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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: Standing Strong In The Midst of Suffering
What This Lesson Is About:
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
God in every circumstance.
1 Peter 2:13-23
Do What Is Good & Right Because You Serve God
(1 Pet. 2:13-17)
Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1 Pet. 2:18-20)
God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE: 1
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
Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary;
Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay
Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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.
Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1 Pet. 2:18-20)
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.
you think the Bible condones slavery or simply acknowledges the reality of its
existence? Why, or why not?
are slaves to respond to their masters (v. 18)?
would you explain the application of verse 19 to our society today?
are some kinds of situations that you think would cause someone to suffer
unjustly (v. 19)?
affect should the disposition of the master have on the slaves’ response (v.
do you think we are to mindful of and apply God’s will for living in today’s
world (v. 19)?
verse 19 conditional? If so, what
part does being mindful of God’s Will
play in enduring unjust suffering?
encouragement did Peter offer to those who suffered unjustly (v. 20)?
does verses 19 & 20 imply regarding suffering in the life of a believer?
on these verses, what type of behavior brings favor
with God (v. 21)?
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?
Have you every endured persecution or hostility because of your faith?
If so, how were you able to persevere?
do you think believers sometimes fail to turn to God’s Holy Spirit for help in
times of unjust suffering?
Why do you think a God of love would allow His children to suffer
Lessons in 1 Peter 2:18-20:
is the normative attitude for all Christians, at all times.
kindness to others is not to be based on proper treatment or ideal
who faithfully endure can confidently anticipate God’s gracious reward.
God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
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.
you think most people think of being called
as to missionary work or to preach the gospel?
Why, or why not?
what do you think believers are called
what situation is Christ the perfect example
what ways did Christ demonstrate what it means to endure suffering with patience
was Christ able to do so (v. 23b)?
does it mean when you (a believer) have entrusted yourself to the One who judges
justly (v. 23)?
do you think Christ’s example should influence our behavior when we suffer at
the hands of others?
do you think following Christ’s example during one’s time of unjust
suffering exalts Him?
do you think this would impact your witness?
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?
What are some
things a believer can do to keep focused on Christ during times of unjust
How are you prepared to endure our culture’s hostility toward you, as a
believer, when it comes?
Lessons in 1 Peter 2:21-23:
Christ-follower is one who answered the call to salvation.
Christ-follower is called to faithfully endure suffering.
Christ-follower is called to imitate the example of Christ in His
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.
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
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,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study;
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: 1 Peter 2:13-23
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)
Version: 1 Peter 2:13-23
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
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
Do What Is Good
& Right Because You Serve God (1 Pet. 2:13-17)
Endure Hardships Resulting From Faithfulness (1
Trust God In Every Situation, As Jesus Did (1
Commentary for the focal passage
comes from three sources: “The Pulpit Commentary,” “Believer’s Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 22: Peter-Revelation – 1 Peter
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.
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
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.
Pulpit Commentary; Volume 22:
Peter-Revelation; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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.
Believer's Bible Commentary; by William
MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald.
Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
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
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
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).
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
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
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
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
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.
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.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
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,
Governors In The First Century
By D. Larry
Gregg is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
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
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
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.
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?
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
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
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).
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).
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
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
See Everitt, Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor (New York: Random
House, 2006), 223-34.
Dollar, ”Cyrenius” in Holman
Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Brand, Draper, and England
(Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003). 377.
Patterson is the Director of Missions of the Green Valley Baptist Association,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
He began a major persecution of Christians.
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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).
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).
indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian
Standard Bible (HCSB).
“Slave, Servant” in Holman Illustrated
Bible Dictionary [HIBD], gen. ed. Brand, Draper, England (Nashville: Holman
Bible Publishers, 2003), 1511.
“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.)
History, vol. VI, trans. Cary, The Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2000), 51.15 (p. 45).
History, vol. VII, 56.33 (p. 75).
History, vol. VII, 60.7 (p. 389).
History, vol. IX, 78.9 (p. 297).
Testament Times (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2004), 301.
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).
A. O. Collins
Collins is chairman, department of Christianity and philosophy, Houston Baptist
University, Houston, Texas
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
Bart Winer, Life in the Ancient World (New York: Random House, 1961), p.
modern equivalent of 4,000 sesterces would be between $320 and $400.
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
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;