know who your boss is or where you work, but you just think you’re working for them; you’re really working for the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the pattern that we see in Scripture.
“Doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” There he uses that comparison again. “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” That takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There will be rewards to those who are serving, especially in an unjust circumstance, and doing it to please the Lord with the right grace-oriented attitude.
Ephesians 6:9 is the flipside. Paul’s address, “And you, masters, do the same thing to them.” Well, that works great if you’re in a situation where you’re working for a Christian master; you’re a slave to a Christian. But if you’re not, and you’re a slave to an unbeliever, then it may be an extremely harsh situation, as Peter recognizes.
So this is commendable if we suffer unjustly and do it out of grace and kindness because we’re serving the Lord.
Then Peter goes on to develop this, and says, “For what credit is it [or what value is it] if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?” Even in the Roman world, the ethicists of the ancient Greco-Roman culture recognized that if a slave is disobedient, then he justly deserves whatever he gets. And they also understood that it was better to suffer for injustice, than to suffer because you had done something wrong.
So he says, “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
There are two words here that we need to pay attention to. The first word is the word for “patient.” Usually, the word “patient” translates the Greek word MAKROTHUMIA, which means long-suffering. That’s the idea of patience. This is not the idea of patience. This is the idea of endurance. It’s the Greek word HUPOMENO.
MENO is the root verb that means, “to abide, to stay in a tough situation over a long period of time.” HUPO is the prepositional prefix that means to stay under something in a tough, tough situation.
He says, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you endure it [HUPOMENO]? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently [that is, if you endure], this is grace toward God.”
That’s our word CHARIS for commendable. Again emphasizing this is grace orientation. We think of the basics in terms of the spiritual skills as confession, walking by the Spirit, faith-rest drill, doctrinal orientation, and grace orientation. This is grace orientation: It’s humility; it’s obedience to authority—even when that authority is wrong; and it’s not always trying to justify yourself to that authority.
Our sin natures don’t like it because it’s all about me and getting my way. But that’s why we have authority. One benefit of authority structures is that it teaches us not to be so selfish and to always get our own way. So this is grace orientation.
This word HUPOMENO is found in another very important context. It’s found over in James 1:2–4. That’s just a couple of pages back—Hebrews, James, 1 Peter—so it’s the one or two pages back to your left. Just turn back there—three or four pages—to the opening of James.
James is an epistle that’s very similar to 1 Peter, and it’s dealing with, once again, the Jewish-background believers in the diaspora who are scattered. James is probably the first epistle that was written in the New Testament, and there are a lot of similarities between James 1:2–4 and the opening of 1 Peter, especially in 1 Peter 1:6–8.
There are number of key words that I pointed out when we went there, the idea of joy in the midst of difficult circumstances and in trials. 1 Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” Well, one of those “various trials” would be having to submit to an unjust authority.
“That the genuineness of your faith” [that’s related to the idea of the testing of your faith in James 1:3].
1 Peter 1:7, “That the genuineness [or the approval] of your faith, being more much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire.” That’s the word that is used there for testing in James 3, DOKIMAZO. You see there are these parallels.
In James 1:2, James is talking to believers and he addresses them as, “My brethren.” That’s important. All the way through James, he is addressing them as my brethren. These are believers; these are not unbelievers. Nothing in James is talking about what you do for unbelievers. That gets very important in James 2.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Some of us have been in circumstances where we have been under an unjust authority—somebody who has treated us wrong in a lot of different ways, maybe somebody who is completely unrealistic. I heard the story today of an individual who was working at a job and had a supervisor who blackballed that person and made a list of numerous complaints against that person—none of which was true. And that person appealed and wrote a response to it, and eventually had to change their job.
But this kind of thing happens when we live in the devil’s world. There are all kinds of different circumstances and situations that we may come into where we have to deal with an unjust authority.
I had a boss, a man I went to work for when I was in seminary, and it turned out that he was a crook. I didn’t know it at the time, but I knew that there was something wrong, and I just quit. The reason I got the job was that I had a longtime friend, and I’d also known his wife for many years, long before they were married or involved—and this was her father-in-law. Now that’ll test the integrity of your marriage if you’re working for your father-in-law and he’s a crook, he’s using the business in an illegal manner, and you’re the one who ends up being the whistleblower. It usually never ends well. But this is a problem in a fallen world. We run into these kinds of circumstances, and they are tests of our integrity.
So, as Christians, when we fall into these kinds of tests, we need to add it up. That’s the word “count” there. It’s an accounting term, and it means, “to think it through.” Think through the issues and add it up. The bottom line is joy, because we don’t know how God is using it in our lives. We are to focus on Him and have joy no matter what the circumstances are.
When you fall into various trials, count it joy. I happen to think that this is the primary command. If you want to be Star Trek, this is the prime directive for James, for this epistle. Everything else in the epistle of James is written to help you understand how to do this, because this is not easy! Any of us who have gone through really difficult times know that it’s not easy to just have joy and peace and stability in the midst of horrible circumstances.
But the reason we can do this is given in verse 3, because we know something. We have an understanding of biblical truth. We know a principle, a fact. “Knowing that the testing [DOKIMAZO] …” It’s a word that means to evaluate—not to evaluate to see what’s wrong, but to evaluate to see what’s positive. It’s the same word that’s used in relation to the Judgment Seat of Christ. All of our works are burned up—not to expose the wood, hay, and straw, but to expose the good—the gold, silver, and precious stones. So, the idea of testing here is an evaluation to expose what’s good—what’s valuable.
“Knowing that the testing of your faith …” Here it’s not your ability to trust, but what you trust, or the doctrine that’s in your soul. Because you know that the testing, or the evaluation of the doctrine in your soul, produces not patience, but endurance, the ability to hang in there and to apply the Word of God.
“But let endurance have its perfect result.” That word there, in the Greek, indicates maturity. “That you may become mature and complete, lacking nothing.” So Peter is talking about this same kind of thing back in 1 Peter 2:20. You’re involved in a specific situation where you are unjustly beaten, and he says, “If you take it with endurance and you do the right thing in the midst of a wrong situation, then that is grace toward God.” That is a grace-oriented solution.
Then we go on in 1 Peter 2:21, and Peter says, “For to this you were called.” That’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? How many times do we use the word “calling” in reference to personal adversity and suffering? We may think about the fact that we’re called to the mission field, or you hear people say they were given a spiritual calling to the pastorate, or you have a vocation.
The word vocation is the word from the Latin word vocare, which means to have a calling. On Monday we celebrated Reformation Day, October 31, to commemorate the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. One of the doctrines recovered was that every believer has a calling. It was related to your talents, your spiritual gift.
Maybe God gave you a vocation, a calling, to be a ditch digger, a computer programmer, a lawyer, or to work in law enforcement, or to be a teacher; but everybody has a calling—not just the pastors, not just the spiritual leaders. The error of the Roman Catholic teaching was that only the priests had a calling, everybody else is laity. That’s where you get this clergy/laity distinction: that the laypeople are just the common people; they don’t have a calling from God.
The Protestant Reformation came back and gave value to the individual. Rarely in the discussion of calling have I ever heard anybody say that we are called to submission, we are called to suffering, we are called to being gracious in the midst of difficult circumstances, but that’s exactly how Peter uses it.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example.” That’s our pattern. He is the example. “That you should follow His steps.”
What are those steps? While this is what comes up in the quote in 1 Peter 2:2. “Who committed no sin.” Jesus committed no sin. Therefore, He was never worthy of any injustice. “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.”
Isaiah 53:9 is where that is found, in the second part of the verse. The whole verse reads, “And they made His grave with the wicked [that is, Jesus died between two thieves]—But with the rich at His death.” So He’s buried in the tomb of a wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea.
“Because He had done no violence [literally, nothing wrong], Nor was any deceit in His mouth.” He is totally free from censure. You can’t say He did anything wrong. His crucifixion was not because He had broken any law or done anything wrong.
Peter goes on to describe this in 1 Peter 2:23. “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return.” He didn’t talk back. When He went to the Cross, He was “silent as a lamb before his shearers is dumb, so He opened not his mouth.”
“Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten [yell, scream, throw a tantrum, go into a depression], but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He put it in the Lord’s hands. He was going to go through unimaginable suffering for something He never did, but it would secure our salvation. He was going to suffer on our behalf.
1 Peter 2:24. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” This is a great verse to memorize. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness [our purpose is to live for righteousness]—by whose stripes you were healed.” That is a quote from Isaiah 53.
Then he goes on in 1 Peter 2:25 to say, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” The pattern that we are going to see developed by Peter in the next chapter, is that Jesus is the pattern for handling unjust suffering and submitting to authority.
This is seen in Philippians 2:8. We are going to stop here and come back and develop Philippians 2 and some other things to think about as we talk about submission in the coming weeks.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded of Your grace toward us. You are the ultimate judge and authority; and whatever circumstance or situation we deal with in this life that is unjust and unrighteous, You will make things right eventually. We are promised that there will be rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ for our obedience to You, our grace orientation, treating those who do not deserve it with the kindness and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we have studied this evening. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”