April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
We continue today in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 2:13-25 | Jasmine Rubie
Submission to your true authority
Readers in New South Wales will be well aware of the recent election that happened. Everyone spent time deciding who they were going to vote for and why, or some just deciding that they had no idea who to vote for- and then everybody tried figuring out when, or how they were going to submit this vote. If you were really prepared you could have voted online without having to leave your home, or maybe even send your vote in early via post. Then there were those who went into the schools and community halls to submit their vote, who I’m sure, were welcomed with numerous flyers about the parties you could vote for, and maybe some even met their local candidate. Point is, this is our process. We do a little research, we make a decision of who we want in parliament, we put it down somewhere and submit our say. If we do not follow this process (well, at least the voting part) we are fined (voting is compulsory in Australia). There is a consequence. This a way by which we submit to our governments wishes, and if we do not- we are perfectly clear on the outcome. This is what Peter is calling Christians to do in today’s passage: to submit. But in what ways was the governmental system the same in the context Peter was writing into? Is that even the main point?13-15 Submit yourself, for the Lords sake to every human authority: weather to the emperor, as the supreme authority or the governors who are sent by Him to punish those who do wrong and comment those who do right. For it is Gods will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.
What jumps out in this passage at first glance is all the word mumbo jumbo about authority and submission. This is important, oh so important. Let me explain why. See, the emperor in these days was Nero, and Nero created a huge issue for the Christians. Under Nero’s leading, the Christian people of the first century were persecuted and killed. They suffered. What’s so shocking about this passage in the context of the time is that for Peter to be reminding them submit to this kind of leadership, would have been a hard command. When I read this passage though, I don’t dwell on the submission section as much as the “for the Lord’s sake” section. It’s in these words that the encouragement theme of 1 Peter shines through, as these persecuted Christians are suddenly given a purpose.
I remember when I was growing up; my dad was definitely the extreme authority in my household. The second he called you into the room by your full name, you know you were about to submit to his command. Sometimes I would fear going into the room- and as a young girl I would hide from him. As I got older, I would try and rebel against his command to make a point. To put it simply, I never won. The consequence was always so much worse if I added rebellion against his command into the equation. So what does this mean for us? We are too, called to be law abiding citizens, not for the sake of the law, but for the sake of our God.16-20 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor. Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 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.
Slaves are Peter’s second target group. Peter exhorts them to be good and obedient workers, despite the harshness of their master. For the first century Christians this was necessary in ensuring they had an opportunity to worship freely, or to reach others with the good news of Jesus. The freedom in this scenario come from the new found freedom they are holding in Jesus. The major theme in this section of the passage is the idea of suffering for reward. Not reward as we would assume reward, but a reward of heaven later. One of Peter’s major themes is endurance, and he drawing light on that here.
During high school my best friend was a wrestler. I used to always ask her, “is it worth it? All the cuts and bruises and torn muscles?” and one day she turned around and said to me “the reward of winning far exceeds the pain in getting there.” This has always stuck with me, because we know as Christians that after all of this suffering, is our reward. Just as Peter is encouraging the persecuted Christian group to submit to their slave masters in order that it may be commendable in Gods sight, he is calling us to endure suffering just the same- show proper respect for everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour authority.21-25 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Here Peter focuses on Jesus as supreme example of these commands, as well as draws on Old Testament prophecy to back up his claims. The important part of the positioning of this passage is that it is wedged between two sections of one Peter that talk about people being treated unjustly, as serves as a reminder of why suffering is endurable. He quotes parts from Isaiah 53:4-6, 9 as prophetic proof of Jesus being this example. For first century Christians, this reminder would have been an encouragement of all they have given up.
I remember hearing a story once of a 19 year old girl who felt God call her to Africa, but here in Australia she had health, wealth from her family and a great paying stable job. She battled with it for a long time before giving up and saying yes. She gave up all she had for the calling of God. For these Christians, they were willing to endure suffering, to embrace ridicule and forsake their old customs to follow Jesus. For us today, to follow Christ is sacrifice from things the world say are okay – but we hold on to our true authority and submit to Him, not because of who we are – but because of who He is.
The thing about this passage, is that although at first reading it seemed all about human authority and submitting to those harsh rulers, when you look closer you see a different kind of submission- a submission to a true and perfect authority. For us today also, I personally have been reminded through this of my purpose for why I choose to live as I do. Of course, I’m never going to get it right, neither did the Christians Peter was writing to, but with the understanding that it is God we are truly submitting to, it makes everything feel a bit smaller scale. Submission is a scary thought, especially as freedom is a nicer ideal to think of- but Peter reminds us through this letter that we are free slaves- free in Christ submitting to our one true authority and all He calls us to do.