1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent.…
Having dealt with the character becoming the Christian citizen, he passes to that becoming the Christian servant. Probably the Churches addressed were composed largely of that class, who, however, were scarcely above the rank of slaves; and these are here called mainly to endurance because, probably, they were exposed to considerable oppression. Paul gives a more complete teaching on the duty of the Christian servant. Peter here contemplates him rather as a sufferer - from overwork, unreasonable demands, the jealousy of fellow-servants, misrepresentation, cruelty; and he says in effect, "As to work, your master's treatment of you is to make no difference to your fidelity;" as to suffering, 'this is thankworthy,'" etc. This passage is characteristic of Peter. Compare what he records in his own Gospel (Mark 14:53-66). Are not both these events hidden beneath the text? The events of that solemn night when he heard Jesus say, "I have given you an example," were burned into his memory. Uppermost in his thought of Jesus would be that of patient endurance, as when he answered the high priest nothing, and his servant's denial by a look.
I. THE PERSONS ADDRESSED. "Servants." That is:
1. In lowly life there may be the working out of noblest principles. Remember that the apostle has taken ver. 12 for his text in this second section of the Epistle. What more could the cultured and influential do than he there requires, but which he urges here on slaves? At any rate, it ranks high in Christian service. The greatest principles of grace can be exemplified in the humblest position. As the Son of God was in the Babe of Bethlehem as truly as he is on the eternal throne, the love of God may inspire us, the will of God be done by us, and the glory of God secured by us, in the humblest ranks and tasks as in the highest.
2. Where no great deed is apparent, there may be the greatest victories. These servants were not called to prominent places in Church life, nor to activity in public events, nor to anything the world counts great, but to patient endurance. Yet is anything harder, and therefore, greater? It requires greater force of Christian character to suffer than to act; many eyes are fixed on action, in suffering we are cast almost wholly on the unseen. Was not Christ's power in his sufferings? Not before his miracles, but before his cross, the world bows with awe. Just as his own nine beatitudes reach their highest point in "Blessed are ye when men shall revile," etc. Let the sufferer, him with few talents, him who is oppressed, know that in enduring well he may rank with Jesus Christ's nobility.
3. Untoward circumstances may be used to the highest results. It seems a misfortune to be oppressed, but these verses show how much is possible by endurance. Then we can exemplify Divine grace, "for this is grace, if a man for," etc.; we can constrain others to "glorify God in the day of visitation;" we can in this important point follow Christ; and we can secure much of that personal godliness which was the end for which he died - "that we might live unto righteousness." There is no abiding satisfaction without travail of soul; life's storms may cast up rare treasure to our feet.
II. THE DUTY ENFORCED. Patient endurance of undeserved suffering.
1. Notice that the endurance must be undeserved. Scripture consolations are often taken by sufferers who have no right to them. Much of our suffering is deserved - e.g., bad treatment from others, which is often due to our moral unloveliness. The apostle, however, thinks of that which is unmerited - suffering, e.g., for right doing. There is a mystery in this, but it is something that Scripture recognizes this, yea, even says it is this "whereunto ye are called."
2. This endurance is due to a consciousness of God. "This is grace, if a man for conscience toward God," etc. All endurance is not Christian. We may endure because we are not sensitive, or because we are stoical. That is not the endurance that needs Christianity for its existence, or that is followed by Christian blessing. Aim at the endurance which is only possible through taking God into account: "God is in my trouble, and God is with me in my trouble." "He endured as seeing him who is invisible."
3. This is the endurance which is fulfilled after the manner of Christ. It is possible to endure, but with impatience and repining. Christian endurance is of a higher order; it is like Christ's, who had no unkind feeling for his persecutors. At the feast they said he had a devil, but, nothing daunted, he stood and cried, "If any man thirst," etc.; he rejected the suggestion to call down fire on the inhospitable village; he called Judas in the moment of his treason, "Friend;" he healed Malchus's ear who was binding him; he forgave Peter's denial; he prayed for his murderers. We are here summoned to endurance like that (vers. 22, 23).
III. THE MOTIVES APPLIED. How can we rise to endurance like this? Three motives are suggested here.
1. This patient endurance is pleasing to God. "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable [literally, 'grace'] with God." He regards it as grace, or, if you will, as thanks. It is the utterance of the submissive spirit which says, "Not my will, but thine be done." It is wonderful that we can give pleasure to God; yet every token of loving, trustful, obedient submission must please the Father. Think of him saying, "For my Name's sake thou hast borne," etc.
2. This patient endurance is following Christ. "Leaving us an example." There is much comfort in knowing we put our feet into his footprints, and that he knows what we suffer, since he has experienced it first. It is much to have indications that we are on the right track. "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me;" "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but," etc. But best of all, to follow him is to ensure his presence. His servants serve at his side, as Peter did. To follow is to follow him close. "To go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach," is to go forth "to him."
3. This patient endurance is a working out of redemption. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being," etc. Since Christ by his sacrifice has freed us from sifts condemnation that we might become righteous, it becomes us to welcome anything by which that righteousness may be attained. If for our righteousness he would endure the cross, we may not shrink from the discipline of his love to that end. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.