Sermon: Examples of Honorable Living 1 Peter 2:13-25

Examples of Honorable Living

1 Peter 2:13-25

Truth Taught – All Christians are called to live honorable lives no matter our cultural context.

Introduction

Last time we saw together that Peter exhorted us to live with two things in mind.  He told us to abstain from sinful passionsbecause they wage war on our souls.  He also told us to engage in honorable living.  Here he speaks of living in such a way that what we claim to believe is seen in our lives. Too often Christians say what they believe but their lives say something else.  It’s what our lives say that is the true reality and a clear picture of what we believe.  If we claim to be a Christian and then live no different than the lost world around us, how can we have any assurance that our profession of faith is real?  So, it is in this section and for basically the rest of Peter’s epistle that he shows us what honorable living looks like. What does a life look like that would cause the lost world to take notice and give glory to God?  What would a life look like that would make a lost person glad that you’re a Christian even if they do not believe?

The Christian communities that Peter wrote to made up a small segment of the Roman Empire.  Their question he addresses is how should Christians conduct themselves while living as exiles among unbelievers?  Should they withdraw from society?  Should they simply seek to fit in?  Should they spend their lives protesting the evils of society? What would God have them do?  What would God have us do?  It seems that none of the responses I mentioned are what God teaches here—He doesn’t want us to withdraw, fit in, nor spend a life in protest. What God teaches is to simply live out your faith among the lost world.  Engage in the honorable living taught in 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Here, Peter explains to us that we are to live peacefully in society.  As God’s society, and while living as exiles we are not called to rebellion but to serve and Peter repeatedly calls this doing good.  We are to be do-gooders while living as exiles.

Our loyalty to Christ does not give us a license to rebel against other authorities.  Of course sometimes peace is not possible, but where it is we are to live peacefully in this world.

Prayer

1 Peter 2:13–25 (ESV)

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

  1. Exiles, Live At Peace With Secular Society

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

As Christians in society, we are free and must not use our freedom to our advantage but as a means to seek the welfare of others.  The overall intention of Peter is to explain that Christians are to be law-abiding citizens and not troublemakers.  This does not mean we are pacifists, those who are into peace at any cost.  That’s not Peter’s intention here.  We are to obey the laws of the land in a general sense but seek to change things where we can.  When we cannot obey due to the fact that the government has stepped away from God’s purposes, then we must stand in defiance to those wicked laws.

We are to be those who do good to all people even if we do not agree with them or if they are our enemies. We are to go out of our way to treat all people with respect and kindness.  What Peter gives us is a general overarching command to be model citizens and to do good to all people.

He stresses, in this section, doing good.  This Greek word agathopoieomeans to go over and above what is expected.  So, based on this, simply obeying the law is not enough; that’s the minimum not over and above.  Specifically, it means good works beyond what is normally expected in a given situation. The reason is so that the authorities will take notice and praise you and in turn even praise God for your good works.

15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

We are called to be active in society.  Our purpose is for society’s betterment and God’s glory.  We want to do this because this is God’s will for all Christians.

We see an example of this in the OT when Israel was sent to Babylon in captivity.

Jeremiah 29:4–7 (ESV)

“Thus says the Lordof hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lordon its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

I want to make sure we are getting Peter’s point here in our text.  We are to live peacefully and do good to others in our world whether they are lost or saved.   His exhortation to do good is not a call to slavery.  In other words, our calling to be subject to governing authority is not a call to slavery but a call to voluntary service and peace.

16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

We are free in Christ not slaves to society to do what they demand, but our doing good to them comes from a free heart, one that does good because God calls us to not because we’re forced to by some other outside authority.  We are slaves to Christ but being a slave to God is, in fact, freedom. Not freedom to do what we want but a freedom to obey our loving merciful God.  He calls us to go out of our way to be model citizens and those who seek the welfare of others because it’s now in our DNA to love others and serve them.

  1. Indentured Exiles, Live at Peace with Your Masters

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

In these verses, Peter is speaking of the proper response of Christians to their earthly masters. Many translations render the word for servants found in verse 18 as “slaves” because slavery was the most common form of servitude in the Roman Empire, though Peter likely has both slaves and free servants in mind here. Regardless, Peter calls all servants to submit to their masters, even if they are unjust.

Peter is not commenting on the normalcy of slavery in this passage. In the first place, slavery in the Roman Empire should not be associated with the harshness of racial slavery familiar to those of us in the United States. Roman slaves were generally well treated by their masters and occupied important positions in society.

Nevertheless, some masters did treat their servants harshly, and Peter calls such servants to endure suffering.

Peter’s purpose in addressing slaves here and wives in Chapter 3 is to show that the most vulnerable in society has the call by God to live honorable lives.  Here, he addresses slaves.  Peter is not interested in abolition nor in addressing the social ills of society but rather to take society as it is and show how we are to respond and how we are to live godly in whatever social status we are placed. Slaves have the calling to be honorable slaves.

In the Greco-Roman world it has been estimated that one out of every four people were slaves.  As these slaves were being converted it was important that they not rise up in revolt declaring the injustice of being slaves but show the world the difference between a lost slave and a saved slave.  This brings God glory.

Peter also seems to go back and forth here between the situation of slavery being the specific context for his counsel and Christians in general.

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Here we see the same phrase as before the do goodphrase.  Slaves were to not just obey their masters but to go over and above just obeying.  They were to be profitable servants.  Not just do their tasks but do them honorably.

A great example of this is found in the story of Joseph in Egypt.  He went over and beyond what was expected.  Society was influenced and God was glorified . . .

Genesis 41:46–49 (ESV)

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

There have been many applications of this teaching – some have applied it to employers and employees, parents and children, and other situations.  However, the way to best see this passage is in its original context. If I were a slave, what could I do to bring glory to God?  Again, for the most part this was not the slavery we are used to reading about in America.  These slaves quite often were very skilled in their professions and very intelligent.

  1. Christ, the Ultimate Exile

Before I read this section, it’s important to realize where Peter is getting this.  It comes from Isaiah 53.  In Isaiah 53 we have the prophecy of the Suffering Servant or the Suffering Messiah.  In the Gospels we know Jesus has identified Himself with the Suffering Servant, and at the cross event we see these verses played out and fulfilled in real time. This was Jesus’ calling.  In a very real way, this is our calling as well.

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Here, God gives us the perfect example of what it looks like to live honorably as an exile in this sinful world.  Beloved, whether you’re a slave or a prince you still must follow the example Jesus gave us in His life.  The point Peter makes is that no matter what, Jesus was going to live a life of doing good. He wasn’t about to let man dictate His course of life.  He was going to obey His Father no matter what.

Now we know that Jesus’ suffering purchased our eternal redemption.  He suffered to purchase us.  His suffering is also our perfect example of what it looks like to live honorably as an exile in this world.  We must never return evil for evil because this would not bring God glory.

The principle found in the suffering of Jesus is that suffering lead to exaltation as He continued to trust God with His life.

Can you see Jesus standing before Pilate and not responding to Pilate’s interrogation?  Can you see Jesus not answering evil with more evil? Can you see Jesus continually trusting Himself to God?  He is our example.

As exiles, we too can submit to ungodly authorities whether it’s the state or our boss out of love for Jesus and a desire to imitate Him with our lives.

It’s important that we make up our minds that we are going to live for God’s glory, obeying His commands no matter what.  I’m going to do the right thing no matter what.  I’m going to do what God has called me to do no matter what.  Jesus was stubborn when it came to His Father’s will, and we are called to also be stubborn as far as God’s will goes.

Then in verse 21 he says, “For you have been called for this purpose.” What purpose?  To suffer for what is right, that’s what we’ve been called to, because if you’ve been called to be a Christian, you’ve been called to be at odds with the world and in some way,  you will suffer for it. And if you’ve been called to be at odds with the world, you have been called to suffer. And if you manifest your Christianity, there will be hostile reaction, you will suffer; you’ve been called to that.  Then he says, “Since Christ also suffered for you.”  And then this, “Leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”

For Jesus Christ the path to glory was the path of suffering.  And that’s the pattern for us.  The path to glory for us is the path of suffering.  The principle goes like this, the greater the suffering for righteousness in this life, the greater the glory in the life to come.

Jesus is the most unjustly treated human being who ever lived. And because He was perfect and all the mistreatment of hell was thrown against Him and He never sinned, He is the perfect model of how you and I are to respond to unjust treatment.  Did you get that?  That’s the bottom line.  He’s the perfect model of how you and I are to respond to unjust treatment.

So, whatever our state in life, we are to do good always and in all circumstances.  We have Jesus as our example to follow.  We do not have to have the last word because God will have the last word.  We don’t have to always defend ourselves because God will defend us.  We don’t have to exercise all our rights because God is just.

Here is a quick picture of what it looks like to live an honorable life as an exile.  Jesus gave us the perfect example . . . now we must go and do likewise.

 

*Resources Used:

Teaching 1 Peter by Angus MaCleay

1 Peter by Karen Jobes

1 Peter by David Helm

1 Peter by John MacArthur

1 Peter by Peter Davids

1 Peter by Wayne Grudem

1 Peter by Edmond Clowney

 

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