The Fifth in A Series of Sermons on 1 Peter
Those Christians receiving this letter from the Apostle Peter are aliens in their own land. They have been displaced from their homes by a decree from the Roman emperor Claudius several years earlier. As elect exiles, beloved by God, and members of Christ’s church, Christians of the diaspora in Asia Minor are to consider themselves as the New Israel. In God’s sight, believers in Jesus compose a chosen race, a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, and holy nation dwelling within the midst of the civil kingdom. In the first half of 1 Peter 2, Peter exhorts these Christians to keep their conduct honorable before the Gentiles persecuting them, so that those who speak evil of them will be forced to give glory to God. In the last half of chapter 2 (vv. 13-17), Peter instructs these elect exiles how to view the civil magistrate which oppresses them. Then, in vv. 18-25, Peter instructs those Christian who are slaves and servants, how to respond to their masters. If Christians are to live honorable lives before the watching Gentiles, they must have a proper view of the civil government. As for those who were bound to their masters–the large caste of slaves in the Roman empire, many of who were Christians–they are to serve their masters and follow the example of Jesus, who, more than all men, suffered unspeakable injustice and humiliation.
As we continue our series on 1 Peter, we take up the second half of chapter 2. At the end of chapter 1, Peter gives three imperatives to those believers whom God caused to be born again, who already have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, and who are set apart (sanctified) by God for obedience. These imperatives are Peter’s exhortation to fix our hope upon Jesus (v. 13), to live holy lives which reflect the holiness of our creator and redeemer (vv. 14-16), and to live in the fear of the Lord, because the one we invoke as our Father is also judge of all the earth (vv. 17-19). The practical implications of these commands are spelled out in the next section, vv. 1-12, of chapter 2, which we covered last time.
Peter implores his readers/hearers to set themselves apart from “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” To prepare themselves for action (as Peter exhorted his readers in verse 13 of the first chapter), Christians should see themselves as “newborn infants, [who] long for the pure spiritual milk,” of God’s word. Christians are to realize that their struggles arise because of their identification with Jesus, who was the rejected foundation stone of Israel’s messianic kingdom, but who is the foundation of a spiritual temple composed of all those who have been delivered from their sins by the blood of Jesus, and who are identified as a New Israel by Peter using a number of images taken directly from the Old Testament. Peter encourages his struggling readers to consider their identity as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The way in which persecuted citizens of heaven demonstrate to the watching world around them that they are the people of God has nothing to do with distinctive clothing, diet, or in a withdrawal from society–typical of most world religions (and even some forms of Christianity). It is the doctrine Christians profess–that we are believers in the Triune God who sent his son to save us from our sins–as well as the lives which we live before the unbelievers around us. This life of holiness is to be lived by obeying the three imperatives Peter gives, and as he exhorts his readers in verses 11-12 of chapter 2, “beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” In our text, vv. 13-25 of 1 Peter 2, Peter will flesh out two of the ways in which elect exiles keep their conduct honorable: Christians are to submit to the civil authorities (even those who persecute them), and Christians of low social standing (slaves and servants), are also to submit to their masters.
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