The Seventh in a Series of Sermons on 1 Peter
It is foolish to attempt to deny reality. Christians are going to be misunderstood, mistrusted, and persecuted because we are believers in Jesus Christ. Those unbelievers and secularists we encounter do not understand our faith in Christ, they see no need whatsoever to believe in Jesus, and when they do understand what we believe, they openly reject it–especially Christian teaching about salvation being found only in Jesus, as well as Christian teaching about sexual ethics. Whenever this conflict between Christians and unbelievers occurs–and it will–how are we to respond? In chapter 3 of his first epistle, Peter instructs us to seek to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ in such situations, rather than focusing on personal insults directed our way. Christians must learn how to deal with those who have power over us, without being afraid of our oppressors, and to do so in such a way that we continually point those who are contentious back to the suffering servant, Jesus. Christians must be prepared for these encounters with both the right answers and the right attitude.
We are continuing our series on 1 Peter, and we have made our way into chapter three, where we are considering Peter’s instructions to Christians of the Diaspora. As we mentioned throughout our series, Peter’s audience is a group of Christian exiles in Asia Minor, who have been displaced from their homes by a decree from Claudius, the previous Roman emperor. Peter begins his letter of encouragement to these struggling sojourners by reminding them that God has caused them to be born again, they have been set apart (sanctified) by God and therefore sprinkled by the blood of Jesus–ensuring their sins are forgiven. Also, Christians are to live holy lives before the Lord so as to silence those critical of our faith.
Peter reminds his hearers that although they are facing difficult times from their pagan neighbors, in God’s sight, these people are elect exiles, a chosen race, and spiritual house, indwelt by the Spirit of the living God. Although they are citizens of Rome, they simultaneously possess a heavenly citizenship and are heirs to all the things promised them by God. But their heavenly citizenship will bring them into conflict with the unbelievers around them, and so the Apostle seeks to prepare his readers to deal with those reject Jesus, and who do not understand why Christians believe and do they things they do.
In 1 Peter 2:11-3:7, Peter addresses three of the main elements of the Greco-Roman household code–an unwritten code dating back perhaps to Aristotle, and which defines a number of the social relationships upon which Greco-Roman society was built. These relationships include the authority of civil government, the relationship between slaves and masters, as well as the relationship between husbands and wives. Christians too believe that these matters are important and God has addressed a number of them in his word. Yet, in each one of these societal relationships, and under current circumstances, Christians have little power or control and were facing tremendous persecution from their pagan neighbors as the elect exiles of the Diaspora of Asia Minor.
Throughout section of his epistle, Peter exhorts Christians to submit to the Roman civil authorities, even those governors then persecuting Peter’s readers–except in those cases where civil authorities demand that Christians violate the will of God. When this happens, Christians are to obey God rather than men. Peter instructs Christian slaves and servants to submit to their masters, even if their masters are cruel. Finally Peter exhorts Christian wives to submit to their husbands, even if their husbands are not Christians. At the same time, Peter insists that Christian husbands not view their greater physical strength as a reason for believing their wives to be inferior–as the Greco-Roman household code held. Rather, Christian husbands are to see their wives as weaker vessels who require “understanding” (the knowledge that wives are to be treated as taught in Scripture), and to treat them with honor–which means to be treated with the same respect to which all divine image bearers and co-heirs with Christ are entitled.
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