1 Peter 2:18-20 - Submission to Earthly Masters

1 Peter - Hope in Suffering  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings

The Word Read

Please remain standing for the reading of the Holy Scripture. Hear the Word of the Lord from 1 Peter 2:18-20:
1 Peter 2:18–20 ESV
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
Behold, brothers and sisters, this is Word of the Lord. Please be seated. Let us pray.

Summation and Diagnosis

I invite you to open up your copy of the Holy Scriptures to 1 Peter 2:13-17. As you do this, I want to read a few passages of Scripture:
1 Timothy 6:1–2 ESV
1 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things.
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Romans 15:8–9 ESV
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
1 Peter 2:18-3:7 is known as a household code. The section details how slaves, wives, and husbands were to live with one another in their homes. Now in our culture there are some that would believe these household codes are chauvinistic downplaying the importance of women. However, understood in their proper context one will understand that these codes were counter-cultural promoting the value of both slaves and women, which we will take a look at when we look specifically at 1 Peter 2:18.
We have to keep in mind that Peter is writing to those who live in exile. They are facing some type of persecution and suffering when they received this epistle. This morning as we look at this passage we will focus in on the slave aspect of the household code. However, we must continually keep in mind that Jesus was a suffering servant according to Isaiah 53. Furthermore, Peter in 1 Peter 2:16 says that all Christians are slaves to God. So, we might not be literal servants or slaves in home as these individuals were, but we are all slaves to the Lord in Christ Jesus regardless of the social status we find ourselves in today. This basic truth forces us to reorient our lives around our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
With this in mind the sermon title is “Submission to Earthly Masters” and I have the passage broken into two sections: 1) 1 Peter 2:18 - Submission as Servants and 2) 1 Peter 2:19-20 - Favor in the Sight of the Lord. Again, the sermon title is “Submission to Earthly Masters” and I have the passage broken into two sections: 1) 1 Peter 2:18 - Submission as Servants and 2) 1 Peter 2:19-20 - Favor in the Sight of the Lord.

1 Peter 2:18 - Submission as Servants

1 Peter 2:18 ESV
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
We come to our first section - submission as servants. In letters and writings at this time, slaves and wives were not addressed directly. Peter, in directly addressing slaves/servants breaks with the normative practice of writing letters which was counter-cultural. The question we must ask is why does Peter, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, break this practice? The reason is because God holds all people morally responsible for their actions. God reinforces all people are made in His image and are held responsible for their decisions and behaviors. Unlike the culture of this time, God values the lives of slaves which exceeded the cultural expectations of the Greco-Roman world.
Regarding slavery specifically, we touched on this in Colossians 4 a few months ago, slavery was not the same in the Greco-Roman world that it was in early America. There were all types of reasons a person could be a slave in Roman society - economic hardships, an opportunity to serve government officials, being prisoners of war, and of course being enslaved. It was not unusual for slaves to be doctors, teachers, musicians, and some could even own their own slaves. The point the Lord is going to make in this passage is here is how to live unto Me as you are a slave/servant.
The New Testament writers were not social activist seeking to create societal, structural, and cultural transformation. They were not social crusaders believing that changing social and governmental structures would transform their culture or world. Peter’s concern is the inner work of God in one’s life where they find themselves living in that moment. If God is truly sovereign and has a providential nature, then all things that occur in our lives come by the will of a loving of God who is moving everything towards the Day of Christ’s return. What is more important for us, and as Peter details to these slaves, is not how can we get out of these situations, but since I am in this situation by the sovereign hand of God, how can I live unto Him under the majestic supremacy of God and for the glory of God. Slaves could not stop being slaves because they were saved. Peter was deeply concerned about how these Christians were relating to God Himself in light of being slaves. The focus is always the inner transformative work of the Spirit upon one’s heart.
This is why Peter can tell these slaves, Servants, be subject to your masters. He does not say, “run from them, be free of them, throw off their chains.” He simply says, “be subject to them.” The expectation for these household slaves was obedience to their masters.
How were they to do this? Scripture says, “with all respect” or “with all fear.” I’m sure we have all had various conversations with friends, parents, siblings, children, or grandchildren as someone deals with a supervisor who is difficult. We’ve all had bad supervisors at one time or another. A cursory read of 1 Peter 2:18 would tell you that you are to obey your supervisor with all respect. How many times have we given that advice to someone, right? However, this is not what this verse actually means. “With all respect/fear” is not directed toward the master, but to the Lord.
This is the second major break that Peter makes in regards to the Greco-Roman culture. First, it was specifically addressing slaves as moral agents responsible for their own actions. Now, these servants primary responsibility was to the Lord, not to the master’s gods. In this culture, slaves would worship the gods of their owners. The Lord says, “No! You will worship Me alone! If there is anything that goes against Me and My Word, you follow Me not your master.”
How many times have we heard of stories of people who have followed their employers into bad practices? What is usually their response? “I did it because my supervisor told me to do it and I didn’t think I had a choice. I had to do what they told me to do.” Do we not remember the story of Daniel and the lions in Daniel 6? While serving under Darius, men in high positions sought Darius’ approval to punish those who would offer prayer to any god or man except Darius for thirty days because they were jealous of Daniel. Daniel is made aware of the approved document and he goes to his house and prayed. Daniel is found out to be in violation of the injunction and is thrown into the lion’s den overnight. The next morning Daniel is found alive and well for the angel the Lord had sent shut the lions’ mouths. Daniel did not give all reverent fear to Darius, but to Yahweh.
Peter’s words here are just that, obey your masters, but ultimate reverent fear is given to the Lord, not to mere men like King Darius. According to Exodus 34:14, our Lord is and always has been a jealous God. He does not share worship or share His glory with anyone else (Isaiah 42:8). We live under the authority of Christ alone (Matthew 28:18). Regardless of having an earthly master, believers are called to live fully for the Lord.
Do you see who the servants are called to be submissive to in this verse? Both the good and gentle AND unjust masters. There are some employers who are good and some who are unjust. Again, Scripture is getting to the heart of these slaves. Yes, you might have masters who are harsh to you, but you are responsible for living as a Kingdom citizen unto Me. You may live here on earth with an earthly master, but remember all reverent fear is owed to me because I am Your King and you are my heavenly citizen. You are my kingdom slave whom I have redeemed from sin. You may have an unjust or harsh master, but know that sin was a much more harsh master. You’ve been freed from that cruel master. Live unto me even if you have an unjust earthly master. Live as Christ lived unto me giving me glory in all things (John 17:1-3). Glory be given to God if you have a good and gentle master or an unjust master.

1 Peter 2:19-20 - Favor in the Sight of the Lord

1 Peter 2:19–20 ESV
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
Let us now come to the second section - 1 Peter 2:19-20 - Favor in the Sight of the Lord. This section answers the question as to why should slaves/servants be subject to their masters regardless of how they are treated. Again, notice that Peter’s emphasis is on the transformation of the heart and being faithful to God, not the uprooting of the Greco-Roman societal structure. Peter roots the why in God. Why should you be obedient to your earthly masters? You will receive divine favor from the Lord as you endure sorrows while suffering unjustly.
First, we must be aware that the Lord is watching us at all times. He is not like Santa Claus trying to find out who is naughty and nice. Newsflash, we are all naughty and it is only by the work of Christ that we are declared righteous. Why are we motivated to live as obedient servants to earthly masters? We are mindful of our great God seeking to obey and please Him.
Second, we are aware that His divine favor is upon us when we endure sorrows while suffering unjustly. Now there are some who believe this means that God will ultimately provide financial blessing for this type of obedience. I’ve been obedient to the Lord while having a hard employer and I just know God is going to give me that promotion with a large raise. That is only fair and that is why I suffer for now. However, “this is a gracious thing” speaks nothing of financial blessing, but of a spiritual blessing. These slaves would have the spiritual favor of God upon them as they suffered at the hands of unjust masters. This spiritual favor is far greater than any financial favor.
One theme of the book of 1 Peter is there is hope in suffering. The word for “while suffering” in 1 Peter 2:19 is used for the first time in the epistle here. However, the word is used a total of 11 times in the epistle. Suffering is the norm for those who are in Christ. However, there is great hope for us because we are aware the Lord’s eyes are upon us and He cares for us. So, there is tremendous hope in our underserved suffering. We know God is watching us with Fatherly care as we suffer for righteousness sake. There is no guarantee He will pull these slaves out of their underserved suffering, but there is hope that the Father looks favorably upon them. This is our encouragement as well.
Then there is the opposite of this truth in 1 Peter 2:20, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?” There is no credit, fame, or glory here. It makes perfect sense that there are consequences to the slaves when they engage in disobedience. However, as Peter writes at the close of this verse, when you suffer for doing good it is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
There are three principles I want to direct our attention to in these two verses. First, those who are masters over slaves will see the Gospel in action as their slaves live entirely for God. Those who are masters would see the lives of their slaves and be prompted to ask, “why does my slave give their loyalty to a God in such a way that would inspire this type of humility?” The life of a slave living entirely to God in action would cause the master to notice a stark difference between the puny gods they served verses the God of the universe who saved their slaves from sin. The same is true of us today. Those in earthly leadership positions should notice this type of unwavering humility and as a result cause them to ask, “Why are their lives so different? Why are they willing to give up the comforts of financial gain in their career to follow this God? Why are they willing to follow their God so closely even if it means they lose their job” Our living in this type of humility causes the world to ask questions about who we respect with all honor and fear.
Second, there is no hope that suffering will cease this side of eternity. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see a glimmer of hope that suffering for being a Christian will cease anytime soon. Hear Paul’s words to his disciple Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18-20:
1 Timothy 1:18–20 ESV
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Notice what Paul says to his beloved son in the faith: Timothy, you are in a war right now so wage good warfare. There is no promise that suffering for being a Christian will come to an end in this lifetime. Furthermore, for those in church leadership know this - you are in a war where you lead the militant Church. This is no time for peace. Satan is a lion seeking to destroy. Don’t be lulled to sleep spiritually because we live in a “safe country.” Be on guard as a good watchman looking out into the battle. The fight we are engaged in spiritually is far greater and more dangerous than all the wars ever fought on earth combined. The Cuban missile crisis is child’s play compared to Satan’s missile crisis. This fight is not one where mere bodies die, but where souls hang in the balance. If you desire to be an elder, which is a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1), know that you step into a place where bullets are flying, grenades are being thrown, and spiritual nuclear bombs are being dropped constantly. It is THE great war and no other war comes close to comparing to it, but it is a war that has already been won by and in Christ! We don’t fight for victory, we fight, in the power of the Holy Spirit, from victory against the cosmic forces of the universe and the sin that resides within. There will be no peace time until Christ returns and vanquishes His enemies. Until then we should expect suffering as the normative part or our Christian walk. Yet our sufferings produce hope! Romans 5:3-5:
Romans 5:3–5 ESV
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Rejoice in your sufferings because they ultimately produce hope! Do you fight the good fight today as a Christian who will suffer? Do you rejoice in those sufferings? Do they give you hope? If not, look to Jesus as the great example of hope in suffering. As the author of Hebrews wrote,
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Third, we are all slaves. Regardless of our spiritual standing before God - justified or condemned - every person is a slave. Romans 6:20-23 states this clearly:
Romans 6:20–23 ESV
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Did you hear what Paul writes in the past tense? “When you were slaves of sin” revealing that we were previously in a state of slavery to sin. Sin is a cruel master. Sin seeks nothing more other than to bring destruction. The bondage of sin is incredibly powerful. Sin does not care your age, race, ethnicity, financial status, community status, etc. The power of sin only cares to direct people away from the Lord keeping them under the wrath of God.
However, what does Romans 6:22 state? “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Notice the great transformation! Once a slave of sin, now a slave of God. We have not been set free from slavery in our salvation, we have been set free of being a slave to sin once we have been redeemed. We are still a slave, but now we are slaves to the Almighty, the supreme, the good holy judge, the creator and sustainer of the universe, the living triune God! He is our master and we are His slaves. Unlike the darkness of the slavery of sin, we find our burdens lightened and we find rest for our weary souls as slaves of God.
So, you might not be or have never been a household servant in your life, but make no mistake about it - we are all slaves this morning. We are either slaves to the power of sin or slaves to the Great God of Heaven. Slavery to sin leads to death. Slaves unto God leads to life everlasting. Do you believe you are a slave? If so, where is your allegiance as a slave? Unto God or unto sin?


As we close, we must remember that Peter is getting to the heart of the issue here with these household slaves. Yes, he certainly elevates their status as individuals who have moral responsibility, which is contrary to the expectation of this time, but he does not encourage them to leave their slavery. He is interested in them working out their salvation in their servanthood.
So today, whom will you serve at all times? Will it be earthly masters who hold temporary authority over us? Or will we serve the Almighty God who redeemed us from sin? And yes, suffering is the normative, but let us not be found complaining about our suffering, but know that it has come by the providential hand of God and our response should be to enjoy Him in our suffering. Let us be found living under His supremacy for His glory as good and faithful slaves of God.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more