1 PETER 2:13-23
When witnessing to a woman in a home, I have sometimes asked her whether her husband is a Christian. It is not uncommon for her to say, “I don’t know. I will have to go ask him.” That answer tells me what it is she thinks indicates one’s spiritual condition, namely, whether one’s name is on a church roll somewhere. In fact, in conducting a funeral for a non-church attendee, family members go to a lot of trouble, hoping to find a record in church files that the deceased was a member. Being saved becomes equivalent to church membership. Remember, though, that just being good does not guarantee that one is saved. Let’s look at enduring faith.
To begin, every Christian ought to be a good citizen (vv. 13-14). Reading the level of civil authority that we are to obey, our minds go back to the time when Peter was thrown in jail for preaching the Gospel (Acts 5:18-19). But then we remember the Jewish high priest instigated the imprisonment (5:17). Later, leaders in the synagogue stirred up the elders to set up false charges against Stephen (Acts 6:9-13), which ultimately resulted in his martyrdom (Acts 7:59-60). Religious leaders, not Roman authorities, were the chief opposition faced by Christians.
Peter realized for a civil society to function, it must have rules that the majority will obey. Otherwise, anarchy will destroy the social cohesion of that nation. In every stable society, authorities use two methods of control, punishment for those who violate the laws and praise (rewards) for those abiding by the laws. Most of us obey speed laws for fear that we will be stopped by an officer and be given a ticket. The same principle applies in paying income taxes. We pay them, but grudgingly.
The Bible also admonishes us to be good witnesses (vv. 15-17). Peter was not an idealist with his head so high in the clouds that he could not see real life all around him. Intrigue among successive Roman Emperors only gradually affected life in the provinces. Some Christian practices could easily be misunderstood. Curious people could overhear the words recited in the Lord’s Supper to eat the Lord’s body (Matt. 26:26-28). They could conclude some sort of cannibalism was present. In some instances, loyalty to the Roman Emperor was demonstrated when each citizen was required to put a pinch of incense into a flame, repeating the words, “Caesar is Lord.”
How much of those structures were present in Peter’s era may be debated, but whatever the circumstances, Christians were to give reasonable answers to the “ignorance of foolish men” (v. 15). He recognized the belief in Christ Jesus frees Christians from the endless laws implicit in Judaism. Christians were not to use their freedom as a means of putting down Jewish neighbors. The four concise statements in verse 17 summarize the social responsibilities as they honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God and honor the king.
Next, we can demonstrate enduring faith by being a good employee (vv. 18-20). The passage is addressed to slaves, but slavery as it existed in the first century does not exist today. Slaves at that time often held positions of influence, as did the Jewish slaves in Babylon. Today in America, the closest position is that of an employee. Employers today do not physically inflict punishment on an employee, but in unjust treatment, the employee is to endure with dignity.
So finally, an enduring faith sets a good example (vv. 21-23). The best example for endurance is that of Jesus. The sinless Son of God endured vile treatment without feelings of resentment. Peter remembered how Jesus on the cross prayed for his executioners as well as the corrupt officials who maneuvered His conviction. He understood the issue as He bore our sins “in His body on the tree” (v. 24).
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