|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:18-25 Servants in those days generally were slaves, and had heathen masters, who often used them cruelly; yet the apostle directs them to be subject to the masters placed over them by Providence, with a fear to dishonour or offend God. And not only to those pleased with reasonable service, but to the severe, and those angry without cause. The sinful misconduct of one relation, does not justify sinful behaviour in the other; the servant is bound to do his duty, though the master may be sinfully froward and perverse. But masters should be meek and gentle to their servants and inferiors. What glory or distinction could it be, for professed Christians to be patient when corrected for their faults? But if when they behaved well they were ill treated by proud and passionate heathen masters, yet bore it without peevish complaints, or purposes of revenge, and persevered in their duty, this would be acceptable to God as a distinguishing effect of his grace, and would be rewarded by him. Christ's death was designed not only for an example of patience under sufferings, but he bore our sins; he bore the punishment of them, and thereby satisfied Divine justice. Hereby he takes them away from us. The fruits of Christ's sufferings are the death of sin, and a new holy life of righteousness; for both which we have an example, and powerful motives, and ability to perform also, from the death and resurrection of Christ. And our justification; Christ was bruised and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and by his stripes the diseases of our souls are cured. Here is man's sin; he goes astray; it is his own act. His misery; he goes astray from the pasture, from the Shepherd, and from the flock, and so exposes himself to dangers without number. Here is the recovery by conversion; they are now returned as the effect of Divine grace. This return is, from all their errors and wanderings, to Christ. Sinners, before their conversion, are always going astray; their life is a continued error.
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Servants, be subject to your masters,.... This was another notion of the Jews, that because they were the seed of Abraham, they ought not to be the servants of any; and particularly such as were believers in Christ thought they ought not to serve unbelieving masters, nor indeed believing ones, because they were equally brethren in Christ with them; hence the Apostle Peter, here, as the Apostle Paul frequently elsewhere, inculcates this duty of servants to their masters; see 1 Corinthians 7:20 2 Timothy 2:9 the manner in which they are to be subject to them is,
with all fear; with reverence to their persons, strict regard to their commands, faithfulness in any trust reposed in them, diligence in the discharge of their duty, and carefulness of offending them: and all this,
not only to the good and gentle; those that are good natured, kind, beneficent, and merciful; that do not use them with rigour and severity; are moderate in their demands of service; require no more to be done than what is reasonable; allow them sufficient diet, give them good wages, and pay them duly:
but also to the froward; the ill natured, morose, and rigorous; who exact more labour than is requisite; give hard words, and harder blows; withhold sufficiency of food from them, and keep back the hire of their labours.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Servants—Greek, "household servants": not here the Greek for "slaves." Probably including freedmen still remaining in their master's house. Masters were not commonly Christians: he therefore mentions only the duties of the servants. These were then often persecuted by their unbelieving masters. Peter's special object seems to be to teach them submission, whatever the character of the masters might be. Paul not having this as his prominent design, includes masters in his monitions.
be subject—Greek, "being subject": the participle expresses a particular instance of the general exhortation to good conduct, 1Pe 2:11, 12, of which the first particular precept is given 1Pe 2:13, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." The general exhortation is taken up again in 1Pe 2:16; and so the participle 1Pe 2:18, "being subject," is joined to the hortatory imperatives going before, namely, "abstain," "submit yourselves." "honor all men."
all—all possible: under all circumstances, such as are presently detailed.
fear—the awe of one subject: God, however, is the ultimate object of the "fear": fear "for the Lord's sake" (1Pe 2:13), not merely slavish fear of masters.
gentle—indulgent towards errors: considerate: yielding, not exacting all which justice might demand.
froward—perverse: harsh. Those bound to obey must not make the disposition and behavior of the superior the measure of the fulfilment of their obligations.
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