I Peter 2:13-3:7

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

August 15, 2013

           

1.      No doubt you are familiar with the old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees...think the basic idea behind that proverbial statement is that sometimes can get so bogged down in and so distracted by the details of something that lose sight of the big picture...

2.      In our study of the New Testament letter of I Peter we have come to a section where, if we are not careful, we will end up seeing the trees but missing the forest...seeing the details but overlooking the primary biblical principle being taught...last week, from I Peter 2:11-12 explored two reasons that we should live God’s way...we saw that we should live God’s way because—

--this world is not all there is to our existence...

--other people are watching us and being influenced by our example...

Having said that in vv.11-12, in v.13 Peter begins a long discourse giving specific examples of what it means to live God’s way...from 2:13 through 3:7 Peter, using specific life-situations which were of special interest to people living in the 1st century, talks about how we, as God’s people, should relate to the world in which we live...

3.      How to relate to the world is an age-old dilemma for Christians...on the surface, at least, the Bible seems to give us conflicting direction on this issue...on the one hand, the Bible warns us about being too involved with the world...for example—

--John wrote that we are “...not love the world, nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” [I John 2:15]

--James spoke of genuine religion as keeping “oneself unstained from the world.” [James 1:27]

--Paul pointed out that “...we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God...”

So, on the one hand the Bible tells us to be separate from the world... however, on the other hand the Bible consistently reminds us that we have a responsibility to the world...

--Jesus described His followers as “...the light of the world...” in the Sermon on the Mount...[Matt.5:14]

--and Jesus told His followers that their mission was “...to make disciples of all nations (of all the world)...”[Matt.28:19]

4.      This tension between Christians being “in the world” but not “of the world” has always existed and it’s always been difficult for Christians to deal with...historically, God’s people have gone to either one of two extremes in their relationship with the world...the 1st century Jewish sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees are good examples of those two extremes…

--some have chosen the way of the Pharisees...they have withdrawn from the world...they have hidden themselves away in monasteries, communes, or other safe enclaves, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the real world...


--others have chosen the way of the Sadducees...they have overly identified with the world...they have so identified with the world, accepting the world’s standards and values and priorities,  that they have nothing of value to say to the world...

5.      It is my conviction that Christians should avoid both of those extremes...we must not withdraw from the world and we must not be absorbed by the world...and the section of I Peter at which we are going to look in this session gives us some instruction on how to do that...we are going to cover in this session a rather lengthy passage…important to see it in its context, so I’m going to read I Peter 2:13-3:7…I know that is risky because it’s easy to lose your attention doing that...but I think it is important for us to see the big picture, the over-riding principle before we begin looking at some of the details of this passage...I want to encourage you to follow along in your Bible as I read...

 

T.S. - The theme that runs throughout this passage is the theme of submission...in--

--2:13 all Christians are instructed to submit to the institution of gov’t...

--2:18 servants are instructed to submit to their masters...

--3:1 wives instructed to submit to their husbands...

Obviously cannot understand this passage without understanding what is meant by the concept of submission...the Greek word translated “submit” or “be submissive” throughout this passage is HUPOTASSO...it is a compound word...the first part HUPO is a preposition meaning by or under...the second part TASSO comes from a verb meaning “to arrange or to draw up in order”...

--sometimes was used in a military sense to describe soldiers lining up according to rank...many people carry that military interpretation over into the biblical use of the word...however, I think to do so violates a basic teaching of Jesus...when the disciples got into an argument about who would have the positions of most authority in His kingdom, Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave...”...and I think to interpret HUPOTASSO to mean that one Christian or one class of Christians is over another Christian or another class of Christian violates that teaching of Jesus...it also violates Ephesians 5:21 where we are instructed to “be subject to one another” out of reverence for Christ...


--there is another way to interpret that word...William Barclay says the word means “voluntary selflessness” [p.260]...it is an attitude of humility, of seeking the best for others, of refusing to be independent, autocratic, and overly-assertive...it’s the kind of spirit expressed in Philippians 2:3-4 which instructs us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others.”...in my opinion that interpretation of HUPOTASSO is much more in keeping with what we see in the life of Jesus and what the NT teaches about our relationships as Christians...

And the basic principle which is interwoven throughout this part of I Peter is that Christians should relate to the world with a spirit of humility, selflessness, and a spirit which always seeks the best for others...

 

In this passage, Peter applies that principle to three specific areas of relationship which were of particular concern to Christians living in the 1st century...

2:13-17 applies the principle of submission to the relationship between Christians and gov’t

1.      This was an especially pressing issue for the church in the later part of the 1st century...most scholars believe written shortly after great  fire which destroyed much of Rome in A.D. 64...at  first, Roman population blamed fire on Nero, the  Roman Emperor...had passion for building and believed  set fire or at least let it burn so could rebuild Rome suit his own liking...to divert wrath from himself, blamed fire on Christians...under his leadership, great gov't sponsored persecution broke out  against Christians...

2.      Raised new problem for Christians...up this time Rome  had been at best sympathetic toward them and at worst  neutral...but now, gov't was hostile...how should  Christians relate to hostile gov't?...Peter's instruction in 1 Peter 2:13-17 was, as far as possible, be submissive and cooperative...

 

2:18-25 applies this principle of submission to the relationship between slaves and masters

1.      This was another critical issue facing the church...slavery was a common institution in the 1st century....it’s been estimated that there were approximately 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, which may have been about 1/4 of the population...

2.      In the church there were people who were slaves and masters...in some cases, a slave and his/her master was part of the same congregation, as in the case of Onesimus and Philemon in the church at Colossae...this raised all sorts of moral and ethical issues for the young church...in a time when the idea of slavery was ingrained into the very culture, how should Christians deal with the issue?...

3.      Peter’s instruction to the slaves was to relate to their masters with a spirit of humility and selflessness...

 

3:1-7 applies this principle of submission to the husband/wife relationship


1.      It is obvious from the NT that the relationship between husbands and wives was a key issue for the early church...it is dealt with in depth in at least three different places--Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and here in I Peter 3...

2.      It is important to remember the cultural situation in which these instructions were written...in the 1st century world women had absolutely no legal standing...they were considered to be property, first belonging to their fathers and then belonging to their husbands...

3.      In Christianity, women found a new freedom unheard of until that point in time...as you read about the church in the NT, time and again will come across the names of women who made significant contributions to the ministry...

4.      However, it appears that some of the women were using their freedom, especially in relation to their non-Christian husbands, in a way that was considered scandalous by the culture of that day...and Peter instructs them to relate to their husbands not with a spirit of assertiveness and independence but with a spirit of humility and selflessness...

 

Now listen carefully to what I’m about to say...in instructing--

--Christians to submit to the Roman government, Peter wasn’t endorsing the totalitarian form of gov’t which characterized the Roman Empire....

--servants to submit to their masters, Peter wasn’t endorsing the institution of slavery...

--wives to submit to their husbands, Peter was endorsing the prevailing cultural view of his day that women were inferior to men...

Instead, he was reminding Christians in his day and in our day as well, that we should relate to the world in a way that doesn’t bring disrepute upon the on the way of Jesus Christ...and that way is the way of humility, of selflessness, of seeking the best for others...

CONCLUSION

1.      In the book The Parables of the Gospels by Hugh Martin there is a story about a rather rough, uncultured man who for some reason fell in love with a beautiful vase in a shop window. Eventually he bought the vase and put it on the mantel in his room.  There it became a kind of judgment on its surroundings. He had to clean up the room to make it worthy of the vase.  The curtains looked dingy beside it. The old chair with the stuffing coming out of the seat would not do.  The wallpaper and the paint needed redoing.  Gradually the whole room was transformed by the presence of the vase.

2.      And that’s the kind of impact Christians should have on their world ...and we are able to impact our world in that way by allowing ourselves to be characterized by humility, by selflessness, and by seeking the best for others...

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