Submission: Honoring or Demeaning
1 Peter 2:18
1 Peter Lesson #69
October 27, 2016
“Father, we’re so grateful we can come together, that we can worship You, focus on Your Word, and that You illuminate our thinking through the truth of Your Word.
Father, we pray for our nation. We pray that during this election cycle You will, before the voting comes about, really make some more issues very, very clear.
Father, we pray that You would guide and direct in the outworking of the election. We know that Your sovereign will will be carried out. But, Father, we pray that we might have leaders who respect the Constitution and who respect Scripture and the right to worship as we see fit, that we might be able to carry out Your plan in our lives, witness, support Israel, and continue to teach the whole counsel of Your Word.
Father, we pray that tonight as we study and begin a doctrine that is challenging for some of us—some more than others, but all of us to some degree—we pray that You would help us to face this with objectivity and humility, that we may apply what the Scripture says. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are, and have been, in an important section of 1 Peter. For the last several lessons we have been focusing on the section from 1 Peter 2:13–17, dealing with submission to the authority of the king. Very important.
I want to clean up some thoughts on government and obedience to government before we wrap that up completely this evening, before we move on into the next section. Then I’m just going to introduce it, because the next section begins to talk about submission in relation of servants to masters. These would really be household slaves; they are not servants in the sense of somebody hired. They are slaves—they are just marginally better than the field slaves.
Wives are to be submissive to their husbands. Then he goes on and develops the model, the exemplar, for this, which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
We’re going to start looking at this, because of one of the negative aspects of Americanism and American worldview is that we emphasize the role of the individual. But the negative, the dark side of that, is that people tend to be very strong-willed and have a tendency to oppose authority—which is not the mandate of Scripture. It is often misunderstood.
It’s amazing how your sin nature works to say, “Well, if you say the Bible means this …” If you’re not careful, when they start describing “this,” they slide it all the way to the extreme. Then they say, “So you’re either doing that,” which means to be an absolute doormat and have people roll over you all the time, or you mean something else. Neither of which is biblical.
So they tend to set up, “Well, it’s either A or B,” and they completely leave out a third option, which is a logical fallacy called the “law of the excluded middle”.
The biblical view here has to be understood. We will spend some time looking at some quotes from ancient thinkers—Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, a number of others, Seneca. How they emphasize this concept of the authority structure inside the household and the role of children—which Peter doesn’t talk about but Paul does, so we’ll touch on it.
The role of slaves. The role of wives. It’s interesting. What you normally hear from people who are inclined towards equal rights for women—that women shouldn’t be doormats and they should have equal say, and who are influenced by what was called the “women’s liberation movement”, women’s equality movement—is that they tend to over-represent and wrongly represent this.
Because what Peter is saying, and what Paul is saying, if you understand the context of Greco-Roman culture and other cultures in the ancient world, is that women were basically classified as equal to cattle—much as it is stated in Islam. They had no rights whatsoever.
There is a huge shift. In fact, I was reading one lady today, a woman theologian who has a ThM/PhD, who taught for many years at Wheaton and would be inclined in that direction, and she presented an excellent case, with that summary, saying that by ignoring the cultural context of the day, many people think that the Bible is saying one thing when what Paul says about the role of women and the significance of women—and the role of children even—and the role of servants is not what is often presented, because women are elevated to a very high position biblically.
We will take a look at that as we go through this. From that we see that the culture says submission is demeaning, but what the Scripture teaches is submission to authority is what honors God.
I’m just going to a quick review. 1 Peter 2:13, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance.”
That’s the Greek word HUPOTASSO, which is the one we see in verse 18 for servants and the one we see in 1 Peter 3:1 for wives. That’s important, because it shows that there is a parallel between each of these spheres of authority and responsibility. Whatever is true in one sphere would be equally true in the others, based on word usage.
We are to submit to every creation, ordinance, or creaturely institution, for the Lord’s sake. It’s always related back to our understanding of God. That is always so important. Whenever we talk about anything, we always have to go back to the Person and the nature and essence of God.
We are to submit to every creaturely ordinance. There are exceptions, as we’ve noted. “For the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,”
“… or to governors, as to those who are sent by him [the governor] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” I started last time showing how, throughout this next section, Peter always has this contrast between those who are doing good—and this is intrinsic good. This isn’t human good—simple morality. He is talking about it in terms of the believer who is walking in obedience to the Lord.
We saw this, in contrast, like in 1 Peter 3:16–17, that Christians who are doing well, who are doing good, who are obeying the Lord, will be defamed as evildoers. Then, verse 17 is one of those difficult passages. “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good [doing the right thing the right way] than for doing evil.” Of course, there are a certain number of people who are doing the right thing the wrong way, and they suffer the consequences, justly, for that.
That’s another theme that runs through this section; Peter is saying that we are going to suffer unjustly. The pattern for that is the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to be prepared for that, because that is what honors the Lord and it is important.
So 1 Peter 2:15 says, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” There we see that there is a certain evidentiary value to the believer’s obedience. It is a witness with the life as opposed to a witness with the tongue—that by doing good, by living a life of honor and integrity, respecting the laws, respecting the king, respecting the government, it puts to silence those who are foolish, those who wish to accuse Christians of all sorts of evil things.
Remember the context here is a Roman Empire, which is deified in many cases—Caligula was deified, Claudius was deified, Nero later would deify himself. Because Christianity was new and they weren’t sure what they believed, they see that as a competition for the Emperor. They are fearful that this new religion—or any other religion in the Empire—would bring in ideas that would challenge the security and the stability of the Empire.
What’s interesting to note is that, within both Greek culture and Roman culture, there is a strong emphasis on divine institution two and divine institution three. I didn’t say biblical emphasis—it is a human viewpoint, pagan emphasis. But they recognize that the family unit and the order of the household and the order within the family is the key to stability within the Empire.
One of the things I’ll look at as we go into this is where they distort their understanding of these divine institutions, just as we see in our own culture today. But they did understand that without a stable family unit—where authority was structured within the home, followed within the home—then the nation, the Empire itself, would collapse.
For example, not the ISIS we think of, the current day Islamic terrorist organization, but the Egyptian god, Isis, actually reversed the roles of men and women, and this caused a breakdown in the family structure, a breakdown in marriage. This was viewed very antagonistically by the Roman Empire, because they saw that as a threat to the order and stability of the Empire.
We will look at that a little bit, but the idea here is that our lives as Christians, by modeling obedience to authority and authority orientation—even when the person in authority may not be worthy of it or we are being treated unjustly—is a tool of evangelism. It’s not going to get anybody saved because there’s no content there, but it may bring about a certain amount of questioning.
1 Peter 2:20, 1 Peter 3:6, 1 Peter 3:17, 3 John 11 all contrast doing good, which is the good that is the product of the Holy Spirit, versus doing evil.
Peter says, “This is the will of God.”
I covered this last time, that there are three things we can look at in terms of the will of God as to the language that we use. By saying something is “God’s will,” often people mean category two or category three. We have to be careful not to fall back on that as some form of fatalism or some rationalization for our own lack of responsible behavior.
The first category is the revealed will of God, and we live our lives according to what God says to do.
There are times when we do what the Lord says to do, but we may not get the result that we think we should get. We think, “Well, if I obey the Lord, I’m going to be blessed.” One example that comes to mind is when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “Well, we’re not going to bow down to the idol. We’re going to do what God says to do.”
They knew the will of God, and the punishment was going to be death in the fiery furnace. They said, “But even if God doesn’t deliver us, we’re not going to do it,” recognizing that sometimes when we do the right thing we don’t get the results that we think we will get.
We are always to do the right thing the right way, but sometimes in God’s sovereign or permissive will there are other consequences—and that’s important. Some people shipwreck their faith, because they say, “I did everything God wanted me to do, and look at what happened!” Then they blame God.
That’s not how it works, because sometimes God is testing us. You go back to Deuteronomy 13, Deuteronomy 18, that God allowed false teachers who had dreams and visions—and those dreams and visions came true—but God said, “It’s a test.” If you follow the dreamer or the visionary and they are contradicting the Word of God, contradicting the Scripture, then I let that happen to test you to see if you would listen to my Word or listen to the dreamer of dreams and the one who saw visions.
So God has a revealed will. That’s the only will we can know. We can’t say, “Well, look at how screwed up the American people are. We’re going to get the person that we deserve. It’s all God’s will, and so I’m not going to vote or be involved in the system.” What we’re doing is, we’re trying to prejudge what God’s will is going to be. You don’t know that! Nobody knows that!
Nobody knows what is going to happen on November 8, or how it’s going to happen. And that’s true about whatever situation in life it is going to be; we have to do our very best to ensure the correct outcome, but sometimes there are other factors that God is aware of and so He is bringing about some other end. That’s the sovereign will of God. Sometimes theologians call it the decretive will of God, which means this is what God has decreed to take place—not what He’s revealed that He wants to take place, but what He has decreed.
We define the sovereign will of God as what God determines to do or permits or allows to do, apart from what is revealed in Scripture. But we can only know God’s sovereign will after the fact. If you think you know it ahead of time, you might be a good guesser—but that’s all you are—and you can’t make decisions based on that. That’s called mysticism or foolishness—or both.
Third is the permissive will of God. Now, usually, when we talk about God just allowing or permitting something to happen, that is usually something negative. So it’s what God allows to happen, which usually implies something that’s not positive or good, such as sin, evil, rebellion, irresponsibility, corruption, or something like that.
God permits or allows the corruption in the world to work itself out. There are tornadoes and hurricanes and shipwrecks—all kinds of things like that. God allows those things to take place, but, nevertheless, they’re not out of His control.
There are times, though, that we do the right thing the right way. Peter says, “For it is better, if it is the will of God [that would be the permissive will of God], to suffer [allow suffering] for doing good than for doing evil.” So we do the right thing the right way and we get persecuted—we get thrown in jail, we get prosecuted, we lose our job.
I was reading yesterday a case similar to what happened here in Houston back when we were fighting the bathroom ordinance. Our lovely mayor, Annise Parker, subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors here in Houston and wanted them to give their sermons, their notes, all their study material—everything like that—which is an egregious violation of the First Amendment. Fortunately, we had a strong pastor’s association here that fought that and won.
But now there’s a black Seventh-Day Adventist pastor who worked for some branch of the government in Georgia, and now the Georgia state government is subpoenaing all of his records. He was let go because of his supposed stand against homosexuality and homosexual marriage and a number of other things that weren’t politically correct. Then, after they had let him go, they subpoenaed his sermons and all of this; so that is being fought right now in Georgia.
See, the way it works is evil keeps trying to probe—and they are going to probe, and they are going to probe, until they finally win something. So the day is coming. I remember 15 to 20 years ago saying that the day would come when the Supreme Court was going to legalize same-sex marriage and then every pastor who believed in the Bible would be under threat—and we are under threat. These kinds of things are happening.
There was a case, also in Georgia, of a black fire chief who was a Sunday School teacher and wrote a book. In that book there was one paragraph where he talked about God’s standard for marriage. When they found out that he had written that on his own time and he was a Sunday School teacher and taught that, then he was fired from the fire department. So these kinds of things are going on.
When we do the right thing, we may suffer for it. But the Scripture says it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Back to 1 Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good [you may—it’s potential—you may not] you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” You may be in a situation where they’re just going to bully you and intimidate you and continue to make life miserable for you.
But notice that this has an apologetic value. The word “apologetic” is a word that means it provides a rational proof or defense for something. It’s a legal term. We will run into this in 1 Peter 3:15, where Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” That means to be completely occupied with Christ, to set Him apart in your thinking.
“And always be ready.” “And always be ready” doesn’t mean when you’re in your study, or sitting at your desk, or by yourself and you can answer questions in your mind. It’s when you’re in a hurry. It’s when you’re in the grocery store. It’s when you are talking to somebody at lunch, or somebody during a coffee break at work—not on company time, but on your own time.
Somebody asks you a question. “How come you are always going to church? How come you seem to be different? You don’t gripe. You don’t complain. You have an upbeat, positive attitude. Why do you have this hope?” You’re able to give them an answer without saying, “Oh! I need to run home and find my notes from Bible class.” If it’s not your soul, you don’t have it! We’ve got to get that in our souls.
So verse 15. We need to be focused on the Word that, by the way we live, it silences the ignorance of foolish men. Now remember, the psalmist said that, “The fool has said in his heart,
‘There is no God.’ ” He is a fool because he doesn’t believe in God—he’s not rejecting God because he’s a fool.
It doesn’t matter how high your IQ is, or how many advanced degrees you have, if you don’t believe God is real, God exists, and God is the Creator God of the universe, then the Bible classifies you as a fool! The person who rejects God is a fool. He says it in his heart, his thinking, that there is no God. So these are the ignorant, foolish men that Peter is talking about here.
He goes on to say, “As free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice [to disguise or to cover-up, the sneakiness of the sin nature], but as bondservants of God.” This is an important word here. I just want to point this out right now. This word “bondservant” is the word DOULOS. Often, in English, because of the fact we don’t have slavery anymore, and for the desire to help people understand and how they can apply it, the word DOULOS is often translated as a “servant” or “bondservant.”
The idea of a DOULOS is a slave. The lowest person in the culture of the day was a slave—he had no rights, he had no privileges, he had no standing before the law. He was virtually invisible and the most disenfranchised person in the culture. Yet this is the term that is used to describe the believer to help get across this idea that we are to be obedient to God, we are to be submissive to God.
We have this word that’s used here, and it sets us up for where Peter is going in the next sections—talking about slaves being submissive to their masters and wives being submissive to their husbands. It would also apply to the fact that we are to be submissive to the governing authorities. All of those are tied together.
But when it comes to talking about being slaves of God and being bond servants of God, it ought to take us back to some critical passages in Paul’s writings. The passage that ought to come to mind is the passage in Romans 6. Remember that at the beginning of Romans 6, Paul sets up a rhetorical question. At the beginning, he says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
What he has done in Romans 5 is to lay out that because of sin God has done all of these things for us, and His grace has abounded to us. So he’s heading off at the pass the rationalization that, “If we did all of that and we got all that grace, let’s sin some more and we will get even more grace!”
“It doesn’t matter. If Christ has paid for our sins, they are paid for. And if I’m forgiven, then let’s just go do whatever I want to do and live licentiously.” That’s the same idea. Paul says, “No. Not at all! May it never be.” Then he sets this discussion up in Romans 6.
But in that discussion what he talks about is that our slavery has changed—that as a Christian we were originally non-Christians and we were slaves to our sin nature. We couldn’t do anything but obey the sin nature. We were as enslaved to the sin nature as anyone who followed Spartacus in his revolt against Rome, as any black slave in America during the time before the American War Between the States. That’s our slavery to the sin nature—no option, only domineering tyranny from the sin nature.
In talking about our freedom from the sin nature, in Romans 6:18, Paul said, “And having been set free.” That’s what happens at salvation—we’re set free. We throw off the chains of the sin nature; it’s still there. We been emancipated, but we’re still living on the plantation. Every time we sin, we go back and say, “Okay, I’m going to put the chains back on.”
So he says, “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” That’s our new position, our new identity. Think back. In the analogy with the blacks who were set free at the end of the War Between the States, they became free, but they still acted and thought like slaves.
You see the same thing with the Jews when they left Egypt; they still thought like slaves. They didn’t think in terms of freedom. That same thing is true for many believers. They don’t think in terms of their new freedom—that we’re no longer slaves of sin, but we are now slaves of righteousness.
The point is, there’s no middle ground. You’re always a slave—you’re either going to be a slave to your sin nature, or you’re going to be a slave to righteousness—but it’s your choice. That goes back to divine institution number one. You and I get to decide, every day, “Am I going to put myself back under the tyranny of my sin nature and live like I’m still a slave to sin, or am I going to realize that I’ve been set free in Christ, that I am now a slave of God, a slave of Christ, and a slave of righteousness?”
In Romans 6:19, Paul goes on to say, “I speak in human terms.” He is just using an analogy to help us understand what he is saying. He says, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh [that’s our mortality]. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness [that was before you were saved], and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present …”
[That’s the command] “Present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” [or for sanctification; or we might translate it, “for spiritual growth.”]
Then, in verse 22, he says, “But now having been set free from sin ...” That’s what happened at salvation. We still have a sin nature, but we’re free from its tyranny. “And having become slaves of God [our new position], you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” No, that’s not eternal life salvation; that is talking about realizing the benefits and the fruits of eternal life today because it’s conditioned upon becoming a slave of God experientially and that leads to the fruit of holiness, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which comes as a result of spiritual growth and walking by the Spirit.
Having said that, Peter then goes on to wrap up this short section dealing with honoring the king. So he summarizes this, and it also sets up a transition into the next section. He says, “Honor all.” Most translations put “people” in there, but that’s the implication. It just says, in the Greek, “Honor all. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
We have four commands there. Grammar is going to play a little bit of an important role here to understand this, but the first command is the priority command. The first command is “Honor all.” It’s the same verb we see at the end with, “Honor the king.” It means to honor him, to respect him. There’s even an implication there of paying taxes.
“Honoring” someone is sometimes used in terms of making payments. For example, Paul in 1 Timothy 4, says that an elder who teaches well is worthy of double honor. That means the pastor should be paid twice what everybody else is; and we live in a culture where the pastor is paid about half, which tells you how well people are really paying attention to the Scripture.
That concept of honor has something to do with finances as well. So there’s an implication that you might see a little subtext there that would include paying taxes, but that’s with “Honor the king.”
“Honor all.” That’s the first command and TIMAO means to pay honor, to respect; it doesn’t necessarily mean to agree with. When you respect the authority of a parent, a husband, a father, a coach, a pastor, a teacher, a military commander—noncom or commissioned officer, that doesn’t mean you agree with them; but you go along with and you obey them without griping or complaining or mumbling or grumbling or having a bad attitude, because they’re the person that God has put in charge over you.
That doesn’t mean you can’t say, “Well, what about this? What about that?” But they may say, “I’m not taking any options. Shut up and do what I told you to do.” I’m sure some of you have said that one way or another to your children or to an employee. Basically, “We’re going to do it the way I said to do it, and you’re gonna like it or you won’t have a job tomorrow.”
That’s the idea. Honor means to respect, obey, and it relates to all. “All” means most people, right? No. “All” means all. Why do we do this? We do this because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we are going to have a respect for them even though we might not agree with them.
That means we have to learn how to disagree—present options like Daniel did, with the wisdom and skill in order to make a case without making personalities or ego an issue.
The second command is to, “Love the brotherhood.” This is the verb AGAPAO. This is the same verb that Jesus used when He gave this command at the end of the seder meal in the upper room. He said that we are to love one another as He loved us. So we are to love the brotherhood; this refers to personal and impersonal love for all believers.
Impersonal love means that we don’t necessarily know them personally. They may be just somebody who comes around, somebody that’s unknown to us, but we are going to show love for them. We’ve studied this. The prime example of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the one traveler is beaten up, left for dead, and robbed. The Samaritan, who is usually maltreated by the Jew, comes along and takes this Jew, binds up his wounds, dresses him, and takes them to an inn. He sees that he’s taken care of, gives him money, and provides for him—not because he is expecting anything in return, but because he’s doing the right thing. He is showing what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We are to love Christians above and beyond that. “Love the brotherhood.”
Then, “Fear God.” This is the word PHOBEO, where the noun is PHOBOS, which is where we get our word “phobia” to indicate fear. It has the idea of showing reverential respect or even obedience. So it is metaphorically used for obedience. We are to fear God, because He is the ultimate authority in the universe. We are to obey Him; He’s mentioned first, ahead of the next one, “Honor the king.”
I want you to notice that in the first one, “Honor all,” we have an aorist imperative, and the next three are all going to be present imperatives. The difference is that the present tense is talking about something that should be a continuous, present reality, standard operating procedure. This should characterize the believer all the time. The first command is stated as an aorist imperative because it’s a priority. It’s emphasizing this—this would be the boldface, almost a summary of the other three.
Then, the last command is to, “Honor the king.” Again, it means to show respect for authority, and it doesn’t mean that you agree with the policy, or the king—you may not even like the person who is in authority—but that’s the closing comment. So that’s the summary.
The idea that we are to “honor all” is very similar to a command that we have at the beginning of the Ephesians 5 section, where Paul talks about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, wives submitting to their husbands, and children obeying their parents. The first command in that string is also a submission command, and it is, “Submit to one another.”
There is this mutual submission; that is, there’s an attempt for believers to get along with each other. That shows that any of the authority relationships—within the home or within society—are not to be seen as just autocratic tyrants handing down dictates from on high. That is not what the Scripture teaches.
We are to love one another and deal with one another. Husbands are to treat their wives—as we’ll see in this passage—as if they are weaker vessels.
I’ve had women say, “The Bible calls me a weaker vessel.” Well, physically, there are elements of being weaker, but I’ve known some women—and you have, too—that are a lot stronger than some men. But the text says treat them “as if they are weaker vessels”—it doesn’t say they are. It’s a comparison; it’s indicating showing respect, and deference, and honor to your wife. It is not making an ontological statement about the weakness of women.
Just as a reminder, as we get ready to go into the next section, I want to remind you about the five divine institutions. I want take a little time tonight and next week, just to refresh our thinking on the divine institutions and put one last little comment in relation to the fourth and fifth divine institutions here.
- First of all, individual responsibility, and there’s an authority there. Every individual is responsible to God for the decisions they make.
- The second divine institution is marriage. The authority is the husband.
- The third divine institution is the family. The authority is the parents.
- The fourth divine institution is human government. Depending upon the form of government—the executive branch, the king, the dictator—whoever it is that’s the person who is in charge.
- Then the nations. Each nation is accountable to God. We see that in passages like Acts 17.
I want you to notice this. This is so important, especially in light of a lot of the debates going on in relation to border security. Open borders is what Hillary Clinton wants. I think on this point alone we have to vote and do whatever we can to keep her out of the presidency, because she wants to open the door to all of the Syrian refugees—not the Christian Syrian refugees, but all of the Muslim refugees. They have an agenda, and that is to destroy this country—religiously, socially, politically, and militarily.
She wants to have open borders, not recognizing where borders come from. Borders are not a human invention, any more than family, or marriage, or personal responsibility are human inventions. These are the institutions of God.
Acts 17:26 says that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” So God is the One Who sets the boundaries.
We see the negative side of this in the Old Testament, that God determines their appointed times, which means their beginning and their end. There is a time when new nations and empires arise and times when they fall and when they collapse.
When God made his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15—isn’t this interesting—he told Abraham that his descendants would leave the land, but then, in the fourth generation, they would return to this land that God was giving them—the land of Canaan. He says, “For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” He is talking about all these ethnic groups—the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites, and all the other “ites” that were hanging out in Canaan at the time.
God said that, “I’m going to treat them in grace.” This is God’s permissive will. We’re going to give them opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to turn to me, and we’re going to let their negative volition, their sinfulness, work itself out until it reaches a point of no return. God does that with human beings too, and then human beings die under the sin unto death. But here He’s going to bring this death to this nation.
He’s announcing that Abraham’s descendants would be out of the land until the sinfulness, the corruption, of the Canaanites reached its full fruition, and then God would remove them from their land because of their sinfulness. And this happens. Look at Leviticus 18:24–25. We have similar statements there. God says to the Israelites before they’re going to go into the land, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things [the idolatrous worship and practices of the Canaanites]; for by all these the nations are defiled.”
So God’s warning the Israelites, “Don’t do what the pagans do, because that defiles you. This is what these nations in the land are doing,” “which I am casting out before you.”
They’ve reached the fruition of their sinfulness, and now God is going to remove them from their land. They no longer will have a right to that land. And God says, “For the land is defiled.”
See, we think our sin is something that only affects us, or the people around us, or human beings, but it affects the land. People, because of their sinfulness, their self-absorption, will abuse the land. They will pollute the land. They will do all kinds of things that destroy the land. They won’t responsibly farm. I’m not talking about environmentalism—that’s another pagan copycat to Scripture.
What Scripture teaches is the responsible use of divine resources. Environmentalism, ultimately, is against human beings using or developing natural resources. But if you’re operating on selfishness, then you’re just going to destroy the land.
If you have read anything about the American aborigines known as the “Indians” that lived here, they were not environmentalists. There is always this lie about, “Oh, they lived so close to nature.” Yea—they lived real close to nature, and they would trash nature. You would have maybe 200–300 Indians living in some encampment. Then once they had trashed it and they had polluted everything around them, they would just pack up and move somewhere else because there was a lot of land and a lot of places to go.
They would ruin one small piece of real estate and then go off somewhere else and then they would ruin that. Not unlike a lot of corporations and industries in America; they’re behaving irresponsibly.
Whenever human beings behave irresponsibly, you’re going to have one of two consequences. Either there’s going to be complete anarchy, because there’s no control and people are just going to go the way of their sin nature, or some authority is going to step in and start taking away personal responsibility. Because if the individuals are not able to take care of themselves and behave responsibly, then the government’s going to fill that vacuum.
That’s where we are today. We have a culture that is becoming more and more irresponsible. They are less and less educated, less and less knowledgeable. They don’t know how to take care of things. And as a result of that, the government is moving into that vacuum. Government always wants to move into that vacuum—because they are power-hungry. They’re moving into that vacuum to take responsibility away from people and take it upon themselves, and that’s illegitimate.
People should have their own responsibility. But as people behave irresponsibly, they will destroy the land. That’s what Leviticus 18:25 means, “For the land is defiled,” because of their negative volition and their horrible practices. “Therefore [God says] I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.”
In both of those passages we see an affirmation that national entities have a right to national borders and that when they abuse that irresponsibly, then God is going to remove them from those borders.
There’s another passage in Leviticus 20:23–24. God says, “And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them.” God has the right to remove people from their nation.
Then we are going to get into this next section. I’ll just get into the first verse a little bit here. It’s addressed to servants, and it addresses them as a class of people. But it’s not the word DOULOI which is the plural of DOULOS.
It is the plural of OIKETES. You may remember that the Greek word is OIKOS, house. It’s combined with NOMOS to mean house law, or economy, or dispensation, OIKONOMIA. But OIKETES is a name for a house slave. He’s not a house servant. He’s not paid. He is a house slave. He is only marginally better—because of his environment—than the field slave. It’s addressed to the lowest echelon of society. It is addressed to those who have no rights, no privileges, no standing before the law, who can be beaten, and can be abused, and can be maltreated, no matter what.
Peter begins at the bottom. He addresses the servants and the slaves, and he says, “Slaves, be submissive to your masters with all fear.” Now remember, we just had that word “fear.” “Fear God.” He’s connecting these ideas together. So we are to fear God, but also the slave is to have that same kind of respect and obedience to his master. This is the word PHOBOS here.
“Be submissive” is the word HUPOTASSO that runs through this whole section. It is a participle here, but a participle often takes a tone of an imperative. So it’s an imperatival participle. It’s a command, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear.”
It doesn’t say, “Be submissive to your masters when they’re right.” It doesn’t say, “Submit to your masters when you agree with them.” It doesn’t say, “Submit to your masters when they have the right idea about how to clean the house, or wash the clothes, or cook the meal.” It’s just a blanket statement—no conditions, no exception. “Be submissive to your masters with all respect [or all fearful reverence].”
Then there’s a qualification here, but it’s not the one we want. It’s not the one any of us like, but it’s important for understanding how God views the significance of authority. It says, “Not only to the good and gentle …” So you can transfer that. Obey the king—not only to the one who’s right and has integrity. Obey your master, not only to the good and gentle, “but also to the harsh”—to the one who’s beating you, to the one who is abusive to you.
In that culture, a slave had no legal right to escape; he would be in trouble. It is different from working for somebody, or being an employee, or being in any situation where you can voluntarily leave to protect yourself. They did not have that option.
They are to submit—not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. The point is, we often justify our disobedience, our lack of respect, our hostility toward someone in authority over us, because we’re saying, “They are just not doing it right. They just are not obeying God. They’re not a believer. They are just as horrible and unethical as they possibly can be.” We think that justifies us. But the Scripture says that two wrongs never make a right. That’s somewhere in 2 Hesitations.
But the point is, doing the right thing the wrong way is wrong, and doing the wrong thing the wrong way is wrong. And only when we do the right thing the right way is it right. So when we have masters—or anyone who is in authority over us—and they are out of line, it doesn’t justify our being out of line.
That word for “harsh” is the word SKOLIOS which means “crooked or bent.” It’s not used in the next verse, but it could apply when wives are told, “Be submissive to your own husbands [not somebody else’s husband—your own husband], that even if some do not obey the word …” See, that’s parallel to being harsh. It’s being disobedient to the Word. He’s carnal. “Well, you can’t ask me to submit to that guy. He is angry. He’s always out of control. He’s so selfish! He never listens to me. He never does whatever it is that I want him to do. Why should I listen to him?” Because the Word of God says so.
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word may be …” Notice, it doesn’t say, “will be.” It is a subjunctive—they might be. They might be “won by the conduct of their wives.” The implication there is, if the wife is rebellious, they probably won’t be won. Okay?
Again, what’s happening here is that Peter is laying down a continued principal through here that the right behavior on the part of the believer is going to possibly give a platform for evangelism. He doesn’t say it will. He’s not saying the flipside is true, but I think the flipside is true—that if you’re disobedient, if you’re rebellious, if you’re griping, you’re complaining, and you’re a grump all the time, you don’t respect your husband’s authority, your boss’s authority, you don’t respect the authority of your parents, then things are not going to go well.
Ephesians 5:21. Opening up that whole passage. Ephesians 5 uses that same terminology, HUPOTASSO, “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” That, I think, is so important. We get into these battles between men and women. I’ve heard this ever since I first went into pastoral ministry, “How can you say women have to submit?” Well, men have to submit too. We’re to submit to one another.
Let’s look at everything in context. The commands in Scripture are not an excuse, husbands, for tyranny, or for not listening to your wife, or not caring about what she wants and what her desires are, listening to her. Frankly, there are a lot of times, men, that life would be a lot better if you would listen to your wives. Trust me. You may not have empirical data on that, but I’ve noticed this many times in ministry that women have a certain perspective that it pays to pay attention to.
One of the things that I have done, ever since I first went into pastoral ministry, is to make sure that whenever I’m counseling a woman alone, or a couple, that I always have, hopefully, a spiritually mature woman who is insightful in the room. Because I had a pastor tell me one time that women can pull the wool over any man’s eyes without him knowing it—any which way they can—and he will be fooled every single time. So you need to always have another woman in the room, because that keeps the woman you’re counseling honest.
I have seen that almost every time I’ve counseled with a woman. Whether it was with the husband and wife combined, or an individual, I have seen this to be true. Probably 95% of the time, the woman that was in there, afterward, said, “Did you notice this? And did you notice that? What about this, and what about that?” I’m like, “I don’t have a clue.” But I immediately know, “You know, you’re absolutely right.” That is very important. Husbands need to pay attention to their wives.
It got Abraham in trouble one time with Hagar. But then after Hagar had Ishmael and he’s having a go around with Sarai, Sarah said, “You need to get rid of her.” When God showed up, God said, “You need to listen to your wife.”
Some people have made a big deal about the first one and said, “See? We wouldn’t have all this Middle Eastern trouble if Abraham had not listened to his wife.” Well, in that instance—if he hadn’t listened to that piece of advice. But later on, God told him to listen to her in other areas; so it’s not a universal.
We have a comparison, then, in Ephesians 5:24. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Now “everything” doesn’t mean everything, because we know that there are exceptions. A husband can’t demand of his wife to do something that’s illegal or immoral, or anything that violates the Word of God. But, other than that, they are to be subject to their husbands like they are subject to the Lord.
I think there’s a barometer there. Now, husbands, you don’t get off scot-free. I think that men who are not submissive to the government tells you a lot about how they’re not submissive to Christ. Every one of us is under authority in one area or another. How you respond to one authority is often a mirror, a barometer, of how you respond to any authority, whether it’s the Lord or someone else. That’s what’s implied here. It gets convicting, so we’ll move on.
Colossians 3:18 echoes that, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” You are not obeying your husband because he’s such a great, wonderful, wise, spiritually mature man. If he’s under 40, he is not even close yet. But you’re submitting to him because the Lord said so—it’s a reflection of your submission and your obedience to the Lord.
Paul, writing to Titus, says, “Exhort bondservants [slaves] to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back.” Don’t be a smart mouth.
“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”
Hebrews 12, divine institution number three, the family. “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits,” and notice a comparison. Your respect for your earthly father mirrors your respect for your Heavenly Father.
James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Even the Lord Jesus Christ submitted to the Father.
1 Corinthians 15:28 says, “Now when all things are made subject to him [that’s the Son], then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him [the Father].” So being submissive is not degrading. It’s not demeaning to submit to an authority. Wives, when you submit to your husband that honors God. Even if the guy is a fool, it honors God. Jesus submits to the Father. This is honorable; it’s not demeaning.
We have a culture, though, that has taught us to think that any talk of submission and obedience in the home is demeaning to women. We have to renovate our thinking in that area. “Now when all things are made subject to Him [the Son], then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him [the Father] who put all things under Him [the Son], that God may be all in all.” That is what happens in the new heavens and the new earth.
What Peter is going to argue here is that learning to submit to an unjust or wrong authority is patterned after Christ. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example.” He’s the TUPOS; He’s the example, the type. “That you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth.’ ”
That’s a quote from Isaiah 53:9. We will look at that next time.
Then the example. “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He turned it over to the Lord and let the Lord handle it. Even though—He was sentenced to death and was crucified a horrible death on the Cross—it was unjust; He submitted to the authority over Him. If He had not submitted to a tyrant, we would not have salvation.
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” This whole section here quotes from Isaiah 53.
In Isaiah 53, we have the Messiah presented as what? The suffering slave. What’s the focus here? It’s on slaves obeying your masters. So, to understand everything that is said about submission in the next two chapters, we go back to what happens with Christ on the Cross. We will resume here next week.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things tonight and to be reminded that we need to develop—and we can only develop it through the Holy Spirit—humility and grace orientation, submission to You. Submission to Your authority means submission to other areas of authority in our lives.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us with these things, that we might have the objectivity to see in each of our lives where we are chafing against the authorities that are over us, and that we might learn true humility and true submission. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”