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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Standing Strong In The Midst of Suffering

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this lesson is on Peter’s urging believers to trust God in every circumstance even though sometimes it may not be an easy thing to do.



July 13

Focused Faith


July 20

Active Faith


July 27

Enduring Faith


Aug. 03

Ready Faith


Aug. 10

Joyful Faith


Aug. 17

Victorious Faith



Trust God in every circumstance.


1 Peter 2:13-23





Do What Is Good & Right Because You Serve God (1 Pet. 2:13-17)

Endure Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1 Pet. 2:18-20)

Trust God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1 Pet. 2:21-23)


Contrary to the relatively tolerant society in which today’s American Christian dwells, the believers of Peter’s day lived under the stern authority of a government that practiced cruelty toward anyone who would question its judgment or rebel against its rule.  What’s more, the rulers in Rome were turning up the heat on this strange new sect that refused to worship its pantheon of gods, claiming instead to follow an itinerant Nazarene preacher whom they already had executed by crucifixion.  As a result, the rights of these Christ-followers were increasingly ifnored or denied, replaced by discrimination and persecution.  Led by the Spirit to realize that their situation would only worsen, Peter instructed his readers on how to properly respond to the evil that reigned over them.  Their circumstances were not merely difficult and unfair; they were demanding, dangerous, and even deadly.  The understandable and natural reaction to such harsh and unfair conditions would be to angrily object.  But, despite their daunting circumstances, these followers of Christ were called on to submit to all earthly authority.  What’s more, they were not only to submit with meekness, but they also were to honor with allegiance those who wielded the sword of authority over them.  Peter had two powerful reasons for issuing such a demanding challenge—the teachings of the Word and the example of the Word made flesh: Jesus Christ.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


 We love our rights and we want to exercise those rights.  Sometimes our rights are trampled on by others.  How are we to respond?  At other times we need to make our rights secondary to the rights of others.  Submission is not a popular word in a culture focused on claiming one’s rights.  Yet that is just the kind of life Christians are called to life.  As followers of Jesus, we can live the submissive life because we have an enduring faith that trusts God in every circumstance, even those where our personal rights are disregarded by others.  The Apostle Peter offers believers some insight into how to please God by submitting to and honoring earthly authorities, even those who practiced cruelty toward them.  Our study should help us to practice godly living every day.

Introduction is adapted from the following source:

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Do What Is Good & Right Because You Serve God (1 Pet. 2:13-17)

13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.    15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.  16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil.  17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.








1.        What obligation do you think believers have toward governing authorities?

2.        What is the motive for doing so?

3.        What is one positive benefit that comes from those who (do well, KJV) do what is good (v. 15)?

4.        How does being slaves to God set believers free (v. 16)?

5.        To whom is the Christian to submit (v. 13)?

6.        What is the God-ordained purpose of governing authorities (v. 14)?

7.        Why do you think it is God’s will for His people to do good (v. 15)?

8.        How would you describe the ignorance of foolish people (v. 15)?

9.        How does believers doing good silence the ignorance of foolish people (v. 15)?

10.     What is the peculiar paradox of Christian slavery (v. 16)?

11.     How is God’s slave  to live as free (v. 16)?

12.     Why do you think the precious freedoms God has blessed us with do not give us license to do whatever we please?

13.     How do you think a believer could use their freedom to conceal evil (v. 16)? 

14.     Why do you think a believer would do this?

15.     To whom is the Christian to display honor . . . love . . . fear (v. 17)?

16.     How do we submit to and honor leaders with whom we disagree?

17.     What should a Christian do when the legal authority abuses the governing law of the land?

18.     What would Jesus do?  (See Matt. 26:59-67.)


Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 2:13-17:

1.  Respect of authority is an essential characteristic of true Christianity.

2.  Civil government has a divine mandate to maintain law and order.

3.  Respect for authority stifles the critics of Christianity.

4.  A child of God is a slave of God.



Endure Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1 Pet. 2:18-20)

18 Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.  19 For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly.  20 For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.

1.     Do you think the Bible condones slavery or simply acknowledges the reality of its existence?  Why, or why not?

2.     How are slaves to respond to their masters (v. 18)?

3.     How would you explain the application of verse 19 to our society today?

4.     What are some kinds of situations that you think would cause someone to suffer unjustly (v. 19)?

5.     What affect should the disposition of the master have on the slaves’ response (v. 19)?

6.     How do you think we are to mindful of and apply God’s will for living in today’s world (v. 19)?

7.     Is verse 19 conditional?  If so, what part does being mindful of God’s Will play in enduring unjust suffering?

8.     What encouragement did Peter offer to those who suffered unjustly (v. 20)?

9.     What does verses 19 & 20 imply regarding suffering in the life of a believer?

10.  Based on these verses, what type of behavior brings favor with God (v. 21)?

11.  Based on these verses, how do you think we are to understand and apply God’s command to submit for living in today’s society?

12.  Have you every endured persecution or hostility because of your faith?

13.  If so, how were you able to persevere?

14.  Why do you think believers sometimes fail to turn to God’s Holy Spirit for help in times of unjust suffering?

15.  Why do you think a God of love would allow His children to suffer unjustly?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 2:18-20:

1.  Submission is the normative attitude for all Christians, at all times.

2.  Our kindness to others is not to be based on proper treatment or ideal circumstances.

3.  Those who faithfully endure can confidently anticipate God’s gracious reward.



Trust God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1 Pet. 2:21-23)

21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.  22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth;  23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

1.     Do you think most people think of being called as to missionary work or to preach the gospel?  Why, or why not?

2.     To what do you think believers are called (v. 21)?

3.     In what situation is Christ the perfect example (v. 21)?

4.     In what ways did Christ demonstrate what it means to endure suffering with patience (v. 23a)?

5.     Why was Christ able to do so (v. 23b)?

6.     What does it mean when you (a believer) have entrusted yourself to the One who judges justly (v. 23)?

7.     How do you think Christ’s example should influence our behavior when we suffer at the hands of others?

8.     How do you think following Christ’s example during one’s time of unjust suffering exalts Him?

9.     How do you think this would impact your witness?  Why?

10.  Have there are times when you have found yourself in the middle of painful suffering when you have failed to stay focused on Christ?  Why do you think this happens?

11.  What are some things a believer can do to keep focused on Christ during times of unjust suffering?

12.  How are you prepared to endure our culture’s hostility toward you, as a believer, when it comes?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 2:21-23:

1.  A Christ-follower is one who answered the call to salvation.

2.  A Christ-follower is called to faithfully endure suffering.

3.  A Christ-follower is called to imitate the example of Christ in His suffering.

4.  A Christ-follower is called to entrust himself to a God who judges justly.



The power to live in obedience to God and endure suffering for His sake is impossible apart from the saving grace God gives to those who place their faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  God calls on His people to trust Him in every circumstance; to submit to His will—to live holy lives.  That can be tough to do, but it’s essential for us grow into a mature faith.  For us to  experience sustainable spiritual growth into a mature faith, we must be submissive to God’s will for our lives.

So, how mature is your faith?  On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) how would you measure: (1) the maturity of your faith in God; and (2) how sustainable is your maturity growth?   Never lose sight of the goodness of God.  Remember, mature faith will equip you for godly service in the face of hardships and suffering and that will bring honor and glory to the One Who empowers and sustains you.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Enduring Faith — Lesson Outline & Commentary

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: 1 Peter 2:13-23

 13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.  15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.  17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.  18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.  19For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.  20For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  (KJV)

New International Version: 1 Peter 2:13-23

 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.  18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.   19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.        22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.    (NIV)


New Living Translation: 1 Peter 2:13-23

13 For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.  15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.   16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.  17 Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters.£ Fear God, and respect the king.  18 You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect.£ Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.  19 For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.  20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.  21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered£ for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  22 He never sinned,  nor ever deceived anyone.  23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.   He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.   (NLT)





Do What Is Good & Right Because You Serve God (1 Pet. 2:13-17)

Endure Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1 Pet. 2:18-20)

Trust God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1 Pet. 2:21-23)

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Pulpit Commentary,Believer’s Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 22: Peter-Revelation – 1 Peter 2:13-23

Verse 13.  Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man. The aorist passive (ὑποτάγητε) is used, as often, in a middle sense. The word for “ordinance” is κτίσις, which in classical Greek means “foundation,” as of a city; but in the New Testament is used elsewhere only of the works of God, in the sense of “creation,” or “a creature” (see Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23, etc.). Hence some, as De Wette, translate the words, “to every human creature,” supporting their view by 1 Peter 5:5. But on the whole this seems unlikely; ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις is a strange and awkward periphrasis for ἄνθρωπος. It is better to understand it as meaning a human creation or foundation. Certainly “there is no power but of God” (Romans 13:1); but the form which that power assumes is a human institution. St. Peter bids his readers to submit themselves to the de facto form of government. For the Lord's sake. Not from human motives, as fear of punishment; but for the Lord's sake, because “the powers that be are ordained of God,” and in obeying them we obey the ordinance of God. Christians were commonly accused of insubordination, of doing “contrary to the decrees of Caesar” (Acts 17:7); they must show by their conduct that these accusations are false, that the progress of the gospel be not hindered. Whether it be to the king, as supreme. By “the king” is meant the Roman emperor, who was frequently so described in the Greek writers. Nero was emperor when St. Peter wrote. Christians were to obey even him, wicked tyrant as he was; for his power was given him from above, as the Lord himself had said of Pilate (John 19:11).

Verse 14.  Or unto governors, as ante them that are sent by him; literally, through him. Some commentators, following Calvin, understand the pronoun of the Lord. Certainly, governors are sent through him; he “ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth.” But it seems more natural in this place to refer the pronoun to the nearer substantive, the king; it was through the Roman emperor that the various governors, legates, etc., were sent from time to time (as the Greek present participle implies) to administer the provinces. For the punish-meat of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. Observe the close resemblance to Romans 13:3, 4. St. Peter recognizes the Roman sense of justice which we see in men like Festus and Gallio. At first the Jews were the persecutors of the Christians; the Roman magistrates were their protectors. St. Peter wrote before the great outbreaks of Roman persecution; he was himself to suffer under that emperor whose authority he upheld.

Verse 15.  For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. The Gentiles speak against the Christians as evil-doers; they are to put their accusers to silence by well-doing; this is to be their answer rather than indignant self-vindication. The Greek word rendered “put to silence” (φιμοῦν) means literally “to muzzle” (comp. Matthew 22:12; Mark 4:39; 1 Corinthians 9:10). The word for “ignorance” (ἀγνωσία) occurs, besides this passage, only in 1 Corinthians 15:34, where it evidently means “culpable, self-caused ignorance.” The word for “foolish” (ἄφρων) is a strong one — it means “senseless” (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:36). Here it has the article, “the foolish men,” i.e. those “who speak against you as evil-doers.”

Verse 16.  As free. This verse is not to be taken with what follows, for it does not well cohere with the contents of ver. 17; but either with ver. 14 (Ver. 15 being regarded as parenthetical) or with ver. 15, notwithstanding the change of case in the original, which presents no real difficulty; the meaning being that Christian freedom must show itself, not in license, but in willing obedience to constituted authorities: “Not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5). Those whom the truth makes free are free indeed, but true freedom implies submission to legitimate authority. And not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; literally, not having your liberty as a cloak. The word rendered “cloak” (ἐπικάλυμμα) is used in the Septuagint (Exodus 26:14) for the covering of the tabernacle. The pretence of Christian liberty must not be made a covering, a concealment, of wickedness. But as the servants of God. The truest liberty is that of the servants of God; his service is perfect freedom (comp. Romans 6:16-23).

Verse 17.  Honor all men. St. Peter illustrates the well-doing which he enjoins in ver. 15, drawing out his general exhortation into four rules of conduct. First, he bids us give honor to all men. The Christians of Asia Minor saw heathenism and vice all around them; they heard of the abominable life of Nero and his courtiers at Rome. They were conscious of a great and elevating change which had passed over themselves; St. Peter has just been enumerating the dignities and privileges of the Christian life. But they must not be lifted up; they must despise no one, but honor in all men the handiwork of God, created after God's own image, though sadly marred and defaced by sin. Respect is due to all men, of course in varying degrees and to be shown in different ways; but in some sense it is due to all, to the humblest and even to the worst. The aorist imperative (τιμήσατε) seems to lay down this principle as a sharp, definite rule, to be accepted at once, and to be applied as need arises, according to the circumstances of each case. The three following imperatives are present; the duties which they prescribe are viewed as continuous, recognized elements in well-doing. There was something new and strange in the command to honor all men; it is expressed forcibly, once for all, by the aorist imperative. Love the brotherhood. The word ἀδελφότης, brotherhood, is peculiar to St. Peter; it stands for the aggregate of Christian brethren regarded as one body in Christ. The Lord bids us “love our enemies.” St. Peter's rule does not weaken the force of the Savior's precept. But love must vary in depth and degree according to the varying relations of life; and the love which true Christians feel for the like-minded must be one of its strongest forms. Fear God. Honor the king. The holy fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God as the King of kings will lead us to give due honor to earthly princes, who rule by his controlling providence. It was especially necessary to urge the fear of God as a motive, when the king to be honored was such as Nero.

Verse 18.  Servants. The word is not δοῦλοι, slaves,but οἰκέται, household servants, domestics. St. Peter may have used it as a less harsh term, in Christian kindliness and courtesy; or he may have chosen it purposely to include the large class of freedmen and other dependents who were to be found in the houses of the great. The frequent mention of slaves in the Epistles shows that many of the first Christians must have been in a condition of servitude (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1, 2, etc.). It was only natural that men should feel uneasy and irritable under the yoke of slavery as they came to learn the equality of all men in the sight of God, and to understand the blessed privileges and the high hopes of Christians. The apostles counseled submission and resignation to the will of God. Slavery was an unnatural institution; it must in time disappear under the softening influences of the gospel. But Christian slaves were to wait in faith and patience. The sacred writers use language of studied moderation, carefully avoiding any expressions which might be regarded as exciting to violence or revolutionary outbreaks. Be subject to your masters with all fear. The participle ὑποτασσόμενοι seems to look back to the imperative ὑποτάγητε in ver. 13; the relation of slaves to their lords being one of the ordinances of man alluded to there (comp. Ephesians 6:5, where St. Paul bids slaves to be obedient to their masters “with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”). The holy fear of God, by whose providence they were set in that lowly station, would involve the fear of failing in their duty to their masters. All fear; not only fear of punishment, but also fear of neglecting duty. Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Servants must not make the character of their masters an excuse for disobedience; if their masters are froward (σκολιοί, literally, “crooked, perverse”), still they must be submissive to the wilt of God.

Verse 19.  For this is thankworthy; literally, this is grace (comp. Luke 6:32, Ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; “What thank have ye?” where the parallel passage in St. Matthew is Τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; “What reward have ye?”). A comparison of these passages seems to show that χάρις and μισθός are used in a similar sense as expressive of God's condescending love. In his gracious tenderness he speaks of reward, though we deserve only punishment; he even speaks of thanks, though we deserve only condemnation. Other possible explanations are, “This is the work of God's grace;” or, “This is lovely;” or, “This is favor;” or “This implies” or “This causes favor with God.” If a man for conscience toward God; literally, for conscience of God; that is, consciousness of God's presence, of his will, of our duties to him. This is better than to take the genitive as subjective, and to interpret, “because of the consciousness of God,” because he sees and knows all that we do and say and think (comp. 1 Corinthians 8:7, where “conscience of the idol” seems to mean a belief or half-belief in the real existence of the god supposed to be represented by the idol). Endure grief, suffering wrongfully; literally, griefs, λύπας (comp. λυπηθέντες, 1 Peter 1:6). St. Peter echoes our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:39).

Verse 20.  For what glory is it? The word translated “glory” (κλέος), common in Greek poetry, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, first, “rumor, report;” then “fame, renown.” If, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently; literally, if sinning and being buffeted. The word translated “buffeted” (κολαφιζόμενοι), used by St. Matthew and St. Mark in describing our Savior's sufferings, has a figurative meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7. It is probably used literally here; blows were a common occurrence in the life of slaves. To be patient when suffering deserved punishment is often difficult, but it is no more than a simple duty; it would not be for the glory of religion. Christian slaves ought to do their duty to their masters, and not deserve punishment. But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; literally, but if doing well, and suffering. The words “for it” are not in the Greek. This is acceptable with God. If we read “for” (τοῦτο γὰρ), with some of the best manuscripts, we must supply “there is glory” after the last clause. “It, doing well and suffering, ye take it patiently, there is glory (κλέος), for this is thank-worthy (χάρις) with God.” Such conduct will bring honor to Christianity, for it is thankworthy even in the sight of God. When Christian men and women took cruel sufferings patiently and joyfully, as the apostles did (Acts 5:41; 16:25), that was more than a mere recognized duty — that showed the power of Christian motives, that brought glory to Christianity, and was held to be thankworthy (such is God's gracious condescension) even in the sight of God. The word for “acceptable” here is that translated “thankworthy” in ver. 19.

Verse 21.  For even hereunto were ye called; that is, to do good and to suffer patiently (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Omit “even,” for which there is no authority. St. Peter is speaking of slaves, but what he says of slaves is true in some sense of all Christians (comp. Acts 14:22). Because Christ also suffered for us; rather, for you, with the oldest manuscripts. You do not suffer alone; Christ also suffered, and that for you slaves, on your behalf. “Christ himself,” says Bengel, “was treated as a slave; he deigns to exhibit his own conduct as an example to slaves.” Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. The oldest manuscripts have the second person here in both places. Leaving (ὑολιμπάνων), leaving behind; Bengel says, “in abitu ad pattern.” The Greek for “example” is ὑπογραμμός — a word which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a copy set by a writing or drawing master, which was to be exactly reproduced by his pupils (see 2 Macc. 2:28, in the Greek). The life of Christ is our model. In particular St. Peter urges us to imitate the Lord's patience in suffering undeserved afflictions. In the last clause the figure is changed to that of a guide along a difficult route, so difficult that those who follow must put their feet in his footprints. We should follow his steps, one by one, closely following him, as the word ἐπακολουθήσητε means (comp. Mark 16:20; 1 Timothy 5:10, 24).

Verse 22.  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 53:9, almost exactly, the word ἁμαρτίαν, sin, being substituted for ἀνομίαν, lawlessness (“violence” in our version). We should notice that the Messiah, whose example is here set before Christian slaves, is called by the prophet “the Servant of Jehovah” (Isaiah 52:13). Slaves were often tempted to deceit and guile; they must look to the Lord Jesus, and strive to copy his innocence and his truth. The verb εὑρίσκεσθαι, to be found, is sometimes said to be used, by a Hebraism, for the simple verb “to be.” Winer says, “Between these two verbs, however, there is always this distinction, that, whilst εἶναι, indicates the quality of a thing in itself, εὑρίσκεσθαι indicates the quality in so far as it is discovered, detected, recognized, in the subject” (‘Greek Grammar,’ 65:8).

Verse 23.  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not (comp. Isaiah 53:7). The Lord again and again denounced the hypocrisy and unbelief of the Pharisees; he bade Caiaphas remember the coming judgment. But that was the language of prophetic warning, the sternness of love. He sets before them the impending punishment, that they may take heed in time and escape from the wrath to come. In the midst of his strongest invective against the sins and hollow unreality of Pharisaism there is an outburst of the deepest love, the tenderest concern (Matthew 23:27). But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. The verb “committed” παρεδίδου) is without an object in the original. Most commentators supply “himself,” or “his cause;” others, “his sufferings;” some, as Alford, “those who inflicted them.” Perhaps the last explanation is the best: he left them to God, to God's mercy, if it might be; to his judgment, if it must be. There may be a reference to his prayer, “Father, forgive them.” Compare by contrast the language of Jeremiah, speaking in the spirit of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 11:20 and 20:12). There is a curious reading, entirely without the authority of existing Greek manuscripts, represented by the Vulgate, Tradebat judicanti se injuste, as if the words were understood of the Lord's submitting himself “to one who judged unrighteously,” that is, to Pilate.

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary;  Volume 22:  Peter-Revelation; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.


Believer's Bible Commentary: 1 Peter 2:13-23

As a Citizen in Relation to Government (2:13-17)

2:13.  The next five verses deal with the Christian's relation toward government. The key word here is submit. In fact, the injunction to submit is found four times in the Epistle.

Citizens are to submit to the government (2:13).

Slaves are to submit to their masters (2:18).

Wives are to submit to their husbands (3:1).

Younger believers are to submit to the elders (5:5).

Lyall says: The ultimate Christian answer to persecution, detractors and critics is that of a blameless life, conduct beyond reproach and good citizenship. In particular... submission is a supremely Christlike virtue.

Human governments are instituted by God (Rom. 13:1). Rulers are God's servants (Rom. 13:4). Even if the rulers are not believers, they are still God's men officially. Even if they are dictators and tyrants, their rule is better than no rule at all. The complete absence of rule is anarchy, and no society can continue under anarchy. So any government is better than no government at all. Order is better than chaos. Believers should submit to every human institution for the Lord's sake. In doing so, they are fulfilling His will and doing the thing that pleases Him. These instructions apply to the emperor or to whoever is the supreme ruler. Even if Nero happens to be occupying the imperial palace, the general exhortation is to be subject to him.

2:14.  The injunction of obedience applies to subordinate officials such as governors. They are authorized by God to punish offenders and to praise those who keep the law. Actually, government officials have little time or inclination to do the latter, but that does not alter the responsibility of the Christian to obey! The historian Arnold Toynbee observed that "as long as original sin remains an element in human nature, Caesar will always have plenty to do."

Of course, there are exceptions. There is a time when obedience is not required. If a human government orders a believer to act contrary to the revealed will of God, then the believer must disobey the government. In that case he has a higher responsibility; he should obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). If punishment is meted out for his disobedience, he should endure it courageously. Under no circumstances should he rebel or seek to overthrow the government.

Technically, those who smuggle Bibles into closed countries are breaking the law. But they are obeying a law that has precedence over any human law—the command to go into all the world with the gospel. So they cannot be condemned on scriptural grounds.

Suppose the government orders a Christian into the armed forces. Is he obligated to obey and to bear arms? If he feels that this is in direct violation of God's word, he should first exhaust any options that are open to him in the status of a non-combatant or a conscientious objector. If these fail, then he would have to refuse induction and bear the consequences.

Many Christians do not have conscientious scruples about serving in the military forces. It is a matter in which each one should be fully convinced in his own mind, and allow liberty for others to disagree.

The questions as to whether a Christian should vote or engage in politics are of a different order. The government does not demand these things, so it is not a question of obedience or disobedience. Each one must act in the light of the principles of conduct and citizenship found in the Bible. Here too we must allow liberty for differing viewpoints and not insist that others see eye to eye with us.

2:15.  God's will is that His people should live so honorably and unblamably that the unconverted will have no legitimate basis for accusation. By lives of exemplary conduct, Christians can and should expose the ignorance of the charges made against Christianity by foolish men.

Christians and the Christian faith are ceaselessly bombarded by the ignorance of foolish men. It may be in the university classroom; it may be in the science laboratory; it may be in the pulpit. Peter says that one of the best answers to such blasting is a holy life.

2:16.  Act as free men. We are not in bondage or slavery to civil authorities. We need not live in servility or terror. After all, we are the Lord's free men. But that does not mean we are free to sin. Liberty does not mean license. Freedom does not include lawlessness. So we must never use our freedom as a pretext for evil. Sinful disobedience should never be justified by some pseudo spiritual excuse. The cause of Christ is never advanced by evil masquerading in religious clothes.

If we live as bondservants of God, our relationship with governmental authorities will fall into proper place. We are to act in the light of His presence, obey Him in all things, do all for His glory. The best citizen is a believer who lives as a slave of the Lord. Unfortunately, most governments don't realize how much they owe to Christians who believe and obey the Bible.

Ponder the expression bondservants of God. "Heaven takes our most dreaded terms," F. B. Meyer writes, "and makes them sparkle in its own light, till what seemed the synonym of terror becomes the target of our noblest aims."

2:17.  No relationship of life can be left outside the sphere of Christian responsibility. So Peter here runs the gamut with four crisp commands.

Honor all people. We cannot always honor their words or their behavior, but we can remember that every single life is of more value than all the world. We can recognize that every person was made in the image and likeness of God. We must never forget that the Lord Jesus bled and died for even the most unworthy.

Love the brotherhood. We are to love all men, but we are especially obligated to love the members of our spiritual family. This is a love like God's love for us. It is utterly undeserved, it goes out to the loveless, it looks for no reward, and it is stronger than death.

Fear God. We fear Him when we reverence Him as the supreme Lord. Glorifying Him then becomes our number one priority. We fear doing anything that would displease Him and we fear misrepresenting Him before men.

Honor the king. Peter returns to the subject of human rulers for a final reminder. We are to respect our rulers as officials appointed by God for the maintenance of an ordered society. This means we must pay "taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear" (Rom. 13:7). Generally speaking, the Christian can live under any form of government. The only time he should disobey is when he is ordered to compromise his loyalty or obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a Servant in Relation to His Master (2:18-23)

2:18.  It is significant that the NT gives more instructions to servants than to kings. Many of the early believers were servants, and the Scripture shows that most Christians came from the middle or lower strata of society (Matt. 11:5; Mark 12:37; 1 Cor. 1:26-29).

This passage is addressed to domestic servants, but the principles apply to employees of any kind. The basic appeal is to submit to the master with all respect. It is a built-in fact of life that in any society or organization, there must be authority on the one hand, and obedience to that authority on the other. It is for any servant's own good to submit to his master, otherwise he would not have employment. But it is much more important for a Christian to submit. More than his paycheck is involved; his testimony depends on it.

Obedience should not vary according to the temperament of the employer. Anyone can submit to an employer who is good and gentle. Believers are called to go beyond that and be respectful and obedient to the harsh, overbearing boss. This stands out as distinctly Christian behavior.

2:19.  When we suffer unjustly, we win God's approval. He is pleased when He finds us so conscious of our relation to Him that we endure undeserved pain without vindicating self or fighting back. When we meekly take unjust treatment, we display Christ; this supernatural life gains God's "Well done."

2:20.  There is no virtue in patient suffering for our own misdeeds. Certainly there is no glory for God in it. Such suffering will never mark us out as Christians, or make others want to become Christians. But suffering patiently for well-doing is the thing that counts. It is so unnatural, so other-worldly that it shocks people into conviction of sin and, hopefully, into salvation.

2:21.  The thought of believers' suffering for righteousness' sake leads inevitably to this sublime passage on our great example, the Lord Jesus. No one was ever treated as unjustly as He, or bore it as patiently.

We have been called to act as He acted, suffering for the wrongs of others. The word used here for example carries the idea of a copybook that contains flawless penmanship. The pupil seeks to reproduce the original as closely as possible. When he copies the model carefully, his writing is quite good. But the further he moves away from it, the more the copy worsens. Our safety is in staying close to the Original.

2:22.  Our Lord did not suffer for His own sins because He had none. "He knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21); He committed no sin (this verse); "in Him there is no sin" (1 Jn. 3:5).

His speech was never tainted by deceit. He never lied or even shaded the truth. Think about that! A Person once lived on this planet who was absolutely honest, absolutely free from trickery or deceit.

2:23.  He was patient under provocation. When He was reviled, He did not pay back in kind. When blamed He did not answer back. When accused He did not defend Himself. He was wondrously free from the lust of self-vindication.

An unknown author has written:

It is a mark of deepest and truest humility to see ourselves condemned without cause, and to be silent under it. To be silent under insult and wrong is a very noble imitation of our Lord. When we remember in how many ways He suffered, who in no way deserved it, where are our senses when we feel called to defend and excuse ourselves?

When He suffered, He did not threaten. "No ungentle, threatening word escaped His silent tongue." Perhaps His assailants mistook His silence for weakness. If they had tried it they would have found it was not weakness but supernatural strength!

What was His hidden resource in bearing up under such unprovoked abuse? He trusted God who judges righteously. And we are called to do the same:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore, "if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19-21).

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: 1 Peter 2:13-23

2:13. Although believers are citizens of heaven, they should obey civil laws while on earth. They should "submit" themselves (hupotagete, subordinate, be in subjection, as in 3:22) to every "ordinance" (ktisei, institution) of man for the Lord's sake, and should honor the king as being "supreme" (huperechonti, prime authority, having superiority) in his earthly realm. Christians should obey their earthly king, Peter said, as long as it did not require disobeying their heavenly King. Sometimes Christians have to choose between the two loyalties (see Acts 4:19,20), but Peter made it clear that Christians should be on the side of law and order.

2:14. "Governors" (hēgemosin, chief rulers) are dispatched by the king not only for the "punishment" (ekdikēsin, vengeance, retribution) of "evildoers" (kakopoiōn, malefactors, criminals) but also for the "praise" (epainon, commendation) of those who "do well" (agathopoiōn, are virtuous). Therefore, believers should be in subjection as a good testimony for their Lord, so the rulers will commend them (see also Romans 13:3,4).

2:15. It is God's "will" (thelēma, purpose, desire, pleasure, as in Revelation 4:11) that believers should "put to silence" (phimoun, muzzle, make speechless, as in Matthew 22:12) their slanderers by "well-doing" (agathopoiountas, being virtuous, of good reputation; see also 1 Peter 2:20; 3:16,17). Peter called the slanderers "foolish" men (aphronōn, stupid, egotistic, unwise, as in 2 Corinthians 11:16). A believer's only protection against slander is a transparently godly life. This may not save them from trouble but it is its own witness to the truth.

2:16. Peter told believers to submit to civil authority willingly (not of compulsion) as men who are "free" (from elutheria, freedom from bondage) and not using that freedom as a "cloak" (epikalumma, veil, covering) of "maliciousness" (kakias, evil, spite, wickedness, as in 2:1). Instead of using their liberty as a pretext to do evil, they should use it as "servants of God" (douloi theou, bondservants of God). Peter and other apostles liked to call themselves slaves of God (see 2 Peter 1:1; Romans 1:1; James 1:1). Everyone is either a servant of God or a slave to sin (see 2 Peter 2:19). No one has absolute personal freedom. To be free indeed the believer must subject himself to the Word of Christ (John 8:31,32).

2:17. Peter gave four directives which are brief in expression but broad in implementation. He told believers to (1) "honor" (timēsate, esteem, respect) all men, whether they deserve it or not; (2) "love" (agapate, love much) the "brotherhood" (adelphotēta, the Christian fraternity); (3) "fear" (phobeisthe, be in awe, revere) God; (4) "honor" (timate, esteem, respect) the "king" (basilea, sovereign). Though he directed believers to honor all men, Peter specifically mentioned the king; the language used in his first directive indicates that some men deserve more honor than others. In each of the three latter directives the Greek verb denotes continuous action: believers should keep on loving the brotherhood; they should keep on fearing God; they should keep on honoring the king.

2:18. Many of the believers to whom Peter was writing were slaves, so verses 18-25 are directed to them. He called them "servants" (oiketai, a menial domestic, household bondservant, as distinguished from doulos, the general term for slaves).

Peter's statements are imperatives. He directed them to be "subject" (hupotassomenoi, obey, be submissive) to their masters with all "fear" (phobō, alarm, awe), not only to the "good" (agathois, benevolent) and "gentle" (epieikesin, moderate, patient, as in James 3:17), but also to the "froward" (skoliois, unfair, crooked, as in Philippians 2:15). Some slave owners were kind, others were not. The test of obedience is to believers whose masters are oppressive (see Matthew 5:44-46). Similar directions to bondservants are given in Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1,2; Titus 2:9.

It was not easy to be a slave in the First Century, even under the best of circumstances. It must have been a great test of a Christian slave to be submissive to a cruel master.

2:19. Peter said "this" (obedience to oppressive masters) is "thankworthy" (charis, gratifying, cause for thanks, as in Romans 6:17 and 2 Corinthians 2:14). God is pleased if a man or woman will "endure" (hupopherei, stay under, bear up, as in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and 2 Timothy 3:11) "grief" (lupas, heaviness, sorrows; the word is plural). This must be with a "conscience" (suneidēsin, moral consciousness, sense of duty; also in 3:16,21) toward God, "suffering" (paschōn, to experience sensation, feel pain) "wrongfully" (adikōs, unjustly). If the suffering arises from the servant's faith in the gospel, his patient endurance is all the more "thankworthy."

2:20. What kind of "glory" (kleos, renown, praise) is there if, when a person is "buffeted" (kolaphizomenoi, beaten physically, as in Matthew 26:67) for his own "faults" (hamartanontes, repeated shortcomings, trespasses, sins, offenses), he shall "take it patiently" (hupomeneite, stay under, bear up, endure, as in Matthew 10:22 and James 1:12)? Christians may suffer because of misconduct, but only those who suffer for righteousness' sake are martyrs (Matthew 5:11,12). But if a person shall "do well" (agathopoiountes, be virtuous, as in 2:15; 3:16,17) and suffer, and if he takes it patiently, this is "acceptable with God" (charis para theō, thankworthy, cause for thanks as God looks at it, as in 2:19).

2:21. "For even hereunto" (to suffer patiently) were they "called" (eklēthēte, summoned, as in 1 Peter 1:15; 2:9; 3:9; 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3) because Christ also suffered for them, "leaving" (hupolimpanon, to bequeath) them an "example" (hupogrammon, something to copy, a writing-copy for others to imitate) that they should follow his "steps" (ichnesin, tracks, footprints, as in Romans 4:12 and 2 Corinthians 12:18). One of the great guidelines a believer may adopt as a standard for behavior in any situation is to ask himself, "What would Jesus do?"

2:22. As prophesied in Isaiah 53:9, Christ "did no sin." Peter had already pointed to His sinlessness in 1:19. Neither was "guile" (dolos, deceit, subtlety, trickery, as also in 1 Peter 2:1; 3:10) "found" (heurethē, perceived, discovered after close scrutiny) in His "mouth" (stomati, implies speaking, as in 2 Corinthians 13:1).

2:23. The natural reaction to abuse is to retort in anger, trade insult for insult, and threaten to get even. Christ's example is the opposite. When "reviled" (loidoroumenos, slander, insult; the language denotes repeated incidents) He reviled not. (See 1 Corinthians 4:12.) When He "suffered" (paschōn, experience pain) He did not threaten or menace anyone in return. To follow such an example will require an attitude of forgiveness toward our opponents and of trust toward God. Christ's suffering was undeserved, but He simply "committed himself" (paredidou, as an accused man is handed over to a judge) to Him who judges (decides) "righteously" (dikaiōs, justly, equitably).

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



Submit—Submit or “be subject” (ESV) in verse 13 gives  the word picture of a soldier obediently aligning himself under the authority of those who commanded him.  This is a more accurate understanding of the word hypotagete, which some scholars define merely as “deference” or “respect,”  Instead, submission strongly implies steadfast obedience.  This obedience, however, is not without qualification, as Scripture makes clear that our ultimate obedience is to God, which must therefore always take precedence whenever His demands are in conflict with earthly authorities.  Peter also pointed out that this submissive attitude is to be displayed in a variety of relationships, including master and slave (2:18), husband and wife (3:1,5), and younger men and elders (5:5).

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Submit: The Greek word behind submit (v. 13; hypotassi) comes from a military term that means “to fall in order under the command of a leader.”  In non-military use it represented a voluntary attitude marked by “a willingness to give in, to cooperate with, to subordinate one’s self to another.”  It may be rendered as “be subject” (ESV) or “accept the authority of” (NRSV).  The word implies obedience.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Honor—Honor goes beyond mere obedience; to honor someone is to hold them in high esteem.  One can readily see how this would pose a significant challenge, in Peter’s world as well as ours, when those persons in positions of authority are irresponsible, careless, demanding, or even dangerous.  But it should also be noted that to honor someone is distinct from showing love or fear.  While the Christian is called on to “honor everyone,” including “the Emperor” (v. 17), he is to “fear God” in a unique and superior sense.  It should also be noted that while we are to “honor everyone” (v. 17), we are not called on to submit to everyone.  Honor, however, should be displayed far more generously and widely than is typically seen.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Honor: To honor (v. 17; timao) is “to assign value to, to show respect for, to give recognition to.”  The renderings given in some Bible translations obscure the fact that the same word is used in both the first and fourth admonitions of this verse.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

IGNORANCE:  Lack of knowledge or comprehension. Old Testament law distinguished between sins of ignorance or sin committed unintentionally (Lev. 4:2, 13, 14; Num. 15:24-29) and premeditated sins (“sin presumptuously” or with a high hand Num. 15:30-31). Sins committed in ignorance incur guilt (Lev. 4:13, 22, 27); however, the sacrificial system provided atonement for such sin (Lev. 4; 5:5-6). In contrast, “high-handed” or “presumptuous” sin is an affront to the Lord punishable by exclusion from the people of God. The Law provided no ritual cleansing for such sin (Num. 15:30-31). Common images for sins of ignorance include error (Lev. 5:18), straying (Ps. 119:10), and stumbling (Job 4:4). By extension these images can be applied to any sin. Thus Proverbs 19:27 warns against willful “erring” from words of divine counsel.

The New Testament speaks of past ignorance which God excuses. Such was the ignorance of those Jews who participated in crucifying Jesus (Acts 3:17; 13:27), of Paul who persecuted Christians 1 Tim. 1:13), and of Gentiles who did not recognize the true God (Acts 17:30). Though God “winks at” such past ignorance, He requires repentance (Acts 3:19; 17:30). Obedience characterizes lives of the converted just as ignorant desires characterize those without Christ (1 Pet. 1:14). The New Testament speaks of deliberate ignorance as well as “excusable” ignorance. Most often deliberate ignorance involves the stubborn refusal to acknowledge nature’s witness to the powerful existence of God (Rom. 1:18-21; Eph. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:5).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




Roman Governors In The First Century

By D. Larry Gregg

D. Larry Gregg is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina.


 MAJOR CHALLENGE OF ANY EMPIRE, ancient or modern, is that of managing vast expanses of territory peopled by diverse populations, some passively submissive and others constantly on the brink of or in open rebellion.  To conquer is one thing, to govern effectively is quite another.  Governing the sprawling geographic region that was the first-century Roman Empire required a complex, multi-layered system of both civil and military administration. 

The demise of the Roman Republic in the late first century BC and the rise of the Principate under Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and successor, Octavian (later called Augustus), required a sweeping overhaul of the empire’s administrative bureaucracy.1  The end result was the complex provincial structure reflected in both the record of the New Testament and that of the larger Roman world.  At the nexus of this administrative network was the Roman governor, the connecting link between the seat of political power in Rome and the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural populace of, at that time, the world’s most expansive empire. 

Understanding the Titles

Sorting through the relationships of rank and power between various Roman provincial officials, all of whom could be called “governors,” is as complex as sorting through similar relationships in modern religious institutions or fraternal orders.  Hence both the New Testament and extra-New Testament documents make use of terms such as Proconsul, Legatus, Prefect, Procurator, Proprateor, Praetor, and the like.  Sometimes they seem distinguishable by rank in a more-or-less hierarchical order; at other times the terms seem interchangeable.  Additionally, people often applied multiple titles to a single individual.  Further intensifying confusion about titles, some terms are from the koine (common-usage Greek) of the first century, and others reflect the Latin antecedents of roman culture.  Are you confused yet?

We can clear away much clutter by recognizing that in the first century AD, the Romans had two types of provinces: senatorial and imperial.  Correspondingly, regardless of the bureaucratic titles, only two types of governors served: those the Roman Senate appointed and those the emperor appointed directly.  We find examples of both in the New Testament—even though it uses various titles.  In Acts 13, we find Sergius Paulus, Proconsul (governor) of the senatorial province of Cyprus.  In Acts 18, we meet Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeus, Proconsul (governor) of Achaia, also a senatorial province.  Acts 23, however, introduces us to Marcus Antonius Felix, who was Procurator (governor) of Judea from AD 52-60.  Judea was an imperial province, and Emperor Claudius appointed Felix.  Luke refers to both Felix and his successor, Porcius Festus, as Hegemon (governor, or literally “leader or strong man”).  Furthermore, the New Testament tells us of Pontius Pilate, whom both Matthew and Luke refer to as Hegemon.  This title indicates an imperial military appointment, this time by Emperor Tiberius.  Finally, Luke records that at the time of Jesus’ birth, “Quirinius was governor (Hegemon) of Syria” (Luke 2:2).  Syria was a Roman imperial province; Augustus Caesar appointed P. Sulpicius Quirinius (Cyrenius in the KJV) as Legatus there during the first decade of the first century AD.2  While Luke used the same generic title (Hegemon) for all three, considerable difference existed between the social and administrative rank of Quirinius, a former Consul and an important person from a powerful senatorial family; Pilate, a descendant from a minor family of the Equestrian order; and Felix, a former slave in the imperial household.

These examples lead us to two conclusions.  First, senatorial provinces lay at eh geographic and economic heart of the empire; they were relatively stable and required minimal military presence to maintain control.  Imperial provinces were located on the fringes of the empire, often serving as buffers against invasion (such as Syria and Judea, which protected Rome from the Parthian Empire of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley; Germania and Dalmatia protected the northern borders from incursions by barbarians from central Europe and the steppes of Russia).  Maintaining stability in such regions, often in rebellion against Rome themselves, required a massive military presence and a vertical chain of command reaching directly from the emperor in Rome to the regional commander on the frontier.

Second, multiple factors obscure our knowledge of the import of Roman administrative titles.  These include: the complex intertwining of civil and military bureaucracies at the time; the lack of consensus reported by our major sources including the New Testament and ancient historians such as Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius; and the fact that many officials may have held multiple offices, sometimes simultaneously. 

Defining the Duties

Regardless of title, every Roman governor, senatorial or imperial, had three primary tasks.  First, governments have no financial resources other than those they derive from the lands and people they govern.  The first major responsibility of any political administrator was seeing to the efficient collection of taxes and the disbursement of available financial resources.  The governor was thus responsible for insuring that he collected the maximum taxes possible, that he remitted to Rome the appropriate share to help fund the empire’s larger enterprises, and that he retained local funds for building and maintaining the infrastructure of the region (roads, bridges, public buildings, maintenance of public order, entertainment of the people, and the like).

A governor could not effectively execute such fiscal responsibility without social stability.  Therefore, a second major responsibility was that of judicial administration and fair enforcement of the law.  The Roman governor was the chief judicial officer in any region and thus responsible for interpreting and applying Roman Law (the Lex Romana).  The classic positive New Testament example of this judicial responsibility is Paul’s trial before Governor Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18).  Negative instances include Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Paul’s before Felix (Acts 23).

Third, among any governor’s most important responsibilities was that of perpetuating the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace).  This duty moved in two directions.  First, the governors of outlying provinces were to protect the empire from external invasions.  Second, all governors were to quell internal unrest, by negotiation if possible and by force if necessary.  In this sense Pontius Pilate apparently perceived himself as maintaining the greater peace of the region when he acquiesced to the execution of Jesus of Nazareth.  The Roman Centurion of Matthew 8:5-13 perceived himself to be doing the same thing as he engaged in some local “nation-building” (see Luke 7:1-10) and in his respectful interaction with Jesus in relation to His healing the officer’s servant.  One suspects that most of those at the “pointy end of the stick” in ancient and modern times would rather keep the peace in unsettled regions through mutual goodwill and respect rather than force.

From Us to Them and Vice Versa

While we should be careful about reading the present back into the past, we should also remember that, in many ways, the culture of first-century Rome was as complex and diverse as many modern cultures.  Therefore, despite its shortcomings in many areas, Rome’s civil and military administration was effective for a long time, in large measure because of its flexibility and adaptability to local and regional circumstances and needs.  The Roman governor of the first century needed many tools in his bag and needed the judgment to use those tools appropriate to time and place in order to be effective.  This principle remains true for those who lead, guide, and govern today, both in civil and religious institutions.                                                                                                    Bi

1.  See Everitt, Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor (New York: Random House, 2006), 223-34.

2.  Dollar, ”Cyrenius” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Brand, Draper, and England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003). 377.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013.


Living As Free People

By Bill Patterson

Bill Patterson is the Director of Missions of the Green Valley Baptist Association, Henderson, Kentucky.


HE APOSTLE PETER WROTE, “Live as free people”1 (1 Pet. 2:16a).  What could this phrase have meant to his first-century readers?  How did persons obtain their freedom?  Did freedom for a Christian vary from the freedom others enjoyed?

Understanding to whom Peter wrote and when would help us determine answers to those questions.  The apostle wrote a circular letter for “the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).  These Roman provinces of Asia Minor encompassed a huge area that includes most of the country of Turkey today plus additional territory to the east.  Earlier, Paul traveled the southern parts of these regions on his first, second, and third missionary journeys and wrote to some of these same churches (Gal. 1:2; Ephesians; and Colossians).  Later, John would write to seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2 and 3).


“Freedom” in the Greco-Roman world described the ability to decide one’s own life, as opposed to being under someone’s control in a life of slavery.  Liberated people, and especially Roman citizens, would have had freedoms not available to the large populations of slaves in that day.  Slaves composed up to one-third of Italia’s population, and up to one-fifth of the population of the Roman provinces.2  Some of the large cities had more slaves than free people.  Major cities, including Jerusalem, had auction circles where persons bought and sold slaves.

Peter had some instructions for servants.  He spoke of oiketes, a Greek common word the referred to household servants (1 Pet. 2:18).  Peter’s writing both to slaves and to those who were free shows that both composed the early churches in Asia Minor.

How would a person have become a slave?  Some were kidnapped and sold into slavery.  The children of slave parents were automatically slaves.  Some persons lost their freedom in the courts because of financial judgments they could not pay.  Courts also sentenced some criminals to slavery.  Others sold themselves or their children into slavery to pay debts or to feed their families.  Also, Rome conquered many nations, incarcerated their peoples, and sold them.  Over a million people were enslaved in this way in Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul from 58-51 BC.

Free People

Citizenship had its privileges.  Being a Roman citizen afforded individuals many rights, including the ability to: vote for magistrates, serve as a magistrate, marry a spouse, own property, and appeal a case before the emperor (Acts 25:10-12).  Being a citizen also meant someone was protected from being executed or scourged without the emperor’s permission.3  Slaves had none of these privileges.

Simon Peter wrote to people who were not slaves (1 Pet. 2:13-17).  He encouraged them to “live as free people,” something not possible for slaves.  Some of these “free people” were not Roman citizens.  They could move about at will; the laws of their province provided them protection.  They had freedom to work wherever they could find employment and live as they pleased as long as they obeyed the laws of Rome’s governing authorities.

How would the residents of Roman provinces have obtained their freedom?  Some, like Paul, were born to parents who were Roman citizens (Acts 22:27-28).  Others, such as Claudius Lysias, bought their citizenship (22:28; 23:26).  That Roman commander, like many who bought their citizenship, took on the name of the emperor.  Freedmen were also required by law to remember their patrons in their wills.4

Some citizens adopted people who then assumed the rights of freedom.  A number of slaves were manumitted (set free), so many that the price for a slave’s freedom became well established.  Just the fact of being freed, however, did not automatically make a former slave a Roman citizen.

When emperors or the Roman Senate declared a provincial city to be an imperial city, they commonly made all the inhabitants citizens of Rome.  At times valiant soldiers or slaves who performed a great service for Rome were granted citizenship in appreciation for their devotion or heroism.

Requirements for becoming a Roman citizen gradually eased.  Caesar Augustus (ruled 27 BC—AD 14) warned that Roman citizenship should be seldom granted.  The reason?  So citizenship would not be so common as to mean little.5  Not all emperors, though, practiced such restraint.  Once a group of dancing boys pleased Claudius (ruled AD 41-54), so he made them Roman citizens on the spot.6  By the time of Trajan (ruled AD 98-117), citizenship could be bought easily and was often given away.

Rome eased its requirements for citizenship because of the empire’s ever-growing need for funding.  Citizens paid taxes that non-citizens did not.  For instance, one tax required a Roman citizen pay five percent of a slave’s value when he freed or sold that slave.  Emperor Caracalla (ruled AD 211-217), extended citizenship to the entire empire7 and greatly expanded taxes.  The tax on manumitted slaves swelled to ten percent.

Christian Freedom with Adversity

Christians could lose some freedoms others had.  Many conservative scholars hold that Peter wrote around the time of Nero’s persecution of believers (AD 64-65).  A great fire had destroyed 3 or Roman’s 14 districts and heavily damaged 7 others.  Nero blamed Christians for the fire in order to deflect blame from himself.8  He began a major persecution of Christians.

Nero citing Christians, not Jews, as the ones who started the fire shows that by AD 64 the Roman authorities no longer considered Christians to be the same as Jews.  A few years earlier, under the reign of Claudius (AD 41-45), authorities considered Christians part of the Jewish religion.  Priscilla and Aquila were likely expelled from Rome during the reign of Claudius.  He grew angry at Jews for a riot in AD 49 and expelled them from Rome.

Peter wrote to the “Dispersion” (1 Pet. 1:1, NKJV).  Were these converted Jewish people who were part of the Diaspora (no longer living in Israel)?  Or were these Christians who had been dispersed from Rome by Claudius’ persecution in AD 49-54 or by Nero’s persecution that began in AD 64?  Either way, the people to whom Peter wrote had experienced much adversity (1:6; 2:12,19; 3:14-17; 4:12-19; 5:8-10).

Why would free people have such adversity?  A letter from Pliny the Younger, governor of Pontus and Bithynia, throws light on the subject.  He wrote nearly 50 years after Peter’s letter (AD 111); Pliny’s comments show the harsh conditions Christians faced in the first and early second centuries.  Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan asking how he should treat Christians.  He questioned, “Whether it is the mere name of Christian  which is punishable, even in innocent of crime, or rather the crimes associated with the name?”  Some of those interrogated denied the name of Christ, claiming, “They had ceased to be Christians two or more years previously, and some of them even twenty years ago.”9 

Trajan instructed Pliny to show mercy to those who would deny Christ.  He went on to explain that merely bearing the name Christians would open a person to penalties from the state, regardless of citizenship.  Pliny’s letter shows the persecution of Christians indeed occurred in the last half of the first century in Asia Minor.  This persecution could have been the cause of the adversity Peter described in his epistle.

Although not ordinarily enforced, Roman law required citizens to worship the emperor.  Pliny’s letter showed one of the first things required of a suspected Christian was to pour libation (a liquid worship offering) before a statue of the emperor.  Failure to do so resulted in the Christian’s being labeled unpatriotic and atheistic.  He would be considered unpatriotic because he would not perform an action a responsible Roman citizen would do—worship the head of the Roman government.  The Christian would be considered atheistic because he did not believe the emperor was a god.  If the Christian were free but not a Roman citizen, his property could be seized and his life taken or he could be sold into slavery.  If a Roman citizen, however, the Christian would be sent to Rome for trial.

Peter wanted his readers to know political freedom differs from the freedom we have in Christ.  Political freedom is temporary and may be bought, sold, or lost by war or persecution.  The freedom of Christ knows no end.  Nevertheless, we who are free in this world are not only free from something (slavery), we are also free for something (to serve Christ and other in His name).

Paul had earlier written to some of these same churches in Galatia that “Christ has liberated us to be free,” but that freedom has responsibilities (Gal. 5:1; see also Rom. 6:15-22).  Peter reiterated this same thought and showed that believers are to use their freedom responsibly, as “God’s slaves” (1 Pet. 2:16).                                                                                                                                                                                      Bi

1.    Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

2.    Brooks, “Slave, Servant” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary [HIBD], gen. ed. Brand, Draper, England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1511.

3.    Cox, “Roman Law” in HIBD, 1409. (See also Acts 22:25-29 where Paul was not afraid to use his rights as a Roman citizen to avoid scourging.)

4.    Cassius, Roman History, vol. VI, trans. Cary, The Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 51.15 (p. 45).

5.    Cassius, Roman History, vol. VII, 56.33 (p. 75).

6.    Cassius, Roman History, vol. VII, 60.7 (p. 389).

7.    Cassius, Roman History, vol. IX, 78.9 (p. 297).

8.    Tenney, New Testament Times (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2004), 301.

9.    Pliny, Letters 10, in Letters, Books VII-X Panegyricus, The Loeb Classical Library, trans. Radice, The Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1969), 96-97 (pp. 285-91).

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2012.




By A. O. Collins

A. O. Collins is chairman, department of Christianity and philosophy, Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas


here are three kinds of farm tools, the voiceless ones (wagons and plows), the inarticulate ones (oxen and mules), and the speaking ones (slaves.)” In this manner Cato described the status of slaves among Romans, advocating that they be discarded like other objects when they became old, worn out, or diseased.1

Slavery was an integral part of many ancient cultures, but it reached its widest use in the period just preceding and during the Roman Empire. At the beginning of the first century, slaves made up at least half of the population. By the century’s end, the city of Rome had 400,000 slaves, one-third of the populace. Many households had several slaves, and a wealthy master might have as many as a thousand, so many that the did not recognize them all.

The campaigns of Caesar Augustus supplied thousands of slaves, and the institution of slavery grew rapidly. Caecilius, in the time of Aufustus, claimed in his will that he owned 4,116 slaves. In one transaction, Caesar sold 63,000 Gauls into slavery. Josephus (Wars 6.9.3) states that Titus brought 97,000 Jewish slave-captives from Jerusalem in AD 70. In Rome, slaves became so numerous that the senate voted down a proposal requiring them to wear distinctive garb, for fear that their numerical strength would become too apparent.

Slaves were procured in many different ways. Sometimes, of necessity a person offered himself for enslavement to pay debts, or he turned over one or more of his children in payment. At the market slaves were sold or exchanged for other slaves, cattle, or other property. Slaves were given as gifts to relatives and friends or passed from one generation to another through inheritance. Many slaves were house-born; and within some households, slave breeding became a specialized practice in which intelligent, muscular males were mated with healthy females to produce superior working stock.

After soldiers were defeated and slaughtered in war, their wives and children were brought to Rome as slaves. Through piracy and kidnapping, professional slave dealers captured people from Syria, Asia Minor, and the Greek islands, importing them for the Roman market. Astute contractors provided slaves for the specific needs of public officials and households, whether it be for entertainment, unique skills, or other purposes. While prices for slaves varied from 300 sesterces for a farm worker to as much as 700,000 for a grammarian, the average price was about 4,000 sesterces.2

Roman law gave the master complete power over the life and death of his subjects. A slave could not own property; he was property. Although he could acquire goods, legally everything belonged to his master. He could not be accused of stealing because, technically, anything taken merely was displaced among the master’s holdings. A slave could neither sue nor be sued. No legal marriage existed, only cohabitation. Mates could be separated and off-spring taken at the will of the master.

In Rome, 80 percent of the industry and retail trade was carried out by slaves. Freedmen and public slaves, nearly all of Syrian and Greek origin, provided most of the government clerical work, managed the imperial palace, and held important cabinet positions.

Highly educated slaves, more intelligent than their masters, monopolized the medical, financial, and literary fields, serving as research aids, financial secretaries, agents, tutors, copyists, librarians, and philosophers. Among renowned Roman slaves were Epictetus, Terence, and Andronicus.

In Roman households, a slave headed the work force and was responsible for day-to-day activities. A domestic slave always was at his master’s side, at his elbows when he ate, at each leg when he dressed, assisting him with his bath, beside him at the market, constantly present. Slave companions were chosen for their skill at remembering names, physical appearance, or social charm. A slave’s ability to cook, serve, or groom endeared him to his master. Slaves guarded the master’s wealth, and sometimes other slaves guarded the slave guards. In wealthy households, a Greek pedagogue was the first companion of a young child and became his mentor, instructing him in manners, literature, and the arts.

Besides personal servants, the master secured attractive young boys as cupbearers. Dwarfs, giants, or deformed individuals were prized curiosities. Dancers, musicians, mimics, actors, and clowns provided entertainment.

In rural areas, where they worked on construction projects and on extensive country estates, slaves were treated the worst. Food was bare subsistence. At night, they slept on work camps, often chained. Old and weak slaves often were abandoned.

Some prisoner-of-war slaves were put into gladiator training schools and prepared for public spectacles. They were forced to fight one another, thrown to wild animals, or dressed as animals to have dogs turned on them. The night before gladiatorial contests, they were “honored” with a banquet, looked over by the fans and gamblers, and bets were wagered on the outcome.

As the first century progressed, treatment of slaves improved. They were accepted as part of the extended family, enjoyed comfort, security, and permanent employment. On certain occasions, such as the Saturnalia festival, slaves temporarily were freed and their masters served them briefly. Favorite slaves were treated well, received gifts, advanced from one position to another, and even could possess a slave of their own.

In the country, punishment for light offenses consisted of limited rations, extra labor, fines, or confinement. Flogging was common, as was branding with an iron. In more serious cases, a slave might be placed on a torture rack or thrown into a dungeon. Records exist of punishment by being thrown into a fishpond to the eels and being burned collectively in a pit. Mutilation, such as cutting out the tongue or cutting off hands, sometimes was practiced.

Household slaves generally were punished with extra work or denial of food. In severe cases, they were sent to country to work in the quarries, mines, or farms at more strenuous tasks.

Runaway slaves were put into chains or put to death as a lesson to potential offenders. If a slave owner was murdered, every slave in the household was held responsible. About the time of Paul’s Letter to Philemon (AD 61), Pedanius Secundus had been killed by a slave, and all 400 of his slaves then were executed, considered guilty for not preventing his death.

Freedom from slavery always was possible through any one of several means. Rich men often secured slaves, set them up in business, and allowed them to keep part of their earnings, or they permitted slaves to farm a portion of the estate. Eventually, when slaves accumulated savings, they bought freedom. At times it was to the advantage of the owner to liberate the slave, use the money to purchase another, and continue control over the new freedman as a client.

In other circumstances, freedom was earned by dedicated service to the master. Faithful slaves occasionally were released when they became old or too weak to work. A master, on his deathbed, often granted freedom to dutiful slaves as one last noble gesture.

Slavery, by its very nature, became a moral poison in Rome society. Intelligent people uprooted from land and family and forced into servitude could not be content forever. Masters, dependent on the skill and labor of others, naturally felt threatened. Clever slaves resorted to fraud, trickery, flattery, and other means to get what they wanted. Even the master’s children became tools in the hands of unscrupulous slaves, who contaminated them with their immoral teachings and habits.

In conquering others, Rome had been conquered. The saying arose, “So many slaves so many enemies.” Conditions became so volatile that more and more stringent laws had to be passed to deal with the dissidents.

Slavery was accepted as part of the social fabric of the first century. People in general thought no more of having slaves than our generation thinks of having employees or domestic servants. A slave’s welfare and treatment depended on his relationship with his master. The Greek word doulos, translated “slave” or “bondservant,” carried the idea of commitment, resting on one’s dependence on his lord, and the master’s claim upon the subject’s loyalty. In this respect, the term came to be used of the relationship of the Christian to Christ, and Paul probably called himself a doulor of Christ (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1).

Often the question is asked, “Why was slavery not condemned in the New Testament?” Some people have argued that because early Christians expected the imminent end of the age they felt there was no need to challenge the institution of slavery. While that may be true, the conflict between the Christian view of the worth of the individual and the practice of slavery was not ignored completely. Slaves were attracted to the new religion because in Christ one found a new sense of worth and self-respect. Recognizing that he was a being of worth in the sight of God and other Christians, he realized that his social status was secondary. In Christ, he was free.

Paul encouraged Christian masters to be considerate and slaves to be obedient (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22 – 4:1). In his letter to Philemon, Paul asked, not demanded, that because of their common brotherhood in Christ, Onesimus be received not merely as a slave but as a brother “both in the flesh, and in the Lord” (Philem. 16). Some scholars suggest that Paul’s payment to Philemon was an indication that he expected Onesimus to be set free. Although it would take centuries for the thrust of the Christian gospel to be understood properly, ultimately it has led to the general rejection of slavery in most of the world.                                                               Bi

1.  Quoted by Bart Winer, Life in the Ancient World (New York: Random House, 1961), p. 177.

2.  The modern equivalent of 4,000 sesterces would be between $320 and $400.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1988




What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (07/27/14) Which honorable counselor was waiting for the Kingdom of God?  Answer next week:

 The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (07/20/14)  Which three tribes camped on the northern side of the tabernacle in the wilderness Answer: Dan, Asher, Naphtali; Numbers 2:25-29.